National Geographic : 1927 Oct
HOW LATIN AMERICA LOOKS FROM THE AIR U. S. Army Airplanes Hurdle the High Andes, Brave Brazil Jungles, and Follow Smoking Volcanoes to Map New Sky Paths Around South America BY MAJOR HERBERT A. DARGUE* U. S. Army Air Corps, Flight Commander SINCE the golden age of Pizarro and Magellan, of Sir Francis Drake and bold buccaneers of the Spanish Main, adventurers from the Seven Seas have scattered their bones along Aztec and Inca trails from Mexico to the Horn. In all the eventful annals of exploration, no other land ever excited men's imagina tions more than has this vast and still only partially known area which we call Latin America. First came the halcyon days of Colum bus, Cortez, and Balboa, bearded men in armor, with the Cross in one hand and a Toledo blade in the other-daring days of incomparable achievement, when a few score Spaniards with courage and craft conquered the far-flung Montezuma Em pire, and hordes of Indians threw away their spears and ran from the frightful, centaurian aspect of men on horses. Then another age of adventure and roughhewn romance that saw whaling fleets and gold-mad California treasure seekers rounding the cold, stormy Horn or seeking a short cut to fortune through the jungled gates of Panama. Now our own day of exploration, with its restless quest for mines, ranches, raw materials, railroad rights, and oil fields-a quest that sends thousands adventuring, from the Rio Grande down to Patagonia, building up a great mutual commerce, helping Latin America develop its own rich resources, and finding a market here for its own surplus products. But adventure always and the romantic lure of that ever-amazing Latin Amer ica-a kingdom of contrasts between icy * The author wishes to acknowledge his in debtedness to all members of the Pan American Flight for data taken from their journals, espe cially to Capt. Ira C. Weaker, the official historian of the flight, and Frederick Simpich. peaks and humid jungles, between grass huts of savages and marble palaces of classic cities old in culture; a beckoning land, inviting exploration now just as when Columbus came; a challenging land, with little-known, uninhabited regions, perilous to fly over, waiting now to be discovered from the air by the winged Pintas, Niiias, and Santa Marias of to (lay. GAS-BURNING DOVES OF PEACE START LONG FLIGHT So I was happy when told I should take an airplane and fly 22,000 miles, from Texas down to Patagonia and back; from Texas, by air, over the pagan Toltec Trail, past smoking Central American vol canoes; over the tombs and ruined cities of the Anihuacs and Incas; down the far away coast of distant Chile; up among the clouds and giant condors of the high Andes; out across the wide, flat pampas; up the long, lonely, jungle-lined shores of Brazil, and then home across the friendly blue water and green isles of the Carib bean, blazing a new trail in the conquest of the air (see map, page 452). The Pan American Good Will Flight, this long air voyage was called, and the fleet of U. S. Army planes under my com mand were sent to carry friendly greet ings from Uncle Sam to twenty nations of Latin America, stretching from Mexico down to Argentina. Roaring up from Kelly Field on the morning of December 21, 1926, circling over San Antonio and the old Alamo in the clear, bright air of Texas, we pointed our amphibian noses boldly toward Cape Horn, waved adieu to cheering friends, and were off on the first aerial circum navigation of the Southern Continent ever attempted.