National Geographic : 1942 Jul
War Awakened New Caledonia of Dakar, was shot by machine gun fire and seriously wounded in the legs.* For many months I had planned to leave New Caledonia by clipper on November 23 to visit my family in the United States. I left Voh in the north of the island a week before my planned departure. My papers were ready, my packing was nearly finished, and I had been invited to farewell parties. But two days before the arrival of the plane a few cases of bubonic plague broke out in the native reserve of St. Louis, ten miles outside Noumea. I was advised by the Pan American Airways agent that Noumea was under quarantine and that no passage was allowed on that flight. Plague Announced Ahead of Schedule I went to see the Health Commissioner of Noumea and tried to find some way to catch that clipper. The doctor, polite but firm, stated that nothing could be done about it. During our conversation he told me this sud den epidemic looked strange to him. "About ten days ago," he said, "everybody heard radio stations in Berlin, Germany, and Saigon, French Indo-China, announce that bubonic plague was spreading in New Cale donia. The last epidemic had taken place almost eight months before and no new cases had been discovered here since that time. "It is possible that through some Japanese fifth columnist in the islands the disease was brought in by feeding rats with contaminated food. Saigon and Berlin announced the epi demic ten days ahead of schedule! Probably it is only coincidence, but a very strange one." Convinced that because of the quarantine there was no chance of my getting away on that plane, I took an inoculation and went back to Voh. Ten days later I had a long distance telephone call from the Pan American agent, telling me that if I wished to catch the next clipper I should go immediately to Nou mea. There I could get a clean bill of health by being isolated on the yacht of the Pan American Airways in the middle of the bay. The yacht is used as a floating hotel for the overnight guests of the company. I drove all night and in the morning of the following day finished packing and said good * See "French West Africa in Wartime," by Paul M. Atkins, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, March, 1942. bye to a few of my friends. I stayed six days on the yacht very peacefully, being enter tained by the officers. I had a delightful rest, read some good books, and listened to the radio announcement of the negotiations be tween Japan and the United States taking place in Washington. I was told that the Pacific Clipper going to New Zealand would not stop on the way back to Noumea but would go directly from Auck land to Suva, then to Honolulu. Therefore I decided to take that clipper, which arrived in Noumea Sunday morning and departed at 7 A. M. Monday, December 8-December 7 in the United States. We left Noumea without knowing anything was going on in the Pacific, and an hour and a half afterward, while we were flying toward New Zealand, the pilot announced he had just heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Naturally, no one would be lieve it at first, and all sorts of explanations were given. Later the news was confirmed. We arrived in Auckland early that same afternoon. In the evening we were told that the plane was not leaving for the United States and to await instructions at our hotel. About a week later the Pacific Clipper, under the command of Captain Robert Ford, left New Zealand without commercial passen gers and went around the world, arriving in New York on January 6, 1942. During its remarkable global flight between San Francisco and New York, the PacificClip per had covered 31,500 miles, of which some 8,500 miles were flown over areas new to the company's ships and without benefit of ad vance weather reports. It had also made the first flight by clipper between New Cale donia and Australia. Hide-and-Seek in the Pacific I stayed ten days in Auckland. The austral spring was just starting, and flowers were blooming everywhere, but the flower beds in the beautiful parks had been uprooted to make shelters and trenches for air raids. One night I left Auckland in a blacked-out gray American ship. We played hide-and seek for weeks in the Pacific until one morn ing I came up on deck and saw overhead the Golden Gate Bridge. Half an hour later we docked at a pier in downtown San Fran cisco. Notice of change of address of your NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE should be received in the ofices of the National Geographic Society by the first of the month to affect the follow ing month's issue. For instance, if you desire the address changed for your September number, The Society should be notified of your new address not later than August first.