National Geographic : 1928 Mar
SEEING THE WORLD FROM THE AIR BY SIR ALAN J. COBHAM IN THE course of my work during the past five or six years I have seen many parts of the world. My wanderings have taken me over every capital in Europe and over the length and breadth of the great African continent. More than once I have traveled over the great Syrian Desert to India, Burma and back, and only recently I journeyed all the way to Australia and return via Rangoon, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies. Yet with all these wanderings it was not until a few months ago that I made my first steamship voyage, when I crossed from Southampton to New York. Hitherto my journeys had been made in the air, and my mode of transport was an airplane or seaplane, and when I re flect on my various exploits, somehow I feel that my memories and impressions of the countries I have visited are far more vivid and realistic than are the memories of the individual who has traveled by steamship, train, or motor car. STUDYING ARCHEOLOGY BY AIR Early in 1923 I made a circular tour, covering about 12,000 miles, over Europe, Egypt, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco, and Spain. My passenger was an old friend, whose greatest hobbies were travel and the study of ancient civilizations. We had flown many thousands of miles together on previous occasions, but this trip was a little more ambitious. From London we flew to Paris, through France, along the Riviera coast line, across Italy to Greece, and then over the Mediterra nean to Africa and Egypt. Then, for the first time in history, we flew across the whole breadth of Africa, from Egypt to Morocco, after which we crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and by way of Spain and France returned to London. My passenger was an enthusiast about traveling by air, for to him there was no more delightful way of seeing the coun tries whose history he had studied. Thus, on our flight from Brindisi, at the heel of Italy, over the Adriatic to the island of Corfu, and down the mountainous coast of Greece, through the Gulf of Patras and the Gulf of Corinth to Athens, he was able to see spread beneath him the scenes of Greek mythology and of Greek and Roman history that he had read about since his youth. THE HOP FROM EUROPE TO AFRICA Our first view of Athens and the fa mous Acropolis was from the air (see page 357). After a few days in the town, during which we visited the Parthenon and the Stadium, the latter built on the site of the ancient Stadium where the Greeks of old held their Olympic games, we began to prepare for our flight across the Mediterranean. One fine day we left Athens and flew out over the £Egean Sea; then over the island of Crete, where the first aviators were born. According to legend, their names were Daedalus and Icarus. Hav ing made themselves wings of feathers, they fastened them on with wax and began their flight. Daedalus reached Sicily, but Icarus, exulting, flew too high, and as he neared the sun the heat melted his wings and he fell into the sea. However, no such ill fortune befell us. We soon left snow-capped Mount Ida be hind and then on a compass course headed for Sollum. We were nearly three hours out of sight of land, but at last the coast of Africa came into view and we discov ered that we had hit our objective within one mile. Sollum is an Egyptian frontier outpost on the edge of the desert. On the night of our arrival we were entertained by the resident officer, and the Governor of the Northwestern Egyptian territory was also a guest. The latter spoke of the diffi culty of traveling about his desert domain, and said that in the morning he would have to start on a weary two-days' jour ney by car to Siwa. On consulting a map, I discovered that Siwa was an oasis some 200 miles to the south, in the Libyan Desert.* I suggested * See, also, "Crossing the Untraversed Libyan Desert," by A. M . Hassanein Bey, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for Sep tember, 1924.