National Geographic : 1939 Feb
HAPPY LANDING IN BERMUDA BY E. JOHN LONG ONE brisk spring day I walked down a long gangplank at Port Wash ington to the float where the red winged Bermuda Clipper was moored. With a score of other passengers I went aboard through a hatchway near the tail. Each of us was assigned to a seat preselected ac cording to our weight. The engines opened up with a roar that became a dull, steady whine as we lifted gracefully from the surface and wheeled over Long Island. Climbing steadily, we soared above country estates, truck farms, and finally the narrow strip of white sand that was to be our last sight of land until we raised Bermuda's outer reefs, nearly 775 miles southeast. After the first half hour's novelty of look ing down 9,000 feet on a sun- and cloud dappled sea, most of the passengers began to read, and one or two dozed. Presently the steward spread the table for luncheon, a four-course meal that in cluded olives and celery, hot mushroom soup, chicken a la Maryland, salad and ice cream, followed by coffee and mints. This is the famous "300-mile luncheon"-the distance covered during the serving. The big Sikorsky (S42 B) plane rode so steadily that not a drop was spilled. For some time after lunch the sea was hidden by an undulating blanket of gray vapor, but once, when the clouds opened up, we saw the liner Queen of Bermuda plowing a white track through the blue sea. From our dizzy height the 22,000-ton vessel seemed a toy ship. "The Queen left New York yesterday afternoon and she reaches Bermuda tomor row morning," the steward told us. Breaking through a mottled ceiling of clouds, we saw far ahead of us a dark patch on the horizon, Bermuda. But my gaze was drawn irresistibly below, for we were now over the outer reefs, those dread barriers in the days of early sailing ships and later Bermuda's bulwark against ma rauding pirates and privateers (pp. 216-7). There was scarcely time for a glimpse before we were coasting down on the north shore, with its white-roofed cottages set among green hills and gardens, and all tied together with ribbons of coral road. Skim ming past Government House and the white city of Hamilton, the capital (page 232), we glided over the still harbor and settled to a stop in a cloud of spray opposite the steel hangar and concrete ramps on Darrell Is land (page 233). While instruments were being checked and baggage unloaded, I had a chance to look at the base which Imperial Airways has built here in preparation for the day when Bermuda may be a stepping stone on a Middle Atlantic air route to Europe. Other bases are planned for the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal.* "WE BROKE A RECORD!" We broke the record! Pan American an nounced it officially as 4 hours and 14 min utes-46 minutes under the scheduled five hour Port Washington-Hamilton run. A launch took us to the Hamilton water front. Breakfast in New York; afternoon tea in Hamilton! In place of automobile horns, factory whistles, traffic lights, skyscrapers, subways, and hurrying throngs, there was the clippety-clop of horses' hoofs, the jingle of bicycle bells, carriage drivers wearing pith helmets, "bobbies" directing traffic that keeps to the left, business men in shorts, veranda cafes, the dazzling cleanli ness of pastel-colored buildings and low, white-roofed houses. The Atlantic has few islands; none is near Bermuda. The sea hereabouts quickly drops off into depths of from 12,000 to 15,000 feet. If Bermuda were lowered only 300 feet, it would not show on the map. "Why is Bermuda?" Geologists reply that its aeolian limestone hills and coral reefs rest on the top of a submarine volcano. Delicate stalactites and stalagmites in Ber muda caves have been forming undisturbed for an estimated 100,000 years or more. Almost all of visible Bermuda is limestone, which ashore is covered by thin layers of reddish-brown earth and on the sea shelf by a veneer of living tropical coral-the far thest north the latter is known to grow. Governmentally, Bermuda is one of those British anomalies which are confusing to outsiders. It is not a Crown Colony, like British Honduras or Fiji, nor is it a Domin ion like Canada or New Zealand. Rather, * See "European Outpost: The Azores," by Har riet Chalmers Adams, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAG AZINE, January, 1935, and "Castles and Progress in Portugal," by W. Robert Moore, February, 1938.