National Geographic : 1934 Sep
FLYING AROUND THE NORTH ATLANTIC The ceiling lowered as we pursued, through rain and fog, a winding, tortuous course southwest. I had no idea where we were, and felt sure we would eventually land on the plateau. Finally we came upon a river, cutting its way down a canyon several hundred feet deep-flowing west! We had passed the divide and knew that the river would in evitably lead us out to the west coast of Spain or Portugal. We followed its winding course for half an hour down into broader valleys. The fog became lower as we ap proached the sea and the visibility worse as the afternoon progressed. Suddenly, as the fog ahead dropped down to the tree tops, my husband, with a quick gesture to me, circled to land on the broad stream. We were flying rather low and I had 150 turns of antenna trailing out below the ship. In a panic I wound frantically but could not reel it all in before we struck the water. The ball weight on the end snapped off the first one I had ever lost. We taxied up stream to a still pool out of the current, while people from both sides of the river began to row out to us. I reached for a small Spanish dictionary and shouted with appropriate gestures, "Mal tiempo-San tofia-Lisbon-Mal tiempo-No puede Lisbon-Aqui" and then hopefully, "Per sona inglesia?" PLANE WINGS TIED TO WILLOW STUMPS Perhaps they understood; or just on general principle rowed back to the nearest town for someone who could speak English or a strange mixture of Portuguese and "New Yorkese." In the meantime my hus band was much more successful without a dictionary. Taking out a map, he made them show him where we were: Rio Minho on the border between Spain and Portugal; just upstream from two small towns, Tuiy on the Spanish side and Valenca on the Portuguese. We pulled the plane up against a bank in a small inlet off the main stream, and tied the wings to low willow stumps. Here we were quite comfortable for the night, spread ing out our bundles for a mattress in the long baggage compartment-the large bulky bundles underneath, and the softer ones slickers, white parkas, flying suits, air cushions, and life preservers-on top. In the morning we were waked by the murmur of voices, at first low, and then rising to a chatter like that in a theater be fore the curtain goes up, which, as a matter of fact, was exactly the case. Peering out of an opening we could see crowds of people lining both banks of the inlet and a small rowboat doing a busy trade of ferrying them from the opposite side to ours. MEETING CAMERAS WITH A CAMERA Men, women with babies in their arms, children and dogs, all stood waiting for us to appear out of the plane. I dressed, knocking my elbows on the sides of the narrow fuselage, with the feeling that there were hundreds of eyes turned upon me, shielded only by the thin walls of the plane. There were numerous cameras set up ready to snap at us as we popped our heads above the cockpit. My husband sur prised them by jumping up quickly and taking their pictures before they could take ours. I think, on the whole, we got the best picture. But the crowd on the bank, we soon dis covered, wanted to do all they could to help us. The mayors of both Tuy and Valenta, the international police, the river boat patrol, the customs officers-everyone turned out to give us a good time during our chance visit (see illustrations, page 318). "Now youse-Missa Annie-don' be bashful-you wan' anyt'ing? If youse like I taka youse out riding." When the weather cleared a little, we left for Lisbon (Lisboa),* which was only two hours away. The great bay sparkled with boats and sunshine. Good weather at last and a wonderful rest, at the American Legation, before our flight to the Azores. On November 21 at 7:08 G.M.T. (day break) we left Lisbon for the Azores. Ac curate navigation probably was more im portant on this trip than on any other, for the point we aimed at was small, and we did not have enough fuel to return after going the full distance. It was essential to strike the islands. We relied primarily on dead reckoning checked by sun sights with our sextant. We also had radio contacts, carefully arranged by the Naval Station in Lisbon, to help us. I operated the radio and drift meter and flew the plane while my husband took sights on the sun. * See "An Altitudinal Journey Through Portu gal," by Harriet Chalmers Adams, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for November, 1927.