National Geographic : 1933 Aug
THE AERIAL CONQUEST OF EVEREST rivaled that of Bhagalpur, from Rajahs and broad-acred planters down to the humblest peasants, who made gay paper triumphal arches decorated with very creditable air planes of tinsel. So good were all arrangements being made on our behalf that we were soon able to fly back to Karachi in one of the Moths to bring up the big Westlands. SUDDEN STORM WRECKS AN ANCHORED PLANE Allahabad was our first night's stop. Here, to our misfortune, after we had lashed down our airplane for the night, a sudden great storm arose in a few minutes. Gusts of over 80 miles an hour tore down hun dreds of trees, unroofed buildings, and plunged the whole city in darkness. We were then in the police chief's house, eight miles from the airdrome, arranging for a guard for the machine, when the sudden tempest came up out of a cloudless evening sky. Hastening back in alarm, we found the machine uprooted from the huge blocks of concrete, the thick hemp mooring ropes snapped, and the graceful little airplane, which had been lifted bodily high into the air, a pathetic, crumpled wreck. So we made our way sadly by train to Delhi, where a most generous Hindu gen tleman, Mr. Chawla, who had earned fame by being the first Indian to fly himself out to India, very kindly lent us his own Puss Moth at a moment's notice. This was characteristic of the warm hearted attitude of the whole of India to ward our Expedition. Meanwhile Colonel Etherton had been invited by the Maharaja of Nepal to the beautiful and seldom-visited capital of Katmandu, to attend the coronation fes tivities there. His Highness was kind enough now to renew to him his assurance that a second and necessary flight would be sanctioned, subject to certain conditions. It had been recognized at an early stage in the organization of the Expedition that, in order to secure adequate scientific re sults, two flights would almost certainly be necessary. Permission for the flight had been given by the Government "purely for scientific purposes," and it was hardly to be expected that all the mass of complicated and deli- cate mechanisms would operate without a hitch in those terrific extremes of heat and cold. It was a relief to us to hear that we might expect to receive this essential permission. Without it there was a serious possibility of some minor hitch in the first flight which would compel us to return in ignominy without achieving our objects. But before we heard this welcome news we were back in Karachi and found there the two Westlands assembled, all ready for their test flights. We took them up to more than 33,000 feet in that pellucid air and found all well. In fact, so efficient were Messrs. Siebe Gorman's electrically heated suits that the observer's knees became too hot. Without much difficulty we reduced the heating elements to moderation. UNEXPECTED HEAT AT HIGH ALTITUDE An interesting observation connected with this point was that the upper air at this altitude was 20 centigrade degrees warmer than in England in the month before. This was to some extent contrary to expectation, because we had been led to anticipate the same degree of cold almost everywhere at that great height. Hence, no doubt, the excess of warmth in the suits. There followed the now accustomed hurly-burly of departure. A thousand items had to be packed and dispatched, some by train and some by air. Many, such as the oxygen and signal flares, de manded special transportation, while at the last moment it was discovered that the spare propellers would go into no ordinary railway wagon. Finally a horse box car was found to fill the bill. Thus, on March 22, after a fortnight in Karachi, the Expedition bade farewell to the officers and men of that most efficient aircraft depot, who had assembled their machines, and flew, in the two Westlands and the two Moths, across the desert of Rajputana to Jodhpur. His Highness the Maharaja of this Agency is air-minded in a very high degree. An excellent pilot himself, he flies almost daily, and has built an airport which would be a credit to almost any town in western Europe. There, in the feudal atmosphere, under the shadow of the massive stone castle, redolent of old-time Rajput chivalry, we slept in a luxurious modern airport guest house with every comfort.