National Geographic : 1941 Aug
Lisbon-Gateway to Warring Europe BY HARVEY KLEMMER FEW cities have had a more tempestuous history than Lisbon, colorful capital of the little Republic of Portugal.* Today Lisbon stands once more at the threshold of great events. It takes a rash individual to discourse upon Lisbon and Portugal with conditions as they are at the moment. Before these lines appear in print, Portugal may be only a memory and Lisbon a ghost town of the Second World War. There is a special risk in attempting to write about a small neutral possessed of rich territories, owning strategic islands, and lying on the flank of a continent in flames. Lisbon's present position is unique in sev eral respects. It is the only major gateway between warring Europe and the world out side. It is the one convenient link between the belligerents. It is the only hope of escape for thousands of refugees. It is, with the ex ception of Stockholm, the only great capital of Europe that has not as yet been darkened by the clouds of war. Slender Threads of European Traffic There is an occasional ship to Petsamo, in the north of Finland, and the Swedes are at tempting to maintain an Atlantic freight serv ice of sorts. The United States Lines operate a small service to Spain. The Spanish manage to maintain some sort of communication with North and South America. Lisbon, however, is the principal gateway through which people and goods must pass to enter or leave embattled Europe. This is espe cially true of traffic to and from the United States. There is only one American-flag service now operating to Portugal. That is the American Export Lines, which maintain weekly sailings between New York and Lisbon. On this slen der thread hangs the bulk of our traffic with the once great markets of Europe. The Export Lines formerly served the Medi terranean. Company officials adopted Lisbon as a terminus when they were forced out of the Mediterranean by the Neutrality Act. They have done a good job of maintaining a vital service despite tremendous difficulties. There are occasional foreign vessels, but the responsibility for maintaining sea communica tions between the United States and this last outpost rests primarily on the American line. * See "Castles and Progress in Portugal," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, Feb ruary, 1938, and "Altitudinal Journey Through Por tugal," by Harriet Chalmers Adams, November, 1927. Lisbon has been the eastern terminus for Pan American Airways since the beginning of the war (pages 262-3). The company is now maintaining a thrice-weekly service which, it is hoped, can be stepped up to six planes a week in the near future. The difficulties besetting Pan American have been even greater than those faced by the Export Lines. To make the long flight from Lisbon to New York, it has been necessary to make stops in the Azores and at Bermuda. Clippers Exercise Extreme Caution The Azores landing, which is at Horta, must be made in the open sea. The company has pursued a cautious policy and has not allowed its planes to land in rough water. That has meant long delays. Passengers have been held up, eastbound at Bermuda and westbound at Lisbon, for as long as two weeks or more, while the company's meteorologist watched the waves at Horta. I have made the Clipper crossing three times, and I can testify to the extreme pre cautions the Airways people exercise at Horta. Planes are not supposed to take off if the waves are more than 30 inches high. I remember one trip when we plowed, at 100 miles an hour, through waves that looked twice that high. We all held our breaths as the great ship tore the waves to tatters and finally leaped from the sea to shave the side of a cliff and spiral off into the dusk on the long hop to Bermuda. On my last trip, in April, our skipper ex ecuted a maneuver which I have never before seen. He took off on a curve. He started behind a breakwater, gave her the gun as we reached the open sea, and, swinging wide to avoid the cliff, took off on an arc. It was a beautiful job of piloting. Let me hasten to add that to date the company has a perfect safety record on this service. Pan American is experimenting with various measures to reduce the delays caused by bad water at Horta. New planes have been en gined, and old planes re-engined, to enable them to fly nonstop now from Bermuda to Lisbon. During the past winter, ships flying west came home by way of Africa and South America. This meant a journey of 8,000 miles to reach a point 3,000 miles away, but, regard less of that, it was found to be quicker than the old route. In addition to being the last air and water .link with warring Europe, Lisbon is also an important cable terminus.