National Geographic : 1931 Jan
SKYPATHS THROUGH LATIN AMERICA of fog, stretching like snowfields to far horizons. Childhood memories awoke of Bible pictures showing chariots on the clouds or white-robed, singing angels wing ing upward. Then the fairy landscapes faded; all the cloud palaces, the pink and snow-white peaks melted into common dirty fog again, for a higher cloud hid the sun. Flying by instruments, we bored the fog bank through and came to Santos, where the world gets most of its coffee, in bright sun shine. From the air, we saw the short railway that runs inland to the near-by, swiftly growing city of Sao Paulo. In five minutes we landed a passenger, put off mail and took on more, and were in the air. You marvel at the speed and preci sion of the mail schedule. At Florianop olis we met a Fleetster, flown by a lone pilot named Stark, carrying north nothing but mail. On a tail wind that morning he had averaged 180 miles an hour! Toward PortoAlegre, where thousandsof German colonists make local life more like Breslau than Brazil, we struck more fog. From May till October, between Rio and the River Plate, fogs are frequent. The banks are anywhere from 200 to 2,500 feet high, or "thick," as the pilots say. "If you come to a bank that lies flat on the sea or has no holes in it," said Pilot Shea, "it's safest to get down on the water and wait for it to lift, or else turn around and go back. We never expose passengers to any risk. Most of the time here the fog ceil ing is high enough so we can fly under it, low over the water, or else it's Swiss cheese fog, with big holes in it through which we can see the ocean." "The weather prophet gets no breaks down here," said another pilot. "The winds run wild. They blow from anywhere. Rain comes from the north or northeast, usu ally, and cold, clearing winds blow from the southwest. And the lightning is bad; it gets less as you fly north, toward the Equator. "But it's the pampero that makes the worst weather. It blows off the pampas, but we don't mind it much. Pilots always get ample warning by the big clouds of dust that can be seen coming ahead of these storms." In pouring rain we took gas at Rio Grande do Sul, and hopped off with water fairly streaming from our wide wings. In heavy rain-not as in fog-you can see land or water plainly at least 200 feet below you. The force and weight of heavy rainfall slows down a plane, as mud slows down a motor car, but it keeps going. For 250 miles, along the lonely coast of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost State, we flew past a string of great lakes. The north end of this stretch is known as the Lagoa dos Patos. It is a wild, for saken region till you round the shoulder of Uruguay, with its vast, green sheep pastures. AND SO BUENOS AIRES AT LAST Swift transition from empty wilderness to civilization's refined works is almost as tounding here. Magnificent summer hotels with well-kept golf courses dot the beaches, as you near Montevideo. Big stockyards remind you of Kansas City. On a pack ing plant you see the name "Swift" in big white letters. Ten minutes only we stop for gas and mails in this great, busy city of nearly half a million; then up and off, over the wide, muddy mouth of the great River Plate. In the long trip from Rio we had seen hardly a ship, but now here came a great parade of merchant vessels, flying flags of many sea-trading nations. A double line of buoys marks the channel, which hugs the south shore of the Plate and forms a busy lane to the sea. Like the Rhine, the Plate carries a colossal tonnage. We jump a fog bank and get another look at the long line of ships. It seems like some big nation's navy cruising in re view past a king. Then beyond, like a mirage in desert haze, we glimpse the majestic skyline of Buenos Aires, metropolis of South Amer ica-our goal, after Io,ooo miles of fly ing over strange lands, up hidden rivers, around volcanoes, across forests primeval, and the jungle wastes of trackless Tropics. Smoky, foggy, serrated with skyscrapers, tall chimneys, radio towers, masts, fun nels, cranes, derricks, it emerges from the blurred etching as our plane speeds closer at Ioo miles an hour. Pilots always want to spurt the last few leagues. Higher we climb for a better view, and see a vast, solid, far-flung prairie city, flat as Chicago, stretching miles and miles ; and still farther away, in the red haze of foggy sunset, the everlasting pampas.