I set to work and made up a list of the material and replacements I should need. This made fourteen pages.
Then began a strange, but strangely happy period of my life. I stayed with the Dignams, and settled into life on the island, fishing, rat-hunting, and enjoying being a member of one of the friendliest communities I have ever met. As far as I could see the island was communistic in the Biblical rather than any political sense. Its income was derived from the sale of its produce, which was divided up equally. If anyone did extra work, the money he earned was deducted from his share of the community income. This island income was chiefly derived from selling palm seed of the Kentia palms growing there. The seed from these palms was the only kind that would germinate in cold countries. The island was owned by the New South Wales Government, which took orders for the seed, and instructed the islanders to ship the required number of bags of seed every time the steamer called. I began to find the island the most attractive spot imaginable. The islanders were happy, loveable people, the men interesting and the girls charming; the island itself a paradise. The beach of white coral sand with the piled up line of sea debris marking high-water mark was a romantic spot in the white light of the full moon with the lagoon at hand. Sometimes at night, the beauty would swell one’s heart. The still air was pure, and strangely clear.
Australia Map English Photo Gallery
All the time I schemed about how to rebuild the seaplane. I had worked out my list of materials, and when the steamer came, sent it off to Sydney. I soon realised that unless I hurried, I should be caught by the gales and storms of late winter, and I gave up the idea of doing all the work myself. I found Roley Wilson, Gower Wilson’s brother, and asked him if he would help me. Certainly. How much should I pay him? He would gladly do it for nothing. No, that would not be right; how much would he be paid if he were working for an islander? He replied, ‘So much for ordinary work, and then again, so much more if working with a horse. I said I thought that he should get as much for working with me as with a horse, and away he went. He was a great craftsman, a splendid fellow to work with. Roley started painting the floats. It was tricky work, because an arm inserted up to the shoulder completely filled a manhole, making it impossible to look into the float, so that the painting had to be done by touch. One morning he called to me, ‘Hey, Chicko! Just look at the keel of this float! Someone has plugged the crack between the keel and the shell of the float with putty. I can dig it out with my knife.’
We thought this was a queer thing for anyone to do, but Roley picked out this putty as well as he could, and painted the seam with extra care to make sure of its being watertight. It was years before I found out that this ‘putty was simply the duralumin shell eaten away by electrolytic action. To think that I had before my eyes the source of such great trouble, and that I did not realise it!
The Makambo returned from Sydney with materials for me, and we began rebuilding the wings. Often I feared that I had taken on too much. Studying a blueprint sent by the Sydney branch of de Havillands, I read that each bay of the wing must be trammelled to fifteen-hundredths of an inch.
‘Roley, what is a trammel?’
‘Trammel? said Roley. ‘Isn’t that what a bishop carries when preaching in a cathedral?’
‘I think we shall get into an unholy mess with this blueprint. I think we had better keep one wing intact until we have rebuilt its mate.’
‘That’s just what I think, too, said Roley.