Australia Map Location

Minnie arrived, full of chatter and giggles. Eileen was intent and quiet, as if unwilling to waste the enjoyment of one second. Gower told me exactly what type of windscreen would improve the excessive blast in the front cockpit, and had I seen the big school of bluies at the mouth of North Passage?

Frank surprised me most. Poor slow old Frank, I thought, will realise we have left the water just about when we settle on it again. To my surprise, we were barely in the air when he coolly picked out his house half hidden by trees, and signalled me to fly there and circle it while he waved to his wife. Suddenly he gripped the cockpit edge and stared down. Curious to know why, I banked steeply. He was looking at his small garden. A horse, two calves, a lot of hens and ducks were steeple chasing through it. I tapped Frank on the shoulder and laughed, at which he shook his fist at me.

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Next morning, with a stiff south-east breeze in a lopping sea, I was still taking up passengers, but becoming more uneasy and peevish every trip. I must be flying badly I thought, as the seaplane swerved to the right on alighting, and nearly capsized. I seemed to take longer to leave the water each time. I stopped flying to pump the bilges dry with my new specially-made bilge pump, but there was scarcely any water in them. When Roley said to me, You know, Chicko, I can see water trickling off the bottom as you fly low over the shed; you must have water in the starboard float. I pooh-poohed the idea. I had only just pumped all the bilges dry. The truth was that the fixed metal bilge pipe which led to the bottom of the compartment with the big leak had buckled and cracked when the float was dropped on the deck of the cruiser. When the bilge pump was attached to this pipe, it sucked air through the crack at the top, although the float compartment was full of water.

I spent the afternoon in a feverish rush, stowing my gear, fuelling, collecting mail, and making myself a fresh chart for a direct flight to Sydney. I had made what now seems a crazy decision to fly direct to Sydney, 483 miles across water, whereas by increasing the flight by 80 miles I could have flown to Macquarie, the nearest place on the mainland thereby cutting down the flight over water to 365 miles.

Just before midnight I went for my last run along the beach. I used to enjoy my 2-mile barefooted sprint every night before turning in. Often, when the moon made the stars pale in a clear sky, I yearned to be up there flying again. It was the yearning that a frustrated airman will pay any price to satisfy -health, life, fortune. But that night I felt sad. My stay on the island was nearing its end. It had been the happiest nine weeks of my life, perhaps because I knew it was a crazy, dangerous flight which I had to face, the most foolhardy I had ever attempted; to fly across 483 miles of ocean, with a seaplane and engine which had spent a night bumping on the bottom of the sea. I dreaded the idea of the flight.

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