Here I had trouble with a tropical rainstorm that lasted for 45 miles, and when I flew out of it I thought I was looking at the twin islands of Ternate and Tidore. But I could not see any sign of Ternate town. This made me anxious, as I had only an hour’s petrol left. The truth was that Tidore’s volcano was in cloud or smoke. This had flowed down to the sea in the middle of the island, so that really I was looking only at the one island of Tidore, divided in two by smoke. As soon as I reached the north-east point of Tidore I could see Ternate plainly ahead, and flew over to it.
I had no diplomatic standing here, because Ternate was not one of the halting places I had nominated. At the other places, instructions had been received from the Governor-General of the East Indies to lay down moorings for me. Here there was nothing, but I managed to anchor, and was conducted to the hotel by a thousand yelling children and the Captain of Police.
Australia Map World Atlas Gallery Photos
Australia Map World Atlas
He spoke no English; no one at the hotel spoke English. In the morning, with 35 gallons of petrol on board – five more than the day before – I taxied to the windward side of the islands and took off from the lively blue water there. Ahead of me was a water jump of 175 miles to the Talauer Islands. When I tried to test my magnetos I found that both the switches were stuck, and later, as I was writing up my log, the engine cut out for a fraction of a second. After I had been in the air for nearly three hours, I was attacked by sleepiness, and I decided to come down on the open sea. For 1,500 miles my curiosity had been growing to see whether I could come down on the open Pacific, and get away afterwards. I felt sure I could do it on that day. The danger was in swell that might make it impossible to rise again, but I felt confident that I could detect a swell if there was one. I headed the seaplane into the wind, and watched the surface intently as I glided down. There was no drift and no swell, an ideal sea with short choppy waves. When the seaplane came to rest I could not stop the engine, because the magneto-switches were stuck. I had to turn off the petrol, and wait until the carburettor ran dry. There was more sea than I had expected, and the Gipsy Moth rolled heavily. I logged, ‘Funny how she always rides beam to wind’, then lit a cigar, and took the magneto-switch to pieces. The tiny springs had corroded, and the make and break had jammed. I fixed it as well as I could.
We bumped the waves hard taking off, and every impact shocked the whole seaplane from end to end. It was an anxious time, but at last she rose. I had misjudged that sea; it was too deep for safety. (Although I think it would have been safe enough if the bilge compartment in the starboard float had not been full of water.)
As I left the Talauers astern, I logged, ‘Can see water running from the tail of the starboard float all the time; so evidently it empties in the air from the same leak.’ I thought that it came from the bilge compartment which I pumped dry every morning, and I still did not then realise that it came from a compartment which was full up. Sixty miles north of the Talauers, I was writing in my log when suddenly the engine cut out. I was jerked instantly from a tolerant philosopher into a primitive animal. As I began turning into wind to alight, the engine cut back in, and I slowly settled after the shock. After I was on course again, the engine cut out briefly several more times. I tried the switches, but they were functioning perfectly. I thought that it must be due to the carburettor. After a while, in the drowsy sticky heat, I forgot about it.