Thursday, November 25, 2010

South Pacific Survey 16th July 1951,Aitutaki

Made plans for refuelling and went down to Aitutaki Township to go out with the whale boat a distance of some 14 miles through rather tricky channels between coral heads and the wind freshening all the ways.

It usually takes, according to Harrington, 1 hour and 10 minutes to do the journey but we were still a few miles away when the bilge pump broke down and the engine started to get covered with water from the leaking seams and what seas were coming over the head.
Nice situation to be in and contemplated striking a coral head and getting wrecked in the lagoon with all this aviation fuel around.

However, we made it by dint of perserverance and finally refuelled and plodded off home cold and wet but the aircraft is now ready for any work that may be required.

The billets are very close to the reef here and the old man sea roars away all night on the lagoon and reef and the coconut palms give an exaggerated idea of wind strength. We sleep with a blanket and sheet here, it being much colder here than Samoa or Papeete.

South Pacific Survey 15th July 1951

Spent a lazy day today, wrote a little and had a sleep in the afternoon. During the morning went up to the top of a nearby hill and had a little look around. Not a lot to be seen except coconut plantations. So will close this down at this stage.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

South Pacific Survey 14th July 1951

Up again at 6 a.m. to finish writing as the plane leaves at 10 a.m. and I have to finish by 9.00 a.m. to get to the airfield. Finished off the letters and unshaven went off to see Scott off and ask Bert Barclay to ring Doris when he got home.

Had morning tea, then went back to go aboard the launch to go and look at the A/C at moorings. While down there I took the opportunity to go down to inspect the moorings and anchors.

The buoy to which we were moored had a cable 1" in diameter and two cable fasteners at either end. Top end OK, did not like the look of the anchor end of our buoy but consider it safe. The other buoy which has no buffer is by far the better of the two having a tremendous anchor and chain, far in excess of what would be required. The can buoy has no buffer and no strop for the centre for pick-up.

Spent the afternoon, or what was left of it, writing and had a little nap too. Must be getting old. (editors note: he would have been around 38 years old)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

South Pacific Survey 13th July 1951

Up bright and early to get ready for the journey to Aitutaki. Lots of people are disappointed we are going. They want us to stay until Bastille Day, from the 14th to the 19th but our work is complete and we must go.

Seems that I'm born to fly on holidays, at least I always seem to.
Cleared through Customs etc, said goodbye to all concerned and had a lei drooped around my neck, very nice too. An invitation to return as soon as possible and off we went in the Harbourmaster's launch to load the old Catalina with him.

We cast off moorings and after we were airborne we came back over the town to drop our leis, which if dropped overboard from a canoe or a ship after departure and if it drifts ashore you will surely return to Tahiti so the legend goes.

Set course over Moorea for Aitutaki and after an uneventful flight we touched down at Aitutaki.
We off loaded all our luggage preparatory to staying some 5 to 10 days.

Most of my passengers who had been up wining and dining late did not feel so good, but we had no casualties. This meant an early night for some, but as Scott was going back to NZ it meant that I had to burn the midnight oil and after that, I could not keep awake any longer.

I returned, and got up early again in the morning to finish off an interim report to the General Manager.

South Pacific Survey 12th July 1951

Carlyon and myself refuelled the old Catalina to let the others take the advantage of the offer of a ride around the island for the day and everything went well on the job.

On going ashore we went along to Quinns to have a look at the place in daylight, and met Scott and Van der Brock. Had a few beers and we were told we were going to a cocktail party at the Governor's.

Had a pleasant lunch finalising all the go for the journey back. Took the Minister or Director of Civil Aviation right through the ship's papers, gave reasons why for all of them, then left several copies to be looked over. This may or may not do some good.

Went around to Air Tahiti and thanked them for the use of their launch and offered to pay. They would not accept any charge. Finalised with A B Donalds, had a hair cut and went home to get cleaned up for the cocktail party.

Met all sorts of people at the cocktail party and really appreciated meeting M. Petitbon. Neither he nor his wife speaks a word of English. He is regarded as a good man for Tahiti. We had whiskey lime ice, some sandwiches, cake, and said our goodbyes, then home to a last and very pleasant meal.

Met some Americans who sailed the Nordleys, who were higher than a kite. Went to bed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

South Pacific Survey 11th July 1951

Up early with the native Charlie coming alongside the Catalina in his outrigger canoe, and after a few preliminaries we went ashore and got our luggage ready and then went in to breakfast.
I say "in" because the "in" bit is under a thatched roof on a light steel frame left by the Americans, a low fence, sand floor and that is all.

The owner, one tooth in his head, a clapped out casinova, if ever there was one.
Bread full of weevils and growing fungus, butter rancid, flies, plenty. Otherwise a charming spot.

We slipped moorings and set course first to Raitea, where the Maori left on their journey southward to NZ.

Flew over high, then on to Moorea, just south of Papeete.
A very weird island this just flung up above the sea, jagged peaks and valleys, a truly magnificent sight.

We then flew around Papeete the around the whole island to get some idea of the layout of the land. We then landed and went once more to "Les Tropiques". Had lunch and went to town to arrange the refuelling of the Catalina as we leave as soon as Scott has seen the Governor, M. Petitbon.

Did a little shopping, tied up some loose ends of business and so home to enjoy once again the dinner under the stars, soft candle light and the idle chatter in French.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

South Pacific Survey 10th July 1951

The dates I have been using are incorrect by one day, so have to add one to correct.

We slept the night on the Catalina, due to the intense smell in the bungalow of a broken lavatory. Could not raise the native boy to row us out, so decided to borrow his outrigger canoe.

What a trip it was, like kneeling on a tight rope and being pitch black and 65' of water some bedding was just about ruined by the time we reached the aircraft. It rained during the night and it was dull and overcast when we got up, later raining most of the day.

Went for a walk to inspect the fuel installation but our supernumary engineer climbed a coconut tree and on the way down cut his foot rather badly on a piece of glass so we had to return to our camp.

Rained most of the day, so did a little writing and some cleaning up jobs.

The cook house is most primitive, the natives have no idea of cleanliness at all and I saw one dip his hand in the soup to see if it was hot enough to serve. All cooking done over an open fire of coconut husks. Plenty of pigs, chickens,dogs, cats around and under the meal table at meal times and to clean up you just scrape your plate over your shoulder.

We are to leave tomorrow morning and so must get all packed up to go back to Tahiti.

South Pacific Survey 8th July 1951

The day started well, everyone on time, then the British Consul and the French Director of Civil Air and the Harbour Master held us up so that we were eventually half an hour late.

Had a little difficulty getting the aircraft into the air first time due to the down wind and had to throttle back. OK into wind. Took off and all these dubious types, Chabliet, Devinish etc had to come up and see the controls and on one hours flight it was hell.

Arrived in Bora Bora and the Air Tahiti Mallard decided to formate on the Catalina. Not so good. Had a good look at the set up, both the land base and the sea alighting area.

We landed shortly afterwards and moored in the deep water area near the coral reef, ie 115' away and near a jetty alongside was a seagoing American yacht, the "Noddy" which we asked to move otherwise our tail would have been in their rigging.

Inspected moorings and made a few measurements of the distances to the reef. It would not please one to be in a Solent to be on the present moorings. Civil Air did not appear to be very interested.

Later in the evening when out to inspect, or should I say view, a hula dancing team of males and females who were training to attend the Bastille Day Ceremony at Papeete. They sure know how to wriggle what they have. The drum banging grates hard on the ears after a while.

South Pacific Survey 7th July 1951

Had breakfast in our bungalow this morning, very nice too and later showered and shaved and wandered in for lunch.

After lunch we devised a list of requirements civil and otherwise for this type Chabliet who of course must know. Later went down to look at the mooring buoy and possible set up that would be suitable for operating flying boats.

Have a few ideas that may cut down costs all round, but must first wait and see what the set up is. I cannot concede that the NZ Government is going to do the work if they are not to go further than Aitutaki.

Prepared all the aircraft's papers, packed my bags ready for an early start tomorrow morning. We hope.

South Pacific Survey 6th July 1951

The intention is to go to Bora Bora on Monday and so an early start was made to get the surveyors gear off the aircraft as they now have permission from the French to carry out some work.

Originally permission was to be sought from Paris but they relented and said go ahead. This gear all had to go through customs: what a job.

We then ran the engines after slipping the moorings and the check was good.

Had a wander around this Air Tahiti outfit. How anyone is allowed to operate with props in the condition these were in is beyond reason and can only think that it must have and adverse effect on the engine main bearings. Not only that, but chunks taken out of them.

Did some shopping , bought Doris some Chanel No5 and some Eau de Cologne. Prices vary much the same as NZ. Samoa is dearer than here, except perhaps for food.

The dinner here was excellent and after dining and wining beneath the tropic moon in the warm open air we went out to see a bohemian outfit Dance Caberet with the British Consul Devinish. A seething mass of dancers, half alcoholic, natives, and all, terrific.

Went down to the Lido thinking it may be a little quieter. It was closed. Home to bed.

Fifi, previously mentioned in the All Girls Tahitian Band did another hula which Resio joined in.

South Pacific Survey 5th July 1951

Wandered along to the meteorological bureau just to have a look at the set-up and to get some idea of their work. Their map is the one Nandi Meteorological Station sends to them and they just plot the information, make their story fit and everyone is happy.

After the met station we went off to be shown the new alighting area and to get some idea of the extent of the coral. I was not impressed with what I saw in it's present form, but adequately marked it should be suitable.

Brodie is of course responsible and he is here to tell us what he wants and any other views are not worth having. Of course M Pierre Chabeliet would not know as he has not had to deal with boats except what Qantas has told him at Noumea.

My ear has been playing up and so decided to have a little rest this afternoon. Slept till five, had a swim, dinner at seven thirty and then to bed.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

South Pacific Survey 4th July 1951

We had part of the morning on the aircraft and mainly on maintenance overhaul. Thus far the old Catalina has gone well and not even a magneto drop. Had to bring a lot of gear along for these types and struggle it through Customs.

The need to be able to speak a few more languages is essential, what a help French would be to me up here.

We arrived back at the Les Tropiques, changed hurriedly to go out to the 4th of July celebrations and dinner for which we had cordial invitations and it is said the Governor's Tea Party.

The Yanks ran true to form in so much as that while they like your company, they expect you to pay for your entertainment and meals, with a consequence the Royal Tahitian "do" cost quite a few francs. We came home for dinner and quite a few of the merry-makers arrived soon after.
We finished up the day by refusing to even consider taking back America as a colony.

Some of us now were keen to wend our way home, we seem to be getting absolutely no where in this place, can waste more time than enough.

The coral and fishes are the most beautiful I have yet seen. The flowers, well they are beautiful in the extreme. Very large hibiscus, red of course. Some white, some yellow.

Saw the hula dance today, and it certainly calls for some energy to be put into the wriggle show.
Must away to bed.