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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Four: North America

Tuesday, January 15

Guaymas to Mazatlan 1855 LAND MAZATLAN. (Flying time 4 hours, 50 minutes)

The coast between Guaymus and Mazatlan is a flat sandy shore with few breaks in its monotonous character. Near the mouth of the Fuerte River lies a group of humpy islands, which form Topolobampo Harbor. From that point south, one travels over a succession of long curving beaches which often enclose crocodile-infested lagoons.

Only 40 miles away from the coast there is a chain of mountains, which is hardly surpassed anywhere in the world for its deep canyons. The Sierra Madre Occidental, a southerly extension of the Rocky Mountains, rises to about 11,000 feet, but its rivers, which are formed by the numerous streams that tumble off the Durango plateau, drop almost immediately into canyons whose floors are but 1000 to 1500 feet above sea level. These mountains are famous for their gold and silver, and a number of individual mines exist from which above $100,000,000 of ore has been extracted. On an earlier trip (1932) I flew from the plateau at Durango across the canyon of the Piaxtla, and then to Mazatlan. My companion was Donald McLaughlin, Professor of Geology at Harvard, who had crossed this region many times on mule back. We saw one mine at San Dims, which is yielding annually $2,000,000 in silver at the present time. Because of the difficulties of terrestial transportation (two days on a mule to reach the sea-coast, in addition to the hazards of banditry) a small one way airport was constructed below the mine. It is one of the most unique airports in existence. In landing, the pilot must glide accurately from a 6,000 foot altitude to land facing the almost vertical wall which forms the upstream end of the canyon. The take off is equally hair-raising, and the plane must climb in measured spirals, gaining a certain altitude for each turn. The take offs and landings are made before seven-thirty a.m. to avoid the treacherous currents.

Mazatlan is the chief seaport of this region, and is the focus for mining parties which operate throughout the mountain gorges to the east. When we arrived here, I circled carefully to study the tidal currents, and landed in the river some distance away from the town, taxiing close to a pier before mooring to a buoy . . . If one understands the Mexican temperament, he will find Mazatlan his ideal in resort towns. It faces the pounding surf of the pacific and from the hotel room overlooking the promenade, one has a view of the sea which is impossible to describe. The hotel itself is unique, having been built by a wealthy miner, from woods native to the district, and decorated with tiles both from Mexico and Spain. The cuisine and wines are excellent, as I know well, having once celebrated a birthday here. The shadow of the law has been over us all day, and I passed from one governmental office to another, attempting to settle this miserable business of improper entrance. They have finally decided to pass us along to Acapulco, which is a certain gain.

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