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

Thursday, January 17

Acapulco to Carmen "WSL calling KHMZA. WSL calling KHMZA". 2480 miles away, Mackay radio in Sayville, Long Island, calls Asulinak and says "How are you receiving me" to which Bob replies "Good morning, I am receiving you well, how are my signals?" and Sayville answers: "you are fair". Bob says, "Thanks, here's a paid message to Dr. Light in Kalamazoo---'Sure, we'll meet you in Boston. Approaching Tehuantepec and Sayville said: "That's good, I'll send that".

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest portion of Mexico, barely 130 miles wide between oceans. From the earliest days it has formed an important link, because it is the only region where Mexico may be crossed at low elevation, the highest point in the Chivela Pass being 735 feet. For long it was considered feasible to construct an interoceanic canal here, but when finally the railroad was completed in 1907 even this lesser task had cost fifty years' effort. Much enthusiasm accompanied the opening of the railroad, and plans were pushed to provide adequate steamship terminals at each end. At the northern terminus, the Coatzacoalcos River was utilized by the engineers, but no good port was available at the southern end, and it was necessary to construct at great expense an artificial harbor at Salina Cruz. Two long curving breakwaters were thrown out to enclose a large area into which a double line of quays was built. Six great warehouses, a large number of railroad tracks, and electric cranes were included in the project. There was even constructed one of the largest dry docks in the world, and every effort was made to handle the heavy volume of transcontinental freight which was anticipated (and quite properly, for the steamship lines immediately arranged regular calls at this promising port). The later story of this great project I do not know, but when we came upon Salina Cruz it was found to be nearly deserted*. The sheds, tracks, cranes and breakwaters were all intact, and looked as though they had been built yesterday. There was only one thing wrong: the ocean currents had relentlessly silted up the harbor, and the entrance was completely closed off. Dredging operations had taken place, as one could see by the channels which bit into the heavy sheet of sand, but the harbor engineers had not persevered in the act of salvage. It gave one a queer feeling to look down upon this unsuccessful fight of man against nature, and we were quick to photograph the tell-tale story.

Tehuantepec is noted for its violent winds. Even on the early charts, one can always identify the region by the picture of the little cherub with his cheeks puffed out as he blows symbolically across the narrow pass. What the pioneer sailors discovered, fliers have had reason to regret. The Tehuantepec is a tough customer. I went through it on the heels of a Norther (1930) with Canfield, who was promptly separated from his breakfast, and a month later coming back we bounced around so hard that the cap was jarred loose from the gas tank. On the same day, the trimotor tackled it and a passenger, whose belt was loose, was thrown clear to the ceiling and in his sudden fright grasped quickly at the baggage rack which broke, so that the passenger and the suitcases and everything landed in a heap on the floor. Small wonder that I should have been uneasy as we left Acapulco and started for this tempestuous region. In fact, if there were a Norther blowing, I was fully determined not to attempt the crossing, and to this end Bob fought to make contact with the Pan American station at Vera Cruz. He even went so far as to ask the New York station to get weather reports for us, but before the answer was given we had come upon the pass and could see that it was clear all the way through . . . Once over the Isthmus it was an easy coasting flight into Carmen, and we landed just Seven hours out of Acapulco. It is to be our last stop in Mexico.

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