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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Part Three: Asia

Sunday, October 21

Baghdad Before the race, we dined at the American Legation in the home of Mr. Paul Knabenshue, the United States Minister to Iraq. It proved to be a jolly evening, with Mrs. Knabenshue and their children; I was much taken with the Minister, who is a pleasant and straight-forward person, and most convincing. The dinner was excellent, but we were all eager to be off to the field to meet the first ship in and so finished up in something of a hurry. We had hardly stopped out of the car when there was a drone overhead and we looked into the black heavens to see a fast ship maneuvering overhead at considerable altitude. It was the first arrival but no one could say who was in it. For perhaps five minutes it dodged back and forth in peculiar fashion; apparently the pilot was uncertain as to how to land, or perhaps there were two pilots arguing as to who should handle the controls. Finally the motors were cut and it came in on a nice glide to touch the ground where it was illuminated by the flood lights. Somebody said that it must be the Mollisons, and indeed it was they who stepped out as the ship pulled up to the sidelines. They seemed none the worse for the gruelling experience, and spent a leisurely two hours around the administration building before deciding to go on. This I could not understand, because after all it is a race, and they cannot expect to hold their lead against a crowd if they waste time. Just as they were leaving, the second plane arrived (about midnight), which was also a De Havilland Comet, piloted by Scott and Black. They made a very brief stay of about 40 minutes and then pushed off. Scott explained that they had been lost after dark over some mountains which he recognized were in Persia, and therefore turned, back, only to mistake Mosul (or some town nearby) for Baghdad, where they landed. They did extremely well, all things considered, to have come out of their difficulties intact.

About 1:30 the KLM Douglas landed and caused a great commotion. It is a standard transport Douglas, carrying passengers and mail and making all of the regular stops on the route to the Indies. It seems amazing that they should be so close to the others' schedule. It was followed by another Dutch ship, the Pandar, and then, since it was three o'clock in the morning, we started back for town. One more ship came during the night, Turner and Pangborn in a Boeing, and early this morning another Comet arrived which had actually landed way up in the mountains in Persia, and waited until daylight before returning to Baghdad. We are very sleepy today but intend going on to Basra.

Of all fools!! -- In spite of the warnings of Haylock and the other R.A.F. officers, I steered too far from shore while taxiing downstream to the take off channel, and went aground. Then perfectly witless I opened the throttle in an attempt to "blow off" the bank, and the ship rose on the sand until nearly high and dry. On wading around, we found that nearly all the riverbed was shallow (how we landed so beautifully on Thursday is a miracle), so there was but one hope: turn the plane around and go back off the way we came on. With help from the officers, and kids in the river; with the launch towing, and the wasp wide open, we managed to turn and drag back into the stream. Next time I'll do my wading first!

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