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

Wednesday, October 24

Lingeh to Jask LAND JASK. (Flying time 2 hours, 4 minutes)

The Grave of William Baffin. This morning we passed the Island of Kishm and would have stopped there had the engine been behaving itself properly. It is a spot of tremendous interest to North Americans because on the eastern end of the island stands the grave of one of the earliest and most famous explorers of the Northwest Passage, William Baffin, who met his death in the Persian Gulf in the year 1622 . . . .

After rounding the Cape of Good Hope in 1487 the Portuguese soon commanded the Indian trade by their military occupation of the ports of the Persian Gulf. A tremendous fortress was built on the Island of Hormuz, which lies just east of Kishm Island and effectually guards the entrance to the Gulf.

Portugal succeeded in maintaining control of this region for a century, but following the defeat of the Spanish Armada, the English, armed with a charter of incorporation granted to the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies", in 1601 began to bid for this valued commerce. By 1616 trade was established with Persia along the Makran coast as far west as Jask, and in 1620 the English fleet fought the "Battle of Jask" which drove the Portuguese well within the Gulf. In 1622 the combined forces of the English fleet and the Persian army gathered on the Island or Kishm in order to attack the stronghold at Hormuz a few miles distant, which was the most powerful in the Orient at that time. (Hormuz was mentioned by Marco Polo, and is the "Ormus" of Milton).

The hero of Arctic explorations of that day was Baffin who, after a number of expeditions, came to the justifiable conclusion "There is no passage, nor hope of passage, in the north of Davis Strait. We have covered all, or nearly all of the circumference thereof, and find it to be no other than a great bay". His shrewd judgment was forgotten in the centuries to come, and the search for the Northwest Passage developed into one of the great quests of all time. During these northern voyages he made an attempt to determine longitude at sea, and although his instruments were too faulty to give correct results, his method of the lunar distance was later developed into a useful if tedious solution of the problem.

Baffin appeared in the east as mate of the London, and joined in the action against Hormuz. The weakly defended Island of Kishm was taken first, with few casualties except that of poor Baffin, who went "on shoare with his geometricall instruments, for the taking the height and distance of the Castle wall; but as he was about the same he received a small shot from the Castle into his belly wherewith he gave three great leapes, by report, and died immediately". Hormuz was soon captured, and the English celebrated the most import ant event which bad taken place since their appearance in the East.

We had expected to find Jask a port of some size because of its commanding position at the entrance to the Gulf. Quite to our surprise it is a mere collection of houses defying the rigors of a waterless desert. A few date palms are found here, but no other vegetation. The sun is burning hot and the sand blinding white. As in Aden, the supply of water is the unforgetable problem. Nothing but rain can be used for drinking water, and sometimes it fails to rain for three or four years, so that large storage tanks are necessary. The harbor is an open roadstead which gains slight protection from a curve in the coast. We landed and anchored, and called ashore for gasoline. Customs and medical people were all aboard the weekly steamship, which was lying farther out, and we were forbidden to go ashore until the doctor had pronounced us free from contamination. Everything was arranged finally, and we fueled up and prepared to depart. A nice Dutch couple, Mr. and Mrs. Ottins, invited us to have lunch at the KLM rest house, which we gladly accepted. They are running this as one of the main overnight stops for the long air service to the Indies, and have a small but comfortable inn which was built by the Company. The fare was excellent and ended with some native dates, which Mrs. Ottins had washed carefully in permanganate solution to protect against typhoid and the dysenteries. It must be a dreary outlook, spending years in this deserted spot. They had hoped for a radio set which was shipped some months ago. The Persian Government attached 600 per cent duty on it, however, and they have been forced to leave it in Customs. All the furniture with which the house has been provided was taxed similarly - an example of the handicaps under which outsiders carry on commerce in this independent country.

Immediately on landing I had another look at the magnetos and found a broken breaker point spring. Inasmuch as KLM is using Wasps, we had a search through their supply of spare parts, but could find nothing to match. We are going on this afternoon as far as Gwadur; it is now too late to get into Karachi.

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