Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Wednesday, October 24
The Buluchistan Coast forms the last and most difficult obstruction to commerce between the Mediterranean Sea and India. It is almost devoid of vegetation and consists of a long stretch of sandy foreshore which is broken on the coastline by the magnificent cliffs of Malan, the headlands of Ormara and Gwadur, and the precipices near Pasni. Volcanic action is in evidence in occasional boiling mud volcanoes near the coast. While flying along this region of a late afternoon, one feels a certain sense of exhilaration because, in common with all barren eroded regions, the deep shadows from the setting sun intensify nature's marking into a museum of fantastic figures. Just at the end of the run, we came upon a train of camels plodding slowly across the beach, their shadows flung out many yards to the east.
For at least 3,000 years prior to the Christian era, there was tribal trading along this coast, which brought goods from India into the Mediterranean region. The Arabians securely blocked the efforts of the early Greeks to break through their territory to establish direct commerce, and the first penetration to India forms one of the early achievements in exploration. In the year 510 B.C. Scylax of Caryands was sent by Darius to make the overland journey to the Indus river. He was gone two and a half years but returned successfully, having sailed from the mouth of the Indus around Arabia and back through the Red Sea. 200 years later the great Alexander set out with a large army of 5,000 men and, after reaching the Indus, started the return march through Baluchistan. His sea captain, Nearchus, proceeded along the coast with a large number of ships, which touched in ports occasionally to pick up supplies. They suffered great hardships and often enough failed to meet their land party. These two early attempts were not sufficiently successful to establish regular commerce, and it was not until wealthy Rome in the time of Augustus setup a demand for oriental luxuries, that their more adventurous Greek neighbors began to undertake the Indian voyage regularly.
The significant feature of this region is the prevailing wind, which is known as the "monsoon". The word is derived from the Arabic mausim, which means season. Between April and October there is a steady southwest wind, so that a sailing vessel starting from Africa is bound to reach northwest India, and it may return home between November and March by the directive force of the northeast monsoon. The early mariners, whose navigation was largely guesswork, made the fullest use of this fortunate condition, and set sail from Aden to arrive several weeks later in the Indus region. Such long voyages must have been a prod to the imagination, for Lucian (A.D. 130) expressed the hope that men might fly from Greece to India in a day!
Having learned of this interesting history from books in Krebs' third floor library, we would have counted it a mistake to have passed the length of this coast without stopping at some point, and were much amused that the radio operator should urge us to continue to Karachi with his message: "Then why are you going to land at Gwadur? Why?" The answer may have been, to learn if it be true that -
"In the Tibarenian Land
We dropped anchor in the east bay and soon took on a small supply of gasoline from tins. The water was dark brown and had a foul odor as though the wind had been blowing into the bay for many days and had deposited dead fish about, I am certain now that this is the case because while buttoning on the motor cover, I reached out too far and suddenly felt feet slip and head strike hard, and then a complete immersion in the lukewarm sea. Bob nearly fell off too, from laughing.
There was a brief argument on shore as to where we should spend the night, for this tiny village has nothing to resemble a hotel. It became a question as to whether the postmaster, the gasoline agent, or the chief trader should somehow makeup beds. These people, of course, are native Indians, and while being Caucasian, have dark skins. It was decided finally that we go across to the radio operator's for dinner and meanwhile some shelter would be found where we could spend the night. It was already dark and under bright stars we walked along the sandy road which led to the house of A.E. Thompson, the wireless operator. He is a native, or perhaps an Anglo Indian, who after finishing education in the operation of wireless equipment, has taken up duties at this intermediate post. A fine dinner has been prepared, and we are to be joined by Major H.R.P. Reynolds who is here for some weeks supervising the construction of an airport for the use of the Imperial Airways' planes.
During dinner we learned from Major Reynolde about the three competing lines which operate between Europe and the far East. The Dutch run weekly service in trimotor Fokkers from Amsterdam to Batavia (Java) and go through on a seven day schedule. They use land planes throughout the distance. The French operate a line between Paris and French Indo-China, which parallels the Dutch line as far as Bangkok (Siam). The English operate only as far as India but because of the general political situation they are unable to work out the best route. For example, they must begin the flight at Brindisi in southern Italy, because arrangements have not yet been made with France or Italy for the journey across their territories. Moreover, England has no authority whereby she may use ports in Persian territory, so that she must proceed down the Arabian side of the Persian Gulf and then make a long oversea crossing from Sharjah to India. Gwadur is the most westerly point of India and for that reason is being made an air base. An overnight camp will be ready soon, but so far there are no accommodations.
Thompson's radio office adjoined the living room, and Bob soon discovered why there was such a long interval between the end of his transmission and the beginning of Thompson's, because as he sat at the desk and turned on the transmitter, he had to take a long wooden pole and reach across the room to the generator in order to poke the brushes into action, for the equipment was somewhat antiquated. He has promised to get weather reports for us in the morning before leaving for Karachi.