Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Wednesday, August 29 - le Pourquois Pas? [the Why Not?]
The story must appear disjointed from the radio entries alone. Why to Angmagssalik? We do not belong here, since we have provided no fuel base; and Denmark was specific that I should bear responsibility for this provision. At Julianehaab I had intended to cruise up the coast and back in order to make photographs. The hazardous take off was too much and I decided against a return to that unprotected fjord. Then what? We had been delayed 4 hours in getting off, and no longer had time to reach Reykjavik directly before darkness. Gasoline might be stretched to reach Angmagssalik and then Reykjavik, but it would be a close squeeze. Wireless reports said that Angmagssalik has gasoline, but cannot release it without authority from the Greenland Administration. Well, safety first, pride second! - We ask for gas.
Measurement here shows that we used only 110 gallons in 6¼ hours, showing the economy (17 gallons per hour) of running at the slowest possible revolutions. Started at 1700 to gain 4000'; then 1650, 1575, 1550, and for the last 2 ½ hours 1500 revolutions. Now have 20 gallons in each float, 60 in right wing, and 35-40 in left wing = 135 gallons. This is enough to go on to Reykjavik, but does not give much margin.
Our map was the Imray, Laurie, Norie and Wilson Fishing Chart for Greeland, about 30 m. per inch. Not good for details, but accurate enough for navigating. It was perhaps unfortunate that we struck straight across from Cape Mosting, for it took us out of sight of land, and Bob was too busy with radio to check the course and distance frequently, so he did not know how far we had come, with the result that we were 10 m. to the right of the course when we reached land, and failed to identify which was the Sermilik Fjord and which was Angmagssalik Fjord. We turned toward the first island, saw nothing, and went to the next group. Then realized that these were the small islands beyond Angmagssalik and turned back. The sun blinded us, so I decided to climb high enough to view the inlets from the west. As we started up, Bob spotted smoke from a steamer, and we knew we were there. (Grierson arrived here a week ago flying alone from Reyjkavik by directional radio. He passed directly over Angmagssalik, and returned 3 hours later to land in a fjord 20 m. east of here, where he radioed S.O.S. He had been seen by Eskimos both times he flew over and they found him in the plane the next morning after searching with kayaks).
We circle to land away from the sun, and picked a lane in the floating ice on the way down. Had been somewhat disturbed throughout the last hour by the sight of immense tracks of ice along the coast; this harbor seldom has any ice, but this year it has been so heavy that the harbor has been frequently filled. It lies protected by 3000' mountains on all sides.
The ship, which is anchored here, is the Pourquoi Pas?, an expedition vessel of 3 masts, square rigged. Its crew had actually put on more coal, oily rags, etc. to make a smoke for us to see because her radio man was listening to Bob's conversation with OZL. After landing we taxied towards the colony, and were met by a launch from the Pourquoi Pas? Standing in the bow was a white-bearded Frenchman, Dr. Jean Charcot, the son of the famous neurologist. He came alongside and explained in good English the trickiness of the icebergs in this 4 mile bottle-neck fjord, which has tides of 18 or 20 feet high. He first advised us to anchor outside of the tiny inlet to the town, but we explored this lane with the boat and decided to move inside and use the buoy an anchor put out by P.A.A. last year for Lindbergh. Rather than be towed in, I started the engine and drove past the icebergs under power. A big French sailor stood on the right float, and Bob on the left, both with gaffs ready to ward off the floating ice. The passage was accomplished without collision, except for a narrow escape for the propellor, when the sailor in his excitement nearly put his gaff into it.
The Governor of the Colony, Mr. George Rossow, had also come to meet us, but as he spoke no English, we merely shook hands with him and thereafter used the boat which Dr. Charcot kindly placed at our disposal. I climbed the long hill to the radio station to thank William Stilling Berg for his steady aid at the radio, and then went back for dinner on board the Pourquoi Pas?
We appreciated immediately how lucky we were to have been invited aboard the vessel. As we gathered for dinner there were nearly a dozen interesting young men present. Dinner was served at a long table in the wardroom which was decorated with the trophies gathered during many years of sailing in the Arctic. Dr. Charcot took his place at the head of the table and we sat down.
We soon became acquainted, with these men: Dr. Robert Gessen, P.E. Victor, Fred Matter, Michel Perez, Jacques Monod and Pierre Drach. The first four are to be left ashore for the winter; they form a scientific body for studying various phases of the Eskimo life in this curious little colony. Gesson is a physician and has brought with him an x-ray outfit. There is a suspicion that tuberculosis is making its way into this group of Eskimos and he intends filming their chests during the winter months.
Victor is the leader of the group, and I believe is an ethnologist. One of the others (Matter?) a geologist. They have been busy all day unloading their equipment and carrying it up the hill to the house which the Danish Government has given over for their use. The geologist, of course, is intensely keen to fly over this region before he begins his year of ground study, and I have promised that if an opportunity appears he shall have the chance. Even a short flight would give him a huge leg-up in his work.
Dr. Charcot told some great stories and I learned something of the history of his life, which began as a doctor, in practice with his father. His interest turned to sailing and exploration however, and he gave up medicine thereafter. He is generous, kind, and talks from the background of a wide experience.
This extraordinary ship was fitted out in 1908 for arctic exploration. She was launched at St. Malo and started her maiden voyage into the Antarctic under the command of Dr. Charcot, undergoing an unexpected baptism by storm as she set forth into the Channel. She has been in the Arctic every year since that time, save for one or two Mediterranean cruises and the war service, when she became one of the decoy "Q-Ships" for submarine destruction. Throughout her history Charcot has led the expeditions, although some years ago he gave her over to the French navy which now supports the cruises and equips her with man and supplies. She carries 29 men.
The ship's menu was much more varied than I had expected considering that she has spend the summer in Scoresby Sound. We had fresh meat and real French fried potatoes, and it was served with a Bordeaux wine and champagne.
We turned in early. Inasmuch as Mme. Charcot had not accompanied the cruise this year, I was permitted to have the cabin which adjoined the Commander's. Bob went to another part of the ship and had no trouble sleeping in a hammock, for his course in Naval Science had taught him among other things to use these peculiar berths.