Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World
Saturday, September 1 - A Day in Reykjavik
We divided our energies today and Bob took over the work of fueling the airplane and of greasing the engine. He began amusingly by falling off the pontoon and had to swim back to the ship with all his clothes on in the icy water. Meanwhile I took the damaged camera to a local jeweler and at the same time left the Bausch and Lomb bubble sextant with another jeweler so that both would be ready by evening. I shuttled back and forth between the two shops giving suggestions for the work. The camera mechanism had jammed along the Greenland coast and we found on dissembling it that the gears had been cut over size, and during use had burred up the teeth so that they finally locked. The repairman filed them carefully and we shall probably have no more trouble.
The sextant was badly out of adjustment. It can be adjusted without tools to rectify an error of about nine degrees but, since it was last returned to me, its mirror has been from 20 to 30 degrees off. Upon dissembling it we found it was necessary only to loosen the set screw and move the mirror back into alignment. We also reworked and turned down the counting mechanism lock nut on a lathe so that a lock washer could be inserted. Curiously enough the jeweler had never heard of a lock washer and he had to make one up from a simple sketch which I made. These two instruments are the only parts of our equipment which were not satisfactory when we left (the radio homing device should perhaps be mentioned also) and it is significant that both should have been products of leading manufacturers of optical equipment.
In the late afternoon I paid a call to the Danish Ambassador to Iceland. It is odd that such a diplomatic post should exist, for Iceland is usually considered to be a part of Denmark. About fifteen years ago, however, there was a voluntary separation instigated by the Icelandic side. Shrewdly, she chose to retain the Danish King as her sovereign and was thus saved the expense of consuls and protective navies. The Icelander however is rather bitter toward Denmark, and is particularly sensitive about the restrictions which prevent him from journeying to Greenland, so that very few Icelanders have ever seen the country. It is hardly to be wondered that TFA practically exploded when I asked by wireless "When is the next steamer for Angmagssalik?"
Dr. Charcot had suggested that it would be of value to meet Ambassador F. de Sage de Pontenay, and it proved to be a very pleasant duty. I was driven out to his house in the rain. It is a splendid place, with high wall and iron gate, vegetables and flowers in the garden. Was admitted by a maid, who managed to survive the fact that I had no card (nor suit coat!) and was led to the second floor. Mr. Fontenay a strong man of 45-50, hair close-cut lean face. Spoke good English, and introduced me to a Danish Naval Officer, Lieutenant Commander L. Rostock-Jensen, whose knowledge of English was also welcome. Chatted at length, and had tea. The ambassador's home is evidently a meeting house for many people, and they frequently referred to their mutual friends. Knew Dr. Charcot, and was interested in his coming on. Knew much about Greenland, and asked of our experiences, of the possibility of a flying route across there (which I think is poor); of the Ibsens, whom they admire; of Mrs. Owen. The Ambassador has a good humor, and can even swear well in English! Very keen; good library, and even 5 early Codices of Scandinavian origin.
I asked if Lindbergh had given Denmark any report of his work in Greenland, and he said no, he made it to P.A.A. and nothing had been forwarded yet. The Lt. Com. broke in to say that Lindbergh had taken lunch aboard his boat (a submarine) each day in Copenhagen, and they had talked a good deal - said he thought L. undecided about the value of the route, and unwilling to say an opinion.
Left with the officer, who considerately took me aboard his ship to examine the weather maps which his meteorologist makes up 2 times daily. The maps showed poor weather for Sunday, so we will not attempt to leave. His boat is only a very small one, with total crew of 11; - sail and power. Has been on fishing patrol along W. Greenland coast; arrested four foreign fishing vessels; compelled them to go to port and pay a fine. Had come back through Prince Christian Sound, the great through-and-through fjord across southern Greenland. He has been 8 years in submarines, and this is only a vacation trip. He was once shipwrecked with 21 men by the ice at Angmagssalik and had to spend the winter there.
In the evening we had dinner in the hotel's ballroom. It is rather queer, all this -- Iceland is "Isolated land" and Reykjavik still more so; the only entertainment of the town is in this hotel. It has a large dining room without particular style; many tables. The girls come in by twos, threes, and fours, unescorted, and order three Kroner dinners. Later on the men arrive, in groups, and before long the place is jammed, with more people to each table than can be seated. The chamber music of dinner gives way to an American band (quite good) which turns out the latest tunes. Then the men begin to move about, and to mix with the girls. Much wine flows, and the semi-albino eyes of these Nordics turn quite red. Mr. Hallgrinsson, of Shell, was sitting in the booth behind me when I was writing the last few pages, and insisted I join him and some other men, so that I now have a chance to learn some of this at firsthand.
Iceland was probably the first country to enforce prohibition against alcoholic drinks, by adopting the law in 1901. At first it was complete, but later it was necessary to allow the sale of Spanish wines in order to retain the country's export of codfish to Spain. Prohibition however, is on its last legs, and will be repealed by January 1935.
The girls are pretty things, nearly all. Many blondes. They have something of a cold imperative beauty, and you wonder how deep an imagination lies beneath. Makeup is widespread, but occasionally there is a perfect beauty, with fresh cheeks and bright blue eyes; - long blonde hair in braids and the braids turned back to be tied to a cap which has a tassel off the left ear, reaching, like the doubled braids, to the waist; - a native bodice and skirt in bright colors -- Oh yes, and smoking a cigarette!