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Journal of a Seaplane Cruise Around The World:

by Richard Upjohn Light, M.D.

1930 photo of Dr. Light in his aviator suit next to his Pitcairn. A long flight, occupying months, is very much like an extended journey by rail or steamship. The period of travel is broken up into shorter or longer stretches, which terminate at new ports or stations each evening. As the airplane comes to rest, strangers approach to speak a word of greeting, to furnish gasoline or food, or to give an invitation for dinner and the night. Soon they are strangers no longer. Friendships form, some close, some casual, but each in turn ties the traveler more intimately to his world. They furnish life to his aerial picture.

My memories of the trip, now three years old, lie divided between episodes of the flight, and the host of friends whom we met. The scenes were thrilling, often stupendous and unbelievable; sometimes, too, there were moments of uncertainty and danger, which left their sharp glint. But equal to these experiences was the pleasure of companionship, and I take this opportunity, much delayed, to relate to these friends the rest of the journey, the events that occurred after leaving the hospitality of their shores.

In reproducing the JOURNAL, a complete record of the radio communication has been preserved. This matter is not easy to read, for it embraces another language, a lingo of abbreviation invented to lessen the labor of Morse code transmission. With a little practice, however, the reader will find himself translating free style, because many of the terms are merely natural reductions from ordinary conversational forms. For example, it is easier to write "b4" than to spell out "before," and an operator would be more apt to say: "are u gg ahead this pm?" than "are you going ahead this afternoon?" or again, "Sri Bob Xmtr was on blink on sked es been tearing arnd hr trying to fix it. Mos ok now wil send u msg." Meaning (possibly): "I am sorry, Bob, but the transmitter was defective when our last schedule came due, and I have been tearing around here trying to fix it - it is nearly perfect now and I will send you the message." It can be appreciated that when messages are being transmitted at speeds of 25 to 35 words a minute, only a capable operation can comprehend their meaning. Sometimes in the effort to avoid correct English the result is paradoxical, for one can hardly understand how "line bizzy" can be a productive abbreviation! The most difficult terms are the so-called "Q" signals, which are built up with three letters, beginning with the letter "Q" and have been assigned arbitrarily to various phrases. Occasionally the content can be guessed at, such as a Baghdad message which reads, "is your qaa still 1300?" meaning "Do you still expect to arrive at 1300?" but more often they are so cryptic that even the operators must refer to the code book. A glossary is provided in the appendix, both of customary amateur abbreviations and of official "Q" signals.


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