Fairchild Tropical Garden Expedition aboard the Cheng Ho 1939-1940
NOVEMBER 1939
 
 
 
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DECEMBER 1939
 
 
 
 
 
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JANUARY 1940
 
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FEBRUARY 1940
 
 
 
 
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NOV 1939
21

San Francisco to Honolulu

Written by Edward Beckwith on Wednesday, November 21, 1939

Up at 7. Beautiful, calm, sunny day.

Yesterday I found in room a box of two dozen match folders, each with my name on them and the card of Dan E. London, hotel manager, enclosed. Do not know if this was special attention but wrote note thanking him.

Bought tank for desiccating movie film $3.00. Looked up sewing kits as have button coming off in important place. Saw one for $4.00 & then got just what I wanted for $.10 at Woolworths. Bought tobacco pouch for Bantam [?]. Loaded cameras with film & packed up. Pan American called up at 11:30 to check on time etc. to be there. Had lunch with the Smiths and a friend. Also saw the girl who knew navigation for a few moments. Her name is Mrs. M. C. Stone & she gave me a letter to her husband in Honolulu, (Capt. in the navy).

Smith is a professional lecturer & clears about $4000 a year. An expedition lasts him about two years in lecturing. In half an hour I will be at the Pan American office with the other ‘flyers’.

Two women & five men passengers. One of the former, Miss Kittie Nelson of San Antonio, Texas, and going to Honolulu had so much overweight baggage she had to pay $84 extra. Drove with others to Clipper dock. News photographers took each passengers picture separately. Incidentally my baggage weighed to 75 lbs., 2 lbs. within the limit. Was informed at dock that no photographing would be allowed from Clipper so packed away my cameras. Luggage was examined for matches & combustibles. Examinations very casual. I had matches, all the ones with my name on them and also waterproofing liquids but did not mention them.

China Clipper (Martin M-130)
China Clipper (Martin M-130). Photo-scan of a Pan American Airways brochure (circa 1937). By Telstar Logistics
Day was perfect with a following wind – very light. Take off seemed easy, considering the enormous load of gasoline carried for the 2400 mile flight. An altitude of 9000 feet was held throughout. The plane was the smaller, 40 passenger plane, and a Martin, and not the Boeing 74 passenger. The small number of passengers carried is made up for by the large amount of mail & express (there were crates of baby chicks aboard). The official told me that Mrs. Harkness had tried to get the panda aboard on her return from China but they would not permit it.

There is a main cabin which is also the dining room, & next to it 15 berths somewhat like a train sleeper but narrower. There were upper & lower. The official told me the plane had an air speed of 150 miles per hour & the four motors used 100 gallons of gasoline per hour. They always arranged to maintain a reserve at the end of the flight of 600 gallons. Navigation was by beacon all the way with check by celestial sights. Noise and vibration were very moderate. No smoking.

Miss Nelson immediately brought out a large bottle of scotch & offered everyone a drink. She became very confidential and told me she was divorced from a man 16 years older and was gong out to meet her new fiance at Honolulu whom she described as an Englishman with black hair & the bluest eyes, a perfect physical specimen. She read me extracts of his letters to her. I said I would look him over on landing.

The plane’s flights was absolutely steady & dinner was served at a long table just as on a small cabin boat.

The cabin became cold after dinner & everyone had to put on coats. The electric heaters were in the ceiling instead of low down. I had a upper berth and sleep was spoiled by the heat while the lower berths were too cold. Managed to get some, however, and did not notice the altitude, but nearly everyone, myself included, had a headache in the morning. This was unquestionably due to flying for 18 hours at 9000 feet. This is the longest single stretch flown in the world at the present time.

The flight was mostly several thousand feet above broken clouds through which at intervals a calm sea was visible. The pilots and navigators did not speak to the passengers at any time.

Watches were set back 2 1/2 hours and everyone got up about 6. Mrs. Gauss had a very bad headache & Mr. Parnassus looked decidedly ill. Mrs. Gauss’ young son had such a bad headache that he was unsociable.

As we approached Honolulu Miss Nelson became absorbed in looking out the window with an ecstatic expression.

Clouds covered Hawaii and the plane descended through them, landing beautifully in the bay of Pearl City. Just before landing the steward came in and squirted flit all over the cabin, which made Mrs. Gauss still sicker. He also put screens on two windows but I could not distinguish a fly anywhere. Everyone finally disembarked and Hawaiian girls put the customary wreaths around everyone’s neck. The temperature was warm but not uncomfortable. Miss Nelson’s Englishman appeared and was somewhat disappointing as he had a flat back to his head which interfered with his physical beauty.

A sixteen mile drive to the Moana Hotel on Waikiki Beach was interesting, but not unusual. I spent the morning recovering from a poor sleep on the plane.

Learned the names of the two new passengers. One is Don Blanding “Poet Laureate of the Hawaiian Islands” and the other, a Mr. Meyers, consulting engineer of some mines in the Philippines.

Had lunch with the Pan Am official. He told me that the fuel carried at the start of the San Francisco to Honolulu flight almost equaled in weight that of the plane empty.

Took a short walk at four in the light rain, which continued all afternoon.

Had dinner with the Pan Am official, whose name is Adolph Doria & went to bed early feeling not entirely acclimated.

Comments

1
By Nancy Korber
2009-12-01 16:04:42
Thanks to a friend of mine (Thanks, Tim!) - I now know what Flit was. No wonder they had headaches - apparently it was DDT. See old cans at http://www.thecolektr.com/Flitgun%20Cover%20Page.htm NK
2
By Tom Markle
2010-04-15 04:11:19
I am researching the life of Don Blanding, The Vagabond Poet. Is there any other written information in the Beckworth log about Blanding? I would be very interested if so. Thanks...tj
3
By Lee Corbett
2010-09-12 04:18:05
This personal narrative of a Clipper flight was very interesting. I thought other readers might enjoy a little more info about this type of airplane. The Pan Am M130 Clipper was one of a total of three flying boats built for the airline by Martin Aircraft, Maryland, in the 1930s. Using four propeller engines to fly the vast distances of the Pacific took much gasoline which the Martin Model 130 seaplane could carry 'just enough' between island stop-over refuels. Although the plane was able to seat forty-plus, Pacific flights usually were limited to eight-to-ten passengers, due to weight-gasoline restrictions. The seaplane was built for dependability and not speed. Not having the ability to fly above ten thousand feet, it also had to fly through weather, and not as modern airliners do, over it. Even with all these modern-day limitations, for its day the Martin Model 130 was 'state-of-the-art', the best of its time. It was soon superceded by an even better passenger seaplane, the ultimate of its type, the Boeing Model 314 Clipper.

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