The minutes pass.
No good. She is too far away.
We raise New York
at 1920 and give our position. We try Santa Maria, too, for the first time—and
here is Santa Maria, loud and clear. We are now about five hours out. The time
has just sped by; it hardly seems possible that we have been going that long.
We have Argentia, Newfoundland, on the ADF, bearing about 280�. We are moving
slowly toward land's end in North America; soon we will have these friendly
beacons no more. As far away as they are, they are a link, nonetheless, like
milestones on the road—towns and villages which we pass unseen and unheard but
which are as real to us out here over the ocean as though we could in fact see
their houses, churches and stores sliding past in the darkness of distance,
brief glimpses of light in the long vista of our journey.
There is another
ship, seen through a great hole in the cloud floor to our left. The third one
so far; tiny, remote so far below. It would be nice if we could talk to it.
At 1950 hours we
try Ocean Station Delta once more. The ADF shows a weak signal; Max can't
improve on it, so we let it go. In the past, on occasion, he has asked for a
continuous beacon to navigate by; this time we don't need it, at least not
2005 hours, and I
see a strange and beautiful rainbow effect on the thick, gray, endless floor of
clouds ahead of us—a pastel-colored rainbow, an elongated elliptical pattern of
lavender, purple, pale red, pale blue. On this silent landscape of great,
piled-up layers of clouds it is lovely. Is it ice crystals, perhaps?
The skyscape is
immense, darkling, limitless and lonely. The sky is slowly turning a deep
blue-purple overhead, the sun's rays are weakening behind us and I have a
strong feeling of night coming, and cold. It is one of those rare (so far)
little moments of apprehension, when I realize with a brief stab of clarity
where we are, how small we are in this vast air-water world, how vulnerable we
are. I don't allow the thought to grow, and there is no reason to. We fly
untouched by any of these risks and perils—two engines which have never even
had a catch in their beautiful and reassuring rhythm, a warm cabin insulated
against the coming night, a friend who sits now hunched over his radio, the
headset incongruously framing his unruly gray hair, glasses perched on his
nose, his face intent on the little, red-glowing windows of the ADF set, which
reaches out with unseen voice and ears to bring signs of other men, friends of
passage, far away in the darkening world outside.
Yet the sense of
loneliness at this moment is inescapable and inevitable, for we are flying in
an utterly fantastic world, a world so vast and strange that in it we seem the
merest microcosms, aliens tolerated by the silence because of our total
insignificance in its infinite expanse. It is an enormous cold gray world of
huge and tumbled clouds reaching as far as the eye can see beneath the chill
dark sky. In this lonely landscape now and then a pool appears, a pond or a
lake—openings of various sizes from small to miles across like pools in a
landscape of unending snow. And now a thin, thin veil is drawn across these
openings, the finest of gauze, and the almost forgotten, final rays of sunlight
make beams of light across the peaks and valleys of cloud. In this veil the
pastel rainbow appears and disappears, shimmering like a pale will-o'-the wisp,
rising and falling across the hills and gorges. And every now and then, through
some such lordly chasm, the sea appears below, cold, cruel, wind-whipped and
Almost six hours out of Boston, and Argentia is abeam, a faint but still
musical signal bearing 270�. We tune in Torbay, land's end for us on the tip of
Newfoundland near St. John's; it comes in even more faintly, and almost on the
same bearing as Argentia. There is perhaps a spread of 12� between them;
projecting this on our weather chart, we find we are somewhat farther south
than we had thought. We correct our heading a bit and steer 115�. We are losing
our contact with the land.
2050 hours. We
call New York, get no reply. We call Santa Maria. Silence. We call again:
" Santa Maria, Santa Maria Approach, this is Apache Delta, Gulf, Alpha,
Romeo, Yankee...." We get an answer, loud and clear, from Gander. Max gives
Gander our position and our estimate for our next call at 2215.
The sun sinks
lower, and our pastel rainbow grows in size, diminishes in light, moves ahead
to the horizon and finally disappears, merged into the gray and lavender of the
eastern sky. Behind us the sun goes down in a blaze of red and orange. Outside
temperature is 15�, air speed a steady 130, power settings unchanged. The light
grows dim; soon it will be dark. The moon, too, has moved behind us; it will
set not long after the sun, and we will be alone with the stars.