2100 hours. The
sun has disappeared.
2105 hours, and
Max tries Ocean Station Delta on the ADF again. The needle circles slowly
around the dial, stops at around 80� and pulses restlessly and rather vaguely.
"She's hunting for something there," says Max, "and that's about
where the weather ship ought to be." To check, he switches it off briefly;
the needle turns on the dial, but comes back to the same heading when he
switches on again. He tunes in on the Torbay frequency; slowly the needle homes
on 2�. Both stations are too weak to hear; both indicate by their weakness that
we may be farther south than we had thought. But that's O.K.; we'll be blown
back northward when we reach the other side of this counterclockwise wind
closing in fast now. Outside everything is pearly gray; the sky behind has
changed to rose. The deep chasms in the cloud floor seem mysterious and
vast—dark, silent rivers winding through the landscape of an unreal world.
2152 hours. We
call Ocean Station Delta. There is no reply, but her signal is coming in
strongly now. Max pulls out his facilities chart and finds the weather ship on
it—she patrols an area marked off in squares, each square lettered, across and
down. By the letters in her signal we can tell where she is: if she sends C and
P at the end of her regular call letters, for instance, we find C, run our
finger down to where it meets row P, and there is where she is.
A curious thing
develops. We seem to be getting two different signals from the weather
ship—both with her regular call letters but with different location letters.
One indicates she is in the southwest corner of the grid area, the other that
she is over on the eastern side. We check and recheck. Are there two weather
ships in the area? We don't know.
2215 hours. We
call Santa Maria and give our position. We also start up to 9,000 feet and ask
for clearance to that altitude. The cloud floor below has been rising slowly to
meet us; now we are beginning to brush the peaks of that unearthly landscape,
and little wisps of fog make brief flashes of our red and green navigation
lights on the wings as they whip past. It is an eerie feeling, particularly
when we cross one of those cavernous openings that lead down to the dark sea so
We send our
request for a new altitude again and again to Santa Maria, without reply.
Meanwhile I milk D-GARY slowly upward, out of the reach of those looming,
seemingly so solid peaks of cloud.
2235 hours. Santa
Maria comes in and clears us to 9,000, but wants us to let down to 7,000 again
when we reach 40� west. We're not far from there now, but let's enjoy our
higher level while we can.
Delta is coming in strong now, and we are almost abeam of her. Still no
solution to the mystery of the two divergent signals. Max thinks that perhaps
the relief ship is coming in.
The moon is low
and far behind us now. The stars are clear and glittering in the cold blue