"By Aeroplane to Pygmyland" Accounts of the 1926 Smithsonian-Dutch Expedition to New Guinea

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June 5, 1926 : Albatross Camp (Base Camp) ; Mamberamo River ; Airplane Flights

June 5

"Today Hans and Prince took off with the plane
...with a load of 26 tins of food weighing 321 1/2 kilos..."


Today Hans and Prince took off with the plane at 9 o'clock and with a load of 26 tins of food weighing 321½ kilos flew to Batavia camp. There was a strong wind blowing at the camp that raised waves a foot high on the river. They landed easily, unloaded, and returned to Albatross Camp. The flight required about 45 minutes each way. The sergeant and soldiers at Batavia camp were surprised to see the plane as they did not have any idea it was coming. After returning to Albatross Camp, Hans and Prince had lunch, tanked up, and again flew to Batavia camp, carrying the same load as before. This time as they cut the gun coming over the hill to the landing place, they saw a canoe full of Papuans in the river; Hans gunned the plane again and they saw it. All stood up and as the plane was coming straight towards {p. 113} them, paddled madly to shore where they leaped from the canoe and dove into the woods. Another group of Papuans who were visiting Batavia camp fled into the jungle when the plane appeared. After depositing their cargo, they returned to Albatross camp and put the plane on the float. When this performance is analyzed, it is really remarkable. Carrying 75 gallons of gas which weighs in the neighborhood of 450 lbs., Prince, who weighs 150 lbs., food weighing 650 lbs. and a pair of pontoons weighing 800 lbs., the total load exclusive of the pilot was 2050 lbs. Exclusive of the gas (enough for 3 hours flying) the load carried was 1600 lbs. The useful load was 800 lbs. When it is taken into consideration that the thermometer registered 92 in the shade, that there is no wind at Albatross camp and that the take-off is between the hills in light air, fresh water against a 4 to 5 mile an hour current in a stream a full of drifting logs, the real nature of the performance can be truly appreciated. When to this remarkable take-off is added the fact that the entire flight of 1 hour and 30 minutes (going and return) is over a mountain gorge with seething rapids, great whirlpools and a current of more than 15 to 20 miles an hour, it can be appreciated that the task of transport is no child's play. The landing at Albatross camp has to be made in a 5 mile an hour current with no canoes or motor boats to assist. Each canoe carries a load of 300 kilos and with luck six men can make the trip in 4 or 5 days (Dyaks only). At any rate the Ern deposited 643 kilos of food at Batavia camp {p. 114} today (enough to feed ten men for 9 weeks) and tomorrow will undertake to repeat the task. More credit to "Tuan Panjan" as the Dyaks call Hans and to Prince, who practically built the Ern. They have kept her flying flawlessly in spite of more than two months of complete exposure to alternate baths of heavy tropical rain and periods of blistering tropical sun. The aviation experts of the Indies have computed that the performance of a plane is decreased 15% because of tropical air conditions. Another mixup came to light today. It seems that the supply of gasoline for the motor boats is almost exhausted, that the amount supplied by the navy was not nearly enough to keep the motor boat transport running. Fortunately we have enough aviation gas to keep both the motor boat transports and the plane going until the Albatross arrives. This includes, not only gas, but oil as well. We will have to order more oil for the plane to be brought on the Albatross.

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