the lamps of Paris
21 May, 1927
I'm levelled off at four thousand feet, watching for the luminosity in the sky ahead that will mark the city of Paris. Within the hour, I'll land. All over the ground below there are clusters of lights. Large clusters are cities; small ones, towns and villages; pin points are buildings on a farm. Paris will be a great galaxy lighting up the night.
Within the hour, I'll land, and strangely enough I'm in no hurry to have it pass. I haven't the slightest desire to sleep. My eyes are no longer salted stones. There's not an ache in my body. The night is cool and safe. I want to sit quietly in this cockpit and let the realization of my completed flight sink in. Europe is below; Paris, just over the earth's curve in the night ahead - a few minutes more of flight. It's like struggling up a mountain after a rare flower, and then, when you have it within arm's reach, realizing that satisfaction and happiness lie more in the finding than in the plucking. Plucking and withering are inseparable.

I'm still flying at four thousand feet when I see it, that scarcely perceptible glow, as though the moon had rushed ahead of scedule. Paris is rising over the edge of the world. As minutes pass, myriad pin points of light emerge, a patch of starlit earth under a starlit sky - the lamps of Paris - straight lines of lights, curving lines of lights, squares of lights, black spaces in between. And there, far below, a little offset from the center, is a column of lights pointing upward, changing angles as I fly - The Eiffel Tower. I circle once above it, and turn northeastward toward Le Bourget.

Charles Lindbergh, the Spirit of st. Louis (1953)


   the Pearly Gates
1 August, 1930
In the middle of the night, at about two in the morning, the myriad lights of a city showed up ahead of us where Montreal should have been, but in the black sky above these lights, suspended in the night, we saw an enormous fiery cross. I stared at it in consternation till somebody voiced my secret thoughts, and said, 'That's not Montreal. That's the New Jerusalem. This is it, boys.'
We discovered later that Montreal, being a Roman Catholic city, has a great cross made of steel girders erected on the top op Mount Royal; this is picked out in electric lights. That night it brought a healthy laugh among a lot of very tired men.

Nevil Shute, Slide Rule (1954)

flying, representing the constructors, in the dirigible R-100 from England to Canada


   a symbol of man's vanity
29 November, 1929
According to my dead reckoning, we should be at the Pole in another fourteen minutes. I send a message back to Byrd on the trolley cable that connects the cockpit with the navigator's compartment. Fourteen minutes later, at 1:14 in the morning, Byrd sends a message forward on the trolley to broadcast to the base: 'We have reached the South Pole.'

We make a circle in the direction which would be westward, except that here everything is north. The trapdoor behind me opens, and Byrd drops an American flag on the spot, weighed with a stone from Floyd Bennett's grave, and we turn north again.
I am glad to leave. Somehow our very purpose here seems insignificant, a symbol of man's vanity and intrusion on this eternal white world. The sound of our engines profanes the silence as we head back to Little America.

Bernt Balchen, Come north with me (1959)


   nonstop to a namelass swamp
20 September, 1936
Success breeds confidence. I had a following wind, my last tank of petrol was more than three-quarters full, and the world was as bright to me as if it were a new world, never touched. If I had been wiser, I might have known that such moments are, like innocence, short-lived. My engine began to shudder before I saw land. It died, it spluttered, it started again and limped along. It coughed and spat black exhaust toward the sea.

Minute after minute goes by. They pass before my eyes like links in a long slow-moving chain, and each time the engine cuts, I see a broken link in the chain and catch my breath until it passes.
The land is under me. I snatch my map and stare at it to confirm my whereabouts. I am, even at my present crippled speed, only twelve minutes from Sydney Airport, Nova Scotia, where I can land for repairs and then go on.
The engine cuts once more and I begin to glide, but now I am not worried; she will start again, as she has done, and I will gain altitude and fly into Sydney.

But she doesn't start. This time she's dead as death; the Gull settles earthward and it isn't any earth I know. It is black earth stuck with boulders and I hang above it, on hope and on a motionless propeller. Only I cannot hang above it long. The earth hurries to meet me, I bank, turn, and sideslip to dodge the boulders, my wheels touch, and I feel them submerge. The nose of the plane is engulfed in mud, and I go forward striking my head on the glass of the cabin front, hearing it shatter, feeling blood pour over my face.
I stumble out of the plane and sink to my knees in muck and stand there foolishly staring, not at the lifeless land, but at my watch. Twenty-one hours and twenty-five minutes. Atlantic flight. Abingdon, England, to a nameless swamp - nonstop.

On the following morning I did step out of a plane at Floyd Bennett Field and there was a croud of people still waiting there to greet me, but the plane I stepped from was not the Gull, and for days while I was in New York I kept thinking about that and wishing over and over again that it had been the Gull, until the wish lost its significance, and time moved on, overcoming many things it met on the way.

Beryl Markham, West with the night (1942)

While in New York, 'dazed in the midst of ringing bells and telegrams', she received a call from Londen telling her that Tom Black had been killed in a flying accident.


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