Forgotten Island

This section is for discussions on biographies relating to persons associated with flying boats. Original manuscripts, stories from surviving flight and ground crew, good books, in-fact anything about the people behind the craft.

Forgotten Island

Postby flyernzl » Mon Jul 09, 2012 11:56 am

Australian P G (Bill) Taylor served in the RFC during WW1, and was then active in Australian aviation circles until his death in 1966.

He was an experienced floatplane and flying boat pilot, having operated a DH Moth seaplane from 1928. After various early airline and trans-oceanic pioneering flights during the 1930s he crewed in the first flight across the Indian Ocean from Port Hedland, Western Australia, to Mombasa, Kenya, in the Catalina Guba II on 4-21 June 1939.

While involved in the trans-Atlantic ferry during the early stages of WW2 he planned a new air route across the South Pacific, from South America to Australia. Given the endurance of the aircraft then available, this involved refuelling at several isolated islands that lay across this route.

Crucial to this route was Clipperton Island, a isolated pimple of coral some 1000km off the South American coast. Taylor's first task was to reconnoiter this island, alighting there in a Catalina he flew from Mexico. By setting up a fuel dump on this island he could then eventually depart from there for Bora Bora, in French Polynesia and so eventually reach Australia.

Forgotten Island, which Taylor wrote in 1948, describes the political, technical and practical challenges he faced in carrying out this flight during the second half of 1944.

As the Pacific Ocean had been declared an American sphere of operations and Taylor was effictivly a civilian operating an RAF lend-lease Catalina, he ran into all sorts of political challenges. Clipperton itself, uninhabited since 1917, had mixed ownership, with sovereignty claimed at various times by France, Mexico and the USA.

The book itself is well written and makes absorbing reading. The amazing skills required to operate a flying boat in such an isolated area and the courage in deliberately setting out on a three thousand mile flight from Clipperton to Bora Bora with fuel for 25 hours across an almost uncharted ocean while knowing the flight would take more than 27 hours and trusting in his ability to find favourable winds to extend the range is almost beyond belief.

I bought this book second-hand early this year, and after reading it I turned straight back to the beginning to read it a second time. It may be hard to find a copy in your local library or a second-hand book store. Try and find it, you will not regret the effort. It truly is that good.

"I felt the air control come through the ailerons, and as she picked up speed I eased gently into the turn, taking the weight on the aileron to hold the wingtip just clear of the water.

She was going all right. I knew it then, by the clean run of the water and the tightness of the aeroplane. As I straightened her up for the run down the western reefs, I saw Birk's hand go forward with the throttles, giving her everything, now that she could use it.

She blew the water under the hull, riding clean, but not yet flying. I could see the stain of shallow water on the Grand reef coming closer, rushing in towards her now; but she had to go. She was confident, singing with a million voices in high-pitched harmony to take her away over the reef. I reached up and gave her a touch of tail trim, feeling the fine balance of approaching flight. The wing had her now, knowing it could take her from the water.

I made no effort to lift her, but rode with her, letting her know I was there and ready to help her break away when she was ready. As the shallows of the reef swept in below, she had the water beaten. It was time to go. I took a light tension on the control column and lifted her away.

Brushing the last of the water from her hull, the air took her with a smooth release to the sudden freedom from the sea. I felt the current of freedom flow in from all infinity to centre on the aircraft and, with some intense high frequency, charge me through the touch of my hands on the control wheel.

Forgotten Island by P G Taylor, published by The Shakespeare Head, 1948
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