448038120 Hrs. 40 Min. — Chapter IXAmelia Earhart



THERE at Burry Port, Wales—we learned its name later—on the morning of June 18, we opened the door of the fuselage and looked out upon what we could see of the British Isles through the rain. For Bill and Slim and me it was an introduction to the Old World. Curiously, the first crossing of the Atlantic for all of us was in the Friendship. None that may follow can have the quality of this initial voyage. Although we all hope to be able to cross by plane again, we have visions of doing so in a trans-Atlantic plane liner.

Slim dropped down upon the starboard pontoon and made fast to the buoy with the length of rope we had on board for just such a purpose —or, had affairs gone less well, for use with a sea anchor. We didn't doubt that tying to the buoy in such a way was against official etiquette and that shortly we should be reprimanded by some marine traffic cop. But the buoy was the only mooring available and as we'd come rather a long way, we risked offending.

We could see factories in the distance and hear the hum of activity. Houses dotted the green hillside. We were some distance off shore but the beach looked muddy and barren. The only people in sight were three men working on a railroad track at the base of the hill. To them we waved, and Slim yelled lustily for service.

Finally they noticed us, straightened up and even went so far as to walk down to the shore and look us over. Then their animation died out and they went back to their work. The Friendship simply wasn't interesting. An itinerant trans-Atlantic plane meant nothing.

In the meantime three or four more people had gathered to look at us. To Slim's call for a boat we had no answer. I waved a towel desperately out the front windows and one friendly soul pulled off his coat and waved back.

It must have been nearly an hour before the first boats came out. Our first visitor was Norman Fisher who arrived in a dory. Bill went ashore with him and telephoned our friends at Southampton while Slim and I remained on the Friendship. A vigorous ferry service was soon instituted and many small boats began to swarm about us. While we waited Slim contrived a nap. I recall I seriously considered the problem of a sandwich and decided food was not interesting just then.

Late in the afternoon Captain Railey, whom I had last seen in Boston, arrived by seaplane with Captain Bailey of the Imperial Airways and Allen Raymond of the New York Times.

Owing to the racing tide, it was decided not to try to take off but to leave the plane at Burry Port and stay at a nearby hotel for the night. Bill made a skilful mooring in a protected harbor and we were rowed ashore. There were six policemen to handle the crowd. That they got us through was remarkable. In the enthusiasm of their greeting those hospitable Welsh people nearly tore our clothes off.

Finally we reached the shelter of the Frickers Metal Company office where we remained until police reinforcements arrived. In the meantime we had tea and I knew I was in Britain.

Twice, before the crowd would let us get away, we had to go to an upper balcony and wave. They just wanted to see us. I tried to make them realize that all the credit belonged to the boys, who did the work. But from the beginning it was evident the accident of sex―the fact that I happened to be the first woman to have made the Atlantic flight―made me the chief performer in our particular sideshow.

With the descent of reporters one of the first questions I was asked was whether I knew Colonel Lindbergh and whether I thought I looked like him. Gleefully they informed me I had been dubbed "Lady Lindy." I explained that I had never had the honor of meeting Colonel Lindbergh, that I was sure I looked like no one (and, just then, nothing) in the world, and that I would grasp the first opportunity to apologize to him for innocently inflicting the idiotic comparison. (The idiotic part is all mine, of course.)

The celebration began with interviews and photographs. We managed to have dinner and what was most comforting of all, hot baths. The latter were high-lights of our reception, being the first experience of the kind since leaving Boston weeks―or was it months?―previously.

Sleep that night was welcome. In all, we had five or six hours. We could not rest the next day, because an early start was necessary in order to reach Southampton on schedule.

© Topical Press Agency


© International Newsreel


Rain and mist in the morning, that finally cleared somewhat, allowed us to take off. We skimmed over Bristol Channel and the green hills of Devonshire, which were as beautiful as we had imagined. In the plane with the crew were Captain Railey and Mr. Raymond of the Times.

When we set out from Burry Port on this last lap of the journey, Captain Bailey of the Imperial Airways had expected to guide us. Unfortunately at the last moment he was unable to start his engine and Bill decided to hop for Southampton unescorted.

As we approached, a seaplane came out to meet us, and we presumed it was to guide us to the landing place. As Bill prepared to follow, Captain Railey discovered that we were not being guided. In the uncertainty of landing amid berthed steamers in a strange place, Bill finally picked up the green lights of a signal gun which marked the official launch coming to greet us. Mrs. Guest, owner of the Friendship, and sponsor of the flight, was there, her son Raymond, and Hubert Scott Payne of the Imperial Airways. My first meeting with the generous woman who permitted me so much, was there in Southampton. It was a rather exciting moment despite the fatigue which was creeping upon all of us. On shore we were welcomed by Mrs. Foster Welch, the Mayor of Southampton. She wore her official necklace in honor of the occasion and we were impressed with her graciousness. Though a woman may hold such office in Great Britain, the fact isn't acknowledged, for she is still addressed as if she were a man.

With the crowd behind, I drove to London with Mr. and Mrs. Scott Payne. The whole ride seemed a dream. I remember stopping to see Winchester Cathedral and hearing that Southampton was the only seaplane base in England and being made to feel really at home by Mrs. Payne, who sat next to me.

London gave us so much to do and see that I hardly had time to think. One impression lingers,—that of warm hospitality which was given without stint. I stayed with Mrs. Guest at Park Lane. Lady Astor permitted me a glance of beautiful country when she invited me to Cliveden. Lord Lonsdale was host at the Olympic Horse Show, which happened to be in action during our stay. The British Air League were hosts at a large luncheon primarily organized by the women's division at which I was particularly glad to meet Madame de Landa and Lady Heath. From the latter I bought the historic little Avro with which she had flown alone from Cape Town to London. I was guest, too, at a luncheon of Mrs. Houghton's, wife of the American Ambassador—and many other people lavished undeserved hospitality upon us.

Being a social worker I had of course to see Toynbee Hall, dean of settlement houses, on which our own Denison House in Boston is patterned. Nothing in England will interest me more than to revisit Toynbee Hall and the settlement houses that I did not see.

But this can be no catalogue of what that brief time in London meant to us. To attempt to say "thank you" adequately would take a book in itself and this little volume is to concern the flight and whatever I may be able to add about aviation in general. Altogether it was an alluring introduction to England, enough to make me wish to return and explore, what this time, I merely touched.

Before we left, the American correspondents invited me to a luncheon—another of the pleasant memories of our visit. It was "not for publication." And although I was the only woman present we talked things over, I think, on a real man-to-man basis. From first to last my contact with the press has been thoroughly enjoyable; in England and in America I could not possibly ask for greater cooperation, sincerity, and genuine friendliness.

On June 28 we began our first ocean voyage, embarking on the S.S. President Roosevelt of the United States Lines, commanded by Captain Harry Manning. It really was our first ocean voyage and it was then that we came to realize how much water we had passed over in the Friendship. Eastbound the mileage had been measured over clouds, not water. There never had been adequate comprehension of the Atlantic below us.

A curious connection exists between the Roosevelt and the America. Not only had the Roosevelt relayed some of our radio messages, but Captain Fried of the America had formerly been skipper of the Roosevelt. It was Captain Fried who figured so finely in the heroic rescue of the sinking freighter Antinoë a couple of years ago. Captain Fried, I was told, is interested in trans Atlantic flight projects. On the America he makes it a practice, when he knows a flight is in progress, to have painted periodically the ship's position on the hatches in such a way that the information may be read by a plane passing overhead. On the day when we saw the America he had received no news of our flight so that preparations had not been made for the usual hatch-painting. Actually, however, if we had remained above the America perhaps a few more minutes the information we sought would have been painted on her decks, ending our uncertainties at once. As it was, Capt. Fried cabled us on board the Roosevelt that the operator had called "plane, plane"—not knowing our letters, in an effort to give us our bearings. But Bill could not pick up the word.

When the Roosevelt reached quarantine in New York, she was held there several hours until the Mayor's yacht Macon arrived with its officials, its bands, and our friends. I was sorry to delay other passengers in the Roosevelt who had breakfasted at six and who were forced to wait while we were welcomed.

Then up the bay, to the City Hall and to the Biltmore. Interviews, photographs, and medals, and best of all, friends.

We were home again, with one adventure behind and, as always in this life, others ahead.