Living in Japan

JAPANESE ENCOUNTERS It was five and a half months since I left Wellington, if I included the time spent at Auckland. I wrote, ‘Five and a half months alone on a ship would be less lonely than this flying game. On a ship one would at least become used to the craft and all the parts of it, the sails, the ropes, the cabin, the decks, but with flying one is no sooner acquainted with any place or person than one must leave them and fly on again.’ These were ground thoughts; life in the plane, in the air, was a life apart, strange, secret and thrilling, not to be thought of in the midst of materialism. I was a third of the way to England, with another 12,800 miles to fly.

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One Sunday Mrs McCoy invited me to dinner. Her husband had commanded an American regiment at the capture of Manila in the Spanish-American war of 1898. My uncle had commanded the British ships sent to Manila to watch our interests. The Germans, who were looking for chances of colonial expansion, had sent a squadron under Admiral Von Diedrich. Uncle Edward moved his ship between the American and German fleets, and indicated to Von Diedrich that he would be up against the British if he made any move. The American Governor-General Davis was at the dinner; his name is widely known because he presented the Davis Cup for tennis.

I was fretting to leave. The charming Father Miguel Selga, Director of the Weather Bureau, used to visit me every day while I was working on the seaplane, to tell me with a kind of satisfaction how a depression was slowly forming east of the Philippines which he considered would turn into a typhoon. One day it had formed, and the next it was intensifying. Finally, on 30 July, he called it a typhoon. On 31 July he handed me a typewritten notice: ‘Typhoon warning. The Pacific depression or typhoon was situated at 10 a.m. today to the east of Northern

Luzon, 17° N., 126° E. moving probably north-west.’ That day began my strange race with the typhoon which, a few days later, was to destroy 2,000 homes in the Ryukyu Islands near Formosa, and which the Asahi Mainichi was to describe as the worst typhoon of the century.

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