Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

Jack Higgins – The Last Place God Made

And this one for my sister-in-law,Babs Hewltt

Who is absolutely certain it’s about time…


Ceiling Zero

When tr.4. port wing began to flap I knew I was in trouble, not that I hadn’t been for some little time. Oil pressure mainly plus a disturbing miss in the beat of the old Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine that put me uncomfortably in mind of the rattle in a dying man’s throat.

The Vega had been good enough in its day. Typical of that sudden rush of small high-winged, single-engined airliners that appeared in the mid-1920s. Built to carry mail and half a dozen passengers at a hundred or so miles an hour.

The one I was trying to keep in the air at that precise moment in time had been built in 1927 which made it eleven years old. Eleven years of flying mail in every kind of weather. Of in-adequate servicing. Of over use.

She’d been put together again after no fewer than three crash landings and that was only what was officially entered in the log. God alone knows what had been missed out.

Kansas, Mexico, Panama, Peru, sinking a little lower with each move, finding it that much more difficult to turn in her best performance, like a good horse being worked to death. Now, she was breaking up around me in the air and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

From Iquitos in Peru, the Amazon river twists like a brown snake through two thousand miles of some of the worst jungle in the world, its final destination Belem on the Atlantic coast of Brazil with Manaus at the junction with the Rio Negro, the halfway point and my present destination.

For most of the way, I’d followed the river which at least made for easy navigation, alone with three sacks of mail and a couple of crates of some kind of mining machinery. Six long, hard hours to Tefe and I managed to raise three police posts on the way on my radio although things were quiet as the grave at Tefe itself.

From there, the river drifted away in a great, wide loop and to have followed it would have made the run to Manaus another four hundred miles and the Vega just didn’t have that kind of fuel in reserve.

From Tefe, then, I struck out due east across virgin jungle, aiming for the Rio Negro a hundred and fifty miles farther on where a turn downstream would bring me to Manaus.

It had been a crazy venture from the first, a flight that to my knowledge no one had accomplished at that tune and yet at twenty-three, with the sap rising, a man tends to think him-self capable of most things and Belem was, after all, two thou-sand miles closer to England than the point from which I’d started and a passage home at the end of it

Yet I see now, looking back on it all after so many years, how much in the whole affair was the product of chance, that element quite beyond calculation in a man’s affairs.

To start with, my bold plunge across such a wide stretch of virgin jungle was not quite as insane as it might appear. True, any attempt at dead reckoning was ruled out by the simple fact that my drift indicator was not working and the magnetic com-pass was wholly unreliable, but the Rio Negro did lie a hun-dred and fifty miles due east of Tefe, that was fact, and I had the sun to guide me in a sky so crystal dear that the horizon seemed to stretch to infinity.

Falling oil pressure was the first of my woes although I didn’t worry too much about that to start with for the Oil Pres-sure Gauge, like most of the instruments, frequently didn’t work at all and was at best, less than reliable.

And then, unbelievably, the horizon broke into a series of jagged peaks almost before my eyes, something else about which I couldn’t really complain for on the map, that particular sec-tion was merely a blank space.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack