by Captain W. E. Johns



VI.           THE HABOOB  (Pages 77 – 87)


Biggles asks Kadar if this was their caravan and Kadar says it was – he recognises Mahomout, the caravan leader.  “Are these – mutilations – Tuareg work, Kadar?” asks Biggles and the reply is yes.  Finding some tins of meat and dried fruit under a dead camel, they load it into the aircraft and are able to take off after a long run.  “Biggles gave a sigh of relief and turned its nose to the east”.  The heat of desert makes it a bumpy flight back to the oasis and they see ahead of them “a terrifying spectacle.  Racing towards them, blotting out the blue sky as effectively as a thick curtain, was what appeared to be an enormous brown cloud that twisted and writhed within itself as it bore down on them”.  It’s a haboob, a severe sand-storm.  Normally, one would land and anchor down the aircraft with sandbags, but with no hope of rescue away from the regular air routes, Biggles has no choice but to try and fly above it.  He reaches six thousand feet before the first sharp spatter of sand strikes their aircraft.  Biggles reaches twelve thousand feet but by this time his main petrol tank is almost on empty.  He flies until the engines start choking and then switches to the reserve tank which will keep them in the air for another ten minutes.  Biggles is going to have to land and “wouldn’t swear to our position to within fifty miles” as the storm would have blown them off course and they don’t know the wind speed.  They descend into the murk to try to see the ground and attempt to land.  At one thousand feet they see a great black bulk float past, which must be a mountain.  Biggles serves to avoid it and is able to make a bumpy landing and the machine runs to a halt. (Biggles flung the joystick over as a great sombre mass loomed suddenly in front - is the frontispiece illustration taken from a line on page 86).  “Well at least we’re on the ground” says Algy.  “Biggles smiled wearily.  “It’s a lot,” he said as he leaned back, and Algy noticed that his face was strangely drawn”.