by Captain W. E. Johns



VII.                 STRANGE HARBOUR  (Pages 77 – 87)


“Ginger’s summing up of the situation as far as Algy and Bertie was concerned was accurate almost to the last detail.  It was Bertie who had first seen the submarine”.  He knew the probable nationality and business of any submarine likely to be in the vicinity of the Crozet Islands.  Bertie paddled the dinghy furiously back to the sea plane.  Algy says they have to leave the others as it is the only hope for all of them.  They take off urgently but are hit by machine gun fire from the submarine.  Bertie tells Algy “We’re losing juice”.  Knowing they can’t make the sixteen hundred mile journey back to Cape Town whilst losing fuel, Algy heads for Penguin Island.  Initially he has no intention of trying to land on it but as he flies over, he sees a broad black lake in the hollow cone of an extinct volcano.  “The walls that hemmed in the water were not by any means level.  The rim was broken and ragged, so that in time of heavy rain there would be several waterfalls where the overflow spilled out”.  Bertie tells Algy that the main emergency tank has been holed but he has made a temporary repair.  Loose spirit has run out through the holes in the floor.  “Holes in the floor!” echoed Algy, not understanding immediately.  “What holes?”  Bertie explains that there are bullets holes in their aircraft.  “I’ve found five so far, three below the water-line”.  Algy says he will cruise around until Bertie does a temporary repair on those as well.  For the best part of half an hour Algy cruises around the island, then when Bertie tells him he has done the best he can, he decides to land on this volcanic lake which is roughly circular and has a diameter of nearly a mile.  Algy turns into the wind and the engines die.  The serrated rim of the crater looks like a great row of teeth waiting to close on them as they come down.  The keel slashes the inky water and the flying boat comes to a rest.  Here they can “effect such repairs as would be necessary for their peace of mind during the business of picking up the others and making the long flight home afterwards”.  They were away from the danger of the submarine and better off than being “exposed to the caprice of the open sea” (Caprice is a sudden, impulsive and seemingly unmotivated notion or action).  After a quick lunch of jammy biscuits, it takes the rest of the day to carry out the repairs.  Algy is worried sick about Ginger and Marcel but realises they can do nothing for them tonight.  “We shall have to try something tomorrow morning, though”.  Bertie suggests returning to Cape Town and getting bombs from the Air Force.  Algy cautions that Ginger and Marcel may have been captured and taken onboard the submarine.  “Anyway, I wouldn’t care to start throwing bombs about without Biggles knowing”.  They discuss the problem and Algy notices it is getting colder and he can no longer see the cliffs.  Something has happened that will keep them grounded.  “Fog, it’s like pea-soup outside” he says