by Captain W. E. Johns



IX.                   OUT OF THE FRYING PAN  (Pages 100 – 110)


“On the elevated lake that occupied most of the centre of Penguin Island, Algy and Bertie awoke, cold and thoroughly uncomfortable, to find the fog still pressing like a curtain against the side windows of the cabin”.  It is perishing cold and Algy notices that the flying boat isn’t rocking.  Jumping sideways to shift his weight, the aircraft does not respond.  Looking out, Algy sees that they are frozen in.  Bertie says “According to the Pilot Book the sea doesn’t freeze as far north as this”.  “The sea,” replied Algy with deadly calm, “is brine.  This lake is rain water – fresh water”.  Bertie fetches a boat-hook and has no difficulty breaking the ice within reach as it is not more than an eighth of an inch (3.175 mm) thick.  “The old barge should be able to shake herself free,” Bertie observes cheerfully and he suggests they take off before the ice gets thicker.  Algy realises that is their only chance.  “Obviously, they couldn’t stay where they were.  The possibility of being frozen in for an indefinite period didn’t bear thinking about”.  They break all the ice around the flying boat and then use the aircraft itself as an ice breaker.  “Once a little forward speed was gained the aircraft crunched her way through the ice without difficulty, although the noise that resulted was alarming until they became accustomed to it”.  They slowly plough a channel through the ice until the cliff looms up and then they turn so they now have an open channel of broken ice in front of them.  Bertie sits in the second pilot’s seat.  “Neither spoke.  There was nothing to be said.  Both knew that somewhere ahead, invisible in the white fog into which the track of broken ice disappeared, rose the cliffs which, should they fail to clear them, would smash the machine to splinters.  Should that happen they would disappear without trace, and neither Biggles nor anyone else would ever know what had become of them.  They would join the end of a long list of unsolved air mysteries.  Algy knew there could be no question of a trial run.  Either the machine would clear the cliff or it would not.  If it wouldn’t, nothing was to be gained by waiting.  His sensations were those of a diver on a high board.  The sooner the ordeal was over the better, he resolved.  Gently, but deliberately, he opened all four engines wide.  The Sunderland surged forward, gathering speed, faster – faster – faster, rushing as it seemed to destruction.  There could be no stopping”.  Algy mentally counts the passing seconds and takes off:  He clears the cliffs without seeing them.  “Jolly good show, old boy,” said Bertie calmly.  Algy decides to land in the sea to use salt water to clear off any remaining ice.  As they go to land, Bertie sees the submarine in the act of submerging.  Algy says now the submarine has left Hog Island, they can get in at the bay if they can find it.  They fly some way and land on the sea.  They have tea and a meal of biscuits and sardines.  By noon, the mist has cleared sufficiently to have a reasonable chance of finding Hog Island.  Algy takes off and cruises around until he recognises East Island, he then finds Hog Island and looks for Deliverance Bay.  He comes in to land and sees Ginger and Marcel waving furiously.  “They seem to be mighty glad to see us,” remarked Algy, smiling at the antics of those on the ground.  “They seem to have gone off their rockers,” observed Bertie.  The Sunderland went in, engines idling, it kissed the water and then there was a tremendous explosion behind the flying-boat.  Her tail lifted and the nose went under water, a tidal wave of water swept them onto the sloping shelves of rocks.  “The wave on which the machine was riding collapsed in a welter of foam, depositing the aircraft, as if it had been an empty packing-case, on the formations of rock which earlier they had casually called a natural slipway”.  Ginger and Marcel who had run for their lives, return.  Algy throws off his safety belt.  “We seem to be doing our best to knock a perfectly good aircraft to bits”.