Early Odyssey

by Capt. Temple Robinson

At end of February, 1948, we started a trip that was a real odyssey. We had a reel of cable for an oil well in Palembang, Sumatra. It was to be delivered to Singapore. Ev Keeler was the captain, Maury Murray was the first officer and I was the co-pilot. I don't remember who the engineer was. I believe the navigator was Bill Jamieson. The radio operators were Mike Wojciekowski and John Waletta. It was Mike's first trip with Seaboard. He had brought an overnight bag with a spare shirt, socks and underwear. He had been with AOA and was used to going to Europe and turning around in 23 hours and coming home. Surprise, we got back 26 days later.

Keeler had brought a 16-mm movie camera and was taking pictures like mad. At Cairo we went out to the pyramids before landing and did pylon eights so Ev could take pictures. We finally got to Singapore.

The unloading was a real kick. The reel of cable weighed 8,500 lbs. and we had loaded it in New York using a large forklift, come-alongs, and a crane. Everybody assured us that Singapore, being a port city, had plenty of equipment.

Upon arrival we were met by a 1-1/2 ton 1926 Chevrolet flatbed truck and 20 Malay laborers equipped with cargo hooks. We finally solved the problem by putting the airplane's tail on the ground. We put a 55-gallon drum under the nose wheel and some of the crew sat on the horizontal stabilizer. We secured a 4-part block-and-tackle to snub the reel from the front. With this lash-up, we manually pushed the reel aft to the door, an inch at a time. When we got it back to the door, we backed the truck as close as possible and managed to man handle it out the door and onto the truck.

The next stop was Raffles to have a Singapore Sling. They were great.

After Singapore, we went to Batavia (modern Jakarta) for a maintenance check by KLM. We sat there five days and then were sent to Bangkok. This was another five-day layover. After arrival back in Amsterdam they sent us to Rome to pick up a load of stateless persons for Caracas, Venezuela. From Caracas we were routed to Curaçao and home.

Originally published in SPAR newsletter, December, 1996

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