Category The Airship Expedition

This Happens More Often Than One Might Reasonably Expect

In this image, a Navy mechanic working on a Consolidated PBY Catalina engine appears rather distressed over misplacing his cat. The cat in question is seen sitting on the wing above the engine, reaching one paw down to catch at the spanner the mechanic is holding.

Cats. You gotta watch them all the time. Particularly when rebuilding an engine around anything mechanical.

Ranger Over Ruins

This image depicts a Consolidated P2Y-1 Ranger (Flying Boat) screaming into the sky at full power just over the tops of some unidentified jungle ruins. Beyond the P2Y-1, a great airship -- ZRS-5 -- hangs suspended in mid-air.

A Consolidated P2Y-1 seaplane and ZRS-5 overfly ruins at a location code-named “Site 10” by the Navy.

As with many of these documents, the exact date of recording is redacted. However, at least six P2Y-1s were in service with the VP-10F squadron at NAS Coco Solo by 1 April 1933.

On The Trapeze

In this image, the pilot of an F9C biplane -- the type usually carried by the airships ZRS-4 and ZRS-5 -- sits just out of the cockpit. His left arm is raised as he adjusts the strap of his flying helmet, his right arm is held just in front of him, palm down. His expression is slightly amused, or possibly tired.

An F9C pilot — apparently having just returned from patrol — signals the flight operations officer aboard ZRS-5.

Upon Two Seas

In the upper-left side of this image, we see the airship ZRS-5 hanging suspended in mid-air just above the low swells of a calm ocean. Stretching across the middle of the image, a Lapwing-class destroyer -- a U.S. Navy ship used as a seaplane tender in the early 1930s -- is holding station as its crew sends fuel oil to the airship via long supply lines hanging from the airship's keel. A lone F9C biplane races past on the far right.

ZRS-5 takes on provisions and fuel from an unidentified Lapwing-class destroyer as an F9C flies past.

Provisioning operations of this type were inherently dangerous due to the tendency of large airships to ‘weathervane’ with the wind. This could be offset to some degree by deploying tethered, sinkable sea anchors around the periphery of the ship prior to beginning resupply operations or anchoring the ship’s nose to a masted barge.

Open Sky

We see an F9C biplane receding from the perspective of the viewer, its right wings tilted high to lose altitude. Below the plane, a vast cloud deck stretches across a dark body of water.

An F9C on routine patrol falls away from ZRS-5 somewhere over the Indian Ocean.

(One might reasonably ask what ZRS-5 was doing over the Indian Ocean, of course. Answers are forthcoming.)

Heavy Weather

A lone pilot stands just before the right wing of his monoplane as it rests on a runway. In the distance, two large hangars may be discerned. Overhead, great banks of storm clouds rise high into the sky.

I don’t know how or when, but I know I’m going to spend a lot of time hanging out at Antique Airfield someday. Just look at this Caudron Racer! And this Stearman! Or this Curtis Jenny!

The Folded Earth

All buffeting ceased when they emerged from the clouds over mountains worn and low and green. Tense squall warnings were replaced by indistinct shouts of elation as the lookouts reported barns, fields, and other structures.

Exhausted, he watched a chart marker roll into the gutter at the edge of his navigation table. A 45 degree turn to port. Time to take another drift sounding.



Outside, clipped onto the harness and lines, he was briefly overwhelmed by the memory of a meadow near his grandfather’s house. The memory of sitting within a secret fold in the Earth there, playing in the peculiar way of an aeronaut. His fingers traced tiny roads in the damp sand. They followed the outline of a clump of moss, a row of twigs raised like barren trees.


Elsewhere, he heard the rhythm of the wind across the grasses, the rapid beat of the loose barn boards which always spoke of storms.



The Fifth Discovery

They found it in the depths of the wetlands there — gathering all the light, tumorous, bearded in still-green moss.



The disturbances were first noticed almost a thousand years earlier. Marginalia inscribed by some nameless, freezing monk upon that famous map: “Site 5: Halted water, prismatic light; instruments inaccurate — ”



The passage concluded: “Interference patterns evident in behavior of fauna — 2-5-1933 Akron.” Two hyphens, a date, a name. “Low-theta glyphs” according to the literature. Unimportant.



In the face of that ageless, dark concretion, significance itself has none.