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7 December 2009
Update 1 June 2011: "Notes on Mehitabel's..."
  A Few Footnotes on
Eastern Island of Spontoon
& Certain Other Subjects of Local Interest

by Taral Wayne
(Local Historian and Seasonal Vacationer)

A Few Footnotes on Eastern Island of Spontoon
& Certain Other Subjects of Local Interest

Taral Wayne (Local Historian and Seasonal Vacationer)

Color map "Float Town" Eastern Island, Spontoon Atoll (thumbnail) by Taral Wayne
Part of "Float Town", Eastern Island
Map by Taral Wayne
(Larger file here - 389 Kb) (Aerial map of Spontoon Atoll by Taral Wayne)


Float Town – First of all, I gave the town a nickname, “Float Town.”  Ken didn’t want to officially name it that because it would preclude anyone else naming it, but conceded it might be an alternative, just as people talk about “The Big Apple,” or “Gotham,” when they mean New York City.

Einstein Beach – The western stretch of the north end of Eastern Island I dubbed Einstein Beach.  (Named after an artsy-farsty minimalist  modern opera, “Einstein on the Beach,” composed by Philip Glass.  I owned a copy once.  I think it may well be the most boring piece of music ever composed.  But I only named the beach on Eastern Island that because of the word play, not because I thought it boring.

The Carnacki Institute For Applied Studies in Temporal & Para-Dimensional Science – Located a mile or so up Long Bluff Road from the main docks of Float Town.  Founded by its current director, Dr. Roswell Bletchley, in 1913, the institute only moved to its present location in the ‘20s.  (The City Fathers of Burbank, California, made it abundantly clear to the Doctor that his institute was no longer welcome after a certain mishap never mentioned in either the City chronicles nor in the official history of the Institute.)  The Carnacki Institute bought and renovated a run-down Spanish style beachside hotel, originally built in 1899, then added a new wing in 1926.  The old boathouse was lost in a mysterious fire in 1928, and replaced by the current boathouse a year later.  Pre-fab workshops and storage sheds sprang up behind the main building in the early ‘30s.  As the Institute’s activities expanded, so did the number of  resident investigators, until there were insufficient rooms available in the old hotel, and a number of staff cottages were added to the north end of the grounds.

Carnacki Institute, Eastern Island (large view) (thumbnail) by Taral Wayne
Views of the Carnacki Institute, Eastern Island (large file! 663 Kbytes)
(smaller file here)

“The Big Revolving Door” – technically the Parastitial/Parachronic Refractor Grid, and sometimes called the “Waffle Iron” as well – was constructed in early 1934.  It has undergone several upgrades, becoming larger and more outrageous-looking each time, but has always served the same function: to so distort and torment space-time that it becomes possible to snatch something from a different plenum, for study.  However, it has never operated in a predictable or entirely safe way.  For that matter, there has been little objective evidence that it has ever performed its intended function.  All that is really clear is that it uses astonishingly large amounts of electrical energy, sometimes causing blackouts of the entire island, followed rapidly by angry complaints from Islanders.  A small assortment of unimpressive objects – mostly rocks and sticks, and one dead insect – are purported to be specimens brought back from other realities.  Skeptics claim they represent rocks, sticks, and one dead insect that are more likely from a near-by source.  Say, the beach next to the main building… But most observers are willing to concede that perhaps the Door did actually transport these objects the few hundred feet from the beach to the lab by some sort of super-scientific mechanism.  But they go on to add that it would be a lot less trouble to walk over to the beach and simply pick the stuff up.

Funding for the Institute is something of a mystery.  It makes no profit from its activities, as none of its discoveries have yet proved to have practical applications.  Dr. Bletchley himself seems to have no assets of his own.  Judging from his shabby appearance and dingy lab smocks, he could easily be mistaken for a penniless bum.  His habit of wearing an aluminum foil skull cap, however, betrays him as merely a harmless kook.  Most of the actual expertise at the Institute appears to be possessed by the interns, and Mr. Smollet, the janitor… who is also the highest-paid employee.

When operating, “The Big Revolving Door” creates an annoying whine that can be felt rather than heard over most of the Lagoon side of the island.  The shimmer, or glow, can be seen from anywhere in the Atoll, reflecting from the sea or lighting up the sky over the hills.  A persistent rumour has it that the Door did once perform as intended, and brought in Visitors.  This has never been confirmed nor, perhaps significantly, denied by the Institute.  Most Spontoonies regard it only as a local urban legend.  The Visitor and her party refused to comment.

Long Bluff Road – A two-lane, blacktop road running along the bottom of the bluffs on the west side of the north end of the Island.  There is little out that way, so it tends not to be well maintained, and the center line has probably not been repainted since 1919.  A four-foot stretch remaining between Mehitabel’s and The Pantages is defiantly shown to skeptics who refuse to believe it ever existed at all.  There is no street lighting.  The road was originally built to service the automated light at the northern tip of the island, but also to give access from the west to the island midlands, above the Long Bluffs.  The road is built over an narrow apron of rocky debris, eroded from the heights on the east side.  By and large it is uninviting ground, supporting little but scrub brush, and sword grass that can give nasty cuts even through your Bermudas.  It is somewhat more verdant by the beach, where palms were planted in the early years of the past century, and once laboriously cared for. In recent years, they have been left more or less to fend for themselves, and have grown disheveled.  Most of the homes that were built along the north end of the road have since been abandoned as too much trouble to keep up, and too far from town to be convenient.  The road is still in use as the quickest route to the Old Radio Tower, and the sole means to sneak off to Mehitabel’s Bar & Grill for a quick drink…  or a long one on Wet T-shirt Night.  The Carnacki Institute is located at about the mid-point of Long Bluff Road, but at pretty much the end of creation, as Eastern Islanders understand it.  Beyond are nothing but empty bungalows and scrub grass.                                                                                                           

The Long Bluffs – These are a line of steep, light grey tufa cliffs, running the length of the north peninsula of the Island.  Between the foot of the bluffs and the beach, real estate values are almost nil, despite a paved road  most of the length.  Past the Carnacki Institute are a few empty bungalows and then just the beach, the bluffs, and the road between them.  Above the bluffs is the interior of the island, a tableland that slopes eastward to the sea, and is mostly given to planting.  Sisal, copra, and smoke-weed (a less toxic relative of tobacco) are the usual crops, but it’s not at all uncommon to find a little bhang growing privately out back of many farmhouses.  The bluffs can be surmounted by two roads, each turning off Long Bluff Road.  The Old Tower Road, which climbs the hundred-foot height through a natural defile, is dirt.  The New Tower Road, a little closer to town, climbs up a man-made cut and is paved.  It meets Old Tower Road at the top, and both join with Farm Line.

Mehitabel’s Bar & GrillMehitabel’s is about as disreputable as a joint can get without actually being a biker bar, or physically dangerous.  It is a wonderful place for customers to pretend they are slumming somewhere dangerous, though, and the owner is undeniably eccentric, occasionally even mysterious.  It isn’t a place for Big Operators or Notorious Smugglers.  It is more for small-time dreamers and down-and-out failures, who don’t feel up to more rigorous environs.  It is a place you can feel comfortable in, without any fear that anyone will ask you about a Maltese Falcon, or want passage from the atoll under an obviously assumed name.  Apart from the well-managed atmosphere, Mehitabel’s serves excellent steak, succulent beef pies and banana truffles to die for – but, curiously, the customer is well-advised not to order from the seafood menu.  The owner, Mehitabel herself, is averse to fish and barely tolerates it in her establishment.  The shrimp is apt to come from a can, and the fish likely to be battered in bread crumbs and only recently unfrozen. 

Despite the decidedly un-maritime menu, the nightly entertainment at Mehitabel’s includes a Sailor’s Night every Monday, featuring ditties, shanties, fishing songs, and doleful ballads about disasters at sea.  Tuesday Night is for sing-alongs, Wednesday for local Jazz Bands, Thursday for reading Poetry, and Friday nights are Wet T-Shirt Nights.  Also Wet Apron Night, Wet Panties Night, and, if not careful with their hands, Wet Customer Night.  Sunday is respectfully dedicated to Soul and Gospel… or so it says on the sign out front.  In actual fact, Mehitabel’s is closed Sunday.  She couldn’t find any genuine Soul artists, and hates Gospel.  One Saturday afternoon a month there is Vaudeville.  The regular comedian is W.C. Frawley, who had been wowwing them in the Isles from one side of Casino to the other for 30 years before opening at Mehitabel’s in 1929.  He probably hadn’t had one new joke in all that time, either.  But that’s only part of the campy fun.  Some of the other entertainers on Vaudeville Saturdays have been known to have actual talent… but not often.  Customers are discouraged from throwing bottles or cutlery, but stale rolls are provided as needed.  After the show, W.C. strolls among the tables, hobnobbing with the dinners as he sweeps the floor.  One of the chief attractions of Mehitabel’s is of course Mehitabel O’Riley.  A torch singer when she was younger, she is still a looker, and though never on the billing, sings at least once on most nights of the week.  She also cooks for special customers, and flirts outrageously.  Wives do not generally approve of their husbands spending time at Mehitabel’s, but that doesn’t prevent many of the mechanics, dock handlers or warehouse workers of Float Town from sneaking there at least once during the week.

(Update 1 June 2011: "Notes on Mehitabel's..." - Taral answers questions from a possible story contributor, who wishes more background on the bar & grill.)

The Pantages Burlesque Theatre – Whatever possessed the Shmengilli Brothers, Gino and Marco, to build a lavish, baroque, 500-seat burlesque theatre on the fringes of a blue-collar town in 1894, will probably never be known.  But they did.  It was splendid enough for a Caruso.  Strangely enough, the brothers were never able to attract Caruso to The Pantages, nor any other act or performer of note.  W.C. Frawley held top billing for three disastrous weeks in 1899, before the brothers finally threw in the towel and declared bankruptcy.  The theatre lay empty for about fifteen years before it was bought by C.C. Barker, a wealthy tour boat operator who had a sudden, near-fatal attack of Culture.  The Pantages was fully restored to its original luster, and opened with the best talent the Atoll could muster.  This was mainly Shakespearian revival, cellists, temperance lecturers, scientific discourses, ballet, jugglers, operatic arias sung by fat ladies past their prime, barbershop quartets and hula dancers.  Even the indefatigable Frawley took a turn or two on the stage.  Needless to say, the barbershop quartets and hula dancers were by far the most popular.  In less time than it took to add up the proceeds, The Pantages rid itself of any pretense of Culture.  That tour boat operator didn’t get rich by bucking a trend.  The theater was a modest success for several more years, but inevitably the cost of upkeep grew, while profits if anything declined, and in 1922 there was a suspicious fire.  There was no attempt to prosecute for arson, but suspicion naturally fell on C.C. Barker, who made no bones about being rid of a costly white elephant.  Fortunately, the fire did little damage to more than backstage, but it was enough for Barker to close the theatre.  It lay empty until late 1926, when the Glad Fellows Lodge in Float Town bought the theatre for a pittance.  It was used Thursday nights for lodge meetings, Friday nights for Bingo, and was available for rent the rest of the week to any act that needed a stage.  An obscure and rather decrepit film director from the U.S. –  who was living in retirement on Casino Island – was hired as caretaker, and given rooms backstage.  A coat of whitewash over some of the slightly charred spots was apparently adequate to make the apartment livable. 

It turned out that Woodrow Edsel LaRoue was many-talented.  He not only locked up at night and watched the furnace, but he also counted receipts, paid bills, looked after repairs, was master of ceremonies and even booked the acts.  In short time “Woody” LaRoue ran the theatre, and for the first time The Pantages made a steady, if small profit.  Although The Pantages is no longer the splendid island of theatrical elegance it once pretended to be, it has a loyal following who come week after week and generally do little damage to the surviving woodwork, the chipped gilt cherubs and fading maroon velvet upholstery.  A typical weekend bill might include a jug band, comics (not old Frawley, of course), a soft-shoe act, a clown with seltzer and slapsticks, strippers, and, of course, barbershop quartets.  Mehitabel  herself sang at The Pantages, as “Belle O’Riley” from 1927 to 1928, before she opened her own establishment up the road.  “Woody” himself would provide entertainment to anyone who had time to listen to his bottomless trunk of stories about Filmland.  Anyone who could get away from work during lunch hour found a boon companion at The Pantages, and a ready bottle of whiskey to share.  Kids of all ages played hooky from school to sneak into The Pantages and hear about starlets who couldn’t keep their knickers up,  and leading men who were not all they seemed.  When “Woody” LaRoue passed away in 1937, half of Float Town paid their respects at the funeral.  Somehow The Pantages went on, though much of the style was gone forever.  Now and then, though, someone swears they see “Woody” chomping a big old stogie at the head of the stairs leading to his old rooms, or pacing the stage in the shadows.  But when they look again, of course, he is never there.  He’s only in everyone’s heart.

The Tesla-Maru – Nothing more, really, than a broken-down old tug that the Institute bought in 1933, because it was inconvenient to use the regularly scheduled ferry to other islands, and because it was thought it might be useful for scientific studies.  The former advantage was never really apparent, as the expense and constant maintenance of the boat turned out to be more than it was worth.  And the latter benefit never materialized at all.  Nothing about Temporal & Para-Dimensional investigation ever required anyone to leave the laboratory.  Still, the scientists at the Institute secretly enjoyed taking turns at the wheel and playing captain, so no-one for a moment ever considered giving up the Tesla.  It’s used on routine runs to pick up supplies a mile down the road at Henson Wharf, as well as for weekend excursions to Casino Island to let off some steam.  Once in a while, too, the interns take their girlfriends on a picnic to one of the remoter beaches.  Nevertheless, you can be sure that every year Mr. Smollet, the janitor, depreciates the Tesla-Maru on the Institute’s tax return.

S.S. Sirius – The freighter that usually brings the Carnacki Institute’s imported scientific bric-a-brac to Eastern Island.  It is owned and operated by the J.N.W. Turner Forwarding Company and flew the Canadian flag, though technically its headquarters were some Caribbean island tax shelter.  While the owners may or may not be entirely on the up-and-up, the skipper of the Sirius, Captain Argyle Chester, is as honest as the day is long, and has had long experience with a variety of different sorts of oddball scientists, as well as adventurers and other seasoned sea-dogs like himself.

View of custom racecar at Henson Wharf w/ S.S. Sirius (thumbnail) by Taral Wayne
Custom racecar (1932 Rose-Noble Speedster "Ol' Number Five") at Henson Wharf (S.S. Sirius alongside). View north to the Long Bluffs. Art by Taral Wayne.
(Larger file here)

Henson Wharf – Last wharf on “Rust Bucket Row.”  The row consists of a number of middling-sized docks normally occupied by ships of no great prestige or cargo capacity.  From there one has a clear view across the bay to the Bluffs and the north end of Eastern Island.  It is the usual berth of the Sirius, and also where the Tesla Maru ties up on its runs to Float Town for the Institute’s sundry needs every week.  It’s said that Henson Wharf was named after a captain with the peculiar habit of talking to frogs.
Injun Joe’s Diner
– A classic chrome diner from the era when there was nothing classical about them yet.  It began as a lunch pail with stools, that served blue-collar meatball specials for thirty-nine cents, coffee for a nickel and pie for a dime.  Nothing would be distinctive about it if it weren’t for the 1932 Rose-Noble Speedster out back.  Joe no longer races it himself, but after retiring “Ol’ Number Five” he sponsors other drivers in the annual Speed Festival’s Three-Island Road Event.  (All around Eastern Island the first day. The circuit of Casino Island on the second day.  Main Island end-to-end on the third day.)  “Injun” Joe Pirelli is not, of course, a North American Indian.  His father was an Italian merchant, and his mother was from Calcutta.  With his dusky complexion and prominent nose, he easily passed as an Apache or Sioux at the race track.  To go along with the gag, Joe sometimes brandished a spanner as though it were a tomahawk and gave a war-whoop on his victory lap.  The joke didn’t stop there.  One of his mechanics was, in fact, a full-blooded Navaho, named Charlie Dashee, who everyone called “Paisan.” Injun Joe and “Ol’ Number Five” won two of the Three-Island races twice, and all three of the races in 1936, the year he retired.  No one had ever won the Golden Shell for all three races in an Event, nor has anyone since.  Joe proudly displays the Shell for all to see in the most important place in the diner – over the coffee maker.  Bottomless cup, naturally.

Sparky’s Full Service – Although there are still gas pumps in front of “Sparky’s Full Service,” it hasn’t been a gas station, as such, for some years.  Only “regulars” are permitted to fill up.  Instead, Sparky’s is the only native automobile manufacturer on the entire Spontoon Atoll.  Production is a steady five vehicles per year.  Three of them are the Model 6 Casino Island Royale salon cars, and the other two the Model 1 Kodiak Flyer, a high performance roadster.  So far none have been exported, but Sparky is hoping to expand production to eight as soon as customers abroad can be found.  Technically, “Sparky’s Full Service” is the “Knowles Atoll Motor Works,” but the sign out front of the workshop has never been replaced.  Sparky herself is Angelina Francesca Maria Knowles, half Irish and half Old California Spanish.  She abandoned ribbons and crinolines before she was 15, and has worn greasy jeans or coveralls ever since, much to the disapproval of both sides of her extensive and painfully proper family.  She worked in a munitions factory during the Half-War, earning enough to buy her first car at the age of 19.  Before six months had passed, she had completely rebuilt it, and was building a second out of spare parts that had somehow accumulated during her alterations on the first.  Her parts supplier, a childhood crony named “Sticky Fingers” Harry Goniff Jr., had graduated to Grand Theft Boat & Auto and was currently doing two to five years, so Sparky found herself in need of a new source of parts.  She decided to open a full-service garage and fix other people’s cars.  It was less honest, but definitely safer than crime. 

“Sparky’s” was the only the second gas station and garage on Eastern Island in 1926.  By 1928, the number of vehicles on the island had grown from 47 to an incredible 81.  Business was brisk, and soon license numbers would jump to three numerals.  Sparky’s real love was building cars, though, not just adjusting the timing or cleaning the carburetors of other people’s automobiles.  She had just finished her fourth car, the best one yet, when someone offered her $2,000 for it.  $2,000 was a lot of money in 1928, nearly half again that in modern dollars of 1941.  She sold her first production Model 2 South Pacific, as she later dubbed it, and immediately began another.  With the money, and a stake from “Sticky Fingers” Harry, she built a larger workshop, hired another mechanic, and was in the business of making cars.  Thus, from little wing nuts do mighty pillars of industry begin.  The South Pacific ended production in 1931, to be followed by the Model 1 Typhoon Emperor, a much more luxurious model that appealed to customers with fatter-than-average wallets.  The Model 2 was bigger still, and the Model 3 too big for most of the Atoll’s narrow roads.  The new Model 1 Casino Islander of 1934 was a more practical car, and the “Royale” version substituted elegance for sheer size.  Profitable as the touring cars were, Sparky’s interests lay more in the direction of sports models.  The Model 1 Swiftcurrent led to the Model 1 Swallowtail, and that, in 1936, to the first model Kodiak Flyer, the most successful of the sports car line.  As of this writing, six have been produced!  And the Model 2 is already on the drawing table.  “Sticky Fingers” has been promised a job as chief purchaser for the firm, just as soon as he’s finished his third stretch “inside.”  Sparky was always a bit sentimental about anyone who could tell at a glance a properly machined tappet or bushing before “acquiring” it. 


Pan Nimitz Airlines – One of a number of medium-sized carriers servicing the Nimitz and Cook Seas area, with destinations in Samoa, Kuo Han, Hawaii, Vostokiye Zemlya, Tilamooka, Canada, the U.S. and Mixtexa.  Beginning with a few 18-seat Sword Tri-Props in the late ‘20s, Pan Nimitz completely re-equipped itself with more modern Lalande Lackawanna mail planes and Carreidas 57 Aleutian 22-seat passenger carriers in the mid-‘30s.  In 1936 PNA inaugurated a premium service flight from most major destinations.  The new fleet of 14 Carreidas 90 Chilkoot carriers can seat 28 in comfort, and have a cruising speed 30 mph faster than the older Aleutians.  Initially, PNA didn’t plan to fly the new plane in, or out, of the main airport in Spontoon Atoll, as the Chilkoot’s landing speed and minimum runway-length exceed the facilities available on Eastern Island.  Fortunately, an agreement was reached whereby the airport authorities would upgrade the tarmac, as well as extend the main runway by 200 feet, just barely meeting the new plane’s requirements.  Service into Eastern Island began in October 1940.  It is not known whether the field can be improved enough for the upcoming C-90-1A model.  The newer Chilkoot  will be large enough to seat 30, has a longer range, and is faster.  It is expected to enter PNA service in 1942.

Carreidas 90-1A Chilkoot – The Carreidas Chilkoot is an all-new, stressed aluminum skin design, powered by two DeWitt Mercury 600 h.p. radial engines.  Its twin tails give it exceptional handling for operation in tight airspaces such as mountain passes, valleys, and small islands.  The original C 90 model sat 28, cruised at 240 m.p.h., and had a range of 1200 miles.  The upgraded C 90-1A, which will enter service in 1942, seats 30, cruises at 255 mph, and has an extended range of 1400 miles.  Expectations for the next generation, Chilkoot II, run high – seating for 40, a top speed of 275 mph, and a range of 1800 miles.  Still in the design stage, the C 90-2 is expected to replace the 90-1A in 1948.  However, some indications are that advances in technology may render the 90-2 obsolete before it ever flies.

Northair-6 Super Sea Hog – The Northair Company was well known for building sturdy, dependable, practical aircraft that tended to lumber along like dodos in flight.  The Sea Hog was no exception.  But when the Super Sea Hog was introduced in 1941, observers remarked on its much-streamlined appearance.  Larger engine nacelles promised enough extra power to turn even a brick like the Hog, into something almost nimble.  They were right.  Its improved performance and enormous capacity – up to four tons of cargo, or 22 passengers – guaranteed the plane the the title of  “Workhorse of the Pacific Seas.”  The last and best type, the N-6-22/404, is powered by two Marine-Electric Type 404 Typhoon engines, rated at 1100hp each, and manages to pull the Super Sea Hog through the sky at a surprising 225 m.p.h.  As well, its normal range of 1350 miles can be extended with external feul tanks.  Pan Nimitz Airways was operating a fleet of  26 by 1938, employing them mainly for specialized deliveries, routine transport and passenger service to the smaller islands, where only a seaplane could land.  Their advertising boasts that PNA offers courteous attendants, delicious in-flight meals, a well-stocked bar, the most comfortable seats in the Central Pacific, and up to 800 destinations!  Few of these are daily flights, of course.  In fact, over 600 of them can only be reached by chartering the plane.  But there’s no question that this versatile aircraft is all that made it possible.

Talbot-Leland Sea Gorgon, Type B – Talbot-Leland had been mainly known for racing planes, and had last achieved victories in the late ‘20s.  But in 1936 the company strove for new contracts by introducing a military version of their most successful racer.  The original Gorgon, Type A, was not a success.  However, the greatly redesigned Sea Gorgon, Type B found a niche that it filled nearly perfectly.  Several modifications had been made to the basic airframe to adapt it to Pacific Island use.  Low-profile, ultra-light floats gave it the ability to operate almost anywhere – in lagoon or open sea, even in lakes sufficiently long for a take-off and landing.  With two “duck feet” below, the single tail was modified into a split-tail for increased stability.  As well, the entire rear portion of the fuselage was canted upward to clear the surface on steep take-offs.  While not as powerful as some fighters, and not especially nimble, the Sea Gorgon was a compact and speedy gadfly by comparison.  Only its modest firepower – two .30 cal. machine guns in each wing – put it at disadvantage to larger marine fighters.  In time, however, the Sea Gorgon was withdrawn from active service by all Marine Air Corps.  Its small frame could not be fitted with larger, more powerful engines.  At a 235 m.p.h., it fell behind in the race for speed.

A.V. Roe Nootka Sea Master D-B.4 – There were few more radical cargo planes ever designed than the Nootka Sea Master.  It might almost have been better named the Sea Monster, it was so huge.  Two parallel fuselages from the Nootka D-B.3 shared a common wing that was powered by four huge DeWitt Twin-Jupiter engines, rated at 2600 h.p. each, and were up-rated in the last flying model to 2800 h.p. each.  The right-hand fuselage contained the pilot’s cabin and a voluminous cargo area that was loaded in the conventional way.  The left-hand fuselage, however, was exclusively cargo space, and the nose section was hinged so that sealed containers could be loaded, or entire vehicles driven in. The tail-planes were mounted at the top of large rudders, to keep them well clear of the heavy spray as this monster took off.  Although eight of the type were actually completed and flown, the Nootka Sea Master never went into actual production.  Problems with weight distribution were never entirely solved, with the fully-loaded plane tending to crab to the left in flight.  Nevertheless, all eight were put to intermittent use, and are leased by A.V. Roe to customers with a very heavy load to move.
Vickers-Armstrong CB-3 “Manchu” Duck – The profile of the Duck could not be mistaken for any other seaplane afloat.  It was very nearly the same size as the fuselage, and for good reason.  It was a fuselage.  Unlike other floats, which were generally hollow, compartmented structures designed only to provide buoyancy, the Duck’s float was connected to the upper fuselage by a companionway and ladder.  It enclosed as much crew or cargo space as the upper fuselage.  The Duck was unique also in that its float section had a functional rudder to improve maneuverability in the water.  It was not, however, ideal for landing on an airstrip, as the retractable undercarriage had an unavoidably narrow stance.  On water, though, the broad beam of its lower section gave it nearly the stability of an ordinary boat.  While civilian models were cargo-capable, the military type was designed to fight, and was well armed with eight forward firing .50 cal. machine guns, and two more in a powered, semi-retractable dorsal turret. The most famous of all Ducks was the “Manchu Duck.”  Owned and piloted by a legendary adventurer, and crewed by a motley band of eccentrics, wherever the sea-green float plane with its distinctive tail insignia was seen, there was sure to be a lost treasure, a secret temple or a ruined city, and plenty of excitement.

Supermarine SP/D-301 Super Orca – The word “super” is used all too often in aviation history for aircraft that are neither super, nor remarkable in any way at all.  The Supermarine Super Orca is an exception.  The jet-powered seaplane, introduced to service in 1951, was far ahead of its time.  Twin turbo-jets are mounted above the wing, to keep the inlets clear of spray.  Most ingenious are the folding wing tips, whose outboard pods become floats.  Although the main hull provides most of  the buoyancy, the outboard floats give the Super Orca rock-solid stability in the water, whether at rest or in motion.  It can literally skate the surface at 150 m.p.h. when conditions are right.  The unique role of the Super Orca is described by the Supermarine Company as a “defender.”  It is large for a fighter, but far more agile in the air than any light bomber or patrol plane.  The mission it was designed for is to escort larger, more vulnerable aircraft from island to island.  When encountering a threat, the Super Orca can adopt a protective stance, using its remotely controlled rear barbette with twin .50 cal. machine guns to shield another plane.  Or it can go hunting with the four 20mm cannon mounted in its nose.  The pilot, co-pilot and navigator are seated in a tandem cockpit, while the radar-operator/gunner occupies a cubicle amidships.  Normally two radar sets are shipped, one forward and one dorsal, to provide superior coverage.  Top speed is classified but usually reported as over 375 mph, which is astonishing for a seaplane.  The Super Orca’s normal range is 800 miles, but up to four external drop tanks extend this to 1200 miles.

Editor's note -- Taral Wayne has illustration archives at
http://taralwayne.deviantart.com/ & http://www.furaffinity.net/user/saara/
Taral is also a writer & contributes to sf fanzines.