Biggles in the South Seas

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Biggles in the South Seas

Postby kylie_koyote » 25 May 2017, 19:46

This just shattered my previous paradigm, so I thought I'd share it.

At the start of South Seas, they purchase the "Scud" in Britain and then ship it to Raratonga. The quote is:

"The ‘Scud’ was therefore put on board an Australia-bound steamer calling at Raratonga, and Biggles, Algy, and Ginger traveled with it."

All this time, in my uninformed mind, they have been traveling around Africa, but that doesn't make sense. Now that I know where Raratonga is, if they stop at Raratonga on the way to Australia - which is how I now interpret that statement above - they must have gone through the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914.

I made this hypothetical map of their route.

2403

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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Wanderer » 26 May 2017, 00:52

This might be another Johnsism. There was no regular shipping service directly connecting Europe and Australia via Raratonga in 1939 when this story must be set. Raratonga had been on the Union Steamship Co of NZ's regular Australia-San Francisco-Vancouver run that was discontinued in 1936. After that it was mostly serviced directly from NZ. We can only assume that the party travelled on a cargo liner on an unscheduled or tramp service from Europe to Australia via Panama.
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'... Not always. Sometimes he catches a slug—in the back of the neck,' contradicted Biggles.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 26 May 2017, 08:15

Why must South Seas be set in 1939 Wanderer? I thought it was a bit earlier especially as Ginger is so young - not much older than Full Moon and Shell Breaker. Although it is one of my favourite books I always feel it makes Ginger out to be more child than young adult. By 1939 he had been in Goes To War and Spain to say nothing of Air Commodore so he should have been more grown up. I always like Ginger being youthful and almost childish in the very early books as it is very endearing and good fun when he goes off in a panic but it cannot be realistic. Biggles and Algy were teenagers during WW1 and they grew up very quickly indeed. Biggles started Flies East and a boy and finished the books a man according to WEJ whereas Ginger was still a "lad" in the 1960s :?
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby kylie_koyote » 26 May 2017, 20:20

A quick Google search tells me that in 1931, the passenger liner SS Strathnaver took this route: London, Bombay, Colombo, Melbourne, Sydney. It took 42 days. :shock:

This website has some tour excerpts: https://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/behind-the ... o-new-york

This one sounds amazing, but the price is eye-watering:

27 March, Depart Melbourne by SS Mariposa. Stopping at Sydney, Auckland, then via Suva, Pago Pago, Honolulu, Los Angeles and arrive in San Francisco on 19 April.
19 April to 4 May: escorted tour across America by bus and train from San Francisco to Niagara Falls and New York, then on the Queen Mary to Southampton. The all-inclusive fare (Sydney back to Sydney) was £260/13/9 ($22,548.24 in today's US dollars).
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Wanderer » 27 May 2017, 01:42

Frecks wrote:Why must South Seas be set in 1939 Wanderer?

Admittedly a bit of an assumption on my part but based on the principle that the stories (other than Charter Pilot) are set in chronological order and at most a year or two before publication. South Seas was first published as a serial in the Gem late in 1939 (see Dr. Biggles: http://www.biggles.info/Details/21/) so clearly written around that time. Setting ought be early 1939 or at earliest 1938 based on the fact that whenever Johns gives an actual date in a book its always only afew months before the books was written (Black Peril, Flies West, etc).

Of course in Bigglesverse it could be argued that Ginger is 17 years old from 1935 to 1939, 18 years old throughout WWII and 19 with late onset age regression from 1946 to 1970 :-)
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'... Not always. Sometimes he catches a slug—in the back of the neck,' contradicted Biggles.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Wanderer » 27 May 2017, 02:24

kylie_koyote wrote:A quick Google search tells me that in 1931, the passenger liner SS Strathnaver took this route: London, Bombay, Colombo, Melbourne, Sydney. It took 42 days. :shock:

Which was about as good as it got by all-sea in the 1930s (P & O's new Strath-class liners had a speed on 19-21 knots and were the fastest regular vessels on the run). Passengers could speed up their travel by leaving the ship in a Mediterranean port and travelling over Europe by rail - if they followed the standard surface mail route, they could do UK-Australia in about 4 weeks.

From 1935 it was technically possible to travel all by air. Lady Edwina Mountbatten was the first outward passenger from Australia, in April 1935, although she only went as far as Malta where Lord Louis was then stationed. This reduced the time UK-Australia to about a fortnight. It involved transfers at various points mostly with overnight stopovers. Many of the aircraft travelled at little over 100 mph: the fastest were the 200 mph DH-86s that ran the Tasmania-Melbourne-Sydney and Darwin-Singapore legs. Regular air passenger services did not begin until the introduction of the Empire Class flying boats in 1938 that still took about 14 days. Again, plenty of overnight stops, because there was little in the way of navigational aids for overseas flights and the class of people who could afford to fly were not expected to put up with much personal discomfort.
(Raymond) "'It's the early bird that catches the worm, you know,'
'... Not always. Sometimes he catches a slug—in the back of the neck,' contradicted Biggles.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby tiffinata » 27 May 2017, 08:22

kylie_koyote wrote:A quick Google search tells me that in 1931, the passenger liner SS Strathnaver took this route: London, Bombay, Colombo, Melbourne, Sydney.

A similar route my mother in law took coming to Australia in the late '50's as a 'Ten Pound Pom'

It would have been cheaper on a cargo ship. Probably a good deal if you accompanied the cargo as well.
And probably far more ships taking advantage of the trade winds/ocean currents heading west to east.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 27 May 2017, 15:30

I wonder if WEJ actually researched this sort of thing or just looked at an atlas and made up the route, timings etc. to suit himself.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby kylie_koyote » 27 May 2017, 17:36

Probably a combination of personal experience (Takes Charge springs to mind), talking to people who'd been there, and pure imagination.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 27 May 2017, 18:42

Yes I think Takes Charge was a very special book to WEJ. It was unusual for Algy to have such a major role in a book and also some of the content contradicted previous books. It would actually have been a very moving book as a stand alone story.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Wanderer » 28 May 2017, 01:42

Frecks wrote:I wonder if WEJ actually researched this sort of thing or just looked at an atlas and made up the route, timings etc. to suit himself.

A lot of timetable details were published in the paper at the time, he only had to look at his daily paper to get an idea of routes and stopovers. People were keenly interested in that sort of detail in those days. In the local press we still had abstract logs of both ship and air passages regularly published in our daily press. There were heaps of travel guides around as well. Having decided that Raratonga needed to be visited, to assume that it could be visited direct from the UK via Australia would be easy enough to make without more detaied sleuthing, and that was just not WEJ's style :-)
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'... Not always. Sometimes he catches a slug—in the back of the neck,' contradicted Biggles.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby kylie_koyote » 22 Aug 2018, 02:38

Okay, this may be a stretch but bear with me ...

In “South Seas” they find a matching set of “twin” pearls. Ginger says give one to Full Moon and they keep the other and Sandy is appalled. You can’t split a matched pair, he cries.

Then, decades later. “Biggles and the Blue Moon” happens. Raymond is describing the pearls at the start of the story and he says “there is a pair of matching pink pearls the size of marbles. They are, you might say, identical twins. They came from the same oyster. The chances of that happening again are too remote for serious consideration.”

Do you suppose WEJ is having a little joke with the reader and those are the same twin pearls that Biggles found? I do.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 22 Aug 2018, 07:52

Interesting idea KK. WEJ did refer back to much earlier books in the very late books so it is quite possible.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Fairblue » 22 Aug 2018, 08:18

kylie_koyote wrote:Okay, this may be a stretch but bear with me ...

In “South Seas” they find a matching set of “twin” pearls. Ginger says give one to Full Moon and they keep the other and Sandy is appalled. You can’t split a matched pair, he cries.

Then, decades later. “Biggles and the Blue Moon” happens. Raymond is describing the pearls at the start of the story and he says “there is a pair of matching pink pearls the size of marbles. They are, you might say, identical twins. They came from the same oyster. The chances of that happening again are too remote for serious consideration.”

Do you suppose WEJ is having a little joke with the reader and those are the same twin pearls that Biggles found? I do.

Nicely caught, KK. But these were pinkpearls so perhaps WEJ felt justified in saying that.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby kylie_koyote » 22 Aug 2018, 14:27

I've just checked my "South Seas" and those matching pearls were also pink. Also described as the size of a marble. So... I think they're the same twins.

**

Ginger slowly withdrew his fingers and held up an enormous round pearl, the size of a marble. It was not white, but pink, and as it lay in his trembling palm it gleamed with an uncanny light, as if it were imbued with life. Silence fell. It was broken by Sandy. ‘Sweet Andrew of Scotland!’ he breathed, whitefaced, staring at the pearl as if it exerted an irresistible fascination over him. ‘I’ve seen some pearls in my time, and some beauties among ‘em, but I’ve never seen anything like that. That baby is going to cause more than a flutter when it reaches Paris.’

Ginger had tossed the shell aside, and was about to speak when Full Moon uttered a little cry. She was staring at the shell, which gaped open. The others
looked, and saw something pink gleaming between the lips of the shell. In a silence broken only by the harsh rustle of the palms Ginger picked it up and
slowly withdrew a second rose-tinted pearl. He laid it on the palm of his left hand with the other. The two made a perfect pair. Sandy seemed to have
difficulty in speaking. ‘Look at ‘em!’ he croaked. Then again, ‘Look at ‘em! Look hard, boys, because you’re looking at something you’ll never see again as long as you live—no, not if you live to be a million."


(Sandy continues in this vein for some length.)
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 22 Aug 2018, 16:16

I think you are right KK and these are the same pearls.
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby 266 » 29 Aug 2018, 03:37

Just to lower the odds a bit, how about the matching pink pearls kindly provided by Li Chi in "Flies Again?"
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Re: Biggles in the South Seas

Postby Frecks » 29 Aug 2018, 07:52

These matching pink pearls are not as rare as they seem :lol:
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