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Warlock Ponds: 350 km from Darwin

 The next three sections of the journey are based heavily on Ross Smith’s record of the journey, 14,000 Miles Through the Air. Communications were very poor until the airmen reached Cloncurry, and there are many unanswered questions about this section of the flight. It is hoped that the centenary commemoration will shed light on this exciting period.

The best contemporary record apart from 14,000 Miles, is this newspaper article.

The Vimy took off from the Fannie Bay airfield at 10.20 am and followed the overland telegraph line which ran from Darwin to Adelaide towards their first scheduled stop, Anthony Lagoon.

It was very hot and uncomfortable, and after about four hours of very bumpy flying, valve trouble developed in the starboard engine and Ross landed the aircraft at Warlock Springs, near Mataranka (14.9234° S, 133.0664° E), not far from where the Overland Telegraph crosses the Roper River on the map (left).

The ground was rough, but they landed safely and Shiers soon had the engine fixed.

Because of the poor flying conditions, they decided to stay overnight. However, after sundown they were attacked by mosquitoes and Ross wrote that he had never known insects so venomous. Sleep was impossible, and they tried huddling in blankets (too hot!) and lighting fires, but nothing deterred the insects.

About midnight, Ross remembered a bottle of ‘good Irish whisky’ that they had carried from England and opened it. He wet his face with the whisky, hoping to keep the insects away, but they ignored it, and Ross noted wryly that the others learnt from his error and put the whisky to far better use!

They had no sleep until daylight and their start the next day was delayed until 10 am. Ross had noted that this was the first mechanical failure they had had during the entire journey so far, but the next day was to bring more problems.