by Captain W. E. Johns



XIV.         VISIBILITY ZERO  (Pages 172 – 183)


“For a little while something like chaos reigned on Ingles Island.  Seas were thundering against the causeway.  Spindrift swirled in blinding sheets.  The air was full of flying sand, and dead palm fronds were whirled about like scraps of wind-blown paper.  A palm fell with a crash, missing the Scud by a narrow margin”.  Our heroes do their best to tie down the Scud in the face of the oncoming storm and all scramble into the aircraft for shelter and to weigh it down.  Jimmy says this is a “willy-willy” and it is the advance guard of the monsoon proper.  They hear the distant drone of an aircraft – and assume it is the petrol – but they never find out as the aircraft can’t find their island in the bad visibility and leaves, despite them sending up flares.  Later, the weather slowly improves and they hear another aircraft.  Firing flares again, they are shocked to see a Japanese Mitsubishi which circles and flies off.  Time passes and then Worrals sees a ship coming and fears it is the ‘Tamaroa’ but she is wrong.  As it gets nearer, Frecks identifies it as the ‘Annie’, Billy Maguire’s boat. Billy has two island boys with him as crew members.  Billy is able to get into the lagoon and says he heard their radio signals as he was collecting dugong oil from Kalo Island about fifty miles to the east.  Billy has petrol on board, a couple of hundred gallons, for use with his engine and although not aviation spirit, it should be good enough to get them back to Darwin.  However, the lagoon is “now a creamy area of broken water” due to oncoming storm and far too choppy to allow Worrals to take off.  Worrals has an idea.  She tells Billy to dump all his oil in the lagoon.  “Billy, I’m afraid you’ll have to sell the government your dugong oil.  You’ll get your money when I put in a voucher showing for what purpose it was used”.  The oil will calm the water to an extent that will allow Worrals to take off.  When there is a lull in the storm, they spend half an hour putting petrol in the tanks of the Scud.  But from the north comes the sound of aircraft.  The Mitsubishi is back, together with three other Japanese planes.