About the Flying Cloud, R505

The World of the Flying Cloud
  History, People, Places, Ships, and FAQs

Airship passing Big Ben

The story of the Flying Cloud, His Majesty's Airship R505, takes place in a world that might have been ours, had history taken a slightly different path. Some of these differences, such as the earlier end to the Great War and the development of airships in preference to aeroplanes, are obvious. Others, such as the early creation of animated ducks, are more subtle. These pages provide some background about the history, places, and people of this world, and the ways it differs from ours. They also describe some of the technologies, such as airships, that have shaped it.

These pages were created for you, Noble Readers, to provide answers to some of your questions. They will change and evolve -- sometimes dramatically -- as I add more essays, graphics, and material, and make changes to the server, so be sure to check back from time to time. And if you have any questions, observations, ideas, or suggestions, feel free to post a comment on the Flying Wire blog or send me an email. In particular, the Royal Naval Airship Service welcomes any and all additions to the famous Points of Departure List.


Last revision: 31 October 2016

Woodrow Wilson's Peace

Woodrow Wilson, image from the New York Tribune
Woodrow Wilson at his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Stockholm 1917 (New York Tribune)

By 1916, the world had been at war for two long terrible years. Fighting stretched from the jungles of Africa to the islands of the Pacific, and millions had died on the battlefields of Ypres, Gallipoli, Verdun, and the Somme. No one knew when the nightmare would end. The German triumph at Tannenberg and British victory at Jutland had done nothing to shorten the war. Some pessimists predicted it might last until 1918, leaving Europe devastated, with scars that would take generations to heal.

Alone among the Great Powers, America remained neutral. Protected by two oceans, the United States was able to resist involvement with either side. From this privileged position, President Woodrow Wilson worked tirelessly to mediate an end to the conflict. It was a thankless task. The belligerents, embittered by their sacrifices, emboldened or dismayed by the changing tides of war, were unwilling to entertain any alternative short of total victory. But as 1916 drew to a close two events happened to tilt matters in President Wilson's favor.

The first was the failure of the summer's offensives. As the stalemates of Verdun and the Sommes ground to their bloody conclusions, responsible parties on all sides realized that a military victory was no longer possible. The second was the death of Germany's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Arthur Zimmerman, in an automobile accident that September. His replacement, the industrialist Richard von Kuhlman, was a diplomat and pragmatist who was willing to make compromises his more militant predecessor might have disdained. His secret communiqué to American Secretary of State Robert Lansing -- the so-called Kuhlman Telegram -- prompted a flurry of negotiations between the two men and their English and French counterparts, Sir Edward Grey (later Viscount Grey of Falloden) and Rene Viviani, who'd replaced the ardently anti-German Theophile Delcasse as France's Foreign Minister.

These negotiations led to the Armistice of 11 November 1916, a document that will forever be known as Woodrow Wilson's Peace. Under its terms, the belligerents were to terminate hostilities six hours after signature and return as expediently as possible to their pre-War borders. Armies were allowed to withdraw in good order, with all of their arms and equipment, with penalties for any units that despoiled the territory through which they retreated. Cases where it was no longer possible to restore the pre-War state of affairs, such as Germany's West African colonies and parts of the former Russian, Austria-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, were to be resolved by international adjudication. The fates of the disputed former French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine were to be decided by plebiscites to be held among their people in 1927.

Not everyone was happy with the settlement. The governments of Austria, Turkey, and Italy felt, quite rightly, that their interests had been neglected in favor of England, Germany, and France. The Japanese, who had benefited from the conflict, were reluctant to return some of the territories they'd taken in the Pacific. In Germany and France, nationalists felt they'd been betrayed, and extremist groups in both countries denounced what they termed `appeasement'. But overall, particularly among the soldiers in the trenches, the Peace was greeted with a mixture of gratitude and disbelief. Airman James Morris described the moment in his memoir, Silence Falls Over the Western Front.

"The Armistice was supposed to take at 1100 hours on the morning of 11 November. As the moment approached, Lieutenant-Commander Michaelson ordered our ship out on patrol. It was stiff work, walking Number 23 from her shed out into the chill, and those old Rolls-Royce engines were the very devil to get started on cold winter morning. But at last we were aloft and headed toward the front.

"I always felt a shiver when I looked down on the lines. No trace of green remained -- everything had been ground into poisonous hues of grey and brown by the ceaseless pounding of shells. Villages, forests, and fields, were gone, with nothing left except an angle in the dirt that might have been a foundation, shattered stumps of trees, and an endless sea of craters. Even at this late hour, fighting still continued, and we could see flashes of light from the trenches below where troops were firing at us.

"At the eleventh hour, the flashes ceased. From 6000' above the battlefield we could feel the hush as the terrible guns fell silent. Below us, haggard faces peered out from the trenches. Slowly, disbelievingly, they began to emerge, taking timid steps into the world of the sun. They lay down their weapons and began to move, stumbling across the ruined terrain, toward the men they'd been trying to kill just a few minutes before. From the air it was impossible to tell them apart -- two ragged lines of figures covered with dirt and streaked with mud. As we watched, the lines met and mingled, exchanging handshakes, embraces, and one imagines a few tears."

The World After the War

The world greeted the Peace with relief and celebration. No one wanted to imagine what might have happened had the War continued another two years -- it might have been a disaster from which Europe could never have recovered. Celebration was followed by an outburst of prosperity, as industry, which had ramped up to meet the demands of wartime production, was suddenly released to take advantage of the opportunities of peacetime. It was a time of plenty, as returning soldiers provided a ready labor force as well as a ready market for an unprecedented period of expansion.

It was also an unprecedented time of change. The Austria-Hungarian Empire was gone forever, dismantled by the Treaty of Trianon (1918) into a collection of independent nations with no desire to be ruled by a central authority. The Ottomans had fared even worse, ceding most of their possessions to Britain under the Mandate of Palestine in 1917. In Russia, the Czarist government -- aging, decadent, discredited by its many failures during the War -- was swept aside by the October Revolution that placed Leon Trotsky in power.

In Germany the transformation was more subtle. The Kaiser remained as head of a constitutional monarchy, but his power and will had been broken by the War, Crown Prince Wilhelm was neither willing nor prepared to take his place, and power devolved to a succession of Chancellors, beginning with Bethmann-Hollweg. Across the Rhine, they faced a succession of French adversaries, beginning with the wily George Clemanceau.

One big cipher was the Sleeping Giant, America. This nation had stirred in its sleep toward the end of the War, giving a barest hint of what it might do if awake, and then returned to its slumber. What might happen if it woke fully, no one could say. Another cipher was Japan. Its armies had moved with unexpected efficiency and skill to capture German colonies during the War. The Japanese had returned these under duress, but the skill and efficiency remained, along with a dangerous ambition.

Some people worried about the future, for the Armistice had left many questions unresolved. For all of its success, it was merely a cease-fire, not a formal treaty of peace. Hostilities might have ended, but some of the belligerents -- most notably France and Germany -- were still technically in a state of war. The Peace might have required nations to return to their pre-War boundaries, but in some cases this was no longer possible because the nations involved no longer existed. In other cases, such as the disposition of Alsace and Lorraine, those boundaries were themselves a source of contention. This particular issue was supposed to be resolved by a plebiscite in 1927, but no one knew what France or Germany might do if they were unhappy with the outcome.

There were also the disaffected. On both sides of the Rhine, ardent nationalists felt they'd been betrayed by their own governments, and some even advocated a return to hostilities. In Russia, Trotsky's revolutionaries sought to extend the dubious 'benefits' of communism to other nations. And in every nation, embittered veterans, unable to adapt to a world at peace, provided ready fodder for extremists.

The Roaring Twenties

The decade the followed the War was a time of unprecedented growth. Spurred by new technologies, such as wireless, the automobile, and advances in farming, mining, and manufacturing, fueled by exciting innovations in finance, the world's economies grew by leaps and bounds. This was the setting for an era unlike any before: the 'Roaring Twenties'.

The Twenties were a time of prosperity. Freed from the shadow of war, people were free to become wealthy, which they did in large numbers, investing in stocks, inventing new technologies and new careers, and bursting the confines of the old social order. Even the poorest did well, and the richest did very well indeed.

It was an era of innovation, where Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on electromagnetic radiation while D. H. Lawrence shocked the world with his controversial novel Women in Love. In nightclubs, flappers and their beaus swung to the jazz of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Lois Armstrong. In sports, Babe Ruth broke the home run record. In academia, Hedigger reinterpreted Western philosophy with Being and Time. In cinema, Rudolf Valentino set women's hearts athrob in The Sheik while Charlie Chaplin made the whole world laugh with his silent comedies.

The Twenties were a time of massive social change. At its root lay a profound change in people's attitude toward Authority. Prior to 1914, people accepted authority without hesitation, following their leaders with unquestioning respect. But the War had exposed those leaders as men like themselves, with human foibles and failures, and a dangerously human incompetence. As some pundits put it, "God died in the trenches." In the vacuum that this left, people had to learn to think for themselves -- a difficult task, but one that most handled well.

Among these changes was the new position of women. Women had joined the work force in large numbers to run their countries while their men were away at war. Many continued to work after the War was over. With salaries came freedom and demands for equality. In some of the more progressive nations, such as Austria, Denmark, England, Germany, and Hungary women even demanded, and won, the right to vote -- America followed their lead in 1920 when Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment. Women's new-found freedom extended to their personal lives as well, in ways that somehow failed to bring about any of the disasters that conservative critics and religious zealots predicted.

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was best summed up by financier Harold Vincent in his commencement address at Wheelman College.

These past ten years have been a time of optimism, when anything seems possible. Science and industry run at full blast, turning out a never-ending stream of wonders. The miracle of electricity powers our factories, lights our homes, preserves and cooks our food. Modern medicine has triumphed over age-old killers such as diptheria and cholera. Fleets of airships link the nations of the world, traveling in hours distances that might have required days by ship or train. Commercial radio brings music and entertainment to everyman's home, and may soon transmit pictures as well.

How long can this astounding progress continue? A few nay-sayers suggest that financial markets may come under pressure in the unlikely event of some unforeseen strain on the banking system. But most intelligent people agree that in our New Economy, the old rules no longer apply, and prosperity will continue forever!

Sarah's Island

Map of Sarah's island

Sarah's island is part of the New Caledonia chain -- an archipelago of half a dozen large islands and numerous smaller ones that lies 900 nautical miles east of Australia and a similar distance north of New Zealand. The nearest major island groups are Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Solomons to the north. New Caledonia is often subdivided into two parts: the main island, Grande Terre, with its satellite islands, and the Loyalty Islands to the east. Sarah's island is considered part of the former, and lies approximately 100 miles southeast of Grande Terre at Latitude 22 36' S, Longitude 168 57' E.

Geography, Geology, and Climate
Sarah's island is roughly diamond-shaped, 10 miles long and 5 miles wide, with its long axis running east-west. A chain of mountains runs along the long axis, forming a central spine that rises up to 3500' above sea level. The south coast of the island is rugged and inhospitable, with a row of limestone cliffs, 50-200' tall, exposed to the prevailing wind and swell. The north side is more clement, with lagoons, estuaries, and rich fields of soil that provide a favorable environment for fishing and agriculture. Like many islands in the New Caledonia chain, Sarah's island has a complex geology that combines coral formations, sedimentary and igneous terrain, and some metamorphic features. As a result, it has extensive mineral deposits that would not be found on a typical Pacific atoll.

The island lies in the region of the southeast trade winds (the Tropic of Capricorn), so its climate is tropical, with a dry season that lasts from April to November and a rainy season that lasts from December to March. Temperatures are moderate, ranging between 60 and 70 F during the dry season and reaching as high as 80 F during the wet. Rainfall averages 60" per year. The central mountain range is not extensive enough to produce a significant rain shadow, so conditions are fairly uniform across the island, though higher elevations do tend to be slightly cooler and wetter. The island can be subject to typhoons during the rainy season, but these are rare. Local tradition also tells of a vast fire that swept the southern half of the island at some time in the distant past, but in view of the island's high precipitation levels, this legend is almost certainly apocryphal.

Population and Culture
Because the northern side of Sarah's island is so much more hospitable, most of the population lives north of the central mountain range. They may venture south to hunt, or in search of herbs and minerals that can't be found elsewhere, but they do not establish permanent settlements on the far side of the mountains, and parts of this region are considered 'tapu' or forbidden. The people themselves are the usual mixture of Polynesian and Melanesian strains found elsewhere in New Caledonia -- the product of successive waves of colonization between 1500 BC and the present -- but some ethnographers have identified the presence of an alien element that either predates the first waves of colonization or arrived from elsewhere. Certain words in the local vocabulary resemble elements of the Finno-Ugric group. This has prompted K. Solovyov of the University of Odessa to suggest that some ancestors of the present-day population may have arrived from the Baltic. Most investigators dismiss this notion as fanciful.

The political and social organization of the islanders is comparatively unsophisticated, consisting of separate villages, each ruled by its own chief. Tradition tells of a time in the distant past when the entire population was unified into a single nation, but now each village is independent, except for short-lived alliances forged by unusually powerful leaders. Interaction with the rest of New Caledonia is minimal, for the voyage to the island, against the prevailing trade winds, is regarded as particularly difficult and dangerous. For this reason, it has never been incorporated into the system of alliances that spans the other islands, and its people are regarded as alien -- perhaps even supernatural -- in some of the more rustic corners of the archipelago.

Legends and Prehistory
Like its inhabitants, the legends of Sarah's island contain a mixture of Polynesian and Melanesian elements. The former include the mythical union between sky and earth and a powerful god of the sea. The latter include a number of origin myths -- not all consistent -- that describe how mankind arose from the earth or originated in the heavens. There are also the usual tales of elder gods who filtered down from the stars before the dawn of recorded history, created mankind as a game or a joke, sank beneath the waves, and will eventually return to destroy us. Scholars have noted a similarity between these and Indo-European folktales, such as the original Finno-Scandinavian versions of Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood. They are at a loss to explain this connection.

Little is know of the prehistory of the island. The presence of ruins on its southern half suggests an earlier period of habitation -- some have suggested this may be the source of the alien element in the population -- but these hypothetical people, if they ever existed, have long since been absorbed by later settlers. Since the south side of island is no longer inhabited, these ruins have not been systematically investigated, so it is not possible to formulate any meaningful hypothesis regarding their origin.

Modern Era
New Caledonia was first sighted by Europeans in 1774, when British explorer James Cook sighted Grande Terre during his second great voyage of discovery. The French took possession of the islands in 1853 as part of Napoleon III's attempt to rival the British Empire. During the late 19th Century, attempts were made to develop Sarah's island as a source of minerals -- most notably nickel and chromium -- but difficulties of transport and the availability of higher grade ore elsewhere brought these efforts to naught. From 1864 onwards, the French government used New Caledonia as a penal colony. This practice officially came to an end in 1922, and the government denies rumors that it may continue in remote parts of the archipelago.

[Additional Note: At the time of the Flying Cloud's visit in the 1920s, Sarah's island was a substantial body of land, with an area and population comparable to that of a small English county. If you look at Google Earth today, you will find an island at the same location, but this is a low windswept rock, less than a mile across, with little vegetation and no permanent inhabitants. What is the relationship between the two? Life is full of mysteries...]

The Royal Naval Airship Service

RNAS Airship and Motto

The Royal Naval Airship Service was formed during the Great War to meet the threat of German submarines and mines. Prior to the War, the Admiralty scorned the effectiveness of these new underwater weapons. The loss of the HMS Pathfinder, Aboukir, Houge, and Cressy in the opening weeks of the conflict taught them the error of their ways. In search of countermeasures, they turned to aerial reconnaissance. Initial experiments were encouraging. Submarines and mines that might have been invisible from surface ships were plainly visible from the air. But the primitive seaplanes of the day lacked the range and endurance needed to accompany a fleet, and England had little experience with rigid airships, so the Navy was forced to rely upon blimps.

Dozens of these craft were built during the course of the conflict. They scored several notable successes, such as the destruction of two German U-boats in 1916 by the 'Coastal' Class ship, C-9. But blimps had serious limitations. With top speeds of 40 MPH or less, they were simply too slow for many missions, and it was not unknown for airmen to find themselves traveling backwards, even with engines at full power, in the kind of winds that prevailed in the North Sea.

Meanwhile, the German Army and Navy had been scoring successes with their growing fleets of zeppelins. Their rigid structure and larger size made these craft significantly more capable than blimps. Recognizing this fact, the Admiralty commissioned Vickers to build a succession of rigid airships, in imitation of their adversary. Their first products, HMA 1 Mayfly and HMA 9, were experimental vehicles with no practical utility, but by the end of the year, they'd begun to produce vessels comparable to the smaller German craft. Several of these ships, including the HMA 23 -- a predecessor of the famous R33 Class -- saw limited service on the Western Front during the final months of the War.

The Great War demonstrated that aviation is here to stay. Different nations have responded to this challenge in different ways. In Germany and France, the airship arm is constituted as a separate service, the Luftschiffwehrflotte and Service De L'Aviation, respectively. The British, ever respectful of tradition, organize their airship arms as branches of the regular Army and Navy. In the Army, airships are used primarily as transports, but the Royal Naval Airship Service functions in a variety of roles, ranging from reconnaissance and patrol, to transport and communications, to bombing and anti-shipping missions. It also serves the cause of diplomacy, carrying envoys and showing the flag throughout the world, and the RNAS motto, 'Si Vis Pacem Pare Volatum', has become a comfort, reassurance, and source of inspiration to subjects of the Crown.

Plan and Technical Specifications for the Flying Cloud, R-505

The Flying Cloud, R505

The Flying Cloud, His Majesty's Airship R505, is a medium-sized patrol vessel of 2.6 million cubic feet volume, comparable to America's Los Angeles class or Germany's post-war L-71. Like all rigid airships, she consists of a set of hydrogen-filled gas cells enclosed in a streamlined duralumin frame covered with a fabric envelope. Propulsion is provided by three engine cars fitted with 12-cylinder supercharged diesels. Steering and control are accomplished through use of control fins mounted at the tail of the ship, and by releasing hydrogen and ballast. The bridge is located in a control car mounted beneath the hull near the bow while cargo holds, fuel bunkers, and accommodations for the crew are located inside the hull itself.

The Flying Cloud is a 'third generation' airship, with a fully streamlined control car and hull and engines of high efficiency. In many respects, she is unusually advanced, with features such as four-bladed reversible propellers that would not ordinarily be found on a vessel of this class. The vessel's origin remains a mystery. In appearance, she resembles the Junior Vickers class: the smaller version of Barnes Wallis's famous R100 that was commissioned in 1926. Her engines appear to be based on a German design by Maybach. But there were no papers, flight manuals, serial numbers, or builder's marks onboard to indicate where she was made. For this reason, there is some uncertainty regarding the vessel's performance and specifications. Approximate figures are provided below.

Manufacturer: Unknown
Number built: One?
Chief designer: Unknown, but resembles a Junior Vickers class
Powerplant: Three 12-cylinder supercharged diesels, approx 800 hp each, manufacturer unknown
Air displacement: 2,788,000 cu ft
Volume of gas cells: 2,580,000 cu ft (100% inflation)
  2,193,000 cu ft (85% inflation)
Overall length: 562' 9"
Maximum diameter: 105' 6"
Main frame spacing: 31' 9"
Fineness ratio: 5.34
Number of gas cells: 15
Empty weight: 100,031 lb
Max gross lift: 175,493 lb (100% inflation)
Max load: 75,462 lb (100% inflation)
Typical gross lift: 149,169 lb (85% inflation)
Typical load: 49,138 lb (85% inflation)
Maximum fuel: 37,731 lb (5,167 gal)
Crew: 17 regular, 67 max
Top speed: Unknown, in excess of 72 kt
Standard speed: 62 kt
Cruising speed: 53 kt
Pressure height: 5,400' (85% inflation)
Theoretical max alt: 15,500' (57% inflation)
Max range, stnd: 10,314 nm (167 hrs)
Max range, cruise: 12,672 nm (244 hrs)

Points of Departure Between Captain Everett's World and Ours

The world of the Flying Cloud differs from our own in many ways, some subtle and others profound. The table below lists some of the points of departure we've identified. The Archives Department of the Royal Naval Airship Service welcomes any and all additions to this list! Noteworthy discoveries --- these must involve events that take place prior to or during the time of the story -- will win one of the coveted Precocious Animated Duck Awards!

Year Everett's World   Our World
1916 Arthur Zimmermann, Germany's fire-breathing Foreign Minister, dies in an automobile accident in September 1916. He is replaced by a pragmatist, Richard von Kuhlman.   Zimmermann survives, and remains in office to send the infamous telegram that brings America into the War on the side of the Allies.
1916 American President Woodrow Wilson negotiates the armistice, Woodrow Wilson's Peace, that brings the Great War to an end in November 1916.   The First World War drags on until 1918 at untold cost in human suffering, ending in a settlement, the ill-conceived Treaty of Versailles, that will ensure the start of another great conflict a generation later.
1917 Vladimir Lenin remains an obscure bookseller in Switzerland.   The Germans smuggle Lenin into Russia in an attempt to disrupt the Imperial government. The results are somewhat more than they bargained for.
1917 Woodrow Wilson receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the global conflict.   Woodrow Wilson commits American troops to fight in the global conflict.
1917 Freed from the burden of war, the world's nations have the resources to develop airships to their full potential.   Impoverished by war, the nations of the world forsake expensive airships in favor of cheaper but less capable aeroplanes, which benefit from two additional years of military development.
1921 Two brilliant American artists, Bennet Flynn and Melrose ('Buck') Stott, delight the world with their animated cartoons of zany talking ducks.   Cpl Flynn and Pfc Stott are killed during the Ludendorff Offensive in 1918. Because of this tragedy, Donald and Daffy must wait until 1934 and 1937, respectively.
1925 Walther Müller and Hans Geiger perfect Geiger and Rutherfords's original 1908 design for a radiation detector to develop the Müller Counter in 1925.   Hans Geiger and Walther Müller perfect Geiger and Rutherfords's original 1908 design for a radiation detector to develop the Geiger Counter in 1928.
1925 Frederick Urquhart, Administrator of Australia's Northern Territory, retires.   Administrator Urquhart remains in office until 1926.
1925 The North Australia Railroad completes the long-planned extension of the line from Darwin to Birdum, originally proposed in 1918, to link Darwin and Alice Springs.   In 2000, the Austral/Asia Rail Corporation completes the long-planned extension of the line from Darwin to Birdum, originally proposed in 1918, to link Darwin and Alice Springs. ("Made a good fist of it. Took a bit longer than we reckoned.")
1926 Tokarev introduces the TT26 automatic pistol, based on a Browning design, to replace the Russian Army's aging but venerable Nagant 7-shot revolver. This is later replaced by the TT29.   In 1930, Tokarev introduces the TT30 automatic pistol, based on a Browning design, to replace the Russian Army's aging but venerable Nagant 7-shot revolver. This is later replaced by the TT33.
2010 Poverty and disease are eradicated, the world is at peace, robots do all the work, humanity has learned to live in harmony with its environment, and science has discovered a simple inexpensive treatment that will promote healing, raise intelligence, restore youth, confer immortality, make every man handsome, and make every woman beautiful. Also... we have Flying Cars!   Well, at least life is interesting.

Cast of Characters

It has been said that a ship is like a story, touching many different lives as it travels across the world. This is true of airships as well. Below is a list of some of the people who've played parts in the ongoing story of the His Magesty's Airship R-505, the Flying Cloud.

Current and Former Crew

Captain Everett Captain Roland P. Everett, Commander of the Flying Cloud. Born in 1886 in a quiet rural shire in southern England, Everett received his commision in 1908. He was promoted to Lieutenant-Commamnder after serving in the Dardanelles campaign and commanded a destroyer in the North Sea during final months of the War. After the Peace, Everett transferred to the Royal Naval Airship Service, where he made Captain in 1923 at the comparatively young age of 37. In 1924, he was given command of a fleet patrol vessel: His Majesty's Airship R-212, the Flying Lady. Unlike most Royal Navy officers, Everett received his education from a public school rather than the Naval College. This may account for his unusual career path, as well as some of his eccentricities.

Jenkins Ensign Jenkins, Ship's Signalman. As a member of the Royal Navy's Signal Corps, Jenkins served as Everett's aide during the final months of the War and again in the RNAS. He was also Fleet bareknuckle champion at Liverpool. His other talents remain a mystery, for members of the Signal Corps have secrets that are not for such as you and I to know.

MacKiernan Lieutenant-Commander Fergus MacKiernan, Executive Officer. Born near Belfast in 1896, MacKiernan emigrated from Northern Ireland in 1910 to enter Dartmouth Naval College at the traditional age of 14. He received his commission towards the end of the War and transferred to the RNAS after the Peace. He and Abercrombie met several years ago, and the two men have been involved in a friendly rivalry ever since.

Abercrombie Warrant Officer Dougal Abercrombie, Chief Rigger of the Flying Cloud. Born in some nameless village in the Scottish Highlands in 1894, Abercrombie lied about his age to join the Royal Navy in 1908. He served on a succession of His Majesty's warships throughout the world before he transferred to the RNAS after the Peace.

Sarah Lieutenant John Iverson, junior flight officer. Born in 1905, Iverson was a child during the War. He entered the Naval College in 1918, joined the RNAS immediately after graduation, and passed for Lieutenant at the age of 21, shortly before this story began. Iverson's sheltered upbringing has left him ill-prepared to deal with some of the things he has encountered in the Pacific... such as Sarah.

Sarah Sarah, civilian specialist and acting ballast officer. Born 1907 in the archipelago of New Caledonia, Sarah is the daughter of a native chief who abandoned the worship of the Elder Gods to become an agnostic and a Presbyterian missionary who found ways to reconcile the beliefs of her faith with some of the more alarming aspects of local cuisine. Well-educated, with a flawless accent and the finest English manners, Sarah is also a skilled spear-woman.

Davies Sergeant Winifred J. Davies, Gunner. A career marine, Davies was born in 1886, the same year as Captain Everett. He served with Everett in the Dardanelles campaign, and met the Captain again in the Pacific. Like Everett, he has no illusions whatsoever about war.

Fleming Peter Fleming, Airman. Age 21. A native of Australia, Peter Fleming is also a skilled pilot of Lilienthal gliders, and was New South Wales regional Champion in 1924. He conspired with Davies to smuggle his glider aboard the Flying Lady. Since then, it has come in handy several times.

Edward Wallace, Airman. Age 27. A native of London's East End, Wallace has encountered the seamier side of human life. In the process, he also encountered the judge who gave him a choice between prison and joining the Royal Navy. He chose prison, but was expelled to the Navy for bad behavior.

Rashid Rashid, Airman. Born in 1898 in the Zagros Mountains, Rashid has never revealed why he left his native Persia to join the Royal Navy. Soft- spoken, dark of demeanour and spirit, Rashid is also a highly skilled slinger.

Pierre Pierre, civilian specialist and acting Pursor. Age, late 30s to early 40s? Pierre was an independant businessman who found himself taking an unplanned sabatical on Sarah's Island as a 'guest' of the French government. Next time he'll be more careful about how he disposes of those stolen jewels.

Iwamoto Iwamoto, civilian specialist and acting Chief Engineer. Age, mid-30s? Everett and his men found Iwamoto inside the Number Two Engine Car overhauling an injector pump after they took the Flying Cloud from the renegade German nationalists who were the vessels original owners. No one is quite sure what a Japanese engineer was doing aboard a German airship, since the two countries were at odds during the War, and Iwamoto has never volunteered an explanation.

Loris Fletcher Loris, Airman. An experienced airman and former athelete who joined the ship in Cairns. At one time, Loris seemed to be Iverson's rival for Sarah's affections. He may also be the only person aboard His Majesty's Airship R-505 who has ever kissed an armadillo.

Clarice and Emily Clarice and Emily, civilian specialists and acting ballast officers. Bored with their lives as file clerks in Darwin, Clarice Blaine and Emily Wilcox persuaded Captain Everett to take them aboard the Flying Cloud in exchange for information they'd discovered about the German nationalists. Everett has had mixed feelings about this bargain.

Nathan Cameron, Engineer's Mate. An English airman who joined the ship in Cairns. He doesn't drink on duty, but once he's in port, he can really tie one on.

Angus Crowley, Mechanic. A Scottish airman who joined the ship in Cairns. He only drinks when someone drops an exhaust manifold on his foot and knocks his best 5/8" box-end wrench out the window.

Helga Helga, onetime Owner and Master of a tramp steamer, the Viking Girl. Variously described as 'statuesque', 'unrestrained', and 'a force of nature', Helga's background remains a mystery, but it appears she was born in Sweden during the 1890s. She joined the Flying Cloud as a rigger after her own vessel was plundered and wrecked by the renegade German nationlists. Once aboard, she cut a swath through friend and foe alike before departing aboard the Duck -- a captured steamer that Everett awarded her as a prize. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

Passengers, Friends, and Enemies

Michaelson Captain Lawrence Bates-Shelby Michaelson, Commander of the Cairns Royal Air Station and acting CIC of the RNAS Detachment, Queensland. Born in 1882, Michaelson entered Osborne Naval College (the predecessor of Dartmouth) in 1896 and received his commission in 1904. He transferred to the newly-formed RNAS in 1912 and commanded a succession of patrol blimps during the War. Michaelson is Everett's bitter enemy. He also made Captain in 1921, which places him two years ahead of Everett on the seniority list -- a fact neither man is likely to forget.

Miss Perkins Miss Perkins, Captain Michaelson's secretary. Age, 20's? Like Lieutenant-Commander MacKiernan, Miss Perkins lost family during the War. She has also displayed remarkable skills as Michaelson's agent. Prim, proper, and reserved, what secrets is she hiding?

Johan Heinrich Korvettenkapitan Johan Heinrich. Age unknown. An officer in His Imperial Majesty's Secret Service, sent to the South Pacific to track down a party of renegade German nationalists that the Kaiser's government views as a threat.

Reserve Lieutenant Dabney. Age 25. Commander of the Royal Air Station, such as it is, in Darwin. He is also a skilled handyman and avid competitor, and is expected to do well in the upcoming Northern Territory Plumbing Championships.

Drew and Loretta McIntyre, ranchers. Mid-40s? Drew and Loretta own the cattle station and uraninite quarry at Enterprise Creek. They are also Abigail's parents, though they are somewhat more taciturn than their daughter.

Abigail Abigail McIntyre, daughter of Drew and Loretta. Age 17? Abigail appears to be romantically interested in Fleming. She also has alarming taste in clothes and the ability to talk at great length about some of the more unsettling aspects of animal husbandry. Fleming fears her. You would too.

Goerge Channel George Channel, Darwins' chief of police. Age, late 40s. Mister Channel used the confusion surrounding the change in Administrators for Australia's Northern Territory to feather his own nest. He appears to be up to no good, but no one is quite sure what.

The Fat Man The 'Fat Man'. Age, late 30s? A leader of the renegade German nationalists, the 'Fat Man' is rumored to have been a pilot during the War.

Wasserman Jacob Wasserman, original Owner and Master of the Duck. Age, mid-40s? Wasserman is a Dutch sea-captain noted for his lack of scruples. Spurned by his own countrymen, he joined with the nationalists.

Karlov Karlov, a Russian scientist? No one knows who 'Karlov' really is. No one is entirely sure who's side he's really on. It appears he was working with a team of White Russian exiles to build something known as the Device. He disappeared on the train back to Darwin after he'd purchased a shipment of uraninite ore at Enterprise Creek.

Natasha Natasha, age, 20's? A mysterious woman of Eastern European origin, Natasha seems to be searching for Karlov. She has claimed to be his wife, but the true nature of the relationship between them remains a mystery.

Lieutenant Blacker Lieutenant Blacker. Born 1903, Blacker served Captain Everett aboard , His Majesty's Airship R-212, before he was revealed as a traitor. No one know how far back his treason extended. He appears to be distantly related to Sir Oswaly Mosely.

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats. Born 1896. Sir Oswald is the founder and leader of the British Union of Fascists -- an organization that has not been quite as successful as its counterparts on the Continent. He is also a Member of Parliament, currently serving as Minister for Smethwick.

Mister Fuller Mister Fuller. Age, late 40's. One of Mosely's lieutenants, Fuller was a high-ranking staff officer in the British Army during the War. Noted for his innovative thinking and imaginative use of technology, he left the Service when his peers rejected his ideas as impractical. Subsequent events suggest that they may have been right.

Dan Straight Dan Straight, Private Investigator. Age, 30's? What serial drama would be complete without a hard-bitten private eye? Though it's not immediately clear what such a person is doing in Pago Pago.

Cassowary The Cassowary, a large flightless bird. The Cassowary is native to New Guinea, Northern Australia, and nearby islands. A member of the ratite group, which also includes ostriches, emus, and the extinct elephant bird and moa, cassowaries can reach 6' in height and weigh as much as 130 lbs. Because of their large size, excellent camoflage, aggressive behavior, and razor-sharp claws, cassowaries may be the one species of bird dangerous to man. As far as anyone knows, they do not taste like chicken.