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Flying the Southern Cross: Michael Molkentin at Mosman Library
- Monday 3 September 2012
- Mosman Library
Australian aviators Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm made the first trans-Pacific flight in 1928 in an aircraft constructed largely of timber and fabric, the Southern Cross.
With Americans Jim Warner as radio operator and Harry Lyon as navigator, they made the trip from Oakland, California, in nine days, facing electrical storms, torrential rain, equipment breakdowns, fuel shortages and the ever-present fear of engine failure. Navigational aids were primitive; contact with the outside world was by Morse code only; safety measures were non-existent.
After many close-calls, they landed triumphantly in Brisbane, where a crowd of 15,000 welcomed them as heroes.
Throughout this extraordinary journey, Ulm kept a logbook in which he recorded his raw impressions of the flight. His entries, brief and to the point, give a striking sense of immediacy and authenticity, and a selection of facsimile pages from the logbook forms the basis of Flying the Southern Cross: Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith.
Using logbook entries, the airmen’s memoirs, contemporary newspaper accounts and official documents, supplemented by a range of historic photographs, historian Michael Molkentin gives a gripping account of that epoch-making flight and its aftermath. He takes readers into the Southern Cross, a place where courage, skill and endurance could, with luck, outweigh the fearful risks of a long air journey. Above all, he brings to life the airmen themselves, four very different men who made aviation history.
About the author
Michael Molkentin is a historian, teacher and battlefield guide.
He is interested in the wartime histories of Australia and the British Empire and in particular the First World War.
Michael has received prizes and scholarships from the NSW Premier, Cross and Cockade International, and the Australian War Memorial. He was a featured contributor on the ABC documentary Lost in Flanders and a consultant historian on Chanel 9′s series In their Footsteps. He has published articles in various journals and magazines including The Journal of the Australian War Memorial, Wartime, Flightpath and Teaching History. He is also author of Zero Hour an online resource for teaching First World War history.
In 2012 Michael is a doctoral candidate at the University of New South Wales where he is writing a thesis on Australia’s contribution to the First World War in the air. His first book, Fire in the Sky: the Australian Flying Corps in the First World War was published by Allen & Unwin in September 2010.
Michael is engaged in two book projects at present. His thesis will provide the basis for a study of Australia’s contribution to the 1914-18 air war in the five volume Australian Army Centenary History of the Great War Series to be published in mid-2014 by Oxford University Press. He is also preparing a narrative history of the bloodiest campaign fought by Australian and New Zealand troops in the First World War, the Third Battle of Ypres (popularly known as ‘The Battle of Passchendaele’). Allen & Unwin will publish this in 2017 to mark the campaign’s centenary.
Bookings in advance essential
Book online or book and pay in the Library. Adults $10, pensioners and students $8 (passes must be shown). Enquiries 9978 4091.