The Hope of Unlimited Visibility
[In the words of Ray Wadsworth] The Prince William Sound herring season had just ended, and as I recall we did well, so now it was time to move the operations to the Kodiak Island area. It would take about 24 hours of running for the boats, and about 2 hours of flying time for me in the airplane. The weather wasn't too bad when I left Cordova, but while flying along the lee side of Montague Island, visibility dropped to nothing as snow fell in flakes the size of silver dollars. The snow came down so fast that it accumulate on the surface of the water and even the water became white. Montague island is long and narrow with with steep cliffs on both side. Its tallest peaks reach about 4000' above sea level. The island is the weather barrier that protects Prince William Sound from the big waves of the North Pacific Ocean. To my surprise in the midst of this snow storm, I caught a flash of blue sky along the cliff side of the island, so, the thought occurred to me that if I were to just climb up through this storm a few thousand feet, I would be in blue sky with unlimited visibility. The thought of escaping this troubling storm by climbing above it was irresistible, so I went to full power, raised the nose of the airplane, and started the climb. My guess was that in 10 or 15 minutes, and maybe having to climb 5,000 feet I would be in sunny weather, but after passing 5,000 feet I was still in the clouds, and, 20 minutes later I was still in the clouds and passing 10,000 feet. Finally, at about 12,000 feet, I could see the sky above me begin to lighten, so I knew I was close. How I looked forward to clear sky’s and sunny weather! However, just as I saw a glimpse of blue sky out the top half of my wind shield, the glass became covered in ice! In fact, my whole airplane was instantly covered in ice! Ice on the surface of the airplane changed the aerodynamics of the wing so the wings didn't have as much lift, plus it added weight to an already heavy airplane. A float plane has lots of metal surface where Ice can accumulate. Icing conditions have killed many pilots, so the rule is, if you begin to make ice, you quickly go back to the place where you didn't make ice, and stay there. Was it possible that after flying this long and this hard that I could not get up just a couple more feet into the sunny weather where the ice would melt off? As I reflected on this experience I think of how this might apply to life. In scripture, we are given a visual picture of a place after this life where you can see forever, where you are past the snow storms, the fog, the rock cliffs and the big ocean waves and the engines that might quit at any moment. Father Lehi in the Book of Mormon saw a tree of life at the end of a dangerous trail, where the fruit of the tree was better than anything found in mortality. Other prophets talk of wide paths that lead to destruction and “many enter in thereat” and the prophets talk of narrow paths that lead to eternal life and “few there be that find it”. Its such a shame that after fighting through such bad weather and so many storms that we can be so close to “visibility unlimited”, but can't quite get there. Such were my feelings that day. I started the long decent back into what seemed like hell. I was flying purely on the little man made instruments in front of me, worrying that if any of them would fail from the ice which had built up on my antennas, my chances of survival would diminish. I felt pretty alone up there listening to every cylinder of my engine for any change in the sound, which did occur, because of ice build-up in my carburetor requiring me to add heated air to the carburetor every so often to melt the ice. I eventually got back to the surface and battled the storm all the way to Kodiak which took almost 4 very long hours instead of the usual 2 hours, and, with a whole new appreciation of how good it is to find the peace and joy of clear sky’s and unlimited visibility.