Australasian Airspace: Meteorology, and the Practical Geopolitics of Australasian Airspace, 1935–1940

  • Matthew Henry
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology book series (PSHST)


In late December 1937, New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, played host to a unique aeronautical confluence. On December 26, after 31 hours flying, the Pan American Airways’ (PAA) flying boat Samoan Clipper touched down on the Waitemata Harbour. The Samoan Clipper’s arrival from Honolulu into Auckland marked a much hoped-for inauguration of a commercial service carrying cargo and mail from San Francisco to Auckland. The following day, as the Samoan Clipper lay moored at Mechanics’ Bay, the Imperial Airways flying boat Centaurus, on the last leg of a survey flight from Southampton, arrived from Sydney. Both flying boat crews were fêted by local dignitaries (see Figure 12.1). Reflecting on the event, the editor of Auckland’s morning newspaper The New Zealand Herald prophesied a rosy aeronautical future, one of advantage “not only to New Zealand but also to Australia, more particularly when the Empire route is continued across the Tasman.”1 However, amid the celebrations there were quiet reminders of the ongoing political and technical difficulties in establishing and maintaining links across the Pacific and to the United Kingdom. PAA’s representative F. Walton had earlier hinted that broader geopolitical issues were at stake.2 Geopolitics aside, the very act of regular oceanic flight required the fashioning of a still fragile techno-scientific infrastructure. In this context, the importance of meteorological information was stressed by J. W. Burgess, the New Zealand-born captain of the Centaurus.


Civil Aviation British Government Meteorological Service Infrastructural Power Meteorological Network 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© James Beattie, Emily O’Gorman, and Matthew Henry 2014

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  • Matthew Henry

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