The wreckage of a private plane plunges charter pilot Joe Martin into deadly danger in the icy desert of Cape Desolation, Greenland…
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September 19, 2002
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Excerpt from East of Desolation by Jack Higgins
I brought the plane in low over the sea and took her up to three thousand as land appeared and beyond, through the harsh white moonlight, the Greenland ice-cap gleamed like a string of pearls.
East from Cape Desolation the Julianehaab Bight was full of smoky mist indicating no wind to speak of and certainly nothing more than five knots, which was something. At least it gave me a chance of dropping into the valley at the head of the fjord. Not much of one, but better than staying here.
It was cold in the cabin with the night wind streaming in through the splintered windscreen and the lighted dials on the instrument panel were confusing in their multiplicity, occasionally merging together in a meaningless blur.
And then, on the far side of the mist the waters of the Fjord gleamed silvery white in the intense light and the strange twisted moonscape rolled towards the ice-cap, every feature etched razor-sharp.
It was time to go. I reduced speed, put the auto pilot in control and unbuckled my safety belt. When I turned, he was there as he always was, the head disembodied in the light from the instrument panel, eyes fixed, staring into eternity as he lolled back in the co-pilot's seat.
I moved into the darkness of the cabin and stumbled, falling to one knee, my outstretched hand touching the cold, ice-hard face of the other, and panic seized me as it always did and it was as if I couldn't breathe as I lurched through the darkness and clawed at the quick release handles on the exit hatch.
It fell away into the night and I stepped into space without hesitation, aware of the intense cold, feeling strangely free. I seemed to somersault in slow motion and for a single moment saw the plane above me in the night drifting steadily eastwards like some dark ghost and then I reached for the ring to open my chute and it wasn't there and I gave one single despairing cry that was swept away into the night as I plunged into darkness.