Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wings Over Antarctica: The Waffling

Based on feedback from the comments and some emails I'm having second thoughts about revising the Miskatonic Antarctic patch.

As I said before, I'm pretty sure Lovecraft meant the aircraft used by the Dyer expedition to be the Dornier Do-J "Wal". On the other hand, the specific mention of securing the landing skis almost certainly identifies the plane as the Dornier Do-B "Merkur II".

From a realism standpoint I think the scale tips in the Merkur's favor. The story specifies that the plane has a range of at least 800 miles and a ceiling of 24,000 feet. The Do-B can hit those targets with relatively minor modifications, like swapping out the BMW VI engine for a BMW VII with a supercharger.

Ironically, the BMW VII is the same engine Wolfgang von Gronau used on the modified Dornier Wal he flew around the world shortly after Lovecraft wrote the story. With a pair of them the plane easily had a range of 1000 miles, but it's service ceiling was only 11,500 feet. The problem with climbing higher was the Wal's tremendous weight. Even with superchargers the engines didn't have the performance to hit the 24,000 ceiling "At the Mountains of Madness" demands.

Frankly, I don't think Lovecraft cared a whit about the flight ceiling issue, but getting the Wal to meet the criteria he sets out would take some major work. The story contains several mentions that the plane was lightened for Dyer and Danforth's final flight, but I can't see the aircraft's performance more than doubling just by stripping the interior. Beyond that we could speculate the expedition aircraft were already considerably lighter than the stock Wal. The easiest approach would be to cut the plane's weight by replacing some of the steel frame with aluminum. That's still a pretty radical move, but given Pabodie's canon expertise in lightweight aluminum frame construction it's not beyond the bounds of belief.

Ultimately, what plane was used seems to come down to taste. Rely on logic and historical accuracy and it's the Merkur II. Trust in Lovecraft's original intent and it's probably the Wal. I can see equally valid reasons for embracing either.

So what do you think? I've already invested a considerable amount of time developing prop photographs and imagery using the Wal. I'm willing to put the same effort into redoing all of it with the Merkur II.

Update: I want to thank everyone who has weighed in, both in the comments and via email. Even the ones pointing out that I'm being a bit obsessive. Heh. I'm in no rush to make a final decision and ultimately it only really matters for the next run of swag. That won't be happening until after the first of the year, so there's plenty of time to fiddle with things.

13 comments:

Tyler said...

I think the deciding point is whether you want to create physical artifacts of the fiction or how it could have happened in our world. For the former, stick with your original work. For the latter, make the revisions.

Personally, I've thought of what you do as bringing artifacts out of that other world of humans and Elder Things, but that may not be your conception of the work.

Alex Kaeda said...

Mmmm.... waffles. Two, please, with scrambled eggs, and orange juice, please...sonfvb

Could enough frame members be replaced with aluminum, without adversely changing the planes center of balance?

CoastConFan said...

If you look at period advertising, illustrators generally "dumbed down", i.e. streamlined and idealized pictures in the Art Deco streamlined style. So it would be natural to see a generic or even spurious aircraft in a period illustration, unless a specific aircraft required, for example a Dornier advertisement. So ... if you follow period illustrative protocols, it really doesn't matter.

MSAINT said...

As I said before I like the Do "Wal" way more than the Do "Merkur II" but as I'm re-reading "At the Mountains of Madness" it seems obvious there were no seaplanes on the expedition.
I really thing your work is going the right way when correcting the props you created after such hard labor with some new and more accurate props!
Keep on the great work!
If needed, here's a photographic proof of the Merkur II being the plane from the 1930-31 Miskatonic expedition:
http://images.imagehotel.net/?o68cef06m0.jpg
MSAINT

Fringe Doktor said...

I love the Wal-work you've already done! I'd love to see you doing something "new", as we always look forward to your next "thing"!

Alex Kaeda said...

I'd like to echo what Fringe Doktor said... "as we always look forward to your next 'thing'!"

mimeflayer said...

You are correct that it all comes down to style; A patch is simple item that has to boldly say "I was there." Having said that, might not an expedition to the Antarctic have BOTH planes? Flying there, I want a seaplane. Once there, I think I'd want something a little smaller and more maneuverable. More grist for the mill...

Jason McKittrick said...

I'm always a fan of a fresh take on a subject.

I think that it should be kept in mind that a prop "props up" the accompanying subject matter. That being said I think the new design is the way to go as it is your attempt at making something that's more correct and ultimately more believable.

Joe Moran said...

24,000 feet or bust, I say. I think the HPLHS must have come to a similar conclusion about the Merkur II, based on the DART artwork. coveratmom.jpg

Tom G. said...

Your commitment to accuracy is beyond thorough. Since neither plane is a perfect fit, it seems to me (as an earlier comment stated) that skis could be mounted to the lower winglets on the Wal, which would be far easier than all the modifications the Merker II would require.

Plus, I really like they layout of the original patch,, where the newer design seems to de-emphasize Antarctica in favor of the plane.

Charles, Belfast said...

From the point of aesthetics the Wal, and the patch, look better (very Art Deco) and were probably what Lovecraft had in mind, based on Amundsen's flights. Also, it is twin engined, a major safety bonus at the time.
Technically the Merkur has it's flight capabilities in it's favour and later expeditions, such as Byrd's, favoured ski equipped multi and single engined land planes.

Rev. Marx said...

I like the look of the patch you already have (Wal). I think I like it better than the mock-up of the new one. I don't think you really gain anything by doing it over. I'd stick with the one you have.

Petrograd said...

Again, like the others, I love everything you've done so far, and appreciate your attention to detail.

I have your last run of the patch, and aesthetically I think the Wal is just amazing. I know the image you posted is a rough, but I agree with Tom G. that the Merkur dominates the patch. It seems like a generic enough plane that you can either simplify it into graphic oblivion or let it take over the patch, with nothing in between. In contrast, the steamlined Wal still remains eye-catching.