I recently finished reading Macarthur (“Mac”) Job’s book Into Oblivion: The Southern Cloud enigma, yet another of his amazing air crash investigation books. An avid pilot, Macarthur was also responsible for the Department of Civil Aviation’s Aviation Safety Digest for some 14 years. Like the Safety Digest, his books combine an attention to detail and presentation of the facts with a well written narrative and engaging delivery.
“Into Oblivion” details the disappearance of Australian National Airways’ Avro 10 tri-motor “Southern Cloud” in 1931 and the subsequent discovery of its wreckage in 1958. Macarthur gives great background into the airline’s history, from when it was set up by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm to when it shut down not long after the Southern Cloud disappeared. He lays out the events that lead up to the Southern Cloud’s disappearance and then describes how the wreckage was discovered, the limited investigation that was performed and the questions left unanswered. He also provides some possible scenarios that could explain how the accident occurred and whether it was survivable.
There is also coverage of various anniversary events that have occurred in more recent times while the appendices contain four documents written in the 1930s, including:
- A review of flying the Avro Ten
- An journalist’s report documenting the experience of flying from Melbourne to Sydney with ANA
- An article on “blind flying” written by the pilot shortly before his death
- A journalist’s report on his experience flying with Kingsford Smith in the search for the Southern Cloud.
The only niggling item I encountered was an occasional repetition of some facts or comments that wasn’t really necessary as they’d only recently been raised. It was clear that the sections had been written separately and then linked together without “blending” them and removing duplications. Fortunately there were only a couple of these instances and they weren’t a major annoyance.
All up, I really enjoyed this book and have no hesitation recommending it for anyone interested in learning more about Australia’s first major airline disaster. Not simply a dry repetition of the facts, “Into Oblivion” engages the reader and is a pleasure to read.