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espargosas: The time has come when this much visited cache should be archived. It has earned many favourite points. But all good things come to an end eventually.


Catalina Calamity

A cache by Espargosas Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 02/28/2009
3 out of 5
2.5 out of 5

Size: Size:   small (small)

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Geocache Description:

This cache commemorates an historic incident in March 1943 at Sagres. The cache is not complex but requires some imagination at the start. Sagres Cemetery is open on all days and at all hours except for May 1st and December 25th.

On the heavily overcast afternoon of March 22nd 1943 farm workers in fields around Sagres became aware of a deep continuous growl emanating from somewhere deep within the mist to the north. As the noise grew louder, the workers looked up to see the dark hulking shape of a large sea-plane lumbering towards them at a very low altitude. The roar of the twin engines was almost deafening and the ground shook as the Royal Air Force PBY-5 Catalina passed close overhead. But the noise of the engines, though terrific was, at the same time, uneven & one engine stuttered and back-fired. "It's going to crash into the town!" the cry went up and men dropped their tools to race back towards the houses. At the same time a contingent of marines, stationed in the nearby Fortaleza, fearing imminent disaster, broke from their barracks at a sprint and headed for the centre of town. Just as the Catalina seemed certain to go careering into the buildings, it managed to gain a little altitude and immediately went into a steep but faltering starboard (right handed) turn, arching unsteadily towards the sea. Both villagers and marines were now racing after it towards the cliffs of Tonel Bay. It seemed like the plane might have been trying to ditch into the sea, or perhaps dump its munitions before crashing. "We never found out";, said one elderly resident. It was low over the waves of the bay when one wing may have clipped the cliffs and the plane then exploded in mid-air. Flames billowed in all directions and the wreckage fell into the water. Everyone was horrified. Local fishermen immediately launched small boats to search for survivors. Another group of villagers, along with some marines, searched the cliffs just to the north of the Capela de Nossa Senhora da Graça on the Porta de Sagres outcrop (42 m above sea level). Not far from this location and wedged into the rocks, they found the body of air gunner, Sergeant Gilbert Orton (21), outwardly undamaged and still strapped into his aircraft seat. No others of the Catalina's ten-man crew were found that day. But, a few days later, the body of wireless operator and air gunner, Flight Sergeant George Gibson (23), was washed up on Tonel Beach. "It was a great tragedy. They were so young - just boys." Everyone in the village was very upset" recalls an elderly villager. The Catalina belonged to 210 squadron RAF, and had been based at Gibralter since November of 1942. PBY-5 Catalinas were the favoured aircraft of British Coastal Command. Their long-range fuel tanks, substantial weapons load and amphibious ability made them ideal for anti-submarine work and high-sea rescues. It was the task of 210 squadron to provide air support for the allied invasion of North Africa and, from then on, to patrol the Atlantic coasts from Gibralter to the Bay of Biscay, undertaking a variety of tasks including U-boat search and destroy missions. Portugal was officially neutral in WWII but, from the beginning in 1939, the Portuguese dictator, Salazar, had, given a degree of support to the Axis Powers permitting German U-boats and other naval craft to use the Açores as a refuelling base. Consequently the Atlantic, off Portugal's south-western coast, was an active area for British anti-submarine activities. It was not until towards the end of 1943 that Salazar recognised the direction that the war was turning, at which point he disallowed use of the Açores to the Axis and made them available to the Allied powers. Some villagers recall that, within the community, there was a known Nazi supporter. It is said that he had contacts so that when Allied planes were in the vicinity of Sagres he could summon Axis air forces to do battle. For certain, some villagers can recall four separate incidents involving air and sea forces with "bullets all around"; and even a cow was reportedly killed as a result. But because witnesses are now agéd it is difficult to disentangle one incident from another. Gibson and Orton were buried at the given coordinates, with full military honours. The funeral was a major event in Sagres, nearly everyone attending except for the known Nazi sympathiser. Today, Gibson and Orton lie side by side in a shared plot that is well maintained by local villagers, with funds provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The story remains part of Sagres' folk lore. Every year, on All Souls Day (November 1st), villagers place flowers on their graves so that 'the two RAF boys' are not forgotten. Some villagers have expressed sadness that the two boys have not been taken home to lie next to their families. But British military tradition is that a serviceman is buried where he falls. The given coordinates are those of the common grave of the two sergeants that lie, side-by-side, in Sagres Cemetery. Perhaps you might like to take a flower or two with you and to place them on their combined grave. At the head of this grave you will find a small urn surrounding which is recorded the names of the ten airmen that perished in this incident. Within the urn you will find some plastic packets, each containing a paper poppy together with a copy of a poem that tells in verse why these are worn in the days leading up to November 11th each year - The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is the Day of Remembrance. Please feel free to take one and perhaps you might like to retain it in memory of this little piece of Sagres' history. Surrounding the urn you will also find 10 small local beach pebbles in memory of the 10 crew members of the PBY-5 Catalina whose names are inscribed on the urn. The cache is a small oblong plastic container and its location provides a good view of Tonel Bay where Sergeant Orton's body was found and Sergeant Gibson's body was washed up. Please leave the urn at Stage 1 IN EXACTLY THE SETTING AS WHEN YOU FOUND IT AND DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

Cyrnfr hfr ab sbepr gb npprff Fgntr 1. Vg whfg arrqf gb or svtherq bhg. Nsgrejneqf cyrnfr ercynpr nf lbh sbhaq vg.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)

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