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He also had planned a viable alternate destination at a hunting camp at Chakachamna Lake in case he had trouble along the way.
After flying out of Anchorage for the past four years, Merrill knew the region well; in fact there was no one in Alaska who knew it better.
News articles announcing pilot departures and arrivals made the front page back then, as did those reporting pilots were okay: “There is no truth to the report that Pilot Young is missing,” reads a headline from The Anchorage Daily Times.
Overdue aircraft were common, as were the stories of pilots emerging unscathed after all manner of delays, breakdowns and mishaps.
Merrill was also late, lost or long overdue more than once.
In 1925 Noel Wien was blown off course and ran out of gas on the way back to Fairbanks from Wiseman.
It took him three days of wading through slush and swamp before he stumbled into civilization.
Dearest love to my wife, boys and two fine brothers.” Everyone from the aircraft was found alive, although it would be months before the pilot physically recovered.
* * * With so much distance between settlements and communication slow (locals often wrote messages on the aircraft themselves to pass news from village to village), overdue simply meant that word of an arrival had not yet come through.