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The Wright Brothers
The Wrights Write
The Wrights Write Home - (1) The Flight Forebears - (2) Research and Experiment - (3) Kitty Hawk - (4) First Flight - (5) Flight's Future - Learn More

Kitty Hawk

Wilbur to his father, September 9, 1900

I chose Kitty Hawk because it seemed the place which most clearly met the required conditions.  In order to obtain support from the air it is necessary, with wings of reasonable size, to move through it at the rate of 15 or 20 miles per hour.  If there is no wind movement, your speed with reference to the ground must be the same.  If the wind blows with proper speed, support can be obtained without movement with reference to the ground.  It is safer to practice in a wind, provided this is not broken up into eddies and sudden gusts by hills, trees, and so forth.

Orville to his sister, October 14, 1900

Kitty Hawk is a fishing village.  The people make what little living they have in fishing.  They ship tons & tons of fish away every year to Baltimore and other northern cities, yet like might be expected in a fishing village, the only meat they ever eat is fish flesh, and they never have any of that.  You can buy fish in Dayton at any time, summer or winter, rain or shine; but you can’t here.  About the only way to get fish is to go and catch them yourself.  It is just like in the north, where our carpenters never have their houses completed, nor the painters their houses painted; the fisherman never has any fish. . .

But the sand!  The sand is the greatest thing in Kitty Hawk, and soon will be the only thing.  The site of our tent was formerly a fertile valley, cultivated by some ancient Kitty Hawker.  Now only a few rotten limbs, the topmost branches of trees that then grew in this alley, protrude from the sand.  The sea has washed and the wind blown millions and millions of tons of sand up in heaps along the coast, completely covering houses and forest.  Mr. Tate [the postmaster] is now tearing down the nearest house to our camp to save it from the sand. . . 

Orville to his sister, October 18, 1900

Trying to camp down here reminds me constantly of those poor arctic explorers.  We are living nearly the whole time on reduced rations.  Once in a while we get a mess of fish, and if our stuff comes about the same time Elizabethe City—which stuff consists of canned tomatoes, peaches, condensed milk, flour, bacon & butter—we have a big blowout. . . . We have just appointed the Kitty Hawk storekeeper our agent to buy us anything he can get hold of, in any quantities he can get, in the line of fish, eggs, wild geese or ducks.  We have had biscuits, molasses, coffee, and rice today.  Tomorrow morning we will have biscuits (made without either eggs or milk), coffee, and rice.  The economics of this place were so nicely balanced before our arrival that everybody here could live and yet nothing be wasted.  Our presence brought disaster to the whole arrangement.  We, having more money than the natives, have been able to buy up the whole egg product of the town and about all the canned goods in the store.  I fear some of them will have to suffer as a result.

Orville to his sister, July 28, 1901

Mr. Huffaker [an aviation experimenter] arrived Thursday afternoon, and with him a swarm of mosquitoes which came in a mighty cloud, almost darkening the sun.  This was the beginning of the most miserable existence I had every passed through. . . . They chewed us clear through our underwear and “socks.”  Lumps began swelling up all over my body like hen’s eggs.  We attempted to escape by going to bed, which we did at a little after six.  We put our cots out under the awnings and wrapped up in our blankets with only our noses protruding from the folds, thus exposing the least possible surface to attack.  Alas!  Here nature’s complicity in the conspiracy against us became evident.  The wind, which until now had been blowing over twenty miles an hour, dropped off entirely.  Our blankets then became unbearable. . . .

The next night we constructed mosquito frames and nets over our cots, thinking in our childish error we could fix the bloody beasts.  We put our cots out on the sand twenty or thirty feet from the tent and house, and crawled in under the netting and bedclothes . . . and lay there on our backs smiling at the way in which we had got the best of them.  The tops of the canopies were covered with mosquitoes till there was hardly standing room for another one; the buzzing was like the buzzing of a mighty buzz saw.  But what was our astonishment when in a few minutes we heard a terrific slap and a cry from Mr. Huffaker announcing that the enemy had gained the outer works and he was engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with them.

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