Friday, 17 April 2015

Mystery of the Giant Arrows Scattered Across the United States

These’re peculiar concrete markings that have amazingly been spotted all across America, prompting hikers and travelers to curiosity what on Earth they could mean and where they are pointing to. However; these’re massive arrows, which can measure up to 70ft in length, are actually a forgotten remnant of a bygone age. Dotted between scrubland, placed in apparently random spots, these giant arrows were once markers for early airmail flights across the US - forming the first land-based navigation system in the world.

The strong concrete arrows were placed at the base of lit beacons nearby airways, showing pilots the direction they needed to fly in to reach the next stop-off to deliver mail. Well, Airmail in the United States started as early as 1911, with the first official flight departing Petaluma, California, and arriving in Santa Rosa, California. As the flights got longer, with more frequent stop-offs, so the beacons and arrows were placed to help pilots on their way.

After World War I, the United States Postal Service started to use surplus war planes for mail delivery and several were flown by former army pilots. The huge arrows started to be placed across the country, from time to time at 10-mile intervals, from 1924. Moreover, painted bright yellow and placed alongside beacon with a gas light at the top, the concept was that the markers could be seen for a distance of up to 10 miles so pilots could find their way. In the summer of 1924, they stretched from Wyoming to Ohio and by the following year, the arrows had reached New York. By 1929, the arrows could direct flights all the way across the width of America. 

The main New York to San Francisco air route stretched from New York to San Francisco, following the yellow concrete trail.  In the days before radio and satellite communications, the arrows were a way to ensure pilots could find their way, even in poor weather. Though the arrows are now long-forgotten, with numerous lost forever, there’re fans who, having stumbled upon an arrow or two in the countryside, have in progress mapping those concrete markers that have been left behind. Retired couple Brian and Charlotte Smith were referred an email which piqued their curiosity and have been pursuing down the arrows ever since.

The email playfully explained: “Every so often”, regularly in the vast deserts of the American Southwest, a hiker or a backpacker will run across somewhat puzzling, a big concrete arrow, as much as 70 feet in length, sitting in the middle of scrub-covered nowhere. The couple say they have found 102 arrows so far and have set up their website Arrows Across America as part of their photography site so fellow fans can share their own pictures and help map where the remaining arrows are.The Smiths told MailOnline Travel: 

We’ve located 102 arrows or portions of arrows, some are even badly deteriorated and not much is left. Our interest grew out of an email circulating in August 2013; we craved to know where they were, and set out to find them. We’ve managed to take photographs of about 40, and have a trip planned this fall to take more photographs of some that we were unable to get to last spring. Sooner or later we hope to have photographs of all the arrows that we have positioned, but time and money will directive how long that will take us. Before our research we knew nothing about airways, beacons or concrete arrows, it has been a marvelous journey of discovery and we cannot believe that all of this has been "forgotten".

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