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Warning! If you haven’t read this book yet, you should not read this webpage. It is designed as a virtual tour of THE LAST AIRSHIP and contains pictures, descriptions, and references to scenes from the book which will spoil the plot. Please view this after reading THE LAST AIRSHIP.
Professor Fritz Ribbentrop rode his BMW R75 through the narrow path and right up to the custom built airship known as the Magdalena. In the book, this was relevant because with fuel restrictions in force during World War II this type of motorcycle became the transportation of choice for Nazi SS Officers. Interestingly enough, as one reader most kindly wrote to explain to me, the motorcycle was an anachronism – in fact, despite the story taking place at the start of the war, in September 24, 1939, the motorcycle in question wasn’t produced until early 1940, and modelled after the British BSA motorcycle which proved to be highly effective in all terrains.
BMW R75 Circa 1940
From Munich’s International Airport Sam and Tom fly a Robinson 44 across the Alps. I actually took flying lessons in the smaller, Robinson 22 to get my head around the controls. Coming from a background of having piloted small fixed wing aircraft, I was amazed by how much more difficult it was to meneuver a helicopter!
Me trying to learn to hover a Robinson 22 (much harder than it looks)!
Lake Solitude was a fictional lake found high in the Southern Limestone Alps. When I originally wrote the first draft of the manuscript, I planned to set this scene within Lake Blausee, Switzerland (because I was taken aback by the stunning turquoise and emerald colors). But no matter which I stared at a map, I couldn’t effectively have the Magdalena’s pilot crash into the Swiss alpine lake. Even so, that’s the lake I was thinking of when I wrote up the imagery and diving scenes.
Check out that water!
Aliana picked Sam Reilly up in her 1965 AC Cobra, before racing along narrow roads that hugged the Tyrol River and then racing up the dangerous Timmelsjoch Pass at break-neck speed. In the original release of The Last Airship, the car was described as being a V12. Incidentally, it was quickly brought to my attention by several sharp-eyed readers, that although the Shelby Cobra experimented with multiple engine sizes, Ford never produced a Cobra with any engines larger than a V8. Here I am examining a friend’s AC Cobra, before going for a drive. The car had custom fitted V12 (thus my confusion).
Me, examining a rebuilt 1965 AC Cobra
Aliana took Sam Reilly to the start of the Via Ferrata (or iron path). The mountain route was equipped with fixed ladders, cables, and bridges in order to be accessible to climbers and walkers. Like myself, Sam’s scared to death by heights, but unwilling to let a thing like fear cause him to lose Aliana.
The start of the Via Ferrata (Italy)
By this stage I would have genuinely been questioning how much I liked the girl!
This was the point Sam Reilly nearly fell to his death.
This was the tunnel in the Dolomites where Sam and Aliana were attacked and subsequently fell into an obscure crevasse, causing them to discover a new pathway through the mountain.
The secret tunnel Sam and Aliana found was lit with the eerie green light of thousands of luminescent glow worms. The scene was inspired by a trip my wife and I took years ago to the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves in New Zealand, where you take an old wooden rowboat through a magical grotto with its vaulted ceiling lit up by a myriad of star-like glow worms. Interestingly, the fictional tunnel and boat used in this book, were real, and used up to two hundred years ago as a means to cross through Alps.
Waitomo Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand
A golden boat used in an underground lake/tunnel through a mountain in Austria!
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