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CoolPix: Pan Am Anzac Clipper, Clear Lake And Pearl Harbor

(click pic for hi-res) Pan Am Anzac Clipper (Boeing 314) Clear Lake California circa 1941

 A couple days ago I stopped in at the Lake County Museum in Lakeport Califonia to see what might be interesting to learn about the county and lake area that my mother grew up in. We're visiting her right now, and enjoying the view of Clear Lake, California's largest natural lake. It's a big one at over 17 miles long and over 7 miles wide at the widest part. As an avgeek, you can't help but think of seaplane flying when you see this massive lake surrounded by beautiful small mountains.

 I found one interesting picture on the wall of a Cessna Bamboo Bomber that was being used after the war as a local area transport, so that got me thinking that I should ask if they had any other aircraft pictures. I was happy to see they had a file folder marked 'airplanes' and in it was a small handful of aircraft pictures related to Lake County history. One of them was the picture seen here, posted as a hi-res CoolPix, of the Pan American Airways Boeing 314 Clipper named Anzac that operated on the west coast of the United States. (for loads of great Clipper info, go to

 There's so much rich history that surrounds Pan Am's fleet of Clipper seaplanes that provided luxury service around the world, but I know very little of it. I hope to do more research and post more interesting stories in the future of these aircraft built by Martin, Sikorsky, and Boeing... but for now I've got two really interesting stories that go with the Boeing 314 Anzac Clipper pictured here.

 First, it's sitting on Clear Lake in this picture, but this was a pretty remote area back in the 1940's so it was quite unusual for this passenger airplane to be sitting on the lake. The story as I was told at the museum was that Clear Lake was used as an alternate landing area for the Clippers when the weather in the San Francisco bay area wouldn't allow for landing. Being a seaplane only (no landing gear) created a unique challenge when the weather became a factor. Clear Lake was close enough to be easy to get to, but being inland and at a higher elevation, it was likely to have very different weather as far as visibility is concerned.

 Interestingly, there was no provision for being able to dock the airplanes on the lake, so they would sit out on the lake, with the passengers inside, until the weather improved and they could make the approximate 90 mile trip back to the city by the bay. I can just imagine being around the lake back in the 40's and hearing the Clipper come over the mountains... what a sight it would have been to watch her land on the lake!

 The second story about the Anzac Clipper is found over at a website called Jim Slade's Air Lines, and the story is titled 'Forty Minutes To Pearl' - it's the fascinating story of this Pan Am Clipper as it arrived at Honolulu 40 minutes late on December 7, 1941 which meant they received a radio warning that Pearl Harbor was being attacked giving them the opportunity to divert to Hilo to avoid being shot down by the attacking Japanese aircraft. Had they not arrive late, they almost surely would have been a large and easy target, and a tragic civilian loss added to the military losses. It's an amazing story.

 More Pan Am Clipper history to come...


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Reader Comments (3)

This is on my reading list:

Overview here:

About a Clipper ship avoiding the war and headed to NY the long way.

March 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Thanks for posting this! As a participant in the annual Clear Lake Splash-In in late Sept., I plan to have historical information for display/handout about the Clippers that used the lake as an alternate. Check the website for more info... Bob Walker

August 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBob Walker

What a great article.
Our home at Clear Lake is in East Lake Dr. Buckingham Park, Kelseyville, Ca
Bertha Stoneson lived on the lake front from the late 30's to 90's. She would tell me story's of big sea planes landing and mooring in front of her lake house. I had no idea she was talking about the China Clipper ships.
Thanks for the memories.
Enjoy the video clip below.

July 31, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGeoffrey Horton

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