Biography of Famous Flyer in Greek Mythology Icarus Part 2

A biography and historical account about early flyer Icarus, who flew with wings made by his father Daedalus in Greek mythology.

INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER--NOTED AVIATORS

ICARUS (c. 1100 B.C.)

Although it hurt him to do it, he began to hunt the eagle until his secret workshop carved out of the rock of the cliff contained an ample supply of long, strong, but light eagle feathers. He collected wax from wild bees and connected the feathers into wings of overlapping layers, a pair for himself and a smaller pair for Icarus, to be attached directly to their arms.

Icarus was delighted with the idea. He wanted to fly right away, but Daedalus insisted on a series of short, careful test flights. Problems of aeronautical control had to be worked out, and a system of in-flight navigation.

As it happened, the test flights were never conducted. Daedalus had allied himself in a plot with Theseus, king of Attica, to overthrow King Minos. He had helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur, the murderous half-man half-bull that lurked in the heart of the Labyrinth. Theseus had set fire to the palace and escaped with Minos's daughter, Princess Ariadne. Daedalus's treachery had been discovered, and now the invincible secret police of Minos were searching for him.

Daedalus arrived at the hidden workshop out of breath and terrified. "We have no time for tests," he told Icarus. He attached the smaller of the two sets of wings to Icarus and, as he put on the larger pair, he improvised a flight plan.

"Fly to the east, Icarus," he said, "over the islands of Andros, Delos, and Samos." He explained that altitude was of utmost importance. "Don't fly too low, or the water of the sea will soak your wings. And don't fly too high, or the sun will melt the wax. Fly a middle course, neither too high nor too low."

It was noon--warm and quiet on the cliff. They would take off directly out into the emptiness of sky, high above the rocks and sea. Daedalus could hear his own puffing and the slap of his sandals on the solid rock as he trotted forward. Suddenly the slap of sandals ceased and he felt the pull of the rushing air fluttering the eagle feathers, straining at the wax. He was airborne, the feathers supported him, the wax held--he needed no longer to envy the eagle.

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