This section contains 1,644 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)
Chapters 1 through 10 Summary
On October 12, 1991, Suleiman Aziz Ammar, posing as an airline Captain Dale Lemke, boards an VIP plane carrying a group of UN and World Bank officials. Lemke takes the plane off course and drops their flying altitude. He informs the crew that he's not to be disturbed then appears to stumble, injecting his flight crew with a poison called sarin which results in almost instant death. He then opens a door in the plane's underbelly and parachutes out, near where his crew are waiting. He has set the plane for a collision course and waits for it to crash into the ocean. As Ammar and his team watch, the plane doesn't crash as expected but Ammar says that he's considered every contingency and that the plane - with UN Egyptian official Hala Kamil on board - will crash and that no one has a chance of survival.
Gary Rubin, a flight attendant on the charter plane, hears a strange noise, discovers they are over land when they should be over the ocean, and decides to investigate. He calls the cockpit and gets no answer, finally kicking his way through the door. He discovers the two murdered crew members and that the captain is missing. Rubin tries to take control of the plane, though he's battling the autopilot. With the controls all smashed and no communications available, Rubin takes a seat and tries to figure out how to land the plane. He is joined by a former airplane mechanic, a Mexican named Eduardo Ybarra, who knows little but is able to help. Rubin sees a ship, the Polar Explorer, but has no way to communicate. He simply heads for the polar fjord and plans for a crash landing.
Dr. Lilly Sharp, Dr. Hiram Gronquist, Mike Graham and Mr. Hoskins are working on a remote archeology dig in Greenland. They are excavating a native village when Lily discovers a coin that Graham identifies as Fourth Century Roman. They talk at length about how it could have come to be part of the village when the Romans didn't travel this distance until hundreds of years later. They offer theories but are not at all certain how a coin from the Byzantine Empire could have arrived in the remote village hundreds of years before the first documented Roman voyage to the area.
Dirk Pitt and his crew are aboard an exploration ship called the Polar Express. Dirk is a Major in the Air Force but is listed as being "on loan" to the National Underwater and Marine Agency - NUMA. Dirk and his friend and colleague, Al Giordino, have worked on every sea together. They are currently searching for a downed Russian submarine and locate it just off the coast of Greenland, a few miles from the archeology dig and near the site where the charter jet is about to crash. Dirk and Giordino find the submarine near a meteor crater. Dirk has concocted an elaborate scheme to convince the Russians - watching from a nearby trawler - that they haven't found anything. Just after their discovery, Dirk find a terra-cotta amphora - an ancient urn - on the ocean floor. He soon sees others along with broken shards. Dirk takes only seconds to say that he believes the trail will lead to an "ancient shipwreck the history books say isn't supposed to be here."
Dirk's plans are interrupted when the charter plan flies over, almost clipping the ship's radar tower. Dirk insists that he be allowed to launch a rescue for any survivors, and Captain Knight agrees. On board the plane, Rubin is excited to see the ship, though he can't signal for help. He does have at least some hope now of rescue.
When the archaeologists realize that the plane has crashed on the fjord, they quickly gather supplies and head in that direction on a pair of snowmobiles. Lily and Gronquist are on one snowmobile pulling a trailer while Hoskins and Graham are on another. They have little light, and the terrain is rough. Gronquist doesn't see the plane's wing until he's almost on top of it and, as he swerves to miss it, he jackknifes the trailer, causing them to wreck. Gronquist is knocked out, and Lily's legs are pinned. Hoskins and Graham are ahead, and they crash into the gouges cut into the ice by the heavy plane. They're all injured at least slightly, but then hear the chopper. Lily is still laying on the ice, drifting in and out of consciousness when Dirk Pitt walks up to her, introduces himself and asks if she's free for dinner later.
Lily says, "I may not be up to it," in response to Dirk's dinner date proposal as he checks for broken bones. Dirk also determines that Gronquist isn't badly injured and tells the four to go back to their base and to be prepared for radio contact. Meanwhile, Rubin is weighted down by snow and ice that ripped through the cockpit windshield. He's also in water up to his legs though he fears it might be his own blood. He realizes that the Mexican delegate is dead and fully expects that he's about to die, as well.
Dirk and his team discover that the plane is a charter for VIPs, and Dirk immediately sees Hala Kamil through a window of the plane, but doesn't recognize her. The rescue crew break open the door, introduce artificial heat into the plane and enter. Dirk is the first one inside and finds that the cabin is filled with dead passengers.
The people of the cabin are dead, but not from the crash or from hypothermia. They are all seated, strapped in with no expressions of agony. Dirk and Doc Gale quickly deduce that the passengers must have been poisoned and urge the rescue team to touch nothing unless it's necessary. Dirk goes to the rear of the plane where he discovers two women locked in a restroom. He breaks through the door to find the two are afraid that he's come to kill them. He convinces them of his good intentions and first carries the stewardess out. While he's gone, Hala wipes her face to make herself more presentable, and Dirk recognizes her upon his return.
In the cockpit, a rescuer named Simon finds Rubin but Rubin first asks if Simon is God. Rubin, Hala and the flight attendant are taken to the helicopter and flown back to the Polar Explorer while Dirk and Simon remain on the ground at the crash site waiting for authorities. They speculate briefly on what might have happened. Dirk is of the opinion that the Mexican delegate who died in the cockpit was the person who poisoned the crew, because "the killer in the best murder-mystery tradition is always the least obvious suspect."
Chapters 1 through 10 Analysis
Ammar is saddled with a "watchdog" named Ismail. Ammar prides himself on being an intelligent, efficient killer but scorns Ismail and his sloppy tactics. While Ammar spent weeks in the planning stages for executing his current event, Ismail simply kills. Ammar will later find that he didn't kill Hala Kamil, and his pride will be hurt when Ismail is sent to finish the job.
Lily is excited about her find, though she's puzzled. She knows that everything they've found points to a Fourth Century village. The fact that the coin is among the items recovered is a mystery that will be solved when Dirk arrives on the scene with his additional information and extensive search equipment that will help locate the Roman ship.
Dirk, Giordino and the Polar Explorer Captain Knight are fully aware that the Russians are watching their attempts to locate the submarine. Dirk has decided that the ship will continue to follow their search grid, acting as though the search is still active. He also plans to alert Washington officials that they are having equipment issues and plans to hand over the news of their discovery only in person. It's noteworthy that Dirk knows his history and immediately recognizes the urn for what it is and for what it indicates - that there is a nearby shipwreck that has never been discovered.
His flirtation with beautiful women is an undeniable part of Dirk's personality. He is drawn to them, and they tend to fall under his charm without fail. In this story, Dirk will later seduce Lily, and Hala Kamil will then seduce Dirk. Both will be in danger of falling in love with Dirk, but both will resist. It's Lily who will later say that Dirk is an incredible lover but not the kind of man to marry.
It's noteworthy that Giordino notes that Dirk has a certain look in his eyes the moment he realizes that they've located the submarine that was the subject of their search. Giordino says that Dirk always needs a challenge and that he's bored as soon as one is complete until he can find the next. The plane crash seems to be Dirk's next challenge as he overrides the captain's objections and forms a rescue party. It's also Dirk who stays at the site until the investigation teams arrive.
Dirk takes talks with both the flight attendant and Hala as he's convincing them that he's not going to hurt them. He asks each out on a date, just as he asked Lily. His teasing manner is a great part of his personality. The flight attendant asks if her husband can come along, and Dirk says that he's certainly welcome - as long as he'll pay. Hala is conscious of her appearance and takes time to wipe her face with paper towels while awaiting Dirk's return. When he calls her by name, she says she wasn't aware that he recognized her. He says that he only did after she wiped her face.
This section contains 1,644 words
(approx. 5 pages at 400 words per page)