How did Jonas know that the leaders of the community were starting to give up the search?

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Immediately after Jonas flees the community with Gabriel, the Elders send search planes to look for them. The search planes are equipped with heat-sensing technology, which forces Jonas to conjure cold memories and transfer them to Gabriel in order to lower their core temperature and avoid detection. Fortunately, Jonas and Gabriel are able to avoid the heat-sensing search planes as they travel further into the wilderness towards Elsewhere.

As Jonas and Gabriel continue their journey, Jonas becomes aware that the Elders are gradually giving up their search because the planes flying overhead become less and less frequent. When Jonas does spot a plane, he notices that they also fly at a faster speed "as if the search had become haphazard and no longer hopeful" (Lowry, 169). Finally, there comes a day when Jonas does not see a single plane in the sky and realizes that the Elders have completely abandoned their search for him and Gabriel.

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When Jonas first left his community with little Gabriel, they frequently had to hide from low flying search planes.  Jonas counted on the fact that the pilots could not see color and that he had transferred memories of winter to himself and Gabriel so that the sensors on the plane could not detect their body warmth.  These planes usually came during the daytime, but they sometimes searched at night.  

As time went on, Jonas noted that there was no longer any sign of human life and "the frequency of the planes diminished."  When a rare plane did fly overhead, it flew more quickly, as if the pilots were not searching as thoroughly as they had been before.  It seemed that they had almost given up the search for Jonas and Gabriel.  Then at last Jonas did not see any planes all day and all night.

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