Carl I.  Earth Measurer. Excerpt from unpublished
The Middle Years: Geodesy, Gravity, and
New York, Philadelphia, and Washington
landed in New York in April. There we passed thru customs.
Marian had bought a beautiful camphor wood chest and filled
it with fine embroidered linens which she had accumulated
in China and the Philippines. The Customs Officer asked what
was in the crate. We told him it consisted of linens which
we had accumulated after a two year tour of duty in the Philippines.
He said who crated this. The crating was very fine consisting
of padding, burlap and a good strong crate around it. The
customs officer said, "Is any of it for sale?" I replied,
"No indeed! It is to last us our lifetime" which was true.
He took his pen knife slit about four inches of burlap and
said, "They did a fine job of crating. I would be a shame
to spoil it." That was the extent of customs trouble.
and Dad had intended to meet us in New York but we found a
telegram awaiting us telling us that Dad had an accident.
He had been struck by a truck. Corbin and Marian went to Plainfield,
New Jersey, to visit Sue Thompson, a friend from childhood
days, while I proceeded to Washington to report and to purchase
a car. Then I took leave after I bought a Model A Ford Sedan
and drove back to Plainfield to pick up Marian and Corbin.
We stopped in Philadelphia to visit Mother and Dad. As we
went into their apartment I assumed I had locked the doors
of the car. However, when I returned to get my baggage, I
found one of the doors unlocked and one suitcase was stolen.
As luck would have it, it was the suitcase which contained
my camera and all the prints and negatives I had taken during
my two years in the islands.
it was before the days of color photography, the pictures
were of good quality and I had lost a two year photographic
record of my stay in the Philippines. We spent several days
in Philadelphia. Dad was recovering from his accident nicely
and we left and drove back to Washington and I reported for
Garden Reception at the White House
office instructed the C&GS officers to leave cards at
the White House. We did so and shortly thereafter we received
an invitation to a garden reception. We attended and Mrs.
Roosevelt presided. There were about seventy-five guests.
Mrs. Roosevelt had the names whispered into her ears by a
young Naval Aide who stood at her side and we were struck
by her ability to listen and repeat the name correctly. She
pronounced the name Aslakson as if she had heard it all her
life. She shook hands with a firm grip as she repeated the
Transfer to Geodesy
a brief stay in Washington I was sent to Columbus, Nebraska,
to join a triangulation party being organized by Captain Hemple.
It was a steel tower party. The other officers were Francis
Gallen and a Deck Officer named Fivel. While organizing, we
camped in a field with our tents backed up against a barbed
wire fence filled with tumbleweeds. One day Fivel saw some
copper tubing from the tumbleweeds and pulling it out he found
what was apparently a still which had been confiscated and
destroyed. He spent all his spare time straightening out that
copper tubing and winding it into a coil. Then he went to
a sheet metal shop and had a copper container soldered to
the repaired coil.
bought a two gallon crock and made a mash of raisons, prunes,
and other ingredients. One day while he was camped at a station
he ran off that mash. I learned of it first one day when he
offered me a sip of the concoction and it nearly took my head
off. I was told that it was finished off one night by a station
crew when the weather was very cold but that was the last
I heard of the brew. However, he did not throw away his still
and kept it in his truck. One day while going down a long
grade he lost control and the truck turned over. As he was
crawling out the window, a farmer rushed out to see if he
was killed and there was that still sitting on top of the
spilled truckload. I wonder if that farmer thought that all
government trucks carried stills. For a wonder, the truck
was undamaged and between the farmer and Fivel it was righted
and driven away. The triangulation was from Nebraska across
Iowa and ended in Illinois.
relieved Hemple in November and moved the party down to Mobile,
Alabama. Before rejoining the party, I went to Savannah to
pick up Marian who had been visiting her parents. We drove
to Mobile and looked for an apartment to rent which at first
did not seem easy. I took the rest of my leave. We found a
beautiful mansion which I had no hope of renting. I was sure
it would be too expensive. However, the owner, Miss Berry,
lived in former servants quarters in the rear because her
very old Aunt would stay no where else. She had to have someone
in the house in order for her insurance to be valid and since
she had a few hundred thousand dollars worth of antique furniture
in the place she let us have the house for sixty five dollars
we were in Mobile, we received an invitation to the social
event of the year. It was the annual Christmas ball of the
Santa Claus Society. The invitation said "Costume de Rigeur".
I had left my full dress in Savannah but had a tuxedo with
me. I thought that surely would be adequate. However, when
we got to the ball and looked in, everyone in the place was
wearing tails. We promptly turned around and went back to
New Orleans Mardi Gras
now our party had begun work and our next move was to New
Orleans. We found that a years lease was required at nearly
all apartments. We stopped at the Hotel Ponchartrain which
had transient rooms and apartments. I saw at once that the
tariff was beyond my means. The clerk explained that among
other things that maid service was included. I replied that
it would be of no benefit to us because we carried our maid
with us. This happened to be true because when Marian left
Savannah she took a colored girl who had been with her at
Savannah. Her name was Irene.
we found an apartment which we could rent for one month at
a reasonable figure. We asked the landlady why she did not
require a year's lease and she told us that there recently
had been a notorious murder in the place and she had difficulty
renting it. We actually stayed two months and had a good time.
had intimate friends in New Orleans. The husband of her friend
had been a member of the Comus Krewe and they got us tickets
to eight of the Mardi Gras balls. We also had tickets to the
box at the Boston Club to watch the parade of Rex.
maid Irene was a country girl who was really impressed by
it all. She saw the parades with us and we were lucky to have
a baby sitter so we could go out at night. From her small
salary (of course it was clear) she tried to duplicate all
of Marian's clothes. Marian used to write notes to Irene and
did not find out for a long time that Irene had to take the
notes to other maids to read for her (she could neither read
My First Base
Gallen finished his triangulation, I was detached to measure
some first order bases. I measured eight in all, in Louisiana,
Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. The first one was an experimental
one to be measured on a railroad track. Captain Garner came
down to work with me to try out the new method. In order to
verify the accuracy, we also measured a staked base parallel
to the base measured on the rail. The problem was to devise
a method to account for rail movement caused when a train
passed and it braked or accelerated when passing over that
rail. This problem was solved by driving nails in the ties
of the rail on which the last contact was made, the head of
the nail being flush with flange of the rail. Then a glass
cutter mark was made from the flange to the nail head. We
usually drove at least ten nails. After the train passed we
scaled the movement and its direction and averaged all ten
nail measurements, recording the average as a forward or backward
correction which is designated Set-up or Set-Back. Point on
the rail to which the correction applied was the last tape
contact where a cross was filed with a three cornered file.
The assumption was made that although the ties may have some
vertical movement there is no, or at least relatively little,
horizontal movement. That assumption proved to be correct.
kilometer points were fixed in the same manner, so we were
able to make a comparison between the forward and backward
taping with different standardized tapes. In between the kilometer
points we made our contact on a strip of glossy Bristol board
fixed to the rail by a friction tape.
taped with four different tapes, all standardized by the Bureau
of Standards. Splitting the base roughly into three sections,
we obtained a comparison between different pairs of tapes
on each section, re-taping any kilometer if the check between
the forward and backward taping exceeded five mm. or less
than 0.2 inches. That was half the allowable check but I used
it because our results were so consistent.
of my bases was near Franklin, Louisiana. We could not stay
at the hotel because a murder had recently taken place there
and the hotel was locked during the investigation. We were
lucky to get an apartment, although it was a cold water apartment.
Unfortunately, the Director chose that time to inspect my
party. Admiral Patton of course had no place to stay and we
arranged for him to stay in the living room of our landlady.
She was most obliging and let our maid, Irene, heat water
for the Admiral's bath and take it to his room. We moved out
when he was ready for his bath.
Lenclos, our landlady, was a delightful person and she took
a shine to Marian. She was a direct descendant of the Arcadians
who had left Canada and settled in that region. She had some
blue dessert plates which Marian wanted to buy. They dated
back to the Arcadian days and were real antiques. Miss Lenclos
insisted on making a present of them.
lesson I learned while measuring railroad bases was never
to write to a Division Superintendent for permission to work
on a railroad. I learned that to get a speedy reply it was
necessary to write to the President of the railroad. When
that was done a prompt reply was always received. A division
superintendent always bucked the letter up to the top delaying
a final reply.
the mark at the end of each base which was on or near the
right of way, it was necessary to make a connection with the
distance measured on the rail. This was a somewhat complicated
process. We were obliged to establish a "Shunt Triangle" in
which all angles and all sides were measured to make that
last base was at Palacios, Texas. When we arrived in town,
we were told in no uncertain terms that there were no negroes
in town and hence no place for Irene to stay. Therefore we
regretfully paid her bus fare back to Savannah and sent her
incident concerning Irene which I now recall is worth mentioning.
We were driving in the car with Irene seated in the back seat.
It was before the days of air conditioned cars and the windows
were wide open. Having finished smoking a cigarette I threw
it out the window. Glancing in the rear view mirror I saw
Irene grasping the front of her dress working her way lower
and lower. I said, "What's the matter Irene?" Her reply was,
"Yo cigarette went down my neck suh!" Poor girl, she must
have had a vertical series of burn spots from her neck to
measuring the Palacios Base, I rejoined Gallen's party for
two weeks preparing to take it over and moving north to Billings,
Montana, to begin on a mountain triangulation project. On
mountain triangulation no steel towers are used. Instead four-foot
wooden stands are built from lumber back packed up the mountain.
Once the party is organized, each of the observing parties
have their assignments; the observers and lightkeepers have
their station descriptions and reconnaissance maps; the Chief
of Party may seldom see any of them for the rest of the season.
Yet he is in daily contact with them by use of the International
Morse Code over the signal lights. Instructions for any changes
and the nightly report of angles read are transmitted nightly.
Many of the lines varied from fifty to one hundred miles yet
in the clear air transmission was good.
to Billings we took the opportunity to visit the site of the
famous battle of Little Big Horn, Custer's Last Stand. It
was a most impressive sight. Grave markers had been placed
where each man fell in battle. Thus, toward the lower part
of the long gently sloping hill they were comparatively far
apart. As they approached the summit, they were closer and
closer together until at the crest of the hill they were massed
tightly together. One could visualize that group fighting
to the last man.
Billings while organizing, the weather was extremely hot and
humid. We stayed in tourist cottages which were good for those
days but it was prior to air-conditioning. Many nights Marian
and I took showers in the middle of the night to cool off.
we started south, Marian would get a place to stay in a town
and wait for me to catch up. Times were hard and it was easy
to rent an apartment or house for thirty dollars a month.
reached Red Lodge, Montana, and found a great deal of excitement.
A local dentist claimed to have found the tooth of a mammal
closely resembling a human tooth in a layer of coal in the
Upper Cretaceous. At least, there was a perfect impression
of that tooth. Archaeologists swarmed into town very excited
over the "discovery". They were there to find further evidence
of man in that era. I saw the impression and feel very skeptical
about the "discovery". Any good dentist with his drilling
equipment could easily have made that impression. I have heard
nothing in later years about man in early Montana and I believe
that those archaeologists came to the same conclusion.
next move was to Rock Springs, Wyoming. That was the only
place where we found difficulty in obtaining a good place
to stay. We finally found a dug-out under a hill. It was adequately
furnished with windows on two sides but there had been a dust
storm the day before and there was a thick layer of dust on
the floor. The landlady said she had cleaned up two days before
and she was not about to do it again. The stove was wood burning
but had been converted to gas and had to be started with a
skate key. It was adequate but a considerable drop from our
mansion in Mobile.
a gently sloping hill east of Red Lodge there was a strange
optical illusion. The road climbed gradually and to the north
of the road there was an irrigation canal with water flowing
in it. One could look at that water for hours and convince
himself that the water was flowing up hill. I believe the
illusion was due to the fact that the water came from a higher
source on the other side of the hill and the grade of the
canal near the crest had begun to slope downward just before
the summit was reached. However the local inhabitants had
much amusement in telling the gullible tourists about the
most unusual gravity attraction in the vicinity of Rock Springs.
leaving Red Lodge Marian and I took a two day trip to visit
Yellowstone Park. It was a very brief visit and many years
later we took a much longer tour of the park when we were
on a long vacation in the west.
Marian's Camping Experience and Cody, Wyoming
next headquarters was at Cody, Wyoming. However, inasmuch
as many of the families on the mountain parties camped at
the stations with their husbands, I mistakenly thought Marian
might enjoy it. How wrong I was. At Heart Mountain not far
north of Cody, we had a station which presented certain difficulties.
I had deposited Marian and Corbin in a tent at the base of
the mountain and warned them about the rattlesnakes. They
were provided with cots, bedding, and a chuck box with provisions
and a gasoline stove for cooking. It was late when we arrived
and I had to start immediately for the mountain climb leaving
Marian and Corbin in camp. It was a most difficult climb;
we had trouble with our observations and it was approximately
3:00 AM before I returned to camp. Marian was in a tizzy.
She had had difficulties with the cook stove; the supplies
which had been hurriedly assembled were inadequate; and so
many other things were wrong that it was obvious that Marian
was not cut out for camp life. The following morning we departed
for Cody where a comfortable apartment was obtained. Their
previous supper had been cold sage hen stew.
Cody, Marian made a side trip to Salt Lake City to visit Mabel
Rittenberg. She had rejoined me at Grand Junction, Colorado.
We had worked in Southern Montana, through Wyoming and Northern
Colorado. Arriving at Grand Junction, I learned over the light
signalling system that difficulties were being encountered
at a mountain station called Tavaputs north of Grand Junction.
I took a signal lamp out to a ball field near Grand Junction
and trained it on Tavaputs and started signalling for an answer.
Finally I got a return and ascertained that two things were
wrong. There was an obstructed line, requiring the establishing
of a new station and Wilbur Porter had damaged his theodolite
micrometer. I ordered Walter Bilby, my chief of reconnaissance
and signal building, to locate the new station and Porter
to return to Grand Junction with his theodolite. When he arrived,
I finally made repairs to the theodolite of which the Instrument
Division would have been horrified. However, it worked and
instead of sending Porter back, I went back myself to his
station. We rented horses at a ranch, rode to the base of
Mt. Tavaputs which took a day, but arrived in time to make
our back pack to the summit. That night I observed all the
lines involved and the following day we descended and drove
back to Grand Junction.
had driven to that ranch at the base of Mt. Tavaputs where
we hired some pack horses and horses to ride up the mountain.
We rode up on an abandoned mining railroad track and arrived
at a campsite an hour's backpack to the station. Pitching
our tents we donned our packs for the hike up the mountain
which took about an hour of hard climbing. It was almost too
much for me to keep up with Walt Bilby who was in superb physical
condition and I was almost played out when I reached the summit.
We left our horses picketed at the campsite. When we completed
observations and descended at about 2:00 AM, a heavy fog had
developed and the trail to the railroad was some distance
from our tents. We saddled and packed our horses and started
down and very shortly we were at a loss to find the trail.
I feel sure we might have gone down the wrong side of the
mountain had I not stopped and given the matter thought. I
then said to Walt, "I am going to let my horse have his head.
I am sure he knows his way back." Turning loose the reins
my horse immediately turned in a different direction from
the one in which I was heading and within thirty minutes we
came to the end of the railroad. I am sure we would have ended
up far from our destination had I not let that horse guide
me. Whether it is instinct or just plain "horse sense", he
certainly saved me from having to wait until daylight to descend.
observing the line to Mt. Waas, which was approximately one
hundred miles long, I learned that the snows had set in on
that high mountain and that the climb was becoming dangerous
due to landslides and avalanches. On return to Grand Junction,
I wired the office recommending the discontinuation of the
project for the rest of that season because of the danger
of loss of life of members of the party. The office agreed
and I was ordered to disband and return to Washington.
Snowbound at Monarch's Pass
disbanding we started east in our car, going through Gunnison,
Colorado, heading for Monarch's Pass through the mountains.
Just short of the summit, we suddenly ran into a line of cars
which could not reach the pass because of a sudden snowstorm
which blocked the pass. Most of the occupants of the cars
were unaccustomed to hardships of that sort and as it was
still fairly warm at our level, there was much silly talk
of building fires and spending the night to await the arrival
of the snow plows. The road was too narrow to turn around
the cars under their own power. I recalled once when at The
South Dakota National Guard Camp near Redfield, South Dakota,
in a lark we had reversed a long string of visiting automobiles
simply by lifting them up off their wheels and turning them
around which is simple if their are enough men available.
It would be even casier here because there was some snow on
the road and they could be skidded around. I told a truck
driver who had a two ton load of pears about that experience
and we gathered a few other men and turned around some cars
easily. Immediately the others got into the spirit and shortly
all forty cars including the truck filled with pears were
reversed and headed for Gunnison. The tiny hotel filled the
few rooms and many slept on the floor of the lobby. Many went
to the railroad depot and slept on the floor. In one room
of the hotel, two strange couples slept crosswise on the same
bed. Another couple occupied a closet at the end of the hall.
We had the only child and were given a tiny room with a single
bed in which the three of us slept. For food before retiring,
we all enjoyed the only food left in the hotel, canned peaches,
saltines, and coffee.
following morning we learned that the snow plows had passed
through and everybody left for the pass at 10:00 only to learn
that it was a false alarm and we again ran into a long line
of cars. The road was not cleared until afternoon but it was
sunny and warm and nobody minded.
Triangulation of Texas-Oklahoma
Border - Ozona to Langry - Dalhart to
reaching Texas we based on Dalhart while I began several arcs.
The first was the northern Texas-Oklahoma border which was
uneventful. Mother had come to visit us and I drove her and
the family to station TEXOMEX which was where the three states
of Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico meet at a point. There
I photographed all three of them, each one standing on a different
state, yet only a foot separated them.
they remained in Dalhart I spent some time with the party
on a survey from Ozona, Texas, to Langtry. It was through
a cattle country with fences about one mile apart. I shall
never forget that drive as I was a nervous wreck before the
end. In fifty miles I had to open and close fifty gates.
was the former home of "Judge" Roy Bean. His former bar and
"courtroom" with its sign "LAW WEST OF THE PECOS" still stands.
He was an admirer of the actress Lily Langtry and named the
town for her. Only about a half a dozen buildings are there.
Lily actually stopped there briefly on a trip west by train.
the triangulation I encountered the strangest vertical refraction
I have ever known. One station reconnaissance called for a
four foot stand but we found one line obstructed so we put
up a thirty seven foot tower. That night the same line was
obstructed so the builders erected a fifty foot tower. The
following night however the previously obstructed line could
be seen from ground level and a four foot stand would have
Northers - Snow Storms - Dust Storms
the area around Dalhart was experiencing weather extremes.
The weather was extremely cold and heavy snow storms were
interspersed with dust storms. Marian recalls one incident
in Dalhart concerning Corbin who was three and a half years
old. She went to a dry cleaner taking him with her and when
the manager asked how to spell the name, Corbin spoke up before
Marian could reply and correctly spelled ASLAKSON. That was
the first time she was aware that he could spell his name.
the Ozona - Langtry arc we extended triangulation from near
Dalhart to Del Rio near the Mexican Border. We shortly moved
to Amarillo where again we encountered a blizzard. After the
weather cleared, we attempted to work too soon. The roads
were unpaved and were of gumbo, a very heavy and sticky clay.
The mud balling up under the truck fenders tore off the fenders
on over half of my trucks. Thereafter we waited until the
roads were dry.
attempted to move to Big Springs, but again was caught in
a snow storm and forced to hole up in Midland, Texas, for
the duration of the storm. All the places she found to rent
were filthy. Eventually in Big Springs she found a nice apartment
except that the floor was covered with an inch of dust from
a dust storm. The landlady refused to clean it up since she
had done so a week earlier. She found a man for Marian who
cleaned the place but that same night a dust storm distributed
another inch of dust on the floor and he had to repeat the
process. One clear and warm day while Marian was in Big Springs
she went to the store three blocks away in a summer dress
and before she could return a snow storm began, a typical
February she moved to Del Rio and it snowed there for the
first time in fifteen years. So much for western Texas winter
to Del Rio she stopped in San Angelo and while there she encountered
Judge Tayloe, the brother of Nellie Tayloe Ross, the United
States Treasurer and a family connection of Marian's.
Del Rio she found a nice apartment from a lady who was a secretary
for Dr. (Goat Gland) Brinkley, the doctor who diagnosed and
prescribed over the radio. He had moved to Del Rio to establish
a powerful radio station across the border as he had had his
license to broadcast taken away in the United States.
Return to Washington - Mother Returns to Philadelphia by Ship
orders to disband and return to Washington we had a problem
of excess baggage. Our little Ford could not hold our belongings
as well as mother's baggage. She had never had an ocean voyage,
so we obtained ship passage to Philadelphia from New Orleans
and procured a train ticket for her to that city. We then
drove east. I remained in Washington from March 1932 to October
of that year. Low funds hampered field parties.
More Base Measuring
cost of operating a base measuring party was low. It required
only eight men and two trucks. I was sent out to measure bases
in nine states, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, and Nebraska.
All told I measured a total of twenty eight bases, and counting
my earlier bases, I had measured thirty-six first order bases,
probably a world record for one man.
The Party is Visited by Students
from North Carolina and Duke Universities
of my bases was at Durham, N.C., and about four hundred students
from Duke and North Carolina Universities came to visit the
party. By that time the party was very efficient. It was a
rail base and there was a definite routine to follow whenever
a train passed while taping was in progress. The process consisted
of driving ten nails into the tie at which the last contact
measuring was being made and making glass cutter marks from
the nail heads to the base of the rail. Simultaneously another
man filed a cross on the rail and making the last tape measurement
to that cross. While the students were there the cry "HOT
RAIL" was made by the first party member who saw a train just
before the train passed. The students were so impressed with
the parties efficiency that they all broke into applause simultaneously.
of their professors was less efficient as he was nearly killed.
He barely got off the track in time.
The Bank Holiday
we continued south, the scarcity of cash in circulation began
to be serious. However, I was a Federal Disbursing Officer
and drew checks on the Treasurer of the United States. I could
pay myself, members of the party, and draw cash checks for
incidental expenses. Banks were permitted to open to cash
my checks, and thus, I was putting money into circulation.
As a result, we were welcomed with open arms wherever we went.
When the waitresses in the restaurants were given tips from
my men, they almost kissed them. My boys were the most popular
men in town. They even had the cash to take the girls to the
we arrived in Coral Gables and I looked for a place to rent,
I stopped in front of a large and prosperous real estate office.
A nicely dressed man came out and I posed my problem. He said,
"I have a beautiful place for you." When I said I would look
at it, he said, "May I ride in your car?" Obviously he did
not have the cash to buy gasoline. He directed me to a magnificent
house. I immediately said, "There is no use in my going into
the house. I simply cannot afford a place like that." He urged
me to enter, and Marian and I were curious to see what the
interior looked like. Inside it was obviously as luxurious
as it appeared from the outside. Even in 1933 it had solar
heating. Thanking him, I turned to go saying the place was
too expensive. I said I was only a Lieut. (j.g.) in the service.
He replied "How much can you afford?" I replied that I had
never paid more than $65 per month for an apartment. He floored
me by saying, "You can have it for that." However I explained
that I might only be there for two weeks. Again I was surprised
when he said, "I will prorate it." Of course I agreed to take
the place and I hardly got the words out of my mouth when
he said, "Can I have the two weeks rent now?" I gave him the
cash and we moved in. Then he said that was the first cash
he had seen in a month.
developed that the same place had rented to one of the Astors
the previous season (three months) for $5000. We were living
the end of two weeks, the agent showed up again to enquire
about our staying longer. I told him we would need the place
for another week and gave him the money. He almost kissed
me in gratitude.
The Tamiami Trail Base
base was an extremely difficult one. It was supposed to be
staked on the shoulder of the highway known as the Tamiami
Trail but the shoulder was of hard coral rock and stakes could
not be driven. It was the first and only base I ever measured
using equipment known as "marking tripods". I had heard of
them and wired the office to send them. The process of using
marking tripods is slow and that is why we stayed in Coral
Gables the extra week.
at Coral Gables, we went to an afternoon show where a man
was supposed to ride a shark. It was a farce. Not long after
he swam into the pool with the shark, we saw blood spurt up
and the shark turned belly up. He had knifed it, obviously
making no attempt to ride it. He explained that it was about
to attack him. Later on the west coast of Florida at Panama
City we met that man, whose name was Osgood, and he confessed
that he never had any intention of attempting to ride it.
party became so efficient at measuring bases that the accuracy
became phenomenal. The most accurate of the bases measured
was the Duval Base north of Jacksonville. No section required
retaping. The maximum failure of the forward and backward
taping to check over any kilometer was 3.8 millimeters or
approximately 1/8 inch. The average check per kilometer over
the entire base was 0.8 millimeter or about 1/32 inch. Yet
in spite of the accuracy we were obtaining, we were averaging
completing one base per week. In fact one base, the Colquit
base in Georgia which was 11.5 miles long was completed in
four days. The entire base project was a beautiful example
of precision measurement.
towns in central Florida had interesting names which illustrated
the sense of humor of the personnel responsible for naming
them. They were about six miles apart and were named Romeo
and Juliette respectively.
we drove across the Tamiami Trail to projects on the west
coast of Florida, we availed ourselves of the opportunity
of taking an air boat ride. An air boat is one which is flat
bottomed and powered by an air propeller which is high in
the stern. It is ideal for the swampy Everglades, as it will
ride over the shallow water or even marsh grass with little
or no water under it. They travel at high speeds, jumping
out of the creeks to cross the marsh, and into other creeks.
It is said that often a snake will be propelled into the boat,
but we did not encounter any. Insects and shells clinging
to the marsh grass are continually being swept into the air.
It is a most unique experience.
had a base at Bonita Springs, and, while there, we chartered
a fishing boat for a day of ocean fishing. It was most successful
and we caught many fish.
lunch time the skipper cleaned and fried some of our bonitas
and they were delicious. What a difference it makes if freshly
caught fish are cooked. He used a pancake batter to fry them
had one base near Unity, a peculiar sect which exists only
by proselyting, and they do not have any progeny. If they
can't keep their numbers up by proselyting, the sect will
of the last bases in Florida was the Okeechobee Base. It was
on a straight east and west tangent of the highway north of
the lake. It proved to be extremely hard to obtain good checks
between the taping of the kilometers sections forward and
back. Some had to be taped many times. I came to the conclusion
that that long fill for the highway was practically floating
on the underlying marsh and changes occurred due to temperature
and the state of the traffic. However the absolute length
between the base ends probably was quite accurate due to the
Return to Triangulation
my last base which was in Kentucky I received orders to move
to Osgood, Indiana, and turn the party over to "Runt" Warwick
and pick up Walt Bilby and some building party men and move
west for two arcs of triangulation. One of them was a 150
mile arc due south of the South Dakota Border and the other
was from the vicinity of Casper, Wyoming, west to a junction
with an old arc at Pocatello, Idaho. I picked up some extra
men from a party of Bill Musseter and also hired George Loesch
who was married to Dorothy at that time. He was a great help
because, being a telegrapher, he was adept at using the Morse
code over the lights and my party was so green that few of
them were adept at the code. The work was mostly four-foot
stand work in mountainous or hilly areas and was largely routine.
South Dakota-Nebraska arc was done by a subparty with Sanders
in charge. The parties camped at the stations and many of
them had been shooting prairie chickens, sage hen, and rabbits
for food at times. One of the men became very ill and a local
doctor diagnosed his ailment as spinal meningitis. He became
so ill that he was sent home to Atlanta, Georgia, where his
disease was properly diagnosed as tularemia. He had become
infected from cleaning wild rabbits. My latest information
was that he fully recovered in the end.
November, 1933, I transferred nearly all the party keeping
Walt Bilby, George Loesch, and an experienced observer, a
recorder, and an experienced builder and moved to Jefferson
City, Missouri, to begin organizing a new party. The office
sent me twenty-five new Dodge trucks, both one and a half
ton and steel- hauling trucks as well as a large shipment
of 103-foot steel towers. Later, as I built up the party,
they shipped me more trucks, this time Fords. At Jefferson
City I began the tedious process of hiring and training men
for the new party. The rest of November and all of December
1933 was spent in organizing the new party.
January to March 1934 we began operations as a double observing
party (two stations observed each observing period). As we
continued to train, we began some observations, working on
an arc of triangulation southward from Searcy, Arkansas, for
a three hundred mile arc, most of which was steel tower work.
Tryon joined the party and was a big help to me. Then we jumped
to Alexandria, Louisiana. By this time we had built up to
a four observing unit and our organization was becoming more
Bilby had begun to design and build trailers for greater efficiency.
The first one was a splendid office trailer which contained
compact space for built-in desks and filing cabinets. It also
contained a stateroom for me in the rear with a good bunk,
closet space, stainless steel wash basin and water container,
the latter being filled from outside the trailer. It was a
great improvement over maintaining an office in a tent.
time went on, he continued to design and build trailers. In
the end, we had fourteen government trailers. They consisted
of cook trailers, dining trailers, bunk trailers. The main
party, the building party, and the sub-party were all supplied
with office trailers as well as cook trailers. In addition
to the government trailers, many of the men were married and
had their wives with them and so owned private trailers. When
on the move form one area of work to another, we looked like
a circus moving and were strung out for miles along the road.
On one occasion when the entire party was moving north and
had to pass through Dallas, Texas, I sent an advance man ahead
to warn the police that our caravan was to pass through the
city at a given time. We were met at the city limits by a
number of motorcycle officers who whisked us through the city
and through all traffic lights without a pause. I felt my
"oats" leading the entire procession behind the motorcycle
Army Majors Pay Their "Respects"
Alexandria, Louisiana, the party camp with its many trailers
and tents was laid out in a most military manner and was very
impressive. By this time we had arranged for shower tents
to be built. No heat was required. Long coils of hose lying
out in the sun heated the water almost as fast as it was used.
We even had separate showers for the ladies.
also had toilet tents appropriately marked.
day I was in my office engaged in some accounts and two majors
in Army uniform rapped on the door. They asked to see the
Commanding Officer. I was only a Lieutenant (j.g.) and they
were taken aback when they found that that large organization
was solely in my charge. The senior officer said, "My Heavens!
In the Corps of Engineers a party of this size would be commanded
by a field officer!" They complimented me on the military
manner in which the camp was organized and I admitted that
my U.S. Marine Corps training was responsible. I am glad they
did not see some of the other C&GS camps I have seen and
Alexandria arc ran southward to connect with the Coastal arc
at New Orleans. There we also occupied some stations on buildings
in the city.
and I and the Tryons secured a nice apartment together for
our stay in New Orleans. In addition to the tie to the coastal
arc, we worked on triangulation southward in the Mississippi
Delta area to the near mouth of the river. Some of these stations
were a building problem. There was the marsh. Cribs had to
be built around them and filled with sod. They were not the
most stable of towers.
Marian Drives Back to
Savannah - Heading for Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Dakota
had been ill for some time. She had not learned of her allergies
and as a result she felt badly a good share of the time. We
started northward, but Marian had decided she had enough travelling
for the present. Corbin had also had a number of ailments
and Marian learned that her father was ailing so we decided
that she should leave for Savannah. She left from Lafayette,
Louisiana, and drove east with Corbin while I started to work
north beginning an arc at Bokhoma, Oklahoma.
of the size of the party and our camps, we had a great deal
of publicity. The appearance of those tall towers for a few
days caused many questions to be asked and in Oklahoma City,
Muskogee, Omaha, Topeka, Kansas City and many other cities,
reporters came to my office to learn about my work. I quickly
learned that the average reporter could not be trusted to
write a satisfactory account of triangulation. They were only
interested in sensationalism and cared little about facts.
I learned to have a prepared interview about the technical
details and left it to the reporter to fill in the local details.
This system proved to be satisfactory. A number of those newspaper
clippings are in my scrap books. Unfortunately, I did not
accumulate as many as I should have.
steel towers used were designed by the father of Walter Bilby
and were produced by Aeromotor Co., which made windmills.
They consisted of two towers, one inside the other. The inner
one was a tripod and its sole purpose was to hold the instrument.
The outer tower was a quadruped and was for the purpose of
a stand for holding the observing party. The towers were designated
as 103-foot towers but could be built to heights varying from
thirty seven feet to 164 feet depending upon the height needed.
The efficient building parties could erect a tower in about
five to six hours and they could be torn down in from one
and one half to two hours.
a result of the publicity in the newspapers, I often had visitors
appear at my office. Sometimes they were merely curious but
on occasion a man would appear, hold out his hand and say,
"Hello Carl!" I would often have no idea of their identity,
but would assume they were someone who had been a classmate
at South Dakota State College or the University of Minnesota.
I would usually learn from the conversation who they were.
They had the advantage over me of seeing my name in the news.
with all large groups of men handling trucks, I had a certain
number of truck accidents. They were mostly caused by driving
too close to vehicles ahead and, when the head vehicle made
a sudden stop, the one in the rear would crash into it. After
several accidents of that nature, I published a notice that,
when a truck had its front smashed by driving into the vehicle
ahead, the rear driver was assumed to be at fault and would
be discharged. That proved to be effective and, after a couple
of drivers lost their jobs, I had no more accidents of that
LOSE A PACK HORSE - A LIGHTKEEPER EATS DOG FOOD
one sub-party which was engaged on a short stretch of mountain
work, it was necessary to rent pack horses at a ranch which
we often were required to do. More material was generally
carried up a mountain than was carried down because of such
material as lumber being taken up. As a result, the parties
often needed more horses on the ascent than on the descent.
At one ranch the owner said that the extra horses could be
turned loose to find their way back. On the particular station,
when the party returned the following day the rancher inquired
about one of the horses which had not returned. When told
that it had been turned loose, he exclaimed, "My Lord! I forgot
to tell you that horse should not be turned loose. He was
purchased on the other side of the mountain and no doubt went
down the other side." That poor rancher had to drive 150 miles
around the mountain to get his horse back.
returning to camp at the early hours of the morning were permitted
to go into the cook trailer and open a can of food to eat
before going to bed. On one occasion, the lady cook said at
breakfast, "Who has been eating my dog food?" She found out
quickly. One man rushed out the door and lost his lunch outside.
For several days he had been eating dog food thinking it was
Maxine Loses Her
we worked our way north, we often took over an entire motel
for some of the party. At one motel there was a nice swimming
pool which they all enjoyed. Maxine Loesch, the daughter of
Dorothy and her husband, was with the party and often went
into the pool. She was an attractive young lady and her bathing
suit was a tight one made entirely of rubber. One day as she
dove into the pool, the suit split down the entire back and
fell off into the water. Two of the young bachelors exhibited
unexpected gallantry. Instead of standing there and enjoying
the scenery, two of them grabbed the ends of a large bath
towel and immediately dove in on either side of her. She grasped
the ends of the towel, and thus clothed she made her way out
of the pool with the towel around her. Needless to say she
purchased a different type of suit.
We Have A Vegetable Dinner
member of my party was an educated man who was serving as
a computer and assistant accountant. His wife was with him
in one of our camps and they often had a joint meal with me
and the Tryons. On one occasion she suggested that we have
a "vegetable dinner." Assuming that she was talking about
something like a New England boiled dinner we assented and
got a surprise of our life. That evening she cooked up a huge
mass of string beans and that was the extent of our meal.
Needless to say the Tryons and I slipped out to a restaurant
My Mathematics Professor
From the University of Michigan
some acquaintance in the Washington Office, an Assistant Professor
from the University of Michigan was sent out to me. It was
stated that he was a mathematician and wished to familiarize
himself with the field work of Geodesy. He was an elderly
man and obviously unfit for the rugged field work, and I assumed
he would be useful at computing geodetic positions. The form
used for computing was a logarithmic form and was self-checking
as the position was computed from two stations and had to
come out identically from each one using the field data. I
started him on the work and found that it would sometimes
take him a good share of a day to complete a computation which
I could finish in 15 minutes. I would note him struggling
with the form and after a while I would stand back of him,
look at his work and say, "Check this figure." It would be
a mistake so obvious that it was little short of ridiculous,
but he credited me with being a mathematical genius. For several
months I struggled with that poor old fellow until he had
to return to the University. I wonder how much his students
learned from him.
Marian Rejoins Me
worked northward through Oklahoma, Iowa, and Southern Minnesota
as one party worked upward to the Canadian Border to a junction
with the International Boundary Survey with Canada at International
Falls. Then we moved westward to the same survey at the Canadian
Border in North Dakota.
felt better and got a neighbor near her home at Beauleau near
Savannah to drive west with her and I hired him for the party
as a steel hand. It was my only vacancy, and it was rough
work for that poor fellow. His name was Joe Saffold and he
had never done any hard work his entire life. He stuck it
out manfully, although it was rough. When I was in the Naval
Hospital in Bethesda in 1977 with my polymyositis attack,
a nurse asked me if I knew anybody named Saffold who was in
a nearby room. I had forgotten all about him but went to the
room and there was Joe. His wife was with him and when Marian
came in later it was like old home week. He had been in the
Navy later and was hospitalized with a circulatory problem.
He regaled me with tales of the party and Corbin's antic who
was also there. Apparently he held no hard feelings and seemed
to be proud of his struggles on the party.
joined me and we tried to get a good camping place for the
party at Aberdeen, South Dakota. I went to the mayor, and
this time I received no cooperation. Usually those towns in
the depression days welcomed us with our large payroll. By
this time I had 110 men, and we spent a great deal in each
town. Somewhat miffed I pulled out, and we went to Lemon,
South Dakota, where we had a fine camp. Later a detachment
from the Aberdeen Chamber of commerce came to Lemon and begged
me to camp in Aberdeen. I told them how I was received by
their mayor and said it was too late to change. I hope I killed
next headquartered at Jamestown where Marian and Corbin lived
in the hotel. One day she met a lady who asked if she knew
anybody in Edmore, a nearby town. One thing led to another
and when I came to Jamestown I round Marian was holding a
dinner at the hotel for innumerable relatives from Dad's side
of the family. As I remember there were about 20 or more.
They included Uncle Dick and family from Edmore, and Agness
Arneson a widow who later married Dad. She was a distant cousin
and Marian promoted the marriage. In fact, they were married
in our home in Bethesda. Her sister Grace and her family from
Jamestown were also at the dinner. It was quite a reunion
and I would have passed up all those relatives except for
Dick was the patriarch of Edmore and owned the bank, a general
store, other businesses, and a number of farms. My Aunt Marie,
Dad's sister, was not there having gone out to California
where she was the accountant for a large hospital in Sacramento.
We had met her when we left for the Philippines.
MINI-TORNADO STRAIGHTENS OUT MY INVENTORY
failed to mention an occurrence on my trip north. While camped
at Topeka, Kansas, sometime in June or July, a mild tornado
struck our camp. The damage was mostly to the tents although
there was considerable cleaning up after the storm. Fortunately,
the camp was nearly deserted at the time and no one was injured.
I could consider it somewhat of a break for me. When one has
a large party that long a time, the inventory becomes a task
for it is nearly impossible to keep a good account of all
the equipment originally issued and the later purchases as
well. This was a golden opportunity to go through the inventory
and discover that certain items were damaged beyond repair
or lost in the storm. Newspaper clippings accompanying the
new and clean inventory were good documentary proof of that
Our Truck Driver Fire Siren
of my truck drivers had a "talent" which I have never known
elsewhere. He could make a sound exactly like the siren on
a fire truck. For a while he was accustomed to driving down
the main streets of those midwest towns and bringing everyone
out into the street thinking that a fire truck was passing.
a small town policeman put a stop to that one day. He hailed
him to the curb and told him in no uncertain terms that it
was illegal to have a siren on his truck. The officer could
hardly believe him when he said he did not have such a siren
but was making the noise with his mouth. Thereupon the officer
said, "That's illegal too!" I do not know whether or not he
continued the practice.
Tryon Surveys North
Dakota - South Dakota Border - Main Party Continues South
detailed Tryon to take a 2-O party and work the triangulation
on the entire North Dakota-South Dakota border while I headed
south with the 6-O party. We had started at the Canadian border
on September 15, 1934, and moved south very rapidly. We worked
through South Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska, and Marian moved
ahead to Dodge City, Kansas. Learning that she had been a
member of the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, Georgia,
she was in demand by some of the locals, and on one occasion
arrangements were made for her to meet the mayor of Dodge
City. Corbin began school in the first grade in Dodge City.
Although he was in school there only six weeks, he apparently
got a great deal out of it during that time. Tryon had completed
the ND-SD border survey and had joined the main party, and
we moved at a rapid rate. On some nights we had as many as
8 or 10 observing parties working simultaneously. It was getting
too cold in January and February to work in Nebraska so we
broke off and moved everybody south to work in a northerly
direction on the same projects. Marian went to San Antonio,
Texas, where she found a very nice apartment. She was ill
again and not enjoying the life of the field parties. While
in San Antonio, she found a nice colored maid who was a good
worker, but Marian was surprised one day to have her ask for
a day off to go to her uncle's birthday party. However, when
the girl explained that her uncle was 110 years old, Marian
told her to attend by all means. The next day the story was
verified by a considerable spread in the San Antonio newspaper.
He was very well known and apparently spry and active at that
Mother Passes Away - Marian
Loses Many Relatives Including Her Father
died in Milwaukee on April 30, 1935. She had been very ill
a month before and was expected to pass away. I had made a
trip to Milwaukee on the occasion, but she continued to linger
and I was forced to return to Texas. I was not there when
she died, but Dorothy and Arnold were and they attended the
funeral. Mother was cremated and buried in the family plot
in Waterford, Wisconsin. The graveyard is in the churchyard
of the oldest Norwegian Lutheran Church in America. The location
is beautiful. Later both Dad and Uncle Baxter were buried
in the plot.
afterward, Dr. Corbin, Marian's father, died at the Corbin
home in Beauleau, Georgia, outside of Savannah, and Marian
returned to her home and spent the rest of the summer there.
During that summer she lost four close relatives, her Aunt
Ruby Williams of Portsmouth, Va., her Uncle Charlie Williams,
also from Portsmouth, and her Aunt Alice Brinkley from Suffolk,
as well as her father. In addition, Jack Lawton, Taylee's
husband, on his way to Savannah for a reading of the Corbin
will, had a serious automobile accident. It was a tragic year
Main Party Leaves for
Brownsville, Texas, to Work North
Tryon Works North from
decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and moved
south to work northward on the same arcs. I worked north from
Brownsville while Tryon worked north from Del Rio. It was
April and May of 1935, and, while the weather was warmer,
the dust storms were as bad as ever. I recall one camp in
Benjamin, Texas, where we were unable to work for several
days due to a dust storm. Apparently a regular occurrence
at the noon Rotary Club meeting was to open the luncheon with
the song, "Beautiful Texas." I was invited to speak at a meeting
while I was there and they opened the meeting in the usual
manner. With not a hint of a smile they sang every verse of
"Beautiful, Beautiful Texas" while outside the dust in the
air prevented one from seeing objects 30 feet away.
ran into two more towns on that arc where those naming the
towns must have had a sense of humor. The towns of Alice and
Ben Bolt are about 6 or 8 miles apart.
we worked north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South
Dakota, and Minnesota. We moved rapidly, and the work was
uneventful except for another tornado which struck our camp
at Columbus, Nebraska. This was worse than the one in Topeka,
Kansas, the year before and I was able to put the finishing
touches on cleaning up my inventory. It was lucky for when
I reached Paynesville, Minnesota, I was ordered to turn the
party over to Tryon to demobilize and store the trucks and
equipment while I returned to Washington. We certainly had
an inventory in perfect shape. It was now August, 1935, and
I got permission to take leave to go to Savannah to pick up
Marian and drive north. I reached Washington in November 1935.
December 1933 to August 1935, I had executed 7080 miles of
triangulation. I had worked on nearly 1000 more miles in almost
the entire central states from the Canadian border to Texas.
I had also measured 36 first order bases totaling 289 miles
in length. I think it can be safely said that both the bases
and the triangulation costs were lower than any other work
of its kind in the United States.
were low due to the depression, but the esprit de corps on
the party was very high. Due to my Marine Corps training,
I was a strict disciplinarian but every member of the party
had a sense of pride in the work. I tolerated no sloppy work
and good men were plentiful so the turnover was high. In fact,
when the party disbanded, we had had a 30% turnover. My average
cost per station was $140 to $150. That same work today would
be between $3500 and $4000. Many economies were employed on
that party. We had our own gasoline truck, and I bought gas
in bulk for 8 cents per gallon. We carried our own mechanics
to repair the trucks and maintained a strict cost of operation
record. I bought oil by the barrel. We carried spare engines
for rapid installation in a disabled vehicle. I proved that
when many parties observed simultaneously on the same night
the "truck-miles per station" was lower and that was a source
of saving costs.
some time after I disbanded, I received from former employees
letters indicating their pride in that party. One man in particular
was slow at first but was always thorough, and I gradually
promoted him to observer. Later he had good positions with
various companies and had some important assignments. McCarty
wrote me from England where he had a fine position with an
oil company. He wrote, "Chief, I am grateful for the hell
you used to give me. It was through that tough training that
I landed this job." Later he was sent on important jobs all
over the world.
that party hours meant nothing. There was a job to do, and
they remained on the job until it was finished. I kept track
of excess time and, often when we were in a nice town, I gave
them compensatory time. However, usually before the time was
up, they were "raring" to get back on the job. It was a happy
party, and for years afterward when some of them would get
together especially with members of other parties, they would
boast about "the best party that ever operated."
Washington Office -
November 1935 to July 1936
Washington assignment was a godsend to Marian. Through a friend
she found a doctor, Ed Quayle, who finally decided that her
troubles were caused by allergies. Through careful questioning
he decided that citrus fruit (citric acid) and cottonseed
oil were the cause of her poor health. It was a remarkable
process of elimination, even though he performed no allergy
tests; yet, he got to the root of the problem and she recovered.
I had sufficient time in the office to devote to some of the
methods of using the principles of least squares to eliminate
random errors and made a number of least square triangulation
adjustments. This proved of great help to me in my later work
in electronic surveying research.
also studied gravity observations. I was give a chance to
work up the gravity records for the Gulf of Mexico Gravity
Survey by Hoskinson which was done with a Navy submarine and
the Vening Meinesz gravity instrument. In the end, I reduced
most of those records and became very interested in gravity.
That too was to lead to future interesting projects for me.
Assume Charge of a Gravity Field Party
day I was having lunch in the cafeteria with Captain Garner
and Captain Bowie. Bowie remarked to Garner, "What are we
going to do about Lushene's gravity party?" I spoke up and
said, "That sounds like most interesting work." That hint
was all that was needed. I was promptly assigned to assume
charge of the party. With brief training in the operation
of the Brown Gravity equipment in the office, I made some
standardization "swings" there and went into the field. I
was in the field until March 1937 establishing stations in
Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.
work was fascinating mainly because of the great precision
required and because the results clearly demonstrated that
the precision was justified. Two pendulum instruments were
used in a single observation. They were separated by several
feet and the pendulums were swung at right angles so that
no coupling would result. A "swing" lasted six hours and at
the end of that time the difference in the period of the pendulums
which was known in advance from previous swings had to check
within a very few 10,000,000ths of a second of time. If the
difference exceeded a certain small amount, the swing was
repeated but that was seldom necessary.
I departed for the field I brought my old trailer office from
my triangulation party into Washington and modified it for
use for gravity field work, and it was ideal for the purpose.
The pendulum instruments were located outside the trailer
some distance away and were connected by cable to the amplifier
and chronograph in the trailer. The radio over which the time
signals were obtained was also located in the trailer with
the antenna outside located between poles or trees. The instrument
utilized a photoelectric cell method of determining the exact
count of the number of pendulum beats during a six hour period;
the ends of that period being fixed by radio time signals.
originally designed, the photoelectric cell amplifier used
a 50,000 megohm resister in its circuitry which, during periods
of high humidity, sometimes caused trouble. On a later gravity
tour this was modified and a one megohm resister was substituted
but that is another story.
Vening Meinesz Submarine Gravity for Use on Land
my return from the gravity field work, Dr. Maurice Ewing of
Lehigh University, an internationally known geophysicist talked
the Washington office into a testing project whereby the Vening
Meinesz gravity instrument was to be mounted in a truck and
tested for use on land. This instrument was a pendulum instrument
but there were multiple pendulums. Two principle pendulums
were swung in opposite phase. Another one was located between
the principle pendulum and was stationary at the start of
the swing and the small period it picked up during the swing
gave an assessment of the lack of stability of the mounting
or the motion of the vehicle which carried the equipment and
afforded a means of correction. The traces of all five pendulums
were recorded photographically on a tape which also carried
the seconds of time from a Bell Laboratory crystal chronometer.
Incidentally this was the first crystal chronometer built
and was an enormous advance in the measurement of time intervals.
It was more accurate than the elaborate pendulum equipment
maintained in the Naval Time Observatory in Washington from
which all time signals had heretofore been sent out by radio
at fixed intervals. The Bell chronometer was loaned to us
for the submarine work and for the later tests.
went to Lehigh University and Hoskinson and I spent a number
of days there working with Ewing. During that time we were
invited to stay at the home of the Ewings. Maurice was the
typical absent-minded professor. I recall one incident that
occurred to illustrate this. One morning while at the breakfast
table, Maurice suddenly developed a blank expression on his
face showing that some sudden vision had occurred to him.
Suddenly he grabbed the coffee pot from the table and rushed
out the door. His wife ran after him and said, "What are you
doing with the coffee pot?" He replied, "Oh! I thought it
was my hat." She rushed him his hat and said, "Where are you
going?" His reply was, "I just remembered where I might find
a cannon." We were at sea as to what was meant by that until
that evening. Then it developed that he had been searching
for a heavy metal cylinder to use as a pressure chamber for
testing some of his deep sea seismological instruments such
as an old cannon which might be sealed up. Then he recalled
some heavy iron pipe not presently in use at the Bethlemen
Steel plant and was going to the plant to attempt to get the
use of the pipe. He always referred to the pressure chamber
as a cannon.
Lehigh we often ate lunch at a lunch counter nearby and a
colleague at the university always joined us. He was on a
strange diet. One day all he ordered was a dish of boiled
cabbage. Then he also ordered a side dish of cabbage. Following
that he ordered a smaller dish of cabbage and proceeded to
put catsup on it, saying "That will serve for my desert."
Gravity in the
Empire State Building
was not the end of Ewing's snow job on the Coast Survey. He
talked them into a somewhat useless project. He said that
there had never been an actual test of the vertical gradient
of gravity and suggested that the Vening Meinesz be used in
the Empire State Building to measure gravity every ten floors
from the basement to the tip of the mooring mast. Although
it was obvious to us that no real information could be acquired
in such a project, Hoskinson and I were assigned to work on
it with Ewing. We were assigned a special elevator for our
sole use. We would carry the equipment up ten floors, remove
it from the elevator, make our observation which took thirty
minutes and then go up another ten floors to repeat the process.
Our last observation at the tip of the mooring mast required
several repeat observations. The reason for this was the large
amount of sway which occurred in the mast. It was of a slow
period but actually amounted to a number of feet. We would
not have been aware of it had it not been revealed by the
equipment. In the end our results were exactly what we expected
them to be. The vertical gradient as we observed it approximated
the theoretical value. Had we been able to properly assess
the gravitational effects of all the material in the Empire
State Building as well as all the adjacent buildings for a
number of miles, we no doubt would have arrived at a correction
which would agree very closely with the theoretical vertical
gradient of gravity.
The Amsterdam Avenue Base in
for two short projects I remained in the Washington Office
until early in 1938. The first interruption of the office
routine was the measurement of a complex base in New York.
Connie Meany and Hoskinson had been assigned this project,
and when they arrived they were at sea as how to proceed.
The complications were many. One end was a station on a sixteen
story office building from which the offset between which
measurements were to be made was not visible from the actual
station. The other end was the same type of station and it
was located on the top of a six-story building. A very complicated
method of connecting the stations to the offsets had to be
further complication was the method of measuring the between
the actual offsets along the sidewalk and over the street
crossings. Also a means of marking the kilometer points permanently
during the measuring process had to be solved. Again it was
clear that the work would have to be done at night when there
was a minimum amount of traffic. I am sure that if Hoskinson
had been in sole charge he would have solved all problems,
but Meany was technically the Chief of Party and was completely
welcomed me with open arms, saying, "Aslakson, you are on
your own! I haven't the slightest idea as to how to go about
this. Just go ahead and do the job."
reconnoitered the job and decided on a complicated method
of making the connections of the stations to the offsets by
a difficult series of angle and distance measurements which
would afford a check by a least squares adjustment. I also
decided that the best equipment to use for the actual measurement
was the rail taping equipment but with a difference. We would
also have to mark temporarily all the points of support at
the ends and the 12 1/2 and 37 1/2 meter points as well as
permanent marks for the fifty meter tape and run a simultaneous
set of level observations over those points because we would
have to compute broken grade corrections at all of those points.
It would prove to be a slow and cumbersome process but I could
see no other solution. Therefore, I had Meany wire for the
rail equipment to be shipped to New York and I began making
the connections at the ends of the base. I also had Meany
arrange with the police to provide two officers to remain
with the party from midnight to 5:00 AM on the days we were
measuring the base. The Kilo points and the 12 1/2 and 37
1/2 meter points were marked with squares of yellow paint
on the street or sidewalk on the first taping and naturally
the man doing that job had the name of Rembrandt hung on him
at the outset and the name stuck.
the actual kilo points I had the office send up a supply of
short one half inch copper bolts. We drilled holes in the
cement sidewalks for these bolts and cemented them in the
holes. Since we did not want any kilo point to fall in the
macadam street we established them all in the sidewalks and
thus we frequently had many so-called "set-ups" or "set-backs"
to the semi-permanent copper bolts to which the actual measurements
the taping we tried to disturb the residents in the apartment
along the avenue as little as possible by using whistle signals
when making the contacts during the measurements but occasionally
someone would thrust his head out of the window and say, "Cut
out the racket or I will call the Cops!" My answer was always
the same, "Call them here! I have two with me!"
was no doubt the most unusual base ever measured. The difficulties
exceeded those of the base measured by Captain Garner for
Michelson's second measurement of the velocity of light. In
spite of those difficulties we got good results using my improvised
methods and the office was pleased with the end result.
With the Baltimore Metropolitan District - The Ardmore TWP.
concluding the Amsterdam Avenue Base I had two consulting
projects before I again went into the field. One was to advise
the surveying team of the Baltimore Metropolitan District
regarding control in the suburbs of that city. It was all
routine but I do recall an incident which occurred while I
was having lunch with some of their engineers in a restaurant
in the outskirts of the city. We were all ordering our drinks
and when the waitress came to the last man she did not wait
for him to speak. She pointed her pencil at him and said,
"You will have milk!" So much for instant character analysis.
other consulting project was with a similar group of engineers
responsible for the survey control in Ardmore Township north
of Philadelphia. I assisted them in siting a number of triangulation
stations for connecting them to the national network of control.
That is a beautiful part of the state and the area is filled
with expensive estates of millionaires. I enjoyed the few
weeks I was on that project.
Again Begin Field Work of Gravity
and I had worked in the office to redesign the Brown gravity
instrument amplifier and replaced the fifty megohm resister
with a one megohm resister and I again went into the field
in early 1938. Schoene was assigned as an assistant and did
a good job. He was particularly adept at using tree climbers
and we often placed our radio antennas in pine trees. My schedule
called for stations in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Texas and I completed the schedule
by May 1938. The earlier trouble from high humidity was not
experienced with the one meg resister.
in the triangulation party, the appearance of the party with
the trailer and instruments attracted attention and I was
frequently interviewed by the local papers. I soon learned
that I had to edit their interviews before publication.
I recall one interview which surprised me. In Nacogdoches,
Texas, a young lady came to the basement of a church where
I was reobserving an old station. She asked me for an explanation,
and, as usual, I started with the radio and proceeded to the
amplifiers, pendulums, and chronograph and as I explained
the details she kept repeating "Uh huh, Uh huh." When I finished
she said, "Let's see if I got this straight." Then she proceeded
to go through each step almost word for word as I had explained
it. I was astonished and asked how she had absorbed everything.
Her reply was that when she had studied journalism she soon
became aware of the need for scientific reporting and she
had specialized in that line. She then asked me the reasons
and the use of gravity observations. This time I did not even
ask her to repeat it.
following day the paper contained her story on gravity observations
and their uses. It was the best interview I had ever had in
the United States. I made a point of calling the editor to
congratulate him on having such a fine reporter on his staff.
We Buy a House in Bethesda
the summer of 1937 we were in our apartment in Bethesda; Corbin
was listening to a ball game which was being broadcast on
the radio; the volume was too loud, and, to escape the noise,
Marian and I decided to go out for a drive. We happened to
turn down Wilson Lane and came upon a newly built house at
5707 Wilson Lane. Seeing the "for sale" sign, on the spur
of the moment we decided to look it over. Any thought of buying
was far from our minds. Upon entering, Marian was immediately
attracted to the living room which had a studio living room
with beam ceilings. The outside which had first caused us
to enter was of attractive stone with curving sides. As we
entered Marian remarked, "If I ever bought a house, this is
the type I would want." Although we had seen no one when we
entered, the builder, a young man who had just completed his
first house, appeared from a back room and said, "Why don't
you buy it?" That thought was farthest from our minds, but
suddenly it seemed a good idea to me. Marian immediately protested
that we could not afford to buy it. She also said that there
were too many things we would have to buy if we bought the
house. The young man took out a piece of foolscap and asked
what she felt necessary to buy. She recited her list which
consisted of (1) radiator covers over all radiators, (2) venetian
blinds for all windows, (3) shower curtains, (4) a lawn mower,
(5) sodding a portion of the back lawn which required the
removal of some poor pines and several other item which I
cannot recall. She added, "I would also want it at my price."
The upshot of the matter was that he consented to her requests.
We went home and debated the matter. It so happened that Marian's
mother arrived for a visit, and she and I were on the same
side. In the end we prevailed after Mrs. Corbin made us a
generous gift to provide the down payment. Ten days later
we signed the papers. It turned out to be the best investment
we ever made.
so happened that I was ordered away before we could move in
and Captain Cowie helped Marian move into the house. Captain
Cowie was later killed when he was Director in Manila and
the Japanese bombed the city.
First Order Leveling
May 1938 until the end of the year I operated a first order
leveling party in Maryland, Virginia, Minnesota, Michigan,
Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri,
and Texas. At first I started with a single party and did
the observing myself as I was unfamiliar with the work. When
I moved west, I was to operate a number of parties and from
then on I was busy travelling from party to party to inspect
them, pay the men, and collect their accounts. Leveling is
a fine precision work but uncomplicated.
Many Miscellaneous Projects
concluding my leveling projects, I was in charge of numerous
miscellaneous projects which occupied me until May 1940.
January 1939, I spent one month as technical Advisor to the
Commanding Officer of the "Flash and Sound" battalions of
the artillery at Fort Bragg, N.C. These units determined the
position of enemy batteries by determining the time interval
between the flash of the guns and the impact of the projectile
and converting that time to distance. I was consulted on new
techniques for making the rapid surveys required.
March 1940 I established several speed courses for the Air
Force, basing at Buckley Field near Denver, Colorado. One
end of a 1,500-kilometer course starting at Wright Field near
Columbus, Ohio, was in New Mexico. We flew down from Wright
Field in an A-17, a two seat attack plane. Completing the
tie in New Mexico, we returned to Wright Field. We arrived
after dark, and, being given the clearance to land, we were
not aware that a snow storm which had occurred just before
we arrived had left some drifts on the runway. That is another
landing I shall never forget. We hit that drift at about 100
miles an hour and we did a ground loop, ending up facing in
the opposite direction from that of our approach. We were
badly shaken up but otherwise unhurt. This was the first of
many close calls I had in airplanes during my career, but
I always had the luck to walk away.
both Wright Field and Buckley Field I also measured five-
kilometer speed courses.
May and June 1940, I was assigned to a project to establish
new fire control coordinates for the Coast Artillery at Fort
Tilden, Long Island, New York, and at Fort Hancock, opposite
Fort Tilden, located in New Jersey. It consisted of first
order triangulation over very short lines. First order leveling
was also needed between the same control points. In addition,
the battery centers had to be located accurately both horizontally
and vertically. It was an interesting job in precision surveying
over short distances but proved to be wasted time. A short
time later, the idea of using Coast Artillery for coastal
defense was abandoned . The airplane and submarine had made
coast artillery obsolete.
brief project assigned to me in November 1940 was the establishment
of a new first order base to connect to the triangulation
net of the city of Baltimore. For many years that city had
tied all of their horizontal control to an obsolete base they
had measured themselves. Also they had calibrated their tapes
by comparing them with two marks in the basement of the courthouse.
The latter had assuredly undergone changes with time. In the
end, Baltimore engineers had to redefine their network coordinates
in accordance with the national network of the Coast and Geodetic
very fascinating project was assigned to me that same year.
At the Carderock Naval Testing Basin near the Potomac River
northwest of Bethesda, the Navy had attempted to align the
rail of the towing mechanism by using a taut piano wire from
one end to the other of the 1600 foot rail. Their results
were inconsistent, and they wanted them checked by an optical
method. I designed a special light with a narrow slit through
which the light was shown by reflection. I also designed a
method of reading the light movement by a micrometer. This
light was built by our instrument division and proved to be
the solution to the project.
soon as I entered the Testing Basin and saw the situation,
the reason for the inconsistent results of the Navy's observations
became obvious. The concrete outer wall was joined to the
inner wall by a concrete walk way which was rigidly attached
by reinforcing rods. However the inner concrete wall on which
the towing rail ran had expansion joints at regular intervals.
Thus, temperature changes in the outer wall of the building
would cause a bowing of the wall with the rail at regular
intervals. There would be a discontinuity at each expansion
joint in the alignment as observed by the taut wire. My optical
method was developed to remove accidental errors. I used an
observing system of having the light moved systematically
a number of times in each direction, each time reading the
micrometer and repeating the observations with the telescope
reversed. My observations proved the thesis that the errors
were caused by temperature changes in the outer wall.
results were sufficient proof of the error in design so that
the Navy was obliged to sever the connection between the two
walls and install special supports under the walkway. It was
strange that this source of error had not been anticipated
in the original design of the building as the modification
proved to be very costly.
after this project, I wrote an article which was published
in the MILITARY ENGINEER in the May issue, 1941. It
was entitled "PRECISE ALIGNMENT BY SAG WIRE AND OPTICAL METHODS."
during this period I also wrote a technical article for publication
in the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Journal on my gravity work.
It was entitled "GRAVITY OBSERVATIONS AND THEIR USES." Although
technical to some extent, it was expressed in simple enough
language so many oil companies found it useful in their training
program for their geophysical employees. They requested reprints
in such quantities that at last the Survey called it quits
and authorized the oil companies to reproduce the article
Gravity Observations in Peru
and Colombia, South America
1930 to 1940 the United States State Department had sponsored
programs for "exchange of scientific personnel" with South
American countries. The program was very much a one way street.
The program attracted the attention of Peru and Colombia,
both of which had not had their gravity network tied to the
international datum of Potsdam, Germany. They expressed a
desire for scientists of the United States to establish a
number of stations in each country.
countries recognized the value of the work, not only for the
valuable geophysical data required for oil and mineral exploration,
but for it's contribution to knowledge of the figure of the
February 1941 I was selected to head the project. Philip T.
Hansen was chosen as my assistant. His designation was Principal
Scientific Aid. The Brown Gravity Pendulums and all the auxiliary
equipment including wet batteries were shipped down by a vessel
to Lima, Peru, while I flew down in advance to make the necessary
preparations and the contacts with officials. Hansen and I
received the shipment and prepared the instruments for the
Solar Eclipse Project - Marian and Corbin Arrive in Lima
we were assembling our equipment, a number of scientists visited
us to ask our cooperation in a solar eclipse project. There
was to be a total eclipse of the sun and they became aware
that we could contribute one of their essential requirements,
absolute time data. This was simple for me with our radio
time signals and our accurate chronograph. I agreed and designed
a contact for them to press when they wished the time. That
contact would register on my chronograph and thereby I could
scale the time to within .005 seconds. This was actually greater
accuracy than they required, so one source of possible error
was eliminated. They were delighted with the cooperation.
was arriving on the SANTA ELENA, a Grace Line ship, while
the eclipse was in progress and I was unable to meet the ship.
When I finally reached the ship, I asked Marian how she had
enjoyed the eclipse. Much to my surprise neither she nor any
of the passengers were aware that a total eclipse of the sun
had occurred. I concluded that the Captain's party, which
had taken place before the landing, must indeed have been
quite a party. Marian said that she thought the darkness was
some peculiarity of that part of the tropics.
Peruvian members of the Commission consisted of three professors
of San Marcos University of Lima, which incidentally is the
oldest University in the Western Hemisphere. It also included
Col. Vallenas of the Peruvian Army who was to be my direct
contact. Dr. J. A. Broggi of the Interior Department of Peru
was also attached because he spoke perfect English and was
interested in the geophysical phases of gravity.
Vallenas appointed two Army officers, Captain Jose San Miguel
and Captain Manuel Llanos, to accompany me on the project.
He provided the transportation as well. Captain San Miguel
remained with me during the entire project.
Project to Frustrate
and I stayed at the Hotel Bolivar while we were making preparations
for the trip into the interior. Because of the necessary calls
on officials, I usually wore my uniform which of course is
similar to that of our Navy. Each morning Hansen and I would
meet in the lobby to discuss the day's plans. We noted the
great interest taken in our talks by four Japanese who were
also staying in the hotel. They might as well have had a placard
labelled SPY on the front of their suits. Each morning they
would also gather in the lobby with three or four cameras
slung over their shoulders, obviously to discuss their days
assignments. They often tried to pump me as to what we were
doing in Peru. The simplest reply was to tell them the truth
which they obviously did not believe. Once Hansen and I framed
them. I filled two pages of letter size paper with a series
of meaningless letters and numbers in groups of six. I met
with Hansen in the lobby under the watchful eyes of the spies.
we carefully tore up the two pages into very small pieces
and threw them into a waste basket. We each then left by a
different door. Peering back, we saw those Japanese lose no
time in picking every scrap of paper out of that waste basket
and putting them into an envelope. I have often thought that
must have been a great contribution to our war effort. I wonder
how much time and effort was put in by the Japanese cryptographers
in attempting to solve that "code".
Hope Morris Pension and the Pachamanca
American Embassy was of great help to me in finding a place
to stay for Marian and Corbin. They arranged for us to move
into the swank Hope Morris Pension in Lima. No one was ever
able to get into that Pension without a referral from our Embassy.
The clientele there was very exclusive. The rooms were comfortable
and the food was good.
was a cousin of Wally Warfield (Wally Simpson) who became
the Duchess of Windsor.
we stayed at the Hope Morris Pension there were two young
men there as guests. They had recently graduated from Yale
and were on a South American tour. We found one of them somewhat
obnoxious as he was most opinionated and did not hesitate
to express his views on all subjects even though his remarks
were not solicited. There may have been some justification
for his high opinion of himself. He was McGeorge Bundy who
later became the head of Ford Foundation. Also on May 8, 1967,
he received the annual Cosmos Club Award, a most prestigious
award usually presented to scientists but sometimes to others.
In McBundy's case it was for heading a humanitarian foundation.
Helen Hayes was also given the Cosmos Club Award and is the
only woman to have received it.
recipient always gives an address when the award is presented
and Helen Hayes gave one of the best and most modest addresses
that has ever been given at the presentation.
other young man, Gordon Grayson, was the son of the well-known
White House physician. He was modest and well liked.
annually gave a party for the important diplomats and the
guests in the pension. It was a Cholo Indian festival feast
known as a "pachamanca". A large pit was dug in the back yard
and a layer of stone was used to line the pit. A fire was
then built to heat the stones. At the end of several hours,
when the fire had been reduced to ashes, several layers of
banana leaves were placed over the stones. The pit was then
filled with carcasses of lamb, pigs, chunks of beef, and various
kinds of vegetables. These were again covered with many layers
of banana leaves and the leaves were covered with a layer
of soil. For some reason the soil never penetrates the top
layer of leaves and the meat and vegetables are completely
free of dirt when the pit is opened. The meats are served
with hot and tangy sauces and the food is delicious.
for Expedition - Pendulum Standardization
had extensive preparations to make before starting on our
expedition. We would have had to delay at any rate for there
were landslides in the mountains which blocked the roads.
entourage consisted of a 1 1/2 ton army truck to carry the
instruments and four soldiers and a station wagon for Hansen,
the two Peruvian officers, myself, and our baggage. We had
a Peruvian Army Corporal as a driver. However, he did not
drive long for he frightened us with his careless driving,
and I persuaded the Peruvians to permit Hansen to drive.
had to standardize our pendulums in Lima before leaving and
did so at an Army Barracks. While there I ate breakfast several
times and had my first taste of instant coffee. However, the
way the Peruvian Army made it was to convert the brewed coffee
to liquid which was thick and syrupy. This was put in a cup
and the cup was filled with hot milk.
we left Lima, Capt. San Miguel went to his home where he said
a most tearful farewell to his wife. They were both very emotional
at parting. Our first station was at Piura, a long drive north
of Lima. Shortly, San Miguel began to urge our chauffer to
drive faster. Since we had ample time, I could not understand
the urgency. We reached Piura and set up our instruments for
the observation which had to be made at night because the
short wave radio reception was better at night. We spent two
nights on the observations and I did not see San Miguel for
the entire time. When I asked the corporal where he was, he
said, "He is with the `putas' (prostitutes)." Then I understood
the reason for the urgency. After the tearful farewell, he
was in a hurry to get to the "putas". This occurred everywhere
we went. There is more about this later.
- Our First Mountain Station - My Earthquake Prediction
had been a coastal station and we had a number of other coastal
stations, but one of the early stations was Huaras, a small
city in North central Peru. It is high in the Andes. The road
there was steep and winding.
station in Huaras was located in the city hall. When we set
up our instruments and began our observations, the Jefe de
Policia (Chief of Police) and the Alcalde (mayor) were interested
spectators. They remained with us until we completed some
of the early observations. The preliminary results were startling.
It was clear that we would have a large gravity anomaly. A
gravity anomaly is a case where the observed value of gravity
differs from the theoretical value for the given latitude
and altitude. Its significance is that it indicates a possible
strain in the crust of the earth.
made what I considered a facetious remark to the two visitors,
saying, "Someday there will be a large earthquake (or "terramoto"
in Spanish) in Huaras." Six months later, as I was leaving
Peru, an enormous earthquake occurred in Huaras destroying
much of the city and killing over a thousand of its inhabitants
in the landslide caused by the quake.
1976, a second quake and landslide occurred in Huaras. On
that occasion the city was almost totally destroyed with a
huge loss of life. An account of that later quake appeared
in a newspaper and I have the clipping in one of my scrap
have often wondered whether that mayor or Chief of police
lived to remember my prediction which was made facetiously
with no thought of it ever occurring, although the evidence
of the strain in the crust was present.
to Juliaca on Lake Titicaca - Serouche or Mountain Sickness
drove form Tacna, a southern Peruvian town, to Juliaca which
was located on the shore of Lake Titicaca which lies between
Bolivia and Peru. We were getting hungry and San Miguel assured
me that there would be a place to eat at the summit of the
pass. Finally we halted and looking around; I could see nothing
but a tiny dugout at the side of the road with smoke coming
out of the dirt covered roof. There I was told we would get
something to eat. The entrance to the dugout held a tiny oil
cloth covered table. There was another tiny room with an open
fire and an iron pot on the fire. San Miguel ordered some
soup which came out of that pot so I did the same. When I
got mine, there was a 1/2 inch ball of mud in my soup which
apparently had fallen from the ceiling. There was also mud
in San Miguel's soup, but he calmly picked it out. As for
me, I decided I did not care for soup. There was a small shelf
above our heads in the "dining room" which had a few canned
goods. I spotted a can of beans and some crackers so I bought
them and made my meal of that. The Captain ate all of his
I stepped out of the truck at our lunch stop, I felt very
lightheaded and almost fell over the cliff. That night I learned
the reason for my dizziness. It was a case of "Seroche" or
drive form the coast to Juliaca was over a very abrupt climb.
We had gone from sea level to 12,000 feet elevation in about
six hours. When we arrived at the hotel in Juliaca, I suddenly
was aware that I was very sick. I had many of the symptoms
of malaria including chills and fever. I also had a severe
headache and it seemed that every muscle and bone in my body
ached. The Captain and the landlady at the hotel were familiar
with the symptoms, and I was put into bed with a huge pile
of blankets covering me. I suffered much of the night, but
I finally slept. In the morning I awoke, extremely weak, but
otherwise fully recovered.
the shores of Lake Titicaca I saw many of the famous reed
boats used by the Cholo Indians of Peru and Bolivia.
Cuzco and the
San Jeronimo Base Gravity Stations
had been asked to establish two gravity stations on the San
Jeronimo triangulation base, four miles north of Cuzco, Peru.
There was no real reason for two stations, one on each end
of the base. The reason given was that the Peruvians, in making
the base measurement, had used a weight over a pulley to provide
the tension on the taping and they expected to make a correction
for the intensity of gravity. It was obvious that a single
observation on the base would have been sufficiently accurate
for the correction, but, at their insistence, I measured gravity
at both ends.
base was not far from the fabulous Inca fortress of Sachaihuman,
and we drove up to the site. It was amazing to view the enormous
rocks weighing tens of tons fitted together so closely that
a knife blade cannot be inserted between them, all without
the use of modern equipment. No mortar of any kind was used
in the construction. How those stones were transported, fitted
together, and lifted into place must be considered one of
the wonders of the world.
difficulties were encountered with the instruments which I
had first noted during our preliminary standardization, and
I decided to abandon the observations at San Jeronimo for
the present, return to Lima, and restandardize before observing
at San Jeronimo. I therefore told the Corporal to hunt up
Captain San Miguel and give him that message.... Much to my
surprise he was prompt in arriving the following morning and
we took off for Lima.
Lima we completed our repairs, made another pendulum "swing"
as a recalibration, and returned to San Jeronimo.
completed the two observations at San Jeronimo and made one
observation at Anta, our last mountain station. After we finished
and while we were eating breakfast, we met two Army officers
who said they were leaving for Huancayo where we were going
and told me they had a large car and that I could ride with
them as it would be more comfortable than in the station wagon.
I accepted the invitation and let my trucks go ahead. As soon
as I saw their car, I regretted my decision. It was large
but very old and obviously in bad condition. It must have
been twenty-years old. It was crowded with baggage and the
wires and the tires clearly were in very bad shape. The officer
driving took every one of the treacherous mountain curves
at full speed, and we almost went over the side of the road
many times, narrowly escaping a fall of thousands of feet.
We continued to blow out tires depleting that stock of tires
in the trunk. Most of them had little or no tread. It grew
dark and cold and we still were far from Huancayo. At last
we arrived to learn that our trucks had arrived hours earlier.
Marian had also arrived by train and was at the hotel when
I checked in. She was shivering with cold and it was obvious
that she had a touch of seroche, the altitude sickness I had
experienced at Juliaca previously. Fortunately, it was not
as violent as my attack had been. However, she spent a most
Paul Leddig and
the Astronomic Observatory - A Trip into La Selva
had accepted an invitation to visit the astronomic observatory
at Huancayo which was operated by Paul Leddig whose family
we had known in Washington. The observatory was most interesting,
and Paul also drove us around the area. Near the observatory
there had been an archeological dig, and we were taken to
visit it. Marian made a find of an arrowhead which had somehow
been missed. Then Paul suggested a drive down into "La Selva"
(the jungle) to the settlement of Satipo. We accepted and
started down the next morning. We rented a car with a Peruvian
driver who spoke no English, but Paul and I could converse
with him. He wore no shoes, and the car looked dilapidated;
but then so do all Peruvian cars. The road over which we travelled
was one way on alternate days which is true of many of the
roads in the mountains. They are so narrow that two cars cannot
pass. In fact many times that day we had to back and fill
several times to negotiate sharp curves. There were no guard
rails and on the outer side there was often a drop of thousands
scenery beggared description. We were never out of sight of
waterfalls, and once we could see fourteen falls at the same
time. Six or eight was very common. Some of the falls had
a precipitous drop of more than 1000 feet. Once we saw a black
panther bound across the road in front of the car. Even our
driver was excited at that, for they are seldom seen. It quickly
disappeared in the jungle at the side of the road. Near the
divide, the temperature was very low. Suddenly we passed through
a layer of clouds about 200-feet in thickness, and, when we
emerged below, we were in a steaming tropical jungle. The
vegetation below the cloud layer became tropical at once.
There were enormous tropical tree ferns.
our descent, we abruptly arrived at a level clearing in the
jungle which was about a block square. It was surrounded by
thatched-roof houses. We stopped at one of the larger ones
which proved to be our hotel. We were shown to our rooms which
proved to be single rooms, each with a small cot. Marian and
I were assigned adjoining rooms, separated by mat partitions
which extended only part way to the low ceiling.
evening our dinner was not too bad. We were hungry from the
long drive. We were sure the water was unsafe, so Corbin and
I had bottled water into which we squeezed some lime juice.
Marian's allergy restricted her to beer. For water to brush
her teeth, she carried the partly empty bottle to her room.
She had often said that brushing one's teeth in stale beer
and Pepsodent tooth paste is a new taste thrill.
retiring, we strolled around the square and looked into the
few shops. Among the things for sale, we saw the red flasks
of Dupont black gunpowder which is used by the Mattoline Indians
for their muzzle loaders. It is still manufactured by Dupont
and the Mattolines will use no other powder. We also saw some
of the Mattolines. Except for the few that venture into the
edge of civilization they are seldom seen except by explorers
or a few hardy missionaries.
the night I felt a light spray on my face and slept with the
sheet covering the face. In the morning Marian commented that
the thatched roof must have leaked as she felt the spray.
I informed her that it was actually caused by bats which were
flying overhead all night.
following morning we started back for Huancayo and spent that
night at the Observatory. I had sent the party down to Lima
with Hansen because I wanted to ride down to Lima on that
fabulous railroad Marian had described.
Hung From Skyhooks
railroad from Lima to Huancayo is almost impossible to describe
and one must ride on that train to understand its complexity.
Built by an American engineer, who when asked how he could
build a railroad in those mountains replied, "If I can't do
anything else I will hang the tracks from skyhooks." It is
said to be the highest standard gauge railroad in the world.
I wish I had counted the switchbacks, but there must have
been close to fifty or sixty. What switchbacks they were!
In addition there were scores of tunnels. As an example of
some of those switchbacks, trestles would be built out over
the side of the mountain onto which the engine would pull
the short train until the rear car passed a wye. Then the
train would back into a tunnel in the side of the mountain
until the engine reached another wye. Then it might pull the
train ahead around a sharp bend or possibly through a tunnel
to another switchback. Often the engine would be entering
a tunnel at the same time that the rear coach was emerging
from one. At times the engine would enter a tunnel until the
rear car had passed a wye, then back the train out onto a
trestle on the mountainside until the engine cleared a wye
so it could again pull ahead. On occasion the engine would
be in a tunnel, the middle cars on a trestle, and the rear
cars in a tunnel. I am describing the trip up, although I
only rode down. The descent to Lima was as slow as the trip
up because the engine was obliged to have a "cucaracha" or
motorized hand car precede it on the trip down to watch for
rocks which may have fallen on the tracks.
the top of the divide on the pass, the train stops briefly
at small settlements. Near the tracks is a graveyard. The
conductor has a standard joke he tells the new passengers
who are making the trip for the first time. He tells them
that the graveyard is for the passengers who have died of
seroche on the trip.
Sanitation in the
in some of the small mountain towns left much to be desired.
Often the toilet had a sign in Spanish, "Do not throw paper
in the toilet." The reason was obvious. There was no toilet
paper. Instead there was a box of newspaper. Also in the corner
would be another box containing the paper which had been used.
Sometimes that box would be overflowing.
one hotel I made the mistake of glancing out the back near
the kitchen. I saw a helper from the kitchen washing dishes.
He had a tub of cold greasy water into which he would dip
the dishes. Then he would wipe it with a soiled rag. I had
wondered why many of the dishes had such a fine shine.
spent one night in the hotel in Cuzco. We searched for the
toilet and it took some time to locate it. We finally found
it off a corner of the dining room near the street. It was
separated from the dining room only by a curtain. The facility
simply consisted of a gutter about a foot wide in the stone
floor with a stream of water flowing through it and the street
sloped down toward the lower level of the town. The stream
was fed by springs farther up the mountain. To use the facility,
one simply straddled the gutter and the self flushing gutter
did the rest. There was no toilet paper; if one brought his
own, it simply floated out into the similar gutter in the
gutter in the street was in use much of the time. Both the
chollo men and women used it. The women, with their many petticoats,
simply squatted down over the gutter and with their skirts
falling to the ground they had complete privacy.
Juliaca, the menu in the dining room had the item "PANQUEQUE
ROLLADO CON MERMALADA." That item was easy to understand,
"PANCAKES ROLLED WITH MARMALADE."
Address the Peruvian Academy of Sciences in Spanish
my return to Lima, Dr. Broggi came to our pension and told
me that the Peruvian Academy wished me to give a talk on my
gravity work at San Marcos University; that university is
the oldest one on the American continents. Having written
a paper which was published in the Coast & Geodetic Journal
and which had been reprinted by a number of oil companies
for training purposes, I modified that paper and added suitable
material from my Peruvian expedition. When Dr. Broggi returned,
I asked him to translate the paper into Spanish and read it
at the meeting for me. He made a beautiful translation, and
when he brought it back, he asked me to read some of it. When
I did so, he said, "I am not going to read your paper. They
will understand you perfectly and will enjoy it much more
if you present it yourself." I finally agreed to do so, and
I breezed through the talk. I had read that paper so many
times, that in presenting it, I was actually thinking in Spanish.
In fact, I seldom was forced to glance at the text.
they were puzzled when the questions began after the talk,
and I had to have Dr. Broggi interpret for me. My Spanish
had been sufficiently good, so they assumed I was fluent in
mentioned the perfect newspaper interview on gravity work
by the young lady in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Lima paper, La
Prensa, for Saturday June 24, 1941, had just as good a writeup
and they had not even interviewed me. The reporters had gotten
the material from hearing my talk. The writeup contained a
three quarter photograph of me and was headlined "INTERSANTE
CONFERENCIA PRONUNCIO' EN S. MARCOS EL DR. CARL I. ASLAKSON."
Peruvian reporters write for accuracy and not for a sensational
story as do most American reporters.
newspaper, El Commercio, headlined "En el Academia Nacional
y Naturales El Senor Carl Aslakson diserto' sobre "El use
de los Observaciones de la Gravidad."
also was a fine technical description of what I had said in
Peruvians love titles and use every one they can dream up.
To illustrate I received one piece of correspondence at the
hotel with a title which covered the front of the envelope.
It was addressed:
Senor, Doctor, Teniente Carl I. Aslakson,
Presidente de la Comision Inter Americano,
Para la Determinacion de la Gravidad"
My Liaison Officers
on Gravity Parties in Peru and Colombia
Peru my two liaison officers were completely different. Captain
San Miguel was a handsome man of pure Castilian ancestry.
In spite of his views on marital fidelity, which no doubt
were generally adopted by the members of his class, he was
otherwise a fine gentleman; kind, courteous, and obviously
highly respected by all with whom he had contact. He was most
gallant with the ladies .... He was also no doubt an efficient
officer in the military.
Llanos was a full blooded Indian, very dark complected. He
was taciturn, but also apparently a good officer. He showed
somewhat more interest in the technical aspects of the gravity
observations than did Captain San Miguel.
Vallenas, the officer in Lima with whom all arrangements were
made, obviously understood the technical aspects of gravity
work better than my two liaison officers.
in Colombia, I met Dr. Dario Rozo M., who was a highly qualified
scientist and had written and published a great deal. The
Head of the Servicio Geografico Militar y Catastral was also
highly qualified and a fine gentleman. Captain Cabrero, who
accompanied me in the field, was a fine man who took considerable
interest in the field work, and I permitted him to make some
complete observations under my supervision.
The Peruvians Attitude
Toward the Lower Classes
incidents occurred in Peru which were a striking illustration
of class distinctions.
the occasion of my taking the young lady from the Embassy
back to her apartment in a taxi after the Opera Mikado, the
taxi driver made an abrupt turn at high speed on a street
corner and struck a peon as he stepped off the curb. The poor
man was obviously not seriously hurt, but was certainly somewhat
badly bruised. Instead of offering aid, the taxi driver proceeded
to berate the poor man as if he had committed a crime. He
apparently felt bolstered by his passengers. I was immediately
cautioned by the young lady to say nothing, as it was strictly
a matter between the driver and the poor peon. In Washington,
the episode would no doubt have resulted in a huge lawsuit.
one occasion while driving in the Andes, our driver struck
a donkey being led down the road by Cholo Indians. It appeared
that the back of the donkey was broken and that the donkey
no doubt represented a goodly portion of the wealth of that
poor Indian. Instead of commiserating with the poor fellow,
Captain San Miguel proceeded to call him down for obstructing
the road. The conversation was in the Spanish-Cholo patois,
and I could not understand a word of it, but the Cholo took
it all with a hang dog look on his face which almost brought
the tears to my eyes. How different from the situation in
the United States where charges and lawsuits would result
from those episodes.
completing the work in Peru, we flew to Colombia, but Hansen
went by ship with the instrumental equipment. Marian and I
spent one night in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, enroute.
first station was at the seaport of Colombia, Buenaventura.
The efficient Colombians had already arranged for clearance
of our instruments through Customs. Captain Cabrera and Dr.
Dario Rozo M. were at the port to meet us. I learned at once
that Captain Cabrera, who was to be with me at all times,
spoke no English. With my meager Spanish, and because of the
fact that Cabrera could read English well while I could do
the same with written Spanish, we got along well and learned
a good deal in the process of communicating.
the end of June, we had completed the unpacking and assembling
of our instruments and had made our first observation at the
port of Buenaventura and we went to Cali for our second observation.
We liked the hotel in Cali. The help was always pleasant.
We returned to that hotel on several occasions and were always
received like long lost friends.
because of the drouth, the electrical current was low at times,
and the elevators would not function forcing us to negotiate
six flights of stairs the hard way.
Armenia - Cuba Libres - Ibague
took the railroad to Armenia, a small city in the Cordillera
Central. Our efficient Capt. Cabrera was able to arrange with
the railroad for Hansen and me to load and offload the gravity
instruments. This was most important because the interior
of the pendulum cases held mercury manometers. Had a tiny
drop of mercury fallen onto a pendulum and amalgamated with
it, the standardization would have been ruined. Just imagine
getting that kind of service on any American railroad.
Armenia, for the first time since leaving the United States,
Marian saw a Coca Cola sign. She came running to me to take
her over to the restaurant where she saw the sign. When they
were served, they were Cuba Libres. (Coca Cola with rum and
lime juice.) I finally made the waiter understand that Marian
wanted a plain Coca Cola, and he was most surprised. The only
reason for importing Coca Cola was as a mixer for rum. He
could not conceive of anyone drinking the mixer alone. However,
Marian got her plain Coke and I had two Cuba Libres.
then drove to Ibague, a city still in the Central Range, and
completed a swing there. Then we flew to Bogota.
Bogota, the Capital
short plane ride from Ibague to Bogota was beautiful because
of the huge spots of flowering trees in the mountains below
the plane. However, the flight was treacherous because of
the violent up and down drafts in the air. Marian and Corbin
were feeling upset because of the rough ride and were strapped
in their seat to hold in their stomachs. However, my seat
belt was not fastened and neither was that of the steward
who was seated in front of me. Both the steward and I hit
the ceiling of the plane when the plane suddenly hit an air
pocket and dropped abruptly about 100 feet. I had a blow on
the head which nearly stunned me. Thereafter I kept my seat
belt fastened until we landed.
altitude of Bogota is 9,000 feet, and it is always cool. After
a couple of nights at a hotel, Marian and Corbin found a place
to stay with a Colombian family of three sisters, all of whom
spoke excellent English. They made a great deal of Corbin.
They were also interested in the Girl Scouts and persuaded
Marian to speak to a Girl Scout Troop in Bogota. An account
of her talk appeared in the newspaper El Razon and stated
that she was a "delegate" of the Girl Scouts from the United
States. There is an excellent photograph of Marian and the
newspaper account of her talk in one of my scrap books.
hotel where we stayed briefly was a good one, but although
our room was on the 9th floor, we soon found that it was filled
with fleas. That is not the fault of the hotel. At 9000 feet,
there is a highland flea which was everywhere in the street,
and we carried them to the room on our clothes. We were able
to keep the room free of fleas by use of a flit gun as soon
as we came up from the street. I suppose by now the streets
are sprayed to free them of the pests.
Delegation of Congressmen
we were in Bogota and I was at the Servicio Geographico talking
with the Director, Dr. Hernando Posada Cuellar, a junketing
group of Congressmen came to visit the Servicio. One of them
was _____ of California. He was so drunk he could hardly walk.
He asked me what I was doing there and proceeded to cross-examine
me as if I were a criminal. I tried to explain the scientific
uses of gravity including the part it played in mapmaking.
To illustrate where I was establishing stations in Colombia,
I used an outline map with a scale of 1/10,000,000. That was
all he needed to prove we were wasting money. He shouted,
"You already have a map here! Why do you need another one?"
The other Congressmen were most embarrassed and signalled
me to cease trying to explain. When the group departed, _____
slammed the heavy plate glass so hard that he shattered the
Cuellar came over to me and threw his arms around my shoulders
and said, "No hace nada! Politicoes son siempre los mismos."
(Think nothing of it! Politicians are always the same.)
evening our embassador gave a cocktail party for the Congressmen,
and, fortunately, _____ was too drunk to attend. I was invited,
and, when the ambassador saw me enter the room, he came over
and said he wanted to apologize for _____. Of course, I told
him that an apology was not required and I told him about
the glass door and the remarks of Dr. Posada Cuellar. He said
that Dr. Posada had called him and said the same thing. The
incident was disgraceful and illustrates the fact that care
should be taken in whom we send abroad.
Bucaramanga - Medellin
went by train from Bogota to Bucaramanga, a small city north
and east of Bogota and situated at the edge of the jungle.
After we made an observation there, we left for Medellin,
a modern industrial city and university town, traveling by
car and bus. It is west of the Magdalena River, which we crossed
by ferry. The population of Medellin is largely Jewish, and
the city is most prosperous. The station site was in the university,
and they asked me to establish it in the physics laboratory.
While I was making the observation, they had a large brass
plaque made to set into the wall near the station site. It
contained the gravity data, my name, and the date the station
Voyage by River to
Baranquilla and Return
a river port east of Medellin on the Magdalena River, we boarded
a stern wheeler for a trip down the river to Baranquilla.
The hotel at Baranquilla was particularly fine, and we enjoyed
our stay. I found the hotel menus most interesting. I recall
one item which puzzled me at first until I tried to pronounce
it as I knew they would. The work was IRISTU which I soon
interpreted as IRISH STEW. It was a good dish too.
to constantly shifting sand bars, no fixed schedule could
be maintained by the river boats. Several times each day they
would be sure to go aground on a sand bar. We were lucky for
they always got off, although sometimes during periods of
drouth they might be grounded for extended periods.
at Baranquilla, we drove west to the famous castle (Cartagena)
of the conquistadors of Cartagena, which was built for the
defense of Colombia. It was the most massive fortification
of that type I have seen, and we enjoyed viewing it.
return trip took us two more days than the voyage down. The
boat pushed a barge ahead of it on which were cattle, pigs,
and sheep. Each day there were fewer, and one day, when I
arose early, I found out the reason. They had just butchered
and were swabbing down the deck. Having no refrigeration,
the meat served each day was freshly killed. I had wondered
why it was so tough.
we returned, we had to travel for a short distance by bus.
That was an experience due to the frequent stops for repairs.
Once the driver passed down the aisle asking for chewing gum.
After he collected some, he repaired a leak in his radiator
with the gum. That was apparently a common practice in Colombia.
Los Llanos - Vivavicencio - Puerto
Lopez and Malaria
jungle east of Bogota is known as Los Llanos (The Plains)
instead of La Selva (The Forest) in Peru. We made one trip
over the mountains to Los Llanos to establish two gravity
stations. This was particularly important, as they were drilling
oil wells in Los Llanos, and I was able to provide a base
station for the geophysical parties. The first station was
at Vivavicencio, a small town, and the second was at a river
port and was called Puerto Lopez. In the latter town with
a population of about 500, over half of them were ill with
malaria. Since we worked at night, even though we were indoors,
the mosquitoes swarmed about us. Although we continually used
a spray gun, it did not keep me from getting malaria. Shortly
after we returned to Buenaventura for our return to the United
States, I became ill with a violent case of tertian malaria.
More of that later.
Southern Colombia - Popayan - Pasto -
my original Colombia assignment was completed, the Colombians
obtained permission from the office for the establishment
of three more stations at Popayan, Pasto, and Ipiales in southern
Colombia. The terrain was rugged, and, in that type of terrain
in Peru and Colombia, the roads were one way on alternate
days. We traveled by a private car with a truck for the instruments.
Marian and Corbin were allowed to accompany me, although I
felt the permission was given grudgingly. Hansen and Captain
Cabrera also rode in the automobile. Gates and guards across
the road prevented travel on the wrong day.
was a quaint town which probably was little changed from the
early Spanish days. It was the home of Captain Cabrera and
he was delighted to be able to revisit it.
next station was in the more primitive town of Pasto, and
I was most surprised to receive an invitation from Governor
Hector Martinez Guerra to attend a reception at the Country
Club to meet Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Marian did not go as she
had attended a reception for him in Lima while I was in the
field. As I recall, there was no one to stay with Corbin at
the hotel. However, I attended, and it was a pleasant affair.
I talked at length with young Doug and found him most cordial
as Marian had also learned in Lima. I never did learn why
he was in that remote part of Colombia.
Pasto, Marian encountered some interesting medical missionaries
named Morgan from the United States who regaled her with tales
of how they were persecuted from time to time because they
were not Catholics. However, their work was strictly medical
among the Indians who came long distances for treatment and
final station was at Ipiales, on the border with Ecuador.
It was a very primitive town with a very poor hotel, and we
were most glad to depart.
We Depart for the
States from Buenaventura - I Return by Ship
completed the field work in Colombia and the final check swing
in Buenaventura, I came down with a vicious case of tertian
malaria which had obviously been acquired in Puerto Lopez.
Our Consul in Buenaventura was also agent for the Grace Line
and advised me to go back by ship. Hansen could use my air
passage as he stated. I understood later that there were certain
difficulties because of the switch, but it was smoothed over.
The young Consul told me that, if I went back by air, I would
surely be taken off the plane in Panama and quarantined for
an indefinite period.
a result, I was given a stateroom on the Santa Elena. That
was a hospital room for the entire trip, and I never left
it until we reached New York. By that time I had recovered
but was very weak. Although I had the blankets piled over
me and perspired profusely, I suffered from chills and fever
the entire trip.
I had an office assignment of considerable length in Washington
which allowed me to regain my strength. That assignment was
interrupted briefly by an assignment to accompany Professor
Kissam on a trip through Virginia, Maryland, and southern
Pennsylvania to establish some gravity stations with the Humble
Gravity Meter. I returned to the office and remained there
until March 1942. However, that stay was interrupted for a
month in the Marine Hospital in Baltimore where I was treated
with the new drugs atabrine and plasmoquin. They must have
been effective for on several later occasions I was in malaria
climates and never again acquired the ailment except once
which I will explain later.
fact, the day I entered the Marine Hospital was November 7th
and as I lay in my hospital bed one month later listening
to the radio news, I first learned of the attack on Pearl
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