McCaslan Scaife entered the United States Coast and
Geodetic Survey on January 1, 1919, and retired from the C&GS
in 1954. During the 35 years that he served as an officer of
the C&GS, he became one of the most experienced field officers
in mountain triangulation in both the lower forty-eight states
and Alaska. He served on many ships of the Survey on both coasts
and in the Philippines. He received the Legion of Merit and
Bronze Star Medal while serving as the Commanding Officer of
the U.S.S. HYDROGRAPHER in the Aleutians and the western Pacific
during WWII. The following account traces the experiences of
his first year and a half in the C&GS and was obtained from
the William Scaife family of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Unfortunately,
although this account ends rather abruptly and would seem to
be but Volume I of a continuing biographical account, no continuation
of this diary has been found.
William Scaife led an adventurous life, this is a shame. For
instance, he was married later in 1920 after meeting his wife
in Southeast Alaska. She was a teacher at an Indian school,
and she and Scaife were married five days after meeting. For
the next few years, she and Scaife were inseparable as she accompanied
him on mountain triangulation in Idaho and Montana and then
into the interior of Alaska between Anchorage and Fairbanks.
This life involved months out of touch with civilization and
was accompanied by many dangers and hardships.
In the Philippines, Scaife put down a minor mutiny by pointing
a 45 cal. pistol in the belly of a ring-leader and told him
that he would use it if orders weren't followed. Fortunately
for all concerned, the crew chose to comply with orders at this
point. During WWII Scaife served with distinction and was involved
in combat operations in the Aleutian, Marianas, and Palau islands
while conducting hydrographic surveys in support of fleet operations.
document provides not only an account of one man's attitudes,
perceptions, and experiences, but in a way epitomizes the early
career of generations of Coast and Geodetic Survey officers.
These men and, since the 1970's, women of both the old Coast
and Geodetic Survey and today's NOAA Corps have been confronted
with difficult jobs in remote areas of the world. The spirit
with which William Scaife's challenges were met, one of enthusiasm,
perseverance, wonder at the natural world, and desire to contribute
to his organization and society as a whole, must have been an
inspiration to all with whom he crossed paths.
I should have started a diary on January 1, 1919, the day
that I entered the Coast and Geodetic Survey, but as I didn't,
I will give a brief summary of events from then up to the
present time, and then start a regular diary.
the three weeks which I spent in Washington with my people
after leaving the Army, I saw quite a bit of the Graves family,
who had become very good friends of ours. Capt. Graves was
a Chief of the Division of Hydrography and Typography in the
Coast and Geodetic Survey. He talked Coast Survey to me, and
finally I decided to try it. While I was attending to the
preliminary details of getting into the Coast Survey I exchanged
several letters and telegrams with Lowrie Burdette in regard
to his getting in also. On Dec. 31, 1918, I took the Oath
of Office as Deck Officer. My appointment became effective
Jan. 1, 1919. On the night of Dec. 31, 1918, I left Washington
with orders to report to Capt. Harry Leypoldt, in Miami, Fla.
I arrived in Miami on the morning of Jan. 2. As the captain
was out on the water I spent the day getting settled down.
For awhile the party had eleven officers, who blew in one
by one, Capt. Leypoldt, Mr. Okeson, Witherspoon, Wilbur, Mower,
Meany, Burdette, Bernstein, Albert, Malnate, and myself. Burdette
joined me on the night of Jan. 7. I was on the launch "Cracker"
with Okeson and Malnate practically the whole season. Mr.
Okeson is certainly a fine fellow, and he was a good friend
to Lowrie and me even if he did give us _____ at times. Lowrie
and I finally moved around to the Hotel "Glenbula," where
Mower, Wilbur, and Malnate were living. It was a nice place
and we had a great time there. Lowrie and I took steps to
join the Masons while in Miami, but were not there long enough
to get fixed up. I ran across the McFeeleys, Ben Boynton,
Rube Murray, Bill Blackmon, and others in Miami. We had quite
a time there, hearing Pryor's band, swimming, playing poker,