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[Aslakson, Carl I. [1980] Earth Measurer. Excerpt from unpublished manuscript.]

5 of 9

The Middle Years: Geodesy, Gravity, and Astronomy

New York, Philadelphia, and Washington

We 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.

Mother 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.

Although 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 duty.

Garden Reception at the White House

The 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 name.

Transfer to Geodesy

After 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.

He 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.

Gallen 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 per month.

While 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 the house.

New Orleans Mardi Gras

By 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.

Finally 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.

Marian 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.

Our 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 nor write).

My First Base Measuring Party

Before 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.

All 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.

We 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.

One 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.

Miss 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.

One 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.

At 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 tie.

Our 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 home.

One 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 the waist.

Mountain Triangulation

After 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.

Enroute 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.

In 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.

When 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.

We 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.

Our 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.

On 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.

Upon 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

Marian's 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.

From 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.

I 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.

While 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

After 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.

The 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 Del Rio

On 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.

While 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.

Langtry 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.

On 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 sufficed.

Northers - Snow Storms - Dust Storms

Meanwhile 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.

Following 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.

Marian 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 Texas "Norther".

In February she moved to Del Rio and it snowed there for the first time in fifteen years. So much for western Texas winter weather.

Enroute 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.

In 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

Having 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

The 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

One 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.

One of their professors was less efficient as he was nearly killed. He barely got off the track in time.

The Bank Holiday

As 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 movies.

When 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.

It developed that the same place had rented to one of the Astors the previous season (three months) for $5000. We were living in style.

At 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

That 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.

While 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.

The 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.

Two 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.

When 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.

We 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.

At 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 in.

We 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 die out.

One 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 many retapings.

Return to Triangulation

Following 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.

The 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.

In 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.

In 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 efficient.

Walt 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.

As 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 officers.

Army Majors Pay Their "Respects"

At 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.

We also had toilet tents appropriately marked.

One 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 visited.

The Alexandria arc ran southward to connect with the Coastal arc at New Orleans. There we also occupied some stations on buildings in the city.

Marian 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

Marian 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.

Because 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.

The 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.

As 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.

As 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 nature.


On 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.

Lightkeepers 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 corned beef.

Maxine Loses Her Bathing Suit

As 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

One 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 later.

My Mathematics Professor From the University of Michigan

Through 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

We 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.

Marian 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.

Marian 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 his re-election.

We 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 Marian.

Uncle 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.


I 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 possibility.

Our Truck Driver Fire Siren

One 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.

However, 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

I 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 old age.

Mother Passes Away - Marian Loses Many Relatives Including Her Father

Mother 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.

Shortly 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 for us.

Main Party Leaves for Brownsville, Texas, to Work North

Tryon Works North from Del Rio

We 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.

We 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.

Again 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.

From 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.

Salaries 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.

For 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.

On 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

That 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.

Meanwhile, 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.

I 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.

I Assume Charge of a Gravity Field Party

One 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.

Gravity 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.

Before 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.

As 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.

Test of Vening Meinesz Submarine Gravity for Use on Land

Following 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.

We 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.

At 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

That 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 New York

Except 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 devised.

A 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 confused.

Meany 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."

I 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.

At 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 were made.

In 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!"

That 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.

Consultation With the Baltimore Metropolitan District - The Ardmore TWP.

After 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.

The 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.

I Again Begin Field Work of Gravity

Hoskinson 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.

As 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.

However, 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.

The 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

In 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.

It 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

From 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

After concluding my leveling projects, I was in charge of numerous miscellaneous projects which occupied me until May 1940.

In 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.

In 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.

At both Wright Field and Buckley Field I also measured five- kilometer speed courses.

During 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.

Another 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 Survey.

A 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.

As 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.

My 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.

Shortly 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."

Sometime 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 for distribution.

Gravity Observations in Peru and Colombia, South America

From 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.

Both 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 earth.

In 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 project.

Participation in Solar Eclipse Project - Marian and Corbin Arrive in Lima

While 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.

Marian 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.

The 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.

Col. 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 Japanese Spies

Hansen 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.

Finally 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".

The Hope Morris Pension and the Pachamanca

The 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.

Hope was a cousin of Wally Warfield (Wally Simpson) who became the Duchess of Windsor.

When 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.

The 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.

The other young man, Gordon Grayson, was the son of the well-known White House physician. He was modest and well liked.

Hope 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.

Final Preparation for Expedition - Pendulum Standardization

We 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.

Our 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.

We 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.

When 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.

Huaris - Our First Mountain Station - My Earthquake Prediction

Piura 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.

Our 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.

I 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.

During 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 books.

I 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.

Enroute to Juliaca on Lake Titicaca - Serouche or Mountain Sickness

We 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 soup.

As 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 altitude sickness.

The 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.

On 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

We 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.

The 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.

Some 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.

In Lima we completed our repairs, made another pendulum "swing" as a recalibration, and returned to San Jeronimo.

We 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 uncomfortable night.

Paul Leddig and the Astronomic Observatory - A Trip into La Selva

We 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 of feet.

The 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.

Continuing 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.

That 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.

Before 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.

During 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.

The 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.

The Railroad Hung From Skyhooks

The 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.

At 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 Mountains

Sanitation 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.

In 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.

We 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 street.

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.

At Juliaca, the menu in the dining room had the item "PANQUEQUE ROLLADO CON MERMALADA." That item was easy to understand, "PANCAKES ROLLED WITH MARMALADE."

I Address the Peruvian Academy of Sciences in Spanish

Upon 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.

Understandably, 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 the language.

I 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.

Another newspaper, El Commercio, headlined "En el Academia Nacional Ciencias Exactus"

Fisicas, y Naturales El Senor Carl Aslakson diserto' sobre "El use de los Observaciones de la Gravidad."

It also was a fine technical description of what I had said in my speech.

The 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:

"El 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

In 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.

Captain 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.

Col. 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.

Later 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

Two incidents occurred in Peru which were a striking illustration of class distinctions.

On 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.

On 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.

Gravity Observations In Colombia

After 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.

Our 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.

By 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.

However, 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

We 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.

At 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.

We then drove to Ibague, a city still in the Central Range, and completed a swing there. Then we flew to Bogota.

Bogota, the Capital of Colombia

The 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Our Visiting Delegation of Congressmen

While 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 glass.

Dr. 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.)

That 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

We 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 was established.

Voyage by River to Baranquilla and Return

From 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.

Due 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.

While 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.

Our 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.

When 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

The 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 - Ipiales

Although 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.

Popayan 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.

The 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.

In 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 medical supplies.

Our 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

Having 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.

As 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.

Fortunately, 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.

In 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 Harbor.

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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