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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Be Your Own Navigator

"Present day navigators are apt to place so much reliance on mechanical and tabular aids that we sometimes forget that primitive peoples were able to voyage over a large part of the world without any such devices. A study of these primitive methods shows that there are many valuable aids we have neglected or forgotten, and that a continued reliance on mechanical aids places us in a very helpless position when deprived of them. In the lore of the sea and the sky one can still find those fundamental and simple means which gave early man confidence and enabled him to find his way on the trackless seas."
So wrote the 20th-century’s master navigator of both sky and sea, Harold Gatty (1903-1957), in his beguiling The Raft Book. Last fall, the United States Naval Academy reintroduced the requirement of a formal course in celestial navigation after an absence of nearly two decades from the curriculum. At that time, this nifty publication, its title and author unknown to me, needed to be cataloged for the National Air & Space Museum Library’s special collections. 

The book’s covers are blue heavy paper stock, embossed in silver with a majestic, soaring albatross upon a field of stars. Within its original slipcase are also two large folding leaves containing tables for navigation computations, scales for measuring distance ("Greenwich date and hour scales”) and a unique world-wide chart. What librarian could resist a survival book that first acknowledges one of its own, C. R. Taylor of the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, New Zealand? Isn’t my profession all about navigating through an ocean of information? 

While an interesting, well-illustrated, carefully thought-out, and concise specimen of book production, The Raft Book is both a training manual (on shore) and a survival guide (at sea). An errata slip in the first edition of 1943 states: “For service use in rafts and lifeboats the book will be waterproofed and will have spiral plastic binding. The book and charts will be contained in a waterproofed envelope.”  It directs the reader to always carry a pocket watch set to Greenwich Time in order to determine longitude. How to protect that valuable piece?: “get a rubber sack (obtainable from pharmacist) for it and keep it dry.”  
"Harold Gatty instructs an Air Corps officer in the use of the drift indicator he invented" National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (link here)
Gatty wrote The Raft Book here in Washington, D. C., at the behest of the U. S. Army Air Forces for pilots flying over the Pacific, and perhaps always with an eye toward others such as fishermen and sailors. He is the sole author and, with his (second) wife, the copyright holder, not the U. S. Government. Gatty was ideally suited for the task. He had first learned navigation as a midshipman at the Royal Australian Naval College and then celestial wayfaring by his own observations stargazing on long voyages. Landing in California, Gatty taught marine navigation to yachtsmen at his own school in Los Angeles before taking on the challenges of charting routes in the skies with both celestial navigation and dead reckoning. Philip Van Horn Weems became his mentor at his navigational school in San Diego and the two had a long collaboration.

Gatty was navigator to pilot Wiley Post during their world record circumnavigation of the globe in 1931. Touching down in Roosevelt Field on Long Island, having bested the 21-day record set by the airship Graf Zeppelin, they were feted with an exuberant ticker-tape parade that only New York City can provide. The two wrote Around the world in eight days: the flight of the Winnie Mae, with an introduction by Will Rogers. They rivaled Charles Lindbergh in popularity. Post, the high-altitude aviator in the Golden Age of Aviation who discovered the jet stream, and Rogers, humorist, writer, social commentator, and actor, were killed together in 1935 when their plane crashed in the Territory of Alaska. 
Lockheed Vega "Winnie Mae" National Air and Space Museum
Not as well remembered today is the innovative, resourceful Gatty whom Lindbergh anointed the “Prince of Navigators.” Roscoe Turner, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Clyde Pangborne, Howard Hughes, Arthur Goebel, Harold Bromley, and Pan American Airways all turned to Gatty for his expertise and advice. In 1932 he was appointed Senior Aerial Navigation Engineer for the U. S. Army Air Corps. 

Of special value to the military at the start of World War II in the vast, still largely uncharted Pacific was Gatty’s long study of Polynesian seafaring skills over millennia. In The Raft Book, Gatty laid out simple and practical methods of determining location and charting a course to shore in a lifeboat or dinghy without a map and compass. The book describes how Polynesians viewed the stars as moving bands of light. “They knew the stars which passed over particular islands, and used these stars as heavenly beacons to lead them to their destination.” Along with the ability to measure distance from the Equator by either the North Star or the Southern Cross and other celestial bodies, the author explains how all the senses were to be employed for survival with the “lore of the sea and sky.”  

For example, Gatty describes how seafarers should pay attention to the light at dawn, the appearance of clouds, and the currents and wave patterns of the ocean. In addition, familiarity with the habits of sea and land birds, fishes and insects can be used as navigational aids, and will enable a hungry castaway to more easily catch these creatures for food when necessary. Less obvious senses can have an essential role in survival on the ocean, as well. Such as being alert to scent: “I have personally experienced the fragrance of new-mown hay 80 miles off the New Zealand coast in the springtime.” And sounds from land: “The roar of heavy surf may be heard long before the shore is seen. At night, the continued cries of sea-birds from one particular direction will signify their roosting place on land.” Looking at the directions of the wind, waves, and swells, can also be aids for a castaway. Understanding the color of the sea and even testing the temperature of the water with one's fingers are also part of the "lore" in the book.

Other editions of The Raft Book—in a smaller type, with fewer of the colored plates, less of a lyrical cover, and waterproofed—soon became part of the survival kits of all Allied airmen serving in the Pacific Ocean theater. The publication portrays the world’s oceans not as indifferent or hostile but teeming with life, with routes voyaged for centuries by many cultures, including the Phoenicians, the Arabians, and the Vikings. Gatty conveyed his deep knowledge of using the sea and sky and their movements to find one’s way to land, interspersed with quotes from Shakespeare, Dante, and William Cullen Bryant, not at all pretentiously but to underline a particular lesson. 

                                        Now do I lay the bows of my canoe
                                        To the rising of the Sun, nor deviate from there
                            Straight to the land, to the Fatherland
Ancient Maori Karakia

Post-war, Gatty continued to chart his own course in life. Despite various U. S. military appointments and honors, he kept his Tasmanian citizenship (Congress had to pass special bills to accommodate his request to remain an un-naturalized citizen despite his official positions). Gatty found his way to Fiji, where he owned the island of Katafanga, ran a plantation, served in the Legislature, created Fiji Airlines, and continued to study ancient wayfaring. Gatty’s last work, Nature is your guide, was published posthumously. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage in August 1957. 

Gatty’s The Raft Book, as perhaps the U. S. Navy has discovered, is still relevant today as we have become ever-more reliant on high-tech instruments, on land in a car, out at sea in a boat, and in the skies in an aircraft. Increasingly dependent on sophisticated but vulnerable technology, know that one can still be one’s own navigator.  

Julia Blakely, Special Collections Cataloger

Johnston, Andrew K., Roger D. Connor, Carlene E. Stephens, and Paul E. Ceruzzi. Time and navigation: the untold story of getting from here to there. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2015.

Winnie Mae Newsreels

US Army Air Corps Avigation Training


Monday, January 18, 2016

Observing from the Air: The Theodore E. Boyd World War I Collection

Theodore E. Boyd was a 24-year-old teacher from Tennessee when the United States entered World War I in 1917. Boyd initially volunteered for Reserve Officers Training School at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. He then accepted a commission to be a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery Section. In France, Boyd served with the 88th Aero Squadron (Attached), 7th Field Artillery, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF).

In 2012, the National Air and Space Museum Archives received the Theodore E. Boyd World War I Collection (Acc. No. 2013-0016) and through the documents in the collection—correspondence, photographs, military orders, flight logs, and memoirs—we can reconstruct Boyd’s World War I experience.

Boyd volunteered to serve as an officer in the reserves because he was hoping the rank would serve him well in a planned career in law when the war was over. The transition to military life was difficult for many civilians and Boyd showed a sense of humor about training camp in a May 1917 letter:
“Great is militarism! For it maketh the once slovenly and inefficient ex-pedagog laboriously scrub and polish his rifle two hours, only to be told on inspection that there is rust in the muzzle, dust in the screw-heads, and that the cause thereof is damned laziness.”
He then signed the letter, “Militaristically, Theo,” with a postscript, “Don’t take my cussing out too seriously. Half the company had to clean the rifles over again, and my lecture was a mild one comparatively speaking.”

Military identification card for Theodore E. Boyd as a second lieutenant in the 7th Field Artillery regiment, serving as a military observer.  Image: NASM 9A12577
Upon arriving in France in fall 1917, Boyd was trained as a military observer. In this role, he would accompany a pilot in a flight over enemy lines, identify targets, and send the position information to the artillery via a wireless transmitter.

Boyd wittily captioned this photo: "Favorite position of the G-4."  This aircraft, nosed over on landing at Tours, France, in February 1918, is actually a Caudron G.3.  Image: NASM 9A11906
Boyd was required to take many training courses in France, including artillery school, observers’ school, and machine gun instruction.

Page from the flight log (carnet de vols) for Second Lt. Theodore E. Boyd from the École de Tir Aerien de Cazaux (a French aerial gunning school) from June-July 1918.  Image: NASM 9A12578-A

On September 14, 1918, Boyd was charged with protecting an aerial photo mission over Conflans, France. According to a citation from his friend and pilot that day, Kenneth P. Littauer:
“…He engaged in combat with five enemy pursuit machines of the Pfalz type. He was wounded in both legs, the left foot and right elbow by explosive bullets. In spite of his wounds he succeeded, by a remarkable display of courage and tenacity in keeping up the fire of his guns until the attacking planes were put to flight. During the return to the Allied lines, Lieut. Boyd, although faint with pain and loss of blood, assisted his pilot, whose machine was disabled and coming down under control, in choosing the shortest route to safety.”
For his actions, Boyd was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.  He was also awarded the Silver Star for earlier gallantry in action.  He spent the rest of the war convalescing in a military hospital and on the last day of the war had been ordered report for return transport to the United States. He continued his correspondence with Littauer after the war. (Interesting side note: Littauer would go on to be an editor at Collier’s magazine and literary agent for author Kurt Vonnegut.)

Second Lieutenant Theodore E. Boyd receives the Distinguished Service Cross. He is still using a cane as the result of his injuries. NASM 9A11910
After the war, instead of becoming a lawyer, Boyd went to medical school and taught physiology for 24 years at Loyola University in Chicago. In 1947, he joined the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis where for twenty 20 years he served as assistant director, and then director, of the Research Department.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Boyd wrote dozens of letters to his children and grandchildren recalling his service in World War I with well-crafted tales of training and flying at the front in France. Theodore E. Boyd died in 1986 at the age of 92.

This blog post is also cross-posted at the National Air and Space Museum's AirSpace blog.

Elizabeth C. Borja
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Researching Druids

I recently researched a scientist by the name of Druid Wilson in order to create his EAC-CPF record-- EAC schema provides a way of delineating a collection creator's biographical details. I do this type of research because our collection creators commonly don't have archival collections with finding aids or published biographies.
Specimens collected by Druid Wilson in the Paleobiology Collections of the National Museum of Natural History. Clockwise from top left: Maretia carolinensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398338), Rhyncholampas gouldii newbernensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398324), Echinocyamus wilsoni Kier, 1997 (PAL 398476), and Psammechinus carolinensis Kier, 1997 (PAL 398321)
When I began my research, I figured I had three details in my favor. He worked for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), his name is unique, and he published articles with USGS. Given that he was published, worked for a major federal agency, and had an unusual name, I thought finding basic details would be relatively easy. How many Druid Wilsons could there be? 

According to my research, there may be more than one, and both had a demonstrated interest in paleontology. What are the chances?

I started with my favorite online platforms: VIAF, Google, JStor, and through Smithsonian Libraries. I found a tantalizing bit of information in a JStor article about proposed members in Journal of Paleontology from September 1949:

"WILSON, DRUID, Frostproof, Fla. B.S., 1929, Southern College, Lakeland, Fla. Citrus grower and amateur paleontologist. Interested in Tertiary invertebrata. Proposed by Katherine V. W. Palmer and G. D. Harris."

I checked and found that life dates that appeared to be for possibly two different Druid Wilsons, approximately 1906 - 2002. My confusion was due to the locations listed in Ancestry. It appeared as if one Druid lived his entire life in Florida and the other didn't. Most long term USGS staff live in the Washington DC area. Florida didn't make sense. However, as I began to catalog his papers, I found a significant portion of them covered the paleontology of Florida. I found a listing for a Druid Wilson in Alexandria, VA, which made more sense geographically.

If I could trust the bits I found online, I could say he was born around 1906, lived in Florida, primarily Frostproof. He earned a B.S. from Florida Southern College. Druid was originally a citrus grower who developed an interest in paleontology, and later worked for U.S. Geological Survey. He married Ethel Adams Wax in 1941 (source: Florida Department of Health), and passed away around 2002.

I would love to think that we have the field notes of a former citrus grower. I want to find out how he became fascinated by paleontology. However, I don't even know Druid Wilson's middle initial to confirm his identity. If there are two Druids, their life dates are also similar.

To add to this mystery, I found a Smithsonian form for official travel, listing travel to Frostproof, Florida in 1978 in volume 7 of his notes on Florida!

With more time and research, I may be able to determine that they are indeed the same person. This brings up a difficult question of balancing time with other work responsibilities. I am personally tantalized by the potential story, but will have to leave the bread crumbs for a future researcher or staff member. The details I leave behind must be definitive and verifiable, so that the EAC record makes an excellent trail of crumbs.

Lesley Parilla, Cataloger
The Field Book Project