SI Vault
August 19, 1963
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August 19, 1963


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For the past several years duck hunters have been restricted by short hunting seasons and small bag limits. The reason, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been drought in the northern breeding grounds. Ducks Unlimited, dedicated to the preservation of waterfowl shooting, has insisted that the government's waterfowl count was far too low and that hunters were being penalized unnecessarily (SI, Aug. 20, 1962). Low limits caused many a sportsman to give up duck hunting, and last year sale of duck stamps dipped to 1,047,565, lowest since the years of World War II, when many a duck hunter was preoccupied with another kind of shooting.

This year the news is better. Ducks Unlimited says waterfowl production in Canada's prairie provinces is the best since 1957. Last week federal authorities predicted an increase in the number of ducks in all four flyways and recommended more liberal hunting regulations for the coming season. These will be disclosed in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, to sharpen the hunter's recognition of species and thereby prevent unnecessary and illegal kills, Fish and Wildlife has published Ducks at a Distance, an excellent pocket-size waterfowl identification guide that portrays 28 species of ducks and 10 of geese, most of the ducks in color. The booklet also gives typical habitat for each species and shows silhouette and flight patterns. It even attempts to imitate calls since, it points out, "not all ducks quack. Many whistle, squeal or grunt."

Copies are available free, from state fish and game departments and at sporting goods stores. We would suggest, though, that next year Fish and Wildlife make a good thing better—by issuing the booklet with each duck stamp and requesting that hunters carry a copy each time they go afield.

When John Cobb drove 394.2 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947 he had a 14-mile track, smooth as glass. This year, as Craig Breedlove (see page 46) raced 428.37 in his jet-powered car he had only nine � miles, and four of them too rough for safety. Breedlove holds that a potash company, draining the south end for minerals, is leaving the surface salt a thin shell over a sea of mud. Now he has quietly opened a campaign to make the Salt Flats a national preserve. "It's the only place in the world where land speed records can be made," he says, "and it's a natural wonder. In 10 years it will be good for nothing but an atom bomb site."


The world's deepest known cave is Le Gouffre Berger, a pothole named for the Grenoble photographer and speleologist, Jo Berger, who discovered its 18-foot mouth 4,745 feet up in the Alps in 1953. Three years later an international team of spelunkers descended 3,681 feet into the limestone cavern and thereby set a world record for potholing

Then last year barrel-chested, bespectacled Ken Pearce of Manchester, England went down just as deep. He could go no farther because, like Berger, he was stumped by an underground river. The only way to go on would be to dive and swim, and that called for aqualungs. But Pearce, a teacher of metallurgy at Manchester's College of Science and Technology, has two main hobbies—pot-holing and skindiving.

A few weeks ago Pearce and a team of 12 volunteers from Britain stepped smartly down a narrow ladder into the heart of an Alp. Their quest: a world descent record.

They could carry no telephone lines, and so there was no way to communicate with them. Slowly, while wives and friends waited above, the 13 progressed downward through huge, dead, silent, black caverns. It was depressingly humid, and the temperature hovered at 40�. Waterfalls with drops of 150 feet drenched them. Over some areas they had to swim, others they managed to negotiate with rubber boats. Finally, they reached the underground river. It had taken a week of subterranean living.

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