SI Vault
September 12, 1966
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 12, 1966


View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

Early on a recent morning, Mr. E. P. Wilcox of Grassy Key in southwest Florida awoke to find six two-ton whales lying on the beach behind his house. Being a Floridian and naturally charitable to all transients, Mr. Wilcox did what he could for his uninvited guests. For seven hours he poured water on the whales to keep the sun from blistering them until the state conservation department could drag them back out into the deep water of the Gulf. Before the day was out, 60 whales had swum ashore on Grassy Key. Milton Santini of Grassy Key carted two of the stranded lummoxes off to an enclosed bay. Intercepting another before it hit the beach, Santini led it by the flipper into captivity. (Santini is a porpoise trainer who supplies specimens to seaquariums, so for him the whale invasion was a windfall.) Twelve whales died on the beach, but the conservation department, working its head off, managed to get 45 of them back into deep water. When released, a dozen of these straightway swam back to shore and had to be towed out again.

Just about every year, like a pack of demented lemmings in reverse, whales commit mass suicide on some Florida beach, and no one knows exactly why. The best theory comes from a Dutch whaleologist, Dr. W. H. Dudok-Van Heel, who suggests that when deep-water whales move over a shallow, gently sloping bottom, the sonic signals they emit ricochet on ahead instead of bouncing back to them. As Dr. Dudok-Van Heel sees it, betrayed by their own signals, the whales panic and swim on, subsequently dying and putting up quite a smell. Whatever the explanation, some Floridians are resigned to living with it. When the whale invasion strikes near Crescent Beach, Fla., as it often does, residents simply pull out and take motel rooms inland until the air clears.

Just about everywhere on the beaches and beside the swimming pools of the world, puritanism is fast dying and the bikini is the order of the day. While the rest of the world has charged forward, exposing its navel and shedding its inhibitions at the water's edge, the city of Bloemfontein, deep in the stodgy heart of South Africa, has been stumbling around a modest step or two behind the times. Appalled by the behavior of local bathers, the city fathers of Bloemfontein passed regulations to keep couples from smooching or otherwise displaying their affection around municipal pools. At one pool the supervisory staff, enforcing the rules with extraordinary zeal, blew the whistle on any couple caught holding hands and further insisted that every man and woman on the premises stay at least 12 inches apart. When hoots and jeers of protest arose, the Bloemfontein officials realized their sober intentions had gone too far and blew the whistle on the overzealous pool attendants. Although hands off is still the rule, at any Bloemfontein pool today a bather is permitted to touch a member of the opposite sex when applying suntan lotion or performing any equally useful service.

The coyote, sly scamp of the Old West, is having a harder time now that his home grounds are getting crowded, but do not worry about him on that count, for he is an adaptable cuss and a gypsy at heart. Suddenly, Lord only knows how or why, the coyote has turned up in the heart of the Old South and has developed a taste for watermelons. Tennessee biologists estimate that there are now two or three dozen coyotes raiding the melon patches in Lincoln County, just north of the Alabama border. While inspecting the damage in one patch, Biologist Ed Penrod noticed that the coyotes had left muddy paw prints on a great many melons but had only opened ones that were juicy ripe. Knowing that the way to tell a ripe melon is to thump it, out of curiosity Penrod opened some of the melons that the coyotes had pawed and passed up. Every one of the unopened melons was green.

For the benefit of anyone still unaware that the U.S. is in the middle of a fierce pleasure-boating boom, we submit the latest shred of evidence from Foster City, Calif. The Safeway chain store in Foster City now wraps groceries in waterproof bags because so many women are capsizing in their boats while racing neighbors home from market.


Prompted by the droughts that have plagued the U.S. East Coast, Dr. Robert D. Gerard, an oceanographer of Columbia University, has seriously proposed that Long Island Sound, one of the country's busiest playgrounds, should be dammed at both ends to keep out the sea. If dammed, in about a decade it would become a freshwater reservoir that could supply a dozen New York Cities. In his proposal, Dr. Gerard cites three secondary benefits that would be derived. The dams, he suggests, would also serve as highways connecting Long Island and the mainland. The saltwater fish of the Sound, he feels, could be replaced by a freshwater culture in a better, pollution-free environment. Yachtsmen no longer would have to contend with tides or salt corrosion.

The best thing to do with these so-called secondary benefits, in our opinion, is to use them to punch holes in the dams that Dr. Gerard wants to build. The last thing that the overcrowded shores of Long Island Sound need is a connecting bridge that will make it easier for the motorists on either side to add to the congestion that already exists on the other. In touting the future fishing in the Sound, Dr. Gerard ignores the fact that, with the coming of the fresh water, the game wardens will also come, followed by hatchery biologists, conservationists, ecologists, limnologists and statisticians with clipboards—all bent on making the angler's carefree day more rewarding. When the salt goes out of the Sound, so will the angler's freedom. As for the yachtsman, when the tides are taken from him and the salt no longer corrodes his fittings and rots his underwear, he will be a yachtsman no more. He will become a Sunday sailor.

Damming proposals such as Dr. Gerard has made seem fanciful at first, but as the human population explodes, each such scheme gets more realistic, and in time becomes a necessary plan of action. Man, the superengineer, has never been able to regulate his own numbers. Instead, in desperation, he keeps tinkering with the natural plumbing, spoiling more and more of a world that was once altogether beautiful.

The Brunswick Corporation has added a new twist to the old bowling game. On the sides of a regulation alley Brunswick has placed elevated, cushioned gutters with guide spots painted on them. On the new alley the bowler has three options. He can play his shot straight to score 10 for a strike, as before. He can try a carom shot off one side for 15 points, or off both sides for 20, with 600, of course, being the perfect score for an unbroken run of double caroms. Brunswick has already set up carom alleys experimentally in Riverside, Calif., Glenwood, Ill., Garland, Texas, Yonkers, N.Y., East Detroit, Mich. and in Brentwood and Kansas City, Mo. It is too early to say how popular the new game will be. In any case, the new alleys are convertible. The bowler who does not care for the new game simply pushes a button to make the carom sides sink back to the level of old-fashioned gutters.

1 2