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EVENTS & DISCOVERIES
September 03, 1956
FOUNDATIONS GOING UP, TWENTY YEARS A JOLLY GOOD PITCHER, DECOYS WITH BUILT-IN APPETITES, A GLASS-BOTTOMED BOAT NOBODY CAN SEE THROUGH, GUEST GOLFER AT CYPRESS POINT
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September 03, 1956

Events & Discoveries

FOUNDATIONS GOING UP, TWENTY YEARS A JOLLY GOOD PITCHER, DECOYS WITH BUILT-IN APPETITES, A GLASS-BOTTOMED BOAT NOBODY CAN SEE THROUGH, GUEST GOLFER AT CYPRESS POINT

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MECHANICAL MALLARD

Duck hunting seems to be on the way to full automation—last year hunters were offered phonograph recordings of duck calls calculated to lure the most cynical canvasback out of the air, and last week a fellow named Robert M. Riley started quantity production of battery-powered, plastic mallard drake decoys which bob their heads into the water and raise them again like live birds savoring some delicious submarine banquet. The electric decoy not only seems to fascinate hunters (who are buying it voraciously at $17.95 a copy) but has driven a live mallard (which was incarcerated with it in a glass tank) to the edge of distraction. The live bird dived under it, swam around it, glared at it and, all in all, "just about went crazy."

Inventor Riley began developing the feeding decoy almost three years ago after racking his brains for a product which might beef up business in his electric motor rewinding shop in Portland, Ore. He spent weeks watching mallards feed at a Portland park and took motion pictures and innumerable still photographs in his quest for accuracy of color and animation. But it took a year to perfect the cam which operates the duck's head and longer to eliminate (by using plastic gears) the startling sounds which emanated from his early model.

Last autumn Riley felt his decoys were ready for testing. He took a set to a duck blind near Jefferson City, Ore., set them out without turning on the power and let a hunter summon wild birds with a duck call. Nothing happened. But when Riley started his decoys up, ducks began dropping down by the dozens. "They had to chase them off the water to shoot them." Riley and his hunting friends feel that a hunter needs only one animated duck per dozen ordinary decoys—the electrical bird lends authenticity to his motionless colleagues and also jiggles enough in calm water to stir up waves and lend them movement. Riley has now shipped 3,500 of his ducks around the U.S., has a new factory at Eugene, Ore., which is producing 700 decoys a day and believes he will soon have enough leisure to correct a glaring gap in his own background: he has never hunted a duck in all his life.

O'ER A PERFUMED SEA...

Honeysuckle, verbena and other fine, old-fashioned plantings bloom along the lawns of Havre de Grace, Md., enough of them to make the whole town smell like a midsummer garden. Yet sometimes, when the wind is off the Susquehanna, a far headier scent than verbena drifts over the back fences. It is Arp�ge, a perfume by the French house of Lanvin. It has been around for two months now, ever since a 16-ounce bottle of it ($275, plus luxury tax) was used to christen a ketch.

It was not an ordinary christening, and not an ordinary boat. The Arp�ge, at 42 feet over-all, is a pioneer experiment in plastic boats. The technique for building her flashed into the mind of a young French engineer named Jean Filloux on a movie set in Hollywood, when he saw how sheets of Fiberglas plastic were stretched over light wooden frames and painted to resemble rocks, tree trunks, stone fences and other bits of scenery. M. Filloux knew that small plastic boats had been built on molds, but he needed a big one—big enough to take a crew of four on a scientific expedition to the South Pacific—and he couldn't begin to finance a boat made of conventional materials and by conventional methods.

So he built himself a framework, covered it with a thin shell of mahogany and covered the mahogany with 30 layers of Fiberglas. It was something like putting on layer after layer of wallpaper. Finally, he turned the shell right-side up, removed the framework, poured 4� tons of concrete ballast into the hollow mahogany-and-plastic keel, and there stood Arp�ge. It was as simple as that—except that it took two years of hard work by Filloux and others, and the generosity of a great many people.

Arp�ge was designed by a marine architect named George R. Hofmann. The glass cloth for her hull was given by the Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corporation, and the polyester resins used in bonding the glass sheets came (free) from the American Cyanamid Co. One after another, large but by no means soulless corporations, fascinated by M. Filloux's boat and by his audacious plans for using their products, gave him what he asked for. Servel, Inc. offered a refrigerator for preserving film in the tropics. Evinrude gave a motor for the dinghy, and Mercedes-Benz supplied the main engine. Now M. Filloux, who stood penniless on a Hollywood set at 29, commands a $60,000 expedition at 31. He has been commissioned by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the Weather Bureau of France and other organizations to make studies of ocean waves and the low atmosphere over the ocean.

M. Filloux is short, dark, capable and calm. He holds two degrees in engineering from French schools. He first came to this country in 1951, arriving on a 47-foot catamaran which he and three companions had sailed across the Atlantic. He wrote a book about this voyage, scouted around the U.S. for a while and got married. His wife, Odette, will maintain the expedition's headquarters in New York while the Arp�ge is in the South Pacific, but first Filloux plans to shake down the equipment and crew in Florida waters this fall. He and three fellow scientists will head for the Panama Canal in December.

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