Jimmy Kilroe, on
the other hand, had to think of other horses besides Nashua. In other words, he
had to weight the big 4-year-old on past performance, and that is just what he
did. Nashua, who had won his last two starts with 128 and 129 pounds
respectively, was due for an extra load.
It is a feather
in Kilroe's hat that he refused to be stampeded by Combs's ultimatum. Racing is
much the better for such men, who call them as they see them and put the
integrity of their trade ahead of the box office.
The snowy peak of
Mt. Hood rising 11,245 feet in the Cascade Range of Oregon is a fair challenge
for an average mountaineer. A thousand or more accept the challenge every
summer. Sunday of last week a rope chain of 18 novice boys and girls, led by
one guide, had by early afternoon won the top and were working back down. A few
minutes after 3 o'clock someone in the middle of the chain lost his footing,
pulling another and another climber down with him. In one terrible moment the
whole line was scrambling, falling, sliding on an ice-slick chute. In another
moment all 19 were gone from the mountain face. They lay in a bloody pile at
the bottom of a 30-foot crevasse. Some moaned; some lay quiet. One died.
Why did it
happen? Few in the string had ever worked a glacial mountain before. Less than
half carried ice axes with which they might have halted their wild slide. The
19 had been strung close on a 120-foot line where sound mountain sense dictates
a maximum of five or six. It was tragedy compounded of these several errors. A
lodge manager, Richard Kohnstamm, who had seen them off and been among the
first to the rescue, offered another reason. "The lodge and the highway
make Mt. Hood so accessible, people just forget where they are."
In this same week
it seemed that another realm had also become too accessible. Within a few days
after two competent sports divers had gone down 160 feet to the high side of
(SI, Aug. 6) three larger expeditions were following
suit. In 12 feet of water, 200 yards off the Nantucket Coast Guard station, the
largest of these expeditions was checking out its equipment. They were using
standard, proven makes of breathing units of the demand regulator type, but
there was available one experimental breathing apparatus of a different sort,
known generally as a "rebreather."
The most expert
diver, using any one of a variety of rebreathers, must be constantly on guard
against one or more hazards. The essential theory of rebreathers violates a
basic rule for sports equipment: safety based on simplicity of operation.
Two of the divers
expedition declined trying the rebreather that had been
brought aboard. Twenty-three-year-old Bill Edgerton, as good a diver as any of
them, thought it was worth at least a shallow water test. After one successful
dive with his instructor, Dr. Christian Lambertsen, he went down for a second
try. Lambertsen followed, but as he now relates: "...he swam away from
me." After trying to contact Edgerton by underwater megaphone, the other
divers began an all-out search. Within a half hour of Edgerton's first descent
they found him lying 12 feet down, less than 40 yards from the boat.
happened? Using non-sports equipment that exposed him to unwarranted hazards,
and unwittingly or purposely leaving his swimming mate, Edgerton had died of
anoxia, lapsing into unconsciousness for lack of oxygen without knowing he
needed any. He doubtless died, as Dr. Lambertsen informed the local medical
examiner, "like a man dropping off to sleep."
Any man is free
to try for the top of a mountain and equally free to do what he will in 12 feet
of water. There are only unwritten, common-sense laws grounded on such sobering
experiences as those last week. These unwritten laws are enforced by a
terrible, freakish justice. A dozen violators may be let off free. The next one
may pay in full.