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EVENTS & DISCOVERIES
August 13, 1956
LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN-AND AGAIN, A FEATHER FOR SOME WEIGHT, THE DANGERS OF GOING UP AND DOWN, DIRTY WORK IN GELSENKlRCHEN, AFTER THE GUEST LEFT
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August 13, 1956

Events & Discoveries

LIGHTNING STRIKES AGAIN-AND AGAIN, A FEATHER FOR SOME WEIGHT, THE DANGERS OF GOING UP AND DOWN, DIRTY WORK IN GELSENKlRCHEN, AFTER THE GUEST LEFT

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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.

PAYMENT IN FULL

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 the sunken Andrea Doria (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 on this Andrea Doria 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.

What had 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.

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