National Geographic : 1989 Jan
On Assignment ETTING HIS TEETH into the subject on his 35th assign ment for the magazine, Assistant Editor PETER T. WHITE (above) sampled coca leaf extract laced with sulfuric acid during illegal processing of cocaine in Colombia. "It tasted like gasoline," Peter said; the processor decreed,"It's just right." In Bolivia an elderly woman showed Peter how to bundle dried leaves of the herb into a cheek-filling wad, as highlanders have for centuries. The leaves warded off his hun ger and thirst for 12 hours. "As Rosa predicted, 'it sleeps your stomach,' " he says. On his first assignment for the magazine, photographer JosE AZEL (above right) found that even people legally involved with cocaine didn't want to be photographed. These Colom bian police at the Miraflores air field loosened up after Spanish speaking Jose befriended them. Born in Cuba, a refugee at age seven, Jose earned his master's degree in journalism at the University of Missouri. After five years as a Miami Herald photographer he went free lance to do more in-depth stories. Coca proved one of these. "It took immense con centration and persistence to overcome resistance. In fact, it was a lot like rock climbing, my favorite hobby," says Jose. Resting atop Steens Mountain in Oregon, DOUGLAS H. CHAD WICK (below) was at it again roaming the West. For this issue he sought the essence of sage brush country, mythic heart of America, by walking 500 miles, riding horseback for 200, and driving some 30,000 more. Chad found his calling at age six, when he served as chief bot tle washer in his father's geology field camps. "I spent all my time collecting beetles and watching birds," he recalls. When he learned he could earn a master's degree by studying wild mountain goats in the Rockies, he leaped at the chance. Seven years later he had his degree, an article in the July 1977 GEOGRAPHIC, and a new home-a cabin beside Montana's Glacier National Park. You'll still find him in Montana with his wife and two children, ex cept when he's trekking across Namibia, Nepal, or the Soviet Union, reporting on the people and animals who share the land. "Politics, economics, and finally human freedom and dignity, all these things rest on the natural environment," he believes.