National Geographic : 1948 Aug
KeepingHouse for aBiologist inColombia BY NANCY BELL FAIRCHILD BATES WithIllustrations from Photographs by Marston Bates OUR decisiontogotoSouth America was made inmid-ocean inJune, 1940, when we were fleeing home from Egypt where the war hadmade my husband's work impossible. Both Marston and Ihad been brought up in the semitropicalregion of south Florida. He and my brotherSandy had caught butter flies along the dimtrails ofthe Royal Palm State Park and hunted tree snails inthe ham mocks of the Everglades. Ifvery good, I was sometimes allowed totrail along behind. With the years,Marston's interest inthe processes of livingthings had led him through Central America, Haiti, Cuba, and finally over to a laboratory in Albania where hespent four years with the Rockefeller Foundation study ing the mosquitoesthat transmit malaria.* Although primarily interested inmusic, I had become so steeped inthe ways of scien tists that it was certain Ishould marry some one of that calling.Somyastonishment over our wedding was due only tothe fact that my husband had beengrowing up right under my nose, the one person Ihad always taken for granted as Sandy'sgreat friend. The Lureof aLaboratory In Albania my latent love ofprimitive and far-off places begantocome out. InEgypt where we spent ten months among the mil lions that crowd the Nile Valley,t this love became a longing for solitude. Here, too, a laboratory becameless aplace where Itried hard not to showmy ignorance and more a world in itself where the most fascinating things went on. In his laboratorythe curiosity ofthe Boss had full scope, andhisexperiments resulted in a number of important discoveries about the private lives ofmosquitoes. Ilearned to speak casually of larval ecology, species dis tribution, and similar "profound" matters, while he got usedtohaving me nose about and often gave melittle jobs todo. Thus equipped, itwas almost aforegone conclusion that wewould choose the Tropics when it came to adiscussion of where we should go next. "I should like totry Villavicencio," said the Boss. "Where's that?"Iwondered. "In Colombia," hesaid, "just southeast of Panama. The capital isBogota." "Oh," Isaid, waiting tosee what followed. "Villavicencio isinthe hot-country Tropics, and Dr. Lewis Hackett, who was there, says it isswell, with lots of animals and jungle." And soitwas that we asked for, and indue course received, our transfer toVillavicencio. Bogota, and aBaby October found usinBogota installed inasmall rented house awaiting the arrival of our first baby. While waiting there was plenty todoand learn, and all ofitinSpanish. The Boss made periodic trips down tosee about ahouse, tolook over the laboratory and the country. But heisnot very observant ofthe details that awoman wants, soIgot little inkling ofthe place where we were tolive forsomany years. Inthe cold, damp atmosphere ofBogota, where the mean temperature is57° F.and the altitude 8,660 feet, itwas hard torealize that wewere only afew degrees north ofthe Equator.: Itwas harder still torealize that only afew hours by car down the mountainside itwas hot and golden, truly "tropical" inthe romantic sense ofthe word. Iwould sitby the open fire, curtains drawn against awet, gray after noon, and dream ofthe day when we should setoff for the land of warmth and light. That day did come finally, sixweeks after little Marian was born, and itdawned bright and clear. Apile ofbags, boxes, and brown paper parcels accumulated inthe hall. The truck came by totake on alast load; the cook packed us afew sandwiches-"just incase, Sefiora, for you never can tell"; the nurse heated abottle forMarian; we took alast look around. Finally we packed our selves into the carand were off forVilla vicencio. Sure enough, after wehad climbed the pass and started down, itbegan toget warmer. Every hour or sowe would shed another wrap asthe road zigzagged lower and lower. And *See, inthe NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for February, 1944, "Life Story ofthe Mosquito," byGraham Fairchild, and "Saboteur Mosquitoes," byHarry H. Stage. tSee "By Felucca Down the Nile," by Willard Price, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1940. +See, inthe NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Hail Colombia!" by Luis Marden, October, 1940, and "Round About Bogota," by Wilson Popenoe, February, 1926.