National Geographic : 1942 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine With us to Balboa Park, on a zoo picture making trip, we took some of Admiral Blake ly's boys. These sailors took this special zoological hitch as a Roman holiday. "I never even dreamed," said an Iowa rookie, "that life in the Navy could also mean helping feed tapirs and riding herd on a flock of penguins!" Led by Belle Benchley, woman zoo director and author of that good book, My Life in a Man-made Jungle, we snapped a cockatoo or two, a kangaroo, then went to the tapir. "His name's Mickey," said Mrs. Benchley. "Come on in. I'll feed him apples while you interview him. He likes being photographed." "Now bring out that big elephant," she ordered a keeper. "Make him kneel; then throw some straw trash on his back and get some brooms. We'll make a picture showing Uncle Sam's naval heroes sweeping off an elephant; that picture will roll in more re cruits. Join the Navy and sweep off ele phants!" (Page 74.) Growing crowds followed us now. All San Diego knows Mrs. Benchley. On the streets, any day, children cry out, "Hello, zoo lady!" It was odd, too, that sailors in uniform should be inside the pens, stuffing green fodder down the great gullet of a hippopotamus. But there they were, and the ponderous amphibian grunted with gastronomic gusto as one sailor slyly tossed in a chocolate bar! In the pen with some young elephants, I met two Calcutta boys who had just nursed their grunting, grouchy charges across the Pacific. To one Hindu I offered a cigar. "No!" he said. "I smoke one on ship. Ameri can cheroot make elephant boy sick." Looking a bit bored, the Indians shoved their own elephants boldly about, scolding them and asking them intimate questions, as a negro with a mule. With its rich, world-wide collection of beasts, birds, and reptiles, this zoo is set amid magnificent trees, artificial pools filled with giant lilies and tropical fish, amid flowerbeds, open-air concert bowls, Spanish architecture -all the scenic wonders of Balboa Park. What a zoo! Animals walk about in the open, restrained by ditches instead of bars. Casually, I mentioned a wild-animal dealer on the Amazon, one at Singapore, and one in Europe. To Mrs. Benchley they were as next door neighbors. "Is there any circus man or porcupine ped dler you don't know?" I asked. "Or is there any animal here you can't chuck under the chin?" "Well," she said thoughtfully, "I never go into the gorilla cage." Most popular animals in the zoo, these gorillas are. Everybody who comes, thou sands of people, go first to see the big beasts two males which the zoo purchased from the Martin Johnsons. "What a busy, yet serene, satisfying life you must lead!" I ventured. "Serene?" countered Mrs. Benchley. "What if some excited person telephoned you after midnight and said there was a strange seal flapping against his front door! That hap pens, not just once, but over and over. My seals are like the Marines-they want to see the world." Looking into the Depths of the Sea Everybody likes to know what's happening way down in the ocean's mysterious depths. San Diego is finding out at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography on La Jolla Beach. "To those of us who study the sea," said Dr. H. U. Sverdrup, Director of the Institu tion, "oceanography is as fascinating as astronomy is to the students of the heavens. Here we work on the edge of the world's greatest ocean-yet one less charted than the surface of the moon. Its currents are still less known than the orbits of stray comets." "What do you study, exactly?" I asked. "Different men on our staff study different things. Some work on the physics of the ocean, such as types of currents or the inter action between the atmosphere and the ocean. Others work on sea-water chemistry. You know that besides table salt, bromine and magnesium are now extracted commercially from the sea." "What about gold?" "It's there, but you'd have to treat a cubic mile of ocean water to get enough gold to fill a tooth." "Do you study fish?" "Of course, and all classes of marine organ isms from bacteria to whales. To marine life, sea bacteria are as important as soil bac teria are to life on land. The physiology of fish, and their food, is right up our street." "What do fish eat, besides each other?" "Some feed on smaller animals, which again consume the microscopic floating marine plants. Other fish feed directly on small plants." "We see cows and sheep eating grass; do you mean fish graze in the same way, on kelp, or eelgrass?" "Yes, some may eat kelp and eelgrass, but these marine plants are of slight importance as fish food compared to small floating plants."