National Geographic : 1951 Oct
storage tanks covered acres of ground. Our guide pointed out the new catalytic cracking unit recently brought from the United States and installed by American engineers. On the Shatt al 'Arab water front we saw the lifeblood of the Machine Age being pumped aboard a fleet of seagoing oil tankers. Before going dockside we had to leave matches and cigarette lighters with a guard. A sign the size of a billboard warned NO SMOKING in a dozen languages. Returning, we passed the School for Ap prentices. Our small British automobile edged through a crowd milling in the street. Around the building stood a grim cordon of helmeted Iranian soldiers with fixed bayonets. At a circle farther on traffic jammed while a truck load of youths waving a flag rumbled past. "The apprentices are on strike," our guide said. "Last night there was a demonstration. It's nothing." Reign of Terror By our calculations, the trouble broke out a few minutes later. When it subsided, 11 Iranians and three British lay dead, and ter ror reigned in Abadan. No one could tell when or where another flare-up might occur. After dinner we joined fellow "prisoners," men and women, in the Guest House lounge. Pent-up emotions found relief in conversation; no social introductions were necessary. Rumors flew, and experiences of the after noon were exchanged. Old Empire hands told of similar adventures in their youth that sounded like episodes from a Kipling novel. Every hour, as if drawn by a magnet, we gathered around the radio to hear the latest BBC news report. Two days later the situation in Abadan seemed under control. Roberts and I left our comfortable "prison" to board an Iranian Air ways plane for Tehran. Stopping in Isfahan after a blind flight across the rugged Zagros Mountains in a crashing storm, we heard of outbreaks there among the textile work ers. Our informant was a handsome young Bakhtiari prince, who was boarding our plane. A flyer himself, he took over the controls when we were aloft, on the invitation of our bearded French pilot. Three weeks earlier we had flown into Tehran from Damascus on the wings of Air France. Our arrival in the city, which seems to be at the end of the world, was made pleasant by the American colony there. Going through customs, we heard a voice behind us exclaim, "Welcome to Iran. You're Long and Roberts, I presume. I'm Ed Wells, of the Embassy." That evening we dined with the hospitable Wellses and later swung partners in a square dance at the new American Center. Next day we cheered for old Penn State in its 420 Abadan: World's Largest Petroleum Refinery Smoking stacks, acres of storage tanks, office build ings, and workers' homes sprawl on a flat, sun-baked island at the head of the Persian Gulf.