National Geographic : 1950 Jan
From Indian Canoes to Submarines at Key West There was a real diver on that ship, an Ozark boy named G. W. McCullough, who had just set a Navy deep-sea diving record 485 feet. It took 1 hour and 13 minutes to bring him up, slowly, for decompression. His suit weighed 250 pounds, and he had a tele phone rigged inside his helmet. Every now and then somebody up topside called and asked how he was. "What did you think about, all the way up?" I asked. "Sleep." "See any fish?" "Not away down there. Plenty around 60 and 75 feet down. Sharks, too. Some big fish would drift up, stare right into my face, then dart off and come back with more, to see me." This rescue vessel Chanticleer carries a big diving bell that will hold a dozen or more men (page 56). For practice, a submarine will settle on the bottom and pretend to be in trouble. Then this big bell is let down and connected with an escape hatch on the U boat's deck. Part of the crew and officers then crawl up into the bell and are hauled to the surface. That's how they saved so many men from the Squalus, which sank off New Hampshire in 1939. "Turtleburgers" and Lime Pie Cruising back to Key West, we looked at the charts. They show wrecks strewn along these keys. On the Marquesas Keys lobster fishermen were camped, with their traps laid out to dry. Heading also for Key West, we saw many fishing smacks, and a big smelly turtle catcher coming back from the coasts of YucatAn or Honduras. Her big, stout turtle nets were stacked astern.* In whatever form you choose turtle, whether as meat, soup, or "turtleburger," Key West has it (page 66). It has lime pie, too. In it, lime juice is used like lemon juice in lemon pie. Tourist housewives take home the recipe. Almost no food is grown on this island; meats, milk, fruits, vegetables-nearly every thing but fish-is trucked from the mainland. Vegetables would grow; you see a few. But most families seem to prefer flower gar dens. To see what a profusion of ornamental shrubs and gorgeous blossoms will grow here, you have only to walk through the fascinating Jack Baker Nursery. Mr. Roberts made color shots in some of the city's more formal gardens; here and there broken treetops and whipped-out bougainvillea vines showed with what fury a hurricane had swept across this island. Amid these charming old gardens and in their aging ante-bellum homes with their slat shutters, or jalousies, a diminishing colony of elderly Key Westers still enjoy their leisurely days (pages 62 and 68). Some recall having entertained war corre spondent Richard Harding Davis and John T. McCutcheon, famous cartoonist, when they waited vainly for a press boat to Cuba in the days of Sampson, Schley, and Shafter, of Leonard Wood and Theodore Roosevelt at San Juan Hill. They like to read about Audubon, who came here long ago on the cutter Marion and found that bird he named "Key West pigeon," now known as the Key West quail dove. They feed their own wild birds and cultivate their flower gardens. The transient tourist horde and the opu lent sun worshipers who swarm at swanky Casa Marina beach resort (page 65) intrigue these old-timers but mildly. Navy officers pay them fair rents for their cool, spacious, old, weatherbeaten wooden houses; but Navy's tremendous training task-which involves some 7,000 men-and the secret work that goes on behind the high wire fences about the station leave them incurious, some even apathetic. Not so their children and grandchildren. Navy includes many officers and men who came from Key West, Pensacola, and other Gulf of Mexico naval bases. Crowds of the present-day generation of Key Westers also work for Navy here, in its shops, its Sonar school, its big hospital, and its naval air station at near-by Boca Chica. Teaching Men to "See" Sounds Few casual passers-by even suspect it. But here, at the mysterious Fleet Sonar School, Navy does a job of tremendous significance; what men learn here may someday save us from our enemies (pages 46 and 55). "No machine or gadget will take the place of brains," says a sign in the office of Capt. Archibald G. W. McFadden, head of the hush-hush, brainy Sonar school. "Sonar is our word for 'sound, navigation, and ranging,' " he explained. "With it we locate targets under water and measure their distance from us, just as we use radar in the air for the same end. It's been aptly said our next war may be won with musicians. That means a submerged submarine can keep its position secret from everything but sound." Any boy who has ever knocked two rocks * See "Capturing Giant Turtles in the Caribbean," by David D. Duncan, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, August, 1943.