National Geographic : 1968 Dec
together on the so-called Mekong Committee, under the auspices of the United Nations. Gradually the Mekong Project took on re ality. Engineers and scientists came from Eu rope, Asia, and North America. By 1961 sur veyors, mainly Japanese, had selected likely sites for the dams. Leaders of 24 outside coun tries-most eager among them the President of the United States-have agreed to consider investing the necessary billions of dollars. As for me, I was becoming more dam con scious every day. I had seen power lines sprouting from a dam completed in 1966, with a German loan, across the tributary Nam Phong in northeastern Thailand. Much of the power would go to Laos (page 743). There, within the year, a Canadian would supervise construction of the dam across the tributary Nam Ngum. Now I huddled in an open outboard cruiser, en route to the site proposed for the Pa Mong Dam, the first to be built across the Mekong itself. I was wet to the skin. The monsoon rain had nearly dissolved my notebook, and I tried to preserve some of it by sitting on it. Next to me, equally wet, sat the Pa Mong Project Engineer, Lyle W. Mabbott from Du bois, Wyoming (page 753). A veteran of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, he had built dams in Arizona and on the Blue Nile. He said, "I keep my wallet in a plastic bag." Twenty Years-and a Billion Dollars That morning when we set out from Vien tiane, the administrative capital of Laos, the skies had been blue. The Mekong, heavy with silt in the wet season, glistened a rich brown, the color of coffee with a lot of cream. Now the rain hit the water so hard the drops bounced back up, white, like pearls strewn over a sea of coffee. Here the Mekong forms the border between Laos and Thailand. We went ashore on the Thai side, 15 miles upstream from Vientiane. 749 KODACHROME(BELOW)ANDEKTACHROME BYW. E . GARRETT( N.G.S.