National Geographic : 1982 Nov
On Assignment WHETHER DINING ON RAT or carving a pig with a Stone Age implement, senior writer Thomas Y. Canby always finds a way to get personally involved in his science stories. His culinary adventure occurred on assign ment for a July 1977 article on rats. "They were plump, rice-fed critters captured by Phil ippine harvesters," Canby recalls, "and were delicious, almost like squirrels." Tom wielded stone blades, made on the spot, for his September 1979 story on early man in America; it won him the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science-Westinghouse Award. "The blades did a great job, but dulled quickly," he says. "That probably explains why there is such a profusion of stone flakes from early times." Tracing the prehistoric Anasazi of the Southwest for this issue, Canby thinks he may have discovered unknown roads of this an cient culture. He invited an archaeologist and two experts in aerial reconnaissance to search near ruins in southwest Colorado. "We flew when the sun's angle might help reveal traces, and suddenly saw distinct lines," Tom relates. "But we still need to locate them on the ground. Someday soon archaeologists will re turn and try positively to identify them." "THE PHYSICAL DAMAGE was over . whelming, but I'll never forget the faces of the survivors of Mexico's El Chich6n vol cano," says Boris Weintraub, a 21-year newspaper veteran now on the National Geo graphic Society's News Service staff. Last spring's blast rivaled Mount St. Helens' and killed an undetermined number of people, yet was little reported in the United States. Gathering eyewitness accounts, Weintraub met a priest who told him that many of his pa rishioners believed it was the end of the world. The trip was not without humor, Weintraub says. Camping only a few miles from the steaming crater with photographer Guillermo Aldana E., Weintraub dozed fitfully during a midnight thunderstorm. "A sudden thunder clap nearby brought the sound-asleep Aldana bolt upright. He shouted, 'It's erupting!' and reached for his cameras. 'Calm down,' I said, 'it's only thunder and lightning.' "