National Geographic : 1994 Oct
On Assignment fIf the wind had changed, we Should have whipped Everybody there," claims writer THOMAS J. ABERCROMBIE (right) of a build-your-own-boat race on the Olympic Basin in Mon treal. Though an experienced sail or, the author of this issue's St. Lawrence story finished "very near last" among the race's 42 competitors. "Fortunately, they only kept track of who won." Contest rules limited partici pants to spending just $75 (U. S.) in materials and three hours in construction. National Geographic Society President Gil Grosvenor himself an able carpenter-pitched in with Tom's son, Bruce, and vast quantities of duct tape to help Abercrombie bring the boat in un der budget. Bringing it in under sail proved a bit more difficult. The race involved two legs rowing upwind and sailing down wind. "Our all-purpose spritsail was less efficient than the other competitors' square sails," Tom recalls. "At least I made good time on the rowing." As well he should. As a native of Stillwater, Minnesota, Tom grew up with oars in his hands. After majoring in art and journal ism at Macalester College, he worked as a newspaper photogra pher in Fargo, North Dakota, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1956 Tom came, as a photographer, to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, adding writer to his job description a year later. He wrote and/or photo graphed 42 articles in his award winning career, reporting on places from Switzerland to the South Pole. But the Middle East was his real beat, and Tom gave readers memorable looks at Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and the route of 14th-century traveler Ibn Battuta. Though he retired this year, he will continue to write for the magazine on a freelance basis. Tom is married to his high school sweetheart, Lynn, a pho tographer who, after raising their two children, often joined Tom on assignment. They live by the water in Shady Side, Maryland, where their boat has all kinds of sails and seats more than one person. NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (ISSN 0027-9358) IS PUBLISHED MONTHLY BYTHENATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY,1145 17THST. N.W ., WASHINGTON, D. C. 20036-4688. $24.00 AYEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASS POSTAGEPAIDATWASHINGTON, D. C., ANDELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER: SENDADDRESSCHANGESTO NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, P.O. BOX2174, WASHINGTON, D. C. 20013.