Oral History Transcript — Dr. Kenneth Hunkins
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Kenneth Hunkins; June 24, 1997
ABSTRACT: Born March 3, 1928 in Lake Placid, NY; discusses childhood and family life. Describes his undergraduate education at Yale, 1946-1950; comments on being drafted and serving in the Korean War, 1950-1953. Began graduate school at Stanford in geophysics, January 1954; describes the coursework and instructors in his program. Discusses the International Geophysical Year at length; describes his research and experience in the arctic at Alpha Station. Comments on his Ph.D. thesis and his employment with Lamont afterwards and since. Describes the transition from Alpha research to the T-3 station; discusses the discovery of the Alpha rise mountain range. Describes the transition from Alpha to the T-3 station; comments on his research there and the social atmosphere on the ice island. Discusses his work in Baltimore Canyon, 1970 and submarine research on NR1; discusses the Fram project in Greenland in the 1970s and how it compared to his work there in the 1990s. Comments on the technological developments throughout his career, especially the satellite navigational systems.
Sfraga:This is Mike Sfraga. It is June 24th, 1997. I am with Ken Hunkins in the conference room adjacent to his lab. As I recall in the other interviews, we sort of left off on perhaps engaging in the IGY. And if we can, Iíd like to look back a little bit and talk about where you were when IGY was taking place and how it is that you got to be involved in IGY.
Hunkins:Way I got involved was this. First place, I was a student of earth sciences, or geophysics more specifically, at Stanford [University] and a graduate student. I had graduated, received my undergraduate degree, in 1950, and I went off to the Korean War and I was gone for three years. I came back and I wanted, decided I wanted to be a geophysicist. I didnít quite know what that was. I was an easterner. But I did know it was something out west where they hunted for oil. And I decided Iím not a lab type of physicist. Iím not going to be working with a white coat, or Iím not a particle physicist. I just, you know, this sounded like my thing; really using physics to study the earth. And I looked around, and finally settled on Stanford and applied to several other places. But eventually went to Stanford to study geophysics. The IGY was something I learned about through newspapers, and the talk was always about the Antarctic. And I thought this is something Iím interested in. I grew up in northern country — northern New York — in ski resort country and always liked those kinds of things and mountains and all. And this really just fit everything together — science and general interests. So I had a professor who was back here at Lamont on a sabbatical. And I wrote to him and said I would like to find out how I could get involved. And I was thinking maybe I can get a Ph.D. dissertation out of this.
Sfraga:Who was the professor that you wrote to? Do you recall?
Hunkins:George Thompson. And he said, well, they just moved all the Antarctic work with Charlie [R.] Bentley out to Wisconsin. And the only thing they have here is something in the Arctic that Jack [E.] Oliver has. Jack Oliver was the head of seismology here. And so I wrote to him, and thatís how I came here. I said, well, the Arctic, Iíll just go to the other pole. And so he had a contract to work on this Station Alpha which was going to be, the Air Force was going to actually do all the logistics and so on, but it was going to be an IGY station, on floating ice in the Arctic Ocean. Already theyíd had T-3 [Ice Island] this was Joe Fletcherís baby. He had pioneered that. So this was something else. This was going to be instead of on a thick piece of calved ice shelf, it was going to be on floating sea ice. So those ice shelves like T-3 are perhaps a hundred feet thick and the floating sea ice is only, in the old ice in fact, is about ten feet thick. And of course some of it is thinner than that. So this was a different kind of a station in that sense. The ice wasnít nearly as stable. And so there were a lot of more questions about how we were going to do this, but we wanted to be on a more representative piece of ice. T-3 was not representative. It made a good platform, but for one thing it was hard to get off onto the sea ice. So all the studies which would relate and which you could generalize to the Arctic Ocean, should probably be worked on sea ice. So thatís the reason why Alpha was established on sea ice. So thatís how I got into it. And I went up there, and was on it, right from the beginning. And it started in 1957; the IGY was more than a year. It was an international geophysical year and a half. And it went from Ď57 and on into Ď58. So I was on it that summer, Ď57. And then came back that winter and was here. And we had some other people out there. Came back, and I was on it the next summer, also Ď58. And then it wound up in late Ď58 and was evacuated. But that was a pioneer station, and there was a lot of interest in it, a lot of energy. The Air Force put a lot of effort and money into it. And, you know, it was a great experience. And I made some of my good friends there; Norbert Untersteiner at University of Washington. He just retired. Was a station leader on that first summer and so, he and I kept in touch over the years.
Sfraga:Iím interested, when you, when youíre in on these. You were in on the ground level here planning this station. What sort of conversations were there? Did you talk about the specific research that you wanted to do? This was a pioneering effort.
Sfraga:What were the dynamics of being the first to establish this station?
Hunkins:You know the dynamics were this. I would say I didnít have anything to do with the planning of the logistics and that sort of thing. This was done with the Air Force. And the scientific part of it all came through the, Air Force with research labs up at L. G. Hanscomb field in, what is that? Well, anyway, itís just outside of Boston. And that was where the science was funded. And so we were all funded by the Air Force at that time. And they were very liberal and very good. And where, for example, Norbert had the contract to do the atmosphere — particularly the boundary layers over the ice and the heat loss and the ice melting and freezing — our mandate was pretty general to study the oceans and the ocean floor. This was a strong point of Lamontís. Lamont had the pioneering ocean geophysical research ships. And so the idea was to do something almost like we did from the research ships, but from a floating ice station instead. So, you know, we had all these wonderful people here, and I could just borrow from all of them ideas and equipment, and almost like running a research ship on my own. So it was a wonderful thing. At slow speed, and we couldnít control where it was going, but nevertheless, we could take data. First place, letís take ocean depths. We could run an ocean depth sounder. Well the very first time we didnít really run a depth sounder, we just shot off dynamite twice a day and measured the echo time and also got the reflections before the ocean floor so we could do some of the submarine geology. So that was one of the things that we borrowed from the ship. We could also have a magnetometer measure the magnetic field of the earth. We could take samples of the ocean floor. We took ocean cores. We had a corer. And that way we could look at the cores back here in the city. So we were really riding on all the expertise in deep sea oceanography that had been gained at Lamont over quite a few years under the leadership of Maurice Ewing. And it just was at the right time. It was still in the early days. All these instruments were still evolving, and they were built here at Lamont. So you could just go into this machine shop and get something built, or modify it or improve it. And that was what we built on. We really, had a wonderful base.
Sfraga:Iím interested in one aspect in reading some background work; the photographs that were taken of the ocean floor.
Hunkins:Of the ocean floor, yes.
Sfraga:Can you share some insight on that? How was it done and the equipment that was used.
Hunkins:Right. Maurice Ewing, along with a man named Ed [Edward M.] Thorndike, who was professor of physics at, oh across, CNY or Queenís College. Anyway in the area here. He had pioneered a deep sea camera. Doc had had one during the wartime, and the navy had funded him to work out of Woods Hole and they looked at sunken ships on the bottom and things like that. And they were very crude. And after he came and started Lamont, he began to improve them. And Thorndike was the optical expert and improved the lenses and the general whole configuration. So we worked mostly with Ed Thorndike and brought those cameras up there. And we got many pictures, and we had one paper called ďFirst Photographs from the Arctic Ocean FloorĒ. And we could just draw on all the people here like Dave Ericson and Bruce [C.] Heezen in interpreting those photographs. Just what were we looking at. They had much more experience because theyíd already obtained a lot of photographs from other oceans. And we could compare with the other oceans and tracks, and marine life as we saw it.
Sfraga:Was there any specific finding that you recall that was particularly exciting?
Hunkins:Yes, I would say, with the photographs, we did. We saw worms, various kinds of deep sea shrimp. These are great depths, thousands of meters. Mostly with Station Alpha, we were drifting over depths of three to four thousand meters. So ten thousand feet. So these animals lived very deep. Anything down there is, just a bottom feeder of some kind. So we did see those. I would say the most interesting thing was related to that. We also would see pebbles on the bottom occasionally. And related to that, we obtained deep sea dredge samples, weíd drag the bottom and bring up a load of sediment and then we could pick out these rocks. And then Walter, the man who was taking ice core there, Walter Schwarzocker and I later wrote a paper about it. After the IGY, I went over to Ireland at suggestion from some of the Air Force people, like Irene Browne, who said, why donít you just go there. I didnít even visualize going and doing that. So I spent a month or so with him in Belfast at Queenís University, and we worked on that, and eventually published a paper about it. But that showed us that these were ice rafted rocks. That had been carried out there by the ice, and then dropped onto the floor, and they were scattered all over the Arctic Ocean. And on analysis they were, they showed evidences of glaciations. They were faceted. And they had striae on them sometimes. All the features of a, of a glacially worked pebble or rocks, all sizes. And they can be very large sometimes.
Sfraga:Fascinating. What I have here is, I think, is that paper. ďDredged Gravels from the Central Arctic OceanĒ.
Hunkins:Thatís it. Thatís it. Right. So we included some photographs in there. So you can see all the sediments strewn over the bottom there, these rocks of all sizes. And theyíre often faceted. You see this kind of flat sides on it. And we obtained them with bottom trawls. I see from the record here, Ekman grabs, accidental catch, means the rock probably caught in the photographic camera frame somehow. It just got wedged in there. It actually hit the bottom. And so it just said accidental catch there. So these rocks were so frequent, that when we werenít even trying we could bring them up sometimes. And these bottom grabs, in some cases, we could just not have an official kind of a dredge. When we couldnít find anything else, you could use a garbage can and rig it. And then trawl it along the bottom at ten thousand feet down and then raise it up again. And then have enough of the sediment left, we had a pretty good sediment sample for a rather qualitative analysis. So. And that was exciting.
Sfraga:Did you find any of these rocks on T-3 perhaps? Were there rocks actually sitting on some of these ice islands?
Hunkins:Yes. Those ice islands also have a lot of rocks on them often because they were glacially derived shelves, fed by glaciers coming out of the mountains there near Ellesmere Island. And we could see those on the ice islands. Particularly, you could see them on T-3, but most striking to me was on Arlis 2 [Ice station]. Where Max Brewer and I donít know exactly who discovered Arlis 2, but I remember right after it had been discovered, he flew us out there. And I remember walking around and looking over those hills. It looked like just rocky terrain. But quickly by walking over them and digging around a little bit we discovered, no, theyíre only rock armored. And theyíre actually ice-cored, just ice cores, but the pebbles and rocks and debris just glacial till actually shielded those hills from the sunís rays and so they stuck out as low hills. And you could swear that they were land. But once you just kicked aside a few boulders, youíd see that itís ice underneath there.
Sfraga:What location was Arlis 2 when you were there?
Hunkins:Well, at that time, it was I would say pretty much north of Barrow [Alaska], and probably not too far out. I donít remember the exact location. And Max wanted to establish an ice station there, which he did. And more science was done later from that. But Alpha was the first U.S. effort at a drifting station and Arlis 2 was a station on shelf ice. But Alpha was the first U.S. sea ice station.
Sfraga:Can you draw for me a picture of what Alpha looked like? The tents, the science, the, give me sort of an image of what it looked like and the activities that were going on.
Hunkins:Sure. Okay. Iíll try. The huts were primarily these Jamesway huts from World War II; theyíre semi cylinder, look a little like the Quonset hut, except that there are blankets over them rather than sheet metal. And they were common in high latitudes for army use in the Second World War so most of the buildings were of that type. And you could extend those things, and just add one section on to another until you got a long semi-cylinder. Or you could just have one section for sleeping three or four people. Or you could extend them and turn them into a garage or a mess hall. So these were scattered generally around. It wasnít highly organized in lines or anything like that. There didnít seem to be any need to be too military about it. They didnít worry about that too much. And scientistís labs were a little bit away from it because we wanted a more pristine area. Especially Norbert Untersteiner and his atmospheric group were studying radiation from the snow. You wanted some clear snow that nobody had tramped over or that sort of thing. And then most important of all, of course, I should mention we had to have an air strip. That was the key to it. And the air strip. We had a very good one. And the station did develop cracks later on. And in any of the Arctic stations the big question is the threat to the air strip because thatís your lifeline to the land. And eventually we had to move the station in order to consolidate it when it was split by a large crack. What happens is at first you get a crack, and then the ice starts moving. So it doesnít matter so much that it spreads apart and then refreezes in between. But if what happens is that once it does spread apart, eventually it will come together again, under different wind conditions over the whole ocean. And weíre not always aware of whatís going on in the whole ocean, but itís part of the enormous pattern of drifting floes in an enormous area. So eventually it will come together again, and two floes will grind together and then you get a pressure ridge, and this threatened a lot of the huts. In fact, it almost seemed like it would eat huts. The pressure ridge just kind of moves along and then blocks of ice actually rolling down the forward side of it. And then when it comes to a Jamesway, it just smashes it down. Of course, nobody gets hurt because the whole procedure is very slow. But you got to abandon that hut. Either try to drag it out of there or just abandon it. So this did happen to a few huts.
Sfraga:So it was a rather flexible little city out there?
Hunkins:So right. So they were all built on skids. And I donít know what they were eight by eights or something. And then they could hook the tractors and large track vehicles and move them around. But it wasnít always so easy because you did have to get them over pressure ridges. And over rough ground. So, and what else should I say about the logistics? The air field has to be used only in the wintertime, because in the summertime, it gets pock marked with large ponds. Melt season starts sometime in June, and the last flight would be sometime in June when the strip is last usable. And then youíre cut off from, or were cut off at that time, from then until sometime September usually. Could be as late as first of October, but things had to freeze up. And they had to freeze up solid enough that all those holes and little lakes and ponds were frozen over, and frozen over thickly enough that an airplane could land on them. And you could smooth it again. We had a road grader type, believe it or not. The airplanes they used for the initial supply there were some that I recall from Korea. A C-124, itís a Globemaster, four engine propeller driven airplanes. It could bring in a big load. But they were awkward to load and unload. But they could handle a lot of cargo.
Sfraga:You relied on, to a large degree, on radio communications.
Hunkins:Yes. So everything was by radio. And, of course, it was before satellite or anything. It was just long-distance radio.
Sfraga:And who were you coordinating with from the islands?
Hunkins:Well different stations, Alpha was all with Fairbanks and well, Ladd Air Force Base [Airfield, Fairbanks, Alaska] at that time, and no longer in existence. So that was their base. And we also might have flown out of Elmendorf [Airfield, Anchorage, Alaska] some too, which is where the larger airplanes landed. ĎCause Ladd was a fighter air force base. So, yes, we did have various, planes of types, DC, I recall, DC 6s at that time. DC3s of course.
Sfraga:Iím curious. Did you have C47s at all out there?
Hunkins:Yes. The DC3 is a C47.
Sfraga:But they converted it over, the military converted it to the?
Hunkins:Yes. The civilian was a DC3, the Air Force called it the C47 and the navy called it the R4D, when they had them. And later the NARL had several of those R4Ds, they always called them that because they were the navy version they got after the navy took over research in the Arctic.
Sfraga:How far was Alpha from NARL, from Barrow? Do you recall?
Hunkins:Several hundred miles, but I wouldnít want it to go on record because it drifted continuously.
Hunkins:I should have looked that up, but it was quite a few hundred miles, yes, a long ways.
Sfraga:And what would be your estimate about how big an area you occupied on that?
Hunkins:On that floe? Hundreds of yards each way. Did we ever draw a picture of it or something? I always thought of ourselves as four of the seniors kind of scientists at that time, or three of us, were myself for the Lamont program, Norbert Untersteiner for the Washington atmospheric program, and Tom [Thomas] English also from Washington for the biology program. And in addition, some other long term Arctic people, as it turned out later, were Arnie Hanson, and you seem to be familiar with his name. And Bill Campbell was a graduate student in the department of atmospheric science at Washington. Arnie Hanson was an assistant to Norbert. And, of course, he had a long, subsequent career in the Arctic. In fact, thatís what I was looking for here to see if he — I knew he drew a map of it at one time. Oh yes, I think I can find it here. So that I could give you an answer to that. Because Arnie Hanson was one of these people that does everything in great detail. I can see here that.
Sfraga:And weíre looking at a sketch thatís in the —
Hunkins:This is a sketch thatís in the U.S. IGY Drifting Station Alpha Arctic Ocean 1957-58. And it was put out under Air Force Cambridge Research Labs auspices, with authors Garry Cabiniss, myself and Norbert Untersteiner. And I see by just looking that it may be a kilometer across was the scientific area. The camp was maybe five hundred yards across, something like that. Now the runway was very long. It was like a kilometer and a half there. And I do recall one time that, Lowell Thomas, the radio commentator and famous explorer, the great pupa of the Explorerís Club as you may know —
Sfraga:Yes he was.
Hunkins:— Came up there and he had a TV series at that time, called High Adventure with Lowell Thomas. And he had these, he had great ideas. His idea was to bring some old timers up there, to show them the new way of doing the Arctic exploration, so he brought up Admiral McMillan, Colonel Bert Balchen and Sir Hubert Wilkins so that he could have conversations with them, and discuss the changes and discuss the old days. He was a great organizer of that sort of thing.
Sfraga:And were you there when this was going on?
Hunkins:Yes. Oh yes.
Sfraga:And did you have a chance to talk with them?
Hunkins:Oh sure. Oh sure.
Sfraga:Do you recall what their impressions were of this work?
Hunkins:Well, the reason that all this started to come to mind because we were discussing the runway. And I remember being out there and at that time, they hadnít brought in any C124s and the C124 man from the squadron who was supposed to check out the runway to make sure it was okay for those planes — they had a rather, long delicate landing gear — that inspector was out there, and he was complaining a little bit I gather about the runway, it wasnít long enough and so on and so forth. And it was, I mean it was, I donít know what, six thousand feet long or something. And so I remember walking behind Bert Balchen who was out there, a very sturdy looking fellow walking up and down there. And I heard him say under his breath, ďI would like to land a locomotive here.Ē He says it was good enough for him. He didnít see what the complaints were. Heíd landed on a lot worse than that.
Sfraga:Of course, a veteran of landing.
Hunkins:Oh yes. Because he had —
Sfraga:And taking off.
Hunkins:He had, you know, been a pilot in World War it He was responsible for some expedition to Greenland where they got the German weathermen out of there. So Iím sure heíd seen a lot of Arctic landings, and this runway looked pretty good to him. He didnít know why the C124 Squadron was asking for a better one. So, yes, so that was very interesting. Lowell Thomas came, I think that was in Ď58 or so.
Sfraga:This reminds me of, just a few moments ago you were talking about you first learned of IGY through the newspapers and magazines. Do you remember how prolific the media was with IGY? Was it, you recall that it was a fairly popular item in the news?
Hunkins:Oh I think it was.
Sfraga:Or was it just your interest that picked it up?
Hunkins:Yes, well my interest picked it up, but I think it was pretty well publicized. And it was the Antarctic that was well publicized, that got a lot of coverage. It was, you know, understandable. This was, the Antarctic — well Admiral Byrd had been there earlier — but they were going to do it on a different scale, and they were going to map the whole area. And they had all these large track vehicles, and they were establishing camps, and going to establish at the South Pole itself and so on. That was, that got a lot of coverage Iím pretty sure; a lot more than the Arctic did. And the U.S. had maybe more — well, I donít know, I wonít say anything about strategy — but the U.S. did have that feeling that — not feeling — but the idea that the U.S. was, didnít honor any other countryís claims to territory in Antarctica. But they did reserve their own right to go anywhere they wanted because they didnít recognize any other claims. So in order to implement that, they did want to put in a pretty good program. And thatís been actually the justification for the program I believe in subsequent years, down to the present practically. So, while in the Arctic the motivation for the Air Force — that was a general State Department kind of a motivation — but in the Arctic, the Air Force motivation was, really came from Joe Fletcher, I would say, that they had to know something about the Arctic if they were going to fly over it. And that was early in the Cold War, and any mission would presumably be directed toward the Soviet Union and youíd have to cross the Arctic Ocean. So, you should know something about it in case an airplane had to go down or whatever. The more you knew the better.
Sfraga:Was there a sense on the island that your work was not only scientific work but some degree patriotism involved? Was it a patriotic mission as well?
Hunkins:I would say that, we — at that time Iím sure — most of us were university people and we really didnít want to think of this as any kind of military operation. And it was not. And only in the sense that it needed those military logistics. Otherwise, it could not have happened. But we thought of it as a purely basic scientific research, and I think the Air Force did. We didnít have any, did we? Well, Iím just trying to think whether we had classified research. There were — the second year, Ď58 — there were some people from the underwater sound lab at New London. And subsequently, and I mean this seemed a little hush, hush because the rest of us were all uninvolved in any classified research. So they were easy enough to get along, but theyíd have some limitations on what they could talk about I guess. But it turned out that they were really up there because the U.S. was making the first crossings of the Atlantic Ocean with the submarines. And in Ď58, the Skate, the U.S. Naval Submarine Skate, surfaced at our station, at Alpha. The Nautilus [U.S. Submarine] had been into the Arctic Circle earlier but this one came up at the Pole. And these, these underwater sound people were there to try to home them in and make sure they could locate the station using beacons, underwater sound beacons. So.
Sfraga:What was the general atmosphere at Alpha when this submarine?
Hunkins:Oh yes. Of course, there was a great break in the summer to have them come aboard. And they were, they were there maybe, I donít know, twelve to twenty-four hours, something like that. And some of the crew ran around but we went aboard the submarine and had a little tour of it. And yes, so that was.
Sfraga:But to your knowledge thatís, might have been the only sensitive or secretive issue that was happening?
Hunkins:Yes, right. That would be the only — That was a navy operation, of course. In fact, just recently I was down in connection with submarine cruises that are going on now in the Arctic every summer and since the end of the Cold War thereís been an effort to have some civilian science on those submarines. And it is happening now for the last couple years. So I just happened to be the Oceanographer of the Navyís office in Washington, and I was surprised to see on the wall, they had the pictures of the Skate and they had in a glass case in the corridor, they had open a National Geographic Magazine with some photographs of the Skate coming up, which I had taken and sold to the National Geographic.
Hunkins:Yes, my photographs. So that was many years later; Ď58 to like about forty years later.
Sfraga:Did you document the whole time you were there? Did you take many photographs?
Hunkins:I did, yes. I always liked to take slides. So if you wanted to have a slide show.
Sfraga:The others as well, the scientists?
Hunkins:Sure. I think quite a few others took. Everybody was a snap shooter. But I concentrated on the color slides and still have quite a few of those.
Sfraga:Anyone film the goings on there, do you recall?
Hunkins:Was there a documentary of that? Of course, Lowell Thomas had that High Adventure movie. Did other people? I canít remember any real documentary that we would say was a station Alpha documentary. Maybe there is one, but I canít recall having seen it.
Sfraga:You mention a moment ago about the militaryís fingerprint on this operation. Was the camp run in a military structure or was it?
Hunkins:We had military people to run the camp. In other words, we had a commanding officer and that was a Major Bilata that second summer. Rank of a major, say. And military airmen. They were all volunteers who would cook and be operators of the heavy machinery, radio operators, that sort of thing. So they were all airmen. And if Iím not mistaken, I think for volunteering and going up there, they would count that as their tour, normal three year Alaskan tour. I think that was. But they were all excellent people. They were hand selected so they were all good.
Sfraga:I was looking back at a copy here of Walter Sullivanís book on the IGY.
Sfraga:And in here he talks about your work in relation to discovering the five to ten thousand foot mountain range, and comparing that to perhaps the Rocky Mountains. Do you recall that?
Hunkins:Oh yes. We took soundings, you know, say every day, weíd sound twice — once in the morning, once in the afternoon. Set off a small dynamite charge, measure the reflection time. That gave us the ocean floor depth, and also got more out of that. But that was the basic interest that you could talk about right away. Everybody can understand the interest in the shape of the ocean floor. So as I said, we were over maybe ten thousand feet of water. And one morning I got up and took the morning shot, and you could hear it with your ear, you can hear the reflection. And, you know, I realized that all of a sudden things had changed, were a lot shallower than they had been and that the bottom was closer to us. And that was the first inkling that we were going over the, what later we called the Alpha Rise, and named it for the station. That was, so that was a big discovery. And it was a nice one you could talk about because that was easy to understand. That this had been a mountain range that hadnít been discovered before. We were always operating a little bit in the shadow of the Russians because that was almost their ocean. Theyíd had a lot of stations on the ice — not a lot, but several — before us. They had started out in Ď37 I believe it was with their NP1 [Russian Ice Station] North Pole 1. And they had discovered a ridge called Lomonosov Ridge, very large one. So this was something that we could still, there was one ridge left, big one to discover, and, of course, a lot of small features. And it is one of the major features of the Arctic Ocean.
Sfraga:And as I recall it runs, Alpha Rise, runs parallel.
Hunkins:More or less parallel to the Lomonosov Ridge. And thereís still argument and debate about the origins of the Alpha Rise. The Lomonosov Ridge is clear in its genesis. Itís clearly a piece of broken off shelf of the Asian, Eurasian shelf, which has split off and as the sea floor widens, it has come to its present position out in the central Arctic Ocean. But the Alpha Ridge is older, and maybe some of the newer geologists, younger geologists, have a pretty good feeling that they know how it, how it originated. But itís obviously a more difficult problem, and itís not solved yet. I just saw some papers the other day debating it.
Sfraga:Any other findings stick out in your mind during your time on Alpha?
Hunkins:Different things that went on there, besides our own work you know. Iíll just look at the index of some of these and see I can remember some of the things in this report. This report was a collection of the papers that came out as a result of Alpha and Norbert, I, and Garry Cabaniss, who was at the Air Force Cambridge put them together in order to preserve them. Of course, they appeared in various scientific journals and here we have them in one place. So, one of the interesting things was the drift. How does ice drift? Of course, we knew something about that from the days of Fridjof Nansen, the Norwegian explorer that the ice drifts somewhat to the right of the wind.
Sfraga:Thatís when he froze the ship into the ice.
Hunkins:Then he froze the ship into the ice. And came back, this was the 1890s, and he realized that he always drifts a little to the right of the wind. And in fact he realized that happened because of the fact that the earth is rotating and if it werenít rotating youíd expect that if the wind pushes you behind, youíre going to go straight with the wind direction. But since the ice moves rather slowly, and itís moving on a rotating globe, it moves to the right of the wind. And this was the beginning Ekman theory of ocean currents as most oceanographers, you know, are taught early in their career. So that all came from Nansenís work, but we wanted to follow up on that. And, for example, Bill Campbell did a lot on the drift of the ice. And in fact, probably the thing that influenced my career the most of all, was the fact that I could measure that Ekman Spiral. Not only does the ice drift to the right of the wind, but the water vectors, as you go down in the ocean, the current vectors, if you can think the arrows which show the magnitude and the direction of the current, change as you go down. They slowly rotate in a right hand spiral. And this was something that was predicted by Ekman long before — 1907, 1910, somewhere in there. But people had seen evidence of it — indirect evidence, but not the spiral. But I made current measurements, but I did not consider myself a physical oceanographer. Iíd been trained to be a geophysicist, study the solid earth. And I got started on this because the people at Air Force Cambridge, Irene Browne and Vivian Bushnell, asked me to continue some current measurements that Albert, Bert Crary, had been taking at T-3. So I started doing that. And it was pretty simple measurements we could do. And I got very interested; started studying on my own. Eventually wrote a paper about that, using these measurements. And itís been a fairly well preserved paper in the sense that people still remember it. It was the first paper where we discussed really being able to observe the currents turn with depth. And it was something to do with being able to work from that flat ice floe rather than a tossing ship that let us really investigate that. And because of that, my career took a turn, and I became something of a physical oceanographer, as well as a geophysicist. And I think ever since then, Iíve never been able to be pinned down as to exactly what I do. In other words, here at a place like Lamont, you really have to generally concentrate in one field — like youíre a seismologist. Actually I worked more with the seismologists because I started under Jack Oliver. And I came under that classification really. But after once working on the ice station and partaking of almost everything here — the coring, the photography, and the geophysics which was magnetics, gravity, and seismics — I became kind of a jack of all trades. And probably, for better or for worse, probably, never made a great reputation in any of them, but I could make a little reputation in all of them. I became kind of a very versatile, broad type of earth scientist.
Hunkins:Multi-disciplinary within the earth sciences. Yes. So, and itís been that way ever since. But I concentrated more on physical oceanography in later years, just because of those measurements in that initial paper. So.
Sfraga:So you donít really fit into then — if you look at Lamont in the classic style here — you arenít sort of your own peg.
Hunkins:Thatís it. Right. So we had a section here, it was an Arctic section. And whereas the other sections — we were never tightly compartmentalized here, but you have to some kind of loose organization — and the other groups were generally in a discipline. There was seismology, and thereís climatology, and thereís geochemistry, and so on. But ours was just called Arctic. In other words, they had a geographical designation rather than disciplinary.
Sfraga:And who else was in that?
Hunkins:We had a person like Hank Kutschale, who was the acoustician, underwater sound man. And, well, other people were Barry Allen who was a great help over the years. Later years he went to Bell Telephone and he does programming, network programming, he tells me now. So heís something different, but for many years he worked with me. Then I had graduate students. Not many, several I should say. Graduate students. John Hall, who went to Israel and worked in the geology section there, for the government. Tom Manley, who in later years went to Middlebury College. So there were many of us over the years. We went out to T-3 in 1962.
Sfraga:I want to talk about that in a moment. Iím wondering, and we will get to that. Itís a nice transition.
Sfraga:So, I was asking about the, how the Arctic section was perhaps looked upon or how it fit within Lamontís structure.
Hunkins:Well, the Arctic section was different as I said in the sense that it was a geographical division rather than disciplinary. And I liked that. Somebody always had a joking word for you as the iceman or whatever. So it gave us our special cachet. I liked it because it gave me this broad permission to work in different fields. And as I said, this could have been good or bad. It was good in a sense that I did have an overall picture and bad maybe in the sense that perhaps I didnít go as deep into any one field as others could have done who concentrated solely on that particular area.
Sfraga:Any regrets about not —?
Hunkins:No, I donít have any regrets. No, I think that maybe that fitted my personality better. So I donít have any regrets about that. My friend Norbert Untersteiner used to call me [Alexander] Von Humboldt sometimes. I remember I would get a letter, my dear Humboldt. Who was, you know, the German scientist who was called the last of the universal scientists. 1 didnít take it too seriously, but it did indicate that he thought I was, you know, doing a little bit of everything the way those early people could in nineteenth century. And we were doing the things that were done on the ships. And of course I wasnít involved with the ships. In a way, that gave me a certain amount of independence. Those that were involved with the ships, worked very closely with Doc Ewing and, in a sense, anything you did on the ship was also shared with Doc Ewing. So, since Doc did not go to the Arctic, I always felt more independent in that particular sense, that I didnít have to reference everything back to him. Although I did work with him and he did co-author some papers with us. So all in all it was a very good spot.
Sfraga:You mentioned before a fascinating point about the Russians, either their own perception or others, that they actually owned the ice islands up there. You were in their territory. During the IGY, during the time on Alpha or T-3, did you have a chance to talk with Russian scientists, get their feel for what they were doing there? Were you aware of how extensive their work was and applying it?
Hunkins:I was. We were aware of it only through literature. We didnít have any formal meetings with them. It was really the height of the Cold War. So one felt that, well, there wasnít any opportunity. I mean, if they came to international meetings that was great, you know, but you didnít really, we didnít travel in Russia and they didnít travel here. So we had very little opportunity to share things with them. We did get some of their literature. I mean, some of the government agencies translated some of their literature. But it was mostly because they felt they had to. We didnít want to miss anything that they might be doing. So thatís how we learned about it through literature at that time. Later on I could tell you we did actually see Russians more but that took a long time. We read about them. Papanin had written the book Life on an Ice Floe. So we knew those kinds of things. Other books had come out. In fact, the Air Force Cambridge Research Labs had their extensive reports on station NP2 [Russian ice floe] translated, so we had those. A shelf, a volume of reports that came out. All the classical kind of scientific reports. Just every detail of what they had done on this ice station. So we did have those. Those were very helpful and interesting.
Sfraga:Then after Alpha, youíre involved for a number of years — eight, nine years — on T-3.
Sfraga:How did your involvement from — how did that transition from Alpha to T-3 happen?
Hunkins:All right. It went this way. About 1960, there was a decision made — must have been high in the Air Force, probably way up there at the secretary level — that the strategy for the Cold War — I mean this is the way I read it anyway — was no longer manned bombers. The strategy for the Cold War was missiles. And so if youíre only involved in sending missiles across the Arctic Ocean, thereís no need to know too much about it. Because if a missile goes down, itís not like a bomber, you donít worry how to get the men out or what theyíre going to do to survive or whatever. Either the missile does its job or it doesnít I suppose. This is my version of it. But we were fortunate. At that very time, the Navy had sent those first submarines into the Arctic Ocean, and they became the — more perhaps than the Air Force — the military strategy for the Cold War. The idea was that, of course, the submarines were going around there and nobody knew where they were. But they could come up if there were a war anyplace, and they would have their missiles. So they were very interested in the Arctic Ocean then and they wanted to be able to get into any ocean, and the Arctic was the most difficult in knowing how to surface and all that. And so they began funding research. They had their classified research mostly out at the Navy Arctic Submarine Lab in San Diego. But the Navy had had the Office of the Naval Research since World War II which had a very broad outlook on scientific research. And, of course, Lamont had had a lot of funding from Office of Naval Research, and they funded our Arctic work from then on as long as they stayed with it to the present. And so when I look back on it, it was such a smooth transition, but actually it was a purely an accidental circumstance I would say of how the strategies for the Cold War changed. We went from Air Force funding to Navy funding, but with nobody planning that thatís the way it should happen. It just did. Given some other world situation, it could have been completely different. But as it was, the Office of Naval Research became a generous and good source of funds for the future. And at that time, of course, the whole strategy changed. As far as logistics, it went more from the Naval Arctic Research Lab rather than the Air Force. Although they did get Air Force support in some cases, C130s, so on. But a lot of the smaller loads were taken out from Naval Arctic Research Lab on the future stations and on T-3. So this is this transition or this juncture there about 1960. Previous to 1960 we had station Alpha, and the Air Force ran the camp on ice island T-3, they called it Bravo during the IGY, which was T-3. And then after the IGY, in Ď59, the Air Force also sponsored one more called Charlie. So we had Alpha, Bravo and Charlie in Ď59. And we had people on that.
Sfraga:Who was the first program you worked with on T-3, 1960?
Hunkins:On T-3. We were the main — the biggest program on T-3. The Lamont program did have a broad program of Geophysics, we didnít do physical oceanography. Woods Hole had some physical oceanography programs there — Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. We were the steady operators up there. We Lamonters were there all the time. We, meaning the Lamont Arctic scientific group had somebody there from — and I have a different book here — 1962 to 1974. So that was twelve years. And in that time we collected the navigation. We navigated the station. This was a practical necessity as well as scientific. Any information you get, you want to know where it was taken — weíre drifting all the time. And of course itís a practical necessity for the airplanes coming out; they want to know where youíre located. Then we did the bathymetry, the ocean depths. We did geomagnetics. And we did gravity. Those we did all the time, continuously, summer and winter for those twelve years out there. And in this book we had compiled a list, and Iím not going to count them. But it seems to me we had something like fifty people, or forty, forty or fifty people over those years who went out there. So we had a lot of workers and weíd keep one or two people there all the time. And Max Brewer generally ran the logistics with the cooks and the mechanics and general handy men and so on. We were the steady scientific contingent over that period Continuous pretty much until Ď74. And one of the last people there was a man named Jay Ardai who was a very, a young fellow then, and he still works here. In fact, heís still, heís still pretty young. But he has gone back to the Arctic many times, and in fact, for now he generally works on the ships and in the Antarctic on some of those ships, like the Nathaniel B. Palmer, that the National Science Foundation runs. So Jay Ardai was our last helper on T-3. Most of us made several trips there.
Sfraga:And one article here that I have is the Arctic Submarine Acoustics. Looking at, they also mention SOFAR in here as well.
Hunkins:Yes. So the SOFAR channel is the sound fixing and ranging channel in the oceans that Ewing had discovered during the Second World War. And the idea was then that they could use it perhaps to locate downed airplanes in the ocean. Itís one of the interesting things about the ocean. So we were able to look at the sound channel in the Arctic Ocean, and this paper compares that sound channel with the one in the Atlantic Ocean for example, and other oceans. And in those other oceans, the sound channelís down about a thousand meters and the sound is ducted, itís like a duct, and channeled along that level in the ocean. And since itís a duct, it just spreads two dimensionally. It doesnít spread in all directions, like you see in a picture of the globe spreading out from a sound source. So itís confined, and the intensity doesnít decrease as fast. It stays at a higher level. So we were interested in the Arctic, but the Arctic, because of the nature of the temperature field, the sound channels at the surface, right underneath the ice. So you can think of the sound as taking long, looping paths and then reflecting off the ice. It penetrates downward, comes back up, refracted back upward, bounces off the ice, takes another dive, comes back up, bounces off the ice again, and thatís the Arctic sound channel. And my colleague Hank Kutschale was the real student of that and how much loss you get. And, of course, that was of great interest to the Navy. We didnít do real classified work. We cannot do that at Columbia. It was part of the University Senate agreements that we canít do classified work. But this was of general interest to the Navy, without the technical details of the equipment or ranges. Yes, so submarine acoustics was another field.
Sfraga:And that came during the T-3 days.
Hunkins:Yes. So what can I say about T-3? I got out another. And this may be a colleague you know. Somebody had written something about the Arctic shelves and ice islands. Martin O. Jeffries. And heís at the Geophysical Institute.
Sfraga:At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Yes.
Hunkins:Right. And he wrote an article, and since I donít remember all the dates, I think he followed T-3. And after, it was abandoned in 1974, twelve years was enough and we had a lot of data. And it didnít seem like we were going to collect much more, and so the ONR decided to abandon it. And it was tracked off and on for a few more years. And eventually it went out, exited the Arctic Ocean, went out into the Atlantic, and was lost. Well, eventually melted of course. I canít find the last date it was measured. But Iím sure youíve seen these famous pictures where the airplane is balanced on an ice pedestal. And there it is, right.
Sfraga:And where the ice actually had eroded from underneath the airplane, leaving it precariously balanced on top of the ice mound.
Hunkins:Right. The, you know, the ice melts off the surface every year in the summertime, whatever, a foot or two. And then every winter it grows on the bottom. So if itís in equilibrium, it loses as much at the surface as it adds onto the bottom next winter. It stays at around ten feet in the case of sea ice. But in the case of those thick pieces like T-3, it loses off the surface every year, but it doesnít necessarily gain so much on the bottom. So you see the evidence of what happens on the surface in that airplane that was left standing on a big pedestal. And thatís what happened to the camps. The buildings in the camps at the end of the summer would be left standing on the pedestal as the surface has gone down. And they can be on a pedestal many feet high, four or five feet high, rather dangerous thing to rig a pair of stairs to get out of the building and all that kind of thing. So, in the camps they lose more ice than they do in a natural situation because thereís just naturally dirt and whatever which is tracked around and that makes the ice melt faster. And itís analogous to what you were talking about earlier about the volcanic dust from Mt. Redoubt on — It stimulates melting.
Sfraga:And T-3 of course was long standing. Alpha was shorter-lived.
Hunkins:Alpha was abandoned in late Ď58 and I donít think ever spotted again because the sea ice has a rather short life. Itís going to be chewed up and broken eventually. And it doesnít have to exit the Arctic Ocean to be lost. It just absorbed.
Sfraga:What was the atmosphere on T-3 like?
Hunkins:Well, I think, on T-3? I think on Alpha it was very new. Everything was new. We were very enthusiastic and everything. T-3 came later, and, of course, we were interested, enthusiastic, but, of course, it became more routine when we manned it for twelve years with that great number of people who over the years would come and work, put in a season there, and then go on to something else. So, we had our own small group that was continuous. But it wasnít quite the same as Station Alpha. But, of course, we got better at doing a lot of things, and we, we introduced a lot of new things there. For example, the satellite navigation came in when we were on T-3. And we had one of the first satellite location systems thanks to Joe [J. Lamar] Worzel who was the associate director here. He had managed to get from the Navy, or, yes, through the Navy the plans for the first satellite navigation receivers. They were entirely classified at that time, and were put onto the Navy ships. But he managed to get three of those built and put them on our ships and on the ice island. Oh, one for the ship, one for spare here, and one we took to the Arctic. So that was the first satellite navigation. Thatís the precursor for the GPS [Global Positioning System] systems of today. Different set of satellites, but that was it. So we, we pioneered some of these things.
Sfraga:What was the general atmosphere about getting technology like this?
Hunkins:Oh yes. It was very, very, you know, exciting. We used the proton precision magnetometers. We had the first of those up there. And I think it was a nice feeling in the sense that an individual had lots of time to work with it up there. You werenít under quite the time pressure that you would have been on the ship say. You could work with it. And really familiarize yourself with it. And learn how to use it. And we were there, out there, and collecting data. And, yes, so in that way it was very good. In ways it probably wasnít so good. In some ways, you probably got some people that werenít so enthusiastic, and during the long winters it was rather boring. And in fact thereís a man writing a book about the ice stations, Bill Althoff. And in fact I was just talking to him. He wants to come and see me again. He says he has it finished now, and Iíll give you his address later. And he wanted to see me. There was a murder on T-3. He wants to talk more about that. To me, well we were very idealistic and all. So the murder on T-3 was not I thought the most, the highest level thing to talk about, but I think that he has to put that in the book. So, the murder on T-3.
Sfraga:When did that occur?
Hunkins:Well, it, I donít know the year. But Beau Buck had an underwater sound program for the Navy, and he was an ex-Navy officer, but a civilian. And he had a small research company. And he did some of this work. And he had that summer on T-3 a man named Eskamia, who was I think more or less a caretaker for his program for the summer until his more higher level technicians got back in the winter for the fall. And there was also a weather group on this station, and I think they were from the U.S. Weather Bureau. And their leader, whose name escapes me, was shot by Eskamia. And apparently it was an argument over some homemade brew. You know. I mean really low life kind of a thing. And so he claimed that, Eskamia claimed that he was only just threatening with a gun, and he didnít think it was loaded, and it had a defective hair trigger which was, he didnít know about or something. But anyway, the clear case was that he had shot him.
Sfraga:While he was supposedly drunk or —?
Hunkins:Yes. He supposedly had been drinking. And which one was the really, whether he was threatened. Whether Eskamia was threatened or whether the other one was going to take away the home brew or what. I donít know. But I didnít really follow the whole thing. I went. I was called to Santa Barbara. They had to decide where to try to the case. In other words it happened out in the Arctic Ocean, and they had landed I believe in Canada on the way back, with Eskamia. I think theyíd sent out deputies, or I donít even remember details, whoever the law enforcement officers were from. Anyway, and then they flew on from there into California. And so then the whole question was where should he be tried. And also Canada claims the Arctic Ocean as a sector. Where youíre drawing the longitude lines into the Pole. So actually T-3 as in that sector at that point. The U.S. doesnít recognize any of those claims. But Canada claims that area. So they had a preliminary hearing in Santa Barbara where the judge had two days of a hearing on who had jurisdiction. And he said nevertheless weíre going to hold these hearing, but weíre going to hold the trial here, but weíre going to have the hearings just to see where it should be tried. But weíre going to try it anywhere here. So I was called out to testify on these basic things. Like what is T-3 and how does it float and why was the camp out there and these kind of things. How do we know where we are? You know, the kind of things a lawyer asks you which weíre doing every day, but you have to establish all that. How do we know position and so on? So I went out there for two days for those hearings. I didnít stay for the trial. So many people know a lot more about that trial than I do. And I understand he was found guilty of something less, probably, than first degree murder, or something, you know, whatever. So he did serve a term. And oh I think heís been out for quite a while. I mean, that must have probably been, whether he served fifteen or twenty years or something. Anyway, so this is another aspect of T-3, which is not scientific or very edifying, but it did happen.
Sfraga:But yet a view of what the life was there. The social life was there.
Hunkins:Right. You asked me about. So, if it ended up with something like that, it couldnít be too good.
Sfraga:What was the social life like? Were people very open to visiting? Was there? I mean, obviously there was some kind of bootleg happening.
Hunkins:Well, I think in general it was — that was certainly not the norm. And, yes, we had usually very enthusiastic young fellows. And it was the experience of a lifetime for many of them. I mean I had an e-mail the other day from a fellow. Heís in Alaska. Lee Schoen. And he has something called Sea Wolf Associates. I probably have his E-mail address. Letís find out exactly where he is. Lee Schoen. Well anyway, he just discovered my name in some Email list. And he was just testing out his E-mail capabilities after, how many, this was at least Ď74 or earlier that he worked there. But he, you know, says one of the great experiences of his life, and heís obviously still in Alaska working at things like that. So, no, it was a great experience for many of the people that went out. And Iím sure one of the things that they really look back on all their life.
Sfraga:Certainly formidable in your career.
Hunkins:Oh yes. Oh yes. It determined my career for sure. Yes.
Sfraga:Perhaps we can transition here. Iím very interested in then your work in Hudson Canyon.
Hunkins:All right. I came back here.
Sfraga:1970 was your beginning last year on the island.
Hunkins:1970. Yes. Yes, I think thatís right. And then I began to do some work off the ships and the Hudson Canyon, and more specifically the Baltimore Canyon, which is another canyon. There are, as you know, many canyons incising the edge of the continental shelf off the east coast of the U.S. here. The way that project came about was that, at that time, there was some idea that they would find oil off the east coast here. And it never came to pass. The exploration companies didnít find any very good evidence, at least not enough to warrant any drilling. But until that was clearly the case, there was a lot of interest in the U.S.G.S. [United States Geological Survey] and the Bureau of Land Management felt they had to really determine what the conditions were out there in these canyons. If people started drilling in them, where was the drilling mud going, and, you know, what were they going to do to life out there and fisheries and all that kind of thing, if thereís any spills. So, anyway, we had a contract to study the Baltimore Canyon in some detail. And the contract was from the Bureau of Land Management who had the jurisdiction. How they got out there Iím not too sure. Federal politics. But you usually think of them out in the west. But they gave us a big contract to study the Baltimore Canyon which we did I went out eighteen months. And we had a wonderful set of moorings out there. And I collected a lot of data. And I worked with a woman named Barbara Hecker. She was the biologist. And I think we really found some fundamental and interesting things about how the plumbing of the canyon works, if you want to say that. How currents work in the canyon. Have some down slope currents at certain levels and up slope at other levels. So, itís more complex than we thought originally. But we had enough data to really, really determine how that does work. And we would have gone on to more, except that when the oil shows failed to appear, they lost interest. So thatís how I got involved in the canyon work off shore here. We were — I was just interested in all kinds of physical oceanography. And thatís just one that came together, brought together physical oceanography and marine geology.
Sfraga:So, again, that integration of different disciplines.
Hunkins:For me that was the key to it really; that the canyons are neither purely a geological problem nor purely a current flow problem. Itís a combination. And theyíve always been a good topic to the geologists, how do the canyons form. And it goes back a hundred years, ever since they were discovered. On how they really work and why theyíre there. Obviously they were cut much earlier during the end of the glacial period when there was lower, lower sea level and great runoffs from the shore. And, anyway, that was a very good study and we used the ship that belonged to the University of Delaware (the Cape Henlopen). Good ship. And we made many cruises out there, tending our moorings which we ran for about eighteen months.
Sfraga:Did you also use a submarine?
Hunkins:Not on that expedition. But, however, the Navy has a submarine called NR1, a nuclear research one. And that submarine, as its name tells you, is for exploration rather than for military purposes. And we had a program on there. Bruce [C.] Heezen was the principal person, principal scientist on that program. So this goes back to, early 70s I guess. And had a large program on there. And we made many dives. And I dived with him. It would hold two observers. And I made several dives with him. And it had a crew of about eight or ten Navy people. The skipper had to have been a skipper in the nuclear submarines, the regular nuclear submarines. So these were all very experienced skippers, and had had the tours in the regular submarines. Bruce had the idea we could use this to really explore some interesting things on the continental shelves and somewhat deeper. Of course, it was not a deep submersible. It wouldnít go to the bottom of deep ocean. It had certain limited depth range. But we went; we had campaigns in the Hudson Canyon. We had campaigns on Blake Bahamas Plateau and finally the last one, Puerto Rico. And we went —
Sfraga:Where in particular were you looking for on these —?
Hunkins:This Nuclear Research One had the capability — has the capability, itís still operating — of traveling along the bottom on wheels. Itís like a Jules Verne kind of a vehicle. It goes to the bottom and it can roll on the bottom. It can actually travel along the bottom. Yes, itís amazing. So we, meaning Bruce and myself, as observers are underneath the pilotís compartment, and we have three viewing ports so we can look at the bottom even as weíre traveling along it. So it is amazing that you can get this close up and youíre traveling over the bottom. And you can ask them [the crew], you know, go around and go over this way or something like that.
Sfraga:And literally travel along the bottom of the ocean.
Hunkins:Well, you can actually move on the bottom or just above it, either way. It was an amazing vehicle. But to answer what, we saw many interesting things. And we, but we always had trouble getting it published because so much of the operations were classified. And you needed to tie it closely to quantitative things, like depth, and position and so on, in order to have it published in a scientific journal. But we always had trouble getting declassified. We had trouble declassifying the papers. So we had one written, and I think not too long ago I discovered it in my files. Never got it published. And to this day, now, we never got it published to this day. Now, I think theyíve eased up since the end of the Cold War on some of that security. So probably could get it, but I think itís a little bit old now — Outdated. So we never did publish too much. But I mean it was memorable trips, seeing things first-hand like that. Very exciting. We circled Puerto Rico underwater for one thing.
Sfraga:How long was that?
Hunkins:Oh gosh. That took — Must have taken several days. You could take that submarine, put it on a floating dry-dock the Navy had. I remember the submarine came out of New London but the floating dry-dock couldnít get up the Thames there at New London. So it was off in Long Island Sound some wintery day, and we came out and got aboard. And they brought the submarine out. And flooded the floating dry-dock down so the submarine could come in and open the doors. The submarine comes in. Then they pump it down so that the ship comes up again. And it was all impressive to me. And it was something that the admiral at that time called the twenty-knot navy. So this is really a dry dock that did twenty knots. And actually it was for landing craft, for the Marines. But it got to handle this submarine. So then we went; I donít know if we went twenty knots all the way, but down to Puerto Rico. Left in a snow storm off Long Island and then the next thing you were in Mayaguez Bay on the west end of Puerto Rico. And Bruce and I climbed aboard with the crew on the submarine and they began to flood it down. And by that evening weíre floating and submerging and beginning to travel around Puerto Rico. And, yes, we were really interested to look at the geology, and Bruce wanted to project the shore line features down under water and see if we could follow them and so on. But that was an interesting project. But we, really the payoff for the scientist is publication in a journal, and we didnít get a lot of publications out of that.
Sfraga:Were you able to photograph? Were you photographing the bottom? Would they allow that?
Hunkins:Yes. Oh yes. Photograph, and also had an arm with pincers. You could actually pick up things. You could ask the pilots to try to pick up something for you. And they could reach this arm out. And then they had baskets on the side, and put it in the baskets, for example, rocks. And then when you got back, you had these net baskets of rocks; if you could remember which sample. Of course, we were taking lots of notes. A great experience, but scientifically it was disappointing. And actually Bruce Heezen died on that submarine later, a few years later. He had a heart attack.
Sfraga:On board that —?
Hunkins:On board that NR1. In the North Atlantic. Later Reykjanes Ridge. But you know, I learned from some great people here.
Sfraga:Iím interested. What was your relationship with Bruce Heezen?
Hunkins:Bruce Heezen was one, mentioning him. So I learned a lot from him. Enormous amount from him I would say.
Sfraga:In which particular area?
Hunkins:In his whole field of marine geology. I would say Lamont produced a few really exceptional scientists. And he was one of them. He really was very exceptional. And I mean he is still influencing the maps. Youíve probably seen his ocean floor maps. Another one was Jack [E.] Oliver. Jack Oliver is a seismologist for whom I first came to work. And so I learned a lot from him. And I did do quite a bit of seismology and he was always extremely supportive. In later years he went to Cornell [University] became head of the whole geology department. Of course, Doc [W. Maurice] Ewing himself was inspiration to anybody here.
Sfraga:Was that a, perhaps a pseudo-sense of relief then to be perhaps up on T-3 while it sounds as if your Arctic contingent had more flexibility like we discussed and maybe out of the normal circulation of Lamont you had more time to maybe plan and go along these other routes as opposed to worrying about the stringent schedules for the Vema?
Hunkins:Thatís true. Thatís true. It gave us a control over the vehicle, in other words. Thatís, of course, for the geophysics very important. Control of the vehicle. So if Doc had gotten the funding for the ship, had the ship bought and everything, of course he was going to feel that anything done out there was something that he should have a real part in whereas, the Arctic was separate, and we had to make our own way. And yes, so you felt like you had a more clear, clearer ownership of the data.
Sfraga:And he was supportive of —
Hunkins:Oh yes, he was very supportive. You know, he didnít say just because you worked here or something, everything belonged to him. No, it wasnít that. Understandable on the ship. If he invented, had the invented the gear and acquired the ship, and obtained the funds, of course, he felt certain ownership and had the ideas, of course, even though you went to sea that particular time, he still was going to work with you on it. But in the Arctic, no, he was happy to work with you if you wanted to talk to him about it. But he didnít lay any big claim on it. So that was very good for me and for those that worked with me. Lamont was a great place to work. And as we say, we had great scientists here. Still do. But some of them towered above others; Bruce Heezen, Jack Oliver and Doc himself. They were the biggest influences on me. In the early days, we had a bachelorís quarters in a town north of here, Piermont with at that time, Bruce Heezen, myself, Marcus Langseth and many others. It was kind of a rotating bachelorís quarters. Especially because of the nature of the earth science work, people were always traveling, out on the ship for a few months, and theyíre back. And this was just headquarters if anybody was back and needed a bunk. Or visitors from abroad. So that, I mean, that was a real education in itself. Of course, guys always working, playing, whatever, talking. I mean it was a big part of the education really.
Sfraga:The fraternity, but also the sharing of ideas.
Hunkins:Like a fraternity house, right. Right. And they were all bachelors at that time, and, it was great.
Sfraga:The work on T-3 after it was done, was there a sense of completion on your part and ready to move on? Or would you have liked to have done maybe some more work up there?
Hunkins:I think for me it was, yes, it was a time to move on. And that was enough. And we had a lot of that kind of station. And that was the time, of course, that was early seventies, and that was the time we were starting to do that work on the continental shelf here in the Baltimore Canyon. So it was a time when I was looking around for other things to do. And kept my hand in the Arctic though. By the late seventies we were working out of Greenland. And this, I mean, I welcomed this. I didnít really instigate it myself. I think Leonard Johnson should get the credit for that. That we had really explored the Arctic, at least as much as we could with these drifting ice stations north of Alaska. But we needed another base in order to get into the other side of the Arctic Ocean. And Greenland was a natural for that. Or, of course, you had Arctic Canada. But, anyway, we started the project called the Fram project out of northern Greenland. Seems like you might have heard of that.
Sfraga:Named after the father of the famous research vessel.
Hunkins:Exactly. Named after Fridtjof Nansen [cross talk]. So those were really to my liking because they were small stations again. And we were looking at a whole different part of the Arctic Ocean. And so I went, over, in Ď79.
Sfraga:And these were based out of —?
Hunkins:These were based out of a place called Nord in northeastern Greenland. And, of course, nobody lives there. It was a former base, Cold War base, for the U.S. But it had gone back to. It was only used for a very short time. And it had gone back to Denmark who used it as a base in the summer for their geological survey. But there were all these buildings around, but nobody in them.
Sfraga:I just asked who had negotiated the use of the station?
Hunkins:To go to Greenland one has to negotiate with Denmark. And so we did, we made trips to Denmark and had conferences with the scientific commission for Greenland. And mostly people at the Technical University in Lyngby. So thatís how that went.
Sfraga:And what were you looking for specifically during these, there was a Fram 1 and a Fram 3?
Sfraga:And you were chief scientist, is that right?
Hunkins:I was chief scientist. For one thing we were closer to the mid-Arctic Ridge which is interesting. The other thing of interest was that weíre closer to the Fram strait, the strait between Greenland and Spitzbergen, which is the main exchange route between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic. Well these were two main advantages. These were places that you just couldnít physically reach from Alaska; just enormous distance across the whole Arctic Ocean. So relatively close though to northern Greenland. We could get out to these stations with small aircraft. The whole operation was much lighter and more flexible. You didnít have military support any more. It was all chartered aircraft. Well, you did have, Iíll take that back, we did have C- 130 [aircraft] air drops in some cases. But in general it was all done with Twin Otters [aircraft] and helicopters, chartered.
Sfraga:And funded by —?
Hunkins:Funded pretty much by ONR [Office of Naval Research] — pretty much by ONR.
Sfraga:And this is significant area here as far as circulation in the Arctic Oceans. Significant exchange in that particular area.
Hunkins:That got us into the whole area of the Fram strait and the exchange between the Arctic and the Atlantic, which has some climatic implications. So to me this became a whole new area of interest. The Navy kept supporting work in that area for a number of years. The MIZEX [Marginal Ice Zone Experiment] expeditions came later on. And, but those were all from ships. These were down south of the strait. So we were in open water, and you could get ships around.
Sfraga:And thatís the Marginal Ice Zone?
Hunkins:Marginal Ice Zone Experiment we called that. But the Fram stations are like, that was in the real Arctic Ocean on ice. We had small stations. They were international. We had people from Norway like Yngve Kristoffersen. Great stations. Small. We had, instead of those semi-cylindrical huts I was talking about, now we had a rather small type of hut that Beau Buck had invented, which was very simple, just plywood hut. But it went up very fast. It was very warm, small, and so easy to heat. And we had a whole new kind of means of doing expeditions. Logistical techniques that had changed. And it was great to have helicopters. We had a helicopter out there on those stations. So we could do surveys out from the stations. Had helicopter at our beck and call. We had a Norwegian pilot, a Swedish co-pilot.
Sfraga:Did you do photographic surveys, aerial photographic surveys of this area at all?
Hunkins:They did some aerial photographic surveys. We were using the helicopter for physical oceanographic surveys. Go out and then land, take a station, and go on from there.
Sfraga:All based out of Nord.
Hunkins:Based out of Nord, yes. Well, yes. It was a two-step operation. Out of NORD we established an ice camp, Fram 1, Fram 3. And then from the ice camp we can go out and radiate around and do a certain amount of physical oceanography. In fact, things, you know, depended so much on weather and so on. I always remember that. I donít want to push the pilots. Itís up to the pilot how far he wants to go, and what kind of weather, and whether youíre going to get a whiteout or something. So always after breakfast, weíd look at the sky, the pilot and I. And I would encourage him. Iíd say — Well, Iíd showed him the map early in the whole operation. I said, you know, there are certain stations we can only get to, the more distant, more difficult ones. Way over toward Spitzbergen, you know if the weatherís perfect. And everything looks perfect. So, you know, if everything looked good, Iíd say what do you think about, you know, that further station. Heíd say, I donít think we can do it today. Then, the next day. And weíd always keep it in mind, and just kind of keep pushing to go as far as we could without taking any big risks. Heís going to be conservative. Iíd like to get out there. But I didnít want to do anything that was beyond the capability of the chopper or get in trouble with the weather. So, they were great expeditions. Really back to a small scale again.
Sfraga:But itís a very important and interesting point because you point out the transition in the way in which the science was done, Cold War, IGY, and then into 70s with T-3, and then we have, when T-3 is over, then we have the transition into these rather small scale but yet very dynamic expeditions that are using jumping off points and also improved vehicles of expeditions — helicopters and small planes.
Hunkins:Right. Have your own helicopter right there on the station. And this was something we had dreamed about, but never had before. That was a great step forward, for everybody. I mean, they could use it also for the people studying the ice, people studying the atmosphere. Everybody.
Sfraga:I wonder what about the international community there on these Fram expeditions. Who was there and what was the interaction like?
Hunkins:Well, we did have some Danes and we had some Norwegians. But the Norwegians we knew, like Yngve Kristoffersen. He had been a grad student here at Lamont. So we knew those people. But they added, you know, a different flavor. I really welcomed that, getting some Scandinavian participation. And then I even went further with the MIZEX, when these ships, these Norwegian ships, based out of Norway actually and going up through the Norwegian Sea out to Spitzbergen. Tromso to Spitzbergen. So there was just increasing interest in the whole Scandinavian sector over there. So I guess just the background of it was interesting to me. Whole different scene than the Alaskan sector. Both scientifically and as well as socially and culturally.
Sfraga:And would you have discussions with perhaps your Antarctic colleagues in the way in which you were choreographing these expeditions for their similarities? Did you talk about the ideas on how to —?
Hunkins:I donít think so. I donít think so and no, not to my knowledge. The reason is this, that, as most people know, the Antarctic is an enormous ice sheet, and so if youíre sitting in the center of Antarctica, youíre on top of an ice sheet and youíre up in the air — I donít know how many thousand feet. But ten thousand foot ice sheet there whereas in the Arctic, youíre on the sea. And so itís oceanography. So we didnít have too many similarities in logistics or in the science. Cause the Arctic was oceanography and the Antarctic is geophysics related, but the beginning was just to get to know how deep that ice sheet is and the geology underneath it whereas we were studying the ocean currents. So, and that way we didnít have too much in common.
Sfraga:Even with those oceanographers that were off the coast of Antarctica looking at ocean currents or —?
Hunkins:Yes. Well, we had a program here that Arnold Gordon had on the Eltanin. And, of course, they were doing oceanography. But in a sense that was just classical oceanography. Studying temperature and salinity with depth in the ocean. And they were in ice free waters pretty much. So they had much more in common with the people who went out from Woods Hole. So, yes, we talked a little bit, but we didnít have a lot in common.
Sfraga:Iím particularly interested if on the equipment that you wore —
Sfraga:Where did the equipment come from, your gloves and your boots and? Did it work? Did it work to your satisfaction?
Hunkins:In the early days, which is in Station Alpha, when the Air Force ran things, they furnished us all, all the gear we needed. So we had their cold weather gear. And I think it was reasonably satisfactory. You know, the thing about it is that these werenít really hardship stations. I mean, we had well heated huts. And there were some people that hardly ever went outside. So, you know, it wasnít like we were climbing Mt. McKinley or something, and were being tested every minute as to how good the gear was. I mean you had to have good gear, but you werenít out all the time like that. Always one could go back to the station. I would say the Air Force gear was pretty good. Later, Max Brewer, he got special parkas and things like that. He used to get them from Eddie Bauer [outdoor clothing manufacturer], and that was in the old days when Eddie Bauer was, was just a store in Seattle, you know, before they went national.
Sfraga:And this is Eddie Bauer, the outdoor manufacturer?
Hunkins:The outdoors manufacturer, right. Now theyíre a big national outfit. I think we have stores around here. Right. But then it was a small place in Seattle where they outfitted guys who were going up to Alaska to work on the pipeline or the oil rigs or whatever.
Sfraga:And thatís when they had their patent for their goose down jackets. Down jackets were really quite popular.
Hunkins:They were very popular. And Max had special ones built, I think, or at least they were really heavy weight. They had instead of nylon or a light material; you had a really heavy material on the outside for warmth type of a parka. But it was, the down parka underneath, but on the outside it was rugged. So I mean these guys working around diesels and tractors and things. Otherwise, the really mountaineering type things, theyíd have big rips in it before youíd know it and the down is all gone, so what good was it then. So he had really good ones made. And we did get good gear. I try to think about foot gear. That was one of the most important things. The Air Force had mukluks I remember. And they would furnish you — the best we got, I donít remember who we got those for us, but we had some of those Canadian Army mukluks. Those were some of the best I ever had. They were white ones, made for Canadian Armyís Arctic Operations.
Sfraga:I know that the Royal Canadian Air Force had — might have been — may have been those.
Hunkins:Could be. They were white ones.
Sfraga:During the war, the Second World War, they were very much proactive in their development of Arctic and cold weather warfare.
Hunkins:Had good gear. In fact, I think the ones that I have in mind were developed even after the war. Itís kind of a double boot, and it pulled inside out to dry. And you stuffed it, so it came out to a kind of a double one. And you stuffed this one back in. So, yes, gear was important. And before we had the satellite navigators, we had to shoot the stars or the sun. We had celestial navigation. We did that with theodolite. It was a little easier than doing it from a ship. In the sense we werenít tossing around. So we could go from a theodolite mounted on a post, frozen in the ice, and shoot the sun. Of course in the summer thatís all you had was the sun because thereís twenty-four hours of daylight. And in the winter, it was of course the star shots and we had to navigate. That was probably where you needed the best gear. To stand out there — you know, when itís forty or fifty below — and shoot with the theodolite. So, it was always a problem how to do that. Everybody had their own way. With silk gloves which you pulled out of your mittens, and worked the dials, and then put Ďem back in the — Or pocket hand warmers, which at the last minute you pulled your hands out, work as fast as you can, and then put them back in your pockets. For us, for our group, that was the most difficult thing, taking these celestial shots.
Sfraga:Well, I know that weíve spent a good deal of time here. A couple of hours.
Hunkins:A couple of hours.
Sfraga:Absolutely. And maybe weíll break here and Iíd like to thank you for your time.
Oh, youíre most welcome.