Oral History Transcript — Dr. Kenneth Hunkins
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Kenneth Hunkins; April 11, 1998
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 and Iím with Ken Hunkins. Today is April 11, 1998. Weíre in Professor Hunkinsí office. Adjacent to his office is a conference room. And this is the third interview with Dr. Hunkins and most probably the final. I was wondering if you could help me learn of your transition from the Korean War and your interest in geosciences and then how you worked your way into graduate school. Was there anything about what you did or your time in the war that spurred you particularly towards the geosciences, particularly towards your graduate programs?
Hunkins:My interest in geoscience must have gone back earlier. I was a physics major in college and I never took a geology course even in college as an undergrad. But at the time I was a senior and beginning to wonder what I would do, I had heard of geophysical exploration for oil in the west, of course, of the U.S. mostly. And I recall going to one of my professors in physics who had just come from Cal Tech and asking him about that. And he didnít know much about geophysical exploration for oil. He was a nuclear physicist, so, but he was sympathetic and he had heard of United Geophysical and Hoover. I think thatís Hooverís company, was the son of Herbert Hoover. And so that was all, the only contact I had. I just had this vague idea, well, maybe thatís some way I could use physics. And I could see at that time that I probably wasnít that interested in nuclear physics. I would rather apply it to the earth. And this seemed like a, just in vague general terms, a very wonderful idea. That maybe I could use my background in that way. And since you explored for oil, that would be a way also, of course, to earn a living. So you would be doing something of general use and I had no idea of becoming a professor or anything academic. So thatís the first thought I had of it. But then I went, as we recalled, into the Korean War, and I had very little thought about graduate school at that time.
Sfraga:What was your role in the war? What did you do?
I went through basic training, eventually I went to officer candidate school. So I was commissioned a second lieutenant. And this was during the Korean War. So I was an infantry lieutenant. And I served for a little while in the U.S. with a new division; the thirty-first infantry was brought on line, National Guard division from Alabama, Mississippi. They needed to fill it up with some officers so I went to the south with that division, which was an interesting experience, but not relevant here too much. So I, then I went to Korea. I was, as I said, platoon leader in the second division, second infantry division in the ninth regiment. And we were at that time, 1952-53, pretty much holding the line around the thirty-eighth parallel and with mostly scouting and patrolling activity. And there were two lines with a no manís land between and that was all night patrolling. So this was a very hazardous business, but I survived all that.
Well I was, of course you start out as a platoon leader, rifle platoon leader, kind of graduate a weapons platoon leader, and there are three rifle platoons and one weapons platoon in every company. I was weapons platoon leader and then one day I recall we had a great colonel [Lt. Col. Harry Clark] of our battalion, an old cavalryman, and one day I remember we were out there, we were behind the lines at that time, trying to zero in some mortars, I mean just for practice. We werenít actually engaging because we were in reserve and my guys didnít have much luck zeroing in because on those frozen rice paddies that the bases of the mortars would jump and everything so they couldnít get zeroed very well. And it was just kind of a bad day, and the colonel came by and said, how would you like to come and be my S4, his supply officer is what it amounts to. So I said that sounds good to me, so that became staff work instead of troop duty, so, of course, itís a little easier in a way. And so then I joined his staff and was there for the rest of the winter. And in the spring I moved to a heavy weapons company, but we were in what they call big reserve. So that was not on the line anymore. And I left from there. Sailed home in the summer of Ď53 and on the time I was on the ship returning across the Pacific, they signed the peace treaty so that was the end of the war. So I was there until the end of the war.
Sfraga:Did you have to engage in combat?
Hunkins:Oh yes, oh yes, in the patrolling, you know. And, of course, even the no manís land was wide enough so that really you couldnít shoot, of course small arms across it or anything. But bigger weapons you could. I mean large guns, 57mm; hundred and twenty howitzer and artillery and so on could cross it. So there was some artillery action and things like that. But for the infantry it was pretty much patrol action at night. You would go into the no manís land, have a plan, you know, with your party, your patrol, where youíre supposed to go and everything. And the idea was to keep control, maybe not control, but at least keep active in that no manís land, which was generally a valley between the two lines, which occupied the high land, high ground. So that was the kind of fighting it was. Always at night, you know, so we would live at night, sleep in the daytime. But I survived it, and as I said, once you survive that much, you started moving back into more secure positions.
Sfraga:Do you remember the first engagement you had?
Hunkins:Yes. The biggest one was with a platoon patrol, really a large one, about thirty men. And the problem was that it was bright moonlight. And we probably shouldnít have patrolled, but once they set everything up, it was hard not to go. And so were out there, and we didnít really engage any troops in the valleys, but they had seen us. And so when we returned to our own lines, you have to go through certain — of course to get through the mine fields and the barbed wire and everything — certain routes which generally they would know and we would also know theirs. So they did put down a big mortar barrage. So we had a lot of men wounded that day. You know, that was probably the worst one. But not from small arms, it was from mortars. So, you know, it was various things like that. So that was the ninth regiment. And so I was with that unit the whole time I was in Korea with Second division, Ninth infantry. So, you know, I guess one of the things you get through. But lieutenants generally have a high mortality because you have to lead the troops and, you know, in the scouting actions and that sort of thing. So anyway that was the Korean War. So then I came back, that was in the summer, so then I applied to a couple places. I had this idea again of geophysics and I didnít know too much, but I applied to Harvard. Francis Birch was a geophysicist there. And I applied to Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. And I applied to Stanford. Somehow I donít know now how I got the information that they all had geophysics programs. Somehow I did. But I had nobody really to advise me or anything. I mean, this was all done probably on some kind of piece of paper I found somewhere. And somehow with Harvard, I went up there, and they had lost all my records there. I said the heck with this. And then Colorado School of Mines accepted me, and then Stanford did. So I chose Stanford, and thatís how I ended up out there, knowing very little about it really.
Sfraga:You said something very interesting last time we spoke, and that was that the lure to geophysics, one of the lures to geophysics for you, was the fact that they, that you were out in the field. You werenít, you werenít, in your words, wearing a white coat. You werenít a lab coated doctor.
Sfraga:Thatís a pretty powerful statement.
Right. So, right. Well that is true. I mean that is, I think, the way I felt. This was a very grand idea that, you know, you were really going to be working on the earth. You know and I always liked hiking and any kind of outdoor activity, and so I thought this is really a wonderful thing. You can either study things on a big scale, like astronomy and geophysics, or you can study them on a very small scale, like nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry. Well this appealed to me on this big scale, especially on our own earth, that one might actually probe it and come up with some interesting new facts and this was a most exciting idea. And at that time it was little bit vague, and I didnít even really think of it as academic type geophysics, of studying the whole earth. It was a practical thing; I would probably end up working for an oil company. Because the professor with whom I worked at Stanford, Joshua Soske was a former oil geophysicist. Joshua Soske, S-O-S-K-E, he spells it. And he had had his own company in Pasadena [CA] and he had explored and, in fact, I think he had actually ended his really active career at the end of, well at the beginning of World War II, in fact. I think they were exploring the Philippines somewhere out there when the Japanese drove them out, or, I mean, at least they left before the Japanese drove them out.
So that was the end I think for his really big overseas explorations. But he was a salty character and had a lot of practical experience and had written some chapters of some books on seismic prospecting. And in fact with him, he would often take jobs from companies which had seismic exploration done, but they werenít satisfied with the interpretation of the data. They didnít question when they set off the explosions and recorded the results, that was okay, but how do you interpret it. So they would have a second interpretation by him [Soske], and so then he needed some help. So that was the way we had a little extra money and a little extra job for the grad students. So I worked with him on those. And then we also had a truck. I donít know if I told you this before — a truck, which Western Geophysical gave to us. And which I suppose had been obsolete, declared obsolete in their company. And Henry Salvatori was the man that had given the money for the laboratory there, Salvatori, and he was the, well he was the big donor there, and so his company gave the truck and so on. And we used that for more academic type explorations down in Southern California.
Soske was also an explosives expert. Had been hired to oversee or plan the demolition of an oil field which was right off the shore there, north of Santa Barbara, a place called Carpentaria. And so the agreement had been apparently when the, you know, this is a long story, and I donít know if itís — but itís anyway what we were doing. The agreement had been that when the oil field was depleted, it was really in the surf zone, very shallow, the oil wells were all to be removed. All the structures. And so they did that by cutting them with explosives, and then I guess removing the debris. We never saw that. But, anyway, he was in charge of all the explosions. So we used those explosions, and then we could record a line out eastward, out to Riverside, California, through the mountains there, the Tehachapi Mountains. And so this was really a nice taste of planning an experiment and doing something. You know this was almost pre-government funding. This was all done on our own really without any NSF [National Science Foundation] which was still in its early days. And ONR [Office of Naval Research] wasnít involved in this sort of thing. So this was all private funding, what little there was. And we got some interesting results on the depth of the sediments there around Ventura, California, through there, yes. So anyway that was, those were great adventures exploring around there with those oil trucks, oil prospecting trucks.
Sfraga:There is, there have been many historians of science and others who have looked at the difference between, or the perceptions of, the classical scientist, the one that you mentioned with the white lab coat, and the other field scientist, the lure here. And the lure for you was to be out in the outdoors, to experiment in some innovative ways. But a lot of the prestige, in terms of public prestige, really went to the white lab coated scientist. So the whole concept of prestige and rank and all that for you, when you first got into it, that seems to be secondary to your love of the outdoors and to apply your science to the outdoors and to look at the earth in a much larger picture than the prestige of, maybe, perhaps being a lab scientist.
Sfraga:Right. Yes, I think, you know, maybe what you say is right. I never had any talent probably for administrative type things for one thing. And again, I was, well more interested in the out of doors, if I could do that. Of course, you want to combine it with what you do in the lab, if you have to bring samples back to test and you have to interpret your records when you get home, that sort of thing. But if it can be combined, I thought this was about ideal, an ideal way to go. And I would still say that to this day. This Champlain project that I told you Iím doing now in my retirement capacity, capacity as a retired person. Again, but I donít have the organizing ability that I did, so my student does all that. My former student, I wouldnít want to call him my student. He organizes everything and he has the project going in the field and on the boats and everything, and I go with him once in a while. But I just think thereís something about that, being able to actually see, in this case the Lake, or to see the Arctic Ocean and have spent some time on it. I just think that, somehow I think it must involve the scientist, the researcher more deeply into the whole thing. If you study it too abstractly, you know, perhaps youíre not that involved with it. And emotion, of course, is not supposed to come into the science and it doesnít as far as doing your research, but where do you get the commitment to what youíre doing, or the feeling for it that keeps you at it. And I think that comes from, in the case of some of us, from actually being in the natural environment and seeing the way it works. So you canít generalize that for everybody, but for me I think it worked that way. And of course if youíre studying the galaxies as an astronomer or youíre studying as a seismologist the core of the earth, of course, youíre not going to get to see those things with a hands-on type of approach. But you know weíre fortunate that in some of the geophysics we go to sea or we go out on ice floe stations or we go out on small boats on lakes, and actually get a feel for our earth. Thatís the nice idea of it.
Sfraga:You mentioned — and I want to follow up on this — you mentioned funding. That some of the funding that you did originally came from offshoots of private endeavors, but later on the National Science Foundation became involved and the Office of Naval Research in the work that you had done.
Sfraga:Was there any sense when you were working, perhaps in the 50s and in the 60s and we can keep going, was there a sense that this sort of Cold War or defense money would ever not be there for you? How easy was it to get the funding that you needed?
Right. Well, let me — before I answer your question about whether or not we could see an end to it or not. I donít think that really came up strongly in my mind at that time when one kind of lived from year to year, and you saw how it was now, and so you didnít really think what it would be twenty years from now. You know, although, of course, you have some questions when everybody wants — not everybody, but many of us — want to be sure that the career is going to be stable enough that you can support your family and that sort of thing. But generally the contracts in those days were on a yearly basis, my own funding for my own research came from, first the Air Force, and first the Air Force. And I donít know if I told you this story — again since weíve talked a couple of times — but, in fact we just mentioned it earlier that some I met Viljalmur in Stefanson in a meeting of the Air Force. And the Air Force Cambridge up at Hansom Field in, near Boston, funded some of the early Arctic research. And the Arctic work had been primarily done under the supervision of Bert Crary, and you probably heard his name. And so they funded us. And we had this funded for the International Geophysical Year Program, so Ď57, Ď58, and subsequently Ď59 they were still funding us. But along about 1960 there was a decision made at high level, probably up at the secretary level of the Air Force that the Air Force didnít have any more need to study the Arctic because the missiles had begun to come in. And the strategic, the main strategic way the U.S. was going to handle it was by missiles after that. Prior to that, it was manned bombers. So they felt they had to know something about the Arctic I suppose. I mean, we didnít get these things spelled out to us, but thatís obviously the way it worked. They needed to know something about the Arctic in case one of the bombers went down. They wanted to know weather, those kinds of things. But they were very broad minded about it. They also wanted to know anything they could know about it. It was still little unknown. So you could learn about the ice. You could be studying the waters underneath the ice. You could be studying some biology.
They would still be willing to fund it because they felt that this was just a small thing and it might help somebody write a manual for the pilots in case they went down, what they could hope to find, how to survive or something. So, you know, we werenít involved in anything as practical as that, but it was just, we were given a broad freedom to work on what we thought was interesting. That was funding from the U.S. Air Force. And then after 1960 the ONR, and it was just fortuitous from our standpoint that just about the time the Air Force lost interest because they felt the missiles were the next strategy that was the time that the Navy had sent the first nuclear submarines into the Arctic and had a lot of interest in the Arctic because they expected to be patrolling there from then on. And then, of course, to this day they are. So thatís 1958 until now, its forty years, so they had their regular Arctic patrols. And weíre still somewhat involved in that here at Lamont. This year, the fellow in the next room there, heís Dale Chayes is putting a side scan sonar, a broad-beam sonar, on a submarine so we can get Arctic bathymetry in the Arctic Ocean on a broad scan, rather than just take a straight line with the kind of pencil beam, they have a wide band which sweeps and so you get a picture over a certain width, whatever it is depending on the depth, hundreds of meters up to kilometers. And so Iím still somewhat involved in that. Iím not directly involved it in myself anymore. But I did go down to visit the oceanographer of the Navy last year just to fill in some of the history.
Sfraga:How were the program managers to work for, say in the Office of Naval Research? Did you have — What kind of relationships did you have with them?
Hunkins:Oh yes. Well, you asked me and this is relevant to the first question about how did we see the stability of the funding or how did we see any possible end to it? And I would say that the Office of Naval Research was for us excellent. You know, without them we probably couldnít have done the program because unlike NSF, they didnít consider every year a completely new year with the whole program then opened up again for bids, so to speak, for new proposals and everything and youíd have to fight against all your possible competitors and see if you could get money. Once you were doing a good job and they were happy with what you were doing and they were convinced it was good science, and of course, it wasnít just up to the managers to decide, they had their feelers out and ways of discerning the quality of the research, once they were convinced that you were doing good work, they would stick with you. And so this did give us a lot of stability. Without that we couldnít have done it, not this kind of research, where we had to build up a certain group of technicians. We had to build up a certain amount of equipment, and, you know, run that station, especially after the IGY when we had T-3, which we ran, where we ran a program for many, many years. You had to have stability like that. So I have to really give the credit to ONR. And in those days Max Britton was the leader of Arctic work; a great manager as far as Iím concerned. And they just had a good bunch of people. And so I give them a lot of credit. And yes, so almost all of it was funded by ONR. We had very little of NSF.
Sfraga:Any other agencies? Any other federal agencies?
Hunkins:No. Really, we were almost totally ONR. Yes, totally for the Arctic. Yes. Then I did other work. We had in the 80s I had a project off the East Coast of the U.S. and that was strangely enough funded mostly by the Bureau of Land Management because they were planning — this is taking us far from the Arctic — but we had a project for a few years studying the canyons. Oh this probably goes over to another topic. Yes, studying Baltimore Canyon. And we were studying that because at that time there was an idea that they might discover oil under the continental shelf off the East Coast. And there were hopes for that. And we, looking ahead — and for some reason, BLM [Bureau of Land Management] became the responsible government authority. I donít understand the whole — somehow it got put off on them, Interior, although we were outside the shore line. So that was where the funding originated. To study Baltimore Canyon with the idea that, if they were to drill there, what would happen to — well just at the simplest, when you drill always youíre going to have drilling mud. You know, so they just came out, and everybodyís so concerned about the environment. When they run down these continental shelf, down these canyons, and what kind of, what would that do and so on. And so we had a detailed study of those canyons, and I did the current part and a woman here at that time, Barbara Hecker did all the biology. So we had a very large project. So thatís just by way of saying that some of my work was funded by other agencies, but the Arctic was, I would say, virtually a hundred percent ONR. And ONR, of course, funded the Naval Arctic Research Lab in Point Barrow. So it was all tied together. They just managed the whole thing very well. I mean, it was because of ONR and Max Britton that they built that lab. I mean, he saw that they should have a facility there. He built that first class lab in a place that was very difficult to live in before that for casual researchers just going through. You know, in the IGY, in Ď57, Ď58, we staged out of Fairbanks primarily. And, you know, that would just be landing spot, Barrow to refuel or whatever. But after ONR built that lab and I suppose the Navy felt they had, there were various reasons they felt they had an interest there because of Naval Petroleum Reserve #4 and so on. It was more or less natural for them to take the responsibility up there. So they were the prime movers in the Arctic. And I canít give them enough credit.
Sfraga:In terms of your work in the Baltimore Canyon, do you remember, what was significant? What was a significant find or significant findings that you came across during your time there?
Hunkins:Well, I would say that the most important result was this, we were interested in the currents. To me that was the most important thing, to understand how the canyons worked in the circulation of the ocean along the shore line. Here you had a Continental Shelf. As we know, it goes out at a shallow depth. Then thereís the continental slope which drops off steeply into the deep abyssal ocean. This shelf is not totally uniform, but itís incised by deep canyons in some places, particularly on the East Coast here. One of the biggest is right off here, the Hudson Canyon, which starts, as you know, a small precursor which comes right out from the harbor, but the main canyon is about a hundred miles off shore here. And so they were studying that one. And, in fact, some of the Woods Hole people were involved in that. And we were studying the, we were studying the Baltimore Canyon. That was chosen as being a fairly representative of those south of here. And the most significant thing I think was that we were able to delineate the main circulation, the long term circulation, and show what was happening from these current meter records. We had about a couple of years of data, that we went out about six cruises to deploy and retrieve the current meter strings. We used the ship from the University of Delaware, the Cape Henlopen. So we had a good relationship with those people in Delaware.
Sfraga:What the name of the ship?
Hunkins:Cape Henlopen, which is one of the capes down there. And that was their research ship. It was a nice, it was just right for this kind of work. We were never more than, oh a hundred miles off shore, so it was not a global type of a vessel. It was not a really big ship, hundred feet long maybe. But it was a good ship and a fast boat. So that was our working ship and of course they, it was their crew and their skipper. So we had many good cruises from there. And, but the main result was that we could come up with a mean circulation. And there was a down canyon current on the mean circulation in the upper part of the canyon. Okay, the currents were flowing down the canyon, which is maybe somewhat intuitive, but much deeper there was an up canyon flow. So these two currents must meet at some point and create a convergence and then whatever this was in the canyon would probably be taken out to sea at that mid-level where the down canyon current met the up canyon current head on and then the currents would have to go out to sea. So if theyíd ever drilled there, and if thereíd ever been drilling mud or if, hopefully not, but if thereíd ever been oil spills with heavier materials which would sink, then you knew something about what might happen because of this work. So I think that we did something useful to people, but also it was generally useful to the academic question too of how do these canyons affect the whole continental shelf circulation which is an interesting problem to this day. So I think it was a nice piece of work, and so thatís the result that came out of it. But it was never, it never, it was never used in a practical way because about that time the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] gave out exploration permits to various oil companies, and they did explore off there in various zones, and the oil companies pulled out. They decided it was just no hope, so they lost complete interest after they did their surveys. So nothing ever came of that. And I donít think anybodyís going back there. I havenít heard of any new activity.
Sfraga:The findings that you found at Baltimore Canyon, were those consistent with perhaps some other research done on other canyons?
Hunkins:Yes. As I said, Woods Hole group worked on the canyons north of Hudson Canyon, which was kind of in the middle. And actually is the largest. But they worked on a whole series that go north from Hudson, between Hudson Canyon, letís say, and Cape Cod. There are quite a few. And they worked on those, and I think our results were somewhat consistent. Those are smaller canyons. I think our data were a little more clear cut, but thatís about all I could say. But, yes, they seemed to fit together. That was probably a good way to do it. Have two different institutions divide up the East Coast between them, and try to get a good picture of it. And, you know, I think they would have been in good shape if BLM was interested in kind of protecting themselves in the sense to say, well, weíve done our research and if we actually go to lease permits — which they never did, of course, because the oil companies didnít want it — if we ever went to lease permits, they could be able to say, well we know what weíre doing here. We know what the currents are and we know what might happen, and so on. And they could either say yes or no to putting oil wells out there and that sort of thing. So, no, I think, you know, it was a useful thing. Unfortunately, there was never any oil found.
Sfraga:But you brought up a very interesting concept. Your work here at Lamont, but also it seems that you were working in relation with Woods Hole. What were the dynamics perhaps between scientists from Woods Hole and Lamont? Professionally, personally was there a sense of competition or was it a sense of the work complimenting each other?
Well, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution was a much older organization than Lamont since it went back before the war to something like 1930 or so. And you know had a lot of tradition and prestige and so on. The original research area which was selected by Doc Ewing was one which did not overlap with Woods Hole very much. Ewing himself had been at Woods Hole in the war time, and his interest was geophysics of the ocean. And Woods Holeís strong point had been physical oceanography, the waters of the ocean. And Lamont under Ewing just seemed, you know, just happened naturally I suppose, not that this all of a sudden said well we better find, cross a line and say well weíre on this side of the line and youíre on the other or something, but it did seem to happen naturally that he got into the geophysics of the ocean floor and what was below the ocean floor. Whereas Woods Hole had been the people who studied the ocean water, the currents and the circulation of the ocean. So, so in that way there was a separation between the research interests. Yes. So, you know, I think thereís some, I never think there was competition as far as organizations go. I donít think we felt that. I donít think it was like people would feel about two football teams in different colleges or something like that. It was not like that. I think, yes, maybe, but I donít think it was competitive.
In fact, we always worked with various people up there in one way or another. And we always. I think it was a very agreeable sort of relationship actually. And I donít know if I told you that one of the last projects I did was a modeling with rotating tanks, laboratory type models. In fact, thatís what a lot of the stuff out here is. And I did that in the early 90s with Jack Whitehead at Woods Hole. And Jack and I had this project for a number of years, and the Office of Naval Research funded it. And we worked studying the exchange between the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean through Fram Strait — Fram Strait between Greenland and Spitzbergen. And so we were doing more or less theoretical or laboratory type studies on rather idealized pictures of how cold Arctic water flows out into the Atlantic and how the warm Atlantic water flows in the Arctic. So that was our study. And that was just Jack and myself and he is a laboratory modeler by profession, and so we used a lot of his equipment up there. And I would spend, sometimes weeks up there, and then, you know, we would come back and work on things. And we had a very good relationship.
To me that was more typical of the kind of sharing way we worked. And I might mention just one other thing about Woods Hole. In every summer there is a conference at Woods Hole called the GFD conference, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. And I think NSF really funds that, but they get really the best theoreticians from all over the world to come there for the summer, and thatís a very special thing. And I went there a few summers over the years and always enjoyed my stays there. And I think that, you know, just talking about feeling of oneís research, I really like to get outdoors and do things like that, but in a certain way I always felt I was interested in the theory, but I didnít have as much time while managing projects. So probably in later years I had more time to not be concerned with running big projects and lots of people, and I could do more theory. And it was one time that a fluid dynamicist, actually heís at Florida State, Jim OíBrien. I remember him many years ago saying to me that, I read your papers. He said, I always see that there is a theoretician trying to get out there. And I thought he was very perceptive in a way, you know because heís more of a theoretician. And so in my later years I wrote much more theoretical papers, you know; more mathematical papers. So I always had that interest too. So you canít say its one thing or another. I just didnít want to tramp around in the woods and ride on ships. I wanted to do that, but I also wanted to really have some time for physical mathematical understanding too. But, of course, you canít do everything. So all that takes time and effort and so Iíve been gratified that I could do more of the theory in later years, and thatís exactly what I do on Lake Champlain, the theory. Somebody else really does the field work, but Iím very aware of it and, you know, close enough that I do see the results and, you know, how they get it and whatís going on. So I think, you know, thatís necessary. Be able to do both sides.
Sfraga:Interesting that you brought up the Fram Strait. You worked on the Fram Strait in the 90s, but you also worked on Fram Strait on the late 70s.
Sfraga:How does that? What were the parallels between these two?
Hunkins:Oh, okay. In the 70s we had field programs. Those ice stations were called the Fram Stations. And they were just north of Fram Strait, but they did get us into the other side of the ocean. Rather than approaching it from the Barrow side, we approached it from the Greenland side, and given the realities of airplanes and limitations, you just canít do the whole ocean from one base. So this was a real breakthrough that we could get over and work in from the other side. I think Leonard Johnson had a lot to do with in helping move the programs from a base in Barrow over to Greenland for those years. You know, of course, Iím always interested in Fram Straight, but I couldnít really say much about it. I had never really seen it or done much in there. So this was the first time I really could work there and Fram I and the Fram III Stations were the ones that I did most of the work on. And so that got me really more involved. Just like we were saying earlier, I think it helps to actually see the ground a little bit, even though you only see a piece of it from helicopter or something, but at least itís in your mind that this is an enormous strait and very interesting problem. So when I came back and was looking for smaller projects, you know, manageable projects, I was looking for something more theoretical lab type that I could do without a big contract. And this was how I got into the lab modeling.
Sfraga:In your work on Fram I and Fram III looked at the interaction to the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean currents.
Hunkins:Yes. We were north of the strait, of course, but it was close enough that youíd be aware in studying the dynamics that there was this important interaction or exchange through that strait.
Sfraga:And your work then in the 90s, how did that incorporate itself into the work that you had done twenty years before, or fifteen years before?
Hunkins:Okay. Only in this way I would say. That I had a clear idea of the strait and the oceanography from, of course, all the time Iíd been up there and all the readings and meetings and other peopleís work. So I had a good idea of it. So when it came to pose a theoretical problem, how to abstract that and make it something really simple that we could work on in a lab model or a theory, and then I had some idea, you know, based on the real world, rather than just concocted in a dark room. So thatís the way it went. Only that I had a real feeling, I think, for what was happening there and then how to model it was the next question. And thatís how they connected.
Sfraga:Did you incorporate data that you had acquired during the Fram I, Fram III time into what you had worked on in the early 90s?
Hunkins:No. I donít. We ideally — No, itís a good question.
Sfraga:My question was before the tape ran out, had you used some of the research and data that you had acquired during the 1970s on the Fram Strait into the work that you had begun in the 1990s?
Yes. Well, the way it was incorporated was this. In my work in the 1970s on Fram I and III, of course Iíd acquired knowledge of the oceanography part of the basin as the Arctic Ocean approaches Fram Strait, could seriously think about the problem of exchange between the two oceans, the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean. So I had a background, but as far as really getting down and incorporating details of the data, they didnít come into those laboratory models. But, now that my mind is going here, I did have one other problem. So that was the laboratory problems, and we got onto that because we mentioned Woods Hole and I worked with Jack Whitehead on those. But there was one other problem which, which I think should be interesting because it does involve the University of Alaska a little bit. There is north of Spitzbergen a large submarine plateau called the Yermak plateau, and we drifted over that plateau. We had current meters and we were recording the currents. And of course we saw tides as you do in most parts of the ocean. But the strange thing was that when I looked at this data, and I didnít have that much data. The tides were just perplexing to me. They were diurnal. Diurnal means once a day; Twenty-four hour period more or less, twenty-five hour period. Whereas in most of the North Atlantic and in fact a great part of the oceans, the tides are semi-diurnal, theyíre twelve and a half hours. So why were the diurnal tides dominant over the semi-diurnal in this area? So this became a problem that was interesting to me, and I did have a theoretical solution to that in which you model the Yermak plateau in a rather unrealistic way.
Instead of having the real plateau I had a model which was circular. It was more or less — imagine a teacup, turn it upside down, and so it would be a model like that which wasnít exactly the way the real Yermak plateau was, but an approximation, a really rough approximation. Then I could do a theoretical model, called an analytical type, that really didnít need too much in the way of computers, mostly paper and pencil, and show that the diurnal tides ó there are always some diurnal tides but theyíre very small usually in most of the ocean would be amplified over a submarine body about the size of the Yermak plateau. And you could show this with a theoretical model. So there was a case where we really did use the actual data, and then it stimulated thinking about this. Okay, then what about the University of Alaska? Okay. Then after that model, [Zygmunt] Kowalik, you probably know Kowalik, had a model for what we call a model, yes, for the tides in the Arctic Ocean. And heíd began to see that if he kept reducing his grid size, his mesh resolution, that there were other similar features to the Yermak plateau in the Arctic Ocean and they would also have diurnal tides over them. And that showed up in his numerical models. Mine was a more analytical model. So one time he told he, he said, you started a whole industry with that. You know so [laughter] so thatís how I can involve the University of Alaska. Zygmunt Kowalik.
Sfraga:The work you had done on Fram I and Fram III and now perhaps even in the 90s, do you see application for the much larger research going on in terms of global change?
Hunkins:So do we see, you mean, with the work thatís going on in the Arctic, how does that fit in?
Sfraga:How does your work fit in? Does your work fit in, the work that you did on Fram I and Fram III, on the problems that we see today?
Right. Okay. Thereís really, for the global climate change problem there may be two ways that this is approached. One is — and actually both ways are being pursued here at Lamont. The one way is to look at what happened in the past. Pale oceanography, paleontology, to look back in the record, in the geological record, as geologists always have done, and as Lamont did in a pioneering way in the oceans by taking cores from the ocean floor and looking at the layers. And of course the deeper you go, the longer ago were those sediments laid down at the ocean floor, and then the whole question comes up how long ago were they laid down so you have the whole dating problem, which has been attacked in many ways from radioactive isotopes, magnetic stratigraphy and so on. Thatís all here at this lab. And you have to date them to know how long ago itís laid down.
Then what do the sediments themselves tell you about the ocean conditions in those ancient times. And there you look at the forums usually, and there are warm water types and cold water types, to put it simply. And so you can tell a lot about the past. So thatís one, thatís one approach. And we have another smaller sub-lab here called the tree ring lab. Of course you can look tree rings, that only go back of course not very far, but I donít know exactly, a few centuries, no more. And the record in the ocean can go back hundreds of thousands of years. So thatís been one approach. And the other approach is to actually try to study the atmosphere and the ocean as a dynamical system, the fluid dynamics of the earth, air and water. And thatís an approach here as well, of course, as many other places. And the dynamic group of computer models and I think the first really working El Nino model was developed here with Mark Cane and Steve Zebiak and thatís still an ongoing research here with quite a few researchers. So those are the two approaches. So you can say how did our work in the Arctic attribute to that? I would say we did take deep ocean cores in a lot of the earlier days, and we did do work on the paleontology, the old history, in the warming and cooling of the Arctic. So we did work on that. And in fact, yes, I could describe one; this is pre-El Nino era. Doc Ewing and Bill [William L.] Donn had a theory of climate change, a theory of the Ice Ages, which involved the Arctic Ocean being open during glacial times and closed otherwise by an ice cover, as it is today with about ten feet of floating sea ice. And we were able — We, I mean myself and Allen Be actually, in looking at some careful cores, I took cores very carefully and instead of just one core, I had one we called the Gatling gun, in which we had a whole bunch of tubes so that we got a lot more volume of sediment. Right from the top because we needed to look at very thin layers to see if the Arctic in the past had flipped from ice-free to ice-covered about ten thousand years ago, which according to the Ewing theory should have happened. But we didnít see that. So this I think was a serious obstacle for the Ewing theory, and nobody really gives it much credence today. So that was, you might say, one way we predict climate change, and either support it or did not support it in certain theories.
Sfraga:If we can, if I can just take you back to IGY one more time. We raised it just a little bit before. In terms of, in terms of the marketing of IGY, do you have any recollections of how the public perception of IGY, whether IGY was marketed on the television or newspapers or bulletin boards or documentaries to get the public behind this massive endeavor?
It certainly got publicity. People that were at all interested in science, even though they werenít really in it professionally, would be aware of it I think. There must have been enough publicity. And I think now that you bring that up, I think the Antarctic got the publicís attention. I think all this idea of going to the Antarctic — And in fact thatís the way that I first really heard about. In fact, I probably told you that story. That I had originally thought I might get a job working in the Antarctic. So that shows you how it did get a lot of attention. It was dramatic with these snow cat parties crawling across the frozen continent. And I suppose the National Science Foundation, somehow, anyway in later years, of course, they were very involved. They must have provided funding for the journalists to go down there and then write stories, and theyíve done that ever since. And theyíve got a lot of publicity over the years. The Antarctic got the publicity. I didnít see too many journalists in the Arctic although Walter Sullivan at the New York Times was always a faithful chronicler of activities from Lamont and in the Arctic. And our work was mentioned in his one book he wrote about the IGY. So there was publicity. But I would say probably if you had to pinpoint one area, probably the Antarctic was one that got the most attention because you know itís interesting thinking of the IGY, to me, that my idea of it was it was originally the concept of a few upper atmosphere physicists. I donít recall the names. But there was a Belgian, a Nicolet, and a few people like that, Europeans, had the idea that we really had to have a global type of a year, and they picked Ď57, Ď58 as being one of the multiples of the International Polar Years. I think theyíd come twenty-five years since but it was Ď32 or something like that. And then before that had been fifty years I think so around 1880 or something.
So they said, well weíll speed it up. It will be after twenty-five years. And they did. And thatís why we had the IGY. And I think they thought of it as an upper atmosphere experiment. And of course the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute was very involved in that with auroral observations and so on that, you know, they needed to get a lot of stations in Siberia and in Alaska and upper northern Canada and Greenland so that they could get global pictures of the aurora and all kinds of — At that time the rockets were, from World War II were just becoming available. And it doesnít matter; I was trying to think of his name, the one who used those rockets [John van Allen]. So anyway it was an upper atmosphere kind of concept. I think it was just the right time after World War II. Scientific research had built up enough and when this concept of an international year began to develop, I think a lot of other people, they just joined in spontaneously. They were able to find programs within the U.S. government especially who were willing to fund them. And so I think that the land based ones and the ones that were looking below the surface of the earth were not what the very early founders had envisioned, but that just developed spontaneously so that it became a global experiment in every aspect of geophysics, geochemistry. So I thought that was always interesting how it just spread. Because the upper atmosphere is very interesting, but probably the other parts of it became more interesting, the Antarctic, snow cap parties, and things like that lent themselves to journalism even better.
Sfraga:And your time in IGY brought you north. Did you have much time in Barrow? Did you get to spend much time at the Naval Arctic Research Lab in Barrow, in the community of Barrow? And if you did, what kind of community was it? What kind of scientific community and what type of interaction were there with the native people and the community people?
Hunkins:In the IGY I didnít have too much contact with Point Barrow. Generally, we flew right out of Fairbanks and either overflew Barrow or stopped for refueling. So I didnít have very much knowledge of it or interaction. So it was only later, like by 1960 or so and ONR had begun to build the lab that I did spend more time there, and the flights were being made out of there and so on. So I did get to know it a little bit. And, oh yes, I was always of course very interested to know some native people working for us. Of course, they worked for the lab and would help establish the camp. Max Brewer was the director all during the, during the 60s and into the 70s. So he had a policy, of course, he always wanted to incorporate as much as he could the people from the village. And so we could get to know them, and they would always come out to help with construction of a station and things like that. So, yes, it was very interesting. Weíd get to know that area. And it was a great, great experience. But, of course, I probably talked before about NARL [Naval Petroleum Reserve 4] and Max Brewerís regime there and so. In fact, I think they did, didnít they have a meeting sometime not too long ago with —
Sfraga:Just this last year.
Hunkins:Old timers and so on. So Iím sure you know a lot about that. But that was, you know, a great time.
Sfraga:What sense of community was there at NARL?
Hunkins:Well very, I would say, pretty tight. I mean it is pretty isolated and you had to get along with everybody. Of course, once they built that new lab, everything became very comfortable. I mean, the, it was very good as far as the dorm type of rooms and the lab spaces, and everything was first class. So there were no complaints. In the early days, of course, they only had those old Quonset huts that had been set up for the original exploration of Naval Petroleum Reserve 4 right after the war, like forty, I donít know, Ď45, Ď46 or something like that. So they were pretty rough conditions, but the new lab was first class. The Navy did it really nicely.
Sfraga:While weíre on the Arctic again, when you were on Alpha, you were able to use a satellite navigation system which seems to me to be one of the first times that that was done outside of the military. And if I recall right, Joe Worzel was able to acquire this new technology. Can you describe what this technology, what it looked like and how you used it and how you learned to use it and what difference did it make?
Hunkins:Sure. But I just want to correct one thing. We didnít get the satellite navigation system until on T-3 because.
Sfraga:Oh T-3, thank you.
Hunkins:In the IGY, it still hadnít been developed, and all we had was celestial navigation. And that was done with a sextant or actually theodolite because we could mount it on the ice and shoot the sun in the summertime and the stars in the wintertime.
Sfraga:When did you learn to do this?
Hunkins:Well, we had to teach ourselves how to do that. [Laughter] And we did. Oh yes, we had to just acquire the books. I look up here on those shelves expecting to see them, but I donít right now. You had to have the ephemeris of the stars and know how to do the calculations, which actually we did by hand. But this is only what people had done at sea for at least two centuries for navigating. And actually the technique we used was one developed for the U.S. Navy. Those are called Sumner lines, middle of the last — middle of the nineteenth century probably. Thatís a technique in which you shoot three stars and get a position from three lines or more. If itís the sun, you only get one line. So that you only know youíre along that line. However, the station drifts so slowly, we could take like three sun shots in a day. And theyíre spaced out in time because the sun then is at different directions, and then youíll get three lines to intersect. If the station were not moving, of course, they should intersect at a point, but if youíre moving, then theyíll be some drift to correct for. So thatís the way we did it.
Sfraga:Did you teach yourself this before you went out?
Hunkins:Well, yes we had to have all the equipment. Of course, I mean, you learn fast when you try to really do it. I mean, you could have it here and itís not too serious if you know where you are exactly because you do know where you are. But when youíre out there, then you want to begin to pinpoint in and, of course, you have to learn. Because itís more than just something theoretical, itís a technique to be able to bring the telescope exactly on the sun and to hold it and to read everything very carefully. So thereís a technique to it. And we learned how to do that. And, of course, itís difficult in the wintertime because of the cold and working with the knobs, adjusting the telescope on the theodolite. Of course, you have to do a lot of other things. You had to learn the stars. Of course, we did know the navigational stars. Again, these are all things that people had done on shipboard, but not too much on the way we were doing it. You know on shipboard they use a sextant because the ship is rolling around. And so you have to have a level base from which to measure the angle to the star or the sun. So you have to use a sextant and try to hold the horizon steady. And that, of course, takes even more technique than the theodolite to get a good fix. So we could do it more accurately in the Arctic actually. And I suppose itís the way surveyors on a big scale always worked too. I mean, to decide on state borders and things like that. You donít need to use it for blocking off your quarter acre lot, but when you really want to do a big survey and know where the corner is between three states or something like that, they have to use techniques like that, or as many techniques as they can, I guess. But they have to do it by celestial methods. So, yes, and we got theodolites. They were Weather Bureau theodolites actually used for tracking balloons; the pilot balloons that they used. Yes. So thatís what we used so we could get those, I remember, from the Air Force. And so we had some of those. And then that was the technique. And then from the Navy youíd get the ephemeris and the nautical almanac and learn how to do it.
Sfraga:And then this new technology on T-3 was introduced.
Yes. So, and we were doing that on T-3 too when, as you mentioned, Joe Worzel was effective in getting the satellite navigation gear from Johns Hopkins and from the Navy. It had been developed at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, APL at Johns Hopkins for the Navy. And Joe was farsighted enough to see that this would be a wonderful thing to have. And so he did that. Somebody asked me, I was just talking the other day to George Bryant who was a former Lamonter; heís retired too, but he was at a Twenty-Five Year Club at Columbia the other day so I asked him about it. He was very involved. He said, oh yes, Joe was just the right person to do that. And he had the right personality, he had the motivation and the doggedness to stick with it because it was a highly secret program, and of course, they really didnít want to give it up. But he persuaded them that it would be very useful. So, anyway, I guess he did a lot of lobbying. George Bryant says that he would be sent down to Johns Hopkins to stay with them for weeks. I donít know what he did, but just to keep hounding them. And so thatís how they finally got everything. And the other interesting thing we were mentioning was the size of it. We had a rack full of electronic instrumentation to run that thing. And you had a little antenna, because it was very high frequency, so the antenna was small. Looked like a parasol, it was an inverted, conical type of thing, that went on the roof of our hut, in that case, or on the ship. And that was essentially what you needed.
Then you needed a computer to reduce these things, and we had very early computers from Digital, like PDP8ís. These are very crude early computers in which you had to put the data in with punch paper tape. You had to boot them up with a beginning program with punch paper tape which was very frustrating because itís very easily broken and so you had to have a lot of copies of it because if one broke, you needed this backup just to boot up the computer and get it working and then punch in your numbers and get out some answers. Theyíre little computers, pitifully small compared to what we have today. And thatís what we used. And, of course, that was a revolution because with the celestial youíre restricted to clear skies. The minute thereís any cloud cover, and especially in the summertime in the Arctic, there are often low stratus clouds. I mean thatís the dominant weather really. So you have big gaps in the celestial data. So that was one advantage for it that radio waves penetrate the cloud cover. And two, it had the great advantage that, of course, it was more accurate and you got more fixes. You could get — I donít remember how many satellites; they had quite a few satellites up — so you got quite a few fixes compared, a day, so your track was very completely delineated compared to what it had been in the past when you got one or two a day, and one a day would be considered good really. So a great improvement.
Sfraga:How did you learn how to use this?
Hunkins:Here, because they had electronics technicians like Chuck Hubbard and so on who had spent time down at APL, and George Bryant that I just mentioned, spent time down there at Johns Hopkins learning from those engineers who had designed it about how to use it. So we learned a lot about it. In fact, they had manuals and so on that we could study, and it worked on the principle that as the satellite went by you, it measured really the Doppler Shift of the satellite signal as it went overhead or at some angle just off of overhead. And that was the early days of satellites really. So it was rather thrilling cause you were tuned into them. And you say, oh yes, herds one coming up just over the horizon and youíre listening to it. And then, you know, itís going to go by, and then okay its going down, and we could actually hear it. It was dramatic. Today we take all that for granted, you know.
Sfraga:So here on the Arctic ice pack you were using a precursor to GPS [Global Positioning System].
Hunkins:Exactly right. Of course, GPS is just the direct descendent of that. And, of course, I mentioned how big the case of electronics was, the full rack of eighteen inches wide and two or three feet deep and about four or five feet high. So now itís just something that fits in your hand as you say. So thatís just the development of electronics in that many years.
Sfraga:Can you recall other technologies that you used that were new to your field?
Hunkins:Yes. Another one was the precession magnetometer it was called, nuclear precession magnetometer. And that depended on the idea that molecules or atoms precess in a magnetic field, and the precession frequency is a function of the strength of the magnetic field. And this was done in a very simple way. The electronics was complicated, sophisticated, but the actual sensor was very simple. It was a bottle of water with a coil around it. And first it would pulse and triggered a strong magnetic pulse in that bottle of water, and then when that stopped, itís like a ringing of a bell, they started processing, and then you measured the frequency of the precession. And of course that happened on a rapid cycle, but that was the principle. And those water bottles were towed behind the ship at Lamont and in the Arctic, of course, we just had them sitting out somewhere to measure the magnetic field. So that was the nuclear precision magnetometer. And that was a fairly new discovery that had come very fast after the discovery of nuclear precession. And I remember being at Stanford [University] and the discoverer of nuclear precession was professor in the physics lab there, Felix Bloch. And after he discovered that, thereís a company out there, Varian, which was very well known at that time, decided, and they were very advanced technologically, they decided what are the uses we could, to which we could put this. I mean it had just been discovered. The guy got the Nobel Prize for it. And so they said well maybe itíll be useful as a magnetometer for exploration for minerals, that sort of thing. So they were running around the campus. I can remember they had a lot of World War II Jeep then, and they had this whip like antennae with a water bottle hanging on it. They would run around the campus measuring the magnetic fields. And I remember Felix Bloch. He sat in the first row to hear what they were going to talk about. Then he asked them, but if itís so sensitive, he said, donít you get all the cars going down El Camino Real. [Laughter] Anyway, so that was a new, a very new technology which was put to use. And we got it and were putting it to use in the Arctic, not too many, a few short years after it was discovered.
Sfraga:What year was the discovery? Do you recall?
Hunkins:No, I couldnít pinpoint that for you. But I know it had only been a very few years before we were using it so. Other techniques we used were seismic, of course. And that was some of the basic work. Youíd set off charges, dynamite or TNT charges, and measure the echo time from the ocean floor. Not just echo time, but also the time for the waves to penetrate into the bottom so we could measure sub-bottom layers, ocean floor layers, and work out some of the geology. So that was not a brand new technique, but that was the other technique; Seismology, explosion seismology.
Sfraga:Last time we spoke, we spoke a little bit about the marginal ice zone experiments, and the fact that this was, you were involved with international scientists.
Sfraga:Iím wondering. Your time spent with, and if I do recall correctly, there were some Norwegian scientists?
Sfraga:Iím wondering if you recall any differences in the style in which different countries brought to their science. If you could detect the national styles of science; the way in which maybe certain scientists from certain countries approach the work a little differently than perhaps the Americans or the technologies they used.
Hunkins:The Norwegians were some of the ones that shared in this work. And that comes to mind because right now we have a visitor here at Lamont whoís an old friend because he was on the Fram stations with me, Yngve Kristoffersen. So heís here at Lamont this year. And Yngve actually did his graduate work here and received his Ph.D. from Columbia. So in that sense, thereís like a global technique. There isnít so much national difference in science as science is truly an international field. People go to meetings and unlike other fields which are national or corporate or something like that, where you wouldnít necessarily go international, science has always been so international. Itís always been so important to have meetings which cover the whole. What we have in science, in our science, is the IUGG, International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, and that goes way back Iím sure. And geodesy was always I suppose a very important thing to the Europeans to decide exactly where the international borders were. So thatís why this IUGG, I donít know if geodesy is so critical to us today, but, you know, with GPS and everything. But it was at one time. So thatís what the name of the organization was. As you probably know, it has a meeting about every three years in various parts of the world and Iíve been to a few of them. But, these kinds of things bring scientists together so that you can hardly say there is a national type of science. It has to be international. Of course where it may differ is in the amount of funding you have and the facilities that are offered because of the way your government operates. So that may differ from country to country thatís for sure. But as far as the style and the truth of whatever it is has to be transparent to, hopefully be transparent to anybody, and if there are arguments, everybody can enter into it until itís established what the actual fact of the matter is. And I would tend to say that itís always international, rather than national. Yes.
Sfraga:Iíd like to cover just one more, one more topic briefly. And that was your work with Bruce [Heezen] on the NR1.
Sfraga:In particular, Iím captivated by the circumnavigation that you had done of Puerto Rico, and we spoke about that a little bit last time. But Iím wondering if you could give me, if you could paint for me a picture, of what it was like to climb inside of the NR1, what the temperature was like, what the space was like, what it was like to be in that vehicle under the ocean around that land mass.
Hunkins:Sure. Yes. We had a number of cruises with the NR1 to different locations. But the one that went to Puerto Rico originated here in Groton, Connecticut, at the sub base in a cold winter day with the wind blowing down the Thames. And the submarine was going to be taken to Puerto Rico in a boat called, a ship called a, itís a floating dry dock really. And that boat couldnít get up the Thames to the submarine pens. So it stood off on a mooring in Long Island Sound, and the submarine had to get out there. It was not very mobile on the surface. I think probably a maximum of three knots or something. But anyway it made its way out into Long Island Sound and we went out, not in the submarine, we went out in some other kind of a boat and just got aboard the landing craft dock, I think they call it. And it was impressive to me. It was a pretty large ship, and it was strange with, it almost looks like a truck with a big box on the back, but that is the floating dry dock. So they can then flood down their ballast tanks, open the rear doors, the NR1 can steam in, then they shut the rear doors, and then pump down, and block up the submarine back there and then take off. And the quarters were very good. And itís actually designed for landing craft. The idea I guess was that it would carry landing craft and Marines. It was a very new ship. We stayed in what would have been the Marine officersí quarters so we had very good accommodations there. And it was something called — So this must have been about — 70s. And it was called the Twenty Knot Navy that the admiral at that time had promoted. And all the ships were supposed to be able to do twenty knots so this one could too. So they could take off in something approaching twenty knots I guess and go to Puerto Rico. And the contrast was incredible, leaving the driving snow in the middle of Long Island Sound, waking up at a, I donít remember exactly whatever it takes at twenty knots — itís not long — to get to Puerto Rico in a day or two, and wake up in Mayaguez Bay. I could smell the fires of the burning banana rubbish on the shore and then they began pumping down, pumping up rather, to prepare to launch the submarine. And then after a certain amount of time, Bruce and I got aboard the NR1, with a crew, while they finish flooding the compartment, and then floating out. And those things take a long time, but by evening we were floating out, and then diving and starting our cruise around the island. And we were submerged for several days. So this was Mayaguez Bay at the western end, and we went around the southern side of Puerto Rico, headed east there, and then eventually around the eastern end and up to Roosevelt Roads where we ended the cruise. Itís a navy base on the east end, just south of San Juan. So it always was great to go with Bruce because heís so enthusiastic and so knowledgeable and so perceptive. He was one of the really great scientists here at Lamont. I had to say that.
Sfraga:Do you, how much room did you have in there to move around?
Hunkins:Okay, the submarine had a crew of something like eight people, could be a little flexible, but something like eight people. And it could stay underwater I am sure indefinitely under nuclear power. The only thing that was limiting it was the endurance of the crew, because after a certain amount of time youíre just going to get burned out in such close quarters. We were in a compartment, underneath the pilotís compartment, the pilot sat up in the bow in something that looked to me about like airplane pilotsí seats. And they actually couldnít see forward, except through a television. But we were underneath them. We went to a little compartment maybe ten or twelve feet by six or eight feet, with a mattress covering the whole floor. And so we could just sit up and thatís about all. You could not stand. And we had three ports looking forward, three ports. And we could look out of any of them, and they had, of course, lights. And so we spent our time there. And when you couldnít stay awake anymore, all you had to do was just roll over and sleep and then when you woke up, start observing again. And, of course, if it was a really important area, you could just stay observing all the time. And we took photographs through the ports. We had, or they had, a clamp, a kind of an arm with a claw on the end that they could actually sample rocks, pick up rocks off the bottom. And you had wire cages into which they could then put the rocks to save them and then remove them when you came on shore. Had a lot of good features. The problem with it was from our standpoint that some of its features were classified, especially depths, so we never published a lot. And for the scientist publication is everything in order to verify and declare what youíve seen, and give other people a chance to see it and argue with you if they want to. So that was the real defect that there was just too much classification at that time. And Bruce wanted to take that chance and he knew it, and we wrote papers, but we never really published any of it and none of it really got through. Now today, I think thatís much easier and I think that theyíve relaxed some of the secrecy requirements on it.
Sfraga:Could you even mention what the topic was that you were researching?
Hunkins:Yes, pretty much. I mean, we worked a lot on that, and Bruce went back and forth with some people at the Navy. Yes, we could say that there was such a ship and that we did this and did that. Mostly it seemed to be that depth was the tough one to overcome.
Sfraga:And what were you specifically looking for? You were not looking for depth; you were looking at what area?
Hunkins:Oh, we were looking at features, just how do the rocks outcrop in that part, and what is outcropping when we could get samples and work out the geology? But it doesnít do too much good unless you can say how deep it is, you see. So in that way we were limited. And that was the only disappointing part of it. Otherwise, it was a great experience and, of course, itís a wonderful vehicle. It could actually travel on the bottom. It could actually roll along the bottom of the ocean floor and so you could get into that mode and just get on the ocean floor and just roll along. And that was amazing.
Sfraga:Do you think that you could publish those papers today?
Hunkins:You might be able to. I donít know. But you probably could. You probably could. But there may be, I have the feeling it probably would seem too outmoded now. So I never considered making an attempt really.
Sfraga:Were you able to incorporate or compare the data that you were able to get from that trip to other things you had done?
Sfraga:Well, we were just talking about the information that you obtained from the circumnavigation of Puerto Rico and whether or not you were able to use that data and translate it or incorporate it into other work that you had done.
Hunkins:Yes. I mean that just gave us one more piece on what the details of the outcropping features, the outcropping rocks around Puerto Rico. I think we helped unravel some of the structure of Puerto Rico. The other thing that you could see when youíre on the bottom is details of erosive features, how was the bottom being eroded, or how was it being increased with sediments, you know, what was sediment deposition and erosion. Those smaller features were something that could see from the submarine that probably wouldnít show up on normal echo sounding type of equipment. So, yes, it was very useful and, as I said, we never really got the full benefit of publication out of all that work, but personally for me and for Bruce, it was a very, very wonderful experience. And we really, certainly did learn a lot personally. Wish we could have spread it around more at the time.
Sfraga:What other NR1 programs were you on, did you work on?
Hunkins:We had one off Hudson Canyon. That was an early one. And I did not actually dive on that one. I was on the surface ship on that one. We had one on Blake Bahamas Plateau, in which we staged out of Cape Kennedy, the submarine base just below Cape Kennedy. And that was the Blake Plateau which is off southern U.S., the Carolinas. So those were the three I was involved in. And as you know, Bruce actually died in the NR1 on a northern cruise for the Reykjanes Ridge. And that was a later cruise and I was not on that one either. So there were a number of those cruises in the 70s. Very, very exciting. And the Navy was very cooperative in having civilians on board and, you know, a great experience.
Sfraga:Well, I thank you for taking the time here. I think we filled in a lot of areas we wanted, we needed to fill in. And itís been most informative. I appreciate it.
Hunkins:Well, Iím happy that I could, Mike. Thatís good.
Thank you very much.