Oral History Transcript — Dr. Allen Jorgensen
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Interview with Dr. Allen Jorgensen
Allen Jorgensen; May 16, 1997
ABSTRACT: Family background and upbringing in western Canada, Denmark, and United States; early interest in going to sea; recollections of high school and subsequent experiences in American west; work as movie extra; experiences at sea during World War II; recollections of troop training ship Vema; establishes tree-care service after War, and initial encounters with Lamont Geological Observatory (LGO). Sails as second officer on Conrad, late 1960s; recollections of service as Conrad captain and impressions of ship operations; impressions of Lamont scientists and cultural clashes in late 1960s/early 1970s; recollections of W. Maurice Ewing and Ewing’s management of Lamont ships. Reflections on personal styles of Lamont captains, and recollections of Henry C. Kohler and Robert D. [Sam] Gerard; recollections of deep coring operations at sea; comparisons between Vema and Conrad, and with ships operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and University of Washington; works at Woods Hole (1979-81); experiences at Latin American ports; impressions of retirement of Vema and Conrad and of administration at LGO, 1970s-1980s; recollections of involvement in search for Titanic; recollections of Conrad voyages. Also mentioned are: Peter Buell, John Ewing, Garden State Tree Service, Captain Sydney S. Griffin, Jack Grimm, Hector Iglesias, Samuel Katz, Garrison Keillor, Murmansk Run [World War II], Paul Muni, Peter Olander, Walter C. Pitman III, Peyton Raus, Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, William Ryan, John Santini, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Captain Valvin R. Sinclair, Haakon Skjerding, Stevens Institute of Technology, Manik Talwani, Twentieth Century Fox, University of Hawaii, Charles Windisch.
Doel:This is Ron Doel and this is an interview with Allen, Jurgesen do you pronounce it?
Doel:Jorgensen. And I should say that we are making this recording in South Thomaston, Maine, and today's date is the sixteenth of May, 1997. With me doing this interview is Tanya Levin. And I know that you were born on October 22, 1920 in Calgary, Alberta and I know your parents were Danish, but we don't yet know that much about them. Who were they and what did they do?
Doel:And what did they do?
Jorgensen:Well, my father was from a farming family in Jutland and my mother from a maritime family there. And they had immigrated to the new world I think around the turn of the century. I'm not sure.
Doel:What had inspired them to come to the United States?
Jorgensen:Well, for example, my father was the youngest of fifteen, and, of course, primogeniture was very much in force in Europe, everything going to the oldest son. So in common with many younger sons, he immigrated, instead of to the colonies, he came to America. Did the typical immigrant thing, worked on farms and helped build the, worked for the Canadian Pacific Railroad and helped build the big hotel there at Lake Louise, things like that. And then in 1921 when I was only six months old, my mother took myself and my two sisters to Denmark. She needed medical attention. I'm not sure what it was, I think it was a brain tumor. And at that time Calgary, of course, was very much the frontier.
Doel:Right, the boom days were much later.
Jorgensen:And she never really got back. She died over there when I was four years old. At that point my sisters came to the United States and joined, rejoined my father. And I was, went up to Jutland and was brought up until 1930 by my grandparents. So I could only speak Danish when I came to the States. Of course at that age you learn the language very rapidly.
Doel:How was the decision made for you to come back to the United States? And your father was back and forth between Canada and the United States.
Jorgensen:Well, he had moved down from Canada to the States so I was a derivative citizen. His [phone ringing]. One little story that's so typical. When he first came over as a young man without my mother, he got on the train out to Minnesota naturally, and whoever was supposed to meet him didn't. And he was walking along a country road out there, with two dollars and fifty cents left to his name. And a dog ran out from a farm house barking at him, and the farmer's wife stepped through the door and yelled at the dog in Danish. So he went in and went to work.
Doel:That kind of fortune happens on.
Doel:On occasion. And when you came over and you were learning then, very quickly to speak English, was Danish still spoken at home, when you had come over?
Jorgensen:Well basically the Danes always and I guess most Scandinavians felt that we were now in the United States and we should speak English. There was some usage of it. But Anna [Jorgensen] speaks it like a Dane, like a native. I completely forgot it in a couple of years, but then later on, having been married to Anna and sailing with Moore McCormack to the Baltic, a lot of it came back to me. Interestingly enough, Anna and I came over the same year on the same ship, but two trips apart, and then we met over here.
Doel:Very interesting. Very interesting. But you mean the ship when you were ten years old —
Doel:— sailing back to the United States.
Doel:When you were on that trip, what do you remember of the trip that you took?
Jorgensen:Well it was the first time in my life I had corn flakes and cold milk. And I thought it was the most wonderful thing that ever came along. In Denmark, of course where I grew up out in Jutland, as the Danes say, we had no refrigeration. Nobody really drank milk. And I drank cold milk and Kellogg's corn flakes and I thought it was the biggest treat in my life. But otherwise I don't remember too much about the trip, just that I enjoyed being out at sea.
Doel:When you had come over to the United States then, you were in the East Coast and growing up.
Doel:Wasn't it primarily Troy, New York, you mentioned.
Jorgensen:Yes. And at the start it was right, of course I arrived just in time to greet the depression.
Doel:I was just thinking about that.
Jorgensen:Yes. At that time my father was able, his work was down in the New York metropolitan area, but he supported the house and a housekeeper up in Troy, New York. So I lived there until 1932, and then tightening circumstances, my father had to move us down to Jersey City [New Jersey]. Which was pretty traumatic at that time for me. You know, leaving nice upstate New England village and moving down to —
Doel:It sounds as if it had been a good experience for you in Troy.
Jorgensen:Well, yes. It was very nice. And actually north Troy, Lansingburg, which was a sort of Danish community, village type.
Doel:What was your father doing at that time?
Jorgensen:Well he had become a millwright. He started out in Denmark as a wainwright and wagon maker. Then became a millwright. They were people who made the machinery for windmills out of wood. You know gears and all that. So he had good skills. And he had, at the point when I came back from Denmark he would install big laundry machinery for a Chicago firm and that's what he did. He died rather prematurely, actually when I was out at sea, my first trip as third mate.
Doel:That would have been in the 1940s.
Doel:And you were living north of Troy in part because it was the Danish community?
Jorgensen:Well he had just chose. I'm sure that that affected his choice. You know, me coming over, speaking only Danish. And I really don't know why he chose it, but it was a pretty good choice. If it hadn't been for the depression, probably would have stayed there longer.
Doel:I imagine that was a really a dramatic change, from the bucolic landscape near Troy to Jersey City which is quite urbanized already by then. What sort of house did you have in Jersey City?
Jorgensen:Oh it was really, I guess you wouldn't use the word tenement, but they were these railroad flats, three, four stories, narrow. And they call it railroad flats. There was no hardship. It was just that it was very different from Jutland and very different from Troy, New York.
Doel:How many were in the family at that time?
Jorgensen:Well just my father who remained a widower and my two older sisters. So they sort of brought me up. But I, the whole memory of Jersey City is practically a blank in my mind. So the first chance I had I got out, and I, in fact, I ran away from home once when I was fourteen. Only it was in the dead of winter and thirteen days or so before they found me and brought me back.
Doel:Still that's a pretty good length of time to be away.
Doel:Did you have any idea of what you wanted to do?
Jorgensen:Well if there was any way during those depression years when I could have gone away to sea, I'm sure I would have. I probably would have.
Doel:So even that early an age you already...
Jorgensen:Oh yes. Very restless and I couldn't wait to see the world. So I didn't do too well in school. I mean compared to what I should have done. Actually in our family of six, Anna and the four kids and myself, I'm the only one that wasn't in the National Honor Society. Just laziness and lack of motivation.
Doel:Was there any subject that you did like a lot?
Jorgensen:Well just, well things that came easy. For example, I took Spanish because I gather that was the easiest one. But I had a bit of an affinity for language. And after the war, when I didn't know what I could do ashore, I took the aptitude test at Stevens Institute [of Technology] which was the sort of number one thing at that time, and all I can remember from that is I had a recognition vocabulary of forty-nine thousand words which supposedly put me in the upper one percent.
Doel:Very interesting. Stevens was nearby.
Jorgensen:Yes. That was the first, sort of the leading aptitude test, and it cost thirty-five dollars which seemed like a lot of money at that time. But I thought I should get it. Maybe get me aimed in the right direction.
Doel:When you were growing up, during your summers, did your father ever take you to the ocean? Did you have trips out there?
Jorgensen:No, there was. No money for anything like that at that time. In school one day the principal sent a message up to my classroom, send me down. I said, oh what have I done now, you know. Apparently he had seen the lecture and film by Captain Irving Johnson who sailed schooners around the world and the principal thought of me right away. This would be the thing for Jorgensen.
Doel:Well, why did he think of you?
Jorgensen:Well, you know he just thought it would be the kind of guy it would fit. But of course and I was fantastically anxious, but found out that it would cost eighteen hundred dollars for the year's voyage around the world. It might just as well have been a hundred and eighty thousand, you know. But that was the closest I came to getting away.
Doel:So you were talking to people at school, your friends and teachers, about your love of the sea?
Jorgensen:Not very, no. I don't know why the principal. Well, I can see it in a way, where he would think that I was a restless young guy that this would appeal to and probably do me good.
Doel:That is really interesting. Do you remember if geography was being taught in those years in high school?
Jorgensen:Oh sure. I think I'm probably, well almost anybody is better than Americans at geography.
Doel:That’s very true.
Jorgensen:Terrible. "When we moved to New Zealand people would say "Oh yes that’s up near Greenland?" Incredible ignorance.
Doel:Did you have any hobbies particularly when you were growing up?
Jorgensen:No. And it’s something that I feel now in retirement. I never got into the usual things, golf and fishing, boating, hobbies. And reading really is my only thing, and of course, gardening.
Doel:What do you remember reading as a child?
Jorgensen:Nothing very specific. "When I was a young boy there in Troy, I remember first getting exposed to Tarzan and —
Doel:Edgar Rice Burroughs?
Jorgensen:Yes. And Tom Swift and things like that. Nothing very elevating, but —
Doel:Were there magazines coming into the house?
Jorgensen:Yes. Well I think only things like the Saturday Evening Post. But we, one thing we had which I associate with, we always had a Britannica. I still remember things that I read.
Doel:It was one of the ways that you were finding out about the world.
Jorgensen:I think so, yes. I had I think considerable curiosity about many things. Girls. [Laughter]
Anna Jorgensen:I was just sitting here quietly thinking about the National Geographies which in those days were a big deal.
Doel:I should mention that Anna Jorgensen has joined us in the room although not here at the table. And indeed was National Geographic something that?
Jorgensen:Well I certainly saw lots of them. I don't know that we subscribed. Things were very tight for a long time. But I wasn't deprived, but many of these things might otherwise have been, summer employment things like that weren't there.
Doel:Were you working for a time during this time, say when you were in high school?
Jorgensen:Well just occasional odd jobs, no fixed thing.
Doel:The economy had not really improved dramatically by the late — Were your father and your sisters particularly religious? Was religion important for you when you were growing up?
Jorgensen:It was not important, but it was a big part of life. Sunday school and church were always mandatory.
Jorgensen:Most, I guess nearly a hundred percent of Danes are Lutherans. And we're, it's often said of us that we go to church at least four times in our life. We're born, christened, and confirmed, married and die. Ever listen to Garrison, that's us.
Doel:Referring of course to Garrison Keillor.
Jorgensen:Yes. Oh we know who's listening.
Doel:Resuming after a very brief interruption. One other thing I was curious about was whether there were any teachers in high school that were particularly memorable for you or others in the community?
Jorgensen:I would say only one male teacher who was very helpful, and it would have been much better for me if most of my teachers had been men. I was able to manipulate most of the spinster ladies who would constitute the main part of the teaching force in those days. And this physics teacher, one of my, who was my only male teacher, made it clear that he could tell I was full of BS.
Doel:I'm curious what you're thinking about remembering when you say that you were able to manipulate the women teachers.
Jorgensen:Yes. A lot of them were very educated and also unfortunately at that time it was the year of Boss Page, you know, one of the first big city machine bosses. And a lot of the teachers were just, were terribly just sort of, I want to say pork, you know.
Doel:Part of the patronage system that they put in.
Jorgensen:Yes. Patronage system. But others wonderfully dedicated. But for me personally it would have been better if I'd had more male teachers who straighten me out.
Doel:Did you have an interest in science or related or mechanics as you were growing up?
Jorgensen:I think I had a pretty good potential. The physics teacher I mentioned, he was exasperated with me because he, I think, could see that I had some good stuff in that direction and was not using it. I just avoided the hard disciplines, you know, and concentrated on things where I could just talk my way through.
Doel:Did you enjoy the physics class?
Jorgensen:Well, I didn't enjoy the work, but then I enjoyed figuring, being able to see things happening. As I say, I didn't tap my ability at all. So it was a waste in many ways. I think there was a little bit there.
Doel:And while you were in high school did you have any thought of continuing your education afterwards?
Jorgensen:Well, yes, in a way. But when I graduated and despite my very poor scholastic record, I was given a scholarship to Uppsala College in East Orange.
Doel:Was it affiliated with the Lutheran Church?
Doel:Or was it a private?
Jorgensen:I don't think there was any connection. Of course they're modeled on Uppsala, the biggest one in Sweden. But I only stayed I think three months and then I realized that I was wasting everybody's time.
Doel:But that's interesting that you got the scholarship.
Doel:There clearly weren't that many.
Jorgensen:There were enough people there, teachers and so on who thought that I had the promise and that was really the only thing I had. My scholastic record was very poor.
Doel:You found that, you had mentioned before too, wanted to get out, you wanted to do other things. I'm sure that was influencing you.
Jorgensen:Oh yes. When I left Uppsala there it was basically to see the world. I did travel out west and worked myself around for I remember the time, a year and a half, tried all sorts of things. Got as far as Seattle with the hope of catching a ship to Alaska. But of course on the waterfront in Seattle there were thousands of experienced seamen. There was no chance for me.
Doel:What sort of things were you doing during those eighteen months that you were?
Jorgensen:Oh sheep herding, forest fire fighting, working in the woods and just odd things for just to earn meals or something. When I, at the time that I made the movie in Idaho and I was an Algonquin Indian in Hudson's Bay. And it was Tonto's first picture, you know, Jay Silverheel. But at that time in Idaho a good cowboy got thirty-four dollars a month and good sheepherder got sixty dollars a month and Twentieth Century Fox paid us ten dollars a day to play Indians. Got in five days maybe two months’ pay.
Doel:How did that come about?
Jorgensen:Well, they were up there on location. It was the worst movie Paul Muni ever made. And they just, the word got out that they wanted extras. And I was surprised that I got the job because I was very blonde and actually I found out that they preferred blonde men because they didn't have to shave our chests on location. The Native Americans have no hair and didn't have to shave.
Doel:Did you get to meet any of the principals?
Jorgensen:Well, none of the principals really. Well, yes, the second lead man, Laird Creager who at the time weighed three hundred and forty-three pounds. He was the second lead. And later on he was, Hollywood being Hollywood, they tried to make him into a leading man. They had him down to a hundred and ninety pounds and he died. [Laughter] And then just Jay Silverheel who came into our world later as Tonto. That was really. An interesting thing, I didn't see that movie until eight years later when I was in Copenhagen, second mate on a Moore McCormick freighter and it was playing there. And I could actually find myself in the picture because I knew where to look. But what was amusing was for years after that whenever these Hollywood, professional Hollywood Indians, they of course were in the front, but for years afterwards whenever I saw a cowboy and Indian picture I'd see these same guys. Sneaking around boulders and firing arrows from behind trees. But Paul Muni was never out there. Don Ameche's brother Bob was his stand in.
Doel:When you look back over those eighteen months in addition to your beginning movie career, were there other experiences that really stand out in your mind?
Jorgensen:Well yes. It was a lot of real [John] Steinbeck stuff really. Depression of course was still hard out there. The freight trains looked like troop trains, you know, people traveling all over trying to find work. And in retrospect I would say that riding the rails was the most dangerous thing I ever did in my life. One memorable thing, they caught me in a freight train down near the Mexican border. I couldn't get off it for six days. Didn't eat for six days. I was thrown off it up in Eugene, Oregon. Came all up through California, wherever that train stopped, there were police cars around. So you had two choices either stay on the train or into the calaboose. That was a risky thing. At that time they used the big mallet, mountain locomotives, sixteen drivers. And they turned them around backwards and closed in the cab so that the engineers wouldn't get asphyxiated in the tunnels, you know. But that didn't help guys like me back in the boxcars. If that train had stopped in the tunnel for even half an hour I would probably have been finished.
Doel:As you say that was a time when many people were traveling.
Jorgensen:Oh yes, all over.
Doel:I'm sure you had company on virtually all the trains.
Jorgensen:And some of them not very savory company. Always will be a percentage of people who did that sort of thing because they didn't want to work. But the majority of them were people who were poor.
Doel:When you think back to that time, were more people looking? How many of those were absolutely looking for work and those who like you were?
Jorgensen:Well I would say probably eight to two or something like that. You would actually have whole families traveling on some of the freights. It became quite, and the railroad bulls as they were called, the railroad police, I think at that time were chosen just for their sadistic natures and there were many that were known all over the west. Fort Worth Red. Guys that just loved to maim or kill somebody. And for example, when I woke up in the middle of the night and found I was in Eugene, Oregon, I had no idea where I was. Flashlight in my eyes. Staggered to my feet, guy growling, get out of here. So I jumped out of the car, and I started to ask, which way is out, you know. And he said, don't argue with me. So I started to walk this way and I heard footsteps behind me, turned around, light right in my eye you know. They have a flashlight, pow! It's a wonder I didn't get a cauliflower ear you know. No reason for it. Just to be himself.
Doel:I've heard those stories from others, the sadistic episodes of that sort.
Jorgensen:Of course, in most cases you had to catch the freight train on the fly after it was on its way. You had to get off. It was very dangerous. We actually had, later on on the Conrad, a young Californian chief engineer who in late, did it as a hobby, and he didn't have that sort of thing to contend with, but he lost part of one foot and nearly got killed a couple of times.
Doel:Clearly you did get to know what cities to try to avoid, what routes to.
Jorgensen:Well, you heard. Like in Los Angeles, which was sort of a Mecca for homeless people, you would stop the train right at the Lincoln Heights jail and police come from both ends, herd everybody.
Doel:You're moving your hands together and forming a plow.
Jorgensen:Right into the Lincoln Heights.
Doel:How was it that you got you first opportunity to sail at sea? That was back in 1941?
Jorgensen:Yes. After coming back from the West, I had a couple of meaningless jobs. I worked at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in the cancer lab. I was the assistant animal man. And among other things kill all the rabbits, all with a rabbit punch. The man I worked for there's lab, Dr. Peyton Raus, he received the Nobel Prize later on for his work on chicken carcinoma. And I still hadn't found anything when I happened to see a newsreel and it showed people at Hoffman Island in New York Harbor going onto the training ship, the Empire State. So I signed up and that was when I got on the Vema and went to sea on the Empire State. And I was at sea when Pearl Harbor came. And remained at sea throughout the war.
Doel:Before, we do want to talk about some of your later war time experiences, but you had mentioned often your recollections of the Vema back when.
Doel:Back when. And she had just become a training ship at that point.
Jorgensen:Yes. She had just been given to the Maritime Service as a training ship. And I actually have somewhere a picture of myself, and Vema in the background with gold leaf and mahogany, teak, and snow white sails, and the whole, the whole thing.
Doel:Was she a particularly beautiful ship as you remember?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. Well she was typical of the gorgeous yachts people were able to build in the 30s. There was no income tax and she was really lovely. And it's amazing that she is still, you know, afloat. Because she was built in near me in Copenhagen in '23, that's 74 years in salt water. She was built by Burmeister and Wayne with mild Swedish steel which I guess stands much better in salt water than conventional steel.
Doel:In terms of, and you said it was a very beautiful ship, but also in terms of the riggings and all of the equipment, was it up to date?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. She was in perfect, she was in perfect conditi6n at that time. But the war, war clouds were moving in pretty fast in '41, and I never got to sea on her. She didn't get out at all. It's a great loss for me. I've always felt.
Doel:How long were you actually on board Vema?
Jorgensen:Well I was only, I was only I think about two weeks and then I was appointed coxswain on the training ship the Empire State. And was happy about that because at least she, with her I got to sea.
Doel:You had mentioned, again off tape, that when you had been on board Vema you noticed the gold leafing on the faucets, and the fixtures.
Jorgensen:Well, yes, gold plate. And I think I remember there was still marble fireplaces in, just a beautiful thing. Mother, I see Lisa coming. [Interruption to talk to Mrs. Jorgensen] Lisa, my youngest daughter who lives next door, she's the only one of the four kids that didn't get to sea on the —
Doel:On the Conrad.
Jorgensen:When we were in refit in Victoria, she, in port, she worked in the galley when she was eleven years old. But she never got to sea.
Doel:Generally, and you, of course, became involved in the Maritime Service during the war, once Pearl Harbor happens and the war breaks out.
Doel:What was your principal service? What the main outlines of your service?
Jorgensen:Well I followed the very traditional, what was always referred to as coming up through the moors pipe as opposed as opposed to coming through one of the academies. Actually, it wasn't in the academy. So I started out as an ordinary seaman and became able seaman, then at a greatly accelerated rate, third mate, second mate, and chief mate, and so in that short time, from mid-'41 to '45 I went from ordinary seaman to chief mate. Which at that time, in the ordinary course of events, would take me fifteen years. And I was certainly not really qualified, but it was war and we had no choice. Apropos of that, just a couple of years ago after Perestroika and Glasnost, the Russians, the Soviets awarded me a medal which they awarded to all of the survivors of the Murmansk run.
Doel:Was that the time that you had been sunk?
Doel:Yes, I wanted to hear more about that.
Jorgensen:Really? Actually my roommate on, not a roommate, my watch mate on the, the other AB, able bodied seaman, was a writer and he wrote a book about our voyage which we've had around for some time. Haven't found in a few years now. But it was convoy BQ 16. Which was followed by convoy BQ 17 which was the disastrous one. That was the one HMS Ulysses had based on Jan de Hartags', The Captain, was based on. That was the one that was virtually obliterated from.
Doel:The entire run.
Jorgensen:The entire thirty out of thirty-eight ships were sunk. And what was so amazing at that time even though Russia was supposedly our ally, like in my convoy 17, I think there were fifty ships lost. And the Russian people weren't allowed to even know this, you know. So a few years ago when there was that complete turnaround they gave us a medal [interference on tape]. We had the run from Iceland to Murmansk, seven days and nights of continuous attacks. You know, every fifteen minutes, half an hour. There were only about two hours of relative darkness. So the rest of the time, continuous attacks. And to give you an idea, we shot down a hundred and twenty-six German planes. So, a couple of thousand that attacked us. And what made it interesting was in addition to we were carrying four, in addition to our general cargo we were carrying six hundred tons of TNT.
Doel:That was on your ship?
Jorgensen:Yes. We were actually scheduled for Murmansk, I mean for Archangel, but when we got off the Kola Inlet we were leaking so bad and everything shut down on the ship, we headed for Murmansk, that's when we were sunk.
Doel:How was the ship sunk?
Jorgensen:It was, it's assumed that it was a clicker mine. And, of course, mines were more deadly than torpedoes. We had been straddled by sticks of bombs, twice, and once a bomb had landed right stern propeller and had made the big drive shaft pop up, but it fell back in the cradle so.
Doel:You're talking about a drive shaft over a foot in diameter.
Jorgensen:And fortunately not enough to touch off TNT, but when we did sink it was thought to be a mine that exploded right under number 5 hatch where the TNT had been. But we had gotten into port down below Murmansk, an ammunition dump, and had gotten the TNT discharged or I wouldn't be here, of course. Then she started, and I was fortunate — at that time on the older ships, the crew all lived aft, the officers lived mid-ships. We were all aft, right over the propellers — And I was fortunate enough to be up on the bow when it hit or I wouldn't be here. And the chief mate sent me aft to sound the bilges. When I got back there the five hatch had blown out and the water was already up to the tween decks and there was no sense in trying to take any soundings. And while I was back that far, I ducked into the crew's quarters and I was able to push the door open and get my seaman's papers. And I looked, it was the steering engine which is a big old steam engine, half the size of this kitchen.
Doel:You're talking about maybe about twenty feet.
Jorgensen:Well, twelve, fifteen feet and many, many tons and that was right in my bunk. That was a close one.
Doel:How were you actually rescued?
Jorgensen:Well at the end, there was only myself and the chief mate left. We were up on the bow. And she was settling by the stern. And then chief mate was an old hand, he had the sense to throw a line over and go down that. Then she started to slide. That early on, there was always a lot of fear of being sucked down by the ship sinking, which cost us a lot of people because people would abandon ship prematurely because of this fear. So, when she started to slide I jumped, you know. And this, of course, a six story jump at that point. The bow was up like this. And fortunately, I didn't have a life preserver on. Because jumping that distance didn't, crossing my arms, like this it would have snapped my neck, you know. The water was 34 degrees and so I started to stiffen up very fast. But the boat from a little British minesweeper, the Bramble, picked me up when I guess I had two or three minutes left. And the Bramble was lost next convoy with all hands. And so many lucky things. And, in fact, taking that ship. If I hadn't taken that I wouldn't be here now either. Because the steamship office. Of course, they weren't allowed to tell you where the ships were going, but they said we have one going south and one going north. And it was really a coin flipping decision. And I thought south, we're getting sunk in tropical waters with sharks. I'll take the one going north. And after the war, I found out that the other one that I didn't take, she was one of a dozen or so that disappeared without a trace. And she was running along the coast of South Atlantic to Capetown and they assumed that a raider got her. You know they would surface and fire first on the radio shack which was always in the same place, and then sink the ship and freight. And a lot of the time, sink the life boats too. But not a trace of her was ever found. So that is the Murmansk was it saved my life. But the rest of the, at that point when I finally got back from there, and I was most fortunate in being put on an empty ship, an empty freighter. Because if I'd been put ashore I could have been in Murmansk there for a year or more just. Murmansk was already full of thousands of allied seamen who they had no way of getting out.
Doel:How did you find out [voice fades out].
Doel:How were you able to get onto that ship in Murmansk?
Jorgensen:Well. The ship that I was put on, lived on for a few days. They elected to put me onto the empty ship instead of putting me ashore. I've no way of knowing why. But it was most fortunate. After that run, I didn't really expect to survive the war, but in the middle of 1943 it started to swing the other way. Up until '43 the losses in the Merchant Marine were ten times that of the armed forces. But improved [voice fades out].
Doel:What were they that was improving?
Jorgensen:Well our survival chances. See the British perfected and improved radar and then the getting better all the time at seeing the wolf packs of submarines. Unlike Murmansk, on almost all the casualties were from dive bombers coming up from the Norwegian coast around the North Cape. And then when we were in Murmansk and the harbor, they would come over from Petsama, Finland. Which is one of the things that always dates me. I have actually seen an aerial dog fight involving biplanes. These incredibly game Russians would go up in these ancient biplanes, migs and yaks, and tangle with these Henckels and Messerschmitts coming over from Petsama, and always get shot down.
Doel:Were you on one of the ships that used the earliest versions of the radar equipment coming out?
Jorgensen:No. I, all of the years in convoy, we managed to [voice too low to hear] and it wasn't until I actually used, it was on the Conrad, the first ship that I was on that had radar.
Doel:When the war came to an end, you saw your career continuing at sea? Was that?
Jorgensen:Well, Anna and I had gotten married.
Doel:When had that happened?
Jorgensen:In '45 when I was sitting for my chief mate's exam and the examiners gave me the day off to get married.
Doel:Just one day?
Jorgensen:Yes. Then after the war when our family, children started to come along, I wanted to find something to do ashore because I had sailed with many men who didn't know their grown children any better than they knew me, you know, at sea all the time. And I lost a couple of years in trying to do this and that. And I saw an ad for a tree climber. So I said, ah if I can go aloft on a ship, I ought to be able to climb a tree. That got me started as a, I became a tree surgeon. And I'm in fact a CTE. I'm probably the only CTE you've ever met. [Laughter] Certified tree expert. It's not an empty title. I had to have five years in business and pass a rigorous examination. But that was the ideal thing for me. It was outside and my rigging experience plus my climbing ability worked out beautifully. So I did that for a few years while the kids were coming along and growing up. And then went back to sea. And again chance played an amazing. I, as a tree surgeon, I started selling tree men supplies. And one day a Morgan, something like a Triumph car, fellow came in and there was a young scientist from Lamont who wanted to buy a chain saw. And I advised him and in the conversation I mentioned that I felt now I could go back to sea because I was getting my license back. And he said, well if you do why don't you go over to Lamont. Almost it was in view.
Doel:Where were you living at the time?
Jorgensen:North Vale, New Jersey.
Jorgensen:Just on the corner there. And so when I did.
Doel:Who was this young scientist? Did you get his name?
Jorgensen:It was German, Schneider, something like that. I remembered it for years.
Doel:That's okay. For any names we can always add it to the transcript.
Jorgensen:He didn't remain at Lamont. So I never had him as a chief scientist and I had most of them. But that was the. The interesting thing, many years previously, when I was for a while working for MacAlister the towing company in New York, I was on the Erie Canal run, and we'd go up the Hudson River and passing Palisades one time, the Vema was lying there. And I didn't recognize Vema. She had become… [cross talk] She was a bald headed schooner at that point. That's what they call them when they take off the top mast. And I said to mate, I wonder what that is. And he said, oh, I think it's a Canadian lumber schooner so forth. But if I had known it was the Vema and that she was being fitted out to be used as an oceanographic ship, I would have been in there like a flash, you know. But I was given wrong information, so it wasn't until '66 that I got in touch with Lamont.
Doel:And this was very soon after the incident you mentioned a moment ago, hearing from the Lamont scientist about?
Jorgensen:Yes. That was in late '66 when I was studying to regain my chief mate's license. And at the very beginning of '67, February second, February of '67 was when I joined for the first time.
Doel:When you saw the Vema again, after so many years, you said it had been demasted, what other changes did you notice?
Jorgensen:Well of course we were looking at, that's the widest part of the Tappan Zee there, you know. And we weren't close at all. And there was no way I could tell that it was the Vema. She looked completely —
Doel:This was when it was docked at Piermont?
Jorgensen:Yes. It must have been shortly after it had been acquired because I think this was '52 or something like that.
Doel:Very interesting. And just to be sure that we've covered that period. You were sailing on a variety of vessels prior to the time that you joined the Conrad. You were on the tug and other trawlers and vessels?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. General freighters, Moore McCormick to the Baltic and South America. And then when I had tried my hand as a tree surgeon, I made a voyage to Korea on a freighter and got enough of a grub stake to start Garden State Tree Service which is still one of the best outfits there.
Doel:And that was the one that you had started.
Jorgensen:I also started one in New Zealand, South Island Tree Service, and that's the biggest one in New Zealand now.
Doel:Just to be sure and we'll talk about this later, when was it that you spent that time in New Zealand?
Jorgensen:That was for some years I had boatswain, or, well he became boatswain, actually a man on the Conrad who was a New Zealander, and when, you know the sixties were a bad time here, and the idea of living in an island kingdom, with only three million people and sixty million cattle and sheep, that sounded like a pretty nice thing. And I mentioned it to him, and he suggested Nelson, New Zealand. So we moved there in '71, 2 and lived there until '81. At that time it really didn't matter where I lived. I'd just fly to the Conrad wherever she was.
Doel:You say it was back in February of 1967 that you actually began with Conrad. What it was like as you first became acquainted with Lamont? What was, were you called in for an interview?
Jorgensen:Well, oh yes, I went up. Captain [Valvin R] Sinclair.
Doel:Valvin Sinclair. Valvin?
Jorgensen:I have no idea. To me he was Captain Sinclair.
Doel:He was just Captain Sinclair. Interesting.
Jorgensen:He was the port captain. When this young scientist had placed the bug in my ear, that was the place I went to. They were, he was very supportive during the time I was getting my license back, and I never looked elsewhere. When I did get the license. I had said to Captain Sinclair, now I've been ashore for a good many years, and I've never been on an oceanographic ship. Promise me that when I got to the Conrad you'll start me off as third mate, and he promised. And then when it got near, he said I'm afraid we're going to have to put you as second mate. I said, well, that's fine too. But naturally when I arrived there, I was chief mate. So I felt pretty lost for a bit.
Doel:Who else did you talk to when you were first finding out about the opportunity to sail?
Doel:Did you meet anybody else at Lamont?
Jorgensen:No. Nobody but Captain Sinclair.
Doel:What were your impressions of him? What sort of person was he like?
Jorgensen:Oh he was just a very, very nice man. A retired navy man. So merchant mariners had relatively little in common with service. He was very helpful right from the start. It was almost a traumatic experience for me getting my license back. Cause in the Merchant Marine for chief mate, or a second mate's, or a captain's license at that time, the examination takes up to fifteen days, full time. So there was. And to, when I had come ashore, I told myself, now if you hang onto your license, there's always going to be the chance, you'll say oh, I'll go back and might be neither fish nor fowl. So I let it expire. And to get it back was a shorter examination, a fewer questions, but they were still on the whole. So at that point, it was twenty years since I had passed the examination and to get all of it back, memorize the size of the letters on the fire stations, and the rules of the road, it took me six months full-time study at home to do it. So they were staying wary. And then that long, long examination. You were allowed fifteen working days to do it. If you were really sharp and fast and you knew your stuff, you could do it in ten. But that's still a long examination.
Doel:It certainly is.
Jorgensen:And I was in my mid-forties when I stepped on the Conrad. You know it was my first time in the southern hemisphere in that case for many, many years. And it wasn't like I had sailed down there. You know, twelve hours from forty degrees north to thirty-five south. And you know here the sun moves this way. Down there it goes this way.
Doel:You say it's the opposite directions.
Jorgensen:Yes. Bearings and things that you one time would have done automatically, you know, became a challenge. But it worked well.
Doel:What were your impressions of the ship?
Jorgensen:Well it was, I didn't have anything to compare it with. And of course it was crowded. I felt quite lost and I wished very devoutly that I had been allowed to start as third or second mate. But it worked well enough. And interestingly enough, is it's struck me so often how almost everything you do in life can have an impact later on. And I found that my, our first trip was down into the Antarctic, and my, all my years of in war time convoys, running completely blacked out and without radar, I knew which few people afterwards, how much you can see in the dark, you know. And when I first went down into the Antarctic, the ship used to heave to at night because icebergs would show up on the radar, but bergy bits and granolas, big enough to sink you, they didn't show on the. And when I went down there and then later when I was captain, I would just black out the ship and we would work all night, steam all night. I'd just make everyone, what we did in the war, you were wakened in the dark, you stayed in the. Put red goggles on immediately and get up to the bridge fifteen minutes early and you're going to get your night vision and then never lose it. And so later on when Captain [Sydney S.] Griffin was port captain, working day and night, we saved thousands, tens of thousands of dollars in ship's time.
Doel:What specific instructions did Captain Sinclair give you when you came aboard about dealing with the oceanographic team and their equipment?
Jorgensen:Nothing beyond what we, he preached and we always worked on that principle that our function was to get the scientists to where they wanted to be, and do it at a reasonable cost. Well I don't know if that was even mentioned, but that was a strong point with me. I know that when I took over as captain the, that time ship operating costs were going up all the time. And they started going down the other way. Like the time Captain Griffin when he was the port captain, was at a meeting in Washington where a navy admiral wanted to take over all these ships and run them under the MSC [?], the navy version. And just giving him the figure on the operating costs of the Conrad, that shut him right up. Throughout those many years we always averaged over three hundred days a year at sea. And year in year out. If government tried to run one of these ships, and they'd be happy with a hundred and eighty.
Doel:A hundred and eighty days you mean for that amount of money.
Jorgensen:Well a hundred and eighty days a year they would think was pretty good.
Doel:Yes. That makes sense. I'm curious. I have a lot of things I want to cover about your earliest experiences at Lamont and on the ship. What are the things that you were able to do that kept the cost down? You mention already the way that you were sailing.
Jorgensen:Well, I was, well for one period there, we kept her out of the States for six years which meant that we didn't have constant exposure to the Coast Guard and to the unions. And being, I was able to build up a cadre of people who were out at sea because they wanted to be there, not people who thought of a thirty day stretch at sea as purgatory, you know. And less travel expenses. Many things. In some, I'd had people stay on board for eighteen months, twenty-two months. One time our famous boatswain John Santini, he was on four years without getting off.
Doel:Sounds like a record.
Doel:It sounds as if personnel costs were one of the big expenses.
Jorgensen:Yes. In any, running any ship, personnel costs are big. And I operated [interruption]
Doel:We're resuming after a brief pause. What I really wanted to make sure we covered was what it was like for you on that first cruise on the Conrad. You'd mentioned that this was one that bound for Antarctica?
Jorgensen:Yes. Well, for a while I didn't feel like I was doing a good job as chief mate. I would have much preferred starting in a junior capacity. Also when I arrived in Cape town, my luggage was gone. So for a month down in the Antarctic I more or less lived in what I was wearing and a few things I got from the slop chest and was able to buy in Cape town. But then I relatively soon came to feel that once I learned the ropes of this new type of vessel I would be useful.
Doel:What was new and challenging about a vessel like Conrad?
Jorgensen:Everything. The resemblance to a conventional freighter or tanker, there really is none. Well some of the basic things, steering and navigation and so on. The life of the ship was very different.
Doel:The life of the ship?
Doel:What do you mean by that?
Jorgensen:Well, on a conventional ship, you would have only the crew. You wouldn't have an equal number of scientists who, many of whom would change every month. And I don't know if this should go on the tape, but often a severe challenge for us, the scientific people at that time anyway, was close after the terrible sixties, and they had strange views on personal hygiene and general seafaring sharpness and it just wasn't there. Like, for example, every week hold inspection and the crew's quarters would be all spotless, you know, and the scientific quarters would be an utter shambles. Just heartbreaking for a seafaring man. The people themselves were great.
Doel:Given that it was the 1960s and the dominant culture, was there a problem with drug use occasionally among the people?
Jorgensen:No that was. I was always very proud of that. There was, the only time it ever threatened, it was always scientific personnel. The regulars, the ship's crew, they for the most part weren't interested in it. And there was also the very severe law, and I don't know if it still exists. But if you were a crew member and were ever found to be using any drugs, your license and seagoing papers, whatever, were taken away forever. You could never go to sea again. But in all the years I was there we never had that problem. Until many years later, two brothers, came through Panama Canal, and two brothers, one in crew and one in the scientific department, they thought they would try to smuggle some drugs.
Doel:These are Panamanian nationals?
Jorgensen:No, they were Americans. And they thought they were so clever that nobody could ever find them. They took a...
Doel:You were saying that they had taken out the film, and no one.
Jorgensen:Yes. But of course the minute they bought these drugs ashore, the people that sold them the drugs went to the narcs and collected their reward for turning them in you see. And so the narcs came to the ship. So the transit pilot from the canal was already there and waiting and I had about fifteen minutes to figure out their pay and sign them off. And the head narcotics officer said, now captain, you know, this means an automatic reception when you come to New York, when you come to the States. When we arrived off of New York, Ambrose Channel, early in the morning, steaming up there and on the radar it showed a target back there on the starboard quarter, and of course it was a clear night with nothing visible. Right away figured it was, they were stalking us in case anything was thrown over the side. You see? Then as we were going up the river, and a helicopter going around us. And when we got up to Palisades, and this is I think the first time in years that we'd been.
Doel:Back to that.
Jorgensen:Before I even bring finish with engines there were two station wagon loads of narcs swarmed on board. So we sat there for hours while they searched the whole ship. And relatives and family were sitting out on the dock. But that was the only time. So it was a very good record really for a ship doing and calling at the sort of places that she did.
Doel:That must have been a difficult time for you having to go through that.
Jorgensen:Yes. Well for me it was just an annoyance and it, for so many people it detracted from this nice welcome back after the years, you know.
Doel:This was the 1970s that you were?
Jorgensen:Well, I can't remember when.
Doel:Was it under [Manik] Talwani's administration?
Jorgensen:I don't remember that. But it was many years later. So we had a very good record.
Doel:In what other ways did the 1960s movement manifest among the scientific crew?
Jorgensen:Well, you know, just, well if you picture the sixties ashore. It wasn't just that. That's only one aspect of it. But many of them were, they were not seafaring people. And they lived in the city, dwellers who, one of our biggest problems always was water. And New Yorkers were on their, they had never given a thought in their lives to saving water. You know at that time in New York City you paid according to the number of faucets in your house. It didn't matter whether you used no water and had them all running full blast for a month, you paid the same. It was a big struggle to conserve water and personal cleanliness and keeping the quarters, and all those things were.
Doel:Did you have much control over trying to get them to maintain?
Jorgensen:Well, no real control. Like I couldn't make. With the crew members the same thing that has happened on ships for hundreds of years happened in my command. No conception to take care of themselves. Keeping his quarters neat and all that stuff. And just trying on being part of the crew and they would automatically learn that. And of course the scientists didn't have that same discipline.
Doel:But there was more of a division in that way between the scientists and ?
Jorgensen:Well, yes. That, it was always very cordial between the scientists and — One fellow that we had relieved me once for a month's vacation, he took a survey and he established the fact that the education level of the crew was much higher than that of the scientific department.
Doel:Is that right?
Jorgensen:Then of course it wasn't very politic of him to release that information. No there was really excellent rapport between the two. And the older scientists who had Vema time and so on, they always I think enjoyed coming to the Conrad.
Doel:Was there a lot of social interaction on the boat?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. In the early years, there was no TV or anything else and there's a small ship's library, but people would read and play chess and cards and all of the kind of things that seafaring types do. When TV was installed on the ship, there was what I saw as a decline. In the rec room of course if one person wanted the TV conversation, reading and all the other things went by the boards.
Doel:Do you remember roughly when TV was installed?
Jorgensen:No. My chronology is so bad. I'm, you know, I'm looking back now on '77 and going back how many years. There was, every trip was different, yet there was the sameness about them all. Thirty days at sea and three days in port, and thirty days at sea and three days in port. I've always been bad on chronology anyway.
Doel:Well, the scientists at Lamont, were particularly noted for the pranks that they would play. Did they, do you remember any pranks that they would play?
Jorgensen:I don't know that they were any different from any other scientists. We had more rea1, I think, we had seafaring men than any other outfit.
Doel:By that you mean like Woods Hole or Scripps?
Jorgensen:Yes. Yes. But they had more sea going time and experience than I ever found in the other. Well, I guess Woods Hole was the other place, the only other place I was. But I had [sound of Zippo lighter being opened] men from other institutions on the vessel and I could see the difference.
Doel:I want to get back to that because I think it's a very interesting point. One of the things I was curious about was how much you knew of the early career of the Conrad. It had come into operation 1960 as a navy ship that was being used at Lamont. What did you come to know of how it was operating in the years before you?
Jorgensen:Oh very little. Just from what was told to me and I just gathered from Doc [W. Maurice] Ewing and other sources the, they had some disastrous crews in the early days of her. But that had all turned around by the time I got there, or was turning around.
Doel:I had understood that alcoholism was a problem with one of the earlier captains.
Jorgensen:Yes. Alcoholism, alcohol period, is actually in law, in admiralty law, it's considered an occupational hazard. And when I was not a captain, I used to receive the Coast Guard proceedings regularly and they would have disasters and drownings and deaths. And quite often if not all the time, the leading cause among merchant seamen, the leading cause of death, was falls while intoxicated, and the second leading was suicide. But the Conrad was also, I think, unique in that we for many, many years kept her completely dry at sea. And I don't think any of the other oceanographic outfits pushed for that. I just tried to do that. So it meant that some of the people that we had there for many years were people who could function very well on a dry ship, but could not have functioned on a ship that was in port every few days and be in port two-thirds of its time. So on board intoxication was not a problem in the early years.
Doel:You mentioned off tape that there had been concern initially about whether Lamont could continue to operate both the Vema and the Conrad.
Jorgensen:Yes. I didn't know that it was that close. I didn't, I essentially worked for Dr. Ewing for I think for I think about six or seven years before I ever met him. And had him along just, sailed with him only once as chief scientist. And he said to me that in the early days he felt that at one point they were about ready to give up on the Conrad and give her back to the navy. But that Hank [Haakon] Skjerding was an excellent port engineer and prevailed on him to give it one more try. And very fortunate they did. It just allowed things to turn around.
Doel:One of the things I'm curious about is how you went about hiring your own crew for the Conrad? When did you actually become captain? When did you sail first as captain?
Jorgensen:Let's see, I was chief mate for a year or two and then, must have been the very late sixties, maybe '68, '69 that I became permanent skipper.
Doel:Who were you sailing under in the first two years?
Jorgensen:Well it wasn't, no it wasn't two years, I don't think. Well it was Captain Turner. I can, maybe this shouldn't be on tape, but Captain Turner was pretty much ensconced there. But one time he had the misfortune to have Dr. Ewing as chief scientist And because Dr. Ewing judged ship's captains by Captain —
Doel:Captain [Henry Conrad] Kohler?
Jorgensen:Captain Kohler, yes. And after that one short cruise, Captain Turner was finished. That was it. Captain Turner was a nice man, but he was more like an accountant, bookkeeper, and would not project any authority from. And that's all a merchant captain has. The law is never, not like the armed services where people have to do what he says because they have to. A good merchant marine captain has to have enough moral standard or whatever to make people want to do it. Which I think was what happened with me on the Conrad. I've had people come on the ship who said, it's really wonderful to be on a ship where it seems like everybody is doing a good job because they want. It's always been to me personally a very satisfying thing. And I can remember going through the Panama Canal, and of course you know the pilots in the Panama Canal they're on every flag ship in the world. And they see some of the fine Scandinavian crews and German, Dutch, they see them all. And this one pilot, he said, congratulations on your crew, captain, you would never know it was an American ship.
Doel:It's a compliment.
Jorgensen:Yes. And of course it doesn't speak too well of our Merchant Marine in some respects. Typical American seaman were never as dedicated as Scandinavians or the maritime nations it doesn't seem to me. But things like that were. And I remember one time, Anna told me this later, when we came back to rejoin the ship after a leave down in Chile or someplace, and later on it was either the agent or the chandler said to her, I go on an awful lot of ships but this is the first time that I've ever seen the crew hug the old man when he came back. [Laughter]
Doel:That's a very important recollection I think. It says a lot about your style and the way that you tried to make.
Jorgensen:It's, and we all used to, you know, it was so democratic. You would go out and have drinks together, go to the same place. And some of the fellows who came from the academies, particularly Kings Point [Merchant Marine Academy], told me years later, when I first came on here I saw the captain was having drinks with the ordinary seaman. I said oh gee, there can't be any discipline on this ship at all. It must be terrible, you know. But these people would never go across that invisible line. And the minute we would go back to the ship, you know, the camaraderie didn't stop. There was no, no one ever crossed that line. It was a very satisfying thing.
Doel:Was there a common mess on the Conrad, Conrad, for the crew and —
Jorgensen:No. There was always separated. There was a separate mess for the ship's officers, a separate mess for the scientists, and then the crew mess. And then later on when the navy policy, you know the ship was always owned by the navy. They insisted we make it all one. And nobody wanted. The crew didn't want, they were happy where they were. The new idea of democratization, they really didn't, they weren't unhappy about having their own place and they had no desire to necessarily. So.
Doel:A while ago you mentioned Captain Kohler. Did you meet him?
Jorgensen:Not until about six years after I'd been there. We were always in different parts of the world. And this one time both ships were in Yokohama and I met him for the first time. And I'm very pleased to say that when he saw me, he said, so happy to meet you. I have never heard a bad thing about you. That was real nice coming from him.
Doel:What was Kohler's style as a captain?
Jorgensen:Well, again this hopefully will be. In many ways Captain Kohler tried to run a twentieth century ship like a nineteenth century ship. In fact he had a near mutiny one time. But a completely different style. Like going back half a century in time. And of course Captain Kohler would recruit these young fisherman boys from Nova Scotia and he was under the Panamanian flag and could pretty much run things to. So he certainly did a wonderful job over the years. But he couldn't have run the Conrad that way, it being an American ship.
Doel:You say that at one point it seemed to come to a near mutiny.
Jorgensen:Yes, the port captain had to fly over to the Azores. For example, when they came into port the crew members all come to the captain to get a draw, whatever they want. And maybe a port call and the sailors might ask for fifty dollars. Captain Kohler who felt sort of responsible for them, said well I think five dollars is enough, you know. It was stuff you couldn't do on an American ship. But I'm not sure whether it was a case of the — It wasn't a mutiny at sea and I think it was a case of where the crew actually wouldn't sail unless there were some changes made, and certainly don't want any of this to be on Captain Kohler's, against his memory. But it's —
Doel:It's what happened.
Doel:Were changes, did changes come after that? How was it?
Jorgensen:Well I, I again, I don't know since then I'd never saw the Vema again. We were never together anywhere after that. So I don't know.
Doel:What were your impressions of Doc Ewing as a person and as a leader.
Jorgensen:Well he certainly, I only actually before I ever sailed with him, one time, it was when Hank Skjerding was dying of cancer. And so he was down there Columbia Presbyterian [Hospital], and Dr. Ewing and Mrs. Ewing, who, of course, lived just a few miles from us there in North Vale. I was home at the time, and he and Mrs. Ewing came by and picked up Anna and myself and to go down to and visit Hank Skjerding and took us to dinner there at Butler Hall. And at that, this was the first time we had ever met them. He said although we'd never had any face to face dealings I want you to know we've always appreciated what you did. You first came to us and kept people at sea longer, kept them on board longer, operated so well. So I said to myself, this man must be kind. And he said but then when it kept on I realized you weren't conning them, you, of course I can't remember his exact words, but the gist of them, and I realized that you were supplying good leadership. That was personally satisfying too. And then sometime after that, and it would in fact, was in fact after Doc Ewing had left and gone to Texas, you know, that he was chief scientist with me on a cruise and he was of course very impressive, and for his age, and he was sixty-seven at that point which means he's ten years younger than I am now. But it seems old to me. He would be out there on the hero platform and would step back and I'd have to look away. He was no longer light on his feet you know. I'm afraid he would. And in fact he did, he fell and split open his forehead and then me the only doctor. But.
Doel:You helped put him back together.
Jorgensen:Oh yes. That was why I was so pleased when in later years he was able to sail with me because his nurse in the merchant service we never carried doctors, not even a medic. On merchant ships traditionally, it's, well the captain is always responsible, but the guy that's put in charge of the ship sick bay was the last guy to have passed a license examination, and passed a half hour first-aid course. Which just a little aside, reminds me of my very first trip as third mate, back in '43, an old New England down east skipper. And it was a North Atlantic winter convoy, war time. And being the newest man on the block, I was in charge on the sick bay. And this mess man came to me, he had all the textbook symptoms of appendicitis, you know, leafed through the book. Everything. So I went up to the captain, and I said, captain, I'm afraid one of the mess men has appendicitis. And he said, well put it in the log. If he dies, he dies. And that's pretty much it. Of course in war time and in convoy and especially with winter coming on, there was no way that you could fall out of convoy and transfer to one of the escort vessels where they sometimes had medical personnel. So it's pretty, put it in the log. If he dies, he dies. But as it happened fortunately it was just severe gastro-intestinal. And I don't know what would have done there. No penicillin. Anything at that stage, we were just getting sulpha drugs. They wouldn't be any good for. I derailed the scotch tape.
Doel:That's okay. That was an interesting point. One thing we haven't covered and I was curious about was the scale of the money involved. You mentioned the number of the port captains who were working at Lamont. How did that change over the years that you were affiliated?
Jorgensen:Well, after Captain Sinclair, immediately thereafter, young skipper of the Conrad, Captain Griffin took over as port captain and for many of my early years there, he, I had tremendous latitude. I've often said that I had sort of the, what's the word, latitude and authority.
Jorgensen:Autonomy, that's the word that I was after. Of a nineteenth century skipper. And then being out of the States for so many years, that granted me more autonomy. So at one point I was routinely operating with, the ship with eighteen total crew including myself. Occasionally as low as seventeen, in later years, I took twenty-six. But after Captain Griffin, they had a couple of people who did not really, a navy man, ex-navy, who really didn't have their hands on the pulse so to speak, and eventually Dr. Gerard, Sam Gerard, who was the scientist took over and proceeded to expand the job.
Doel:What were your impressions of Sam Gerard?
Jorgensen:Well he was one of, he was in fact the chief scientist on my first time in command, and our relationship was very good and it remained at the time. And later on as chief scientist, I mean port captain, he had between the two vessels, he had a lot of time on the ships and it's putting a, for a chief scientist to take on that job, he was the perhaps the one best suited of anyone.
Doel:What were the main challenges of the port captain?
Jorgensen:Well, just, it was a, just running the ship, choosing the right people, which is always a big thing.
Doel:It would be hiring decisions and?
Jorgensen:Yes. And when Captain, Captain Griffin left and Dr. Talwani took over as director, I was asked to take on the job port captain, but I realized that my gifts if any were not in a desk job and I would miss too much being out to sea. In fact, I still miss it. So I declined with thanks, thanks for asking me. In later years I often thought that if instead of a port captain, we should have a port engineer, because the chain of command of captains and mates was really working very well, and port engineer instead of port captain would have been. I don't even know if I got to recommend it to anybody in authority. But I certainly would have if I'd been asked.
Doel:When you saw so many chief scientists come, you worked with so many, what marks a good and competent chief scientist?
Jorgensen:Well, that's a little beyond my. Of course the bottom line is what he finds and what he does with the information that he finds. So many of the senior men were very good in keeping, knowing what to do, getting work out of their group and so on. And I can't, and so many were good in that way I thought.
Doel:Does one in particular or a couple stand out in your mind as being?
Jorgensen:Oh, so many. Walt, Walt Whitman, Pitman.
Jorgensen:Yes. Charlie, Charles Windisch, Peter Buell, Sam Gerard, and, of course, we had a couple of guys that were never really chief scientists but you just felt so good if they, you came on the ship while they were there. Joe Stennett is one of them. And oh gee, the names. Who was that Lithuanian or Latvian?
Anna Jorgensen:Ivar Spitt.
Jorgensen:Yes, Ivar Spitt.
Anna Jorgensen:Spelled PITTE, I think.
Jorgensen:Yes, and so many chief scientists that I just can't tie them together.
Doel:I'm just thinking of a few other names. Did Marc Langseth sail with you?
Jorgensen:Yes. He was with me. And of course, George Bryant and Bill [William] Ryan.
Jorgensen:Yes. I once made a whole list of all those I had sailed with, and when I first knew that we were going to be doing this I tried to find it. I couldn't. But virtually all of them.
Doel:You had mentioned, and I thought it was very interesting a moment ago that you felt particularly glad when you saw Walter Pitman or Charlie Windisch or Sam Gerard.
Jorgensen:Well, you know, just guys that I knew. And also the two that I mentioned there, Joe Stennett and Ivar Spitt, they were sort of the middle echelon, and they were chief scientists with me. But they were so knowledgeable. If something horrible happened with [voice fades]. And I'm sure chief scientists were happy whenever they saw those fellows.
Doel:If something went wrong, say mechanically?
Jorgensen:Well, I mean. Well, no mechanically in their part. But, no just good guys to have around you'd just feel that everything would go smoothly and —
Doel:Kind of competence plus a knowledge about how to make things work.
Doel:Personality, I'm sure plays an important role.
Jorgensen:But overall, over those many years, all of them, virtually all of them, I remember as just as friends and colleagues and so on. I didn't enjoy. You mentioned [Samuel] Katz. I didn't enjoy my time with him particularly.
Doel:This is Sam?
Jorgensen:But don't make a big thing by saying that. There was nothing wrong really except that he wasn't as much in the mold of the other Lamont scientists. He operated from outside.
Doel:How was he different?
Jorgensen:Well that would be hard to say. He just hadn't. Well he hadn't, I guess, been on the Vema and been sailing for years.
Jorgensen:No, with things like that, that's hard to be specific.
Doel:Did he seem like an outsider from that group?
Jorgensen:I don't know whether he was. But to me he certainly he was, he was not one of that group who I thought of as being fellow seamen and sailors and old hands, however you want to call it.
Doel:We have to take a quick break for lunch but we have a few.
Doel:Items that we need to continue. Resuming after a lunch break. And a moment ago you were mentioning off tape about an interesting development in which you had played a critical role in taking a very deep core. The deepest core.
Jorgensen:Yes, as far as I know it. Well, certainly at that time the record core, I think it was something like a hundred and twenty-two feet. That was in the Indian Ocean. Of course a lot of sediment to be able to penetrate that far. But I think the scientists told me that essentially we, in that one core, had seventy million years in one column of information. And I've always felt good about it because I'm a hundred percent convinced that one they couldn't have taken without my rigging and my time as a tree climber and so on.
Doel:We've just been looking at a photograph, a newspaper photograph, that you had shown us of your work in New Zealand.
Jorgensen:Right. There was really no way that they could have, we could have rigged up for that core unless I was there to go out onto the core pipe and rig it. I think an incident when it was alongside the ship, it was a six piper and went well past the bridge.
Jorgensen:So it was a challenge in rigging and always been very happy about it.
Doel:That was quite an achievement.
Doel:When the scientists saw, were they impressed by this core that was coming up? Did they attribute? Did they understand how much work you had put into?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. I think at the time those that were there fully agreed that it couldn't really have been done unless I had had that rigging and climbing experience and it was pretty much accepted.
Doel:What I'm curious about are what seemed to you to be the principal differences between the Conrad and the Vema? I was thinking particularly about the capabilities of the ship. I'm curious in general.
Jorgensen:Well, the Conrad was a bigger vessel. It had room for newer and had more room for both scientists and equipment. But basically I don't think we did anything better than the Vema ever. And Vema was always a sort of yard stick for the things which we measured ourselves. We always felt at that time that when it came to oceanographic ships, there was no question that the Vema and the Conrad were the two top ones. I had mentioned that the administration of the ship from the captain's standpoint was somewhat different than — The Vema had a foreign flag and foreign crew, and which would be an advantage in many ways. But I don't know that beyond that there was that much difference in us really. Many of the scientists we had on Conrad, of course, had learned, put in their apprenticeship on Vema, and one of our biggest assets I think.
Doel:That's interesting point. Do you remember anything that those individuals who had been on both ships said about the differences between the two?
Jorgensen:Well I think that they, life was more comfortable on Conrad, and they very much appreciated the improvement in cuisine. Outside of that, I don't know that there were any major differences.
Doel:How did the ships compare with, say Woods Hole and Scripps?
Jorgensen:Well, I always felt that we did more with fewer people and less money, and lower costs than either of them. It wasn't until later that I had some experience on Woods Hole ships and they were certainly excellent in every way, but. Well, just for example, Woods Hole ships were much more maneuverable then Conrad. Yet we for years routinely held two wire stations going down two at the same time, saving a lot of time. Whereas, even on the Norr, with unlimited maneuverability, she had the [?] Snyder Cycloidal propulsion and could virtually write her own name. Even with all that, they only would put down one wire at a time. And I was astonished to find that the deck officers, even having been on the ship for years, had no knowledge whatever of ship handling. And the crew accomplished relatively speaking very little in the way of work, deck ship maintenance, and just a fraction of what we would do on the Conrad.
Doel:So at Woods Hole they did less than?
Doel:Did they have more problems?
Jorgensen:No, not problems. It's a very efficiently run thing, but a lot of what we did at sea other institutions would return to home port and it would be done there.
Doel:Did it just not occur to them to do it, with some of these things? Were they surprised to find out that you were doing so much?
Jorgensen:Well, as I think I mentioned in passing, after a brief relieving stint on their ships, they asked me to remain permanently, and it was, I heard it said many times, that in the couple of months that I was on there and had instituted Conrad style work ethics and more work had gotten done than in the past year or two. Well just for example, in the daytime, the men at the wheel would relieve themself, relieve themselves, [laughter] relieve each other every hour, you know, which is ridiculous. It meant that with the men on deck leaving every hour and the other one coming back, so little work got done.
Doel:That's a very interesting observation. How did it come? This is the period between 1979 and '81 that we're talking about here regarding Woods Hole. How did it come to be that you were at Woods Hole for that period?
Jorgensen:Well there was in fact a period when I left Lamont one time when I came to relieve the ship in, relieve the other relief captain in Bermuda, I found that only myself and the chief engineer were the only U.S. licensed men. And in my many years before I had sometime bent the rules, but this was a little too much. So I left after that period, I left for a while. And it was at that point that I filled in a couple of times on the Woods Hole ships. And then when, it was in fact Marc Langseth, who was the scientist in charge of ship operation, wrote me a letter and said that they were going to normalize operations. In other words run her more like a U.S. ship and would I like to come back. So I was, of course, happy to.
Doel:Was that a difficult decision to make?
Jorgensen:No, no, no, no. Well, I hated to leave Conrad, but to, as I say, to find that only myself and the chief engineer, were the only people with U.S. licenses, I didn't feel too.
Doel:Did the navy retain considerable autonomy over aspects of the ship's operation?
Jorgensen:Well, in the sense that they still owned the ship. Like at one point, I believe the navy wanted to give us Conrad. But I think it was decided that it was much more sensible for us to leave it in navy ownership. And I also think for example when Captain Kohler retired, when they were willing to give the Vema to him but he knew better than to accept it. You know, unless you have a lot of money in hand, even a ship that's given to you is a lot. Yes, the, and one of the other occasions where of course the navy exercised its right was when it decreed that it should have a common mess room.
Doel:A common mess.
Jorgensen:Although, as I said, the majority of the crew, the unlicensed men, they were not at all happy about the decision.
Doel:One of the issues that I suspect comes up in managing a ship of this sort is maintaining the integrity of the contracting operations and getting the work done properly when a ship is at that point. Did that become a difficult issue in the sixties and seventies?
Jorgensen:No. That, if you'll remember that earlier I had said that in my last years there I felt that, or for many, I thought that it was much more important to have the good chief engineer instead of port captain because so much of the shipyard stuff or things like that were more in that field than the deck department, captain, deck officers seemed to go on pretty routinely.
Doel:I heard at one point that there was difficulty in having the main, with the main shaft of the Conrad when it was being replaced but not really. Or had been repaired, although. I wonder if that — It may well have been before your time.
Jorgensen:Yes. Well, I don't know. It wasn't, it didn't happen during my time. She actually didn't have much of a shaft because her main propulsion motor was actually a huge DC motor right on the shaft. A propos of nothing really except I was mentioning it to, this is as earlier a day about the Conrad as mercy ship. One time we made a stop at Robinson Crusoe Island, which the Chileans for tourist reasons had renamed, used to be Juan Fernandez, and was in fact the island where Alexander Selkirk, the Scotchman who was the model for Robinson Crusoe, was marooned for seven years. We stopped there and it was administered by Chile or it belonged to Chile and about a two day run from Valparaiso, and only had a ship come once a month. And the young lieutenant who ministered the island asked if he could send a person along for medical purposes and if he had to pay passage. And I told him that we didn't have any passenger accommodations, but we would certainly do so, be happy to do so. And it turned out that it was his wife who was about to give birth. So when we sailed the next day, instead of one it turned into eight.
Jorgensen:Yes. There was the pregnant one. Fortunately, they also sent along an elderly midwife. But there was a heart case, a suspected appendicitis, an infant with something wrong, an epileptic. And me the only doctor of course. [Laughter] So when we got to Valparaiso a couple of days later, fortunately with nobody getting born or dying, we had quite a big reception. Headlines, the mercy ship. Things like that. I was interviewed on TV. But the young people on the ship, crew and scientists, they were just terrific. You know, they bunked down wherever they could find to make room for these people. All of these Chileans were so appreciative. It was shortly after the Allende troubles and it was a blow for American relations. That was only by the way.
Doel:That's interesting. What did you sense in that tension from the aftermath of Allende?
Jorgensen:Well, you know, yes. The communist regime more or less had been was finished, and of course half of the population was still, were still Allende supporters. It was a touchy period in U.S. relations.
Doel:Was there any problem with docking?
Jorgensen:No. No, no. It was — No we had no problem. The, Chile is probably the most European of the Latin American countries. And we had Chilean crew members and, no everything went fine. But in, overall relations between the two countries, it was a blow in our favor, so to speak. There was also considerable interest in the Conrad because, you know, Chile is on the ring of fire, earthquakes and so on, our work, of course, was plate tectonics and related things.
Doel:Do you remember any Chilean scientists that were working on board?
Jorgensen:No. Not. We had two long-time Chilean crew members, but, and we had Argentinean scientists, but I don't remember any that were Chilean.
Doel:Argentines? Do you remember them? Do you remember Alberto Lonardi?
Jorgensen:Yes. I remember, but I can't put a face with it now, but I remember that name.
Doel:Or Nestor Gannelli?
Jorgensen:I don't remember that. But Hector Iglesias.
Doel:What are you thinking about when you recall his name?
Jorgensen:Well, when he, his young wife first came to the States, she lived with us for a while, Martha. Just one of the names that I remember. He was chief, well I don't know if he was chief scientist. When we were down in Ushuaia [Argentina], of course the southern most city in the world. And I got into a considerable, well not serious, but into trouble there. Because when we radioed ahead for a rendezvous with the pilot and when I arrived there at the appointed time on the appointed day, there was no pilot in sight. I couldn't raise anybody ashore with the radio. So I didn't know whether to wait two hours or two days or two weeks, and so I, well, maybe I'll just head up the Beagle Channel toward Ushuaia and maybe meet the pilot. So I did. No pilot. Kept going. Finally steamed into Ushuaia having done sixty-five miles of the Beagle Channel without a pilot. And in South American countries that's a big no no. So there was a big flap and cables to Buenos Aires and a hearing, all sorts of. But it all blew over. The local people didn't care that much. And it's typical wherever you go in the world. The further you get out in the provinces away from the big centers, the more relaxed people are about crossing the t's and dotting the i's. And there in that area, see it's a little touchy, because Argentina and Chile come together there. For example, one time I remember from Puerto Montt, Chile we were going around to the east coast and were considering going through the Straits of Magellan, but to do that, you have to fly a pilot down from Valparaiso, who would ride on the ship for twenty-six days, and then a Brazilian, an Argentinian pilot would have to fly down and take us most of the way through the Straits of Magellan, and then a Chilean pilot to dock us in. So we went around the horn instead. The going around the horn reminds me. The, one of the longest straight runs ever had on Conrad was from Fiji, around the horn, and up to Bahia Blanca I guess. Forty-four days of straight steaming.
Jorgensen:For us on the ship having a, just a passage, you know, was like a vacation.
Doel:Do you remember anything of those foreign scientists? [Cross talk] Did they seem particularly integrated in the Lamont crew?
Jorgensen:Oh yes. We've had Italians, many different Latin Americans, Hollanders. And they always. There was no ethnic or social or national boundaries on Conrad, none whatever.
Doel:One thing that in some ways we've been alluding to in talking here was in the 1960s during the cultural upheaval here in this country and the Vietnam war. Did it become difficult at all being a U.S. flag ship to dock in any of the ports as you went around the world? Did this become a problem internationally?
Jorgensen:No. I was not aware of it. We were, the Conrad often was a complete puzzlement to people when we came in because there was this, the Columbia crown on the stack, you know. So some people would ask if we were a British ship, you know, the Columbia crown. And then the normal procedure when a ship enters a foreign port, customs and immigration come on board and the captain shows them the manifest and the ship's registry and things like that, you know, crew lists. But all I had to show them was a piece of plastic. She was registered as a New York State motorboat.
Doel:Is that right?
Jorgensen:Yes that was, Captain Griffin was, I don't want to say wheeler dealer, I guess, but it saved us an awful lot in many ways. Of course we were still a ship. We still had to carry fully licensed people. Since we stayed out so many, so long time, we would fly Coast Guard inspectors out for annual refits which we did in foreign countries.
Doel:Where were they done mostly, the refits?
Jorgensen:Well, wherever it fit in, their closest. But, for example, one fellow from the University of Washington, he had been skipper on their ship which was a ship similar to the Conrad. And he was amazed. He said in his case after four weeks, at the most six weeks, the crew would demand that they steam all the way back to Seattle or wherever, and have leave, and another crew and all that stuff. And my people would stay on as I told you, up to four years, and we just kept on. But if you ever weighed the cost to take a ship full of people, you know, stop your oceanographic work and steam for three weeks to here and three weeks back, the cost would be horrendous. And we managed to avoid doing that. Just kept going on and on and on.
Doel:You had mentioned when we were off tape at lunch that you had inherited Fijian crew members when the Vema had been decommissioned. I wonder what you recall about the decision that was made to no longer continue using the Vema and how that ultimately affected you?
Jorgensen:No, I had no connection with that at all. I was, I really was so rarely to the main office. And for years and years and I would just go to the ship wherever it was. With the Vema, of course, it was just a matter of dollars and cents. She was too old, too small, and it just didn't, wasn't seen as practical to continue. And of course the same was true of Conrad. When she was retired there, I think it was close to a million and a quarter miles, still the same original Caterpillar engines. But parts. And then today the scientists in particular, you could not get them to sail on a ship where a dozen of them would share one bathroom.
Doel:So you found that there was a definite increase in the standards that the scientists themselves demanded? An increased standard [cross talk].
Jorgensen:The newer ships, they're much larger and roomier. The almost every cabin has its own head. And I understand, well that Australian ship that I showed you, is twice the size of the Conrad and could do one quarter of what we could. Her, the captain's quarters on there were the equivalent of all the crew quarters on the Conrad put together.
Doel:You mentioned that by the time by Conrad was retired that she was outdated, Caterpillar engines.
Jorgensen:Well that was just part of the —
Doel:Was she safe?
Jorgensen:Oh sure. She was still. She was probably a much better, was a much better sea boat when she was retired than the Ewing is now.
Doel:You had mentioned again at lunch off tape that due to the efforts of Binelli that you found the ship to be in better condition at the time that you ended your captaincy than.
Jorgensen:Oh yes. Not, Santini.
Doel:Santini, I beg your pardon. Santini.
Jorgensen:When I left her at the end, physically the deck and everything, they were in better shape than when I arrived. And there was an awful lot of it was due to just Santini alone. And good mates and captains, like Olander.
Doel:That's Peter Olander you're referring to.
Doel:What sort of person was Peter Olander?
Jorgensen:Well, as I say, he's just about the most competent, the best all-around seaman I think I've ever met. And I've had, he was sort of I guess. He had more of a problem with keeping people happy and I guess had a streak of violence in him. And Captain Kohler I know was convinced that he had the potentially danger in his make-up. But he was tremendously able.
Doel:When you had inherited the Fiji crew members, I'm curious did it make a major difference in the way that the ship operated when you had the kind of experience coming in from the former Vema members to the Conrad?
Jorgensen:No. No, it was gradual. Some of them in between when they weren't needed on the Vema would serve periods on the Conrad. And of course once they were there, they were welcome forever. Wonderful people. Wonderful people. No, liked by everyone. And any department head happy to have them. Work in the engine room, stewards, deck. Lovely people.
Doel:You had mentioned also that among those that you had come to know well when the then Lamont scientist was John Ewing. How well did you come to know him?
Jorgensen:Well, not that much better than most of them. Just as a very congenial man to work with and for. In one sense we always felt that we were working for the chief scientist, you know, which is it's true enough. And that was fully accepted. But just very nice.
Doel:You mentioned you were used to working with the chief scientists, for them. What happened? Did there ever come a time when your sense of the captain said you should go one way and their needs said?
Jorgensen:No. Well, I guess in small ways there were. But in my case I sort of feel that I had a firm enough standing with most if not all that if I said that something couldn't be done, then there was no further discussion. See there was never any question that, although the chief scientist in charge of the expedition, the cruise, whatever, anything to do with the ship, the captain had final, full and final authority. So it's possible that younger skippers perhaps taking over and having older or senior scientists might have a little problem there. I don't remember having. There was, one of the last cruises, went from Ecuador to Hawaii. And I didn't know until I had made that cruise, and perhaps I should have known, that part of the ocean is the most deserted corner of the world. More so than Antarctica now. And after leaving a young and very inexperienced youngster had been in charge of the satellite communication, and I was told that would all be fixed. And then so we left, and a few days after leaving, the ship's radio failed. And so I kept going and I got to a point where to break off and go to the nearest port to have it fixed, I would be way up in Acapulco, Mexico and half a dozen days there and half a dozen days back, and hundreds of thousands of dollars going down the drain. And so I called in the chief scientist who at the time —
Doel:Resuming now after a brief interruption. And you were mentioning that on that cruise you had come to the decision, the radio is dead.
Jorgensen:Oh yes, yes, yes.
Doel:You had just called in the chief scientist.
Jorgensen:Yes. He was a, this was a joint thing with the University of Hawaii, and there was a young chief scientist and his first time as chief scientist, I think. And I explained to him now when we get by Clipperton Island here, there's no chance of anything else. What we have to decide now is whether to break off and lose six days or more, definitely more, or to keep going and hope either the radio or the satellite telecommunications gets repaired. And he said, the people, my people at Hawaii, they don't expect to hear from us until we get back there. And if we divert I'm going to demand six days on the end and all. In other words, he was, that's when I would have liked to have a chief scientist like Walter Pitman, you know, or Charlie Windisch, or any of them. So in essence we reached point X and I didn't have any choice but to keep going. But what it turned out and for the rest of that entire leg we did not see one other ship. I gave orders to the bridge. Any time you see a target anywhere, break off and we'll steer for it, call me right away. We did not see. So for twenty-five days no one knew whether the Conrad with all its people on it, sunk or whether. They even diverted a satellite to help look for us. And we could hear the Coast Guard bulletins going out on the air, describing the ship, overdue, overdue, overdue. Must be lost, you know. No way to answer them. So, believe me when we finally got within about a day of Hawaii, we could raise people on the VHF. It was a — One thing it accomplished, in the early days and at this point, we didn't have a radio operator. We never carried a radio operator for years. The Conrad functioned with one message or so a month sent through a ham operator.
Doel:Is that right?
Jorgensen:But at least it, we got some guidelines if at any point we lost radio contact for forty-eight hours than we should divert to the nearest shipping lanes. And if after seventy-two hours we hadn't made any contact, then we should break off entirely and head for the nearest port. That was the first we had these guidelines. And of course I had been brought up in the early days when we only had ham radio. So it was a, certainly a bit of a flap. And the people in Hawaii who supposedly were not going to be looking for us until we got there, Sam Gerard said they were on the phone ten times a day, demanding to know where we were. But I think I started out by saying, I did not know until then, and perhaps I should have, how utterly deserted that part of the ocean is. Amazing, except for the very south Indian Ocean, going for twenty-five days without seeing another vessel.
Doel:If something, say a storm, and you had to veer off your course, did you ever feel pushed to maybe continue the course. Either your own or chief scientist.
Jorgensen:No. Weather has never worried me that much with such a well found vessel, such a good sea boat. Now in times in my life I've been on huge, eight hundred foot long container ships, and I would much rather go through a storm in the Conrad than I would on that eight hundred foot container ship.
Doel:And the Conrad by contrast is about two hundred feet.
Jorgensen:Two hundred and eight feet, four inches.
Doel:You know it. You were mentioning off tape when you were looking in front of the portrait of the Conrad downstairs in your house, that you had devised a way of steering through storms.
Jorgensen:Well yes. [Cross talk}
Doel:It minimized the amount of.
Jorgensen:The point I was making was that many, too many people in the maritime field including many skippers, always thought that the only thing you could do in a storm was head up into it. But with a ship like the Conrad, putting the weather on one point or so on the quarter, and just a few revolutions, rides so much better. The only serious damage I can remember was once when I came back after the port captain had relieved me for a month and the starboard boat was stolen. And I tend to believe that it wouldn't have happened if I was there.
Doel:You served under Ewing and Talwani. Do you remember Talwani at all, his character?
Jorgensen:I did not. I don't believe I had Talwani at all as chief mate. I only met him in Yokohama and then when he and I think it was Deimis Hayes asked me up to the office to see if I would consider the port captain's job, which I declined.
Doel:I think you may have been leaning more towards, as administrators of Lamont itself. That Ewing as director and Talwani succeeds him and I think before the time of your retirement Barry Raleigh is in. Were there differences in the way that, in the way that Lamont was handled? Did it affect your operations?
Jorgensen:Not really. We just kept on doing our same thing pretty much. Well, for example, immediately when Talwani came on and we would sometimes only be in contact with the office once a month or so. He insisted that we start carrying a radio operator and which we did until we got that satellite communication stuff. And one of the technicians would handle that and usually the chief mate.
Doel:Were you, when Talwani was replaced, were you given any explanation for why he had?
Jorgensen:Oh no. Again it was all stuff that was. If I had been more in contact with the home office, it would have been different, but I almost never was in. I would just go to, the ship and leave it and go back home.
Doel:Were there any other people that you did come to know reasonably well who were back at Lamont? Denny Hayes for instance?
Jorgensen:I only met him a couple of times. At my retirement. And I saw him in Yokohama, but never had him as a chief scientist. I thought for a minute that I had found. At one time I had a list of all the, that I sort of just compiled on yellow foolscap, off the top of my mind, my head of scientists that I had sailed with, and I couldn't find it.
Doel:You mentioned off tape too that you did know Bruce Heezen, Marie Tharp.
Jorgensen:No, I know the names from that map. There are of course many, all of these names are familiar to me.
Doel:One of the very interesting things that you had also said off tape was that while you were captain of the Conrad you were doing the accounting work.
Jorgensen:On the ship.
Doel:That was being done on the.
Jorgensen:Oh yes. It was a very good system. When I relieved temporarily in Woods Hole and was aware two and a half people at least were in the office doing what I.
Doel:Had been doing yourself.
Jorgensen:And it, there was no middlemen, like it, I was dealing with the men directly. And if, he wanted to take part of his pay in travelers' check or a check or cash. I had it all there. I could tell the fellows immediately how much they had on the books. And it was very good. It was very flexible. It saved thousands of dollars. I had established a master's checking account and — For example in some foreign ports, if say the chandler, the supplier's bill for the food and stuff was say seven or eight thousand dollars, I could say to him, well now, would you like to have this go through and be paid by the office or would you like me to pay you now. A big difference. That saved so much money. And as I say, and fellows taking a draw, going home or whatever, I could give them a check and I had set up traveler's checks so I could give them cash, whatever. It was great. And this was all at my own risk, but sometimes when fellows came back to the ship after being home, they would ask me can you send a thousand dollars home for me. I would do it. And I never lost a penny. But you couldn't do this on the big container ships. Anything over a thousand dollars, the captain couldn't do it without getting through to the home office. Things like that.
Doel:One of the things I really wanted to touch on, and we may not have enough time in this session to deal with it, but when you look back and you were sailing dozens of years on the Conrad, which cruises stand out in your mind as being particularly interesting?
Jorgensen:I don't really think that I can answer that. Every cruise virtually was in so many ways we were doing the same thing, in other ways everyone was different. I can't really pick out one or more than one at this moment.
Doel:What I do want to hear about particularly and it's interesting that it is not an official Lamont cruise, was when the ship was chartered to search for the Titanic.
Doel:How involved were Lamont people in that?
Jorgensen:Well, the Lamont people were the whole reason for that.
Doel:Had initiated it.
Jorgensen:Yes. No, not, but they are the people that Mr. [Jack] Grimm wanted our technology and. He only asked for ten days which was not nearly enough. We worked out of Halifax and it was in fact the first time I'd been to Halifax since nineteen twenty two, no '21 and again in '41. But then two days out from Halifax, two days back, that left six. And several of those we lost to bad weather. But just before we had to break off and head back to Halifax we ran a scan with this camera down in the sea sled, thirteen thousand feet of cable. And when the — bringing it up, the ship was plunging, pitching so badly that —
Doel:It yanked on the cable.
Jorgensen:Yes. And as it got right to the surface, the sled broke apart. The camera and those twelve hours of film at the bottom were lost. And they were very, very close to where she is. So it was a near miss. And as I say not nearly enough time. I was very pleased to get back to our conventional scientific work. This was all a big circus. You know, a reporter from the New York Post. You can imagine some of the headlines. There might be some of it there.
Doel:You're pointing to the folder that you have different press stories.
Jorgensen:Yes, he would ask me, how big, how are the seas, you know. He would want me to say mountainous. I'd say, well, moderate seas. But, I mean, big enough to swamp a ship? There was on one point they'd showed up on the radar, just some little ice crystals. They gave a particular return. But these became "monstrous icebergs." Oh just absolutely. And a marine artist who was an absolute can man too. And producer Mike Harris, and so we were. But when we were at the site then, before we left, we knew that she was somewhere down there. We had a very brief ceremony. The chief mate had had the foresight to bring along a wreath, so we launched that. It really was quite a solemn moment. Of course from my standpoint as a master mariner, the Titanic upsets me so much because it should never have even happened. Did all the wrong things. If Murdoch, the chief officer who was on watch, if he had just, if he had left the engines hooked up and was going hard over, he would have missed it by a mile. If he had hit it head on, she wouldn't have sunk. But instead he rang stop, and on the Titanic, her two outboard engines were tripped to give immediate response. And the center, biggest screw, that was a turbine, and that was the only one that had a rudder. So the minute he stopped, he was losing steerage way. And then when he went to stern, you lose all control of the ship. Of course, if Captain Smith, if he was going to be doing twenty-three knots in ice filled waters, he should have been up there instead of entertaining the passengers. Well, I'm getting off the subject.
Doel:You said something interesting certainly about your own study of other mechanical systems and familiarity with it. Who was, who were the leading scientists at Lamont who were involved in the Titanic situation?
Jorgensen:Just Bill Ryan.
Doel:It was just Bill Ryan?
Doel:What got him involved in?
Jorgensen:Well, I think Jack Grimm in addition to paying the daily charter, there was a window there when she would otherwise have been idle for the ten days. I think he also financed the development of some of the equipment that was used.
Doel:How did he feel about all the hoopla surrounding the?
Jorgensen:Well, he was the one who created it. [Laughter] Well, no, it was strictly his thing. As I said, he didn't have to do anything except find it because he already had a documentary in the can, with Orson Welles narrating, and the minute he found it and released that, he would have gotten all his investment back. This was his third try.
Doel:We're soon going to be running out of time, but I wonder. One thing I have brought, it's unfortunately for a cruise of the Conrad that was much earlier than yours, Conrad 9, from 1965. It's not back too far?
Doel:And it's clear the extent to which this was a world-wide cruise. I'm wondering how, as you look at the map, the world map here with the lines of the cruise marked out on it, was this in some sense typical for the cruises that you were leading?
Jorgensen:Well, see, I don't know that this. This couldn't have been one, like we divided our cruises into months.
Doel:Yes. These are the composites of the.
Jorgensen:If you see a later map, there are lines all over. And like our one month cruise for us might be from Cape Town down to Antarctica and back up. Or a thing across the Indian Ocean to Freemantle, Australia. Each month. We just went on and on and on. I mentioned this one time when we had the longest passage that I had on Conrad which was from Fiji, which is way over here somewhere, down around the horn and up through Bahia Blanca.
Doel:Do you remember what was being done scientifically on that cruise?
Jorgensen:Well it was primarily a transit to start working out here. But of course you were pulling instruments all the time. But they were just to make what use we could of the passage.
Doel:Do you remember having any of the Lamont biologists on board?
Jorgensen:Only one. I think he was an Indonesian by the name of Be.
Jorgensen:In Dr. Ewing's time, Dr. Ewing was so focused on the earth sciences and plate tectonics and so on, that he sort of resented anything different than that such as biology. So that's the only cruise I remember with biologists.
Doel:How did it, you make it obvious that he resented biologists?
Jorgensen:Well, didn't make. Well, just in he committed the ship strictly to the things involved with drift, plate tectonics, and cores and he wasn't that interested in the other stuff. And I guess I got that impression just from things other scientists would say.
Doel:Do you remember any specific comments?
Jorgensen:Oh no. I think one, who it was, pretty much saying what I just said, that Doc Ewing was so focused on the others, that he didn't have any time for other things such as biology.
Doel:That's interesting. You, of course, were captain during what many regard as the major time of transformation as continental drift and then the broader theory of plate tectonics was established. And I wonder if you remember any particular discussions that were going on onboard among the people that we sailing at the time.
Jorgensen:No, not particular things. Of course, at various times I, when the scientists at the start of the cruise, would sort of try to tell me what they were after and hoped and that we could do and so on. These things were discussed, but there was no, you know, lightning flash at any point.
Doel:One of the things I wanted to do simply before we come completely to an end today is just take a look at one of the photographs you were good enough to bring here of the ship. I just wanted to have your impressions on a few particular features that were on board. You've got a postcard right now, making up the southern seas and then another view of the Conrad when it was docked in Piermont, New York. I'm just curious as one looks from the bow of the ship back towards the stern, the way in which it's, in which the crew are divided, the way in which the instruments and the winches were positioned. One of the things you had mentioned was that the senior scientist had an office, had his quarters —
Jorgensen:Right under the bridge. And the captain was on the port side then. And we were talking earlier about the size of the quarters in these newer. The room that Anna and I shared which was our office and living quarters only went as far as that cabinet.
Doel:So about twenty feet?
Doel:Not even that.
Jorgensen:No. Fifteen at the most. Fifteen by ten. And for these many years the two of us shared a thirty-three inch bunk. Which was nice in rough weather, you know you didn't flop around that much. You were chocked in.
Doel:That's a point. Yes. And only you and the chief scientists had portholes?
Jorgensen:She was completely air conditioned, so the few doors to the outside were always dogged down, and down below there were no portholes at all.
Doel:What were the other newer features on board the ship as it was designed?
Jorgensen:This communications dome, that was newer. And this crane back here was newer. And originally it had a huge stack, went way up to that. And that actually housed a gas turbine which was for running the, it was for silent running. In other words where you couldn't even have these diesel engines running. But that was done away with.
Doel:In order not to disturb instruments.
Jorgensen:Yes. And no, all the changes along the way. In the later years, of course, there was a huge reel here for that mile and a half long reel that we stringed full of instruments.
Doel:That was a lot longer than those earlier versions.
Jorgensen:Yes. It was one point six seven was the length of it in miles. But back here was an A frame in later years. And that six pipe core went way up here past the bridge. That was quite a rigging feat.
Doel:One last thing that you had mentioned I think and then we need to bring this to a close today. That one of the most memorable voyages that you and your wife Anna had was down to the Antarctic.
Jorgensen:Yes, I remarked that both of us considered that our favorite ocean. And at that time there were no other ships were down there at all. We would, you know, on a long cruise you would not see one sign that man had ever been on the earth. It was really something, you know, because the Conrad wasn't fitted for ice at all, either strengthened. Her skin was only —
Doel:Your holding your fingers out about —
Jorgensen:Five sixteenths of an inch steel and no guards on the propeller. And it was a little ticklish going down. And as I've mentioned, or I think I did anyway, being the ship's doctor was my least, the thing I hate most about the job. And in those days when we were down there, if there was a serious injury or anything, it would have taken at least eight to ten days of full steaming at full speed to reach any help you know.
Doel:But that didn't happen during the time that you were down in the Antarctic. Well, let me thank you very much for this long session that we had. You will be getting the transcripts from Columbia. Thank you again.