100 Years Ago: February 1920
This is the sixty-first entry in my series of reviews summarizing one-hundred-year-old National Geographic magazines.
The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “The Removal of the North Sea Mine Barrage” and was written by Lieutenant-Commander Noel Davis, U. S. Navy. The article contains “28 Illustrations” of which twenty-five are black-and-white photographs. Only one of those photos is full-page in size. The other three illustrations consist of a Diagram showing how the removal was accomplished and two sketch maps appearing on pages 104 and 105. Before the article there is an Editor’s note referring the readers to the article, “The North Sea Mine Barrage” in the February 1919 issue of National Geographic.
The North Sea Mine Barrage (NSMB) was primarily responsible for the collapse of Germany. Closing the exits to the North Sea, which seemed inconceivable, was not only accomplished but was successful in defeating Germany’s strategy of submarine warfare. The barrage stretched from Scotland to Norway, a distance of 240 miles. With their submarine fleet bottled up in the North Sea, Germany’s only chance of victory quickly faded. Almost immediately after the barrage’s completion Germany began sending her first proposals for peace. A few weeks later the Armistice was signed and the war was over.
Next came a period of intense reconstruction, with tasks almost as great as those of the was itself. Countless cities and farms had to be rebuilt, and millions of starving people had to be fed. In the interest of navigation and safety, the mine field needed to be removed quickly.
The NSMB had more than 70,000 mines, more than all the mines laid during the war in all the other waterways combined. This death trap contained more than 21,000,000 pounds of TNT and extended over an area of 6,000 square miles. After losing comrades who tried in vain to cross the NSMB, German submarine crews mutinied and refused to risk what appeared to be certain death. Although the Germans learned of the mines within a month of the first one being laid, they could not devise a means of safeguarding their ships from these delicate weapons. Now the U. S. Navy was tasked with the task of removing these destructive devices down to the last one.
Sweeping mines consisted of dragging a heavy wire between two vessels. In order to lower the wire to a sufficient depth, “kites” were added to the sweep-wire just astern of each vessel. These kites flew down in the water in the same manner as ordinary kites fly up in the sky. When a mine was caught in the sweep-wire it was dragged along until the slender wire which held it to its anchor broke, allowing the mine to rise to the surface. The mine was then destroyed, usually by rifle shot which punctured the mine allowing it to sink and become innocuous. No attempt to recover the mines was made; it was far too dangerous.
During the war the German submarines laid hundreds of mines in the entrances of European harbors. In addition, they scattered a few along America’s Atlantic coast. Permanent sweeping forces were needed to keep the channels clear. The German mines like the British were the “horn type”. These mines had spikes projecting from the mine. These must be struck to detonate the mine. The American mines were electrically triggered. Contact with a piece of metal the size of a nail was enough to trigger the bomb. A long antenna stretched up from the mine greatly extended the range of the weapon.
The task of sweeping the barrage was assigned to Rear-Admiral Joseph Strauss, United States Navy. He had directed the construction of the American mines. Even he didn’t have the faintest idea how to get the job done. Every method was studied. It had to be effective, but also safe. Only then could the sea lanes, so vitally needed for the reconstruction of Europe, be opened.
First task was to ascertain the condition of the mines. They had been deployed for three to six months and had been developed so quickly that long-term testing was not possible. It was December. Daylight was limited and gales were frequent. Since warships were made of metal, they could not safely approach the minefield and small craft could not deal with the gales, it was decided to send two wooden sailboats, sixty-five feet long and borrowed from the British. These two, small fishing-smacks, the Red Rose and the Red Fern, had their hulls fitted to cover any nails or ironwork that could trigger a mine. They set sail at sundown on December 22, 1918 accompanied by two tugs, the Patapsco and the Patuxent. These vessels would escort the sailboats to the edge of the barrage, and lend assistance if needed once the sailboats were clear of the minefield.
The Red Rose and the Red Fern entered the barrage the next morning. They sailed in parallel with a wire dragging between them at a depth that would strike the mines’ antennae. The first mine exploded right beside the Red Rose, but the boat suffered no damage and no one was hurt. Five more mine exploded after the first, all more between the boats and astern of them. By that time a gale approached, the sweep was cut adrift and the two vessels set a course for the tugs, now beyond the horizon.
They reached the tugs just before midnight with the storm already raging. The Red Rose had her topmast, mizzen boom, and storm jib all snap and she wallowed for the next 48 hours in the storm. The Patuxent lost her rudder and was forced to return to port. Not knowing the condition of the sailboats, several British warships set out to search for them. They were forced to return to port due to the storm. After days of anxious waiting the Red Rose reached port on Christmas morning. The next day the Red Fern anchored in St. Andrews Bay, blown 200 miles off course by the gale. So ended the first experiment.
To clear the whole barrage by means of sailboats was impossible. Unprotected warships could not cross the mine fields without triggering a mine. Cladding heavier ships in wood or coating them with tar proved impractical. In the end, a way was found to shield the ships electronically. This “Electronic Protection Devices” was designed, built, and tested quickly. The next task was to installed them on the mine-sweepers scattered along the Atlantic coast.
By March, the Patuxent’s rudder was repaired and she and the Patapsco were fitted with a homemade electronic protection device. Kites capable of reaching great depths were borrowed from the British and together with a few lengths of serrated sweep-wire the tugs set out for a trail run before the actual mine-sweepers arrived. Several mines exploded as planned, between and astern of the tugs, and several mines floated to the surface. apparently their mooring broke before the sweep-wire could trigger the mine. Then near tragedy struck. One of the mines they exploded triggered several nearby mines to detonate. This was known as countermining. One of them was directly beneath the Patuxent. Fortunately, the mine had been planted at the deepest level. No one was injured and damage was light. The next mine to explode shattered the sweep-wire, but before it could be repaired a snowstorm cut short this second experiment. In all, twenty-five mines were detonated and fourteen were cut adrift. As many of these floating mines as possible were sunk by rifle fire but it became obvious that during the actual mine-sweeping, a trailing ship was needed to dispatch these stragglers. Sub-chasers were the ideal ships for that task. Twenty of them were sent to Inverness.
On April 20, 1919, the first twelve mine-sweepers arrived at Inverness. With only six months to clear the barrage, they set sail the next day. No attempt to clear a definite area was made. The object was to ascertain what percentage of mines remained (almost all) and if they were still in the positions they were planted (they were). After two days this small fleet returned to port having dispatched 221 mines. No ships were damaged despite several instances of countermining.
Since the ships on hand were not adequate for clearing the barrage within the year, Admiral Strauss requested sixteen additional sweepers. He also commandeered twenty steam trawlers as marker boats enabling the sweepers to maintain their positions in the minefield. On May 10th the fleets set out. The barrage consisted of thirteen groups of American mines. Each group consisted of two to six parallel rows of mines. The mines were laid at three separate depths, with the shallowest being of the most concern for the sweepers. Group 12 (see Chart) was selected to be cleared first. To avoid the chances of damage due to countermining, each pair of sweepers operated independently of the others and at a good distance and crossed the field in perpendicular sweeps. With casualties from three mine explosions, including one death, and several other explosions that caused some damage, Group 12 was cleared in seventeen days.
The rate of sweeping was far below what was hoped. The most serious factor, aside from loss of life, was the loss of sweeping equipment, the serrated sweep-wire and the plunger kites. Being so far north, the sweepers could work eighteen hours in the long summer days. Group 9, the largest group, was selected next. It contained 5,520 mines so they tried sweeping with three pairs of sweepers operating in parallel and longitudinally down the length of the field. This sped up the process and proved no more dangerous than the crisscross approach. At one point the wreckage of a German U-Boat snagged one of the sweep-wires. Although the rate of sweeping was better than the British in their effort to clear their portion of the barrage, the rate had to triple if they wanted to complete their task before winter.
Two causes for the slow progress were identified. The first was the frequent breakage of the sweep-wire and the resulting delay due to repair. This was partly mitigated by improving repair time as the sailors gained experience. The second cause was due to the difficulty in navigating accurately to insure full coverage. This problem was solved by placing buoys to define each row of mines. A buoy-laying squadron was outfitted and with the buoys now serving the function of the trawlers, ten of the trawlers were fitted as sweepers. With the additional sweepers now three pairs of sweepers were able to clear each row of mines. When the sweep-wire broke on the lead pair, they dropped back to the rear of the column to effect repair. With the second pair taking the lead, with the entire field being cleared in one pass.
The small Group 12A, was cleared of all mines in seven hours and forty minutes. The much larger Group 11 had its buoy laying far enough advanced that they began to sweep almost immediately. Of the armada of 24 sweepers, 10 trawlers, and 24 sub-chasers, six ships were damaged in one day by mines snagged in their kites or from countermining with one of them almost sinking. The following day, another vessel was damaged. Two days after that mishap, disaster struck, a mine snagged in the kite of the trawler, Richard Buckley, and before it could be cleared, it exploded. Within seven minutes the vessel had sunk. All but one officer and six crewmen were rescued. After that tragedy, the sweeping operation went without further serious incidents. The rate of clearing the barrage had tripled.
It was decided that trawlers were not safe to use as sweepers against the powerful American mines. Thirteen were returned to the British while six were kept for transporting gear. By this time, the new sweepers the Admiral had ordered started arriving from America. Eight had arrived when the fleet set sail again, 32 sweepers, 24 sub-chasers, 6 trawlers, and 2 repair ships in all. They cleared the two groups planned so rapidly that they continued on to two more. The buoy laying operation was hard pressed to keep ahead of the operation and two more vessels added to their squadron. At the end of sixteen days Groups 3, 5, 6, and 7 were all swept.
It was now mid-August and the days were getting shorter. The men were determined to clear all mines before bad weather set in. There were six groups left of which five were on the eastern half of the barrage. The remaining group, No. 8, had a parallel row of British mines which had to be removed first. On September 13, 1919, the fleet returned to port after 32 days at sea. Five and a half of the remaining six groups had been cleared; only the southern half of Group 8 was not done since the British had yet to complete sweeping their field. After three days in port, it only took two days to finish sweeping Group 8 but before the test sweep could be started a storm hit the fleet with the force of a hurricane.
Storm after storm ensued in the following days, but the fleet managed to resweeps 864 square miles of the barrage to assure that all mines had been removed. Where 35,000 mines had been anchored, not a single one remained, except for one small pocket that had been marked by buoys to enable them to be cleared during the final operation. After the last sweep had been completed, cheers burst from every officer and man, and whistles and sirens were opened wide for the mighty wall which had confined the enemy’s submarines and a barrier to the commerce of the sea for better than a year had been destroyed.
The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Skiing Over the New Hampshire Hills” and was written be Fred H. Harris. It has the subtitle “A Thrilling and Picturesque Sport Which Has a Thousand Devotees in the Dartmouth Outing Club”. Of the “37 Illustrations” twenty-one are black-and-white photographs of which two are full page in size. There are also “Sixteen Engravings of Winter Scenes”. These are full-page photo-engravings, formerly referred to as photogravures. These sixteen pages are numbered I through XVI and are located between pages 134 and 151.
The article starts with a photograph taking up the bottom three-fourths of page 133 with the top quarter being the end of the first article. Page 134 is a full-page photo. These are followed by the photo-engravings, a few of which are related to the first article but the bulk are just winter scenes from around the country. Locations include New Hampshire, Washington D.C., Yellowstone, Alaska, Washington State, New York City, Detroit, Niagara Falls, and Glacier National Park.
The text begins on Page 151 but, even though it ends on Page 164, it contains the remaining nineteen photos. There are only six pages containing text with only two of those being full-page. Fourteen of the photographs are half-page in size with two to a page.
As the subtitle implies, the article is about the athletic program at Dartmouth College. Dartmouth was located in the foothills of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Due to the long and “heavy” winters during the scholastic year, the school’s athletic program was rather unique. Unlike other colleges with programs like football, baseball, hockey, and basketball which enlisted a limited number of lettered athletes, the Dartmouth Outing Club was composed of more than a thousand members – nearly two-thirds of the entire student body.
Beginning with sixty member a few years prior to the article, the Club confined its excursions to Saturday afternoon jaunts on skis and snowshoes. Late afternoon they built a fire and made coffee. The trips grew longer and the Club grew rapidly. At the time of the article the trips had grown to weekend excursions as far as Mt. Washington. The campfire had been replaced by logs burning in the fireplace of a cozy cabin.
The first in a chain of cabins was built at the site of an old lumber camp at the base of Moose Mountain, seven miles from the college. A dozen club members built the cabin during an Easter vacation with material provided by an alumnus from Boston. Another alumnus, this one from Philadelphia, raised $40,000 for the construction and maintenance of more rest-cabins and club-houses. These cabins extended at intervals of a day’s trip apart, from the college to the slopes of the White Mountains.
Close beside Moose Mountain Cabin flowed a brook which had been dammed to form a deep pool. This open-air bath, available only after the thick crust of ice was broken, was used throughout the harshest winters. This was a testament to the hardiness which the Outing Club engendered.
The Outing Club trail from Hanover to the White Mountains was a ski-way which led through a beautiful snowclad landscape. Sometimes it paralleled a meandering country road, but often would dip into the forest, descending ravines and climbing billowing slopes. Twenty-three miles beyond Moose Mountain Cabin stood the Cube Mountain Station. The third station was built on the shores of Armington Pond. A short walk from the cabin was the famous Lake Tarleton Club, and some distance further along the trail which wound though Webster Slide was the Great Bear Cabin.
After leaving Great Bear Cabin, the traveler would pass over the shoulder of Mount Moosilauke and encounter a five-mile stretch of downhill slopes, greatly enjoyed by the skiing enthusiasts. One of the most popular camps was located in the Agassiz Basin, the Lost River District, little known to tourists. Here stood the cozy clubhouse of the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests. Beyond the Agassiz Basin the clubman would reach Profile Notch with its famous “Old Man of the Mountain”. A swift slide down Three-mile Hill led to Franconia, north to Littleton, to Manns Hill, and finally to Skyline Farm, where the trail ended. Here the entire Presidential Range could be viewed.
These long-distance treks were not all the Dartmouth Outing Club offered as activities. They also staged a Winter Carnival, referred to as the “Mardi Gras of the North”. They held a series of races – ski and snowshoe sprints, cross-country ski races, and obstacle races. The crowning event at the carnival was the ski-jump contest. Thousands of spectators could be accommodated on the slopes surrounding Dartmouth’s great ski-jumping course. The approach to the jump was a steep 300-foot pathway to the “jump”, a level platform 50 feet long, with a “take-off” eight feet above the slope. Every jump brought thrills to the spectators, but the supreme moment of the carnival came when a master of the skis executed spectacular antics in the air such as somersaults.
When the snow began to melt around Hanover in the Spring, the Outing Club gave a final Winter party – a three-day trip to the White Mountains. From headquarters at the foot of Mount Washington, the sportsmen climbed the mountain. On several occasions, members have succeeded in climbing on skis to the summit. As difficult the climb was to achieve, the descent was even more hazardous. The last stage of the trip was the long glide down from Half-way House. On steep slopes, speeds of forty miles an hour were reached. It was a wonderful course, 21,120 feet long, with a drop of 2,000 feet. A member of the Outing Club set a record of twelve and a half minutes for the journey.
The next article continuous the winter theme set by the second article and the imbedded engravings. It is entitled “Winter Ramblings in Thoreau’s Country” and was written by Herbert W. Gleason, author of the book “Through the Year with Thoreau”. It contains fifteen black-and-white photographs by the author. Seven of these photos are full-page in size.
Mr. Gleason acknowledges the National Geographic Magazine as being preeminently a magazine of travel. Because of that fact, he deemed it appropriate to write about one of the most original, observant, and wholly entertaining travelers America had produced. His travels did not cover much area, but his resulting observations gave his name a high place in the temple of fame.
Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts a little over a hundred years before the article was written. With the exception of a few brief excursions, his entire life of forty-five years was spent within the confines of his native town. He preferred, even relished life in his home town. His writings of his walks through woods and fields, and of his boating on streams were an inspiration to the outdoorsman who read them. With his rare powers of observation, his innate sympathy with Nature, his keen sensitivity to beauty, and his wonderful gift of verbal description, Thoreau has given us an unsurpassed picture of New England outdoor life.
For fifteen years Mr. Gleason has followed in the footsteps of Thoreau and made many rambling trips to Concord. Without purposely attempting to repeat Thoreau’s travels, he found his own favorite haunts, identifying places which he named after a fashion of his own, and secured a great number of photographs of the actual scenes and phenomena in which he delighted. Those trips were undertaken in all seasons, coinciding with Thoreau’s own records and duplicating many of his most enjoyable experiences.
Winter to many people was burdensome and repellant, but to Thoreau, and the author, it proved wonderfully fruitful in subjects of interest and beauty. Thoreau was an enthusiast over the New England winter. He hailed its advent, noted every step of its progress, and found much of interest even in its lingering departure. The winter of 1855-56 was long and cold, but as it was finally ending Thoreau wrote on April 10: “I look with more than respect, if not with regret, on its last dissolving traces.” There was something in winter’s bareness and ruggedness, its simplicity and severity, and its challenge and its grandeur, which appealed to his stalwart soul. He never ceased to adore the spotless purity of snow.
Thoreau admired and was in awe of the variety of phenomena that would paint the landscape. Fresh snow was a “blanket” enwrapping the earth, a pure garment over all the fields. When the snowfall was a little damp, it would cling to the trees. Thoreau referred to this as a “lodging snow”. The wind would also sculpt the snow once it had fallen, building massive snow drifts. On clear, sunny days the shadows cast upon the snow appeared an exquisite blue. Thoreau called it a “celestial blue”. The snow also provided Thoreau a means of reading the secrets of the wild, animal tracks. Fox and otter, squirrel and rabbit, crow and partridge, mouse and mink all left their telltale signs in the snow.
Other phenomena whose beauty enrapt Thoreau include the “frozen mist” which covered all outdoor objects in the early mornings with a delicate hoar frost. Like all beauty this was fleeting as it soon dissolved in the morning sun. The intricate patterns that formed as ice froze upon the surface of a pond fascinated Thoreau, but one of the rarest and most beautiful of winter’s tricks was the ice storm. Occurring only once every few years, these storms of freezing rain would coat every branch, twig, and blade of grass with a glass-like coating of ice. In the sunlight the ice acted as prisms generating every imaginable color in sparkling grandeur.
Another icy spectacle which Thoreau always took pains to observe on its annual recurrence was the formation of icicle “organ-pipes” on the face of a certain cliff in Concord. Water from melting snow would trickle down the rockface and freeze. The buildup would create these pillars of ice, and a congregation of these colonnades would resemble a pipe organ. The bare trees exposed numerous birds’ nests to easy viewing, each bearing what Thoreau referred to as its “snowy egg”. Even the end of winter fascinated Thoreau. The opening of river channels, the breaking up of the ice in the ponds, a running brook, or the warble of a distant bluebird all gave promise to the coming spring.
Thoreau made his observation of winter phenomena in Concord, but winter’s effects are not local, but widespread. Many of his description were nearly universal. Indeed, Thoreau never got to enjoy many of the atmospheric phenomena that were witnessed in wintertime Minnesota and North Dakota like the brilliant “sun-dogs” and the “inverted rainbows”. Nor did he ever enjoy the spectacle of large waterfalls like the one at Niagara. The frost magic displayed there far surpasses anything witnessed by Thoreau. But the ordinary aspects of winter, so familiar to all who dwelled in similar regions Thoreau had made the subjects of his graphic descriptions. To him the trivial mattered.
The last article in this month’s issue is entitle “Where the World Gets Its Oil” and was written by George Otis Smith, the Director of the United States Geological Survey. It has the subtitle “But Where Will Our Children Get It When American Wells Cease to Flow?”. The article contains eighteen black-and-white photographs, of which five are full page in size. The article also contains three sketch maps on pages 183, 187, and 200; the last one being full-page in size.
Sketch map courtesy of Philip Riviere
Sketch map courtesy of Philip Riviere
In the long-bow epoch of England there was a fear of a depletion in yew wood. Later, Great Britain depended on its navy’s wooden ships and there was a fear of a shortage of oak trees. By the time this article was written steel had replaced wood both as arms and as armor plate. While iron ore and coal were plentiful, there was a commodity which was less abundant and also commanding an ever-increasing demand, petroleum. The United States was the world’s greatest oil producer, and also was its greatest consumer. More than half (61%) of the world’s production was American, and the country had already begun consuming more oil than it was producing.
The story of the petroleum industry in America began on August 28, 1859 when oil was struck in the Drake well, near Titusville, in northwestern Pennsylvania. The flow was 40 barrels a day, a small beginning but production increased as oilfields grew rapidly. A yearly output of 5 million barrels was reached in 1870. It reached 26 million barrels in 1880, and by 1890 it had topped 45 million barrels. The steady increase continued with 63 million barrels produced annually by 1900, but began to skyrocket in 1910 with 209 million barrels being pumped out each year. The lasted figures available for this article were for the year 1918 with 356 million barrels being produced.
As impressive as the production figures were for 1918, the consumption totals for the United States were staggering: 413,077,113 barrels of oil were consumed. This was a literal flood of oil. If spread over the District of Columbia it would cover it to a depth of one and a half feet. Another visualization had the oil from the 203,400 wells flowing over Niagara Falls, that amount would take 3 hour, 4 minutes; or flowing past the nation’s capital in the Potomac would take four and a half days.
The marvelous growth of America’s oil industry owed much to its own transportation system, far more efficient than railroad lines. Beginning with four miles of iron pipe laid down in western Pennsylvania at the close of the civil war, it had grown into a huge network aggregating nearly 30,000 miles of pipeline (see map from page 183). Another measure of the vastness of this system was the fact that it would take two days of oil production to fill the system.
Marshal Foch was quoted as saying that “a drop of gasoline was worth in war a drop of blood”, and M. Berenger said that victory “could not have been gained without the other blood of the earth which is called oil”. “And if petroleum has been the lifeblood of war, it will be still more the lifeblood of peace”. The strategy should lead to wise use of this limited resource. Supplies will peak and then begin to dwindle and at the same time demand will increase. Mother Earth will soon be “bled white”.
There were more than three hundred products made from petroleum, most notably gasoline, kerosene, the many types of lubricating oils and fuel oils. Some of the other products range from artificial vanilla flavoring and the paraffine used to cover jelly jars to the heavy oil used in tempering steel plates. An example of the demand for various petroleum products was the United States Army’s peacetime requirements which included: 74 million gallons of fuel oil, 11 million gallons of gasoline, 2 million gallons each of lubricating oil and grease, and one million gallons of kerosene. With only twice the amount of gasoline being produced compared to kerosene, and the amount lubricating oil being produced only a half compared to kerosene, the Army’s order was seriously out of sync with production. They ordered eleven times the gasoline than kerosene, and more lubricating oil than kerosene, not less.
The Navy also used fuel oil for its 357-vessel fleet as did the 1,731-vessel merchant marine, but it was the rise of the automobile that was driving the demand for oil. The use of gasoline by cars had quadrupled in a decade and there were six million pleasure cars in the United States. Moreover, there was a fleet of half a million motor trucks on the streets and roads of America and a third of a million tractors operating on its farms. To keep all of these motors in operation required 200 million gallons of lubricating oil. The power used by manufacturing had doubled in sixteen years and the kilowatt-hours increased nine-fold in that same period. These generators also demanded lubricating oil.
The amount of oil drawn from the ground in 1918 represented one-twentieth the estimated quantity in the American reserve. At the rate production was rising, a peak, and then a long decline seemed inevitable. The 1918 estimate by the U. S. Geological Survey was about 6½ billion barrels of oil available. As a comparison, in the last 100 years the country burned or wasted about 1% of our coal reserve, but in only 60 years it had consumed 40% of its available oil supply.
Oil prospecting was expensive. The use of geologists to selecting the most promising fields for drilling proved to be a money saver. It cost $8 to $20 a foot to drill an oil well. With depths ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 feet in California, 450 to 3,600 in Oklahoma, and around 3,600 in Texas, the investment was large. The Bureau of Mines stated that oil wells costed twice as much as they did before the war. Every “dry hole” was compared to a tax on the consumer. Government geologists in their attempt to locate oil were correct 87% of the time. That is the best the geology of the time could do.
Another big expense in the industry was at the investment end. The stock-promotion game attracted too many dollars to no useful purpose. The combination of unscrupulous stock peddlers and ignorant investors was hurting the economy, and the industry. One example was in Oklahoma where only one dollar’s worth of oil was extracted for every $555 invested. Conservation at all stages of production and consumption was needed. The indiscriminate burning of fuel oil for convenience rather than efficiency and the use of petroleum for oiling roads were just two examples of waste.
Fuel oil had advantages over coal and was preferred on land and at sea. It required less bunker space and fewer firemen than coal. Oils mining, preparation, and transportation were also advantages. To replace gasoline in the internal combustion engine the substitutes would be either alcohol or benzol. Agricultural land would be needed for the production of alcohol, and the quantity of coal for benzol production would be far greater than the consumption of coal at the time.
The country had a great reserves of oil shales, but extracting oil from them “would require an industrial organization greater than our entire coal mining organization”. The need to safeguard America’s oil supply was important. In 1909 President Taft ordered that all public lands believed to contain petroleum should be reserved to assure an adequate supply of fuel oil and lubricating oil for the Navy. This also checked the wasteful overproduction in the rich oil fields of California.
Mr. Smith asks: where will America get its oil in the future? His answer was shown on the sketch map appearing on page 200. The map showed that outside the United States the great oil supplies of his future were centralized mainly in the Near East, Mexico, and South America. There may have been a great reserve of oil in Africa as well. The author expected that the reserves of regions developed first to be the first to be depleted. He projected that these would be the U. S. and Romanian fields. Next, he saw Mexico yielding under increased exploitation. By then, America would need to look further afield.
Mexico was an excellent example of a rapidly developed oil region. Output had risen until it was second only to the U. S. in production. Mexican production had doubled in only five years. To further emphasis the importance of Mexican oil, the author noted that the increase in production of American oil from 1917 to 1918 was twenty million barrels. The increase from the much smaller Mexican oil fields was eight million barrels. This highlighted the ever-increasing reliance on Mexican oil.
Great Britain recognized the importance of oil in the world economy early on, and fostered a policy of “commercial statesmanship” to secure an adequate supply for the empire and to best develop the oil fields under their control. British oil companies rejoiced in such suggestive names as “British Controlled Oilfields”, but the bottom line was that financial control was kept British.
During the war, American geologist help develop the oil fields in central England. This oil help greatly at the time of the submarine menace. American geologist and capital, according to Mr. Smith, should enter foreign fields for the benefit of America’s future. He even foresaw world-wide exploration, development, and production companies financed by United States capital, guided by American engineers, and protected by the U. S. Government.
At the bottom of the last page there is a notice with the heading “INDEX FOR JULY-DECEMBER, 1919 VOLUME READY”. It states “Index for Volume XXXVI (July-December, 1919) will be mailed to members upon request”.
Whats an old National Geographic without some math?!