An Outpost of Progress – The Narrative – Camp life and a flying boat ride

PROLOGUE: Many people assume that because you have travelled that every day abroad must have been filled with spectacular sights and spine tingling adventures. While this may be true for a fortunate few I can tell you that a tanker dock in Texas City looks just like a tanker dock in Montreal, Curacao, Santos or Civitavecchia – or anyplace from Suez to Singapore in either direction. The topography of Venezuela may differ from the stateside oilfields but Bill was there working for an American company, surrounded by other Americans and was involved in the daily chores of his job that would have been pretty much the same in the swamps of Louisiana or the wilds of West Texas. A large part of this entry is just recollections and chatter about the daily routine and the small variations that make it livable. I suspect many names are mentioned not as name dropping but simply to recall them to mind later on.


The one thing that is not entirely commonplace is flying – and the Flying Boat. A little more than a century after the first flight we are dispatching satellites into geosynchronous orbit on a regular basis and launching probes into deep space with only slightly less frequency. Bill was born in the same decade as the first powered flight at Kittyhawk and would live long enough to see Americans on the moon. In terms of technology and culture this is possibly the single greatest revolution and he never lost his awe of flight. Within a decade of the beginning of powered flight the Wright Brothers had launched their first flying boat and the progress from there was a constant one. In an era before there were huge airfields and few passenger airports the ability to take off and land on water had great advantages and we have illustrated this post with some of Bill’s pictures from South America as well as some others to show these marvelous planes.


At the camp I remained at the Bull Pen located in the rear of the mess hall but did not remain there for very long. The following day had an invitation for an evening super date at the home of Joe Holmes and did enjoy a come cooked meal for a change.  Made me wish and long for one of my regularly cooked meals that I had at home.  I guess that one has to be away from home a long while before he appreciates a good home cooked meal.  Remained at the home of Joe Holmes for a month and a half. It was much better than staying in one of the bull pens or any of the other homes scattered around the camp.


Got the surprise of my life the other day when who should I meet but an old school friend of min – one Walter Maul.  Maybe the person was right when he said that the old world is not so big after all.  We both talked of the good old times we had in Schenectady. As usual the old bull was spread far, wide, and handsome – such things happened when one runs across an old friend in a remote corner of the world. During the week-end of July 4th and 5th, respectively, the American and Venezuelan independence holidays, the camp residents had a glorious weekend of dances and the usual gaiety.  Good times were to be had in all corners of the camp and judging from the apparent desertedness of the camp proper it seems that there were quite a few large heads obtained from indiscreet imbibing.

Time is passing very fast and before I realize it I find that eight months have slipped by. Time really does fly by when one is occupied. One tends to forget everything else when down in this country – time is just one of those things that has gone by. Had a rather severe rain, wind, and electric storm here on Sept 24th. A bolt of lightning hit one of the trees just a few feet from the general office and left its mark there.

Arose at 5 a.m. on Nov 8th and getting ready to fly to Cumarebo where I’ll have plenty of work to do.  Started for the Cachipo airport at 6:45 a.m. after picking up Bill Langley.  Had to go through the official customs routine and after getting straightened out left on the 7:45 Pan American plane.  The plane went over the southern end of the Caripito camp; the aerial scenery was a first class one for it gave me a better indication of the area that surrounded the camp. After leaving the sight of the camp one gets a better view of what the jungles that surround the camp really look like.  The first town that I saw was Carupano, and then Cumana which are on the coast.  Some of the islands offshore could be plainly seen.  An aerial view of the coastline certainly was a beauty.  Arrived at Quanta at 9:30 and it was here that we made a landing in the water and it was certainly a thrill to me for I never had the experience to land in water.  Being inside the plane and with the water spraying on all sides of the cabin presented a fine sight.  After picking up a few passengers we finally life for La Guira, which is the airport for Caracas, as the latter is located at a rather high altitude and surrounded by mountains.  Had half a notion to take a car and go to Caracas, but will have to wait for an opportune time. Left La Guira at 10:30 for the final lap of a 4-hour ride and most of the trip was over the ocean through huge banks of clouds.  One is awed by the beautiful scenery that attracts one’s eyes – to the north the ocean and to the south the high mountains.  We followed the shoreline until the final stop was made. During the ride over the sea I only saw what looked like a sting ray, but I was and am still uncertain as to what it was.  Finally reached Cumarebo at about 11:45 and left for the company camp which is surrounded on all sides by small hills.  The camp itself is located in sort of a valley but it is a nice location.  So far have not had the opportunity to go anywhere but expect to get to the nearest good-sized town which is Coro – I understand that it is a good place to see so will expect to be taken for a surprise since I haven’t had the chance to see anything but small villages, and terrible ones at that.


Have and expect to be kept plenty busy during my stay here but also expect to do some traveling around this area to see the places around this area to see the places around here in general. The following are connected with the S.O.V. here at Cumarebo:  H. A. Beck, the Superintendent, who used to be located at Caripito; Mr. Gasque, the chief clerk; Pete Ward, the General Engineering Department; Holcomb, the Geologist; Bud Hanson, my old friend the tool pusher with whom I used to work with at Temblador; Rex Davis, the Production Foreman; Guy McMichael, the P. E.; and Boisseau, the Material man who I met in Guira when I first arrived in Venezuela to work here. After getting acquainted with the gang I made sort of a tour of the field with “Mac”.  He showed me a sample of the high gravity oil that was obtained from the wells here and the oil certainly does have a beautiful look to it.  It has as high as a 56 A.P.I, gravity.
Work was mixed in with a number of field trips, neighborly visits to friends of some of the Americans, and an occasional trip to Puerto Cumarebo.  Puerto Caumarebo is as dirty as any of the coastline or inland city of the less than what I would relegate as our slums – but maybe at that I am stepping the city up higher than should be expected.  The houses are built close together, streets are unclean and evidently unkept, people are slovenly dressed, the streets are unpaved with the exception of the main street or possibly the main streets – in general the town was in a sad state of affairs. The nights are exceptionally cool and they are wonderful especially when there is a full moon shining. Some of the cool evenings often reminded me of fine nights spent at Central Park during the summers.


During the latter part of my stay here we received work of the sudden death of “Evil” Fuller and I for one was sorry to hear of the news since I used to work with him regularly whenever I was located at Caripito.  He was a type of fellow that everyone could take a liking to at the first meeting.  There was a fine fellow if there ever was one and I mean it when I say that.  I certainly would have like to have worked with him a year longer for I am certain that I would have learned plenty from him in that space of time.  I’ll bet that the fellows at the office will miss him considerably. According to Joe Holmes’ letter there was not a dry eye in the whole group of mourners when they buried him.



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