E6 – Bonus Clip: Newspaper is the New Duct Tape

Check out this clip that didn’t make it into our recent episode, The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators, with Stefan Talke about some correspondence he found on how operators treated their equipment.






Shane Hanlon:  Hey, Nanci.

Nanci Bompey: Hi, Shane.

Shane Hanlon:  Alright, I wanted to ask you. What’s your fix-all material of choice? Like duct tape, but you have-

Nanci Bompey: Isn’t that everyone’s?

Shane Hanlon:  Is that it? Yours is, like-

Nanci Bompey: Huh, that’s a good question. Oh, this is gonna be a weird answer.

Shane Hanlon:  Good.

Nanci Bompey: Okay, it’s not to fix things, but whenever I feel sick or have a headache the least little bit or anything like that to fix my body, I take Alka Seltzer plus cold. We joke that I should buy stock in it because it’s ridiculous. Not the answer, maybe, you were looking for, but to fix myself it’s my fix-all. Remember in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” the dad would spray Windex on everything?

Shane Hanlon:  Oh yeah.

Nanci Bompey: Like that, but with- Yeah.

Shane Hanlon:  I think my grandparents might have used Alka Seltzer.

Nanci Bompey: It’s good stuff.

Shane Hanlon:  Well, I ask you because we have a bonus clip where we hear about how tide gauge operators made do with what they had.

Stefan Talke:     One of the challenges is they didn’t always have all the equipment they needed. They needed to be really resourceful so the observer here in the story, again, this really conscientious guy, he noticed at some point, and I didn’t find the notes for this, but he noticed at some point that the gauge ratio had gone out. The gauges were geared so that, in Astoria, it was a 14:1 ratio.

Nanci Bompey: It was the relationship between what you were seeing on paper and-

Stefan Talke:     The paper was 13 inches wide. You couldn’t put a 10-foot tide range on a piece of paper. You had to gear it down. The equipment in those days, it was handmade, artisanal-made. Over time, if things wore out or if they shrunk or so on, then you had to figure out a way to deal with it. What this observer did, his name was Lewis Wilson, is he noticed that the ratio was out of whack. It went to 14.3:1 rather than 14:1. He just wrapped some newspapers around the rollers and he tweaked it until it actually got to 14:1. Maybe over time he added a new roll or something.

Nanci Bompey: Right, right, right.

Stefan Talke:     The only way I know this is that this gauge was then decommissioned in 1876, but then it was taken to San Francisco and it was taken to Sausalito on the other side of the Bay. They set up the gauge there to continue the measurements. For a while, they had two measurements, one in San Francisco at Fort Point and one in Sausalito. And at some point, the new observer opened up the gauge and there were all these newspapers and wrote, actually, a really angry note. “This is not good!” “This calls into question the whole gauge series!” and so on. But then there were some letters that went back and forth and in the end, they decided in fact that he had saved the gauge series by doing this, even though it was nonstandard. He had just found a way to make things work.

Nanci Bompey: Thanks for listening and check out the full episode, The Secret Lives of Tide Gauge Operators, wherever you get your podcasts.

Shane Hanlon:  Alright, thanks, all.

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