Trivia Testers : Parched

Figure 1

I’m Absolutely Parched!

The driest place on earth, in terms of annual precipitation, is:

  1. The Sahara Desert
  2. Death Valley, CA
  3. the Gobi Desert
  4. Antofagasta, Chile

Answer: The Sahara Desert is pretty big, covering about 10 percent of the African continent. It’s pretty dry, too; in its driest eastern parts, the average rainfall is only about five millimeters, or around a fifth of an inch per year. (Keep in mind this is an average figure; there might be no rain at all for many years, followed by a single intense thunderstorm.) And Death Valley, with its forbidding name, isn’t too hospitable either, being famous for its dry climate and very hot summer temperatures. But compared to the Sahara, it’s a tropical paradise; it’s average annual rainfall is about 1.85 inches! The Gobi Desert of southern Mongolia isn’t known for being terribly hot (in fact it can be quite cold) but it also has little rainfall, mostly because the Himalayas prevent moisture from moving into the region. It averages under three inches of rain per year. (To be called a desert generally speaking, a region must get under 10 inches of rain per year.) But the winner as far as being the one place in the world most devoid of precipitation is the dry Atacama desert region of Antofagasta (pronounced “ahn-toh-fa-GAH-stah”, with the primary accent on its fourth syllable), in the generally dry northern region of Chile. Home to about a quarter of a million people, and despite the fact that it is also a port on the Pacific Ocean, the average annual rainfall there is almost nonexistent: less than one tenth of one millimeter. Several years can easily go by with absolutely no rain at all. (So, yes, it’s choice D.) This part of the eastern Pacific is indeed quite parched, but they’ve come up with some clever means of obtaining fresh water. Along the arid coast of Chile as well as southern Peru, clouds settling on the Andean slopes produce what is known locally as camanchacas (thick fog). Such heavy mists which touch the land surface are actually “milked” to obtain water, by means of plastic sheeting hung on vertical posts, from which condensation then drips into conduits and is then collected. Such fog harvesting has actually been used to provide water for small rural communities in arid and semi-arid regions in many other parts of the world as well, such as Namibia, Mexico, the Canary Islands, Australia, and even California. Also, though this part of the world doesn’t get much rain, at least it’s not beastly hot. This is mostly because atmospheric temperatures are moderated by the counter-clockwise gyre of colder water coming from areas to the south; the offshore presence of the Humboldt or Peru current keeps the average temperatures at Antofagasta between about 65° to 75° F in January, and from 50° to 65° F in July.

Friends In High Places
Of the following early airmail pilots, who doesn’t belong?

  1. Charles Lindbergh
  2. Elrey Jeppesen
  3. Leonard Brooke Hyde-Pearson
  4. George H. Boyle

As far as careers advanced (or at least of those hoping to lurch forward out of obscurity) it is sometimes not what you know, but whom. One case in point is U.S. Army Lt. George H. Boyle, dashing in appearance, but inept as far as actual airmanship. He was an aspiring air mail pilot, and he enjoyed the conspicuous convenience of being engaged to the daughter of the Interstate Commerce Commissioner who had influenced the government to allow Army pilots to fly the mail. Technically, he was the first airmail pilot to fly along an established route, on May 15, 1918. (Airmail flights had been flown however, as early as 1911.) While President Woodrow Wilson and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, looked on, he began his flight to Philadelphia from Washington D.C. by departing to the South (in the wrong direction). Despite having had maps plastered to his legs by his superior, he promptly became lost and landed in a soft field, nosing over. Then the next day (and with a new propeller), that same superior officer gave him explicit instructions for a second attempt, which involved the simple directive that he should keep the Chesapeake Bay on his right. He even flew alongside him up to the northern end of the bay. Once on his own however, he followed his orders to the letter (sorry) and he flew in a big circle, around the bay. When he landed (and didn’t in fact crash) to take on more fuel, he then actually used some rudimentary navigation and reached the general vicinity of his intended destination. He chose a landing site (but the wrong one, and much too short), and wrecked the plane (only this time, more thoroughly) when he crash-landed on a golf course. Naturally, by that point he had seriously jeopardized his budding airmail career. To be fair, pilots had only a simple magnetic compass and the maps of the time showed large cities, but little of elevations or landmarks. Still, you have to wonder. As regards the above list of airmail pilots, all of the above technically did have that title at one time. But one fellow, choice D in this case, didn’t have it for long.

Blind Ambition
The first person to make an intentional “blind” landing was

  1. Omar Bradley
  2. Wesley L. Smith
  3. Jimmy Doolittle
  4. Arthur Godfrey

According to “Flying As It Was” by Gerry Casey, the person who actually performed “blind flying” tests before Jimmy Doolittle was one Wesley L. Smith. An aspiring opera singer, a degreed engineering student (with honors, no less), as well as a pilot, his first attempts at such involved simply ruddering a compass heading and using the tachometer and engine noise (as “primary” indicators) for altitude control. On May 20, 1920, he used a fixed loop antenna to fly a triangular course while under a hood (only in this case I suspect that it was the “cover your head” variety). During the following nine years, he worked with Howard Salisbury, who (the book says) developed the turn-and-bank indicator as well as a sensitive altimeter, and on February 6, 1929, over seven months before Jimmy Doolittle, he successfully landed a Douglas M-4 somewhere near Cleveland in actual zero-zero conditions (which had developed during his flight) right in the center of the airport. This may be simply dumb luck, but it was done somewhat intentionally (mostly because he had to). It’s B.