Sunday, August 15, 2010

Xtra Files 9: Picture Picture - Stereoscopique

This is not a post about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood

Back when I was a teen, one of my favorite, after-school pass-times was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood* on PBS. My dad was disgusted every time he found me watching the program, and would, without fail, utter some derogatory remark about Mr. Rogers. Strangely, I experienced great pleasure in these predictable remarks. The poor guy couldn't understand why a high school kid would be watching a show for little kids, especially that show. I loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and why not? I wouldn't know how marbles are made without Picture Picture.** Didn't all high schoolers watch Mr. Rogers in the late-disco/early-punk/pre-metal era?

Strange Segue

I started a summer job the Monday after I graduated from high school which meant that I wouldn't be hitching trains across the country like my friends and I had planned*** to do. Instead, I spent three months working for the United States Geological Survey on a resurvey of the Stansbury Mountain Range, Skull Valley, and small portions of Tooele Valley and Rush Valley. I was perfect for the job - strong, agile, proficient in hiking and climbing mountains, plus I already had about eight years land surveying experience, and was also somewhat familiar with the area... my home county that I had been exploring for as long as I could remember.

Best Job Ever

For three months, our team of USGS engineers physically located every road, structure, spring, and mine, in addition to recovering every extant section corner and then electronically tying everything to triangulation stations on mountain peaks**** and benchmark monuments throughout the area.

We regularly used a strange looking device called a stereoscope along with aerial photographs to orient ourselves. This was the first time I had seen or used a stereoscope - a device that makes it possible to tie two images of the same thing together in 3D. Mountains, crevices, and even buildings appear to be three dimensional but exaggerated when viewed through the stereoscope.

I'll never forget the first time I peered through the stereoscope. We were on site, parked in the shade of a large concrete building near the point of the Stansbury Mountain Range. Jack, the chief engineer, spread out some maps and aerial photos on the hood of the truck and demonstrated how to match up the two aerial photographs, (something he had obviously done a million times). Then he told me it was my turn, and when I looked through the stereoscope, I saw a white cube, at the base of a mountain. The cube was obviously the large concrete building we had parked next to while we enjoyed the small sliver of shade it afforded us on that hot June afternoon. I was impressed how the image came alive in 3D, and became rather proficient at doing it myself.

What makes this story incredible, is that the next time I returned to this site - less than a month later, in the spot where the large concrete building once stood, was an 80' wide crater. Apparently, the building was an explosives manufacturing plant and warehouse, and according to the official story, in the early morning hours, static electricity**** caused an explosion that vaporized the entire building, a semi truck and a few employees. There was nothing left. Nothing!

When the blast occurred, I was sleeping soundly in Tooele, all the way across the valley, more than fifteen miles away. I recall that the explosion woke me from my sleep. The following morning, we talked about it at the office. Apparently, one of the engineers had learned what had happened, and most of us reported that we had been awakened by the thunderous boom.

What makes this story even more incredible, is the fact that one of those fateful employees had been working with our USGS team, and had left for better pay at the explosives plant. A few weeks later, he was gone forever.

How strange, (to me at least), that the very first thing I viewed and focused on through a stereoscope would end up in such tragedy. I'm glad that nothing else I've viewed through a stereoscope has met a disastrous fate. That'd be a good X-Files episode, though. Speaking of X-Files, I've always been a bit suspicious about that event back in 1981, and the official story. I've often wondered****** what really happened there?


I had heard of people being able to view photos in 3D without the aid of a stereoscope, so I gave it a try and found it quite simple to do. I even started creating some of my own 3D images. I possess so many wonderful and rare objects, I figure that they can be better appreciated when viewed in 3D. Therefore Zenberg Blog will periodically feature 3D images, and will attempt to be thematic about the selection of photos.

Here's how you do it

Sit at a comfortable distance from the screen and look at the point where the two images come together. Slowly begin to cross your eyes. As you do, you will begin to see a third image forming between the others. The third (middle) image is actually both images that, when matched up perfectly, appear three dimensional. It may take some practice, but is worth the effort, and my ophthalmologist tells me that it is good exercise for the eyes. Have fun.

Lately I've been eating lots of jello, (homemade with juice and Knox), because of health issues that prevent me from enjoying good food, (not that jello is bad, I've just been eating a lot of it).

This is an image of one of my favorite artifacts. I found this Anasazi makeup spoon on private property on the Colorado Plateau east of Hurricane, Utah back in 1996. Much of the red powdery makeup is still caked inside the concave area, and visible in the photograph.

Look for more 3D images in the near future.

*Recently, Mighty Mo dreamed that she was in the Land of Make Believe, and when she told me about it, I was a bit jealous. Especially when I found out that she got to hang out with Lady Elaine Fairchild inside the Museum Go-round. I wish I could rent Mr. Rogers Episodes on DVD, but unfortunately, they're not available. My favorite episode was the time we went to the Other Neighborhood, with emphasis on the hood.

**Mr. Rogers' magical framed wall painting that transformed into a movie screen and transported viewers to all kinds of interesting places.

***We practiced jumping on trains and riding them to Salt Lake and back.

****We even used a helicopter to reach the highest peaks. When we got to Deseret Peak, (now a wilderness area), the chopper couldn't land because a bush was in the way. I had to jump out and trim the bush so the pilot could touch down. Then, while balancing on two rocks over a crag on the highest peak of the Stansburys, the chopper stayed long enough for Jack, (Jesse C, Dyer - Engineer USGS), and I to remove the boxy and awkward Electrotape, a bulky survey instrument, (probably from the fifties), that uses microwaves to measure long distances.

***** Didn't they blame the Hindenburg disaster on static electricity?

****** I've ran lots of possibilities through my on-board scenariographer, and boiled it down to these. They are all rather far-fetched, but every scenario should be examined, and no doubt has. Someone may know exactly what happened there. If I could time-travel, I would surely go there to find out.

1) A rogue/underground/terrorist organization may have stolen explosives, and the building may have been destroyed to eliminate evidence and silence witnesses. There was supposedly a fully-loaded semi-truck inside ready to leave, but no physical evidence of the truck was ever recovered.

2) Perhaps the site had been targeted by a governmental agency for national security reasons. Is it a coincidence that the explosives plant had been precisely located by my team of USGS engineers only weeks before the event?

3) Maybe it was a robbery gone bad. The building was located not far from a convenient Interstate 80 exit, and someone bent on ill intent could have easily made their way to the remote building, not knowing what they were getting in to.

4) A small meteor may have fallen from the heavens and hit the explosives plant, detonating the whole shebang.

5) It could have even been a staged event designed to create new identities for the individuals involved.

6) Static electricity? Oh, the humanity!

8) Other?


Dave said...

You forgot about number 7. Which could have been only time will tell what truly happen to that place when it blew up all those years ago. I remember as a kid watching Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood. I also remember watching Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood on SNL too. I remember look into those old stereoscopes and sliding the image back and forth to get that 3D look.

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