Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/203

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INSTRUMENTS AND METHODS OF RESEARCH

constructing the charts, with the aid of similar data, for epochs twenty-five or thirty years apart, as Humboldt had dreamed, this, in spite of the enlightened interest of many countries, is even more remote.

Why should it have remained for a purely research organization to undertake a problem touching so keenly, as this, on even the so-called sordid, highly practical interests of man? It is a fortunate fact that Humboldt's fascinating international scheme failed of execution, and that the chief brunt of the work is now being borne by a single organization? It is not for the speaker to attempt to answer. The magnetic work of the Carnegie Institution of Washington has embraced, since 1904, a general magnetic survey of the Pacific Ocean, and land observations have been made in more or less unexplored regions in different parts of the world. The ocean magnetic work is to be undertaken next in the Atlantic Ocean, in 1909, on a specially built vessel, the first of its kind.

It is believed that an effective scheme of operation has been evolved, with the aid of the valuable advice received from eminent investigators. Without danger of giving offense to any one, it is possible to deal directly with the officials concerned, submitting to them our plans and ascertaining whether they contemplate doing anything similar, and, if so, whether, in case their funds are insufficient, they could suggest some friendly basis of cooperation between their organization and ours. This plan of action has met with entire success thus far. Duplication, overlappings and possible jealousies are all avoided; and in countries where no organization whatever exists to do the work, we are free to go ahead and finish the task in less time than it would necessarily take to get an official action or official consensus of opinion from a large scientific body.

Slow deliberation in terrestrial magnetic work would be disastrous, for the prime reason that the phenomena of investigation in this field of research are continuously undergoing change. The time-element in the earth's magnetism, even for a period of a few years, is of such moment as to completely mask the fine, hair-splitting points which would necessarily and rightly have to be raised on some international mode of action, to say nothing of the painful and cumbersome method which would have to be employed to conform with the rules of official correspondence between nations. Many a well and carefully executed magnetic survey in the past has had its full importance for world-wide investigation destroyed because of the possibility of error in the secular variation corrections which must be applied to bring its results up to date.

Though I may be judged guilty of defending my own policy, I believe the course pursued by the Carnegie Institution of Washington in conducting the general magnetic survey of the globe is the only