Wallace: I would like to recount a few tales of geologic travels, some having to do with
earthquakes, and title this section, "Stories and Adventures..." It could be
subtitled, "Join the USGS and See the World." Of course, anybody who travels
accumulates stories, but visiting earthquakes and earthquake country around the
world takes the traveller off the regular tourist routes and into exciting and
unusual situations. While sometimes a bit risky, these expeditions offer
wonderful opportunities for exploration off the beaten path.
Scott: Earthquake scientists and engineers do get involved in postearthquake
investigations in many countries, and of course the USGS also works in a wide
range of geologic fields. Your accounts of your travels in the line of duty would
be a valuable addition to this oral history.
Wallace: I won't describe every trip, or any one trip thoroughly, but instead will relate
some experiences that were adventurous, gave me insight into history, or
highlighted vignettes of humanity.
Wallace: I have already described our explorations in Alaska Territory, which were at the very beginning of my career. I did not, however, get an assignment that took me off the North American continent until I was 48 years old. That seems so unlike more recent decades, when it seems that even lots of teenagers have travelled extensively around the world. But for me my first assignment to Turkey in 1964 was an exceptional event, especially as I was accompanied by my wife, Trudy, and eleven-year old son, Alan. The assignment lasted two months.
Through the State Department's Agency for International Development (AID),
the USGS was to provide advice to the Turkish government and a review of its
geological mapping program. The Turkish equivalent of the USGS, their
Minerals Research and Exploration Institute (or Maden Tetkik ve Arama in
Turkish) goes by the acronym MTA. I became attached to that organization.
Scott: I suppose the association with MTA gave you formal support for activities in Turkey?
Wallace: Yes, we had support of both the U.S. Embassy and the Turkish government.
Many doors were opened, and the assignment required travel to all corners of
Turkey. At the time, Turkey had not yet been fully discovered as a tourist
attraction. My wife was cautioned not to wear sleeveless dresses, for example,
but within the year, things were changing. We did, however, find villages that
were almost untouched by the modern world. We would be driving along, see a
big hill out in the distance, and be told that it was an old city mound that had
never yet been touched by archaeologists. One of our first mini adventures was
on a picnic to Gordium with Clarence Wendell, the Minerals Attache at the U.S.
Embassy. Gordium is famous for the "Gordian Knot."
Scott: The knot that Alexander the Great cut with his sword when he came by.
Wallace: Clarence's wife Nancy and their two boys were with us. We rummaged around
the ancient city mound, which had been extensively explored by archaeologists,
but saw shards of old broken pottery still littering the ground. In the same
general area we picnicked near a big bas-relief from Hittite times, carved in
granite. Barely discernible trails lead up to this seemingly priceless historic
treasure, and we found our way with the help of a small boy who lived nearby.
There were no visible signs of tourism, and no facilities for it.
While we were picnicking, the three boys went down into a gulch to a dry
river bed. Soon they came back greatly excited; "Come and see what we
found." Right along the river bed were some Greek figures, a foot and a half
high, carved in limestone. The base of the figures were partially covered by
sands of the river bed. The carved figures were in a wonderful state of preserv-tion, apparently untouched and unknown by tourists. In 1964 such antiquities
did not seem to be fully appreciated in Turkey, although agencies had been
formed that were busily trying to promote tourism. To me it was a very exciting
period of transition in Turkey.
On one excursion with the Minerals Attache, we drove along the North Anatolia fault, and, even in only a quick view from the car, I saw features very similar to the San Andreas fault--showing that lateral fault movement had occurred. Such features along that fault had never been documented in the technical literature. Here were offset streams, sag ponds and the topography that is so characteristic of the San Andreas fault. What an exciting discovery!
That leads to another story about maps of the fault. While I was with the
MTA we were able to check out very nice topographic maps from the MTA
library, very similar to USGS topographic maps. Fortunately, I traced simple
maps from the topographic maps, and in the field I photographed and sketched
some of the streams that had been offset along the North Anatolia fault. I
thought that when I got back to Washington I could get the library copies of
these maps, so that I could prepare a technical paper about my discovery. But
when I got back to Washington I could not find the Turkish topographic maps in
the USGS library.
Scott: I would have thought that the USGS central library would have such maps. Why
Wallace: Yes, I presumed that USGS must have those maps available somewhere.
Someone suggested, "Why don't you talk to the USGS liaison with the military
mapping program?" When I did, he said, "How do you know that those maps
exist?" "I've used them in Turkey," I said. "They are classified--you aren't
even supposed to know that they exist, and I can't get them for you here in
Washington." I observed how ridiculous that was, and felt thankful I had traced
off the sketch maps while in Turkey.
It turned out that the U.S. military had assisted in the production of the
maps, which looked just like USGS topographic maps, but the military
participation had led to their being classified. Prior to those maps, many maps
of Turkey had had longitude and latitude slightly rotated, and other strange
aberrations. This was done deliberately to make use by enemies difficult. Such
was the logic of the military! I made sketches of the fault topography drawn
from the topographic maps that I had been able to get in Turkey in 1964. Later I
used these sketches in a paper on the 1966 earthquake near Varto, in eastern
Turkey, which I will take up later.
My memories of Turkey are full of the warmth, honesty and helpfulness
of people in the villages. While there in 1964 I once got stranded in eastern
Turkey when the scheduled plane had to land at Erzurum instead of Erzincan,
where the MTA people were to meet me. The only thing I could think of was to
stay over for three days and go back to Ankara on the next scheduled return
flight. So I had time on my hands.
The little downtown office of the airline closed for lunch. I wandered out
to sit on a stone wall to read and sketch, and a group of children gathered
around. One boy tried out a few words of English, and was glad to find that it
was my language. Often in that region I had been taken for German. I drew a
map in my sketchbook to show the children where Turkey was relative to the
United States, and were I lived. I guess that one boy, at least, had some
geography--anyway he seemed to get the idea. After a while he insisted that I
come home with him, to his father's and uncle's shoe shop, located down the
road. We visited with the father and uncle as they worked on shoes, and they
served me tea. We had the most pleasant time. What wonderful hospitable
people they were!
Scott: Did they speak any English?
Wallace: No, the father and uncle spoke no English, but they were delighted that the boy
could serve as interpreter to some extent. But I always have a phrase book along
and that helped. In those situations, you manage one way or another. The
people I was trying to talk to loved it, and so did I. Finding that you can
communicate with people in even those crude ways gives you such a feeling of
closeness with them.
I asked the little boy if there were a hotel around. He took me up into
town where there was a small hotel, but no rooms were available, and there was
no other hotel nearby. What was I going to do? After much discussion and
arguing, the manager said I could stay in so-and-so's room. The room was
occupied, but I could stay there for the night, which I did.
Next morning the Turkish geologists used some skillful detective work
and found me. They had driven all night, arrived in town, and started asking
about the "lost American." By then I guess I was pretty conspicuous in the local
community. So the planned field trip proceeded on schedule. The incident had
been no problem for me. In such circumstances you just do what you can do.
What a nice memory of that sojourn remains.
Scott: I believe you went to Turkey several times after your first assignment there in
Wallace: Yes, I also was there in 1966, 1967, and 1968 and 1972. When the 1966 earthquake occurred near Varto, Turkey, I made a plea to go out to eastern Turkey to study it. I guessed that it was along the North Anatolia fault which had become an exciting research target for me after my travels along it in 1964.
The USGS rounded up some money, and the U.S. Agency for
International Development (AID) also helped. In terms of earthquake interest, I
found wonderful things at Varto. That was a "real, live" earthquake, with
aftershocks still occurring when I got there.
The Earthquake Near Varto
Wallace: The earthquake near Varto occurred in August 1966, only two months after our
Parkfield earthquake in California. When I started work in the field in Turkey, I
was startled to find the terrain and vegetation almost identical to that around
Parkfield. I immediately felt at home.
In 1966 after reaching Ankara and checking in with the AID people and
with the US Embassy, I flew to Urzurum, where the MTA people met me.
MTA had a field camp in the vicinity of the earthquake's epicenter. From that
camp they had been carrying out geologic mapping. I had come with a sleeping
bag and was prepared to be self-sufficient. I had been in the region before and
knew that it was remote and had few facilities. But the MTA had some tents and
even one or two little movable shacks. So I was very comfortable, and "rode"
the first night out as aftershocks rocked us.
Scott: That got you into the earthquake operation rather promptly.
Wallace: U.S. AID provided me a driver-interpreter and MTA let us use one of their
jeeps. The next day we went to look at the damage, seeing collapsed houses
made of cobbles and adobe, and with heavy roofs. Most of the local houses
were built of big cobblestones a foot to three feet in diameter, chinked with
smaller rocks and mud.
The cobblestones were piled on top of each other, big cottonwood logs
were laid across the tops of the cobblestone walls, and dirt piled on top of that.
It made for a very warm house; fires could be burned on the earthen floors, and
the earthen roofs gave excellent insulation. But the roof was a heavy and very
unstable structure, extremely dangerous, and vulnerable to any shaking or lateral
movement characteristic of earthquakes.
Scott: That is typical construction in many of the less-developed countries. It makes a
lot of sense for just about every purpose except earthquake resistance.
Wallace: That is right. The magnitude 7.1 or 7.2 earthquake caused all those houses to
collapse, burying most of the people under the heavy roof material. In the
village of Varto something like 80% of the people, more than 2,500 people,
Sometime during the afternoon we encountered a military convoy
comming toward us, and they flagged us to a stop. What had we done, what was
wrong? They immediately came toward us with a box containing, of all things,
soda pop. "We saw you at the spring this morning filling your canteens and
thought that you might like some gazoz (pop)." Of course, we would, with many
Vulnerability and the Case for Prediction
Scott: What can feasibly be done in such primative areas to reduce such terrible loss of
Wallace: Just as in other foreign earthquakes, we keep coming up against the total
inability of people in areas like that to build earthquake-resistant structures; no
money and very few or no local building materials suitable for earthquake-resistant construction. It is the same in Pakistan, although in Quetta, they have
devised some very simple things like using sheet metal more, to improve safety.
While these measures are feasible, they still are expensive compared with the
cost of using cobbles from a local stream for construction. Certainly something
else is needed than the kinds of earthquake-resistant design and construction we
use in the United States.
This problem, the difficulty of building earthquake-resistant buildings,
underlies one of my arguments for earthquake prediction. If the people of Varto
had only known that a quake was coming enough ahead of time to get out of
those houses! In Haicheng, China, a successful prediction of an earthquake of
magnitude 7.5 was made in 1975. The prediction allowed the people to leave
apartment buildings and houses, most of which (90 percent) were destroyed in
the earthquake. Without the warning, it is estimated that more than 100,000
people would have perished. The Chinese also tell of other successful
In underdeveloped countries the idea of earthquake-resistant construction
has barely begun to be considered. Even in the most highly-developed countries,
an enormous inventory of existing structures does not conform to the latest ideas
about earthquake-resistant construction. The constant introduction of new
materials and new architectural styles, along with other changes, will assuredly
lead to some inadequate structural behavior and failures during earthquakes.
Given a continuing stock of buildings of inadequate earthquake resistance,
reliable predictions would be invaluable; very likely the only defense against
earthquakes. But reliable predictions are still far from being realized. Anyway,
this is enough of my missionary efforts on behalf of prediction.
A Reconnaissance Flight and Photos
Scott: What else did you find at Varto?
Wallace: Our jeep tour through the Varto area took us by a military hospital facility
housed in tents and set in a broad meadow. We saw a little Turkish spotting
plane parked in the meadow by the camp. It was a small bi-plane with open
seats, one for the pilot forward and one passenger behind. It was like some of
the old fighters used in World War I.
I said to my Turkish driver, "Let's see if there is any chance we can
borrow the plane." One must always improvise when looking at earthquakes.
You see opportunities and you try to capitalize on them. So we asked about the
plane and they said, "Why not." Anyway the driver sold the idea to the Turkish
general, and I was able to go on a reconnaissance flight.
I got in the back seat of the plane, and had to tap the pilot on the right or left shoulder to indicate which direction I wanted to turn. From the general setting of the North Anatolia fault and the topography, I knew of some areas I wanted to fly across to look for surface faulting.
We took off, and lo and behold, there were big cracks along the fault--in
fact several parallel sets of cracks, right where they should be. I got some
excellent photos of the faulting, and also documented the role of liquefaction in
the damage or destruction of buildings. Reinforced concrete buildings were
destroyed by differential settlement due to liquefaction.
Scott: It seems that field examination after earthquakes has been a very productive
activity. As you know, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute has
emphasized a program of "Learning from Earthquakes."
Wallace: There is no question that each earthquake produces some new lessons, and it has
often been said that each big earthquake produces surprises. That tells us how
little we really understand about earthquakes. But we have made great progress
over the past few decades, even since the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction
Act was passed.
In succeeding years the USGS used some of my Varto photos to sell
Congress on the need for earthquake research budgets. The idea of localization
of both faulting and liquefaction, which I photographed at Varto, for a time
became a basis for hazard "microzoning." The idea is to locate structures off
the most hazardous pieces of land. The concept of using land prudently as a
defense against earthquakes has grown in importance. But it took many years
and further mapping of faults before even California instituted special studies of
such vulnerable sites. Much remains to be learned and done in mapping such
Scott: Tell us more about your experiences during your Varto earthquake investigation.
A Forced Quick Trip to Ankara
Wallace: The AID people in Ankara, who were helping me logistically, asked me to fly
back to Ankara in two days to give them a report. I said I could not possibly do
an investigation and get back that soon. For one thing, transportation was just
too difficult. But they insisted, and said they would send a plane for me. I don't
think they had any idea how remote the area was, about 800 or 900 km east of
I reluctantly agreed to go back to Ankara, and on the appointed day had
the jeep driver deliver me to a small airfield where I was to be picked up. But
no plane. Also there was no telephone, and with my lack of the Turkish
language, it would have been almost impossible for me to use one anyway.
What to do? Most of the afternoon, we hung around the little shack that served
as a terminal. A plane finally showed up, but it was not for me. It belonged to
the Dornier-Werke of Munich, West Germany, and was on charter by the Swiss
Red Cross. After I discussed my problem with the pilots, they said they could
fly me back to Ankara, if I could wait an hour or so. So once again hitchhiking
by plane got me out of a box.
After I got back to Ankara the AID people said, "Oh, we will develop the
film for you here." I first told them "No," that I would wait until I got home,
where I trusted the processes used to develop the kind of film I was using.
"You've got to let us develop them." "But those photos are irreplaceable, and I
don't know whether your people know how to handle this film." I finally let
them go ahead, and they did a very nice job. They used them for their own
propaganda in Ankara and Washington, D.C.
At that point I insisted that I be returned to the Varto earthquake site very
soon. They ended up getting a big four-engine bomber to fly me back out. I
was the only passenger on this huge plane. We landed at what must have been a
military airport, and I climbed out of the plane. Here were some high-level,
Turkish military personnel--judging from their decorations--waiting for me. I
shook all their hands, but then climbed in this little geologic jeep of the MTA
and off we went. The military personnel had no idea who they had greeted, and
are probably still wondering who that person was who rated a four-engine
bomber for transportation. After that, everything worked out fine.
First to Locate the Fault
Wallace: A day or two later, Dr. Ihsan Ketin arrived at Varto. He was Turkey's leading
structural geologist, a man who had prepared fault maps of Turkey. By now, it
was a full two weeks after the earthquake, and he was very miffed to find that I
had gotten there ahead of him. He arrived just after I had been out to the site,
located the fault, and gotten good photographic evidence. The MTA group that
had been there for ten days or two weeks had not yet found the fault. This upset
them very much. They knew the geology, but had not found any faulting related
to the earthquake. Here I had come in, a foreign observer, and found the
faulting right away. Tension reigned!
Scott: I presume that was because you knew what to look for and approximately where
Wallace: I guess so. Having found two zones of faulting from the air, I was eager to go
out to examine them on the ground the next day. I proposed to Dr. Ketin:
"Let's join forces tomorrow and go look at the faulting." But Dr Ketin said,
"No, we have other things to do." So I went out with my jeep driver and started
to look at the faulting. As we hiked up over one hill, who did we find studying
the fault but Dr. Ketin and three or four other Turkish geologists. They were
embarrassed, of course, but in the end we all made up. In the published paper I
made a point of emphasizing their help. (Wallace, R.E., "Earthquake of August
19, 1966, Varto Area, Eastern Turkey," Bulletin of the Seismological Society of
America, v.58, n.1, 1968, pp. 11-45.)
Scott: I am intrigued by your finding the faulting before the Turkish geologists did,
although you came in from the United States about two weeks after the
earthquake. Then you found it quickly. Please say more about why you were
better able to find the faulting. Of course, you had a lot of experience with
earthquake chasing, and also had worked on the San Andreas fault.
Wallace: There were two factors. I did have a good idea of the kind of topography active
faults might produce, especially faults of the North Anatolia type. Moreover, I
had examined aeronautical flight charts of the area before I left home, and
already had some detailed ideas. I glued the maps onto linen for easy field use,
took them with me and used them on the flight. Although the maps were not
very detailed, lineaments showed clearly. Those were the zones I wanted to
check, and did so from the plane.
The Importance of Air Reconnaissance
Scott: So on the map you had spotted features that tipped you off as to the most likely
place to look?
Wallace: Yes. The major factor in finding the faults quickly was my brazen willingness to
try to "borrow" the Turkish military plane. I feel sure that the Turkish geologists would have hesitated to confront their military and ask for such a
favor. For us, it has become standard practice to try to start with an overview
by air. The first thing you do is get in a helicopter or light plane and fly over
the area and see what things look like from the air. I have bummed a ride on
airplanes many a time to do such reconnaissance.
Scott: I believe the 1966 Turkey earthquake and your investigations of it helped bring
about a conference on methods of coping with earthquake hazards in the Middle
Wallace: Yes, the CENTO group in Ankara asked me to organize such a conference. I
made trips in 1967 and 1968 with support from CENTO (Central Treaty
Organization), to develop a program on earthquake hazard mitigation in Turkey,
Iran and Pakistan. Great Britain, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan were the members
of CENTO, but the U.S. was nominally included, I presume because the U.S.
ended up paying many bills.
Formulating the Conference Plan
Scott: Discuss what you did to get the conference plan in shape.
Wallace: By no means was the conference planning all my doing. In addition to exploring
the scientific side, first priority was given to seeking simple building techniques
suitable for regions where only primitive construction methods were traditionally
used. In so many of the world's earthquake regions, homes are built of cobbles
and loosely piled rock with heavy earthen roofs. Or they are built of
unreinforced adobe brick. Such construction tends to collapse completely, even
in only slight earthquake shaking. There was also concern about some of the
more advanced construction methods used for highrises--in Ankara, for example.
With these priorities in mind, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) became involved, and Robert C. Reichel of the HUD
Codes Division joined me in the conference planning.
Scott: So you and Reichel visited the CENTO countries?
Wallace: Yes, in 1967 we set off to visit the institutions in Great Britain, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan that might usefully participate in a conference. Ankara had been chosen as the site the for conference, because CENTO personnel there could help with the logistics. The date was to be in 1968. Joint funding by CENTO and the U.S. was promised.
I won't go into the details, but will recount a few incidents that stick in
my memory. The Geological Survey and Geophysical Institute of Iran were very
receptive to the idea of the proposed conference. I had a good friend, Dave
Andrews, at the Survey who had for years worked overseas on various USGS
As fortune would have it, we were to leave Tehran on the evening of the
coronation of the Shah of Iran. I had contracted a severe cold and earache in the
meantime and wanted desperately to stay in our hotel one more day. That was
impossible because every room in Tehran was taken, including ours. So we
headed for the airport, where we sat most of the night waiting for a delayed
flight to Karachi, Pakistan.
When I awoke the next morning in Karachi, I thought that I had had a
stroke. My mouth, lips and left eye were numb. Nevertheless we went on to
Lahore on schedule, and in Lahore I promptly went to see a doctor with the U.S.
Agency for International Development. He diagnosed my problem as Bell's
Palsadsy, ordered a few days in bed, and use of tape to close the left side of my
lip and my left eyelid, to keep them from drying out. Even now, although I have
largely recovered, I still suffer somewhat from the palsey.
The rest of the several-week planning trip was miserable, but successful.
I regret to say, however, that my partner from HUD was of little use in planning
the conference--he had almost no experience with earthquakes.
Scott: That must have been a very trying time. I can certainly understand the kind of
bureaucratic mismatch that occurred--it is not unusual. Your HUD colleague
represented his agency, but lacked the background in earthquake engineering or
seismic design that would have made him a really useful team member.
Nevertheless you apparently got a lot done. Say a little about that.
Wallace: There were many things, but one stands out. In Quetta in western Pakistan, I
was impressed by some very simple construction of buildings put up after the
great earthquake there. The construction technique involved the use of very
light-weight metal roofs and single-story walls. The lower half of the walls was
good quality masonry, and the upper half largely of wood frame construction.
That kind of construction would certainly be more resistant to earthquake
shaking than the customary adobe construction.
Scott: Did the conference proceed as planned and on schedule?
Wallace: Yes, the 1968 conference was a great success, in no small measure thanks to
Karl Steinbrugge who agreed to give the keynote address, and another key
player, Nick Ambraseys, a British leader in earthquake engineering and soils
mechanics. We produced what I believe was a useful volume published by
CENTO. As you know, such things take a lot of work. CENTO was pleased
with the result, and convened another earthquake conference in 1972, which I
believe my good friend Joe Ziony of the USGS spearheaded.
The Post-Conference Field Trip
Wallace: I won't say more about the 1968 conference itself, but will use the field trip we
made after the conference as a point of departure to say something about the
people of Turkey, and people in general. To my mind it is the people and their
outlook that really count. The post-conference field trip was very timely,
because only a year before a large earthquake hit the western end of the North
Anatolia fault near Adapazari. Liquefaction led to much damage, and I made a
special effort to record some of the effects near Sapanca Golu (Lake).
After making some measurements and photographing a liquefaction site
on the shores of Sapanca Golu, I left my tape-measure propped up against a dock
at the site. It was many kilometers from where we were staying, so when I
missed the tape-measure, I thought, "Well, that's gone." But a day later my
tape-measure appeared on the table in my hotel room. What honesty! How did
they find its owner and figure out a way to get the tape-measure to an absent-minded American who left it behind?
I am reminded of one time in 1972, when I was also in Turkey. I was at
the North Anatolia fault with Professor V.V. Beloussov from the Institute of
Physics of the Earth, USSR, who was perhaps the Soviet Union's most famous
structural geologist. We were there evaluating the Balkan Seismo-Tectonic Map
Project, another fabulous assignment about which I will say little. While
travelling, Beloussov and I sat in the back of a car, both of us wearing brown
Eisenhower-type jackets. He was taller and bigger, but we both had sort of
blond, graying hair.
Remember this was at the height of the Cold War with the USSR. Our
Turkish guide and host turned around and said to us, "You are American and you
are Russian, yet you look so much alike. You are supposed to be at war with
one another, and yet there you sit in peace." All people are so much the same,
even if they don't look as alike as Beloussov and I did to a Turkish geologist.
I could write volumes about Beloussov, and his apparent opposition to the
idea of plate tectonics and strike-slip faults. I say "apparent" because while
in the field along the North Anatolia fault in Turkey, he readily accepted the
obvious field relations that clearly demonstrated strike slip on that great fault.
Also, Dr. Beloussov actually accepted many facets of the plate tectonics
concept when we discussed the problems personally. Nevertheless, he had very
sound arguments to mount against some parts of the plate tectonics theory. The
concept had gained "band-wagon" proportions, and needed some skeptical
analyses; Beloussov provided these.
In 1973, however, at the International Geologic Congress in Montreal,
Beloussov presented a no-holds-barred denunciation of plate tectonics. After
long decades of preaching vertical tectonic movements as the dominant structural
style, he had to save face in front of such an international audience.
Muggings and Extortion: A Contrast with the Villages
Wallace: The Beloussov story also includes a stark contrast between what happened in
cities, and the kindness I was shown in the villages. In the city of Istanbul, I
took Professor Beloussov to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, two famous
mosques. I had visited both before, so I said, "I think I'll just walk back to our
hotel." An hour or so later he came in very distraught. Just after I had left, a
car had driven up along the sidewalk and an older lady and a younger lady had
gotten out. The older one tripped and fell right in front of Beloussov. He
helped her up, and the two ladies discussed things and then got back in the car
and drove away. Suddenly, he realized that his billfold with all his papers was
missing. He had been mugged.
Scott: He was a victim of a special kind of pick-pocket artist.
Wallace: Yes, they were pick-pockets. On another occasion five years before that, in
1967, I had been in Istanbul with Bob Reichel, from the Department of Housing
and Urban Development. We were looking into organizing the first CENTO
(Central Treaty Organization) conference on earthquake hazard mitigation to be
held in Ankara. We went to Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and England on that trip.
We were at almost the identical spot near the Hagia Sophia where
Beloussov was robbed five years later. I turned back to return to the hotel, and
Bob came back to the hotel with as disturbing a story as Beloussov did five years
later. Bob Reichel was distraught, saying, "I got my shoes shined over there."
There were shoe-shine boys everywhere, with beautiful little shoe-shine kits with
polished brass knobs as decorations. Anyway, when the shoeshine was finished
Reichel asked, "How much?" The boy said, "Ten dollars, American money."
"That is outrageous, it should only be a few cents." The boy said, "My friends
don't think so." Bob turned to find four thugs behind him. So he was forced to
pay $10.00 for a ten-cent job, and came back to the hotel, rather shaken.
Scott: They practiced a form of extortion, using the threat of force to get exorbitant
payment from customers.
Wallace: Yes indeed.
The Coup During the World Conference
Wallace: Another rather unsettling event occurred in Istanbul during the VII World
Conference on Earthquake Engineering in 1980. We arose one morning and
found notices posted on the elevator doors of the hotel telling us that we were all
confined to the hotel (house arrest I guess) but that the hotel would provide us
with meals as long as possible. During the night there had been a military coup
of the Turkish government.
A small group of Americans in the hotel, most were friends attending the
conference, gathered in a corner of the front lounge of the hotel to compare
notes and discuss possible actions we might take. We also divided up tasks such
as calling the U.S. Consul, looking into transportation so that we could escape to
Greece, and possible food sources. We agreed to post news and rumor notes on
the wall behind a certain set of chairs.
Breakfast and lunch went well, but shortages of food in the hotel were
real. During the afternoon someone noted a few Turkish people carrying long
loafs of bread up the alleyway beside the hotel. Several of us decided to take a
chance to leave the hotel, even though from the roof of the building we could see
soldiers on guard at every corner and many tanks at crucial corners. We sneaked
down the alleyway, found the bakery and each purchased several loafs of bread.
I intended to store the bread for emergencies, but couldn't resist that wonderful
aroma as I carried the warm bread back to the hotel. I'll admit I ate half a loaf
that very afternoon.
The "house arrest" didn't last too long, only a day or so, and as soon as
we could go out again, the earthquake conference resumed. Unfortunately, or
fortunately, my paper was to have been given on the day of the coup, so I did
not have to give my oral presentation.
I did rather enjoy the excitement of going out to the Galata Bridge where
tanks were standing at ready at both ends. I further entertained myself by
painting some sketches of the bridge and skyline on the far side. I had my
pocket-sized paint set, and sketch book, but no water. Peddlers were selling
soda pop, so that made a handy substitute. In Japan and elsewhere hot tea served
More Good Recollections of Turkey
Scott: You had a lot of good recollections, I believe, as well as those of muggings and
coups. You mentioned the forced stopover that you enjoyed in a little town
during your first trip there. And the unexpected return of the lost tape-measure
on a later trip. Would you give some of your other impressions of Turkey along
Wallace: Yes, I want to end this section with a word or two more about the warmth and friendliness of the Turkish people. There were tea houses everywhere, and we just loved them. The tea is served from little tea glasses, not cups, and the tea glasses are delivered in hanging-type brass trays. Waiters and delivery boys could literally run with a full tray of glasses and not spill a drop. We would go to a tea house, and often they would not let us pay. "You are our guests," they would say. Incidentally, I picked up some skills in the process--I can pick up a Turkish tea tray with tea in the glasses and swing it in a vertical circle without spilling a drop.
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