By G. Stephenson
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I did not get to know Jim well at UW; we were both too busy at our studies, research, and jobs. But I knew him well enough to call him up after the shoes dropped. I left the University of Washington in 1969 to work full-time in New York City as Mobil/Standard Oil’s first oceanographer. It could have been a lonely, frustrating post, but Clare J. Colman, the chief of Mobil’s offshore operations, was a kind and tolerant manager who knew enough to give wide latitude to a solitary oceanographer in a crew of engineers—though sometimes I pushed even the bounds of his tolerance.
When we arrived, we found an apartment across the street from the single room we’d rented in 1966. But we’d set aside most of my Mobil retirement money for a down payment and, once we’d worked up the courage, set out house shopping. After just a day we found the 1917 bungalow we still live in today, a mile north of the university. We applied for a loan from a local bank, and the banker called my office (our apartment) to verify my employment. “Evans-Hamilton,” Susie answered. ” the banker asked.
I explained that it was to protect against storm surges: When I added a hundred-year surge to a hundredyear tide, I reached a maximum wave height well beyond what were then the benchmarks in marine construction. He sent me to Sable Island for a firsthand look. In 1970, I flew in a Grumman Widgeon from Halifax to Sable Island, a boomerang-shaped, twenty-three-mile-long sandbar near the junction of the North Atlantic’s two great circulating gyres. This location makes it a marine graveyard; shipwrecks and other debris from both gyres wash up there, and we landed amid a gaudy litter, the sand nearly burying the wheels.