Applesauce From Stu and Mary Given
I'm not sure that we've met. My name is Mary Martini and I am married to Stu Goldstein, who received via Einer Anderson your email requesting photos. I was fortunate to know Wheeler when I worked for him as a lab technician at Caltech's Corona Del Mar Marine Lab, in the late 1970's. The attached picture of Wheeler with a healthy frond of Macrocystis was taken during Caltech's 1977 Freshman Camp on Catalina Island. What a great guy! Stu knew Wheeler even earlier than I did, from Stu's Caltech graduate student days at the Marine Lab. We live in Minneapolis, Minnesota and are so sorry to miss the 2/22 memorial celebration to honor dear Wheeler. We'll be with you in spirit. -- Sincerely, Mary Martini
In 1986, when Dr. Wheeler North invited me to move from France to the Kerckhoff Marine Laboratory of Corona Del Mar, he made me a Californian. And, from this invitation was borne the Marine Forests Society with the purpose to "Plant the Sea". In our early beginnings we operated alone on an unfunded volunteer basis, which was pretty much unconventional. But, Wheeler was genuinely unconventional up and including his approach to science. And, the brilliant Professor of Environmental Science was gifted with the most simple qualities of gentleness and honesty. It gained him an unparalleled respect from his students and from the scientific community in the USA and abroad. May Dr. North's work and personality be remembered as an example to follow. -- Rodolphe Streichenberger Marine Forests Society
Blue eyes that sparkled and rarely sparked
Shoes with flapping soles, hush-puppies
Blue Mister California shirts
Turgid pocket protectors and yellow Scripto pencils
Patient and attentive to the student
Patient and attentive to the waitress with the bran muffin
Patient and attentive to the Nobel candidate
A gentleman, a scientist twenty-four seven
Green crusted dive gear in a sack
Laboratory journals bulging with notes
Scuba tank deviating across his back
Odd colored photos of odd shaped kelp
It's too good to through away, I may be able to use this later
Stratigraphy of desk
Stratigraphy of files
Stratigraphy of storerooms and warehouse
Starting before dawn thermometer in hand
Work till dark
Ice cream at Wrights
In bed by nine
He was unique. He had a profound effect on everyone he met young and old. He had life changing, life directing effects and we probably didn't even know it at the time. We have all been spread over time and space and I glad that we have the opportunity to get together here to day to compare notes on the phenomena.
The summer of 1955 I told Dr. Norris Rakestraw at Scripps that I was 16 years (I was only 15) and managed to get a summer job with Wheeler and quickly got to know a number of people here his afternoon. Since that time Wheeler has been my "kind-of-adopted Dad".
It seems that over the years every time a group of marine biologists get together Wheeler's name comes up and there begins an evening of Wheeler Stories. I would like to take this opportunity to share those some of those stories so that they may be preserved.
-- Chuck Mitchell
The White Valiant
It was my good fortune to be Wheeler's neighbor for many, many years in Corona del Mar. He was a remarkable person and always had a great joke to share and would always drop into the parties we threw at the old Corona Cove Apartments.
Being an automotive enthusiast, it was always amazing to me how he maintained his personal vehicles, especially the old, white Plymouth Valiant he had until it finally disintegrated. As it was towed away it resembled some of the vehicles on the "Highway of Death," pictured in magazines after the Gulf War. But, this is how Wheeler was. He must have kept R&R Automotive in business for decades with myriad, costly repairs. The car was always full of papers, journals, rags, experiments, cans of motor oil, etc. and it was NEVER washed. Fuel that had overflowed from the filler onto the back fender built up over the years until the entire area was a series of black streaks. The paint was a mixture of chalky white and rust. Hubcaps were often missing. As you might imagine, this beauty really stood out on Ocean Blvd. where luxury vehicles were parked in front of $Million homes.
As a joke, I decided to start putting things on Wheeler's car such as decals and small chrome pieces. One such decal was marked, "International Show Car Association" and I placed it in the lower middle of his back window. He never took it off and it, too, slowly disintegrated over time. I thought for certain that he would guess that it was me doing these things but he never said a word. I continued my pranks by placing Ford Mustang high performance 5.0 liter chrome moldings on the sides of each fender but he never caught on to that, either. Later, I put Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance decals on the side windows and several other hi-po event decals on the "what used to be" chrome bumpers. At one point I even put a Balboa Bay Club decal in the proper location on his windshield. My old neighbor, Bill Edwards, and I used to laugh about these transgressions and wondered aloud what people at the grocery or even at Cal Tech must have thought when they saw Wheeler's "show" car pulling into the parking lot.
Years later, when he actually got a beautiful, new, compact car, I confessed what I had done to the Plymouth but I should have known better. Of course, Wheeler had never even noticed ANY of the creative handiwork I had done over the years! And, to my horror, he ended up giving the new car the same kind of special care and attention as the Plymouth. But, that was how Wheeler was when it came to automobiles. It is, indeed, the world's good fortune that Wheeler became a marine biologist instead of a luxury car dealer. As I said before, he was truly a remarkable guy.
Kent Moore, Neighbor
From Down Under
Unfortunately I cannot attend, but I will be there in spirit. I announced Wheelers death with a few photos of him and a brief retrospective at the Temperate Reefs Symposium in New Zealand on January 19. About 200 in the audience, mostly nearshore marine ecologists (including many kelpers) from around the world. Wheeler's insights, encouragement, and gentle ways were an inspiration -- sad that he is gone. His fine work, and good memories of him will remain forever. -- Mike Foster Moss Landing Marine Laboratory
Student Support II
As far as "Wheeler stories," I can only say that he was one of the most caring professors that I met at Caltech. Without his patience and support I never could have completed the PhD requirements. I went through a divorce while his student. He was very personally concerned about my welfare. I dearly loved the man. He truly wanted all of us to "get out into the environment" and see it for ourselves. Hence he supported my learning both SCUBA and aircraft pilot training (I was doing a thesis that related to remote sensing of the kelp beds and water pollution from aircraft and spacecraft). Hope this little bit us useful. -- Lee Peterson Caltech degrees: BS '64, MS '66, and Ph.D. '74
I met Wheeler during the summer of 1955. I was an "about-to-be " high school student working for the summer at Scripps in the Department of Biochemistry. One of my first assignments from Wheeler was to scavenge through the box of "white rags" in the lab , retrieve the underwear, and cut off the elastic waist bands. These were an integral part of Wheeler's dive gear. He used them to wrap around his wrists and ankles to hold them tears in his wet suit together. When we dove together I would have to help him into his "suit of lights", he holding out his appendages in order and I "bandaging". He sometimes resembled "the mummy" or at the very least a near fatal accident victim. His care of dive equipment was legendary, never rinsed with fresh water, carried in a old gunny sack. It later years this was upgraded to an apple crate, then to a net goodie bag. -- Chuck Mitchell
What A Way To Go
Wheeler never threw anything away, it was always cached away in the event it could be used later. On one occasion we diving off Palos Verdes and he had mistakenly brought an old wet suit top (you couldn't tell old from new) that was too small. He had difficulty getting it on and at the days end we could not get it off him. After I had pulled, tugged and dragged him about the cockpit of the boat he decided that it if he got back in the water it might come off easier. He's in the water, grabs the bottom of his top and pulls it upward, like taking off a T shirt. It stops at his upper chest. I reach over the side to give him a hand, grab the bottom of the suit top a pull upward.
It stops under his arm, I pull harder and now I'm just lifting him and the retained water that has been scooped up. Wheeler has both arms straight in the air encased in this neoprene rubber tube with just enough water to cover his nose, leaving only eyes above the water. I now begin to really thrash him up and down try to shake him loose. His eyes are getting bigger, I thrash, his eyes are getting bigger and now he's making bubbles! I finally give up, lift him up over the gunwhale and pour the water out of the tube. I now have a gasping coughing Wheeler head down and feet in the air. We were able to finally evaginate him from the wet suit, and we chuckled about how I might have had to fill out the Caltech "accident form".
-- Chuck Mitchell
Best and Kindest
Wheeler was one of the best and kindest people I have ever met. He was generous with his time and his resources while I was working on my thesis. When research funds ran out, he worked doggedly to locate alternative sources, eventually landing support from PG&E to fund the research project that let me do my dissertation.
Dr. North also helped to build part of the apparatus for some of my thesis experiment, working the machinery in the shop at Kerckhoff Marine Lab himself. He would donate part of his consulting salary to his general research account so that he could buy equipment and materials to sustain the research projects. Dr. North purchased a laser printer with his consulting funds and then brought it to the lab at Kerckhoff so that I could run off high progress reports (and, ultimately, my PhD dissertation)
Dr. North was generous with credit for publication. In 1987, I worked with Dr. North on a side project involving electron microscopy of juvenile life stages of Cystoseira osmundacea. We were curious to see if laboratory hydrazine exposure (an occasional trace chemical component of the Diablo Canyon discharge) lead to morphological abnormalities in Cystoseira. It did so and we prepared an article for publication. I did the microscopy work and Wheeler wrote the text. Wheeler, in typical generous fashion, wanted to list me as primary author on the paper, as I was about to graduate and he felt I needed as many publications as possible. I thought he should be primary author, as he had proposed the experimental design and written the text. We went back and forth for a while, each trying to "give" the authorship to the other. As many of you may know, this backwards from the way that disputes over credit for publication may typically occur, but is typical of Wheeler's generous and supportive nature.
In 1985, I went to the central California with Wheeler on one of his quarterly environmental monitoring jobs to examine the effects of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station on the intertidal and subtidal communities of Diablo Cove and environs in central California. The work is arduous, as it is scheduled to catch the early morning low tides. Five to six hours of enumeration work on fixed transects in the intertidal are followed by a two hour break and then five to six hours of diving in Diablo Cove. The work schedule repeats this way for three to four days. My job was to accompany Dr. North in the subtidal, as two divers were required. PG&E usually hires divers to accompany Wheeler, and after my one scheduled day of support (which wore me out), the PG&E diver appeared, a strapping, handsome young blond man, about 20 years old, who on meeting Professor North, was clearly awestruck on being in his presence. "Oh, Professor North! (bow, scrape, bow) so pleased to meet you! As you all well know, Wheeler was not the most imposing physical specimen but boy did he have incredible endurance, despite his many medical maladies. The poor kid didn't know what he was in for. I heard later that Wheeler wore him out in one day of diving and that PG&E had to hire a different new diver each day to keep up with him.
Dr. North was famous for his old cars. I heard a story from a PG&E Vice President that, for a while in the 1970's, it was thought that the California's portion of the then-energy crisis came down to the quarterly monitoring by Professor North of the environmental impacts of the Diablo Canyon power plant (which was then under construction, and later idle until an operating license was granted). Dr. North always drove his 1959 Dodge Dart, packed with gear and equipment from southern to central California to do the monitoring. So, the California energy crisis actually depended on whether or not Dr. North's 1959 Dodge Dart would start! I heard that this situation so disturbed PG&E that they offered to send a plane to southern California to pickup Wheeler and fly him and his gear to central California to do the monitoring.
An afternote about the Dart. It was still running in the mid-1980's. Wheeler and I took it to Diablo Cove in 1986 to do some monitoring and set some experiments in place! It got us there and back just fine. The trunk was so full of Wheeler's usual accumulations that we filled the back seat with the dive gear and sample boxes.
In November, 1988, when copies of my dissertation were due to my committee, my own car broke down, and I was stuck, 55 miles from Caltech and no way to deliver the thesis. Wheeler, generously loaned the Dart to me and gave me some check out instructions first about its quirks, which were many. The transmission buttons were missing, so you selected gears with a screw driver, and the "park" position was not operative, so you had to set the emergency break first before going into park or you could roll forward and "bang!" hit the parked car in front of you. Well, I didn't get it right the first time, and the Dart did roll forward and "bang!" hit the car in front, right with Wheeler standing there. He didn't seem to mind, and damage was minimal to the machine in front. There were so many dents in the Dart that I don't think we could find where the damage was.
The last time that I saw Wheeler was in 1995, when my wife and I were in southern California on a business trip. Wheeler took us to a nice dinner in Corona del Mar. We had to park some distance from the restaurant, and walk to it. Wheeler was having difficulty walking. He pulled himself along by grabbing onto the vegetation. I offered to help him walk, but he refused. My beautiful and assertive wife however, wouldn't take no for an answer, and took him by the arm to help him walk. Wheeler graciously accepted. He had a courtly, gentlemanly manner with women, and my wife, like many before, absolutely adored him after that first visit.
In closing, may God rest your soul, Professor North, you gave much, helped many, and asked little. If I can be only half so kind and effective as you in my own life, I will be proud.
-- Very sincerely, Dave James
My roommate and I had a big holiday party in the early 60's. Wheeler showed up rather late and we both went over to give him hugs, noticing something cool and bulky between us. He gives us this silly grin, pulls open one side of his suit jacket and there's a frozen bonita, or something like it, stuck in the inside pocket. Don't remember the why or wherefore, but that was part of Wheeler's charm. Think he came with Chuck and Gloria Nicklin, so an copying Chuck. Chuck, if you remember and can add to this, please do so and copy me, too. -- Barbara Allen
Introduction to Wheeler North
Tom Stephan hired me about a week before I was sent to Mission Bay to accompany Wheeler on a water sample collection dive. As I walked down the dock to the designated slip I thought I was in the wrong place. Before me sat a vessel you would expect to see along side a dock in the bayou, seemingly abandoned. As I looked the boat over I turned to see this person, Wheeler, walking, shuffling, towards me dragging a bag of dive gear, weight belt sliding down his hips but with this big, contagious smile that instantly disarm you. The boat and diver seemed to be a match. They both seemed to have spent lots of years in the field, were hardworking, and with no pretenses what so ever. Off we went, traveling as fast as the little boat could go. I knew we were heading to the end of the La Jolla Trench and without any navigation equipment on board, I expected to see a lot of triangulation going on, charts being referenced, and soundings made. But to my surprise Wheeler never seemed to look around for any landmarks, not to have noted travel time, his eyes seemingly preoccupied with a manuscript or something. What ever it was it was wet, folded, torn, and blowing in the wind. We continued to fly along when suddenly we stopped, and with no further adjustments required, we were at the site. He tossed the anchor over, not concerned if took hold, if it had the proper scope, he just knew all was well.
We proceeded to get ready for the dive. I was expecting a very formal adherence to established diving protocols. I knew Wheeler had "written the book" on research diving. I was ready for the, "plan your dive, dive your plan", let's clearly define roles and responsibilities, lecture-NOT. I fully expected formal equipment checks, ready to enter the water only when we both were ready-NOT. What happened was anything but. As I quickly observed I was with a person who had his own style, who was so in tune with the ocean that whatever he did was perfect. He made me look rigid, awkward, too choreographed.
While suiting up Wheeler started to talk to me about all manor of things, my first exposure to his breadth of knowledge, honest charm and disarming nature, but no discussion of the dive. He proceeded to empty the bag he had dragged across the pier and probably across the parking lot. The bag had obviously been with Wheeler's for a very long time. It had many holes, with pieces of wet suit poking out, dry kelp blades hanging everywhere. Wheeler and I could not have been different. On my side of the boat was all my gear, laid out like a picture from a diving manual. Everything in full working order, suit folded, tank and regulator tested, knife shinny and new. The other side looked as if someone had dumped out an old box of "stuff" looking for something. There were scattered bits and pieces of wet suit, with holes and rusted zippers, miss matched fins with cracked straps, a mask without a snorkel, no pressure gauge, or BC, but everything he needed was there. As we sat on the side of the boat about to go over he was still adjusting his belt, grasping for his mask, some zippers still open, fin straps still not secure. He was on his way over the side, and without looking, grabbed the bag with the sample bottles. Down we went, me with eyes on my depth gauge, mentally noting the time, trying to maintain perfect form. Wheeler was dropping feet first, pulling on straps, grabbing his water-filled facemask, by the big old purge valve you knew didn't work, water bottle bag barely held under his arm.
Magically at 150ft, not a foot before nor past, he became perfectly in control. The sample bottle was in his hand, his buoyancy stable, he could have been standing in the lab, the sample was quickly taken and placed in the bag. Up to 100-foot mark and the same thing. On the assent his strokes were a bit clumsy, his weight belt now almost below his hips, but on station he was again fully in command. One more sample and off to the surface, coming up right next to the boat. I was still following the prescribe, dive manual instructions, weight belt off first, then tank, mask, fins, all gear stowed as soon a possible. Wheeler had his own process. He tossed things into the boat in the order his hands happen to touch them, giving priority to the weight belt slipping ever lower and the fin with the now broken strap. But it was obvious he needed no help. I saw a strange grace in what other might describe as clumsiness. I quickly understood that he was in total balance with his environment.
On our way into the harbor I saw yet an other side of Wheeler. He seemed to know everyone by name. Fishermen, dockhands, vendors, police, all were greeted equally with smiles, kind words, and respect.
As he walked away from the slip, once again dragging his gear bag, I knew here was a truly unique, special person. Physically more as ease in the water than out, caring and respectful of others, positive to a fault. A man I would forever be proud to call a friend. I consider myself blessed to have worked for Wheeler and along side the other tremendous folks at Kerckhoff. Wheeler, Annie, Tom, Henry, and many, many, more have a special place in my heart. My life was made much richer because of them all.
-- Randy Berthold
An oxymoron. The Valiant was the most un-valiant vehicle you have seen. It must have traveled well over 300.000 miles on a number of rebuilt engines and who knows how many trips to the garage. I always thought that someday it would not make the trip up the hill from Kerckhoff and we would have to make into an artificial reef.
Wheeler North sponsored and supervised the NAS' Summer Scholar program at SIO in the 1950s. My first introduction to the world of marine sciences was through that program, when I was between my junior and senior year at Mission Bay High School. It was a very important summer for me, as I worked with Carl and Laura Hubbs, Al Stover and Art Flechhsig, and made several of the famous temperature runs along the Baja California Coast. Little did I then know that I would return in 1966 to spend 33 years at SIO in the time-series data collection and management for CalCOFI. Wheeler set a fine example of a visionary and mentor for young people. I'm deeply grateful! -- (The Rev. Canon) George Hemingway Newberg, Oregon
Here are two images of Wheeler, taken in Tahiti in 1972. Most members of the Underwater Advisory Board on Underwater Parks and Reserves participated in a "project" there, put on by a con artist. Our group was supposed to "help" the locals develop underwater parks. It was a fun trip, but nothing came of our efforts.
That was the first time I had a chance to get to know Wheeler and Barbara, although we first met about a year previously. My favorite memory of Wheeler was on a very cold morning at Pt. Arena, where Wheeler and other biologists from PG&E and California Department of Fish and Game were doing some preliminary intertidal surveys for PG&E's new nuclear generating plant. We arrived at the intertidal right after dawn. The air temperature was about 50EF, and the water temperature was about 48E. All the rest of us were dressed in wet suits, but not Wheeler. He stripped off his clothing, down to a bathing suit and some type of footwear! Then went into the cold water to begin his inventory of the critters. Wheeler spent at least an hour doing his inventory, and no one saw him shiver once! I was totally impressed.
I am so sorry that I cannot make it to the party, but I will be thinking of Wheeler, and all of you, and hope that all of you have a wonderful time, in celebrating this very unique scientist.
-- Dan Gotshall Sea Challengers, Inc.
Wheeler was my godfather, and I am so grateful that my parents chose him (and that he accepted). He was my father's dearest, oldest, and best friend, and the namesake of our German shepherd - Wheeler's wedding present to them. Having Wheeler for a godfather was an experience! One day he came to visit when I was quite small and gave me the most glamourous present of my childhood. A big, be-ribboned box from a top department store contained (amid masses of tissue paper) two expensive stuffed animals - a black and a white lamb with satin ribbons around their necks. I already adored Wheeler but now I was a fan for life. What was marvelous was there was no reason to give a big present. No birthday, no holiday, just Wheeler being Wheeler.
I also remember many trips to Scripps Insititute of Oceanography, Wheeler explaining with great enthusiasm his latest projects among the bubbling aquariums and specimens. I particularly enjoyed our visits to his Hopi Indian house by the sea. What a magical place that was. Nothing like it existed in La Jolla - a perfect replica of an Indian dwelling he inherited from his mother Flossie, who all agreed was a wonderful Grande Dame. I'm sure she was responsible for my godfather's impeccable manners and relaxed charm. In my mind's eye I can still see him in front of that unusual house which fit his unconventional character so well, surrounded by iceplant and views of the Pacific, and smiling in the sun at his little toddler he called Hannah Banana.
I remember visits to his Ali Baba-like cave of a garage and watching him noisily polish abalone shells with a special machine. One of these shells is still by my bath looking as lovely as when he gave it to me. Then there were the abalone steaks he would bring around to my grandparents and I remember him in the patio, pounding them with a mallet to make them tender. How delicious they were! and in my mind, terribly exotic.
Not too many years ago I was invited to a house party at an English lord's ancient, massive "stately home" called Stoneleigh Abbey in Warwickshire. The guests were all seated at the dinner table in the huge dining room and the English lady next to me was talking about her recent stay at Wood's Hole, Mass. and her interest in oceanography. I mentioned Wheeler's name and she practically fell off her chair. "Oh, I met Dr. North! He's very well-known in Oceanography, and he's your godfather!?" she exclaimed. She was clearly extremely impressed by my connection, and it was fun to be discussing Wheeler in the middle of the English countryside. But then I was accustomed to reading about Wheeler's achievements in my husband's Caltech alumnae magazine, and occasionally, articles on Oceanography in the International Herald Tribune would quote Wheeler and describe his findings. So until this winter, through the press, and in Christmas cards and letters I was able to know Wheeler's news whether I was living in Paris, or London. Now, I wish I had kept his letters and cards as they were so funny and warm. I will miss him terribly as will my parents. He greatly enriched my childhood in so many ways and for that I am thankful. I wish everyone could have a godfather like the incomparable Wheeler J. North!
-- Yours Sincerely, Constance Chalmers Binst
P.S. Has my father told you about when they were boys how they hauled a big unexploded bomb home from the U.S. Army artillery range? Or surfing with large tiger sharks circling underneath in La Jolla Cove? My father and Wheeler agreed that they had an idyllic childhood, and my father has countless stories about it if you're interested.
Who's Dive Gear
In the late 80's Wheeler was doing the quarterly dive surveys of the kelp beds off of San Onofre. I would drive the Westwind over to Kerckhoff, side tie to the float (that's when they had water at the end of the pier) and load his tanks and equipment. This particular morning Wheeler helped me with the dock lines then return to the lab to pick up a few more things. I loaded the gear that was on the float, new dive gear, a dry suit, etc. Wheeler returns to the boat and I asked who was diving with us today. He says "no one, just us"... Well who's dive gear is this? I asked. "It's mine" he says with that Wheeler smile, "Last month I was diving at Diablo Canyon with the PG&E biologist and they were so embarrassed by my dive equipment they told me to go out and buy all new and send them the bill". This was the only time I ever knew Wheeler to have all NEW dive gear. As expected, within a few months it no longer looked new. -- Chuck Mitchell
During 1956-57 Dr. Wheeler J. North spent a research year in the Zoology Department at Cambridge, working with (then) Dr. Carl Pantin on the responses to light of the sea anemone Metridium senile . This study took him also to the MBA's Laboratory at Plymouth. I was Pantin's assistant and we met and talked often . He was a fine scientist and a genial and easy -going colleague, full of curiosity and surprise, smiling at some of the English customs which he found so amazingly different from those of southern California where he had grown up.
Towards the summer, he planned to spend a day in London and there purchase a black felt bowler hat, still at that time the hallmark of all financiers in the city, to show the folks back home (few American then wore hats, and then maybe a trilby). I explained he would need to go to the local post office first to buy a licence, without which it could not be worn. That afternoon, as we joined those taking their cups of tea in the tearoom, Wheeler asked "Do I really have to go to the post office for a licence? for he was of such good nature that he would never suspect anyone might pull his leg on a serious matter just for fun. He never forgot his Cambridge friends nor they him. I will hear in the coming days from Trinity College, whereDr. Pantin was a Fellow, if Wheeler had an affiliation of some kind, as it would have allowed him to meet fellow academics outside the Department.
-- Sincerely, Elaine Dr. E. A. Robson University of Reading
OC Floating Lab
We all gain in our lives from others and a few of those taught us to reach beyond our finger tips. When I first met Wheeler I was running the OC Floating Laboratory program and was conspiring with Bob Given and Don Bright to present the first Catalina Island Marine Science in Education conference at the USC lab at Two Harbors. Humble as Wheeler appeared at times, he nevertheless had just the right words for the moment that pushed you a little more towards your goals. I'm sorry not be able to join you to celebrate a truly remarkable and kind human being but, like he challenged me long ago, I'm out and about in Singapore and Shenzen, China spreading the word! -- All the best, Ron Linsky
From Zale Perry
Zale Parry wants the world to know how important, kind and patient teacher, Dr. Wheeler J. North, has been in the training of many diver-scientists. More women than men in the marine sciences followed his busy schedule of instructional operations punctuated by exciting experiments topside and underwater with the marine plant Kelp. For two years (1961-1962), I, as a volunteer, was one of those women who held the measuring tape cartridge to a giant Kelp plant's hold-fast while Dr. North swam with the tape reeling with him out of sight along the stalk as he headed down current to get the exact measurement of the day's growth. He was neat and precise in jotting down the numbers on his chart. Each plant was numbered with tags in those days. A list of variables of storm, calm, temperature, critter-sea urchins, and more, etc. plagued his joy of seeing a good crop. Frustrated with the sea urchins nibbling his crop, he handed a hammer or plumbers' wrench to his helpers to smash the evil-life out of the urchins which then produced a plate of plenty for the neighborhood of fish. Many times his work replaced acres of Kelp that were destroyed in a series of past years' devastation. He lived with a huge basket of hope everyday. Wheeler was a sweetheart-of-a-boss. Never did he raise his voice in anger nor repute in difference a student's study. His fame and distinction were that he had those special gentle qualities of a true friend and devoted teacher rolled up into one giant-kind of person.
In 1962, he was the key figure as we put together an Arizona Highways-type of magazine for the underwater community. It was a beautifully illustrated slick magazine called Fathom. Two issues were printed but the magazine business and interest were not as big as his Kelp one. Then a few years earlier (1958-1959), Wheeler with his renown peers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jim Stewart and Connie Limbaugh, returned from a diving-filming trip off Capo San Lucas, Baja California. In their film cache they had one of the most intriguing geological phenomenon ever recorded in diving history of the underwater Rivers of Sand, Zale recalls. Dr. Wheeler North and the film "Rivers of Sand" were honored at the December 1959 International Underwater Film Festival in Santa Monica, California.
In gathering Wheeler stories, I'm certain someone will mention that Wheeler always looked dapper dressed in a sport coat and slacks with a white long sleeve shirt when the occasion called. However, I had attended a few functions with him, he was dressed to the nines. On one occasion the temperature in the meeting room was quite warm and it called for the removal of a sweater or jacket. I asked him if he would be more comfortable, it was perfectly fine to remove his sport jacket. His reply, "No thank you. I'm fine." As he said that he opened his coat where I could view his said comfort. As stiffly starched as his white collar and cuffs were, his shirt sleeves were torn to shreds beneath his arms...the sleeves were barely attached to the rest of the shirt. He smiled that Wheeler Smile.
Chuck, thank you for putting together this fine farewell with celebration for Wheeler. He is smiling!
-- In gratitude, Zale Parry Ambassador, The Academy of Underwater Arts and Sciences