Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Big Eye's Final Journey - part 2

November 19, 1947: day two of moving the Big Eye to Palomar Mountain did not deliver beautiful, clear weather like the first day did.

Observatory superintendent Byron Hill met Jack Belyea of Belyea Truck Co in Escondido, CA at 5:00 a.m. Hill told Belyea that "things did not look good up on the mountain as it was closed in with fog and visibility was zero and starting to sprinkle."

The mirror couldn't be left in Escondido. Everyone would prefer to get the mirror out of harm's way and into the protection of the dome on Palomar. It was decided to press onward and upward to Palomar. They left Escondido at 5:22 a.m.

"We got within 6 miles of the Observatory and the elements threw everything including the book at us. We had wind, rain, hail and snow," said Belyea.

Writing in their January 1948 issue, Nancy R. Bolton, staff writer for Sky & Telescope magazine had this to say: "the way up the mountain road to Palomar a fine drizzle of rain was falling, at points a mixture of snow and rain. It was impossible to see beyond a few feet. George H. Hall, of the Caltech publicity department, who was driving our car, had to keep his head outside the car a good part of the time even to drive at a snail's pace. .... My heart almost stopped a couple of times when I realized what we had just passed. I always said I wanted to live dangerously, and this was it!"

The convoy overcame the elements and completed the final 26-mile leg of the journey arriving at 11:00 a.m. -- nearly four and a half hours ahead of schedule. By noon the mirror was out of the big crate and lifted to the dome floor and its cart that formed the bottom of the aluminizing tank.

According to Jack Belyea, "We arrived at the Dome at 11:00 a.m. that morning. Unhooked our two pusher trucks and the mirror was backed into the dome - signed for and received in good order." Yes, he made them sign for delivery of the mirror.

Outside, Jack Belyea (right) shakes the hand of truck driver Lloyd Green (center) and thanks him for a job well done.

As with yesterday's post we thank the Belyea Family for their donation of Jack Belyea's photos and documents related to the moving of the 200-inch mirror to Palomar.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Scott: What a nice presentation of the move of the big "eye". I felt the material my father had given me should be shared and where else, but where the mirror ended...Mt. Palomar!
Thanks, again.