What Were They Thinking?


Having read all the 1819-1918 spec fi I could acquire, I have now fallen into a new reading habit: Popular Science Monthly magazine. It started by way of random research for 1934 and 1937 projects, especially once the first got rolled back to 1931.

Unlike, say, Popular Mechanix, PSM combine everything from articles on the early Rhine ESP studies to building ornate ship models. The covers represent everything from shipyards to air races, but the emphasis is on postulated vehicles — usually on the drawing boards, not often proven to work. But once they make PSM’s cover, they can live on in minds, just as the inventor envisaged them.

But what were they thinking to think of this?

The men who were having this built wanted to go into deep jungle and take sound pictures of the wildlife. No having to face down charging rhinos like Martin Johnson for them! They would travel around in their all-terrain tank, safe from tigers, but able to photograph them with the turret-mounted motion-picture camera. Sound-recording would be housed inside, too, while the mic pivoted on the roof.

Then I had this whole montage of fridge moments.

1) How do they not pick up the sound of their motor? Do they have to park and turn it off then wait for something to come to them?

2) Songbirds and monkeys are not enough for them. These guys want to photograph the big money-makers, tigers! Can you imagine driving this into a tiger’s territory and the beast waiting until it’s in camera range to turn, snarling, and slink away? I can’t. If the sound of the engine doesn’t clear the tigers out of a quarter-mile radius, the smell will. Not to mention that it’s painted with shiny aluminum paint to reflect sunlight and its heat. Frankly, this is likely to clear out everything else mammalian, or avian, probably reptilian, leaving them with footage of ants or snails.

3) This is not a vidcam, remember, where you can see what you’re shooting: this would be shooting film and hoping your optics on the periscope viewfinder hadn’t gotten shaken out of alignment. You may have lots of snarling but only a reel of trees overhead or the snout of the vehicle.

4) How many miles to the gallon does this get — or how many gallons to the mile? How far from their giant fuel tank-truck can they travel? I keep thinking they’re not going to get very far into wild jungle with this thing.

Here’s the entire article on the brilliant concept, of which so many copies were made for explorers — only in some very alternate world. I doubt this one even had one full-sized working version that rolled across the Camargue to prove its mire-worthiness, and then never made it out of Europe.

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