Heavy ground swells, remnants of a recent hurricane, rocked the massive ferry taking me from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Queasy and cowering below deck, I wondered what I had gotten myself into as the six and a half hours of the voyage rolled by all too slowly. It was an inauspicious start to my participation in the 16th Intercollegiate Game Fish Seminar and Fishing Match in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, slated to take place August 29 to September 1, 1971.
Just a week earlier, out of the blue, I had received an invitation to join the University of Toronto fishing team, preparing to take part in the match. I had just graduated from the university as a physics and chemistry major, and was awaiting the start of a year of teacher training at the university's College of Education. I had never heard of the fishing team and knew nothing about deep-sea fishing, but I did happen to know the team captain in another context, and he was desperate to find someone to fill in for a student who couldn't make the trip.
Bowl commemorating the 16th Annual Intercollegiate Game Fish Seminar and Fishing Match, held August 29 to September 1, 1971, in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia.
To my relief, the ferry made it to Yarmouth without capsizing, and we settled into a hotel with the other college teams competing in the three-day tournament. Five teams were from Canada (Dalhousie, New Brunswick, St. Francis Xavier, Toronto, and Western Ontario) and five were from the United States (Dartmouth, Harvard, Massachusetts, Princeton, and Yale), along with "special guest" teams from Japan and Mexico.
Members of the 1971 University of Toronto Fishing Team: (back row, left to right) Michael Vaughan (team coach), Gus Abols, Ivars Peterson; (front row) Tom Tobin, Gerry Brosky.
Sponsored by the government of Nova Scotia, the match and accompanying seminar were meant to introduce game fishing, particularly for bluefin tuna, as a tourist pastime. The tournament trophy went to the team bringing in the largest haul of fish, by weight, over three days of angling at sea.
Each of the three days of the tournament started at 5:30 a.m., with breakfast and the drive to the Wedgeport docks on Goose Bay. Each team was assigned to a lobster boat, together with its captain and crew, and set off at 7:00 a.m. for a day of saltwater fishing.
All the boats spent the morning of the first day chasing after tuna. We took turns strapped into a chair at the boat's stern, handling a massive rod and reel. A second baited line trailed 30 feet or so behind the boat as we cruised along. No luck.
For the rest of time, we had the option of continuing to fish for tuna (boring and likely fruitless) or of heading for the offshore shallows (banks) where cod, haddock, halibut, and pollock came to feed. But it would take a large haul of cod to match the weight of one bluefin tuna, which could weigh as much as 900 pounds.
Typical lobster boat used in the fishing competition.
The captain of our boat proved particularly adept at locating the specific shallows where cod congregated, and we began to jig for cod. It was actually too easy. We simply dropped a baited line into the water, waited for a tug, set the hook, and hauled the fish up. However, despite the beautifully sunny, calm weather, I was seasick for much of the first day and contributed very little to the team's efforts.
When we located a school of cod, the boat would slowly pass back and forth over the area while we hooked as many fish as we could. I found it astonishing that, at times, even when we were well out of sight of land, we could see the bottom and watch cod greedily snap at the baited hooks. Among the few fish that we threw back into the water were the small sharks known as dogfish, which preyed on cod.
University of Toronto team members Michael Vaughan, Gerry Brosky, and Gus Abols with a fishing match judge weighing the day's catch.
We had to keep track of the time and where we were so that we could get back to the Wedgeport dock before each day's deadline. There, our catch would be recorded, with judges keeping track of the total weight and the weight of the largest individual fish brought in by the team. The fish were kept moist throughout the day to help boost the score. The entire catch went to local people.
The "seminar" part took place in the evening after dinner, with seemingly interminable slide shows about sport fishing, with a focus on saltwater pursuits. Many participants found it easy to doze off in the darkened room, given such an early start, an exhausting day hauling up fish, a substantial dinner, and some late-night partying.
Saved by the motion sickness remedy Gravol, I did much better on the remaining two days of the tournament, contributing my share to the haul of cod. I could even enjoy the delicious fish chowder, thick with potatoes and onions, prepared by the boat's crew. It was an appetizing lunchtime alternative to the dry chicken sandwiches with which we had left in the morning, but it also meant sacrificing one of the fish that we had caught.
By the third day, thanks to our canny captain, we also began to believe that we had a shot at the title. Late that afternoon, we had to decide whether to take one more pass across a lucrative fishing ground and potentially incur a penalty for arriving back late or simply return. We decided not to take the risk but still came in with the largest catch of the day, 475 pounds of fish.
Official fishing match badge.
But it wasn't enough. The Dalhousie team's three-day total beat our total by 19 pounds, roughly the equivalent of one cod.
Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia): 1,236
University of Toronto: 1, 217
Princeton University: 852
Yale University: 720
Harvard University: 713
St. Francis Xavier University (Antigonish, Nova Scotia): 562
University of Massachusetts: 518
University of New Brunswick: 487
University of Western Ontario: 417
The largest fish caught was a 43-pound cod, landed by a member of the Harvard team.
And that ended my brief foray into intercollegiate fishing competition.
Changing of the Guard
We spent the sixth and final week of the 1965 Summer Science Program in Ottawa, staying in dorms at Carleton University and splitting up into groups to pursue particular interests. My choice was physics, and this involved research in acoustics at the National Research Council of Canada.
The physics group outdoors at the National Research Council of Canada's complex in Ottawa: Dave Cuthiell, Rick Seary, Kim Cameron, Dr. Edgar A.G. Shaw, Ivars Peterson, Gordon Brown, and Ian Graham.
Dave Cuthiell, Ian Graham, and I developed and performed an acoustics experiment in which we looked at how the shape of an earlobe or ear canal affects the sounds that we hear. We first placed a tiny, sensitive microphone inside the ear and measured the range of frequencies that the microphone could detect. We then modified the ear's shape by adding a lump of plasticine and performed the frequency measurements again.
Dave Cuthiell in the anechoic chamber at the acoustics lab at the National Research Council of Canada, awaiting a test of how the shape of an ear lobe and canal can affect the sounds someone hears.
Each of us had a turn in the anechoic chamber, which had special insulation to eliminate echoes and other sounds that could interfere with the measurements. And the results were striking. In all our tests, the ear's shape had a strong effect on the sounds detected, enhancing some frequencies and diminishing others. We were quite pleased with what we had discovered.
Ian Graham monitoring an experiment in the acoustics research control room at the National Research Council of Canada.
National Research Council of Canada publicity photo of Dave Cuthiell, Ian Graham, and Ivars Peterson at a display during our tour of the facilities.
The physics group at a display at the National Research Council of Canada: Dave Cuthiell, Ivars Peterson, Kim Cameron, Dr. Edgar A.G. Shaw, Ian Graham, Gordon Brown, Rick Seary.
Computer programming at Carleton University's computer center was one of the activity options offered for the final week of the Summer Science Program in Ottawa. The computer was an IBM 1620 and the language FORTRAN. Prof. William H. Bowes is on the right.
Ottawa newspapers reported on our group's activities. This newspaper photo in the Ottawa Journal featured Geri Logie and Art Kidd handling hamsters while visiting with psychology professor W. E. Walther in his lab at Carleton University.
Here's how one newspaper article portrayed us:
"In their blue jeans and sneakers, they're indistinguishable from any other crowd of teenagers.
You couldn't guess just by looking at these 35 boys and girls the effect they've had on some very important people.
They have jolted a National Research Council scientist by conducting an experiment whose results made a shambles of standard textbooks' theories. . . ."
My dorm room at Carleton University: Note the completed (and functioning) Heathkit shortwave radio on the desk and mineral samples on the top shelf.
Participants in the 1965 Summer Science Program. Front row (left to right): Art Kidd, Bunty Bains, Margaret Wood, Lee Stewart, Dorothy Miller, Pat Sheridan, Pat Thorpe, Rick Seary, Bob Nell, Brian Margetson. Second row: Hugh Laurence, Pat Cogan, Elizabeth Meeds, Geri Logie, Gino Tancon, Susan Cochrane, Peter Kowalczyk, Dennis Waddington, Doug Pritchard, Desmond Norris, Larry Kazdan. Third row: Mike Waters, Barbara Heller, John Atchison, Gordon Langford, Gordon Brown, Alan Adamson, Ivars Peterson. Back row: Kim Cameron, Bill Falkner, Dave Cuthiell, Dr. John Anderson, Ted Kosmolak, Ian Graham, John Norton. Absent: Diane Douglas.
The week in Ottawa (and the entire program) ended much too soon for us, as we realized as we wrote our reports and attended the closing banquet on the final Friday. By Saturday morning, most of us were already on our way home.
I went on to major in physics and chemistry at the University of Toronto, then taught in Ontario high schools for eight years (chemistry, science, and physics at Kingston Collegiate and physics and mathematics at Trinity College School in Port Hope). I was very pleased to have one of my own students participate in the 1976 Summer Science Program, shortly before the program ended.
On Saturday afternoons and Sundays during the five weeks of the 1965 Summer Science Program in Lakefield, we were usually free to pursue our own interests, whether they included shopping trips or movies in Peterborough, outings on the river (or around it or in it), or simply catching up on sleep, writing letters, and doing laundry.
In the cramped quarters of our dorm, Ian Graham and I catch up on correspondence or, in my case, painstakingly take the next step in constructing a Heathkit shortwave radio.
In the heavily used common room, Mike Waters and Bill Falkner ponder the angles for a critical pool shot.
Hugh Laurence (on guitar) leading a session of campfire singing.
One special treat was a trip to Peterborough to hear the touring National Youth Orchestra of Canada. I had a particular reason for going. The principal violist, Wendy Pinkus, was from my high school, and I got a chance to meet her after the concert. My music teacher, John McDougall, was also there, spending the summer assisting the conductor, but I didn't get to see him.
Many of the program participants were talented musicians, quite capable as singers or on the piano, guitar, or bagpipes. Several took part in the Lakefield school's end-of-summer-session "Variety Night '65," which featured performers from among the summer school boys, faculty, and waitresses and other staff. "Many of the acts were funny, and some were quite good," I wrote in a letter home.
John (Call Me 'Windy') Atchison plays the bagpipes as one of Dr. Anderson's daughters dances the "Highland Fling" in the Lakefield school's variety show.
Hugh (12-String) Laurence accompanies Susan (The Original Red-Hot Scientist) Cochrane in a set of folk songs.
Sundays allowed time for outings to Peterborough, with as many as six people crowding into a taxi for the 17-mile trip from Lakefield. I made the trek twice, once in search of a missing part for the radio I was helping to build. I also made a point of viewing the famous hydraulic lift lock on the Trent Canal in Peterborough.
Peterborough Lift Lock.
Sunday afternoons allowed enough time between lunch and dinner for walks to lock 27 on the Trent Canal at Young's Point (a 10-mile round trip) and for a circumnavigation, up to Young's Point, then across to the other side of the Otonabee River, and down to the lock just below Lakefield (lock 26), and back to home base (a 12-mile trip).
Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway at Young's Point, Ontario.
Gordon Langford and Mike Waters on a Sunday afternoon jaunt, upriver to the Lock 27 on the Trent-Severn Waterway, then back on the other side of the river to the lower lock below Lakefield.
My first experience with canoeing occurred on a Sunday late in our stay in Lakefield. Ian Graham and I were in one canoe and Dave Cuthiell and Peter Kowalcyzk in the other. Neither Ian nor I had ever paddled a canoe before, and we made an amusing pair as we struggled to steer the canoe and make it move forward. We persisted and eventually made it to the lock just downriver from Lakefield.
The Otonabee River just upriver from Lakefield, Ontario.
We stopped for ice cream in Lakefield, then headed back upriver to the school, this time facing stiff currents and an impending rainstorm. We had switched partners, so paddling was a bit easier for me. But we were thoroughly soaked in the rain. Moreover, Ian's canoe capsized twice, once in the wake of a speeding motorboat and again when we were racing to the dock.
Soggy adventurers after a canoe outing: Dave Cuthiell, Peter Kowalczyk, and Ian Graham.
There were other moments of levity. Given that quite a few of us had studied Latin in school, we came up with a "table Latin" dictionary for our meals, from soup (Blandus liquidus frigidus) to grapefruit (Fructus squirtus) to steak (Immasticatus).
And there were pranks. One morning, the wake-up bell rang, and I dutifully arose, showered, dressed, and went in search of the morning newspaper, delivered daily to the common room. It wasn't there yet. Puzzled, I proceeded, with a few others, to the dining hall for breakfast, only to find that the staff was just arriving for the day. The true morning bell went off shortly afterward.
One consolation was that whoever had set off the bell had to have been up even earlier than we were awakened.
Welcome to an occasional series devoted to "cool stuff" that I encounter while browsing the world of mathematics and computer science. I'll peek at new developments in math and its applications, and I'll revisit old puzzles, famous problems, and historic events—anything mathematical that happens to catch my eye. I hope you'll find something of value in these brief, informal forays into the world of math.
Ivars Peterson is a freelance writer and editor. He was Director of Publications at the Mathematical Association of America from 2007 to 2014. As an award-winning mathematics writer, he previously worked at Science News for more than 25 years and served as editor of Science News Online and Science News for Kids. His books include The Mathematical Tourist, Islands of Truth, Newton's Clock, and Fragments of Infinity: A Kaleidoscope of Math and Art.