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- 2014 - August - 18th -
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50 years ago: Prototype ocean data buoy launched at local shipyard

Compiled by Max Marbut

The first of a series of scientific buoys that were designed to solve some of the mysteries of the world’s oceans was launched by the U.S. Navy at Jacksonville Shipyards Inc.

Called an “ocean data station,” the discus-shaped buoy was 40 feet in diameter, seven feet high and topped with a 40-foot steel antenna mast. It was equipped with myriad electronic analysis devices and capable of transmitting data to shore stations up to 3,000 miles from its location. The buoy would be untended for one year.

As a crowd of visiting and local dignitaries watched, Mrs. Wilbur P. Byrd christened the buoy by smashing a bottle of champagne against its bulkhead. She was the wife of the engineer who directed the building of the buoy.

After the ceremony at the shipyards at 644 E. Bay St., the buoy was hoisted by crane into the St. Johns River.

It then would be towed to sea and moored in the Gulf Stream about 5 miles off the coast near Miami.

“Eventually it is anticipated that a large network of these ocean data stations will be positioned throughout the ice-free waters of the world. The network will be part of an ocean data service that will provide data for direct application by science, weather forecasters, the fishing industry and the Navy’s Antisubmarine Warfare Environmental Prediction System,” stated a news release from the Navy.

• Jacksonville City Commissioner Lou Ritter, North Florida manager of the 1960 Kennedy-Johnson presidential campaign, was named by Gov. Farris Bryant to fill one of Duval County’s seats in the Florida delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

“In accepting Gov. Farris Bryant’s appointment as a delegate to the national convention, I shall go to the convention with an open mind in an effort to represent the thinking of the Democrats of Florida and shall join Gov. Bryant in working for and supporting the nomination of our very capable United States Senator, George Smathers, as the vice-presidential running mate of President Johnson,” said Ritter.

The 38-year-old Ritter was described as a “strong possibility” as the successor to Mayor Haydon Burns if Burns were to be elected governor in the November election.

• The tanker Esso Sao Paolo ran aground in the St. Johns River during a driving rainstorm while en route to the AeroJet General Shipyards for repairs.

G.T. Willis of the Captain of the Ports Office said the vessel was making the southward turn at the mouth of the Trout River when it eased onto a sandbar.

“The Sao Paolo was drawing 23 feet, 10 inches when she went aground at amidships,” he said. “The sandbar was 17 feet below the surface.”

Willis said the vision of the ship’s port pilot was greatly reduced by the storm.

Three tugboats attempted to free the vessel but were unsuccessful. Willis said the pilot decided to wait for the tide to rise before trying again. After an hour’s wait, the vessel dropped a bow anchor.

As the Sao Paolo hauled the anchor in, the combination of the bow swinging around and the efforts of the tugs freed the ship, which was undamaged and continued its voyage to the shipyard.

• Accreditation of Duval County’s high schools was far more important than most people realized, said Jacksonville University President Robert Spiro.

Addressing the Meninak Club at the Mayflower Hotel, Spiro said everything possible should be done to keep local schools accredited.

“Accreditation is a vital factor in the location of industry, the continuation of naval and other governmental installations, the continued residence of the wisest and most perceptive citizens of the community and, most important of all, the proper education of our precious youngsters so that they may lead the fullest and most useful lives,” he said.

• The “Downtowner” bus, which was slated to be taken off the road by Aug. 31, was given a new lease on life when the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce voted to change its decision to discontinue the service.

The bus was routed between the municipal parking lot along the Northbank and department and other retail stores Downtown.

Under the new plan, the route would be shortened and only one bus would shuttle shoppers instead of two as in the initial program.

The new route would take the bus from the parking lot north on Hogan Street, east on Church Street, south on Laura Street, east on Forsyth Street and then south on Newnan Street back to the parking lot.

Homer Brunkhorst, chairman of the council’s Bus Committee, said the decision to terminate the service “was met with dismay,” both from riders and from stores whose advertising supported the service.

The council also voted to implement another plan for a three-month trial period. Called the “ride and shop” service, shoppers coming into Downtown from the suburbs on buses operated by the Jacksonville Coach Co. would get a ticket when they boarded.

After having it validated at a participating Downtown retailer, their bus ride home would be free.

In other business, Jay Cason, chairman of the council’s Promotion and Development Committee, said council members were scheduled to meet city officials to present a proposal for holiday decorations at Hemming Park.

• Dreams of freedom for four escapees from a Clay County prison camp ended in Dothan, Ala., because a motel manager had a dream.

The escapees had been sought for four days after they fled a work detail near Doctors Inlet. Seven men had escaped after overpowering guards, taking their weapons and driving away in a prison truck.

Police acting on a dream by S.D. “Red” Thomas of Dothan, fired tear gas into one of Thomas’s cabins at the Kelly Springs Resort Motel and flushed out three of the armed fugitives. The fourth man was arrested at a nearby roadblock.

Thomas went to police and told them of having a dream that four of his guests were involved in several burglaries in the Dothan area.

Police surrounded the cabin where the men were staying and shouted for them to come out. When they refused, reinforcements were called in and gas masks were donned by police.

After one of the occupants ran outside with his hands in the air, four tear gas bombs were lobbed into the building and two other suspects emerged, coughing and gagging.

All three were jailed immediately.

A handgun was found in the cabin when it was searched and another was found on one of the men when he emerged.

A few hours later, two state troopers spotted a stolen car, radioed ahead for a roadblock and followed the vehicle. Officers stopped the vehicle and arrested the fourth fugitive. In the car police found a .22-caliber revolver and a German P-38 pistol.

Authorities charged the four men with burglarizing a car dealership, stealing an entire supply of narcotics from a medical clinic and stealing clothing from a Dothan store.

• An autopsy performed at Duval Medical Center determined a 47-year-old woman died because she ate too much watermelon.

The doctor who performed the autopsy said overeating as a cause of death was rare and the case was his first such determination after performing more than 1,500 autopsies.

The woman, who weighed more than 250 pounds, had a six-year history of shortness of breath and had to sleep in a sitting position because she could not breathe well while lying down.

The autopsy revealed a benign tumor so large it had elevated the woman’s diaphragm.

Combined with obesity, it caused her shortness of breath and in combination with overeating, led to her death, according to the physician.

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