Ben Oostdam story # 21

LIBERIA

AND MORE SERENDIPITOUS COINCIDENCES


Spring, 1971 was a busy time. Although I had a reduced teaching load at Millersville State College, I was nominally on my full-time residence graduate studies year at University of Delaware working on my Ph.D. in Geology. But most of my time by far was spent as President/Executive Director of The Marine Science Consortium.
The Wednesdays were strangest, and I took to referring to them as my "JORDAN' days: In the morning, I would put on a Jordan shirt and tie, drive to Newark for a class with my advisor, Dr. Robert Jordan, then have lunch with my S.A. friend Dr. Jordaan from the Ocean Engineering Dept., and around 3 p.m. I'd race back to Millersville to attend the weekly Earth Sciences Department's meeting chaired by Dr. William Jordan.
One day, Bob Jordan said he'd had a mysterious call from someone asking him to meet at Baltimore Airport about some harbor job in Port Harper, Liberia. The man said they had met earlier and that he wanted Jordan to come over for a few days as a consultant. He was now on his way from Korea to Liberia and hoped to settle the matter at the airport. Bob's denial that they knew it each other was shrugged off as false modesty, and Bob had countered that he had a graduate student who might be interested. So I ended up going to the airport, meeting the man who started with a $ 500 project which we escalated to $ 5,000, and it had to be done fast. This was Bill Coffin of Lyon Associates.
I agreed to spend two weeks in Port Harper and one week in Holland and to submit a report by the end of July. The only instrument he could provide was a portable fathometer, which I said we could also use for recording waves so we could use the data for wave-refraction diagrams; I would also procure some simple pipe dredge to take bottom samples on which we would perform grainsize analyses at the Consortium in early summer.
Anyhow, the riddle of his relation to Jordan was solved some months later. Apparently, he had asked the UDEL telephone operator to connect him with Dr. Jordan, while he really wanted and knew (about) Dr. Jordaan. Since I knew both of them and neither could have done the job, I had no bad feelings about this "deception" at all. On the contrary, we did a good piece of work, with the assistance of two graduate students, including Robert Swift who did the wave-refraction diagrams. Thanks to the help of Prof. Dr. Groen at Bilthoven, Head of the Netherlands Meteorologic Service and author of a good text on Sea Waves, the week in Holland produced more meteo and hydrographic data on Liberia than I could have collected in the country itself in that short a time
There's a tail end to this story of coincidences. In December, 1979, I made plans with my graduate Kuwaiti student Abdul Rahman Al Muhanna to go to Trinidad for Easter break. However, returning from my visit to Holland in January, 1980, I found on getting off the plane that my right leg had swollen up to completely fill up my pantleg ....I made it home by limousine, but the next day when I went to the Doctor he told me not to move and got me an ambulance to hospital with a severe case of phlebitis. That put an end to the Easter Trinidad visit, but lo and behold, some earlier footwork at KISR resulted in an offer from Dr. Larry Neuman(neumanl@mail.uww.edu) of UNDP to do a one year term as Marine Geology Expert at IMA, Chagaramas, starting in June, 1980....
Shortly after that offer, I also received an invitation to come to work at Lyon Associated in Korea, to replace a man who was taking a year's leave. Of course, I sent my regrets, and my question "why me?" was answered when I arrived in Port of Spain and met the other UN team members: