Field of Science

A geologist riddle #1

A tentative riddle with an image I came across accidentally: a gentleman using his mobile phone?

Probably not - but then who is it and what is he doing and why?


  1. Some sort of early geophone? Great picture!

  2. Old geophone is what I was thinking, too. Looks like a wire across his face and another headphone in his left hand.

  3. It's an ear-trumpet, a low-tech hearing aid that was fairly common until the development of electrical hearing aids. You can see the wide end in front of his face.

  4. Same here. Kinda looks like a giant stethoscope.

  5. I just saw this photo in a book I picked up recently! I think he's in the Solfatara near Pozzuoli - I'll check and see if the caption is more enlightening.

  6. My sources say it's Frank Alvord Perret, an American volcanologist who worked on Vesuvius in the 1900s, Mount Pelee in 1929, and apparently a lot of other places. He was also a personal assistant of Thomas Edison, and used his skills from working in Edison's lab to design his own instruments - the bit I found says that "his favorite invention was a simple contact microphone - a slightly modified receiver from an ordinary telephone, mounted in an old Sterno can that was then rigged inside an empty gasoline can and buried six feet deep in the side of the volcano".

    The next page of the book (it's the Time Life "Volcano" volume of their Planet Earth series) says that the photo was taken near Pozzuoli in teh early 1900s. Maybe he's got his microphone hooked up there?

    He also shows up in an excellent online essay called "The Hero Of Vesuvius", by Tom Gidwitz. (Here's another version of the photo as well.

  7. Look at what was considered "field clothing" in the early 1900s. A suit and a fancy hat! I always laugh when I see old pictures of geologists wearing their "field suits and ties."

  8. excellent -riddle solved in less than a geological moment - I must post something about Perret and his field equipment - i was wondering the shoes he is wearing, considering the dirt and the lava rocks it must be hard and slippery with common shoes.
    However the impression, Perret was an excellent fiel-volcanologists and not afraid even by two pyroclastic flows....


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