The Oregonian, Portland, OR., July 1, 1945
The Northwest Magazine, page ___
This article included several photographs
NEW INDUSTRY BORN OF BUBBLING CO2
Gas Captured From Klickitat River Find Multiple War Uses in Boats, Bombers, Life Belts, Blood Bottles
By H. Gardner Peterson, Vancouver, Washington Writer
Vast expanses of land and water separate the war zone
of the south Pacific from Klickitat, Washington. Yet, in this small community,
war-conscious employes of the Gas-Ice corporation are daily snatching from
death gallant members of our fighting forces. For theirs is the product -
carbon dioxide -- which instantaneously and automatically inflates life rafts,
life belts, pontoons, flotation bags and rubber boats, keeping men and planes
afloat when forced into the water. The same product, the well-known solid
dry ice, comes packed with your carton of ice cream, keeping that in a perfect
state of refrigeration.
Cradled on the bed of the turbulent Klickitat river, with rounded mountainous sidewalls rising abruptly from either bank, Klickitat's dry ice plant is the site of one of the most fertile sources of supply for natural carbon dioxide, with myriad mineral springs pouring forth their gassy fluids -- a vital contribution to the war effort. Discovered 65 years ago, it was not, however, until 1932 the intrinsic value of the wells was recognized, and their development undertaken accordingly. Today they are producing thousands of cubic feet of carbon dioxide for our fighting forces.
Situated in a volcanic area, they are within close proximity to two of the larger peaks of the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Adams and Mount St. Helens. The springs presumably owe their existence to the boiling, seething uncooled masses in the bowels of the earth, which they traverse in their course to the earth's surface. Geologists assume that at a depth of possibly 50 to 100 miles the hot liquid masses, in the process of cooling, undergo a chemical change, generating the carbon dioxide. Under terrific pressure the gas seeks its way to the earth's surface through fissures and crevasses in the basalt. They are naturally carbonated with CO2 when they come from the earth. And the Klickitat thermae emit a gas, free from sulphurous odors, and 99.65 per cent pure. The advantage of this, obviously, is that the gas can be utilized as it comes from the springs, without further process or purification.
FIRST NOTED BY STAGE DRIVER
It was in the days when a stage-and-four was the popular
and only means of transportation in that part of the country that one of
the drivers, on a week end camping trip, discovered this springs. He was
Ed Phillips, one of four drivers of the stages operating from The Dalles,
Oregon, to Ellensburg, Washington. In the capacity of hostler and conductor,
he rated a contract wage of $60 a month and a 16-gallon keg of whiskey. He
is credited with being the first white men to excavate and exploit the springs.
Quite frequently Uncle Ed, as he is familiarly called by his friends, would drive with team and wagon from Goldendale to the present site of this springs on camping trips. He had noticed the water bubbling out of the ground in various places. He tasted it; it had a mineral taste. He noticed it was warm. That it effervesced. Taking a shovel he proceeded to dig out one of the springs. He had dug to a considerable depth when the water with a sudden gush flooded the hole, immersing him to the neck. It was, however, so delightfully warm that, already wet he remained to enjoy a refreshing bath. Thereafter the hole was freely patronized for the healthful mineral baths.
RATED VALUABLE AS HEALTH DRINK
But for the next half century the wells, undeveloped,
continued to pour forth their mineral wealth. Not until the world was engaged
in a second devastating conflict was the source of this great natural phenomenon
converted to its greatest use.
Bubbling from the ground in a steady flow at a temperature of approximately 80 degrees, the water itself is highly valuable as a health drink. It contains iron, magnesium, calcium, bicarbonate, potassium chloride, silica, sodium bicarbonate and other minerals, and, imparting sparkle and tang, the effervescent natural carbon dioxide. Recommended by physicians, it is especially helpful for patients suffering with nausea. And, as charged bottled mineral water the springs were utilized commercially. In 1921 a bottling works was established on the bank of the river.
Hygienic values of the mineral water had not been overlooked by the Indians of the village of Wahkiakus, not far from the springs. Bending willows into conical shaped structures with skin coverings, they erected crude sweat houses for their steam baths. Curling up in a half-circle, they poured the mineral water over heated stones rolled into the center of the hut, creating a hot steam. Chanting songs as they sweated, it became a combined soul and body purifying ritual. As a final balm in the health giving ceremony, they dashed from the hut into the frigid, glacier waters of the rushing Klickitat river.
Nor did the redskins admit any rivals in the practice of this ritual. There is, supposedly, but one record of a contender. A young white man inferred he could do anything an Indian could. And to prove it, retired to a sweat house for a demonstration. Seconds later a nuded apparition, his arms waving wildly, burst from the hut, river bent. A cupful of mineral water on the hot stones had prompted his record-breaking sprint.
On the 1200-acre site there are a number of springs, of varying capacities, running freely from the ground. Two, bubbling up in the river bed are covered with the river is high. The present supply is, however, obtained from three springs. Encased in concrete, they are air-tight, and have a combined flow of about 900 gallons per minute. The off-coming gas is transmitted by pipe to the gas plant.
Just as steam, which is water in vapor form, can be changed to liquid by the application of pressure or by lowering the temperature, so it is with gas. By three stages of compression, the first 20 pounds, the second 50 pounds and the third 500 pounds, the carbon dioxide becomes liquid. The liquid is then sprayed into a hydraulic press, where it rapidly expands and changes into a light, fluffy carbon dioxide snow. Placed under pressure of that 1400 pounds to the square inch, the snow is converted into an the extraordinarily cold and highly useful solid -- dry ice.
The true composition of carbon dioxide was first demonstrated by Antoine Lavosier in 1775. He called it gas sylvester (wild, savage), because it broke to pieces any enclosed container in which it was confined. Today, because of this terrific expansion, CO2 is serving, in combat areas, one of the greatest of all war purposes -- the automatic inflation of all types of rubber life-saving apparatus. The steel containers in which C02 is stored are inspected at regular intervals, and have a tested capacity of 3360 pounds to the square inch. Lavosier, in his experiments, noticed the gas occurred in the combustion of charcoal, and that it was produced in that fragmentation of grapes. He believed it was responsible for the sparkle in wines, and that it was also present in caves and mines. But not until about 1900 did carbon dioxide start to gain commercial momentum. In 1906 the United States was producing 15,000 tons yearly. Today it is one of the most versatile and widely used commodities known to science.
Made Into Blocks Of 70 Pounds Each
That the development of the properties of carbon monoxide
should provide such a valuable asset to our fighting forces is further proof
of the tremendous strides made in the field of chemistry the past few years.
Solid carbon monoxide as a refrigerant makes possible the shipment, to our
armed forces in different parts of the country, of all types of foods, fruits,
vegetables and meats, with a minimum of loss. With a temperature of -110
F., it is 142 degrees colder than water ice, providing a clean, dry, compact
refrigeration. Shipped from the plant in 70-pound blocks, wrapped in newsprint,
and encased in cardboard cartons, it provides perfect refrigeration with
the elimination of drains and corrosion so characteristic of water ice.
Besides the gas procured from natural wells, carbon monoxide is manufactured commercially by various methods, the most common being that of burning limestone and coke. This method is perhaps preferred because of the ease with which the purity of the ingredients can be controlled.
Apart from its war uses, and because of its versatility, there are perhaps few industries that are not using carbon dioxide in some form - in the manufacture of carbonated beverages, in canneries, in the milk and butter industry, in the manufacture of white lead and aspirin, the baking industry, in the manufacture of synthetic resin, as an anesthetic, and many other uses. An odorless, colorless gas, it might even be considered harmless were suffocation not possible because of the exclusion of oxygen.
Turn Into Gas Under Pressure
Hermetically sealed in steel cylinders, solid carbon
dioxide, or dry ice, turns into a gas and builds up pressure. Released, the
gas expands in the amazing ratio of 450 to 1. In fact, the dimension of this
cigar-shaped cartridge used in the inflation of the Mae West type of life
belt is two inches in length by three-fourths of an inch in diameter.
Self-inflating, its use on life rafts, pontoons, life belts and other types
of life-saving apparatus has been responsible for saving the lives of hundreds
of men in combat zones.
Equally spectacular and effective has been its use in the field of aviation. Gasoline vapor, for years man's skull and cross-bones, is at last being brought under control. Lurking in corners and crannies for the accidental spark to set off, these explosions have been reduced to a minimum by the use of carbon dioxide. Heavier than air, with a specific gravity of 1.53, and released under terrific pressure, it penetrates the remotest corner. In closely sealed airplanes, where an accumulation of gas or a leaky gas line is about as safe as a time bomb, C02 has done some of its best work. The release of a small amount of carbon dioxide renders the gas-vapor enemy harmless.
And by the ingenious idea of filling empty, vapor-filled gas tanks with the C02, this highly explosive, dangerous enemy has been reduced to the status of a dry water bucket. Stories of the stray bullet that struck an empty gas tank, reducing to charred, twisted metal a powerful plane, are now history with C02 taking another bow.
As a fire extinguisher in enclosed areas, C02 rates second to none. Piped around the motor and to the different parts of the plane, its release is controlled from the cockpit. A fire can be extinguished easily and safely by the release of small amounts of the gas. Around airports and hangers, cylinders of the gas are mounted on wheeled conveyances for instant use wherever a fire may occur, a cracked-airplane, backfire from an airplane motor, or an oil or gas fire. In for to five seconds after the release of the gas, the fire is under control.
Of no less importance to our fighting forces has been the use of carbon dioxide as a fire extinguisher on all types of modern war craft, battleships, destroyers, aircraft carriers, submarines, patrol boats. And of unestimable value has been its use on oil tankers carrying vital supplies, were a stubborn blaze quickly develops into a flaming inferno.
Complete C02 fire extinguishing systems are in use. Installed in different parts of the ship, the exact location of the blaze may be determined. Without exposure to flame or smoke, the officer in charge can instantly extinguished a blaze that could result in complete destruction of the ship. A room containing 17 percent of the gas will not sustain combustion. In an enclosed area, such as the hold of a ship, the gas penetrates to the farthest corner, and once the flame is extinguished it does not flare up again.
In war plants where heavily charged wires and electrical equipment are used, carbon dioxide as a nonconductor of electricity has again been an invaluable contribution in dollars and lives. Water coming in contact with high voltage wires has in times past taken a high toll in lives and property.
Another unique use for carbon dioxide has been discovered in the construction of aircraft. Aluminum rivets, heat treated, and then submerged in a chest of dry ice, become soft and workable, and are easily inserted in the tail and wing assemblies of planes. The rivets become hard when their return to atmospheric temperature and tion.
In a new and improved type of gas mask C02 is credited with making still another worthy contribution to the war effort. And when the war is over, and the country once more launched on a program of development, with science blazing the trail of new ideas, carbon dioxide as an extinguisher of enemies and a preserver of friends will doubtless be somewhere near the top of the list.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer