Articles

The Canada Douglas Kendall sees from the sky

Swirling shapes, weird textures, severe geometric patterns— this is how his air-borne cameras see this sprawling land. His photographic jigsaws tell us where our opportunities lie. Here's how a top aerial surveyor does it

McKenzie Porter August 3 1957
Articles

The Canada Douglas Kendall sees from the sky

Swirling shapes, weird textures, severe geometric patterns— this is how his air-borne cameras see this sprawling land. His photographic jigsaws tell us where our opportunities lie. Here's how a top aerial surveyor does it

McKenzie Porter August 3 1957

The Canada Douglas Kendall sees from the sky

Swirling shapes, weird textures, severe geometric patterns— this is how his air-borne cameras see this sprawling land. His photographic jigsaws tell us where our opportunities lie. Here's how a top aerial surveyor does it

McKenzie Porter

Douglas N. Kendall, a dark, slight, forty-threeyear-old English immigrant to Canada, spent most of the last war peering through microscopes at aerial photographs of enemy territory. He saw much more than met the ordinary eye. The unit he commanded provided the Allied chiefs of staff with eighty percent of their intelligence on German strategic industries and military movements. In the course of his duties Kendall equipped himself for a lucrative postwar career. By applying to peaceful enterprises the techniques he learned in war, he has built up in Toronto, over the past eleven years, the biggest aerial survey company in the world.

According to a wartime comrade, Kendall w'as “the most untidy officer on parade" during his unit's occasional parades. But in spite of this unmilitary bearing, and his relatively low' RAF rank of w'ing commander, he was consulted frequently by Winston Churchill and invited to several crucial meetings of the imperial cabinet.

During the war successive pictures taken by RCAF. RAF and USAF aircraft permitted Kendall's secret organization—-the Allied Central Photo-Interpretation Unit—literally to watch the Germans building factories, fortifications and submarines, and shifting troops from one defense area to another.

From the number of coke ovens going into a steel plant, or from the floor area of an aircraft engine shop, Kendall could estimate that establishment's projected production. If Kendall received pictures of a German freight train he could tell from the type and number of its cars, and from the track it was using, what it was carrying, w'hence it came, and where it was going. The class of army vehicles photographed on enemy highways revealed to him the identities of German divisions on the move. Bubble trails shown in photographs taken over the sea betrayed the course of many enemy submarines.

Through adapting these deductive principles to the needs of science, industry and agriculture Kendall has become the boss of Hunting Associates Ltd., a Toronto-based holding company that controls a dozen subsidiaries in North and South America, employs more than nine hundred aviators, technicians and cartographers, and grosses about twelve million dollars a year. The company makes its money by taking air photos of land masses extending from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and by evaluating the topographical features in terms of natural resources.

Our landscape assumes a new, often abstract look from the sky, as these photos show. They are the work of Spartan Air Services, Douglas Kendall's top rival

Canada's widely varied and richly textured vastnesses—as seen in the photographs on these pages—are particularly well suited to the type of large-scale aerial probing offered by Kendall and his competitors, the largest of which is Spartan Air Services Ltd., with headquarters in Ottawa. Spartan has already air-mapped more than a million and a half square miles of Canada on assignment for the federal government. It has also swept its cameras and survey instruments over great stretches of the country for private industry and sent its planes on jobs into such distant spots as Colombia. India, Mexico and Malaya. Recently it w'as awarded a contract in Kenya.

Kendall, also, serves a wide variety of cus-

tomers. ranging from national governments to individual home builders, and his fees run from three million dollars to fifty. His aircrews provide geologists, foresters, agronomists and other experts with seven-league boots. Equipped with cameras and electronic instruments their aircraft record not only the contours and surface features of the ground, but the riches that are hidden deep in the earth. They explore in weeks regions that once took years to survey on foot.

The aerial photographs are stuck together into mosaics covering up to a thousand square feet of Ifoor in Kendall’s modern single-story headquarters on Toronto’s industrial O’Connor Drive. Bridges built over the mosaics allow an expert to scan miles of territory, as if he were the King of Brobdingnag gazing down on Lilliput.

From color mosaics foresters and agronomists can enumerate in any given region the different species of trees and ascertain the constituents of different soils. From related studies of drainage conditions, the flow' of streams and the type of flora, they can determine how best that land might be made to yield more lumber, pasture or food.

Black-and-white mosaics give construction engineers a rapid guide to suitable sites for dams, harbors, bridges, airstrips and factories, and to suitable routes for railroads, highways, pipelines, telephone w'ires and power-transmission pylons.

Lettered into some mosaics is information derived from such air-borne electronic instruments as the scintillometer and the magnetometer. These instruments respond to uranium, iron, copper, lead. zinc, nickel and many other minerals. While they have not eliminated entirely the need for geological prospecting on the ground, they have cut out months of footslogging by giving a better indication of where it might be profitable to drill.

So accurate is the scale of the mosaics that it

is possible to reduce them and to trace from the reductions exact contour maps. Tracings are then printed for handy use in the field. Gradually this form of mapping is superseding the laborious ground-survey work on which conventional cartographers depend.

Since 1946. when he set up shop in a wartime cafeteria at Toronto's Downsview Airport, with three old wartime training aircraft, one desk and half a dozen United Kingdom and Canadian veterans of the Photo-Interpretation Unit, Kendall has kept pace with a snowballing business.

For the federal and provincial governments of Canada, and for a wide variety of commercial firms, Kendall has mapped about one third of this country’s area. His first job—a survey of Ontario’s forests—grossed more than a million dollars. Proportionate amounts have been earned from a contour mapping

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Continued from page 23

In Flying Fortresses to ’copters he spies on seals, counts logs and air-maps half of Canada

of Alberta and a mineral mapping of New Brunswick. Quebec and Labrador.

As a Colombo Plan gift from the Canadian government, Kendall's aircrews have photographed the whole of West Pakistan and Ceylon and his technicians have overprinted the resulting maps with assessments of untapped wealth, ranging from promising fruit-growing areas in uncleared jungles to likely locations for hydroelectric dams.

Kendall has carried out similar work for Australian and Dutch New Guinea oil companies. His aircrews are currently mapping for the Canadian government the northern half of Baffin Island, in the Arctic, and for the British government the region of Graham Land on the southern shores of the Antarctic continent.

At the same time Kendall is continuing Operation Overthrust, the biggest airborne geological survey ever undertaken. It was planned last fall and operations will not be completed until sometime in 1958. On behalf of a group of Canadian. British and American mining companies, four hundred thousand square miles of the Precambrian Shield, extending from Labrador to Manitoba, and deep into the United States, will be surveyed by Kendall's aircrews.. The entire operation will cost about three and a half million dollars and provide an inventory of all mineral resources within the area, including such lesser-known metals as lithium, columbine, titanium and chromite.

Two years ago, for the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, his aircraft photographed the seals on the ice Hoes off the Maritimes and Newfoundland, and estimated their number at three million. This figure, plus valuable zoological data, was handed over to the Canadian and Norwegian sealing industries, which every year produce, from the amphibious mammals, two and a half million

dollars’ worth of fur. leather and oil.

Once Kendall sent up a light aircraft to photograph a pile of logs outside a pulping mill. The pulp company wanted to know how many logs were there. From the dimensions of the cone and the average size of the logs Kendall's mathematicians estimated the number to within a few dozen.

Many builders hire Kendall to survey land they are planning to develop. The contours and information about the soil help them to divide the land into suitable lots and to plan efficient layouts of streets, sewers, power lines and water pipes.

Big though most of his jobs are. Kendall rarely turns down a small one. Typical of his fifty-dollar jobs was an interpretation of an existing air photograph, which enabled the client to decide on the best spot for a summer cottage.

Kendall's hundred-odd aircrew fly some twenty aircraft, ranging from converted wartime Flying Fortresses. Hudson medium bombers and Canso coastal reconnaissance amphibians to modern four-seater Cessna 170s and five-seater Bristol Sycamore helicopters.

Their work is exacting. Aircrew's prospecting for sulphide ores such as copper fly Cansos back and forth over the area under investigation at precisely five hundred feet. They trail under the aircraft, at the end of a five-hundred-foot cable, an electro - magnetometer, which looks like a bomb and has a nasty habit of snagging trees. The pilots have to make their aircraft rise and fall according to the ups and down of the land below, a requirement imposing great stress on the eyes and nerves, especially in rough weather and over hilly country. If anything went wrong with an aircraft at this low altitude it would almost certainly be fatal to the crew.

When mapping, the pilots fly Hudsons

and Flying Fortresses at heights of twenty and thirty thousand feet respectively, operating for hours on end in oxygen masks. For accurate scale maps they have to keep the aircraft to within fifty feet of the specified altitude. That demands such exhausting concentration that pilots and co-pilots spell one another at half-hour intervals.

But in general the aircrews are a carefree lot. They usually manage, flying about the world from one job to another, to have “engine trouble” in bright spots like Miami, the Azores, London, Paris or Cairo. Celebrating an overnight stay in Rome, recently, one crew found themselves sitting in a night club at the next table to Farouk, the ex-king of Egypt. A navigator began to sing softly a popular off-color wartime ditty about the adipose monarch. To the crew's mortification Farouk joined in the chorus and bought drinks all around.

Sometimes aircrews are away from home for months and Kendall's senior executives are used to mollifying over the telephone the more anxious of their lonely wives. Kendall has instituted a company policy of footing the expenses of a reunion, in any part of the world, of couples who have been separated for more than two hundred and forty days. As a result many aircrew wives have enjoyed free holidays with their husbands in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Hatless and rumpled, Kendall himself (lies all over the world to keep tabs on the progress of various surveys. Once, at Deception Island, his Antarctic base, he dined off shrimps that had been left by the receding tide in a volcanic crater on the beach, and conveniently boiled by natural heat. He says they were “delicious.”

It was at this station that one of Kendall’s aircrews sheltered for three months a Latin-American waiter who had stowed away on their supply ship in Montevideo. The man was in an acute and continual state of shock, in the snowy wilderness, because he’d hidden himself aboard believing the ship was sailing for New York, where he’d been promised a job in a night club.

Kendall’s aircraft are not welcome everywhere. In Pakistan, an air cameraman gazed down one day and said, “Hi, fellas! Look at all those guys flashing mirrors at us.” The pilot looked down and saw a tribe of Pathans. Then he glanced along his wings and noticed that they were riddled with holes. “Mirrors be damned!” he said. “They're firing at us.”

Nor are rifle bullets the only weapons that have been used against Kendall’s fleet. Flying over a South American jungle one crew went low to inspect a native village. Their curiosity was rewarded by a hail of upthrown spears.

Sometimes aircrews make unexpected finds. In Venezuela one crew discovered a mass of overgrown masonry deep in an unexplored jungle. Much to the delight of Venezuelan archeologists it turned out to be the remains of an ancient civilization.

Kendall's men have also rubbed shoulders with some uncommon epicures. At its Dutch New Guinea base one crew was supplied with labor from a nearby native jail. When the pilot asked what crime the prisoners had committed he was told proudly by a Dutch colonial official: “Their crime was purely technical. This territory, you must understand, is coveted by the republic of Indonesia. Recently Indonesia landed fifteen agitators here to provoke our natives into an anti-colonial revolt. But our natives are very loyal. Instead of obeying the agitators they killed and ate them . . . with HP Sauce.”

In spite of the hazards of air survey Kendall has lost only two men. Both

were helicopter pilots, one of whom was killed in British Columbia, the other in Labrador. Kendall ruefully accepts responsibility for one further fatality.

As a good turn to the Dutch colonial authorities in New Guinea one of his crews consented to drop a padded bale, containing three hundred and fifty pounds of canned food, to a detachment of troops stationed in a remote jungle village.

The aircraft circled the village in preparation for the drop and the crew saw Dutch troops pushing back excited natives into a ring around the clearing. When it seemed safe, the navigator pushed the bale overboard.

Just as he was congratulating himself on his “bombing” accuracy he saw, to his horror, a native run out from the crowd into the centre of the clearing and prepare to catch the bale. The catch was successful. But the native didn’t live to tell the tale.

Kendall’s life has been so colorful that such a freakish incident seems unremark-

able. Born in Portugal where his English parents were in the shipping business, he was educated at Ampleforth, one of England’s outstanding Roman Catholic boarding schools. He studied mathematics for two years at Oxford but left without graduating because he considered that the Depression of the Thirties was already laying too great a strain on his father's pocket.

A job came his way in the Johannesburg office of an air-survey company that worked for South African governments and for diamond and mining companies. When he flew home to join the RAF at the outbreak of the war this experience led to a commission in the Allied Central Photo-Interpretation Unit.

"The only people who really knew anything about air-photo interpretation in those days.” he says, “were the French. They had photographed every inch of Germany and knew the country's war potential like the palms of their hands.”

Kendall was taking a course at a Paris photo-interpretation school when France fell. With four comrades he squashed into a two-seater trainer aircraft and escaped to England.

Until the U. S. entered the war, he was chief of PIU. Afterward he was joint chief with an American officer of the same rank. Among his WAAF staff was Sarah Churchill, daughter of the prime minister. The unit’s best feat was the detection of the V-l and V-2 weapons twelve months before the first was fired.

A WAAF officer named Constance

Babington-Smith spotted a V-2 in an air picture. The weapon was being pushed by Germans under cover of some trees. Although the picture of the V-2 was no bagger than a grain of rice Kendall’s experts were able to estimate its speed, range, flight altitude and explosive power. Through later studies of production plants at Peenemunde, and about a thousand fiîing ramps and towers scattered about France, Kendall was able to predict, in a visit to Churchill, the approximate time the first V-bomb would explode in London.

Subsequent Allied bombing of Vweapon sites delayed German use of the bombs by six months. As a result Allied troops went ashore on D-day unharassed by V-bomb explosions. During the advance Montgomery plotted their progress on a topographical model of the beachhead. This model, supplied by Kendall's unit, showed every ditch, hummock, hedge, crossroads and building in precise scale. The advance was aided by Allied secret agents working with the French underground behind enemy lines. Most of these agents had been landed from aircraft and submarines at points chosen by Kendall.

After the war Kendall joined the Hunting Group of Companies, an En^'ish family firm with global interests in shipping, aviation and oil. He talked the chairman and vice-chairman, the brothers P. L. and G. L. Hunting, into entering the air-survey business. When the company won a tender to survey Ontario's forests in 1946 Kendall came out to Toronto to clinch the deal.

Originally. Kendall intended to return to England but the Ontario job brought in so much additional business that he had to stay on in Canada.

Within two years he moved from his temporary headquarters in a hangar to a new building in Toronto and began to divide up his activities between a variety of new companies.

Each company specializes in a particular branch of the work. One owns the air fleet, another overhauls the aircraft, a third limits itself to aeromagnetic surveys, a fourth to mapping. A New York subsidiary is preparing to enter the U. S. air-survey field in competition with sixteen American companies. There are two further associates in Venezuela und Brazil. Each is controlled by Hunting Associates Ltd., of Toronto, which in turn is controlled by the Hunting Group of Companies, in England.

Kendall is president of all associated companies in the Americas and vicepresident of the controlling Hunting Associates Ltd. He is answerable only to the brothers Hunting in England on matters of policy.

Kendall has built up Hunting Associates Ltd. with little capital help from the English parent group. As the profits have increased so has Kendall’s personal income.

He has moved his South African wife, Joan, and three teen-aged children, from a modest six-room suburban Toronto home to a four-hundred-and-fifty-acre farm in the Caledon Hills, fifty miles northwest of the city. He also keeps an apartment in town for use when he is delayed late at the office.

His job, he says, is to clinch at a high level most of the big government contracts and to engage in what he calls "creating business.” His best example of business creation occurred in Brazil where the government had been reluctant to allow a certain American company to prospect for oil. Kendall persuaded Brazil’s president, Juscelino de Oliveira, that it would be worthwhile to give the Ámeri/can company a break. Then he sold th^

American company an air survey of the territory in which it was interested.

He is a zealous worker. Once, in Venezuela, he joined an aircrew at a swimming pool, wearing trunks but carrying his characteristic black brief case. Between dips he worked on a complicated tender for an air survey.

Mrs. Kendall worries about his negligent dress habits. Recently when she was about to depart with him for an RCAF staff ball in Toronto she spotted a sixinch rip in the seat of his dress pants. She sewed it up as he stood abstractedly studying a paper of business statistics.

On another occasion Kendall was called upon to present a bouquet to his friend Sarah Churchill, who was making a personal appearance at the Odeon Theatre in Toronto. On the stage Miss Churchill looked radiant in a costly new gown. Mrs. Kendall covered her eyes as her husband walked onto the stage in an impressed suit and dusty black shoes.

Kendall is constantly paying large sums for new suits, of sober hue and conservative cut, and then getting caught out by his wife as he wears them to clean out the barn at his farm.

Here Kendall relaxes by raising a hundred head of Hereford beef cattle, riding horseback, skiing, and swimming in the private family pool. He is host at week ends to clients of many races. Once he entertained a mixed party of Hindus and Moslems without transgressing the dietary laws of either. Evenings often end up in a singsong with Mrs. Kendall playing the piano. Kendall playing the tin whistle, and guests and children making up the chorus.

How to sec through the ground

Week ends are often interrupted by long-distance business calls from the other side of the Atlantic or Pacific. Since Kendall is one of twenty-six subscribers on a party line the calls are a local sensation. Sometimes when reception is weak Kendall says patiently to the operator, “I’m afraid there are too many people listening in.” Whereupon there is a series of clicks as the party-liners graciously hang up.

Kendall’s ability to profit from a bird'seye view of the world is now widely recognized. He is often summoned to the United Nations as an expert on the possible use of air survey as a means of controlling clandestine atomic production. This system, he believes, may one day be put into practice. "You can’t hide much from modern air-survey equipment,” he says. “Even if an atomic production plant is built deep underground, disturbances of the earth's surface show up in photographic prints. Magnetometers and scintillometers pick up the underground machinery and uranium supplies. And of course railroad sidings, which are still an essential to a factory of any size, are a dead giveaway.”

His company has already demonstrated its ability to serve as an air-borne detective force.

A couple of years ago one of Kendall’s aircrews was surveying in a South American country for thorium, a mineral used in cigarette lighters and gas mantles. Technicians aboard the aircraft were intrigued one day by the violent fluctuations of their instruments in response to an unnaturally dense deposit of thorium. They reported this phenomenon to a nearby thorium mining company. On investigation it proved to be a hut, hidden deep in the bush, and chock-full of refined thorium. The thorium had been stolen and cached by the company’s chief engineer, who. shaking his fist at Kendall’s aircrew, was frog-marched off to jail. ★