On April 9, 2012 Fred (Fritz) Miller returned to Grand Turk just 2 months shy of his original landing 60 years ago July 7, 1952. This time he came with his beautiful bride, Phyllis and they were bearing wonderful gifts to add to the museum’s archival history of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
US Air Force Staff Sargent Frederick Miller was part of the Inter-American Geodetic Survey team was given the daunting task of mapping an entire continent. It became apparent during World War II bombing expeditions that adequate maps for most parts of the world did not exist. With the advent of travel by air day and night, it was of great importance to know where the mountains are! So the United States in collaboration with many other countries began the biggest geodetic and mapping programs ever undertaken.
Fred was stationed in North Caicos installing the survey station named Repay 23. Living conditions were definitely not 5 star. He lived in a tent, bathed in the sea, traveled by foot or on a sway backed horse and depended on the arrival of an amphibious aircraft for food supplies. He made friends with a young man named Robert who provided him with fresh conch and fish. The best part of his 3 month stay.
The gifts to the museum include a hand drawn chart of Secondary Controlled Photography and locations of Control Point Photography prepared by the First Computations Technical Squadron on January 25, 1952, photographs of the survey site and surrounding area as well as local people, Fred’s daily log of the highs and lows of life on an isolated island (we now call it Fred’s Blog), a copy of an article in the March, 1956 issue of National Geographic entitled Men Who Measure the Earth which features Fred and an in depth explanation of the survey project, and last but not least a hand-woven grass mat by Emiy A. Robinson.
She wove her name into the mat along with the inscription Whitby North Caicos. So the mat melds the technical and social history of the Turks & Caicos Islands.
We all enjoyed meeting Fred and Phyllis a lively and friendly couple. We can’t thank them enough for sharing this part of our history that would have been lost if not for their effort to bring these gifts to our museum. Most of all thanks for putting us on the map–literally!