In the 50’s and 60’s John T. Frye, W9EGV / Popular Electronics published a series of fiction stories called “The Carl and Jerry stories” – In each story the pair acquired new skills, got their ham radio licenses and used their knowledge of electronics to get out of a jam or solve a mystery – there isn’t a complete collection of all the stories that I know of, but there are some scans / text online (if you have more please let me know)…
In this installment, Carl & Jerry help Bill Herber, the game warden make a “River Sniffer” to figure out who has been dumping toxic chemicals in the river and killing the fish.
“Two large bass were threshing about on the surface, obviously in their dying throes. Even as the boys watched, the splendid fish turned belly-up and floated quietly downstream; and, looking more closely, Carl and Jerry saw that the two were accompanied by other dead and dying fish of various sizes.
The throbbing of an outboard motor was heard downriver, and an aluminum boat carrying a young man dressed in a game warden’s uniform came in sight around a bend in the stream. When he saw the boys, he ran the bow of the boat up on the bank, cut the motor, and stepped out.
“That’s a mighty sorry sight,” he remarked, motioning toward the floating fish. “I’d certainly like to catch whoever keeps dumping that fish-killing stuff into the river.”
“You mean it has happened before?” Carl queried.
…look at those fish on top of the water!
“About once a week all spring, but not always on the same day or night. When someone calls in and reports dead fish, I get right on it; but I never know how far the fish float after dying. However, this is the farthest upstream I’ve found them, and some of those fish are still wiggling. This time, at least, the stuff must have entered the river from this bank and not too far upstream; but I’ve covered every foot of the river for five miles in either direction without finding a single likely source of pollution. If only I had some way of knowing just as soon as the stuff hit the river -even before the fish began to die–I’d stand a chance of tracing it. At least I could collect a strong enough sample for accurate analysis before the polluting substance was too greatly diluted.”
You mean you need some kind of a robot to sample the river water continuously and give some sort of alarm when an unusual amount of destructive chemical floats past it ?”
“Exactly, but I guess there’s no such gadget.”
“Don’t make book on it. I have an idea: if you’ll take that glass jug lying in the weeds across to the other side of the river and fill it, my friend here and I will try to build such a robot for you. Electronics is our field. I can’t promise anything, but you can give us your telephone number and we’ll call you if we come up with something.””
Read the exciting build and conclusion! Popular Electronics JULY 1962, River Sniffer – Link.