THE WATER DIVINER BAIGORRI VELAR
BY HÉCTOR BENEDETTI
Argentina was the nation of many inventions used around the
world, although —as it occurs with the majority of great ideas once put in practice—daily use took care of reducing their impact. The ballpoint
pen, commercial radio telephones, buses, floor dryers, the white cane for blind people, tango, blood transfusions, clandestine wagering, scrambled eggs Gramajo, using finger prints as identification tools, and shell-embellished gourds, were all Argentine inventions at some point considered sensational; nowadays they are so routine that they do not cause amazement to anyone. Others have already passed directly into oblivion like phone correspondence and penguins to serve wine; they were also popular and had Argentina as their mother nation, but they are no longer used. Among those that caused enormous initial astonishment and were subsequently completely forgotten another Argentine invention can be mentioned, maybe the strangest one of all: the machine to make rain by engineer Baigorri Velar.
CONNECTING CAUSES AND EFFECTS
There is a film with Burt Lancaster that tells the story of a certain scoundrel that went from field to field in periods of drought exhibiting eccentric devices and offering rain in exchange for ten thousand dollars, until by pure
coincidence a frightening squall is unleashed and an unexpected catastrophe ensues. Well: the invention of Juan Baigorri Velar, Argentine engineer graduate from the University of Milan, was something else…
This neighbor of Villa Luro was an expert in the operation and interpretation of electromagnetic energy measuring devices. With them he discovered the "Mesón de Hierro"", a ferrous meteorite fallen centuries ago in Chaco; but his specialty consisted in finding subterranean currents of water. Also he was linked with the oil industry, working together with General Mosconi himself. By 1938 (the year of his ascent to fame) he was a respected professional with very well deserved prestige. For some time, the engineer had been noticing that when he turned on his equipment the sky turned gray, and even threatened to rain. Could there be some relationship between these two events?
CUMULUS NIMBUSES WERE FORMED
He found it hard to believe, but each time it became more evident: once he turned on the detector it got cloudy. The moment arrived in which he had no more doubts: His instruments were the cause! For some reason, they "attracted" downpours. He investigated the matter in depth and ended up building the golden dream of any farmer: a machine that caused rain at will.
This device had two circuits, A and B, capable of generating both those weak drizzles that get the people of Buenos Aires dirty, as well as the large south eastern storms, also typical of the city. Its general aspect was that of a common radiotelephone device, with two antennae at the top. All descriptions stop at this point, since nobody else ever saw its interior installation. The thing is that the engineer could verifiably make rain. He traveled to fields where the soil was quartered because of the drought; his device brought them water from the sky.
Santiago del Estero, the outskirts of Carhué, Caucete and other thirsty places tested with success his rainy mechanisms. He even managed to get a railroad company interested and it subsidized him. In the meantime, Mr. Alfredo G. Galmarini, director of Meteorology, attacked him saying that he was a conman, a charlatan that lived of people's gullibility. Tired of so much badmouthing, Baigorri Velar launched a challenge that had the population in suspense: he assured that on January 3, 1939 there would be a rainfall manufactured by himself. He even allowed himself the joke of sending an umbrella as a gift to his rival.
When the day arrived, Galmarini contemplated the clear sky and sighed. However, as the hours passed, a strong convection formed, followed by atmospheric instability and an imposing cloud in the shape of an anvil, and finally the storm was unleashed. The machine had succeeded.
THE FORECAST FOR TONIGHT
Young and old went into the streets singing
"Let it rain, let it rain
Baigorri is in the cave;
he plugs in the machine
and it rains all the time…
"This tune was arranged with a two by four beat, and some band of those times is remembered playing it with a bandoneon. For lack of a renowned composer, it was the people that adapted the melody as a tango. Brief and humble, certainly; but tango nevertheless. That is why Baigorri Velar is included in this series. With time, the prodigy began to lose press. World War Two dramatically occupied the headlines. The machine became news once more, when the United States offered to buy it; the engineer refused to sell, but he no longer received the same attention as before. Baigorri Velar passed away in 1972, and his invention disappeared mysteriously. At any rate, for thirty years nobody had spoken about him.