Heritage Server > Story Bank > Miscellaneous > We Insured It...
From The Visiting Fireman News, Vol. 1, No. 24, page 8, December 4, 1967.

It looks like the world's largest doughnut. What it is is the makings of one of the world's largest telescopes, and it was recently transported with tender loving care some 1,800 miles from factory in Cleveland to finisher in Tucson.

Applying much of the TLC were Fireman's Fund American underwriters and engineers, for our companies participated heavily in the transportation insurance.

The jumbo doughnut is a huge (13 feet, two inches in diameter, two feet thick) fused quartz mirror blank, the largest such mirror ever produced in quartz. It will be used in a 158-inch reflecting telescope being built for the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson. At present, the 200-inch Hale telescope on Mt. Palomar in California is the only telescope larger.

The mirror was made by the Lamp Division of General Electric for the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, a group of ten universities which operates the Kitt Peak observatory.

Took Two Years

The mirror blank was two years in the making; it will take at least a year and a half more to grind and polish it.

At the Cleveland end, we insured the rig which transported the mirror from the GE plant to the railway station at Willoughby, just outside of Cleveland. The initial part of the move cost GE a wall of its plant, which had to be knocked out to get the rig in.

For the long train trip from Cleveland to Tucson, the mirror was covered by an All Risks Trip Transit policy. We were lead underwriter, writing 35 per cent of the $800,000 total. (Actually the mirror cost $1,150,000 to produce, but would cost less to replace since GE can reuse the molds it built especially for the job.)

The train covering the fragile if ponderous load followed a predetermined route, carefully scouted to make sure any bridges and tunnels along the way allowed plenty of overhead clearance. A meter attached to the car indicated the amount of vibration the load was taking. Too much vibration could mean a crack.

Taking no chances, movers at the Tucson end built a concrete replica of the mirror and made several dry runs, hoisting the load from train to truck.

Precautions Pay Off

All the precautions paid off. The mirror blank arrived safely and was transported safely, again under a cover written by Fireman's Fund American, to the observatory's facilities in Tucson where it will be ground and polished. We will continue to insure it until it is installed on Kitt Peak, 45 miles southwest of the city.

When the telescope is completed, it will rank among the largest in the world. Mirroring the heavens in the clear Arizona nights, it may enable us to add whole new chapters to our knowledge of the universe.

[Fireman's Fund Archives: 4-1-3-5-28; 1334]


©1998-99 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company. All rights reserved.