For the most part my father was extremely logical, even to a point where I felt his pragmatism was excessive. As a dreamy poet-to-be I often deemed logic a drag. But every now and then my father held views I found insane, and one such view was that he preferred sailboats to powerboats. I didn’t see the sense in being dependent on anything so fickle as the wind. When the wind wasn’t capsizing you it was leaving you becalmed. However his dislike of motorboats approached racism. Even when we were helplessly becalmed he would look down a sneering nose at a cabin cruiser puttering cheerfully past, and contemptuously mutter, “stinkpot.”
I had to admit he had a point, for when a boat passed upwind it really did stink. Also it made a racket, and spoiled the experience of being amidst all the sloshing and gurgling sounds of winds and waves. However I disliked all the ropes and knots involved with sailing, and especially all the jargon. It seemed silly to say “ready about” rather “get ready to turn”, and “now we’re turning” made far more sense than “hard to lee”, but my father insisted on my learning a whole new vocabulary. It didn’t seem fair, for school was suppose to be over for the summer, and I preferred fishing in my happy harbor to that harbor becoming a classroom, and I pouted when I should have been grateful my father was doting on me. I was eventually faced with a dilemma, for I loved the ocean, but wound up disliking both sailboats and stinkpots.
My solution to this dilemma was a row boat. It wasn’t a loud stinkpot, yet I could go straight upwind like a stinkpot. I rowed all over the place, and, being a boy, eventually discovered a rowboat was like a stinkpot in another way. I could run out of gas. This occurred when both wind and tide were against me, and I extracted myself from a few dilemmas my mother never heard about, for I knew how she fretted when my father and brothers bragged about their exploits aboard various small sailboats.
In the years since none of us drowned, and I have learned that even aboard stinkpots people have exploits. In fact danger seems to be the one thing which rowboats, sailboats and stinkpots have in common.
My mother could never understand why anyone would expose themselves to such danger when they could sit in the sun safely ashore, happily chain-smoking dangerous cigarettes and reading an Agatha Christie novel about people in danger. I thought to myself she was a hypocrite, but never recall attempting to explain to her what was so wonderful about going to sea. (She may have eventually learned, for her third marriage was with a career Navy man, and her ashes were eventually buried at sea.) But this is about my father.
As I now sit ashore by lakes far from the sea, an old man without the stamina to row I once had, I like to recall my father when I see a sailboat becalmed out on the water, going nowhere as people driving jet-skis rocket joyously past. I just know, if he was aboard such a becalmed boat (and could imagine the phenomenon of jet-skis), he’d be muttering, “stinkpot”.
I find myself wondering what he found so virtuous about being dependent upon something you couldn’t control: The fickle wind. Within the answer to that question is a sonnet:
. STINKPOT SONNET
Long ago men knew, when pirates seized a ship And raised its sails, the boat went nowhere Without the wind: Wind no pirate could grip With greedy hands. But now men do not care So much for wind, and weak minds fail to grasp Power still comes from beyond their control. Stalin saw it, when the stroke made him gasp With bulging eyes. Deep down in mankind’s soul Is knowledge our sails are our mortal lungs, And without wind in those lungs we go nowhere, Yet ignorance lifts ladders without rungs Towards their tops; fools cruise upstream unaware They’ll be in rapids when gas tanks empty. I shake my head. Such a fate doesn’t tempt me.
I am not of the Global Warming Skeptics who immediately mock all who sail arctic waters as being silly Alarmists aboard a “Ship Of Fools”. Why? For three reasons.
First, I was once young, hot-blooded and very foolish, and went to sea. The sea is a hard taskmaster, and has a way of jarring your mentality from foolishness to reality. I cannot say that what the sea does is to make you more “grounded”, for such speculation is groundless, as the sea is. The sea wakes you to way of being beyond the ken of bankers, for there can be no fences, no acres bounded by lines on a deed, nor any of the neat calculations made by the material-minded.
Therefore, when anyone one gets off their under-exercised posterior, and stops their armchair speculation and goes to sea, I intensely envy them. I know their eyes are about to be opened.
Second, one way to have your eyes opened is by on-the-scene reporters. This is why I bewailed the de-funding of the North Pole Camera and the wonderful “O-buoys”. They were the on-the-scene reporters which tended to counter “Fake News”. They were the “Free Press” the Founding Fathers sought to protect with the Bill Of Rights, for they produced pictures that tended to counter the “satellite data”. Not that the satellites lied, but the data they produced had to go through a filter called a “model”, and this had to be interpreted in a certain way to produce a “satellite map”, and then the media would focus in on certain parts of that map and exclaim the North Pole was melting, but the North Pole Camera was politically incorrect, and showed it wasn’t melting, by showing melt-water pools freezing over with ice.
What do you do, when on-the-scene reporters report data that differs from what politicians believe is true? In a healthy society you take the politicians to task. In an unhealthy society you get rid of the reporters.
Forgive me if I seem overly suspicious when I note that four years ago we had seven cameras floating on the ice, and now we have zero. But it doesn’t really matter, for now we have actual people up there. In some ways they are better than having cameras up there. No one cares much if cameras vanish, but if actual people are threatened, interest is heightened. Awkward questions get asked: How can sea-ice, which Al Gore suggested would be gone by 2014, be threatening lives?
Allow me to digress at this point, and counter an incorrect impression many have about the North Pole. They feel it was formerly rock-solid ice, and only now is there melting, and open water between shifting floes. History tells a different tale, which brings me to my third point.
If you look back into the mists of time you learn that, because whales tended to frequent the rich waters where sea-ice meets the open sea, and because whales could make a man rich, men have pushed their luck and sailed north to the sea-ice as far as we can look, using the paperwork of port officials who taxed the whaling ships when they arrived home. It may well be that sailors did things under the table, without reporting to government officials, but we have official records of where the “edge of the sea-ice” was right back to the 1500’s. We know there was open water on the west coast of Svalbard, because ships found it more economical to land there and process whale oil there, so that the master painters of the materialistic Netherlands could use their imagination to portray what was described by whalers in taverns.
I could go on. England did not become a world power because they sat back and speculated in armchairs. Back when they were nobodies, just an obscure island off the edge of Europe, they had sailors seeking the Northeast Passage over Scandinavia and Russia. But I will skip that sea-ice data from the 1500’s, beyond stating it exists.
Instead I wish to stress that, for literally hundreds of years, sailors in the arctic have known “open” water can close in like the jaws of a hyena and crush a ship. Not that it stopped them, for they had guts, but it was common knowledge. That is why Nansen designed the Fram to be an odd, round-bottomed tub. When the ice came crushing in the entire ship was lifted. (Building such a ship was an amazing display of fund-raising with no profit in sight.)
The USS Jeanette was not so lucky, and was crushed by sea-ice close to the New Siberian Islands in 1881. The crew was able to cross sea-ice to the New Siberian Islands, but had to cross open water to reach the Lena Delta, which gives us an idea of the sea-ice conditions in 1881.
Meanwhile crushed parts of the Jeanette moved east with sea-ice across the Pole to Fram Strait, and then down the east coast of Greenland, and were found WEST (!) of Cape Farewell on the southern tip of Greenland, in 1884. This shows us the ice was mobile back then, as it is today.
It also is what gave Nansen the idea he could lodge the Fram in sea-ice and simply drift with the highly mobile sea-ice to the Pole.
Why do I bring this up? It is to show what we already know, which certain Alarmists refuse to admit. To be blunt, they behave extremely indignant when you talk about stuff that happened 137 years ago. They you call you a “denier” for bringing up history, and therefore they cannot be students of history.
Therefore I tend to think that they would not be the best people advising you, if you were sailing north last spring. They might fail to mention how sea-ice can shift, and crush ships.
Therefore when a yacht does get crushed, and sinks, who is guilty? Is is not the people who called me, for stating what history teaches, a “denier”? Are they themselves not the true “deniers”, for failing to mention how sea-ice can shift, and crush ships? And instead entertaining a malarkey which states such worry is not to be heeded?
I have no desire to sit on a high horse, and judge Alarmists, though they have sat on high horses and judged me. Let God be the judge. And God speaks from the non-banker wisdom of the sea. The truth of the matter is this: If you mess with the sea, the sea messes with you.
But don’t get me wrong. I don’t scorn these two fellows who got their yacht sunk. I envy them. They dared leave their cozy couch of armchair speculation, and be real. They learned what the sea can teach, in a beautiful landscape:
And they took this beautiful ship to the eastern mouth of Bellot Strait, (which is a wonderful short-cut which past explorers didn’t know about, and which has made possible Northwest Passages which past explorers could not achieve) and there they learned what the sea teaches. In a matter of minutes they went from being two guys aboard a plush yacht to being two guys standing alone on sea-ice, praying like crazy others paid their taxes, and a helicopter might arrive to rescue them. And boy were they happy when, after hours and hours, they heard the sound of the approaching helicopter.
In like manner another politically-correct ship set sail full of teachers and students brimming with a liberal desire to document the demise of sea-ice in the Northwest Passage due to Global warming. All had a preconceived notion of what they were about to witness, aboard their mighty ship.
How embarrassing. This big ship apparently had to maneuver to avoid the very sea-ice they were suppose to be documenting declining, and ran aground. Students and teachers had to be rescued by helicopter.f
In other words, if you want to prove what you already know, stay at home. Sit at your computer. Never go to sea, for the sea will shatter your preconceptions.
Oddly, though this trip advertised they would transmit many pictures of their journey, there seems to be a strange absence of on-the-scene pictures of the grounding. Perhaps they fear lawsuits. But I find it annoying that despite having on-the-scene reporters we recieve no on-the-scene reports from Kugaaruk.
Information is power, and I can’t help but wonder if certain information is withheld because it fails to support “the narrative”. The teachers and students were not going to sea expecting to have their eyes opened, but rather to “further” knowledge they already had. They thought they already knew. But when information is disinformation, one is denying oneself the power information offers.
We have actually known since spring the sea-ice was thicker this summer. The information has been available. The Canadian Coast Guard recently texted:
“Good morning, Due to heavier than normal ice concentrations in the Canadian arctic waters north of 70 degrees, the Canadian Coast Guard, recommends that pleasure craft do not navigate in the Beaufort Sea, Barrow, Peel Sound, Franklin Strait and Prince Regent. CCG icebreakers cannot safely escort pleasure craft. Operators of pleasure craft considering a northwest passage should also consider the risk of having to winter in a safe haven in the Arctic, or in the case of an emergency, be evacuated from beset vessels. Safety of mariners is our primary concern.”
It was for this reason the Dogbark, a yacht attempting the Passage from the west, turned around to the east of Barrow and headed back. Information gave them power, and after scooting through Bering Strait they have had a cozy stay in Nome and now are heading south towards warmer waters.
It is sheer foolishness to suppress information, whether it be current or the history of the Jeanette in 1871. Yet we have seen the promotion of a narrative involving an “Arctic Death Spiral” long past its expiration date. It included the idea the sea-ice was formerly solid, extending from shore to shore in the arctic, when we already knew the Arctic Ocean has always been riven by leads. Even in the dead of winter, at temperatures far below zero, these frozen-over leads were thin enough for submarines to surface through in the 1950’s.
During the slushy summers areas of open water can become as large as small seas, far from where boats could reach, but were seen by the earliest Nimbus satellite pictures. The Nimbus picture below is from close to the sea-ice minimum, September 9, 1969, and shows a vast “hole” of open water, surrounded by sea-ice, north of Alaska.
To suppress such information is to create misinformation, and generates the narrative-supporting illusion that such sea-ice conditions are a new thing. However we do have three sailors navigating the ice and open waters seen in the above picture, 49 years later. Their description (translated) of conditions on an ice floe in a gale is hair raising:
Last night was very rough: in the late afternoon, our plate breaks in 2 in the swell despite being more than 3 miles from open water. Then the swell forces, the forecasts indicate a max towards 23 hours, the night will be long, it is gray, dark and wet … We take care as we can not to think too much about what is happening outside ; with Eric, we play a game of chess but we have trouble concentrating, the plates bump and move, it’s rather tense, we end up making quarters to monitor.
But then conditions improved:
At 2 o’clock, it finally calms down and, in the morning, we discover a chaos of ice all around us, all the ice is broken, crushed. We leave, there is still a little swell, it is not very comfortable in the middle of the ice then we navigate in open water for 5 hours and finally, we find the pack ice, first well broken then the plates become more in more beautiful. Under a beautiful sunset, it is difficult to stop and we are super happy to find the safety of the ice away from the open sea. Tonight, for the first time in a long time, we do not hear the water or the plates banging, we will sleep well!
The great thing about these on-the-scene reporters is that they do not filter the truth. When it’s thawing they report thawing, when it is freezing they report freezing. When it snowed in July they reported snow, when the above gale sucked Pacific air north they reported the rain. They have no preconceived narrative to cling to, and are immersed in the narrative called “present-tense reality”. They have their hands full dealing with the Truth the sea presents them with, hour by hour, and are having their eyes opened as only the sea can do.
We too are having our eyes opened by their reports, or should have our eyes opened if we have eyes to see with. For one thing, the “Death Spiral” is again debunked. Why? Because it is suppose to be an accelerating phenomenon; it is suppose to feed off itself; open water is suppose to absorb more sunshine making more open water. The death spiral is not allowed to go backwards. To have levels of sea-ice increase ruins the theory.
Instead of clinging to a failed narrative, and making somewhat absurd efforts to erase evidence that the narrative has failed, it would seem wiser to face the Truth, and cast about for a narrative that works better.
To seek a better narrative is in some ways to “fight city hall”, when the old narrative has involved considerable investments of money, power and prestige. Some say “you can’t fight city hall” and “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” and in the eyes of such people to be a Skeptic of the “Death Spiral” is foolishness, and even a sort of social suicide. But I’m an old man, and can’t be foolish by going to sea anymore. So this offers me a new way of going cruising for a bruising.
A better narrative? Well, perhaps the sea-ice comes and goes due to influences of the AMO and PDO. (Tap tip to Joseph D’Aleo.)
Perhaps the sea-ice shrinks when the AMO is warm, and, on the Pacific side, when the PDO is warm. And perhaps the sea-ice grows back when the AMO and PDO turn cold. And guess what? Both cycles have recently moved from warm to neutral.
In my last post I touched upon the state of enchantment brought on by the sea. Bankers likely deem it a form of mental illness, but I hold that Bankers are the true sickos. They cling to cold gold and call it “securities”, but there’s no way to keep death from knocking someday on your door, and then bankers will see just how secure they actually are. The bankers who make lots of other people insecure in their attempts to be “safe” themselves will then face a day of reckoning, like a sailor facing a storm at sea, and the form of enchantment they then experience will between them and God. But, for now, they can’t even imagine such a world, unshackled by deeds and mortgages, exists. But sailors can, and it draws them out to sea, where there are no fences; out over swells into situations that many would shake their heads at, seeing only discomfort.
One such adventurer is named Sebastien Roubiret, who has taken it into his head that it would be fun to sail over the North Pole, from Barrow, Alaska to Svalbard in the North Atlantic.
At some point Sebastien must have noticed that an iceboat that skims over frozen lakes is similar in shape to a water-skimming catamaran, for he has worked very hard creating a craft that does both.
He traversed the Northwest Passage in 2007, in a trimaran with no engine, which may have been the first time the Passage was made by sail alone. Then he attempted to cross the pole in 2011, an attempt aborted by various structural weakness, which he likely learned from.Then perhaps encouraged by the low-ice year of 2012, he and a friend named Vincent attempted to cross the Pole in 2013, and swiftly learned sea-ice isn’t flat.
There often are pressure ridges parallel to the coast of Alaska, formed by the ice crushing against that coast. Sometimes (like this year) they remain right against the coast, but other years they can be blown many miles north, while retaining their structure. In either case they present formidable obstacles, and were described by one man skiing to the Pole as “crazy ice.” Once past these mini-mountain-ranges the ice tends to be flatter, but Sebastian had to battle to get north, often making more progress due to the eastward-drifting Beaufort Gyre than northwards, due to their own efforts.
Whatever you may say about the sanity of such adventurers, they do serve as on-the-scene reporters, and innocently describe things which flummox both Alarmist and Skeptics alike. No satellite could see the 50°F (+10C°) temperatures they experienced in the middle of thick and very dirty ice, one day.
The dirtiness of the ice, so far from shore, sparked interesting debate, largely between those who thought it was pollution from Chinese power plants and those who felt it was volcanic ash. However a new idea arose that it was algae that grows on the bottom of the ice, incorporated into ice when it freezes and thickens in the fall, and concentrated when ice melts and becomes multi-year ice., and sometimes brought to the top of the ice when ice is flipped like a pancake by storms. It did seem to so darken the ice that more sunshine was absorbed and local temperatures were higher, but there was some consternation among Alarmists in 2013 because, despite all this surface heat, the ice was refusing to melt in the manner they expected. Likely the big storm in 2012 used up and disturbed all the slightly warmer water in the pyctocline, and the water under the ice was colder, but whatever the cause was, the sea-ice refused to melt in 2013 as many Alarmists had confidently forecast.
As August passed the boat struggled north, making better time on flatter ice, as much as 35 miles in one day, but temperatures drop rapidly in August, and hoarfrost grew on the boom and rigging.
They continued to battle north. As I watched the big gale of 2013 brew up, and saw it fail to melt ice in the manner of the 2012 gale, and typed comments from my cozy computer, they were out in that gale. They struggled on as temperatures dropped below zero (-17°C) in early September, passing 82°N latitude,
But finally they had to give up and accept an ignominious rescue from the Russian icebreaker Admiral Makarov.
The log of their 2013 attempt (in french) can be found here:
If you think that adventure would be enough for any man, you don’t know sailors. Sebastien got to work crowd-sourcing, and finding sponsors (such as the makers of the solar panels on the side of the boat, and the people advertising on the sails), and worked on a new and improved craft, and this time he found two crewmates willing to go on an adventure.
Like last time, the ice is worse than the year before, with sea-ice right up against the shore in Alaska. (2017 left, 2018 right)
Again they’ve had to battle through pressure ridges to find flatter ice.
Again they’ve experienced summer warmth that will be good publicity for those who wish to promote the idea of Global Warming.
Above is a great publicity shot for Alarmists. Not that Sebastien has bought into all that. He’s been dealing with the arctic at least since 2007, and likely knows there is more sea-ice this year than there was in 2007.
I just pray those fellows don’t get too cavalier about the dangers they are midst. Just a few years back we lost two experienced scientists who were careless, skiing across ice in their long underwear on a hot day. The water under the ice is salt water, chilled below the freezing point of human blood, and a man can die in five minutes in such water. These three have described breaking through rotten ice up to their thighs. But perhaps I’m a worry wart and a party pooping old pill.
They certainly seem happy. They are finally making some progress north over flatter ice.
The most recent log posting seemed especially joyous.
It was not until the afternoon, after 8 miles on the ice, to begin to see darker clouds, which means that there is water below! We aim directly at the dark gray and we find … water! it’s done in two stages: we sail on the water for a short time before returning to the ice.Then, we find the water with the fog. At this point, we are far from imagining that we will sail until late in the evening. And that’s what we do. There is almost no more ice and we are looking for fresh water to drink (water from the melt lakes on the ice). Who would have believed it ? Tonight, we sleep above the 71 ° North and it became difficult to find a correct plate to install the camp. The day is not over because Seb must get to work to repair the saffron, nothing serious but it must be done! We can not wait to be tomorrow. The icing on the cake: we had the company of belouga and seals all day, it’s beautiful, we never get tired in the Arctic.
Who do you suppose is richer: These young men or a banker?
(We’ll see if they’re singing the same tune a month from now, when temperatures start to plunge. But, for today, I envy them. Not that I don’t also pray for them.)
They are well north of 72° latitude now, picking their way through scattered bergs, which is likely a great relief after dragging their boat over ice. (I get the feeling their craft doesn’t often coast over ice like an iceboat on a lake.)
The fact they are now boating north exposes some misconceptions we get from maps we use. Maps often show solid color for an area a boat can get through, for example, “50% ice”. That is also an area that is 50% open water. By carefully steering (and also by having a drone that can fly ahead to scout out the best routes) one can get around the bergs, and need not spend 50% of their time dragging the boat over bergs.
The “thickness” maps have several problems. First they tend to average out the thickness, so that an area that is 50% covered with 6 foot bergs will look entirely covered by ice three feet thick. An area 25% covered by 6 foot bergs will look entirely covered by ice 18 inches thick. Second, there is the constant confusion between melt-water pools and open water. I have observed melt-water pools, especially when they have black stuff on their bottoms, (soot, volcanic ash, algae, or all three), melt down until the bottom fell out and they were round windows to the deeps. Imagine how difficult it must be to determine when a pool is atop ice, and when it is open water, from miles away, up where satellites fly.
For this reason it is far better to have a “reporter on the scene.” If we can’t have our O-buoys and North Pole Camera, then we will have to settle with what we can glean from icebreakers and adventurers.
I’d also like to respond to some who seem to think the three men aboard the boat are silly tree-huggers. Wrong. Perhaps they are young and foolish, but they are aware they are at risk. They may be enjoying themselves, but it isn’t a game. Most tree-huggers don’t have encounters with 1500 pound bears, as Sebastien had in 2013.
This particular bear was apparently untroubled when peppered with bird-shot, but did amble away when they shot a flare at its feet. But that is history. The point I wish to make is that Sebastien has been here before, and is well aware the halcyon days of summer are short lived. He is under no illusions about what lies ahead in September, when temperatures plunge. Currently temperatures are slightly below normal, but above freezing. But look ahead and see how they plunge in September.
The DMI maps show us that already the below-freezing isotherm is becoming a little more common. Also the anomalous low pressure I’ve dubbed “Ralph” keeps attempting to knock more typical high pressure from the area. The last “Ralph” is fading into the Canadian Archipelago, but a new one is deepening and taking the same route, from East Siberia to Canada, ahead of them. While it has been assisting them with following winds, they are about to be faced with head winds.
Last week I talked about the old captains of coastal schooners, and the way they studied the sky for signs of “Hurricane Heights”.
Before railways were built in the mid 1800’s the main way to ship things was by boat, (which is why we speak of “shipping” things, even when we use trucks.) New York City was so big and growing so fast it had an insatiable appetite for lumber, and not all could be supplied by barging it down the Hudson River. Good money could be made “schooning” lumber down from Maine, but, before the Cape Cod Canal was built in 1914 (and widened to its current size 1935-1940) the route south was nearly 150 miles longer, and involved going outside Cape Cod, which was that much closer to the hurricanes people on shore hardly noticed because they had “gone out to sea.” Even when the hurricanes’s winds were to the east huge waves traveled outwards, and when they reached the shoals off the elbow of Cape Cod they could turn waters a ship could ordinarily navigate over into a landscape of breaking waves, huge combers far from a beach, with troughs so deep a keel could hit sand. Therefore a wise captain kept “an eye to the sky”.
This was done in a manner we can’t imagine. If we tried to force ourselves to study the sky we would soon start to fidget. Our minds would wander, and before long we’d get up and go to see what was happening elsewhere. However the old captains were stuck at the tiller or helm, and couldn’t go anywhere any faster than the boat was going. They studied the sky for hours upon hours.
One thing was very important to know, and that was whether the wind was going to back or veer. This was especially important when heading upwind. Without engines a ship had to tack to and fro, and (for example) a north-bound ship’s course could be made shorter if you knew beforehand whether the the headwind was going to shift to the northeast (veer) or to the northwest (back).
A rough idea where the nearest storm was located was to face the wind and stick out your right arm and point. You were pointing at the storm. But what direction was it moving? To guess at that you would look up at the high clouds, which moved with upper air winds that “steered” the storms. Then, by having a rough idea of whether the storm was approaching or departing or moving parallel to the ship, the captain would have a rough idea whether the winds would pick up or die down, and how they might back or veer. On dull days this merely shortened the route and number of tacks necessary, and on more exciting voyages it might be the difference between successfully reaching safe haven, or shipwreck and death.
Few would bother study the sky to this degree now. What would be the point? Now, if a captain wants to go upwind, he just takes down the sails and turns on the engine. There are a lot fewer shipwrecks now, but modern captains are dimwits compared to the captains of yore, when it comes to eyeing the sky with understanding. The need is no longer there to sharpen wits to that degree, and in fact if anyone now spent that much time studying the sky we might call them “obsessive”.
Personally I feel a certain amount of obsession is necessary, if you want to ever be really good at something. One person who seems really good, concerning the understanding and prediction of hurricanes, is Joe Bastardi, and he quite freely confesses he obsessed on weather maps so much when young that he was in some ways a nerd. But it paid off in terms of genius. Some years ago he looked at a tropical depression off the coast of Africa and said, “Houston, we have a problem”, which some say is one of the best long-range forecasts ever made.
Last Monday he said it looked like we could have frontal remnants becoming a storm like Brenda in 1960. I said, “La-la-la! I’m not listening”. Why? Because I want to pretend I’m an old schooner captain, and trying to see signs of storm only using my eyes and a barometer. (Of course I did hear Bastardi, but I can pretend I didn’t.)
Friday the skies were as blue as they get, and the air refreshing and cool, which is a reprieve but also a reason to be on guard.
The passage of a Canadian high-pressure is often a prelude to trouble brewing to the south. (Bastardi calls high-pressure to the north “A ridge over troubled waters.”[Hat tip, Simon and Garfunkle.]) Not that you want to spoil your summer by worrying every time it’s sunny, but you watch for the return of clouds and the southerly flow behind the high pressure. And sure enough, when I awoke Saturday morning the newspaper had arrived, not on my doorstep, but in the sky straight overhead.
What would such a newspaper tell an old schooner captain? I see two clues he’d see in the scene below, plus a clue he wouldn’t see.
First, just over the pines to the lower left is a bit of low cumulus, so low you could almost call it scud.
Right off the bat, his farsighted eyes squint to determine what direction those low clouds are moving. If they are moving to the right and approaching then the wind is southwest. That would be a benign wind, as the storm would be to the northwest, and likely a summertime Alberta Clipper. At worst, if it was hot and muggy, a Clipper might swing down a cold front and bring thunder, but the air is still refreshing and the sky is still deep blue and Canadian, so thunder is unlikely. But, because the captain has time to watch the sky, he notes the low clouds are not approaching; they are moving to the right and retreating. The wind is not from the southwest, but from the southeast.
A southeast wind is a whole different kettle of fish. It means a storm is to the southwest. Something may be coming up the coast. A certain wariness awakes. (I should note more than eyes were used by schooner captains. Like a dog (whose morning newspaper may be a fire hydrant) he sniffs the air, as a southwest land breeze has a completely different smell from a southeast sea breeze. He also likely runs his fingers through his hair, for hair tells you a lot about humidity. All his senses are involved; the sea is a sensual experience.)
Lastly he is very aware if the wind is backing or veering, and this southeast wind has veered all the way from the northwest through the northeast . For reasons I don’t understand, this is different from a wind that backs 180 degrees the other way, although it winds up blowing from the same direction.
Then his eyes lift a bit higher to the left, over the cherry tree, to the cirrus (which he would call a “mare’s tail”).
Cirrus is high clouds snowing into slower wind beneath. To the captain this is more reassuring than cirrocumulus, which is indicative of warmer air aloft and more inclined to be associated with hurricanes. Also the cirrus is still approaching from north of due west, which should “steer” a storm out to sea. However a rumple of concern appears on his brow, for he notices the high cloud’s movement is not as much from the north as it was. Indeed the high clouds are backing, even as the low clouds veer. Knowing nothing of upper air maps, heedless of upper air ridges or trofs, the wheels in his head start whirring. If the high clouds back, and especially if they back with speed, look out.
However I have one clue he doesn’t. There were no jets back then, and I can squint at contrails, and spot one over the trees in the center.
When contrails quickly evaporate behind a jet, it is a sign of descending and drying air aloft, and a sign of fair weather. When, as is the case with the contrail above, the contrail expands into a cloud, as if part of a cloud-seeding experiment, it is a sign of moisture aloft and rising air, and a sign of increasing clouds and approaching storms. (It doesn’t say what kind of storm: Gentle rain or hurricane or the squalls of a thundering front.)
Even without contrails the old schooner captains were likely observing whether high clouds were growing or evaporating. Where modern yachtsmen can set a “self-sailor” and be buried in a book, the skippers of yore would only “lash the helm” when there was a lot of other work to do. They liked the feel of the helm, and likely, by making subtle responses to each passing swell, could shave an hour or two off the length of a cruise.
When I was young I attempted to have spiritual experiences by closing my eyes, sitting cross-legged, and gazing up at the inside of my forehead. I never lasted very long. Rather than sacred subjects my my mind gravitated towards how divine pizza or a woman’s body was. But at the helm of a sailboat without a self-sailor I was forced to pay attention or the boat might luff or jibe, and paying-attention became a sort of yoga leading to an altered state of consciousness. This divine intoxication is the reason some people are fanatics about sailing, while those who haven’t imbibed the wine cannot see the good of it, or why anyone in their right mind would willingly suffer seasickness.
How many modern people, with their short attention spans and craving for constant stimulation, can sit and watch a cloud as it passes from one side of the sky to the other? The so-called boredom would drive many nuts, and perhaps there is an element of craziness in being at sea. However it has its own constant stimulation, in the rocking of the waves and passing of the swells, the ruffling of sails and the ringing of rigging, the hypnotic slosh and thud and gurgling of waters, and it all combines to enter one into a different dimension, a different relationship with reality, with sea and sky. Call it “obsessive” if you will, but it includes the wisdom of the weather-wise.
Just looking at the clouds I’ve pictured above, the old schooner captains would have known “something was brewing” to the south. Would they have set sail? Well, that was up to them to decide, and they did know how to handle a moderate storm. All business involves an element called “risk”.
And how do they compare with modern computers? Well, the billion dollar GFS Model never caught onto the coastal development until Saturday morning, right about the time an old captain would have tasted the first hints of a wind-shift to the southeast.
Others models did better, but how is one to chose? Even a single model can have fifty “runs” that all differ. Which one is right?
The answer seems to be obsessive, like Joe Bastardi. In order to be good at anything you need to in some ways over-do it. But Mr. Bastardi does amaze me. Last Monday he said that by Saturday a storm “like Brenda in 1960” could appear on the coast. He also forecast that the weather bureau likely wouldn’t call it a hurricane, despite tropical characteristics. Then, on Saturday , there it was, looking all the world like a dying hurricane, though it had never officially been a hurricane and therefore could not officially be a dying one.
The weather bureau can bicker all it wants about whether things are “official”. I think they may be jealous if Joe’s ability, even to the mean level of not calling an event “tropical” because to do so might make Joe look better than they. But we are not suppose to become irrational, and envy is irrational. The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Bastardi kicked their butts. And, when faced with superiority, the smart thing to do is sit at the feet of the master, and inquire, “How the heck did you do it?”
Let’s face it: If you had plans on the water off the coast of New Jersey or Long Island on Saturday, wouldn’t you like a heads-up that storm-force gusts like the feeder-bands of a hurricane could be coming north?
A final clue that this storm was “tropical” was shown by how quickly it is weakened once it cut inland.
What are we to conclude from all this? Perhaps we should conclude this: The next time we are called “obsessive”, we should respond, “Thank you very much.”
The coast of Newfoundland is an excellent example, this year, of how the sea-ice”extent” graph can decrease even as the “volume” graph increases. In the middle of February the sea-ice had spread far from the coast, to the cross-hairs formed by the 50° W longitude and 50° N latitude lines.
However a month later we see that the area the ice covered has shrunk back to the west.
Initially one might think the decrease in extent was due to melting, but then we notice how thick the ice is along the Newfoundland coast. What has happened is that a series of nor’easters, which gave headline-making snows in the northeast of the USA, created persistent east winds to the waters off Newfoundland, pushing all the ice towards the shore, where it piled up. In actual fact the “volume” of this particular bunch of ice likely was roughly the same, but the “extent” was greatly reduced.
When the sea-ice piled up to such a degree it became a problem. Or actually a number of problems.
The first problem was that boats up in those waters are built to handle ordinary sea-ice, which tends to be a foot or two thick, and a bit slushy in its consistency. It is not the same thing as the huge and beautiful icebergs that drift down to those coasts after calving off massive glaciers up in Greenland. It is sea-ice a boat can motor through. But when east winds persist the ice piles up thicker and thicker, and this year reached thicknesses approaching thirty feet. At that point the smaller boats became stuck, and a few even were sunk, and icebreakers and helicopters need to be called to the rescue.
This creates a second problem. Certain climate scientists have been warning that all the sea-ice was melting away and polar bears would have no ice to stand on, and would drown. To have ice thirty feet thick along the shore placed these gentlemen in an embarrassing situation. Like a boy with undone homework standing in front of an Algebra teacher, they needed to think, and think fast.
I must give the fellows credit. If they were standing before an Algebra teacher, their excuses would cause the entire class to rise and give them a standing ovation.
Basically their excuse was that less ice made for looser ice, that was more able to shift and crunch up against the coast. In order to understand this lovely excuse you need to understand the concept of “fast-ice.”
Fast-ice is actually ice that is slow. It was so slow that it was “frozen fast” to the shore, where it can remain for years, during periods when the climate is cold. When the climate warms, large areas of fast-ice can break off. It is very different from “shelf-ice”, which is far thicker and derives its origins from glaciers. Fast-ice derives its origins from sea-ice, and is seldom thicker than thirty feet. Fast-ice bergs are far more crumbly than the huge bergs than can sink a Titanic, for they are made of compacted chips of ice and slush, as opposed to glacial bergs, which are solid ice. A slab of fast-ice tend to quickly revert to many small chips of sea-ice, and a thirty foot thick slab can then spread out like butter over bread to cover a larger area with chunks of sea-ice, causing a confusing rise in “extent” even as weather warms.
In any case, the excuse now being given for the situation along the coast of Newfoundland gets double points, for not only does it explain the ice getting there, but also explains the larger chunks of sea-ice which are in the mix.
According to this excuse hypothesis, before Global Warming happened all the ice was held to the north as fast-ice, and the thinner fast-ice formed a wall that held the thicker fast-ice in check behind it. Now Global Warming has melted the thinner fast-ice, which allows the thicker fast-ice to come south.
I hope you recognize the beauty of this excuse explanation. Now not only does Global Warming explain more sea-ice, but it also explains bigger chunks of ice in the sea-ice. Because bigger chunks may damage and even sink small boats, it becomes all the more important to raise carbon taxes on hard-working fishermen, and fund climate scientists.
But there is one small, third problem. We have the records of sailors going back into the past, and can look to see if indeed fast-ice held sea-ice to the north.
The route to the posts of the Hudson Bay Company in Hudson Bay tried to avoid the sea-ice that moves south down the west side of Baffin Bay and along the coast of Labrador, by sailing along the east side of Baffin Bay, but to enter Hudson Bay they had to cross over and penetrate the river of sea-ice. And when did these voyages start? Well, the “Nonesuch” sailed up there and then down to the very south of Hudson Bay in 1668, and founded the first post. So we have 350 years of records, showing that some years the passage was easy, and some years the passage was blocked.
“Oh, well”, you may say, “That only shows the passage was possible because the lack of Global Warming kept the thicker sea-ice trapped behind fast-ice to the north”.
But here we face a fourth problem. Besides traders after furs there were whalers after whales, and they sailed farther north. In fact, after what was likely an amazing discharge of sea-ice around 1816-1817, one whaler is even reported to have sailed up the east coast of Greenland, around the top, and down the west coast.
Also, besides the whalers, there was a whole slew of British explorers attempting to navigate and map the Northwest Passage in the first half of the 1800’s, and they quite routinely navigated through Baffin Bay.
Lastly, members of the ill-fated American “Polaris” expedition, after steaming up to the to the top of an open Nares Strait in 1871, became separated from the ship and were marooned on an ice flow at the bottom of Nares Strait in 1872. What better proof could you ask for (that the sea-ice was mobile) than to have a group of men ride it all the way south along the west coast of Baffin Bay and onward, over 1800 miles, to where they were rescued off the coast of Newfoundland in late April 1873 by sealers.
All in all, judging from the sea-ice conditions reported in the past, I have to conclude the excuse hypothesis that sea-ice has only recently come south, because Global Warming’s melting freed it, has been refuted. However I do give climate scientists an “A” for effort.
Perhaps there was more fast-ice during the Little Ice Age, but it seems the flow of sea-ice down the west side of Baffin Bay, and even through Nares Strait at the top of Baffin Bay, is a persistent geological reality, even in cold periods. Perhaps it may briefly halt during an especially cold winter, but ice grinds south along the northeast coast of Greenland even when winds are at -40°, only rarely becoming fastened to the shore for a while, and I can see no reason Baffin Bay should differ.
In conclusion, the flow of ice down the west side of Baffin Bay and along the coast of Newfoundland has varied, and still can vary, greatly. Some years there is little, some years there is a lot, some years the ice freezes solid to the shore and becomes “fast-ice”, some years big areas of fast-ice break lose and swirl south. The people of Newfoundland have learned to grin and bear it, but likely appreciate the efforts of climate scientists to bring reporters north, for it increases the tourist trade.
Sadly, when reporters focus in on the trials and tribulations of the people up there, when east winds pile the sea-ice up along their coasts, the climate scientists hog the spotlight, and there is hardly any reporting of what the fishermen suffer. Is it only climate scientists who deserve pity?
I have just past my sixty-fifth birthday, with no hope of retirement, and what used to be a joke isn’t all that funny any more. The joke? “I took my retirement back when I was young and could enjoy it”. Ha ha ha. Not all that funny, when you have heard it for the ninety-seventh time, but I’m getting to be one of those old men who gets repetitive.
It’s also not all that funny when most of my friends are down in Florida, retired. In the old fable of the Grasshopper and the Ant, they were the ants, and squandered their youth loyally sticking to a tedious job, as I was free as a bird, because I was the grasshopper, making music as they worked. Now they have pensions and I don’t. Serves me right, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I’m all that happy about the situation. If you detect a trace of bitterness in my words, it is because poets are suppose to die young; the grasshopper is suppose to be cut down by the first frost. I don’t see many grasshoppers around these parts bouncing about through the deep snows, but me? The snow gets me hopping, because the alternative is not pretty.
The motto of New Hampshire is “Live Free Or Die”, but in the winter sometimes it is more like “Get your Walkways Snow-Free or Die”, especially if your business depends on clean walkways, and the State Inspector will close you down if every fire-escape isn’t shoveled. I am not prone to foul language, but I have shocked myself with some of the choice vocabulary escaping my lips as I deal with the drifts, even while getting texts on my cellphone from friends reclining by sunny pools in Florida. Can it be that I am becoming a jealous and bitter old coot?
Temperatures have recently been above normal, but that isn’t really helpful this far north. Seven degrees above normal is still below freezing, and it is more likely to snow in this area, with temperatures up around freezing.
Last weekend just enough cold air slid south between southerly warm-sectors to give us snow, even though the warm-sectors were attached to storms that passed well to our north, which usually gives us rain. Saturday the forecast was for 1-3 inches, but Sunday morning dawned upon a fall of 7 inches. Rather than Sunday being a scripturally-correct (as opposed to politically-correct) “day of rest”, I had to clear up the parking lot and paths of my workplace, to prepare for Monday morning. It is bad enough I don’t get to retire to Florida; I don’t even get to rest on Sundays. (Bring out the violins, please.)
To be honest, the workweek’s forecast was for such nice, mild temperatures that I did the minimum of snow-clearing. I cleared the front entrance and the parking lot, but left the mild temperatures to clear the fire escapes and back stairs. If the dreaded inspector had leapt from bed early on Monday Morning, (unlikely), he would seen a reason to “write me up”, as the seven inches had only wilted to four.
However I will confess that a fall of sticky, wet snow does make running a Childcare easier, in terms of “curriculum”. This is especially true because certain youths do not seem to be born to sit in rows as children, to train them to sit in cubicles as adults, but rather are born to shift heavy weights outside.
However so strong was the thaw that, despite the production of seven large snowballs, within twenty-four hours the warmth (and destructive older children) left little sign of the efforts.
However it did allow me to send texts back to my pals lounging in Florida, which may be just a little bit mean. Or maybe not. After all, if they expect me to rejoice over how they are escaping winter, lounging by a pool, then they should rejoice over how the winter they thought they were escaping isn’t happening, and how I am not suffering, right? So today I sent them this:
But you will notice, though the thaw continues tomorrow, there is a suspicious-looking snowflake on Thursday. After all, this is February, and New Hampshire isn’t Florida.
The sad fact of the matter is that old-timers always fretted when there was an especially warm spell in the middle of the winter. In some ways their worry seemed comical, as if they were dour pessimists who couldn’t enjoy good weather, for “it will have to be paid for.” However they had a method behind their glowering madness. Some of the biggest storms in the history of the east of the USA were preceded by delightful weather. The legendary “Blizzard of 1888” gave New York City four feet of snow with gusts of hurricane force hurtling between the tall building and heaping drifts to second-story windows. Such a storm would shut down the New York City even with modern plows. But it occurred between March 11 and March 14. What was the situation in New York City on March 10?
March 10, 1888 was a lovely early-spring day in New York City, with temperatures well up into the fifties. People had no idea of what was coming.
I have lost the link I once kept, but one wonderful discovery I once made, while wandering the web, was the description of the Blizzard of 1888 from the eyes of a fisherman who fished south of Long Island. Back in those days sailors had no GPS, computer forecasts, or even engines. They were called sailors because they sailed.
This sailor had headed out in delightful early-spring weather. Then the storm “blew up”. The fisherman described the sky becoming as purple as concord grapes with amazing speed, with flashes of lightning. Then he described the amazing battle with sails and sheets in screaming wind and blinding snow he endured just to get to shore alive, without a single fish to sell. Many other sailors didn’t make it. People paid a high price for fish in 1888, especially the fishermen’s wives.
So I actually should be thankful to even make it to age sixty-five. One-hundred-thirty years ago not all that many made it. Still, I do manage to grouse a fair amount. There are days when sinking at sea seems like heaven to me, when I compare it dealing with a pack of small hellions at a Childcare.
And, in case you wonder, I have been at sea in a small boat in a big storm, and I do know the desperation involved. It is a hugely humbling experience, and little dignity is involved, for a roaring storm cares little about our mortal concept of “dignity”. Yet there is more dignity in that desperate situation than in being a sixty-five year old man dealing with a bunch of little whiny brats children experiencing challenges to their sense of well-being and self-esteem. Do modern children respect their elders? I think not.
Often I derive great joy from small children, but Lord Jesus didn’t say “derive great joy” from the little children. He said “suffer the little children”.
And at age sixty-five I confess there are days I roll my eyes to the sky and ask questions that are less than grateful. Is this the culmination of my life? To be a fucking babysitter childcare professional?
There is a story which likely isn’t true, but which makes many smile, involving a children’s-show radio personality called “Uncle Bob” or some such thing, who muttered at the end of a show, when he thought the microphone was turned off and he was off the air, “That ought to keep the little bastards quiet for another week.” Even if the story is an urban myth, the fact it makes people chuckle (rather than look indignant) seems to suggest children are not all goodness and light, and are things we must “suffer”.
At age sixty-five I’d rather sit by a pool in Florida and study scripture. The fact I chose to take my retirement when I was young and could enjoy it seems like a bad choice to me now. However the choice of fisherman to go out fishing on March 10, 1888 likely seemed like a bad choice to them, on March 11. No matter how we chose to direct the course of our lives, we are bound to sail headlong into storms.
In New Hampshire this happens every cotton-picking year, and is called “winter”. Many retire here, but many don’t last long. Norman Rockwell be damned; pristine snowscapes get old after Christmas, and by February winter gets so old that they shortened the month to 28 days, just to speed up the progress to spring. As March arrives the last thing anyone wants is a huge storm.
However the future does not look tranquil to me. I had hopes that the so-called “arctic vortex” would keep the cold air trapped in a tight circle, whirling at the Pole, but instead that vortex moved south into Canada, and has been making the Canadian Archipelago so cold that even the Eskimos have been staying indoors.
My hope was that the cold would wobble back up to the Pole, where it belongs, but that would involve a positive NAO. Instead the exact opposite seems to be developing.
If the NOA crashes (and I am deeply hoping this forecast is utterly wrong) then the so-called “arctic vortex” becomes deranged, and in layman’s terms this means the cold doesn’t stay north where it belongs. Instead it comes south to bump into the nice, juicy air of our thaw, and all hell can break loose. 1888 can reoccur.
When I look north I can see the amazing cold sitting there up in Canada, in maps Dr Ryan Maue’s hard work makes available at the Weatherbell site.
The pink in the above map, up in Canada, represents the one temperature where Fahrenheit and Celsius actually agree, -40°. However I wonder to myself, “Is that normal, up there?” Fortunately Dr. Maue also has produced an “anomaly map”, which tells us if temperatures are above-normal or below-normal.
The second map shows that the temperatures are thirty-degrees-below-normal, even by Canadian standards. To have that air come south and mingle with air that is thirty-degrees-above-normal by the standards of Chicago seems unwise to me. It is like mixing gasoline with a fire.
But it hasn’t happened yet. It is an amazingly mild night for February in New Hampshire, with temperatures above 50°F (10°C). Tomorrow it might touch 70°F (21°C).
In the warm thaw before the storm I bask My old bones, like a sailboat sliding Through slack seas, and try not to glumly ask What the clouds on high foretell, for deciding The word on high speaks of a hurricane Spoils the brief joy of a midwinter day Which smells like a rose midst the jabbing pain Of thorns. Roses are brief, but thorns stay All year. I’ll take flowers when they come, Well aware that soon enough my loose belt Will need to be hitched. For a time I’ll strum My harp; not drum my fingers. I have felt Cruel sleet before, and know it is best To face a fierce storm after getting some rest.
One job assigned to me as a teenager, when I first ventured outside of the suburbs into the country and attempted to be a country boy by chewing upon a straw, was “ditching the pasture”. The pasture had initially been ditched 218 years earlier, but the ditch had a tendency to fill in, and therefore one was expected to walk slowly down the ditch with a round-nosed, long-handled shovel, digging the wads of leaves and muck that were impeding the drainage. I actually didn’t mind the job, as I was always playing in brooks as a boy, and this wan’t much different.
The ditch basically took a shallow intermittent stream, a brook that only flowed when snow melted and after torrential downpours, and straightened it while lowering it down roughly two feet. This drained the pasture and allowed timothy and clover to grow, rather than the sour marshy grasses cows don’t much like. It increased the value of the land, and in some pastures took a brook that dried out in the summer and put it down deep enough to where it flowed all year long, and therefore took a brook that held no fish and created a habitat for secretive brook trout, especially where sod overhung the banks a little.
Then, around 1970, the concept of “wetlands” as being an especially valuable landscape took hold. Even a reeking fen was seen as an environmental Eden, and ditching pastures became a criminal activity, in the eyes of some university types. They decide to educate farmers, and the old-time farmers told them to go to hell. Next they decided to go through legislators and lobbyists, and had better luck.
Don’t get me wrong. Some wetlands, especially salt marshes, are tremendously important to the larger ecosystem, and are lush and brimming with life. Destroying them dramatically reduces the catch of fish in nearby coastal waters. (On the other hand, creating wetlands by damming rivers also reduces the catch of fish.) But an intermittent stream through a farmer’s pasture is not the same thing.
In any case while ditching the pasture, which I continued to do even after it made me a criminal, I had time to contemplate how an activity which is deemed saintly one generation is deemed devilish the next. I also had time to gaze about at the geology of New England, and study the ecology, and noticed there was no norm, unless flux was the norm. Glaciers had scoured the landscape clean of topsoil, and then a progression of vegetation pursued the retreating ice. Along with the vegetation came beavers, who were constantly deforesting areas and creating wetlands, and then deserting their dams when they ran out of food, which caused ponds to became meadows when the dams broke, and later meadows became groves of poplar and birches, which attracted a new generation of beavers. Also men came north even as the ice retreated, (a friend of mine found a flint spear-head, with the flint originating from Ohio,) and they tended to burn the underbrush in forests to make hunting easier. So I figured the Puritan farmers who first ditched pastures were no more dramatic a change than other changes. Change was the norm; any level achieved was soon tilted.
Locally it wasn’t so much the environmentalists who stopped the ditching of pastures as it was a cultural change that made all the hard work involved in farming seem less worthwhile. People found ways to support themselves working only eight hours a day, and preferred laying indoors watching TV, and the ditches began to fill in, even as the old pastures grew over, first becoming what the locals called “puckerbrush”, and then becoming woods. And then, rather unexpectedly, the trees began to all die, or to tilt and fall over. (Sometimes a grove of dead trees indicated beavers had returned and flooded an area, but beavers don’t dam intermittent brooks.)
What was happening was that the water table was inching upwards as the ditches filled in, and the roots of the trees were either drowned, or the deeper roots that anchor a tree down were killed and the tree was only held up by a mat of very shallow roots. These roots were not enough, and in a strong wind the tree tilted, (sometimes remaining alive.)
I like investigating the ripped-up roots of such tilted trees, because you learn about the local subsoil, and a thing or two about the post-glacier geology, and sometimes find an artifact or two. Lastly, though you may doubt this, we have a “little people” who live here in New Hampshire, just as leprechauns live in Ireland, and sometimes if you look under roots you can meet them.
One way to befriend these little people is to find a red shelf-mushroom that lives up on dead trees, but the way to get your hands on these mushrooms is to find a tree that has tilted and fallen all the way down.
Once these mushrooms are down they continue to grow, but are now sideways, and it makes no sense to continue to grow the way they were growing, with their bottoms facing sideways, so the mushrooms are wise enough to, within a fortnight, make an adjustment.
Because the mushroom has wisely adjusted, when the time comes for it to release its spores, some are not trapped in sideways-facing, rain-sopped pores, but face down, and can be sheltered and kept dry and properly dispersed.
If even mushrooms can adjust to a tilt of ninety degrees, it seems to me higher forms of life ought to able to adjust as well. It also seems to me that certain environmentalists, who seem to imagine nature exists in a steady-state, and that all changes are evils brought about by mankind, are themselves unwilling to change and are themselves unable to adjust to any tilting. Does this make them a lower form of life than a mushroom?
Long ago a lubber, (namely me), Got on a ship, and sailed into a storm Where I lost my sense of up. Misery Was mine, as my stomach took a form That was mostly inside out, but I had To man the helm or else my problems would be over. Tempting. I felt so bad That dying didn’t seem low as the phlegms My empty stomach heaved, as stinging spray Salted wincing eyes that searched the skies For something level, something that would stay Flat, but all tilted. But the biggest surprise Was that when I was safely ashore, then I yearned to go out and be tilted again.
In the lore of New England the “line storm” was a storm expected to occur near the equinox. Because, as the above graph shows, the first peak in hurricanes occurs ten days too early, and the second, minor peak doesn’t occur until October, people who never get outside, and instead dither about indoors looking at graphs, can scorn the idea of the “line storm” as being a mere superstition.
But….(cue the twilight zone music)….I once didn’t dither about indoors as I do now. I once was young and went out on the water. To be blunt, those who haven’t been out on the water, (even in a small boat on a lake), when the winds start to rise and the sky darkens and life laughs at insurance adjusters, are missing something.
We would laugh at a person who thought he had a grasp of the weather who had never heard of a thermometer. A thermometer is vital, we think. But stepping outside?
Do not tell me you are wise when only Books advise your eyes. Action speaks louder Than words, and an island standing lonely Needs another, if it is to proudly Utter truths about Love. You must get out Into the wind to know about weather. Otherwise our intellect struts about Like a peacock with a lone tail feather. Even a small child, who hasn’t yet learned The sky talks back, goes out and faces sky And his face is lit up, with shadows spurned As poetry fills each innocent eye. Children worship best: They look up and lack The ways we argue when skies talk back.
Americans once knew far more about the out of doors. More than half owned a farm and worked the soil, and a lot of the others sailed seas on small craft that would make OSHA cringe. To go to sea and never be heard of again was not all that uncommon, and, considering we all must eventually die, I’m not entirely sure I would not have preferred to die going “Yeee-Ha!” as my craft met a mighty wave, to surviving and eventually festering in a bed with tubes in my arms, with cancer, which we call “progress.”
I wasn’t too smart at age 18, and headed out to sea in 1971 on a voyage from Boston to Jamaica (don’t ask what for). In 1971 the “line storm” happened to be a hurricane called Ginger, which also headed out to sea, way out onto the mid Atlantic. And if you had studied books at that time you knew no storm so far out to sea could ever represent a threat to Cape Hatteras. But…
As chief (and only) meteorologist on the small craft I am proud to state we hesitated to the north and avoided Ginger, however a cold front absorbed what was left, and then that front just lay along the coast. I advocated further hesitation, fearing a nor’easter might brew up on the stationary front, but the captain was sick and tired of hesitation, and so we sailed south, smack dab into the nor’easter that brewed up.
Nor’easters are also considered “line storms”. After the summer quiet, when seas tend to be slack in New England, they first start to brew up when the first chilly cold-fronts come south in September. You would have to include them in your data, along with hurricanes, before you could accurately determine “line storms” were “superstition”. (Also you would have to narrow your focus to the waters near New England, where the lore was focused.)
In any case, at age 18 I experienced a reality that is somewhat different than what you experience indoors at computers. Entitlement? Yes, I was entitled to die, if I didn’t make an effort to do otherwise, (though I was so seasick the prospect of death wasn’t entirely unappealing.)
I’m not sure the nor’easter was particularly bad, but the small yacht was forty miles out to sea, and both the mainsail and jib halyards broke. Sails crashed flapping to the deck, and the engine quit, and we had no radio, and GPS hadn’t been invented. In other words, we were in the position which was not all that uncommon to find yourself in, back before engines and radios, in the age of sail. My ancestors likely would have gone, “Ho hum. Get the storm jib up.” I was disgracefully and utterly freaked out, and only functioning because I didn’t want to die. Besides doing things I had no idea I was capable of, (such as climbing a whipping mast to thread a new halyard in the pulley atop a mast when the craft isn’t quiet in a harbor,) I also took meteorological observations. After all, once you’ve fixed what you can fix, there’s nothing to do but go up and up and up a big swell, and down and down and down the other side, over and over and over, so what else are you suppose to do at the helm, but observe? However those observations are through eyes that see differently than you see at a computer. (You are going to have to trust me about this, if you think virtual sailing’s the same.) For one thing, you can’t click to a new site when you get bored. You must observe, and observe, and observe…
For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. However for my ancestors it was far more everyday. It makes their lore a bit more credible, as, if they lived long enough, their experience included something scientists make a big deal about, called “replication.”
One interesting thing about the line-storm lore is that such storms were not seen as markers of the solstice. Heck, any calendar could do that. Rather they gave clues about the weather of the following autumn. One was suppose to pay attention to how the line-storm ended. If it ended with warm weather it meant a different autumn lay ahead than if it ended with crisp, cold breezes from the north.
To some this might indicate they were sensible to storm tracks and weather patterns, in their own way. But to others it is just superstition.
In any case, with September 20 approaching a superstition named Jose is creeping towards New England.
11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 14
Location: 25.5°N 68.0°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph
5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 15
Location: 25.9°N 68.7°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph
11:00 PM EDT Fri Sep 15
Location: 27.4°N 71.0°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 983 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph
I am having some sort of problem with WordPress wherein it fails to keep my updates. This is a test to see if it happens again.
8:00 AM EDT Mon Sep 18
Location: 33.5°N 71.2°W
Moving: N at 9 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph
Liberty is a cracked concept, and I think we Americans have been taken to school in many respects for the past fifty years, learning Freedom isn’t free, and liberty is no simple undertaking.
Not that I still don’t believe our Maker wants us free. It is just that we, in our ignorance, seem to make the most incredible mistakes, when it comes to mistaking chains as being freedom.
As a former smoker, I am well aware I was free to start smoking, but not so free when it came to quitting. When I tried to quit, I felt so awful that the only escape seemed to be to buy another pack, to be “free” of withdrawal symptoms. I chose my chains. And for years I was so blasted healthy that I got away with abusing my body, but the final ten years I smoked were more and more miserable, with a horrible cough and increasing weakness. Only when emphysema had me practically crawling, and cancer cost me a kidney, did I finally quit.
The experience was humbling, and allowed me to be less sneering towards my fellow mortals who demonstrate their addictions. Pity and mercy are good qualities, especially when dealing with arrogant fools (like I once was) who insist upon destructive behavior.
One particularly destructive behavior involves people’s desire for security. People all but sell their souls for the “benefits” of a job. Even though they are never sick, they are so afraid of medical expenses that they cling to some job that stunts their spiritual growth and eventually makes them sick. They are so afraid of being poor when they get old that they cling to a job that kills them before they get old, for a promised “pension.” They think they have a “good” job, but live a shrunken life in a booth like a poor toll-taker on a turnpike.
I am quite serious about this. I have seen an amazing number of men endure decades of degradation in factories and government jobs for the “benefits”, and then drop dead surprisingly soon after they retire. It is as if, when they finally arrive at the day they “have it made”, it hits them that what they have made amounts to a big zero, and the revelation kills them.
I tend to be more forgiving of the need for security in the case of a woman with a babe in her arms. Her chest was made for feeding, not thumping with fists like a manly gorilla. She is more vulnerable, and has a greater need for security, and men are suppose to display guts and gain that security, by going without that security.
I know that some will call me a sexist for saying what I just said, but even the old Norman Rockwell painting “Freedom From Fear” shows the woman tucking the children in bed, as the man deals with the newspaper.
I know that critics of the above picture will point out the man isn’t fighting. They will assume he is some fat-cat capitalist, and sending sons off to die so he can sit smugly at home. What they fail to see is that he has done something right, to create Freedom From Fear for the women and children. What he has done-right is out of the picture, behind the scenes, and only suggested by the fact he is holding a newspaper. Also critics fail to see the alternative is ridiculous. I know it, for I lived it, back when I believed women were liberated by being promiscuous without having babies. This new “freedom from fear” was perhaps accidentally portrayed by Mad Magazine:
Even if Mad Magazine had some utterly different aim, they used what Jung would have called an “archetype”. The woman does the tucking, and the man deals with the newspaper. The woman is more tender, and the man is more tough. The woman is more concerned with immediate and personal security, and the man is more able to go without such things.
I have great respect for men who die young in battle. I even have respect for men who die in middle age working life-sapping jobs in factories or government bureaucracies. But when I was young I thought there was a greater battle to fight, and I have fought it.
I am anti-war, because war is stupid, and I am anti-life-sapping bureaucracies and factories, because they too are stupid. I am a firm believer in “If Only People Weren’t Stupid.”
The polite word for “Stupid” is “Ignorance.” Ignorance is something we all can confess to, because only God has the omniscience that knows everything. We, as mortals, can either side with attempting to end our ignorance, or side with furthering it. If you have done your best to side with the former, you side with “good”, and if you side with the latter, then, sad to say, you are “evil.”
Men who suffer tedious work to support their homes are, up to a point, like soldiers suffering wounds to save their homelands. They are heroes. But past a certain point they should not go. Past a certain point they are being loyal to a Hitler, and damning their wife and children to the social destruction eventually earned by dictators. They should have told their boss, “Take this job and shove it”, but lacked guts. They were timid and cowardly, and subservient to ignorance, thinking some medical insurance or pension mattered more than freedom from ignorance. They were not free from fear, and when fear controlled them they became like addicts.
I was not prone to this particular addiction, because, after I had been loyal and faithful to a boss up to a certain point, and excused his sins as “shortcomings” up to a certain point, I drew the line. It did not seem to be a matter of my brains as much as it was my stomach. I had guts, so I got fired. This is the price of Liberty: Good-bye health insurance, good-bye sick-pay, good-bye vacation-pay, good-bye pension. You are reduced to the status of a hobo. But you haven’t sold your soul and, praise great God almighty, you are Free!
There is some suffering involved in being a hobo, but in my humble opinion it sure beats the suffering of the alternative. I tried out the alternatives, and even worked a union job for an amazing two years. So I talk of the alternatives with a little bit of experience, when I say slavery stinks, when compared to Liberty.
At times it can be strange, when I confess to people I was a hobo until age 37. When I describe getting fired from job after job, rich people get green with envy. Many never dared, because they were addicted to money. At times, when I was younger, talking of my life as a bum became downright awkward, because rich men’s wives looked at me lustfully, (I suppose because a hobo sometimes is a man, and a rich man sometimes is not).
In other words, Liberty has little to do with money. To some this is obvious, but to others this is like saying up is down, because they are addicted to ignorance. In fact they are the ones saying down is up. And history shows that these down-is-up people do get their comeuppance.
America (so far, at least) has always tended to side with Liberty, and not down-is-up people. Not that America isn’t misled by its down-is-up minorities, (Mad Avenue bankers addicted to money, Washington politicians addicted to power, Hollywood imbeciles addicted to fame), but so far these attempts to capsize Liberty have always been righted by the sanity of tiny, little people.
When you study history this power-of-the-small becomes so apparent that, for me at least, I see the fingerprints of the Almighty. The laws of reaping-what-you-sow jump out at me, even in the exact same historical events where the down-is-up people claim to see proof that injustice pays. They have eyes but cannot see, yet deem themselves wise. They think they will get away with stealing Indian’s land, but later look up to see Sherman come marching through Georgia. They think they can get rich clipper-shipping slaves and selling opium, but then their sons die marching through Georgia and their great-grandchildren die of heroin overdoses. The kick-back of Karma revisits sins on succeeding generations with a complex and inescapable perfection.
This is not to say down-is-up people can’t be gifted, brilliant organizers and administrators, but they can’t beat God. If they fail to see their gifts are given by God, and fail to be humble about being gifted, all the might in the world can be defeated by a flea, and a great army be stopped by a snowflake. Sennacherib marched 185,000 to Jerusalem, and his soldiers all died in in their sleep at its gates. Napoleon marched a huge Army into Russia, and few returned from the snowflakes alive.
The down-is-uppers tend to feel they are sharp as axes, and can cut others down, but what they fail to see is that no ax cuts by itself. The Creator created the ax, and can cast it aside. If our pride over the gifts we are given becomes that of a megalomaniac, rather than doing the cutting we are cut down. Of course, the powerful laugh at this concept, and say, “How can a tree cut down an ax?” They never like learning the answer.
The time of Napoleon is fascinating, because he was a megalomaniac who began as a flea who the big-shots were blithely ignorant of, yet was given gifts that allowed him to become an ax that shook the world, before falling as the mighty all fall, into the afterglow of glory. As he disrupted the calm and disturbed the peace he forced friends and foes alike to dare to be great. Men had to leave the cozy security of home, leave wives and children, and be men.
I like this time in American history because back then we were a flea, compared to European powers, and when the War of 1812 eventually erupted we were like a flea taking on an elephant. Not counting the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, we had a Navy of some 8 ships, and were taking on Britain’s 600. President Madison does not come across as exactly smart, (but, after all, he was a democrat).
However in order to find crews for its 600 ships England, (and to a lesser degree France), had to bully unwilling men onto their ships, and this had been going on for some ten years before the USA declared war. The impressing of American sailors ruffled American feathers, for, while the USA might have only had a 8 ship Navy, it had developed the second largest fleet of Merchantmen in the world, and these ships were not crewed by men bullied aboard by press gangs, but by men who dared put personal security aside, for their wife and children, and risked death on the bounding main, calling it liberty and relishing it. They wanted no part of Europe’s war, but Europe wanted American goods to supply their troops, and both sides wanted to prevent America from supplying the other side. Jefferson faced an undeclared war with France, (which was angry we didn’t side with them, after they had sided with us in our Revolution.) Jefferson also faced Arab states in North Africa who demanded we pay tribute. And the English were increasingly demanding as well.
Of course it was not Jefferson, and later Madison, who was actually out on the ocean facing these troubles. Besides courage, strength and wisdom, life as a merchantman demanded diplomatic skill, and often involved having to smile as the English or French absconded with your cargo, and sometimes your ship. The amazing thing is that the sailors kept sailing. I suppose the profits were better than the profits from farming, and there was also the not inconsiderable fact that sailing is just plain wonderful fun, for many men.
In any case, the United States may have had a small Navy, but it had a wealth of excellent sailors who were out on the sea because they wanted to be there, as opposed to the English crews who sometimes had been dragged on board their boats kicking and screaming, and would desert at the first opportunity, though doing so meant they risked being hung.
What then happened, once war was declared, was that the American merchantmen turned into “privateers”. They were suppose to get an official slip of paper from the American government, but not everyone bothered. I think it is for this reason there are hugely varying estimates on how many privateers sailed against the English. Officially there were some 500 “licenced” ships, but I have read estimates there were well over a thousand privateers in actual fact. (If you had a licence you were suppose to report your booty, when you got home, at the custom house and pay a tax. Of course this was not always done, by sailors who knew a great deal about smuggling, and about getting around red tape. In fact, in New England, which was most dependent on merchantmen, and where the war was very unpopular, (called “Mr. Madison’s War”), one way around the British blockade was to meet with the blockaders. The British blockade was actually depriving Britain itself of supplies that were needed. Therefore some merchantmen arranged to be “captured”, and then, after goods were off-loaded and cash changed hands, they conveniently “escaped”. So you see, there is a way around red tape, if you look for it.)
When a privateer set sail it had a over-sized crew, for every time it captured an English ship some of its crew had to board the captured ship and sail it home. Some ships would sail off with over a hundred men and return home crewed by fifteen. Some of the ships they captured were recaptured by the British, but many captured ships sailed back into American ports loaded with needed supplies, and as they arrived they told a thrilling tale of the parent ship’s exploits.
Some of the tales are wonderful. The Paul Jones set sail from New York in 1812 with 120 men aboard, but only 3 cannons. She had holes cut in the side for 17. The captain had logs painted black to look like cannons and sailed up to the British merchant ship Hassan, which carried 14 guns, but had a crew of only 20. The Paul Jones sent the extra crew swarming up into the rigging to look like marines. The captain of the Hassan was so fooled by the bluff that he surrendered without firing a shot. In this manner the Paul Jones not only gained a “prize ship”, but 14 cannons, and the captain was able to fill the Paul Jones’ gun mounts with actual guns.
Captain William Nichols, aboard the Decauter, eluded the English frigate Guerriere, but was unable to elude a faster frigate despite throwing his cannons overboard to go faster. To everyone’s relief the faster frigate was the American ship Constitution, and Captain Nichols was then able to direct the Constitution where to find (and defeat) the Guerriere. However as the Constitution sailed out of sight the Decauter’s crew promptly mutinied, insisting they should head home because they had only two cannon left to fight with. After subduing the mutiny by bopping the ringleader over the head, Captain Nichols proceeded to get cannons by capturing seven ships in five days, and headed home with hardly any crew left aboard his own ship, after capturing a total of ten.
The official tally, kept by Lloyds of London, was 1175 British ships captured, of which 373 were captured back by the British Navy before getting back to the United States. The actual numbers were likely higher, as insurance rates got so high as the war went on some ships may have sailed without insurance. Though the British blockade deeply hurt American ports, the English were forced to resort to sailing in convoys. They were able to keep troops supplied (except in the Great Lakes), but the American privateers then sailed across to England, even into the mouth of the Thames, and made the English fishermen fear to go out and fish, resulting in a shortage of that staple to the English diet in English markets. Lastly, there is a lot we don’t know. Of the privateers that officially reported their existence to the American government, 317 never reported capturing any ship. Hmm. Makes you wonder what they were doing with themselves, sailing around out there all that time.
The thing that fascinates me was this was a completely disorganized effort. It was not military in nature, and involved no planning board writing up logistics. It was just a bunch of individual captains and their crews, going every which way without any particular order, and becoming a total thorn in the side of the British fleet. It was not what one would expect, looking at the original of odds of 8 American ships against 600. To me it demonstrates what individuality can accomplish, when set against a vast and seemingly all-powerful organization. Watch out for the flea.
Meanwhile the Americans in charge (being democrats) were making a shambles of things. A flea smaller than even the United States was Upper Canada, but the political appointments in charge of the war made such a mess of things that little Canada initially whupped our butts. Further south British troops marched into the White House and ate Madison’s dinner, before burning the place down. (Baltimore was saved only because a political appointment was booted out, and replaced by a Revolutionary War veteran who knew his ass from his elbow.)
Another small flea that made a difference consisted of some 3000 black slaves, who used the war as a chance to make a dash for freedom. In many cases the men joined the British army and fought against their former masters. (After the war many were settled in Canada, while others settled with their families as farmers on the south coast of Trinidad, where they live to this day as the “Merikins”.) (So perhaps democrats do get credit for freeing some slaves….with the law of unintended consequences kicking in.)
It is odd how liberty works.
In the end the United States did quite well to escape that war with the event called “a draw”. (The real losers were the Indians….but that’s another story).
Happy Independence Day!
Liberty has its price. At dawn I pay The toll and buckle my worn leather belt And plod out into the duty of new day And remember no dreams, nor how I felt When young, but a cloud then catches my eye.
It’s just a wisp of white in the west; Just a mare’s tail, a curl of cirrus in the sky, But disturbs me from my dormancy’s rest.
Toil has its peace, a dulling mindlessness, But the cloud’s a disturbing reminder That Liberty’s more than mess after mess. It’s aim is higher, sweeter, kinder.
Liberty’s price is: Blood waters it’s root, But Liberty’s hope is a fine future fruit.