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.

Whale 6 1024px-Walvisvangst_bij_de_kust_van_Spitsbergen_-_Dutch_whalers_near_Spitsbergen_(Abraham_Storck,_1690)

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:

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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.

Atctic Ruin 2 arctic-propaganda-ship-768x432

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.

Stay tuned.

ARCTIC SEA ICE –Ice-boating Polewards–(Updated)

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.

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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.

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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.

Iceboat 4 photo 26 juillet 2013

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.

Iceboat 5 photo 20 juillet 2013

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.

Iceboat 6 photo 11 aout 2013

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,

Iceboat 8 photo 26 aout 2013

But finally they had to give up and accept an ignominious rescue from the Russian icebreaker Admiral Makarov.

Iceboat 7 photo 8 septembre 2013

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.

Iceboat 9 img jour10


Again they’ve experienced summer warmth that will be good publicity for those who wish to promote the idea of Global Warming.

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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.

Iceboat 11 img jour31


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.

Iceboat 12 img jour33

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.)

You can follow their log, in French, here:

(Hat tip: Stewart Pid)

Tuesday Night Update

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.

Iceboat 13 photo 3 aout 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.

DMI5 0724 meanT_2018

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.

Stay tuned.

LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights Demonstrated–

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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.

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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.

Sparkling Day FullSizeRender

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.

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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.

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First, just over the pines to the lower left is a bit of low cumulus, so low you could almost call it scud.

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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”).

High clouds 4 FullSizeRender

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.

High clouds 5 FullSizeRender

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.

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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.”

LOCAL VIEW –Hurricane Heights (and heat)–

I have seen summers in these hills when we never make it above 90°F: Gray, rainy summers where we were hard pressed to ever make it above 80°F,  when east winds off the cold Gulf of Maine could even keep temperatures below 60°F. Such summers always left me feeling cheated, for I grew up down on the flatland’s west of Boston where it was far warmer. A true heatwave of three days topping 90° is rare in these hills, and therefore I was pleasantly surprised to see this forecast for the start of July:

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I love hot weather, even though I don’t get to kick back and watch the corn grow as much as I’d like.  Perhaps it just reminds me of being young and spoiled. I can recall laying on my back on a hot day as a boy, holding a Popsicle up in the air and letting it melt drop by drop into my mouth,  and feeling perfectly content. Or, perhaps there was a sort of unrest, but it was the unrest of peace, of listening to a symphony.  There was no to-do list.

I’ve had some heart-to-heart talks with God recently about whether it might not be wise to spoil me in that manner again. How is it I am not worth spoiling, now? Certainly I am as perishable, if not more so.  Yet now, if I tried out laying on my back and letting a Popsicle drip into my mouth, I’d get “the look” from my wife. When I try to watch the corn grow, I see the weeds grow instead. Rather than relaxed, summer becomes hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry.

The ironic aspect to the frenetic pace of running a farm-childcare is that I, in some unspoken ways, seek to spoil the kids. I want them to catch what I caught from being spoiled by my own Depression-era parents, who experienced too much poverty and toil and war, and wanted a better life for me. Therefore I fight my losing battle with weeds so they might munch edible-podded peas at their leisure, and teach them the old maxim, “Plant peas on Patriot’s Day (April 19) and pick ’em on Independence Day (July 4).”

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And I struggle with cords and pumps and chemicals and filters, because there’s nothing like splashing in a pool to make a heat-wave bearable. (Our local ponds are OK, as long as you don’t mind leeches.)

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And then there’s the exasperation of fishing, of teaching how to put a worm on, and take a fish off, a hook; of tangle after tangle after tangle after tangle; of casting that is flailing and shoots hooks into shrubbery or another child’s hair or puts my life in danger, all for the dubious honor of seeing a child catch a first fish that isn’t virtual.

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And then there’s the modern, liberated, young suffragettes. Back in my day, girls didn’t even want to go fishing, and thought fish and worms were icky, and they certainly didn’t gross out their guide by kissing fish.

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Kiss frogs? Maybe, because a frog might turn into a prince. But I don’t want to see what sort of prince a fish turns into, and sure as heck don’t want him hanging around young girls at my Childcare.

But I digress. The point I was making was that all sorts of effort goes into making an idyll, all sorts of hurry-hurry, worry-worry, scurry-scurry, all sorts of exasperation and irritation….and then all is redeemed. A light descends and softens a child’s eyes, and just the way they look around at God’s green creation tells me that they “get it”, and that I have successfully passed the baton I received from Depression-era parents on to a new generation.

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The mistake people (including myself) seem to make is to visualize the descent of the Light as being conditional. After all, the Depression-era was a brutal time, yet people who went through it seemed to grasp that Light could be found in small things, even in simply sitting, whereas Baby-Boomers who were spared the brutality and were pampered strangely knew thirst and discontent. The attempt to exclude brutality at times led to exclusiveness, to a sort of gated-community of “the elite” which, rather than an ivory tower, became a vacuum, devoid of the very air that hearts need most.

To me the escape from this conditional exclusiveness seems to be to cultivate the attitude of a little child: Children accept the cards as dealt, while the grown-ups attempt to bully and bribe the dealer. It is the grown-ups who scramble to come up with four hundred dollars a month to pay for an air conditioner. For a child, when it’s hot, it’s hot, and when it’s not, it’s not.

I love the warm mornings, (all too few
This far north), when I can sit on the stoop
And watch the dawn grow last webbed drops of dew
Before the day bakes, and watch last bats loop
And dart, and hear first birds sing, and not put
On a shirt.
                       It’s like I’m a boy again,
Though I’ll confess I wince walking barefoot
                Once I lost shoes in June, and then, when
I looked again for those shoes, it was fall
And they didn’t fit. I could tread over
Sharp stones and barnacles, and I recall
Broken glass didn’t phase me.
                                                           Now clover
Is what my feet prefer to tread upon,
But still I love the feel of summer dawn. 

One reason I was able to be content as a child was the sense the Depression-era grown-ups were taking care of things. True, there would be occasional shadows, times I intuitively sensed all was not well,  but for the most part I was blissfully ignorant about things such as divorce, mother’s-little-helper pills, and the Vietcong. I was nearly eleven before the assassination of John Kennedy first deeply shook my faith. Before then I had a sort of heedless and thoughtless faith.

Now my faith is more thought-out. Now I am the Baby-Boom-era grown-up, taking care of things. It doesn’t matter how inadequate I feel; it is my turn to be the elder. My faith allows me to  sit back and enjoy warmth that is rare in northern lands, but my contentment is not complete, for I am always on the lookout for trouble. When it’s hot I keep peering west for the purple skies of thunderstorms, and to the high clouds, for hints of a hurricane.

Many of my ancestors were involved with trade and sailing ships, and were  forever scanning the skies. A hurricane could turn a fat profit into a total loss, and therefore they were always on the lookout for “hurricane heights.”

What were “hurricane heights”? I can’t say. A lot of that wisdom was lost with the last captain of the last coastal schooner. All I can say is that they studied the sky in a way we cannot imagine. I know nothing of the nuances they knew, but do know they noticed high clouds don’t move the same direction low clouds move.

Modern meteorologists know about such differences through studying surface maps, which show the direction low clouds move, and comparing them with upper-air maps, which show the direction high clouds move. They have a huge advantage over the captains of coastal schooners, because they not only know how the high clouds are moving far to the west, and far to the east, but at times, when the sky is completely overcast, they know what high clouds are doing directly overhead, which the captains of schooners might not know.

But the captains of schooners had an advantage over modern meteorologists. When modern meteorologists blow a forecast they suffer embarrassment, yet seldom lose their jobs, but when the captains of schooners blew a forecast they lost their lives, or, if they crawled ashore, they had lost their cargo and therefore their livelihood.  Therefore what those old timers knew about high clouds involved an immediacy, urgency, and focus which modern meteorologists can’t imagine.

Also the captains of coastal schooners were not reading tickertape from a distant buoy or squinting at a satellite’s picture; they were right on the interface between sea and sky. They were right there, and there’s no buoy or satellite than can substitute for a man’s skin and hair. I often wonder if the most amazing discoveries concerning insights gleaned from the movements of high clouds were made by captains who died ten minutes later. Those sailing ships were not designed to handle hundred knot winds. Yet amazingly some captains survived hurricanes, in ships completely demasted yet controlled by a storm jib on a bowsprit. And when these crippled ships limped back to port their captains brought weather-data you do not learn in colleges, but can hear echoes of to this day, in taverns by the sea.

Me? I’m in awe of both the bygone oldsters and the modern meteorologists. What I know about “hurricane heights” is but crumbs a mouse gathers from a banquet. And what I gather is this:

Hot spells in New England tend to end with thunder, and also with a change in the movement of high clouds. When it was hot high clouds came from the southwest, but after the thunder they come from the northwest. Then it is delightfully cooler, with northwest winds. And upper air maps shows a “trof” (meteorologist spelling) crossing  New England. It is like a the dent a schoolgirl makes in a jump-rope, when lifting it up and down, and will be followed by the bump in the jump-rope, called an upper air  “ridge” (ordinary spelling).

As this upper air ridge approaches the refreshing northwest breezes die, and winds shift to the southwest, and people await the next summer hot spell. However worry-warts like me me get anxious, and start scanning the sunrise sky for hurricane heights.

Joe Bastardi called such ridges, “a ridge over troubled waters,” (a pun on an old Simon and Garfunkle song). Old schooner captains also worried when summer ridges past. They searched south for hurricanes. And true to form, as a hot ridge recently passed over New England, tropical storm Chris formed just off the Carolina coast, to the south.

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Such a hurricane shouldn’t trouble me, for they nearly always are steered out to sea by the upper-air “trof” following the upper-air “ridge”. Maybe such storms only concerned the captains of coastal schooners, because they too went “out to sea”, right where the hurricanes went,  and then those captains confronted conditions lubbers can’t imagine. (There was no Cape Cod Canal, and in order for New York City to build its tenements Maine lumber had to be shipped far “out to sea” to get around Cape Cod.)

Even people who stay ashore on the coast face high surf and rip tides, as such hurricanes go “out to sea”. But my farm is inland, up in the hills. Barring an unimaginable earthquake, these hills aren’t going “out to sea” any time soon.  Why should I care?

It is because the upper atmosphere does not always behave like waves going up and down on a schoolgirl’s jump-rope. A school-girl’s jump-rope never breaks off a bump into a circle that gets bigger and bigger and becomes a hurricane, boring from the surface right up into the upper atmosphere.

Once such a circle appears on meteorological maps they become an entity that has a life of its own. Usually they are steered by the steering currents, but they are also an impediment to the flow, like a boulder in a river, and therefore they have an uncanny capacity to alter the steering current. They can even steer the steering current. They impede the steering current to such a degree that upper-air winds are deflected. With a hurricane in the way, rather than aiming northeast the steering currents may be deflected north, or even, on very rare occasions, northwest.

Meteorologists who are wiser than I describe this as a “positively-tilted trof” being replaced by a “negatively tilted trof”, with the result being that a hurricane that ordinarily would go out to sea curves north or, very rarely, northwest.

Even when the hurricanes come north they tend to weaken over the cold shelf waters, and to suck dry air in from land, and have the most intense winds by the “eye-wall” collapse. Also they tend to curve away northeast at the end, which keeps the strongest winds east of my hills. Thus all the storms of my lifetime have been breezy and warm summer rains,  with some branches and rotted trees falling (and perhaps knocking the power out for a few hours). The next day’s news has pictures of surf and banged-up boats down on Cape Cod and in Buzzard’s Bay, and there can be flooding due to torrential rains, but the news  is never as bad as I know it could have been. In a sense I’ve spent a lifetime scanning the skies for hurricane heights I’ve never seen.

And what is this worst case scenario I envision? It is a hurricane that doesn’t dawdle over a colder shelf waters, but rather accelerates up the coast, cutting northwest as it plows inland, putting my hills to the east of the eye-wall. The blow-down of trees would be unimaginable to people now alive.

Actually I can’t say such a storm has never occurred in my lifetime, for Hurricane Carol took that track when I was one year old. I don’t remember it, but do recall being shown the fallen trees in the woods as a boy. They were trunks all laying the same way, on scrubby hillsides, and as we hiked I heard my Dad talk with other grown-ups about the older, mossier trunks being from an earlier hurricane (1938), and my grandfather commenting one summer was wetter (I can’t recall which summer) and that meant one hurricane uprooted trees and the other hurricane snapped them off.

To my boyish mind  it seemed such hurricanes must happen fairly often, but here it is 64 years later and we haven’t seen anything like them since. The scrubby hillside is now reforested with 64-year-old trees, and the fallen trunks have been melted down by rot and are mere green stripes of moss on the forest floor, with peculiar piles of stones at the ends, showing where the ripped-up bottoms once thrust tangles of earth and stones and writhing roots, and my grandfather said I should look for exposed arrowheads. Where the Depression-era elders saw two such storms in sixteen years we have been spared, but perhaps, just as the tree trunks have faded, so has the public’s memory of what can happen.

The sensationalist media is so eager to hurry on to the next headline it seems to have amnesia, like a person with dementia, only a person with dementia at least has some long-term-recall, even when they can’t remember where they put their car keys. The media is worse, with a forgetfulness more like a person who has smoked way, way too much marijuana, who cannot even remeber what car keys are for.

The media doesn’t even seem to fact-check any more, crowing a single day of hundred degrees is a big deal the Great Plains, where it once was over 110°F, day after day after day after burning day, during the nigh-intolerable Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Then, on July 13, 1954, it touched 120°F in Kansas, there were 100 degree temperatures noted in places from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and when you took all the high temperatures from all the station across the USA, north and south and east and west, the average was 95°F. (See post at .

When the media ignores this striking past to sensationalize the more modest present, they not only make people less respectful towards what our forebears endured, but also make people unaware of what might happen again, (because it happened before). I have concluded that, in a strange way, the media generates a discontent where people once knew contentment despite hard times, and fosters a foolishness where people once were wise.

I refuse to be that way, so I sit and scan the summer’s warm dawn skies for hurricane heights, seeking high scarlet feathers and dappled intricacies from the southeast, at peace, but ever watchful.

But still I love the feel of summer dawn
Though I know her ways. She can’t disguise her
Devilish tricks. Her smiling lips won’t stay upon
My smile. She’ll leave. I’m older, wiser,
But still her kisses are reminding me of
A place I hope to return, after death:
The land before birth; a landscape of Love;
A time without time that takes away your breath.
Most have amnesia, and forget the breast
That fed them, and the peace before that time.
The work-a-day world puts all to the test
Like hamsters in wheels, or lemmings that climb
In a terrible rush to get to the top,
When the way to be wise is to stop.

ARCTIC SEA-ICE –The Newfoundland Crunch–UPDATED

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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.

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However a month later we see that the area the ice covered has shrunk back to the west.

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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.

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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.

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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?


It took some digging, but I did finally find news about the fishermen.

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LOCAL VIEW –Liberty–

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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.