Real-time Earth and Moon phase

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"I feel lucky to be alive!"

The title of this blog is the words of U.K. Yachtsman Tony Peters in responding to a BBC reporter. This BBC news is what I'll call a blogger's treat -- a story of freaque wave with a happy ending:
Yachtsman Tony Peters was halfway between Durban in South Africa and Fremantle in Australia during a round-the-world race when a freak wave sent him flying across the deck. He tells BBC Berkshire's Phil Kennedy about how he feels lucky to be alive.
Here's some interesting Q and A between Kennedy and Peters:

Before we get to the main story, what injuries have you sustained from this freak wave?

"I've got off quite lightly - I've got a broken nose and a cut across my forehead but that's it actually."

Tell us the story, you're in the middle of nowhere and ...what is a freak wave? How big was it?

"We knew it was going to be a large wave because we were down in the Indian Ocean which is actually one of the reasons I wanted to do the race.

"We were out on watch and thankfully I had the harness on, I was clipped on so that helped to save me.

"I had my back to the bow and unfortunately we just hit an enormous wave and it sent me flying across the deck and I hit my head on what we call the 'traveller', which is the boon that hit me on the forehead.

"There was quite a lot of blood but thankfully I wasn't unconcious so I was able to tell my colleagues what to do."

So lets just put this into context, you weren't sailing on your own were you?

"No there's 14 of us and there's 10 yachts in total racing around the world."

So what happened after that? Why is it they decided to send you home?

"Well, we have a link to Falmouth Coast Guard and they can link us directly to the doctor which we did do. That was all being done by the skipper while I was being treated on board.

"Because I had sustained quite a severe head injury the advice was that I needed to get off the boat and get to a hospital as soon as possible.

"So to be honest I knew straight away that that was what was needed but we were 350 miles out of Durban at the time and it was too windy for the helicopter to come out.

"They diverted a tanker but it was just too rough to get me off the yacht and onto the tanker but the tanker crew were very good and they stayed with us while we turned the yacht back around towards Durban and stayed with us all night.

"Then a South African frigate replaced the tanker and again they tried to get me onto that yesterday but it was just too rough at sea to do a transfer safely.

"The frigate escorted us back to Durban and eventually I was taken off the yacht by lifeboat and then taken to hospital.

"I spent most of last night in hospital and was discharged this morning and I'm now flying back to the UK."

How did it feel? I suppose when you're in that situation and you're miles from anywhere it's not easy to be rescued. Is it quite scary?

"I think at the time I was more concentrating on me and thankfully the crew on board were looking after me and monitoring my condition, so there wasn't much time to be scared to be honest.

"It was just a matter of getting me down below deck and making the arrangements to get me ashore."

Does it feel weird to be at the airport knowing that your colleagues are still on the yacht? Now that they've come back to Durban are they going to head off again to Fremantle or is that it?

"No, as soon as I was put onto the lifeboat they turned around straight back out to sea so my thoughts are with them now they are on their way back over to Australia.

"What I'm planning on doing is getting back to the UK and spending some time with my family and then I'm back on the plane to Fremantle to meet the yacht.

I think the most crucial part of the story is the fact that he had the harness on. That is more effective than just a life jacket. By all means have both a life jacket and a harness if possible. Safety first, safety second, and safety always! It's no need to be heroic or a dare devil out there -- especially not a dead hero!

Remembering Laura -- a year later.

Last night, purely by chance and through channel surfing, I watched the second half hour of the CBC investigation news program "Fifth Estate" which was about the lost of Laura Gainey December 8, 2006 when a rogue wave was reported to have swept her overboard from the tall ship Picton Castle near the Gulf Stream in north Atlantic. I blogged about the case a year ago. I watched the program with mixed feelings.

Since I did not watch the beginning, what I did see was mainly on the inadequacy or lacking of safety measure on the ship and that there seemed to be two conflict aftermath reports and therefore coverup was alleged. What I was somewhat disappointed was that there's very little discussion on the rogue wave aspect and what was actually happened. I got the impression that rogue wave was even generally dismissed as a cause of this tragic case. Of course if there was a cover-up, one can not help but share the angry and anguish of Laura's father, the legendary hockey great Bob Gainey, and this his heartsick comment:
Perhaps life jackets would be wise. Perhaps harnesses would be wise.
While I feel the CBC program seems to be only aimed at fixing blames on the company, I do also feel strongly that there is just no excuse for not requiring every one on board to wear life jacket or harness.

On the web site of Picton Castle there's a special web section called "Tribute for Laura" where I found the following poem:

From a former shipmate:

A Prayer for Laura

Sleep my little sister lost in the eternal womb of the sea.

Free from toil and strife, forever engraved in my memory

with the timeless beauty of one taken far too soon.

Journey my little sister lost to that undiscovered country

where the quick cannot land.

Your spirit soars at my masthead as the black crested seabird

showing me the way home.

Be at peace my little sister lost until that end of days when

all sailors are called home from the sea.

When once again we will rejoice in the company of shipmates

long departed and sorely missed.

Be at peace.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Kite power

Here's something refreshingly new and interesting:
A kite the size of a football field will provide most of the power for a German heavy freight ship set to launch in December.
reported by the Network World.
And that
. . . it expects the kites to decrease fuel consumption by up to 50% in optimal cases as well as a cutback of the emission of greenhouse gases on sea by 10 to 20%.
I don't know how practical this new power can be. But I think this is the kind of innovation this world really should encourage for more, a lot more!

Is it politics of climate or to climate the politics?

The end of November is the end of Hurricane season, there have been a few interesting articles commenting the Hurricane season of 2007. For instance, this Beaumont Enterprise article by Ryan Meyers entitled "2007 hurricane season deemed 'near normal'." Because in essence
The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, included 14 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The Hurricane Center describes an average season as 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
But this Miami Herald article by Martin Merzer takes issue on Hurricane predictions as "Hurricane prediction miss the mark!" While this Orlando Sentinel "Other Views" article by Thomas V. DiBacco under the title of "You can't change the weather" gave some historical perspective on the topic:
The hurricane season officially comes to an end in the next few days, and I'm sure all Floridians are breathing a great sigh of relief about this season's modest storm and damage results. But Floridians, and East Coast residents of the United States in general, should not be pleased about the existing machinery of hurricane forecasting and dissemination to the public. The reason is that the major responsibility for this critical job is left to the federal government, which, unfortunately and not surprisingly, is a bureaucratic mess.

It wasn't always that way. A hurricane-warning division under the Weather Bureau was established by President William McKinley in 1898. And it got along just fine for decades until the government worked its magic hand in administrative specialization.

Today the National Hurricane Center is part of the National Weather Service's Tropical Prediction Center, which is responsible for tracking tropical storms. But then the National Hurricane Center has its own specialized unit, the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (formerly the Tropical Satellite Analysis and Forecast unit), which is responsible for forecasts on the high seas. Then all this is under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which is under the Department of Commerce.
As one who has just retired from NOAA and worked at NOAA since it was first established by President Richard Nixon, I can not disagree with the characterization of "bureaucratic mess."

But the most hilarious one that really tells like it is is the article in Washington Times this morning by Wesley Pruden that starts with:
All the wiseheads keep telling us that Climate is headed south, but Weather keeps getting in the way.

Global warming is scheduled to kill us all before next Christmas, but since Christmas is going the way of the hula hoop to avoid offending Osama bin Laden, the ACLU and assorted grinches, we might yet muddle on.

The United Nations sponsored a session for wiseheads the other day in Valencia, where they dined in expensive Spanish restaurants, basked in luxury hotels and took the waters on a government dime, obligated only to listen to each other talk about the coming death in the afternoon for those who don't die first of bird flu, AIDS, staph infections and other plagues that were supposed to dispose of us by now.
Then he reports:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summarized the session's finding in a mere 25 pages of the frenzied language of panic. Everyone will feel its effects, the director of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change said. But global warming will hit the poorest countries hardest, just as the end of the world will hurt women and minorities most. Failing to recognize the urgency of this message would be nothing less than criminally responsible.

Some of the delegates conceded that it's only nice to be sensitive to certain national concerns, mostly those of the little countries that yearn to tie Gulliver down to their size. Some are worried about oceans, others about glaciers. The environmentalists worry that the exaggerations might be toned down. They're insistent that the U.N. say "with certainty" that global warming is real and caused by man. The Americans tried to tone down the horror-movie exaggeration of the threat of hurricanes over the next century.
Now here's what's wrong with the hurricane season of 2007:

Hurricanes, in fact, have been a big disappointment this year. There haven't been any to speak of. No Katrina, no Andrew, no Audrey, no Camille, not even a stray Felix or Feliciana that anybody remembers. This was the hurricane year the global-warming industry was counting on. And then, zilch.

Yes, indeed, many people would expect that a Katrina type to hit a major America city yearly, but 2006 and especially 2007 are just totally out of control. "Control" is the key word! How else can they demonstrate the mighty power of the U.N. ?! But fortunately for the future of mankind, neither U.N./I.P.C.C. nor Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. and his "leading scientists"cheering squad can have any control over the mother nature! Pruden appropriately retraced Michael Crichton:
Short on science, the faithful are long on politics. Politics, says Michael Crichton, the novelist and inventor of Jurassic Park who made cloning popular, leads to belief and science leads to facts. Or ought to. He recalled in a speech to the National Press Club two years ago how quickly politics can intimidate science.

"In the first Earth Day in 1970," he said, "Kenneth Watt [of the University of California-Davis], said: 'If present trends continue, the world will be about 4 degrees colder in 1990, but 11 degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.' International Wildlife warned 'a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war' as a threat to mankind. Science Digest declared that the world 'must prepare for the next ice age.' The Christian Science Monitor noted that armadillos had moved out of Nebraska because it was too cold, glaciers had begun to advance, and growing seasons had shortened around the world."

Now we're up to our hips in alligators and global-warming fanatics. We can't predict a hurricane next week, but Al Gore can predict doom 40 years from next Christmas, and a lot of people take him seriously.
Here finally come to a point that caused me to wonder: Are there really "a lot" of people take Algore seriously? Who are these people? Pruden mentioned one:
Maybe even George W. Bush, who entertained him yesterday at the White House. George W. is looking desperately for a legacy, and Al has one to sell.
Ah! Geroge W., who had a worthy legacy for 6 years then through it all away last year, why would Algore care?

Now looking forward to 2008, if "experts" predict another "normal" year the I'll be very nervous!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Monster waves less of a threat, really?

This NewScientist article entitled "Monster waves less of a threat with smart radar" by Paul Marks has been widely reported by many news outlets with the same headline. The news even impressed my fellow blog friend Robin Stormer, who also blogged about it.

I must confess that I don't think much about it. I feel compeled to say something because of the subject matter, even it's ho hum to me. Here are my rather contrarian view points:

First of all, if it is a monster wave, its threat can never be lessened. May be you might have some time to prepare for it, but that by no means lessens the threat. This is a down right fallacious title to begin with.

Next, the main advertising point is this picture:

which implies that if a ship is armed with this kind of information it will "give crews a fighting chance to either evade the waves, or at least batten down the hatches." The essence of the whoopla is a newly developed algorithm that produce the green picture on the right which identifies the size of the waves ahead. But the dark blue picture on the left is the radar result the ships now have. If the ship captains saw that there's a messy storm ahead in their shipping route, wouldn't they be prepared to cope with it anyway?

From the article's alluding to "Mariners' tales" I think there could be some intentional or unintentional attempt here to confuse monster with freaque waves. We know that a messy storm always associates with predictable large waves that can be considered as monster ones, but whether or not there's a freaque wave is not yet known. Trying to intermingle the terms is unconscionable.

The other more salient point is that if there's really a freaque wave ahead, a freaque wave is usually come out of nowhere and disappear after it had happened. So if a ship noticed a real freaque wave ahead, that will be a good thing for the record, but it will no longer constitute any threat for the ship at any rate.

The real threat from a monstrous freaque wave for each ship in reality is its totally uncertain, unknown, and unpredictable. You only know it happened after you encountered it. This new software device will not be of any help when that happens.

So in a nutshell, that's why I am not at all excited about this new software device. Especially the fact that the developers formed a new company to market the device. They are certainly entitled to do that in our free enterprise system. But then I can not help wondering: Is it a commercial advertisment or is it a science report? Somehow I failed to recognize that this new software is by any means particularly useful . And I can't be totally objective when I feel what I see is more of a hype than truly useful science.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tragedies at Tossa de Mar and Rumelifeneri

It's hard to report a tragedy news on Thanksgiving holiday. My friend and fellow blogger Robin Stormer first alerted me this news through his kind Happy Thanksgiving email while I was enjoying the visit of my daughter and her family and playing with my granddaughters. The news has been widely reported. May be this BBC report tells it all:
A British man and his five-year-old son have drowned after being swept out to sea in Spain, the Foreign Office said.

The man's two sons were washed into the sea as he took a picture of them at a popular beauty spot at Tossa de Mar, near Barcelona, on the Costa Brava.

The Spanish news agency Europa Press reported the man managed to rescue one of the boys.

But he was overcome as he tried to recover his second son. Next of kin have been notified, officials say.

Europa Press reported that rescue firefighters in a helicopter had spotted the man and his son clinging to a life buoy, but rough seas prevented them from reaching the duo in time.

Both bodies were later retrieved 30m (98ft) from the beach.

The Spanish coast has been hit by stormy weather this week.



It is really hard to believe that human tragedy can happen in a stunningly sceneic place like this. But the story is certainly not new on this blog. It's that freaque, unpredictable on shore wave that had caused so many tragedies all over the world. Other than asking people to be watchful and constantly beware, there is no way to prevent it at the present. Just a couple of days before this, On the north coast of Turkey, Sabah reported that "A weekend outing by a family to a village in Rumelifeneri, a village located at the junction of the Bosphorus and the Black Sea, turned into a tragedy. Sudden giant waves swallowed up both a father and daughter." Here's what happened:
A general manager Tayfun Gökhan, his foreign wife, his foreign brother-in-law and his daughter went to the seaside in Rumelifener for dinner. While the family was walking along the seaside, a giant wave pulled Aylin and her uncle into the sea. The mother Alexandra watched in horror as father Tayfun Gökhan jumped into the sea to save them. While the father was trying to swim against the giant waves, the uncle's leg was broken immediately after he was dragged into the sea. The coast guards rescued the uncle and recovered the dead body of the little girl; however efforts are ongoing to locate the father.
It's a different coast, with totally different people, but hauntingly similar stories. Those sneaky freaque waves. Will there ever be an end to this kind of tragic happenings?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cyclone Sidr

As we are preparing for Thanksgiving and be thankful for another relatively mild hurricane season over the continent U.S., but the season is not over yet in the Indian Ocean. As this Reuters news reported by Anis Ahmed show:

DHAKA (Reuters) - A severe cyclone has killed more than 500 people in Bangladesh and left thousands injured or missing, triggering an international relief effort on Friday to help the disaster-prone country cope with its latest disaster.

Local officials and Red Crescent workers said 508 deaths had been confirmed. Hundreds more were injured or missing after Cyclone Sidr struck overnight packing winds of 250 kph (155 mph).

The Category 4 cyclone triggered a 15-foot (5-metre) high tidal surge that devastated three coastal towns and forced 3.2 million people to evacuate, officials and aid agencies said.

Yes, the winds at 155 mph is Category 4. But they call it Cyclone in that part of the world. So we call it Hurricane and they call it Typhoon in Eastern Pacific and Cyclone in Southen Indian Ocean. It could be confusing for people reading the news from different parts of the world. So if anything we need to bring things together to simplify and blending the terms rather than codify everything by the code words like "diversity."

Just in case some overly wise person might incline to link this cyclone to, what else, global warming, this Now Republic article reminds us that:
Almost 37 years ago to the day, a category 3 equivalent storm made landfall on Bangladesh resulting in the deaths of over 300,000 people. Dubbed the Bhola cyclone, the flooding due to storm surge is widely regarded as one of the most deadly natural disasters of the modern era. In 1991 at least 138,000 people were killed by another cyclone which made landfall on Bangladesh.
So it has had happened long before Albert Arnold Gore Jr. lost his election and the come forth of SUV's. Where were Gore and those UN IPCC and Nobel Peace Prize people 37 years ago?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Eleuthera cliffs

I only made one Caribbean cruise and I have never heard of Eleuthera. I come across this advertisment article by Perry Joseph, written in 2005, that somehow captured my fancy. Here's his description of encountering a freaque wave on the cliff:
Imagine standing on a virtually sheer cliff a hundred plus feet above the ocean and watching the water pound on the rock face below. You feel perfectly safe and removed from the ocean’s displayof brute force… that is until a rogue wave hits the cliff wall and jumps up over your head dumping hundreds of gallons of sea water on you and your poor camera. This is immediately followed with a scream “What was that?” Since there are no reefs to break the water coming into the cliffs, the right wave breaking at the right angle produces a water show that even the Bellagio can not match.
which is a fairly good account of what had or might have happened. While Eleuthera has been described as "a bit of Eden" because of its hard packed pink sand beaches, I don't think I would relish to live or even visit there, especially after seeing the following pictures I found:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Black Sea storm


This was the AFP news late yesterday:

MOSCOW (AFP) — Five-metre (16-feet) high waves smashed apart a Russian tanker on Sunday, spilling 1,300 tonnes of fuel oil into the Black Sea in what environmentalists called an "ecological catastrophe."

Four other cargo ships including three carrying sulphur also sank as winds of up to 108 kilometres (67 miles) an hour battered the Kerch Strait separating the Black Sea from the Sea of Azov.

Rescue services plucked 36 crewmembers from stricken vessels but fears were growing for the fate of 23 missing sailors as weather conditions worsened, reports said.

Forty vessels were evacuated from Kavkaz, a busy Russian commercial port some 1,200 kilometres (750 miles) south of Moscow, officials said. Ten others were forced to stay in the port because of the storm.

Some 300 kilometres further west, high winds sank a cargo ship with 17 sailors on board. Two were rescued and 15 were still missing, officials said.

"This is a major ecological catastrophe," Vladimir Slivyak, head of Ekozashchita, or Ecodefense, a Russian environmental group, was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

and here's the news from Winston-Salem Journal today:

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia — Massive waves split a Russian oil tanker in two during a fierce storm yesterday, spilling at least 560,000 gallons of fuel into a strait leading to the Black Sea. It was the worst environmental disaster in the region in years, and some officials said that it could take years to clean up.

The 18-foot waves also sank two Russian freighters nearby, in the Strait of Kerch, a narrow strait linking the Black Sea and the smaller Sea of Azov to the northeast. Eight sailors from one freighter were missing, but rescuers saved all the crew members of the other vessel.

In total, as many as 10 ships sank or ran aground in the Strait of Kerch and in the nearby area of the Black Sea, and reports said that three other sailors were dead or missing.

Maxim Stepanenko, a regional prosecutor, told Vesti 24 that captains had been warned Saturday about the stormy conditions.


Now here's from the BBC News today:

The Russian oil tanker Volganeft-139 came apart after it was smashed by 108km/h (67 mph) winds and 5m (16ft) waves in the narrow Kerch Strait between Russia and Ukraine.

The tanker's 13 crew were rescued after several hours. So far 35 sailors from the sunk vessels have been plucked to safety.

But eight others are still reported missing. The bodies of three people believed to be from the stricken ships were found on Monday morning, Russian news agencies say.

A second oil tanker is being monitored closely because its hull has developed cracks.

Yet more ships have run aground or slipped anchor and are drifting at the mercy of the storm.

Russian prosecutors say they are investigating whether the ships' captains ignored warnings of the approaching storm.

So for a major event like this one, it is difficult to keep facts straight from major or minor news reports, not even the size of the wave. We know it was a bad storm and it was a large wave but not a freaque one. And this following comment in the BBC report could be making someone upset:
But the oil spill is small by comparison with the Prestige disaster off Spain five years ago.
Whether or not a catastrophe is going to be a major ecological catastrophe is probably in the eyes of the beholder -- comparatively speaking, that is. Of course, it's just a matter of time, sooner or later, someone is going to declare that this storm is caused by global warming, what else?

Angler dies after freak wave capsizes boat

Here's a depressing tragic news we wish it will never happen. It was reported in ABC Newcastle NSW this morning. The news report was brief:

Port Stephens water police will today try to salvage a boat that capsized near Broughton Island yesterday, drowning one of its crew.

Three men were in the boat, taking part in a fishing tournament, when a freak wave overturned the boat.

It took an hour for rescue crews to retrieve the body of the 41-year-old man from western Sydney.

Sergeant Tony Hogg says the boat is now perched on a rocky outcrop on the edge of the island.

"At the time, the tide was up a bit so that would have helped to get it in the position it's in," he said.

"Our guys are going out this morning on high tide to see whether we can salvage the boat or not.

"But people should be aware that there are areas around Broughton Island that are very dangerous, in particularly when it's smooth, but in actual fact if there's a bit of a swell it can peak and present some sort of danger."

So in essence it was the sad news of three men in a small boat that was capsized by a freaque wave and one life was lost. I think the last sentence in the report is very sobering: in the Sergeant's words the dangers will be there all the time particularly when it's smooth and a bit of swell "can peak and present some sort of danger." That really can happen to any beach and nearshore area and even the deep ocean. You just can not relax and taking things for granted when you are out there!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Saying "Thank you!" to the Veterans.

Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, but being thankful should starts today by saying thanks to the veterans. This article by Kyle-Anne Shiver in American Thinker did it for us:
Let me start by simply saying, "Thank you." To every man and woman who preserved my liberty this year, and for all of you who have ever proudly worn our Nation's uniform, I say, "Thank you!"

Today I read a book, which I bought from a bookstore a mile from my home. There are more books in that Barnes & Noble than once filled an entire library, and they represent the independent thought and ideas of thousands and thousands of people living free. For this weighty privilege, I say, "Thank you!"

Last Sunday, I attended mass with my family. We worshiped God in the exact manner of our own choosing. And I am sadly reminded that there are millions of other people still suffering dire religious persecution, even death, doled out by governments that do not respect this inalienable right. To all my American soldiers, past and present, I say, "Thank you!"

Our daughter went to college classes today. There she studies and argues with her professors. She is hammering out her own view of the world in safety, and with the dignity of a free woman in charge of her own destiny. To all of you veterans, wherever you are, she and I say, "Thank you!"
And this:
I have lived in America all my life, for 56 years now, and every single night when I have laid my head upon my pillow, you were somewhere watching over my safety. For every single one of those nights of peaceful rest, I simply say, "Thank you!"
Thank you also, Kyle-Anne, for a great eloquent article that showing us what we all should have in mind and wishing to say the same.


Update

My friend and fellow blogger, Lt. Commender Robin Stormer posted in his blog the most beautiful and sad WWI (May 3, 1915) poem "In Flanders Fields" to commemorate the Veterans Day:
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


There's a story behind this poem which is given here, where I copied the above from.


Update II

Here's a powerful WWII eulogy delivered by Rabbi Roland Gittelsohn at the Marine Cemetery after the battle of Iwo Jima:

Here lie men who loved America because their ancestors generations ago helped in her founding, and other men who loved her with equal passion because they themselves or their own fathers escaped from oppression to her blessed shores. Here lie officers and men, Negroes and whites, rich men and poor . . . together. Here are Protestants, Catholics and Jews together. Here no man prefers another because of his faith or despises him because of his color. Here there are no quotas of how many from each group are admitted or allowed. Among these men, there is no discrimination. No prejudices. No hatred. Theirs is the highest and purest democracy …

Whosoever of us lifts his hand in hate against a brother, or who thinks himself superior to those who happen to be in the minority, makes of this ceremony and the bloody sacrifice it commemorates, an empty, hollow mockery. To this, then, as our solemn duty, sacred duty do we the living now dedicate ourselves: to the right of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, of white men and Negroes alike, to enjoy the democracy for which all of them have here paid the price …

We here solemnly swear that this shall not be in vain. Out of this and from the suffering and sorrow of those who mourn this will come, we promise, the birth of a new freedom for the sons of men everywhere.

The story behind this is given here. I read about this from Michael Ledeen of the Corner

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Remembering the Fitz 2007

I guess we can probably call November 10th the Fitz Day by now. It was 32 years ago today, the world was shocked to learn that the largest ship on the Great Lakes at the time was lost during a strom in eastern Lake Superior near Whiltfish Bay along with all 29 crew members on board. The tragidy being remembered every year on this day since then. Here's a roundup of some of the rememberance or comemorations I came across on the internet today:

1. A very good article by bolgger steelwhip2001 that provides detail updated information including a cool Youtube video tribute completed with Gordon Lightfoot's singing. I was particularly interested in this:
A documentary created and aired by the Discovery Channel investigated a large "fold" found in the hull plating. Previous defects with cargo hold covers and clamps as well as cracking issues were also addressed. Through the use of wave tanks and computer simulation, the Discovery Channel team concluded the loss of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was due to a freak wave. Reports show three large waves were detected, two of which were reported by the Edmund Fitzgerald. As per the investigation, it was theorized that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was badly battered by the first two waves, further damaging the dual radar (which shared a common antenna) and the hatch covers. It is surmised that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald took on water through the damaged cargo hold covers and was then overwhelmed by the third wave.
2. Another one by blogger Quad and Fish. And another one here.

3. An interesting video article here reported a week ago by Jeanette Trompeter of WCCO.com talked about Split Rock Lighthouse but include this:
The Edmund Fitzgerald did not go down off Split Rock, but it went by the lighthouse the night before. That's why every year the folks at Split Rock Lighthouse pay tribute to the ship and its men.

Once a year, the magnificent beacon is lit again and the names of those who went down on the Fitzgerald are read.

It's an opportunity to honor, not only the lives lost in these waters, but the bravery of all those who have and still do navigate their way along Minnesota's North Shore.
4. This one from Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter:
To commemorate the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald 32 years ago during a storm on Lake Superior, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, 75 Maritime Drive, will open “Of Ships and Men — The Edmund Fitzgerald” on Saturday, Nov. 10.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Surfers to the rescue

One usually does not thinking surfers as life savers, but here's a heart warming story by David MacGregor from the DispatchOnline of South Africa shows just that two young surfers had indeed rescued two lives with the help of their surfboards.

TWO Port Alfred surfers went to the rescue yesterday after monster waves off the Kowie River mouth threw two people off a deep-sea fishing boat as it left the port.

Surfers Daniel Patterson and Marc Radloff, both 19, dragged student, Louis Thick, 19, and local township fisherman George Matinyela, 65, onto their surfboards and paddled safely to the beach.

Both men said they were “lucky to be alive”. Neither was injured but both were treated on the beach for shock by local National Sea Rescue Institute volunteers.

Minutes after being rescued, a soaking Matinyela said although he had worked for years as a “boat gillie” he was reluctant to go back out to sea again.

“I thought I was going to die … luckily there were two surfers nearby and they rescued us. I thank God I am alive.”

Patterson said the men were thrown from the 26-foot long Sea Breeze charter boat when it tried to outrun massive swells and was sideswiped by two breaking waves.

Both appeared “very panicked”.

“They were both wearing life jackets, but this did not seem to help much. They both looked like they could not swim much. The old guy was struggling from being weighed down by several layers of wet clothing and the young guy looked very scared,” he said.

The boat’s skipper, Danny Vermaak, could do little to help as he was busy trying to negotiate his boat through the raging surf.

Radloff said: “The men were thrown off by the first wave … the boat almost capsized a second time when it was hit by another wave. The skipper turned towards the open sea and raced to safety, leaving the men behind.”

The other man rescued, who is an Educational Institute for Service Studies student in Port Alfred, said he had chartered a deep-sea fishing trip with a friend when the disaster struck.

I am both encouraged and surprised by the comment "They were both wearing life jackets, but this did not seem to help much." I am inclined to think that life jacket can only help if the surfers were not nearby.

It appears that it all happened rapidly, after the rescue their fishing boat was still waiting beyond the breakers according to the report. I guess no one would be surprised to hear that Mr. Matinyela said: "Eishhh, I don't think I want to fish today!" Who can blame him?

I think the fishing boat should be commended for making certain that everyone wears life jackets onboard.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Miles of seaside magic

"Miles of seaside magic" is an article written by Richard Cornell in yesterday's EveningStar24 of U.K.. It is what I think a poetic prose of why the seaside beach is so enchanting and seductive in spite of the possible dangers looming behind. I found some equally enchanting pictures of Felixstowe from here to accompany the prose.

Here's part of his narration:
ON clear blue mornings, before everyone is up, when the sea is calm as a mill pond and clouds hang on the horizon like distant misty mountains, there is nowhere quite like Felixstowe.

There is a cool crispness in the air, and the only sounds are the scrunch of your footsteps on the shingle, and the gentle lapping of the waves, pulling at the pebbles, and the mewing of hungry gulls whirling overhead.
In one direction there are ships at anchor, lurking like huge beasts waiting to berth at the port.

In the other the fine century-old promenade stretching two miles, with views across to hazy Walton-on-the-Naze and the monster cranes of the port standing guard over the harbour and town.

Living by the sea is a constant joy.
Many people in the town say they hardly ever see the sea - looking to Ipswich for their jobs and leisure, perhaps visiting the beach or market on a sunny Sunday.

But I have to see the sea every day.

It's constantly changing: moods, colours, waves. From the calm, warm blue of a summer's day to the drama of a dirty brown or steely grey winter sea as it pounds the shores, huge concrete-breaking waves smashing against the prom, shooting spray into the air, it is never dull.
Yes, it is never dull and it is a constant joy. But just never, ever, let your guard down. High tides, sudden storm, and nearshore freaque waves are always simmering out there. By all means wear a life vest all the time while you are out there just in case.