Monday, 31 August 2009
The weather in the islands today is grey with occasional drops of rain. This morning saw me gallivanting around town, looking for bits and pieces. I've sent off a couple of letters to historical societies in Lewis, asking for more information on about 80 men who died in World War I that I only have scant details on. Awaiting the outcome of that, and half a dozen emailed queries, with interest. Plugging the website: Faces from the Lewis War Memorial.
Baja Insider relays information on Jemina to residents, although the formal forecaster is the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The current location for landfall is Magdalena Bay, although all residents in Baja Sur should be preparing for the arrival of the hurricane. Winds of 34 knots or higher extend for 80 miles from the centre (at present); hurricane force winds (64 knots) extend for 30 miles from the centre.
Sunday, 30 August 2009
A few houses have been restored, and cruiseliners regularly call in the summer. Reaching the islands is still difficult, due to the weather and sea conditions found in the North Atlantic. Efforts have been made to retain the history and culture of the islands, and quite a few books have been written. Yesterday was the first-ever St Kilda day. It is a good thing to celebrate culture. Celebrating an extinct culture in 21st century fashion is something that doesn't sit very easy with me.
The weather on tour
Mill at Cleascro, Achmore
Mill at Breasclete
Scrambling down to the mill site near Tolstachaolais, below
Near the site of a mill at Carloway
Old School centre, Shawbost
Restored mill and kiln, Shawbost
Millsite at Bragar
Garry - the valley
The heather is blooming!
Traigh Mhor [the Big Beach] at Tolsta
View south along the east coast of Lewis
Along the road in Ness
Blackhouse Village, Gearrannan
Along the road at Breasclete, north of Callanish
The B8011(M) at Enaclete
Waterfall at Brenish
The End of the Road at Mealista
Beyond the End of the Road
Tropical storm Krovanh is headed north in the Pacific and could graze the city of Tokyo in Japan. This is unlikely to reach typhoon strength, but I don't think it is a teaparty to have force 10 to 11 winds in a big city like that. I'll keep an eye on progress there.
In the Atlantic, no formal tropical cyclones, but a disturbance is winding up 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. NHC is tracking that one closely.
It is very quiet here on a Sunday, and the grand total of two cars on the move bears witness to that. Things will liven up in a bit, when traffic heads for the 2.30pm ferry (it's 12.20 now). Otherwise, you could fire off a gun and hit nobody.
Saturday, 29 August 2009
Friday, 28 August 2009
Japan is eyeballing tropical storm 12W, which is yet to be named. This system could be on a collision course with Tokyo on August 31st, although you never know what happens next with tropical cyclones. Should the forecast prove correct, Tokyo could be seeing a typhoon on Monday.
This morning, the A866 road in Lewis was closed for a while following a one-car accident at Braighe na h-Aoidhe (Branahuie). Its sole occupant had to be extricated by the emergency services, while queues of traffic built up on either side of the Braighe, the narrow isthmus of land that links the Point peninsula to mainland Lewis. The driver was taken to hospital for treatment of injuries, sustained in the crash.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
National Geographic Explorer
Vistamar - was unable to dock on 24 August in spite of deceptively bright conditions.
Channel 4 is going to axe Big Brother after next summer's session, thank heavens. I have not watched it for 5 years, and have come to regard it with no respect at all. It is one of Holland's exports I am not proud of. Don't forget it was Dutch TV producer John Endemol who came up with the format some years ago.
Strathclyde Police (who cover Glasgow) have stated that they would have provided whatever police cover would have been necessary for Al Megrahi, if he had been released into the community in Scotland. This flies in the face of what Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill said last week, namely that 48 officers would have been required, which was too much for a hospice situation, and too much for one man. I'm disappointed.
And we have a cruiseliner in. Docked, alongside number 3 pier. Le Diamant, a 35-year old French boat. The previous two cruiseliners were not able to put anyone ashore, so it's a relief to see one alongside as per normal. I'll post some pictures later today.
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
I have made it clear over the past 5 days that I support the decision by the Scottish Justice Secretary to release Al-Megrahi on humanitarian grounds. Mr Macaskill made it crystal clear yesterday that he had done so purely on legal and humanitarian grounds, without consideration for political or economic consequences. I do not like the Nationalist administration that currently rules Scotland, but am prepared to give them full credit for this, their most difficult decision to date. I am profoundly shocked at the stubborn silence from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has so far found it more important to congratulate the English Cricket Team on winning the Ashes off Australia, rather than focus on an issue with implications on Foreign Affairs. Oh, Foreign Affairs are not a devolved matter, the Scottish Government cannot deal with that.
I am also disappointed with the ignorant section of American society, who act like seagull hatchlings, mindlessly swallowing what their peers vomit into their gullet. There are precisely 259 families in the US and beyond who have a genuine grievance in seeing man walk free, who stands convicted of the murder of their loved one. He was shown mercy that he denied his victims, and I fully understand that this does not wash with the families of those killed over Lockerbie. The world has changed beyond recognition since flight 103 was blown up, and it has also changed massively since 9/11. I wish people would take cognisance of that.
As I mentioned last night, it would appear that Michael Jackson died of an overdose of sedatives. Although charges of homicide are likely, it would appear that MJ insisted on having more sedatives when the previous lot wasn't working. A very sad tale.
Prime Minister Gordon is finally going to say something about the release of Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 5 days ago. Well done, Gordon, a fine example of being Heathcliffe of Dithering Heights (quote Gerald Scarfe). Everybody can continue blustering, but the deed is now done, the man is free and that's that. In the end, the voters will decide. There is this vague hope that some goodwill will have been created in the Middle East, bearing in mind that Libyan officials are at pains not to comment on the case. They will probably see the hullabaloo in Europe and America, and don't want to jeopardise the improved relations with those parts of the world. Also, the welcome that Megrahi received could be seen as a tribal homecoming party for one of its members - Libya is apparently a society based on tribal loyalties.
Monday, 24 August 2009
The Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill made a statement to the Scottish Parliament this afternoon to account for the decision to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds. His statement was pretty much like the one he made on Thursday, with the exception of mentioning the scenes that met Megrahi upon his arrival back home in Libya. Opposition MSPs [Members of Scottish Parliament] felt that his decision had been flawed from start to finish, and were wondering why he had not been transferred to a hospice in Scotland. Mr Macaskill replied, saying that it would have taken 48 police officers to maintain security, not really compatible with a hospice situation.
Although I do not like the current nationalist administration in Edinburgh, I feel that their decision to release Megrahi was taken with the right reasoning in mind. I agree with the Edinburgh Leith MSP Malcolm Chisholm that the politicisation of this case is regrettable - and at any rate, Megrahi is now over in Libya, to die.
Hurricane Bill has ceased being a tropical cyclone; it is now a non-tropical depression, headed east across the Atlantic. The UK will see its remnant on Wednesday, blowing northeast across the country with a lot of wind and rain. That means a nasty northeasterly for us, as we'll be in the northern quadrant of the depression. Another tropical cyclone I have so far not mentioned is typhoon Vamco. That system is gradually weakening as it moves north along 156 degree longitude east towards Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific. It peaked at 115 knots (130 mph), but was not bothering anyone apart from seafarers.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Loch Maree [bottom central on the above map] is a large inland loch near the west coast of Scotland, east of Gairloch and south of Ullapool. It was the scene of a rescue operation this afternoon, after a father and his 7-year old son set out on to the loch by canoe, but failed to return. Stornoway Coastguard turned out by helicopter and recovered the two from the water. Local news website Hebrides News reports the search, but not the fact, relayed by BBC Highlands and Islands, that they were both dead. My thoughts are with the family of the deceased.
The political fall-out continues over the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Two former Scottish First Ministers have come out with vastly differing opinions on it all. Henry McLeish has said the right decision was taken; his successor, Jack McConnell, has made it clear that this would be damaging for Scotland's stature in the world. And meanwhile Gadaffi is laughing all the way to the bank. The Scottish Parliament will reconvene tomorrow to discuss this item, and we'll see an unseemly political scrap.
Have to say that I have little time for the current SNP-led administration in Edinburgh, but I do support them in this, their toughest decision to date. I have NO time at all for the American administration who fail to take cognisance of the difference in legal systems, namely that Scots law allows for compassionate release, and US law does not. And dare I mention the words Guantanamo Bay? All I can say to close this post is: the price of principle is often abuse.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
Justice is a devolved matter, meaning that the judiciary in Scotland is subject to the government at Holyrood (Edinburgh); foreign affairs remain the prerogative of the United Kingdom administration. The silence from UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is deafening. The Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) and Trade Secretary (Lord [Peter] Mandelson) only opened their mouths to deny Libyan claims that this was all part of a trade deal. I am waiting to hear from the Westminster Government, certainly on account of the Foreign Affairs implications that this decision has had.
It should be noted that the Westminster and Holyrood administrations are barely on speaking terms. The Scottish Government is run by the Scottish National Party, headed by First Minister Alex Salmond; the British Government in London is run by the Labour Party. There is no love lost between these parties, and the Labour Party has been strident in its condemnation of Mr Macaskill's decision. I feel that this disunity is one that is probably being played upon by the astute Col Gadaffi - I do hope that Mr Brown (and his Westminster opponent David Cameron, who also strongly condemned Megrahi's release) will cut the proverbial excrement and close ranks with other UK politicians in the face of a regime that in my mind remains as odious as it was in the late 1980s.
The coast of Massachusetts is under tropical storm warning from Woods Hole to Sagamore Beach, including the islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are likely within the warning area within the next 24 hours.
The NWS office in Boston is issuing Hurricane Local Statements with advice and localised forecasts. The National Hurricane Center in Miami is issuing advisories every 3 hours, and all in New England are advised to keep abreast of developments. The Canadian Hurricane Center is issuing bulletins as well, since Bill will impact the Canadian Maritimes from the US Border to Newfoundland. The main threat here appears to be rainfall (4 inches); the strongest winds will occur offshore, although hurricane force winds could affect the Wreckhouse area of Newfoundland.
Friday, 21 August 2009
I was saddened to see the festive welcome afforded to released Lockerbie bomber Al-Megrahi in Tripoli, Libya, yesterday. The Scottish Saltire flag (white cross on blue background) was waved near the plane as the man descended from the steps. He was being welcomed home a hero. It says more about the true nature of Col Gadaffi's regime than about the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill to release Al-Megrahi on compassionate ground. He remains a convicted murderer, and will remain so until his death. It is said that he wasn't happy to abandon the appeal against his conviction.
Colonel Gadaffi, a maverick on the international political stage, has been sidling up to the US and UK in recent years, after seeing the treatment doled out to fellow dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003. Tony Blair went to meet him in the desert, and Gadaffi abandoned his nuclear programme and what not, to have sanctions lifted (imposed after Lockerbie) and draw in lucrative investments. Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the coup d'etat that brought Gadaffi to power. It was also the day that Al-Megrahi, a throw-back to the bad days, returned to Tripoli. It was his homecoming (sic). One that showed Gadaffi in his true colours.
Kenny Macaskill made the right decision, for the right reasons, acting according to the principles that underpin Scottish society, the Scottish legal and prison system. He has been vilified in the American press, understandably so. I do hope that observers across the pond, rather than continuing this barrage, see that it is in fact Gadaffi that the focus should be on, coming out of this with his hands still as dirty as they were in the 1980s.
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Hurricane Bill, 20 August 2009, 2045 GMT - 40 minutes ago. Winds of galeforce and higher extend a mere 260 miles / 420 km from its centre; hurricane force winds blow within 115 miles / 190 km from its centre. Bill is not likely to affect land at its current strength, winds of 135 mph, although Bermuda will feel its effects over the next day or so. The Canadian Maritimes can expect to see some of Bill's force in ameliorated form - although winds of 105 mph (offshore from Nova Scotia) are still no teaparty. Keep an eye on the NHC output and that of the Canadian Hurricane centre. The United States will not be directly affected by Bill, other than in the shape of extremely dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents caused by high swell, generated by the hurricane, which will impact its entire eastern coastline. Please be careful when you go down the beach this weekend. Next week, Bill will come to visit Ireland and Great Britain as a vigorous depression.
For the moment, I'm content to watch from 3,500 miles away and admire the beauty in Nature's force from high above. Hurricanes are not monsters, they are a useful venting mechanism in the planet's redistribution of the sun's heat. Just keep out of their way if you can.
The focus today is heavily on the release of the Lockerbie bomber, and I have just turned off coverage on BBC TV and Twitter, some 15 minutes after his plane took off into the cloudy skies above Glasgow. In 4 hours' time, he will touch down in Tripoli, Libya, to a hero's welcome. And apart from the man with the long name, a certain colonel will also be a hero. He has come back out of the cold, feted by the great and 'good' of the world now that he has become the best boy of the class.
The overwhelming sentiments of reactions on Twitter were negative, along the lines of "where was the compassion for his victims?" The repercussions will be heavily political, both inside and outside the United Kingdom. American reactions have been particularly vociferous - understandable, with some 35 students from a college in Syracuse among the dead of Lockerbie. As were 11 townspeople in Lockerbie itself. It still remains an eerie memory to see the wreckage of an aircraft strewn along the M74 motorway, which I know quite well, with the familiar roadsigns - and a big hole in the ground beside ravaged houses.
Image courtesy BBC
In death, all are equal, as I said before on a different subject. Megrahi, like any convicted criminal, deserves compassion and mercy when it becomes clear he has not long to live with a terminal illness. I support the Scottish Justice Secretary's stance on that, and on balance (60/40), that is my line. Also because I believe that Megrahi's was merely a scapegoat, to stand trial in lieu of dozens of other people who were in the know and who will never have to face justice over the 270 dead of Lockerbie.
The finger of blame very quickly pointed at Libya, and it took 14 years for a man to be put on trial and convicted. The trial took place at Camp Zeist, Holland, but was, formally speaking, in a Scottish court. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in jail, with a recommendation he serve at least 27 years.
A prisoner transfer was applied for between the UK and Libya, but actually rejected. Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was deemed to be terminal with a life expectance of about 3 months at the beginning of August. It is for that reason that he has been released.
Kenny Macaskill said he was aware of the pain and deep wounds and scars left by the Lockerbie bombing, but felt that compassion, although denied to Megrahi's victims, should be afforded to all prisoners, irrespective of their length of sentence.
As I type this, it is reported that Megrahi will be welcomed on arrival at Tripoli by Libya's leader, Col Gadaffi.
I support Mr Macaskill's view that compassion and mercy should be shown. I also support the victim's relatives views that justice may not have been shown to be served and that Megrahi should have served the rest of his life in prison.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
This morning, the large private motoryacht Le Grand Bleu is lying anchored in Glumag Harbour. It is one of the largest privately owned yachts in the world, weighing in at 108 metres in length and 5,556 gross tonnage. It is owned by one of the richest people in Russia, who had it gifted to him by Roman Abramovich, well known in football circles in the UK.
Hurricane Bill is now a category IV hurricane and will steadily veer on a more northerly course over the next couple of days. New England and Nova Scotia should start keeping an eye on this system for the coming weekend. The forecast shows the storms skimming the southeastern point of Nova Scotia in 5 days' time; a very long way off as yet, so keep an eye on the NHC output.
Typhoon Vamco is in the open Pacific, 1,000 miles from any land. It is not certain if any land will be affected by this system; if so, it will be no earlier than the middle of next week.
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
This article on the website of the Uig Historical Society shows pictures of a recent trip they did to Hamnaway, Ardbeag and Luachar - strange names of some of the remotest areas in Lewis and immediately adjacent Harris. It is still on my to-do list to walk to Hamnaway and Ardbeag (a distance of 8 and 10 miles from the road at Carnish).
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The Russian ship "Arctic Sea", shown above, was found off Cape Verde (West Africa) on Sunday, after being missing for more than 2 weeks. Its last sighting was off the French coast on July 30th, and it took the Russian navy a wee while to trace it to West Africa. Investigations are underway, and 8 people are under arrest aboard a Russian naval vessel under suspicion of piracy. This piracy is alleged to have started in the Baltic Sea, not exactly known as a hotbed for pirates.
Seven US Senators have registered their opposition to the intended release of Lockerbie bombing convict Megrahi from prison in Scotland. It would appear that the decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny Macaskill will be his alone to take, and the signs are that the transfer to Libya could well be going ahead. It is my personal opinion that although Megrahi's guilt was proven beyond reasonable doubt in a Scottish Court of Law (sitting in Holland), he was put forward as a scapegoat or fall guy to take the rap for something that had the pawmarks of a certain colonel all over it.
Monday, 17 August 2009
More extensive information on men that died as a result of the war has been collected in the Faces from the War Memorial site.
Every year, tributes are being published on blogs around the world in memory of the victims of 9/11. The effort is coordinated by D. Challener Roe on http://project2996.wordpress.com. If you'd like to participate, please visit his site. You don't need a blog or website of your own.
- Tropical depression Ana is falling to pieces to the southeast of St Croix in the Caribbean, and only rain will remain a threat.
- Hurricane Bill, the first hurricane of the Atlantic season, is not threatening land at this time either.
- Tropical storm Claudette moved ashore in the Florida Panhandle at midnight local time near Fort Walton Beach. Again, only rain will be a threat.
- In the Pacific, Guillermo is being torn apart by contrary winds in the atmosphere to the northeast of Hawaii.
- Tropical depression Maka is still trying to keep the show on the road in the middle of nowhere, 400 miles east of Wake Island
- Tropical depression 11 has formed 800 miles east of Guam, and is heading north - in the general direction of Japan. If its course does not alter, Japan might be in for a nasty surprise in the shape of a typhoon in a week from now.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Please note Claudette is NOT a hurricane; its current winds equate to force 10 on the Beaufort scale.
Please note That this information is a summary from the NHC, and full details must be obtained from the NHC website.
The view from the window shows this
My attention was on the large yacht, the Gundamain, which you can see against the backdrop of the hills. Its description as a 2,159 gross tonnage oil products tanker is patently wrong. Just wondering if anyone who reads my Twitter feed or this blog could drop them a line to correct their settings.
Edit: The IMO number refers to the tanker Janet C, pictures of which now feature on AIS in connection with this yacht.
A pharmacist from southern England has published an Open Letter to the Americans, with regard to the current debate on healthcare in the USA. All I can say is that I hope the current frank discussion that is taking place across the pond will result in a healthcare system that is fair, accessible and affordable to all. Including the 47 million who currently don't have that.
Tropical storm Ana, a bit of a ragged affair 560 miles east of the Leeward Islands, is making steady progress west and will affect the islands on Monday. Rain appears to be the main danger, although 40 knots of wind (that's force 9 on the Beaufort scale) cannot be dismissed.
Tropical storm Bill is more than 1,500 miles east of the Leeward Islands, and is expected to pass to their north as a category III hurricane on Wednesday or Thursday.
Tropical depression 04L (soon to be Claudette) has sprung up in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, 150 miles south of Apalachicola and is moving north towards the Gulf coast. Winds are expected to rise to 45 knots (that's close on force 10), rainfall up to 10 inches and a 3 to 5 feet storm surge. If you're in the Panhandle, please monitor the 3-hourly output from NHC for updates and warnings.
The Pacific is not quiet either, but for the moment nothing is threatening land. Guillermo is blowing himself out more than 1,000 miles east of Hawaii, and will not affect that state; Maka is in the middle of nowhere (hundreds of miles from Wake Island, if you can find that on a map), although a 75 knot typhoon (by Wednesday) is always worth watching. And something is brewing northeast of the Polynesian island of Pohnpei (again, get the atlas out). If interested, keep an eye on the Joint Typhoon Warning Center's website.
For reference: a typhoon is the same as a hurricane.
Saturday, 15 August 2009
ShipAIS shows a vessel's destination, which was marked as Stornoway until about 12.30pm; now, with the Delphin moving away into the Minch again, it is due into Invergordon at 6 am tomorrow morning.
I can understand why the ship chose to abandon its date with Stornoway. The southerly wind, blowing at a steady force 6 with higher gusts, has already whipped up the sea to choppy state (clearly visible in above pic), making transfer by tender a hazardous undertaking. The Delphin has a draught of 6.3 metres (21 feet), which is only 1 metre / 3 feet below the maximum draught that Stornoway harbour can take.
I hope the passengers on the Delphin have a comfortable crossing to Invergordon today, and that they will one day return on a better day to see what the Isle of Lewis has to offer.
Did I hear anyone mention the word umbrella? I remember the city gent, some years ago, who came here on a day like today. Rain pouring down, but the force of the wind was lost on him. Although we suggested he take a taxi to go to his meeting (10 minutes' walk up the road), he insisted on going on foot, with an umbrella. On leaving the house, the force 8 gale gleefully took hold of his brolly, and he nearly took off with it. He sheepishly returned indoors, having changed his mind on the subject of taxis.
The Pacific currently shows two cyclones, a weak tropical depression called Maka, which has drifted across from the Central Pacific - it formed southwest of Hawaii 4 days ago. The second system is category III hurricane Guillermo, which is located 1,450 miles west of Baja California and is heading west northwest, towards the sea area north of Hawaii.
Friday, 14 August 2009
I am frankly stunned at the way the NHS is vilified in the United States, as a way of opposing the changes that President Obama is seeking to implement. Although far from perfect, the NHS has served the United Kingdom very well for more than 60 years, and there have been some gross inaccurancies being bandied about by those in the USA who don't like Obama's reforms. If it is true that 50 million Americans do not have access to health care insurance, and therefore no proper healthcare, then that is a disgrace. The NHS is a model that could be emulated by many other nations. I agree that it has a propensity towards costliness, but on the whole, it is geared towards those without the means of paying for their own private healthcare.
The Libyan man, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, convicted of bombing flight PanAm 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988, is to be released from Greenock prison in the next few days or weeks. He is terminally ill with cancer, and the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, has decided to free him on compassionate grounds. The families of the victims are opposed to his release, and the US government has similarly voiced its opposition. Although I would agree with those views, I have had this nagging feeling that al-Megrahi was put forward as a scapegoat. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the sequence of events in the late 80s: Gadaffi orders bombing of Berlin nightclub frequented by US servicemen, president Reagan orders bombing of Tripoli (killing one of Gadaffi's relatives), and Gadaffi engineers Lockerbie bombing.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
During the last week in August, the Faclan book festival will be held in the Western Isles, centered on the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway. Apart from lectures, there will also be excursions across the islands. More info here.
A few hundred miles south of here, the Tall Ships are in Belfast and opening their doors (read: decks) to the thousands.
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
I was sorry to read of Jane's setback in her fight against renal cell carcinoma, in the shape of boney metastases. These were the cause of the pains that have beset her in recent weeks. Fortunately, Jane is not one for giving up that easily, so she duly turned up at her son's passing out parade with the RAF.
Dearmissmermaid, our blogger-in-hospital-in-the-Caribbean, is still there, 3 weeks down the line, and getting heartily fed up with it all. Why not pay her a visit, she feels like a fish out of water and misses her kitties.
Zoe has put in an appearance, after an absence of more than 2 months, but she thinks nobody is there to read her. So, off ye go, prove her wrong.
Breezy, bright and fairly sunny this afternoon, with some showers about.
Locally, a former Traditional Gold Medal winner at the Royal National Mod, Joyce Murray, has died suddenly at the age of 61. Joyce was a presenter at our local radio station Isles FM, and featured as a singer on the fund-raising CD "Langass" for the station in 2005. I cannot find a public recording on the Internet of the song she performed (Oran Do Iain Bhreac) for the CD.
Her husband was killed in an accident after the 2004 Lewis Carnival, when he fell off a float returning from the procession. Joyce was found dead in her house on the West Side of Lewis on Monday evening.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Tomorrow, I intend to do the rounds on the blogs. And stop playing Bubble Spinner on Facebook, it's not on to continually try to break one's own record. I'll also read another chapter in one of my Terry Brooks novels (the Wishsong of Shannara). Have read worse literature - and better. But it is one of the better Tolkien spin-offs, even if nowhere near J.R.R.'s masterpieces.
I'm going to revamp the sidebar of Atlantic Lines, so expect a few changes there.
The hurricane scene currently includes five systems: Etau near Japan (a minor tropical storm), tropical depression Felicia (near Hawaii), tropical storm Maka in the central Pacific, more than 1200 miles from Hawaii; another tropical depression further east in the Pacific (more than 1200 miles west of Mexico) and the Atlantic making a token effort with a tropical depression west of the Cape Verde islands. That is actually the second system of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which has been underway for nearly 2½ months now. A massive contrast to the 2005 season, which was up to its 9th named system - 4 tropical storms and 5 hurricanes had already formed at this point.
Monday, 10 August 2009
Hawaii is going to get a dousing from tropical storm Felicia, which will come rumbling by in the early hours of tomorrow morning (European time), with winds of force 7 to 8 on the Beaufort scale. The Far East is getting it in the neck, with tropical depression Etau bringing copious amounts of rain to southern Japan. Casualties and damage are already being reported, in spite of the fact that this weak system is still 400 miles away.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
If you're in Hawaii, or know people there, please follow the advisories of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center closely; they are issued every 3 hours.
Saturday, 8 August 2009
The Lewis carnival had 6 floats in it this year; I am reliably informed that previous years (before I came to the island in 2005) there would be as many as 30. However, some years ago, someone fell off a float after the procession and was killed when the lorry ran over him. So (as you can see in the pictures), they ordered the installation of barriers on the floats, which took a lot of the fun out of the construction of the things. Anyway, too much talk already: here are some pictures and videos.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Talking of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut - yesterday's downtime on Twitter and problems on Facebook were caused because someone did not agree with the writings of a blogger in Georgia. All the social networking sites used by Cyxymu were targeted, according to the BBC. Twitter is still not working properly for me - can only access it through the 3rd party client Tweetdeck.
A few pics from the first days of August:
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Twitter is virtually back to normal, after what appears to have been a bout of cyber warfare between Georgia and Russia, according to some reports. Facebook, Youtube and LiveJournal (a favourite blogging platform in Russia) were also affected. Wish they'd just smash each other's heads in rather than involve everybody else.
Never again. But the same was said at the end of World War I and II.
However, should nuclear war ever occur, it will be the end of all wars.
As there won't be anyone left to go to war for or against.
But I can't put anything into Facebook either. So, on to Blogger.
Well, that's where the buck stops. I am able to put in an old-fashioned entry and take things on from here. Social networking by Internet? Well, it's up the spout this afternoon :-)
Lucille H. Campey spoke at Stornoway Town Hall last night on the above subject. She took a novel angle on what is a central theme in the history of the Highlands and Islands, namely with a focus on Canada rather than Scotland. It is not easy to summarise a 60 minute discourse within the confines of a blog, but will go so far as to describe Ms Campey’s stance as controversial.
The exodus to Canada from the Outer Hebrides as well as other parts of Scotland is well documented. Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island in the far east of Canada are littered with pointers to the settlement of people from western Scotland, in placenames, culture and traditions. The mechanism of this migration is the underlying issue, and focuses on the landlords and his tenants.
I’ll focus on the town of Helmsdale in Sutherland to make my point. Two years ago, a statue was erected there to celebrate the achievements of the Highlanders in Canada. I’ll be the last to deny that the Scottish diaspora has achieved great things in their new homelands, whether they be Canada, the USA, Australia or New Zealand - or wherever. Why weren’t the people of the Highlands and Islands not put into a position where great things could be done at home?
Reference was made to the 1886 crofting reforms, prompted by overcrowding and poor soil (according to last night’s speaker). Having read some of Lord Napier’s reports, there was good soil to be had in the Highlands and Islands, access to which was denied to the tenants of the local lairds. Ms Campey denied that coercion played a major part in the drive to emigration, something that I do not believe will go down well with those that are intimately familiar with the history of this region - I do not claim to be. There are some who will say that government, rather than assist in the emigration, should have assisted people to remain. That was not the spirit of the time. If people were unable to afford their rent, set arbitrarily by lairds or his agents, they could be evicted. Conditions at the time, particularly after the potato famine of 1846, were undeniably dire for both tenants and landlords. But a landlord, committed to his tenants, would have worked with them - as was asserted as early as the 1880s, see the Napier report.
The focus in last night’s discourse was on the opportunities afforded in Canada to those who emigrated there. A more egalitarian society, as opposed to the class society to be had in Great Britain. Start a new life in a wilderness, away from materialism and an unjust society. Many people did very well indeed, achieving a wealth that would not have been possible in Scotland. Others did not do very well at all. Some could not afford the crossing, and ended up owing the fare to the ship’s captain. And when he came to claim his debt, the emigrants would once again be left with nothing.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of Scots overseas. But I’ll also be the first to assert that a lot of emigration, even bearing in mind society in the 19th century, would not have been necessary.
Typhoon Morakot is currently east of Taiwan, and will hit the island state with winds of a mere 115 mph by 1800 GMT tomorrow, that is 2 am local time. Initially, the storm was forecast to pass north of Taiwan, but since last night, the projected trajectory has been shifted south.
Hurricane Felicia is in the open Pacific, along 131 degrees longitude West, far from any land. The storm carries winds of 140 to 190 mph. The hurricane will gradually lose strength as it moves west, and by the time Hawaii sees it (in 5 days' time), Felicia will be little more than a tropical depression with force 5-7 winds.
For reference, a typhoon is the same phenomenon as a hurricane - just a different name.
Many thanks to those who wished me a happy birthday through Facebook and email. Another year's experience of being 21 ;-)
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Barclays and HSBC banks announced profits of £3bn earlier this week. Lloyds TSB published a loss of £4bn today, mainly due to very bad banking by HBOS, which they took over during the winter to prevent the group collapsing. Is the banking crisis over, some are asking. Maybe. But as long as the culture of greed continues, we'll be heading from boom to bust, and that's an old phrase, going back to the 1970s. I'm unlikely to forgot the report of the young banker who jumped in front of a train, after he saw his income slashed. This would have resulted in him losing his lavish, money-is-no-object lifestyle, with several villas across Europe and continual champagne parties. Now that he was no longer able to afford all that, the potential loss of face became unbearable. Shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but that epitomised the banking crisis to me.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
I've been extracting some statistics from the transcription of the Roll of Honour for Lewis. Of the 6,030 names on the roll, nearly 570 served in a Canadian unit. More than 700 came from Stornoway, not surprising as this was (and still is) the largest centre of population in Lewis.
The most common surnames were Macleod and Macdonald, which combined comprise one third of the Lewis contingent.
Half of the men from Lewis served in the Navy, including Naval reserves (2,400). The other half were in the landarmy, in units like the Seaforth, Gordon and Cameron Highlanders as well as the Ross Mountain Battery.
Some 1,150 died, and each year of the war (excluding 1914, but including 1919) claimed about 200 of them. Half of the fatalities were killed in action, either on land or at sea. According to the Roll of Honour (sic), 172 lost their lives in the Iolaire disaster (see disclaimer at the end of this post). The majority of those that died were aged 18-23.
The vast majority of medals awarded were Mons Star and 1914 Star, both given to those involved in the fight for Antwerp and the withdrawal from Mons to the Marne in late 1914.
As the Isle of Lewis has more than 100 villages (including Stornoway), it will take me a number of days to compile the webpages for each village. They will appear under my own website, which will be fully revamped with a shift towards local history.