View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Pilots, Turks and Hurricanes

Back in 2007, pioneer aviator Steve Fossett went missing in the Nevada desert. He had left an airfield and never came back. You may remember the extensive search efforts, even involving Internet users (like myself) who were asked to scan images on Google Earth for anything resembling a crashed aircraft.

You had to subscribe to Amazon's Mechanical Turk programme, which I duly did, and off I went perusing dozens and dozens of pictures of desert as seen from space. Several plane wrecks were located using this technique, but not Steve Fossett's. His plane, and remains, were located more than a year later, in November 2008.

After I got enough of staring at all shades of colour between brown, green and grey, I ventured into other areas of the Mechanical Turk. You can do all sorts of mind-numbingly dumb chores for which you get paid a couple of dollar cents a go. The more challenging tasks can earn you a few dozen cents, and the big jobs several whole dollars. In the end, I had accumulated nearly $12 in Amazon gift vouchers.

I then came across dearmissmermaid, an Internet blogger from the island of Tortola in the Caribbean. She had written a book, called Hurricanes and Hangovers, which I could purchase from Amazon. However, I could only use the gift vouchers on Amazon US. So, off I went to buy the book all the way from the States. It would cost me more than $28, but the Mechanical Turk knocked off those $12, so it's down to about £10.

When the book arrived earlier this week, it was annotated that it had been produced for me on 6 March 2010 in Lexington KY. I've let DMM know that I'm thoroughly enjoying her book - I'm not going to link, as I've done more promotion in one post than I've done for many a month.

Hurricane update - 20 March (2)

Tropical cyclone Ului is approaching the coastline of Queensland as I type (1520 GMT). I was fascinated if horrified to read the continual updates from the weather station at Hamilton Island, just off Proserpine, which reported winds of 172 km/h (that's 107 mph), with gusts to 202 km/h (126 mph). The 0900 GMT forecast from JTWC was miles out with regards to strength: they were talking about sustained winds of 60 mph with gusts of 80 mph.

The last update, from 15 minutes ago, showed winds abating (I suppose 80 mph is less bad than 107 mph) at Hamilton Island, but beginning to pick up at Proserpine, 25 miles to the east on the mainland. It is an interesting demonstration how localised a phenomenon a tropical cyclone is.

Saturday 20 March

A bright and sunny morning, if a tad on the breezy side. It's not cold, with the temperature already into double figures at 10 am. Started the day by washing the salt off the windows - couldn't see a thing. Who needs net curtains if you can have a gale and seaspray.

The freighter Wilson Dover, which was in distress in galeforce conditions off Cape Wrath yesterday, was safely towed into Kirkwall, Orkney. The coastguard tug Anglian Sovereign managed to get the ship alongside the Hatston terminal north of the town at 8 am this morning.

With reference to the Battle at Culloden, April 1746, a military historian has called for a memorial to be erected in memory of the soldiers who fought on the side of the Duke of Cumberland, in opposition to the Jacobite forces, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie. Not much is being made of the Red Coats, as all the attention is focused on BPC. I have previously made clear that I feel that the Jacobite prince was a royal fool and incompetent to a catastrophic degree. Whilst the clan system was already on the way out in the mid 18th century, Charlie's actions served to give the Hannoverian forces the pretext they needed to go on the rampage in the Highlands and Islands.

Culloden is often marked as the occasion which marked the end of the Scotland of old. Well, in 1707, Scotland had already ceased to be an independent nation, by virtue of the merger of the Scottish Parliament into the Westminster one in London. The rebellions by the Old Pretender in 1715 and his son, the Young Pretender, in 1746, served no purpose. To this day, the people in the Highlands and Islands can be claimed to feel the effects of the disaster that was Culloden, without a doubt.

Comparing Scotland to Norway, as some politicians like to do, throws up some unpleasant home truths. The remote areas in Norway are supported, if necessary subsidised, by the government in Oslo. The remote areas of Scotland are not supported to any degree like that of the Norwegians. The fish farming industry is a case in point, where plants and companies have been taken over by foreign parties - to be closed down and asset stripped. The Norwegians would never allow that to happen in e.g. the Lofoten Islands. So, why does the Scottish Government or indeed the British Government permit it?

No, I'm not a Scottish nationalist. Far from it. Regular readers are aware of my provenance. This post is merely one of my pet hates, the elevation of Prince Charles Edward to the status of near-sainthood in Scottish history. The man was an unmitigated disaster for Scotland.

Hurricane update - 20 March

Tropical cyclone Ului is now approaching the Queensland coast of Australia, and I'm a bit concerned about the news from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Forecasts from the past few hours suggest the cyclone is intensifying, which contradicts the forecast from the Hawaii-based Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC). Their predictions keep Ului at tropical storm strength, with winds of 55 knots, 65 mph. BOM Australia is currently putting the storm's intensity at 65 knots and increasing. Ului is forecast to make landfall near Proserpine, with a margin of error stretching from Mackay in the south to Ayr in the north. The coastline from Yeppoon to Cardwell is under a tropical cyclone warning (map). Residents are strongly advised to follow the tropical cyclone advices from the BOM, and listen to ABC Tropical Queensland for updates.