View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 10 October 2011

Monday 10 October

The day started bright and sunny, but by midday, the showers started. Looking at one passing to the south of us at the moment (5.40pm), there could be hail in amongst the precipitation. With the mercury at a cold 9C, that is certainly not to be ruled out.

There was a controversy locally today due to a major NATO exercise in the Minch and around Cape Wrath. GPS signals were being jammed by the Ministry of Defense as part of the exercise, but there were complaints from fishermen and ferry operators. GPS allows mariners to pinpoint their location accurately, helping them to avoid underwater hazards such as reefs and wrecks. The MOD has now suspended the jamming of the GPS signals. Local contacts also tell me that satellite TV reception was affected, as was radio-link Internet access. 

Report illegal migrants

Prime Minister David Cameron has moved down the dangerous road of urging people to report illegal migrants. I am not in favour of law-breaking, and am not in favour of people gaining entry to the country when they are not entitled to do so. However, Mr Cameron's idea could play into the hands of the xenophobic elements within society, and lead to a witchhunt. It smacks to me of events in Germany and Nazi-occupied territories of the 1930s and early 1940s, when people were rounded up and carted away for their religion or under other pretexts. Yes, I am overreacting, but this appeal really leaves a filthy taste in my mouth.

Hurricane update - 10 October

Hurricane Jova is threatening the Pacific coastline of Mexico. The latest forecast shows the storm blowing ashore on Tuesday afternoon local time as a category IV hurricane, with winds of 115 knots if not higher. At the moment, a hurricane warning is in force from Punta San Telmo to Cabo Corrientes and a tropical storm warning from Lazaro Cardenas to Punta San Telmo. Apart from the high winds, Jova will also come with up to 15 inches of rain, which could unleash flashfloods and mudslides, as well as a substantial storm surge.

Jova is the 10th storm of the East Pacific season, and the 5th major hurricane in that basin this year. Irwin is following in its wake, but is a weak tropical storm, beaten down by the outflow from Jova which is not far away to its east.

Hurricanes are Nature's safety valve, serving to funnel excess heat from the ocean in the tropics away to higher latitudes. Whilst the cloud tops may be as cold as -85C (-65F) at 10 miles above the surface, the temperature in the eye at the same altitude can be as high as +19C (66F). A hurricane (typhoon or tropical cyclone, all the same thing) requires water temperatures of at least 26C / 80F and an absence of windshear (winds blowing at different speeds and/or directions at different levels of the atmosphere). Once ashore, a tropical cyclone will rapidly weaken and dissipate.

Sunday 9 October

A slightly less chilly day than Saturday, if only because there was less wind. Kept myself occupied transcribing a number of 19th century newspaper articles which referred to the Hebrides. One was a detailed description of the aftermath of the clipper Maju foundering off the coast at Barvas, here in Lewis. The items washed ashore included several corpses, or parts thereof; ship's papers and sundry bits and pieces, including a sailor's hat. The Maju had been en route to Rangoon, but was caught out in an autumnal gale, which proved its undoing.

A containership has run aground off New Zealand and has dumped tons of its fuel oil in the sea. A gale is forecast for the area for Monday, which could break the ship up. It could also help to disperse any oil, we hope.