View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Sunday 20 May

An overcast and pretty non-descript day in terms of weather, although milder than of late - we managed 13C / 55F. Went out for an amble around town, trying to find nano-sized geocaches. Well, I failed abysmally, as I couldn't find a single one of them. I also felt embarassed standing around, looking around the foot of a statue, not really knowing what I was looking for. And there were three others. Anyway, I'll probably have to start by looking for a larger sized cache.

Italy was shaken by an earthquake measuring 6.0 on the Richter scale, which caused a lot of damage and destruction in the vicinity of Bologna. Six people were killed, two of them in a factory which collapsed. There was footage on TV, showing a clocktower just as another aftershock occurred: leaving the tower in a pile of rubble. A few years ago, 300 people were killed in a similar earthquake, and in 1976 an even stronger quake in northeastern Italy left nearly 1,000 dead. Italy straddles a faultline in the earth's crust, where tectonic plates grind along each other, leading to sudden movements. Another manifestation of this phenomenon are Italy's four active volcanoes: Stromboli, Etna, Vesuvius and Volcano - I visited all these in 2001. Having stood close to the summit of Etna, I was in the nearby town of Taormina that year when I saw a red, glowing line near the top of the mountain later that night. I later learned that the eruption which started then left all the places I had stood at under 500 feet of lava. None of them exist anymore.

An annular solar eclipse is to start in just over an hour's time (at 10pm GMT), which will be visible across the northern Pacific Ocean and North America. Although my sunset times are very late at the moment, the sun sets shortly, making it impossible for me to see it. Those in Iceland and the Arctic will be able to see it though.

Megrahi is dead

The sole person ever convicted of guilt in the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has died at his home in Tripoli, Libya, earlier today. The historical facts of the Lockerbie bombings are well documented, and like everybody else alive at the time, the events that winter solstice day, 24 years ago, are etched on my memory. Was Megrahi the prime suspect, or just a scapegoat to hide the blushes of his alleged paymaster, Col Gadaffi? He is also dead, summarily executed in October last year. But it is unlikely that we'll ever really know the truth.

The more than 200 people who died when the plane was blown up continue to be mourned by their friends and family. Megrahi's conviction may have satisfied the lust for revenge in some, but others were not so sure. His early release, on compassionate grounds in August 2009, did not go down well in many quarters. His relative longevity, on the strength of a prostate cancer drug that isn't even available in Scotland (where he was incarcerated), served to embarrass the Scottish government and its Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill. However, I will close by echoing Mr Macaskill's assertion that Megrahi is now answering to a higher Authority. And whether Abdelbaset will rest in the garden of flowers and flowing streams, or in the fires of hell is beyond human knowledge. RIP to the victims of Lockerbie.