Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tornadoes in His Genes

     I've just been reading this month's (November 2013) edition of the National Geographic. As usual, it continues its quirk of not duplicating the article title. Thus, Robert Draper's article is called, "The Monster Storm" on the front page, "The Last Storm" on the index page, and "The Last Chase" on the first page of the article itself. In any case, it is a minute by minute account of the death of three storm chasers: Tim Samaras, his son, Paul Samaras, and their colleague, Carl Young. For years - nay, decades - their life had consisted on chasing storms in America's "tornado alley" in order to gain scientific knowledge on the causes and development of these destructive storms. It was a dangerous occupation, and this time their number came up.

How to Cook a Rotten Whale

     I would really love to see the scientific results of the Japanese whale kill ostensibly performed for "scientific research". Just the same, the continuation of whaling by Japan and Norway (everyone forgets them) does not fill me with outrage as it does many others. It is well established that minke whale populations have rebounded and that the kill is sustainable. That does not, of course, mean that I am enthusiastic about it. To put it bluntly, there ain't no humane way to kill a whale. I would turn vegetarian if I thought the bullocks, pigs, and lambs I eat had been killed by someone on an all terrain vehicle shooting them with an explosive harpoon, then allowing the frantic animal to charge headlong over the terrain, dragging the vehicle with it, until it succumbed.
     Be that as it may, the demise of big time whaling has meant that the world has lost some of the interesting bytes of information it once produced. Like, why a whale left standing - or rather, floating - too long was referred to as "burnt", rather than "rotten".

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What a Place to Land a Plane!

     Of course, we have all heard about the adventures of the courageous Allied agents who parachuted into occupied Europe during World War II, but how many think about the airmen who delivered them? The first drop was performed by 1419 Flight, 138 (Special Duties) Squadron on the night of 4 September 1940, under the command of Flight-Lieutenant "Whippy" Nesbitt-Dufort. And how did he acquire the nickname of "Whippy"? Let me quote the words of his friend, Jerrard Tickell.