Blue Angels Stand Down
As long-time readers of The Pond are aware, my apartment (known as Pond Central) is just a few miles from Duckford International Airport. Every year, the Duckford AirFest is held there, sometime during the summer months. The past two years, the headlining act at AirFest has been the USAF Thunderbirds. Let's face it, as far as headliners go, that's awfully hard to beat, and I got some great pictures of them last year.
But when the organizers of AirFest announced some months ago that they had nabbed the US Navy's Blue Angels for this year's show, and that they'd be performing on June 4th and 5th, I practically wet myself with joy. See, 2011 is the Centennial of Naval Aviation, and getting the Angels during that service-wide celebration was a monumental coup. Then look a little closer at the dates they'd be performing: June 4th and 5th would be the 69th anniversary of the US Navy's greatest victory, the Battle of Midway. That couldn't have worked out better if I had picked the dates myself. I was actually thinking about attending the AirFest, instead of standing nearby, I was so stoked. In the end, I decided to return to the frontage road I was at last year, but either way... wow!
Then Brickmuppet sent me an e-mail, and it all turned to ashes. Commander Dave Koss had voluntarily stepped down from his position of the Blue Angels' commander, as he had led a maneuver that "had an unacceptably low minimum altitude."
This video is actually two clips; the first clip, shot on May 21st, shows how the move is supposed to be done. The second, shot on May 22nd, shows the incorrect maneuver. Keep an eye on #4, the trailing or "slot" plane, look how low he gets... and notice how the diamond scatters, instead of staying together like they do in the first clip. The lead plane, Cmdr Koss', takes the diamond too low.
It's not a particularly egregious error, but enough of one that the lives of the performers were in quite a bit of danger. When you fly like the Blue Angels, or the Thunderbirds, or the Snowbirds, or any other performance team, any mistake is enough to kill you and potentially hundreds of spectators in an instant.
It takes a brave man to admit that he screwed up like that, and a braver one still to step down from one of the high-prestige positions in their business... voluntarily, at that. He's been replaced by last year's commander, Captain Greg McWhirter, for the duration of the season. Because of all this, the Blue Angels have gone into "safety stand-down" mode for the next couple of weeks, canceling airshows in Evansville, IN, a show in New Jersey over Memorial Day weekend... and their appearance at Duckford AirFest.
That's too bad. A few years ago I was in Seattle with family with plans to visit the Boeing Museum. We were totally unaware that the Blue Angels were performing that weekend from the Boeing airstrip. I got to stand at a chain link fence maybe 100 feet from the runway when they took off on afterburner. We were hoping for a Fat Albert JATO take-off, but didn't get one. Most of the actual air show was hidden from our view by intervening landscape, but I did get to see a couple of the runs where one plane would come in low over the water to join the formation by "surprise." Seeing an F-18 flying at speed so low to the water that it's kicking up a rooster-tail maybe 1/4 of a mile away was a great way to end that day.
I do have to respect Cmdr. Koss for admitting his mistake and voluntarily stepping down. That's got to be a painful thing to do. Hopefully his character in choosing to do so will outweigh the reason for it going forward with his career.
Beginning The Miracle
As all good Pacific War otaku know, the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Midway is coming up early next month. Regarded as the most stunning and important victory in the history of Naval warfare, three US aircraft carriers, supported by aircraft flying from Midway Atoll, attacked and sunk four Japanese aircraft carriers, three of them in the space of just a handful of minutes on June 4th, 1942.
While the US was outnumbered by the Japanese in the number of aircraft carriers present at the battle, the Americans had broken the Japanese radio codes and had a detailed knowledge of their plans for the whole skirmish. Taking advantage of this, the US Navy in effect ambushed the Japanese fleet. Of course, the victory did not come without cost. Three squadrons of torpedo planes were effectively wiped out, and one of the American carriers, the USS Yorktown, was sunk.
The Japanese presumed the Yorktown to have been sunk a month earlier, at the Battle of the Coral Sea. Indeed, she had been beaten up, but the first and possibly greatest of the "miracles" of Midway had occurred in the intervening time.
When you count the entire campaign, the disparity was even greater. There were carriers attached to the diversion force that attacked the Aleutians: Ryuujou, Junyou
There were also carriers associated with the other flotillas attacking Midway itself: Zuiho and Houshou.
Junyou was a CV; the others were CVLs. After the fourth Japanese CV was sunk, Yamamoto gave some consideration to ordering Ryuujou and Junyou to join the Midway force, to cover the landing.
But it would have taken a couple of days for them to steam that far, and the element of surprise would have been completely gone, and in the mean time the remaining American CVs (Yamamoto thought there was only one, but that was still a lot) would have been able to launch attacks on the landing force, which had been spotted by a PBY from Midway. Ultimately Yamamoto decided it was too risky.
As to why Yamamoto thought there was only one American carrier left, it's because the pilots who attacked Yorktown reported twice that they'd sunk it. they were wrong both times, but the Japanese command counted that as two kills, leaving only one left.
But even one American CV would have bbeen a problem, and the Midway airstrip wasn't knocked out.
Grr, I misread your post twice before posting. I hate to see what a mess I made of my reports at work earlier today...
Posted by: Siergen at May 28, 2011 09:46 PM (RnayE)
Steven, the attack on the Aleutians was no diversion. It was actually scheduled to begin on the same day as the Midway operation, but fueling problems delayed Nagumo's fleet.
You're certainly correct when you say that the Hosho was an aircraft carrier, and it was attached to the Yamamoto's Main Body. However, if it had come down to it, she would have been worse than useless in combat. She carried eight B4Y "Jean" torpedo bombers; biplanes, slower than a Devastator, fixed landing gear... think an even more obsolete Swordfish, and you've got the picture. The Zuiho was better equipped with 6 Zeros, 6 Claudes and 12 Kates and was part of the Invasion fleet. Neither the Main Body or the Invasion fleet were within 400 miles of Nagumo's Kido Butai... which was part of the problem to begin with, but that's a post for another day.
Posted by: Wonderduck at May 28, 2011 11:28 PM (n0k6M)
Meanwhile, Somewhere Else...
You may remember that I've been a strong supporter of Quacked Panes, a twice-weekly webcomic by fine fellow waterfowl GreyDuck. The stresses of trying to come up with two good punchlines every week do take their toll on a duck, however, and every year GD takes a short vacation from the strip. Last year, he simply went dark, which is never a good thing.
This year though, he came up with a great idea: allow volunteers to make "remixes" of his comics, takign the original pictures and inserting their own scripts. Of course, I couldn't not participate! Today, my three-strip run began. Go take a look, will you? Quacked Panes deserves your eyeballs!
The Big Storm
It's 1116pm, and it's still raining outside, but the weather nabobs tell us that the worst of the storms are over. That's good, because there were three distinct storms that rolled through the Duckford area in four hours. The picture above comes from the first one, just as the tornado sirens were going off. What you can't see is that there was a distinct (but slow) rotation occurring in that mass o' clouds, in a counter-clockwise direction. A couple of minutes after I took that picture, the cloudfront passed over Pond Central:
A few minutes later, all heck broke loose. Heavy, heavy rain, lots of wind, pea-to-quarter sized hail, the temperatures dropped nearly 20 degrees in about 10 minutes, and a wind gust of 70mph at E State and I-90, which is about 4 miles from Pond Central. Multiple funnel clouds were reported, one in the Machesney Park area (north of Duckford proper by about a mile or so), and a few to the east and southeast (Cherry Valley vicinity, about five or six miles from Pond Central). Lots of trees down, some 25000 people without power, the roof was ripped off a school gymnasium, so on and so forth. The National Weather Service is supposed to be here tomorrow to investigate whether this was all due to tornadic activity, a microburst or two, or just a damn big thunderstorm.
Now, that one was bad enough, but then two more storms rolled through. Neither caused tornado sirens to go off, but they had a lot more lightning, and a lot more rain. There's probably flooding in Duckford as a result.
Also as a result, I'm not going to post the F1U! until Monday... I gave up when the second storm peaked. Shut down the computer, unplugged it and sat far away from the windows. On the plus side, I am more than happy to report that the Gunslinger Girl manga is great.
Yeah, all's well here. The Olde Home Pond is okay, as well. Haven't heard from The Librarian yet, but I only just sent her an e-mail, and it's late. She lives on the northwest side of Duckford, nearer to one of the funnel cloud sightings, so she might be w/o power, too.
I had fully intended to have the F1 Update! for Spain up by now, but we had a few problems here in Duckford. Namely:
This screenshot was just from just as one of the worst storms I've ever had the "pleasure" to experience hit Duckford. There are reports of a possible tornado to the north of the city; here at Pond Central, we had a lot of rain, a lot of wind and some small hail. There was a Tornado Warning here, the sirens went off and all that. There's a tree down in the treeline behind Pond Central, too.
As I type this, there's a lot of thunder outside, and a severe thunderstorm warning until 830pm. I don't know when I'll be able to get the F1U! up, but hopefully tonight. I'll be keeping my head down (and the computer off) until things start to clear up a touch.
The Pacific Q-Ship
In 1915, things were looking grim for the British Isles. Unrestricted submarine warfare was slowly strangling the country, cutting off the flow of supplies to the nation. Stocks of fuel, armaments, supplies and food were all at desperately low levels... the Allies were losing the Battle of the Atlantic. At that time, defenses against submarines were rudimentary at best. Sonar was non-existent, depth charges were crude and for the most part ineffective, and the homing torpedo wasn't even thought of yet. The only realistic chance that a defending ship had to sink a submarine was to catch it on the surface.
While it's hard to imagine a submarine allowing itself to be caught on the surface these days, things were different in 1915. At the time, submarines were what would be called "submersibles" today: able to descend under the waves for a short time only, while doing most of their movement on the surface. Because their underwater time was limited, a sub would "go under" only when preparing for an attack run... and not always then. The torpedoes of the time were cranky, ill-tempered beasts that were often unreliable, and always in short supply. It was quite common for a submarine to sneak up on a target, surface, then engage with a deck gun. Of course this would only work against an unarmed freighter or transport; it goes without saying that an actual warship would receive a torpedo fired from underwater.
However, even this limited method of attack was extremely effective against unarmed merchant craft... so effective that England was on the verge of starving. The obvious defense, convoying, or putting a large number of merchant vessels in one group while defending them with one or more warships, was ruled out by the ship-strapped Royal Navy. There just weren't enough warships to go around. Something had to be done, and quickly. Two innovations arose from this desperate need.
The first was the armed merchantman. More of a throwback than a true innovation, at its heart the armed merchantman was a descendant of the age of sail, when almost every East Indiaman had a good number of cannon lining its rails to fight off pirates and privateers. The generic armed merchantman of WWI-vintage would have the firepower of a destroyer or light cruiser, six 6" guns and various numbers of smaller guns as a secondary battery. Since they were built as merchant vessels, they were however fragile: little in the way of compartmentalization to prevent flooding, little if any armor (other than raw size) to prevent damage, with a slow top speed that prevented running away. Armed merchantmen were mostly for use against commerce raiders as a self-defense measure: if a warship came upon an armed merchantman, at least there was some way to fight back. However, with their guns carried on deck, they were just as likely as a battleship to attract a torpedo from a submarine.
The second innovation was the Q-ship. Take a freighter and turn it into an armed merchantman... then hide the guns inside false panels or deck structures or belowdeck. When a submarine approached, it'd see a nice big fat undefended target, surface and engage with the deck gun... at which point, the Q-boat would drop the false panels, run out the guns and with the element of surprise blow the submarine out of the water. To be sure, they could take on a surface vessel as well, but their weapons were more designed to engage fragile submarines: a hole or two would prevent a sub from diving, trapping it on the surface. Q-ships had no set armament loadout, but multiple 3" guns were common.
Despite the clever idea, Q-ships were generally ineffective against submarines in WWI, accounting for less than 10% of all kills scored. Instead, they were more of a psychological weapon, preying upon the mind of a U-boat captain. If any freighter could be heavily armed and just waiting for you to surface, the sub captain might be more reluctant to do so, and either let the freighter go or waste a precious torpedo on it.
During WWII, there was a repeat of the WWI Battle of the Atlantic, and the Q-ship concept was revived. It was even less successful than in WWI, mainly because advances in submarine technology meant that a sub could spend less time on the surface, torpedoes were much less prone to failure and in greater supply. The Royal Navy commissioned nine Q-ships in 1939, two of which were sunk on their first mission. None of them sank a U-boat, and they were quietly retired in 1941. The US Navy converted five cargo vessels to Q-ships, one of which was sunk and the other four failed to engage a submarine during their two-year run.
The navigable rivers around here don't come anywhere near the areas where logging takes place. Logging happens up in the mountains, and though there are streams and rivers there, they're fast moving and shallow, with lots of rapids and waterfalls.
I figure that this ship was probably carrying lumber from somewhere like The Dalles down to Portland, carrying logs which had come to The Dalles by truck.
Would that have been the case 100 years ago, Steven? She was first commissioned in 1919 as a logging ship. She met her end in the Columbia River... the fourth largest in the nation. How far upriver could she have gone on the Columbia?
Seriously; I have no idea. I know nothing about the PacNW except for what I've seen with my own eyes (the Seattle area; I was a tourist for a week).
Posted by: Wonderduck at May 20, 2011 04:31 PM (n0k6M)
Yeah, it's pretty much always been that way. For one thing, a hundred years ago the river system was a lot less navigable. Before 1957 navigation of the Columbia stopped at Celilo Falls, which was flooded when the Dalles Dam was built.
There were ships above that point, but any cargo had to tranship by land to get around that waterfall because locks hadn't been built. (They were built as part of the Dalles Dam project.)
But it wouldn't have been useful for lumber purposes even so. East of there it's arid. Few trees, lots of grass, lots of sagebrush and rattlesnakes. Eastern Oregon and eastern Washington are the northern end of the Great Western Desert.
There's lots of trees in the Willamette Valley, but it's not the kind of timber that the timber industry wants (maple and birch and aspen -- good for firewood but useless for construction). What they wanted is old-growth fir, and that's up in the mountains, either the Cascade range or the Coast range, both of which are a long way away from any navigable rivers then or now.
It's true that the Columbia river is one of the great rivers of this continent, but it's not really like the others. When you think of a great river, you probably visualize something like the Mississippi, which is kind of like a huge, long, lake. But the Columbia drops a lot more rapidly than those kinds of rivers, and there used to be several waterfalls on it. In addition to Celilo falls, there was Cascade Falls which was covered by the lake behind Bonneville Dam in the late 1930's. And there were stretches of white water; not exactly waterfalls, but not something you'd want to muck with in a steamship, either.
Even at Portland now, the current is something like 5 knots. And because of that, the Columbia Bar is among the most treacherous waters on the planet for navigation.
One of the many unusual things about the Columbia is that it doesn't meander a lot. It can't, really. Where a river like the Mississippi is running through areas of soil, the Columbia channel runs through rock. It passes through the Cascade mountains, with volcanic cliffs on both sides, and then cuts through the Coast range. Meandering is pretty much impossible. And the channel was seriously scoured out by the Missoula Floods.
Name This Mystery Ship V
By popular demand, the "Name This Mystery Ship" contest is back! Here's the rules: no cheating by using photo-matching programs or things like that. Otherwise? Free game. The winner gets a post on a topic of his or her own choosing (within limits: no pr0n, religion or politics). If it looks like nobody is going to get it, I may decide to post a hint or two.
To my land-lubber eyes, the rigging looks like some sort of radio gear. I searched for either a radio-navigation beacon ship, or perhaps an intelligence vessel performing radio direction finding/intercepts. Unfortunately, I could not find any vessels which both performed those missions and resembled your photo...
Posted by: Siergen at May 18, 2011 08:44 PM (ole2J)
A Day In The Life
I've not been posting much recently. Truth be told, I've not been doing much of anything recently. See, Monday was the start of Finals week at Duck U. That means that it was also the start of buyback, and that means it was one of the four "Golden Weeks" at the Duck U Bookstore. Other than Wednesday's visit with Vauc and Dr John, I've been pretty much focused on work, to the exclusion of most else. Pretty much I'd get home, eat, watch a little television, then hit the hay.
Today was a bit different, however. I was summoned by my doctor a few weeks ago, told that he wouldn't allow refills on my "keep Wonderduck alive" medication until I got up to the office for a status review. Problem: his office is in one of the little towns that surround Duckford, to the North. Pond Central is on the South side; indeed, if I threw a baseball from my balcony, it'd land outside the Duckford city limits... or at least, it would if my throwing wing was as strong as it used to be. The upshot is that it's a 45-minute drive, more or less, to get to Doc's office. Of course we've been too busy for me to get time off work to go during the week. Such is the excitement of life, right? Oh, and today was the only day off I'm getting for a while. Graduation is on Sunday, and there's a Registration Event for the Fall semester next Saturday, and yours truly gets the pleasure of working them.
The doctor's visit went well, though it took forever. I've been going to Doc H for maybe 30 years; he was on the board of directors for the hospice Momzerduck used to run back in the day, and it was natural for him to become the family doc, y'know? Anyway, the passage of time just blows my mind... I found out that his daughter is 21, studying to be a nurse, and will be attending Duck U in the fall. I've seen her grow up via photographs in his office; that news just freaked me right the heck out.
After the visit with Doc H (and a very professional stick job from his "lab rats"), I had a birthday party to attend for Ph.Duck's aunt. She turned 90 on Friday, and there was a private room booked at a Swedish-styled eatery here in town (there's a huge percentage of Swedes in Duckford; indeed, Lilly and her family came over when she was two), always a good place to eat: fresh squeezed orange juice and lingonberries FTW! Alas, the appointment with the doctor took too long, leaving me in a quandary. I had planned to go to the doc, then grocery shopping, the the birthday party. I got back to Duckford too late to go shopping, but too early to go to the party. So I decided to visit a used book shop nearby, kill some time there. It's been there forever, but I've never stopped in; sort of out of the way, y'know?
The moment I walked in, I was approached by the store's cat. It took one look at me and knew I was okay; floor-counter-pile of books-Wonderduck-purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. So I spent a half-hour walking around the bookstore, skritching a cat... and if you've never done that, let me tell you, you're missing the best way to visit a bookstore ever. When I was in grad school, there was a local bookstore that had a shopcat, too. Whenever I dropped in, which was probably every week, he would immediately drape himself around my neck and just hang there like a scarf for the duration of my visit. Wonderful way to peruse the shelves, lemme tell ya. Sadly, the shopcat passed away a few years later, but got an obituary in the town's daily newspaper.
After the birthday party, I came back to Pond Central and promptly fell asleep. Exciting day, huh? Hopefully, now that the Spring semester has come to an end things will return to normal around here... or what passes for normal, that is.
Well, I dunno...?
I've been sitting here at my computer, trying to figure out something interesting, funny or stupid to write about. I'm coming up completely blank, which means I've probably fulfilled the last category with this post. So I'm coming to you, my loyal reader(s?), with a plea: gimme something to write about. Think of it like my "name that ship" contest, without having to name a ship... except it's not guaranteed that I'll write about what you name.
C'mon, I'm beggin' ya here! In a show of good faith, here's a picture that made me laugh:
Don't make me bring out Rio Rainbow Gate! again...
The world wants to know -- what did the ducks do to rescue Lucrezia?
Story line starts http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20030804
Toy duck reference http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20030829
If you haven't been following Girl Genius -- well, it's fun, and
still going on. It starts rather earlier than this non-canonical
Posted by: Engineer Bob at May 10, 2011 10:10 PM (MLS8L)
What is it about F/SN that makes it stick with you? (er, generic "you", not you in particular.)
I've liked a lot of different shows over the years, and for quite a few of them, someone will do some side-stories or comedy parody doujin or whatnot based around the events of the show. But FSN... I've probably spent more time with the cast from various parodies than I did with the original source material. I've seen Shirou get dragged into treasure-hunting by a gem-crazed Rin. I've seen Bazett appear in Subekan Deka parody. I've seen Saber turn into Dark Saber with a flick of her ahoge. I've seen Sakura as shy maiden and scheming sexpot and just about everything in between. I've seen Lancer hitting on Rider or working as a green-grocer.
The only thing I can think of, is that it's got a pretty good "let's just hang out" ensemble cast. I wouldn't enjoy a story where Kyon and Haruhi got together to make sandwiches (though certainly that could be the root of something good, I'd be waiting for something extraordinary to happen... but I'll watch Shirou and Saber make sandwiches and -that's all that has to happen-.)
I could enjoy that sort of thing related to Nanoha, but there just isn't that much material out there. I could enjoy it related to Touhou, and for that there IS that much and more, but it's a little hampered by the original characterization being so thin in the games - you can take any of the characters in any direction if you like. (I did particularly enjoy a story of Wriggle Nightbug almost conquering Gensokyo with giant bugs... first level mid-boss revenge, hah!)
The internet age means you don't have to physically go to a store to shop, an office to work, or a school to learn. I can't speak for you or your regular readers, but I and my immediate
"real life" friends have a more active social life on-line with people
we've never met than we do with our neighbors or co-workers.
I know there have been books and videos which explore this trend, but what does the esteemed and learned Wonderduck think about a world where you interact with your fellow humans more on-line than in person?
Posted by: Siergen at May 11, 2011 05:13 PM (ole2J)
Was Robert A. Heinlein really just making it up, or can the relationship between the length of women's skirts and the price of gold really be scientifically established, as long as you crank in the sunspot cycle? Inquiring minds want to know!
Posted by: Brickmuppet at May 03, 2011 09:50 PM (EJaOX)
Muppet wins... now the question is, why does he know so much about pigeons?
Posted by: Wonderduck at May 03, 2011 09:53 PM (n0k6M)
To clarify: Cher Ami was a homing pigeon in the service of the US Army Signal Corps in WWI. He was attached to the famous "Lost Battalion" of the 77th Division during the battle of the Argonne.
Surrounded, being pummeled by friendly artillery, all communications were cut off. Two other pigeons were sent off, and both were shot out of the air. Cher Ami was the last chance the Battalion had. He was shot in the breast, blinded in one eye, and had one leg nearly blown off, yet he still managed to get to Division HQ. His message received, the Battalion was soon relieved, saving nearly 200 troops.
The Division hailed Cher Ami as a hero, and doctors spent long hours trying to save him. Eventually he pulled through, though he lost the leg. Doctors whittled him a wooden one, however.
He was awarded Croix de Guerre for heroism, and died in 1919. He's preserved in the Smithsonian.
Posted by: Wonderduck at May 03, 2011 10:03 PM (n0k6M)
So...no ducks have ever been awarded medals for heroism?
Posted by: Siergen at May 04, 2011 05:13 PM (TaNW9)
Hey! Does this mean I get to choose a topic for a post!? Does it does it does it? Ok...How about this I
would like to see an analysis of the comedic subversion of patriarchal
in Rio Rainbow Gate with particular emphasis placed on how its ironic
juxtaposition of non empowering clothing and female power contains
subtle references to the
life experiences of women of Ryukian descent and their quest
for equality in post Taisho Japan using the symbolic meaning of the
differences between a true flying squirrel and an Australian sugar
glider as a starting point.
Posted by: Brickmuppet at May 08, 2011 04:14 PM (EJaOX)