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Monday, 5 November 2012

Full Fathom Five: The Sinking of the Bounty


The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, is submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina. Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14, recovered a woman who was later pronounced dead and are searching for the captain. The HMS Bounty was built for the 1962 film Mutiny On The Bounty and was also used in Pirates Of The Caribbean.

The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, replica of the 18th century Royal Navy Vessel HMAV Bounty, is submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina. Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14, recovered a woman  who was later pronounced dead [Claudene Christian, apparently the great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, Master's Mate and second-in-command of the original HMAV Bounty], and are searching for the captain. The HMS Bounty was built for the 1962 film Mutiny On The Bounty and was also used in Pirates Of The Caribbean: photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski, U.S. Coast Guard, 29 October 2012 (U. S. Coast Guard)

The longer he runs for president, the more doubts Republican front-runner Mitt Romney seems to have about the science behind global climate change.

Speaking at a closed-door fundraiser Thursday in Pittsburgh, Romney's position on the causes of global warming continued the rightward shift that has been underway for several months. "My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us," he told donors at the Consol Energy Center... 

"By the way, they do not call it America warming, they call it global warming. So the idea of America spending massive amounts, trillions of dollars to somehow stop global warming is not a great idea. It loses jobs for Americans and ultimately it won't be successful, because industries that are energy intensive will just get up and go somewhere else. So it doesn't make any sense at all. My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us. My view with regards to energy policy is pretty straightforward. I want us to become energy secure and independent of the oil cartels. And that means let's aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal, our nuclear power."

Coral Davenport, from "Mitt Romney's Shifting Views on Climate Change", CBS News, 28 October 2011

File:George Romney - William Shakespeare - The Tempest Act I, Scene 1.jpg

The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Act I, Scene 1: copperplate engraving by Benjamin Smith based on a painting by George Romney, published 29 September 1797 by J. and J. Boydell at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall and at No. 90 Cheapside, London; image by Adam Cuerden, 18 May 2010

.................Ariel's Song

....Come unto these yellow sands,
.............And then take hands:
....Curtsied when you have, and kiss'd
.............The wild waves whist,
....Foot it featly here and there;
....And, sweet sprites, the burthen bear.
.............Hark, hark!
.............The watch-dogs bark.
.............Hark, hark! I hear
.............The strain of strutting chanticleer
.............Cry, Cock-a-diddle-dow.

....Full fathom five thy father lies;
.............Of his bones are coral made;
....Those are pearls that were his eyes:
.............Nothing of him that doth fade,
....But doth suffer a sea-change
....Into something rich and strange.
....Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
....Hark! now I hear them—Ding-dong, bell.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616): Ariel's Song, from The Tempest, written 1610-1611, published in First Folio, 1623, Act I, Scene 2

Item 2: List of mutineers - Part 1 

Page one of list of those involved in the Mutiny of the HMAV Bounty: unpublished autograph manuscript of notebook entry by Lieutenant William Bligh (1754-1817), commanding officer of the Bounty, written aboard the Bounty's launch, en route from the ship to Tofua and thence to Timor,  28 April to 14 June 1789 (National Library of Australia)
The list of the mutineers is headed by Fletcher Christian, Acting Master's Mate and second-in-command of the Bounty before the mutiny. Each mutineer's physical appearance is described in detail. The entry for Christian reads: "Aged 24 years -- 5 feet 9 in[ches] high. Complexion -- Dark and very swarthy. Hair -- Blackish or very dark brown. Make -- Strong. Marks -- Star tatowed on the left Breast, and tatowed on the backside -- His knees stand a little out and he may be called a little Bow legged. He is subject to Violent perspiration, particularly in his hands, so that he Soils anything he handles."  Built in 1784 as the collier Bethia at Blaydes Shipyard, Hull, purchased by the Royal Navy on 24 May 1787, refitted at Deptford in 1787 with the great cabin refitted to house potted plants and recommissioned as His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty to support an experiment proposed by Sir Joseph Banks to transport breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies to be used as food for slaves, the vessel sailed from Spithead on 23 September 1787; reached Tahiti on 26 October 1788; sailed from Tahiti with a cargo of 1300 breadfruit plants on 4 April 1789; was taken by force 1300 miles west of Tahiti, near the island of Tonga, on 28 April 1789, in a mutiny led by Master's Mate and Acting Second Lieutenant Fletcher Christian; reached Pitcairn Island under Christian's de facto command on 15 January 1790; and eight days later was burned in what is now called Bounty Bay by the mutineers to prevent detection by the Royal Navy.


Signature of Lieutenant William Bligh in notebook kept aboard the Bounty's launch (National Library of Australia)

Here's a sentence I wish I hadn't written –- it rolled out of my Macbook in May, part of an article for Rolling Stone that quickly went viral:
"Say something so big finally happens (a giant hurricane swamps Manhattan, a megadrought wipes out Midwest agriculture) that even the political power of the industry is inadequate to restrain legislators, who manage to regulate carbon."
I wish I hadn't written it because the first half gives me entirely undeserved credit for prescience: I had no idea both would, in fact, happen in the next six months. And I wish I hadn't written it because now that my bluff's been called, I'm doubting that even Sandy, the largest storm ever, will be enough to make our political class serious about climate change.

Maybe I'm wrong, though. Maybe –- just maybe –- the arrival of a giant wall of water in the exact middle of the financial and media capital of our home planet will be enough to get this conversation unstuck. Maybe that obscene slick of ocean spreading unnaturally into the tubes and tunnels of the greatest city on earth will shock enough people to change the debate. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, allowed as how:
"There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. That is not a political statement, that is a factual statement … Anyone who says there's not a dramatic change in weather patterns, I think, is denying reality."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg added:
"What is clear is that the storms we've experienced in the last year or so around this country and around the world are much more severe than before."
Truthfully, I think I'd just as soon see statements like that as carefully thought-out endorsements of climate science. It's experience that changes people: the summer's drought left more than half of American counties as federal disaster areas, and meteorologist Jeff Masters estimates Sandy hit 100 million Americans with "extreme weather". Add in the largest forest fires in Colorado and New Mexico, the hottest month in US history, and the completely absurd summer-in-March heatwave that kicked off our year of living sweatily, and you can begin to understand why the percentage of Americans worrying about global warming has spiked sharply this year. Spiked high enough that even a few politicians are willing to speak out.

Not many. The presidential candidates avoided the topic at all their big public forums –- except for Romney's Republican national convention joke about how silly it was to try and slow the rise of the oceans (which probably didn't win him many votes on the Jersey Shore this week). Obama did talk climate with MTV last week, but that venue almost defines the issue's fringe status; his other real discussion of it was with Rolling Stone –- global warming is, apparently, only for people with earbuds.

They barnstormed through the hottest summer on record, and they didn't seem to notice. One appreciates cool in a president, but there's a limit.

If Sandy, however, begins to give a little opening for discussion, we're unfortunately at the point where we have to force the discussion. After 20 years of inaction, we're so far behind the curve that we've got to raise the bar higher than mere acknowledgement that we've got a problem. We've got to get some action from these guys.

And that, I think, requires a truly crucial set of changes. We need to neutralize the force that's kept them quiet. It's not that our politicians didn't know about climate change: I've watched, for two decades, as the world's best scientists make the annual trek to Capitol Hill to lay out the latest data. It's that, as scary as those charts and graphs were, the fossil fuel industry was scarier still.

As the richest industry on earth, and the biggest political player, the boys from coal and oil and gas have bought one party and terrified the other. Last week -– in the very final days of the US election –- Chevron smacked down the single largest corporate donation in the Citizens United era, $2.5 m to a GOP Super Pac. There's not a congressman who didn't notice, and who didn't think: what if they came after me with ten days to go?

If we're going to change the political equation, we're going to do it by going after the fossil fuel industry. They deserve it. As that Rolling Stone article of mine laid out, they're planning to burn literally five times more carbon than the most conservative government on earth thinks is safe. They've turned into a rogue force. important as elections are, they're not the biggest battle.

Bill McKibben: from "Sandy forces climate change on US election despite fossil fuel lobby", The Guardian, 31 October 2012 

File:Rowe Tempest.JPG

Frontispiece illustration of the opening scene of the Tempest: Nicholas Rowe, from The Works of Mr. William Shakespear: Adorn'd with cuts. Revis'd and Corrected, with an account of the Life and Writings of the author. Edited by Nicholas Rowe, Esq. 6 vols.; Vol. I, 1709 ; image by Tom Reedy, 17 August 2010

File:Mutiny HMS Bounty.jpg

The mutineers turning Lieutenant Bligh and part of the officers and crew adrift from His Majesty's Armed Vessel Bounty, 29 April 1789: Robert Dodd (1748-1816), artist and engraver; B.B. Evans, publisher, London, 2 0ctober 1790 (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich)

with thanks to Betsy O'Malley and Terence Winch


Nin Andrews said...

Yes, exactly. And around here are pro-coal signs. People are so incredibly stupid, and what is crazier is the response to any mention of climate change--the shout of USA, USA . . . ?

I think deep down we as a culture believe in Disney endings. We are waiting for Tinkerbell.

But here in Ohio, people are voting. Hour long waits, long lines and as one lady said, "I bet them Republicans wouldn't be so nice and polite in this pretty, long line. Or patient. We got to be real patient now cause change isn't coming any too soon. Know what I mean, sweet pea?"

TC said...

This is one scary country, all right, and one extremely anxious time to be in it.

As you say Nin there's that basic cultural problem, Disneyland Denial Syndrome. Thinking of that book, How We Die, in which it is proposed that Americans think technology ensures immortality. So why not just jump in the car and pick up something at Safeway. Doesn't much matter what, none of it's real anyway.

But you've got something real there, where you are, worth the patience, worth the saving. I know from your terrific posts you've been getting bugged by it all yet carrying on nonetheless, respects for that. And every little act means more than ever now if anything ever meant anything at all and yes, we do got to be real patient, sweet pea.

The woods of Poland, one of the last wildlife refuges of my ancient imagination.

Hazen said...

One of the KochBros says not to worry ‘bout that sea rise, and the inundation of coastlines, and the dislocation of millions of people. Global warming means longer growing seasons so there will be plenty to eat. It all balances out, see?

This sort of willful stupidity disregards questions like soil depletion (and the subsequent need for artificial fertilizers derived from natural gas); and water supply (too little or too much: no stable weather patterns); and the fact that plants that we depend on for food do not grow, or grow well, above certain temperatures. Certain disease-bearing organisms, however, will thrive when temperatures and humidity go higher.

Fifty percent of all hydrocarbons consumed in the history of the planet has been consumed since 1985, yet Herr Koch denies that climate change is due to fossil fuel consumption.

Einstein said, ‘The greatest tragedy of the human race is its inability to understand the exponential function.’

Yeah, we’ve deep-sixed ourselves.

TC said...


Ah, but there's no quarreling with the happiness that only a deep pool of dark money can buy.

So have another carbon-enriched jellybean...

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

The 1%: “All this hullaballoo over climate change? Nothing but a ‘tempest in a teapot’.”

Wooden Boy said...

The rich and strange seams that happened in good geological time swallowed to fill up baseless, ephemeral appetites.

Romney: the boy with wire wool coiffure. "Our oil, our gas, our coal".

Robb said...

We'll spend much more in the end. That's preferable to the twisted economy. Disaster economics.