Saturday: Hili dialogue

March 12, 2022 • 6:30 am

As I announced yesterday, there are too many cases of covid aboard to permit us to continue at the the first of my two scheduled voyages, so we’ve turned north and are heading back to Punta Arenas, our port of embarcation in Chile.

Where we are now: According to the ship’s real-time map, we are standing off of Elephant Island, the island in the South Shetlands where, in the Imperial Trans-Arctic Expedition , 22 of Shackleton’s men from the crushed ship Endurance sheltered for four months under two connected lifeboats. They waited 4.5 months for Shackleton and five other men to make the perilous but ultimately successful sea journey in an open boat to South Georgia Island where there was a whaling station that could help rescue the men.  A tug from Chile picked up the men on August 16, 1916. The rest of the story can be seen at the expedition link above. ‘

(As you know, the remains of the Endurance were found a the bottom of the Weddell Sea jus about a week ago.)

From the ship’s own screen: we’re just north of Point Wild Beach, where Shackleton’s men bided their time hoping for rescue. It was on this narrow spit of land (see photos later today) where they spent 4.5 months, trying to keep warm and eating penguins several meals per day.

Maps from the website:

After a brief look at the Island from on board, we’ll head back to Punta Arenas through the Beagle Channel. What awaits us there is not known; we’ve heard no announcements, for either quarantine or evacuation procedures must be made for most of the passengers.

The ship’s webcam does not show the present location, but I’ll post new pictures of Elephant Island this afternoon. I posted on our visit to this Island in 2019 here, and you can read that piece for more information. Stay tuned.

Welcome to a chilly autumn day in the Antarctic: Saturday, March 12, 2022

Yesterday all the passengers got tested with the antigen test; I haven’t yet heard any results but everyone in my group, including me, was negative. Here’s the setup; the testing is done in the auditorium where I lecture (I’ve left out passenger photos for reasons of privacy). As my update reflects, they must have found sufficient positive tests to mandate the cancelling of this trip.

*The headline in the New York Times is depressing (click on screenshot to read):

The Ukrainians are still fighting gamely, with Putin having failed to achieve a quick tactical victory, but the Russians haven’t given up, and are advancing. Villages five miles from the capital of Kyiv are being attacked, and in the southern city of Mykolaiv, have fired on a cancer hospital. It’s clear that they don’t care what civilians perish as “collateral damage”.  Surprisingly, to me at least, the Chinese have sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

*Vice-President Kamala Harris, who has done almost nothing substantive since she was elected, has been enlisted to tell Americans that we’ll have to pay higher gas prices because of the economic boycott on Russia. This momentous news, which we all know and most are willing to live with, was conveyed on Harris’s “reassurance” trip to Poland and Romania:

Americans will have to bear the burden of higher gas prices, but insisted that it was a cost worth paying to punish Russia for waging war on Ukraine.

“There is a price to pay for democracy. You got to stand with your friends,” Ms. Harris said during a joint news conference with President Klaus Iohannis of Romania. “Sometimes it is difficult. Often, it ain’t easy.”

I love the folksy “ain’t” there, condescending speech directed to the average American. Yes, VPs don’t do much, but Harris was tasked with doing more than most VPs, including helping deal with the U.S.’s immigration problem. I’m pretty sure that she will not, despite tradition, be the Democratic candidate for President in the next election, which means we need a credible candidate (I’m guessing Biden won’t run, but I may well be wrong).

*Although the U.S. has refused to send MiG-29 fight jets to Ukraine, presumably via Poland, who has them, the U.S. has also just approved the transfer of expensive new air-defense systems to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelensky, have pleaded for the MiG-29 transfer. And while they have support from a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers, the Biden administration, citing assessments from senior American military commanders in Europe, has said the additional aircraft would offer only minimal value to Ukraine given the contested nature of its airspace.

. . . “We believe the most effective way to support the Ukrainian military in their fight against Russia is to provide increased amounts of antitank weapons and air defense systems, which is ongoing with the international community,” said Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters the chief of U.S. European Command. “The Ukrainians are making excellent use of these weapons now.”

*A tremendously expensive private yacht named the Scheherazade—perhaps the most expensive such boat in the world—has been sitting in dry dock for several days in the Italian port of.  It was stopped there by Italian authorities who, suspecting that the owner was a Russian oligarch, could confiscate it according to the new ant-Russian sanctions. Now the New York Times reports that the 459-foot (!) boat, worth $700 million,may belong to none other than Putin himself, though perhaps it’s just for his use and owned by some shell company or individual.

United States intelligence agencies have made no final conclusions about the ownership of the superyacht — called the Scheherazade — but American officials said they had found initial indications that it was linked to Mr. Putin. The information from the U.S. officials came after The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Italian authorities were looking into the 459-foot long vessel’s ownership and that a former crew member said it was for the use of Mr. Putin.

People briefed on the intelligence would not describe what information they had that indicated the superyacht is associated with Mr. Putin. If American officials know whether or how often Mr. Putin uses the yacht, the people briefed on the information would not share it.

American officials said Mr. Putin kept little of his wealth in his own name. Instead he uses homes and boats nominally owned by Russian oligarchs. Still, it is possible that through various shell companies, Mr. Putin could have more direct control of the Scheherazade.

You can see the yacht’s specs (insofar as they’re available) and location here. Note that it sails under the flag of the Cayman Islands.

According to LBC, Russian state media has relented so far as to broadcast several people criticizing the war in Ukraine. However, Russia still calls true reports from Ukraine “fake news”, and can impose a 15-year jail sentence on those people who report truthfully about the war.   (h/t Gerdien)

*Gravelinspector pointed me to a BBC report with the comment, “This particular statue gets re-crowned , typically within hours (or minutes) of a previous “crown” being removed. It’s as traditional as a deep-fried pizza with a chocolate bar dessert. What the article says is that  the Duke of Wellington statue in Glasgow, which usually has a traffic cone on its head, has a new and fancier traffic cone, one crocheted and beflowered to reflect solidarity with Ukraine. Voilà:

A tweet:

*You’ve probably forgotten that we’re still trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, but it’s going on, and not going well for anybody but Iran. There’s a new article in Tablet  about the deal called “This isn’t Obama’s Iran deal. It’s much, much worse.” It’s written by Gabriel Noronha (bona fides below)

Gabriel Noronha served as Special Advisor for Iran in the U.S. Department of State Department from 2019-2020. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate from 2015-2019, including on the Senate Armed Services Committee for Chairmen John McCain and Jim Inhofe.

The article describes how the U.S. is giving away the farm to Iran, to the detriment of the U.S., the rest of the Middle East, and Israel. An excerpt:

Reports out of Vienna indicate that a deal could occur within the next few days. While some issues are still being ironed out—such as whether the United States will grant Russia immunity from any economic sanctions relating to Iran, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has publicly demanded—the details that follow have been conveyed to me as finalized. My subsequent discussions with foreign diplomats—including those directly involved and those outside but close to the negotiations—confirmed their claims. Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov, who led negotiations on behalf of Russia, has crowed that “Iran got much more than it could expect. Much more,” and bragged about how Russia teamed up with China and Iran to get dozens of wins over the United States and European negotiating positions.

. . . With Robert Malley in the lead, the United States has promised to lift sanctions on some of the regime’s worst terrorists and torturers, on leading officials who have developed Iran’s WMD infrastructure, and has agreed to lift sanctions on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) itself. In exchange, Iran will receive fewer limitations than those imposed under the JCPOA, and the restrictions on its nuclear program will expire six years sooner than under the terms of the old deal. And that’s just the beginning.
I’m not even sure why we’re negotiating with Iran. They will get nuclear weapons (now sooner rather than later), and yet we’re cutting them a great break despite their successful efforts to manufacture nuclear weapons and yet hide their results by subterfuge and lying to the West. When they do get their bombs in a few years, we’ll see this as shameless pandering to the Iranians. One can only hope that Israel will take out Iran’s capabilities by force.

*It’s not news to anyone aboard that Shackleton’s ship Endurance has been found, but it’s news to all of us, I think, that, according to the BBC, videos of the ship revealed the presence of a “squat lobster” (more closely related to crabs but sometimes fraudulently sold as “langostino” in markets and restaurants). This could be a species new to science, but we simply can’t tell from the picture, as 900 species have already been identified.

(h/t: Jez in comments yesterday)

Here’s a species we know to show you

And some other species seen colonizing Endurance:

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, a nervous Hili is unable to get reassurance from Andrzej. (Note Szaron in the background.)

Hili: I’m trying to guess what will happen tomorrow.
A: It’s a waste of time. Everything will be different.
In Polish:
Hili: Próbuję odgadnąć, co będzie jutro.
Ja: Strata czasu, wszystko będzie inaczej.

From the B. Kliban Appreciation Society: :A cat and his dog”

From reader Barry, with the pro-evolution site “Take That Darwin” responding to a mushbrained creationist:

From Ginger K:


From Simon. This is how a manuscript can look after you are forced to take into account a lot of irrelevant comments from anonymous reviewers:

From Ginger K. This is a little harsh, but there’s some truth in the often unwarranted worship of “other ways of knowing”, whatever the group be—unless it’s empiricists and scientists.


Tweets from Matthew:

I’ll take Matthew’s word for it when he says “This song is a big kid’s hit from Disney’s Frozen.”

I didn’t know this, but a bit of Googling shows that it seems to be true; read the National Park Service’s piece on the shackles.

Here;s the photo that seems to have disappeared from the

Matthew and I firmly believe that the world would be a gazillion times better if it were like the world presented by The Dodo. Sound up and listen to the whole story.

19 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    538 – Vitiges, king of the Ostrogoths ends his siege of Rome and retreats to Ravenna, leaving the city in the hands of the victorious Byzantine general, Belisarius. – Let’s hope the Russian sieges in Ukraine end similarly.

    1930 – Mahatma Gandhi begins the Salt March, a 200-mile march to the sea to protest the British monopoly on salt in India.

    1950 – The Llandow air disaster kills 80 people when the aircraft they are travelling in crashes near Sigingstone, Wales. At the time this was the world’s deadliest air disaster.

    1989 – Sir Tim Berners-Lee submits his proposal to CERN for an information management system, which subsequently develops into the World Wide Web.

    1993 – North Korea announces that it will withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and refuses to allow inspectors access to its nuclear sites.

    1999 – Former Warsaw Pact members the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO. – And aren’t they glad they did, right now!

    2011 – A reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant explodes and releases radioactivity into the atmosphere a day after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.

    1832 – Charles Boycott, English farmer and agent (d. 1897) – Irish people socially and economically isolating him helped preserve his name. The postman wouldn’t deliver his mail.

    1917 – Leonard Chess, American record company executive, co-founder of Chess Records (d. 1969)

    1922 – Jack Kerouac, American author and poet (d. 1969) – Today marks his centenary.

    1928 – Edward Albee, American director and playwright (d. 2016) – Is anyone afraid of Virginia Woolf?

    1948 – James Taylor, American singer-songwriter and guitarist

    Pushing up daisies:
    1942 – William Henry Bragg, English physicist, chemist, and mathematician, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1862)

    1955 – Charlie Parker, American saxophonist and composer (b. 1920)

    1999 – Yehudi Menuhin, American-Swiss violinist and conductor (b. 1916)

    2015 – Terry Pratchett, English journalist, author, and screenwriter (b. 1948)

    1. TNX JezGrove – I always read Jerry’s ‘on this day’ and look up anything I’ve never heard of before. Never too old to learn, eh!

  2. I don’t suppose it will have a great impact, but it’s a nice try. The BBC reports:

    A Norwegian computer expert has created a website enabling anyone to send an email about the war in Ukraine to up to 150 Russian email addresses at a time, so that Russian people have a chance to hear the truth their government is hiding.

    All over Russia email inboxes are pinging. Millions of messages are being received with the same intriguing subject Ya vam ne vrag – I am not your enemy.

    The message appears in Russian with an English translation and it begins: “Dear friend, I am writing to you to express my concern for the secure future of our children on this planet. Most of the world has condemned Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

    The lengthy email goes on to implore Russian people to reject the war in Ukraine and seek the truth about the invasion from non-state news services.

    In just a few days, more than 22 million of these emails landed in Russian inboxes, and they’re being sent by volunteers around the world, who are donating their time and email addresses to the cause.

  3. “langostino”

    Alright, what is going on here – “Langostino shrimp” popped into my head less than 24 hours ago, and lo and behold, it appears on WEIT.

    This is not the first time something popped in my head and it show up here.

    What are the chances?!??… actually high, if I read WEIT enough…

  4. I was sorry to read of the cancellation of the rest of your expedition last night, but this is a really nasty little bug and, it seems to me, a non life sciences/medical person, we really do not know all of its impacts. So via this comment, I am reminding readers of the This Week in Virology (TWiV) website on which Prof Vince Racaniello of Columbia University and his merry band of three or four other virologists do a weekly video on issues in virology, mostly devoted to sars cov2 and covid over the past two years. Also over the past two years their regular weekly videos have been supplemented by a weekly clinical update from dr dan griffen, who reports conditions on the ground directly from his new york city area hospital system. This week he talks about and provides references to some research studies on this virus’ effects on the brain. It is in the first ten minutes of TWiV episode #874/clinical update #105 which can be found at

  5. Regarding the MIG-29s, I have read various comments that from a military point of view it would not be wise for Ukraine to import these aircraft either. Extensive logistics and infrastructure are needed, as well as well-trained technicians and pilots to keep them operational. They are also relatively easy targets for the superior Russian air force.

    Given the current precarious situation for the Ukrainian military, it would be much better to continue supplying modern MANPADS in large numbers. These can be easily transported in small groups and concealed in simple hideouts. Moreover, training on such a weapon would be relatively easy to accomplish, so that they could also be used by semi-skilled forces with good chances of success.

    I am not a military expert, but these explanations sound plausible to me.

    1. In looking it up, Poland has only 28 Mig 29s and it is not likely that Ukraine would gain much if they had these along with the munitions to load on them. The more modern Russian jets would likely shoot them down. They are probably better getting more surface to air anti-aircraft and stinger missiles.

    2. Plus, most of them have NATO kit on board, which would require a fair bit of training for Ukrainian pilots to use. And if any aircraft were shot down, the kit might fall into Russian hands, which would not be desirable.

  6. We should all be giving thanks everyday that the dumbest president that ever hit Washington to be impeached two times is no longer in the office. I am also certain they feel the same in Ukraine.

      1. Whom do you think the Ukrainians would be thrilled to have as US president — certainly not any member of the US House or Senate who refused to impeach the guy who tried to shakedown their new president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to announce a bogus investigation against his political rival, who claimed Ukrainians hacked the DNC server in 2016 and blamed it on Russia, who undermined the Ukrainians’ anti-corruption efforts through Rudy Giuliani and Giuliani’s Ukrainian-American conspirators, and who employed as his campaign manager (and later pardoned) Paul Manafort, the political consultant who helped keep the corrupt Putin puppet Viktor Yanukovych in power in the 2000s, until the Ukrainian people threw him out of office via The Orange Revolution?

        That eliminates all current congressional Republicans (and, one should think, any former members of the Trump administration).

  7. I am concerned about the attitude in the West to Russians, where people seem to have adopted the attitude that any Russian should be persecuted in any way one of can manage. I’ve seen stories of Russian musicians being fired and of hospitals saying they won’t treat Russians or Belorussians. Honestly, I don’t see much moral difference between bombing a hospital and refusing care. I’ve seen claims that all Russians are responsible for what’s happening in Ukraine, which is not only counter to historical approaches to civilians in wartime (and is an argument that terrorists make), but is odd to say in what is characterized as a dictatorship. I wonder what that says about our individual responsibility for our government’s actions after two decades of drone war? Now Facebook is giving us our Orwellian Two Minutes Hate by allowing posts calling for violence against Russians. And, of course, the Media reports on all of these things with approval. It’s the playbook run against the un-vaxed applied to our enemy of today. “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

    1. You are correct. However, if you are looking for all the stupid and bad ideas, on line is the place to find them. Facebook and twitter are such moral places of wisdom. I would stay completely away. Ukraine knows what history has shown us many times before. You do not have to win the war, you just have to not loose it. Our own war of independence was completed in just this manor. We never learned from our own lessons and the same is true for Russia.

  8. Further to Jim Batterson’s above (@4) and from this week’s TWiV @ about 6:00: other bad news from Ukraine: Apparently they are only about 1/3 vaccinated, as a result of intense disinformation campaigns, source of which we can imagine.

    Also, an extensive look into the sources of vaccine disinformation in the COVID pandemic can be downloaded here. Something like 231pgs, but excluding the appendices it’s more like 150. I’ve only just started it (but just a note that its Stanford origins seem compatible with the original mission of the Hoover Institute – to collect materials surrounding the origins and progressions of wars, originally funded by Herbert Hoover in 1919 with a $50K donation for the purpose of collecting anything relevant to WWI. How many of you knew that?)

  9. ….And just following his piece on mis/disinformation and the Ukraine, Dr Dan updates current data on children and covid. He has spent quite a bit of his clinical update time over the past year on children as he sees the public to be terribly misinformed on the dangers for children. (Hempel: is that you?)

    Sorry. This should be an add on/reply to hempenstein’s Comment 8.

  10. My cousin’s metal-working firm rebuilt the Statue of Liberty, inside and out, for the 1976 celebrations. (Everything except the torch which was rebuilt by the French for the sake of foreign relations).

    More recently, when the pedestal and visitor center were due to be revamped, he submitted a bid for an elevated, glass-enclosed walkway that would soar over the base of the statue. His two main motivations were to give people an up-close look at the statue’s exterior surface (with which he was exquisitely familiar) and, of course, to allow visitors to see the chains. By his reckoning, those chains provide an anchor that gives the statue real meaning: Escaping the chains of the old world. This always reminds me that our common great grandfather from “The Pale” took the name Freedman to celebrate that in coming to America he was free from being a serf under the tsar.

  11. re: above. The entire Eastern Bloc is a horror, vaccination wise. As a rule of thumb the further east you go the worse it gets, from Germany (bad) on down to hideous Russian/Romanian numbers. I think their high religiosity, traditions of useless folk medicine and ex-commie superstition are to blame.

    re Corvids. I adored Alex’s crow video. They’re so smart and beautiful. As a young man I loved going to the parks in Tokyo where I lived which are full of them. Many locals hate them (they can be a pest as they pillage garbage, are noisy, etc). The upside is a lot of corvid research comes from Japan. They distinguish between individual humans and can figure out all types of puzzles.

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