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:
— Emma Shearer (@emmashearer) March 6, 2022
*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.
*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.
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:
– he means "Cambrian explosion," or
– he's talking about that one time in 1830 when, as a student, Darwin accidentally blew up Cambridge's Trinity Hall pic.twitter.com/2AEB2OyO6q
— Take That Darwin (@TakeThatDarwin) March 11, 2022
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:
We thank the reviewers for their helpful suggestions pic.twitter.com/UAaEd8fT8n
— Oded Rechavi 🦉 (@OdedRechavi) March 2, 2022
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.
sorry, but are we still pretending that "indigenous ways of knowing" is a thing, like they're little children of the forest who use their spidey senses to channel wisdom from the trees and bushes? It's just racist Grey Owl bullshit slathered with woke redface https://t.co/lsKrSEvVjE
— Jonathan Kay (@jonkay) February 10, 2022
Tweets from Matthew:
"alright Meryl Streep, get up" pic.twitter.com/2ffo0demF3
— Paul Bronks for Lovina Animal Welfare (@slender_sherbet) March 11, 2022
I’ll take Matthew’s word for it when he says “This song is a big kid’s hit from Disney’s Frozen.”
— Ankita Jain (@Ankita20200) March 6, 2022
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.
One of the most important features of the Statue of Liberty is hidden. There are shackles at her feet. This statue was a symbol against slavery, and not just a welcoming of immigrants.
— The Alchemy of Us by Ainissa Ramirez, Ph.D. (@ainissaramirez) March 6, 2022
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.
Wild crow visits this woman every day to play games for treats 🖤 pic.twitter.com/ABBcXzsq1H
— The Dodo (@dodo) March 5, 2022