Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Saturday, 30 December 2017

The Dry Tortugas

Fort Jefferson National Park

The Tortugas are small sand islands that were discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. He saw all the nesting turtles (tortugas) and lack of water and called the small island group the Dry Tortugas.

The Dry Tortugas National Park Ferry leaves Key West at 8AM daily. Its a fast catamaran  that covers the seventy miles west to Fort Jefferson in a little over two hours. The trip includes breakfast, lunch and snorkeling gear. You pass the Marquesas island group on the way to the fort. That's where Mel Fisher recovered half a billion in treasure from the Atocha in the late 1970s.

The three level fort is surprising in its size. It is 45 feet tall with eight foot thick walls. There were an estimated 16 million bricks  used in the fort's construction. The yellow bricks came from Pensacola before the Civil War. The red bricks were shipped from Maine during the war. It is the largest masonry fort in the Western hemisphere.

These flowers grow wild next to the fort's salt water moat.

You can also reach the fort by seaplane out of Key West. Both the boat and the plane offer the option of camping in the sand and returning at a later date. .

This is the "hot shot" oven where 15 inch iron cannonballs were heated to cherry red temperatures. They were fired by using wet packing and a light powder load. Even after skipping in the water a few times they were hot enough to start a serious fire on a wooden ship. The light powder load kept the shot from burrowing too deeply so that it would have access to air for the fire it was intended to create.

After the unfinished fort was abandoned in 1875, the Navy still used it for a coaling station. It was the last stop of the battleship "Maine" before it blew up in the harbour in Havana. The fort takes up most of the island. I went snorkeling in the ruins of the coaling dock.  You can see these on the extreme left, next to a concrete pad, although they are partially cut off in this shot.

The fort was under construction from 1847 to 1875. It was never completed. Much of the work was done by slaves before the war. The two openings in the brick below lead to one of the many cisterns that were built into the fort and designed to hold 1.5 million gallons of fresh water. Most of these cisterns sprung leaks and filled with salt water.

The lower level gun ports were finished and furnished with 140 cannon, including Rodman guns, the largest and most modern available. You can see the unfinished 2nd and 3rd level gun ports above the umbrella.

There are six "bastions"jutting out from the walls of the fort. These had gun ports providing lines of fire directly along the moat. The bastion cannon were filled with small shot to kill anyone crouching in the water below the gun ports.

The water in August is very warm.

Guns were never fired in anger from the fort. During the war the Union used the fort as a prison for its own soldiers. About 2,000 of these were confined there for rape, robbery, murder, cowardice, sleeping on guard duty, desertion, desertion in the face of the enemy, abandonment of post and so on...
The most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the broken leg of the assassin John Wilkes Booth.  Mudd helped at the fort during a Yellow Fever outbreak and was eventually pardoned by President Andrew Johnson.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

a rider on a pale horse

Ostero, Florida - Koreshean Historical Site

In 1965 I rented a 50 CC motorcycle and drove past this place on a 12 hour trip at 30 MPH from Tampa to Miami to see Mrs. Phred (Miss Phred at the time). I vaguely remember seeing the Koreshian General Store and thinking “cult”. At one time it was the only stop on the Tamiami Trail (US 41) on the 60 mile stretch from Fort Myers to Naples. The road is six lanes now with lots of stops.

The Koreshian State park is typical Florida palmetto scrub. They rent canoes here. The brackish river leads though mangroves out to “Mound Key” in the Gulf of Mexico four miles distant.

Cyrus Teed was a physician living in Utica, New York in 1870. He liked to experiment with electricity and once shocked himself into unconsciousness. When he awoke, he had seen God, who he said was both male and female and had learned that mankind lived inside a hollow sphere 8,000 miles in diameter.

The Koresheans moved here from Chicago in 1893 and acquired 3,000 wilderness acres including a great amount of “worthless” pristine beachfront. They lived at first in tents in the mud, but soon cleared the land and built more than 50 structures, including this house for the Planetary Sisters.

They believed in celibacy and for that reason the cult died out by the 1960s. Their affairs were ruled by seven women who represented the seven known planets. The aging remnants of the cult deeded the land to the state in 1963 and a State park was created. When married couples joined the cult, they lived in separate dormitories.

The members of the cult signed over all material possessions to Cyrus. He had an appeal to the women of his time. Many left husbands to join the settlement.

Once firmly established, the Koresheans incorporated the town of Ostero a few miles south of Fort Myers. The Founder, Cyrus Teed, was beaten badly by the Marshall and his assistant in Fort Myers after a political argument and eventually died of the injuries he received. Cyrus is Koresh in Hebrew. They conducted experiments to prove that the horizon curved upward.

The Koresheans believed that we lived inside a hollow sphere with a crust 100 miles thick surrounded by a great void of nothing...the sun moon and planets were mere reflections ...night was a vast cloud of dark gases that powered the revolution of the sphere much like an electric motor...the strange mammal with the "big brain" remains capable of the most astounding delusions (present company excepted, of course)...the leader, Cyrus, was kept in a bathtub after his death for a week, since it was assumed that he would reanimate. His grave was washed into the Gulf by a 1920 hurricane and he has not been seen since.

I walked though the Koreshian compound today...the last of them gave up her belief in the hollow sphere. She said in 1973 that the American boys walking on the moon convinced her that we lived outside the sphere...

In an unrelated matter, David Koresh (an assumed name) of the Branch Dividians in Waco was also impressed with the name of the man who led the Jews away from Babylon. David Koresh (the Hebrew name for Cyrus) had the following discussion with FBI negotiators:

Koresh: "What is Christ revealed as, according to the fourth seal?"
FBI: "Pale... a rider on a pale horse."
Koresh: "And his name is what?"
FBI: "Death."
Koresh: "Now, do you know what the name Koresh means?"
FBI: "Go ahead..."
Koresh: "It means death.

The unfortunate conflagration at the Branch Davidian compound led to the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal building in 1995 by a disturbed American Iraq veteran (Iraq I) resulting in 250 deaths, including a large number of young children at the day care center.

Monday, 25 December 2017

San Juan River Raft Trip

Bluff, Utah to Mexican Hat, Utah

At 4:32 AM this morning the International Space Station became visible in Bluff, Utah. It wasn't as bright as I expected it would be. You would think anything with a $190 million dollar toilet would be dazzling.

The raft trip departs near Bluff at 8 am and ends up in Mexican Hat, 26 miles downstream, around 5 pm. Our guide, for some reason, wears a striped necktie with his straw hat and tennis shoes.

The first stop is a sandstone wall with 150 yards of petroglyphs. The earliest of these may date back 10,000 years to Clovis Man. More elaborate designs are about 1,000 years old by the basketweaver culture. I suspect that the ones that say "BLM Sucks" are fairly recent additions. One recurring enigmatic design appears to be Kenny from South Park.

We see more Indian ruins, after a 1/2 mile hike, a little later in the morning. These were the Anasazi, ancestors to the local Zuni, Hopi and Ute tribes. The cliff shelter forms a natural amphitheatre. I can clearly hear the group conversations from 100 yards away. You can imagine voices from the inhabitants on a warm summer day.

We run into some mountain goats about halfway though the float.

It's interesting to watch the layers of sandstone along the river. One yellow layer traps petroleum. Sometimes it dives into the earth, sometimes it reappears...Mrs. Phred claims she can smell oil. The red layer is Navajo sandstone, petrified ancient sand dunes. There is one very old layer called Paradox. It is believed to have originated near the equator, in a shallow sea, back before the continents drifted apart.

The thing about the yellow layer of rock is that it's fairly impermeable. If you can find a place where it folds up into an anticline, the low density oil and gas bubbles up and accumulates at the top of the dome or fold. It's the kind of structure that gets oil geologists really hot.

I like this picture of a desert bee chowing down on a prickly pear flower.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

My Best Friend (All My Friends are Dead)

I had a friend named Ken West who was a US Marine. I met him in High School. Ken was a track star, football player and scholar. Ken hung out with the popular people.

Ken sought me out in High School after learning that I had made the highest score on a placement exam. He was curious and invited me to some parties with his popular people.

Ken joined the Marines after High School and came home from Vietnam with heroin and alcohol problems. Ken liked to recite Kipling in bars in a loud voice. He liked to get in your face and into your personal space when he was drinking. He lifted weights in the Marines and came back pumped and strung out at the same time. He was an Adonis...

Ken went to school on the GI bill in Tallahassee. I met him again in a laundromat. I was starving, broke and down to 135 pounds. Ken took me into his house and fed me things like cheap turkey neck soup and introduced me to Mrs. Phred. We experimented with LSD..Once he was rushed to a hospital with jagged shards of a beer bottle in his neck. He got too close and too loud with a stranger in a bar.

We remember when he drove through my front door with a big Harley and a German biker on the back and parked in my living room. The German guy took great offence that our game of "Risk" didn't have an accurate picture of Germany.

Another time he came to visit and broke into a neighbour's living room and went to sleep on the couch because he was confused about where our house was. I had to pay his bail on a burglary charge.

Once we got drunk together on Wild Turkey in my kitchen, got into a fist fight and I bit off a piece of his ear. I heard a story about him living with friends who kicked him out and said that he took a dump in their shower.

Carol and I drove up to visit him in Tallahassee on a Honda 750. He had a Harley disassembled on the apartment floor. We listened to "Stairway to Heaven" for the first time on the quadraphonic system he had brought back from Viet Nam....It floated in from New Orleans at 3AM...

After five or six weeks of  staying with us, I would usually give him $500 and drive him 300 or 500 miles was too intense...he'd be back in a year...I owed him...Carol would get fed up...

Ken passed away twenty years ago in Morgan City, Louisiana. His employer called me to help dispose of his body. He was a "best friend". A friend will help you move. A best friend will help you move bodies. If you have to move your best friend's body, you are generally on your own.

I bought a toolkit for Ken in 1972. He was down on his luck again and needed the toolkit, $500 and money for a ticket to England to work on Bell helicopters. He was fired from that job after hitting a factory representative in the head with a wine bottle at a reception. Eventually, he was deported from England as an undesirable character after being arrested following a fight in a pub. He gave me the toolkit as partial payment for the loan. It had everything you might need to repair a helicopter.

In 1968, after graduation from Florida State University with a degree in International Affairs, he went to Vied Nam again, this time as a civilian F-4C mechanic. He came back a year later with his alcoholism in full bloom and a nasty heroin habit.

Ken's girlfriend died of a heroin overdose. Her family held Ken responsible. It didn't matter. He was hitting bottom. He lost his driver's license permanently for multiple DUI offences.

When my son went to Florida State, Ken burst into his room in the dormitory after claiming to be his grandfather. My son, also Ken (named after Ken)  regarded this as highly amusing but his roommates retreated behind locked doors. Ken the son is named after Ken the friend. The elder Ken was living in a cardboard box at the time with lots of red facial hair. We called him Big Kenny.

Over the years, as our lives became more stable, he would drop by to visit us about once a year and borrow money. He took to using our address permanently to receive mail and used us as a document repository. Once a year I would help him with taxes. Sometimes we would drink together, but I stopped doing that after we got in a drunken fistfight one day because he was in my face with loud nonsense and I bit off a piece of his ear. He often lived in a cardboard box and sometimes worked on a tugboat.

In 1996, I got a call from Morgan City, Louisiana. Ken had died in his sleep. His employer, a tugboat company, asked me for help disposing of the remains. Over the years, the toolbox always brings back memories of Ken when I need a wrench.

He was my best friend, an important part of my life for many years and a maybe great example of how not to live or maybe an guide to living free? Hard to compute for a CPA....

So what was it about Kipling that appealed to Ken?

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay, India in 1865. At the age of six, Kipling's parents placed him in an English foster home in Southsea. He received many 'traditional English beatings' which he described in several of his works including his autobiography. He attended the United Services College in North Devon, which trained students for entry into military academies. Kipling wanted a military career but his poor eyesight and poor results at the college ended his hopes of entering the army. Kipling returned to India when he was seventeen and worked as a journalist for the Civil and Military Gazette and became an assistant editor and overseas editor. These seven years in India greatly influenced his later works.

Kipling married Caroline Starr Balestier and moved with her to Vermont in 1892. They returned to England after the death of their daughter and settled in Sussex. Kipling is said to have been dominated by Caroline, who had trouble accepting aspects of his character and his views. He lost his son, John, in the 'Great War' and suffered, perhaps as a result, from depression in his later years. Kipling died of a hemorrhage in London in 1936. He is buried in the 'poet's corner' of Westminster Abbey.

Kipling was the first Englishman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature 'in consideration of the power of observation, originality of imagination, virility of ideas and remarkable talent for narration, which characterise the creations of this world-famous author'.

Kipling was best known during his lifetime as a poet. His poem 'Gunga Din' is his best known work but he was also a prolific author of adult and children's books. His works included: The Jungle Book, Kim, The Second Jungle Book, The Seven Seas, Captains Courageous, The Day's Work, Stalky and Co, Just So Stories, Traffics and Discoveries, Puck of Pook's Hill, Actions and Reactions, Debits and Credits,Thy Servant a Dog and Limits and Renewals. 'Kim' later inspired the popular children's pastime, Kim's Game.

The Jungle Book stories are probably Kipling's most famous prose. They were published in 1894 while Kipling was living in Vermont. The best-known of the stories are the three centering about an abandoned 'man cub', Mowgli, who is raised by wolves in the jungles of India. Another famous story is 'Rikki-Tikki-Tavi', about a mongoose who defends humans against cobras.

Gunga Din

You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

The last line of Kipling's poem, Gunga Din, has become part of our shared language even for those who have never heard of Kipling or his poetry.

Thomas Atkins

Kipling wrote a series of poems, The Barrack Room Ballads, about an English soldier named 'Thomas Atkins' serving in India. In 1815, a British War Office publication gave an example of how to fill out forms using the name Private Thomas Atkins. This generic name is now roughly equivalent to the names 'Johnny Reb' and 'Billy Yank' used during the US Civil War. Thomas Atkins was the genesis of the term 'Tommy' commonly used to refer to British soldiers.

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll.

Gunga Din was an Indian water carrier for English soldiers in the late 19th century. Kipling describes Gunga Din though Atkins' eyes. Gunga Din is beaten and abused by Atkins and the other soldiers that he serves and treated with contempt because of his skin colour
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all.
Atkins eventually comes to deeply respect the courage of Gunga Din. However, even Atkins' praise, by today's standards, seems insensitive:

An' for all 'is dirty 'ide,
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!

Finally, Gunga Din brings Atkins water after Atkins has been wounded and lies bleeding. The water is given in the thick of battle. Gunga Din is then himself 'drilled' by a bullet. His last words to Atkins before he dies are:

I 'ope you liked your drink', sez Gunga Din.
So I'll meet 'im later on
At the place where 'e is gone --
Where it's always double drill and no canteen;
'E'll be squattin' on the coals
Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
An' I'll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I've belted you and flayed you,
By the livin' Gawd that made you,
You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Gunga Din: The Movie

'Gunga Din' was shot in the California desert by RKO pictures in 1939.

The film portrays three British sergeants (played by Victor MacLagden, Cary Grant and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr). Sam Jaffe stars as Gunga Din. Gunga Din wants to become a 'first class soldier' and bugler. The English soldiers are surrounded by murderous Indian 'Thugees' (a real sect of violent rebels, from whom the word 'thug' derives) who apparently derive nothing but pleasure from strangling and killing their victims. The film is decidedly pro-British which is unsurprising considering the events of 1939 in the Pacific and the fact that Britain was still subjugating the Indian people at that time.

Eventually Gunga Din climbs a steeple and blows his bugle to warn the British of a Thugee attack. Gunga Din is killed in the process. Much of Kipling's poem is read at Gunga Din's burial ceremony.

The Story of Muhammad Din

Kipling wrote an early short story which quietly demonstrates his compassion for the natives of the Indian colony and his distaste for the attitudes held by of his peers. The story is about a young servant boy named Iman Din and his son Muhammad Din. In the story, young Muhammad is discovered looking around in the 'Sahib's' room and later doing engages in minor mischief in the 'Sahib's' garden. Both of these events cause Muhammad great shame. Muhammad then catches a fever and dies. The attending English doctor observes, 'they have no stamina, these brats.'

Kipling and the Critics

George Orwell criticised Kipling for a variety of reasons, including bad poetry.

Kipling's romantic ideas about England and the Empire might not have mattered if he could have held them without having the class-prejudices which at that time went with them. If one examines his best and most representative work, his soldier poems, especially Barrack-Room Ballads, one notices that what more than anything else spoils them is an underlying air of patronage. Kipling idealises the army officer, especially the junior officer, and that to an idiotic extent, but the private soldier, though lovable and romantic, has to be a comic. He is always made to speak in a sort of stylized Cockney, not very broad but with all the aitches and final 'g's' carefully omitted.

George Orwell was another Englishman who was also born in India. Orwell's 1942 essay on Kipling describes Kipling as a 'good bad poet'. Orwell observes that Kipling's work has outlived several generations of now largely forgotten 'pansy leftist' critics. Orwell states that calling Kipling a 'Fascist' is unjustified, but:
It is no use claiming, for instance, that when Kipling describes a British soldier beating a nigger with a cleaning rod in order to get money out of him, he is acting merely as a reporter and does not necessarily approve what he describes. There is not the slightest sign anywhere in Kipling's work that he disapproves of that kind of conduct - on the contrary, there is a definite strain of sadism in him, over and above the brutality which a writer of that type has to have. Kipling is a jingo Imperialist, he is morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting. It is better to start by admitting that, and then to try to find out why it is that he survives while the refined people who have sniggered at him seem to wear so badly.
Orwell observes that a recitation of a Kipling poem in a British pub in 1942 would draw some interest, while a recitation of Shakespeare would be most unwelcome. Orwell described Kipling's poetry as 'a shameful pleasure, like the taste for cheap sweets that some people secretly carry into middle life'.

Encouraging American Imperialism

The words in 'White Man's Burden', which was released in 1899, highlight Kipling's 'noblesse oblige' attitudes and show an unapologetic belief in racial and class superiority. This poem was intended to encourage Americans to proceed with the US-Philippine War which eventually placed Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba, and the Philippines under American control during the first American Imperialist expansion. Future American president Theodore Roosevelt read the poem and said that he considered it 'rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view.'

Take up the White Man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness On fluttered folk and wild
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child

A Man of His Times

Kipling's attitudes seem jarring and offensive to many after more than a hundred years. However he was a man of his times who could and did speak out against establishment injustices. Kipling shows a deep compassion and keen appreciation for the cost of war and the consequences to the ordinary soldier of incompetent 'amateur' senior officers in works like Stellenbosh.

Kipling's poem 'The Last of The Light Brigade' describes a few elderly British soldiers starving and neglected by their government while 30 million people and school children recite the past glories of the 'light brigade'.

There were 30 million English who talked of England's might,
There were 20 broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

Kipling's Public

In 1995, the BBC conducted a poll over a period of several weeks to discover the 'Nation's Favourite Poem'. The poem 'If' by Kipling was determined to be Britain's favourite.

If you can dream, but not make dreams your master,
If you can think, but not make thoughts your aim
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken,
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute,
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Then yours is the world, and all that's in it,
And, which is more, you'll be a man my son.

Kipling's Legacy of Poetry

If Kipling had only produced his prose, he would probably have faded into obscurity. Kipling's poetry works, including 'Gunga Din', will live on to document the excesses of class and racial attitudes of 19th century Britain and British Imperialism. Kipling's poetry has earned for him equal measures of both lasting fame and infamy.

Ken could be insensitive, too. He told me about getting drunk and riding a public bus in Japan. He mimicked an atomic bomb coming down and big explosion for the benefit of the Japanese passengers. I think he regretted it. Once when I was in Japan and asked to have my flight suits washed, the maids washed them with fiberglass curtains which left me with stressful itches. I have no love for them.

I burned Ken's documents a few years after his death.

I can still hear him:

Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' 'Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?'
But it's 'Thin red line of 'eroes' when the drums begin to roll,

1 George Orwell, 'Critical Essays', 1942

Christmas in Cambodia

Angkor Wat Temple
Siem Reap, Cambodia

The temple lies within a moat that is 200 yards wide. Inside the moat, an outer wall 15 feet high surrounds the temple. The wall is  2.2 miles in length.

The complex was begun by  Suryavarman II (ruled 1113 – c. 1150). Our guide refers to him as King S2. In 1177, about 27 years after the death of S2, Angkor was sacked by the Chams. After that a new king, Jayavarman VII, who established a new capital. Our guide calls him J7.

Our guide says that the sandstone to build the temple was brought in by raft from a quarry 25 miles away. He says that 40,000 elephants, 70,000 rafts and 8,000 engineers were used in the construction.

Within the walls, the temple rises in three different levels. At the center a single funeral jar was found. This is perhaps the most eneregy ever expended to dispose of a corpse.

There are some bullet holes in the outer walls. The Khmer Rouge occupied the temple as a military base for a time. Our guide says that he lived here when he was three. He is a funny guy. He tells lots of jokes and laughs hysterically at them.

The walls are covered witl delicate carvings. The labor involved in carving hundreds of thousands of sqaure feet of sanstone is almost unimaginable.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world, but it is only the southernmost of a whole complex of historically important structures.

The temple was abandoned to the jungle for 400 years and rediscovered by a French explorer in 1860. He wandered the jungle for seven years before stumbling upon the complex.

This is one of the library buildings inside the outer walls and outside the temple itself.

I lost ny glasses taking the library picture. Mrs. Phred forced me to leave the tour and retrace my steps to look for them. They were laying in the path only about a half mile from were we started to search.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Words of Douglas Adams

 Mrs. Phred and I have seen some fine and violent movies over the holidays and we're reading a series of slasher books based on a Miami psycho killer named Dexter.

“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.
There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

One movie was Jack Reacher starring the improbably diminutive Tom Cruise. He did a good job for his size.

 “If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.”

We also saw Django Unchained by Quentin Tarrantino, who is always an over the top hoot and weird combination of humor and gore.
 “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”

“All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it's pretty damn complicated in the first place.”

“Ford!" he said, "there's an infinite number of monkeys outside who want to talk to us about this script for Hamlet they've worked out.”

 “This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”

“If life is going to exist in a Universe of this size, then the one thing it cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion.”

"The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be.”

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Boiling Eggs at 9,000 Feet

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

 The last time we were here the snow was 10 feet deep and the Park Rangers said we could go to the overlooks if we had snow shoes. We went back to Gunnison and priced snow shoes and decided to wait for some summer day in the far future.

 I try to hard boil some eggs using my usual method for perfect hard boiled eggs and the centers are gooshy. I also ruin some wild rice trying to cook it for 45 minutes in my normal fashion.

 The problem, of course, is that water boils at 190F at 9,000 feet as compared to 212F at sea level. So the eggs and rice cook very differently at altitude. I seem to remember the Armstrong limit which finds that blood, tears, saliva and other bodily fluids boil at about 63,000 feet, and altitude above which unpressurised humans cannot survive more than a minute or two.

 The canyon is one of the steepest and deepest in the world. Parts of the canyon recieve only 33 minutes of sunlight a day.

 The Gunnison river drops 34 feet per mile on average compared with seven feet a mile in the Grand Canyon. The rock is extremely hard so that the fast flowing river gouges out only about an inch every hundred years. Geologists believe that the 2,000 foot deep black canyon has taken 2 million years to develop.

 We've been  crisscrossing  the Rocky Mountains for several days. Our highest altitude in the RV so far is 11,400 feet. This is the limit of the Complete Compensatory Stage of hypoxia, (5,000 - 11,400 ft). Visual sensitivity at night is decreased by 30 percent at 10,000 feet. Performance of new tasks may be impaired due to memory issues.When I was flying c-124s we had to go on oxygen at 10,000 feet.

 A diversion tunnel was completed bringing water to the Montrose Area. 26 men were killed during the 4 year undertaking. The tunnel was finally completed in 1909, stretching a distance of 5.8 miles and costing nearly 3 million dollars. At the time, the Gunnison Tunnel held the honor of being the world's longest irrigation tunnel. On September 23, President William Howard Taft dedicated the tunnel in Montrose.

To get 2,000 feet down to the Gunnison, you follow the East Portal Road, which has slopes up to 16 degrees and a vehicles length limit of 22 feet.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the Gunnison canyon was thought to be impenetrable.  However, two men navigated the canyon in eleven days on a rubber air mattress to survey the canyon in preparation for building the diversion dam and tunnel.

 Porcupines gnaw chunks out of the ancient Pinion trees. They seldom completely encircle the trees and kill them.

 This Pinion tree is about 800 years old. The Pinion Jay hides the Pinion nuts far and wide and can remember about 80 percent of where these were located. The other 20 percent are well situated to become new trees.

 Mr. and Mrs. Phred at the end of a long hike up and down hills at 9,000 feet...Notice my new "Mothers of Invention...Freak Out!" T-shirt....uber cool...

In case you didn't believe me about the altitude, Mrs. Phred took this picture.

The Gunnison diversion dam/tunnel is accessible via East Portal Road which is on the South Rim of the canyon. Although the tunnel itself is not visible, the diversion dam can be seen from the campground. The tunnel is ten feet high, eight feet wide and 5.8 miles long. Rafting or tubing below the campground is highly not recommended for amateurs.