Saturday, July 16, 2011
Rockall (Scottish Gaelic: Rocabarraigh)
The name Rocabarraigh is also used in Gaelic folklore for a mythical rock which is supposed to appear three times, the last being at the end of the world.
"Nuair a thig Rocabarra ris, is dual gun tèid an Saoghal a sgrios".
(When Rocabarra returns, the world will likely come to be destroyed/ruined)
From the Guardian,
On 15 September 1955, three marines and a civilian scientist from the Royal Navy's new survey ship HMS Vidal were winched from a helicopter on to a tiny, pyramid-shaped outcrop of granite sticking out of the Atlantic Ocean 240 miles west of the Orkneys. It was the height of the cold war and their secret mission was to annex the uninhabitable islet of Rockall and claim it as the last land grab of the British Empire.
Witnessed only by a few gannets and sooty fulmars, Sergeant Brian Peel, Lieutenant Commander Desmond Scott, Corporal Anthony Fraser and the naturalist James Fisher mixed buckets of cement and erected a flagpole made from old propeller shafts. Then they bolted a brass plaque commemorating the event to the rock, raised the union flag – standing back carefully in case they fell into the sea – and saluted.
"In the name of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I hereby take possession of this Island of Rockall," said Scott, becoming the last of a long line of sailors to formally claim a remote bit of the world for Britain.
But did he? Today, Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Iceland all claim Rockall, and within weeks the UN will examine rival claims to the mining and fishing rights of thousands of square miles of seabed around it. The final decision, expected by 2012, hangs on whether Rockall is geologically part of the continental shelf, as well as on historical records.
In 1955, the British were only interested in Rockall's strategic importance. The fear was that the Soviet Union could use it to spy on British nuclear tests, to be carried out from an experimental missile station on South Uist. These days, legal possession of Rockall could be worth £100bn or more, because it sits in the middle of a potentially vast oil and gas field. In times past, Britain would have gone to war over it; today a compromise to share it is most likely.
My own relationship with the lonely rock began in 1957 when my family was summoned by the navy for lunch on HMS Vidal, then berthed in Hull. We were supposedly descended from the great Captain – later Vice Admiral – Emeric Vidal RN, a brilliant young surveyor who mapped much of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and who, in 1831, pinpointed Rockall for the first time at 57 deg 35 min N, 13 deg 41 min W. HMS Vidal was named after him.
As our adult relations drank pink gin with Captain Richard Connell, we children explored. Years later we discovered the navy had probably got their Vidals muddled up. Our side of the family were more likely descendents of the less salubrious Captain Charles Vidal RN, a slave owner and sugarcane grower in Jamaica.
For the next 40 years, Rockall went off my radar. The name was intoned every night on the shipping news; HMS Vidal was broken up in 1975 after an epic voyage taking scientists to the US nuclear station in Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Its bell is reputedly with the family.
But then, in June 1997, the rock itself beckoned. Greenpeace was planning a landing on Rockall, claiming it as a micro-nation, renaming it Waveland in a stunt to resist the companies which were, even then, circling the seas around it in search of oil. Until then, more people had landed on the moon than on Rockall. I was invited along to become one of only a handful of people ever to have spent the night on the island.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I've just had another short story published - this time in M-Brane SF #29
You can buy an electronic copy here.
Here's a snippet of 'The Cone' to whet your appetite:
It's a forgotten war. Spiraling burns, strange cancers, shrunken hard torsos like fragments of bleached rock.
I've heard it's like that over there – whining assholes complaining about the changes pulling out cost. Pulling out always costs -- people hanging from helicopters or eyes of garnets. You choose.
We all remember the Stone Field. Impossibly high horizon, low, stained denim sky. It's a work of art that place. Chunks of dirty sandstone scattered across a striated limestone pavement. The sandstone draws the eye, something about the delicately coloured lichen painted across the russet and gray rock. The lichens are gray and gray-pink and gray-blue and so on. A world of very pale grayed out pastels. Some lichen are like paint spills, others are little sharp florets.
Look too closely and time begins to slow, to pass in a slurping stream like hair clots in molasses.
Now you have a choice. Go back and take the changes with you; stay and become other or move on, imperfectly changed, and face the Light Chairs, if the Field even lets you get that far.
Choose change. Trust me. Drawn out lichen sex can be yours.
Anyway, more change is available if you want it.
It's up-slope from here though.
Always and forever up-slope.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
All the sciences of the world, O Son are comprehended in this my hidden Wisdom; and this, and the learning of the Art, consists in these wonderful hidden elements which it doth discover and complete. It behoves him, therefore, who would be introduced to this hidden Wisdom, to free himself from the hidden usurpations of vice; and to be just, and good, and of a sound reason, ready at hand to help mankind, of a serene countenance, diligent to save, and be himself a patient guardian of the arcane secrets of philosophy.
And this know that except thou understandest how to mortify and induce generation, to vivify the Spirit, and introduce Light, until they fight with each other and grow white and freed from their defilements, rising as it were from blackness and darkness, thou knowest nothing nor canst perform anything; but if thou knowest this, thou wilt be of a great dignity so that even kings themselves shall reverence thee. These secrets, Son, it behoves thee to conceal from the vulgar and profane world.
Understand, also, that our Stone is from many things, and of various colours, and composed from four elements which we ought to divide and dissever in pieces, and segregate, in the veins, and partly mortifying the same by its proper nature, which is also in it, to preserve the water and fire dwelling therein, which is from the four elements and their waters, which contain its water; this, however, is not water in its true form, but fire, containing in a pure vessel the ascending waters, lest the espirits should fly away from the bodies; for by this means they are made tinging and fixed.
O, blessed watery form, that dissolvest the elements: Now it behoves us, with this watery soul, to possess ourselves of a sulphurous form, and to mingle the same with our Acetum. For when, by the power of the water, the composition is dissolved, it is the key of the restoration; then darkness and death fly away from them, and Wisdom proceeds onwards to the fulfillment of her Law.
Bating these instances of unavoidable severity, the reign of Mftstunjid was distinguished, for its wholesome regulations to promote the end, of justice, to relieve the distresses of the indigent, and to punish the crimes, and usurpations of vice and oppression. In one circumstance he may perhaps be quoted as an example for the imitation of sovereigns far more illustrious. lie was a determined discourager of detraction in all its disguises. As a proof of this, it is related, that having consigned to a prison one of his subjects who had been found guilty of defaming, or perhaps informing against his neighbour, he was, at the expiration of a reasonable interval, applied to by one of the friends of the delinquent for his release, with an offer of ten thousand dinaurs if he acceded to the application ; to which the Khalif observed in anwer, that if, on the contrary, the proposer of this request would engage to discover another person guilty of similar defamatory practices, so as to bring him to confinement, he would, for his part, for such a piece of service, promise him a reward of the same sum of ten thousand dinaurs.
Chronological retrospect: or memoirs of the principal events of Mahommedan history, from the death of the Arabian legislator,to the accession of the emperor Akbar, and the establishment of the Moghul empire in Hindustaun. From original Persian authorities, Volume 2, By David Price
From aceō (“to be sour”).
acētum (genitive acētī); n, second declension
(figuratively) wit, shrewdness
Wiktionary - acetum