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Divers thoughts* - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Divers thoughts*

Firstly, my thanks to those who have aided – and, yet more, who continue to aid – Linwood College. Yes, I know quite well there are now yet further disasters, but I should be obliged that you not forget this appeal.

I should now wish to mention a few pleasant thoughts before we return to dire disaster.


I had occasion within the past fortnight to go up to town – no, that is assuredly not the pleasant thought – as I could no longer put off a much-needed trim, and wanted also to look in at my tailor’s so soon as Trumper should be done with me. At that juncture – here is the pleasant thought – I spotted Blaise Zabini hiding amongst the Muggles, on a ’bus. No, really, for it was he: must have been. He has disguised himself as a hipster, with London-werewolf-perfect hair (slightly dreadlocked) beneath an absurd hat, a porkpie hat with a brim so narrow it’s a marvel it can be grasped between thumb and finger; all keen, mocking face, long limbs, and casually-carried Vast Cup of Ghastly Hipster Coffee.

So that was one rare bird spotted. More recently, in mine own country, where it has been rather mild for the time of year – unlike puir auld Scotland just now, I see – I spotted, first, a little egret, and then a little later the little egret and a great white egret, together, wading, on my way to the pub. (As Our Noeon acutely observed, had it been on the way home from the pub, I might have seen four – or not seen them at all.) What’s that? Well, yes, I do walk to the pub. If you can’t walk to it, it’s not really your local, now, is it? To say nothing of drink driving. And of course one stops to look at birds (only in the one sense, in my case, of course): if your object is simply to hurry to a place, sit unsociably all night sucking at alk to get bladdered as swiftly as possible, and then stagger home snarling, you’re not really precisely a pub-goer, or oughtn’t to be.

Another bit of spotting was a rare bird indeed: a decent BBC programme, which you’ve just until Monday to watch on iPlayer if you missed it out when it was shown. Adam Nicolson (as Lord Carnock insists for some reason upon calling himself), on the Authorised Version. Quite good: although a bit uncomforting, to me because the man looks a trifle like a less craggy version of the savage Landor, at my club, and to anyone, I should think, because he really does rather resemble (it’s not only me: Femme and Noe agreed) Aggers. As a result, one sometimes half-expected him to report that Lancelot Andrews captained and opened the bowling for the orthodox XI, or that a Puritan divine thought to knock the bishops for six but was trapped lbw…. Unnerving, really.

And speaking of disasters of Biblical proportions, which is where we came in…. I feel the greatest sympathy for the Japanese, as we all must do, surely. And although, on the one hand, I like to think I’d not have sited several nuclear facilities on the edge of a bloody oceanic trench signifying a huge subduction zone, on the other hand, this is Japan, they haven’t a vast stretch of Stable Interior Craton in their midst as the Yanks and the Canadians do. Nevertheless, one does want to learn from experience, and it is exceptionally important to learn the right lessons. It is more important yet to refuse to draw the wrong conclusions (essentially, anything in the Grauniad or the Mail, or the balls being posted by all those blithering idiots who have taken to Twitter to blame ‘climate change’, preferably anthropogenic. For an earthquake. In a major, active, megathrust-propagating subduction zone. There’s a reason why convergent boundaries in plate tectonics are called ‘destructive plate boundaries’, you know).

I speak, naturally, subject to expert correction, but I’m not quite wholly nescient here. (Having been born, like mankind itself, in a rift valley, I’ve always taken a mild interest in the subject.) It seems to me rather self-evident that for a good seven years, we’ve had warning that the never-terribly-quiescent-or-indeed-pacific Pacific Plate is getting even more above itself than commonly. Subduction is not a smooth process at the best of times: thinks get stuck, and stuck, and stuck fast, and then – they get shoved past the obstruction and all hell breaks loose. And there seems, I think likely, more to it than that. Leaving the Cricket World Cup and the Commonwealth aside, I am increasingly convinced that India and Australia are drifting ever more apart; or, more simply, that the expected fission of the Indo-Australian Plate into an Indian and an Australian Plate is proceeding apace: indeed, some geologists have considered them functionally separated since 1995 or so. India is, after all, yet smashing, quite rapidly (geologically speaking), into the Eurasian Plate. The day before the Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) quake, there was an MW5.4 quake in Yunnan, and that does rather tend to point to the subducting boundary at the north-eastern side of the Indo-Australian Plate (indeed, if one accepts that the Indo-Australian Plate is now two plates, the Indian and the Australian, Yunnan is uncomfortably near to where those two plates and the Eurasian Plate meet). Certainly, the Australian proto-plate is not moving along the path and at the rate of the Indian bit of the current major plate, if it is any longer one plate, and the Australian proto-plate is busily engaged in subducting the Pacific Plate in the Kermadec and Tonga Trenches, whilst south of New Zealand it is being subducted by that same Pacific Plate in the Puysegur Trench.

The Pacific Plate in turn continues to press westwards and northwards from its divergent boundaries with the Nazca and Antarctic Plates, and away from the Explorer, the Juan de Fuca, and the Gorda.

This is not comfortable news.

There is no direct connexion between, for example, the MW9.0 Sendai megathrust earthquake and the eruption of Mount Karangetang in Sulawesi; and yet, in a sense, there is: a deep connexion. What is happening in the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the Okhotsk Plate off Japan is part of a complex series of events related, as the 2004 MW9.1 Sumatra-Andaman quake and the consequent Boxing Day tsunami was, as the Yunnan earthquake and this year’s New Zealand earthquakes and the eruption of Karangetang are, to plate tectonics where the Indian, Australian, Eurasian, and Pacific plates are colliding. And at the moment, it appears that these collisions – which, pace both hope and hysteria, we have not caused, cannot prevent, and cannot wholly engineer away (if the Japanese can’t, no one can) – are crowding thick and fast upon us. And as Iceland has recently reminded us, divergent boundaries as well as convergent ones are chancy places to live.

What we can do – and all we can do – is to understand; to plan; to prepare; and to respond. We can set aside resources for those who are quite likely going to be repeatedly in need (and disaster fatigue be damned, we can go on helping Linwood College, for one); and we can anticipate the recurrence of similar events, quite soon, all ’round the Ring of Fire. (I, for one, shouldn’t wish to buy land in, say, Seattle just now.)

And we can leave off taking the wrong lessons from these events and prescribing the wrong nostrums.


* No, you lot of pervs, that does not mean you are free to think improper thoughts about young Thos Daley. Wait a few years, for God’s sake. Nor did I see a diver with the egrets.

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4 comments or Leave a comment
kestrelsparhawk From: kestrelsparhawk Date: March 14th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC) (Link)

Musings Back

I was born not far from an active volcano, and know that solid earth is an illusion. But it's not fun to be reminded of that. As to nuclear plants -- there have been many warnings concerning their (lack of) safety. The industrialized world is full of people who have abandoned reason for willfull disbelief: if I don't like the conclusion, obviously it can't be true.
Just wanted to let you know that I sent out info on Lindell College to everyone in my address book who seemed like a possible fit -- ie a parent, schoolteacher, musician, etc. That was yesterday. It does appear that the world is experiencing a lot of serious natural disasters in the last few years, quite separate from global warming. Which, by the way, I've paid attention to since 95, when no one but a handful of oceanographers and government science organisations were paying attention. At the time, they were saying we had till 2010 to reverse the changes.

So after volcanic Hawaii, I moved to earthquake prone Seattle. Have just been reading that Vancouver's a target point. I wish it were the East Coast with these faults. Losing New York and Washington seems to me a much happier outcome.

So... here we are. I prefer giving young musicians good memories to take into the abyss than citizens of an industrial country which is perfectly happy to let the biosystem dwindle into a monoculture for the sake of a luxury dinner table.... although I suppose I'd donate to distressed citizens of this country if push came to shove, as we say.

The egrets sound lovely. I would have laughed to see the two species together wading.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: March 14th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

I'm greatly obliged.

For the RSPB squee and the Linwood College support.

Naturally, you and I won't agree on the politics or on AGW, but what are a few fundamental disagreements between fen?
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: March 14th, 2011 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Spot on, sir.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: March 14th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Your servant, sir.

Much obliged.
4 comments or Leave a comment