The final set of my edited photos of Utah.
What superb scenery!
The final set of my edited photos of Utah.
What superb scenery!
The Golden Circle.
This, again, is not about our beloved animals; in other words, this is not about our dogs.
But it is about something of supreme importance: The role of innovation. That’s innovation in all aspects of our human lives. Think of it as a process of innovation.
There was the Diffusion of Innovation (DOI) Theory developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962. There is a comprehensive explanation of DOI here, from where I take the following diagram, but before explaining, from that same site, the meanings behind the definitions, I would like to emphasize one important point: “It works better with adoption of behaviors rather than cessation or prevention of behaviors.“.
So here is that diagram:
Here are the meanings of those terms (my emboldening):
Adoption of a new idea, behavior, or product (i.e., “innovation”) does not happen simultaneously in a social system; rather it is a process whereby some people are more apt to adopt the innovation than others.
Researchers have found that people who adopt an innovation early have different characteristics than people who adopt an innovation later. When promoting an innovation to a target population, it is important to understand the characteristics of the target population that will help or hinder adoption of the innovation.
There are five established adopter categories, and while the majority of the general population tends to fall in the middle categories, it is still necessary to understand the characteristics of the target population. When promoting an innovation, there are different strategies used to appeal to the different adopter categories.
- Innovators – These are people who want to be the first to try the innovation. They are venturesome and interested in new ideas. These people are very willing to take risks, and are often the first to develop new ideas. Very little, if anything, needs to be done to appeal to this population.
- Early Adopters – These are people who represent opinion leaders. They enjoy leadership roles, and embrace change opportunities. They are already aware of the need to change and so are very comfortable adopting new ideas. Strategies to appeal to this population include how-to manuals and information sheets on implementation. They do not need information to convince them to change.
- Early Majority – These people are rarely leaders, but they do adopt new ideas before the average person. That said, they typically need to see evidence that the innovation works before they are willing to adopt it. Strategies to appeal to this population include success stories and evidence of the innovation’s effectiveness.
- Late Majority – These people are skeptical of change, and will only adopt an innovation after it has been tried by the majority. Strategies to appeal to this population include information on how many other people have tried the innovation and have adopted it successfully.
- Laggards – These people are bound by tradition and very conservative. They are very skeptical of change and are the hardest group to bring on board. Strategies to appeal to this population include statistics, fear appeals, and pressure from people in the other adopter groups.
Now there’s a TED Talk that I hadn’t seen, and yet nearly 51 million people had! It came to me as an email from TED and yesterday, while we were sitting up in bed early in the morning, I watched it. It ‘spoke’ to me and I felt that I just had to share it with you.
Because so many of the problems that face our society today are global issues and if humans are to have a future on this planet then we need great leaders who will inspire us.
Now watch the following video, it’s just over 18 minutes long, but it says it all.
Yet more of my photos to share with you.
The final set of photos in another week’s time.
Stay safe all of you!
More photographs of Utah
Today and for the next two Sundays I am going to display more pictures of Utah. They are further to the photographs shown over six days back in October 2019.
To be honest these new photographs are more to show off the facilities of my new editing software DxO PhotoLab.
I sincerely hope you enjoy these; I’m conscious that I have become engrossed in the facilities of PhotoLab.
There’s another eight of them in a week’s time!
More of my fiddling!
I am trying out a new photo editing software program called DxO PhotoLab.
It’s powerful and full of features that I am still nowhere used to. But I am taking a shine to it.
But here are a few of my photographs for you to look at.
First, a shot taken yesterday, at the moment of Solstice here in Merlin – 14:43 PDT
All photographs taken with my Nikon D750.
Serendipity, or just coincidence?
Yesterday, (it was actually the 22nd February, 2014!) I published a post and called it Dogs and wolves – fascinating research. Then blow me down in yesterday’s online BBC News, there was an article headlined: Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses This is how it opened.
Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses
By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service
Devoted dog owners often claim that their pets understand them. A new study suggests they could be right.
By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does.
Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.
The work is published in the journal Current Biology.
Lead author Attila Andics, from the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, said: “We think dogs and humans have a very similar mechanism to process emotional information.”
Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time.
Going across to that Current Biology link, one reads:
During the approximately 18–32 thousand years of domestication , dogs and humans have shared a similar social environment . Dog and human vocalizations are thus familiar and relevant to both species , although they belong to evolutionarily distant taxa, as their lineages split approximately 90–100 million years ago . In this first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species, we made use of this special combination of shared environment and evolutionary distance. We presented dogs and humans with the same set of vocal and nonvocal stimuli to search for functionally analogous voice-sensitive cortical regions. We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located nonprimary auditory regions in dogs and humans. Although parallel evolution cannot be excluded, our findings suggest that voice areas may have a more ancient evolutionary origin than previously known.
Back to the BBC news item.
“There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.”
For comparison, the team looked at the brains of 22 human volunteers in the same MRI scanners.
The scientists played the people and pooches 200 different sounds, ranging from environmental noises, such as car sounds and whistles, to human sounds (but not words) and dog vocalisations.
The researchers found that a similar region – the temporal pole, which is the most anterior part of the temporal lobe – was activated when both the animals and people heard human voices.
“We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds,” Dr Andics explained.
“The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain at all is a surprise – it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate.”
Emotional sounds, such as crying and laughter also had a similar pattern of activity, with an area near the primary auditory cortex lighting up in dogs and humans.
Likewise, emotionally charged dog vocalisations – such as whimpering or angry barking – also caused a similar reaction in all volunteers,
Dr Andics said: “We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”
However, while the dogs responded to the human voice, their reactions were far stronger when it came to canine sounds.
They also seemed less able to distinguish between environmental sounds and vocal noises compared with humans.
About half of the whole auditory cortex lit up in dogs when listening to these noises, compared with 3% of the same area in humans.
Commenting on the research, Prof Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said: “Finding something like this in a primate brain isn’t too surprising – but it is quite something to demonstrate it in dogs.
“Dogs are a very interesting animal to look at – we have selected for a lot of traits in dogs that have made them very amenable to humans. Some studies have show they understand a lot of words and they understand intentionality – pointing.”
But she added: “It would be interesting to see the animal’s response to words rather than just sounds. When we cry and laugh, they are much more like animal calls and this might be causing this response.
For the full report, as it was posted on the BBC website, click here.
Plus, do watch this five-minute video abstract.
Published on Feb 20, 2014
The video presents the first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal. Scientists at MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary found that dogs and humans use similar neural mechanisms to process social information in voices. The fact that dogs can be trained to lie motionless during fMRI tests opens up the space for a new branch of comparative neuroscience.
Paper in Current Biology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014….
Group home page: http://mta-etologia.elte.hu/
The first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal shows that dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains just as people do. Dog brains, like those of people, are also sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion, according to a study in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
The findings suggest that voice areas evolved at least 100 million years ago, the age of the last common ancestor of humans and dogs, the researchers say. It also offers new insight into humans’ unique connection with our best friends in the animal kingdom, perhaps explaining how our two species have lived and worked together so effectively for tens of thousands of years.
“Our findings suggest that dogs and humans not only share a similar social environment, but they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information,” said Atilla Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary. “This may help the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species.”
Andics and his colleagues trained eleven dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI brain scanner. That made it possible to run the very same neuroimaging experiment on dog and human participants — something that had never been done before. They captured both dogs’ and humans’ brain activities while they listened to dog and human sounds, ranging from whining or crying to playful barking or laughing.
The images show that dog and human brains include voice areas in similar locations. Not surprisingly, the voice area of dogs responds more strongly to other dogs, while that of humans responds more strongly to other humans. The researchers also noted striking similarities in the ways the dog and human brain processes emotionally loaded sounds. In both species, an area near the primary auditory cortex lit up more with happy sounds than unhappy ones. Andics said they were most struck by the common response to emotion across species.
There were some differences too: in dogs, 48 percent of all sound-sensitive brain regions respond more strongly to sounds other than voices. That’s in contrast to humans, in which only three percent of sound-sensitive brain regions show greater response to non-vocal versus vocal sounds.
The study is the first step to understanding how it is that dogs can be so remarkably good at tuning into the feelings of their human owners. “This method offers a totally new way of looking at neural processing in dogs,” Andics said. “At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment.”
Although this is the second time this has been shown it is so remarkable, and there may well be many who have not seen it!
A Grist article raises a core question.
On June 4th this year Grist published an article written by Eve Andrews. It is not about dogs at all. Yet, it seems to me to ask a fundamental question about us humans. The article speaks of America but certainly it applies to my old country, the U.K., and it probably applies to most of the countries in the world.
I recently wrote to Annelise McGough, the Growth and Engagement Editor at Grist asking if I could republish the article. She kindly said yes!
So here it is!
By Eve Andrews on Jun 4, 2020
Did any aspect of climate change cause the pandemic to happen this year (versus last year or next year)? Could pandemics happen more often?
— Which Oracle Read Rightly Imminent, Existential Doom?
A. Dear WORRIED,
2020: what a year so far! As anyone who witnessed the crowds of face mask-clad people show up in the middle of a deadly pandemic to protest police violence this weekend can attest, a lot seems to be terrible all at once. You’re asking, in a sense, why now? It almost seems like it must be a rhetorical question. But it’s not — by understanding how we got into this mess, we might presumably be able to find our way out.
This doesn’t just apply to the pandemic.
Let’s start by taking your question at face (mask) value: There are multiple factors that have contributed to the rise of zoonotic illnesses — those of animal origin — over recent years, as my very sharp colleague Shannon Osaka delineated in an article and video earlier in the spring. Scientists believe COVID-19, like several other SARS viruses, likely originated in a bat. It turns out many strains of coronavirus can be traced back to bats! Who knew those little guys were such harbingers of destruction?
It’s not really on the bats, of course. Warmer temperatures (an established feature of climate change) and environmental degradation (often attributed to climate change, industrialization, or other products of human development) have driven a lot of animals to migrate out of their normal habitats and into human ones. Those factors have also contributed to different species coming into close contact with each other, which makes viruses normally contained to one species more likely to “spill over,” or jump to a new type of animal.
So clearly, the lead-up to the novel coronavirus’s outbreak was a gradual one. But perhaps 2019 was just warm enough to kill off enough of the insect population that some COVID-19-carrying bat depended on for food, and that drove it out to wreak some (unintentional) havoc on humanity. The bat’s habitat could have been destroyed by a new coal mine development. It could have woken up one morning and thought: This is my time to fuck shit up! Revenge on those humans that messed up my home! (OK, there was also probably a pangolin involved, but let’s keep things simple.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is the fourth major pandemic caused by a novel virus to hit the United States since the 1918 “Spanish flu” that killed 50 million people worldwide. And there are so many factors and variables that lead to the sprout of a pandemic that you could very well argue that, “Yes, of course it happened at this exact point in time” or “No, it could have happened at any point in time.” It’s impossible to know for sure. But climate change and habitat destruction are certainly working together to create circumstances more favorable to the spread of disease, and that means pandemics will likely become more common as the world grows warmer.
The thing is, highly contagious, devastating illnesses have always been a part of human life, even though a real pandemic is a few-times-per-century event. It’s a fact of sharing the Earth with other living things; it just happens. But humans are ostensibly equipped with the means to contain the spread of diseases and help heal those who become sick. At this moment, thanks to advances in medicine and information-sharing and communication, that’s more true than ever before!
And yet. The United States, an astonishingly wealthy nation with ostensibly the most advanced — certainly the most expensive! — medical system in the world, has lost around 100,000 people to COVID-19, with many more surely to come. That doesn’t even take into account the far-reaching hardship caused by an economic collapse as drastic, by some metrics, as the Great Depression. The current unemployment rate, for example, exceeds 20 percent.
The reality is that what some have referred to as “the lost spring” (and what could very well be “the lost year”) is not the product of a single infectious disease, but the boiling over of many long-standing crises, including structural forms of injustice. Like everything else in American society, the damage done by the coronavirus is unevenly distributed across race. The death rate of black Americans from COVID is three times that of whites, and 40 percent of black-owned businesses have shuttered due to social distancing measures. As of April, rates of black and Latino unemployment were 16.7 and 18.9 percent, respectively, compared to 14.2 percent for whites. These hardships continue to feed into the cycle of racial inequality in this country.
The devastation to American society that we are witnessing in real time, one could argue, could only have happened at the present moment. That’s due to the nightmarish confluence of horrific leadership, centuries of racial oppression, unprecedented wealth inequality, the erosion of the social safety net, privatization of medicine, a far-too-consolidated supply chain, politicization of science, a highly globalized economy, and one misguided or mischievous bat. Oh, and the climate change and environmental degradation that could have led to said bat’s misbehavior.
COVID-19 could have popped up at any time, as viruses do. The degree to which it’s ravaged American society, however, has little to do with the virus itself. Other countries such as New Zealand and South Korea, faced the same disease and came out the other side with far fewer deaths and less severe economic devastation. This is, to a significant degree, about governance and leadership.
It’s also a preview of what climate change can do. A very contagious respiratory virus is an unfortunate fact; it’s not going away, and it is a challenge to be dealt with. Climate change, just the same, is coming whether or not we pay attention to it. Communities, cities, and states are going to have to put measures into place to ensure that it doesn’t literally kill us all. That’s what adaptation means, and that’s why people talk about things like seawalls and tree cover and managed retreat.
But creating a climate-resilient society requires a lot more than just building or planting stuff! This is where I would normally tell you to vote for leaders who support all that building and planting and, more importantly, cutting carbon emissions in the first place. Yes, do that. And additionally, vote for leaders who will feed our starving public systems to make it so they actually support the people who need them. Vote for those who understand and want to change what non-white people experience, what poor people experience, what immigrants experience. Without all of these things, there cannot be a climate-resilient civilization.
If anything were made clear by the unique, mind-boggling suffering that the United States has seen in the past week, brought about by the collision of a viral pandemic and police brutality, it’s that voting is a necessary condition but it is not enough. You, WORRIED, wrote to me to ask why the pandemic happened right now, possibly because it seems like such a uniquely terrible moment for the country to have to deal with it. We not only have the worst possible leader, but also a general absence of leadership altogether.
Going back just a few months, I believe there was an opportunity for an alternate version of this moment in American history in which one incredibly dangerous virus did not kill as many people nor ruin as many lives. But even in that universe, it’s important to acknowledge that pre-pandemic life wasn’t so great for most people. Undoing this path and “restoring order” is a ridiculous hope, since the order that has existed for so long has created a society that is wholly unsustainable judging from almost any social, environmental, or economic perspective.
So what can we do with this knowledge? One, you should be angry. Be angry that leaders missed opportunities to fortify the nation beyond its military, to break down racist systems and promote equality, and to instate laws and policies designed to help prevent crises that, by all accounts, were utterly predictable.
Then I think you should show your anger, whether that’s through protesting, hurling money or your time or whatever you have at worthy organizations that will put it in the right hands, or just screaming and yelling, if you have to. And while voting might not feel like enough when so much feels so wrong, it’s a necessary condition for change — force people in power to know that they created that mess and that they are accountable for it.
Climate change or global warming is with us NOW. It is time to make fundamental changes to the way we live NOW. While many individuals are doing their bit we need international agreement, especially international support for the United Nations, for all the nations in the world NOW.
Thank you for reading this!
It breaks my heart.
Let me not stop with that. I want to hear from you. Are you worried? Or not quite as concerned as me and Umbra? Do you think it is in the hands of our leaders or is it an international problem?
Let’s have a bit of a discussion.
Beautiful photographs of nature.
My son’s partner, Lisa, last week sent through a whole bundle of photographs that she took.
They are published with her permission.
All of them taken in England.
This is profoundly important.
Well it is to me and Jean and, I suspect, it will be to many other people.
I am an atheist. So is Jean. We have been all our lives. I think that many of you who follow this blog know that. The love that we have for our dogs, and all our animals, plus the beauty that is all around us in nature is enough. (Now I am not naive enough to realise that there are many, literally millions, that don’t have the same fortune in their lives.)
The Conversation recently republished an essay by David Weintraub that was first published in 2014. It is at the core of our existence and I am delighted to have the permission to republish it for you.
David Weintraub, Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University
November 5th, 2014
How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.
Searching for signs of life
Astronomers have now identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. At the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century.
Having already found the physical planets, astronomers are now searching for our biological neighbors. Over the next fifty years, they will begin the tantalizing, detailed study of millions of planets, looking for evidence of the presence of life on or below the surfaces or in the atmospheres of those planets.
And it’s very likely that astronomers will find it. Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe that aliens have already visited Earth, the first evidence of life beyond our planet probably won’t be radio signals, little green men or flying saucers. Instead, a 21st century Galileo, using an enormous, 50-meter-diameter telescope, will collect light from the atmospheres of distant planets, looking for the signatures of biologically significant molecules.
Astronomers filter that light from far away through spectrometers – high-tech prisms that tease the light apart into its many distinct wavelengths. They’re looking for the telltale fingerprints of molecules that would not exist in abundance in these atmospheres in the absence of living things. The spectroscopic data will tell whether a planet’s environment has been altered in ways that point to biological processes at work.
If we aren’t alone, who are we?
With the discovery in a distant planet’s light spectrum of a chemical that could only be produced by living creatures, humankind will have the opportunity to read a new page in the book of knowledge. We will no longer be speculating about whether other beings exist in the universe. We will know that we not alone.
An affirmative answer to the question “Does life exist anywhere else in the universe beyond Earth?” would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions about our place in the universe. If extraterrestrial others exist, then my religion and my religious beliefs and practices might not be universal. If my religion is not universally applicable to all extraterrestrial others, perhaps my religion need not be offered to, let alone forced on, all terrestrial others. Ultimately, we might learn some important lessons applicable here at home just from considering the possibility of life beyond our planet.
In my book, I investigated the sacred writings of the world’s most widely practiced religions, asking what each religion has to say about the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of life on Earth, and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.
Let’s examine a seemingly simple yet exceedingly complex theological question: could extraterrestrials be Christians? If Jesus died in order to redeem humanity from the state of sin into which humans are born, does the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Earth, also redeem other sentient beings from a similar state of sin? If so, why are the extraterrestrials sinful? Is sin built into the very fabric of the space and time of the universe? Or can life exist in parts of the universe without being in a state of sin and therefore without the need of redemption and thus without the need for Christianity? Many different solutions to these puzzles involving Christian theology have been put forward. None of them yet satisfy all Christians.
Mormon scripture clearly teaches that other inhabited worlds exist and that “the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (Doctrines and Covenants 76:24). The Earth, however, is a favored world in Mormonism, because Jesus, as understood by Mormons, lived and was resurrected only on Earth. In addition, Mormon so-called intelligences can only achieve their own spiritual goals during their lives on Earth, not during lifetimes on other worlds. Thus, for Mormons, the Earth might not be the physical center of the universe but it is the most favored place in the universe. Such a view implies that all other worlds are, somehow, lesser worlds than Earth.
Bahá’í without bias
Members of the Bahá’í Faith have a view of the universe that has no bias for or against the Earth as a special place or for against humans as a special sentient species. The principles of the Bahá’í Faith – unifying society, abandoning prejudice, equalizing opportunities for all people, eliminating poverty – are about humans on Earth. The Bahá’í faithful would expect any creatures anywhere in the universe to worship the same God as do humans, but to do so according to their own, world-specific ways.
Light years from Mecca
The pillars of the faith for Muslims require the faithful to pray five times every day while facing Mecca. Because determining the direction of Mecca correctly could be extremely difficult on a quickly spinning planet millions of light years from Earth, practicing the same faith on another world might not make any sense. Yet the words of the Qu’ran tell us that “Whatever beings there are in the heavens and the earth do prostrate themselves to Allah” (13:15). Can terrestrial Muslims accept that the prophetically revealed religion of Muhammad is intended only for humans on earth and that other worlds would have their own prophets?
Astronomers as paradigm-shatterers
At certain moments throughout history, astronomers’ discoveries have exerted an outsized influence on human culture. Ancient Greek astronomers unflattened the Earth – though many then chose to forget this knowledge. Renaissance scholars Copernicus and Galileo put the Earth in motion around the Sun and moved humans away from the center of the universe. In the 20th century, Edwin Hubble eliminated the very idea that the universe has any center at all. He demonstrated that what the universe has is a beginning in time and that, bizarrely, the universe, the very fabric of three-dimensional space, is expanding.
Clearly, when astronomers offer the world bold new ideas, they don’t mess around. Another such paradigm-shattering new idea may be in the light arriving at our telescopes now.
No matter which (a)theistic background informs your theology, you may have to wrestle with the data astronomers will be bringing to houses of worship in the very near future. You will need to ask: Is my God the God of the entire universe? Is my religion a terrestrial or a universal religion? As people work to reconcile the discovery of extrasolar life with their theological and philosophical worldviews, adapting to the news of life beyond Earth will be discomfiting and perhaps even disruptive.
Now I don’t really want to open up the subject of religion but I will say that WikiPedia have a great entry about the subject. My own view is that a few hundred years ago, when life was a lot more mysterious and uncertain, believing in life after death made some sense.
But we know a lot better now despite death still being a certainty.
Dogs don’t need religion!
This is for Pendantry!
There was a remark left on my post on Tuesday by Pendantry. This is what he said, “Still waiting to hear the story of that dangerous trip you took (once?) that you dropped a teaser about years ago….”
Well not only am I including the excerpt from the book Letter to a Grandson, as yet unpublished, but I am extending it to two posts, simply because I think it’s too long for one.
So this is part one.
I decided to sell Dataview and worry about the taxation later. Now it is easy to write that all these years later knowing how it turned out; I never paid the tax!
For that same year, 1986, I went to Cyprus on holiday. Or rather I should say I went to the Greek half of Cyprus, to Larnaca, for a well-deserved holiday.
In wandering around the marina one day I saw a boat for sale. It was a Tradewind 33, a heavy-displacement cutter, called Songbird of Kent. The owners, Michael and Betty Hughes, were selling after many years of living on board and they returning to their native Wales. It had been extensively cruised in the Mediterranean with the base being Larnaca Marina.
It was a lovely boat and I could afford it. Plus, it offered an answer to my prayers. If I bought Songbird of Kent and left the UK before April 15th 1987 and stayed away for four tax years there would be no tax to pay. Nothing; Nada!
So that’s exactly what I did!
I bought Songbird, flew back to Devon and made preparations for leaving the United Kingdom for good. It was a busy period. One that had me saying cheerio to my son and daughter, but insisting that, so long as they came out to see me, it would not be four or five years before I saw them again. Plus loads of packing up, disposing of my house and eventually boarding that aircraft with a one-way ticket: London Stansted to Larnaca, Cyprus.
I settled in to living on board Songbird of Kent. I bought myself a small motorbike and in time, believe it or not, discovered there was a gliding club on the Island, at Kingsfield just to the East of Larnaca. The airfield was built for the Army Air Corps, possibly around 1960, but I can’t remember whether or not it was still in military hands. I don’t think it was!
But, I am able to look up my flying log and see that I flew a T21 from Kingsfield on the 28th October, 1990. It became a regular habit; quite quickly, as on the 17th November, 1990, I completed my instructor flight test and was signed off to instruct.
I also took an Advanced Open Water Diver course run by instructor Ian Murray. Ian was a PADI diving instructor. PADI stood for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.
My life was pretty good.
Each summer I would sail solo to Turkey, usually West along the South coast, the Greek side of Cyprus, then turn North and make it to Alanya or Antalya. There I would wait for guests to come from England including, most importantly, for Maija and Alex to visit.
Then we would gently cruise from harbour to harbour westwards, sometimes entering Greece much further West.
One day in Larnaca Marina a boat came quietly in and moored in the vacant berth next to me. I hopped off Songbird and went to help the sailor on board. It looked as though he was sailing solo.
After he had been securely moored, I asked him where he had come from. He was English; his name was Les Powells. He unassumingly said he was on his way home after a solo circumnavigation. Indeed, I later learned that it was his third solo circumnavigation!
The mind absolutely boggles! I mean I have just an idea, from reading books written by Francis Chichester and others, what a single solo circumnavigation would be like. But three!!
Over the coming days, we chatted about a whole range of stuff. When the subject of glider flying came up, Les said that was something he had always wanted to do.
I immediately offered to teach him to fly gliders. For a few weeks thereafter, we drove across to Kingsfield, when the Club was operating, and I taught Les up to the point where he went solo.
In the time we spent together, Les inspired me to undertake more longer sailing trips than just going across at the start of the season from Cyprus to Turkey and, of course, returning at the end of the season. Maybe, even try a transatlantic.
The idea of crossing the Atlantic kept nudging away at me. Especially since Dave Lisson, a Canadian friend from Larnaca Marina, was very much in favour of coming with me. Dave and I chatted about it and we agreed; we would give it a go! It was 1992 and a little late in the year to be starting off but we reckoned on it being alright. We left Larnaca Marina on the 10th September, 1992.
The idea was to head for Malta bypassing Crete. The weather soon became less than idyllic and by late on 13th September I made an entry in the sailing log: Conditions deteriorating. Then a further entry in the log at 11:00 on the 14th: Giant seas 3-4 metres.
Eventually on the 20th September we entered Valletta Harbour. We set off again on the 24th September. Our next port of call was Sidi Bou Said marina in Tunisia, which we entered on the 26th September.
The plan was to sail directly from Sidi Bou Said to Gibraltar but, once again, the weather got in the way. Thus on the 3rd October we entered Algiers harbour to take on fuel and to have a rest from the inclement conditions. We left Algiers on the 7th October heading for Gibraltar.
I must say that sailing in a smallish yacht had an almost unreal quality to it. The routine of sailing soon enveloped us. We slept frequently but lightly. At night, every twenty minutes or so, the one on watch would come on deck to take a look round. There was a simplicity in sailing, using a self-steering gear to helm the boat, and I remember one night coming on deck, there wasn’t a moon, and all around me, literally 360 degrees of vision, the stars came right down to the horizon. I was transfixed. We were far enough from land not to have any light pollution. It was magical. Indeed, it was a memory that has never left me.
However, getting to Gibraltar was not without its challenge for we suffered a knockdown and this scared us both to the core.
Part Two tomorrow.