Falkland Islands: Nothing More Than a Symbol of Pride
January 22, 2011

May 14 1979 Time Magazine Proved To Be a Prophecy...but for what?

On This Date in History:  In the early 1980’s, there was a much publicized war between Argentina and Great Britain over a tiny group of islands off the southern tip of Argentina.  It became known as the Falkland Islands War.  Britain had long maintained sovereignty over the islands and Argentina suddenly had laid claim to them.  Very few people had heard of the islands before and most in Great Britain probably had no idea that it was British property.  The islands really had little value but the honor of Britain was at stake.  As it turns out, it was really a repeat of history. 

Sir Thomas Cavendish

The Spanish had been the lords of the sea for much of the 18th century and therefore had been able to do the most exploring and exploitation of the new world.   When the Spanish Armada was routed by the British in 1588, that opened up the New World to other European nations.  Now, Sir Thomas Cavendish was an English explorer and sailor known as the “navigator” for his sailing skills.  While Magellan, Loaisa, Drake and Loyola all had circumnavigated the globe, apparently none of them set sail with that intention.  Cavendish is credited with being the first to make such a voyage as his primary, intended quest.  He achieved this at age 28 after a two-year journey in 1588.  For some reason, that was not enough because he tried it again in 1591.  By 1592, Cavendish was dead of unknown causes and the attempt has been labeled a disaster.   However, it is thought that, on this voyage, one of Cavendish’s ships was captained by a man named Davis who, either by design or bad weather, got separated from Cavendish near the Straits of Magellan and is thought to be the first to have seen the islands.  However, he did not explore then or otherwise make any observations.  While that seems nebulous on the surface, it would prove to be important for centuries. 

Over 200 years later, Falklands still good for sheep

In 1771, a man named Samuel Johnson wrote a detailed history of the Falkland Islands up to that point.  Johnson seems to be opining of the uselessness of the islands.  After Captain Davis, several other people saw the islands but never bothered to stop.  When they were mapped, it was found that the islands had lots of water but no wood.  It had a good harbor and only had a benefit perhaps as a military outpost to support colonial operations.  But, even that was a dubious distinction because there was no way that the islands could ever be self-sufficient.  Spain had nominally laid claim to the islands as part of its Argentina colonization but the Spanish never did much with it.  The British did set up an outpost and provisioned it regularly and also found that sheep and cattle seemed to be more suitable for that environment than agriculture.  Around 1870, the Spanish showed up and asked the British to leave.  Mainly out of pride, the British refused.  The exchanges between the commander of the British garrison and the Spanish frigate captain is remarkable in that it is civil.  It’s as if both of them were doing their duty but really didn’t want to spill blood over something of such little value.  The Spanish eventually landed with a far superior force and the British left.  But, that wasn’t the end of it. Again, pride shows up and the crown just  couldn’t allow their claims to be challenged.  Their claim of possession was  basically that they had found it first.  The courts of Spain and England negotiated and discussed and, in the end, the King of Spain disavowed any knowledge of the actions of the governor of Buenos Aires, who apparently had directed his naval forces to take the island without orders  or permission from the King.  So, on this date in 1771, Spain ceded what was known as the Falkland Islands to the English, to the British Crown. 

Falklands More Suitable To Penguins Than People

Johnson opined on what all of this got the crown:  “… a restitution of our settlement, maintained the honour of the crown, and the superiority of our influence. Beyond this what have we acquired? What, but a bleak and gloomy solitude, an island, thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer; an island, which not the southern savages have dignified with habitation; where a garrison must be kept in a state that contemplates with envy the exiles of Siberia; of which the expense will be perpetual, and the use only occasional; and which, if fortune smile upon our labours, may become a nest of smugglers in peace, and in war the refuge of future bucaniers.”  Johnson hammered the point of the lack of utility of the island when he points out that, after the Brits gained the concession, they abandoned the island.  He does note, however, that “the Spaniards have stipulated, that the grant of possession shall not preclude the question of prior right, a question which we shall probably make no haste to discuss, and a right, of which no formal resignation was ever required.”  This perhaps was the underlying excuse for hostility by the Argentinians 200 years later.

Falkland Islands Map

Falkland Islands Map

On the other hand,  it is not unusual for a government in turmoil with a risk of collapse from within to create an international incident in order to unify the country against a common foe besides the government. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Argentina had been ruled by a military dictatorship that had once been popular but was rapidly losing support from the people as they grew weary of the number of political prisoners that had been taken as well as people who had simply disappeared. The economy was shrinking at 6% per year and inflation was running at 160%. The unions began to join forces with political opposition groups and the military Junta knew it was in trouble. Then, they thought a gift had been delivered to them.

The Harrier Proved Its Meddle in the Falklands

The Harrier Proved Its Meddle in the Falklands

While the Falkland and the South Georgia Islands had long been part of the British empire, the general global feeling of the 20th century was that empires needed to come to an end. However, perhaps due to the same pride that caused the British to want to keep the islands in the 18th century,  numerous attempts through the United Nations by Argentina to get Britain to cede the islands to Argentina failed. In 1979, an Argentinian businessman (Constantino Davidoff) purchased a former whale slaughterhouse on the South Georgia Islands from an Englishman(Christian Salvensen). The new owner wanted to dismantle the plant and sell the metal for scrap. The HMS Endurance was in the vicinity and the Argentine owner asked the Brits to loan him the use of their naval vessel to help him haul off the scrap. The crown denied his request. So, he went to his own Navy which obliged. This was the perfect set up for the Junta. It knew that the people of Argentina supported the idea of the nation gaining sovereignty over the islands off its coast and, if the Junta could use the situation properly, it could perhaps regain public support.  Besides, the Spanish never did acknowledge that the British had rightful claim when it ceded control in 1771.

Aluminum Ships Like Destroyer HMS Sheffield Proved Vulnerable To Missiles

Aluminum Ships Like Destroyer HMS Sheffield Proved Vulnerable To Missiles

So, in March 1982 when the Argentine Navy ship showed up at the South Georgia Islands, residents there complained to London that there was a warship with the Argentine flag floating in their waters. So, the British sent the HMS Endurance to the scene to prevent any landing by any Argentinians. Argentina responded by sending the military transport Bahia Parasio to the islands with the hope of occupying the islands peacefully. Now, the Junta had a plan for invading the Falkland and South Georgia Islands on the shelf for a couple of years. The nation had a pretty decent military and the battlefield would be 7500 miles from England. Also, they figured that they could use the weather as an ally by staging their invasion between June and October, which is the winter time in the Southern Hemisphere which would make things more difficult for England. The advantage really was with Argentina.

War Was The Big Headline in London

War Was The Big Headline in London

But…the people at home were getting restless and protests were growing quickly against the military leaders. So, they made the mistake of moving up their time-table. On April 2, 1982 Argentine ground forces of landed on the South Georgia Islands. The Falkland Islands War was on and the Argentine government appealed to President Reagan for support. The Rio Treaty of 1947 called on all nations of the Americas to come to the aid of any nation that was invaded by foreign forces. The Junta told Reagan that they were enforcing the rights of Argentine workers to legally do the job of removing the whaling slaughterhouse. I guess Ron didn’t agree because he didn’t lift a finger. After all, England was not your ordinary foreign invader. It had been our pal throughout the 20th Century and Reagan had established a strong bond with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who earned her reputation as the “Iron Lady” by calling the Argentine bluff.

Sinking HMS Conventry and other ships highlighted limitations and vulnerability of naval assets

Instead of quietly negotiating away the islands, she sent a task force of ships, submarines, sailors and over 10,000 troops all the way from England. The task force left on April 5, 1982…just 3 days after the Argentine invasion. The first encounter of the Brits and Argentines happened on April 25 and by the middle of June, the war was over with an Argentinian surrender…just before the winter got going. Many historians agree, the biggest mistake of the Argentine Junta was to attack in the fall instead of sticking to their plan of a winter assault. In the eyes of many, the Argentinians had a good case for obtaining the islands but, the military might and determination of Margaret Thatcher rendered any legitimate points moot. A little more than a year later, the Argentinian Junta was out of office and any hope of ever getting to the negotiating table with Britain over ceding the islands was doomed. They never should have neglected the weather forecast.  Or maybe they should have just agreed that the islands were of no value.  As it stands, many people died and treasure spent on a bunch of islands that no one really found  much use for except express misappropriated pride…but at last, that pride is redeemed…you see, oil was discovered a few years ago near the Falkland Islands and, once again, Argentina is claiming and Britain ain’t listening. 

Weather Bottom Line:  Yes, it’s cold.  Is your street clear of snow?  I think the Mayor is in Washington DC so maybe he’s not aware of the snow on the streets in your neighborhood.  Then again, perhaps the delay is just a money-saving tactic since it’s the weekend and they’ll just clear everyone’s road by Sunday night for the Monday start to the work week.  See, there is a model out there that just keeps throwing snow over the area for many days.  That would be the GFS.   Its been consistent in that assertion from last Thursday through early Saturday morning. I suspect that it will change its mind because it’s the outlier as most models do not have a low traversing the Ohio Valley and conspiring with one to the South to bring lots of snow, or at least several days of light snow.  Instead, most damp out the midwest low and make the southern low the dominant feature and routes it through Dixie and up the east coast.  The weather service still has a chance of snow in the forecast from Sunday night through Wednesday, but we’ll have to wait and see.  Either way, while it will remain cold for the forseeable future, we will come out of the ice bucket after the weekend.

Margaret Thatcher Shows Her Mettle
April 2, 2010

May 14 1979 Time Magazine Proved To Be a Prophecy

May 14 1979 Time Magazine Proved To Be a Prophecy

Falkland Islands Map

Falkland Islands Map

On This Date in History: It is not unusual for a government in turmoil with a risk of collapse from within to create an international incident in order to unify the country against a common foe besides the government. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Argentina had been ruled by a military dictarship that had once been popular but was rapidly losing support from the people as they grew weary of the number of political prisoners that had been taken as well as people who had simply disappeared. The economy was shrinking at 6% per year and inflation was running at 160%. The unions began to join forces with political opposition groups and the military Junta knew it was in trouble. Then, the thought a gift had been delivered to them.

The Harrier Proved Its Meddle in the Falklands

The Harrier Proved Its Meddle in the Falklands

Off of Argentina lay the Falkland and the South Georgia Islands. These islands had long been part of the British empire. Throughout the 20th century, the general global feeling was that empires needed to come to an end but, inspite of numerous attempts through the United Nations, Argentina was unable to get Britain to cede the islands that resided so far away from England. In 1979, an Argentian buisinessman (Constantino Davidoff) purchased a former whale slaughterhouse on the South Georgia Islands from an Englishman(Christian Salvensen). The new owner wanted to dismantle the plant and sell the mettle for scrap. The HMS Endurance was in the vicinity and the Argentine owner asked the Brits to loan him the use of their naval vessel to help him haul off the scrap. The crown denied his request. So, he went to his own Navy which obliged. This was the perfect set up for the Junta. It knew that the people of Argentina supported the idea of the nation gaining sovereignty over the islands off its coast and, if the Junta could use the situtation properly, it could perhaps regain public support.

Aluminum Ships Like Destroyer HMS Sheffield Proved Vulnerable To Missles

Aluminum Ships Like Destroyer HMS Sheffield Proved Vulnerable To Missles

So, in March 1982 when the Argentine Navy ship showed up at the South Georgia Islands, residents there complained to London that there was a warship with the Argentine flag floating in their waters. So, the British sent the HMS Endurance to the scene to prevent any landing by any Argentinians. Argentina responded by sending the military transport Bahia Parasio to the islands with the hope of occupying the islands peacefully. Now, the Junta had a plan for invading the Falkland and South Georgia Islands on the shelf for a couple of years. The nation had a pretty decent military and the battlefield would be 7500 miles from England. Also, they figured that they could use the weather as an ally by staging their invasion between June and October, which is the winter time in the Southern Hemisphere which would make things more difficult for England. The advantage really was with Argentina.

War Was The Big Headline in London

War Was The Big Headline in London

But…the people at home were getting restless and protests were growing quickly against the military leaders. So, they made the mistake of moving up their time table. On this date in 1982, Argentine ground forces of landed on the South Georgia Islands. The Falkland Islands War was on and the Argentine government appealed to President Reagan for support. The Rio Treaty of 1947 called on all nations of the Americas to come to the aid of any nation that was invaded by foreign forces. The Junta told Reagan that they were enforcing the rights of Argentine workers to legally do the job of removing the whaling slaughterhouse. I guess Ron didn’t agree because he didn’t lift a finger. After all, England was not your ordinary foreign invader. It had been our pal throughout the 20th Century and Reagan had established a strong bond with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who earned her reputation as the “Iron Lady” by calling the Argentine bluff.

Sinking HMS Conventry and other ships highlighted limitations and vulnerability of naval assets

Instead of quietly negotiating away the islands, she sent a task force of ships, submarines, sailors and over 10,000 troops all the way from England. The task force left on Aprl 5, 1982…just 3 days after the Argentine invasion. The first encounter of the Brits and Argentines happened on April 25 and by the middle of June, the war was over with an Argentinian surrender…just before the winter got going. Many historians agree, the biggest mistake of the Argentine Junta was to attack in the fall instead of sticking to their plan of a winter assault. In the eyes of many, the Argentinians had a good case for obtaining the islands but, the military might and determination of Margaret Thatcher rendered any legitimate points moot. A little more than a year later, the Argentinian Junta was out of office and any hope of ever getting to the negotiating table with Britain over ceding the islands was doomed. They never should have neglected the weather forecast.

SPC mentions T'Storm Potential Saturday

SPC Very small probability of strong storms Saturday

Weather Bottom Line:  In the short term, it’s pretty clear cut with a very nice Good Friday with a high pushing toward the mid 80’s.  I told you  a  few days ago that there would be some potential activity in the midwest and the target area today stretches from north Texas to the central plains.  I think Saturday will be good for most of the time but rain chances will increase as the afternoon goes on.  By late afternoon into the evening, a front comes down but the main storm center will be well to our North.   The storms moving in from out west should be fading when they get here but, I would have an eyebrow raised if some wander in here in the late day, before the sun goes down.  The most interesting aspect of this is the steep lapse rates.  Some of these storms may be elevated and if the lapse rates shake out as suggested,then we could have some hail or gusty winds.  The SPC puts a 5% chance for severe weather just to our west and northwest which would indicate the probable area of storms by late afternoon.   Not a big deal, but its something.  Then the front clears things out for Easter Sunday and we knock about 10-15 degrees off the afternoon highs.  Monday, the front comes back as a warm front another front approaches. Rain chances will probably elevate.  After that, it seems to me that we get pretty warm on Tuesday before another front comes in and causes some issues on Wednesday.

Do You Remember the Forgotten Flood?
March 11, 2010

How Can Anyone Forget This Flood?

Freemason Arms Today Where Mason's Arms Once Stood

On This Date in History:  One thing that makes England interesting when looking at history is that so much stays the same over centuries while in America, we tend to tear things down at a whim.  The photos from this story illustrate that fact.    Now, back in the 1850’s, the United States was experiencing the results of the expanding industrial revolution.  However, it was also on a path to what some call a second American Revolution as the crisis involving slavery was headed for disaster.  Meanwhile, across the pond in England, the British watched America with a careful eye while its industrial capacity increased.  The increase in industry created a need for greater water resources and plans were put in place to meet the ever increasing demands. 

Not Much Left of Dale Dyke's Dam

The Sheffield Waterworks Company proposed creating three resevoirs  to support the exploding steel industry in the region.  Of the three, one would be dominant and require the building of what was then a mammoth dam structure.  The ambitious plan, known as the Bradfield Scheme,  called for the use of the hills near the town of Bradford to help support the resevoir system.  The  largest dam and resevoir was the first part of the project and work on the Dale Dyke Dam was begun on January 1, 1859.  The earthen dam was near completion in early 1864 and construction of the second phase began with work on the Agden Dam commencing prior to the completion of Dale Dyke.

Flood Scene 1864

By early March, the water level in the large resevoir was but a few feet from capacity and on this date in 1864 workman William Horsefield walked home after work, traversing the embankment of the dam.  He noticed a small crack that ran up the entire structure.  The weather was stormy and the wind was blowing spray over the top of the dam.  Had it not been for the weather conditions, he would have walked along the crest of the hill and may not have even noticed the crack since it’s width was barely enough to fit a single finger.  But, he did see it and was a little alarmed due to the length of the small crevice.  He immediately notified Waterworks Chief Engineer John Gunson and Gunson determined that the crack was probably due to settling or from a recent frost and appeared to be just a surface crack.  Nevertheless, Gunson took some precautionary steps.

Flood Scene Today

It was already 10pm but he decided it would be a good idea to open the valves to lower the water levels until a more extensive inspection could be made.  However, he found that workers had already opened the valves and there was no way that the water levels would lower rapidly enough to allow for a proper inspection the next day.  So, he ordered the crews to use gunpowder to blow some holes in the dam near the spillway to increase the water release.  What is curious to me is that, if he thought that it was just a surface crack, why would he take the drastic measure of blowing up part of the dam?  In any event, the efforts failed because the wind and rain made it impossible to ignite any explosives. 

Scene of Shakespeare Inn 1864

At 11:30 pm, Gunson made his way back to the site of the crack and found that it had not appeared to have worsened but was horrified when he looked up the embankment to see “water running  over like a white sheet in darkness” over the top of the dam.  He said that the water flowed down “right under my feet” and down through the crack.  He made his way down to the bottom of the dam to the valve house to try and determine the rate of flow and, at first, he said that it wasn’t consequential.  A colleague suddenly shouted for Gunson to get out of the way and, as Gunson looked up, this time he witnessed an enormous breech appear at the top of the dam and a wall of water descending his way.  As he literally ran for his life across the embankment, he felt a violent shaking and shuddering and, like a scene from an action movie, he escaped the total collapse of that section of the dam with just seconds to spare.  He watched in horror as some 650 million gallons of water roared down the Loxley Valley on the unsuspecting, slumbering populace . 

Scene of Shakespeare Inn Today

After just 30 minutes, the flood had subsided but, downstream, death and destruction was left behind. This video calls it the “forgotten flood.”   The total number of deaths have been reported between 240 to 270.  Over 400 houses, 100 factories and shops, 20 bridges, 40 buildings and nearly 4500 market or cottage gardens were washed away.  The Great Flood at Sheffield remains one of the greatest man-made disasters in British history.  Shortly after the event, a complete history of the Great Flood at  Sheffield was written by local journalists using eyewitness accounts.  The 1864 Illustrated London News  also had a complete story.   There is also a Great Sheffield Flood Photo Gallery complete with stories of heroism and survival.  The stories were told right away but the reason for the disaster proved elusive.  A definitive cause for the dam collapse was not concluded until 1978.

Thursday SPC Severe Outlook

SPC Hail Risk Thursday

Weather Bottom Line:  I’ve been distracted as my mother-in-law has been telling me a tale of dealing with a grocery store complaint resulted in the automatic phone system put her on a sex line!  I can’t tell the details but it is funny.  If you see a little old lady swinging a handbag around at a local grocery store, it’s Snow White’s mother.  Anyway, I told you for a week that there would probably be some unsettled weather and most of that should be to our south but it could be close.  As it stands, we did have a tornado earlier in the week in Oklahoma.  There was some signficant activity in the Arklatex yesterday and even over into Alabama yesterday with some 17 wind damage reports, 6 tornado reports and 100 hail reports.  The hail report asepct of this activity is what is will be of the main concern for our area over the next 48 hours.

SPC Tornado Threat Thursday

What is going on is that the big system that I’ve been chortling about for many days seems to be coming out in pieces.  What that means is that we get an extended event and it tends to cover more area as different pieces wander out in different areas.  Eventually, it will all work its way out.  Now, we had pretty dry air over the area.  Wednesday was beautiful with highs around 70.  Snow White and I even had a picnic.  She made her own version of spinach caniloni.  Wednesday night, we had a disturbance swing through, but it was on the downside of life, came at night and also ran into dry air so we got just some light rain.  But, the clouds remained for most of Thursday.  Temperatures were confined to the mid 60’s.   I got my hair cut and the people at Looks and also Snow White kept asking me when it would storm.  I replied that I did not know because I’ve had other things to do beside look at weather maps but, I wasn’t overly concerned given the lack of sunshine. 

SPC Severe Outlook Friday

For some rough weather, we need some sort of lifting mechanism and I think the cloud cover will kinda take the sun out of the equation.  What it will take will be the lift created by a vorticity maxima (upper low or shortwave) or some good dynamical forcing…that would be winds converging together to create a rising motion.  Most of this type of stuff along with a more buoyant atmosphere will be to our south through Friday.  But, if we are able to have some storms with decent heights, the air aloft gets pretty cold pretty fast as you rise in elevation.  That would be what we call a steep lapse rate.  That would support the idea of hail.  Typically, if you can get hail, then there would be the prospects of isolated strong winds.    I think that it will be possible should storms develop.  But, I would think that the prospects of significant storms may be somewhat limited.  It’s worth keeping an eye on and maybe putting the car in the carport or the garage.  It will be cooler for the weekend but not too cold.  Tell you what…the other day…I spied some models trying to throw snow out here on Monday…but I wasn’t too enthused and didn’t look too more into it.  Will be worth snooping about tomorrow.  It involves the idea of a low rotating around and coming back from the northeast and the cold air aloft with that low would be sufficient to be brought down with precipitation to cause snow.  It’s too complicated for me to deal with now…so don’t worry about it.