Floating – and Floating – and Floating

Blog Post


Lone Survivor

Chinese steward Poon Lim was found off the coast of Brazil by a Brazilian fisherman family after being adrift for 133 days.

Lim found himself in the ocean after the British ship SS Benlomond, where he worked as second steward, was torpedoed by a German submarine (on 23 November 1942). Lim found an eight-foot (240 cm) wooden raft with supplies. When the supplies ran low, Lin resorted to fishing, catching seabirds, and rain collection.

The Royal Navy was so impressed by his survival skills and story that they incorporated his techniques into their manuals. After the war, he wanted to emigrate to the US and, despite initial difficulty due to the Chinese immigration quota having been met, he was eventually allowed into the United States thanks to special legislation written by Democratic Senator Walter Magnuson of Washington. Poon Lim lived to the age of 72, passing away in 1991. To this day, he still holds the official record for longest time for a lone person to survive being adrift at sea in a life raft. When told this in 1943, Poon Lim responded, “I hope no one will ever have to break that record.”


A Men’s Restroom in Arizona


Caesar’s Victory at Thapsus

After defeating the “Optimates” (the aristocratic faction within the Roman Senate) under Pompey Magnus at the Battle of Pharsalus, Caesar traveled on to Egypt. There he secured the Ptolemaic throne for the teenage Cleopatra VII. After a romantic sojourn with the young queen, he returned to Italy to prepare for the next round of warfare against his enemies, who were reorganizing in Africa.

In the Roman Africa province (modern Tunisia), the Optimati commanders Metellus Scipio and Cato the Younger had allied with King Juba of Numida (long a personal enemy of Caesar’s), and raised a force of 12 legions. By the time Caesar landed in Africa, the Optimates has a force of 72,000 legionaries and allied Numidian light infantry; supported by a as much as 15,000 Numidian light horse and 60 African war elephants (the now extinct, smaller North African Forest species).

Caesar was met by the Optimati general Labienus, a man who had been his former chief lieutenant during the Gallic War, at Ruspina in January. There Labienus handled Caesar roughly. After two months of maneuver, the two armies faced off again here, at Thapsus. This Optimati stronghold was besieged by Caesar, with Scipio and his co-commander Afranius bringing up their superior forces to trap and destroy Caesar once-and-for-all.

Caesar had a force of 8 legions, most of soldiers veterans of his 10 year campaign to conquer Gaul and of his earlier victory at Pharsalus. Caesar’s army numbered 50,000 infantry and 5,000 horse. His men had lost no confidence after Ruspina, and in fact were embarrassed to have been so bested; and were eager to bring their foes to battle. The terrain favored Caesar’s smaller army: a narrow corridor of land constrained on one flank by the sea and on the other by a broad salt marsh. A fort occupied by several cohorts of Caesarean troops blocked the Optimati approach up this corridor from the south. Therefore Scipio detached Afranius and King Juba to hold the southern end while he attacked Caesar from the northern side.

Arriving near Caesar’s defensive works at Thapsus, Scipio drew up part of his army for battle; while other cohorts began construction of a camp in his rear. Scipio placed his Numidian cavalry and light infantry on either wing of his legions; with the elephants divided on either flank, screening the front of each wing.

Observing the division of his enemy’s forces, Caesar left two legions before Thapsus to contain the garrison, and marched with the bulk of his army to within 1500 paced of Scipio’s. Caesar deployed his forces in three lines: the elite Tenth and Seventh legions were posted on the right wing, while the Eighth and veteran Ninth were placed on the left. The bulk of his legions, many of which were comprised of new recruits, were stationed in the center of his line where they could fight with their flanks full supported by the veterans.

The Fifth legion (“Alaudae”, Lark-Crested) had received special training to fight elephants. Its Cohortes were split up and stationed forward of each of the two wings, to combat the elephants. The Fifth’s cohorts were supported by archers, slingers and other light-armed troops, interspersed among the cavalry on the wings to support them against Juba’s much-feared Numidians.

The deployment complete, Caesar went the rounds among his troops, “reminding the veterans of their gallant bearing in previous combats and raising their morale by flattering appeals. As for the recruits, he urged them to emulate the gallantry of the veterans and to make it “their ambition by gaining a victory to enjoy a fame, status and renown equal to theirs”. The troops clamored to advance upon the enemy, and impatient of orders began the advance on their own initiative; ignoring the commands of their furious centurions, who attempted to halt them. Seeing they could not be stopped, Caesar gave the signal to attack.

On Caesar’s right wing, the slingers and archers launched volleys of missiles against Scipio’s elephants. Terrified by the whizzing sound and sting of the sling’s stones and leaden bullets, the elephants panicked; and turning around, trampled under foot and scattered the supporting troops behind them. The Numidian cavalry on that wing followed suit, abandoned the field in rout. Having speedily routed the Optimati left, the legions attacked and quickly gained possession of the enemy’s incomplete camp, driving off the troops working on the ramparts.

On the Caesarean left wing the battle against the elephant screen came to close quarters. One soldier of the Fifth Legion won distinction by rushing to the aid of a comrade who was being crushed to death by an enraged elephant who was kneeling upon the fallen legionary while trumpeting loudly. When the beast observed the second legionary coming towards it with weapon raised to strike, the elephant abandoned the corpse and encircled the soldier with its trunk, lifting him up in the air. His sword arm free, “the soldier hewed with his sword again and again at the encircling trunk with all the strength he could muster. The resulting pain caused the elephant to drop the soldier, wheel round, and with shrill trumpeting retreated with all speed to rejoin its fellows”.

Both of their flanks broken, Scipio’s troops collapsed in flight. Finding their camp taken, many tried to surrender. But their passions inflamed, and still smarting from their defeat two months earlier at Ruspina, Caesar’s legionaries refused them quarter, massacring as many as 10,000 despite Caesar’s attempt to restrain their fury. One Optimati officer and Senator, Pompieus Rufus, only saved himself by rushing to Caesar’s side and surrendering to him personally.

Following this victory, Thapsus soon fell. Caesar proceeded to Utica, where Caesar’s oldest and most bitter opponent, Cato the Younger, commanded the garrison. When he learned that his troops planned to surrender to Caesar, Cato committed suicide rather than beg clemency from his hated enemy.

By July the African campaign was wrapped-up, with Caesar returning to Rome, and his remaining enemies fleeing to Spain. There, under the leadership of Labienus and the sons of Pompey, they would form the last army to stand against Caesar at Munda.

US Army Arctic Ride

(Link) WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army is embarking on a competitive prototyping effort to acquire a new, all-terrain vehicle that can operate in the Arctic, with evaluations to take place in Alaska. In the service, take the ride if you can and in the Arctic, you will really want the ride. Alaska in the summer is buggy. In the winter, it is dark and cold.

I only had one Arctic op and it was classified. I rode on a Submarine most of the time. I have no desire to repeat. Chow on the boat was good. I watched movies most of the time and stayed out of everyone’s way – so not at all like camping in the Arctic wastes.

24 thoughts on “Floating – and Floating – and Floating

  1. I myself also had just the one Arctic op that lasted 13 months and found it to be every bit as buggy and cold as L-L described. The mosquitoes are not to be believed in the summer, worse than Viet Nam in my experience. Summertime you get 24 hours of daylight to stomp thru muskeg swamps balanced with near 24-hours of dark in the winter. There was no submarine involved with my experience nor Navy chow nor mechanized conveyance, but there were suicide-slat skis, snowshoes and a sled named the ahkio, an Eskimo word meaning “massive pain in the ass” or so we were told and I still accept as fact because it was. You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried to drag one of those sonsabitches over the snow and ice (uphill both ways) at well below zero but there is a surplus outfit in Montana that will be happy to sell you one of your own. Do bring five or six of your best buddies along because that’s what it takes to drag one loaded down with squad tent, Yukon stove, fuel, several cases of C-rations and the platoon sergeant’s cot and stuff if he’s traveling with you, and send us video while you’re at it. It will be a hoot – for us.


    That said, I had a hella good time up there and actually feel sorry for anybody who hasn’t had the experience.

    1. Things weren’t that rough with me, but we had to go where we had no right to be, to recover or destroy a piece of USGOV equipment that ended up flying off course to end up where it was, before somebody else found it. Nobody detected us or tried to kill us, but there was the possibility that they might have. Mosquitoes the size of MiG’s, with weapons of their own. Seriously, like a swarm of bloodthirsty hummingbirds.

        1. Not so much drama as that. The Air Force needed the Navy to pull its fat out of the fire — again.

  2. Floating – A man taking his predicament and using his fortitude and knowledge – either developed in situ or previously known – and making the best of his situation…instead of like those stories we hear about some dufus going into the mountains for a hike in Winter in shorts, a t-short and sneakers), then getting stuck in 6″ of snow in their 4wd Suburu then waiting around for people to rescue him while a storm sets in after a few days leaving him stranded for a week because there’s no cell service. I’d be digging my way backwards if I had to, but certainly wouldn’t be sitting around waiting for someone else to leave their home to save my sorry rear end (assuming I’d ever be in such a predicament without proper gear on board, which I wouldn’t).

    Quite the Caesar account…[broad brush statement] no way the current crop of “guys” would stand tall and advance on an enemy…I just don’t see fortitude in far too many boys who grew up without fathers but can play a mean internet video game against others around the world. Safe at home…right? There’s no doubt why a year ago society folded like a cheap umbrella without so much as a whimper.

    A coworker was a Sea Bee, was offered seriously good pay to work at McMurdo Station, was there for the “summer”. Said his time there was “interesting”, took forever to do anything, but would do it again. Certain types are made for that. I don’t mind cold but I prefer seasons.

    The Top Gear [BBC] boys did the arctic trip, “Polar Special”…once again the indestructible HiLux shows its mettle. Wiki has a good synopsis…”The vehicles used in the special challenge to reach the Pole were two 2007 Toyota Hilux Double Cab 3.0l diesel pickup trucks, one Toyota Land Cruiser 120 and a trailer, all of which were heavily modified by an Icelandic company, Arctic Trucks.”

    If Toyota sold the HiLux here I’d be first in line.

    1. I’d be standing right behind you in line to buy a Hilux Double Cab diesel. In fact, I’d likely sell my Raptor, because the Hilux would last me the remainder of my life, and the Raptor, even with low mileage, will not.

      1. I’m sure a quick internet search would clarify why they’re not sold here, probably something to do with CAFE and safety crap from our “we’re here to make your life less fun while taxing you to the hilt” government. (Yes, I’m a bit frosty this morning, finishing up our taxes, aka Legal Thievery by Our Betters so they can steal from us for those who don’t work or are here illegally. Next year, minimizing liability Galt-style.)

        1. Toyota doesn’t want to sell them in the US because they don’t have much ‘planned obsolescence’ built into them. I think that’s at the core of the matter. There may be some anti-diesel sentiment as well, but it’s the same reason that they discontinued the Toyota FJ. Why buy an FJ for $30K +/- when you can buy a 4-Runner for $70K?

      1. We hall have our own style. I don’t like the idea of an unholstered handgun on the deck, though.

    1. Yeah, that just screams, “Steal me!” in some places. Someone could be long gone before that idget gets his pants hiked up and fastened enough to make it out of the stall. And in other places, panicking Karen’s would be calling the cops on you. With a decent belt/holster combo, that should never be necessary. The only time you should need to upholster it is to use it or clean it.

  3. My son just told me about the time he got off the sub to walk the ice to sleep in a plywood shack.
    I asked why?
    He said “The light show was fantastic.”
    I could imagine you were on his boat Larry.

    1. Different generations. But I’ve seen the light show elsewhere and it’s something to behold…”how great Thou art” comes to mind.

        1. The Northern Lights was one of the benefits (the wildlife was another). When Johnny Horton sang about the lights “running wild” he, or whoever wrote the song, wasn’t joking. A fantastic light show indeed.

          I myself am a fairly xenophobic Texas Native (TM) but Alaska in its own way is something absolutely fantastic.

  4. The only really cold weather experience I have is doing Field Service in the winter, in unheated buildings, in Montana and Idaho. I learned to keep my flashlight in an inside pocket so it wouldn’t freeze the batteries. It was supposed to be an easy three day installation, and I wound up being there two weeks. One of my friends had far more experience in dressing for cold, and he helped me outfit myself before I went. One of the worst things was my soldering iron couldn’t get warm enough to melt solder. I don’t think Weller anticipated anyone using it at 35 below……

Comments are closed.

Scroll to top