Caulking Off

This is a good day for it…long weekend…dog days of summer and all that.

U.S. Navy sailor resting on deck of USS Olympia, c. 1899. Photograph by Francis B. Johnston.

He is “taking a caulk” which was sailor slang since the 17th century for snatching what today would be called a power nap. Deck seams or caulks ran fore and aft, the same alignment sailors aspired to attain within their hammocks or upon some out-of-the-way deck. Had to be careful about that latter choice in hotter climates, however- softened pitch stained the well-known pattern of deck seams onto old Jack’s clothes, proclaiming to all he’d been napping.

 

Identify the Aircraft

This one might be more of a challenge, so the answer is at the bottom of this blog.

 

The Rus

De Administrando Imperio was a handbook written in Greek by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII in the 10th century to help his son and heir with domestic policy. It is one of the first Byzantine accounts of contact between their empire and the Vikings.

Chapter Nine of that book discusses the Rus, Scandanavians who had settled in what is modern Russia, who arrived by river each year to sell slaves. They weren’t technically Vikings because they didn’t come to raid. They could be considered Vikings when they took slaves from whatever source. Presumably, the slaves had not come willingly.

It contains little judgment of the outside cultures, seen in other accounts such as when Ibn Fadlan called the Rus’ “the filthiest of all Allah’s creatures” and noted their disgusting habits of washing their faces in dirty water or having sex with their slave-girls in public.

The book provided a straightforward account of trade and the route the traders took across the Dnieper River. Perhaps it’s. because the Rus’ arrived to trade rather than the Byzantines ascending the Dnieper to trade — implying that the Byzantines were superior.

Map showing the major Varangian trade routes, the Volga trade route (in red) and the other Trade Route to Byzantium (in purple). Wikimedia Commons

Rus’ traveled in monoxyla, simple boats made from hollowed out trees or carved from flat-bottomed pieces of wood, from Russia to Constantinople. They arrive, the text tells us, when spring came and the ice melted, in their boats down the Dnieper River, a great river which begins in Russia and flows through modern-day Belarus and Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. These foreigners entered Constantine’s territory regularly to trade, increasing the likelihood of an accurate account: frequent contact allows for more chances to observe practices and customs. The chapter describes the geography around the Dnieper River, and trading of monoxyla where the Rus’ cut and carve the wood for the simple ship, and then sail it downriver where those who wish to buy a new ship will take salvageable materials from their old one and fit out the new vessel.

The Rus’ men then traveled over a series of rapids, picking up the ship with their hands and carrying it (portage) over the worst of the terrain with their other trade goods inside. The account doesn’t explain what they may have traded other than slaves, focusing on the ordeal of the boats themselves. The men divide, with some disembarking to the banks of the river to lighten the load, some who strip off their clothes and get into the water to feel for rocks, and guide the remaining men in the stern of the vessel, who use long poles to navigate across the rocks.

A 10th century monoxyla boat found in the Oder river in Poland. It is currently in the Świdnica museum near Zielona Góra, Poland. Photo by Mohylek / Wikimedia Commons

Through three barrages, they repeat this process and then transport their ship overland by either dragging it or carrying it on their shoulders for some six miles, watching out for their mortal enemies, the Pechenegs, all the while.

The text tells us they frequently engage in skirmishes with the Pechenegs going to and from their trading destination, and must always be vigilant. Eventually, the Rus’ stop at an island, St. Gregory, where they cast lots and make offerings of whatever they have, including sacrificing cocks (chickens). Sailing to another island called St. Aitherios, they rest for several days and reequip their boats with tackle, sails, masts, and rudders, and then continue home or on to other trading posts on the river.

The chapter is consistent with what is known historically about this period and corroborated by other sources. The names of the Dnieper rapids are given in Slavonic and Norse, supporting Ibn Fadlan’s account that these were Scandinavian people. P.H. Sawyer notes, “[The names are] in the languages of both the Slavs and the Rus’, and several of the latter forms are certainly Scandinavian.”

The presence of Varangian traders on the island described in the chapter was further verified following the discovery of the Berezan’ Runestone in 1905, inscribed with runes saying, “[Gráni] made this sarcophagus for Karl, his partner.” The word “partner” in the inscription, félagi, is often used for business partners or comrades-in-arms, so it would fit that these men were traders or shipowners together, and one lost his life along the route.

The Berezanj Runestone

The Arabic source Murij adh-dhahah by Al-Mas’udi, written around the year 950, also confirms Russians in this area, calling them “masters of the Black Sea,” and noting that when they trade, “the Russians brought their vessels into this (the Caspian) sea, (from the Black Sea).” Now, we know that the area of the Dnieper River was traversable, and other accounts confirm the presence of Varangian or culturally Norse traders upon it.

The account of De Administrando Imperio shows that the Vikings sailed all the way to Byzantium by including the names of various waterways and lakes along the way. The first step to proving that contact between two remote areas took place is proving that it is possible to travel between them. Accounts of trade between Byzantium and the Rus’ were preserved in several later medieval chronicles, noting that typical trade goods included furs, honey, wax, walrus ivory, high-grade weapons, and the slaves which De Administrando Imperio mentions.

 

Creepy Joe

Of course, when you’re the proximate cause of death of the heroes, you might want to get it over with as quickly as possible so you could get back to the business of screwing up the country.

 

Psyche 16

It was the sixteenth “planetary body” discovered. Psyche is a large asteroid discovered by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis, working in Naples, on 17 March 1852 and named after the Greek mythological figure Psyche.

More on the NASA mission to explore Psyche

Psyche is a giant metal asteroid with an average diameter of about 140 miles (226 kilometers) – about one-sixteenth the diameter of Earth’s Moon or about the distance between Los Angeles and San Diego. Unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think the M-type (metallic) asteroid 16 Psyche is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth’s core.

Some speculate that it may be the first candidate for asteroid mining, though iron and nickel are common enough metals on Earth. There is also the possibility of rare metals that may be present. Asteroid mining, shooting the metal back to earth, and parking it in orbit, could lead to more cost-effective space-based construction.

 

Answer to Identify the Aircraft

PZL P.11a 

27 COMMENTS

  1. The P11 was the mainstay of Poland’s fighter force in the 1930s. When it came out by the end of the 1920s it was held to be one of the most advanced fighter designs with its clear aerodynamics and robust construction. The gullwing gave the pilot a very good field of vision.
    However, by 1939 it had been overtaken by the rapid technological advances being made in aircraft construction: it was outgunned and outflown by the opposing forces.
    During the invasion of Poland the valiant Polish aviators fought with skill and desperation. They downed approx. 110 German aircraft; even some fighters.
    Honor to their memory!

    • Yes indeed, the men who flew them did so to try and save their nation, patriots all, but the war and the invasion had a foregone conclusion.

      • It was really a pretty good plane for it’s time. IIRC it got a bunch of export orders, too… maybe Roumania and Jugoslavia?

        The Poles performed some great exploits against the Nazis and Soviets, generally with obsolete gear and vastly outnumbered. Just because it could never be enough is no diminution of the achievements.

        -Kle.

      • Years ago I had the honor of working with an old fellow who flew with the Polish Air Force. He was a green 20 year old cadet when the Germans invaded. Many harrowing tales of the first few days of the invasion and his first taste of aerial combat, but most interesting to me were stories of how he escaped Poland, moving only at night to avoid the ever present Stukas during the day. After briefly rejoining his group in France, he ended up in England flying Spitfires with the RAF. Crazy times.

  2. Asteroid mining has an aspect I just can’t get around in my head. What sort of supply and demand scenario plays out? How can you make it work?

    Pick something valuable: “rare earth metals” or gold, platinum, you name it, and imagine you find a big asteroid that’s full of it. If you dramatically increase the world’s supply of it, don’t you collapse the price of it? And if you collapse the price, can you afford the rocket or spaceship technology to go to the asteroid and bring chunks of it back to earth? Or bring the whole asteroid back to earth orbit? If it costs more to get that asteroid than the same metal here on earth, how does it work?

    There are parallels here now with mining for gemstones, gold or other valuable commodities. If you made a stunning find, do you publicize it or keep it quiet? Say you find the biggest diamond deposit in history? Do you announce it? There will be some collectors who will pay to own the first stones out of a famous find. Besides them, if you suddenly start to flood the market with big, beautiful stones, you might collapse the price. Do you trickle them onto the market?

    What about a massive gold deposit? Right now, gold is quite a bit more expensive than platinum, so make that a massive platinum deposit, or a platinum asteroid. If you doubled the amount of platinum would you cut the price in half, or worse?

    • My sense of it is that by parking an asteroid that’s all metal in orbit, say around the Moon, would be to use that material for space-based construction. Now whether that’s less expensive than lifting it into orbit is arguable. You’d need to run the abacus hard to work that out. If you did that, I don’t know what the impact would be on the world market. Clearly there would be an impact for the metal that you brought down the gravity well.

    • You do it just like DeBeers does with (not rare!) diamonds. You control the supply, because you own it up in orbit. You only bring stuff down when it’s profitable.

      Same with the Windmill Boondoggle. You notice they don’t always turn on windy days? They are computer controlled to only generate when the kwh rate is profitable.

      -Kle.

    • Asteroid mining is only economically viable as material for large scale construction in space.
      Sending it to earth or lifting metals into orbit is not cost effective.
      “Mining The Sky” by John Lewis has a good breakdown of the economics of asteroid mining for space colonization. It has been a decade or so since I read it so I can’t speak to how well his theories have held up.
      His first book “Rain of Iron and Ice” is good too.

  3. Ibn Fadlan was a bigoted ass. At least the Rus washed with water and not sand. And truly, who will willingly trust what any ibn X says or thinks about anything without a metric crap-ton of actual truthful truths.

    Gee, ibn, sorry that, well, Russia is Cold As Copulation. But at least they integrated their culture with the people who were in the area when the Rus came into power. And acknowledged it, rather than taking over a culture or a idea and calling it their own (looking at you, Arabia, for taking credit for ‘(dot) Indian numerals.’)

    Sand thieves and sand bigots.

    Other than that, his ‘report’ or ‘tale’ or ‘outright fiction’ reads like someone who is trying to show how great his culture is.

    Sadly, not uncommon before he came around, nor after he died in any culture.

    The Rus were known for their ability to work metal, to use gems, to drag their boats and their wagons into and out of places that ‘civilized’ people wouldn’t even dare.

    As to slave taking… (cough, cough, ARAB SLAVE TRADERS AND RAIDERS, cough, cough)(that are still doing the whole slave trade and raiding even today, sometimes directly, sometimes through ‘work contracts’ that would make an evil coal baron from the Gilded Age cringe with the complete unfairness of it. Seizing passports and work papers and never giving them back until the ‘owner’ has squeezed the life out of the ‘not-slave’ slave.. That is the way in a lot of places in the Middle East. )

    And, well, that movie was dogsqueeze. Don’t even get me started on “The 13th Warrior.”

  4. “Presumably, the slaves had not come willingly.” .

    Judging by the behavior of millions of people co-located with us in what used to be America, I’m not sure we can make that assumption any more.

    -Kle.

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