USA vs. Europe

It irritates me time and again that Europeans appear unable to grasp how substantial the difference is between their attitudes and those of the Americans. European commentators keep shaking their heads in disbelief of American rejections of what Europeans regard as self-evident truths.

Of course, this reflects the leftist bias of European media – they have been ridiculing Republican US presidents for the past 50 years: Ford was an idiot, Reagan was a moron, Bush Sr. & Jun. were war mongers and Trump all of the above – presented as facts. No wonder that there is a widespread feeling among Europeans that Americans are not very smart.

Let me try to explain:

Gaius Julius Ceasar

Europe is the product of two and half millennia of hierarchic societies – from the Romans through to the Sun King. Patricians and plebeians, nobility and peasants, lords and serfs, educated upper class and ignorant proletarians have been the rule all the time. Change to this has happened only during the last two centuries.

However, those relatively recent changes have been only partial. After substantial revolutions, the proletarian societies that grew up in their wake failed one by one, to be replaced by basically authoritarian social structures: central  governments and regulated societies requiring permits and licenses for everything. To Europeans, respect for authorities is in the blood.

Canada and Australia are products of the British empire, their actual independence is less than 50 years old, and their ways of thought are inherited. Middle- and South America are products of Spain and Portugal: populated and governed by them for 300 years until they themselves failed, leaving a bunch of states unusually prone to dictatorships and one-party rule.

North America was populated by European immigrants through 200 years, displacing a sparse indigenous population, before they threw off  British rule and created the Unites States. The next 100 years of unchecked immigration from Europe expanded the US through a bloody civil war and subsequent rigid federal regulations, creating a strong society with very non-authoritarian attitudes.

The United States is the product of people leaving Europe for a new start – the one single society in the Western World with unbroken development of non-authoritarian, classless independence and democratic rule and the same basic constitution through the last 230 years.

This process developed, in a majority of the US population, basic attitudes and thinking profoundly different from those of European populations. The resulting differences in ideals and standards are not well known among Europeans.

The major difference between thinking in the US and in Europe is best illustrated by their different economic systems:

  • The National Budgets of each European state is roughly two thirds of its Gross National Product (GNP) – meaning that two thirds of Europe’s economy is routed through and controlled by Governments. Laws are nationwide.
  • In the USA, the combined Federal and State budgets total about one third of the US GNP, leaving two thirds outside Government control, generated and run by private enterprise. Only Federal laws are nationwide, and there is no nationwide census registry.

Europeans talk a lot about individual freedom – in reality they see social democratic principles as safer. A good example is their attitude to health services: Europeans generally believe that health care should the public, available to everyone, run and financed by the State.

Therefore, it appears to Europeans as lunacy when large numbers of Americans oppose “Obamacare” (of 2010) over Medicare (limited to people 62 or over) and preferring general health care to be a private choice, run by private enterprise and financed through insurance policies.

As opposed to all European states, in the USA, citizens can move freely around without registering anywhere (except for voting rights) and no permission or registration in needed to change work, domicile own property.

The Rules of Journalism

Nick Davies had Random House publish his book “Flat Earth News” in 2008 – 408 pages. It was extensively commented on the Internet. The book itself is long-winded and very detailed with numerous examples.

Nick Davies

To comment on it, I downloaded the part of it that carries the above title. Here, I publish this condensed version of the key part of his book.

My comments are the (numbered footnotes) .

Objectivity is the great myth of modern journalism – that good newspapers or broadcasters produce the objective truth. This is devoid of reality, because recording reality objectively always involves selection. Media managers pretend to have a special claim on the truth, but what they generally promote is not neutrality, not objectivity. Neutrality requires the journalist to be invisible and not to express judgements which are essential for journalism.[1]

[1]  EN: It follows that, by Davies’ definition, there cannot be journalism without the reporter expressing judgement – that is: mere reporting of facts and events does not constitute journalism.  

Judgements are transferred into the hands of outsiders[2]. Before, news editors and reporters selected stories and angles. Today, journalists are passive processors of material. The news factory rejects material that does not meet the informal rules they themselves have evolved. This generates an account of the world which suffers from three weaknesses:

[2]  EN: “Outsiders” being, apparently, anyone outside the “newsrooms”, as if the “newsrooms” have a monopoly on news judgements and informing the public.

  1. Arbitrary selection of subjects,
  2. Routine use of unreliable – sometimes false – claims,
  3. Political/moral consensus based on the values of powerful groups in society.

Rule One: Run cheap stories

Select stories which are quick to cover, and safe to publish – those are the cheapest. This discourages difficult investigations and favours news stories which are simple and easy to obtain. The reason the story of the trial of O.J. Simpson became front page news all over the globe for months was that the US media pumped out masses of text and pictures every day – it was cheap and easy.

Rule Two: Select safe facts

Reporters rely on official sources because they are reporters know that they are far less likely to be attacked if they go with the official line – it is safe. The 1952 Defamation Act (UK) protects journalists from being sued for libel if their story is based on an official statement by any government department or by an officer of any authority.

  • if an official statement falsely accuses someone of a criminal act, the press cannot be sued for using it – if a private individual does the same, the press can be sued for repeating it.

Rule Three: Avoid the electric fence

In the UK, the oldest electric fence is media law – the Official Secrets Act deters journalists and inhibits potential sources by threatening imprisonment for those caught publishing whatever the government deems secret. Libel law is even more powerful, – it covers any story deemed to damage the reputation of its target.

Multiple electric fences are erected by professional PR lobbyists. In the US in 2003, the Parents Television Council (PTC) was responsible for 99.8% of all indecency complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. In the UK, the Countryside Alliance was highly effective in disciplining coverage of the debate about hunting.

The world’s most potent electric fence is Israel’s. Journalists offending the Israel lobby are subjected to formal complaints and pres­sure on their editors. A network of pro‑Israeli pressure groups specialise in com­plaints against the media: Honest Reporting. They have offices in London, New York and Toronto and claims 140,000 members.

Rule Four: Select safe ideas

This rule requires moral and political values to be safe.

  • First, moral and political ideas are not expressed openly in the story but are undeclared assumptions. Being undeclared, they are safe from scrutiny.
  • Second, they reflect the surrounding general attitudes – the consensus. [3].

(3) EN: This is a characteristic trait in journalism in most types of media: an anti-conservative, liberal-leaning bias that invariably skews political reporting to go in favour of liberal politics and against non-liberal politics – Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan being the most typical post-war examples (a shining exception being Winston Churchill).

Rule Five: Always give both sides of the story

If you have to publish something not “safe”, put in some quotes from the other side to “balance” the story – to show that you are telling the truth from all sides. This rule is the embodiment of neutrality. However, it may be used to deliberately making safe against most complaints an entirely false story by adding to the final paragraph a 100% denial from the story’s victim.

Rule Six: Give them what they want

Rule Six was precisely expressed by Sunday Express’ editor in 2003 as:

  • “We aim at having six sex stories a week. We need to be constantly stirring things up. We must make the readers angry: the appalling state of the railways, the neglect of the Health Service, the problem of teenage pregnancies, the inability of bureaucrats, etc.”

The same rule applies also in quality media[4], because in today’s commercialised form they need stories which sell.  It  also encourages wire agencies to cover subjects which will sell in multiple markets, like lifestyle stories.

As an example: in May 2005, three days after Tony Blair won his third general election, the political editor of the Independent found that some of the Prime Minister’s own Cabinet colleagues were already saying he would have to stand down within eighteen months. He later recalled: “It was the most significant story I’ve had for ages, and I pleaded for it to be the splash, but the paper wanted a change of pace after the election so instead, we splashed a story about Britain’s vanishing flowers”.

[4]  EN: “Quality Media” in this context meaning non-tabloid newspapers (Times, Guardian, Independent, Observer, as opposed to Sun, Express and Mirror).

Most typical case on record is the tale of Prince Charles and Princess Diana:

  1. The fairy tale of the joyous marriage sold around the world for years. When it fell apart, it was replaced by
  2. The tale of the evil prince and the beautiful princess. When that fell apart, it was replaced by
  3. The tale of the scheming tart. Finally, after her death
  4. She became the people’s princess.

Rule Seven: The bias against truth

This extends Rule Six into the way the stories are told. Television’s million tiny tales are constructed in order to sell. The preference is for human interest over issue; for the concrete over the abstract; for the current over the historic. This applies in both print and broadcast.

A mass of stories are not “events”. A train crash which kills a hundred people is News, the hundred car crashes which separately kill a hundred people in a few weeks is not. 387 children vanished in the UK in 2002 – most of them never made a headline. The disappear­ance of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002 was an immediate huge story soley because a picture of the two little girls i Manchester United T-shirts.

Rule Eight: Give them what they want to believe in

Ideas and attitudes promoted must not conflict with the readership’s general attitudes. The editor of the Daily Mirror in 2003 apologised for continuing to oppose the invasion of Iraq even after British troops had started fighting. “ – one thing I won’t be doing is telling myself I’m right and they are wrong. The readers are never wrong”[5].

(5) EN: Davies presents this as if it is the editor’s duty to push his or his journalist’s particular view forward as that of the newspaper, disregarding what the readerhip might mean. The consequence of such a belief would be that editor(s) have an obligation to use the power of their newspaper to push their view(s) on their readers, rather that reflect what the opinion of the readership is …

Rule Nine: Go with the moral panic

This rule applies in times of perceived crisis. Unlike the other rules, it is compulsory – always invoked by big deaths: the nation mourns; everybody must mourn. Princess Diana’s death 1997 saw Rule Nine at its most powerful. War invokes moral panic. In 1982 the Sunday Times refused to run a story critical to the Falklands war, while fighting was going on.[6]

[6]  EN: This type of “conflict” has arisen over the past three decades (since Watergate) – a gradual development process of the media. Today, media define their mission as being “to question” and “investigate”. This has developed into media pushing their own lines of argument and opinions – qualified or not.  Respect for the role of their own county’s armed forces and desire for the successful completion of their mission is no longer part of their “mission”.

Rule Ten: The Ninja Turtle Syndrome

Stories widely published elsewhere must be published even if they clearly lack merit – reinforced by the journalist habit of covering their backs by colluding on stories – to come up with an agreed version. In 2005 it was disclosed that for ten years the New York Times and the Washington Post had been faxing each other their front pages, before the presses rolled.

These ten rules fit the new structure of corporate news organisations. Journalists denied the time to work effectively survive by taking the stories that everybody else is running; reduce them to simplified events; and churn them out fast.

[7]   EN: It is Davies’ basic assumption that the deterioration of journalism is due to the newspaper/TV network owners no longer providing a number of journalists sufficcient to allow each of them enough time to do his job. The question arises: What is that job? Is it to gather stories overlooked today? Is it to investigate leads to potential new stories? Is it to spend more time checking and corrobborating the stories he finds? And finally: how much more time does the journalist need than what is at his disposal today?

The undererlying assumption is that by being provided with more time to do the job, journalists would produce better stories (obviously, they would also produce more stories). Davies offers no suggestions as to what kind of incentives would be neeeded in order to make the journalists allocate their extra time in ways that would suit their employer.

Another Davies assumption is that the extra stories they would find and produce would fill a void that is at present unfilled. What void? Stories found and told in bygone times, when the jounalists were many and had lots of time? What stories were that? Are they really missed today? Was the World a better place whern there were 300,000 journalists where there now are only 100,000?    


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued by the UN General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (Resolution 217 A)[1]. Its 30 Articles spell out the rights of every human individual, applicable to everyone on the planet.

Only once – in one single line (Article 29, 1) – does the word “duty” appear. In effect, the whole declaration is an award of wide ranging rights to any and all individuals without any corresponding duties to society – such as, for instance, an obligation to possess reason, to be informed, enlightened

Article 21 secures everyone “the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives – their will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures”.

Not a word about any qualifications for voting – not even literacy …

The Webs of Interdependency

The present day world of over seven billion people live in around 220 different national entities and territories. Despite being divided by a multitude of crisscrossing ethnical, religious, linguistic, cultural, political as geographical boundaries, all are tied together by invisible layers of intricate, finely meshed webs of technical, financial, commercial and physical connections.

These webs create a mass of interdependencies in all fields and at all levels, the totality of which so complex and interwoven that no single individual or entity is able to overview it, let alone understand it – the same goes for political leaders. The World’s education systems turn out droves of specialists in all fields, who ably manage specific bits of the system – but the totality is unmanageable.

The Widespread Ignorance

Add to this the fact that the seven plus billion individuals who make up the global population are completely unaware of the actual complexity of these connections and interdependencies. Add also that in comparison to that complexity, the general level of knowledge of the average individual is so basic that they are not much better than analphabets – exacerbated by most educational curricula failing to impart essential knowledge of financial and economic basics.

The Absence of Responsibility

Looking at how the present day world is reeling under “democratic” referendums and structure-shattering elections, it is obvious that the chief cause is that questions of overriding international importance are put before uninformed, often practically illiterate people who are free to wield their vote without being held accountable – without a shred of responsibility – voting is secret.

Thomas Jefferson

United States Founding Father and author of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)  stated: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.

That is an impressive charter. Left out of that story, however, is that Jefferson presupposed that all men are persons of reason, not just anybody who happens to be alive.

Immanuel Kant

The ancient Greeks used the word “idiot» for someone not displaying interest in politics. For them, such a state remained an exception – not the rule[2] .

2000 years later, Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)  turned this around, implying that lack of interest in the whys and wherefores is the natural state of the human being, while craving for enlightenment (aufklärung, opplysning) is exceptional, despite such potential residing in every human being.

Those who reach the state of the enlightened, autonomous individual are the illustrious few; scientists, scholars, statesmen, some artists, a few princes. This does not mean that most people are stupid – quite a lot of us are very smart idiots.

Kant’s Three Levels of Human Existence

In his work “Religion within the boundaries of Reason alone” Kant distinguishes between three levels of human existence:

  1. The bottom level is the purely organic reptile brain.
  2. The second is the unique level of intellectual cleverness man possesses, ranging from technical dexterity to the street-smart predator.
  3. Only on the third level do we find the specifically human side of human existence: responsibility and accountability.

The first two levels make up the animalistic side of our species – a very versatile animal. Describing the third level Kant uses the word responsibility in accordance with its inherent meaning:

the ability to respond to the demands, questions and evaluations of the community. The basis of this is the sense of right and wrong, in contrast to success and failure. The ability to respond in what is deemed an adequate and socially acceptable way, and act accordingly, is what makes up the responsible person.

This third level is always in conflict with the other two, which are tuned toward instant gratification of desire. lt is the task of parents and other eclucators to cultivate and reinforce the level of responsibility to the point where it masters the vegetative[3] and cunning levels both for individuals and for communities. Only when the third element wins, communities are transformed into civilization.

Therefore, the transition of a community from an embedded-in-nature state into civilization is also one of eliminating idiocy in favour of responsibility. Kant’s moral philosophy is centred on the concept of autonomy – he distinguishes between a person who is intellectually autonomous and one stays in an intellectually dependent and immature status.


Kant defines «Enlightenment” (Aufklärung, opplysning) as man’s emergence from his self-inflicted immatu­rity. He argues that the immaturity is self-inflicted, not from a lack of understanding but from the lack of courage to use one’s reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another.

Kant understands the majority of people to be content to follow the guiding institutions of society (Church and Monarchy), unable to throw off the yoke of their immaturity due to lack of resolution to be autonomous. To work their way out of this immature, cowardly life is difficult for individuals because we are so uncomfortable with the idea of thinking for ourselves. The key to throwing off these chains of mental immaturity is reason.


Reason (Vernunft, fornuft) is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information.

Bestowing rights on people without any corresponding obligations, without holding them accountable for their votes, without responsibility, is the certain way to disaster, considering the complexity of the web of inter-dependencies that constitute the present world, described above.

The United Nations

The statutes of The United Nations are a pitiful half measure: free right of veto, no global law enforcement, keeping up the system of completely sovereign states, issuing a statement of “Human Rights”, all about rights and noting about obligations – A concept that is but a bastard patched up from limbs of various derivations, and that looks like anything one chooses to see in it, has no essence. Void of integrity, it unavoidably gravitates toward the black hole of morally euthanized humanity. [3]

[1] The UN Declaration – 30 Articles, 8 pages – was followed two years later (Rome, November 1950) by de European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – 59 Articles, 32 pages(since amended by 16 additional Protocols) – because several Articles of the UN Declaration were objectionable to some European nations (notably Norway opposed Article 20, part 2, preventing mandatory organisation memberships).

[2] Note that the “demos” of ancient Greece was made up purely of the upper classes of men (no servants, no slaves, no women), a very limited portion of the actual population.

[3]  Kant’s use of “vegetative” here is in the sense of “living a life that is dull, inactive and unchallenging”

[4] Source in respect of Immanuel Kant:  “Kant and the barbarians”, Carlos Wiggen, 2012 – ISBN: 1477666915


The Birth of Sequential Formation Skydiving

Sequential Formation Skydiving was introduced in 1976, as the third generation of group free fall competitions

(The first generation was free fall relay: «baton pass», in use in the
late 1960’ies, – the second generation was free fall speed star: 10-man star formations on time, in use in the early 1970’ies.)

This is the story of how the sequential competition format came about, and who were the persons to bring it to the World scene.

The FAI – the “World Air Sport Organisation” – is the international institution that  registers all kinds of aviation and space records, from spacewalks down to model aircraft, and authorises (sanctions)  international competitions in aviation sports – particularly World Championships. FAI was established i 1905, so it has has been around for 112 years.

FAI oversees aviation sports through International Air Sport Commissions, one for each sport branch. Parachuting has been included since 1936, when the Commission International de Parachutisme  (CIP) was established, so it has been  included for just over 80 years.

Parachuting involves a number of competition forms , which are governed by subcommittees – the one involving groups manoeuvring in free fall were known under the name “relative work” – RW for short.  In 1988, the CIP swithed acronym to IPC (english) and RW was renamed “Formation Skydiving” – FS.

The Start

Triple baton pass team (flour way) Elsinore, 1959

In the late 1960’ies, FAI’s parachuting section dabbled with some advanced frefall competition exercise called “baton pass”.  It was used at the Adriatic Cups in Yougoslavia, but not much more. At the beginning of the 1970’ies, however, the idea of group freefall competitions was brought up, as a result of the widespread skydiving pastime of “star building”. The building of 10-way ”stars” was particularly popular in the USA.

In 1972, the CIP created a five member RW Subcommittee with Eilif Ness (Norway) as chair. At this time, the dominating competition forms were «style» – individual free fall maneuvering, and «accuracy» – precision landing. An intense fight ensued: as usual, it was the Rebels against the Established, the latter not wanting to share their glory monopoly with others. It didn’t help much that the Rebels had a reputation as unruly, long haired pot smokers.

The Breaktrough

The CIP went for the most common variety, building a 10-man star in the shortest possible time. Early on, it became clear that many small nations were unable to raise large teams, mostly due to lack of access to large aircraft. This was resolved by designing a competition format for a group of four: a four-man star – all four back-loop separately – build a new four-man star, the whole sequence in the shortest possible time.

It was the US who managed the coup that broke through the barrier. People like Norman Heaton, Bill Ottley (RIP), Chuck McCrone (RIP) and others, got someone high up in the US to say: “OK, let them use Sicily Drop Zone and a couple of Chinooks for a few days”. Which resulted in the first RW World Cup at Fort Bragg – a 10-way speed star / 4-way event.

First RW World Cup: French team loading up in CH-47 Chinook at Sicily Drop Zone, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA

14 nations participated, all Western. Please remember that this was at the height of the Cold War – which was very cold at the time – it was the Angels against the defined emeny: the Soviet Bloc – it permeated every aspect of life – the world of sports very much so. In the case of parachuting competitions, the Soviets didn’t want any new fangled activities.

The US won the Fort Bragg meet, with a funny team called “Jerry Bird’s All Stars”, who beat the French by a narrow margin.  With that, the wall was broken. The year after, the Angels outvoted the Soviet Bloc in the International Parachuting Commission – the IPC  (CIP it was called then) – authorising a World Champion­ship in RW, to be held in Warendorf, West Germany, in 1975.

Rod Murphy,South Africa, RW Subcommittee member 1974

Thanks to efforts by South Africa, the development continued. South African Rod Murphy was a member of the RW-committee, and the South African situation at the time, with international boycotts growing, made for official domestic support. The organised RW Cup no. 2, in Wonderboom, Pretoria in 1974. Once more it was 10-way speedstar + 4-way. Again Jerry Bird captained the winning team, ”Wings of Orange”.

The first RW WPC

That first RW WPC in Warendorf, West Germany, became the only one to feature speed star / 4-way event. 23 nations entered teams, still, all were from the West only. The 10-way event was won by the US team – Captain Hook’s Sky Pirates – with Australia in 2nd place and the French. – surprisingly – in third place (they  were placed to win, but blew the last jump).

But something else happened at Warendorf.

World RW Championships in Warendorf, West Germany, 1975

During the meet, a strange group of 16 Americans showed up, who called themselves the US Freefall Exhibition Team, outside the competition. They got two Hueys to lift them to 12,000 feet, and proceeded to make not only a 16-way diamond, but to do a two-point sequence with it. It left us all speechless.

Skratch Garrison, USFET 1975

The main architect behind many of USFET’s dives was one of its members, Skratch Garrison – a quiet, low voiced philosopher with a very creative mind. He inspired another one of the team, a long haired, mustachioed 23-year old: B.J. Worth, a gifted young man with an immensely productive mind.

BJ came up with the idea of a totally new RW competition format: sequences of different formations – fixed or random – to be scored by the number of formations made within a certain time.

All of us in the IPC RW subcommittee knew at that time that the speed star competition concept was a dead end – soon we would pull 10-ways out of tailgates – we needed something with open ended scoring. I was chair of that Subcommittee at the time, and I invited this young guy to the next IPC meeting i Paris.

The 1976 FAI-CIP Meeting

B.J. Worth USFET 1975

In February of 1976, at Rue Galilee in Paris, BJ presented his proposals for 4-way and 8-way sequential competition formats – complete with dive pools and everything . It had to be discussed step by step, finally fixing the format for the next WPC in 1977.

A strange session followed. BJ presented his case very convincingly I grew more and more surpsised as I led the delegates through five consecutive votings – all proposals were approved, the Soviet bloc voting Yes throughout (in view of later developments, I am convinced that the Soviet bloc was convinced that it was a fad that would die out).

The end result, however, was that we had eliminated a doomed competition format, and replaced it with an open ended system that subsequently proved its suitability and durability unchallenged throughout the next 40 years.

The «Dive Pool» – pre-determined formations from which each round’s set of manouvres was to be drawn. The ones shown are for 4-way teams. A corresponding Dive Pool was made for 8-way teams.

The Repercussions

That same year, I was invited to the Z-hills Turkey Meet- they wanted me to assess its potential for hosting a RW WPC. Fortunately, I stayed with Jim Hooper (who really hated me for having taken away the speed star, which was his True Love). But at lest he protected me from being killed by the multitudes of 10-way teams present, who were all furious at me for having quashed their event.

At Zephyrhills Turkey Meet 1976, middle: Jan Arvidsson, right: Eilif Ness

Which goes to prove the hard headedness of skydiving populations – at that time they did not recognise a dead-ended concept that was staring them in the face (at that meet, The Herd pulled off a 4-second 10-way jump – in reality signing the event’s death warrant. I, the paper pusher – the rule writer – got the blame, while BJ, the actual inventor of the whole idea – walked unscathed through it all


Once the new format for Relative Work Skydiving competitions was in place, it was –at that point – untested. It existed on paper only, but we had already made the decision that was binding for the 1977 RW-WPC. Once more, South Africa saved the day: Rod Murphy organised a RW Cup in Oudtshoorn , Southern Cape, in October 1976.

Chief Judge for the event was Charles Shea-Simonds (UK). Participation was limited because South Africa was under intensifying boycott measures, but with entries open, 25 teams from 15 nations entered: 18 teams in 4-way and 7 teams in 8-way teams.

Winning 8-way team at Oudtshoorn 1976
USA – «Baby Up» (BJ center back row)

Among the 4-ways were four South African, three US , three French and two Italian 4-way teams. Of 8-ways, there were two South African, two US (BJ was there with «Baby Up»), one French and two International (mixed) teams. Even if the Soviet bloc had voted for the new format, there was no participation from that corner – the cold war was still cold, and the boycott did not help. This test turned out to be very useful, as it resolved a problem that arose when the top teams overran the 5-point dive pools – it was quickly fixed by repeating the formation sets.

It also turned out to be a watershed in terminology: Due to a French all-girl, 4-way team named the «Pink Panthers» refusing to be called a «four man» team, the RW Subcommittee decided to use the term «way» in stead of «man», i.e. «4-way» and «8-way» replaced «4-man» and «8-man», thereby gender-neutralising all RW events.
Gatton 1977: The first Sequential WPC

As late as the FAI-CIP meeting in Zurich, Switzerland in February 1977, the location for the RW WPC in 1977 was not decided. At that meeting, however, Australia came up with Gatton in Queensland – on the other side of the globe – and won the bid.

FAI-SIP RW Subcommittee 1976: L to R: Curt Curtis, USA. Richard Charter, South Africa (RIP), Eilif Ness, Norway (chair)) , Bert Wijnands, Netherlands, Charles Shea-Simonds (UK0

Again, the entire West turned up, with 19 countries, but none from the Soviet bloc – this time there was no boycott to explain it – it appeared that the East was determined that sequential RW was to be a Western nations event only.

The US won the 8-way, with the team ”Mirror Image”, captained by BJ Worth, with Canada a close second, but winning the 4-way event. Sweden won a surprise silver medal in the 4-way, ahead of USA.


The big international break-through for RW (FS) came in the 1979 RW WPC in Chateauroux, France, as China fielded a full team in both 8-way and 4-way. The Soviet Union sent observers, but no team – no other Soviet bloc country participated. China was the sensation, with 4th place in both in 4-way and 8-way – following a shock opening with 9 points in the first round, ahead of all others – it was close to China winning the 8-way ….

Finally, the East was forced to show up – cold war or not. It was still quite cold, but Gorbatchov’s entry as leader in the Soviet Union started a thaw that would, eventually, normalise the situation …

Life on the High Seas (2)

As recounted in my previous post in «Life on the High Seas» («Rookie Sailor») I spent the first years of my early youth in the merchant navy – just after WW2. Between age 15 and 19 – from 1946 to 1951 – I served on Norwegian ships. By the 1950s, Norway’s merchant fleet was the World’s fourth largest, crewed by 35,000 seamen – 90% of them Norwegians.

Rookie No More

August 1st 1947 we arrived at Amsterdam from Abadan, and 22 of the crew had given notice and were leaving ship. There was a severe shortage of seamen at that time, so that it was clear that we would be short of crew. In a way, that was good news, since, by law, the actual crew would share the wages of any missing crew members as compensation.

As I recounted in my previous tale (Rookie Sailor), I often scrounged turns at the wheel in my spare time ass mess boy, and had done well, so the captain offered to sign me on as a deck hand – and of course I jumped at that chance. As a bonus, he credited me for my time as mess boy, and signed me on as Youngman (which formally required 12 months as deck boy). I was no longer a rookie.

Woman on board!

Our Sparks (the radio operator – officer by rank) was signing off, and the word spread as wildfire: we were to get a female Sparks! This was about the first female radio operator ever in the Norwegian merchant navy – among 35.000 men and more that 800 male radio operators. When the transport arrived at the quay, 30 men hung over the railing to watch her coming up the gangway. She was a real doll, a 19-year old long haired blonde. Everybody drooled, but the Wise Men aft – Bosun, Chips and the Cook – made it clear to the younger ones who drooled the most: ”Forget it – you need an anchor on your sleeve and a meatball in you cap to have any success there …” . They were proven right.

West Indies

I was put on the 4-8 watch. The transition from a mess boy’s gruelling 80-hour work weeks was like going to paradise. One hour at the wheel, one hour lookout on the foredeck (night-time), another hour at the wheel, another lookout – daytime, the lookout turns were replaced by miscellaneous maintenance work.

With most of the new crew aboard (3 hands short) we went from Amsterdam to Aruba (Dutch West Indies at that time) . Entering the roads of St. Nicholas to anchor and wait for loading space, we all lined the railing to admire the (then) world’s largest tanker – the American 28,000 ton dw  turbine tanker ”Ulysses” – that dwarfed our 12,000 tons (the newest “Ulysses”  – 2005 – is 300,000 tons dw).

Loading at Aruba was quick, about 18 hours, so shore visits had to be maximised – it became dominated by Cuba Libre – rum and coke – the national drink of the West Indies. This resulted in a large portion of our crew landing in the local (Dutch) jail, where they were put in zoo-like cages. Departure approaching, our First officer sent in a shore patrol, who had to buy out the whole gang and hire a bus to get them aboard. Still, at departure we were only five sober people on deck to cast off, two on the poop, two on the foredeck and me at the wheel. The captain was not amused.

A Wayward Sparks

We spent most of the next half year plying between Abadan in the Gulf and European ports. One of these trips we were returning to Abadan from Bristol, and I was on the 8-12 watch at the time. It was the duty of the last watch turn of the day – the lookout – to wake up the 3rd officer for the coming 12-4 watch. When I went in to wake him up I had to step over to shake him – and there was our lovely Sparks, stark naked – they were both asleep.  Up on the bridge later, the 3rd officer came up to me and asked me to keep quiet about it. ”OK,” I said, I’ll keep mum” – which I did. But the Wise Men aft were right …

At the Wheel in the Suez Canal

During the trip up fom Abadan in November 1947 the passing through the Suez Canal was to become a very memorable one for me indeed. All ships passing through, both ways, are required to have a Canal Company pilot on board – and the Suez pilots were demanding and choosy. M/T Kollbjørg was fully loaded – 12,000 tons of kerosene, and, on entering the canal’s southern end at Port Tewfik, the captain put me at the wheel.

The pilot looked at me, obviously sceptical, but said nothing, and started out by giving me the courses to steer in points and half-points of compass, not in degrees. The hundreds of books on ships and sailing that I had consumed growing up during the war, a number of them in English, had made me familiar with the points system, so I responded without hesitation in repeating his orders – the pilot soon looked much more satisfied.

When my relief came up to take over after the first hour, the pilot told the captain: ”Keep the helmsman”. That was a right the pilots had, but rarely used – it resulted in my staying at the wheel continuously for five hours, until we tied up at the canal side to let an opposite convoy pass. Those hours remain – to this day – the greatest moment of my life. I had just passed 16 – I didn’t even have hairs on my chest. The captain was all smiles, too.

Trouble in Palestine

Our next trip turned out to be exciting (as well as historical) – we went to Haifa, that time in the British Mandate of Palestine. Israel did not yet exist, but British withdrawal was just around the corner. The Jewish resistance (Haganah) was preparing to take over and establish the new state of Israel, and was harassing the British continuously with bombs and sabotage. Haifa was the terminal of the oil pipeline from Iraq, and very important to the Brits.

Due to the continuous unrest ashore, we were not allowed to leave the ship. While we were anchored in the harbour waiting for a loading space, British warships kept dropping depth charges in the harbour area every 15 minutes to prevent frogmen saboteurs to sink us with limpet charges. ”Kollbjørg” was completely empty, without ballast, and with tank hatches open the ship was like a gigantic bass drum every time a depth charge went off.

Our cargo from Haifa went to Southampton – then another trip to Abadan – it was Christmas before we passed southbound through Suez With a new load of kerosene from Abadan we were ordered to Dublin.

Dublin partying

Our stay i Dublin became quite an experience. I owned a small book of English song texts, and had learned some by heart, among them the Irish folk song Molly Malone. Irish pubs were never known for their reserve, neither for low noise levels, and as soon as the locals found that I could sing Molly Malone – all of it – I no longer had to pay for my drinks. The same happened the next night at a new pub up the street – I must have sung Molly Malone a hundred times those two nights. I believe that it is the only time my voice has brought me benefits.

Going home

The rest of the winter and spring we went up and down between Abadan and North European ports, until we ended up in Hull and loaded a lot of pipes on deck: future steam coils in the tanks in order to convert to crude oil transport – then on to Antwerp. When we turned into June, I had been aboard for 19 months, and had 1500 kroner ($ 300) in a bank in Oslo. On June 25th, four of us signed off at the Norwegian consulate in Antwerp. The captain provided me with an extra bonus: He certified that I had served 19 months as a deck hand – that would be enough for me to sign on as OS (Ordinary Seaman – lettmatros) next time around.

We paid for a four-berth cheap passenger cabin on the ”Brabant”, a Fred Olsen passenger ship plying between Antwerp and Oslo – it was strange for us to be passengers for a change. (In a twist of fate, this happened to be the very same ship that brought my family and me the same stretch 12 years earlier, when we were passing through as refugees from the Spanish civil war).

Four days later we landed in Oslo, ad I took the train to Fredrikstad – I had wired ahead, so they were prepared. What my Mother was not prepared for was that I was 3 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than when I left i November 1946 – no fat, all muscles – when I rang the bell at our home that day, it took some time before she recognised me .

Life on the High Seas (1)

Rookie Sailor (1)

After five years of occupied Norway and another year with all kinds of restrictions, I was 15 and seething with desire to get out and see the world. Further trudging through school loomed ahead, fencing me in. At the time, just after WW2, 15-year olds were allowed as deck boys, mess boys, galley boys, wipers etc. So, as soon as I turned 15, in the autumn of 1946, to the chagrin of my parents, I quit school and went to sea. This led to my spending the first few years of my early youth in the merchant navy.

War sailors      

At that time, just over a year after Japan surrendered, a majority of the crews still consisted of men who had sailed throughout the war.  Many had not been in Norway for 10-15 years. All of them had served in convoy duty, and some had experienced being sunk by torpedoes or mines. Out of the 30 000 Norwegian sailors who served during 1939-1945 war, 3.640 – 12 % – went down with the 706 Norwegian ships that were sunk. Once the wartime losses were replaced, Norway’s merchant fleet was the World’s fourth largest, crewed by 35,000 seamen – 90% of them Norwegians.

I signed on as mess boy on the tanker ”Kollbjørg”, Odd Berg, owners. I was one of a group of 20 relief crew that included three deck officers. We were to replace those out of the crew of 41 who were leaving ship in Stockholm. From the train station, we were taken down to the harbour. ”Kollbjørg” was lying at anchor, so we went out to her by tugboat in the early morning. We were shown our cabin and bunks, and we two mess boys were ordered to don working clothes right away, and put to work 20 minutes after we set out feet aboard.

Motor tanker «Kollbjorg», 12800 tons deadweight, built in Belfast 1943.

Straight to work

The work was to deal with the three mess rooms aft, one for the deck hands (11 men), one for the engine hands (9 men) and one for the NCOs (5 men). I landed the deck hands’ mess. 11 men had just finished breakfast, and on the table there remained two trays with altogether 11 (cold) fried eggs. I asked what to do with those, was told: Dump them! I was 15 years old, came straight from strict rationing in Norway, and had not seen an egg for six years. There was only one thing to do: Eat them! All 11 eggs went down – no problem …

All of the 21 who were left of the previous crew had been sailing throughout the war. One of them had been torpedoed three times – his back was like a plowfield of scars from glass splinters – he had recurring nightmares. Our cook had crossed the North Atlantic 52 times during the war, and had never set foot in a lifeboat except for boat drills.  They were all good sailors, and our captain ran a tight ship. Great instructors they all were for a rookie sailor, thorough and strict. It was a hard transition, of course – straight from schoolboy to grown up practically overnight.

At sea, the war was still on

From Stockholm we went on to Antwerp. On the oceans, the war was still going on in grisly reality. Mines were floating around by the hundreds – we went the whole way at reduced speed along a buoyed channel that was being kept free from free loose mines by mine sweepers. The wages reflected the war situation. As mess boy I had 154 kroner ($ 28) per month basic wage, on top of that came 100 % for war risk and an extra 50 % for tanker risk, altogether 385 kroner ($ 77), a hefty salary at that time.

The trip to Antwerp took four days with winter storms and head seas. In the merchant navy there are (were) two kinds of ailments not considered valid excuses for not working: Hangover and seasickness. The cure for both is food and hard work. As soon as we hit open sea, I became terribly seasick. When I was at my worst, they put one of the deck hands to keep watch on me – I was not allowed to slink off for a single minute. He kept force-feeding me so that I always had something to throw up. I was allowed to creep into my bunk 9 at night, where I passed out until 6 in the morning. Then the same torture was repeated:  get up, eat, throw up, carry food from the galley, throw up, wash up, throw up more … If I had been able to, I would have jumped overboard. After three days of this regime, the seasickness disappeared – and I was never seasick again on that ship.

Later, I found that the cure is good for one ship only – aboard a new ship, you become seasick again, but usually much milder and with a speedy acclimatisation. This is due to each ship having a different motion at sea. However, on every ship there is one place where you are never seasick regardless  of the seaway: at the wheel. The feeling of control and your close attention to the ship’s every move eliminates any seasickness.


We stayed in an Antwerp shipyard for five weeks of continuous noise and dirt. ”Kollbjørg”s armaments from the wartime convoys had been removed earlier – one 105 mm aft and one 75 mm on the fore-deck, four 20 mm pom-poms on amidships (and cabins for 12 gunners aft) – but the gun platforms and gun placements remained and had to be removed, and the ship dry docked for re-certification. Wooden decks were installed on top of the steel decks aft and amidships.

Then (and now) Antwerp is a real shipping city – a huge commercial port with more than 100 kilometres of quays. All along the quays there were ample offers of entertainment, including the whorehouse street of Schipperstraat. A bar with the Norwegian name ”Fattige Augusta” (Poor Augusta) was close to the dry dock, and became the main hangout for our crew every night.

As rookies, we were shown the ropes by our elder shipmates, including some ground rules for taking care of ourselves, such as: ”Never trust anyone you don’t know, don’t use a wallet, never keep all your money i one pocket – spread it around in different pockets, never get drunk alone, if you desire female company, do it while sober and drink later (never the other way around), and stay away from fights». All advice useful for an eager 15-year old.


Style (”steil” in Norwegian) are the unwritten laws that govern conduct aboard ships. They vary from ship to ship, but some ground rules ar fixed. Style governs everything: When the coffee breaks are for the day crew, that deck hands use the cabins on the port side of the ship and the engine hands use the starboard ones, the laying up of ropes and lines, there are style rules for everything. One set of styles are for sea use, i.e. when the ship is under way, another set rules things when the ship is in port.

At sea: never lock the door of your cabin – for two reasons: One is the psychological one: Anyone who locks his door does not trust his shipmates. A practical reason: a collision or an explosion may cause the door to be stuck, and locked doors are harder to open (there was still a real risk for hitting mines – the war  ended only a year previously). Never enter a mess room without a shirt, or t-shirt on – no sleeveless (singlets or tank tops) allowed. It was bad style to be smelly. Showers were put to good use – cleanliness aboard Norwegian ships was high.

Basic style was «no alcohol at sea». You may be as drunk as you wish when the ship is in port, but not at sea – valid for all ships and all aboard. No homoexuals! – this was enforced with zero tolerance on all ships . At the smallest sign, the culprit was thrown ashore in the next port. Everybody had to learn and abide by the declared style for the ship.

In port: Always lock your cabin door, and keep  all strangers out of mess rooms, cabins and corridors – never invite aboard anyone who does not belong to the ship into cabins or mess rooms. The mess rooms are sanctuaries for eating, coffee drinking and card games. No drinking of alcohol in the mess rooms, and no binge drinking in the cabins – «drink on shore!» Never bring women aboard – not only do you run the risk of being robbed, but you also expose your shipmates to the same risk. Such needs are to be taken care of ashore.

On commencing service on another ship, new rules might apply and had to be learned – the basic rules, however, were the same all over the Norwegian merchant navy.


We left Antwerp in January 1947 for Suez. The Bay of Biscay stretch, from Ouessant til Finisterre, was gales and head sea all the way, and an empty tanker is extremely uncomfortable. In the aft mess rooms wet table cloths kept plates and cutlery in place, even if the worst heaves created close to negative G. The cure that I had previously undergone proved to be good – I went through the ordeal without problems.

12 days out of Antwerp we arrived at Port Said, my first encounter with the chaos that surrounds the Suez canal ( in 1947 max. allowed draught was 35 feet, ships under 25 000 tons dw). We were surrounded by bumboats and boarded by a horde of Arabs who peddled all kinds of goods around on deck. ”Gamla Moses” (Old Moses) was in charge of the bumboats – he was generally trusted by Norwegian ships, and managed to keep the worst of the rascals away.

The new Suit

One of the sellers was a tailor. He hooked me, measured me up and down, and offered to have a nice brown pinstripe suit ready for me when we came back from Abadan up through Suez again, in about a month – 12 Egyptian pounds down, 12 by delivery (500 kroner) – more than a whole months wages, but the captain said it was OK and logged me for it. As it turned out, we did not go to Europe again from Abadan – we were directed to Freemantle in Western Australia, then from Abadan to Madras, after that to Chittagong in Bengal and then Bombay. More about that later.

Life aboard

Most ships at the time – the forties and fifties – both tankers and cargo vessels – had crew accommodations both amidships and aft. The officers’ quarters were amidships, everyone else lived aft (the poop). Tankers had the galley and the large mess rooms aft. On «Kollbjørg» we were 30 sailors under deck  aft, in two-man cabins with bunks over/under – the deck hands on the port side and the engine hands on the starboard side.

Air condition was barely invented, and nonexistent in the merchant navy. Cabin ventilation was by an air duct with two nozzles in each cabin – with all in use, the ventilation was zero. There were wind scoops that you could stick out of the portholes to catch the wind, weather permitting. The ship’s freeboard determined the use of the portholes – fully loaded, a tanker is so low in the water that the seas swamp the tank decks even in good weather. In heavy seas the portholes had to stay closed.

We spent more than half the time in the tropics – sometimes months on end. Real cold we experienced only when in Northern Europe in winter. As soon as we had passed Suez south bound, we dragged our mattresses up on the boat deck and slept beside the life boats – you just had to watch the ship’s course and avoid being woken up by the morning sun. Life on the boat deck was only interrupted when we were in port – then we had to stay in our cabins below deck.

At the Wheel

I soon found out that if I sneaked up on the bridge and the weather was nice, the officer of the watch would let me take over the wheel form the helmsman for a while. The helmsmen didn’t mind a spell of relief, and the officers liked that I showed such interest. Autopilots didn’t exist at the time – the wheel had a direct hydraulic connection to the steering gear that was located aft, and the steering was pretty direct. Fully loaded, the ship’s displacement (weight) was about twenty thousand tons – empty about eight thousand. A fully loaded tanker and an empty one were two totally different animals. Fully loaded the ship’s response was sluggish, and it took a lot of experience to foresee the ship’s reaction to the wheel.  There were many tricks to be learned in order to maintain a straight wake – the sign of a  good helmsman.

As time went on, I took on such spells at the wheel quite often, mostly on Saturdays and Sundays so as not to be accused of failing in my mess duties.  As I acquired the skills, I was allowed to stay at the wheel in rougher weather also, so, as the months passed, I became quite good at it. The captain was pleased, and in the end he let me handle the ship in heavy weather, learning me to use preemptive rudder and counter-rudder and foresee how much and to what side the ship would veer in the next wave – it became intuition-like.


At this time, «Kollbjørg» hauled gasoline, which was only possible because she was a young ship, less than six years old. Gasoline generated heavy rusting of the tank walls and ship’s sides. The last 10-12 days before we were to load a new cargo, «wind men» were rigged – great canvas ducts that led the wind down into the tanks to drive out the gases. After that, tank cleaning was carried out manually. 28 separate tanks were emptied for thick flakes of rust and sludge that was hoisted up and emptied overboard.

The process eroded the tank walls and the hull (this was long before double hulls were introduced) – the steel was gradually eaten up in 5 to 6 years. From 1948 onward, we switched to kerosene, and later to light fuel oil – after 8 years, however, steam coils had to be installed to haul crude oil, which had to be heated.

When we carried high octane aviation gasoline and leaded gasoline for cars special attention was required in the tropics. The tropical sun led to very high temperatures in the decks and tank tops. Sea water had to be pumped on deck in daytime – which helped, even if the sea temperatures in the tropics stay around 30 to 35 degrees C round the clock.

Back to Europe

When we finally got a cargo for Europe we had been south of Suez for 6 months. Back in Port Said I was handed my elegant brown suit and a bill for the remaining 12 pounds.

The snag was that during that half year I had grown two inches and gained 20 pounds in weight – my arms and legs stuck miles out of the new suit. The captain said that it was not the tailor’s fault that I had grown like beanstalk, nor that Kollbjørg returned 5 months too late – so, the tailor got his remaining 12 pounds. The super new suit I sold a few months later to a pawnbroker in Antwerp – one useless lesson wiser.

Life on the High Seas (3)

As recounted in previous posts in «Life on the High Seas» I spent the first years of my early youth in the merchant navy – just after WW2. Then, 15-year olds were allowed as deck boys, mess boys, galley boys, wipers etc. I served on various ships betwen 1946 and 1951. By the 1950ies, Norway’s merchant fleet was the World’s fourth largest, crewed by 35,000 seamen – 90% of then Norwegians.

Burial at sea

By 1949 I had come to serve on the 12,800 ton (dw) tanker ”Trondheim” (Hjalmar Bjørge, owners). She was built at Eriksbergs in Gothenburg in 1939, with a 3600 hp two-stroke, double-acting Burmeister & Wain diesel engine.

Motor tanker «Trondheim»

The «Trondheim” had an impressive war history: from 1941 to 1945 she served continuously in convoys between the US and the UK, carrying gasoline and kerosene, chalking up over 30 two-way trips across the pond, escaping unhurt. January 1946 she was returned to her owners and served them until 1952, when she was sold to Italy – she was scrapped in 1965.

At the time I served on her, we mostly plied between Abadan in the Persian Gulf and North European destinations, carrying light fuel oil. In August, however, we made a return trip Abadan-Aden: a 9-day trip each way. One of my 40 shipmates was an 18 year old mess boy – let me call him Kjell. 5 days out of Abadan he came to play the lead part of a four-act drama:

Act 1:

Kjell suddenly became ill. He developed high fever and became delirious. One thigh swelled up and became discoloured. The captain radioed a nearby Pakistani passenger ship out of Karachi, the Muhammadi Line’s  S/S “Al Ahmadi” (as I remember), who had a doctor on board. She made a short detour, and her doctor was put over to us in a launch.

Act 2:

The  doctor (who was British) examined Kjell, who was unconscious – he quickly determined that it was too late – Kjell died an hour later. We were told (I cannot vouch for the veracity of this) that Kjell had lied about his diabetes (which would have prevented him from serving at sea), and that he had brought a supply of insulin and syringes, and that by accident, a needle had broken inside his thigh.

Act 3:

Our captain radioed Aden’s harbour authorities (Aden was still British at the time) informing them that we had a corpse on board, to bury on shore. Aden authorities blankly refused – no corpse to be put ashore in Aden! So, it became a burial at sea – the only one I have experienced.

Act 4:

Kjell’s body was sewn into a Norwegian flag with weights, and placed on a board on top of the lower deck railing. Engine stopped, the “Trondheim” drifted slowly in the long, lazy swells, there was just a waft of a breeze. We were at 18 N and 59 E, the Indian Ocean was intensely blue, the water crystal clear – depth is 3700 metres there.

We stood around in a semi circle, bare headed, the captain recited the Lord’s Prayer, the board was tipped over, and Kjell disappeared into the clear, blue deep – flag and all. It was a solemn moment, one of those that etch into memory.

PS: Traditionally, the corpse should have been sewn into a weighted canvas shroud and the flag attached to the board, to remain on board. Making the arrangements, however, our carpenter didn’t like that idea – he felt the boy was worth a flag. So did the captain.

Human Kind in a Cosmic Perspective

Human development is accelerating exponentially: 10 million years of human existence enabled us to develop societies; 10 thousand years of living i societies enabled us to discover science; 100 years of science enabled us to make weapons that can wipe us all out in seconds.

The forces of these weapons far exceed our ability to control them. Thus, humanity cannot save itself, and the end is very close.

In a cosmic perspective this does not really matter. Compared to Earth’s 4.6 billion year existence, the existence of human societies is like a short rash on the surface of the Earth. Once human kind disappears, Earth will go on as before, slowly developing new life forms,  just as it did once before, 251 million years ago …

The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Some unicellular life emerged 3.8 billion years ago, but remained unicellular for the next 3.2 billion years, until the first multicellular organisms appeared as aquatic organisms about 600 million years ago. About 450 million years ago, organisms on land emerged in the form of plants and fungi followed by arthropods. Amphibians appeared 360 million years ago.

A notable event happened at the close of the Permian period 251 million years ago: 90 % of all life on the planet was wiped out. That did not prevent life from reappearing – within 10 million years, life proliferated again  during the Triassic period (the dinosaurs). Birds appeared around 150 million years ago, mammals around 130 million years ago, homininae about 10 million years ago, developing into humans.

Humans have two characteristics that separate them from all other beings:

  • They walk upright on two legs
  • The thumb enables a firm grip and hold.

Moving around on two legs freed the remaining two extremities – the arms – to use for other purposes than moving the body, and the grip enabled humans to handle objects. These physical differences enabled man to develop two abilities unavailable to other species:

  • The ability to make, use and improve tools
  • The ability to start and control fire

These developments took some time: Walking on two legs started 2.8 million years ago, the use of stone tools has been dated to 2.6 million years ago. Both of these were in place before the thumb developed about 1.8 million years ago.

From the earliest times, homo erectus was a flock animal, living in small groups and families. During 1.7 million years following the appearance of the thumb, humans developed into homo habilis by slowly improving their ability to utilise their hand grips and their tool use, without any particular breakthroughs. Then, about 400,000 years ago, a three-phase development started:

Phase I started with man acquiring the ability to control fire.

That led to changes in human behaviour: Fire provided warmth, which made it possible for man to compensate for low temperatures, and light, no longer limiting human activity to daylight hours. Thus, fire permitted humans to move down from the trees to the ground, made them less dependent on climate and on daylight.

Humans took to living mainly in caves; however, the process of changing abilities and behaviour took about 150,000 years. There followed another 100,000 years, during which humans continued to develop their tools and their use of fire. This gradually led to further changes: the use of heat to process protein-rich food made it easier to digest, changing the human diet. Also, over time, the use of fire for heating led to humans developing much less body hair.

Phase II started about 130 000 years before our time.

Humans became more mobile, developed means of expression other than sounds, like cave paintings, they moved out of caves, gradually transforming into the nomadic life of hunters/gatherers. They developed more advanced tools and ways to use them. The diet change by heat treatment of food led to the teeth of homo habilis becoming smaller. Man developed more organised ways of living, in the form of extended families and tribes.

Phase III started about 15 000 years ago.

By then, man had been able to control fire for nearly 400,000 years, to use advanced tools for about 300,000 years, and had been largely nomadic for 100,000 years. In the third phase, man started to band together in larger groups, establishing large tribes, and started keeping some animals in controlled herds.At this time, man further developed means of communicating – like carved signs.

About 10,000 years ago, man commenced cultivation and improvement of food plants – agriculture –  and expansion of the husbanding of the most important animal types. This form of food production gradually replaced hunting and gathering, and led to allocation of defined areas for growing food and raising animals, and building of dwellings in groups. Means of communicating developed into stored writing. Man developed forms of distributing tasks between specialised groups of people,

This led to territorial claims of ownership of certain areas and their products. Since man’s propensity for seizing the products of other peoples’ labour is as old as mankind itself, it became necessary to guard and defend such assets against unwanted intrusion. Consequently, groups and tribes started to pool their areas and interests, creating states.

The driving force during this last phase was the increasing recognition of the fact that humans were strongest when many acted together, and of how working in specialised groups led to much more efficient production methods and techniques. These greatly increased efficiencies led to two forms of surplus:

  • Quantities of food and other necessities were produced in excess of what was needed for own use
  • Work capacity became available for other purposes.

Surplus of some goods led to their exchange against goods which were needed, with others groups who had different surplus goods – that is how trade started. A natural consequence of trade was the ensuing need for transport and for means of transport.

Part of the surplus work capacity went into defence: Erection of walls, gates and moats to protect against attacks – some such defense structures are known from prehistoric times.  As time went on, building techniques improved and made it possible to build structures for other purposes.

One would think that primitive societies would use their surplus work capacity to improve their material well being. Not so: spiritual well being overrode the need for creature comfort, so that until as recently as 300 years ago, public structures – apart from pure defense works – consisted mostly of temples, mausoleums and places of worship: Abstract purposes – gods, worship and the dead (with the notable exception of the Roman Empire), It took science and technology and the ensuing rapid economic expansion to force the focus over to practical purposes.

Considering that it took
  • 4 billion years from planet Earth came into being (4.6 billion m.y.a.) before multi-celled organisms appeared, followed by another
  • 600 million years of life crawling around in the seas, subsequently proceeding to crawl up on dry land, before the first signs appear of Hominidiae, and then
  • 5 million years of Hominidiae developing through several primitive forms until one type (Homo erectus) started walking on two legs, subsequently developing the thumb, then
  • 4 million years living with two extremities freed to use for other purposes and a thumb permitting a firm grip (separating humans from all other species) until humans managed to make and control fire, then
  • 400 000 years, using fire and developing tools until they commenced managing plants and animals, thereby creating  Agriculture and extracting metals from ore and soil, then
  • 9500 years of using metals and tools and organising into societies before they invented Gunpowder, and
  • 500 years of using gunpowder until they managed to create the Nuclear Bomb,
  • 30 years using nuclear energy until Electronic Data Processing was universally available, and
  • less than 20 years of universal use of electronic data processing until we have reached today’s Total Electronic Communication and surveillance,

a picture appears of an exponentially accelerating pace of development.

Which leads to the conclusion that total self destruction is very, very near – and that there is no indication that the human race will manage to save itself. The cause is clear indeed: The human race has developed materials and technology that can totally destroy mankind in the blink of an eye (not environment or ecology, but explosives and radioactivity). These forces far exceed the ability of humanity to control them.

If you present the Earth’s 4.6 billion year existence as compressed into one year, the 10 million years of hominiae existence on earth would show up as the last 19 minutes of that year, and the existence of human societies as one minute and 9 seconds: a one minute rash on the surface of the Earth.
After the disappearance of hominiae – human kind – the Earth will go on as before, slowly developing new (and different) life forms, entering a new cycle of generation of life  – just as it did 251 million years ago …

The story of Arne Husby landing head down.

(This story became an international media sensation that, at the time, was spread all over the world as a curiosity news item. 15 years later (1994) the Norwegian TV channel TV3 re-enacted the incident with flying, jumping and interviews, in a program called «Alarmen går»). 

A large part of my life I have been actively engaged in skydiving – throughout the 70’ies I was very active. I also acquired a pilot’s licence (PPL) – someone had to fly us to exit altitude. We created the ”Nimbus” Skydiving Club at Rygge Air Force Base (RNoAF) just south east of Oslo, and after a few years, the club had acquired two jump aircraft: One Cessna 182 (LN-TSB) and one Cessna 206 (LN-IKC).

Sunday December 11th, 1977:

Nimbus scheduled training jumps every weekend before Christmas, despite the cold and the short days. This Sunday it was about 5 degrees below zero (C), a light but ice cold southerly breeze and overcast at 5000 feet. During the night there had been a light snowfall, less than two inches. The students from our latest training course lined up at Rygge AFB at 1300 hrs (i.e. after church hours, it being a Sunday).

Usually I jumped myself, but this particular day it was my turn to fly the jump aircraft – Nimbus’ aircraft number 2, Cessna 206 LN-IKC. The low ceiling dictated student training only, and as load number four I got jumpmaster Arne Husby and five static line students – he planned to send them off one by one, then make a 360 climbing turn, and jump on a last run.

At Nimbus, our student rigs were modified B-5 emergency parachutes with 28 foot C9 canopies and double-T (Hustler) steering  mod. The opening system was static line with cotton break cords closing the container. A PCA – pilot chute assist system  – a short web piece with a male velcro piece attached, was tied to the end of the static line, paired with a piece of female velcro attached to the pilot chute inside the pack.

The static lines were attached to a point of the cabin floor. IKC had a ring in the floor behind the pilot’s seat for the static line hooks – all lines were hooked to the same ring, and all lines were hooked up when loading, one by one. When exiting, the line was stretched out, the break cords broke, the pca pulled the pilot chute out of the slipstream, ensuring a fast opening of the main canopy.

IKC had, like most 206es – a large cargo door at the rear of the cabin on the right hand side, so that students had no wing strut to hold on to, nor any step to use – exiting students had to sit in the door half out, legs dangling, and then push off on the jumpmaster’s order ”Go!”

Arne Husby – the photo was taken two weeks later, during the re-enactment of the incident.

We took off as normal, climbing to exit altitude 2500 feet. Arne directed me with”left-right”-signs, then placed student number one in the door and ordered ”Go!”. Once the student was away and a normal opening was observed, Arne coiled up the static line (with the pca piece at the end) and shoved it under my seat. New run in, next student, same procedure, in the end there were five static lines stowed under my seat. One last 360 turn and we were at 3500, Arne crouched in the door until we were lined up – gave me a short wave and disappeared. I drew back on the throttle to start the descent.

Suddenly, I hear shouting – and it was not in my headset – but I am alone up here! I look behind me – empty plane – but one of the static lines lies tightly across the floor and out at the rear bottom corner of the door. Suddenly I get a bad feeling, I kick hard right rudder and  bank right – and there I see Arne dangling about 15 feet below, hanging by one leg at the end of a static line. I trim the plane. unfasten my seat belt and go behind my seat to see if the static line can be unhooked – but No Way! – it is as taut as a bowstring!

Back in my seat, I call up RY Tower and explain that I have a jumper hanging head down 15 feet under my plane. The air traffic controller (ATC officer Einar Solum) responds with the key words (which I will never forget): What are your intentions?” That started my thought processes – What Now?

It was getting dark (it was the last load of the day), under me I had Rygge’s 2400 metre concrete runway, an 1800 metre parallel runway and 2000 metres of taxiways, to my left I had the large lake Vannsjø, frozen. It was clear to me that I could not land on the concrete surfaces with Arne hanging underneath; he would be  killed (in the blinding light of hindsight a landing on the concrete might have worked out). Regardless, I had to land.

But where? The ice on Vannsjø was new and most likely too thin to carry a ton of aircraft – besides; a landing in ice water would create a new problem. My biggest worry initially was about what Arne might do – if the pulled his main or reserve, one of two things would happen: His leg would be pulled off (killing him), or the plane would be stopped in the air and fall down (killing us both). After a while the shouting stopped, and I was relieved – it led me to believe (and hope) that Arne had fainted (he had not – more about that later).

Eilif December 1977

Once again, I was helped by the air traffic controller, who said”What about landing on the grass between the runway and the taxiway?”. Sure, that would be much softer, there was the added padding of the light snow cover, and the landing space was generous. So, I decided: Land between the taxiway and Runway 30 – and land at as low a speed as possible.

IKC happened to be perfectly suited for such an operation: its configuration was ideal, with  very large flaps, powerful engine (285 hp), very low weight, as it was empty but for Arne and myself, and the fuel tanks were only a quarter full. I lined up north of the field at 3000 feet, aiming at the landing spot, and commenced a long, long approach, gradually reducing airspeed by increasing flaps, pulling up the nose while adding power ending up about 20 inches MP.

The airspeed crept steadily downward as I approached the landing area, but IKC remained rock stable and the stall warning kept mysteriously quiet. Towards the end, the airspeed indicator was well under stall speed, but the engine kept us flying – like hanging on the prop. Just before touchdown, there was a narrow concrete road crossing over to an instrument hut – when we closed in I reduced power just a little, but IKC reacted like a brick, so I gave it a power burst to get us over the crossing road.

Firm landing! – we are down! I step hard on the brakes and cut the engine, release my seat belt and jump out of the cargo door – and there lies Arne, shouting to me:”I am fine, fine – I’m completely OK!”. I refuse to believe this (I’m thinking maybe a broken back) and tell him: “Lie still, don’t move! – wait for the ambulance!”. ATC had punched the emergency button much earlier, so the ambulance was right there. We hooked off his gear and untied the static line from his leg (the pca had taken a turn around his leg and the male velcro had attached to his jumpsuit leg), put him carefully over on the stretcher, and off to the infirmary with him.

I paced up the aircraft wheel tracks and the trail Arne had made in the snow. The wheel tracks left by IKC measured 35 metres – the drag trail left by Arne was 70 metres – 230 feet – believe it or not. He had dragged 35 metres (115 feet) on the ground while the aircraft was still in the air – braking its speed. Then came the best part: Half an hour later Arne came back from the infirmary – the doctor had found nothing wrong with him, apart from a sore ankle – happy end!

Front Page of the Norwegian pictorial magazine NA, 24 December 1977

Then, publicity took off – somebody called one of the country’s most notorious news rag, VG. They had an artist draw a picture of the incident (all wrong, with the door on the wrong side of the aircraft) but the sensation was there. The various press agencies picked it up, and the story went world wide as a news item – I received messages and congratulations from near and far, including Australia and the USA. National Enquirer sent a journalist to Oslo to interview me. Then came the pictorial “Nå“ and wanted to do a re-enactment with Arne jumping again, which we arranged with the IKC plus a chase plane and did it again – except for the hanging head down.. The report in Nå! was six full pages.

15 years later, in 1994, the Norwegian TV network TV3 made a program about the incident as part of a series called “Alarmen går”, interviewing both Arne and me, and doing the flying with another 206 owned by Stavanger skydiving club, featuring their skydivers.


There are sides of this story that I have shared only with select people over the years – basically the decision process: Once I had decided to land on the grass, a slow, slow landing was my only objective.  I pushed away any thought of what, at that moment, appeared to me as a certainty: Arne would be killed. Behind that lurked another, built in question:

Is my decision the only solution? What happens when I land, having killed Arne, and everybody asks: ”Why didn’t you do that or that i stead, and you would have saved him?”  – and that there would be some other, obvious action that would have saved his life, a possibility I had not seen or understood …

As it happened, such a situation did not occur – what I did was right, and everything turned out well – he survived – but the awful feeling of ”what if” still bothers me …

When Arne and I finally got to sit down face to face and talk the whole thing over, Arne tells me calmly: “No, I wasn’t  really scared – I kept thinking that it is Eilif who is flying, he has years of experience, knows what he is doing, is steady as a rock, and all will turn out just fine!

Had he known …

The Big Cheat – Nobel Peace Prize 1988

34,000 UN soldiers ikilled in action not found worthy of inclusion in the Peace Prize

330px-Nobel_Prize (1)

The Korean War in author David Halberstam’s words:

“On June 25, 1950, seven divisions of North Korean troops crossed the border into South Korea, intending to conquer the entire South in three weeks. The South Korean Army was completely unprepared for the attack, and the only US force in Korea was a tiny advisory mission. The US government, under President Harry Truman – with the approval of the UN Security Council – quickly decided to use US and UN forces to draw a line against the Communists in Korea, initially transferring forces from Japan.

(The approval of the Security Council was due to the Soviet Union boycotting the Security Council meetings at the time (for other reasons), so they did not get to use their veto – EN)

Harry Truman, intent on limiting any confrontation with the Soviet Union, downplayed the nature of the conflict, and called it not a “war”, but “a United Nations police action«. The Korean War came to last three years, not three weeks, and, even at the cost of 34,000 UN soldiers’ lives, it did not become a Great War, such as World War II, nor did it, like Vietnam a generation later, come to divide and haunt history.”

In my words:

Notably, the Korean War was a United Nations operation under the UN flag, just as the later Suez action (1956) and the Congo intervention (1960). The later Vietnam War, however, was a US led operation with international participation but without without UN approval, as were the  two Gulf Wars, the Afghan War and the Iraqi War.

The Peace Prize


When industrial magnate Alfred Nobel instituted his series of prizes (administered by the Swedish Academy) he separated out the Peace Prize, and entrusted its administration to Norway’s parliament, the Storting. The Storting appoints the five member of the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committe, usually three previous politicians and two cultural personalities.

Members of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1988 were: Egil Aarvik, (formann, Krf), Gidske Anderson, (Ap), Frances Sejersted, (H), Odvar Nordli,(Ap), Gunnar Stålsett, (Sp). In 1988 these Nobel Prize Committee members decided to award the prize for 1988 to “the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces”, a decision that was widely applauded, at least until the fine print became apparent. When Mr. Aarvik presented the award speech on December 10th: It turned out that the text had been carefully worded to exclude UN action in Korea in 1950-53:

(quote) “The original United Nations treaty does mention the possibility of military involvement on the part of the United Nations in the event of hostilities, but, because of the relationship between the great powers, it has never been possible to make use of this part of the treaty – the possible exception being the action in Korea in 1950.

… peace keeping operations were commenced in 1956 (…) in connection with the Suez crisis. The Security Coun­cil was unable to act because of a veto from two of the member states. This was solved by summoning the UN General Assembly to a special session, which passed the «Uniting for Peace» resolution that gives the United Nations’ General Assem­bly the power to intervene in the event of the Security Council being unable to act. This resolution was used to deploy a peacekeeping force …”(unquote) (emphasised text by me – EN)

The “possible exception” referred to happens to be the only time that UN Security Council – UN’s highest operational authority – actually did appr­ove a military action as the Treaty permitted. It so happened that “the relationship between the great powers” at the time prevented a Soviet veto (see footnote 1, page 2).

So, in 1988, the Nobel Committee chose, as the starting point for “UN Peacekeeping Forces”, a clever paper manoeuvre that permitted the bypassing of the Security Council in 1956, rather than the legal, straightfor­ward decision of 1950. That way, they managed to ex­clude a previous legal UN action that cost 34,000 (non-Korean) UN forces’ lives. Which proves that today, most people (particularly politicians) like to appear in a humanitarian role rather than in a military one.

A Black Spot on Them …

Eilif Ness