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Friday, 20 July 2018

Broken Promises: The Wartime Evacuation of Imber And Tyneham

In the beginning of November 1943, all residents of Imber, a quiet little village at the heart of Salisbury Plain, were summoned to a meeting in the village schoolroom where they were informed that they had just 47 days to pack their bags and leave. The village, they were told, was required by the War Department in order to train American troops in street fighting which they will eventually encounter in Nazi occupied Europe after the hopefully successful invasion of Normandy.
This sudden and forced evacuation upset nearly all inhabitants. Albert Nash, who had been the village’s blacksmith for over forty years, was so heart broken that he died within weeks of receiving the notice. But the government had left the residents with no other alternative but to comply. Besides, during the years before the war, the War Department had systematically purchased all land around Imber, and many properties within the village itself, so  that only the village church, vicarage, chapel, schoolroom and the village inn stuck out like sore thumbs in what was essentially government land.
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The church in Imber.  
But there was hope. The villagers were promised they would be able to return to their homes when the war was over. There was also a national sense of patriotism prevalent at the time, so many villagers felt that it was their duty to contribute to the war effort. Convinced that their eviction would be of short duration, several people left their furniture and possessions behind, even leaving canned food in their kitchens. At that time the village had 150 residents.
But the government had other plans. After the war was over, the village continued to be used for military training and as the political and social situation in Northern Ireland worsened it became all the more necessary for government to retain the training ground. Imber was never returned to its people.
“There was no anger at the time. Dismay and disappointment, yes, but the anger took a long time,” said Ken Mitchell, who was 17 at the time his family was forced to leave. “They felt they were helping the country and helping the war effort, and they thought they were coming back.”
In the years that followed, many of Imber's buildings suffered shell and explosion damage, and fell into disrepair.
Following several demonstration by Imber’s former residents, the government agreed to maintain the church and allowed it to be visited for one day each year—on the Saturday closet to St Giles's day.
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Abandoned tanks scattered across the Salisbury Plain near Imber.  
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An abandoned house in Imber.  
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Some of the newer structures at Imber military training area.  
A fate similar to Imber awaited the villagers of Tyneham, in South Dorset. On November 17, 1943, each of Tyneham’s 225 residents received a letter from the War Office stating that they have to leave their homes by December 19, 1943—just over one month away.
The official letter stated: “The Government appreciate that this is no small sacrifice which you are asked to make, but they are sure that you will give this further help towards winning the war with a good heart.”
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The eviction notice that Tyneham’s residents received.  
Like Imber, the villagers were promised that Tyneham would be returned to the people once the war was over. As they left, one resident left a hand-written note on the door of the village's church, St. Mary's. It read:
"Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly."
After the war, Tyneham residents demanded the village be returned to them. Protests followed. But in 1948 any hope of returning was dashed when the Army placed a compulsory purchase order on the land and it has remained in use for military training ever since. Many of the village buildings have fallen into disrepair or have been damaged by shelling. The church and the school, however, was preserved, and for a few days every month, usually on weekends, the village is opened to the public.
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Tyneham St Mary's Church.  
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A abandoned tank near Tyneham.  
Imber and Tyneham are not the only casualties of the war. In Norfolk, on the east coast, six villages lost their population when the area became the Stanford Battle Area, later renamed to Stanford Training Area. They too were provided false promises of return. Because the majority of the inhabitants were not landowners, they received very little in compensation, and were put into council housing. Many lost their livelihoods.
Simon Knott, who runs a site on Norfolk’s churches, believes that the villages that were left behind were hardly worth returning to. Few houses had running water or electricity. The land was poor farming land, and the residents were already struggling to make a living. The relocated families, on the other hand, found better accommodation and decent jobs on the land and in the factories and shops.
“While you would expect people to feel an emotional attachment to the place they were born, in truth few of the villagers would have wanted to return to the old life,” he wrote.

The six villages now longer exist. Aside from a few scattered ruins and the intact churches, the rest were demolished, while others were adapted for training purposes. Locations of some of the significant buildings of the former villages are now marked with plaques.

Kryptos: The Mystery Sculpture At CIA’s Headquarters

For the past 17 years, a cryptographic puzzle has stood on the grounds of the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, taunting cryptographers, both amateur and professional, including the Agency’s own experts.
The sculpture comprises of an S-shaped copper screen surrounded by other elements such as a piece of petrified wood, a red and green granite, a white quartz and a pool of water. On this copper screen, are cut out four ciphers in a jumble of letters—some 1,700 of them, and spread across four sections. Out of the four encrypted messages only three has been solved.
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Photo credit: MAI/LANDOV
The sculpture called “Kryptos”, which is an ancient Greek word for "hidden", was created by American sculptor Jim Sanborn in 1991.
The first three messages were solved within a couple of years after the sculpture was unveiled.
The first message is a poetic phrase, which Sanborn composed himself. It reads:
Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion.
The misspelling in “iqlusion” was deliberately introduced to make the code as hard as possible to crack.
The second message hints at something buried:
It was totally invisible. How's that possible? They used the earth's magnetic field. x The information was gathered and transmitted undergruund to an unknown location. x Does Langley know about this? They should: it's buried out there somewhere. x Who knows the exact location? Only WW. This was his last message. x Thirty eight degrees fifty seven minutes six point five seconds north, seventy seven degrees eight minutes forty four seconds west. x Layer two.
There is another misspelling in the message—the word “undergruund”. There is also a coordinate mentioned that points to location approximately 150 feet southeast of the sculpture.
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Photo credit: MAI/LANDOV
The third message is an extract from the diary of archaeologist Howard Carter describing the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
Slowly, desparatly slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed. With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker, but presently details of the room within emerged from the mist. x Can you see anything? q
But the fourth cipher, the shortest of the three containing just 97 letters, has cryptographers stumped, even the best ones working for the NSA.
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Believing that he might not live to see the mystery of Kryptos resolved, artist Sanborn provided a clue in 2010, revealing that six of the last 97 letters when decrypted spell the word “Berlin”. When that didn’t help, Sanborn offered a second clue, four years later, that the next word reads “clock”. This means that the message ends in “Berlin clock”.
While there are many “really interesting clocks in Berlin,” the clock Sanborn is likely referring to is the famous public timepiece known as the “Berlin Clock” or Berlin-Uhr. The Berlin Clock is a puzzle in itself that tells time by means of colored lights and requires the viewer to calculate the time based on a complex scheme.
The four red lights on the top row denote five hours each. The second row of four red lights denote one hour each. The third row consists of eleven yellow-and-red fields, which denote five full minutes each. The bottom row has another four yellow fields, each denoting one minute each. To tell the time, you just have to add everything up—hours and minutes separately.
So if two red lights on the top row and three red lights on the second row are lit, the time will be given by 2x5 + 3x1, or 13 Hours, or 1 PM.
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The Berlin Clock. The time reads 10:31 AM.  
When the New York Times asked him about the reference, Sanborn simply replied that “there are several really interesting clocks in Berlin,” but he confessed to Wired that “the Berlin Clock in particular has intrigued him the most.”
That was four years ago.
In an interview to Wired in 2005, Sanborn revealed that when the CIA commissioned the sculpture, the artist was required to write down the solution to the ciphers and give it to the agency in a sealed envelop. Sanborn reportedly gave the envelop to the Former CIA Director, William Webster. He actually mentions this in the second encrypted message, where it says "Who knows the exact location? Only WW."
But Sanborn never gave Webster the entire solution. “I really didn't tell him the whole story. I definitely didn't give him the last section, which has never been deciphered,” he said. “That's part of tradecraft, isn't it? Deception is everywhere,” he added.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Kome Cave Houses And Cannibalism


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 These smooth walled, well maintained, igloo-shaped mud houses near the village of Mateka, in Lesotho, belie their age. Although they appear very recently built, these houses are nearly two hundred years old and have been continuously inhabited, generation after generation, by the descendants of the original people who built them in the early 19th century.
The Ha Kome Cave Village lies a bit off the beaten track, which is true for pretty much any place in the landlocked country of Lesotho that is completely surrounded by South Africa.
What is now Lesotho was originally inhabited by the Sotho–Tswana people when the Zulus started attacking villages and encroaching on their land, forcing the Sothos to flee up into the mountains. Here, continuous attacks from the Zulus forced local tribes to join together for protection, and by 1824, King Moeshoeshoe had established himself as king. This difficult time of widespread chaos and warfare is known as Difaqane or Mfecane, and is one of the darkest periods in the history of Lesotho. It was during Difaqane the ghastly practice of cannibalism arose.
The plundering raids, compounded by drought brought famine so severe that groups of people in several parts of Lesotho began to eat each other. What originally started out of hunger eventually became a habit as the cannibals took a liking for human flesh. Cannibals were said to form themselves into hunting parties and set off daily in search of victims. D.F. Ellenberger, a missionary who arrived in Lesotho in the 1860s, estimated that there were about 4,000 active cannibals in Lesotho between 1822 and 1828, who each ate, on an average, one person a month. Extrapolating these figures, one arrives at a staggering figure of 288,000 people who fell victim to cannibalism. Overall, between one to two million people lost their lives due to warfare during a ten year period.
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To escape the gruesome slaughtering and cannibalism, a handful of tribesmen fled to what is now the Ha Kome Cave Village, and built the mud houses inside the cave. The mud houses lie under a huge overhanging rock with the rock wall serving as the back of the houses.
King Moeshoeshoe himself was personally affected by cannibalism—his own grandfather was abducted and devoured when they were passing through a cannibal-infested area. When the King learned about the tragedy, instead of wreaking revenge, he decided to make peace with the cannibals. The story goes that Moshoeshoe instructed his warriors to capture the cannibals but not harm them. The captured cannibals were then given a sumptuous feast at the end of which Moshoeshoe offered each one a cow and a plot of land on which to build a house, saying, “You are the graves of my ancestors, you belong among us.”
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King Moeshoeshoe
Moshoeshoe was an astute, benevolent leader whose tact was way ahead of his time. It has been suggested that Moshoshoe’s diplomacy may have influenced modern South African leaders, and the example of Moshoeshoe forgiving the cannibals who ate his grandfather is compared to Nelson Mandela’ act of reconciliation in taking tea with Betsy Verwoerd, the wife of South African Prime Minister and the “the architect of apartheid” Hendrik Verwoerd.
Cannibalism died out by the late 1830s, but these stories survived both in oral tradition and songs, as well as in literary works and history texts. The stories are complemented by the existence of cave houses such as the Ha Kome Cave Village and other sites associated with cannibalism in the landscape.
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How The British Fought Fog With Runways of Fire

During the Second World War, British pilots were fighting more than the German Messerschmitts. They were also fighting against the weather—more specifically, with fog.
Fog was responsible for a large number of losses of RAF aircraft returning from bombing missions over Germany. Since most of these raids took place at night, fog would often obscure large areas of the ground making it difficult for the pilots to see the airfields and the runways. In these cases, the pilot would point his airplane towards the sea and then, while still over land, the crew would bail out by parachute leaving the aircraft to harmlessly crash into the ocean. With bombing raids involving several hundred aircraft, a significant number of bombers were lost to fog this way.
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An Avro Lancaster of the RAF’s No 35 Squadron takes off with FIDO petrol burners on either side of the runway at Graveley, Huntingdonshire in May 1945.
Fog has always been and continue to be a serious hazard in aviation. Fog leads to poor visibility, and visibility is crucial for making a safe landing. Henry Garrett Houghton, an electrical engineer at MIT, the United States, considered fog “the greatest hindrance to the development of aviation.” He believed that combatting fog would be the first breakthrough for humans trying to use science to modify weather, and a stepping stone to controlling it.
In 1934, Houghton demonstrated that fog could be removed appreciably by spraying the air with calcium chloride. For his demonstration, Houghton built an apparatus consisting of a 100-foot long pipe fitted with downward spraying nozzles that he suspended 30 feet in the air. When the fog rolled through, he sprayed the misty cloud with 2.5 gallons of calcium chloride solution per second. In just three minutes, Houghton’s machine turned an area with visibility of less than 500 feet into one where “buildings more than a quarter-mile away were visible.”
Houghton’s methods, though successful, was less than practical for commercial use in airports because of the vast quantities of calcium chloride required. Besides, calcium chloride is corrosive against the aluminum-alloy bodies of airplanes. Houghton’s research in fog dissipation, however, didn’t go to waste. It morphed into a new research field called cloud physics, which explores atmospheric condensation and precipitation.
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Image credit: Popular Science Aug 1945
By the 1940s, it became apparent that the only proven method of dispersing fog on a massive scale is by heating. So Prime Minister Churchill called the Petroleum Warfare department, an organization originally tasked with developing various creative uses of fire to thwart enemy invasion, and instructed them to develop a tool to defeat fog. The weapon that bore out of it was called FIDO—”Fog Investigation Dispersal Operations". When the apparatus proved a brilliant success, it was renamed “Fog Intensive Dispersal Of,” retaining the original code name.
FIDO consisted of two parallel pipelines running along either side of the runway through which fuel was pumped and sprayed out of burner jets positioned at regular intervals along the pipeline. Before an aircraft was due to land, a ground personnel with a flaming torch would run or drive along the pipes lighting the gasoline or kerosene vapors. Flames would shoot up all along the pipes burning with a fierce white-yellow glare, and the heat they generated would evaporate the suspended fog droplets in a matter of minutes. The first successful trial of the FIDO system was in 1942 in Hampshire, when a dense fog of 50 yards' visibility was cleared by petroleum burners in an area about 200 yards square to a height of 80 feet. Before long large-scale FIDO systems were routinely clearing the air to a height of several hundred feet. The glow of the burners could be seen from a hundred kilometers away.
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A member of staff at Blackbushe airport, Surrey ignites burners in preparation for aircraft to take off in fog in November 1952
The first operational use of FIDO took place in November 1943, after a little over a year of experimenting. Four Halifaxes landed successfully after a bombing expedition to the Ruhr, on a night when the visibility was only 100 yards prior to the lighting of the FIDO system. The FIDO revolutionized the war. It enabled more than 2,500 Allied aircraft to operate from more than 15 fog-covered airfields throughout Britain, made possible the bombing of Berlin thirty-six nights in succession, and enabled Allied bombers to take to the air during the Battle of the Bulge in December when the entire Europe was enveloped in dense fog.
After the war, there was a plan to install FIDO at Heathrow airport, but the idea was dropped because of the high operating costs—FIDO used huge quantities of fuel, as much as 450,000 liters per hour, while longer airfields used twice as much. Today, a modern aircraft can land in practically zero visibility, thanks to onboard computers and modern inventions such as radar and GPS.
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FIDO pumps at RAF Graveley May 1945

Friday, 15 June 2018

Post Apocalyptic Illustrations of Tokyo

Tokyo Genso paints vivid and fantastic illustrations of Tokyo devoid of human habitation, probably long extinct after an apocalypse, and taken over by ruins and nature. He takes photos around Tokyo and using his Photoshop skills to age the city through various natural disasters. His work reminds me a lot of Steve McGhee.

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