Earthquakes on Apocalypse Earth

DATELINE: Movers & Shakers

 1994, California.

The apocalyptic hits just keep coming. This week we find ourselves horrified and terrified by the notion that if volcanoes and tornadoes don’t get us, we will sink into the Earth during a quake on the doomsday series from History called Apocalypse Earth.

In fact, this is the best episode so far of the series, featuring only earthquakes in the United States. It is a catalogue of rare photos and film, going back to the earliest recorded damages. California is the main hotspot, with documented deaths and damage from the 1850s. The more famous events in San Francisco, are actually secondary to the continuing quakes in Los Angeles.

The 1933 event and 1971 event are compared to the 1994 Northridge shaker that brought down famously overpasses, crushing occupants in their basement garages or highways.

With about 100 quakes every day, most unfelt, the dangers of living along the California coast may be a warning from this program. However, like those millions living in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius, the Los Angelenos are impervious and likely believe it will hold off for another generation.

Scientists intersperse the scenes with basic explanations of why buildings collapse and the underground topography.

We expected to see massive destruction at the old ball game in 1989, but when the reports came to New York and Boston, we took personal notice. In 1757 even Boston had a major earthquake.

After leading viewers to believe the special was about the US, you had scenes (horrific) of Haiti in 2010 and Mexico where primitive building codes never considered plate tectonics.

The climax is the New Madrid earthquake of 1811, the longest running, largest quake ever in the United States, lasting over a month with at least three major shocks and a thousand minor ones. With no cameras, only a few handwritten accounts survived. However, Memphis and St. Louis may be the heirs to a future bleak shock.

Staggering stuff, but there was no discussion of Alaskan quakes, and that was a great omission.

Henry Morgan’s Mystery Ships

DATELINE: O’er the Seas, Let’s Go Men!

Young Privateer Henry Morgan circa 1660.

A preliminary archaeological dive team visitsIle a Vacheoff the southern coast of Haiti to locate HMS Oxford, the flagsthip of privateer or pirate Henry Morgan. The Australian film is called Henry Morgan’s Mystery Ships.

Though it might seem a pleasure cruise, there are more than usual diving perils:  Haiti is in full-scale chaos in Port-au-Prince and security guards are needed even in the remote area far from the city strife.

There are dangerous waves and currents that can pull divers off to the “Madness Reef,” yes, its name. And they have no idea really where the Oxford sank in mid-1600s.

The magazines of the royal ship blew up (maybe even taking down a few other nearby ships) while at anchor in one of the bays. By scouting the area and reading old maps, they come up with a few possible places to dive.

Local residents belong to the state-sanctioned Voodoo religion, and they kindly sacrifice a white goat and a black goat for the prayers of the divers. The team is grateful for all augurs on their behalf.

Morgan may have hidden more treasure on Ile a Vache than there is on Oak Island—and he retired to nearby Jamaica as a governor where he lived until 1688. He survived a sham trial as a pirate in England—after all, a huge bounty of riches was paid to the Crown. And, a larger share was kept for Morgan and his men. He had sacked Panama City for its gold and gave the Spanish and French their most difficult time, preventing the future United States from becoming a Spanish-speaking nation.

What they uncover is stunning—and will benefit archaeologists for decades to come. They hope there will be a museum or tourist haven made on Ile de Vacheto help the residents who live in relative isolation and poverty.

 

 

 

Dangerous Edge: Greene for Danger

DATELINE:  Literary Marvel

Greene  The Other Shade of Greene

Before Graham Greene was known as a Native American actor and movie star, he was one of the most important writers of the 20th century.  Oh, they were different people with the same name.

British writer Greene joined Hemingway as a character as vivid as his heroes of fiction. Like them, he was a converted Roman Catholic with severe doubts and moral lapses. He was, like them, often a writer and journalist, and he shared a background as a spy with many of his literary heroes. He was not a nice man.

And he loved to write movie reviews. Well, he wasn’t all bad.

As a cinematic novelist, his works often reached the screen with great influence: from This Gun for Hire, The Third Man,  Power and Glory, The Comedians, Our Man in Havana, Brighton Rock, The Quiet American, Travels with my Aunt, and on and on.

He seemed always to visit a far-off location right before it blew up into an international crisis spot: from Cuba to Haiti to Vietnam.

As a boy, his father was the headmaster of their school—and all his classmates regarded him as a spy for the old man. The notion stuck.

He was notoriously promiscuous and a womanizer, as well as an inveterate traveler. He was virulently anti-American for the most part—and loathed the movies that messed up his message (Quiet American Audie Murphy comes to mind, which can be seen in the book Audie Murphy in Vietnam by William Russo).

He defended notorious Communist Kim Philby, the Brit spy, and one of his closest friends. He accepted honors from the Soviet Union, but not from the Nobel Prize committee. No wonder the FBI and CIA kept him under surveillance.

Greene was also a suicidal manic-depressive most of the time, though he lived until his 80s and finally came to realize his mission was to write. He believed his work ultimately was his life and his identity. He was not far wrong.

The documentary about his life, Dangerous Edge, even features people like John LeCarre, his likely successor in literature, and the film uses many clips from the famous movies. He used to call his less serious work “entertainments,” but it all ended up as serious and entertaining.