Thursday, October 27, 2011

Camisette Crash Site

There are several airplane crash sites in the Eastern Pyrenees and yesterday I went off to find one. The day didn't start well because I was late leaving home and then I had to take a detour because EDF have shut the road I normally take to repair the huge intake pipe that descends the hillside into the electricity generating station at Usson. Happily my mood improved because the autumn colours were fantastic along the detour.

The actual walk was to the Pic de la Camisette near Mijanes in the Ariege a beautiful area of the Eastern Pyrenees. Not as warm and sunny as the Pyrenees-Orientales  where Pyrenees Mountain Adventure operates the guided summer walking holiday but greener and lusher for it. The mountains are as beautiful. The view on the final approach to the summit, relaxing in the warm sunshine with just enough breeze to move the longer blades of grass was stunning.

The crash site is close to the higher of the two Camisette lakes in the shadow of the mountain.

There is no memorial to the dead and of the aluminium wreckage that is still visible, very little  resembles an aeroplane.  
On the morning of 5th December 1944  two RAF C47's (or Dakotas from the acronym "DACoTA" for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft) take off  from RAF Northholt. They are transporting glider pilots to India via Marseille. At about 15h30, while flying over the Pyrenees during a snow storm, one of the Dakotas with 23 people aboard, crashes into the Pic de la Camisette, the wreckage ending up in flames close to a small lake at 2150m/7053 feet. 
Only 7 of the 23 aboard survive the initial impact . They are suffering from burns, lacerations and broken bones. After a night amongst the wreckage of the plane, the 2 least injured survivors - Major J.F Blatch and Sergeant Baker, decide to descend the mountain and find  help. Despite the cold and the snow, the two manage to reach Mijanès 5km/3 miles away and 1020m/3020 feet of descent. Villagers attempt to bring down the remaining 5 other survivors but the continuing poor weather and the onset of darkness halts the rescue effort. The next day (7th December) villagers from neighbouring Artigues finally manage to reach the crash site by midnight by following the footprints left in the snow by Blatch and Baker. Amonst the wreckage they find Ainsworth, Henwood, Wigmore et Dawkins still alive. Andersson who survived the initial impact has since died.  
11 military personal were found and brought down from the mountain and buried in Mijanes between the 10 and 19 December 1944.The search for the 6 bodies still not accounted for was halted during the winter due to snow cover making the search for bodies too difficult. The search resumed in the spring and the remaining bodies were found between the 23rd May and the 19th June 1945. All these survivors were buried in the Mazargues military cemetery in Marseille.
 A memorial to the dead is in Mijanès and some of the wreckage has been removed and can be found in the museum at Usson Castle.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Name A Baby Bear

There were 4 bear cubs born in 2010 in the Pyrenees. You can help name them using the following link to the Pays de l'Ours website . There have been 30,000 suggestions so far.

Here is a video of 2 of the bear cuns with their mum. The footage was shot at night by an automatic camera that was set up near a tree that had been sprayed with a special product that attracts the bears. Whatever it is, they like it a lot! Film shot on the 24th October 2010

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Slave to The i

Steve Jobs has died. I agree that he was a great innovator and business man. I agree that he has greatly changed tour lives.

But.............there's just one more thing (which Jobs was fond of saying at the end of his presentations of new Apple products). Some have talked of the passing of a great man, a revolutionary, a visionary. Has he really made such a positive effect on the world ?

The world is faced with two major problems that are (inter) related and urgently need addressing - over consumption and damage to the environment. I believe it is based on what Jobs did to help with these central problems that we can measure his greatness.

Firstly, over consumption. Jobs was a buddhist and was influenced by the 1960's counter culture. He said that his experience with LSD was "one of the two or three most important things [he had] done in [his] life". How was any spiritual enlightenment he gained passed on to humankind ? His mantra appeared to be : Buy more (Apple i) stuff and be happi(er). He has done nothing to reduce (over) consumption or get us to question our behaviour. If anything he has made the problem worse -  iPod, iPhone, iPad and of course each successive upgrade of each product.

Real Commitment or Greenwash?

Secondly, damage to the environment. After criticism of Apple by Greenpeace in 2005 there was a bigger effort by the corporation to 'green its operation' and reduce it's environmental footprint. Jobs talked about 'A greener Apple'. However Apple still does not rank in the top 3 of the latest (2010) Greenpeace ranking of 18 electronics companies based on their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Climate Counts which ranks electronics companies on their climate footprint also found Apple lagging behind its competitors in the electronics sector
A truly great person, a true revolutionary, a true visionary would have really broken the business mould and made its products and production as green as possible, as fast as possible– power consumption of products, renewable energy used in production, packaging, recycled materials content, hazardous materials content, biodegradable materials content, recyclable materials content, in store recycling scheme for all company products, repairability of products, product lifespan. It would also have sold the idea to consumers and radically changed the way consumers think about the environment.
If Jobs had really wanted to make Apple a market leader in terms of its Green credentials and environmental innovation, he would have made it happen. The following anecdote illustrates my point that had Jobs wanted to really green the Apple corporation he could have done.
When the first prototype of the iPod was presented to Steve Jobs, he said it was too big. The technicians argued that it was just not possible to make it any smaller. Jobs reaction was to drop the iPod in an aquarium. Having sunk to the bottom, air bubbles escaped and rose to the surface. 'Bubbles means there’s space in there. Make it smaller !'
The world is still waiting for the true visionaries, to lead us forward into the Third Industrial Revolution – The Green Revolution. That move forward is essential if our species is to survive on a finite earth.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wales September 2011

I spent two weeks working in Snowdonia this autumn. The first week I helped out on a Duke of Edinburgh week for several Kent schools who based themselves, when they weren't on expedition, at the Kent Mountain Centre.

I had a memorable time waiting at Bwlch y Rhediad for a D of E practice group to come through. There is a fair amount of waiting around when remotely supervising D of E groups but on a day like this I wasn't complaining. I had the view across the Gwynant valley towards Snowdon all to myself with just a buzzard in the far distance for company. The sunlight was breaking through the clouds and acting like a giant spotlight. As it swept over the ground the muted colours were suddenly vividly bright - the green of the fields and the silver of the river and the landscape alive.

 Llyn Gwynant With Snowdon in the Distance.
Another memorable moment this first week was when the qaulifying group came into the dining hall after finishing late on their last day and the rest of the groups already there giving them a huge round of applause.  

My second week was spent in a small cottage on a working hill farm just inside the Snowdonia National Park. With the help of another member of staff I looked after a group of 10 14 year olds from a school in Canterbury, Kent - everyone having to adapt to there being no running water nor electricity. Despite less than perfect weather during the week, we managed to complete some fieldwork and have 3 good mountain days. The most enjoyable for me was a very windy ascent of Y Garn via the Devil's Kitchen in winds that were gusting to over 50 mph and strong enough to blow some of the group over. One boy had his glasses blown off his head (close to the spot in the picture below) and down a steep drop. They could not be recovered but he went on to get to the summit of Tryfan the next day! 

The Descent From Y Garn.
View of Llyn Idwal From The Devil's KItchen.

Thank you for (your help) .... organising the Snowdonia week – my son had a fantastic time despite the Friday rain and from his photos (and he has loads of these) you can see the boys were always smiling along with Alex.

Thanks again.