December 05, 2003

Japan: The Journey Begins

Sitting on BART. Everything's going well so far. Too well. I think I've remembered everything, but then, I guess if I thought I hadn't remembered everything I'd remember what I thought I'd forgotten, and then I wouldn't forget it anyway. MUNI and BART just rolled up as I got to the station, and so off I go! Felt kind of short of sleep this morning at eight, but getting into the rhythm of it now.

If you were to stand on the surface of the ocean, your head six feet above the water, the horizon would be three miles away in each direction. We're tearing through the atmosphere at 33,000 feet at a rate of 562 mph. I wonder how far the horizon is at 33,000 feet. At the moment, all I can see is the huge blue expanse of the Pacific, covered in white islands of clouds. The shadows of the clouds drift slowly beneath their masters, like reluctant sidekicks crawling across the surface of the ocean. The surface itself looks ridged from here, unmoving. What is that I'm seeing? How big are the waves or the swell which I know is churning below? Can I see the individual swells or only make out groups of swells from this incredible height?

And now almost entirely a white lunar landscape. In the distance there are larger mountains of cloud, but we're in the lowland area here, with a few small lakes that hang a thousand feet, two thousand feet below the brilliant white landscape.

The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb, delivered by Bockscar, was destined for Kokura, on Kyushu's northeastern coast., but as the bomber approached, it was too cloudy, so the plane was diverted to Nagasaki. This seems crazy to me. The lives of 75,000 people were lost due to the whims of weather. A gap in the clouds above Nagasaki sealed their fate. I just find it very hard to understand that a payload equivalent to 22 kilotons of TNT could have such an inprecise target that it didn't matter where the hell it was dropped. I guess that was the point. It really didn't matter who, or where (but it did matter when) because it was such an unfathomable event that it would have the desired effect whatever. Such a broad brush stroke that inaccuracy didn't really matter. I'm amazed that Japanese people can bear to look at Westerners. Imagine if 75,000 New Yorkers had died on September 11th. Just imagine 75,000 people dying in an instant. A completely and utterly unprecedented event in all of human history.

Posted by mthaddon at December 5, 2003 08:51 PM