Thursday, February 24, 2011


Even Life in its heyday couldn't deliver the astonishing caches of photos now routinely available on line. These collections have the power of immediacy too, even though they document far-flung places: for example, images from bleeding Libya and suffering New Zealand. The medium also suits historic images, such as an achievement from nearly a half-century ago.

Since Libya's back in the news, it occurred to me that I couldn't remember many of the details of the 1986 U.S. raid on the country, though I remember finishing a swim that April evening at one of Nashville's YMCAs and collecting my membership card at the front desk. Behind the desk sat a small black-and-white TV, and a number of people were gathered around, watching it. President Reagan was on, making his speech about the attack. I watched it too.

So I read about the incident today. By chance I also learned about Ferdinandea, a volcanic seamount between Sicily and Tunisia that has, at certain times, emerged from the sea to become an island, only to sink again. I found out about the island/seamount because one line in the Wiki entry on the raid piqued my curiosity: "In 1986, US warplanes mistook the undersea shoal of Ferdinandea, near Sicily, for a Libyan submarine and dropped depth charges on it."

I was intrigued because the shoal had an interesting name. Ferdinandea is well described in this interesting blog, which discusses at some length about rival claimants to the island the last time it was an island, in 1831. I'm glad I live in a world of such oddities.

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