Tropical Crime and Punishment

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

People sometimes ask how I learned so much about coral atolls and islands. It’s because for three years in the late ’80s I lived in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, a coral island in the South Pacific. I was the Manager of the island. The company had a slipway and a shipyard and a machine shop and a trade store and a copra buying point and a banking agency and and a couple of cargo ships and a postal agency and a couple of guest cottages that we rented out and (as you can see) a whole lot of coconuts, and I ran the zoo. My wife and I were the only melanin-deficient folk on the island, at least at the time I’m talking about before our daughter was born. The rest were Melanesians and Micronesians, wonderful people. The company employed about thirty folks, and they and their wives and husbands and kids almost all lived on the island. Here’s the layout:

the islandThe workshop was on the north end of the island, by our house. You can see a couple of boats tied up at the wharf to the left of the red arrow. The channel into the lagoon is at the top. And it is in the middle of nowhere. The nearest island with a paved road is a long ways away. And when the sun goes down, there’s nobody home but you …

But this story is not about coral atolls, it’s a morality tale about justice and crime and humanity, playing out in one of the world’s most lovely settings …

Now, the power for the island came from a diesel generator. The guys fired it up in the morning, and we worked all day with its easy hum in the background. We made mostly two things, small aluminum skiffs that were prized by the islanders because they lasted forever, and rainwater tanks. Here’s a photo of the area behind the wharf, with a shed for copra (dried coconut meat) at the left, and worker housing above that, and a boat up on the slipway at the right. Open ocean in the background left, with another island in the distance.

the island closeup

The generator stayed on until nine at night, and as always when the guys turned it off and all the lights went out, the silence and darkness were a soothing balm. On that particular night, the island was illuminated by a waning three quarter moon, a warm, gentle, enveloping light. My wife and I were lying in bed, under the mosquito net of course, the place has malaria, I had it four times, although not at that time. In other words, a normal peaceful evening on the island, the loudest sound the gentle susurration of the small waves on the outer reef, all the folks on the island home and in bed, lights most definitely out.

So I was surprised when there was a knock on the door. I got up out of bed, buck naked, and I walked to the door. The company Foreman, my main man and good friend Tumeke, was outside the door. He said through the door, “One-fella man, him like for look’m you”, in pidgin English, the lingua franca of the islands.

Pidjin is a magical language, where every word has to work overtime. It developed in the fields as a way to communicate with the islanders who had been stolen by the blackbirders to labor in Fiji or Australia. It has no tenses. It has no masculine or feminine. There’s only about a thousand words, although more in modern times in the big city.

So when Tumeke said “One-fella man, him like for look’m you”, he meant “One man would like to see you.” His voice sounded, I don’t know … odd. I opened the door a crack, peered around it, and Tumeke was out there. Odder yet, his wife was there as well. And there was a third man, with something in his hands, it wasn’t clear in the moonlight. Tumeke said, “This-fella man, him got’m rifle. Him say you-me must go long office.” I looked, and indeed the man had a rifle, it looked like we [you-me] would indeed be going “long” (the all purpose pidgin preposition that means from, in, at, near, on, many more, and in this case “to”), the office. … I said “OK, bye me go long office, but first time me must put’m sulu”, meaning I will [bye for the future, as in bye and bye] go to the office, but before that [“first time”] I had to put on my sulu, the all-purpose wraparound cloth worn everywhere in the islands. I closed the door before they could think it over, and I locked it.

The fact that they let me do that told me they might not be professionals. I whispered to my wife, explained the situation, told her I had to go with them because the man had a gun on Tumeke and his wife. “Go out the back door and hide on the beach. I’ll call out when I return, if you see someone you lay low.” I kissed her, and we held each other tightly for a moment, and as she slipped quietly out the back door and headed for the beach, I returned to the front door. But decently dressed this time in my sulu and sandals, no shirt. I made no attempt to find and conceal a weapon. It didn’t feel like the story was headed in that direction, and being armed, even with a knife, would introduce a new and unpredictable element into the situation I didn’t want or need. I’d dealt with violent desperate men before, it’s always better to dial it down rather than up. So armored only by a thin piece of cloth wrapped around my waist, I took a deep breath and opened the door and stepped out.

The night was still as warm, but somehow now the moon seemed cold and alien, the landscape looked hard-edged in the moonlight. Tumeke and I walked ahead, the man and his wife behind. I asked Tumeke why his wife was with him. Quickly he explained that the guys came to his house and said “You-me go long big boss”, and he was going to take them to me by himself, but his wife had said she didn’t care if the man had a damn gun, I could tell he was shocked that she had sworn so, “him never story all same”, she never talked like that before, he told me later, and she said if they were taking him, as God was her witness and protection, they were taking her as well, wherever they were going … and so here she was. I shook my head and marveled at the raw bravery and humanity of her action. We walked the path from my house over to the combination office / storeroom / trade store / banking agency / postal agency I called home during the day.

There we were met by two other men, one with a rifle and one apparently unarmed. I nodded to them, and unlocked the door. Tumeke had a flashlight. We went into the room that served as the trade store. I lit a kerosene lamp. The three men blinked and looked around. They all wore bandanna-style masks, giving them a sinister air. They were dressed in the island standard uniform of shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops. They looked young. With the additional light, I could see that one had an actual rifle, and the other had what we used to call a “zip-gun”. This one looked lethal enough, a three foot (metre) long piece of pipe with a bullet in the end and a bizarre setup with a whole bunch of rubber bands to pull a sharpened barrel bolt into the primer on the bullet … I saw in an instant how it would work, and I didn’t like it at all, it damn-sure looked like it would shoot just fine. We all crowded into the trade store, not a big room at all, narrow, with trade goods in shelves on one side, and a counter on the other side facing the public, with the shutters closed and locked now. The room was hot, and it quickly filled with the distinctive acrid smell of people who are afraid, their fear, our fear, there was plenty to go around …

The men had brought two folded up sacks with them, presumably to haul away the money … I looked at the sacks in amazement, they were the big copra sacks we used to bag up the copra when we bought it. They are maybe half or three-quarters again the size of the gunny sacks that they bag grain in. And these guys were all built to the standard Melanesian blueprint, which is long on short, so I knew that when unfolded, the sacks would reach from the floor up to the middle of their chests. The leader, the one who had come to get me, said “Where now safe b’long [belonging to] you-fella?”

Well, we didn’t have a safe, so Tumeke said “Oh, me-fella no got’m any safe”. The man said “You-fella must got’m safe, you-fella Banking Agency, you tell’m me now, where now safe b’long you-fella!”. And it’s true, we were a banking agency, and a post office as well … but no safe. Tumeke explained why we didn’t have a safe: “Last time, one-fella man him come for steal’m shilling [money] b’long me-fella. Him take’m safe, him break’m finish [completely], safe no work now. Two-fella time before, different rubbish man him steal’m safe, and time me-fella payim new one, ‘nother man steal’m more [again]. So time man him kill’m last safe b’long me-fella, me-fella no pay’m any new safe.”

The man digested the idea of a dead safe for a minute, then he said, “So where now you keep’m every shilling b’long bank?” he asked. Tumeke told him one of the employees took the money off-island every night, “Me-fella give’m shilling long one-fella man him work with’m me-fella. Him, he take’m shilling long [to] house b’long him. Tomorrow, long [during] morning bye him bring’m come long office.”

By this time, I had concluded that I was involved in the rankest of rank amateur criminal theatrical productions. I knew that as long as no one got stupid, or tripped, or did something foolish, all we had to be afraid of was clumsiness, idiocy, and fear on their part … which left me strangely uncomforted, in fact it increased my fear, I’d have preferred professionals. Their leader looked at the men with the two bags. He looked at us. “OK, where now every cash b’long you-fella?”. I walked over to where we kept the till with the change, ready for the morning. I handed the till to the leader. It had come out of a cash register that no doubt had been dead and discarded for decades, machinery like that doesn’t last long in the tropical sun and salt, leaving only the divided till drawer behind. The robbers might be surprised to know that me-fella no got’m any cash register either, people say that what goes around, comes around, but in the Pacific I used to say, what goes around … stops. There was lots of things on that island that me-fella didn’t have, it was way out in the ocean.

The till had one twenty, a ten, some fives and twos, dollar coins and change. The leader took the till, he looked happier, he finally had something to show his followers for their trouble and risk. One of his henchmen unrolled his copra sack, as I expected it came almost to his armpits. The leader dramatically turned over the till and dumped the money into the mouth of the sack … we all watched as the few bills fell, like the last leaves of autumn they slowly fluttered down to the bottom of the copra sack. The coins bounced once on the cloth and were still. The room was quiet.

The three men gathered around the sack, holding open the mouth and all leaning in to peer all the long way down to the bottom of the bag, to the few paltry bills and coins that lay there … it was a bleak vision, of that I have no doubt. I could see their dreams of unimaginable wealth evaporating … not a good thing, tends to make a man cross, and they needed no push in that direction.

The two young guys looked up at the leader. The leader looked around. I could see the thoughts bouncing around in his head. Finally, he said “You-fella got’m Ox and Palm?”, referring to the ever-present corned beef that is the stock gustatorial delight of the islands. “Me-fella got’m”, I said, and pulled a half-full box off the shelf. I expected him to take the box, but he just stood there, and I followed suit. “Put’m four-fella Ox and Palm inside long sack”, he said after a long pause. I leaned over and put four tin cans of Ox and Palm corned beef in bottom of the bag. The money looked happy to have some company way down there at the bottom. He looked in, thought about it, figured there was room in the bag, and said “Put’m four-fella more”. I did.

He looked around. “You got’m Navy biscuit?”, he asked. I admitted that we did have that most popular of imperishable staples, which are wheat crackers likely thrice-baked which would easily survive a nuclear holocaust. “Put’m eight-fella Navy biscuit inside long bag.” I complied. His eyes danced around the room. “You got’m any kind soda?” 

I’d been afraid of that, I was hoping they might not think of that, because the soda was in the refrigerator with the Fosters beer. And I figured when he saw the beer, he’d drink just one, to take the edge off his fear, and from there various roads led to ugliness. But “Needs must, when the devil drives”, so I opened the fridge door, quickly took out eight sodas without being asked, and shut the door. No joy.

He knew he’d just seen something, but it took a second for him to make the connection … “Beer,” he said, “me look’m beer”. I agreed that he had indeed gazed upon that most mystical brew. He thought some more. “Put’m … eight-fella Fosters long bag”. I pulled out eight Fosters beers, feeling like a store clerk in some demented black-comedy movie where the bad guy is not really robbing the store but the clerk thinks he is, but in fact the guys is just out shopping for a family of eight and he happened to bring along his gun. I put the eight tins of Fosters in the copra sack. The man picked up his bag, hefted it, and decided it weighed enough. He herded us around to the back office. He took the gun, the real one, and told Tumeke he wanted to see what we had in the back storeroom. They went off together into the darkness.

Tumeke’s wife and I looked at each other. The two men watched us. The time stretched. After a short while, she whispered to me in a worried tone, “Where now man him take’m Tumeke?” I said “Me no savvy”, because indeed I didn’t know where the man had taken him. The man with the gun said “What now you two-fella story? I told him what we’d been storying about, that she’d asked where Tumeke was, and how I had said I didn’t know, although we could have been planning insurrection for all he could tell. “You-fella nothing story more”, he ordered, and so we didn’t story one bit more after that. The room was quiet. Tumeke was gone. His wife was worried.

Then a mosquito landed on my arm, and I swatted it without thinking. The sound of the hand-slap on my bicep cracked into the silence. The man with the gun jumped and pointed his gun at me. I froze, time slowed to a crawl, I got that strange taste in my mouth, and the world took on that strange flat light it gets when the crazy level gets up into the red … I looked in his eyes. They darted around the room. He was getting nervous instead of getting rich and it was getting worse.  I figured I had to do something, anything to chill things out.

Now, at the time, I was a practicing Zen Buddhist. I figured, well, what the heck, this might be a real good time to practice some “zazen”, the seated Buddhist meditation. I didn’t want to make any sudden moves, so I said “Mosquito”, and smiled very calmly at the man pointing the gun at my navel with his finger on what passes for the trigger on a zip gun and asked, “Him all right suppose me sit down on top long [of the] table?”. He nodded. So I very deliberately climbed on to the table and sat down cross-legged, put my hands in the usual position, and began to meditate.

buddhist meditation handsEveryone seemed to relax when I’d done that … well, except for me, somehow it wasn’t working for me. Looking back, I suppose the calming effect on the room had to do with the fact that I was the boss, and from a strange foreign land. From the robbers perspective, Tumeke and his wife weren’t the problem, they’d known people like those two all their lives. Tumeke and his wife weren’t the wild card, the unknown. I was, they didn’t know people like me, they didn’t know what I might do. So when I decided to retire from the hubbub and clamor of the crowded world of work-a-day robberies, in order to devote myself to the monastic life on a table, the whole tenor of the room changed, everyone relaxed. I concentrated on my breathing, and let my thoughts just flow past and the calmness come in … at least that was the theory, in practice the calmness was strangely elusive …

After while, Tumeke came back with the other guy, the leader. I saw he had a small metal box I hadn’t seen him with before. Tumeke went to stand by his wife. I got off of the table. The robbery appeared to be winding down. The leader called the two guys into the other room for a conference. In a minute he came back and warned us not to leave the office for a really long time, “one big-fella time too much”. To give a true flavor of the written as opposed to the oral language, in pidgin that would actually be spelled “wan bikfala taim tumas”, and Tumeke and his wife and I agreed, waiting for one big-fella time too much sounded like just the appropriate thing to close off a memorable evening.

And then they left.

We waited, but not for any dang big-fella time too much. While we waited, Tumeke quickly told me he’d given the guy a bit of spare Company cash he had stashed in the back for some reason, maybe eighty bucks in all. No loss. Then Tumeke and I went outside, and scouted around in the moonlight. They were gone. We walked all round, no sign.

Tumeke went home with his wife. I went out to the beach to find my gorgeous ex-fiancee, I called out to her and she rose up into the moonlight from where she’d been hiding like life itself rising out of the darkness, a fierce rush of joy, and we hugged each other in the moonlight, and went back to the house. I told her what had happened, and we went back to bed, and did what people often do when they have just escaped death … they celebrate life …

The next morning dawned bright and clear, as most do in the tropics. I radio’d the police, the nearest police station was on another island. They said they’d send somebody to investigate. In the afternoon, a police skiff came into the lagoon through the break in the reef and tied up at the wharf. I went out to the beach, he beached his boat and jumped out. I noted he had no shoes, just flip-flops. The policeman came in, took out his notebook, took out a pencil, and asked what happened. I said I was in bed when it all started, “Time this-fella story him start, me stop long bed blong me. Tumeke him come …” when the man interrupted and waved his hands to stop me. “Time … this-fella … story …” he repeated each word as he began to laboriously write out my words in pencil, taking an eternity on each one. I was used to the speed of the islands, I’d lived there for years, but this was going to take a while. “What now think-think b’long you, suppose me type’m story long computer b’long me?”, I said, and he agreed, he thought that me typing the statement up on my Mac was a great plan. I printed it up for him. I expected him to take fingerprints or something, but it seemed the statement was all he wanted and needed … he got back into his skiff and left.

Now this being the islands, the story always goes on, there’s always another twist. About three days later, my secretary said to me “New-fella man him stop long village b’long me-fella”. I asked what kind of man had come to her village and what he was up to there. She said “Him stop long sand beach. Him open’m one-fella Ox and Palm, and him kai-kai’m [ate it] with’m one-fella navy biscuit and him drink’m one-fella Fosters. Me-fella no look-savvy [recognize] long him.”

So I called the cops again, and told them that one of the men who had robbed us was at a nearby village. It took them another day or two, but eventually they went there and they captured him. He didn’t put up a fight, he was just a kid, early twenties, he knew they were coming before they got there, he’d heard over the “coconut wireless”, he didn’t run. They were going to take him back and put him in jail. But there was a problem, the seas had come up high, and the police couldn’t make the seventeen mile (thirty km) open crossing back to the next island. So after they had arrested him at the village, instead of taking him back to jail, they brought him around the corner to the island where I lived. The leader of the cops asked me if I could put up him and his men for the night in one of the guest cottages, and put up the prisoner in the other cottage … sure, I said, no problem.

Actually, I kind of enjoyed the exquisite South Pacific island irony of it all … I had first been the victim, and now, having assisted in his capture, I was some bizarre combination of a jailer and a host for one of the robbers … so I showed him where the towels were kept and how the shower hot water worked, isn’t that what one does for a robber? After he was in the house, and in lieu of being locked in had been told by the police in no uncertain terms not to leave it under any circumstances until they came to get him the next day, I went to the trade store and got some Fosters and sat down to have a cold brew with police, an unusual occurrence in my life, my interactions with the police have often taken a decidedly more … but I digress, I had a beer with the police. I asked them what the story was. I knew the guy would have already talked, in the islands they never heard of “omerta”, the “law of silence”.

They told me the leader was a man who had come from Papua New Guinea when Bougainville had rebelled against the government that year. He’d fled the fighting and come over, and he’d partnered up with a couple of young guys. The cop said that there were four people who came to the island that night, not three, including the wife of one of the guys, who guarded the boat. I’d kinda figured that out already, about there being four of them, not about one being a woman … I found out later that when her husband said he was going out at night, she refused to stay behind. Memories of cannibal raids are not far back in history there, in some areas women really don’t like being left alone in a creepy dark house at night, so she came along without even knowing what they were up to, they told her in the boat on the way over, and she’d just sat and watched the boat, and probably prayed. How curious, that while the robbery was in progress, unknown to any of us, on the beach on the other side of the island huddled the dark-skinned twin sister of my wife, both of them hiding on the beach, both of them starting at every sound, both listening for distant voices, and each one worried sick that her damn idiot of a husband was blowing it again …

The next morning I watched the police load their captive up. He’d spent a nice night in a soft bed and I didn’t begrudge him that one bit, he was headed for far poorer accommodations. Over the next couple weeks, I heard that they’d arrested the second guy and his wife, but the PNG guy was still at large. When they’d gone to arrest him he went up into the bush, but of course he starved there, raw jungle’s not all that friendly, and I’m sure he got all lonely, Melanesians are very sociable people who rarely spend a long time by themselves, so after about a week, after he’d finished the last tin of Ox and Palm and got tired of sleeping rough in the rain, he went down to the village on the coast and told them to call the cops.

And that could have been the end of my involvement, merely being the victim, and the guy who told the cops where to find the suspect, and the host, and the jailer, but the island spirits are never that straightforward, they are jesters. And so a few weeks later, I’d taken the company skiff and gone over to the island where the police station was, to the big town. I was having drinks at the bar, when who should walk in but my friend, the traveling magistrate. In island countries the outer island people often don’t come to the courts of law in the capital. Instead, the magistrates travel out to the provinces and hold court there and dispense justice. My friend was British, fairly recently employed as part of UK foreign aid to serve as a magistrate in the islands, new to the people. I asked him why he had come all the way out to our particular outer islands. He said he was there to sentence the people who had robbed me, they’d already pled guilty at the arraignment. He asked me what had happened, so I told him the entire story of tropical crime. He asked me what I thought should be their punishment. I looked him in the eye. He was seriously asking, and my sense was he didn’t know a lot about the islands, so I took it seriously.

I considered his question for a while, and I said I thought that what was important, to them and to the village where they lived, was that they had been caught and put in jail. That’s what counted, not the time served, because the tropical islands conception of time is elastic, one year and three years and ten years don’t seem a whole lot different when every day is the same. And yes, to answer his point, I knew it was an armed invasion and takeover of the island, and armed robbery is not something to sneeze at, and the islands still have the strict British gun regulations, and crimes involving guns there draw long sentences, and ordering us at gunpoint from my house to the office is technically kidnapping … but still, I said, these are not hardened criminals.

Plus, I said, you don’t want to take people out of the village for too long. It is crucial that they not “lose their place” in some sense, that they not be forgotten or have lost their homes in some larger sense upon their return. If they could not return to and be accepted by their village, they would be lost, they would indeed become hardened criminals. I explained to the magistrate that in the islands the true punishment was not the jail, but the shame—first the shame of having done the crime, and then the shame of being caught, and finally the shame of having to publicly plead guilty. Those were the real punishment, and what the magistrate would do when he sentenced them to jail would not change or add to that a whole lot.

So I said that in his place, I would sentence the PNG guy to three years and then deport back to PNG, because he had left his village already, so shame wasn’t as effective with him, and because he was older and he was the instigator of the whole thing. I’d sentence the two men to one year less time served, anything less than a year is somehow forgotten in the islands, they needed to get back to their villages. I said I’d let the woman off with a warning, she wasn’t really even a participant. And after that, the conversation shifted, the evening went on, the beers continued to flow, friends came and went, and at some point well after dark, I got in back in the company skiff, an open 20′ (6m) aluminum skiff that we had built in our shop, a sweet boat, fired up the thirty-horse outboard, and I used the flashlight to work my way out through the reefs to the open channel, and drove the slow miles back home across the dark ocean waters to my little island, with the stars bouncing and spinning around my head, and my head itself spinning enough that the light at the entrance to the reef seemed like one of the stars.

Now justice moves fast in the islands. so a few days later, their guilty pleas had been accepted, and the Court announced their sentences. I heard it on the national radio. The guy from PNG got three years, the two men each got one year less time served, and the woman was told to go and sin no more … I cracked up when I heard it. This is perfect, I thought. First I got to be the victim, then I got to help the police track down one of the crooks, then I got to be both his jailer and his affable host, to hang out and drink with the cops, and finally, to top it off, I got to be the sentencing judge. I got to play every single part in the entire drama of crime and punishment.

So that’s the story of the great tropical crime wave of 1989, I think I’ve mentioned everything but the twenty-seven 8×10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one … and after playing all of those different roles in this tropical island morality play, my conclusions were:

1. If you are planning to be involved an armed robbery as the robbee rather than the robber, I strongly suggest you try to pick one where you can do some Zen meditation in the middle. It works wonders for that incipient headache you get from being afraid that you and your friends might be killed by some fool’s momentary clumsiness.

2. Among a number of equally obscure facts, I happen to know from experience that I will pass on detailing at the moment, that a briefcase that is about 4″ (100 mm) by 16″ (400mm) by two feet (600mm) will hold about a hundred thousand dollars US currency in stacks of crisp hundred dollar bills. As a result, bringing a copra sack to carry the money home from a tiny island trade store is very probably overkill, and bringing two copra sacks just marks you as terribly declassé.

3. A zip gun can kill you just as dead as any other kind. The cops tested it. As I suspected, it worked just fine. It had a .32 caliber bullet. Deadly.

4. Deciding how long someone should spend in a rat-hole of an island jail, not some stranger you’re on the jury for, but someone who has kidnapped you and threatened your life with a gun and wronged you personally, makes a man very conscious of the differences and distinctions and issues surrounding the ideas of justice, vengeance, retribution, punishment, deterrence, rehabilitation, and reintegration into their community. Although I was proud of the effect that I had on the outcome, and although I was glad that I had taken his question with the seriousness it deserved because it was clear to me that he was listening, it was not a position I liked the feeling of. The temptations were too great to get even, to engage in the old eye-for-an-eye. I could see why they don’t let the victims sit on the juries and decide the sentences …

5. If you think that there might be an armed robbery in your immediate future, do take the time to dress suitably for the occasion. The mosquitoes got under my sulu while I was meditating and set up their drilling rigs on my inner thighs, which wasn’t too bad, and other less public zones, which was, and of course I didn’t dare slap them for fear of being shot, so all I could do was go all Zen on them with my awesome mental powers, a thunderous telepathic assault that the mosquitoes shrugged off with the contempt it deserved. As a result, the main downside of the robbery was that I walked bowlegged for about a week. Well, that plus the odd red welts located on obscure parts of what my old drill sergeant used to call the “groan area” made it appear that I’d caught the strangest social disease imaginable, like genital measles or something, although at least I did dodge the malaria. In any case, because of a string of regrettable incidents like mine, the best authorities now deem that pants are far more appropriate for your typical late-evening or after-dark robbery, although sulus are still acceptable attire for robberies held in the morning and early afternoon.



…  from Willis’s autobiography, entitled “Retire Early … And Often” …

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jim moran
February 11, 2013 8:15 pm

What does this have to do with warming or anything associated. Willis, take a break for god’s sake and let us get to the purpose of WUWT.

February 11, 2013 8:33 pm

Marvelous story! And a great break from wack-a-mole on the CAGW types.

February 11, 2013 8:38 pm

Marvelous story!

February 11, 2013 8:42 pm

What a hoot, Willis. I enjoyed every word of your story.

Lance Wallace
February 11, 2013 8:47 pm

Another wonderfully perceptive story of the South Seas–I’m getting a real feel for their sense of time there. Looking forward to the book. By the way, I was a writer-editor (mostly science articles for encyclopedias) in NYC many moons ago, so would be happy to help if you ever want another perspective.

February 11, 2013 8:47 pm

What chu talkin’ bout, Willis? Anytime you get around to publishing a more complete version of your adventures, I’d love a copy.

February 11, 2013 8:51 pm

Aw Jim, it was a GREAT story though! 🙂 *Everything* in life can’t be serious!

February 11, 2013 9:01 pm

jim moran,
Read the WUWT mission statement on the mast head. This story fits it fine.
Thanks for another good one, Willis.

Big Griz
February 11, 2013 9:04 pm

Jim, You don’t have to read it. Willis has many fans here. His tales are a pleasant diversion. Besides, it’s Anthony’s site and I’m quite happy with the way he runs it.
Willis, I enjoy both your technical and personal pieces.
Anthony, You host one of the best sites on the internet.
Thank you both. 😉

February 11, 2013 9:06 pm

Mefella askim Noel, “Youfella save disfella bigfella Willis?”. Hemi tallim mefella staka things lo’ you Mr. Willis 🙂

Owen in Ga
February 11, 2013 9:06 pm

Chill good man.
Read the mast head: “Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology and recent news by Anthony Watts”
I believe this falls squarely in the first two categories.
Willis writes a good story (I never did get the hang of pidgin when I was out there, luckily I had a translator: a local who had gone to University of Guam for education, so spoke both.- of course I was just an occasional visitor going out from Guam and not living local like Willis.)

February 11, 2013 9:09 pm

Talking about crime and punishment … The Criminal Case Against Peter Gleick

Timo Kuusela
February 11, 2013 9:10 pm

It is refreshing to read these little stories.The Heminwayish touch lowers one’s bloodpressure, while the normal scientific side of the WUWT tends to do the opposite.The normal depressing idiotic AGW- flood is trying to drown us; Climategate-like news are rare delicasy.
When we are still fighting an uneven war against the corrupted science, we need some fresh air.
These warm-hearted stories keep the spirits up.
We will win this war, but we also need entertainment.
“If one has two coins, use one coin to buy rice for the body, use the other coin to buy flowers for the soul.”

February 11, 2013 9:10 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love your work Willis!
And thank you Anthony for your unique It’s always a stimulating read.

February 11, 2013 9:14 pm

The wisdom of Solomon was nothing compared to that of Willis’ for crime and punishment. pg

February 11, 2013 9:17 pm

Thank you for taking the time to recount. As I read, I felt transported back to the time and place and was able to share some vicarious moments. I’ve been a lurker for a long time, but this was the first time I felt compelled to post — not for anyone else’s benefit, but just to offer my sincere thanks to a total stranger for sharing some insight and wisdom I never would have encountered in my own existence.

February 11, 2013 9:18 pm

Willis, don’t listen to any complaints. You know how to tell a story and capture your audience. I was riveted. I’m glad everything worked out in the end and I think those sentences were just. You were hugely generous and kind.
I love this site and I follow every bit of CAGW news. This story does not interfere with that. It gives a break from the horrors of today’s alarmism and shows us another aspect of life, it shows us gentler people, it shows us a society that marches to a different beat. I would have loved that island and its population.
Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You’re showing us humanity when all the alarmists can offer is terror. I think it’s important for us all to be touched by humanity and kindness on a regular basis. We have to get our heads out of the horror show that is CAGW – to come up for air and realize the whole world isn’t that nightmare. Thank you.

February 11, 2013 9:20 pm

Willis, you might be surprised (or maybe not) that there is at least WUWT reader who was living in the same area at the same time. I was not surprised to read that the ringleader was from PNG; the Melanesian islanders are generally too laid back to come up with plots like this.
If you want some CAGW relevance, consider that the waters in this region are the warmest ocean waters in the world. They are way warmer than most tropical waters; swimming there is like being in a warm bath. Yet are teeming with life including fabulous corals. Those who say that coral reefs will be devastated by a couple degrees warming should take a look at ocean life around Bougainville.

February 11, 2013 9:21 pm

Something that makes me smile – well, it makes me smile. Thanks for that.
And, I don’t read every on point article so I can skip these little missives should I so choose. Let us not always be deadly serious.

S. Meyer
February 11, 2013 9:37 pm

Seeing another chapter of Willis’ autobiography makes my day! Thank you, Willis!
So, this isn’t about climate change.. So? One thing I have noticed about my alarmist friends is that they are so darn serious and unforgiving, in their fear of catastrophe. Once you are free of that fear, you can again look at this world with a sense of wonder, and you can laugh at all things hillarious, and cry and smile at the same time… These are the things I get from Willis’ posts. Best antidote to all this CAGW nonsense.

Graeme W
February 11, 2013 9:38 pm

It’s been a while since I last read any Pidgin English (or Bislama, as it’s called in some places). Thanks, Willis, that brought back a lot of fond memories!

February 11, 2013 9:43 pm

A cowboy, a South Sea merchant? What’s next?

February 11, 2013 9:50 pm

Having been mugged twice, once with a pistol to my head and once with a knife to my throat, I am seriously of the opinion that these are crimes that fully merit the death penalty. You do not commit armed robbery by accident; you must make a conscious decision to do wrong. Lacking Heinlein’s Coventry as a means of removing these feral human from polite society, what else is left? Paying for their upkeep?
I’m glad your experience turned out so well. I do not share your equanimity.

February 11, 2013 9:53 pm

Thank you Willis, that was just what I needed to read today … along with watching a DVD of David Gilmour’s “Meltdown” Royal Festival Hall concert from back in 2002 …
Re: Justice and “… not a position I liked the feeling of”, no surprise you chose to lean more towards mercy and perhaps a degree of “grace”. Tis what we would prefer for ourselves after all, yes ?
Bringing things back to the climate change religion / scam and its true believers and / or profiteering adherents (whose names are all so often mentioned here) it seems we are the ones still in the process of being mugged, this time by folk wielding broken hockey sticks rather than zip guns, but still coveting over sized sacks of ill-gotten booty.
So, since THAT mugging is still in the midst of being committed, I guess now is not the time for thinking charitably about justice, mercy, or grace for those scammers but rather we should be continuing to work on ways to reverse and disarm the situation.
… and preferably with pants on ! 🙂

February 11, 2013 10:07 pm

Zzzzzzzz….er….da fella man where him go?

February 11, 2013 10:09 pm

Although I was 5 years old, at least I got to see Fiji and walk around a bit. Never forgot that amazing trip. What a GREAT story.
BTW when I’m totally stressed, the Gayatri Mantra works wonders. I had a court case that was bothering me. About $3000 was at stake. I had to drive for an hour to get there, and all the issues were spinning out of control in my head. The adrenaline was building. I realized I needed to try the mantra. Just 30 sec into it, I was calm again. I was still in good shape when I got there, and I won the case.

February 11, 2013 10:12 pm

Seems like we were in the same part of the world at the same time, Willis. Francis Ona (one of the Bougainville rebellion’s leaders) had been a surveying student at PNG University of Technology. A list of his overdue books was posted in the Mathieson Library for a while …
I can confirm the effect of one of those zip guns: blew a hole in the staff club roof. On the other hand, an arrow from a black palm bow could go through the door of a land cruiser, and through the door on the other side … And yet, we still regard PNG as one of the most civilized places we ever lived in.

February 11, 2013 10:45 pm

I just loved that extra – meaning more – terrestrial life-story Willis. A worthwhile digression from our many other intensities.
“The thing to remember when traveling is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail” – Louis L’Amour in ‘Ride the Dark Trail’

February 11, 2013 11:35 pm

I think that you have told the framework of this story before. It’s a good setting. The previous story recounted the temporary nature of all things mechanical in a harsh tropical environment.
Both are good stories!
Thank You!

wayne Job
February 11, 2013 11:43 pm

Your pidgin is good Willis In my younger days I spent some time in PNG playing with aeroplanes, bandit country full of rascals.

February 11, 2013 11:45 pm

“But humans don’t fit into categories, all people who commit robbery are not feral humans, and it is always worth our while to try to see the humans behind the categories and deal with each one as he or she deserves.”
And then there are MANNerisms…….

February 11, 2013 11:53 pm

Him got’m good story big-fella

February 11, 2013 11:56 pm

Is this site now owned by Willis Eschenbach?

February 12, 2013 12:17 am

Ah, the Island sense of time.
I worked in a place in Sydney once with a lovely Tongan lady called Lavinia. At that time, there were only two flights a week between Tonga and Sydney. When Lavinia went home for her holidays, as she always did, we learned not to be concerned if she did not turn up for work on the expected day. We knew that she would be back on one of the next flights back in the next week or two, and knew which days to possibly expect her back.
As for Pidgin, it is a wonderfully vibrant language. The then middle-aged Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was locally described as “boy bilong Missus Quin.”

February 12, 2013 12:18 am

But humans don’t fit into categories, all people who commit robbery are not feral humans, and it is always worth our while to try to see the humans behind the categories and deal with each one as he or she deserves.
gleick, jones, mann, briffa, curry, muller,

February 12, 2013 12:43 am

jim moran says: February 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm
“….What does this have to do with warming or anything associated. Willis, take a break for god’s sake and let us get to the purpose of WUWT….”
C’mon Jim. You gotta ask yourself if you are being reasonable. People like Willis put in a huge amount of time to research and collate information to inform and entertain people like you and me.
All we have to do is choose which pieces we want to read. Its a pretty good deal.
I guess if you really don’t like it you could actually try writing a few things yourself. Seems to me perhaps sometimes we really do expect to spoon fed everything in this life, even to the extent of swallowing each and every spoonful and then complaining of the taste.

Jeff Mitchell
February 12, 2013 12:47 am

I love Willis’ posts. Educational, informative, and entertaining. I like seeing stuff from his point of view. It makes me richer. His stories along with his reporting things like Burning Man inform without being offensive, let us know about a world we may never see. I too look for a hopefully very long book with all these and more stories.

John Haigh
February 12, 2013 12:48 am

To err is human, to forgive divine.
I love pidgin. A friend had a Tshirt with a foxy melanesian woman’s face and “Susu bilong mama emi numbawan kaikai bilong pikinini.” Mother’s milk is the best food for babies.
The grammar is wonderful too. Kaikai bilong pikinini – baby food ; pikinini kaikai – seeds.

February 12, 2013 1:14 am

Thanks for the stories. That was great fun to read and it was great to get your insight as usual.

February 12, 2013 1:49 am

Anthony, I’d would think that by now you’ve seen sufficient complaints over the Willis posts to realise that perhaps this isn’t the correct venue for them.
Personally I don’t really mind them, except for the fact that I get twitter alerts with insufficient detail to know that this isn’t news but just another installment of the WE saga. As Willis says, I don’t have to read them. I of course don’t ignore all WE posts, as his climate-related ones are excellent.
But I am concerned that you may start to lose audience as a result, and I think perhaps you should put some thought into that. Lost audience does mean a less effective site.

February 12, 2013 2:02 am

Willis, did you every meet WIll Randall, aka Chicken Willie of “Solomon Time: Adventures in the South Pacific” fame?
If you’re ever back in Port Moresby, give me a yell, I’d love to buy you an SP or three and swap stories.

February 12, 2013 2:11 am

Super, keep writing.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
February 12, 2013 2:44 am

Willis, (or anyone who knows…) I’m guessing that the pidgin is sort of a hybrid between English and a native tongue? If so, what is the native tongue like? And is the pidgin common to many variations of that tongue in different locations without much difference? Is it useful between islanders/nationalities whose native tongues are so different that pidgin is their best form of communication? And finally (heh, askin’ lots of questions here… you can just point me to a URL if you want!) do the native people commonly speak more than one form of pidgin (e.g. English pidgin, French pidgin, etc)?

Dr. John M. Ware
February 12, 2013 2:39 am

The whole Internet is a venue for the reader’s choice. We can choose to read, or to go to the next item. Those who choose to read Willis’s writings–scientific or not–are in for a treat if they are properly receptive. Those who force themselves to read these essays in spite of a prejudice against them are wasting their own time; those who write against them are wasting ours. Of course, we who read the comments also have the power to choose.
Another good one, Willis–thanks!

Joe Public
February 12, 2013 2:41 am

Thanks for sharing your wonderful parable.

Les Johnson
February 12, 2013 2:45 am

Willis: add my voice to the vox populi.
I would also add that your stories are remarkably similar to my stories in Nigeria and Iran.
I hope one time we could share these stories in person. Perhaps over a beer or twelve.

Joe Public
February 12, 2013 2:45 am

Thanks for sharing your wonderful parable.
To those critics of the type of posting, I say “A change is as good as a rest”.

February 12, 2013 3:12 am

Mr. Eschenbach, your experience as manager of a commercial enterprise on a South Pacific island is remarkably pertinent to the issue of global climate change – actual or blitheringly alleged to be anthropogenic – because the catastrophists squeal and gibber endlessly about the fragility of these venues, both in terms of their fauna and flora and in speculations about the thin margins upon which their human inhabitants live.
They do this without either practical experience of these settings or any real knowledge of such reliable literature as is available.
In this account, Mr. Eschenbach, you demonstrate something as to how you came to your own personal fund of knowledge on the subject of tropical island realities, as opposed to the fantasies of the Watermelon catastrophists.
Useful work, and welcome not only for its value as entertaining reading.

Dodgy Geezer
February 12, 2013 3:33 am

If you liked Willis’ story, you’ll probably also like some stories by Sir Arthur Grimbling, who was a District Commissioner for the Gilbert and Ellis Islands some time in the 1910s – 20s.
He wrote two books – A Pattern of Islands and Return to the Islands
Willis’ story reminds me of another incident that Grimble reported – where, IIRC, a prisoner on one of the Islands broke out of jail and stole a boat in order to rescue people from a ship in distress on the reef. This placed the authorities in a difficult position – on the one hand he should be commended for the rescue, while on the other he should be punished for the jailbreak. In the end they solved it by fining him for the misdemeanor, and then awarding him a cash prize of the equivalent value for saving life at sea. Grimble notes, dryly, that, of course, the fine went into government coffers, while the award came out of his own pocket….

February 12, 2013 3:33 am

Methinks we have a consensus regarding this marvellous Eschenbach-story… 😉

Evan Jones
February 12, 2013 3:45 am

It is a joy to see a natural storyteller at play . . .

February 12, 2013 3:46 am

There are something like 800 languages spoken in PNG alone. Not just dialects – often not the same root language. My students at PNGUT had to handle modern English, spoke to each other in Pidgin, some spoke the other “common” language, Motu. Each usually knew two or three other languages, and each had their own ‘tok ples’ language – the language learned at your mother’s knee. Pidgin is mostly English, with all the awkward bits left out. Heavily flavoured with Strine (Australian), eg bagarap, meaning trouble of some kind.
Sometimes not so easy to express complex emotions – usually needed to be whispered In the tok ples language first.
I recall visits from Professor Mac Ruff, the “long long professor”. From Oregon I think. “Long long” means fey, a bit odd, etc. But it also means having a foot in both worlds, this one and the spirit world. Mac would go places others wouldn’t. The students were a bit in awe of him (even the ones with very dark skin, you could tell they were looking ‘pale’). But they used to stick close to him because he had protection from the spirit world, and some of that protection would transfer onto them.
I thoroughly enjoy Willis’ accounts. They are an excellent antidote to all the AGW/CC/EW nonsense that is so wearing on one’s consciousness. I think it is no accident that he is also able to produce ground-breaking insights regarding climate.

February 12, 2013 3:48 am

You did it again Willis,thank you !!Loved the pidjin,no trouble
understanding it.It made my heart smile.I should apply ‘omerta’
here but, folk is already plural.Don’t beat me long,,,,just saying

Dodgy Geezer
February 12, 2013 3:54 am

…… As for Pidgin, it is a wonderfully vibrant language. The then middle-aged Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was locally described as “boy bilong Missus Quin.”..
The best descriptive Pidgin I know is the word for ‘piano’:
“Old man in my house; you hit him white teeth, he laugh; you hit him black teeth, he cry”

February 12, 2013 4:08 am

I’m convinced Steven Mosher doesn’t come here for enlightenment or edification, but to dispute. It doesn’t matter the subject or the context, he simply disputes. Maybe he’s a life disputer, considering all the various topics he disputes. Unfortunately, it does his “street cred” no good.
*shaking head in disbelief and annoyance*
Don’t let hollow disputation detract from an otherwise excellent forum. This story is excellent.

Ed MacAulay
February 12, 2013 4:38 am

Another wonderful story from an outstanding writer.
Anthony, be sure to encourage Willis. My brothers are not much for the climate debate, but once I have referred them to Willis’s stories, they become regular readers, thus increasing your readership.

Bair Polaire
February 12, 2013 4:58 am

Great story. And right “long” the core of the CAGW-Problem.
Too many people – and scientists for that matter – lost their grip on the reality of this planet. All they play around with is models, concepts, scenarios. They don’t realize it’s a fantasy world, only loosely connected – if at all – to what is really happening. None of the infamous 97 percent object to the fact that radiative forcing as defined by the IPCC can never ever be measured in nature. It can only be calculated in computer modells – per definition.
Put all these scientists and journalists and activists on a warm and windy island in the middle of a water planet for some time. (On year – or three maybe?) They will start to change the way they connect to reality, if they look carefully and with a open mind and heart. After that they will pose their questions differently.
At least make them read some of these posts…
Thank you Mr. Eschenbach.
P.S. Aren’t our CAGW-proponents coming with way too big bags to the little place were we try to make a living… Aren’t naive young people in our societies talked into participating in a scare…

February 12, 2013 5:06 am

Readers here are more travelled and much more intelligent than me ; I had to make an effort to understand the Pidgin. But the effort added to the pleasure. I loved the tale.
I don’t understand why some people complain about these stories. If there were only one or two entries per month, and these were the only entries available, purists could feel cheated of scientific facts and opinions, but these tales don’t take the place of the science pieces; they are an added extra. And a Great Extra at that.
Do those critics also protest at the Cartoons by Josh ?

February 12, 2013 5:14 am

Great fun, Willis.

February 12, 2013 5:18 am

I’ve read all your stories here, and this is your worst effort, by far. This story is only excellent.

February 12, 2013 5:35 am

I spent a summer in the Marshall Islands in the 90’s, also visited Micronesia – great diving?
We met a guy who was basically the attorney general for Micronesia – he was a US lawyer who was tired of his job and saw an ad in his weekly legal newsletter for lawyers to work in Micronesia. On a whim he sent in a resume, and then got hired and moved his family out there. He said it was mostly drafting of legal/financial documents, but once in a while there was a crime, usually some guy got drunk and got in a fight. Thre was one murder case where the fight ended with one of the guys dead. The guy who killed him was taken into custody – like Willis’ story he didn’t put up much resistance, nowhere to run to, I suppose. Anyway, they had no real jail, so the guy was put on a work program, clearing the jungle brush for road building. He was given a large machete (!) and told he could sleep at his home, but had to report for work in the morning. I think it all worked out, and the guy served his time on the work crew without incident. Don’t know where else on Earth a murderer would be given a huge knife and be allowed to live at home. Always loved that story.

February 12, 2013 5:35 am

I find that each story from Willis is a splendid and memorable bonus for the site. I enjoy them and find my mental “horizons” have been expanded each time. Normally I don’t add a comment because I would be merely the 101st “attaboy” below the story, but I cannot understand why a couple of people get distressed over WUWT including these writings. If it ain’t your favorite brew then just skip along to something else and allow the joyous majority our fun.
Thank you, Willis!

jack morrow
February 12, 2013 5:36 am

I like your stories-especially the cowboy ones. Andy Adams is the only one who compares.

February 12, 2013 5:49 am

The topic of pidgin vs creole vs lingua franca vs … is a long one. Probably not suited to comments. Whenever two people with different languages run into each other, they find a way to communicate. Always. The two languages collide and some bits get bent while others fall off all together and other bits get mangled together into new bits. Always. It is a spectrum of degrees of those things.
So in one extreme, you get “borrowing”. The word “algebra” is borrowed from Arabic. Rodeo from Spanish. Just a few words, drifting from one language into another. At the other extreme you get a language widely learned as a ‘second language’ over a large area, and fairly completely (a “linqua franca” as French was one such in Europe) Usually not quite as complete or as properly formed as a native speaker, but close. Swahili was one in much of Africa. Arabic in the Muslim world. More recently English on a semi-global scale.
Now a creole comes along when two languages tend to get mixed together, and then folks grow up speaking it as their native language. “Spanglish” is starting down that road in California. Bits of English and Spanish just run together and normalized. There are a lot of French based creole languages in the Caribbean and elsewhere. But also Dutch and German and Arabic and more. List here:
Which brings us back to Pidgin. There are also a lot of pidgin languages. They share a common nature. They are stripped to the bare bones needed to get to work. So anything “excess” is tossed overboard. Complexity of case endings and tense. Gender. If you can do with out it, it gets tossed. Lots of circumlocutions to get the idea across make up for that. This are usually ‘worked out’ by the two different language speakers based mostly on one of the languages. Often for purposes of trade to begin with. ( So the guy with the money usually sets the base language… but they can also be made up of bits of several languages).
The easiest way to show a pidgin is in fact to compare English with other Indo-European languages. English is in many ways a very grown up Pidgin. When the German speaking Anglo-Saxons ran into the Norse speaking an old Norse (like Icelandic) the case ending were in conflict. So we pitched them out and use auxiliary words instead. We dumped gender too. None of that “masculine / feminine / neuter” marking of all the other Indo-European languages. The original Old English vocabulary was pretty slim, too. ( Later we borrowed heavily from the French and Latin to get more words than most other languages…) We also settled on a simple sentence structure. Unlike Polish that can take a paragraph between start and end of a sentence. Or German that can put several nested clauses inside the middle of a sentence. We tend to simple one order one structure sentences. Who did to what. Subject Verb Object. With a couple of descriptive modifiers tacked on.
That’s how all Pidgins tend to be. Maybe 1000 words. Several words in a row to make a new meaning instead of a rarely used long word. Simple sentence order. Reduced grammar. The predominant driver being that it is very fast to learn and easy to use. (Because often they arise where contact is infrequent and the ‘users” are new each time. So British folks going out to the Colonies for a few years, then going home. Or fishermen on an island who go sell their fish to another group speaking some other language, but only once old enough to fish.)
Because they are fast to learn, and nobody is too picky about how you speak them, they often are popular. Why spend 5 years learning Latin or Russian if you can pick up Pidgin in a week sufficient to sell some fish, buy a beer, and make small talk? So that’s what people do.
Eventually a Pidgin may blend in with another language, make a creole and have whole villages grow up speaking it as their “native tongue” and make the transition to a Creole. Some then can even go on to be whole new “proper” languages. Like English.
So now you also know why English is so different both from all the Romance language AND from it’s German roots. Strangely similar to both, yet different. And very simplified in ways…
So who speaks Pidgin? Just about anybody who speaks cross languages on a semi-irregular basis. Folks start to borrow words from each other and ‘simplify’ very quickly until they have something that works “good enough”. Then it gets polished over years of use…
(While Pidgin English is very common, and the structural similarities made the Island Pidgin read similarly to Caribbean Pidgin English, there are also other language based Pidgins. Even a Basque Icelandic pidgin. It is a fundamental tool that people create as needed.)
Hope that helps.

Brian Davis
February 12, 2013 6:09 am

I don’t see why WIllis’s beautifully written stories would put anyone off the blog. I find them a welcome break from the climate stuff. And it’s good to get some personal background on the people who contribute most to the climate science on the blog. In any blog I frequent, I find myself skipping over posts that don’t interest me much, so why complain – just scroll down and move on.

February 12, 2013 6:11 am

Oh, and as to the base language of the islands. There’s a decent write up here:
Per the article, about 400 related languages in that branch of the language family, most with a few hundred to a 1000 speakers. Related to Polynesian (that is found more Westward).
both fairly short and readable descriptions. Basically, a whole lot of small groups speaking incompatible dialects / languages so looking for something fast to learn and wide spread to use between each other.

Rex H Knight
February 12, 2013 6:22 am

Just to add my encouragemet for your life stories. I have read every one that you have offered on wuwt and love them all. I look forward to your publishing the book

Doug Danhoff
February 12, 2013 6:36 am

Jim Moran, please be quiet…all work and no play make Jim a……..

Mark Bofill
February 12, 2013 6:47 am

I generally don’t post on your stories Willis because piling one more ‘I really enjoyed your story, thanks’ seems silly to me. However, since there are at least a couple of complaints then let me pipe in to say this. Not only do I enjoy them, I think they add a lot to WUWT. I don’t come here to be a cog in a machine and I doubt the majority of readers do either, so keep the stories coming as long as you feel like contributing them, please!

February 12, 2013 6:54 am


February 12, 2013 6:58 am

As usual, another great story from Willis that this time takes everyone to a faraway exotic location. Once the story is over the comment section has many more and the ones I enjoy the most are the recollections of others that add more “meat” to Willis’s story. In this case the discussion of a language I knew nothing about–Pidgin. Everyday I come to this site to learn more of climate and today I learned that Pidgin is a language!..nice work all yous guys

Bob L
February 12, 2013 7:01 am

Dear Willis:
Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,. Thank you,.
[You missed one. 8<) Mod]

February 12, 2013 7:04 am

Willis: I hope you realize that “an inordinate insistance on consistency is the bug-a-boo of little minds”. Obviously THIS article was copied and sent to a dozen people! I can hardly wait for the comments back. It’s with the comment: “This guy is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT, and confounds the AWG crowd left and right..”
In any case, I finally figured out WHO you are! You don’t NEED a “doctorate” because you are
“THE DOCTOR”. (Those who really understand will get this right away. By the way, congratulations on keeping a “timeline” in your writings, although TIME means NOTHING to you.)

February 12, 2013 7:10 am

As fascinating (and well written) morality tale from someone who clearly has both a keen intellect and well-grounded morals.

February 12, 2013 7:19 am

Thank you Willis, thank you. I really like this marvelous story!
Best regards
in the Land of Ice and Fire.

February 12, 2013 7:23 am

Pidgin can be difficult for the new chum. I had not been in the islands that long when I found myself minding the store of one of the large auto traders in Rabaul, while their spare parts manager went on long leave, [2 months after 2 years].
I had a different relationship with the local staff to that of the B4s, [those there from before the war], or the long term people. I did not really understand pidgin when one of the boys wanted a day off to “go long village belong im, cos his grandfather he die”. Of course I gave him the day off.
I must have been a bit off, as I did not remember this when he asked again a couple of weeks later. However I did remember when he asked again a month later. Feeling I was being conned, I wanted to know how many grandfathers this boy had.
Fortunately the head boy had good English & explained to me that I had missed the word pinis on the third request. Grandfather die meant he was sick & dying. Die pinis meant the old bloke had actually kicked the bucket, & was dead finish.
I wish I could remember the pidgin description of a piano, the box with teeth, it is hilarious, but it’s too far back now.
Circumstances meant I was there for 9 months, & it was an interesting time. The yacht club gave visiting yachties 2 months honorary membership. I was coopted onto the club committee when someone went finish, & had the strange experience of being on the committee that received my application for membership. A strange place indeed.

February 12, 2013 7:37 am

Dang it, Willis! I can’t focus on my work when one of your stories pops up on WUWT.
Must. Not. Click. Button!

February 12, 2013 7:38 am

While I love good writing, and Willis is a good writer, this does not belong here. Don’t forget that hundreds of people are coming here daily looking for the latest information on the CAGW infowar. WUWT will loose it’s edge by such articles and is turning into an entertainment site. I already come here far less frequently because there has been too much of this. In terms of the primary purpose of WUWT, this stuff is complete crap. Post it somewhere else where it belongs. Is there so little on-topic information as of late that we have to resort to this?

February 12, 2013 7:44 am

Another good story from Willis.
Thanks, wise-fella!

Tom Johnson
February 12, 2013 7:51 am

Great story Willis, please keep it up. And here I thought that I was the only one who could still hum the chorus to “Alice’s Restaurant” and tell the story of the “photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one”, after nearly half a century.

jeff 5778
February 12, 2013 7:56 am

Thanks for sharing your tales of adventure. When it’s done, you will have lived many lives. All of them interesting and valuable.

S. Meyer
February 12, 2013 8:04 am

Hugoson says:
February 12, 2013 at 7:04 am
“In any case, I finally figured out WHO you are! You don’t NEED a “doctorate” because you are
“THE DOCTOR”. (Those who really understand will get this right away. By the way, congratulations on keeping a “timeline” in your writings, although TIME means NOTHING to you.)”
Why didn’t I see this sooner? Fish sticks and custard all the way!

February 12, 2013 8:07 am

Thanks Wills keep it up. Sea stories and all.
I got too many Navy Chiefs and Marine Gunnys in my family not
enjoy Sea stories…

February 12, 2013 8:08 am

I enjoy Willis’s stories. After all the technical articles he has written with personal anecdotes, it helps to learn about the man behind the words.
It would be interesting to read some of Michel Mann’s personal stories. Was he able to get a date to his high-school prom? Did the guys in his college dormitory push him around because of his innate arrogance? Did his professors keep breath mints around solely for Michael Mann during advisory sessions? Was Mann the President of the Young Communists Club?
Other scientists might benefit from sharing their personal experiences. Gleick, Jones, Briffa, and others need to appear human. After Kevin Trenberth finds his missing heat, I am sure we will see some nifty stories out of him. I don’t think Hansen would have any stories.

February 12, 2013 8:14 am

While living off shore, I developed a friendship with a couple who’d just moved to Zurich from Geneva. He was a theoretical physicist, his wife a hilarious Dane. At that time, CERN was home to people from all over the world, and she explained that people spoke CERNoise. It was a blend of all the languages, a pidgin, the word that worked best and easiest was used. Hearing Italian, French, English, and Japanese in a single sentence is mindbending for sure.

John S
February 12, 2013 8:22 am

Well, you know Stewart, (and Jim Moran,) perhaps there isn’t a blockbuster AGW story to break every single day, and in keeping with Anthony’s mission statement for this blog (“Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”) I think this story is perfectly apporpriate.

February 12, 2013 8:23 am

Great story, Willis. My cousin Walsh Hanley (just died a couple of months ago) spent many years in Micronesia. Ended up in Hawaii owning Orchid Isle Ford. He did a lot of surfboarding. All that time in the sun had a terrible effect on his skin. But he always said the island life was a helluva lot better than otherwise.
As to your stories: Keep’em coming. You have a way with words, and interesting experiences to relate.

February 12, 2013 8:29 am

Stuart says:While I like good writing……..
Don’t click on read more!!!!!!!! [:{/……

Steve Keohane
February 12, 2013 8:34 am

Willis, contrary to the previous consensus of ‘Steve’s, thanks for another great story.

February 12, 2013 8:36 am

Stuart says:
February 12, 2013 at 7:38 am

While I love good writing, and Willis is a good writer, this does not belong here. Don’t forget that hundreds of people are coming here daily looking for the latest information on the CAGW infowar. WUWT will loose it’s edge by such articles and is turning into an entertainment site. I already come here far less frequently because there has been too much of this. In terms of the primary purpose of WUWT, this stuff is complete crap. Post it somewhere else where it belongs. Is there so little on-topic information as of late that we have to resort to this?

No, Stuart, you are wrong–wrong in so many ways I can’t begin to count. Foremost, CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Genocidal Warmistas as the more accurate expansion of the acronym) is already nothing more than an entertainment circus with death as its primary goal (or haven’t you been following the horrendous impact that turning food into fuel has on those living “on the edge” throughout the world?). Apparently this policy of death doesn’t bother you and the perpetrators, but I’m willing to say it bothers a lot of folks who read this site.
The beautiful thing about any blog is that YOU DON”T HAVE TO READ THE STUFF YOU DON’T LIKE! And yes, I’m shouting as the all-caps indicate, because for people like you, apparently a loud voice is all you understand. And if you come here less frequently because of human-interest stories like this, I applaud your decision. You should also probably post comments less frequently, for it simply displays a demented outlook on life.
But in the final analysis, I believe you’re a paid troll–someone who doesn’t like to see stories posted on the #1 Web site that not only deals with a number of critical issues that impacting us all, but also has a huge readership (about 100,000 a day!) and represents those people who post and comment as feeling, level-headed, deep-thinking, caring individuals (with Willis as a stellar example). Apparently, it makes those of you who rant and rail uncomfortable that an expanding readership would include many who not only identify with the science being discussed, but with the set of life values in stories like this one.
So grow up and get a brain and a heart.
And have a good day.
/soap-box style edification

Steve Keohane
February 12, 2013 8:47 am

Tom Johnson says:February 12, 2013 at 7:51 am
Great story Willis, please keep it up.

Thanks for reminding me of Willis’ reference. Being on the Group W bench meant you met more interesting people, just like today. For the folks that don’t like it, don’t press ‘Continue Reading’, it’s easy.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
February 12, 2013 8:52 am

Another very enjoyable read. Thank you.

John W. Garrett
February 12, 2013 9:58 am

It’s a lovely story and the “Life and Times of Willis Eschenbach” interludes are one of many reasons I enjoy WUWT.
In your comment: you used the phrase “very unique.” At the risk of being branded a pedantic grammarian, this is a construction that will cause wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who care about correct English. The word “unique” is a superlative; it means “one of a kind” and it cannot be modified. For those who are sensitive to these things, hearing or seeing that phrase is akin to the experience of fingernails on a chalkboard.
Otherwise, BRAVO!

February 12, 2013 10:09 am

Willis I wasn’t going to comment but had to to add my voice to those who enjoy your stories. They are delightfully readable, full of humanity and suspense, told with a unique turn of phrase. I’ve been threatened with weapons so I know how it feels. As long as you want to write about your life and the climate I’ll continue to read.
There is a saying about not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Some people don’t appreciate being given an Arabian for free.

Jenn Oates
February 12, 2013 10:30 am

Great story, Willis! I’m so glad that Anthony has that “other duties as assigned” codicile on WUWT. 🙂

Paul Marko
February 12, 2013 10:41 am

Can you imagine the good fortune of running into a stranger named Willis Eschenbach in a bar, and engaging in conversation? Most likely the most memorable social contact of a lifetime. From his spousal reference as a beautiful ex-fiance, to his humble functionality at Burning Man, WUWT can certainly afford a time-out. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

jim moran
February 12, 2013 10:57 am

Willis, I must admit I have never read the WUWT charter. Your story is entertaining, just not what I expect here. In anticipation of the President’s speech tonight and the initiation of the next phase of government expenditures and regulations on CO2 emissions, I look to WUWT for more insight on the facts.

February 12, 2013 11:30 am

Keep it on coming Willis. WUWT is a great place and your occasional occurrences here make it even better place. So, dont stop!

February 12, 2013 11:37 am

Willis, Thank you.

anna v
February 12, 2013 11:41 am

Go Willis ,go.

anna v
February 12, 2013 11:43 am

or should I have said “way to go Willis”.

john robertson
February 12, 2013 12:03 pm

Here’s another positive vote for your writing, thanks for the break, especially on days like today when I am getting a little grim over the greed, stupidity and shortsightedness of this CAGW business.
Willis your life story, in short bursts, is a pleasure to share,I will buy the book when you get it done.
Contrary to the pleas for more climatism , I have been avoiding my computer because I am so sick of the madness and leaning toward viciousness.
So thanks again for the entertainment, I hope we can come up with justice as fair for the UN team.

Dr. John M. Ware
February 12, 2013 12:29 pm

I found the comment on pidgin for “piano”: delightful. I would only add that some of the experienced users might say, “You tune heem up or he make you puke or poop bad.” I should think keeping the 88-toothed monster in tune in the tropics would be a challenge. When Albert Schweitzer had a piano shipped to him in Lambarene, Africa, he specified that it must be build of lead, so it would not rust; very heavy music indeed.

Jenn Oates
February 12, 2013 1:11 pm

Okay, it’s my lunch and I just read this again, enjoying it just as much the second time. For those of you who have recent experience with these people, I ask: is it still like this there, in the days of instant communication and mobile phones and wifi? I’m feeling like I need to retire my classroom and go teach somewhere…tropical. 🙂

Doug Jones
February 12, 2013 2:28 pm

Willis, we missed by a few years at the Trade Winds but perhaps you were on Lia….. back in 1977? If so you would probably remember hauling out a dark blue steel ketch on that very slipway in the photo. The young man I met (near my age) had a lovely ex-fiance and fading memory seems to reveal a very young daughter – but that could be just a planted thought suggested by your stories.
I just remember what a beautiful place L was, extending to the Solomons in general. And how less populous they were compared to the PNG of the time. We spent several months traversing the full length of the Solomons heading for Fiji. Yes, I know, against the trade winds, but you learn a lot from adversity 🙂

February 12, 2013 2:40 pm

Dear Willis, thank you for your comprehensive reply. I do find your stories quite enjoyable. On the other hand, I’m not necessarily in that mood when I come to WUWT in particular.
Please understand that this is not a criticism of you in any way. (Patience, keep reading.)
I come here for very specific reasons, and I expect that the reason this is the world’s premier website on climate change is that other people come here for very similar reasons.
Regarding clicking on “read more” I naturally assume that some portion of the rest of the article will be on topic. I can’t scan to the conclusion without clicking “read more.” When I read an article here that begins on a personal note, I eagerly anticipate seeing how the author will make a connection to climate change or to a closely related subject.
Truly, with all your writing, which is excellent, do you have your own blog? I looked but could not find one. Please let me know.
How shall Anthony determine who gets to post his or her life experiences here? Life experiences and personal history abound. Sure, the owner of the blog is at liberty to accept or reject articles at his own discretion. In Anthony’s case, I assume that he accepts articles that are well written and present some valuable information on one of the blog’s central topics.
Once he accepts articles based on another criteria, another element has entered into the equation, and that changes the tone of the website. I understand the variety of subjects described in the masthead, but I believe it says “commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science … and recent news by Anthony Watts.”
Of course, what he accepts is entirely at his discretion, and entirely his choice. He may want that type of writing, and that type of mood. Perhaps Anthony finds it puzzling or newsworthy, and if he doesn’t, it’s still his choice.
Perhaps his criteria for accepting such articles is that they must come from someone he personally knows. Or perhaps he’ll accept them from someone who shares his views on climate change, or if he has previously published a certain number of their articles.
You may be privileged to be in one or more of these categories, and now he’ll accept your writing on any subject. There is nothing wrong with that; it is his personal choice. But it does change the mood and tone of the website in my opinion.
No doubt I will be blasted by some regular commenters for stating my opinion.
You do understand that my comments were meant for Anthony? As a writer, you shouldn’t have to be concerned about the strategy of how to best utilize the world’s most popular website on climate change. That is his responsibility. Nor is it my responsibility, but in this case I thought making the point was worth the risk of being badmouthed by others to state my views.
I think a lot of people realize that we are not “sitting in a windowless office pushing buttons and playing with his computer” nor are we “knuckle-dragging mouth breathers”. I suspect that those who think that way are in the minority, as evidenced by the popularity of this website. No need to give them any attention. The dogs may bark but the caravan will pass.
People who come to this site should get the benefit of viewing the logic that is presented here. And why not give some emotion along with the logic? That’s what good blogging is about – I’m supporting your case here, but somehow make a clear tie-in somewhere in the article.
That’s what you WON’T find on other sites with similar great stories about personal experience – that after being drawn in to the fascinating story, the reader runs into an inescapably connected conclusion. You’re missing that golden opportunity – although, once again, I may have missed it in the article.
Actually it is not you that missed the opportunity, it is Anthony, as the reviewer and publisher. People may come to this site one time, read one article, and never come back.
I can read good stories all over the web (although yours are among the best). Those who have come to WUWT very recently or for the first time don’t have the benefit of knowing who you are or what your views are on climate change. They only see an unrelated post – although if they read enough other articles they can guess that Anthony must be publishing your article based on views or relationships that are not expressed in the article. But over time that could start to look like cronyism.
Those who are supporting your lifetime-experience writing here are accepting it partly because they know you are on the same team. Let’s test it – Anthony can post various life-experience writing by anonymous writers, and reveal afterward which ones were skeptics and which were warmists. It would be interesting to see the comments before and after the revelations.
Some of those who are WUWT regulars may fiercely defend you – such as one claiming that I must be a paid troll, which is hilarious. Still, I suggest that we keep in mind how many people with various points of view come to this website, on a daily basis, and that many may be coming today for the very first time.
I was exposing the flaws of the CAGW theory to friends for years before I ran across this site about a year ago. WUWT has become a mainstay for me in the battle against the propaganda. (I apologize if the use of “CAGW” offends anyone but it is the simplest way to say it.) I suspect that many of us – myself included – keep to the sidelines because we don’t want to be blasted by some of the more vociferous commenters.
Maybe now that I’ve been initiated I’ll start to comment a little more. In retrospect, I could make positive comments for a month straight before posting something that might be perceived as negative. I think this is only my 3rd or 4th comment. 🙂
The above is my opinion, and whatever happens it won’t stop me from coming here. Willis, thank you again for your wonderful writing. And Anthony, thank you for a great website and for leading the charge.

February 12, 2013 2:49 pm

Well, here’s a turn up for the books. I forwarded both this story and the previous yarn about “cow puncher Wilis”, to a number of friends, three of whom have thanked me for introducing them to WUWT.
WUWT eh, naysayers?
Please Willis, continue with your marvellously entertaining and informative posts.

February 12, 2013 3:05 pm

I was halfway through this story, (a great story I might add) about midnight EST when WUWT crashed. A message came up to “drop us a line” which did not work either. Several succeeding attempts to access WUWT failed. Thought you might like to know.
[Reply: My computer works fine. It may be time to re-boot yours. — mod.]

February 12, 2013 3:12 pm

jim moran says: What does this have to do with warming or
anything associated. Willis, take a break for god’s sake and let
us get to the purpose of WUWT.
Which is to educate, enlighten and amuse. QED. So let me be serious for a moment: Lighten up. Just because it is posted on this site doesn’t mean that it is required reading.

old construction worker
February 12, 2013 3:16 pm

Ah… A Mayberry moment. Thanks Willis

February 12, 2013 3:16 pm

Willis, you are a wonderful and fantastic story teller and I loved every minute of it! Thank you.

February 12, 2013 3:30 pm

steveta_uk @ 1:49 am:
You are kidding, aren’t you? I find Willis’ posts fascinating and can’t stop reading them. I think they are cheering and a good antidote to the HBP-producing global warming/climate change/climate disruption scam. Yes, I come here to read about climate/weather/other science news and discussions, but if you read the header to the blog you will see that it covers plenty of interests. As Willis says at some point in the comments here, you don’t have to press the ”continue reading” button. There is more than enough to read here every day and I just wish I had the time and mental energy to keep up with what Anthony does give us. Just realise how fortunate we are to have access to such a brilliant blog. Annie. (Also UK).

February 12, 2013 3:37 pm

I sent a comment which seems to have gone AWOL!
Those, like steveta_uk, seem deeply outnumbered. There is plenty else to read here, thanks to Anthony and co. and I am very grateful that we have access to such a brilliant site. I love Willis’ stories too. Thank you again. To those few who are negative….don’t push the button!

February 12, 2013 3:37 pm

Great piece Willis. Keep ‘em coming. Reminded me, as it did the Dodgy Geezer, of Sir Arthur C. Grimble’s stories which I read over half a century ago in High School. For some reason, the Limping Man of Makin Meang sticks in my head – perhaps because of alliterative title.
To those who were unhappy about the fact that it had nothing to do with climate change: So what, you don’t have to read it. Second, there’s more to life than CC. Just relax, and enjoy a great story well told.

February 12, 2013 4:14 pm

I see my first comment arrived. My eyes are now bleary, so Goodnight All.

john coghlan
February 12, 2013 4:18 pm

AWESOME, just like always.

February 12, 2013 4:50 pm

Stuart, you seem to be under the misapprehension that your personal opinions trump the views of those who visit the most widely-read scientific blog in the world, and its proprietor.
Get over it, and/or start your own blog. Anthony does not need whiny comments from you on how to run his.
The description above of how pianos are described in Pidgin is absolute gold.

Michael Gersh
February 12, 2013 5:09 pm

Another freat post Willis. Just so you know, I read a lot, but there is just so many hours in the day. I get RSS and email reminders of posts on WUWT, and most of them look good, but not good enough to click. There is a single exception – if I see the tag “guest post by Willis Eschenbach” I ALWAYS click. No matter what you write, it is never boring, but I am always hoping it is one of your vignettes. They make my day. An awful lot of the traffic this site gets from me are yours.
Anybody who doesn’t like your stuff is a poo-butt. At these prices, there is no better deal out there.

February 12, 2013 5:33 pm

I have never commented on this site nor on many others that I follow. To do so would take all of my waking hours. I must needs spur Willis onward. Great stuff.

Carl Brannen
February 12, 2013 5:38 pm

Loved the story, as well as all the previous ones. A US friend had a room-mate in college who was from Nigeria and who spoke a pidgin English with his other African friends. After a few weeks my friend picked it up without anyone trying to teach him. Not only could he understand it, he could speak it as well, and translate in real time. This was a big shock to the Africans. So I’m guessing that the language must be very easy to pick up.

February 12, 2013 5:52 pm

gary turner says:
February 11, 2013 at 9:50 pm
Having been mugged twice, once with a pistol to my head and once with a knife to my throat, I am seriously of the opinion that these are crimes that fully merit the death penalty. You do not commit armed robbery by accident; you must make a conscious decision to do wrong. Lacking Heinlein’s Coventry as a means of removing these feral human from polite society, what else is left? Paying for their upkeep?
I’m glad your experience turned out so well. I do not share your equanimity.

You need to pay attention. Willis very clearly explained his reasoning, escpecially the social matrix within which is was made, and the fact that in those islands shame is a very serious punishment. Being caught, as he said, being made to confess – merely by the fact of being caught the culprit is pretty literally forced to confess – are easily the worst things that can happen to a person who wants respect among his people. These folks are all related – all family – and the thief’s action isn’t simply something that socially only reflects on him. His entire family and village feel the embarrassment and shame as well. They do not readily forgive that. The culprit comes back to society, but the fit is like sand in the shoes without socks. The “year” sentence isn’t the end of the punishment. In some ways it is actually just the beginning, a punctuation to emphasize just how seriously the act is taken. It stays that way until the culprit redeems themself.
The remarkable part is that the English travelling magistrate had the common sense, being new to the job, to actually ask advice from a hand familiar with the people and their social norms, which are not western and are not individualist based. In the US, yes, your reaction is fairly appropriate, but we are a society of would-be one man bands, independent freeholders, like Heinlein’s Hugh Farnham. We apply “law” with all the lack of nuance and consideration. Traditional societies don’t have law. Instead they have custom and social expectations.

February 12, 2013 5:53 pm

That should read “..are not western and are not …”
[Fixed. And thanks for understanding what I was saying. I lived overseas so long, sometimes it surprises me when people don’t see the social matrix in those societies. I need to remember that their experience doesn’t contain them … -w.]

February 12, 2013 8:03 pm

Indeed, and the story way above about the guy in Micronesia who was convicted of murder and then given a machete and allowed to sleep at home illustrates this.
What surprises me about that story is that the victim’s relatives didn’t seek their own justice. But, perhaps the victim was a carbuncle on the family. Not that it usually makes any difference.
Traditional justice in Australian Aboriginal, PNG and Pacific Islander communities is pretty harsh. Promising to go to rehab and become a better person doesn’t cut it. They don’t do imprisonment, just physical injury and exile. Exile is by far the worst punishment.

Dale Hartz
February 12, 2013 8:47 pm

Your article brought back fond memories of our assignment to a minerals mine in the Western Province of PNG. It was by far our most enriching experience of our lives.
The first thing we did was to attend Pigin classes but I didn’t catch on very well as they talked too fast for me. My wife did better and could get along with the locals very well.
A majority of the PNG people were fine folks. They truly felt that if the work didn’t get done today, it will happen tomorrow. They were honest and hardworking. They were curious about foreigners customs and behaviors.
The main complaints I had of their society was the treatment of their wives and females, and the tolerance of incompetent leaders. In fact they seem to applaud a leader if he stole some funds from the treasury. The more he stole, the more respect he received.
Some of WUWT readers may not understand about the tropical climate which is almost the same weather day after day. One thing for sure is the daily rains. In fact where we were if it didn’t rain for a few days it was called a drought.
We had an easy life as we lived in a four bedroom air conditioned house with an automobile. Good foods and beverages were freely available. So our experience was not like yours in that respect.
Thanks for an outstanding article and restoring some memories.

February 12, 2013 10:43 pm

Willis , I’ve read thousands of stories and I remember maybe 1% of the authors names . I will remember yours and look for anything new you write . You are ” very unique ” .

anna v
February 12, 2013 11:52 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 12, 2013 at 5:21 pm
In the post “Bird Language” I described a similar process in the forest, but it is even much more evident in the 3-D world of the coral reef. Everyone is tuned in to everyone else’s actions and movements. See the way a school of fish opens a hole when a big fish come through and, and yet the same school cozies up to a drifing log, the creature of the sea are constantly in touch with not just each others actions and movements but each other’s very intentions … which is why they stayed away when you had the speargun. If a shark pops over the reef, every living creature gets the message.
There is nothing metaphysical or more instantaneous than the velocity of sound, imho. In my country cottage I feed several feral cats. When one cat is fed , in a few minutes the rest appear to take part, coming from hundreds of meters away. I had started thinking of telepathy when I determined that a brisk wind from their usual hunting grounds would allow the single cat a quiet feed, leaving the excess to be discovered randomly by the rest some time. Since then I have determined that the sound of a cat crunching down on dry food is very penetrating, unless there is a wind.
There is also this controversial research that neurons transmit information through sound, which will make sound even more important , if true.
Sound codes would explain both the behavior of fish and the one you described in Bird Language.

February 13, 2013 3:23 am

Willis, I accept your arguments. Keep up the good work!

John Towers
February 13, 2013 6:22 am

Thank you for an excellent story! I often dream of running away from my life here in the states to an island in the south pacific. I have gone as far as following the daily weather in Vila. Your story only makes me want to leave that much more.

John Bonfield
February 13, 2013 6:51 am

I rather enjoyed the story. Far from being out of place, as one commenter suggested, I found it was like finding raisins in your bread pudding – not an essential ingredient, but always welcome.

bob alou
February 13, 2013 8:28 am

Would you be so kind to add your stories to the index of your posts that you created a while ago. I want to pass on the stories to others and it would be great to have them all linked in one place.
Keep up the great work and Happy Birthday.

February 13, 2013 8:51 am

I had to look around Google Earth a bit for that place you’ve pictured, Willis, but I finally found it.

February 13, 2013 11:27 am

Willis – I’ve always wanted to experience the South Pacific islands. I figure reading your accounts is the next best thing! (safer, too…)
I’m patting myself on the back for being the first – years ago – to demand that you write a book about your experiences. Every time I dip into one of your life-experience accounts all is lost: there is no choice but to abandon any other intended activities and get swept along (or drifted along, depending upon the account). Sadly, I also experience one of the seven cardinal sins – envy – wishing I also possessed the sheer magic of your writing ability. I’m looking forward to buying the paperback or hardcover version …
Thanks for giving this currently overworked, winter-bound soul a laugh and a temporary escape.

February 13, 2013 11:48 am

Ah, Joseph Conrad lives on. WUWT should be gaining readers as I have passed on links to Willis’ tales to many of my friends who are otherwise in mortal fear of CAGW. The response has been most positive.

February 13, 2013 1:24 pm

Wills, you are entirely too erudite to go about saying ignorant things like “bullet” when you mean “cartridge.” A bullet is merely the projectile and, by itself, is about as dangerous as a fishing weight.

Gene F
February 13, 2013 1:53 pm

Willis, I find the stories fascinating. The yarns all show your connection with nature and really, isn’t that what we are all about?
What bothers me about the complaints is not that they can’t seem to go on to the next article, but that they wish to take away from me the option and enjoyment of reading them.

February 13, 2013 4:13 pm

I don’t know which is more amusing – the stories Willis tells, or those few stiff necked folks who are always going on about what the rest of us need to read. I am in awe of the gentlemanly way Willis responds to these sqawks, whereas I am more the sort to be reminded of one of the Barrymores doing Richard III who modified his lines in the famous my kingdom for a horse bit with an aside to the audience “but why do I need a horse, when I can saddle yon braying ass”.
I come here for the science and news, of course, but I also find Willis’ tales both delightful and edifying, so count me as “yes, more please” vote. Indeed, even the comments to this post, with the exception of the interactions with the naysayers, were both interesting and ripe with opportunities to learn something.
I’ve always thought that life is mostly about accumulating stories to tell later. I have a few myself, but not quite as diverse as Willis, I think. This isn’t uncommon in scientists either. In graduate school I was a research assistant for a distinguished parasitologist who was nearly as erudite and intertesting as Willis, and who had to make a choice between getting his PhD or following a career as a jazz trumpeter. A fine gentleman and scholar, and a privilege to know and work for.
So, I say, carry on authors and commenters!

February 13, 2013 7:05 pm

Willis, Thanks, Thanks, again.

February 13, 2013 8:01 pm

LOL. Island found on google map 20 years later.
So this is science related, because current
research reveals the islands
weren’t engulfed by rising oceans.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
February 14, 2013 9:20 am

Willis, largely agreed, but you understate yourself in your analysis. You say, “So that’s why I say I don’t obey the rules of English, I insist that it obey my rules, and I pay no attention to grammarians”
Actually, you pay excellent attention to grammarians and use the structure of grammar to communicate very well within your story. BUT… at the same time, you know when you can go outside the grammatical rules to communicate more effectively. I can be writing rather formally and then add a bit of humor and a personal touch simply by saying something like “I ain’t a goin’ there!” In a formal letter to the British House of Lords several years ago I spoke of all the “folderol and muzzamarole” that gets in the way of reasonable legislation. “Muzzamarole” is not a word. But it fit with and served to communicate the wider message I was trying to get across: that the details of exacting parliamentary procedure and rules (rigmarole) combined with fuzzy terms and language structure (muzziness). If I paid no attention to building a decent vocabulary in my life and using it carefully in my writing, but instead just made up lots of words that I thought sounded “cute” then my communications would be poor. But *knowing* the rules and the words also gives me the freedom to know when I can probably step outside the normal parameters a bit in order to create that moment of (hopefully) more effective communication.
And that’s what you do in your writing!

February 14, 2013 3:40 am

I totally agree on your insistence that the language obey you. This is where people begin to understand art: after mastering aspects of it (or in some incredible cases, most aspects of it), the artist then turns from “following all the rules” to “using the skills.”
Were the pedants the only voices to be heeded, bookstores would need few shelves.

February 14, 2013 3:42 am

(retry – trouble with WordPress)
I totally agree on your insistence that the language obey you. This is where people begin to understand art: after mastering aspects of it (or in some incredible cases, most aspects of it), the artist then turns from “following all the rules” to “using the skills.”
Were the pedants the only voices to be heeded, bookstores would need few shelves.

February 14, 2013 8:02 am

It was legitimate for Tonto to comment on the supply of bullets since he lived in the age when muzzleloaders were still common and the critical resources were loose bullets, powder, and either flints or percussion caps.
That said, I resign myself that trying to persuade you from furthering misinformation would be like arguing with Humpty Dumpty. I enjoyed the story. It was a glimpse into a culture hat is almost completely foreign to me.
Best regards,
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory”,’ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument”,’ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

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