June 23, 2020

RIP Slate Star Codex

Today is a sad day. This blog started in the comments of Slate Star Codex. Its author, a psychiatrist named Scott Alexander, has just shut it down because the NYT was threatening to dox him. Most of you probably already know this, but some of you came from elsewhere on the internet, and I also wanted to show support to Scott in this. I've contacted the NYT and expressed my displeasure, and I'd encourage you to do the same.

I was actually one of the people who the reporter contacted, and I agreed to speak to him. But I asked that he not use my real name, because it makes it easier to speak on certain topics here. He readily agreed, but wasn't willing to extend the same courtesy to Scott, who has far better reason to keep his real and internet lives separate. Shame on them.


There's also a petition/open letter on the subject, for those who want to sign.

Said Achmiz, who handles the technical side of Naval Gazing, has set up a forum for the SSC diaspora, Data Secrets Lox. I'd recommend anyone who misses the community to go and check it out.

July 10, 2020

Open Thread 56

It's time once again for our regular Open Thread. Talk about whatever you want, even if it's not naval/military related.

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry, possibly my favorite blog currently publishing, had a good post on the case for the humanities. I'm from a STEM background, and while I don't agree with a lot of pro-humanities arguments (engineering classes aren't just a sequence of math problems), this one hits the nail on the head.

Also, cassander is looking for a defense analyst with experience in the aerospace sector or data science. It’s in Washington DC, and if you’re interested or know anyone who might be, take a look at the job description.

Lastly, I'm still interested in doing a Naval Gazing Zoom meetup, probably the week of the 19th (the moving truck comes about two hours after this post goes live). If anyone else is interested, speak up.

2018 overhauls are Rangefinding, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy - Aviation Part 2, The Great White Fleet Part 1, , my review of Batfish and Falklands Part 4. 2019 posts updated are dndnrsn's reviews of Bavarian military museums, Rangekeeping Part 2, Impressment, my review of the WWI Museum in Kansas City, and Signalling Parts one and two.

July 08, 2020

The Last Sailing Battle

World War II saw a revolution in naval warfare. The big gun gave way to the airplane as the weapon of decision, and radar and amphibious warfare entered the picture. But the last naval battle of the war was something very different, the last action fought under sail.

The USN had been operating in China for decades, and in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, it took the lead in American aid to China's guerilla war against Japan. The resulting Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) had a number of roles. It initially was tasked with setting up a network of weather stations, as the weather over the western Pacific generally forms over China. But many areas were occupied by the Japanese, and SACO ended up training Chinese guerillas to protect the weather stations, which quickly led into wider involvement with the war behind Japanese lines. SACO groups trained saboteurs and ran coastwatcher stations with both American and Chinese personnel that passed Japanese shipping movements to submarines and airplanes. Read more...

July 05, 2020

Museum Review - Fort Monroe

Reader Mike Kozlowski has been kind enough to write up a review of Fort Monroe, erected to guard the entrance to Hampton Roads, Virginia.1

TYPE: Coastal Defense Fortification
LOCATION: Hampton, VA
RATING: 4.9/5, beautifully preserved and maintained
PRICE: Free

From the day it was first garrisoned in 1823, Fort Monroe (originally Fortress Monroe, with construction overseen by one Lieutenant Robert E. Lee) has been known as ‘the Gibraltar of the Chesapeake’ - the centerpiece of one of the most complex sets of coastal fortifications ever built. The largest moated structure on the planet, it was the greatest of the Third System forts and has survived remarkably unchanged to the present. An active US Army post until 2011, it was immediately designated a National Historic Landmark by President Obama and has been maintained as such since. Read more...

July 03, 2020

The Pearl Harbor Rant

I recently decided to watch the movie Pearl Harbor. I wish I could blame alcohol for this decision, but unfortunately I don't drink. It was fairly painful. Major errors so far: why did you label the air base as being on Long Island when you are extremely obviously somewhere in California? Lots of use of an Iowa for battleship backgrounds. I suspect Missouri, but I can't be sure. And in the background of many of those shots are what are extremely obvious Knox class frigates. In some cases, it's just the mack, in others, it's the whole ship. This is almost painful to watch. They don't look like ships of that era. Then there was a comment about "I don't understand how two whole carrier divisions can just disappear". The next shot? A bunch of CVNs with extremely obvious angled decks, and at least one Burke. I do not think you understand how this works. Spy camera shots of modern ships. Those ships are named for someone who is still an active-duty Admiral. And the flyover of a redressed Essex as a Japanese aircraft carrier, with planes taking off over the stern. Why? Oh, and the radar screen they show has a PPI. Not at that time. Read more...

July 01, 2020

Coastal Defenses Part 4

During the first half of the 19th century, the US developed probably the most sophisticated and advanced system of coastal defenses in the world, a system which largely failed its test during the American Civil War. But coastal defenses were hardly limited to America, and the events of the Civil War were presaged by another war a decade earlier, on the other side of the world.2


Fort Alexander, a sea fort near Kronstadt

When Peter the Great established St. Petersburg in 1703, his intention was to give Russia an outlet to the rest of the world via the Baltic. Unfortunately, sea access works both ways, and one of his first actions was to set up fortifications on Kronstadt, 30 miles to the west of the city, to control the channels leading to his new capital. The Swedish, Russia's main enemy at the time, quickly began their own program of coastal defenses, composed not only of fortifications, most notably Sveaborg outside of modern-day Helsinki, but also a dedicated "archipelago fleet" of galleys and other coastal vessels under separate command from the main navy. After several wars throughout the 18th century, Russia finally took Finland in 1808, capturing Sveaborg after a short siege from the landward side. By this point, in a mental leap peculiar to Russia, the existing defenses of Kronstadt, despite being modernized to keep pace with changing technology, needed forward defenses to protect them, turning the entire Gulf of Finland into a Russian lake. Read more...

June 28, 2020

Pictures - Iowa Goat Locker

I've previously pulled pictures from my collection of Iowa's officer's quarters, enlisted quarters and enlisted mess. Now, it's time to look at the last group of men on the ship, the chief petty officers, who had their own separate quarters, known as the "Goat Locker".3


Bunks in the chief's quarters, which are more spacious than those in the regular enlisted quarters

The Goat Locker is a unique institution, referring not only to the spaces, but also to the men (and now women) who occupy them. Chiefs are famous for being the people who make the Navy work, although they allow the officers to believe otherwise. It's forbidden for any non-chief, even the ship's captain, to enter without permission, and all covers (hats) have to be removed. Read more...

June 26, 2020

Open Thread 55

It's time once again for our regular open thread. Talk about anything you want that isn't culture war.

First, the USNI's coronavirus sale is set to end soon, so if you want member prices and free shipping, shop before June 30th.

Second, to partially fill the void that SSC's demise has left in our lives, would anyone be interested in doing a Naval Gazing virtual meetup over Zoom or some other service? If so, I'll set up a time for next week.

Overhauls for 2018 are The Battle of Pungdo, So You Want to Build a Modern Navy-Aviation Part 1, Jackie Fisher, Battlecruisers Part 2, Auxiliaries Part 2 and Did Iowa Move Sideways During a Broadside?, now with new math on rolling. 2019 overhauls are Alexander's review of the Newark Air Museum, Battleship Aviation Part 4, Lord Nelson's review of Soya, The Scuttling of the High Seas Fleet, The Spanish-American War Part 5 and Information, Communication and Naval Warfare Part 3.

June 26, 2020

Aurora Tutorial Part 14

Now that I've covered combat in Aurora, it's time to once again turn our attention to colonization and the economy. My earlier introduction was focused on the mechanics of how to do things, and occasionally skimped on what to do, an oversight I now intend to rectify.

How to manage your construction facilities is a matter of personal taste. There's a lot of options, depending on what you want out of the game, and you'll be in a much better spot to find and fix bottlenecks than I am. I've had games limited by construction capacity, by shipyards, by minerals, and by officers. There's also a couple schools of thought on how to build things. Steve seems to prefer focusing on one or two things at a time, and queuing the next thing to get built behind them. I tend to favor having everything building in parallel at once. Either way can work. Read more...

June 24, 2020

Tom Clancy

It was the summer of 2000. I was about to start 2nd grade, and I was already fascinated by the military. I'd already exhausted the military books available in children's section of the Rock Hill Public Library, so I ventured into the adult section. There, I found one of the most important books I would ever read.

I wanted to fly F-16s for the Air Force (who among us wasn't an idiot at some point in our youth?) and discovered a copy of Tom Clancy's Fighter Wing. Here was a book with a long chapter on the F-16, as well as all sorts of stuff on other aircraft and air warfare in general. Both my mom and the librarian were somewhat skeptical that I'd be able to read it, but they let me check it out, and I devoured it. Here was a book written by someone who knew the subject really well, knew how to write, and perhaps most importantly, knew how to talk about the subject to an outside audience. Who else would start a book on the subject by talking about the fundamental forces of flight and how jet turbine blades were built, and then spend the majority of his time on Desert Storm discussing the planning process, not hazardous missions over Baghdad? Read more...

June 21, 2020

Merchant Ships - Specialized Cargo Ships

Most solid cargoes carried across the oceans are handled by either containers or bulk carriers, but some cargoes have requirements that can't be satisfied by either kind of ship. Much like unusual liquid cargoes, these are transported by specialized ships, designed for the purpose.


Loading frozen meat aboard reefer Clan McDougall

In the second half of the 19th century, the British faced a problem. The rapidly-growing population had made it increasingly difficult to produce enough food in the British isles. Grain imports could make up for some of this, but other products, most notably meat, required a great deal of land and couldn't be practically shipped in from overseas, where Argentina and Australia produced great surpluses. Mechanical refrigeration could change that, but while work on freezing carcasses began as early as 1861, it would be twenty years before a refrigeration plant was created that could be fitted to a ship and used to reliably and economically carry meat halfway around the world. Read more...