October 18, 2016
A major earthquake isn’t likely here, but if it comes, watch out.
This chart shows the location of the Ramapo Fault System, the longest and one of the oldest systems of cracks in the earth’s crust in the Northeast. It also shows the location of all earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or greater in New Jersey during the last 50 years. The circle in blue indicates the largest known Jersey quake.
The couple checked with Burns’s parents, who live in nearby Basking Ridge, and they, too, had heard and felt something, which they thought might have been an earthquake. A call by Burns some 20 minutes later to the Bernardsville Police Department—one of many curious and occasionally panicky inquiries that Sunday morning, according to the officer in charge, Sergeant John Remian—confirmed their suspicion: A magnitude 2.6 earthquake, its epicenter in Peapack/Gladstone, about seven miles from Bernardsville, had hit the area. A smaller aftershock followed about two and a half hours later.
After this year’s epic earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, Indonesia, and China, the 2.6 quake and aftershock that shook parts of New Jersey in February may seem minor league, even to the Somerset County residents who experienced them. On the exponential Richter Scale, a magnitude 7.0 quake like the one that hit Haiti in January is almost 4 million times stronger than a quake of 2.6 magnitude. But comparisons of magnitude don’t tell the whole story.
Northern New Jersey straddles the Ramapo Fault, a significant ancient crack in the earth’s crust. The longest fault in the Northeast, it begins in Pennsylvania and moves into New Jersey, trending northeast through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, and Bergen counties before terminating in New York’s Westchester County, not far from the Indian Point Energy Center, a nuclear power plant. And though scientists dispute how active this roughly 200 million-year-old fault really is, many earthquakes in the state’s surprisingly varied seismic history are believed to have occurred on or near it. The fault line is visible at ground level and likely extends as deep as nine miles below the surface.
During the past 230 years or so, New Jersey has been at the epicenter of nearly 170 earthquakes, according to data compiled by the New Jersey Geological Survey, part of the United States Department of Environmental Protection. The largest known quake struck in 1783, somewhere west of New York City, perhaps in Sussex County. It’s typically listed as 5.3 in magnitude, though that’s an estimate by seismologists who are quick to point out that the concept of magnitude—measuring the relative size of an earthquake—was not introduced until 1935 by Charles Richter and Beno Gutenberg. Still, for quakes prior to that, scientists are not just guessing.
“We can figure out the damage at the time by going back to old records and newspaper accounts,” says Won-Young Kim, a senior research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, directly across the New Jersey border. “Once the amount and extent of contemporary damage has been established,” Kim says, “we’re then able to gauge the pattern of ground shaking or intensity of the event—and from there extrapolate its probable magnitude.”
Other earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher have been felt in New Jersey, although their epicenters laying near New York City. One—which took place in 1737 and was said to have been felt as far north as Boston and as far south as northern Delaware—was probably in the 5 to 5.5 range. In 1884, an earthquake of similar magnitude occurred off New York’s Rockaway Beach. This well-documented event pulled houses off their foundations and caused steeples to topple as far west as Rahway. The shock wave, scientists believe, was felt over 70,000 square miles, from Vermont to Maryland.
Among the largest sub-5 magnitude earthquakes with epicenters in New Jersey, two (a 3.8 and a 4.0) took place on the same day in 1938 in the Lakehurst area in Ocean County. On August 26, 2003, a 3.5 magnitude quake shook the Frenchtown/Milford area in Hunterdon County. On February 3 of last year, a 3.0 magnitude quake occurred in the Morris County town of Mendham. “A lot of people felt this one because of the intense shaking, although the area of intensity wasn’t very wide,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim, who visited the site after the event.
After examining the known historical and geological record, Kim and other seismologists have found no clear evidence that an earthquake of greater than 5.3 to 5.5 magnitude has taken place in this area going back to 1737. This doesn’t mean, of course, that one did not take place in the more remote past or that one will not occur in the future; it simply means that a very large quake is less likely to occur here than in other places in the east where the seismic hazard is greater, including areas in South Carolina and northeastern New York State.
But no area on the East Coast is as densely populated or as heavily built-up as parts of New Jersey and its neighbors. For this reason, scientists refer to the Greater New York City-Philadelphia area, which includes New Jersey’s biggest cities, as one of “low earthquake hazard but high vulnerability.” Put simply, the Big One isn’t likely here—but if it comes, especially in certain locations, watch out.
Given this low-hazard, high-vulnerability scenario, how far along are scientists in their efforts to predict larger magnitude earthquakes in the New Jersey area? The answer is complex, complicated by the state’s geographical position, its unique geological history, the state of seismology itself, and the continuing debate over the exact nature and activity of the Ramapo Fault.
Over millions of years, New Jersey developed four distinct physiographic provinces or regions, which divide the state into a series of diagonal slices, each with its own terrain, rock type, and geological landforms.
The northernmost slice is the Valley and Ridge, comprising major portions of Sussex and Warren counties. The southernmost slice is the Coastal Plain, a huge expanse that covers some three-fifths of the state, including all of the Shore counties. Dividing the rest of the state are the Highlands, an area for the most part of solid but brittle rock right below the Valley and Ridge, and the lower lands of the Piedmont, which occupy all of Essex, Hudson, and Union counties, most of Bergen, Hunterdon, and Somerset, and parts of Middlesex, Morris, and Passaic.
For earthquake monitors and scientists, the formation of these last two provinces—the Highlands and the Piedmont—are of special interest. To understand why, consider that prior to the appearance of the Atlantic Ocean, today’s Africa was snuggled cozily up against North America and surrounded by a single enormous ocean. “At that point, you could have had exits off the New Jersey Turnpike for Morocco,” says Alexander Gates, professor of geology and chair of the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Rutgers-Newark.
Under the pressure of circulating material within the Earth’s super-hot middle layer, or mantle, what was once a single continent—one that is thought to have included today’s other continents as well—began to stretch and eventually break, producing numerous cracks or faults and ultimately separating to form what became the Atlantic Ocean. In our area, the longest and most active of these many cracks was the Ramapo Fault, which, through a process known as normal faulting, caused one side of the earth’s crust to slip lower—the Piedmont—relative to the other side—the Highlands. “All this occurred about 225 million years ago,” says Gates. “Back then, you were talking about thousands of feet between the Highlands and the Piedmont and a very active Ramapo Fault.”
The Earth’s crust, which is 20 to 25 miles thick, is not a single, solid shell, but is broken into seven vast tectonic plates, which drift atop the soft, underlying mantle. Although the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault neatly divides two of New Jersey’s four physiographic provinces, it does not form a so-called plate boundary, as does California’s infamous San Andreas Fault. As many Californians know all too well, this giant fault forms the boundary between two plates—to the west, the Pacific Plate, and to the east, the North American Plate; these rub up against each other, producing huge stresses and a regularly repeating pattern of larger earthquakes.
The Ramapo Fault sits on the North American Plate, which extends past the East Coast to the middle of the Atlantic, where it meets the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range in constant flux. The consequences of this intraplate setting are huge: First, as Gates points out, “The predictability of bigger earthquakes on…[such] settings is exceedingly poor, because they don’t occur very often.” Second, the intraplate setting makes it more difficult to link our earthquakes to a major cause or fault, as monitors in California can often do.
This second bit of uncertainty is especially troubling for some people, including some in the media who want a neat story. To get around it, they ignore the differences between plate settings and link all of New Jersey’s earthquakes, either directly or implicitly, to the Ramapo Fault. In effect, such people want the Ramapo Fault “to look like the San Andreas Fault,” says Gates. “They want to be able to point to one big fault that’s causing all of our earthquakes.”
Gates does not think that’s the case, and he has been working with colleagues for a number of years to prove it. “What we have found is that there are smaller faults that generally cut from east to west across the northeast-trending Ramapo Fault,” he explains. “These much smaller faults are all over the place, and they’re actually the ones that are the active faults in the area.”
But what mechanisms are responsible for the formation of these apparently active auxiliary faults? One such mechanism, say scientists, is the westward pressure the Atlantic Ocean exerts on the North American Plate, which for the most part resists any movement. “I think we are in an equilibrium state most of the time,” says Lamont-Doherty’s Kim.
Still, that continuous pressure on the plate we sit on causes stress, and when that stress builds up sufficiently, the earth’s crust has a tendency to break around any weak zones. In our area, the major weak zone is the Ramapo Fault—“an ancient zone of weakness,” as Kim calls it. That zone of weakness exacerbates the formation of auxiliary faults, and thereby the series of minor earthquakes the state has experienced over the years.
All this presupposes, of course, that any intraplate stress in this area will continue to be released gradually, in a series of relatively minor earthquakes or releases of energy. But what if that were not the case? What if the stress continued to build up, and the release of large amounts of energy came all at once? In crude terms, that’s part of the story behind the giant earthquakes that rocked what is now New Madrid, Missouri, between 1811 and 1812. Although estimates of their magnitude have been revised downward in recent years to less than magnitude 8, these earthquakes are generally regarded as among the largest intraplate events to have occurred in the continental United States.
For a number of reasons—including the relatively low odds that the kind of stored energy that unleashed the New Madrid events could ever build up here—earthquakes of plus-6 magnitude are probably not in our future. Still, says Kim, even a magnitude 6 earthquake in certain areas of the state could do considerable damage, especially if its intensity or ground shaking was of sufficient strength. In a state as geologically diverse and densely populated as New Jersey, this is a crucial wild card.
Part of the job of the experts at the New Jersey Geological Survey is to assess the seismic hazards in different parts of the state. To do this, they use a computer-simulation model developed under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as HAZUS, for Hazards US. To assess the amount of ground shaking likely to occur in a given county during events ranging in magnitude from 5 to 7 on the Richter Scale, NJGS scientists enter three features of a county’s surface geology into their computer model. Two of these features relate to the tendency of soil in a given area to lose strength, liquefy, or slide downhill when shaken. The third and most crucial feature has to do with the depth and density of the soil itself and the type of bedrock lying below it; this is a key component in determining a region’s susceptibility to ground shaking and, therefore, in estimating the amount of building and structural damage that’s likely to occur in that region. Estimates for the various counties—nine to date have been studied—are sent to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, which provided partial funding for the project.
To appreciate why this element of ground geology is so crucial to earthquake modelers, consider the following: An earthquake’s intensity—which is measured on something called the Modified Mercalli Scale—is related to a number of factors. The amount of energy released or the magnitude of an event is clearly a big factor. But two earthquakes of the same magnitude can have very different levels of intensity; in fact, it’s quite possible for a lower magnitude event to generate more ground shaking than a higher magnitude one.
In addition to magnitude, other factors that affect intensity are the distance of the observer or structure from the epicenter, where intensity is the greatest; the depth beneath the surface of the initial rupture, with shallower ruptures producing more ground shaking than deeper ones; and, most significantly, the ground geology or material that the shock wave generated by the earthquake must pass through.
As a rule, softer materials like sand and gravel shake much more intensely than harder materials, because the softer materials are comparatively inefficient energy conductors, so whatever energy is released by the quake tends to be trapped, dispersing much more slowly. (Think of a bowl of Jell-O on a table that’s shaking.)
In contrast, harder materials, like the solid rock found widely in the Highlands, are brittle and break under pressure, but conduct energy well, so that even big shock waves disperse much more rapidly through them, thereby weakening the amount of ground shaking. “If you’ve read any stories about the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, you know the most intense damage was in those flat, low areas by the Bay, where the soil is soft, and not in the hilly, rocky areas above,” says Karl Muessig, state geologist and NJGS head.
The map that accompanies the online version of the NJGS’s Earthquake Loss Estimation Study divides the state’s surface geology into five seismic soil classes, ranging from Class A, or hard rock, to Class E, or soft soil (state.nj.us/dep/njgs/enviroed/hazus.htm).
Although the weakest soils are scattered throughout the state, including the Highlands, which besides harder rock also contains areas of glacial lakes, clays, and wetlands, they are most evident in the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain. “The largest expanses of them are in coastal areas where you have salt marshes or large glacial lakes, as in parts of the Passaic River basin,” says Scott Stanford, a research scientist with NJGS and lead author of the estimate. Some of the very weakest soils, Stanford adds, are in areas of filled marshland, including places along the Hudson waterfront, around Newark Bay and the Meadowlands, and along the Arthur Kill.
Faults in these areas—and in the coastal plain generally—are far below the ground, perhaps several hundred to a thousand feet down, making identification difficult. “There are numerous faults upon which you might get earthquake movement that we can’t see, because they’re covered by younger sediments,” Stanford says.
This combination of hidden faults and weak soils worries scientists, who are all too aware that parts of the coastal plain and Piedmont are among the most densely populated and developed areas in the state. (The HAZUS computer model also has a “built environment” component, which summarizes, among other things, types of buildings in a given area.) For this reason, such areas would be in the most jeopardy in the event of a large earthquake.
“Any vulnerable structure on these weak soils would have a higher failure hazard,” Stanford says. And the scary truth is that many structures in New Jersey’s largest cities, not to mention New York City, would be vulnerable, since they’re older and built before anyone gave much thought to earthquake-related engineering and construction codes.
For example, in the study’s loss estimate for Essex County, which includes Newark, the state’s largest city, a magnitude 6 event would result in damage to 81,600 buildings, including almost 10,000 extensively or completely; 36,000 people either displaced from their homes or forced to seek short-term shelter; almost $9 million in economic losses from property damage and business interruption; and close to 3,300 injuries and 50 fatalities. (The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation has conducted a similar assessment for New York City, at nycem.org.)
All of this suggests the central irony of New Jersey geology: The upland areas that are most prone to earthquakes—the counties in or around the Ramapo Fault, which has spawned a network of splays, or auxiliary faults—are much less densely populated and sit, for the most part, on good bedrock. These areas are not invulnerable, certainly, but, by almost all measures, they would not sustain very severe damage, even in the event of a higher magnitude earthquake. The same can’t be said for other parts of the state, where the earthquake hazard is lower but the vulnerability far greater. Here, the best we can do is to prepare—both in terms of better building codes and a constantly improving emergency response.
Meanwhile, scientists like Rutgers’s Gates struggle to understand the Earth’s quirky seismic timetable: “The big thing with earthquakes is that you can commonly predict where they are going to occur,” Gates says. “When they’re going to come, well, we’re nowhere near being able to figure that out.”
For the men and women of the state police who manage and support the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the response to some events, like hurricanes, can be marshalled in advance. But an earthquake is what responders call a no-notice event.
In New Jersey, even minor earthquakes—like the one that shook parts of Somerset County in February—attract the notice of local, county, and OEM officials, who continuously monitor events around the state from their Regional Operations and Intelligence Center (The ROIC) in West Trenton, a multimillion dollar command-and-control facility that has been built to withstand 125 mph winds and a 5.5 magnitude earthquake. In the event of a very large earthquake, during which local and county resources are apt to become quickly overwhelmed, command and control authority would almost instantly pass to West Trenton.
Here, officials from the state police, representatives of a galaxy of other state agencies, and a variety of communications and other experts would assemble in the cavernous and ultra-high tech Emergency Operations Center to oversee the state’s response. “A high-level earthquake would definitely cause the governor to declare a state of emergency,” says OEM public information officer Nicholas J. Morici. “And once that takes place, our emergency operations plan would be put in motion.”
Emergency officials have modeled that plan—one that can be adapted to any no-notice event, including a terrorist attack—on response methodologies developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At its core is a series of seventeen emergency support functions, ranging from transportation to firefighting, debris removal, search and rescue, public health, and medical services. A high-magnitude event would likely activate all of these functions, says Morici, along with the human and physical resources needed to carry them out—cranes and heavy trucks for debris removal, fire trucks and teams for firefighting, doctors and EMTs for medical services, buses and personnel carriers for transportation, and so on.
This is where an expert like Tom Rafferty comes in. Rafferty is a Geographic Information Systems Specialist attached to the OEM. His job during an emergency is to keep track electronically of which resources are where in the state, so they can be deployed quickly to where they are needed. “We have a massive database called the Resource Directory Database in which we have geolocated municipal, county, and state assets to a very detailed map of New Jersey,” Rafferty says. “That way, if there is an emergency like an earthquake going on in one area, the emergency managers can quickly say to me, for instance, ‘We have major debris and damage on this spot of the map. Show us the location of the nearest heavy hauler. Show us the next closest location,’ and so on.”
A very large quake, Rafferty says, “could overwhelm resources that we have as a state.” In that event, OEM has the authority to reach out to FEMA for additional resources and assistance. It can also call upon the private sector—the Resource Directory has been expanded to include non-government assets—and to a network of volunteers. “No one has ever said, ‘We don’t want to help,’” Rafferty says. New Jersey officials can also request assistance through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), an agreement among the states to help each other in times of extreme crisis.
“You always plan for the worst,” Rafferty says, “and that way when the worst doesn’t happen, you feel you can handle it if and when it does.”
Contributing editor Wayne J. Guglielmo lives in M
BAGHDAD (AP) — Just days into the operation to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, a fault-line has widened between Iraq and Turkey, and the distrust among the various forces arrayed against the extremists has again bubbled to the surface.
The rhetoric is growing increasingly heated on both sides. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have traded schoolyard insults, and earlier this week thousands of followers of a firebrand Shiite cleric rallied outside the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, calling for an end to the Turkish “occupation.”
They were referring to the presence of some 500 Turkish troops at a base north of Mosul who have been training Sunni and Kurdish fighters since last December. Baghdad says the troops are there without permission and has called on them to withdraw. Ankara has refused, and insists it will play a role in liberating the city.
Turkey has close ties to the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, which perhaps explains how the troops came to be there in the first place. Kurdish Foreign Minister Falah Mustafa declined to comment Wednesday when asked if the Kurds had invited the troops, saying only that they favor a solution that is “satisfactory” to both countries.
The Turkish troops are training Kurdish forces loyal to Barzani as well as Sunni fighters loyal to Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital. Both men have pursued greater autonomy from the Shiite-dominated government, incurring the wrath of state-sanctioned Shiite militias backed by Iran. An Iraqi court issued an arrest warrant against al-Nujaifi this week, accusing him of facilitating the entry of unauthorized Turkish forces.
Now all the various groups are gathered around Mosul, hoping to take part in the biggest military offensive Iraq has launched since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
“It’s not just an issue of sovereignty,” said Baghdad-based analyst Hadi Jalu Maraei. “This intervention has a negative effect on the whole region because there are so many ethnic groups and sects.”
Turkey has historic ties to Mosul that go back centuries, and sees itself as its protector because of the city’s Sunni majority and large ethnic Turkmen community, said Fadi Hakura, a Turkey analyst at Chatham House.
“Turkey fears that the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad will alter the demographic balance after the ejection of the Islamic State from the city,” he said.
Turkey’s allies point to the Iraqi government’s strong ties to Ankara’s regional rival, Iran, which has no known military forces in the country but sponsors several powerful militias.
“It is true that Turkey is stepping into a foreign country, but it is also true that some of the Iraqi actors have strong links to regional powers,” said Maria Fantappie, an Iraq researcher at the International Crisis Group. “So how to draw the line between what is Iraqi and non-Iraqi? It’s kind of difficult.”
Turkey has also deepened its involvement in the war in neighboring Syria, where Turkish forces and allied Syrian opposition fighters are battling both IS extremists and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.
Turkish warplanes struck Kurdish forces in northern Syria late Wednesday, killing up to 200 fighters, according to state-run media. Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish forces as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in its southeast. A commander of the main Kurdish militia in Syria said initial reports indicated that no more than 10 fighters were killed, but added that the Turkish attacks were still continuing Thursday.
In a speech earlier Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed his troops’ presence in Iraq, saying “our position has nothing to do with war-mongering, with the violation of Iraq’s sovereignty or any other ulterior motive.”
“We want to be present wherever we need to be, to protect our freedom and future,” he said. “That place at the moment is Mosul — therefore we will be in Mosul.”
He had struck a far more vitriolic tone last week, when he told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to “know his place.”
“You are not my interlocutor, you are not at my level, you are not my equivalent, you are not of the same quality as me,” Erdogan said. “Your screaming and shouting in Iraq is of no importance to us. You should know that we will go our own way.”
Al-Abadi responded by mocking Erdogan’s use of a video messaging app during Turkey’s failed coup earlier this year.
The perceived affront to Iraq’s sovereignty, and the war of words, has put al-Abadi in a difficult position. His Shiite base is demanding action, and his political rivals can point to the presence of the Turkish troops as a sign of the government’s weakness.
At the demonstration on Tuesday, followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the Turks to be driven out, by force if necessary.
At the same time, al-Abadi can scarcely afford an open conflict with a powerful neighbor when his forces are trying to liberate the country’s second largest city from IS. Iraqi and Turkish officials have been holding talks in recent days to resolve the crisis, but al-Abadi told reporters Tuesday that they had yet to reach an agreement.
In part to prevent further tensions, the government has said that neither the peshmerga nor the Shiite militias will enter the city of Mosul itself, leaving the urban fighting to the army and federal police.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who heads the Popular Mobilization Units, an umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias, said Tuesday that he would abide by the government’s decision to resolve the conflict with Turkey diplomatically.
“That was his way of saying they won’t attack the Turkish base directly,” said Kirk Sowell, publisher of the biweekly newsletter Inside Iraqi Politics. “They may shell them a bit though.”
He said al-Nujaifi’s Sunni militia is likely to prove more problematic.
“It would kill al-Abadi politically if al-Nujaifi were able to stage some heroic ride back into Mosul as the basis for his campaign to return to office after the next provincial elections. Shia widely view Turkey as a terror sponsor, and al-Nujaifi is Turkey’s main Sunni Arab proxy in Iraq. So you can do the math.”
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey contributed to this report.
- First sight of Putin’s warships marauding through the Channel just a mile from the British coast as we celebrate greatest naval victory on Battle of Trafalgar Day
- A RUSSIAN fleet of warships entered the English Channel this morning – on the anniversary of Britain’s greatest sea battle.
- Two Royal Navy vessels are “man-marking” Vladimir Putin’s flotilla as it passes through the Dover Straits 211 years since the Battle of Trafalgar.
- The Admiral Kuznetsov – a 50-jet aircraft carrier – is the squadron’s flagship alongside nuclear battleship Peter the Great.
- Dozens of Brits flocked to the Kent coastline to catch a glimpse of the fleet through their binoculars.
- Coincidentally, the ships pass by Britain on the Trafalgar Day – 211 years since the Admiral Horatio Nelson defeated Napoleon’s navy.
- The sea battle is widely-seen as the greatest day in the history of the Royal Navy.
- Ministry of Defence chiefs have pledged to keep the flotilla well within their sights.
- A spokesman said: “When these ships are near our waters we will man-mark them every step of the way.
- “We will be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe.”
- They added: “It is pretty unambiguous that they have set a course to pass through the Dover Strait.”
- But Russia’s media laughed off the British response to the show of strength.
- State channel TV Zvezda, smirked: “NATO got scared by Russian ships moving towards Syria.”
- And Russian journalist Vladimir Mukhin, yesterday wrote: “Admiral Kuznetsov scared the English.”
- Former head of the Royal Navy Admiral Lord West dismissed it as “just a bit of willy waving”.
- The naval hero told The Sun: “It’s Putin doing a bit of a willy waving in a sense, saying this is what I can do.
- “He’s just showing that Russia is there on the world stage.”
- An MoD spokesperson told the Guardian they expect the fleet to pass Dover within the next 24 hours.
- They said: “They’re in the North Sea and they’re not going to turn west now – they are going to go through the Channel.
- “It’s hard to say when.”
- Dramatic images released yesterday showed our boys monitoring Vladimir Putin’s fleet off the Orkney Islands as they practised bombing sorties.
- Russian media has referred to the manoeuvres as Operation Sea Fist – just a day after mocking the ‘tiny’ British fleet.
- The giant Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier was operating its Sukhoi Su-27 fighter jets near the Orkney Islands as it prepares to steam down the English Channel.
- The 300 metre-long Kuznetsov billows smoke in the background as a Brit sailor observes from HMS Richmond just a few hundred metres away.
- Putin’s navy is understood to have carried out the drills to prepare their pilots for combat missions in Syria.
- The eight hi-tech ships will sail to the war-torn nation’s Mediterranean coast, with the fleet passing through the North Sea and English Channel in the coming days.
- On Wednesday, Russian broadcasters brazenly predicted iron man Putin is ready to “seize control” of the Mediterranean Sea.
- A top Moscow military expert then mocked the ‘tiny’ Royal Navy, which has been tasked with tracking the threat.
- Britain has been without an aircraft carrier since HMS Illustrious was scrapped in 2014 but will be commissioning the £3.1bn HMS Queen Elizabeth in May 2017.
- The hi-tech carrier is 280m long and weighs over 70,000 tonnes, eclipsing the 43,000 tonne Kuznetsov.
- The sabre-rattling move is Putin’s latest show of strength as he continues to prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad against American wishes.
- And insiders in Moscow’s military circles say it marks a first step towards Russia asserting its dominance in the Mediterranean.
- Defence expert for Russian news agency RIA, Alexander Khrolenko, said: “While the North Atlantic bloc is stalling in the sands of the Middle East, the Russian Navy seizes control over the Atlantic, not to mention the Mediterranean and Black Seas.”
- The fearsome fleet is even expected to conduct naval drills off the coast of Scotland during the journey towards the Mediterranean
- Two Russian papers discuss potential for war between US and Russia over Syria
- The fearsome Northern Fleet is led by aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and nuclear-powered battle cruiser Peter the Great.
- The former is expected to provide more Russian jets to the bombing campaign aimed at anti-Assad fighters in the city of Aleppo.
- And Khrolenko warned their presence in the Med will tip the naval balance of power away from Nato nations, adding: “They have no equal in the Mediterranean.”
- The Mail reported a source as saying: “The Admiral Kuznetsov is currently conducting flight operations off the east coast of the Orkneys.
- “The pilots need to be certified for carrier take-offs and landings at day and night before it takes up station in the Mediterranean.
- “They are free to do this in international waters, but once they are in the English Channel, the aircraft will be grounded.”
- Images emerged yesterday of the ships sailing past the Norwegian city of Trondheim towards the North Sea, where they are expected to pick up an escort from the Royal Navy.
- The frigate HMS Richmond and destroyer HMS Duncan will likely shadow the Russian fleet to the Straits of Gibraltar.
- But dismissive Khrolenko poured scorn on “what little remains of the Royal Navy”.
- Speaking about the approach of the ships, a Nato naval source told The Telegraph: “It’s not catching us by surprise, we are working up what to do and we are all over it.
- “The most likely thing is that they will go through the North Sea, down the Dover Strait and through the Channel.
- “They might even stop off the North East coast to fly for a bit.”
- The show of strength is the latest act of defiance from Moscow in the face of Western pressure over its bombing campaign in Syria.
- Earlier this month Russia bombers went on a run around Western Europe, forcing the air forces of four Nato members to scramble their fighter jets.
- President Vladimir Putin has been supporting embattled Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad with air strikes.
- The bombing of an aid convoy last month saw a fragile ceasefire disintegrate and put even greater strain on relations between the US and Moscow.
- Neighbour Turkey warned on Monday that Syria could become a proxy war for the two superpowers as they pile weapons and advisers into the Middle East.
- The giant convoy was pictured steaming through the 21 mile-wide neck of the Channel as RAF Hercules reconnaissance planes
ANSWER: History is a road map to the future because human nature remains the same. People are far too often foolish. They attribute guns as the cause of violence as if humankind was peaceful before the invention of the gun. At an ancient battlefield site in Scotland, archaeologists unearthed the largest cache of Roman lead sling bullets ever discovered. You see, the Romans also had bullets. They used powerful slingshots to propel them instead of gunpowder. So, even the idea of shooting someone with a lead bullet is nothing new.
It is true that technology advancements have aided conquests. The Turks took Constantinople, which had been impregnable, because of the invention of the cannon, which depicted in the painting of the fall of Constantinople. The cannon was invented in China where they discovered gunpowder. This replaced ancient siege engines and battering rams. Today we have nuclear weapons. The weapons themselves are not evil, only the people who push the buttons to launch the weapons are evil.
A weapon by itself does not kill. Even biological weapons must be deployed, which is by no means a modern unique development. Lord Jeffrey Amherst, for whom Amherst Massachusetts was named, was indeed the commanding general of British forces in North America during the final battles of the French & Indian war (1754-1763). He won the wars, but his reputation was a bit tarnished in the end. Amherst’s name became associated with germ warfare. He approved giving smallpox-infected blankets to the American Indians. This was reported in Carl Waldman’s “Atlas of the North American Indian” (1985). There are surviving letters, such as that from Colonel Henry Bouquet to General Amherst, dated July 13, 1763, concerning the distribution of blankets to “inoculate the Indians.”
History repeats ONLY because people repeat the same patterns with whatever technology they have available at that moment in time. World War I was notorious for the use of chemical weapons, which infected about 1.2 million people and killed about 90,000. The chemical weapons used produced very slow-moving or static gas clouds over the battlefields. Additional chemical weapons included disabling chemicals, such as tear gas, but also included lethal chemicals like phosgene, chlorine, and mustard gas.