Old Sailors' Almanac


Week 20, 2018

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Mount St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens erupts on May 18, 1980

Mount St. Helens erupts: At 8:32 a.m. PDT, Mount St. Helens, a volcanic peak in southwestern Washington, suffers a massive eruption, killing 57 people and devastating some 210 square miles of wilderness.

Called Louwala-Clough, or “the Smoking Mountain”, by Native Americans, Mount St. Helens is located in the Cascade Range and stood 9,680 feet before its eruption. The volcano has erupted periodically during the last 4,500 years, and the last active period was between 1831 and 1857. On March 20, 1980, noticeable volcanic activity began again with a series of earth tremors centered on the ground just beneath the north flank of the mountain. These earthquakes escalated, and on March 27 a minor eruption occurred, and Mount St. Helens began emitting steam and ash through its crater and vents.

Small eruptions continued daily, and in April people familiar with the mountain noticed changes to the structure of its north face. A scientific study confirmed that a bulge more than a mile in diameter was moving upward and outward over the high north slope by as much as six feet per day. The bulge was caused by an intrusion of magma below the surface, and authorities began evacuating hundreds of people from the sparsely settled area near the mountain. A few people refused to leave.

On the morning of May 18, Mount St. Helens was shaken by an earthquake of about 5.0 magnitude, and the entire north side of the summit began to slide down the mountain. The giant landslide of rock and ice, one of the largest recorded in history, was followed and overtaken by an enormous explosion of steam and volcanic gases, which surged northward along the ground at high speed. The lateral blast stripped trees from most hill slopes within six miles of the volcano and leveled nearly all vegetation for as far as 12 miles away. Approximately 10 million trees were felled by the blast.

The landslide debris, liquefied by the violent explosion, surged down the mountain at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The avalanche flooded Spirit Lake and roared down the valley of the Toutle River for a distance of 13 miles, burying the river to an average depth of 150 feet. Mudflows, pyroclastic flows, and floods added to the destruction, destroying roads, bridges, parks, and thousands more acres of forest. Simultaneous with the avalanche, a vertical eruption of gas and ash formed a mushrooming column over the volcano more than 12 miles high. Ash from the eruption fell on Northwest cities and towns like snow and drifted around the globe within two weeks. Fifty-seven people, thousands of animals, and millions of fish were killed by the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

By late in the afternoon of May 18, the eruption subsided, and by early the next day it had essentially ceased. Mount St. Helens’ volcanic cone was completely blasted away and replaced by a horseshoe-shaped crater–the mountain lost 1,700 feet from the eruption. The volcano produced five smaller explosive eruptions during the summer and fall of 1980 and remains active today. In 1982, Congress made Mount St. Helens a protected research area.

Mount St. Helens became active again in 2004. On March 8, 2005, a 36,000-foot plume of steam and ash was expelled from the mountain, accompanied by a minor earthquake. Though a new dome has been growing steadily near the top of the peak and small earthquakes are frequent, scientists do not expect a repeat of the 1980 catastrophe anytime soon.

History Channel / Wikipedia / Britannica Encyclopedia / USGS.gov / Mt. St. Helens Eruption May 18, 1980 (YouTube) video

U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917

U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917

U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act: Some six weeks after the United States formally entered the First World War, the U.S Congress passes the Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917, giving the U.S. president the power to draft soldiers.

When he went before Congress on April 2, 1917, to deliver his war message, President Woodrow Wilson had pledged all of his nation’s considerable material resources to help the Allies—France, Britain, Russia and Italy—defeat the Central Powers. What the Allies desperately needed, however, were fresh troops to relieve their exhausted men on the battlefields of the Western Front, and these the U.S. was not immediately able to provide. Despite Wilson’s effort to improve military preparedness over the course of 1916, at the time of Congress’s war declaration the U.S. had only a small army of volunteers—some 100,000 men—that was in no way trained or equipped for the kind of fighting that was going on in Europe.

To remedy this situation, Wilson pushed the government to adopt military conscription, which he argued was the most democratic form of enlistment. To that end, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which Wilson signed into law on May 18, 1917. The act required all men in the U.S. between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for military service. Within a few months, some 10 million men across the country had registered in response to the military draft.

The first troops of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), under commander in chief General John J. Pershing, began arriving on the European continent in June 1917. The majority of the new conscripts still needed to be mobilized, transported and trained however, and the AEF did not begin to play a substantial role in the fighting in France until nearly a year later, during the late spring and summer of 1918. By that time, Russia had withdrawn from the conflict due to internal revolution, and the Germans had launched an aggressive new offensive on the Western Front. In the interim, the U.S. gave its allies much-needed help in the form of economic assistance: extending vast amounts of credit to Britain, France and Italy; raising income taxes to generate more revenue for the war effort; and selling so-called liberty bonds to its citizens to finance purchases of products and raw materials by Allied governments in the United States.

By the end of World War I in November 1918, some 24 million men had registered under the Selective Service Act. Of the almost 4.8 million Americans who eventually served in the war, some 2.8 million had been drafted.

History Channel / Wikipedia (World War I) / Encyclopedia Britannica (World War I) / Selective Service System.gov / U.S. Congress passes Selective Service Act on May 18, 1917 (YouTube) video

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier USS Washington (U.S.Navy.mil)

The Old Salt’s Corner

Typical Carrier Departments

Each department is further subdivided into divisions with personnel manning these divisions assigned to “Watches”, “Sections”, or both.

1. Administrative Department

The Administrative Department is responsible for maintaining all administrative data and paperwork necessary for the ship to function properly. These functions include data processing, as well as recreational, police, and postal services. This department is also responsible for operation of the ship’s Public Affairs Office as well as the onboard television and radio stations. This department typically handles personnel records, including visiting Naval Reserve personnel (see Module 1).

2. Air Department

The Air Department gives direct support to the embarked air wing. The Air Department is in charge of launching and landing aircraft, fueling, moving, and controlling fixed and variable wing aircraft. It is also responsible for the routine handling of aircraft on the flight deck and in the hangar bays. Note: Smaller vessels with embarked helicopter detachments should have some flavor of an Air Department, although it may be very small.

3. Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD)

The AIMD provides industrial level maintenance for the air wing and the ship’s ground support equipment.

4. Chaplain Department

Onboard the carrier, the Chaplain Department is dedicated to promoting the spiritual, religious and personal morale of embarked military personnel. The Chaplain Corps extends this mission to all military personnel and their dependents. The Chaplain Department also coordinates all personal emergency communications from the American Red Cross, provides pastoral care and counseling, and directs operation of the ship’s library. Smaller vessels may not have their own chaplain, especially if they are deployed with a CVBG. In these cases, a chaplain will fly from the carrier via helicopter to conduct services.

5. Communications Department

The Communications Department sends and receives messages to and from other ships, aircraft and shore facilities via various sophisticated electronic equipment. Such equipment includes computers, satellites, cryptographic devices, and high power transmitters and receivers.

6. Deck Department

The Deck Department is charged with the most traditional of nautical responsibilities. Enlisted Boatswain’s Mates (BM) maintain the exterior of the ship’s surfaces, anchor and moor the ship, man the rescue and assistance lifeboats, and monitor underway replenishment. The BMs’ most prevalent (and audible) duty is the "piping away" of different events over the ship’s intercom. This department is headed by the ship’s First Lieutenant (a job title, not to be confused with the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps rank of O-2).

7. Dental Department

The Dental Department provides comprehensive dental care, encompassing simple preventative care through emergency services for all embarked personnel. Note: Only large ships, such as carriers and amphibious warfare ships, have embarked Dental Departments. This department, along with Medical and Supply, are known as support departments.

8. Engineering Department

The Engineering Department maintains the ship’s power plants providing steam for propulsion and aircraft launch catapults. It also provides all life support systems, fresh water, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, hot water, electrical power, telephone service, and maintains the ship’s sewage system. The ship’s Chief Engineer, or "Cheng", heads this department.

9. Maintenance Management Department

The Maintenance Management Department is responsible for the scheduling and coordination for all off-ship maintenance (i.e., repairs at shipyards or dry docks) and planned organic maintenance ship-wide.

10. Medical Department

The Medical Department is responsible for maintaining the health of the crew, the treatment of sick and injured ship’s personnel, disease prevention and the promotion of good health ship-wide. The head of this department must be an officer of the Navy Medical Corps (MC). Additionally, the Medical Officer also advises the ship’s CO on ship’s hygiene and sanitation conditions. Smaller ships may not have an embarked Medical Officer in which case Hospital Corps personnel run the department under the administrative auspices of the Operations Department (see below).

11. Navigation Department

The enlisted navigation Quarter Masters (QMs) and the ship’s navigator brief the Commanding Officer and the Officer-of-the Deck (OOD) on the position of the ship, the direction of travel and the safest sea lanes to traverse. Computations are made using celestial navigation, electronic machinery and visual reports. The Navigation Department is also responsible for executing all military traditions, customs and honors onboard ship.

12. Operations Department

The Operations Department is responsible for collecting, cataloging, analyzing and distributing combat information vital to the accomplishment of the ship’s offensive and defensive missions. Heading this very important department is the ship’s Operations Officer, or “Ops”. This individual is one of the busiest persons on the ship. Intelligence, photographic intelligence, local air traffic control, and missile system maintenance are types of services provided by this department. The ship’s intelligence officer and the CVIC spaces fall under this department on a carrier. On other ships, 3905 enlisted Intelligence Specialists and/or collateral duty intelligence officers fall under the Operations Department. As a reserve intelligence officer (1635) or enlisted Intelligence Specialist, you most likely will be assigned to this department during your AT-at-Sea. The Operations Department will be discussed in more detail in the next module.

13. Safety Department

The Safety Department is responsible for ongoing training and education programs, equipment dangers, procedural hazards, and accident prevention. It is found only on aircraft carriers. As mentioned earlier, a ship can be an extremely dangerous place to work (see Module 1). While onboard, constantly be aware of maintaining posted safety regulations and procedures.

14. Supply Department

The Supply Department is responsible for feeding and paying the ship’s crew, including the running of ship’s wardroom(s) and messing spaces. This department holds responsibility for the laundry and dry cleaning services, stores, barbershops, and recreation services. This department also stocks spare parts for underway ship and/or aircraft repairs. Heading this department is the ship’s Supply Officer, or “Suppo”, a member of the Navy Supply Corps (SC). The Supply Officer may have assistants for disbursing, food service, ship’s store, or wardroom mess.

15. Training Department

The Training Department is responsible for the continued coordination of enlisted advancement exams, reenlistments and coordination of special schools. Training also handles general damage control and 3M training.

16. Weapons Department

The Weapons Department maintains and operates the ship’s various weapons systems. Personnel of the Weapons Department also assemble, test and maintain bombs, missiles, torpedoes and small weapons ammunition. On smaller ships, this department might fall under the administrative auspices of the Deck Department (see above).

“I’m Just Sayin’”

“I’m Just Sayin”

“Kindness is the language

which the deaf can hear

and the blind can see.”

~ Mark Twain

“Thought for the Day”

“Thought for the Day”

“There is only one way

to avoid criticism,

do nothing,

say nothing

and be nothing.”

~ Aristotle

“What I Have Learned”

“What I Have Learned”

“Watch your thoughts,

they become your words.

Watch your words,

they become your actions.

Watch your actions,

they become your habits.

Watch your habits,

they become your character.

Watch your character,

it becomes your destiny.”

~ Anonymous

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Bizarre News (we couldn’t make up stuff this good – real news story)

Animatronic T-Rex Bursts Into Flames At Colorado Dinosaur Park

Animatronic T-Rex Bursts Into Flames At Colorado Dinosaur Park

CANON CITY, Colorodo - The president and co-owner of a dinosaur-themed park in southern Colorado thinks that an electrical malfunction caused a life-size animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex to burst into flames.

Zach Reynolds said that the T-Rex at the Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience smoldered for about 10 minutes before it caught fire Thursday morning. Visitors watched as the inferno spread through the dinosaur, which appeared at times to be breathing flames.

The T-Rex was affectionately known to staff members as Chicken.

Reynolds joked, “We knew he had a temper, but today he blew his top.”

“Much like its real-life ancestors”, the park said, the T-Rex “left behind only a skeleton after an ‘extinction’ event.”

The 24-foot-tall animatronic creature, which moved and made sounds, was one of 16 dinosaurs that line the park’s Wild Walk exhibit. Reynolds said that it was a total loss, but at least “it made for some spectacular imagery along the way.”

Reynolds credited his team for handling the fire safely and preventing it from spreading. Nobody was injured.

He hopes to have a replacement T-Rex installed by the summer.

CBS DFW Local (03/23/2018) video

Why Do Canada Geese Fly at Night?

Mr. Answer Man Please Tell Us: Why Do Canada Geese Fly at Night?

First… any goose you see that is carrying a valid passport from the great country of Canada, may be called a Canadian Goose. All others should be referred to by their actual name, which is Canada Goose (Branta canadensis).

V formations are quite extraordinary. You can’t tell from the ground, but the lead goose is the lowest of the bunch. Each goose behind is slightly higher than the one in front of it, all the way to the last goose, which is flying the highest. They do this because of the aerodynamics of their wings. The only goose that is using all its wing power is the lead goose… point-man, so to speak. When that goose flaps its wings, it causes a certain turbulence of the air that’s following the wing. The next goose in line benefits from this swirling air, and doesn’t need to apply 100% of its wingpower. The next goose, again benefits from that one, and so on down the line. Flying in formation this way adds 71% more distance that they can fly, than when flying alone!

So who gets chosen to be point-bird?

They actually take turns. When one gets tired, he will drop back so he can rest a bit and benefit from another goose’s turbulence. When migrating… in good weather… with favorable winds, a strong tail wind… these guys can make up to 1,500 miles in a single day!

Flying at night: It has to do with that turbulence. Many other large birds (and these ARE large birds!) use thermals to gain altitude and to soar on. Raptors do this. Hawks, eagles, etc. During the day, the landscape is riddled with all kinds of thermals rising from the ground, all depending on what the surface looks like below; how much heat was absorbed and stored from the sun; if it’s dark or light… or even water.

These thermals are great for raptors! Lots of vertical air movement, all over. But geese don’t soar, and they don’t have need to fly in circles. They have somewhere to go. And all those day time thermals are a pain in the butt; doesn’t make for smooth sailing. Plus, they interfere with the wing turbulence that they use to keep from tiring. At night, several hours after sunset, the Earth cools and those pesky vertical thermals disperse.

Another reason for night flight is to prevent over-heating. Nights are cooler, so birds that expend a lot of energy with constant flapping (as opposed to soaring) take advantage of the cool of the night.

Geese are tough! Especially on the ground.

A third reason: Hawks! And Eagles! And Falcons! These birds are diurnal hunters, meaning they hunt during the day. Geese are tough! Especially on the ground. People have used geese instead of watchdogs. But falcons, hawks and eagles, hitting them from the air often spells doom. In other words… “their goose is cooked”. During the day, they often rest and feed and rejuvenate in the water, where they are safe from raptor attack. As long as they stay in the water.

All migratory birds are split up into three classes, regarding migration habits. Nocturnal Migrants, are the first classification, who do so at night. This would include most of the seed-eating songbirds, such as sparrows and thrushes. They will fly all night, then rest up, top off the tank with food, and try to stay out of sight of raptors during the day.

The second group is the Diurnal Migrants, who migrate during the day. These are often the insect-eaters; jays, swifts, swallows, larks, etc. They benefit greatly from the day-time thermals during their journey. But not for reasons of soaring, like raptors use thermals, but rather because these warm updrafts send up clouds of insects from the fields, right into the paths of the migrating birds, like a food delivery service! Most insects are so light that a gust of wind or a thermal current can lift them high into the air - and unwittingly into the beak of a hungry swallow.

And the third class of migrant are those that have a preference, but actually migrate day and/or night, depending on the circumstances. Canada Geese, and many waterfowl, fit into this last category.

All About Birds.orgBirdweb.orgLibrary of Congress.govQuoraWikipedia Canadian geese flying in v formation (YouTube) video

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang - U.S. Navy

NAVSPEAK aka U.S. Navy Slang

SERP: Senior Enlisted Rest Period. The Chief is going to his rack for an hour or so after chow, sometimes includes a “drink”.

Set Zebra: Sex involving double or triple penetration.

Seven to forever: The 0700-1200 watch, which is longer than the normal four hour watch.

Sewer Pipe Sailor: Diesel Submariner.

Shallow Water Sailors: Coast Guard.

Shallow Water Surface Pukes: Members of the Coast Guard, from the viewpoint of a bubblehead.

Just for MARINES - The Few. The Proud.

Just for you MARINE

Watch: Formal tour of duty of prescribed length, usually a guard-related task.

Water Bowl: Synonym for a canteen (1990s era).

Water Buffalo or Water Bull: 400-gallon potable water tank, trailer-mounted, towed behind a truck.

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

Naval Aviation Squadron Nicknames

VFA-103 - “Jolly Rogers”
Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia, U.S. - Established May 1, 1952

Where Did That Saying Come From

Where Did That Saying Come From?

Where Did That Saying Come From? “Come up trumps”

Come up trumps:”  Meaning: To complete something well or successfully, especially in circumstances in which it isn't expected.

Origin: 'Come up trumps' is a variant of the older phrase 'turn up trumps', which has been in use since the early 17th century.

The word trump in this context is a corruption of triumph, which was the name of a card game, similar to whist, that was played in the 17th century. The preacher Hugh Latimer referred to it in his 1st Sermon on the Card, 1529:

“The game that wee wyll playe at, shall bee called the triumphe... Lette therefore euery Christian manne and woman playe at these cardes.”

Encouraging card playing is hardly Christian orthodoxy these days, nor was it in 1529, but then Latimer was far from orthodox in his religious views - which resulted in him being burned at the stake.

Shakespeare used card playing imagery when alluding to the game in Anthony and Cleopatra, 1606. He says that “the queen, [Cleopatra] whose heart I thought I had” ... “now lost, she has pack'd cards with Caesar and false-play'd my glory unto an enemy's triumph.”

In triumph, as in whist, the trump suit was selected at random by the 'cutting' of the deck. Trump cards temporarily outranked other cards. Selecting the right suit to match one's hand was an advantage in the game and so turning up trumps became synonymous with success. It was, and still is, bad form to cut the deck without first shuffling the cards. Robert Burton, in his The anatomy of melancholy, 1621, was outraged that:

“They turned up trumpe, before the Cards were shuffled.”

By the 18th century turn up trumps had begun to be used in its figurative sense, that is, with no direct reference to card playing. It is recorded that way in Grose's Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1785:

“Something may turn up trumps, something lucky may happen.”

Incidentally, Shakespeare was also the first to refer to a pack of cards as a deck - in Henry VI, Part III, 1592:

“But whiles he thought to steale the single Ten, The King was slyly finger'd from the Deck.”

Phrases.org UK

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Science & Technology

Global carbon emissions could be cut three percent by following the UK's exampleUltrathin endoscope captures neurons firing deep in the brainStudy results suggest wild birds suffer personality disorders due to ingestion of heavy metalsEnzyme discovery enables first-time microbial production of an aromatic biofuelYeast adaptation study finds diploids evolve more slowly than haploidsReconciling Paris Agreement goals for temperature, emissions—study finds two targets don't always go hand in hand

Phys.org / MedicalXpress / TechXplore

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Strange, Mysterious or Downright Weird

The Riddle of Twin Telepathy

The Riddle of Twin Telepathy

Twins, both fraternal and identical, have fascinated the world for millennia. They are often very close, and share not only genes but home environments, friends, clothes and, of course, secrets. However many identical twins - perhaps as many as one in five - also claim to share something more mysterious: a special psychic connection.

About one out of every 30 babies born in the United States is a twin, and identical twins are especially interesting because they have the same genes and are alike in many ways. Brothers and sisters can be close, but some twins claim to know what the other is thinking or feeling. It's an intriguing idea, but what's the truth behind it — coincidence, psychic powers, or something else?

Twins often finish each other's sentences and think the same thoughts, but that has more to do with shared experiences than any psychic telepathy. This sort of psychological connection isn't necessarily mysterious: any two people who know each other very well and who have shared many common experiences - including non-twin siblings, old married couples, and even best friends - may complete each other's sentences and laugh at inside jokes that leave outsiders baffled.

The Riddle of Twin Telepathy

Separated at birth

The idea of twin telepathy has been around for well over a century. The 1844 Alexandre Dumas novella, “The Corsican Brothers”, tells the story of two once-conjoined brothers who were separated at birth yet even as adults continue to share not only thoughts but physical sensations. As one twin describes, “However far apart we are now we still have one and the same body, so that whatever impression, physical or mental, one of us perceives has its after-effects on the other.”

Dumas drew upon a considerable body of folklore associated with twins - not all of it positive. In many places if a cow gives birth to twin calves, they are sold immediately, as they are considered a bad omen. Centuries ago in West Africa - where women bear twins at a rate four times higher than the rest of the world - among the Yoruba people of Nigeria the arrival of twins was cause for alarm. Sometimes the mother and babies were banished from their village or even put to death, though modern-day twins are revered.

Indeed, when twins die at the same time it can give the appearance of some sort of supernatural or psychic connection linking not only their mental states but physical health. For example in 2017, 97-year-old twin sisters Martha Williams and Jean Haley died outside their Rhode Island home after they both appeared to have tripped and fallen in the cold, dying from exposure. Three years earlier in 2014 identical twins Helen Mae Cook and Clara Mae Mitchel, aged 83, died within a day of each other (though the circumstances were different: one died suddenly of a heart attack and the other after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease).

The Riddle of Twin Telepathy

Anecdotal evidence

Most of the evidence for twin telepathy is not scientific but instead anecdotal. For example, in 2009 a British teenager named Gemma Houghton was in her home when she suddenly had a feeling that her fraternal twin sister, Leanne, needed help. "I just got this feeling to check on her, so I went up to the bathroom and she was under the water," she said. Gemma found Leanne in a bathtub, unconscious. She had suffered a seizure and slipped under the water, nearly drowning. Gemma called for help and administered first aid, saving her sister's life. The story of Gemma and Leanne Houghton has been widely cited as an example of twin telepathy (the phrases "telepathic bond" and "sixth sense" appear in many news stories about them), and was cited by Guy Lyon Playfair, author of a book about twins, as a case where twin telepathy may have saved a life.

Such stories of twin telepathy (or coincidences) that make the news and are discussed in the context of some unexplained phenomena are, of course, the most dramatic ones. Mundane coincidences that everyone experiences aren't newsworthy, and if Leanne's mother (and not her twin sister) had saved her it's unlikely we would have heard about it. By one estimate there are about 100 million twins worldwide, and the fact is that most twins do not report experiencing any sort of mysterious telepathic connection. If some special, psychic connection between twins is as strong and common as often claimed, then by chance alone we should expect millions of these amazing stories, not just a few dozen. As intriguing as the idea is, there is no credible scientific evidence that psychic powers exist, either in the general population or among twins specifically.

Benjamin Radford, M.Ed., is deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of seven books including “Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries” and “Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment”, to be published.

Live Science (03/22/2018) video

© CEASAR CHOPPY by cartoonist Marty Gavin - archives Ceasar Choppy's Navy! “© CEASAR CHOPPY” by Marty Gavin


“Smoke On The Water” - Deep Purple 1972

“Smoke On The Water” - Deep Purple
Album: Machine Head
Released 1972 video

This song took inspiration from a fire in the Casino at Montreux, Switzerland on December 4, 1971. The band was going to record their Machine Head album there right after a Frank Zappa concert, but someone fired a flare gun at the ceiling during Zappa's show, which set the place on fire.

Deep Purple was in the audience for the show, and lead singer Ian Gillan recalls two flares being shot by someone sitting behind him which landed in the top corner of the building and quickly set it ablaze. Zappa stopped the show and helped ensure an orderly exit. Deep Purple watched the blaze from a nearby restaurant, and when the fire died down, a layer of smoke had covered Lake Geneva, which the casino overlooked. This image gave bass player Roger Glover the idea for a song title: “Smoke On The Water”, and Gillan wrote the lyric about their saga recording the Machine Head album.

The band was relocated to the Grand Hotel in Montreux, where they recorded the album using the Rolling Stones mobile studio. They needed one more song, so they put together “Smoke On The Water” using Gillan's lyric and riff the guitarist Ritchie Blackmore came up with. The result was a song telling the story of these strange events just days after they happened - the recording sessions took place from December 6-21.

Frank Zappa, who is mentioned in the lyrics, lost all his equipment in the fire. He then broke his leg a few days later when a fan pulled him into the crowd at a show in England. This prompted Ian Gillan to say “Break a leg, Frank”, into the microphone after recording this for a BBC special in 1972.

Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover had some doubts about the title: he knew it was great but was reluctant to use it because it sounded like a drug song.

Ritchie Blackmore has an affinity for renaissance music, which he writes and performs in his duo Blackmore's Night. He says that he first took an interest in the form in 1971 when he saw a BBC program called Wives of Henry VIII, and that there is indeed a trace of Renaissance in “Smoke On The Water”. “The riff is done in fourths and fifths - a medieval modal scale”, he explained on MySpace Music. “It makes it appear more dark and foreboding. Not like today's pop music thirds.”

The band did not think this would be a hit and rarely played it live. It took off when they released it as a U.S. single over a year after the album came out. Talking about the song's merits as live material, Roger Glover said in Metal Hammeralways a pressure to play it, and it's not the greatest live song, it's a good song but you sorta plod through it. The excitement comes from the audience. And there's always the apprehension that Ritchie (Blackmore) isn't gon, “I think 'Smoke On The Water' is the biggest song that Purple will ever have and there's na want to do it, 'cause he's probably fed up with doing it.”

Funky Claude”, as in the lyrics “Funky Claude was running in and out pulling kids out the ground”, is Claude Nobs, a man who helped rescue some people in the fire and found another hotel for the band to stay. He is the co-founder of the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.

Nobs explained to Gibson.com how this song arose out of the ashes:

Deep Purple were watching the whole fire from their hotel window, and they said, 'Oh my God, look what happened. Poor Claude and there's no casino anymore!' They were supposed to do a live gig [at the casino] and record the new album there. Finally I found a place in a little abandoned hotel next to my house and we made a temporary studio for them. One day they were coming up for dinner at my house and they said, 'Claude we did a little surprise for you, but it's not going to be on the album. It's a tune called “Smoke On The Water.”' So I listened to it. I said, 'You're crazy. It's going to be a huge thing.' Now there's no guitar player in the world who doesn't know [he hums the riff]. They said, 'Oh if you believe so we'll put it on the album.' It's actually the very precise description of the fire in the casino, of Frank Zappa getting the kids out of the casino, and every detail in the song is true. It's what really happened. In the middle of the song, it says 'Funky Claude was getting people out of the building,' and actually when I meet a lot of rock musicians, they still say, 'Oh here comes Funky Claude.'”

Fender.com asked Ritchie Blackmore how he came up with the song's famous riff. He replied: “Ian Paice (Deep Purple drummer) and I often used to jam, just the two of us. It was a natural riff to play at the time. It was the first thing that came into my head during that jam.”

Deep Purple official site / Billboard / All Music / Song Facts / Ultimate Classic Rock / Deep Purple

Image: “Machine Head (album)” by Deep Purple



● It is said that during the times of the czars, Russian officers, when drunk, would engage in a foolish and very risky challenge known as RUSSIAN ROULETTE.

● Australia, Canada and Hong Kong all use the same unit of currency, known as the dollar.

● Honey is the only food that doesn't spoil.


A Test for People Who Know Everything

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “SEAN CONNERY & BURT REYNOLDS” ($1,000):

“Sean said, 'He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue' in this film.”

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer IMDb

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “HISTORIC DOCUMENTS” ($400):

“A draft document called the Articles of the Barons preceded this one to which the king set his seal in 1215.”

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer The British Library

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “A CLOUDY CATEGORY” ($200):

“Cloud computing holds onto your data with vast arrays or 'farms' of these computers that process requests.”

Answer for People Who Do Not Know Everything, or Want to Verify Their Answer Rack Space

Answer to Last Week's Test

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “INVENTION & INNOVATION” ($200):

“Percy Spencer got the idea to invent this type of oven after a magnetron melted his candy bar.”

● Answer: A Microwave. Biography

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “INVENTION & INNOVATION” ($600):

“Mixing slaked lime & volcanic ash, the Romans made use of this cement-based building material in monuments & roads.”

● Answer: Concrete. Smithsonian

From the Jeopardy Archives Category - “INVENTION & INNOVATION” ($800):

“He was inducted into the Inventors' Hall of Fame for pioneering the solid-body electric guitar.”

● Answer: Les Paul. The Globe and Mail