Thursday, September 30, 2010

Principled Security Leadership

Here is the paper many of you helped me with this summer..

Photo courtesy

Principled Security Leadership

A Nagging Question

A serious concern has nagged the security professional in me since the fall of 2001. This concern has fueled much personal introspection and non-academic study since. This concern has informed much of my Human Development program since my beginning course. My concern is this: Have security professionals– through action, passivity, or silence – made use of fear to further their programs, especially in the years since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent anthrax murders? When I express the question to fellow students, faculty, and persons outside the security profession the idea had traction. They immediately agreed that someone has been encouraging them to be fearful of their security, and they resented it.

As I formulated my approach to this question my research took several forms. I reached out via email to security and business professionals I know and respect. I solicited feedback from several online forums in which I participate at LinkedIn. Finally, I looked to the online databases to find papers in the academic literature on the topic of principled security leadership and its opposites. I read a variety of current books on leadership though, as we will see, almost all of them were oriented toward general business or military leadership.

The responses I received varied. Some were predictable, a few were disappointing, and the best of them were challenging.

A Three Part Process


I sent a mass email to my extended business connections informing them that I was reviewing the literature for examples of principled security leadership. By “principled” I told my peers I was looking for security professionals who lead in positive, proactive ways to make good business happen, rather than those who respond to security issues in an acquisitive, reactive, or fear-based manner. I told my fellow professionals I hoped to discern the elements of an effective, positive, and progressive model and eventually demonstrate the benefits of such an approach to our peers. Once I identified a group of such leaders and develop a sense of how their philosophies guide their practice I told my connections I hoped to interview several exemplars. To that end I asked for the names of progressive leadership professionals operating in the physical or logical security space that I should consider. Finally, I asked if there were any articles, papers, or other publications about security leadership practices that they had found useful. If they had any to recommend, I asked if them to share the citations.

The response of my peers was supportive. I received many recommendations for respected security professionals with whom I should speak. One questioned my use of the term “progressive” since most of the security practitioners he knew regarded themselves as conservatives (Thibodaux, C., personal communication, 2010). I assured him I used the term in a non-political sense and that I was seeking professionals who were innovative and willing to lead in non-traditional ways. Some professionals of my acquaintance said they wished me luck but that I should not expect to find business leaders who regard security as much more than an expensive necessary evil and that we will never be seriously considered a direct contributor to a business’s success.

There was little or no feedback with regard to the literature.


Then I posted a similar, if somewhat edgier, question to several different online forums at the LinkedIn professional networking site. The forums I chose – ASIS, ASIS Certified Protection Professional, Security Management Resources, Security Metrics, Private Security Professionals, CSO Roundtable, and National Loss Prevention – are actively attended by persons from a variety of security disciplines, several of whom I know and respect personally. The question I put to these security professionals was whether a positive, proactive leadership approach that centers on business success more productive than pursuing regulatory compliance or giving in to fear mongering? Again, I solicited advice as to citations, publications, and references.

Response on the forums was marked by a great deal of enthusiasm for my line of inquiry (Robinson, 2010). Many references were recommended (du Plooy, 2010), but I quickly found that they were going to focus on general business leadership theory and practice, frequently at a very high level (Richmond, 2010). Despite these helpful recommendations no citations in the academic literature offered, a harbinger of things to come. Still there were no references offered that dealt specifically with leadership of private security organizations.

The literature or the lack of it

Using search terms such as “ethical,” “progressive,” “principled,” “security,” “leadership,” and “fear” I sifted the on-line databases looking for academic papers on security leadership. My mind boggles that this sort of research used to be accomplished without computers! At first I limited my search to resources created since 2000, but dropped that restriction as citations trickled in. Alas, all the light speed electronics at my disposal took only milliseconds to return very few results.

Security and Security Management offered articles on supervision, management, and leadership, but these are trade journals. Mostly these articles described the application of progressive management practices to the security profession. These new practices are refreshing in a trade traditionally organized along hierarchical lines and accustomed to a top down communication style, but overall there was nothing to suggest that security leadership constituted a discrete talent.

Security Journal had a couple papers peripherally related to my line of inquiry. The issue of risk perception and assessment by security managers and how they communicate effectively to their superiors was given an effective treatment by Baron and Zwanenberg (1999). Likewise the issue of the funding cycle, and the means by which expenditures are justified, was examined by Manunta (2000).

The Security Executive Council, recommended to me by security industry notable Jerry Brennan (2010) is an online repository of security articles. Some are created by the Council for the sole use of its paid membership, some for retail sale. Other articles written for security related trade magazines are archived at their web site. Many of these articles focus on leadership issues but generally apply conventional business techniques (Hayes and Fickes, 2007).

Lora Setter, program director for the Masters in Public Administration at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, complained there is a lack of peer-reviewed literature on leadership in law enforcement organizations as well. She reports that her capstone students find many trade magazine articles but very little from the academy (Personal communication, August 12, 2010).


Principled Leadership

With regard to asking for examples of principled leadership some chafed at an implicit accusation. Everyone seemed to regard themselves as principled and not inclined to work for someone who is not. Many gave excellent examples of the virtues of effective leaders.

The leadership of subordinate team members was addressed by several forum respondents. Many with prior military or law enforcement experience addressed security leadership issues from a traditional hierarchical command, “mission first” perspective (J. Hanebury, personal communication, July, 2010). Most of the responses were from professionals committed to a compassionate (Green, 2010), progressive (Greggo, 2010), and democratic style (Polensky, 2010). I would like to think the path we prefer is the best one, but no one could data in support of the idea that a positive approach is more effective in the private sector. Does regulatory compliance still get more traction? Is it easier to react to fear than to work proactively with an appreciation of dynamic risk? There are great leaders who are fine people to work for, but are they judged successful by their executives for their contribution to the enterprise's financial success or for their leadership style?

There is no end of writing on business leadership. Historical leaders have been revitalized and repurposed as exemplars to corporate executives. Sir Ernest Shackleton, who led the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition safely home despite disaster, demonstrated some surprisingly progressive values, perhaps because of his experiences under the heavy hand of other explorers who led as they had in the military – as rigid, tradition-bound, authoritarians (Morrell and Capparell, 2002).

Of course there are plenty of writers dealing with leadership in the military, from an inexperienced George Washington (Anderson, 2000, pp. 50-65) at the incident that started the French and Indian War, to Civil War leader General Grant (Kaltman, 1998), to unassuming WWII heroes (Palmisano, 2008), to young Marine officers in the most recent Iraq war (Ficke, 2008).

The security industry trade journals offer many familiar suggestions for applying both age old common sense and the latest thinking around leadership, compliance, and ethics. Learn to follow if you hope to lead (Chaleff, 2003). Communicate your vision (Dalton, 1998). Lead by example (Heck, 1993). Motivate with a positive, participatory policy (Kennish, 1994). Lead with ethics (Simonson, 1992). Attract and retain the attention of your executives in effective and responsible ways (Lukaszewski, 2009) (Ulsch, 2000). As useful as this guidance is, familiar, if not identical, advice can be found in the books dealing with general business leadership (Palus and Horth, 2002) (Watkins, 2003) (Palmisano, 2008) (Baldoni, 2009).


The other category of leadership is administering a program that seeks to meet regulatory requirements. Compliance was regarded as the easiest to achieve according to several respondents. Responding to a specific regulatory framework makes for measurable results. So between a negative motivation, successfully meeting goals set by regulators, or engaging in principled leadership to help the company deal with dynamic risk, I am wondering which is - or is regarded by our executives as - the most effective method.

Several correspondents repeated the idea that, while it was desirable to find a way to directly connect the efforts of the security organization to a contribution to the bottom line financial results, such opportunities were few and far between (Agcaoili, 2010). The importance of meeting expected financial targets or contributing in quantifiable ways to the success of the enterprise might be inferred from the excellent responses I received but it was rarely at the top of the list of leadership priorities. This does not surprise me. I both extolled and witnessed a sort “warrior spirit” among security practitioners over the years. There is a sense that protection of persons trumps the profit motive. A more sophisticated business approach recognizes that injury, harm, or loss damages profits and must be avoided for both ethical and financial reasons.

Years ago a mentor suggested that while corporate security cannot be a profit center perhaps it will some day be seen a "profit enhancement center." This had shaped my ideas around effectively applied security making otherwise marginal business practical. But when meeting financial targets, making direct contributions to the bottom line, comes into play are positive, popular, principled leaders still highly regarded by their executives? Even the business literature was silent.

Fear Mongering

Perhaps the term "fear mongering" is too loaded a term for use in a friendly discussion.

My use of the term offended several writers. Such a question implied an ethical failure on the part of a leader. Yet beyond attempting to motivate subordinates through fear, I pressed in clarification, are there situations when security directors deliberately feed the fears of executives (or the clients of those involved in sales or consulting), peers, and employees to accomplish their goals when "managing up?” Did any of us oversell 9/11?

More than being offended many people expressed the opinion that using fear to forward an agenda was a short lived strategy that would backfire on a manager who tried it (Glantz, 2010). Others thought it did not happen very often. It is interesting the ways in which responses to my initial question vary depending on which group I asked. It was suggested that the term "fear mongering" is too strong, even a pejorative. The responses rejecting my use of the term were among the most detailed and were very useful to me.

I agreed that recognition and communication of threats to business success – especially issues affecting employee safety – is not fear mongering. Done proactively and with a positive mindset, finding way to secure the pursuit of marginal business in iffy markets is an excellent opportunity for us to demonstrate our value to the enterprise.

Conversations, emails, and responses on the LinkedIn groups helped me refine my query. I agreed most of us have experienced the joys of leading high performance teams using positive methods, yet I was left looking for data demonstrating any difference in the effectiveness of various styles used when "leading up" to guide our executives or senior clients.

Flaws in My Premise?

A couple very interesting responses came from persons who had also conducted graduate level work. Several said my question was far too broad for a Master’s thesis. I agreed that more focus was called for.

I was accused of posing a false dichotomy (Taylor, 2010). As I examined the question, especially as put to the forums, I became concerned my original question might have constituted a false trilemma – offering as choices principled and positive leadership, a program that seeks merely to comply with regulations, and operations run by those who leverage fear in the boardroom or in the general employee population.

I was warned that “the greatest challenge will be in working your personal bias out of the equation” (M. Smolecki, personal communication, July 1, 2010). Do the questions betray a cynicism arising from disappointments I have encountered personally? If so, then part of my ethical challenge is drawn from what I usually regard as strength. Over the past 30 years I have worked at every security position in the private sector, from line officer to corporate leadership. I have supported government and industry from the perspective of the security consultant. Most recently I have worked in providing vended security services, which has included sales and P&L pressures for which corporate security and even consulting did not prepare me. While they all have the word security in the title the jobs – and especially their business models – are really very different. I have seen the security profession from many angles, some of which did not play to my strengths. If I am angry about any of my experiences I must be careful to identify this threat to my objectivity and professionalism.

Have I addressed my question – and its implicit blame – to the correct sector? My attribution of fear mongering may be misplaced, or at least overstated, when directed at corporate security leadership. A closer look at the organizations that seem to be fomenting fear leads a person to identify government agencies (Schneier, 2003) (Ranum, 2004) or the news media (De Becker 2002) (Adams, 2010) as more egregious perpetrators than most security professionals. The vended security services sector is certainly guilty of leveraging the fears of its clients in its marketing materials (Lipman, 2009). There are still some security managers who make dire pronouncements in an attempt to influence the public (Lombardi, 2009). While some of fellow forum correspondents were familiar with security managers playing the fear card they thought it was not common in the corporate setting, and that it was done primarily when “managing up” (Saptarshi, 2010).

Though repudiated on several levels, the question nags a little. When we received increased budgets or new business in the aftermath of 9/11 were we benefiting from fear in the boardroom? If so, was our failure the result of relying on an inappropriate tool or some other sort a weakness in our leadership?

A New Three Part Process

Constructing a New Premise

This has been a wonderfully frustrating exercise. The core idea for my independent study has been turned on its head by comments, suggestions, and questions. My initial idea was to examine the literature surrounding principled security leadership. My questions seem now both too broad and somewhat shallow. I have been forced to reexamine my personal assumptions.

Finer focus

I am agreed with my correspondents that my original question is far too broad. If I hope to make some contribution to the literature and my craft I must clarify and focus my attention. If my position paper is to be written on the topic of security I must come up with a concise idea, a lens through which to focus on one particular aspect of my trade. With that in mind, when I look at my original question very closely it dissolves. All businesses will look for a positive, proactive leadership approach that aligns itself with the success of the enterprise (Libhart, 2010). All businesses will attach appropriate importance to the pursuit of regulatory compliance (Martinson, personal communication, August 2010). No business will knowingly or for long tolerate leaders who resort to fear mongering (Greggo, 2010).

Security Leadership?

Perhaps the real question is hidden in the subtext of my concerns. Is there such a thing as security leadership per se (Stephens, 2010)? Some of my peers, such as Carol Martinson, suggest security professionals are simply, and at their best, business leaders who specialize in the discipline of security, asset protection, and risk management, but that good leadership is good leadership (personal communication, 2010) (Lee, 2007).

The one area where security leadership may be different than other leadership opportunities in business is the perception that our special talent is to protect the company from physical harm at the hands of others, that we have a special understanding of such persons, and that we serve as a gateway to the criminal justice system. These talents are the stuff of TV crime dramas, movies, and novels, and people find them fascinating. I have seen this card played in ugly ways, and I have seen it applied with great compassion and sensitivity.

Does our role in dealing with emergencies make us a little more like the military or public safety organizations? The police run to the source of the gunfire. Firefighters run into burning buildings. Paramedics deliberately approach scenes of great pain and possible contagion to render aid. When they arrive there is frequently security officer there to open the door, guide them to scene, and tell them what is happening. What other business discipline might call for the ultimate sacrifice (Offer, 2010)? Does this aspect of our mission call for a specific sort of leadership, or simply the application of leadership methods applied by military, police, and emergency services professions?

In part I feel I am no closer to the answers to my several questions than when I started. Perhaps I have simply found several dead ends and can close out some unfruitful avenues of inquiry. I have identified weaknesses in my argument that will strengthen my approach to a more thoughtful and carefully focused question. But part of me wonders if we do not already know the answers to my three-part inquiry.

There are leaders who are fun to work for and who accomplish great things by abiding by common (Baldoni, 2009), clever (Cameron and Green, 2008), and progressive (Palus and Horth, 2002) principles. There a leaders who know how achieve results and earn the respect of their executives, peers, and team mates doing it (Goleman, 2000) (Watkins, 2003). There are ways to identify and prioritize dangerous, or even deadly, business risk (Jackson and Frelinger, 2007) and mitigate its effects (Hertig, McGough, and Smith, 2008). These days we can worry a little less about fear mongers – whether in government, the media, or the security manager’s office next door. There are vocal, high profile gadflies who will call their bluff (Mueller and Stewart, 2010) (Phillips, 2007). There are even those, in our post-Enron world, who challenge security leaders to expect excellence from their executives (Fine and Horowitz, 2010) (Dion, 2008).

There is some light. Tim Prenzler, Professor of Criminology at Griffith University in Australia (2007) calls on the security profession to engage in research of “the human side of security.” The industry might pursue more professionalism in the security field rather than laying more technology. Perhaps if there is no such thing as security leadership it is because its practitioners have not taken the time to stake out our turf, to identify why what we do is different from the other business disciplines, and how we can make what we do better. Now that is a compelling challenge and very interesting potential topic.


Adams, J. (2010) What kills you matters – not the numbers. Retrieved from The Social Affairs Unit web site:

Agcaoili, P. (2010, June 22) Message posted to

Anderson, F. (2000) Crucible of war: the seven years war and the fate of empire in British North America 1754-1766. New York: Vintage Books.

Baldoni, J. (2009) Lead by example: 50 ways great leaders inspire results. New York: American Management Association.

Baron, V. and Zwanenberg, N. (1999) Cues, needs, and decisions: a ‘lens’ model of security operations. Security Journal. 12, 41–55; doi:10.1057/

Brennan, J. (2010, June 23) Message posted to

Cameron: E. and Green, M. (2008) Making sense of leadership: exploring the five key roles used by effective leaders. London: Kogan Page Limited.

Chaleff, I. (2003) The courage to follow. Security Management. 47(9), 26-32.

Dalton, D. (1998) Visions of leadership. Security Management. 42(6), 29-30.

De Becker, G. (2002) Fear less: real truth about risk, safety, and security in a time of terrorism. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.

Dion, M. (2008) Ethical leadership and crime prevention in the organizational setting. Journal of Financial Crime. 15(3), 308-319. DOI 10.1108/13590790810882892

Du Plooy, J. (2010, June 23) Message posted to

Feeny, J. (2010, June 23) Message posted to

Fick, N. (2005) One bullet away: the making of a marine officer. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Fine, S. and Horowitz, I. (2010) Managing big egos. Security Management. April 2010.

Glantz, K. (2010, June 26) Message posted to

Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review. March-April 2000.

Green, D. (2010, June 29) Message posted to

Greggo, A. (2010, June 23) Message posted to

Hayes, B. and Fickes, M. (2007) Tomorrow’s security leaders today. Retrieved from web site:

Heck, G. (1993) Managing by example. Security Management. 37(6), 47-48.

Hertig, C, McGough, M., and Smith, S. (2008) Leadership for security professionals. Security Supervision and Management: Theory and Practice of Asset Protection (3rd Ed.). Sandi Davies and Christopher Hertig (Eds.). Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Jackson, B. and Frelinger, D. (2007) Emerging threats and security planning: how should we decide what hypothetical threats to worry about? Occasional Paper, RAND Homeland Security. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Kaltman, A. (1998) Cigars, whiskey, & winning: leadership lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant. Paramus, NJ: Prentice Hall Press.

Kennish, J. (1994) Motivating with a positive, participatory policy. Security Management. 38(8), 22-23.

Lee, J. (2007) From banking to bakeries: managing asset protection at Supervalu. Retrieved from Loss Prevention Magazine web site:

Libhart, L. (2010, June 24) Message posted to

Lipman, I. (2009) The time for urgency is now. Security Management. October 2009.

Lombardi, L. (2009) Who’s guarding beaver stadium? Retrieved from web site:

Lukaszewski, J. (2009) Getting the boss’s ear. Security Management, 53(5) pp. 111-112.

Manunta, G. (2000) The management of security: how robust is the justification process? Security Journal. 13(1), 33-43.

Morrell, M. and Capparell, S. (2002) Shackleton’s way: leadership lessons from the great antarctic explorer. New York: Penguin Books.

Mueller, J. (2004) A false sense of insecurity. Regulation. 27(3), 42-46.

Mueller, J. and Stewart, M. (2010) Hardly existential: thinking rationally about terrorism. Retrieved from Foreign Affairs web site:

Offer, V. (2010, June 26) Message posted to

Oyler, J. (2010, June 21) Message posted to

Palmisano, D. (2008) On leadership: essential principles for success. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

Palus, C. and Horth, D. (2002) The leader's edge: six creative competencies for navigating complex challenges. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Phillips, Z. (2007) Security theater. Government Executive. August 2007.

Polensky, T. (2010, June 21) Message posted to

Prenzler, T. (2007) The human side of security. Security Journal. 20, 35-39. doi:10.1057/

Ranum, M (2004) The myth of homeland security. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing Inc.

Richmond, T. (2010, June 20) Message posted to

Robinson, P. (2010, June 21) Message posted to

Saptarshi, M. (2010, July 7) Message posted to

Schneier, B. (2003) Beyond fear: thinking sensibly about security in an uncertain world. New York: Copernicus Books.

Ulsch, M. (2000) Getting executive attention. Security Management, 44(1) pp. 32-33

Watkins, M. (2003) The first 90 days: critical success strategies for new leaders at all levels. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Williams, C. (2010, June 29) Message posted to 

Managing Rifle Recoil

New shooters, or old ones for that matter, need not bruise themselves to cleanly take their yearly whitetail...

image from wikimedia commons

There are two kinds of people in the world; folks who admit they don't care for recoil, and those who claim not to feel it. Even Jeff Cooper admitted the 600 Nitro is physically challenging. Toward the end of his career the African adventurer, F. C. Selous, complained that his four bore flintlock elephant gun was hard on his nerves and that he wished he'd "never made its acquaintance." I don't care for rifles that don't fit, have a hard-edged butt plate, or are needlessly noisy. I can shoot a light 30'06 with 220 grain bullets a lot, or a 375 Holland and Holland a little, without complaint, but I've done some of my best marksmanship with a 223 and a 243. I don't worry about recoil too much but I select rifles that kick as little as is required to get the job done.  New shooters and young hunters are a different story.  We can create lifelong hunting partners or we can bruise them until they'd rather stay home and play video games all day.  Our sport needs all the new hunters we can find so let's give some thought as to how we can make shooting a big game rifle pleasant and rewarding.

Setting up the Rifle

Try to find a rifle with a stock cut short enough to suit your new hunter.  Make sure it has a proper recoil pad, even if you have to pay to have it neatly installed.  Many youth size rifle have short (16-20 inch) barrels but a full length 22 inch barrel reduces the effect of blast and flash. To further reduce perception of recoil have your shooter wear shooting glasses, a PAST recoil shield, and ear plugs under ear muffs. Do not shoot under covered firing positions if you can avoid it.  They accentuate shooter discomfort by reflecting blast and providing shade in which muzzle flash is more visible. Get away from the bench to practice from sitting, kneeling, from crossed stick and from post rest if that can be arranged with your rangemaster. With shotguns the importance of good fit and an effect pad is doubly important. Put on a Pachmayr Decelerator pad and have your new hunter wear a PAST recoil shield at the range.

Lighter Cartridges

Just because you started your hunting career with your father's full-power 30'06 there is no reason your wife, son, or daughter has to.  If you haven’t chosen your new hunter’s rifle yet it’s hard to beat a 243 Winchester (the same used to be true of the 6mm Remington or the 250 Savage but they are not common these days). Kids, women, and grown-up men alike shoot it well and ammo can be found anywhere centerfire rifle cartridges are sold. I've used my 243 off and on for many years now.  I like it out to 200 yards or so, which is a far poke for the neophyte.

For deer cartridges with mild recoil and practical 300 yard trajectories the 257 Roberts, 260, 6.5x55, 270, 7mm08, or 7x57 come to mind.

The Russian 7.62x39mm is almost the equal of the 30/30 Winchester, which makes it an acceptable close range deer cartridge if you use a proper softnose bullet. The affordable surplus SKS may serve even though it’s a little clunky. The delightful little CZ 527 is as handy a bolt action carbine as you'll find anywhere. If your venison making shots are under 200 yards and you pass on "raking shots" through monster bucks the little AK round will suffice.

The .22 centerfires will work on deer where legal. I’ve done it with a 223, but the deer was out in the open. This is a case where you'll want to use premium bullets intended for big game, such as Winchester PowerPoint, Barnes X, Trophy Bonded, or Nosler Partitions and then do your best to arrange for carefully placed broadside shot on a relaxed deer at close range. These days there are also factory loads with game bullets in 223, 22/250, and 220 Swift.

Reduced Recoil Ammunition

My brother-in-law is man enough to admit he does not care for unnecessary recoil.   He borrowed my 30’06 one season and fed it the Remington Managed Recoil load to fill his antlerless whitetail tag as shots tend to be very close where we hunt.  The Managed Recoil load's 125 grain bullet clocks 2525 fps from the 22 inch barrel of my rifle (instead of the usual 180 grain bullet at 2700 fps). That makes it 200 fps faster than the 7.62x39 (but with a better bullet) or about 200 fps slower than a 257 Roberts (but with less sectional density). I'm guessing Remington chose the pointed 125 grain pill so they could claim a 50% recoil reduction yet maintain a reasonable trajectory for marketing purposes. It kills deer just fine from five yards to 60. Three shots, three deer.

The selection of reduced recoil factory ammunition just keeps getting better.  Nowadays Remington makes Managed Recoil loads for the 260, 270, 7mm08, 7mm Remington Magnum, 30-30, 308, 30'06, 300 Winchester Magnum, and even the 300 Ultramag.  Federal makes their Low Recoil loads for the 270 Winchester, 308, and 30'06.  In choosing the 170 grain flat nose @ 2000 fps for their Low Recoil 308 Winchester and 30'06 loads Federal essentially recreates 30/30 ballistics. My son used the Federal 308 load his third season but found the trajectory to be an issue when hunting out in the open; still he put two deer in the freezer for four tries.

Of the two brands I prefer the Remington Managed Recoil cartridge as a load for a young shooter to use in a 308 or 30’06 he or she aspires to grow into. Adult hunters who choose it because they are tired of being beaten up by their hard-butted '06s will have to choose their shots more carefully than is necessary when using full power ammo and abide by a 200 yard effective range.

Shotguns Slugs?

In some states shotgun slugs are required instead of rifles.  Shotgun slug recoil can be brutal and has been known to bring tears to eyes of adult male shooters.  Reducing it can only be a good thing.  At our gun club's annual "deer rifle sight-in days" I notice that teenage girls shoot their "little" 20 gauge slug guns much better than teenage boys shoot their Dad's 12 gauge slug guns.  So, if you don't have a slug gun yet consider the 20 bore variants.  In 12 gauge there are Managed Recoil and "tactical" slugs (cops don't like the full power rounds either) that are appreciably slower than the full-speed nasties (1 ounce @ 1200 or so instead of 1600 fps) but still pack a significant wallop (1610 ft. lbs., or more than most hunting pistols or 20 gauge sabot slug loads).  Their trajectory will be a little steeper so I'd limit my shots to 50-75 yards but I’d like to see the deer that will walk away from a center hit.  There are those who will suggest a .410 shotgun slug for slightly built hunters.  Most everyone knows somebody who has bagged a deer with this puny cartridge, but the 1/5 ounce .39 caliber projectile is not one I'd choose on purpose.


Those of us with access to a reloading bench can tailor our ammunition to specific shooters and conditions. Years ago I started my cousin's son deer hunting career with a 308 handload using data for the similar but less powerful 300 Savage.  He didn't connect his first couple seasons but not because he was afraid of the gun.

These days Hodgdon offers professionally developed “Youth Load” data

For the 308 Winchester and the 30’06 the Lyman Cast Bullet Handbook has loads using IMR3031, IMR4198, and RL7 to start 125-150s in the 2200-2500 range. I've used the same powders to make "30/30'06" loads using 150 grain Remington roundnose softs intended for the 30 WCF.

Ken Waters Pet Loads has data for 30/30 duplication loads for the 30'06. He also recommends loading the .30'06 four grains below maximum for lever actions, pumps, and self loaders. No reason you can’t do the same to take the edge off a boltgun. The 30'06 has always struck me as possessing a significant surplus of energy for the average deer so throttling it back is a fine idea for most anyone.

Thank you!

Again, good job getting your new hunter off to a strong start by preparing a gun that fits and providing ammo that does not inflict pain on tender shoulders. You and your family can concentrate on having a safe and enjoyable time in the deer woods.  The sport needs all the top quality talent it can get. Good hunting!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Merchants of Doubt

How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming...
In Merchants of Doubt Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway argue that Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate their disinformation campaigns.
I'll have to add this to the reading list...


As shown in this photo from our friends at Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD), from Mercury the Earth and Moon always appear full...

MESSENGER image courtest of APOD

The MESSENGER - MEcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging - mission began 2247 days ago on August 3, 2004.  There are 170 days to go until Mercury Orbit Insertion, on March 18, 2011, at 12:45 a.m. UTC.  Wow!

Atheists and Agnostics Most Knowledgeable About Religion

I have long suspected this was true; weird but true...

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the results of their U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey:

"Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new Pew Forum survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions."

But why is it true?

Cultural Cognition of Risk

A post at Schneier on Security on the topic of Cultural Cognition of Risk generated some buzz this week, so of course I jumped in...

Here’s one of many online articles on the topic. Here’s the abstract and citation

“People jump from questions of fact to questions of value all the time. A lot of the debate about "what to do?" which is really a question of values and priorities gets reduced to "questions of fact".”

What's more, the debate surrounding those risks chosen to mark the boundaries of the Culture War - abortion, tobacco, free trade, gun control, global warming, war on drugs, fundamentalist religion, global war on terror, NASCAR - are subject to deliberate and sometimes very sophisticated disinformation campaigns. Ideally, the facts should be determined using the scientific method, then the culture can decide what to do about them using political methods. Regretfully, the disinformers who find the likely solutions unacceptable know that it's much more effective to attack the facts and those attempting to discern them. If you can't even decide whether there's a problem then there's no sense proceeding to talk of remedies...

"Interesting, only 97% of scientists believe in evolution yet 100% of Christians believe in God. I'm not sure what, if anything, that proves."

It proves little but may demonstrate an important difference between science and faith. There is also some issue with the definitions of the terms "scientist" and "Christian." Not all PhDs are the molecular biologists whose opinions matter when discussing evolution. Whether any Christian can demonstrate qualifications sufficient to justify a belief in God is another matter altogether.

"...the pro-tobacco lobby quietly funded a cottage industry of researchers to produce studies indicating that cigarettes were not a substantive health risk, just as the fossil fuel industries are doing with global warming."

It's worse than that. In Merchants of Doubt Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway argue that Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate these disinformation campaigns.

"'...Big Tobacco and Big Oil hired the very same people to orchestrate these disinformation campaigns.'

1. who would YOU have hired? proven performer, or an unknown? these people are evil, not stupid.

2. who did the anti-evolutionists hire? i'm not willing to accept most of this second group as evil, and not stupid either (uneducated, yes...)"

Re Item 1: Good point. If I wanted to preserve the status quo by attacking the evidence and those who do the science (so I didn't have to solve the problem in this generation) I'd hire conservative disinformationists (but I'd ask them to cover their tracks more effectively).

Re Item 2: Biblicists are committed to a presupposition that their edition of the Good Book is literally true and inerrant. Therefore anything that conflicts with their preacher's understanding of it cannot possibly be true. Opposition to evolution is grassrooted, nonscientific, and dogmatic. There are some very smart (even highly educated) people who make a faith commitment to Bible-believing Christianity and then apply all their talents to selectively interpret, twist, and reinvent the science to fit their Iron Age Mediterranean worldview. The non-religious perceive their efforts as so much delusional flapdoodle (see Rob, September 29, 2010 5:16 AM). They need not be seen as evil, but perhaps they should be kept away from the nuclear weapons, policy decisions involving Israel and Palestine, and science text books.

"'If it was up to me I would put all deity worship books etc up on the top shelf with all the other 18+ material.'

History is replete with people who wanted to control what others learned, believed, or read because they where smarter than the ignorant masses."

I suspect the very best curative to the detrimental effects of religion would be a "World Religions - Past and Present" course taught in the public schools no later than the 10th grade. In 9th grade we should teach "Critical Thinking, Scientific Method, and the Psychology of Belief."

"If you don't trust the scientific consensus because you happen to disagree with reality, at least do yourself a favor and look at the actual data."

Won't work. Dissonant data only reinforces our commitment to an idea. Intuition fails us. Scientific exploration of the natural world is an unnatural act.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

With Regard To Saddle Mounts

An unhappy cousin to see thru rifle rings is the shotgun saddle mount...

The "Saddle Mount" is sold to the hunter who wishes to attach a scope or red dot sight to his shotgun during deer season. It's a neat idea that allows the bird hunter to scope his bird gun for the annual deer hunt without having to buy a dedicated slug gun. Like a saddle rests on horse a saddle mount fits over the receiver of a shotgun. The mount is attached to the receiver of the shotgun using bolts that replace the pins that normally hold the trigger group in the bottom of the receiver.  They ought to work better than they do, but they frequently fail to deliver on the promise.

Over the years I've seen dozens of these on as many shotguns but they rarely seem to remain tight. This is more than a little predictable. They are made of the same extruded aluminum alloy as the usual see thru rifle mounts. Another wild card is that most of the shotguns to which they are attached do not have a solid connection between the barrel and the receiver. So even if the saddle mount didn't flex and shift with every shot the barrel is free to wiggle just a little with each shot. No doubt the problem is compounded by cheap scopes and hard butt plates. It is the rare slug hunter who spends more than $50 on his scope or any money at all to soften the recoil of his 12 gauge deer gun, which when loaded with slugs, kicks as much as a 375 Holland and Holland Magnum (yes, an "elephant gun").

There also seems to be a tendency on the part of the frugal deer hunter either to buy whichever brand of shotgun slugs are cheapest, or to buy only a couple packets of the very expensive premium jobs ($3-4 a shot!) but then not practice very much. Some shotguns come with two interchangeable barrels, a choked smoothbore for birds, and a shorter one - some smooth, others rifled - fitted with with open sights for deer season. There has been more than one occasion when, frustrated by loose mounts or an optic that won't hold its zero, the hunter finds he shoots better with the open iron sights.

There are some better choices for the hunter who prefers a scope or optical sight. There are shotguns with barrels that fit very closely in the receiver. There are shotguns with receivers drilled and tapped to accept a scope base. The best solution is probably those guns that allow you to attach the scope directly to the barrel. FWIW, I have also noticed that teenage girls shoot their lighter kicking 20 gauge guns better than their brothers do Dad's 12 gauge; go figure.

There is no shortcut to skill at arms, especially with slug guns. Buy rugged, simple gear and practice, practice, practice.

Cassie Runs 2/3 Of Her 8th Griak With Only Half Her Shoes

Cassie had a very interesting run Saturday at the 25th Annual Griak Invitational...

Our daughter crossed the finish right at the 27 minute mark so I expected her to be a little disappointed. She wasn't. A mud puddle plucked off her right shoe at the 2000 meter mark so she ran 4000 meters with a sock on one foot and a shoe on the other. She was actually pleased with her time under those conditions. As Cassie is a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College this was her last Griak, at least until she brings a team back someday. The 2010 Cross Country season is not over but it's been a fine eight years of watching our daughter run for Eastview and Gustavus.  Great job, Cassandra!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

On The Subject Of See Thrus

Dating from a bygone era when affordable telescopic sights could not be trusted under all conditions, see thru mounts should have died when scopes became watertight, nitrogen filled, and reliable...

"See Thru" mounts are a miserable compromise that create more problems than they solve, a handicap the box or two a year rifleman inflicts upon himself.  Their high sight line make it hard to shoot comfortably and quickly with the primary sight - the scope. They prevent a proper cheek weld which slows things down and introduces parallax error by the bucketful. The further from the bore line the greater the leverage recoil applies to the base screws, mount screws, and scope which tends to loosen everything, actually increasing your chances of having a "scope problem". When a fella goes to re-tighten the screws he finds the steel screws tend to strip threads of the see thru's soft alloy extrusions.  For some reason see thrus are routinely used to hold $50 3-9x no name scopes, which introduce another set of undesirable and unpredictable variables.  Ironically, all these flaws merge to create a nasty stew thant serves to reinforce the 50 year old notion that scopes are both slow and unreliable, so a fella needs see thru mounts to have immediate access to his backup sights.

The hunter who thinks old school see thrus are the hot setup really ought to try a moderately priced scope mounted as low on the action as possible in basic Weaver bases and rings.  These days there is no variable power rifle scope worth owning that costs less than $129, the Redfield Revolution 2-7x, designed, manufactured, and serviced (if necessary) by Leupold.  He'll become much happier very quickly.

More Triple Dub Wits Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Mind Hacks is a blog maintained by authors by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb...

Haven't read the book yet (form a line please) but the blog examines strange stuff about how our very interesting brains work, or seem to.  Worth a look see from time to time.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Other Things We Learn At The Deer Rifle Sight-In (The 2008 Late Edition)

The Good, the Bad, and the "Whoa, Nelly!"  One hopes the 2010 program will be a little less interesting.

Tried to work off my service hours at the gun club last Sunday but the 40 mph winds, rain, sleet, and snow combination reminded me more of an episode of "Deadliest Catch" than it did a sensible day on the range. Yesterday was much better.

The Good... One shooter showed up with a new Nikon scope on his rifle saying "the gunsmith bore-sighted it", so of course we put him on the bags at the 25 yard line. Guess what? It actually was boresighted! He put his first shot an inch low and precisely centered at 25, so we sent him to the 100 yard line for more refinement. A youth minister shot his first centerfire - a borrowed pre-64 M94 with factory open sights - quite nicely once I explained what to look for in a sight picture. He shot into an inch at 25 yards, then made several groups at 50 you could cover with the palm of your hand, outshooting the owner of the piece by a good margin. His hunting hosts promised him a box blind with precisely that sort of shot so he was good to go.

The Bad... There was a fella shooting a Remington 710 with scope that wouldn't take any adjustments. The club member coaching him noticed the cap of the vertical adjustment turret was stove in. Then he noticed that the blow that ruined the cap also gave the scope tube a sot of ~ shape. Said fella drove off to buy another scope. He returned with a brand new 3-9x big box cheapy ("$65 bucks; what a deal, eh?") and some very scary looking steel cased 30'06 roundnose softs (Russian Barnaul). They barked louder than a muzzlebraked 300 Weatherby and made a muzzle flash the size of a beach ball that was visible in bright sunlight. He had to use a block of wood to hammer the bolt open two times in three. It was all he had so he persisted but managed only a eight inch pattern at 100 yards as the last whistle blew.

And the "Whoa, Nelly!" The most striking event of the day was a father and son team who arrived with the young man's brand-new, custom-ordered Savage 110 in 243 Winchester (nice wood and a scope brand I've actually heard of). Excellent choice for a new hunter's first deer rifle.  Junior fired the first shot from the bags at 25 and completely missed the paper. Such things happen. We checked the bore sighting. Wasn't perfect but the shot should have landed within a cubit of the bull. I refined the bore sight and Dad took another shot. Nothing. Clean paper. How could this be? As the case fell to the ground it looked very wrong. The case mouth was huge and the neck ruptured in several places. Sheesh, did he get a rifle chambered for 358 Winchester or something? I picked up the case. It had no neck at all. What gives? I look at the roll mark on the barrel. The special-ordered 243 Winchester pride-and-joy was in fact a 25-06 Remington! The short case was apparently held back enough by the extractor for the primer to pop, send a .24 caliber bullet rattling down a .25 caliber bore, and create an all but straight walled empty with just a touch of the long chamber's shoulder showing. Son wanted a 243. Dad ordered a 243. The shop delivered what was supposed to be a 243 and sold 243 ammo for same. Somewhere between the factory and the gunshop counter someone's paperwork was not in order. How it is Pop and The Boy didn't notice will likely become the stuff of family legend. Gratefully no one was harmed and Junior seem genuinely pleased by the upgrade.

Well, that's it for recollections of Deer Rifle Sight-In months past.  In a couple weeks I hope to offer the 2010 edition...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In This Case Popular Is Not Good

There are popular passwords and there are good passwords...

Here are some all too popular usernames and passwords.  You do not get a prize if you find your's on the list, but someone else might.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Other Things We Learn At The Deer Rifle Sight-In (The 2008 Early Edition)

"The more things change the more they remain the same"...2008 was similar to past years in many ways.

photo from wikimedia commons

Well, it's that time of year when the average deer hunter takes his deer rifle out of the closet and off to the range to see if anything has changed since the end of November last year. I went to the gun club Sunday and served on the line in weather that varied between rain and wind, drizzle and breeze, or cool gray stillness. Still we have sixty some guns show up.

My first client was a fella with a 300 magnum bolt gun topped with a $40 variable scope which fell apart immediately. The 25 yard target looked farther away through the scope than with the naked eye and if you looked through it just so it seemed one of the lenses turned sideways inside the tube. He left to buy a quality scope and returned a happy camper (he asked for a Leupold VX-1 but Burris is giving aways a binocular with their 3-9x for the same price).

There was the usual plethora of Remington 76XX and 74XX rifles - true to the rule pumps did fine and the selfl-loaders did not. Some of the best shooting we saw was a father-son team using Browning BARs - 7mm Rem Mag and 30'06 respectively - topped with low steel mounts and quality optics. Both had BOSS blast enhancers [muzzle brakes]. They shot one inch or smaller clusters at 100, acquitted themselves at 200, and went home.

The Hmong hunting crew numbering a half dozen brothers and cousins returned for their annual verification. All but one are running the Mossberg 500 rifled barrel package guns in 12 or 20 gauge. They chew up the bull at 25 and 50, verify the point of impact at 100, and say "See you next year!". They use the fanciest sabot slugs from Federal and Hornady and reported that all but one of them filled the freezer last year. He's the standout in the crew, running a Winchester self-loader rifled bore 12 ga. He missed a magazine full of shots at spitting distance last year and found that his original scope had fallen apart. His luck was no better yesterday; the soft alloy rings on his new Bushnell red dot wouldn't stay tight for more than three shots so he was planning to visit Gander Mountain for a remedy.

Unlike years past there were no pistols or handguns and only one muzzleloader (this shot by a club member who can actually shoot a group at 100 [yards] with a roundball flintlock).

As usual there were a few stern men making life miserable for their wives and sons. One fella insisted his wife pound her way through three boxes of full power 30'06 ammo from the bench at the 50 yard line. She shot as well as he did but did not appear to be enjoying herself at all. Who would? There were a good many dads who said the iron-sight family heirloom was good enough for their first hunt so the boy will make due with it as well. There's something to be said for tradition of course, but why berate them for minute-of-buck groups at 100 yards their first time to the range shooting a center-fire wearing nothing more than a round bead and a U-notch sight set-up? Perhaps these coaches were yelled at while being taught to shoot (which might explain why they, as a rule, are not hotshots themselves) but why can't they figure out that if they make the experience enjoyable and the hunt successful they have a much better chance to make a lifetime hunting partner of their spouse or child?  [More on recoil management in a forthcoming post.]

Half my club's annual work requirement is out of the way now. I'll serve at least one more Sunday this month. Seems the closer to the season the stranger the problems become. We'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Funny? Sad? Eerily Prescient?

You decide...

I was pointed to this old Onion article by a fellow malcontent at the Schneier on Security blog

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or throw up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Home alone (well, except for Gunner, Max, and LeeLoo) this weekend, I've been catching up on my NetFlix Watch Instantly queue...

This 1999 German motion picture, starring Russian and French actors, and filmed in Bulgaria, is as enjoyable piece of surrealism as I've seen in a very long time.  Tuvalu is a relentlessly clever visual feast reminds me of the dreams I wish I'd write down when I awake.  Set in a desolate, rotting seaport Tuvalu is a love story featuring a Chaplinesque agoraphobe, a blind tyrant of a patriarch who convinced he's operating a popular swim club, his wife the ticket taker who accepts buttons in lieu of cash for admission, an adorable and conniving love interest, and an evil older brother whose interests include stealing the girl and seeing the bath house demolished to make way for some badly needed urban redevelopment.  Oh, there is a punctilious government inspector, the good natured local constable, a chamber of commerce in need of nothing so much as embalming, the half dozen eclectic patrons of the bath, and a similar number of industrious and clever homeless people.  Shot in black and white, but tinted sepia, green, and blue as needed, this essentially silent film is jam-packed with Rube Goldberg contraptions, Keystone Cops-like buffoonery, and Buster Keaton-style physical humor.  The most amazing thing about this unreal setup is the way that is all makes deeply involving sense by the time we reach the end of the story.  Clever stuff.

Lest you presume this is a children's movie please note that Tuvalu is rated R; the story includes a murder, nudity, and a scene of voyeurism.  Like I said, it is surreal...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Paper is Finally Submitted

Better late than never...I hope.

another fine little photo from

The paper for my summer independent study, unassumingly titled "Principled Security Leadership," had a long and troubled gestation, but finally it sprang forth and has been belatedly submitted to my advisor at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota.  Thanks to everyone who responded to my inquiries, emails, forum posts, and requests for interviews.  I'll see about posting it once it's graded, corrected, and polished.

UPDATED TO ADD: The completion of this paper is all the more savory in that my advisor likes it and seems to regard my independent study as time well spent.  Whew!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Things We Learn At The Deer Rifle Sight-In (2006, Take Two)

I just can't get enough of this stuff...another missive to my hunting buddies written in 2006.

I served as Range Officer at the gun club Sunday. It being the last day of deer rifle sight-in we saved the most interesting 150 some shooters for the 11th hour tuneup. There was the usual Upper Midwest glut of Remington 74xx and 76xx rifles. There were all the many shades of Savage bolt actions. Many slug guns were in attendance, from $100 NEFs to $1000 Benellis, though not one wore a decent scope or red dot sight. A couple inline muzzleloader shooters tried to zero their smokepoles (with other shooters waited three deep, of course). None had the correct tiny screwdrivers or teeny weeny allen wrenches needed to adjust their pot metal and plastic fiberoptic sights so perhaps they had never adjusted them before. Their deer are pretty safe.

So are the cervids that will be chased by the pistoleros I watched shoot. Lets call their skill level "minute-of-beach-ball" at 25 yards (well, to be fair, one guy was keeping them on the paper at 50 - the paper being about two feet square).

About half the rifles were in 30'06. Only a few rifles had decent (Burris or better) scopes. The were more Browning A-bolts present than I recalled from years past. There were more shooters shooting at 200 yards this year than in all past years combined. There were even a few shooters on the 300 yard line. Most of these guys were shooting well enough to be pretty certain of inflicting serious injury on their deer most of the time at that distance.

We had a rare surprise - a fella had a rifle with a scope that the gunsmith had "boresighted already" that actually shot to the center of the target at 25 yards! Of course there were dozens that didn't, including one that was not remotely on the paper at 25. "Okay, three turns down and two turns right." "Three clicks?" "No, three full turns of the dial." "Really?" "Yeah, really."

There were a couple Rossi single-shots, in 30'06 no less. Ouch!  They are severely ugly little gats, but for $200 with a spare 12 bore tube we have another hunter in the woods.

I finally got to shoot my dream gun. A fella and his son showed up with a Kimber 84M in 7mm08 (yeah, my dream gun will be a 260, but this was pretty close). Seems a friend of his - who is some sort of gun distributor's rep - told him "You can try a bunch of other guns or you can skip to where you’re going to end up". This one had a 3x9 Burris with their goofy three crosswire hunter's reticle. It was a little large on this rifle (the owner didn't care for it either) but it handled like a dream. I was impressed with the trigger and how light the recoil was, even shooting from the bench. The owner was impressed with my pinwheel. The owner says he'll be buying another. After watching his highly figured walnut stock collect raindrops for an entire day last season he wants a matching stainless synthetic Montana for the next time the weather gets snotty.

In the end no one got hurt, everyone got their guns shooting "close enough," and nobody went away mad. All in all a good day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Fate of the Dudley Docker and the Stancomb Wills

Sir Ernest Shackleton's famous little boat, the "James Caird" - in which he and five others sailed 800 miles to South Georgia Island to secure a rescue for the men of the Endurance - was restored and is on display at Dulwich College in London.

photo courtesy of

But what became of the other two boats, the "Dudley Docker" and the "Stancomb Wills," both named for patrons of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which were turned over to serve as shelter for the 22 men left behind on Elephant Island until they were rescued four months later?  There is no mention of the boats' recovery and I should think visitors to Elephant Island since then would certainly have made photographs of them if they were abandoned in place.  I've seen photos of Point Wild, on which stands a memorial, but there is no sign of the boats.  I've sent off a few missives to them as might know.  Time may tell.  If you know, please share details.  Thanks.

UPDATED TO ADD: I received two very detailed emails today from polar educator and logistician Alex Taylor of Endurance Designs (his historical products are sold at retail at Top of the World Books):

    "The short answer is that I don't know and can only speculate. If the two other lifeboats had been recovered at the time of the rescue by Shackleton, their location would [be] well known. I have always understood it that during the rescue of the remaining 22 men on Elephant Island, in 1916 with the Yelcho, there was intense time pressure to get the men off the island. They were worried that a wind shift would push the sea ice in and the Yelcho would get trapped (it was not an ice strengthened ship but a tug boat). Consequently they gathered their personal items in a rush and were ferried to the Yelcho as quickly as possible, likely in 2 or 3 boat loads.

     Elephant island is frequently visited every autumnal summer by the tourist ships but very rarely landed on. The ocean swell in the area of Point Wild is quite large. The spit of land closest to the island is very narrow. At high tide point Wild is an island now. A century of storms have eroded the beach the men camped on to such an extent that in the very near future Point Wild may become Wild Island. Also, the glacier that one sees in the background of a few of Hurley's photos has receded significantly (500m or more), which probably adds to the erosion dynamic as the glacier may have sheltered the point on one side to some extent.

     I have had the privilege of visiting Elephant Island 10 or more times in the last decade and only landed twice. Regardless, it is a truly "wild" and beautiful place, one of my favourites in Antarctica."

    "What I forgot to mention, but which may be self-evident, is that the 2 boats remaining on Elephant Island were most certainly destroyed by the tides and winter storms over the years. I think Elephant Island wasn't visited for many years (multiple decades) after the men were rescued. Although I don't know who did first visit the site in later years, there may have been some artifacts of the expedition, but they too are long gone."

Thank you, Alex!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a note from Stewart Hoagland, of the Oceanica Company, which built replicas of the three famous lifeboats for the IMAX movie Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure.  Even producing the film was exciting.  Mr. Hoaglund was at the helm of his reproduction of the Stancomb Wills when it was caught between shifting ice floes while filming - life imitates art imitating life:

    "They were left there. In only a few years the elements ground them to splinters and any bits of wood or fittings left were long since gathered up by visitors. I was there, there is only rock, ice, a bronze monument planted by the [Chileans] to celebrate the captain of the tug sent to retrieve Shackleton's men...and penguins."

Thanks, Stewart!

Shackleton's own book South, detailing the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition from start to finish, is published in the public domain at several places on the web, such as Elegant eBooks and Project Gutenberg.  Toward the end of Chapter XII, there is a description of the long-awaited rescue of the men:

    "Soon we were tumbling into the boat, and the Chilian [sic] sailors, laughing up at us, seemed as pleased at our rescue as we were. Twice more the boat returned, and within an hour of our first having sighted the boat, we were heading northwards to the outer world..."

So, the 22 men were transported in three trips to the Yelcho on that ship's boat. Without any further mention the faithful "Dudley Docker" and "Stancomb Wills" passed into history...

Can You Spot the Peace Corps Volunteer in this Photo?

Our friends Matt and Alyssa are having a fine time in Fiji...

...especially now they have Milo the cat to keep the rats out of the rafters at night.  I envy them their adventure.  More details and photos here.

UPDATED TO ADD: No, the nice lady helping Matt with his bright red sash is not Alyssa.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Gift of Fear

Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence...from a professional in a position to know.

Gavin De Becker's personal back story is harrowing. His career as a protector of the rich and famous is legendary. In The Gift of Fear he makes a contribution to the survival, safety, and well-being of average people - especially our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters - that is difficult to overestimate. I'm more than a little embarrassed that I, a security practitioner, haven't read his book until now.  If you haven't read this book, whether you ply the security trade or not, you should.

Get Low

Robert Duvall continues to deliver...

Linda and I just got back from watching Get Low which stars Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, and Lucas Black. I liked it better than Roger Ebert did, who liked it enough that we went to see it.  Pitched as though it's a whimsical docudrama, if not a comedy, as the story unfolds it becomes more nuanced, darker, and more engaging.  In the end it's about love, death, secrets, guilt, exile, remorse, repentance, and a simple sort of redemption.  My kind of movie, I guess.