Built in 1997 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Full disclosure, I am presently employee as part of a time study student job at MHI Vestas, a joint venture), the Elyros is presently owned by the Greek shipping line ANEK Lines, nothing unusual so far.
Like a lot of ferries, the Elyros have changed name several times, owners several times, again, nothing to odd so far, just another standard RORO ferry that sail the Mediterranean, so what’s odd?
The odd thing, is that Elyros have the distinction of being a seat of government for a brief period in 2014, from the 2nd of September to the 25th, one of the civil war factions leased the ferry to house their legislative assembly, which means that at least for a while, using standard international protocol, the legislative capital of Libya was the Elyros itself.
Of course total failure of the Libya post-Gadaffi is a big chunky failure, so frankly it should never have been allowed to happen in the first time.
Join me as we go back, way back, all the way back to 342 Before the Common Era, when Nectanebo II, after many years of struggle, finally lost Memphis to the Persians and had to flee south to Nubia, he would ultimately be the last native Egyptian ruler to rule Egypt, all the way up to 1922 CE, when Egypt would gain a semblance of freedom from their overlords of the time, the British Empire.
After Nectanebo II Egypt would be ruled by in order chronological: The Persians, the Greeks (Alexander the Great, then the dynasty of Ptolemy), the Romans, the Persians again, the Romans one more time, then the Arabs under the Abbasid, then de jure the Fatimids and de facto the Mamluks (The Mamluk Sultans were so many nationalities that most Historians just group them as Mamluks, otherwise we’d be here all day), the Ottoman Turks were next, then it becomes a bit tricky.
Enter Napoleon Bonaparte, his Egyptian expedition in 1798 basically threw a giant wrench into the already fairly unstable political system, oh yeah, the French conquered Egypt too, briefly at least. Napoleon’s supporting fleet was blasted into pieces during the Battle of the Nile, one of Nelson’s battles, causing him to flee back to France, leaving his army behind.
This left a three-way struggle behind, the Ottoman Turks, the nominally Egyptian Mamluks and of all things, Albanian Mercenaries, that’s right, Albanians, the Ottoman Empire was a fun part of history, it basically spread nationalities everywhere.
In 1805, Muhammad Ali Pasha won, using the oldest trick in the book, he massacred everyone else, he’d manage to gain independence for his Egypt, now ruled by an Albanian dynasty, so technically speaking, the Albanians were next.
In 1822 the British basically became the next and ultimately the final colonial overlord of Egypt, using a nationalist uprising as pretext, they’d maintain effective control of Egypt from that point forward, the French being allowed to retain their share of the Suez Canal, the single most important strategic overseas position of the British Empire, thanks to the Jewel that always will be India.
This would finally end in 1952, when the last of Pasha’s successors would be overthrown in a Nationalist and Republican Revolution, the last British soldiers withdrew two years later.
Which brings us to the Suez Crisis, the last final gasp of the diminishing Superpowers that were the French and British Empires, the Suez canal was at the time of the Crisis in 1956, carrying over half of the oil needed for the British economy, so when Nasser decided to nationalize the Canal company, the British and the French lost their fucking minds.
Literally, Anthony Eden was prime minster of the UK at the time, and was described as a man of “weakened nerves”, poor bugger had been Foreign Minister under Churchill during the Second World War, not something everyone makes it out of intact, he wasn’t the man he used to be, being terrified of a second Hitler.
Now Gamal Abdel Nasser had a simply reason for nationalizing the Suez, the West wouldn’t sell him the weapons he needed to “defend” himself from the Israeli, this was the time when the Egyptians actually wanted to drive the Israeli into the sea, these days they probably would be happy to have them visit as tourists.
The Western Powers couldn’t sell him any cool stuff, mostly because only the Americans could afford cool stuff and I’d remind everyone that this is a time where the largest Jewish population could be found in New York City, no way Eisenhower was going to sell Nasser anything.
So he turned to the Soviets, bought cool shit from the Czechoslovakians and told the west to go suck it, which caused them to retract an offer to build the Aswan Dam, so he nationalized the Canal so he could afford to built it.
The British, French and the Israeli then attacked and absolutely wiped the floor with the Egyptians, which probably shouldn’t surprise anyone at all, the British and French armies still had a lot of experienced Officers from World War Two, their navies were immensely superior to anything the Egyptians could vaguely assemble, the Israeli had access to all the cool military equipment from the west and a significant chunk of their Officers were also World War Two veterans and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
However, Nasser knew what he was doing, he understood something that the British and the French refused to grasp, their time was over, the rise of the United States of America and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics was already a reality and that they’d have to accept their new roles as big powers, rather than Superpowers.
After both of the two new powers threaten to essentially nuke the shit out of both the French and the British, they both retreated and accepted the new order of the world, the Israeli withdrew shortly afterwards, Nasser got to keep his new canal, had to give a few minor concessions to keep everyone happy, Lester B. Pearson got a Nobel Peace Prize for hashing out a treaty, the Soviets got a big prestige win and Nasser got to throw out a bunch of Jews.
The failure here was the old Powers not realizing just how old they were.
So, for those of you who don’t know how bonds work, they basically come in different grades, AAA being the Bonds with the lowest risks, also those with the lowest interest, you get more they more risk you take, pretty standard mode of operation in the amazing world of finance.
So for instance bonds from for instance the Kingdom of Denmark are AAA bonds, corporate bonds from IBM or General Electric would usually be AAA, none of these instances are likely to go down in flames.
On the other end of the scale, you’ve got junk bonds, extremely high risk loans from companies that are basically a few steps away from being pornography studios and old school pawn shops, the interest rates are high, so obviously so are the profit, if the loaner can pay of course, which they couldn’t always do.
Now, Junk Bonds still exist to this day, but they true Golden Age was the age of Michael Milken of Drexel Burnham Lamber, the company itself was a shadow of former glories, a mid-range player in a world of giants, consigned to a slow but steady existence on the borders of the world of wealth.
Michael Milken knew people, people with money, and managed to literally network his way to starting an insane bonanza of Junk Bonds, backing the Leveraged Buyouts of the 80’s.
A Leveraged Buyout is a version of the Management Buyout, just with a lot more loans, a lot less secured, and sadly, the party of Leveraged Buyouts ended and Drexel ended up with a nice big pile of toxic junk bonds, you can probably guess the rest of that story.
Turns out that Milken had been “milking” the company for millions of dollars, taking kickbacks, the whole package of illegal shit you shouldn’t do. Drexel died, Milken got send to jail.
The story ends, with Michael Milken doing lectures on the dangers of Junk Bonds while enjoying all the money he somehow managed to keep.
Let me paint you a lovely picture, not one with pretty clouds and lovely bushes, not one with a romantic and silly national pride imagery, not one of haystacks viewed through the impressions of the artist, the picture I paint is one of the last gasps of imperialism of a dying empire and the early whispers of the Cold War.
It’s a picture of unrelenting stubbornness and sheer bleeding national pride, a picture propelled into being by the American cutting off their British allies from that sweet pipeline of nuclear mysteries, a picture of rapid and unrelenting development of plutonium manufacturing capabilities, barreling through all opposition, all logic and all problems.
In 1949 the American closed the door completely and totally on all nuclear cooperation, for some awful nationalistic nonsense reason, or possibly because the UK was full of Soviet infiltrators and their entire administration was leaking like a fucking sieve.
Either way, this meant that the British had to go and build their very own plutonium manufacturing nuclear pile, without all the experimentation the Americans had done in their own nuclear madness, the British only knew a few bits and pieces and for some reason decided to go with an air-cooled Nuclear Reactor.
I’ll give you a few seconds to get that one through you thick old sculls, a Nuclear Reactor with the same cooling system as a standard laptop, the difference being a simply matter of scale, now I’m no nuclear physicist, but this doesn’t seem that particular safe, letting open free air just flow past your active fissile core of radioactive delight.
The reason for this apparent madness, was obvious one of convenience and speed, they British Empire needed it’s precious nukes at any cost necessary, sanity be damned, unfortunate that this probably resulted in the release of small amounts of radioactive material over the years.
Then there was the location, the British government in its usual way of utter madness, went with a location right next to a failing vacation spot alongside the coast, in an area whose agricultural sector was dedicated to the dairy production, milk being especially susceptible to Iodine pollution, Iodine-131 being something of a villainous isotope, that will be important very, very soon.
Basically, this whole Air-cooled monstrosity was designed to Enrich Uranium from the harmless variations into for example, mother Plutonium, this is basically done inside the reactor, through manipulation of the neutron exposure.
This pile, caught on fire and that’s why the Windscale Fire is a a Level Five on the International Nuclear Event Scale, there’s just seven levels in total. Around 200 people died because of the fire, a fire caused by the damn thing being basically a giant pile of Uranium, graphite and a bit of boron, about as safe as Chemical factory in Texas, cooled by fucking air.
Still, the British got their nuclear bomb and a 100 billion £ sterling cleanup of what is now called Sellafield, hey, jobs for ten thousand people, and it’s not like anyone wants to live along the English coastline anyways.
Camp Century was yet another insane nuclear powered idea of the 1950’s US, “hey, let’s built a base under the ice of Greenland, so we can spy on the Soviets!”.
Awful idea in concept, really awful once they actually got started, sure, you can build a base inside of the ice sheet, that part worked flawlessly, it’s basically just a giant fucking igloo, nothing to spectacular there, just a matter of scale.
However, the heat and the power, now normally in Polar conditions, those would be provided by the magic of diesel generators, small, flexible and very reliable, they’ve been powering polar bases for just about a century by now, however, again, this is a REALLY big base.
Estimates from the US Army, showed that it would take a full MILLION barrels of diesel a year to keep Camp Century online, which even the US Army found a wee bit impractical.
So they asked the AEC (Atomic Energy Comission) to design and build a small, ultra simple, boiling water only, reliable and so foolproof even a US Army Private could operate Nuclear Reactor.
Which they did and then installed it in a giant underice base in the middle of the Greenlandic ice-sheet, without really asking the Danish Government, let alone the native Greenlanders, for permission.
Now all of this might have been forgivable, if better radars had rendered the spy part of the base utterly redundant by the time it was actually built.
Add the fact that the ice sheet is a basically a massive glacier, which moves and warps the tunnels, it didn’t take that many years until even the US Army realized just how stupid the whole concept was.
They buried a whole bunch of: Chemical waste (nasty shit) and radioactive waste (really nasty shit) and biological waste ( actual shit) and just left it there forever.
Until Global Climate changed started causing the ice-sheet to melt. That’s going to be fun to explain to the next generations: “Why is that fucking glacier bleeding radioactive literal human waste?”, “It was the fifties kid, what did you expect?”.
Camp Century failed in it’s primary objectives thoroughly and utterly, however, again and again, an unexpected benefit happened, ICE CORES, the scientist bored out an absolutely staggering amount of ice cores, giving us nice meteorological record stretching back millennia.