for our father, Thomas Francis Wills, on Memorial Day 2019

a personal narrative

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An excerpt from an interview by Diane Frances Wills of our father Thomas Francis Wills for a seventh-grade assignment about 1971.  I did some editing to correct the date based on historical records and my father’s military records (Michael Stephen Wills).

Thomas enlisted for the navy one day after his 24th birthday, September 25, 1939 and served 6 years and a few weeks until October 7, 1945 having experienced the Battle of the Atlantic (American Defense Medal) and liberation of the Philippines (WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater, Philippine Liberation Ribbon).  Here is his description of an incident from that time:

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Thomas Francis Wills, Ocean View Beach, Virginia, 1940

1 Year, 6 months after my enlistment in New York City, March 1941, on the USS Upshur two days out of Boston on its run to Reykjavik, Iceland delivering mail and supplies to the marines stationed to prevent the Germans from establishing a base.  Steaming north we got word there was a gale blowing in our path.  We all became apprehensive.  I asked Bill Rogers, the radioman, about the approaching storm.  “Say, Bill, I see by the weather report we’re heading info some rough weather.  How long do you think it will last?”

“Yeah, according to the latest weather report it is a regular Northeaster and we can expect a couple days of rough winds and high waves, also very cold weather.  We’ll have to secure everything topside so it won’t blow or be washed overboard.  We can also expect very little in the way of normal meals except for maybe coffee and sandwiches.”  On such a small ship the cooks can’t prepare meals in such weather.

USS Upshur, 1940, the ten-man crew, including Thomas Wills, is on the bow

As we approached the storm zone the sea got rough and the wind started blowing.  Soon we were well into a horrible storm.  The sky got dark and gloomy, full of dark bold clouds.  The ocean rough, choppy and black.  The rain started coming down sharp and harsh, cold and icy.  The rain cut through your body like piercing arrows, it chilled your bones.

Sometimes I thought the ship was going to sink, the waves and the wind were so strong.  The bow would go bluntly into the water.  The ship listed sideways, seeming to almost rolling over.  The waves carried our ship up, then go out from underneath sending us crashing down.  This happened over and over, endlessly.  

 I was on duty in the radio shack and had to walk the whole length of the ship from my sleeping quarters.  Many times, I almost went overboard, the wind was so strong.  I could lay on my stomach but it did not help because I could still slide through the railings.  I would freeze to death in five minutes in that water.  I hope I never had to go through that again, seems like yesterday.  All we had to wear was a sailor suit, not too warm.  I’d just get all soaked. 

My shipmates and I, a five-foot eight-inch boy of 25 with dark brown hair, had to be calm and keep doing our normal scheduled duties, because we learned you can’t get panicky or else you will put your whole ship out of order.

 The storm went on until the end of night.  I thought the storm would never end.  It felt as if it lasted a week.  At that time no other ships sailed with us, so there was no possibility of help.  Nobody fell over the side or was drowned.

After that, a German U-Boat launched a torpedo at us and missed.  We searched, tried to sink them without success. 

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Frozen Fall Creek III

Across the years into a future

Gratitude for miracles witnessed is my emotion for this series, “Frozen Fall Creek.” Eleven winters after Pam and I walked Fall Creek as a solid walking path, the stream flows without ice most years. My son, whose family now lives in the house, and his wife recalling walking the creek a few years ago, not in the past few years.

Weather records support our recollections and observations: here is an analysis of Ithaca January temperatures. The years 2009 through 2019 show a warming trend in daily temperatures for both minimum and maximum.

Analysis

Excel I used to plot minimum and maximum temperatures (farenheit) for the 31 days of each January for eleven years 2009 – 2019. Click on the images of this post for a larger version.

Click any image for a larger view.

Forecast

Pam and I moved to Ithaca 2011 and missed our Fall Creek winter walks, miss them even more now our weekend excursions are only memories. Here are January minimum/maximum average daily temperature projections from 2020 through 2044 based on the trend established from the 2009 through 2019 series. The trend is the solid color, projection the faded color.

Reading from the chart, if the current trend continues by January 2044 the average maximum daily temperature will be 47 degrees compared to 29 for 2009. In other words, the temperature never rose above freezing in the year 2009. By 2044 temperatures will be above freezing every day, on average, with daily minimums averaging 21 degrees.

From what I read, we can expect these warming trends to accerate within our lifetimes. My son named small mid-creek hummocks “islands” with numbers. Here is a view of his Second Island in late summer. What will Second Island be in 2044 late summer?

Late Summer 2018, second island

Memories

Reader of posts I and II of this series have commented about snow shadows. Here are the shadows produced from snow fallen on the vegetation of the last photograph: soft mounds to contrast with tree trunk shadows.

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Winter 2009, second island

I prefer the composition of the following photograph. What do you think?

Play of winter shadows

A combination of contrasting shadow forms.

Low Winter Sun
Click me for the first post of this series, “Frozen Fall Creek I.”
Click me for “Fall Creek Winter,” another stunning scene.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Frozen Fall Creek II

Natural Ice Sculpture

My last post, “Frozen Fall Creek I”, ended with macros of Ice Crystals on a bed of frost over creek ice within sight of our former home, a restored water mill. I continued on the ice, following the creek to this spot were the stream bed turns 90 degrees, changing from a southerly to a western flow.

Here I encountered an open course where constant water motion resisted freezing. A few frigid days later, the course had an amazing transformation.

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Last To Freeze, Fall Creek

The transparent ice of the now frozen space retained the impression of movement, the surface rippled by current. In the following photograph, motionless ice crystals reveal the truth.

Ice Crystals on Water Frozen while Supercooled

In the intervening days, the constant motion resisted freezing while the water temperature dropped well past freezing to achieve a supercooled state. As the water temperature continued to drop, a fast transition from fluid to solid happened so quickly the movement of the water surface was preserved.

Ice Crystals on Water Frozen while Supercooled

Here is the matching “after” photograph to the “before” that started this post.

Channel of Water Frozen while Supercooled
Click me for “Fall Creek Winter,” another stunning scene.
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Frozen Fall Creek I

Ice Crystals

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Winter Shadows
Ice Crystals
Ice Crystal Macro I
Ice Crystal Macro II
Ice Crystal Macro III
Click me for the next post in this series, “Frozen Fall Creek II.”
Click me for another Winter Series starting with “The Fang?”
Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

The Thaw at Taughannock Falls

A Friday Evening Stroll through a February Thaw

Pam and I were drawn outside the day after Valentine’s a bit of sun, an unreliable warm breeze, a promise of exercise. Our expectations were disappointed for all but the last at the foot of the Taughannock Falls gorge trail.

We had a reminder mid-February marks the start of avian mating behavior with this addition to the view from Taughannock Creek, the first large waterfall. For the cold, drizzly excursion I chose the IPhone, in a waterproof case, for the images. The fanicful birdhouse inscription reads “The Old Birds from Pa.”

Click the photograph for my “Finger Lakes Memories” Online gallery.

The winding gorge takes a general east, southeasterly direction. Where the sun cannot reach the snow was reduced to a treacherous slushy ice mix more nasty than dangerous.

View from the Overlook on the way to the trail. This is the endpoint of our hike, viewed from the gorge rim.

Of all the area hiking experiences, Taughannock Gorge Trail is the only one available year round. The gorge is wide with enough room for the footpath to avoid the cliff edge. Today, there were places were ice formations were throwing large ice chunks down the slope. The park ranges place tree trunks along the cliff base, with warning signs to stay away. Still, there are visitors who stray too close with fatal outcomes reported by local news.

Pam was fascinated by the appearance of snow and ice accumulated on the talus, here seen from the Taughannock Falls viewing bridge.

Click photograph for my “Finger Lakes Memories” online gallery. Photo by Pam.

You can just pick out the viewing bridge in the Falls Overlook video.

Click photograph for my “Finger Lakes Memories” Online Gallery.
Photo by Pam.

Taughannock Falls bound by ice is a most dramatic sight. I need to post photographs from a 2005 visit during an especially frigid February. Here, the falls have thrown off the ice, leaving this house-size chunk.

Click photograph for my “Finger Lakes Memories” Online Gallery

The surrounding gorge walls are continually frost coated by the mist.

Click the photograph for my “Finger Lakes Memories” Online Gallery
210 foot Taughannock Falls from the viewing bridge.

In more clement seasons the Gorge Trail ends much closer to the falls. Today, it was closed as, during winter and especially thaws, blocks of the sandstone cap break away to fall with great force across that part of the trail. This viewing area is visible in the Falls Overlook video.

Click Me for another Finger Lakes winter post.

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Improvements to Yesterday’s Post

Improvements to Yesterrday’s Post

Pam proofed yesterday’s post, “When the Moon Dined from a Stellar Mangar”and found some improvements, including adding text labels to aid in finding Cancer constellation elements.

Labels!!

You will find I replaced photographs in the original post and well, all the major elements of Cancer are labeled. Here is an explanation of the new elements.

You can now trace the “Y” constellation pattern, with Alpha and Beta Chancri (Latin for “of Cancer”) the two claws and Iota the tail. Both elemetns of Iota, a visual binary star system, are there. They are wonderful viewed with a telescope. Near Alpha is M67 (Messier Object 67), another galactic cluster of gravitationally bound stars. It is quite faint in this photograph.

Click photograph for a higher resolution version
Total Lunar Eclipse and Surrounding Sky with labels for primary element of the Cancer constellation

Click link for the first post of this series 

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

When Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

The Moon Dined from a Stellar Manger

Colored lights of our skies are a trigger for the imagination. The sky is a storybook to be written by the mind and passed along in language. The 3,000 observable stars and planets visible on any one moonless, clear night away from artificial lights draw on the human obsessional skill for pattern recognition.

Over millennia, stars along the path of the planets and sun through the sky held a special place for careful observers. Twelve patterns were imagined, each a named constellation. The word “constellation” means “to know from the stars.” Indeed, we can know much from the constellations. For example, it is winter in the northern hemisphere when the constellation “Cancer” (The Crab) is high in the night sky.

Click Photograph for my OnLine Galleries
Click photograph for my OnLine Galleries. Clicking the other photographs in this post will yield a larger image.

On the evening of January 20/21, 2019 the full moon climbed from the horizon (Click this link for the first post of this series “Total Lunar Eclipse of 2019…”) to a point high overhead were it appeared to float among the stars of Cancer, the crab. On the way, the disk darkened as its orbital path brought it into the earth’s shadow. The surrounding stars emerged from the darkening full moon glow. I captured the sight using a Canon dslr, the Canon EF 24 mm f/1.4L II USM lens mounted on a tripod by setting the ISO to 3200 to reduce the exposure to 1.3 second and placing the auto exposure area (a feature of the dslr/lens combination) away from the full moon.

Additionally, the moon is overexposed on the original image, for the following I used Photoshop to cut and paste the moon from the last photograph of this blog, reduced it to the approximate angular diameter of the moon and pasted it over the overexposed disk. There are better astrophotography images of this event, this image is mine to use and adequate for this purpose.

The Moon on the Crab’s back

Cancer is difficult to trace, the constituent stars are all dim. Hint: click on any of the following photographs and a new page will open with a larger resolution image. What is striking in the following photograph are the number of apparently paired stars. Our sun is an exception, it is not part of a star system; even so, most of these pairings are line of sight, not physical star systems. For example, starting from the “red” moon there is a faint star, “Delta” of Cancer. Trace an imaginary line between the moon and Delta, in your mind move the line down and a little to the right to a pair of dim stars, “Nu” and “Gamma” of Cancer (left to right). The two are not a system, being 390 and 181 light years away. Each is a multiple star system in itself as is Delta. The three are on the back of Cancer, with two stars on the upper right being “Alpha” and “Beta”.

A most interesting object of this photograph, well worth the price of binoculars, is between Nu and Gamma and a little higher, towards the moon. It was what I saw the first time viewing this photograph: a cluster of stars called “The Beehive.” This was how I identified the location of the moon on the back of this crab.

Click for more information about this view

Click photograph for a higher resolution version
Total Lunar Eclipse and Surrounding Sky with labels for primary element of the Cancer constellation

For the following photograph I cut/pasted/enlarged a square with the (enhanced) Moon, Delta. Nu and Gamma, below, with the Beehive between them. See that the stars, though “fuzzy”, have colors. Delta is a orange giant, also known as the “Southern Donkey”. Gamma, the “Northern Donkey,” and NU are white. The back of the Crab holds a two donkeys eating from a manger, a Galactic Stellar Cluster name “The Beehive.” This night the moon joined the feast.

Click photograph for a higher resolution image
“Beehive” with Total Lunar Eclipse with labels for primary elements of Cancer Constellation

The Beehive

With binoculars (or telescope with a wide field eyepiece), the Beehive is a glorious spectacle of 1,000 gravitationally bound stars, a mixture of colors from blue to red. It was one of the first objects Galileo viewed through the telescope, picking out 40 stars. In later years it was here we found the first planets orbiting sun-like (i.e. having the characteristics of our yellow star) stars within a stellar cluster. In spite of being 600+ light years distant the Beehive was known since ancient times, being visible without a telescope in clear, dark skies.

The Total Eclipse

A glorious moon at full totality is captured in the following two photographs. I used the dslr at 3200 ISO with the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens at 300 mm. Setting the exposure area to the Moon, the exposure was 3.2 seconds.

In the first photograph, I especially enjoy the effect modeling of the shadows does to make the disk appear round. The field of view does not include Delta, Gamma, Nu or the Beehive. At this time I was not aware how close the Beehive was, or even that the Moon was in Cancer. The beauty of the moon floating among the stars is apparent.

Click photograph for larger image
Click photograph for larger image

Click link for the first post of this series 

Copyright 2019 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills