The Connie’s sad last trip around the Horn

uss contellation on way to scrapping

From NASA Goddard’s Flickr feed:

“NASA’s Operation IceBridge  collected some rare images on a flight out of Punta Arenas, Chile on Nov. 5, 2014, on a science flight over western Antarctica dubbed Ferrigno-Alison-Abbott 01. Following a routine calibration pass over Punta Arenas airport, the NASA DC-8 overflew the ex-USS Constellation (CV-64) which is being towed for demolition after 53 yeas of service [41 on active duty, 12 in reserve mothballs]. The crew then snapped a few shots of a calving front of the Antarctic ice sheet. This particular flight plan was designed to collect data on changes in ice elevation along the coast near the Ferrigno and Alison ice streams, on the Abbot Ice Shelf, and grounded ice along the Eights Coast.”

The GSG-41: Kel Tec shotgun that never was

Back in the old days George Kellgren, the man behind Kel Tec and its precursor, Grendel Arms, had an idea for a bullpup-stocked shotgun that was just 26-inches long overall and had an innovative high-capacity magazine arrangement that held a dozen rounds. Think you know this gun as the KSG today? Well, about that…

While you may know the KSG, there was a Kellgren-designed scattergun that predated it by no less than 17 years. Although Kel Tec was around in 1993, the gun was set up to be distributed by Kellgren’s other company, the now-defunct Grendel Arms.

This bullpup design pushed most of the action behind the trigger of the firearm, producing an overall shorter gun at just some 26-inches in length. Amazingly, this allowed the gun to keep a very adequate 24-inch long barrel length. A pump-action, the slide of the shotgun ended just short of the muzzle crown while the firearm’s trigger well was nearly centered in the frame of the weapon. Weight was just a very handy 5-pounds…

gsg41
Read the rest in my column at the KTOG

Martial Arts on Japanese warships

Just as Western Navies had boxing, and shooting teams and practiced bayonet drill regularly for use in landing parties, and fencing was seen as a manly right of passage in some modern countries even into the 1900s, the Imperial Japanese Navy likewise drilled their own martial arts on board ship in the years between the 1850s and 1940s.

Kendo being practiced on the deck of an unnamed Japanese battleship, 1915.

Kendo being practiced on the deck of an unnamed Japanese battleship as crew watches on, 1915.

Martial arts matches aboard Japanese light cruiser

Martial arts matches aboard Japanese cruiser, perhaps a Myōkō-class heavy judging from the twin aft turrets. Note the judo on mats to the port side and kendo to the starboard side.

 

The Tsar’s Crusaders

High up in the hills of the Georgian Caucasus mountains, is a mysterious tribe of highlanders who go by the name of the Khevsurs (also spelled Keveshur). These scattered 3200~ traditionalist Khevsureti inhabit a land dubbed Khevsuria (what else) that consists of a smattering of about two dozen small villages around Mount Borbalo that, by all accounts, have never owed allegiance to anyone.

Scholars visiting these highlanders in the 19th century found these christian-faith armored warriors clad in chain-mail and brandishing both broadswords and shields much as the old European crusaders did. This led to the conclusion that these were holdovers from lost crusades, forever stuck in time.

khevsur_by_gagarin

khevsur (2)

The hillsides of the region are dotted with impossible to attack keeps in the old way of medieval fortifications that remain to this day. Some of these date back to the 8th Century.

Shatili village, Khevsureti, Georgia photo wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shatili_village,_Georgia.jpg The fortified village fortress consists superimposed flat-roofed dwellings and some 60 towers which cluster together to create a single chain of fortifications, impregneble from the ground in medieval times, and impassible from above.

Shatili village, Khevsureti, Georgia photo wiki. The fortified village fortress consists superimposed flat-roofed dwellings and some 60 towers which cluster together to create a single chain of fortifications, impregnable from the ground in medieval times, and impassible from above.

The Turks never conquered them, nor did the Georgians, or anyone else for that matter until the 1950s.

When the Tsar’s Army swept through the region in the 1830s and 40s, the Khevsurs made a deal to remain independent, and agreed only to provide occasional volunteer warriors in time of conflict. Instead of having to pay taxes, the highlanders were given obsolete Russian army rifles from surplus stocks as a token from the far off “Tsar of the Mountain Princes”

 

Khevsur2

Khevsur

In 1877, the Khevsurs rode against the Turks. In 1914, when war broke out again, a platoon-sized unit assembled in Tblisi to pledge their allegiance to the Tsar for the length of the conflict– still armed with broadswords and shields in addition to their dusty breech-loaders.

Khevsur3

 

Khevsur4

In 1917 the Tsar was swept away but the Khevsurs promptly renewed their deal with the young new Georgian government. When the Red Army came knocking in 1921, the Khevsureti assembled:

 

Georgian Khevsureti anarchists arriving to fight against Soviet Army,1921.

Georgian Khevsureti arriving to fight against Soviet Army,1921.

Uncle Joe Stalin, himself a Georgian, and well known to genocide troublemaker ethnic groups in the new Soviet workers paradise, however, granted the Khevsureti a bit of space, and only moved to wipe them out in the 1950s with wholesale deportations to other parts of the country. However after the reforms of the 1960s, some 22 families returned.

So they still endure till this day in isolated hillsides accessible only five months out of the year. Currently nestled between Chechnya and Georgia, they have become something of an extreme attraction for enterprising tourists.

A lost piece of the Crusades? Maybe. A throwback to an older age of steel and iron? For sure.

5 Guns for 21st Century Plinking

For generations one of the most popular hobbies and sports for the modern gentleman is that of target shooting with rimfire handguns. Practiced by kings, Olympians, and sportsmen, the controlled act of punching holes in paper and tin has developed from the days of clunky pistols to the thoroughly modern handguns of today.

A couple of my personal favorites. To see the rest, click the link ahahah

A couple of my personal favorites that lurk in my closet. To see the rest, click the link ahahah

Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

And away we go

Click to big up

Click to big up

An F/A-18E Super Hornet from the “Royal Maces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) during the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 fly-off. George Washington and its embarked air wing, CVW 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paolo Bayas (Released) 141121-N-TE278-334

A relatively new squadron, the Maces were only stood up in 1967. Originally flying the A-7 Corsair II as VA-27, the Maces conducted over 4,000 combat sorties dropping it like its hot on the North Vietnamese while flying from Constellation and Enterprise on Yankee Station in the 1960s and 70s. Transitioning to the F/A-18A/C in 1991, they picked up the Strike Fighter monicker and used that early Hornet well over Iraq in OIF. They have been flying the much bigger E-model “Rhinos” since 2004.

The martial art of William A Lewis

William A. Lewis served his country in the United States Navy in World War Two as a young man in his twenties. Born in Mo Town, he had attended the University of Michigan just before the war and returned to it afterwards, attending the College of Engineering and College of Architecture and Design from which he graduated in 1948. By 1957, he was back at the school as an assistant teacher of technical drawing, but he also had a flair for art with painterly abstraction.

A trio of controversial paintings by Michiagn University Professor William A. Lewis entitled "Notices on the Gates of Hell." at First Unitarian Church, April 1963. Photo by Ann Arbor News http://oldnews.aadl.org/aa_news_19630412-artists_work

A trio of controversial paintings by Michigan University Professor William A. Lewis (the younger man in the photo at the time) entitled “Notices on the Gates of Hell.” at First Unitarian Church, April 1963. Photo by Ann Arbor News

“Painting was my primary interest form the start. I did drawings and watercolors in the Navy and went on from there. Traveled in the U.S. and Europe to look at the galleries and collections, studied J.M.W. Turner in England with the aid of Faculty Rackham Grants. I have worked in ceramics and photography, painted in oils, acrylics, and watercolor and have made collages and combines for years,” says Lewis of his work.

" E.A. Poe" Watercolor by William A. Lewis, 1959 at the Poe Museum in Baltimore https://www.poemuseum.org/collection-details.php?id=138

” E.A. Poe” Watercolor by William A. Lewis, 1959 at the Poe Museum in Baltimore

He retired from Michigan in 1986 as Professor Emeritus of the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design and Professor of Art Associate Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, capping a nearly 30-year career as an educator.

While at the school he developed a suite of paintings covering the U.S. Civil War, many of which remain in the schools collection. More accessible are his 40 paintings and sketches on the Great War– WWI. Produced from 1955-2010, these works are some of the most haunting images put to canvas of that horrible conflict and are on special exhibit at the River Gallery.

“This presentation is a display of drawings and paintings based on images of the Great War of 1914-1918 — the First World War. I only know about it through the eyes of others and their words. I have, however, known about the basic imagery all my life,” says Lewis in the preamble to the collection.

The Retreat from Antwerp – British Marines and Belgian soldiers, October, 1914 by William A. Lewis | acrylic | 22″ x 15″ | 2009

The Retreat from Antwerp – British Marines and Belgian soldiers, October, 1914 by William A. Lewis | acrylic | 22″ x 15″ | 2009

Revenge in the Lead – British pre-dreadnaughts patrolling in the English Channel, July 1914 by William A. Lewis | watercolor | 15″ x 11″ | 1989

(HMS) Revenge in the Lead – British pre-dreadnaughts patrolling in the English Channel, July 1914 by William A. Lewis | watercolor | 15″ x 11″ | 1989

British A-class submarine and armored cruiser Aboukir, spring 1914 by William A. Lewis | watercolor | 22″ x 15″ | 1990-2010

British A-class submarine and armored cruiser HMS Aboukir, spring 1914 by William A. Lewis | watercolor | 22″ x 15″ | 1990-2010

Patriot’s Dream | ink | 18″ x 12″ | by William A. Lewis 1955

Patriot’s Dream | ink | 18″ x 12″ | by William A. Lewis 1955

Thank you for your service Professor Lewis, and thank you for your art.

 

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