S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Beijing”

BOOK REVIEW: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China by David J. Silbey

box rebellionThis treatise on the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in Shantung Province in northern China and in Peking is exceptionally well researched and told. Silbey has written this book with keen understanding and the perceptive knack to engulf the audience deeply into his chronicle. Of what I know of the Boxer Rebellion, I would suggest that this book is the most comprehensive and accurate of all other popular histories. Of note, he engages us in the big pictures and leads us skillfully into minute details of individual exploits and heroism.

I fault Silbey for not providing custom-designed, detailed maps of the various campaigns and a large-scale map of northern China with key geographic features and city names. This is a serious failure and negates a five-star rating. He does suffer us with six maps from that period that are minuscule and worthless—including one of the innards of Peking. The overall map of northern China that he does provide is small and inefficacious. Accordingly, it is extremely difficult to follow the coalition’s campaign up the Dagu River to relieve the besieged legations in Peking. Included in the coalition army were elements of the armed forces from America, Great Britain, Imperial Germany, France, Austria-Hungry Empire, Imperial Russia, and Japanese Empire.

He opens his book with an overview of western imperialism in China over the past fifty years. He details the negative effects this imperialism engendered on and the general populace’s emotions and on the Imperial government; led by the Dowager Empress Tzu-his (“Cixi” in the current Pinyin spelling) and Prince Duan of the fading Qing Dynasty. Compounding the contempts was the Chinese adversarial perception of the special privileges endowed on Chinese Christians by missionaries and the western powers.

The drought in the spring of 1900 in Shantung Province crippled the breadbasket of northern China. The idle and starving farmers and peasants convinced themselves that the imperial westerners caused the drought to further humiliate and dominate them. Without leadership, the Boxer movement evolved and morphed quickly into a ragtag fighting force throughout the province. Some few of the Boxers were students of the ancient Chinese martial arts collectively dubbed “ch’uan fa.” They slaughtered Christian converts, missionaries and their families, and even important westerners; for example, the Baron August F. von Ketteler, the German minister to the Imperial Throne.

The Boxers moved into Peking and laid siege to the foreign legations—ensconced behind the Tartar wall. The Empress Dowager Cixi made the fateful decision to declare war on “the invaders,” and ordered the imperial army to repel the aggressors. The collation forces fought spirited campaigns at the Chinese’s key forts and strong points along the Dagu River in their difficult campaign to relieve the besieged legations in Peking.

The Chinese, army supported by the irregular Boxers, mounted a spirited defense causing serious causalities among the collation forces. Unfortunately, they could not fight as a unified command because of international rivalries (Japan and Russia, for example), petty jalousies, and failure to develop of a comprehensive operations plan. Of note, credit goes to the Japanese whose bravery and innovative tactics forced the fall of the key city of Tientsin (Tianjin) and they led the way to the capitol.

Nonetheless, after fifty-five days collation forces reached Peking and relieved the legation. The peace treaty, the Boxer Protocol, was harsh and unforgiving to the Chinese—imposing a ₤67 million-indemnity and territorial concessions.

Buy the The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China on Amazon.

Works by S. Martin Shelton

Malaysian Flight # 370 Disappearance: What Happened to Flight 370?

Malaysian Flight # 370 Disappearance

S. Martin Shelton

Today’s date 23 March 2014

Let’s review the hard facts about the mysterious disappearance of Flight # 370.

  • Malaysia Flight # 370 originated at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and its destination was Beijing, People’s Republic of China—about 2,700 miles to the northeast.
  • On board were 228 passenger and 11 crewmembers—239 souls.
  • The Captain is Zaharie Shah, 53 years old, and has about 18,400 flight-time hours
  • The First Officer is Farig Ab Hamid, 27 years old, and has about 2,700 flight-time hours.
  • The Flight Engineer is Mohd Khairul Amri Selanat, 28 years old, and has about 10 years experience.
  • Approximately 152 passengers were Chinese nationals.
  • Citizens from 13 other countries were on board including two Americans.
  • The aircraft used on Flight # 370 is a Boeing model 777-200 ER (Extended Range).
  • This aircraft has twin Rolls Royce, model Trent 875, turbofan engines. Takeoff thrust for each engine is 73,900 pounds.
  • This 777-200 ER’s normal cruising altitude is around 35,000 feet.
  • The 777-200 ER’s cruising speed in around 630 miles per hour—about Mach 0.84.
  • The Boeing model 777-200 ER had fuel on board for a seven-hour flight at normal procedures.
  • Richard Aboulafia, an aviation consultant with the Teal Group confirmed that the Boeing model 777 provides, “A new standard in both efficiency and safety.  The 777 has enjoyed one of the safest records of any jetliner built.”

***

Following is a chronological series of the peradventure scenario of the mysterious disappearance Flight # 370.   I’ve based this list on best information I could decipher from the farrago of conflicting explanations scattered thought-out the media.

  • 0041.  Malaysian flight # 370 departed Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia at 41 minutes after midnight on 8 March 2014.
  • 0101.  Flight # 370 reaches cruising altitude of 35,000 feet and is near the east coast of Malaysia on a north-east (NE) heading—approximately a compass course of about 45 degrees.

  • 0107.  Last transmission from the Aircraft Communication Addressing System Reporting System (ACARS).  (The ACARS automatically transmits the technical life support system of the aircraft in response to a radio query or by timed broadcast to a satellite.)
  • 0119.  The last voice communications.  Someone in the cockpit sent this message: “All right.  Good night.”
  • 0121.  The aircraft’s transponder goes silent. (The transponder is an electronic device that responds to a radio-frequency interrogation from an air-traffic-control radar.  Transponder signals identify the aircraft; and its speed, altitude, and course.  Also, transponders are integral in avoiding air-collisions.)
  • ?.  The aircraft climbs to 45,000 feet—much higher that it is supposed to operate.
  • ?.  Shortly, the aircraft descends to 29,500 feet.
  • 0130.  Malaysian ground radar tracks flight # 370 for the last time.
  • ?.  Within the next few minutes, the aircraft makes a sharp left turn and was flying on a west-south-west (WSW) heading—about 240 degrees.
  • 0137.  Ground controllers did not receive a scheduled ACARS transmission.
  • 0215.  Ground control and radar lost track of Flight 370.   Its location was about 200 miles west of its intended course—somewhere off Penang, Malaysia.
  • About once an hour for seven hours, the Boeing 777 aircraft’s two Rolls Royce engines transmitted technical data signals to the British Immarst satellite.
  • The Immarst satellite communications system does not have the capability to pinpoint the track of an aircraft transmitting this technical data.
  • 0632.  Kuala Lumpur air-traffic control transmits, on the emergency channel, a message to Flight # 370 to respond.  It does not.
  • 0724.  Malaysia Airlines declares Flight # 370 missing.
  • 0811.  Last transmission the satellite received from Flight 370.
  • The model 777 used on Flight 370 has the emergency Flight Data Recorder (FDR)–the “black box.”  The FDR is an electronic device that records cockpit and air-traffic controller’s communications.  It also records the aircraft’s performance data, and instructions to all electronic systems a few times per second.  Data storage capacity is about 25 hours.  It is installed in the aircraft’s tail and is designed stoutly to survive and function in either a water or land crash.   Its battery power will transmit location signals underwater.  It will function to its maximum depth of 20,000 feet (about four miles) for about 30 days.  It’s painted bright orange for high visibility.
  • 0840.  The maximum flight time for Flight # 370—its petrol is exhausted.

What happened to Flight 370?
We do not know.  Nonetheless, let’s review some of the theories. The following list is based on the data that I’ve gleaned from all manner of pundits on radio, television, and in print who spew endless speculations that range from “maybe” to “outlandish.”   These purveyors maybe learned or ignorant about the basics of aviation physics, airline operations, or have access to secret intelligence.  And, the data is changed frequently.  Accordingly, we must adopt a “wait and see” belief.  The first list has some credulity.

  • Catastrophic event.  An onboard fire, explosion, mechanical failure, etc.
  • Slow decompression.  The oxygen slowly seeps out of the aircraft.  All aboard die of suffocation.
  • Shoot down.  By whom, with what, and for what reason?
  • Pilot(s) involvement: suicide, revenge, insanity, or other unknown reasons.
  • Highjacking.  Terrorist/pirates/lunatic/secret agent/bandits/etc.  Someone else in the cockpit by invitation. (That iron door to the cockpit is practically invulnerable.)  Pilot(s) in cahoots with the “someone.”  If so, who, why, and what happened?  Crash or landed safely. Where? Is there valuable cargo on board?
  • Highjacking.  Blackguard passenger(s) take control of the passenger compartment and blackmail the pilots to accede to their demands (whatever they may be).  If pilots refuse, the blackguards will/did murder passengers or destroy the aircraft somehow.
  • Highjacking.  The passengers overwhelm the highjackers and the aircraft crashes: à la the scenario of United Flight # 993 in the 9/11 Muslim terrorists attack on our country.
  • The aircraft has landed in a secret location for future nefarious activities.  It is hidden in an abandoned hanger or under camouflage.

Here are a few cockamamie scenarios that stretch credulity that I’ve seen on television or heard on radio.

  • Space aliens captured the aircraft: à la the 1977 motion picture titled Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
  • An astronomical black hole engulfed Flight # 370: à la the 1979 Walt Disney motion picture titled The Black Hole.
  • Flight # 370 disappeared in a Bermuda Triangle type space-time continuum: à la the 1978 motion picture titled The Bermuda Triangle.
  • Some super-natural force sent Flight # 370 into a fifth dimension, or to another universe.
  • Flight # 370 was transformed into some sort of zombie configuration.  Or it was captured by airborne zombies?

The Search.  At first, authorities scoured the South China Sea (east of Malaysia).  After confirmation that Flight # 370 changed to a westerly course, they moved the search to the Gulf of Thailand, Bay of Bengal, and then to the southern Indian Ocean.  Twenty six nations are involved in the search: including, Malaysia, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, for examples.

Searchers are using a host of advanced technology, including satellite imagery, to locate the “black box,” aircraft debris, or the aircraft itself.  Oceanographic and metrological data are integrated into the aircraft-location equations. Several days ago, I saw on television a US Naval public-affairs officer admit that the Navy is using classified techniques and equipment in their search.

To demonstrate the extremes the television pundits will employ to fill airtime and to garner ratings, two days ago I saw a prominent television personality asking a female psychic for a paranormal explanation of the missing 777.  Mostly, she babbled puerile gobbledygook for about four minutes. However, she made two points of interest: the 777 landed safely in Pakistan and the passengers are dead.

Taking no chances, the Israeli Air Force is on high alert.  (A highjacking for nefarious schemes.)

Next week, I reckon we’ll have more information.  If so, I’ll continue this evolving episode and will explore other airliner’s mysterious disappearances.

Marty Shelton PhotoRetired Naval Captain, S. Martin Shelton, has tracked the disappearance of Amelia Earhart’s flight and written a  story based upon the facts of the flight and aviator. 

Cover

 

Trans-Siberian Railroad

The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the longest railway line in the world connecting Moscow to Vladivostok at 5,753 miles, and has branch lines to Ulan-Bator, Mongolia; Beijing, China, 4,888 miles; and Pyongyang, North Korea, 6,380 miles.   This railroad spans seven times zones and takes eight days to complete the Moscow to Vladivostok trip.

Transiberian Railroad

By the mid nineteenth century, Russia was in serious need for a Pacific deep-water port.  Accordingly, in 1860 Czar Alexander II authorized construction of Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan.  By 1880, Vladivostok had grown into a major port.   Soon the authorities realized the obvious problem that there was not an adequate transportation link between European Russia and its Far Eastern and Pacific provinces.  In 1891, Czar Alexander III authorized the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad and it was completed in 1916 under the aegis of his son Czar Nicholas II.  By-and-large, convicts and political prisoners did most of the work.

Hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and relax in the opulent coach reserved for important Soviet apparatchiks.  In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown the train lumbers through Siberia mile after mile after mile.  Perhaps I ought to caution you to be wary of Nadia, the hostess in this car.  She is available (for a fee) and duplicitous to a fare-thee-well.

Hop aboard the Trans-Siberian Railroad and relax in the opulent coach reserved for important Soviet apparatchiks.  In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown the train lumbers through Siberia mile after mile after mile.  Perhaps I ought to caution you to be wary of Nadia, the hostess in this car.  She is available (for a fee) and duplicitous to a fare-thee-well.  

 

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