Exclusive interview with Discovery's Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen - We Are The Mighty
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Exclusive interview with Discovery’s Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen

The son of a Norwegian fisherman, Sig began fishing at age 14. His father Sverre came from a long line of fishermen and was one of the first pioneers of the crab industry in Alaska. While still in high school, Sig joined his father aboard the family boat, and also had the opportunity to fish in Norwegian waters in the summers. After finishing high school, Sig took up fishing full time, and at the young age of 22, earned the position of relief captain on the Northwestern.

Four years later, he became the boat’s full-time captain and one of the youngest ever to take command. Sig has made a name for himself as a hard-charging captain who doesn’t suffer fools or disloyalty lightly.

From his earliest years at the Northwestern’s helm, Sig has known his position in the captain’s chair depends completely on results. If you can’t bring home the catch, you go back to being a deckhand. In his role as the Hansen patriarch, Sig remains fiercely protective of his top-producing operation, his reputation and his crew.

When [WATM] said we have a lot of veteran viewers, it didn’t surprise me. We’ve received so many emails and information coming back to us from [active duty] troops. We can’t tell you how many people in the military would give praise to the show. There is a common denominator, maybe it is from them being gone and us being gone at sea. No matter what it was, they appreciate us. Shared experiences. It’s mind boggling. It is really flattering.

Exclusive interview with Discovery’s Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen

WATM: Mother nature is truly calling the shots this season, from the dangers on the high seas to the air we breathe, how has your experience as a captain helped prepare you for the toughest season yet?

With the pandemic and everything, it was difficult because you’re dealing with an unknown — multiple unknowns. Unknowns such as protocol, how to deal with illness if someone did become ill, protocols from the town of Dutch Harbor – they had their own protocols. Then you had protocols with the fishing tanneries that take our product. All the products, codfish and crab. The trip to get to anchorage, Alaska and Dutch Harbor, there were protocols there. All that and we didn’t even know if there was going to be a season to be had.

We didn’t have a survey this last summer. That’s when they go out and survey the ocean bottom and see roughly how much crab is out there and we take a conservative number so we don’t over fish. That wasn’t done. So, we had to go by a few years prior with an educated guess. We were fortunate that they opened the doors so that we could go fish and feed families. Of course, in the process there is so many people involved that people don’t understand. By the time it gets to the end user, all these people that are employed from shipping to sales – everything involved. There is a lot riding on it. Boats were pressed whether they should even fish or not. Even if they could get up there to do that it was difficult, getting the lines thrown and all.

WATM: Half of the fleet is tied up in Seattle. Has the virus infected that many crews or are they just cautious?

They were tied up because they didn’t know if there was going to be a season, so, you’re not sure if you should pay your premiums on things like insurance [for your ship and crew] such as personal injury. You have things like the journey itself to Dutch Harbor, which has a fuel cost. We had the possibility of a government shut down that some [reconsidered] if they should even leave.

Exclusive interview with Discovery’s Deadliest Catch Captain Sig Hansen

We were also at risk because if we didn’t get the survey — if we didn’t produce crab — and we didn’t make this happen we were adding to the risk of the next season. Its never about just this year. You always want to perform so its good for next year too. They have what is called a Catch Per Unit. It is the average of how well you are fishing from every pot and how much crab you are getting. We’re a very sustainable industry so we want to make sure there is enough on the table for next year. Had we had a government shutdown; we were going to be looking at a minimum two year shut down. It’s industry protocol, it’s called a rebuilding act. It shuts down and you’re done for the next two years. So it was critical that we were out there even if it was the most minute amount of pounds to catch as long as it was open. A lot of hurdles. When you finally do get the news that they’re going to open then you need a crew. I called Jonathan and brought the Time Bandit into play. The reason for that is the more the merrier. We need to cover these grounds. We need to get it done because we didn’t have that survey to go by. When you have it you can kind of tell where they are and how they’re schooled up in the summer months. It gives you an idea of how you want to start the ball game. You need more people.

Working together is not very common these days. We as fishermen are very competitive and lookout for ourselves. We haven’t done it in a while and we tried to work together. (laughs) It’s not the prettiest thing to do because fishermen are natural born liars when they’re out there! You can’t trust any of them. Me included – but! We managed get through that as well.

WATM: You started fishing with your family when you were in high school. How did your father prepare you to become a captain and how are you preparing your daughter who is following in your footsteps?

Well, the way I prepare my daughter is the complete opposite of the way I was prepared by my father. That’s apples and oranges. When I was a kid, the first time I was on a crab boat, I was 12 years old. Every summer from there I would participate by fishing for Blue King Crab, Gold Fin Salmon. In the Bering Sea, or if we went to Norway as a family, I would have a job over there to fish for cod or mackerel or herring. I was always busy in the summer. Mandy, chip off the ol’ block, when she was 13 she participated in what is called Salmon Tendering Season. The North Western is like a big fish taxi. All the small salmon boats will deliver their catch to us and we’ll transport the fish to the beach at the processor. We would stay out there and be productive and busy. She was a really young gal, fishing ever since. We have common ground there, [as far as] growing up.

When I was 22 [becoming captain] wasn’t really an intended thing. It sort of just happened. One captain said he was going home and it was late in the season. The crew asked my father if I could run the boat. They didn’t want to see another old guy, someone they didn’t know. Because it was such a family run operation [my father] asked me and I agreed. I just went out there and winged it, honestly. I paid attention to my father and the other captains that had been running the boat. Until you do it, there’s a big learning curve. My learning curve was at the peril of the crew. I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know what I was doing. We still managed to get through it and there was much more crab in those days.

Now fast forward to Mandy, she was the youngest female to ever fish in the Bering Sea during the winter months – that I know of.

She missed out on school, I mean, I remember her asking, ‘Could I come up there?’ and I remember saying, ‘But you’re 17 years old?’ I knew that – at least from what I thought was – you can’t just miss [school] quarterly. I didn’t realize it. I said, ‘Sure, when you’re done with school you can come up’. Then I get a call from my wife saying I put my foot in my mouth because she’s coming up next week. I said, ‘She’s got school!’ and she said, ‘No, you ding-a-ling, because she can make up those lost days.’ I had no idea. So, next thing I know, my foot is in my mouth and Mandy is up there. When you look back it’s intensive. She was aspiring to do this and you can’t stop a person like that. You can’t put the breaks on good people that have that drive. After that, I couldn’t bear watching her grow unchecked anymore. If she’s going to be the next captain then that’s amazing!

I tried to fast track her first and training her on a one on one basis instead of throwing her to the wolves…which is what my father did to me. Like, he would tell me he would go out with me but then he would stay in town and I would go out and the mission was number one. He would say, ‘Just follow Walter. He said he’s got you.’ When we got out there, she told me to set my gear and then I was out on my own. (laughs) There is too much money to be doing that these days. With her, it was a little bit of a fast track. I would rather have her more knowledgeable and equipped to run the family business when that time comes. Everyone understands that off the boat. It’s pretty unique the way we started so far.

WATM: Veterans love shows with adventure and a hint of danger. What would you like to say to the military audience regarding the show?

Well, number one, we appreciate them for what they do and being a part of the audience. I think we’re very much alike. There is risk and reward across the board and that’s a common denominator. We appreciate them as much as they appreciate us. It feels like family and its really neat thing to see that.

Deadliest Catch is now on Discovery and is streaming now on discovery+.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Social credit and the Chinese military: counting the PLA’s troubles?

‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.


Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.

The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.

The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.

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In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.

The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.

Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.

More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.

China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.

Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.

The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.

Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.

The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.

Just as a civilian social credit system might be used by the party-state to incentivise or force individuals, companies and other entities to ‘act in line with policies, directions and will of the CCP‘, the military equivalent could be used to similar effect in the PLA.

It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

What China’s new carrier strike group could look like

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to build a modern, capable “blue-water navy” that will dominate China’s neighbors, showcase Beijing’s rising power and one day even threaten the US Navy.

China has one aircraft carrier in operation, another undergoing sea trials, and a third one in development, putting the Chinese navy on track to begin fielding carrier task forces as it gains experience with carrier operations.


Type 001 Liaoning

China’s Type 001 Liaoning, a refitted Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser,” is the sister ship of Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier. This vessel was officially commissioned into the PLAN in 2012, and it was declared combat ready in 2016, even though its primary purpose is to serve as a training platform.

“For what the Liaoning is, I think it’s pretty good at its job,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously explained to Business Insider.

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Aircraft Carrier Liaoning CV-16 at Hong Kong Waters.

The Chinese “purchased it, they reverse engineered it, they used it to design their second aircraft carrier, and now they are using it as a training vessel to sort out carrier operations, figure out how to integrate it into the fleet, and determine what kind of supporting vessels they need to put with the carrier for their mission,” he added, suggesting that training with the Liaoning could potentially inform future carrier task force decisions, among other important choices.

Type 001A and Type 002

The Type 001A, a domestically-produced version of the Liaoning undergoing sea trials, features some improvements over its predecessor, but it is the Type 002, the third carrier in development, that could be a “huge step forward” for the Chinese PLAN, according to Funaiole.

It is with these next two carriers that the world may start to see China push ahead with the next stage of carrier operations, specifically task force creation for joint operations.

Imagining future Chinese carrier battle groups

The Liaoning has set sail with a number of different escorts over the years, but the deployment of effective task forces will require a bit more time, experts argue.

“To create really meaningful carrier task groups is probably five years out, and a lot of it depends on their actual experience with combat aircraft,” Tony Cordesman, the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, told BI.

Chinese carriers lack the ability to go toe-to-toe with the US Navy, although they have an advantage in waters near China because Chinese ballistic missiles “can reach out almost to the limits of its claims and actually potentially hit a carrier-sized object with a conventional warhead,” he explained, adding that observers should not “make the assumption that to make the carriers useful, they have to reach a level of competition that could deal with a really sophisticated US threat.”

The primary task for Chinese carriers is the prestige mission, experts note, suggesting that the Chinese aim to send a message to their neighbors.

“The prestige mission is probably the most important one. They are going to be going out to show the flag,” Bryan Clark, a naval expert and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Business Insider.

Areas where Chinese carriers could matter most

There are several areas of potential interest, with two being the contested waterways around China and the Indian Ocean.

In local waterways, such as the East and South China Seas, Chinese carriers advance Chinese interests by simply serving as displays of military might. “When it comes to projecting power against smaller states, it’s often a matter of demonstrative action or influence,” Cordesman explained.

Countries in the region may soon find themselves “dealing with a China that can actually project carrier forces and air power now into areas that they’ve never been able to really project air power before.” With that capability, which can be achieved relatively quickly, China can make “a very real difference in regional power and influence.”

But China could also extend its reach beyond its immediate neighborhood. Clark expects to see China eventually deploy carrier task forces to the Indian Ocean given Beijing’s growing interest in the area.

“Within the South and East China Sea, they have lots of land-based systems, aircraft, and ships they can deploy out there under the cover of their shore-based air defenses and surface missiles,” he remarked, “They need the navy to go over and help protect Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean and along the littorals.”

China could, for instance, be looking at projecting military power in the Strait of Malacca and along East Africa from Djibouti down to Mozambique and Madagascar, where China has notable business interests. China has already, via legitimate and questionable means, developed a string of ports in Sri Lanka, Djibouti, and Pakistan to support such operations.

Type and number of ships in a carrier task force

“I imagine a Chinese CTF may be a Type 055, a Type 054, and then maybe three or four Luyangs because they want to make sure they’ve got a lot of air defense capacity and because they want to make it look like a formidable threat,” Clark explained, referring to China’s new cruiser, as well as the country’s capable frigates and destroyers.

“This includes, in some ways, the classic mix that we would use,” Cordesman told BI.

A typical US Navy carrier strike group includes the carrier and five ships — one cruiser and four destroyers. But China might deploy even greater numbers.

“It’s likely they are going to want to have more surface combatants than even we might have put with a ship,” Clark said, pointing to the need for increased air defense capacity due to the limited number of vertical launch system (VLS) cells on Chinese surface ships, which can be loaded with missiles to intercept incoming threats and to strike ships.

A Chinese carrier task force would also require support ships, like ammunition oilers, for certain deployments.

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Type 054A frigate 575 Yueyang.

Type 054/A Jiangkai I/II frigates

The 4,000-ton Type 054A warships, Chinese stealth frigates designed for fleet defense, are armed with HQ-16 medium-range air defense missiles and a 32-cell VLS in the forward section that is able to fire anti-ship missiles, air defense missiles, and anti-submarine torpedoes, according to The Diplomat.

The first Type 054A was commissioned into the PLAN in 2005, but China has made some modifications to the ship in recent years. For instance, some of the newer ships of this class feature variable depth sonar and towed array sonar, as well as an improved close-in weapon system.

China is reportedly in the process of developing a 5,000-ton variant, the Type 054B Jiangkai III-class frigate.

Type 052C/D Luyang II/III destroyers

These ships, especially the newer Type 052D, are said to be similar to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.

Commonly referred to as the “Chinese Aegis,” the Type 052D destroyers feature a 64-cell VLS, with each cell capable of carrying up to four missiles, including the lethal YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missile and the HQ-9 surface-to-air missile. A US destroyer, in comparison, can carry 90 or more missiles in its VLS.

Toward the end of September 2018, a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer challenged a US destroyer, the USS Decatur, to a showdown in the South China Sea during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The Chinese vessel is said to have nearly collided with the American warship.

Type 055 Renhai-class cruisers

While China designates these vessels as destroyers, the US classifies them as cruisers, due to their large size and role as multi-mission surface combatants. This ship is expected to serve a similar purpose to that of America’s Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

This ship, which began sea trials in August 2018, is armed with 112 vertical launch cells with the ability to fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, and CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles.

The main gun is a H/PJ-38 130 mm gun, but there are reports that this vessel could eventually be equipped with a railgun.

Type 056 Jingdao corvettes

Chinese corvettes, like the newer PLAN frigates, feature improved anti-submarine warfare capabilities that could be advantageous to the carrier task force, although it’s unclear if China would actually incorporate these ships into a future carrier group, especially considering that the Type 054 frigates can provide the same capabilities.

“What the frigates and the corvettes have are variable-depth sonars, an active sonar operating at a lower frequency and on a cable that can be lowered down into the water below the [sonic] layer to actually find submarines,” Clark explained. “I think the Chinese would deploy a Jiangkai frigate or [Type 056] Jingdao corvette with the task force primarily for [anti-submarine warfare].”

These ships would play a lesser role in air defense, focusing instead on defending the task force from threats lurking beneath the surface of the sea.

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Chinese Navy oiler Hongzehu (AOR 881), an older vessel. China has since developed fast combat support ships for ammunition and refueling.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ben A. Gonzales)

Additional naval and support vessels

In waters near China, the need for support ships is limited. China can rely on its commercial shipping fleet, as well as various outposts and ports, but at greater distances, the task force will require support ships.

“I would anticipate the carrier task force is going to include an oiler to support them, and that oiler would be what goes ashore in these different bases along the Indian Ocean to receive supplies and fuel and take that out to the carrier task force,” Clark told Business Insider.

“Normally, when the Chinese deploy, such as when they deployed destroyers and frigates for counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, they’ve generally deployed two combatant ships and a support ship. They always have an oiler that goes with these ships.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

From dragons to giants, here’s what people first thought of dinosaur bones

Karuika asks: Who was the first person to figure out what dinosaur bones were?

From around 250 to 66 million years ago various dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Today the only dinosaurs left are birds, which are coelurosauria theropods — funny enough the same sub-group Tyrannosauruses belong to. (Think about that the next time you’re enjoying a McDinosaur sandwich or scrambling up some dinosaur eggs for breakfast.)

Beyond their avian progeny, all that mostly remains of these once dominate creatures are fossilized bones, footprints, and poop. While many dinosaurs were actually quite small, some were comparatively massive, bringing us to the question of the hour — what did people first think when they pulled huge dinosaur bones out of the earth?


To begin with, it is generally thought humans have been discovering dinosaur bones about as long as we’ve been humaning. And it appears that at least some of the giant creatures of ancient legend likely stemmed from the discovery of dinosaur bones and fossils, and the subsequent attempts of ancient peoples to explain what they were.

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Giphy

For example, 4th century BC Chinese historian Chang Qu reported the discovery of massive “dragon bones” in the region of Wuchen. At the time and indeed for many centuries after (including some still today), the Chinese felt that these bones had potent healing powers, resulting in many of them being ground down to be drunk in a special elixirs.

As for the exact medicinal purposes, in the 2nd century AD Shennong Bencaojing, it states,

Dragon bone… mainly treats heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual miasma, and old ghosts; it also treats cough and counterflow of qi, diarrhea and dysentery with pus and blood, vaginal discharge, hardness and binding in the abdomen, and fright epilepsy in children. Dragon teeth mainly treats epilepsy, madness, manic running about, binding qi below the heart, inability to catch one’s breath, and various kinds of spasms. It kills spiritual disrupters. Protracted taking may make the body light, enable one to communicate with the spirit light, and lengthen one’s life span.

While fossilized bones may not actually make such an effective cure-all, all things considered, the classic depictions of dragons and our modern understanding of what certain dinosaurs looked like are actually in the ballpark of accurate.

Moving over to the ancient Greeks, they are also believed to have stumbled across massive dinosaur bones and similarly assumed they came from long-dead giant creatures, in some cases seeming to think they came from giant human-like creatures.

Moving up to that better documented history, in the 16th through 19th centuries, the idea that the Earth was only about six thousand years old was firmly entrenched in the Western world, leading to these fossils creating a major puzzle for the scientists studying them. Even Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition found a dinosaur bone in Billings Montana, but in his case, he decided it must have come from a massive fish, which was a common way they were explained away given that no creatures that then walked the earth seemed to match up.

The various ideas thrown around around during these centuries were described by Robert Plot in his 1677 Natural History of Oxfordshire:

[are] the Stones we find in the Forms of Shell-fish, be Lapides sui generis [fossils], naturally produced by some extraordinary plastic virtue, latent in the Earth or Quarries where they are found? Or, [do] they rather owe their Form and Figuration to the Shells of the Fishes they represent, brought to the places where they are now found by a Deluge, Earth-quake, or some other such means, and there being filled with Mud, Clay, and petrifying Juices, have in tract of time been turned into Stones, as we now find them, still retaining the same Shape in the whole, with the same Lineations, Sutures, Eminencies, Cavities, Orifices, Points, that they had whilst they were Shells?

Plot goes on to explain the idea behind the “plastic virtue” hypothesis was that the fossils were some form of salt crystals that had by some unknown process formed and grown in the ground and just happened to resemble bones.

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Triceratops mounted skeleton at Los Angeles Museum of Natural History.

However, Plot argues against this then popular notion stating,

Come we next to such [stones] as concern the … Members of the Body: Amongst which, I have one… that has exactly the Figure of the lowermost part of the Thigh-Bone of a Man or at least of some other Animal…a little above the Sinus, where it seems to have been broken off, shewing the marrow within of a shining Spar-like Substance of its true Colour and Figure, in the hollow of the Bone…

After comparing the bone to an elephant’s, he decided it could not have come from one of them. He instead concluded,

It remains, that (notwithstanding their extravagant Magnitude) they must have been the bones of Men or Women: Nor doth any thing hinder but they may have been so, provided it be clearly made out, that there have been Men and Women of proportionable Stature in all Ages of the World, down even to our own Days

Thus, much like is thought to have happened with certain ancient peoples, he decided some of these bones must have come from giant humans of the past. During Plot’s era, the Bible’s mention of such giants was often put put forth as evidence, such as in Numbers where it states,

The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. There we saw the Nephilim… and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.

Though the bone Plot was describing has since been lost to history, he left detailed drawings, from which it’s thought to have come from the lower part of the femur of a Megalosaurus (literally, Great Lizard).

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Modern restoration of Megalosaurus.

But before it was called the Megalosaurus, it had a rather more humorous name. You see, in 1763 a physician called Richard Brookes studying Plot’s drawings dubbed it “Scrotum Humanum” because he thought it looked like a set of petrified testicles. (To be clear, Brookes knew it wasn’t a fossil of a giant scrotum, but nevertheless decided to name it thus because apparently men of all eras of human history can’t help but make genital jokes at every opportunity.)

While hilarious, in the 20th century, this posed a problem for the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature when it eventually came time to formally classify the Megalosaurus as such. The problem was, of course, that Brookes had named it first.

Eventually the ICZN decided that since nobody after Brookes had called it Scrotum Humanum, even though he was the first to name it, that name could safely be deemed invalid. Thus Megalosaurus won out, which is unfortunate because discussion of the rather large Scrotum Humanum would have provided great companion jokes to ones about Uranus in science classes the world over.

Moving swiftly on, humanity continued to have little clear idea of what dinosaurs were until William Buckland’s work on the aforementioned Megalosaurus in 1824.

As for the word “dinosaur” itself, this wouldn’t be coined until 1842 when British scientist Sir Richard Owen noted that the few dinosaur fossils that had been scientifically studied at that point all shared several characteristics. For the curious, those species were the Megalosaurus, Hylaeosaurus and Iguanodon. He further concluded that the fossils could not have come from any creature that currently roamed the Earth and thus came up with a new name — dinosaur, meaning “terrible/powerful/wondrous lizards”.

Of course, it should be noted that despite being knighted for his life’s work in 1883, Owen was renowned for stealing other people’s ideas and calling them his own, in at least one case even after having previously ridiculed the person he stole the ideas from — paleontologist Gideon Mantell. In several instances, Owen would attempt to take credit for some of Mantell’s pioneering work on the Iguanodon, while downplaying Mantell’s contributions in the process.

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paleontologist Gideon Mantell.

To add insult to injury, it is speculated that the much more distinguished Owen actively worked to stop some of Mantell’s work and papers from getting published.

To further illustrate Owen’s character and rivalry with Mantell, after near financial ruin in 1838, his wife leaving him in 1839, and his daughter dying in 1840, Mantell would become crippled after a fall from a carriage on October 11, 1841. Previous to the accident, he had frequently suffered from leg and back pain, but the source of it was dismissed as likely due to the long hours of work he put in and the like. Things got worse when a coach he was on crashed, shortly before which Mantell leapt from it. In the aftermath, his former pain became extreme and he ceased to be able to use his legs properly. As he writes, “I cannot stoop, or use any exertion without producing loss of sensation and power in the limbs… and could I choose my destiny, I would gladly leave this weary pilgrimage.” He later laments in his journal, “my long probation of suffering will be terminated by a painful and lingering death.”

What does any of that have to do with Owen? To add insult to injury, after Mantell died from an opium overdose taken to help relieve some of his constant and extreme pain, several obituaries were published of Mantell, all glowing — except one…

This one was anonymously written, though analyses of the writing style and general tone left few among the local scientific community with any doubt of who had written it.

In it, Owen starts off praising Mantell, stating, “On Wednesday evening last, at the age of about 63 or 64, died the renowned geologist, Gideon Algernon Mantell…” It goes on to note how Mantell’s memoir on the Iguanodon saw him the recipient of the prestigious Royal Medal. Of course, later in the article, Owen claims Mantell’s work for which he won that medal was actually stolen from others, including himself:

The history of the fossil reptile for the discovery of which Dr. Mantell’s name will be longest recollected in science, is a remarkable instance of this. Few who have become acquainted with the Iguanodon, by the perusal of the Medals of Creation would suspect that to Covier we owe the first recognition of its reptilian character, to Clift the first perception of the resemblance of its teeth to those of the Iguano, to Conybear its name, and to Owen its true affinities among reptiles, and the correction of the error respecting its build and alleged horn…

The article then goes on to outline Dr. Mantell’s supposed various failings as a scientist such as his “reluctance to the revelation of a truth when it dispossessed him of a pretty illustration”, as well as accusing him of once again stealing people’s work:

To touch lightly on other weaknesses of this enthusiastic diffuser of geological knowledge… we must also notice that a consciousness of the intrinsic want of exact scientific, and especially anatomical, knowledge, which compelled him privately to have recourse to those possessing it… produced extreme susceptibility of any doubt expressed of the accuracy or originality of that which he advanced; and in his popular summaries of geological facts, he was too apt to forget the sources of information which he had acknowledge in his original memoirs.

It finally concludes as it started — on a compliment, “Dr. Mantell has, however, done much after his kind for the advancement of geology, and certainly more than any man living to bring it into attractive popular notice.”

It’s commonly stated from here that, out of spite, Owen also had a piece of Mantell’s deformed spine pickled and put on a shelf in the Hunterian Museum in London where Owen was the curator. However, while this was done, the examination and study of his spine was done at the behest of Mantell himself.

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British scientist Sir Richard Owen.

Thus, an autopsy was performed and an examination of Mantell’s spine showed he had a rather severe and, at least at the time, peculiar case of scoliosis. As to what was so interesting about this case, one of the physicians involved, Dr. William Adams, states, it was discovered “that the severest degree of deformity of the spine may exist internally, without the usual indications in respect of the deviation of the spinous processes externally.”

In other words, in other such cases, it was clear the spine was not straight from visual observation of the person’s back where a curve could be observed. Mantell’s spine, however, exhibited severe scoliosis, but in such a way that upon external examination methods of the day where the person was lying down or standing up, it otherwise appeared straight.

To Adam’s knowledge, such a thing had never been observed before, but if Mantell had this particular brand of scoliosis, surely many others did as well. But how to detect it. Mulling over the problem inspired Dr. Adams to come up with a method to make such a deformity visible with external examination, thus giving the world the Adam’s forward bend test which many a school student even today has no doubt recollections of being subjected to periodically.

Going back to Owen, as to why he seems to have hated Mantell so much, this isn’t fully clear, though it may have simply been Mantell’s work sometimes resulted in showing Owen’s to be incorrect in various assumptions, jealousy of a scientist he deemed inferior to himself, or it could just be that Owen was a bit of a dick. As noted by famed biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, “[I]t is astonishing with what an intense feeling of hatred Owen is regarded by the majority of his contemporaries, with Mantell as arch-hater. The truth is, [Owen] is the superior of most, and does not conceal that he knows it, and it must be confessed that he does some very ill-natured tricks now and then.”

Of course, if you steal other people’s work long enough, eventually you’ll get caught, especially when you’re one of the world’s leading scientists in your field. Owen’s misstep occurred when he was awarded the prestigious Royal Medal from the Royal Society for his supposedly pioneering discovery and analyses of belemnites, which he called the Belemnites owenii, after himself and gave no credit to anyone else for the ideas in the paper. It turns out, however, four years previous he’d attended a Geological Society get together in which an amateur scientist by the name of Chaning Pearce gave a lecture and published a paper on that very same creature…

While Owen was allowed to keep his medal even after it was revealed he’d stolen the work of Pearce, the rumors that he’d similarly “borrowed” other ideas without credit and this subsequent proof resulted in the loss of much of his former academic prestige. Things didn’t improve over the following years and Owen was eventually given the boot from the Royal Society in 1862 despite his long and rather distinguished career.

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Giphy

While he would never again do any scientific work of significance, his post plagiarist career did prove to be a huge boon for those who enjoy museums. You see, up until this point, museums were not places readily open to the public, and to get access, you usually needed to be an academic. They were places for research, not for random plebeians to gawk at things.

After losing any shred of respect from his peers, he eventually devoted his energies into his role as the superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum. Among other things, as superintendent, he pushed for and helped develop London’s now famed Natural History Museum, London. He also instituted a number of changes such as encouraging the general public to come visit the museum at their leisure, devoted the majority of the displays for public use, had labels and descriptions added below each display explaining what each was of so anybody, not just the educated, could understand what they were looking at, etc. Many among the scientific community fought against these changes, but he did it anyway, giving us the modern idea of a museum in the process.

In any event, after Owen, Mantell’s, and their contemporaries’ work finally revealed these long extinct creatures for what they were, interest in dinosaurs exploded resulting in what has come to be known as the “Bone Wars” between rival paleontologists in the 1890s which got so heated, some paleontologists literally resorted to dynamiting mines to beat their rivals in discoveries.

The most famous such rivals were Othniel Marsh of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale and Edward Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

While the pair started out friendly, even choosing to name species after one another, they eventually became bitter enemies, and when they weren’t doing everything in their power to find dinosaur bones as fast as possible, they were writing and giving talks insulting one another’s work, attempting to get each other’s funding canceled, stealing discoveries from one another or, when not possible, trying to destroy the other’s work. In the end, the product of this rivalry was the discovery of a whopping 142 different species of dinosaurs. (For the record, Marsh discovered 86 and Cope 56.)

Before ending, any discussion of this wild west era of dinosaur bone hunting and scholarship would be remiss without noting the unsung hero of it all — Mary Anning, who is credited with finding many of the fossils used by other scientists for “their” discoveries like of the long-extinct Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaurus (in fact finding the first complete Plesiosaurus), and the flying Pterosaur.

Anning was also noted to be popularly consulted by scientists the world over for her expertise in identifying types of dinosaurs from their bones and various insights she had on them, with many world renowned scientists actually choosing to make the journey to her little shop in person where she sold these bones in Dorset England.

Almost completely uneducated formally and having grown up relatively poor, with her father dying when she was 11, Anning’s expertise came from literally a lifetime of practice, as her family lived near the cliffs near Lyme Regis and from a little girl she helped dig out bones and sell them in their shop.

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Portrait of Mary Anning.

Without access to a formal scientific education, she eventually took to dissecting many modern animals to learn more about anatomy. She also was an insatiable reader of every scientific paper she could get her hands on related to geology, palaeontology and animals. In many cases, unable to afford to buy copies of the papers, she’d simply borrow them from others and then meticulously copy them herself, with reportedly astoundingly exact replication of technical illustrations.

On that note, Lady Harriet Silvester would describe Anning in 1824,

The extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved… It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour—that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.

Despite finding some of the best known specimens of these creatures and risking her life on a daily basis during her hunt for fossils around the dangerous cliffs, Anning got little public credit for her discoveries owing to a number of factors including that she was a woman, from a dissenting religious sect against the Church of England, and otherwise, as noted, had no real formal education. So it was quite easy for scientists to take any ideas she had and the bones she dug up and claim all of it as their own discovery. As Anning herself would lament, “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone.”

A companion of hers, Anna Inney, would go on to state, “these men of learning have sucked her brains, and made a great deal of publishing works, of which she furnished the contents, while she derived none of the advantages.”

That said, given the esteem she was regarded among many scientists, some of them did desire she be given credit for her contributions, such as famed Swiss palaeontologist Louis Agassiz who was one of many to visit Anning’s shop and to pick her brain about various things, ultimately crediting her in his book Studies of Fossil Fish.

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Further praising her work a few years later was an article in The Bristol Mirror, stating,

This persevering female has for years gone daily in search of fossil remains of importance at every tide, for many miles under the hanging cliffs at Lyme, whose fallen masses are her immediate object, as they alone contain these valuable relics of a former world, which must be snatched at the moment of their fall, at the continual risk of being crushed by the half suspended fragments they leave behind, or be left to be destroyed by the returning tide: – to her exertions we owe nearly all the fine specimens of Ichthyosauri of the great collections …

Of the dangers of her work, Anning once wrote to a friend, Charlotte Murchison, in 1833,

Perhaps you will laugh when I say that the death of my old faithful dog has quite upset me, the cliff that fell upon him and killed him in a moment before my eyes, and close to my feet … it was but a moment between me and the same fate.

Beyond academic credit, in one lean stretch where Anning’s family was unable to find any new fossils and they had to start selling off all their worldy possessions just to eat and keep a roof over their heads, one of their best customers, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch, decided to auction off many of the bones he’d bought from them and instead of keeping the money, gave it to Anning’s family.

Of this, in a letter to the Gideon Mantell, Birch stated the auction was,

for the benefit of the poor woman… who… in truth found almost all the fine things which have been submitted to scientific investigation … I may never again possess what I am about to part with, yet in doing it I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the money will be well applied.

Beyond the approximately £400 this brought in (about £48,000 today), this also significantly raised the awareness among the scientific community of the family’s contributions to this particular branch of science.

Further, when she lost her life savings apparently after being swindled by a conman in 1835, the aforementioned William Buckland managed to convince the British government and the British Association for the Advancement of Science to give her a pension of £25 per year (about £3,000 today) in recognition of her work’s importance to science.

On top of this, when she was dying of breast cancer in the 1840s and couldn’t continue on in her work as before, the Geological Society provided additional financial support to make sure she was taken care of.

After her death, they also commemorated a stained-glass window in 1850 in her memory with the inscription:

This window is sacred to the memory of Mary Anning of this parish, who died 9 March AD 1847 and is erected by the vicar and some members of the Geological Society of London in commemoration of her usefulness in furthering the science of geology, as also of her benevolence of heart and integrity of life.

The president of the Geological Society, Henry De la Beche, would also write a eulogy for her, which stated in part,

I cannot close this notice of our losses by death without adverting to that of one, who though not placed among even the easier classes of society, but one who had to earn her daily bread by her labour, yet contributed by her talents and untiring researches in no small degree to our knowledge…

This was the first eulogy for a woman the society had ever published, and the first time such a eulogy had been given for a non-fellow.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

The awesome reason some Air Force fighters have green stars

In the Air Force fighter community, there is a coveted and rare marker painted near the cockpit of certain planes, just beneath the pilot’s name, rank, and call sign. It’s 6-inch green star with a 1/2-inch black border that signifies that the aircraft has emerged victorious against an enemy jet in aerial combat.


Why this Air Force marking is so rare

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A U.S. P-51 with the decals showing aerial victories of Nazi, Italian, Japanese, and U.S. planes.

(Pima Air and Space Museum)

The Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force have allowed pilots to mark their victories on their fuselages for decades, but the height of the tradition was during World War II when the frequent aerial combat combined with the sheer numbers of planes in the air at once led to dozens of pilots having to kill or be killed on any given day.

In that era of fierce fighting, the U.S. Army Air Corps allowed most pilots to mark their aerial victories with a small replica of the enemy pilot’s flag, placed beneath the pilot’s name on the fuselage. This was typically either a decal or a bit of paint from applied by the ground crew. There were also some cases of fighter groups painting the silhouettes of the planes they had shot down.

One U.S. pilot even boasted every Axis flag — as well as a single U.S. flag — on his cockpit. Yes, he shot down a U.S. plane and got a medal for it.

But, eventually, the use of flags, silhouettes, and some other markings fell out of favor when it came to aerial victories, though the Air Force does still allow bomber crews to use bomb silhouettes to mark their missions.

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F-15E Strike Eagle #89-0487, the only F-15E to achieve an air-to-air kill, sports the green star on its fuselage while parked at Bagram Air Field in 2008.

(U.S. Air Force James D’Angina)

But for fighter pilots, it’s now all about the green star, standardized in Air Force Instruction 21-205 as:

“Aerial Victory Marking. Fighter aircraft awarded a verified aerial victory are authorized to display a 6-inch green star with a 1/2 inch black border located just below and centered on the pilot’s name block. The type of aircraft shot down shall be stenciled inside the star in 1/2 inch white lettering. For aircraft with multiple aerial victories, a star is authorized for each aircraft shot down. No other victory markings are authorized.”

Modern aerial victories are rare, not because the U.S. loses but because the Air Force dominates enemy air space so hard and fast that typically only a handful of pilots will actually engage the enemy in the air before the U.S. owns the airspace outright. In Desert Storm, about 30 U.S. pilots achieved aerial kills in about 30 aircraft. At least two of those aircraft, the F-14s, have since retired.

Meanwhile, there are almost 2,000 fighter aircraft in the U.S. inventory. So, yes, the green stars are very rare. So rare, the air wings occasionally brag about the green-star aircraft that are still in their units.

The 455 Air Expeditionary Wing history department released an article in 2008 bragging that a green-star aircraft from Desert Storm was then in active service over Afghanistan. The aircraft on display above is the only F-15E to ever achieve an air-to-air kill, a feat it pulled off by bombing a helicopter as it took off, destroying the helicopter and the troops it had just dropped off.

In 2010, the 353rd Special Operations Group historian released an article about their F-15C with its own green star. The plane was used by a Marine pilot in an exchange program who shot down one of two MiG-29s attempting to attack an F-14 flying all alone and unafraid during Desert Storm.

Of course, aerial victories are even rarer today. In 2017, the Navy claimed America’s first air-to-air kill of an enemy aircraft since 1999. Or, in other words, we’ve had only one aerial victory in almost 20 years. In the 2017 engagement, two U.S. Navy FA/-18E Super Hornets attacked a Syrian Su-22 fighter that was dropping bombs near forces friendly to the U.S.

For anyone wondering about how we invaded two countries at the start of this century without shooting down any enemy aircraft, Iraq lost most of its aircraft during Desert Storm and the following year while Afghanistan had no real air force to speak of in 2001. Most aircraft destroyed in Syria were killed on the ground.

So, no green stars there.

Humor

These 10 letters kids sent to deployed troops will make you smile

Words can’t be expressed how grateful deployed troops are when they receive care packages and letters from back home. A swarm of grown men and women will hover around them just to get whatever goodies they can out of them.


I’ve seen people fight over chocolate that made it through the trip (spoiler alert: there’s a one in a million chance it doesn’t melt on the way over). I’ve seen someone buy a pack of Girl Scout cookies for $50. I still wear a 550-cord band that I got in one of mine because a kid wrote that it’d keep me safe. I’m still here today so technically, you can’t prove the kid wrong.

The letters from the kids are the amazing. The letters fall somewhere between savage as f*ck to random as sh*t. These are some of the best from the Internet.

1. Thank you. Don’t Die

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(Image via Imgur)

Thanks, kid. I’ll try not to.

2. This ‘Merican AF dragon!

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(Image via Imgur)

I said consummate ‘v’s!

3. Call Me Maybe

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(Image via Imgur)

And now we all have that song stuck in our heads… Thanks, Maddie.

4. My mom likes drinking wine

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(Image via Imgur)

Awesome!

5. You rock more than AC/DC or Metallica, or Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Kid knows AC/DC, Metallica, and Chili Peppers, even if he can’t spell them? Yeah. He’s probably going to enlist some day.

6. Thank you for fighting in the war

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(Image via Imgur)

Don’t know if spelling error or not… But we do whatever it takes to keep our country proud of us!

7 Happy America Nut’s Kream

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(Image via Imgur)

Meow America, indeed.

8. My Grandpa Bob was in the Navy and now he loves peanuts.

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(Image via Imgur)

Peanuts. Yes, peanuts. Couldn’t possibly be anything else.

9. You’ll probably never get to see your family again

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(Image via Imgur)

Thanks for caring, Donovan.

10. My dad said you guys are fighting a bunch of goat f*ckers.

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For someone who doesn’t know what a goat f*cker is, Jack has some pretty good spelling and penmanship.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

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2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

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A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

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Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

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Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors in their Own Words: A day in the life of a Vietnam War combat medic

Combat medics courageously fought to save lives as the war raged around them in Vietnam. Helicopters became virtual hospitals in the air, buying the combat medic valuable time to heal the wounded. When lives were on the line, it was a combat medic’s quick thinking that determined the fate of their fellow troop.

Max Cleland, who would later go on to be a US Senator, was saved by such courageous men after losing three limbs to an explosion. This is his story:


You might be wondering — what did these brave ‘docs’ carry with them on a daily basis? They played a vital role in operations, but you just might be surprised by the scarcity of their toolkit. Here’s what they were expected to carry on patrol.

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Hospital Corpsman James Kirkpatrick (my handsome dad, on the right) gearing up to head out on patrol in Vietnam, 1968.

Armor?

No such luck.

For the most part, the ground-pounders wore t-shirts, flak jackets, and many donned WW2-style helmets due to a lack of budget.

The helmets weren’t bullet-proof and were only intended to protect the troop from flying shrapnel — sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Primary weapon system

Just like today, the docs of Vietnam served as riflemen until one of their brothers was injured. Most Corpsmen and medics carried M16A1 rifles with 10-14 magazines of 18 rounds. Their magazines could carry up to 20 rounds, but the majority of the grunts didn’t fill them to capacity in order to avoid a weapons malfunction.

Sidearm

The average doc carried a .45 caliber pistol with five to seven magazines of seven rounds each.

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Medics SP4 Gerald Levy and Pfc. Andrew J. Brown with a wounded soldier and a paratrooper of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Bien Hoa, Vietnam.

(Photo by Horst Faas)

Other gear

Docs also carried three to five hands grenades, which were worn either on the flak jacket or stuffed into cargo pockets, two to five flares to properly mark landing zones, and a “woobie” or poncho to stay as dry as possible.

And, of course, you couldn’t go on patrol without bringing enough packs of smokes to last you the duration. In the Vietnam era, patrols could last up to several days, depending on the mission.

Also, just like good docs today, they didn’t forget to stash away plenty of dry pairs of socks.

An unmarked med-bag

These green pouches were stuffed to the brim with abdominal dressings (large bandages), battle dressings (medium-sized dressings), four to five rolls of gauze, and five to ten morphine syrettes.

Today, morphine syrettes are considered serialized gear and a medic can be punished for losing one in the field.

Fluids

Some corpsmen and medics carried an I.V. solution — if they could manage to hustle a bag or two away from the local medical aid station. In some cases, medevac helicopters would transport them to the on-ground medical personnel instead, as needed.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New Defiant helicopter probably won’t fly in 2018

The Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant helicopter program will miss its first scheduled flight tests due to “minor technical issues” discovered during ground power tests, officials involved in the program revealed Dec. 12, 2018. The tests were originally scheduled for 2018.

While the aircraft “has been completely built,” discoveries were made in recent weeks during Power System Test Bed (PSTB) testing, said Rich Koucheravy, Sikorsky director of business development for future vertical lift. Sikorsky is partnered with Boeing Co. on the project.


“We’re working those fixes, and our goal will be to get the PSTB back in operation shortly…within the next week or two,” Koucheravy said in a phone call with reporters. Because of the prolonged PSTB tests, the Defiant flight will be pushed back into early 2019, he said.

Randy Rotte, Boeing director of global‎ sales and marketing for cargo helicopters and FVL, said the program must also be certified in 15 unblemished hours within PSTB — which collectively tests the aircraft as a system — before it’s cleared for first flight.

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U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is briefed about the newest invitation, the SB1 Defiant by a Boeing representative at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Convention and exposition show in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014.

(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle)

The two officials said the unspecified, mechanical issues have not and will not impact or alter the design or configuration of the aircraft, nor should they impact the supply chain.

Program officials previously reported problems with the transmission gearbox and rotor blades.

“Those issues are behind us,” Rotte said Dec. 12, 2018.

The co-developers have been transparent with the Army with the delays, they said. “Only time will tell” if other discoveries during prolonged ground testing will dictate when the flight tests occur, Rotte said.

The news comes one year after Defiant’s competitor, the Bell Helicopter-made V-280 Valor next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, made its first flight.

In October 2018, the head of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift effort said the service was not worried that the Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant had not conducted its first test flight yet.

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A mock-up of a Bell V-280, exhibited at HeliExpo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We need them to fly; we need them to prove out more fully their lift-off … technologies and some of their manufacturing technologies,” Brig. Gen. Wally Rugen, director of the Future Vertical Lift, Cross Functional Team, said during the 2018 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

But, he added, “we have been in close communication with the Defiant team and understand where they are at and what they are doing.”

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, which is based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The Defiant was expected to conduct its first test flight in 2017, but Sikorsky-Boeing officials predicted it would instead conduct its maiden flight in late 2018 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach.

Rugen at the time said it was still too early to say whether the service will lean toward the Valor’s tiltrotor or the Defiant’s coaxial rotor design.

“We want the most efficient and the most capable platform,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

There is no one in NFL history more devoted to veterans than Jared Allen

During his 12-year NFL career, Jared Allen was a heavyweight defensive player, making his presence known on multiple teams, especially the Minnesota Vikings. It was as a Viking that Allen went on a trip that touched his heart and soul, touring with USO to visit servicemen and women deployed overseas. He even told the assembled troops as much.

That’s what led to Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors (JAH4WW).


“It has been one of the best experiences of my life – something that I’ll never forget,” Allen said of his time visiting troops. “We, as players, probably get more out of it than you do as soldiers and Marines.” Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create his own charity to support America’s wounded.

Even after he was traded to Chicago and later Carolina, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors carried on no matter where Allen was playing. Even though he’s listed as one of the 50 Greatest Minnesota Vikings of all time, the uniform he wore on the field wasn’t what defined him. If you ask the man himself, he’ll tell you what he does off the field is what matters most.

“Football is what I do, it’s not who I am. The things that we do today — to impact these lives, to change people’s lives — can last forever,” he told SB Nation. “We have a great responsibility to the community that supports us, and to our veterans who allow us to do what we do.”
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Former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen presents free Super Bowl LII tickets to eleven-year-old Tallon Kiminski, son of Minnesota Air National Guard member, Maj. Jodi Grayson.

(U.S. Air National Guard photos by Capt. Nathan T. Wallin)

When it comes to helping wounded veterans, Jared Allen is a godsend. On its website, the JAH4WW says, “Jared was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom. He wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that Jared knows how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Jared and his JAH4WW will help make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.”

Talk is big, but in practice, Jared Allen is much, much bigger than just words. Since its founding in 2009, his organization has helped raise funds to build or revamp homes for injured veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, raised tens of thousands of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart and Proctor Gamble to provide everyday household goods for veteran families in need, and on Veterans Day, you can always find the now-retired Allen doing something to help veterans in need.

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NFL player Larry Fitzgerald signs an autograph for troops from the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Ramadi, Iraq, along with Will Witherspoon from the St. Louis Rams, Jared Allen from the Minnesota Vikings, and Danny Clark from the New York Giants in 2009.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Emily Suhr)

“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”

If you’re a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization’s website. Jared Allen is one guy you definitely want in your corner.

Articles

One of America’s top enemies in the Iraq War just won big in Iraqi elections

For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.


In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.

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For most of the Iraq War, however, he was intent on blowing Sunnis apart.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.

Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.

“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”

Some American veterans of the 2003-2011 Iraq War are not happy with his 53-seat win.

Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.

Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.

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Ask Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, Bob Dole, Etc.

The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.

“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.

Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.

American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?

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And yet, here we are.

The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.

Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What would happen in a fight between an old battleship and a new destroyer

The past versus the future is always an interesting debate. One of the biggest naval hypotheticals centers around the Iowa-class battleships, which have often been featured in “what if” match-ups with anything from the Bismarck and Yamato to the Kirov. The Iowas are now museums, supposedly replaced by the Zumwalt-class destroyers.


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USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) emerges past a point. (US Navy photo)

Could the Zumwalt-class ships really be a replacement? Could they measure up to an Iowa? This could be a very interesting fight, given that the two ships were commissioned slightly over seven decades apart.

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USS New Jersey (BB 62) fires her main guns. (Photo: US Navy)

The Zumwalt is perhaps the most high-tech ship to sail the seven seas. MilitaryFactory,com notes that this ship has two 155mm Advanced Gun Systems, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and it can carry two helicopters. The vessel displaces about 14,500 tons, and has a top speed of 30 knots. In short, this destroyer is a little smaller than a World War II-era Baltimore-class heavy cruiser.

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USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) (Photo: U.S. Navy)

An Iowa, on the other hand, comes in at 48,500 tons, per MilitaryFactory.com. She could reach a top speed of 35 knots, and was armed with nine 16-inch guns in three turrets, each with three guns. When modernized in the 1980s, she added 32 BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and still kept six twin five-inch gun mounts. This is still one of the most powerful surface combatants in the world, even though it is old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare.

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The massive cannons of the USS Iowa. (US Navy photo)

A fight between an Iowa and a Zumwalt would be very interesting. The Zumwalt would use its stealth technology to stay hidden and then rely on helicopters and UAVs to locate the Iowa. Its biggest problem would be that none of its weapons could do much against the heavy armor on the battleship. If the Iowa gets a solid solution on the Zumwalt, on the other hand, it can send its own gun salvos at the destroyer – which won’t survive more then one or two hits.

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USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of her nine 16″/50 and six 5″/38 guns during a target exercise near Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. (DOD photo)

In short, the Iowa would likely demonstrate why so many people want to see them back in service at the expense of the ship that was intended to replace it.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy secretary bets his job that he can fix USS Ford

Like most first-in-class warships, the USS Gerald R. Ford has had problems during its construction and testing, especially because of the array of new technology it carries.

But the $13 billion aircraft carrier has attracted special attention, and now Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is putting his job on the line to guarantee one big problem will be resolved.


The Ford’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System has been a particular focus for President Donald Trump. He expressed dismay with the system in May 2017 and has mentioned it several times since, bringing it up at random on several occasions.

Other officials, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, have objected to protracted issues with the carrier’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, which use magnets rather than cables to lift munitions to the flight deck.

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President Donald Trump speaking with Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)

None of the carrier’s 11 elevators were installed when it was delivered in May 2017 — 32 months late. But the Navy accepted and commissioned the carrier, and after a year of testing at sea, in July 2018 it entered its post-shakedown period.

The start of the post-shakedown period was delayed by another defect, and it was extended from eight months to a year to take care of normal work and work that had been put off, like the installation of the elevators and upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, which has also faced technical problems.

The Navy has said the elevators will be installed and tested by the end of the post-shakedown period in 2019. Six will be certified for use at that time, but five won’t be completed until after July 2019.

Spencer said Jan. 8, 2019, that during a discussion at the Army-Navy football game in December 2018 he gave Trump a high-stakes promise.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said at an event at the Center for a New American Security, according to USNI News.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” he added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

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Tugboats maneuvering the Gerald R. Ford into the James River.

(US Navy photo)

Spencer also said Trump asked him about EMALS. He told the president that the Navy had “got the bugs out” and that the system and its capabilities were “all to our advantage.”

Inhofe is also raising the stakes.

“The fleet needed and expected this ship to be delivered in 2015,” he told Bloomberg on Jan. 7, 2019. “Until all of the advanced weapons elevators work, we only have 10 operational aircraft carriers, despite a requirement for 12.”

Inhofe has told the Navy he wants monthly status reports on the carrier until its elevators are working.

The Ford is the first of its class, and the next Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is under construction by Huntington Ingalls at Newport News, Virginia, where it reached the halfway point in 2018.

The Navy told legislators early January 2019 that it would go ahead with a plan to buy the next Ford-class carriers, CVN 80 and CVN 81, on a single contract, known as a “block buy.”

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A crane moving the lower stern into place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, making the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier 50% structurally complete, on June 22, 2017.

(US Navy photo)

The Navy has said it will spend about billion on the first three Ford-class carriers, and it has touted the block buy as a way to save as much as billion over single contracts for the third and fourth ships. The program as a whole is expected to cost billion.

“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said after the Navy informed lawmakers of the decision.

Inhofe, however, remains wary.

He told Bloomberg that he looked forward to “the greater predictability and stability” provided by the block buy but called the purchase “a significant commitment” requiring “sustained investments for more than a decade” to get the billion in savings estimated by the Navy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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