Chemtrails – a traveller’s bone of contention

CHEM versus CON in The Sky Above

It is rare for us to see vapour trails from aircraft in the mostly clear skies above Perth, Western Australia. Yet, even though we can’t see them, we often hear a jet’s guttural roar as it passes way up high overhead on its way to or from the African or Asian continent.

When we do see a trail, it disperses briefly as a widening arrow only to disappear without trace perhaps a kilometre behind the aircraft. The brevity of the trail’s existence testifies to the fact that the aircraft are leaving behind them nothing more than water vapour from the moist exhaust of the plane’s engines where it meets the extreme cold of the lower stratosphere. Granted we don’t get as much high-altitude traffic as they do in European or USA continental skies, but we are under commercial air traffic lanes.

Jet aircraft

We are heading back to Europe shortly. One of the past, clear memories of our previous summer travel was of thickly layered and criss-crossed aircraft trails dominating what should have been the clear blue summer skies above. Is it a cause for concern? Well, if you are not used to seeing it, it is a mystifying phenomenon to say the least – yet there is an apparent acceptance of this lineal aerial pollution over USA and Europe’s skies.

This could possibly be attributed to a combination of factors: the public’s awareness of constant military and commercial air traffic above those lands: a feeling of helplessness about affecting any change in the situation and: the majority’s assumption that what is trailing behind those aircraft is harmless water vapour – condensation.

Chem Trails

But is it?

Many of you will be aware that there is another school of thought about the source of those trails. Many think that what is seen high above leaving the aircraft is, in fact, a chemical spray. Thus we have a raging (online, mostly) controversy pitting the Chemtrails (chemical trails) protagonists against the Contrails (condensation trails) deriders.

Chem Trails Sunset

A couple of summers ago we spent quite a bit of time in Spain’s Extremadura region; an area where ancient cities have remained largely intact for centuries, uncontaminated by sky-scraper-mania and the region, as a whole, largely un-industrialised.

Caceres Extremadura

From these cities and on our long walks in the surrounding countryside, at that time of the year we should have had, from dawn to dusk, clear, unclouded (as in weather-produced cloud) blue sky.

It was hot; Extremadura is named for its seasonally extreme weather. Each day on our wanderings we would frequently scan the expanse of blue above – as one does – perhaps idly hoping for cooling rain clouds.

What we would see each and every day, however, was a steady tracery of trails being formed in the lower stratosphere. Some, clearly condensation trails, would disappear quite quickly. The majority, though, lingered . . . and lingered. In fact they did not disappear at all, but would slowly spread across the sky to merge with the other questionable trails. In what was a true, cloudless sky, these trails were daily occluding the sun.

We didn’t know whether to be grateful for the shade provided by this occlusion, or to be deeply concerned. I leant towards the latter.

Chem Trails Con Trails

Chemtrail believers (disparagingly labelled Conspiracy theorists) are claiming there is a deliberate spray-dispersal of chemicals from aircraft in the lower stratosphere and many assert there is evidence of this.

Is some ‘interest group’ really playing with the weather or, alternately, chemically tinkering with us mere mortals at ground level? Or is it simply a result of the warm, moist exhaust of the plane’s engines meeting the extremely cold temperatures of the upper atmosphere.

Do nano-particles from these trails slowly fall to earth? Is a mist of chemicals drifting down upon the land, its people and into their waterways? Those trails we were seeing over Extremadura, whatever their source, seemed to merge and drift all day and the way they merged from different levels seemed to indicate some gradual falling. If nothing else, it was gross visual pollution.

The debate rages. Search the internet for Contrails versus Chemtrails and you’ll see what I mean. The jury is out – and likely to remain so if we may judge by the ongoing controversy.

At the heart of the Chemtrail adherents’ argument is suspicion, fear, and a genuine concern for our health, while there seems to be such fervent rebuttal of their case by those who claim it is all harmless condensation that it raises suspicion and amounts, in itself, to a cause for concern.

I don’t anticipate seeing clear, un-streaked skies over Europe’s land masses during our coming travel, but it certainly would be a welcome improvement.

Virtual Travel

Surreal Travel – now available at your nearest . . .

Shackleton advert 
I wonder what that great Polar explorer, Ernest Shackleton, would think about our “There-and-back in a day” Antarctic scenic flights.

Antarctic scenic flights

I can picture him shaking his head in disbelief. Passengers now can board an aeroplane at some southerly airport and within just a few hours be afforded a high-velocity, sweeping panoramic view of the whole of the vast frozen continent, including Shackleton’s polar nemesis – The South Pole. Fares are structured to provide varying levels of luxury (Dom Perignon or Chandon?) but all are treated to an atmosphere of pampered exclusivity.

Ernes Shackleton and crew

Frank Wild, Ernest Shackleton, Eric Marshall, Jameson Adams aboard the Nimrod in Antarctic waters 1908 – photo Irish Post

Now my eyes are turned from the South to the North, and I want to lead one more Expedition. This will be the last… to the North Pole.” Ernest Shackleton

And should our Ernest have come across today’s adverts for “Two or three day in-and-out tours of The Arctic”, his jaw would surely have dropped. These trips offer customers such luxurious elements as: “you’ll board a helicopter for the final leg to the top of the world. Once at the North Pole we’ll celebrate with photos to document your arrival, champagne toasts and a call home from the top of the world.” Then our modern-day ‘adventurers’ are whisked away from all that pesky cold, snow and ice and quickly returned to civilisation’s mod cons.

I called to the other men that the sky was clearing, and then a moment later I realized that what I had seen was not a rift in the clouds but the white crest of an enormous wave.” Ernest Shackleton

Shackleton's ship - The Endurance

Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance, frozen in ice Antarctica 1915. It was subsequently crushed and destroyed.

Virtually There
Younger people may not have noticed, but over the last few decades there has been an interesting evolution taking place in the world of ‘travel’. Whereas the vehicle or vessel was once a conveyance to get you started on your journey, it has now become a container that takes you on tour (not unlike the Pope in his Pope-Mobile, or the open-top double-decker city tour bus).

Yes, some will remember those days when the vehicle or vessel took you to the start of your travels; it was then that you disembarked and your adventure, your travel, really began.

Nowadays the vehicles themselves have morphed to provide us with effortless, Virtual travel from within their confines. With minimal use of your tiresome legs, you can now witness scenery unfolding in motion before your eyes through your porthole or window or, weather permitting, out on deck – scenery untainted, untouched and unfelt while you remain in utmost comfort (champagne glass and canapés at hand). But wait a minute, that’s just as it was at home when watching those National Geographic films on your 50“ HDTV screen.

TV Screen

A now common transfiguration (or mutation) of this phenomenon is found on the water (river or ocean). The old Passenger Liners that took us from A to B to start our adventures have all but gone; now we have the omnipresent River and Ocean Cruise Ships.

River Cruise Boat

On the latter, once you and your ample luggage are comfortably ensconced aboard, they proceed to present you with such an insane range of entertainment, shopping, food and beverages that it beggars belief. Your boredom threshold will be kept to a safe, barely-felt pulse: “You vill NOT be bored!” or, God forbid, go hungry. Have a look at this link Oasis of Sea Review and if you can see any relationship to ‘Travelling‘, please let me know (see my reference at the end to semantics). Passenger ferries, at least, still exist – all is not lost.

Upper Deck Cruise Liner

Trains, too, have become tour containers. Advertised Great Train Journeys promise that while within the carriage’s comforting confines you will be pampered with every luxury and whisked along apace while a mobile (and unfelt) panorama passes your window pane – much like watching a movie at home. Mind you, personally, I still get child-like enjoyment from using utilitarian trains to get from A to B.

I should mention that we have travelled on Australia’s Indian Pacific train from the east coast to Perth in Western Australia and, later, travelled the same route, same direction, in a series of camper wagons which we were relocating for the company. The latter was a far more interesting experience.

Lounge Train Carriage

It is worth noting, perhaps ghoulishly, that Air NZ was one of the first to offer “There-and-back in a day” scenic flights over Antarctica. However, on the 28th of November 1979, Air New Zealand flight 901crashed into Mt Erebus on Ross Island Antarctica in white-out conditions, instantly killing all 257 people on board. The passengers knew nothing of what was to happen until the instant they struck. What followed was a drawn-out, scandalous affair with Air NZ, its staff and the Commercial Pilots Association on one side and representatives of the pilot and crews’ families on the other, both locked in a momentous legal battle over cause and liability. A navigational error was mistakenly factored into the flight plan. More here: Mt Erebus Disaster

Mt Erebus disaster

And while on the subject of aeroplanes does anyone remember the Flying Boats of the South Pacific? What a great way to fly that was.

Float Plane

I think the word TRAVEL has been softened, or neutered, and now wallows broadly in the realm of logical semantics. For example – I go to the city in my car, therefore I am travelling.

While this is undoubtedly true, the very first definition of the verb ‘travel’ in my Concise Oxford Dictionary accords with my use of the word –
1. (to) Make a journey esp. one of some length to distant countries”.

To me, travel implies an element of new horizons, adventure, challenge and risk. Elements that will pervade and stimulate all of our senses.

Otherwise, why not just sit back on your couch or settee and watch Virtual Travel on your HDTV at home. It’s far cheaper.