Wednesday , November 25 2020
Home / S. Sumner: Money Illusion / The forgotten ones

The forgotten ones

Summary:
The WSJ recently did a story on the unusual island called “Rockall”. It included a great picture, which captures the romance of lonely isolated islands. Go to the link and enjoy the photograph. But there’s a problem with the WSJ story, no mention of the tragic history of Rockall: On 22 June 1904 Norge left Copenhagen under the command of Captain Valdemar Johannes Gundel. After taking on Norwegian immigrants at Oslo and Kristiansand, the ship set course across the Atlantic Ocean, travelling north of Scotland to New York City. She was carrying a crew of 68 and 727 passengers. Among the steerage passengers, there were 296 Norwegians, 236 Russians, 79 Danes, 68 Swedes, and 15 Finns. Half of the steerage passengers had prepaid tickets, paid for by relatives living in the United

Topics:
Scott Sumner considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Scott Sumner writes Stop obsessing over interest rates

Scott Sumner writes I shouldn’t, but no two people on Earth are more deserving

Scott Sumner writes MMT bleg

Scott Sumner writes Something I never thought possible

The WSJ recently did a story on the unusual island called “Rockall”. It included a great picture, which captures the romance of lonely isolated islands. Go to the link and enjoy the photograph.

But there’s a problem with the WSJ story, no mention of the tragic history of Rockall:

On 22 June 1904 Norge left Copenhagen under the command of Captain Valdemar Johannes Gundel. After taking on Norwegian immigrants at Oslo and Kristiansand, the ship set course across the Atlantic Ocean, travelling north of Scotland to New York City. She was carrying a crew of 68 and 727 passengers. Among the steerage passengers, there were 296 Norwegians, 236 Russians, 79 Danes, 68 Swedes, and 15 Finns. Half of the steerage passengers had prepaid tickets, paid for by relatives living in the United States.[6]

On 28 June, Norge ran aground on Hasselwood RockHelen’s Reef, close to Rockall, in foggy weather. She was reversed off the rock after a few minutes, but the collision had ripped holes in the ship’s hull, and water began pouring into the hold. The crew of the Norge began lowering the lifeboats, but the first two lowered were destroyed by waves. Only five boats were successfully launched out of the eight on board. Many passengers jumped overboard, only to drown. The Norge sank twelve minutes after the collision. Captain Gundal stayed with the ship as it sank, but managed to swim to one of the lifeboats.

According to author Per Kristian Sebak’s comprehensive account, more than 635 people died during the sinking, among them 225 Norwegians. The first survivors to be rescued, a group of 26, were found by the Grimsby trawler Sylvia. 32 more were picked up by the British steamer Cervonax, and 70, including Captain Gundal, by the German steamer Energie. Some of the 160 survivors spent up to eight days in open lifeboats before rescue. Several more people lost their lives in the days that followed rescue, as a result of their exposure to the elements and swallowing salt water. Among the survivors was the poet Herman Wildenvey

It was the biggest civilian maritime disaster in the Atlantic Ocean until the sinking of Titanic eight years later, 

The forgotten ones

This story makes me sad. Imagine the WSJ doing a story about the specific iceberg that hit the Titanic, without even mentioning the Titanic.  Yes, the Titanic disaster was worse (1500 lives lost), but the difference wasn’t great enough to explain the disparity.  And who’s ever heard of the Doña Paz?  When that Philippine boat sank in 1987, 4386 souls lost their lives.  So it’s partly numbers and partly glamour.  Leonardo DiCaprio was not on board the Doña Paz.  Teenage girls still weep over the fate of the Titanic victims, but no one cares about those poor Norwegians who tried to cross over on a crappy boat.  Or the 852 (mostly Swedish and Estonian) passengers who died when the Estonia sank in 1994.

Countries are sort of like that.  China has slightly more people than India, and perhaps triple the GDP.  But the American government is 100 times more obsessed with China than India.  That’s how people’s minds work—they fixate on the number one example in any given category—and that distorts thinking. 

While Germany is the biggest economy in Europe, it’s actually not that much bigger that 3 other economies.  But because it’s the biggest, people wildly exaggerate its importance.  They seem to think Germany could rescue Europe with fiscal stimulus, or pay off the debts of the poorer European countries.  That’s crazy, but it comes from the single-minded focus on the top example in a category.

Speaking of China, Rockall was grabbed by the UK in 1955, at a time that no one else seemed interested.  China grabbed some tiny uninhabited islands in the South China Sea (note the name of the sea) at a time when nobody seemed to care about them.  Now Ireland is upset about Britain’s claim:

Though it doesn’t claim the rock as Irish, Dublin has never recognized British sovereignty, saying nobody should own the remote island.

I totally agree with Ireland.  Nobody should own an island this beautiful.

PS.  This post seems aimless, without purpose.  No one cares about a bunch of Nordics who would have settled in Wisconsin and Minnesota if they had lived.  People who would have voted for highly progressive policies in the 20th century and for Trump in the 21st century. 

So how can I get anyone to link to this post?  How about cute birds?  People love cute birds.  But Wikipedia suggests there is little animal life on Rockall:

The island’s only permanent macro-organism inhabitants are common periwinkles and other marine molluscs. Small numbers of seabirds, mainly fulmarsnorthern gannetsblack-legged kittiwakes, and common guillemots, use the rock for resting in summer, and gannets and guillemots occasionally breed successfully if the summer is calm with no storm waves washing over the rock. In total there have been just over twenty species of seabird and six other animal species observed (including the aforementioned molluscs) on or near the islet.

Guillemots?  That’s not enough.  But I don’t give up easily, and eventually hit gold with a Daily Mail article:

Nick was never much of a birdwatcher before coming to Rockall, but now that his principal companions are feathered, he is enjoying observing them. 

Kittiwakes, shearwaters, pigeons, puffins and guillemots fly past the rock, and gannets nest there.

Bingo! 

The forgotten ones

PPS: Ball’s pyramid is also a cool island:

The forgotten ones

PS. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Tags:

 
 
 
Scott Sumner
Scott B. Sumner is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, the Director of the Program on Monetary Policy at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and an economist who teaches at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. His economics blog, The Money Illusion, popularized the idea of nominal GDP targeting, which says that the Fed should target nominal GDP—i.e., real GDP growth plus the rate of inflation—to better "induce the correct level of business investment".

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *