Friday, September 22, 2006

In the Midst of the Storm

Ten minutes into his descent, Rankin should have been reaching the ground, but the enormous draughts of air that surged up the core of the cloud were retarding his fall. Soon the turbulence became much more severe. He had no visual point of reference in the gloomy depths but he sense that, rather than falling, he was being shot upwards with successive violent gusts of rising air -- blasts that were becoming increasingly violent. And then for the first time he felt the full force of the cloud.

"It came with incredible suddenness -- and fury. It hit me like a tidal wave of air, a massive blast, fired at me with the savagery of a cannon ... I went soaring up and up and up as though there would be no end to its force." ...
The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney
Pretor-Pinney certainly knows how to get my attention. Frankly, I am not that interested in the science of clouds which makes up about half of each chapter. Possibly anticipating this, he has been quite generous with attractive lures, such as the story of Lieutenant-Colonel William Rankin, a pilot in the US Air Force, who, in 1959, became the only man to fall through the heart of a cumulonimbus and live to tell the tale. Riveting stuff, y'all!

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