I suppose that the attraction of living on a remote island must lie in escaping from the bustle of busy towns or cities, and surrounding oneself with a defensive moat, and perhaps also having the ability to make your own rules. We British are an island people, and the English Channel is a moat behind which we created our own culture, and language, and laws.
But that remoteness is also an impediment. It must be much harder to live on a remote island on which there are no shops and most likely no water or gas or electricity, and the only way out is in a boat that takes a day or two to get to the next equally remote island.
The latter considerations must be foremost in the minds of the inhabitants of the Leeward and Virgin Islands in the Caribbean sea, as hurricane Irma – one of the three largest hurricanes in recorded history – bears down on them with 185 mph winds.
At 9 am UTC (same as GMT) today the 47 km wide eye of the hurricane was reported to be at 17.9N 62.6W and moving west-northwest (285°) at 14 knots (26 km/hr). In the map below the 47 km diameter eye is shown with a 26 km long arrow showing its speed and direction.
It’s about 210 km from the British Virgin Islands, which it looks set to pass directly over 8 hours later – at 17:00 GMT, 4 pm BST.
Spare a thought, therefore, for Richard Branson on Necker Island, at the extreme northeast tip of the British Virgin Islands.
Hurricane Irma: Richard Branson refuses to leave Necker Island as Irma threatens to strike.
He said: “I will be on Necker along side our team, as I have been on the three times we have had hurricanes over the past 30 years.”
His blog entry yesterday includes a photo of him standing on its highest point:
The photo shows, at top right, his mansion at the southwest corner of the island, where he’s probably right now busy at work, perhaps stocking up some underground bunker beneath it, his guests having been sent to safety.
Why didn’t he leave too? My guess is that actually he wants to be there, wants to be in the eye of the storm, and has no intention of being either in his mansion or any bunker beneath it: he intends to experience the storm standing on the highest point on Necker. That photo is as much a declaration of intent as a scenic view across Necker Island to the Virgin Islands in the distance. For the eye of the hurricane will approach from the direction towards which he is looking.
I’m guessing this because Branson is a daredevil balloonist, who has almost been killed on several occasions. Riding out Hurricane Irma is just another adventure for him.
But he’s not such a daredevil in other ways. He stopped smoking some years ago (I don’t exactly know when). And he was among the first to stop his customers smoking as well.
Virgin was the first airline to stop smoking on our planes, and we were also the first rail company to ban smoking on our trains. It was one of the best decisions we ever made. While some people were sceptical at the time, the moves were met with overwhelming support. Crew members – even those who smoked – were really grateful and a lot of the smokers gave up as a result.
His antismoking stance doesn’t extend to pot smoking, however.
Richard Branson: Just Say Yes to Smoking Pot With Your Kids
Richard Branson got a little high and mighty sharing some unconventional parenting advice yesterday. The eccentric British billionaire advised parents to smoke pot with their kids. Seriously.
“If they’re going to have a joint, do it with them,” he said, reports the Chicago Tribune. “Don’t let them sneak off and do it on their own.”
And in the aforementioned blog post of his, he declares himself to be a climate alarmist.
Man-made climate change is a key factor in the increasing intensity of these hurricanes, as many experts have suggested. The damage caused by Harvey all over Texas is a tragic and costly reminder that our climate is changing and that we are not doing enough to tackle this enormous challenge. If Irma is any indication, we must brace ourselves for more of these catastrophic weather events. How much cheaper and smarter to support the Paris Agreement and move to clean energy?
He believes experts. He appears to believe everything that it is fashionable to believe. And he is probably the first to believe it. In fact, he probably got rich by spotting fashion trends and jumping on the bandwagon – first with Virgin Records, climbing on in 1972, and climbing off in in 1992.
He’ll probably be perfectly safe, later today, smoking pot as he sits on the summit of his island in the middle of the eye of Hurricane Irma.