No Man Is An Island

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.

About Frank Davis

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17 Responses to No Man Is An Island

  1. smofunking says:

    Does the Isle Of Man not count?

    Also, 17.00 GMT would be 18.00 BST.

  2. nisakiman says:

    Richard may be a successful businessman, but he can also be a right prat. I knew him slightly in the days before the airline, when Virgin was just a music business, expanding into pubs and clubs; and when he was a Marlboro man. He used to play really juvenile practical jokes on people, which pissed a few of his associates off. But then that’s part and parcel of the other crazy antics he gets up to, like his ballooning exploits. And despite his cuddly demeanor, he can be utterly ruthless in business.

    His strength lay in how he engendered loyalty from his staff, and with that he was very good. He had a very egalitarian approach, and treated everyone as equals, which endeared him to the people who worked for him. The common touch, I think it’s called. A good friend of mine worked in the warehouse for Caroline Exports, an offshoot of Virgin, just as a warehouse-man. But when Richard was at the warehouse, he would always greet Terry (my friend) by name, and after he discovered that Terry was cricket mad, he’d invite him down to the Oxfordshire mansion to play cricket on his private pitch. I even got invited there a couple of times when there was a do on. Fantastic place – absolutely idyllic.

    It surprised me he became so anti-smoking, but I suppose ex-smokers do have a tendency to become evangelical. His remarks on pot don’t surprise me though. He probably still enjoys the occasional toke now. And he’s in the right area! :)

    I’m not sure about his attitude to ‘climate change’. He’s the sort who will publicly make all these ‘green’ statements because he knows it’s good PR. It wouldn’t surprise me if privately he thinks it’s all a crock of shit. But yes, he is very good at spotting fashion trends and exploiting them. And that’s why he’s so wealthy.

  3. Frank Davis says:
    The French government has said that the four “most solid” buildings on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin have been destroyed by Irma as the Hurricane wreaked catastrophic damage in the region,

    Saint Martin is the island that I showed (just south of Anguilla) being right on the path of the eye of Hurricane Irma

  4. Frank Davis says:

    By my reckoning, Irma passed over the British Virgin Islands 6 hours ago, but no news seems to have come out.

    Nothing from Richard Branson either. His last blog entry said he was going to retreat to the concrete wine cellar beneath his house.

    Perhaps all the comms have been knocked out.

    Radar image showing Irma eye directly over British Virgin Islands.

    AST is Atlantic standard time, GMT -4 hrs.

  5. smokingscot says:

    Guy destroys his car when he lights a cigarette that ignite the gases from a leaky can of air freshener!

    • Joe L. says:

      I’m surprised that the author didn’t blame the driver for the explosion because he’s a smoker. The article is refreshingly devoid of any antismoking propaganda or smoker-shaming. Crazy how something so normal seems so exotic in our current state of denormalization.

    • waltc says:

      Doesn’t require a spark, heat alone can do it. Years ago we were shooting a commercial in the Nevada desert. Temperature hit 120 and an aerosol can of shaving cream spontaneously exploded in the back seat of the cameraman’s car.

      • nisakiman says:

        I’ve had Bic disposable lighters explode when left in the car on a hot day on several occasions. Fortunately not when I’ve been in the car – the plastic shrapnel is quite sharp.

    • Roobeedoo2 says:

      It was a woman apparently – husband told me about it this morning (taxi grapevine). She was spraying air freshener in her car to get rid of the smell of her smoking.

  6. Frank Davis says:

    The storm destroyed nearly all buildings on the island of Barbuda, whose Prime Minister Gaston Browne said: “Barbuda is literally rubble. The entire housing stock was damaged. It is just a total devastation.”

    “Glad to say that all humans on Necker are ok although a lot of buildings destroyed”

    (Sam Branson, Richard branson’s son)

  7. jameshigham says:

    Surprises me why they don’t build buildings as domes in that neck of the woods.

    • RdM says:

      Yeah, I have a delightful illustrated book here somewhere on geodesic dome building.
      Whether inbuilt strength could be made sufficient to withstand such weather…
      I don’t know. Maybe?
      Possibly knowledge of same was not common then.
      They’re still beautiful, so may catch on.

  8. Pingback: Smoking Bans as Self-Inflicted Disasters | Frank Davis

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