Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 9 October 2008

A glance into the abyss

In awe of? Well, I suppose certain natural phenomena (The Bay of Islands, the Matterhorn from Zermatt, the south Brittany coast from the sea) and certain man-made structures (the Millau bridge, Coventry cathedral, the Chrysler building). Technology though tends to impress me rather than touch my soul. Though there was one occasion, and it was all the more memorable for its moral ambiguity.

For professional reasons I went aboard HMS Renown at Gairloch on the Clyde. Renown is – perhaps was – a missile-equipped nuclear submarine which slips off secretly, sometimes for months, into goodness knows what part of the ocean. Not with me aboard, I hasten to add. My job was ask questions about how she was victualled.

Theoretically my brief didn’t extend to Renown’s nature or to her raison d’etre but the hardware was inescapable. The CPO in charge of catering also had a battle job: operating the hydroplanes to initiate a dive or a return to the surface. Later there was the walk forward to the place where those sixteen (I think) ominous cylinders were installed.

Renown was so well-made, damnit. Efficient. Almost a recruiting exercise if you respond to mechanical, electrical and electronic things. She recalled those cutaway drawings in Eagle designed to excite young readers about technology for its own sake. The excitement reached me for it was possible – for a moment – to separate all this hard-nosed beauty from its purpose. I can’t say I wasn’t in awe of it all. Even now, nearly thirty years later, I remember the feeling. And remind myself feelings are not necessarily trustworthy.

1 comment:

Lucy said...

Those cutaway drawings were great weren't they?