Ferdinand Magellan and me(34)

waiting for cyclone Marcia

Political Correctness of cyclones

Ferdinand Magellan and me(34)

Women aboard ship has been a vexed issue for centuries. Ferdinand Magellan never allowed women aboard his ships, not even his own wife, although his reason is unclear.There was a time when cyclones were invariably given female names and ships were invariably referred to as she despite the name on the transom. The case for calling a ship she is clear nowadays:

A ship is called a she because there is always a great deal of bustle around her; there is usually a gang of men about; she has a waist and stays; it takes a lot of paint to keep her good-looking; it is not the initial expense that breaks you, it is the upkeep; she can be all decked out; it takes an experienced man to handle her correctly; and without a man at the helm, she is absolutely uncontrollable. She shows her topsides, hides her bottom and, when coming into port, always heads for the buoys.

Since cyclones are characterised by severe damage and destruction only some kind of misogynist could conceive of giving them female names. It has been known for centuries that women aboard ship bring bad luck, like bananas. We find justification for this attitude in the world’s oldest sea story – Jason and the Argonauts.

Jason, you may remember, was given the task of retrieving the Golden Fleece from a grove where it was protected by a fire-breathing dragon. On his voyage in the good ship Argo he faced many perils; not least the women of the island Lemnos, who had all murdered their husbands. The Argonauts were not permitted to proceed until they had repopulated the island.Their next daunting experience was an attack by Harpies: huge winged creatures with murderous claws. Then they had to tackle the Strait of Bosphorus, with fierce tides that could wreck a ship and clashing rocks that could crush her.

Arriving in the Kingdom of Colchis, Jason demanded the Golden Fleece be handed over as it belonged to Zeus, the king of the gods. The king said he could have the Golden Fleece if he could wrest it from the dragon. This Jason achieved with the help of a comely goddess named Medea and they returned home triumphantly.

Unfortunately, when Jason fell in love with another comely goddess Medea became exceeding jealous and out of spite murdered their children. A deeply depressed Jason became a homeless wanderer and ended his days when one of Argo’s beams fell on his head. Thus we have a clue as to why cyclones are normally given female names: Hell knoweth no fury like a woman scorned. Having survived a few cyclones I can appreciate the comparison.

Here in Queensland, cyclones are a seasonal event. Most recently we have had Debbie and a couple of years ago we had Marcia, both females. Before that we had Yasi, which is sexless as far as I can determine, but it’s about time the Bureau of Meteorology, BOM, introduced a democratic and transparent process in the naming of cyclones.
We the people have the right to put a name to our own apocalypse. Let us have done with this blatant sexism. Call upon your local chapter of the Sisterhood immediately to reflect the true nature of cyclones by giving them appropriate names. By definition a cyclone is an event that causes widespread damage and misery. On this basis, the next cyclone should be called Malcolm after the current Australian Prime Minister. The one before that should have been called Cyclone Tony (Abbot). We have the choice of several females beginning with Pauline.

The honour of having a cyclone named after him/her goes to the Politician who has caused the most damage to the nation in the preceding period. The nation-wide poll should be held a month before a federal election.
Females aboard ship might be bad luck but politicians of any gender aboard Canberra, the ship of state, are disastrous.

Click if you agree

Pigafetta’s journal of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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