Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Sad dog is sad

This guy was looking at me as if to say “Do they mean dog years or human years?”

While it may not be accurate (it’s more complex than a simple equivalence), it’s often taken that one dog year is about seven human years.

This means things are quite good for them if it’s dog years, since a dog will be in its twenties by the time it has been around for more than two human years.

But the other side of this thought is that if our dog has to wait for 25 human years – well, by then it’s going to be something like 150 dog years.

And that’s maybe the thought this little face is conveying.

Sad Dog

Sad Dog

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March 31, 2018 Posted by | Cold War, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Siberia in Scotland suggests time to plan holiday

The current blast of cold air we are ‘enjoying’ from Russia/Siberia is dragging our average temperature below 3°C, and last night took a dive below -3°C at one point.

I’m hoping the forecast remains accurate (woke up to snow this morning). Although it shows this nonsense carrying on until the end of the week, things get better after that and the daytime max is predicted to start rising again.

Because this is cold air being ‘parachuted’ in, it actually feels a lot colder that it did during the frosts and freezes we had a couple of weeks ago.

I was thinking it would be nice NOT to be here at the moment, and this bus trip to go see an atomic bomb being detonated seemed both a bargain and a good idea at the moment.

You might even come back with a nice warm glow that could last for a while, just like the Ready Brek kids.

Warm Day Trip

Warm Day Trip

Some say…

They brought in kids that lived near Sellafield when they filmed this series of ads 😉

February 27, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War | , , , | Leave a comment

Inverness bunker sold

Back in November (2017) I noted the offer for sale of the Highland Emergency Centre (Raigmore) in inverness.

See that previous post for details.

I had no idea if it would or wouldn’t sell, or how long it would take if it did, or even what it was worth (prices vary, sometimes wildly).

The offer closed in December, and now the news is that it was sold, so I’ve missed another one.

So far, no details of price, buyer, or use it may be put to.

Past sales have led to clubs, or secure storage facilities.

Via Offer accepted for Highland Council’s Inverness bunker

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

February 22, 2018 Posted by | Cold War, council, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Doomsday Clock is now at 2 minutes to midnight

It’s some years since I started watching The Doomsday Clock, and it was a little known finger on the pulse of how close we were to the ‘End of the World’.

It’s come to be better known today, so I seldom think about mentioning it, but since it has gone from moving slowly backwards and further from midnight, the past few years have been increasingly depressing, and far from the 17 minutes to midnight we once ‘enjoyed’, as per the title the clock has now advanced to be a mere 2 minutes from midnight.

I wonder how much of this advance is down to the ‘Orange Moron’?

See The Doomsday Clock Timeline

Doomsday Clock Summary

Doomsday Clock Summary

Via Doomsday Clock moved to just 2min to ‘apocalypse’

Who would have thought…

Having lived through the Cold War – anyone would be thinking it would be nice to be back in those days?

Seriously, at least we didn’t have two clearly mentally unstable nut jobs in control of nuclear weapons (and one who has no understanding of climate change and is actively thwarting attempts to reign it in), while another superpower leader is effectively sitting on the sidelines, and would appear to be happy to let the idiots fight it out, and wait to just step in and take over as neither would be able to offer any effective resistance.

January 25, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War, military | | Leave a comment

There goes another Cold War bunker (I didn’t buy)

One of the sad things about the 10+ years that have passed since I was talked into starting ‘something’ regarding the secret side of Scotland is the slow disappearance of most of the resources which fuelled the early days.

Then, ‘secret’ was meant to encompass what the media has come to rely on as Urban Exploration or UrbEx, and use as a clickbait term to attract outrage at this supposedly deadly hobby which puts lives at risk, and encourages lawbreaking through trespass (although it generally neglects the subtle difference between trespass law in Scotland, compared to England). Most cases cited or decried as ‘trespass’ here probably aren’t – and if you think I’m going to tell you why, forget it! I’m not giving away the research I did years ago for free. This was back in the days just prior to the completion and issue of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, when much of the background material was then placed online, but has slowly evaporated over the years (so I can no longer refer to the legal sources that were then made available).

Most of the references for ‘secret’ places, sites, installations, facilities, operations, etc that were to be found online some ten years ago have largely evaporated from the Internet. If you want evidence of this, just try looking up some of the more ‘interesting’ pages in SeSco’s Wiki. I used to update the reference links with the added text ‘Dead link‘ (to show, at least, where the original info had come from), but after a while decided this had  become a waste of time, as I was finding more and more had died and gone over the years.

Sad to say, I probably couldn’t create many of the Wiki pages if I was starting today (at least not via online research).

But that doesn’t stop the odd place, such as a former Cold War bunker at Raigmore, Inverness. However, it was not built for that purpose, and dates from World War II, when it was used as a centre which handled reports from outlying radar stations, as a Sector Operation Centre.

After the war it was used by the RAF for training, then from 1958 to 1968 by the Civil Defence Corps, and finally (from the 1980s) as an emergency centre for Highland Regional Council (as it was then), to be used in the event of a nuclear attack.

Sad to say I never visited this site, like many that were easy to get to, I just never made the time.

There’s a proper account here, from our old friends at Sub-Brit:

Site Name: Inverness – Highland Emergency Centre (Raigmore)

Highland Council is now divesting itself of the site and its responsibility for the abandoned facility.

A bunker built to survive a direct hit from World War Two’s most powerful bombs has been offered for sale.

The subterranean property in the Raigmore area of Inverness was upgraded in the 1980s during the Cold War.

The enhancements included a capability to protect those inside from a nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

Highland Council, which owns the site, has offered bids for the bunker. Viewing of the property is “strictly by prior appointment”.

A closing date on 6 December has been set for offers for the property, which is close to Inverness city centre.

Via Highland Council selling Inverness’ bunker

This view of the former mounded filter room with the (then) current emergency planning admin block to the left – image courtesy of our friends at Subterranea Britannica.

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

Inverness Bunker Via Sub-Brit

November 21, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, council, World War II | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will baby SCROTUS throw a tantrum if his toys are taken away?

As an outside observer, I’m amazed (or am I?) that the people of the US have allowed this orange moron to stay in power for so long, and make them look so stupid.

From the days of the Cold War, I had gained the impression the President of the United States had the authority to launch a nuclear strike without asking anybody, or having to seek approval.

Sadly, it seems my impression was correct, and ‘The Button’ is his to press if he so wishes.

I think I felt safer during the Cold War, when we had people like Stanislov Petrov looking after us.

One can only hope that those who might receive the order today, and actually have to initiate the final launch from the silos, have some sense of responsibility, and are not mindless automatons, despite their training and commitment. Or, consider the reality of a ‘Legal Order’ (see Update below).

See These Women Are the Last Thing Standing Between You and Nuclear War

For the first time in over 40 years, Congress has examined a US president’s authority to launch a nuclear attack.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing was titled Authority to Order the Use of Nuclear Weapons.

Some senators expressed concern that the president might irresponsibly order a nuclear strike; others said he must have the authority to act without meddling from lawyers.

The last time Congress debated this issue was in March 1976.

In August, Mr Trump vowed to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Korea if it continued to expand its atomic weapons programme.

Last month, the Senate committee’s Republican chairman, Senator Bob Corker, accused the president of setting the US “on a path to World War 3”.

Via Senate committee questions Trump nuclear authority

Big Poopy Baby

Big Poopy Baby

Update

There was an interesting article that appeared AFTER I noted this: US nuclear chief would resist ‘illegal’ presidential strike order

The top nuclear commander in the US says he would resist any “illegal” presidential order to launch a strike.

Air Force Gen John Hyten, said as head of the US Strategic Command he provided advice to a president and expected that a legal alternative would be found.

His comments come just days after US senators discussed a president’s authority to launch a nuclear attack.

Some of them expressed concern that President Donald Trump might irresponsibly order such a strike.

Others though said a president must have the authority to act without meddling from lawyers. It was the first such hearing in more than 40 years.

While Senators and expert witnesses agree the president has full authority to defend the nation, commentators have pointed out that because there is no all-encompassing definition of “imminent attack”, the president is not given an entirely free hand.

“I provide advice to the president, he will tell me what to do,” Gen Hyten said.

“And if it’s illegal, guess what’s going to happen? I’m going to say: ‘Mr President, that’s illegal.’ And guess what he’s going to do? He’s going to say, ‘What would be legal?’ And we’ll come up with options, of a mix of capabilities to respond to whatever the situation is, and that’s the way it works.

“It’s not that complicated,” Gen Hyten added.

He added: “If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail. You could go to jail for the rest of your life.”

President Trump has not publicly commented on Gen Hyten’s remarks.

He’s probably waiting for somebody to draw them for him, in pictures.

Coincidence!

I featured Baby Poopy Trump on:

World Toilet Day

ROFL

November 19, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, military | , , , , | Leave a comment

On misinformation, the rise of a Cuban mystery

I saw a story come to light quietly a few weeks ago, and note that it has come to a head today as:

US reveals details of recent ‘sonic attack’ on Cuba diplomats

I found the suggestion that this, if it is real, is classed as a ‘sonic attack’ on the diplomats… interesting.

I’ve read of claims that the Nazis, in their growth years before World War II, would roll up with lorries at meetings being held by their opponents. The lorries were said to contain powerful amplifiers and large loudspeakers, fed with inaudible low-frequency signals of only a few hertz. These low-frequency sound waves were supposed to induce various feeling of illness, unease, sickness, panic, and other maladies which would disrupt the meetings and make them unpopular.

But, from modern analysis of the claims, it seems that this was propaganda, and that there is no genuine scientific basis for the claims made.

Also, the same (or similar) frequency is claimed to be the magical ‘brown frequency’, allegedly able to cause the target’s bowels to open uncontrollably when they are targeted.

Sadly, when the Mythbusters’ team donned nappies and set up a test range, with huge amplifiers and loudspeakers, they failed to find any effect despite trying a range of frequencies and power levels.

This makes the claim of a Cuban ‘sonic attack’ hard to believe, unless they have added ‘magic’.

Incidentally, I’m well aware of various acoustic weapons and deterrents, but having seen the demo videos, none of these seem to be covert, and are very obvious when in use, being both seen and heard.

If the claims of affected diplomats are true, and not just a manufactured political excuse to start some tit-for-tat actions by the Orange Moron, then there could be something far more serious taking place.

I only have fictional accounts, but on the other hand, there is not doubt that exposure to both ionising and no-ionising radiation at excessive levels is potentially harmful. Don’t forget Litvinenko and death by polonium.

I’ve been involved with NDT (non-destructive testing) at times, and even the smallest portable kit comes with dire warnings, demands for shielding to keep people nearby safe, while the largest X-Ray source I worked on needed a room with two 5-ton lead-lined doors and a concrete refuge maze to run and take cover in if you were in the room and the source was somehow activated. Similarly, if you get anywhere near microwave radar transmitters, they are festooned with warnings not to be anywhere near them when they are operating.

I hate to oversimplify and say it’s easy to make X-Rays, but in principle it’s not hard…

X-Ray basics

X-Ray basics

And the portable NDT kit is… portable!

I haven’t touched it for years though, and forget how far we had to make sure there were no actual people that might have been in the beam path.

Portable X-Ray Test

Portable X-Ray Test

Crumpled TV detective Columbo solved one case where people were mysteriously falling in and dying after noting plants in an office were dying too, eventually finding the killer was setting up a portable NDT X-Ray transmitter outside the office.

Even before that, old-time radio criminologist Lamont Cranston, known as ‘The Shadow’, was faced with an apparently genuine Pharaoh’s Curse. Explorers who entered a tomb and dared look at the mummy would collapse and die moments later. He found that the killer had placed an X-Ray generator behind the mummy’s head, and activated it when anyone gazed on the pharaoh, blasting them with X-Rays from only a few centimetres from their head.

As for RF or microwave attacks, two or three beams could be aimed at, and crossed, on a building, and produce hazardous levels when combined.

While the reality (as opposed to the purely fictional cases noted) is probably that the levels involved would not result in instant death, but odd symptoms and illness. Even the worst cases of nuclear irradiation do not kill instantly (try looking up the ‘Demon Core’ for details), but take days to cause a horrible lingering death as the body’s systems fail. Even battlefield radiation doses are cruel, producing victims referred to as ‘walking dead’ or ‘ghosts’. After an initial period of feeling ill, such victims appear to return to health after a few days – but the damage has been done, and their bodies are merely in the initial phase of shutting down, and after appearing to recover, are actually incurably injured, and will die.

I don’t suppose there will ever be an honest reveal. The US will not provide evidence, just claims, while the Cubans will deny all accusations.

I really only mention it since we really are back to the games enjoyed back in the days of the Cold War.

September 29, 2017 Posted by | Cold War | , , , , | Leave a comment

Stanislav Petrov died back in May 2017 – but who cares?

It’s at least six years since I first wrote about Stanislav Petrov (elsewhere, not in here), and I simply have no idea how long I knew about him before I decided to share. (I might add I was always interested in lesser known Cold War history, having lived through it).

In death, he’s probably become more well-known than in life, as I see all the media outlets have now run some sort of story about his passing… when the new eventually filtered down IN SEPTEMBER!

As in his life, his death was largely ignored (I hesitate to use the word ‘suppressed’ – it would be closer to the truth to say that there was just no recognition, or sharing), and it was only due the interest of others that anything ever got to be known of Petrov.

I won’t repeat the story of the events that took place, most of the recent media articles have done that, I’ll merely summarise by noting that when the Soviet-era nuclear warning system signalled an incoming attack from the West, Petrov was smart enough to reason that it was a false alarm and did pass on the alert, thereby preventing a nuclear response – which would probably have been the start of World War III.

Stanislav Petrov, who averted possible nuclear war, dies at 77

Petrov was suitably rewarded for his alertness, and given a reprimand for not following orders and signalling the attack to his superiors, demoted, generally forgotten and passed over, and eventually retired to live out the rest of  his life in a small flat on a small pension.

While the Soviets preferred to brush him under the ‘Red Carpet’, the rest of the world eventually came to hear of his action on that day, and he collected a number of awards in later years.

I don’t think any of the media mentioned the web site dedicated to Stanislav Petrov, his response on the day, or the various awards he later received, so I suggest having a look here, rather than at the rest of the media:

Stanislav Petrov web site

Stanislav Petrov web site

At least there was a man in the system

While Petrov’s story may alarm some, we can at least take some comfort from it not being the tale of a ‘Fail-deadly’ system.

For that, we have to look at the Soviet ‘Judgement Day‘ machine – a system called ‘Perimeter‘.

In the West it was called ‘Dead Hand‘ because the missiles could be launched to destroy the potential enemy even if all its personnel were dead.

It was a computer complex that could analyse the situation and once it detected a nuclear attack it would automatically launch a command missile that would fly over the territory of the USSR and unblock nuclear warheads on the ground, at sea, and in the air. The Secretary-General could launch the system and divest himself of responsibility for the counterstrike.

It was designed to lie semi-dormant until switched on by a high official in a crisis. Then it would begin monitoring a network of seismic, radiation, and air pressure sensors for signs of nuclear explosions. Before launching any retaliatory strike, the system had to check off four if/then propositions: If it was turned on, then it would try to determine that a nuclear weapon had hit Soviet soil. If it seemed that one had, the system would check to see if any communication links to the war room of the Soviet General Staff remained. If they did, and if some amount of time—likely ranging from 15 minutes to an hour—passed without further indications of attack, the machine would assume officials were still living who could order the counter-attack and shut down. But if the line to the General Staff went dead, then Perimeter would infer that apocalypse had arrived. It would immediately transfer launch authority to whoever was manning the system at that moment deep inside a protected bunker—bypassing layers and layers of normal command authority.

It basically meant that all life would be destroyed on earth automatically. It was the main deterrent for other countries preventing them from attacking the USSR.

This Russian language blog entry features the only Judgement Day machine working until 1995, and it had been in place since 1983.

Заброшенный ядерный бункер – Emil

The ‘good’ news is that I’ve been following many Russian bloggers over the years since the Cold War was considered to have been ended, and from their visits and pics know that most of these places have been abandoned and lie derelict, most often smashed and stripped by scavengers and metal thieves who have left little behind.

But…

Some of those bloggers have also visited such sites and found the silos and doors securely locked and bolted, with power still present, and the sound of humming machinery coming from behind those doors. They’re also fitted with modern alarm sensors, and have barracks nearby, and security forces arrive if any sensors are tripped or attempts are made to open those doors. Those same bloggers flee the moment they think they may have been detected, and watch the arrival of security forces from a very safe distance.

September 21, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, military | , , , , | Leave a comment

Barnton Quarry may open to the public in 2019

A favourite of those with an interest in the history of the Cold War (and Edinburgh’s vandals), the bunker located in Barnton Quarry is moving closer to completion of its restoration and refurbishment, with a broad date of 2019 being given as its opening date as an attraction.

There may, of course, have been stories we’ve missed, but the last time we spotted something newsworthy was back in 2013: Barnton Quarry bunker to be developed as partner to Scotland’s Secret Bunker at Anstruther.

We won’t go over the story again, you can read this article about the bunker’s history.

An article published by The Scotsman in July 2017 repeated the story, adding that the bunker is expected to open to the public in 2019.

Edinburgh’s secret nuclear bunker prepares to open its doors

There’s possibly a bit of ‘journalistic leeway’ in The Scotsman’s use of ‘prepares to open its doors’, which might tend to suggest someone is about to open them in a few days, or maybe weeks – but TWO YEARS is perhaps stretching this use of the description.

Barnton Quarry

Barnton Quarry – Courtesy of Subterranea Britannica

July 18, 2017 Posted by | Cold War, World War II | , , , | Leave a comment

Dolly bird Barbie was a spy who even had her own little Enigma machine

I chanced across this little gem about Barbie and her typewriter, and thought was something that was probably little known, and worth sharing with those who like secrets.

Barbie was first given a purely mechanical typewriter, but was later upgraded to an electronic version manufactured in Slovenia (by Methano) and supplied by Mattel. But the E-118 (preceded by the E-115, E-116, and E-117) had a secret, a built-in cryptographic capability which allowed secret messages to be encrypted and decrypted, and used an alphabetic substitution cipher.

All used a simple daisy wheel printer made of plastic parts, with two solenoids and a motor. A small PCB contained the electronic at the centre of the unit, with a microcontroller bonded directly to the PCB to save money. Although this was redesigned over time, the crypto feature seems to be common to all.

There were actually 4 built-in cipher modes, each activated by entering a special key sequence on the keyboard, explained only in the original documentation. Access was by pressing SHIFT and LOCK in combination with specific keys. While keyboard layouts vary between countries, and therefore the characters on the keys, the physical position or location of the keys on the keyboard which needed to be pressed did not change.

In use, the user simply activates one of the 4 secret modes, types in their message, and the encrypted message is printed on the paper.

To decode the message, the recipient activates the corresponding decoding mode, and when they type in the encrypted message as received, the plain text message should be printed on the paper.

The encryption method is a simple character substitution, where a given character is always replaced by the same substitute character from a table. The 4 modes are provided through the inclusion of 4 different substitution tables within the typewriter’s programming.

A number of different versions of these typewriters were made, so it could be sold worldwide.  English, German and French keyboard layouts are known. It seems that text written on the French version cannot be decoded on a British version suggestion different versions are not compatible. Perhaps they use different sets of substitution tables.

For more details and examples of this intriguing toy, see the entry at:

Crypto Museum

Below is an E-117 (found on Pinterest, with no attribution).

Barbie E-117 encrypted typewriter

Barbie E-117 encrypted typewriter

My apologies to those who appreciate the difference between encoding and encryption.

While I try to make the distinction, when working from source material that uses the terms interchangeably, it simply takes too long to revise everything and correct it while keeping things consistent.

At its simplest:

  • encoding only requires an algorithm, and is typically done to allow data transmission
  • encryption requires an algorithm and a key, and is done for privacy

While both may make a message unreadable, the former can be recovered as the method will be public, so there is no secrecy.

The latter can only be recovered by the holder of the key.

The difference probably doesn’t matter to anyone not involved, and can be traced back to things like references to the codebreakers of places such as Bletchley Park, when such distinctions were not made.

March 1, 2017 Posted by | Civilian, Cold War, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

The last Vulcan display at Prestwick also had a hint of drama

I couldn’t make it to the display at Ayr, but it seems the real action took place at Prestwick, as I just learnt from this video I spotted.

The following description of events is quoted from the video owner:

On the 5th of September I went across to Prestwick to watch the Scottish Airshow 2015. Primarily I wanted to see the Vulcan one last time before she’s retired in the next month or so.
Having arrived at the airport we waited for the Vulcan XH558 with great anticipation.
Once we saw him over Ayr my excitement grew even more.
He called up Prestwick tower to do a flyover the airfield , then make a right hand turn to then land on runway 30.
However after he made that turn things seemed to go wrong. Rather than report final he then did a second flyover , and started entering orbits to the north of the airfield.
After it became clear he was having a nosewheel gear issue , a Spitfire of the BBMF called up and asked if there was anyway he could help by giving the vulcan an inspection from underneath the aircraft.
Once they had determined the Vulcans speed the spitfire confirmed that his nosewheel was not extended fully and that there was nothing blocking it from locking into place.
Following this the Vulcan entered into some very aggressive yawing , both left and right in an attempt to free whatever was holding the nosewheel back from extending and locking.
After some time they were successful and initiated a landing.
We were all waiting with bated breath, not knowing whether or not it had indeed fully locked into place.
Thankfully the landing went well, and as you can hear at the end of the video was great relief that everything had gone so well.
Praise must also go to the Spitfire pilot for taking the initiative in helping the crew of the Vulcan resolve the issue.

That brings back memories of the Prestwick Air Show (at the airport then) which had the drama of a World War II aircraft suffering a similar stuck undercarriage, which refused to be bumped loose, and eventually had to be ditched and lost in the sea off Turnberry, which was chosen as the beat way to ensure no other damage, and safe recovery of the pilot.

Thank goodness the Vulcan trip to Scotland did not end in similar fashion – although I suspect they might have ultimately dumped fuel and done a belly landing with the larger aircraft. This is the procedure I’ve seen in the past, on American aircraft of the same size in recent years.

It seems the crew would have been aware of the problem before arriving back at the airport.

Looking at this recording of the full display, it includes views of the usual lowering and raising of the undercarriage for some of the passes, and while I can’t be categoric of the full sequence having been captured, it is clear that the nosewheel is not fully forward in any of the shots:

September 11, 2015 Posted by | Aviation, Cold War, military | , , | 2 Comments

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