tv Book Discussion on Pacific CSPAN December 12, 2015 8:01am-8:59am EST
for a complete television schedule booktv.org, book tv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors. television for serious readers. now we kick off the weekend with simon takes a role of the pacific ocean in the modern world. [inaudible conversations] [laughter] >> okay, well, good evening, on behalf of the owners and everyone on staff, it's a pleasure to have you here and a pleasure to have simón winchester will talk and read and take questions for about 20 minutes more.
if you can't see it, trust me it's here. so when the q&a start make a line at the microphones. if the event is over if you can fold it over and place it by the book shelf and then we will have a book signing. some of his preview books include, alice behind wonderland, diversity, mystery and how we are now shaping it. , so please welcome simon winchester. >> thank you for welcoming me and i must say leads me to
believe that the publicity gods are on my side. the chinese and the americans are at log heads in the south china sea which i write about extensively in the book. over in england foreign minister is pleading the british government to allow the displaced people to be allowed to settle in britain because the island that they were displaced to is now being at at treasoned. and then finally hurricane patricia. last week turned out to be a dud, didn't kill anybody. it wasn't on the front pages.
that demonstrated the big weather problems being generated in the pacific. i think, chapter eight. a fairly good week for publicity. at least my publicist is very pleased. at least i try and talk about how it's structured. i'm a great believer that in nonfiction the three cardinal things to bear in mind, first of all, the reason has to be a good idea. secondly, you'd think that perhaps good writing is a component, something you strive for. the second most important thing is actually the structure of the book. you have to have a really
coherent structure. people will just get bored by it. so i tried to come up with interesting and i hope sort of sensible structures. i did a book on the lat -- atlantic five years ago and organized it towards shakespeare , lover and soldier and justice and old man and return to childhood. that seemed to work reasonably well. the last book was about the united states, which i had just become a citizen, so i felt i needed to have a decent structure for that. i chose the five classical elements of philosophy, water, fire, and metal, that seemed to go reasonably well, the structure that i chose for this
book is different yet again. i don't know what the critics are going to say about it. i'm thinking also fairly short as i'm waiting. but, first of all, what i had to decide is where to begin the story. human kind history is really ancient, it really only begins in the 16th century with balboa. not those that remember the poet, tempted to believe that it was cortez, if you remember the line about cortez high on a peak. it probably was. three sheets to the window but showed mentor over breakfast the
following day, his mentor said, no, no. it was not cortez that discovered the pacific, it was balboa. balboa doesn't scan. so as a result of that generations of school children have come to believe that the pacific was discovered at least by a european by cortez wrong. we do know there's no dispute about who european crossed it first and that was ferdinand magellin. he was murdered in the phillipines. balboa, cortez, magellen and all the explores of 18th, 19th centuries. i decided that we knew about them from school and i wouldn't
rehash a new story. plus thesis of the school that if you accept the med -- mediterranean the enlancing of tomorrow's world. it seems more reasonable to begin the story in modern times rather than with balbo, magellen and people like that. what's a sort of more local date to begin the story. i thought, well, the surrender of the japanese. that would have been a good choice or the founding of the people's republic of china, tenth of october 1949, that seemed reasonable too.
another date became beautifully logical and i decided on that. we used still but somewhat fallen out of the notations of ab and dc when we talk about things happening. i know that before christ but, of course, we are not all christians. to all of nonchristians dates don't mean anything and are slightly offensive even. 30-40 years ago a new system was invented, if you like, in which you talked about things that carry certain a number of years bce, either before christian area, before common area. that's find for relatively recent events but not fine to
the scientific community. they decided on the new convention and that was vp, you talk about the wisconsin ice age as having occurred 35 years bp, that stands before present. it prompts the question, well, when is or was present and present it has been decided by these people, the index here, the index moment is the first of january 1950. and the reason for that, i'm not going to get too boringly technical about this it has to do with carbon dating. if you all remember from school, carbon dating is based on being rigidly fixed ratio between the amount of carbon dioxide, half life if you remember. decays every 7,530 years.
so the ratio is absolutely fixed. one to a trillion. if something drops dead, a tree and therefore stops absorbing carbon dioxide, while it's lying in the dirt, the amount of carbon 12 will be remained fixed by 14 will remain by half. what we have to do is work out the ratio in the object that's died and you can tell because the ratio has changed when it died. and that was a full proof way that worked extremely well to finding out the age of things until 1950. in 1950 thanks to nuclear testing, most of it which happened actually in the pacific ocean, the ratio, one of the decay products of a nuclear
weapon's test both efficient and defusion was carbon 14. the dating all went completely array and the whole system went pear-shaped. whatever metaphor you would like to use. 1950 is a good date, before 1950 the world was pure if, you'd like. after 1950 it became inpure, it became polluted, pollution was all thrown up in the pacific ocean. that was a good starting point for the story. starting in 1950 and ending when i stop writing the book which was the beginning of this year 2015, so you got, what, 65
years. what i decided to try and do, this is where the structure comes in is to find a number of events and arraigning them in chronological order, events that occurred in which were important enough to betoken a trend. to indicate by extending -- expanding on the various events. they would end up painting a portrait to the pacific as it turns out to be today. let me just briefly tell you. first of all, i must have collected 250 or 300 events. it's all got to do with a book i read and i wonder how popular he is these days. it's an austrian author who committed suicide, hopefully
he's coming back into popularity. amazing and wonderful writer. he had written a book about ten events that change the world. the death, discovery of the south pole and the composition of marseillas, weirdly but somehow wonderful. i made a list about 250 events and wind them down until i was 15 and then 10. whether they are the right ones, i don't know, that would be up to the critics. just so go through three or four of them to give you an indication of the kind of thing, so i began in the first of january, only three days later. the fourth of january 15950 and that's when president truman, we
the united states are going to develop a new family of nuclear weapons. up to now we have been using the relatively small fishing bombs which destroyed yagasaki. we think we can build the new things which are called hydrogen bomb. we begin to do it and test them in the pacific, probably in the marshall islands. so i devote the entire chapter of the nuclearization because i think it's something that haunts the pacific till this day. i'm going to tell you an extraordinary story about the
misbehavior. if i sound critical and keep using the word the americans, i am an american too, i'm not a foreigner calling you guys because i'm one of you guys, i share the blame, i guess. beginning in 1950 -- the next one is august the eighth, i think it was 1955 when in electronics stores in alberta, they're so pleased because nobody ever writes, this is our moment of glory, electronic stores in those three cities there appeared a small device sold for $49 or something. it was a tiny radio set. they had been pieces of sets.
you listen today your program. this device has batteries, i knew we take them for granted now, but this was totally revolutionary and can take you to work, to bed, to the garden, it was the world's first radio and it was made in japan and it was made by a company whose neam was in big letters at the top of the tuning dale called topsco. in tiny little letters in the bottom was a new word and it was sony, the first time any sony product had ever been seen anywhere. it went on. it triggered and talk about starting a trend. it happened to come out at almost exactly moment that the shipping container was invented. it was invented in atlantic city
in 1965, containers full of japanese inventors were coming to america, they went completely wild. popularity of this sony device, which was call the tr-55 was triggered by a burglary and truck up -- thieves broke up 3 to 4,000 radios and there was a story in the new york city the next day, page 17. it was a typical sort of a good blood -- someone got bashed over the head. a good robbery story. the only thing that the with bus
chose to steal with the sony tr radio. if it's good enough for the thieves it's good enough for us, within weeks containers were coming going to west port of west coast in san francisco, long beach, vancouver and also some other places. the great big pattern which dominates the pacific now of west to east container traffic got underway and ultimately then transfer today korea and then to what it is china, the china ports are the busiest container ports of the world. if we think of sony, we think of this rather smooth, public face of sony. the man who invented tr-55 and really changed everything was this fairly sort of down-market engineer from the slums of tokyo
and he was an amazing genius h. he invented the walkman, i remember when i lived in washington in 1972 having one. [laughter] >> i gather neither of them exist anymore. and he went onto invent the beat max, perhaps not to popular. in chapter 3, i won't go throw -- through it detail by detail. columbus pictures, didn't have the confidence in this movie, not enough confidence to open in manhattan or in los angeles but only in the suburbs and in the suburbs of long island.
"the new york times" critic heard about the film and decided to go and see it. the film became enormously successful and that was the film which some of you may remember called giget. giget of a 15-year-old girl named kathy who served and an explosion which is a 13 billion-dollar a year of surfing. pacific ocean's gift to play time. surfing began riding and spread up to hawaii and early part of the 19th century. the hawaiians.
there they used to serve naked. they try to ban it or made with things, so takes the fun out of surfing. [laughter] >> it was really discovered in 1907 by jack london and this is wonderful moment. jack london stops in hawaii and he and his wife go swirving in waikii which was a little village to the east of honolulu and suddenly from nowhere boys with surf boys shoot by. he learned how to do it and wrote this in lyrical piece for the woman's home companion, surfing the king of sports.
in saidy. became -- sidney and became a popular phenomena. it spread worldwide, one of the great sports of the world now. and by extraordinary coincidence gidget herself, now kathy zimmerman. i'm still surfing and i'm just terribly excited. so the book goes on. there's one on the weather. the capture, which i will talk about the uss pueblo in korea in
1968. with a large big chapter being about the subject which is the forefront of these people in the pentagon at the moment which is becoming confrontation or at least some kind of meeting whether friendly or not we will see between the united states and china, the two great superpowers staring at each other across this vast ocean, 10,000 miles across. what i thought i'd do and i'm going to keep an eye on the clock is one of the most wonderful things about writing nonfiction books, and this is true with everything, i learned things, i start off knowing next to nothing about where the pacific is, but that's about it. but now you learn the extraordinary things as you go along such as fascinating, so select from this three things that i found interesting and
maybe you will, but i'm fairly new on this tour so i sometimes tell the first two stories a bit too long and so the third one, which is about alcatraz i may have to leave. i didn't realize till i got to the end that it's how badly we westerners have treated the ocean, almost from the moment we started the sailing across it. we col onized it, spoiled the country side, pollute it had sea, overfished it. we white people have brought a great deal of trouble to the pacific.
but there's hope. and i hope i will have time to mention it. but the first things i'm going to say about situations which indicate what we have done to the pacific, and the first one goes, it's to do with nuclear testing and it involves a man who maybe some of you will know because he came from here a long time ago, he's dead now. alvin graves was not my view, brought very little of benefit to the pacific and i'll explain why. story begins in laboratory when they've testing the various devices, which they are going to use for the first fishing bombs
in her -- heroshima. there's a film of the scene. you can imagine where they are testing the radio activity emitted from two hemispheres, two beautiful pieces of plutonium, if the two of them, they have perfectly flat surfaces, if you put want hemisphere on top of another one it goes critical and explode and stuff like that. what they are doing in this laboratory, they are measuring the increasive radio activity as you move the two hemispheres toward each other. it's being conducted by pysisist
so in the room there are 506 other physicists. what he's doing is tickling the dragon's tail. he slowly turns the screwdriver which lowers the upper hemisphere, the moment he turns it a millimeter everyone measures the amount of radiation and very carefully he returns to vertical and the radiation is done. he does it again. this time he turns it more than
3-4 millimeters and so the two hemispheres nearly touching and they go absolutely crazy but he has it all under control, they measure it and record it around returns it to vertical again and everything is back to normal and he's just about to turn it to the third time when someone in the room drops a tee cup and this startles him and he pulse the two screwdrivers away and they fold onto each other and suddenly flash of blue light and the room is flooded with gam gamarays and it's a lethal situation. they all go completely crazy. they can think of only doing one thing which is to reach over the brick wall and bare hand push the upper hemisphere of plut on yum on to the floor there shall
thereby ending the reaction. he does a quick calculation on the board, 5-6 minutes, you're okay, you're okay, you're okay, you mr. graves are almost certainly going to die and i am definitely going to die and i'm going to die in nine days. his calculations are exactly right. it was nine days later with his hand the size of all sorts of problems he dies painfully and horribly, alvin graves who has been shielded by the body is terribly ill and he's in hospital for more than a year, blood trance -- transfusions.
nearly dies but after a year gets better. he undergoes extraordinary change. the radiation is no big deal but if you're a man, a real man you can deal with radiation. it's only for sisies that are likely to come to radiation. he has this view about radiation, which sort of permeates his being. it's extraordinary in my view that when they decide in 1954 to test the biggest of all bombs, the castle series of bombs and particularly the second in the series called castle bravo that who do they put in charge of this experiment of firing this
gigantic bombs, the person they appoint to do it is alvin graves, the person that knows radiation is no big deal. the reason is so bad, there are two reasons why they're no -- notoriuos of all experiments. lithium in it and they put too much of it in and grossly calculated the yield of the bomb and remember that hiroshima10tnt equivalent. it was 50 mega tons, the biggest weapon the united states has ever exploded, second biggest ever in the world. and so it was mounted, they built a special island for it. they had it in the bunker and the dais leading up to the test 26, 27th, 28th of february the
wind was blow lg towards the northwest. the navy had swept the area new york city ships, no islands and no nothing, providing there was no people there, then you could safely, relatively safely exploat it, but on the night before, the wind backed to the east, started blowing to the east where there were two islands which were full of people. it's going to be big, it's going to have 15. it turned out 50. don't worry, radiation is no big deal. these people, they will get over it. they might lose a little bit of
hair, he ordered the button to be pressed and titanic explosion occurred, like the sunrising of the west, noise that went on for many minute. cloud boiling looking like exploding brain up 20 miles into the atmosphere and within half an hour what seemed to be like snow was falling on the islands and this was calcein, what did they do, started picking it up and licking it, they were all so ill, initially lewis strauss equally terrible man who was the head of aec, no, keep them there. this would be an interesting experiment. let's regard them as guenie pigs and having the worst gas problems and after three days they were evacuated and taken
they were kept as guinie pigs for many weeks, the history of cancer and birth defects is monstrous. that's the carelessness in which western people have on so many occasion have treated the peoples of the pacific islands. in this case the people of the marshall islands. it involves north korea. three times now and i tell you one tiny thing that happened once. a couple of you have. as you know, if you go to the southern side, the american side, there's a viewing platform and you look down over the peace
talks and korean soldiers on the other side and there's a big building on the northern side, and the americans always tell you that huge americans soldiers, they only employ people over 6'6 to intimidate the north koreans. that building over there, that building over is the hollywood side, the it's not a real building at all. it's not a building. well, it is a building. now being there to that particular building just once i came down and was taken to the border and that's a very weird experience because first of all, you discover the buildings, a proper building and truce close to each other and i know that
american tourists, american soldiers are looking at me thinking, who the hell is this guy, is hi some bulgarian fellow traveler. i'm looking at an american soldier standing on the far side of the line who is looking at me with an enormous lens and i want to indicate to him that i'm a friend and i have my hands around my lens and i'm looking directly into his eyes even though heist a half a mile away. i give him this pathetic wave and he completely turn it is gesture by going -- [laughter] >> he was invented by an american, an american with a wonderful name. i do cherish marvelous name.
charles bonesteel the third. and he f -- if you can envision the scene. fourteenth of august, he and another young kernel, dean rusk were in the outer office of george c. marshall and they are listening over the short-waved radio giving this speech in which gives the most profound understatement you ever heard which is the progress of the war has not turned out to our advantage. [laughter] >> i'll say, and we are
surrendering. but the big problem now is the soviets because the soviets only entered a war a week previously, down to all the previous japanese places and northern japan down into korea and he says, we have to stop these people because if we don't, then all of this part of northeast asia, we are going to have the soviet japan, which would be long-term for everybody. so we've got to stop them. where should we stop them? >> they have a 1944 copy of the national geographic magazine on the desk and in it there are foldout maps which they used to give you three to four times a year. so this was japan and the north pacific. ben steel says to rusk, san
francisco, korea is japanese colony are almost the same latitude, 37-degrees, 40 minutes north. i think says bonesteel it's important that the americans control seoul, the old capital. he draws crayon line just north of san francisco, just north of seoul and takes it -- the map is still preserved. takes it in to marshall, 38 parallel, let's ask the state department to tell them to tell moscow, moscow is signaled. the russians say, you know, we are delighted because we've been pressing and tanks keep getting bogged down in the mud and our
troops are exhausted. yeah, we will stop at the 38th parallel, you guys can take prisoner over japanese. we will appoint sung in the north. and from that moment on two countries are born, which is you know in 1951, that war still in progress with this 4-kilometer wide. a wonderful code to this because i begin this story talking about the capture of the uss pueblo in 1968. if you remember this was a spy ship captured, brought the men, 80 of them were in prison, tortured, humiliated, had a horrible, horrible time. the ship itself is still a museum said to be a uss ship
regarded by the u.s. navy on active but temporarily out of commission. so these people throughout 1968 negotiations to release them which succeeded eventually and just before christmas 1968, president johnson's administration came the moment of release. bitterly cold winter day. there's the thing of bridge of no return, on the appointmented hour north korean trucks drew up with the american prisoners on board and there was an ambulance and then they were ordered to walk 20 yards across back to the americans. the miserable north korean guards torture, misery
unremitting and things, on the southern side warm welcoming americans, orange juice, steak, the first person they met who shook the hands was the now general charles bonesteel the third the commander of forces in south korea, but the man that created the problem in the first place. i always think how interesting it would have been if he would have said, let the russians take the whole thing. it would have been a communist korea but it would have been the collapse of the soft -- soviet union, it would be a socialist country. it wouldn't be as rich as south korea is today but it would be united and there wouldn't be a nuclear part of the country.
major nuisance it is today. because of the time, i am going to tell you about the alcatraz. i will tell you -- i need a copy of the book. the end pages of this book. i think it's quite beautifully designed. the end papers, the back-end paper sort of as you imagined the uss george washington. doing what happens in the pacific a lot. the front-end paper is adding much more lyrical and it's this draft, this beautiful, beautiful traditional double hold hawaiian sailing, she was launched in 1976.
she was hawaii's gift to the american people. but the important thing about it is not so much the craft as the way it was sailed because in 1976 almost no one in the world knew how to do what the poleni issuing -- polonesians had been doing. they had been navigating for shows of hours in island ocean. you're going to need a passport because you're entering two or three different countries.
passport. they didn't know how to read or write so they stopped sailing. there was one man, the people that built this canoe said, we are going to use this without instrument and they went out and said, you're the only man left to teach us. would you go to hawaii to teach us. he said, yes. never been on a plane before. taught the fundamentals of how you navigate the stars, patterns of the clouds, sea birds. he put up a hammock and off they set with ambition to get to 2 and a half thousand miles.
six weeks after using no instruments at all and they absolutely didn't cheat. they saw rising in front of them made it absolutely on time exactly on the right position without any artificial aids. having done this they went to japan reminded that they are very much pacific people. they went to vancouver, the queen charlotte islands, they went to lima in perú. now there are 300 young hawaiians who can do this. she left maui so she went to tahiti again and sent to salma, cook islands, christmas in new
zealand. headed out to the indian ocean and now she's just north in the indian ocean never having been out of the pacific but still only using these natural traditional ways of navigating. there's a chase boat which is equipped with equipment and so forth, and she keeps out of way and won't interfere and only come to her aid if she sinks but does report on her position every day. you can go to the polenians voyage society. it's marvelous. they decided to go right or go through read sea and med -- and
into the atlantic. what they do intend to do, this is where all of you will be involved is that sometime before the end of next year they will sell up to greet their hawaiian president, which seems a wonder thing to do. they'll sail around to south america and back home which they hope they'll do within four years. what makes this so important, i think, is that at long last people, western people who are beginning to understand what's going on, with this and a myriad of other things, we have regarded them aas being inferior to us and savages or whatever but now the realization is growing that there are people out there who we should respect
and learn from. the motto of this respect to the planet. they are teaching us something quite remarkable. by learning of them we are respecting people who for the last 300 years we have and it's my way of thinking the most important ocean in the world. so thank you very much, indeed. [applause] i knowia ran a lot of time -- i know i ran a lot of time. yeah, for the c-span, right.
>> not yet. >> could you talk more about the confrontation between the chinese and the united states about what's happening there and -- >> yeah. >> perhaps where it's headed. >> very, very interesting. i'm fascinating be it. it all has to do with the chinese admiral who died in 2011, age 93, he was a very, very tough man. he was the overall commander of the troops massacre in june 19889, so -- 1989. so you don't mess with admiral lu. the way the story begins with the eruption in the philippines, what that did because i was there and covering the fall of
president marcos. i was living in hong kong at the time. covered 4-5 feet of ash to crucially american base. dick cheney closed them down, shut them down and that createed a vacuum in the south china sea. all of a sudden there was any american patrolling because they were patrolling from basis in japan. so they -- the vacuum was filled very swiftly by the chinese, this is great, the americans have left. they're unhabitat. we will put a lighthouse or
radar and gradually one by one and no american intervention and said, you shouldn't be doing this because this isn't your territory, this is claimed by all sorts of people, vietnam, phillipines, the pentagon woke up to find that the south china sea was a quilt of chinese basis and began to say this is no longer international waters, this is chinese sovereign waters, which is why in the last few days the americans have dispatched the destroyer call the uss las issuing -- lassen to show the chinese rather too late
in my view. it's only part of the story. we will take the south china sea. that's one story. but also there are three imaginary chains of islands in the west and pacific. runs to northern australia and then there's the third island chain which runs from the illusion islands to hawaii to new zealand, by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the finding of republic, we intend to have the ships operating in the water, by about 2020 in shore. the second island chain by 2049 up to hawaii.
they put one aircraft carrier, they've ordered four more which are being built in the shipyards and by 2049 i have no doubt at all we will be seeing chinese battle groups exercising off pearl harbor. to me that seems entirely reasonable. america has regarded the pacific ocean as an american lake since the end of the second world war. the chinese say we have no territorial am -- ambitions. vietnam and so forth. they've never been an expansive nation, we discovered them rather them discovering us. their belief is that they simply want naval e -- e
>> there's room for all us. pentagon thinks otherwise, though. they think they're a menace. it's an excuse for, in my view, for the military industrial complex to spend for money, our taxpayer dollars on a threat that doesn't really exist. so it's interest to go see how it'll play out but what you're seeing now in the south china sea is the beginning of a long, drawn-up problem. but thank you for your question. [inaudible conversations] >> great, thank you very much, indeed. thank you. [applause] >> thank you. and thank you to simon winchester. if you would fold up your own chair and the line will fold up
eastern nurse and new york times theresa brown talks about patient care. and at 11:00 p.m. talks about terrorism. that happens all tonight on book tv. >> many of this year's presidential candidates have written books to introduce themselves to voters and to remote their views on issues. in his newest book reply all, web jewish catalogs e-mail correspondence, ben carson argues that a better understanding of the constitution is nice to solve america's issues, in his latest book a more perfect union. hillary clinton looks back on her time serving in the obama administration in hard choices. in a time for truth, texas sena