Without even leaving my desk at RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey my Low-Frequency Over-the-Horizon radar project was denied entry onto one continent and two Caribbean islands.  It was 1962... in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis... and no country wanted anything to do with our missile defense systems.

Finally, RCA found a small Navy base on the north-west corner of Barbados, British West Indies that would rent us a few thousand square feet.  The equipment... two 40 foot trailers... were ready to go.  On the way out of the door I ripped the page for Barbados out of my Radio Amateurs Callbook (sort of like a telephone book but for radio amateurs). Once my family and I got settled on Barbados, I called the first radio amateur on the list, Arthur Farmer, VP6AF.  As a result of that call our families became the best of friends and remain so today.  It was now early 1963.  During one of my visits to Arthur's I met Jean's (Arthur's wife) father, Sidney Perkins.  I immediately noticed that he didn't blink and his eyelids seemed to be fused to his eyeballs.  When Jean introduced me to him as Marty Kaiser he immediately began playfully beating me about the head and shoulders with his cane shouting "der Kaiser, der Kaiser!!"

Later, I asked Jean what had happened to her fathers eyes and she said he was injured in the Halifax disaster.  As years passed I continued to be curious about the "Halifax disaster ."

My family and I joined Arthur and his family in Barbados for the millennium. While at his house sipping the obligatory rum punch I again mentioned the disaster to Arthur's son, Steve, who went to his apartment and returned with a May 1957 READERS DIGEST article written by Sidney Perkins. WHAT A STORY!! Allow me to tell you a bit of it.

"The date was December 6,1917... I was a naval cadet on the cruiser HMCS Niobe.  ... my best friend called me up on deck reporting that two ships had bumped.  The S.S. Imo had cut into the forward hold of the Mont Blanc.  The decks were piled with metal canisters of the type used for lubricating oil or benzine.  Suddenly, from one of these canisters a thin blue flame spurted up.  The Mont Blanc was only 250 yards from us... so I hurried forward to get a better view.  The flames seemed to leap crazily from canister to canister and now blue and white fingers of fire reached up from the forward deck.  The cruiser HMS Highflyer lowered boats to help.  The flames had begun to leap high above the deck to the bridge, I was startled by their changing hues... from intense white to deep blue, then engulfed by deep crimson.  Men were diving overboard and swimming with a desperate urgency.  I looked toward shore.  The jetties were crowded with people watching the show.  I turned back to the Mont Blanc.  And then, with a terrifying flash, the world came to an end.

Only the crew of the death marked ship and the port authority knew that 3,000 tons (6,000,000 pounds) of trinitrotoloul (TNT) and 2,300 tons (4,600,000 pounds) of picric acid had been waiting below the Mont Blanc's decks.  The unholy combination of gas, TNT and fire produced the most horrible explosion in then-recorded history, an explosion not to be surpassed until the invention of the A-bomb.  After the brilliant flash a needle of flaming gas leapt 300 feet into the sky.  Then came the air blast... I felt our cruiser being lifted rudely as though being pushed from below by a giant hand... we were picked up and smashed down on the pier.  The detonation rushed from the Mont Blanc to hit the hills and came back to us in rolling roars... white hot rivets and pieces of steel rained down on us. ... A half ton chunk of the anchor was blown three miles inland.  Ships blazed all around us.

The blast shattered every window in Halifax throwing powdered glass into everyone's eyes, blinding over 200.  It even blew out windows in Truro some sixty miles away.  Fires raged everywhere.  The explosion brought on a miniature earthquake.  The bed of the Narrows under the Mont Blanc split asunder; even the rock of Halifax Peninsula cracked open.  An estimated 2,000 were killed, 8,000 injured and 500 missing."

Now, I had my answer as to why Sidney did not blink.

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