Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Guest Post: "Ultimate Stalinist Project" by Allen W. McDonnell

This article appeared on Today In Alternate History

In 1949, when the first rumors of very deep diving NATO submarines patrolling the Sea of Marmara were reported by the KGB the General Secretary himself, Joseph Stalin, ordered a new secret project. Soviet submarines were vulnerable when they tried to sneak through the Sea of Marmara, which lies between the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits that lead out of the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean Sea. During the Great Patriotic War, which the West insisted on calling World War II, the Nazi U-Boot fleet had mastered entry and exit into the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar. This had been done because the deep current flowed out of the Mediterranean Sea into the Atlantic while the surface current had flowed the opposite direction. By carefully controlling their depth, a U-Boot could silently glide without using engine power from one body of water to the other.

In the case of the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, the dense bottom Mediterranean Sea waters operated the same way they did through Gibraltar; however, the deep channel leading from the Bosporus between the Sea of Marmara and Black Sea did not extend all the way. Instead it extended about half way from the coastline of Turkey into the Black Sea across the continental shelf, then it took a 90 degree turn to the north-northeast and grew shallower until ending abruptly a great distance from the deep waters of the Black Sea. This meant a Soviet submarine hugging the bottom to stay silent and rift with the current was at considerable risk of collision with the sharp bend in the course of the canyon. Even if they successfully managed to negotiate the turn , they would have to use some power maneuver to do so safely giving away their location to any listening NATO sonar personnel. Even worse, because the canyon swallowed at the turn and kept doing so, they would be forced up into the mixed water layer well short of the deep Black Sea basin and again be forced to use engine power to maneuver.

Therefore Stalin concluded the only solution was to extend the channel from the point of the turn to continue in the same direction all the way to the edge of the continental shelf, deep enough for his submarines to maintain a bottom hugging depth in the strong current flow all the way to the deep Black Sea basin. There existed a 70 meter depth sill, a high spot, in the Dardanelles passage and even worse near the beginning of the Bosporus there was an even shallower 40 meter sill. However , neither was blocking the USSR submarines, when skillfully operated, from sneaking through the passages themselves hugging the bottom. This was a risky maneuver particularly in the Bosporus because it had several sharp curves as it passed from the Sea of Marmara to the underwater canyon in the Black Sea continental shelf. Even so the best submarine handlers had managed to prove it was possible right up to the sharp turn in the canyon already mentioned. Therefore the initial goal of the mega project was to create a passage from the sharp bend in the canyon to the nearest edge of the continental shelf and the deep Black Sea basin.

To carry out the project without being too obvious to NATO observers, a half a dozen Soviet fishing trawlers were fitted with modified drag nets. The new 'nets' were designed so that the ship could deploy them, dragging over the sea floor with thousands of tiny scoops that would loosed and drag soil and rocks, even moderate size boulders. Each night the trawlers would head out, and, once the ship had completed its passage across the continental shelf, large debris like boulders and rocks as small as a baked potato would simply tumble over the edge into the deeper basin. After they had passed several miles into the deep basin , the trawler would slow to steerage speed. This would cause the 'net' to change angle from nearly horizontal to nearly vertical and the water flow over the small 'scoops' would wash them free of the muck and small particles they had dragged along in their shallow paddle shapes. The trawler would then pull in its 'net' and go to a nearby soviet port where it would pretend to unload its catch of fish. The next evening, it would go back to sea deploying its 'net' at the bend in the underwater canyon and repeat the process. With six ships conducting the work and the vagaries of the navigational skills of day to day life at sea, the drag path was not exactly a precise location. In fact, the trawlers paths were mostly overlapping but in a swath the better part of a kilometer wide. As a result each passage by all six ships in a night took a month to start carving a new channel just a meter deep.

If nothing else, however, the USSR was persistent. Once the plan was devised and the orders were given the process would continue until the orders changed, or the funding ran out completely. Over time the dredging 'nets' were improved. It was fortunate for the project that the bedrock in this portion of the continental shelf was friable shale and not granite or basalt. This meant the 'nets' were able to gouge and scrape the shale away small layer by small layer. Eventually, nearly five years after the plan was enacted Comrade General Secretary Stalin died. Whispered rumor was he had been poisoned, but his successors were not about to permit a full autopsy with published results to take place. The scraping and dredging had gone on month after month gradually creating a wide shallow passage 47 meters deep by the time the successor cancelled the project. Turkey and Greece had joined NATO two years earlier, and the Turks were grumbling about Soviet fishermen working so close to the Bosporus passage. Rather than have their secret discovered, the new General Secretary declared the Red Navy would have to live with the dredged channel the way it was instead of the way they wished it could be. Starting in December 1954 when the dredging was cancelled, the Soviet submarines started practicing using the artificial channel. Previously use had been forbidden as there was concern a sub might become disabled and interrupt the ability of the trawlers to proceed dredging. The new nuclear submarine in design at the time would be 12 meters from the top of the sail to the bottom of the hull, but the periscopes and snorkels would add two or three meters of additional height on top of that. Hugging the bottom of the channel it was hoped the water flowing to the deep basin of the Black Sea would be strong enough to pull them along silent as a hole in the ocean, as the American navy liked to boast about their own silent running techniques. The concern was the passage was so wide that the water flow might be too weak, but a new diesel submarine (NATO designated WHISKEY class) successfully pulled off the 'silent passage' within a week of the dredging being halted.

Whatever else people might say about General Secretary Stalin, he never thought small and when he decided to have something done he put resources into doing it. Often for projects that meant much slave labor working itself to death but in the case of the "Stalin Channel" as the Red Navy called this project few gulag slaves had been involved because the work had been simple dredging, once the 'nets' were built. Certainly they had been involved in building the first six 'nets' and in the replacements as those wore out quickly, but compared to a project like the White Canal the effort was trivial in terms of labor.

As the Stalin Channel had been gradually carved out after the first few months a little of the water from the Bosporus canyon started using the new channel instead of continuing down the canyon around the bend and gradually being forced up as it shallowed. By the time dredging was called to a halt, nearly all of the flow down the natural canyon had begun traveling down the new Stalin Channel because despite its shallow depth it was very broad and offered less resistance to the dense bottom water than the up slope after the bend in the natural pathway. When the Mediterranean Sea bottom water had followed the chain of natural connections all the way from the Aegean Sea through the Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara and land bound portion of the Bosporus Strait that heavy warm bottom water had stayed almost unchanged from its condition when leaving the Mediterranean Sea. Where it had struck the bend in the natural canyon of the Bosporus it had considerable inertia and a score of miles of entrained flow following it. this had given it the energy to climb the gradual slope up the last portion of the natural canyon until it was on the continental shelf itself, which has a gradual slope down to the edge of the continental plate where the drop off into the deeps takes place. As a consequence this warm dense very salty water had been forced up into turbulent contact with the brackish surface waters of the Black Sea which were only about half as salty as the bottom waters were. the resulting blended water had then fanned out over the continental shelf flowing down slope into the deep basin where over the eons since the passage opened it had displaced the fresh lake water which had originally filled the basin with the mixed water. The Mediterranean Sea bottom water at the sharp turn in the canyon still had a salinity of 35 parts per thousand (ppt) while the brackish surface waters ranged from 12 to 17 ppt. The mixture created by the turbulent flow of the deep waters swirling into the brackish waters had averaged out to 22 ppt and that concentration of water had filled the deep basin of the Black Sea over the millennia after the passage opened. In the modern era, that deep basin water was turbulently mixed with river water from the Don, Danube and others which flowed into the Black Sea and which had originally formed the fresh water lake in that basin. the resulting mixture of that river water and the 22 ppt bottom water where the rivers poured in the fresh water averaged out to 12 ppt to 17 ppt brackish surface water. It was literally halfway between the fresh water from the rivers and the deep salt water from the Mediterranean Sea in its total salt content. This was a very unusual situation because normally when a river enters a large body of salt water the lighter fresh water spreads out in a thinner and thinner layer. Once a crucial thickness threshold is passed the thin fresh water layer gets mixed with the salt water beneath through wind driven wave action, and the quantity of salt water is so vast compared to the rivers flowing in the salt content quickly averages out. Because the Black Sea basin had started out completely fresh water and the flow rate of the rivers entering it was so enormous in the modern era, even thousands of years after the passages opened it still had a much lower salinity on average than the world ocean, and this created a vast surface pool of brackish water.

Now for the first time thanks to the Stalin Channel dredged across the continental shelf the dense very salty Mediterranean Sea bottom water had a passage way to the deep Black Sea basin. The total quantity of bottom water flowing into the Black Sea had not changed, the Dardanelles and Bosporus sills were still in place at 70 and 40 meters respectively which restricted how much water could pass eastward on the bottom. However, now instead of being premixed with the brackish surface waters and having its salinity lowered to 22 ppt before it reached the deep basin the 35 ppt water had a free passage to cross the continental shelf and drop off into the abyss. The heavy high salinity water was reaching the edge of the continental shelf and dropping straight down the steep slope without having mixed with the brackish water first. Because if its density it went all the way to the bottom which forced the 22 ppt water which had occupied those depths up. On the surface where the 22 ppt waters mixed with the fresh river waters nothing obvious was changed. However 22 ppt water was no longer forming from all of the in flowing 35 ppt bottom water, about 90% of the in flowing water was falling into the abyss unchanged just as it had been during the passage all the way from the Mediterranean Sea and only 10% was mixing to form 22 ppt water on the continental shelf depth.

It might take eons from a human perspective, but the 35 ppt Mediterranean Sea water would eventually displace all that 22 ppt water sitting in the bottom of the Black Sea in the modern era. When that process was complete the basin waters would gradually rise up the slope of the Continental Shelf until they met the 10% of the bottom water flowing in and still mixing with the brackish surface waters to form the 22 pt water. When that event took place in that far distant (from a human perspective) point in time the in flowing river waters would no longer be mixing with 22 ppt partially diluted water, instead they would be mixing directly with 35 ppt Mediterranean Sea water itself. The brackish nature of the surface waters of the Black Sea would be shifted from 17 ppt much closer to 30 ppt, nearly the same as the 34 ppt world average. This would make it easy for many species of aquatic plants and fish which did not do well in the modern Black Sea to thrive in response to the altered environmental conditions. Ultimately it would also change the distribution of flow in and out of the basin through its multiple steps into the Mediterranean Sea. In the modern era about 1/3rd of the water exchange was bottom water flowing in and 2/3rds was brackish water flowing out. Once the water had moderated to approach world sea averages the depth of the brackish layer would first decline and then cease, becoming just a case of excess surface water exiting to join the Mediterranean Sea. By that time the in flow of bottom water would balance the outflow of surface water rather than exceeding it.

In the modern era, however, for the USSR the channel was a large boon as it made it possible to sneak a number of submarines from other operating areas into the Black Sea without detection and for them that was all that mattered. For their distant descendants enjoying the altered Black Sea it was unlikely they would realize how or why those changed conditions had come about, even if they were curious enough to ask. 

Provine's note:  Western intelligence made note of the change in fishermen's attitudes with Greek and Turkish fishermen in the Mediterranean excited by boosted catches while the Black Sea fishermen began to suffer worse and worse hauls, although theories about a Soviet channel were dismissed for decades.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Guest Post: St. Aphilas the Great

This post first appeared on Changing the Times

What if Christianity was introduced in Aksum earlier? muses Tom Bornholdt

Mani had said that there were four great powers: Rome, Persia, China and Aksum. Unhappy with being excommunicated for his unusual theology (Jesus was neither fully divine but the incarnation of a created Logos with a human soul), St. Lucian of Antioch had decided to leave Antioch. In the year 285, he arrived at the port of Adulis, which was part of the Kingdom of Aksum, and began to preach. The next year, he moved to the capital city of Aksum, where he proceeded to build a substantia1 congregation despite narrowly avoiding being murdered on two occasions. In the year 301, he achieved his greatest success when he converted St. Aphilas the Great, the King of Aksum. Aphilas was zealous in his new faith and early next year made it the official religion of Aksum.
Aphilas became distressed when he learned about the persecution of Christians that the Roman Emperor Diocletian was conducting. In the spring of 303, he decided to do something about it. He had increased the size of his army because he planned to expand his nation's dominion, starting with a campaign against the Himyarites that was already underway. He would use his army to save the Egyptian Christians from Roman persecution.

The first step in his campaign was to invade the Kingdom of Kush, which was between Aksum and Egypt. Kush had once been a minor power. It had fought the legions of the Roman Republic on more than one occasion, but it had been in decline for nearly two centuries. Aphilas found it easy to defeat the Kushite Army and captured its capital of Meroë in September. The bulk of his army remained there for six weeks to rest while bringing up supplies and reinforcements. Aphilas was pleased to find that there is a sizable Christian population in Kush. As he was getting ready to resume his march north, he told them that he intended to rescue the Christians in Egypt, which earned their support. There were pagan Kushites that were unhappy with the Romans as well. A few years ago, Diocletian had invited the Nobatae to invade the northern part of their country because he thought the Nobatae would make a good buffer between Egypt and Kush. Because of this, Aphilas feels comfortable leaving behind a relative small garrison to occupy Meroë.
As they advanced north, the Aksumite army encountered the Nobatae and defeated them in a series of relatively minor engagements. The Nobatae eventually warned the Romans. In January, a small Aksumite advance force reached the Egyptian border, where it was quickly defeated by the I Maximiana Legion. This easy victory made the Romans underestimate both the quantity and quality of the Aksumite army. Three weeks later the Aksumite main force overwhelmed and annihilated a small Roman army at Syene. Aphilas then spends only nine days resting his army at Syene before continuing north. He captures the prestigious city of Thebes after a relatively brief siege. Meanwhile the Aksumite navy has captured the Roman port on the Red Sea at Berenice.
The Egyptian Christians viewed St. Aphilas as someone sent by God to rescue them in their hour of tribulation. Up until this point, Egyptian Christianity was increasingly accentuating monasticism but there was now a sudden turn towards militarism as many Christians volunteered to fight for King Aphilas. However, it wasn't only Christians who were pleased by this development. For one thing, Diocletian had persecuted Manicheans as well as Christians. A short distance downriver from Thebes was the small city of Coptos, which had revolted against Roman rule in 292. This revolt ended only after a lengthy siege of Coptos, which resulted in its almost total destruction. Then in 297, Domitius Domitianus tried to exploit Egyptian anger over Diocletian's recent tax edicts in an unsuccessful attempt to usurp Diocletian. This discontent began to reemerge.
Aphilas soon continued his march north, and in July he engaged another Roman army. This one was stronger than the one he destroyed at the border but it is still badly outnumbered. The Roman general was more cautious this time. He was defeated but avoids annihilation. He retreated into the fortified provincial capital of Ptolemais Hermiou. A siege began, which lasts until the city is captured by the Aksumites on December 17. While the siege was going on, the bulk of the Aksumite army was unable to advance any further. However, the Aksumites scouts reported that there was no significant Roman presence left in Upper Egypt. Aphilas sent small parties of cavalry raiding as far north as the large city of Oxyrhyncus. However, he gave officers leading these raids orders not to harm Christians but rather to spread the word that the persecution was over. They were to kill any Romans they found persecuting Christians. These raids caused the revolt to spread. Meanwhile, the Aksumite navy had continued to dominate the Red Sea and captured the important port of Myos Hormos. This effectively cut Rome's trade with India.
While this was going on, Diocletian was campaigning against the Capri near the Danube. While he was receiving reports of the Aksumite incursion, he initially hoped it was only a large raid and regarded the Capri as being the greater threat. In the late summer, his opinion changed, and he began to see the Aksumite invasion as posing a grave threat to the empire. However, the emperor's health had been deteriorating badly, which interfered with his ability to make key decisions. As a result, he put his Caesar Galerius in charge of the Egyptian campaign.
In December, General Constantine, the son of the Caesar Constantius Chlorus arrived in Egypt to take command. He brought substantial reinforcements with him, and Galerius was pressuring him to defeat the Aksumites as quickly as possible. For not the first time, Constantine had the feeling that Galerius was hoping he would fail and die. By this time, the rebellion has spread into parts of Lower Egypt with the rebels being disproportionately Christian. Constantine had been becoming increasingly sympathetic to Christianity and had opposed their persecution. Before leaving for Egypt, he had recommended to Galerius that stopping the persecution might makes things easier but this recommendation was ignored. Constantine initially concentrated on quelling the rebellion in Lower Egypt. As he did so, his attitude towards Christians became less favorable as he started to see how they could pose a threat to the Roman Empire. He is quite severe with the rebels.
While it was besieging Ptolemais Hermiou, the Aksumite army began to experience some problems with the Nobatae attacking its supply caravans. Immediately after the capital fell , Aphilas decided to rush a piece of his army south to counter that. He then let the bulk of his army rest there for nearly a month before continuing upriver. It was only when he entered Lower Egypt and approached Oxyrhyncus that he encountered Constantine, resulting in a battle on February 24. Once again, the Aksumite army possessed a numerical advantage, though not an overwhelming one. It proved to be a lengthy battle of attrition which, was something that Constantine could ill afford. However, late in the day, the best of his cavalry was finally able to defeat the Aksumites, but they were able to make a reasonably orderly retreat as night fell. Constantine was not very satisfied with his victory. What his scouts reported next morning indicated that the enemy was retreating but not broken. He reluctantly decided not to pursue and instead turned his attention back to quelling the Christian rebels in Lower Egypt.
Prior to this battle Aphilas was beginning to feel that liberating all of Egypt was going to be relatively easy. Afterwards he pulled back to Hermopolis to ponder his next move. While this was going on, Diocletian had been very seriously considering resigning as emperor and going into retirement due to his poor medical condition. Galerius had been strongly encouraging him to do that. Diocletian was willing to let Galerius make most decisions but unwilling to step down while Egypt remains in grave danger. Because of this, Galerius was deeply upset when he learned that Constantine did not pursue the Aksumites after his victory at Oxyrhyncus and demanded that he immediately advance into Upper Egypt. Constantine carried out these orders even though he had a significant fraction of his army tied down at Memphis fighting rebels.
After the capture of Syene, St. Aphilas began forming military units with Egyptian Christians. After a while, the Aksumites assigned to train them found that more than a third of these soldiers were fanatically brave being all too willing to suffer martyrdom on the battlefield. They were also intensely loyal to Aphilas. These Christians were separated from the others and were given more intensive training and better quality weapons and shields. The small fraction of these that were cavalry had seen some action but the infantry had only been used for garrison duty. When he returned to Hermopolis, Aphilas decided to move the elite Christian Egyptian infantry to Antinopolis which was very near Hermopolis but on the opposite bank of the Nile.
Constantine's strategy was to split his forces with the one piece on west bank of the Nile and the other on the east. Each piece was roughly equal in terms of cavalry but the portion on the east bank was much stronger in infantry. On May 2, Constantine made a diversionary attack on the west bank trying to convince Aphilas that Hermapolis was his objective. He was largely successful in this, so Aphilas' forces were concentrated on the west bank. The following morning Constantine's forces on the east bank started marching hard towards Antinopolis. They engaged the Aksumite forces north of the city, and this time it was the Romans who had the numerical advantage. However, the Roman infantry were fatigued from their hard march and were therefore unable to quickly rout the enemy as Constantine had hoped. They did have some success at least grinding down the Axumites pushing them back towards the city.
Meanwhile, King Aphalis was ferried across the Nile escorted by his personal guard. Upon arriving at Antinopolis, he found the elite Christian Egyptian infantry had not yet been committed but was being held in reserve. His senior Aksumite officers were worried that their troops were on the verge of breaking. They advised the king to quickly pull them back inside the city.
Aphilas rejected that advice. He addressed the Christian Egyptians. As he did, he showed them a Roman spear. He claimed that the Archangel Michael had visited him last night and gave him the spear, telling that it was what the Roman soldiers had used to stab Jesus while He was on the Cross. St. Aphilas told these soldiers that they would now become the spear that God would use to stab the Romans back. He was naming them the Holy Spear of God. He then ordered them to counterattack the Romans. This counterattack came at the moment when Aksumite resistance was starting to weaken. By this time, the day was getting hot, which was taking its toll on both the Romans and the Axumites. The Holy Spear of God entered the battle fresh and in their intense religious zeal seemed impervious to the heat. They fought with a ferocity that stunned the Romans and lifted the sagging morale of the Aksumites.
Meanwhile, some of the Aksumites on the west bank were slowly crossing the Nile, using the ample fleet of rafts and boats that Aphalis had at his disposal. The tide of the battle shifted and before long it was the Romans legionaries who broke. Unfortunately, most of the Roman infantry had the river behind them. Many of them ended up drowning, including General Constantine who had been at the forefront of the fighting. Lactantius discerned some poetic irony in that fact because Emperor Hadrian had founded Antinopolis to commemorate the tragic drowning of his lover, Antinous near there. Many believe that grief caused by the news of his son's death contributed to the death of Constantius a year later.
In a few hours, Aphalis had destroyed most of the Roman infantry on the east bank along with their charismatic leader. The Roman cavalry were able to avoid being trapped. There was also the smaller piece of Constantine's army on the west bank. However, these would not be able to stop King Aphalis who was soon advancing north again. On June 5, he captured Oxyrhyncus after a relatively brief siege. While that siege was going on he was able to rekindle the revolt in Lower Egypt. That soon included Alexandria which been previously spared. Galerius rushed additional legions to Egypt but by the end of September Aphalis had taken Memphis, won two major battles and was besieging Sais. In both of those battles, the Holy Spear of God played an important role in his victory but had also suffered heavy losses in the process. By this time the Christian revolt has spread into Palestine and Cyrenaica.
On October 4, the Romans tried to lift the Siege of Sais but were again soundly defeated. Once again the Holy Spear of God played a key role in the victory but again paid a heavy price. Aphalis was starting to believe he could win any open field battle by using them. The defeated Roman army then retreated to Alexandria. When Sais finally fell on November 30, the Aksumites controlled all of Egypt except for Alexandria. The Romans expected that Aphalis' next move would be to besiege Alexandria. Instead the kings splits his army. The smaller portion he kept in Egypt to keep the Roman pinned down inside Alexandria. Aphalis personally led the rest in an attack into Palestine, the Holy Land where Our Lord had lived and died then rose from the grave.
However, despite his religious fervor, Aphalis failed to plan this campaign very well. His army had serious logistical problems while crossing Sinai. As he approached Beersheba on February 12, 306, he engaged a large Roman army that Galerius was leading in person. Aphalis was convinced that he could prevail yet again by using the Holy Spear of God, but this time that elite unit which had been badly depleted by its losses in the earlier battles failed to deliver victory. Nevertheless it did temporarily check the Roman advance making it easier for the Aksumites to escape.
Galerius' impulsive nature impeded his pursuit. At times he thought he can toy with what he regarded as a doomed enemy and when they demonstrated they still have a bite he became furious. Though deeply discouraged by what happened, Aphilas managed to keep his army from disintegrating. Meanwhile Roman reinforcements arrived by sea at Alexandria. Diocletian believed that if the army at Alexandria attacked in concert with Galerius, they could obliterate the Aksumites in a pincer attack. However, Galerius believed he can accomplish that all by himself. He did not want to share the glory and so ordered the army at Alexandria to stand fast.
When his army reached Clysma, Aphalis made his stand. By this time, he hasdreceived reinforcements from the units he had left behind in Egypt. Previously he had become intoxicated with the Holy Spear of God but was reluctant to use the other Christian Egyptian units for much more than garrison duty. When Galerius attacked on March 9, these units were finally allowed to show that could fight. It was a grueling battle that started at dawn and went on for hours as the temperature steadily climbed. This was contrary to Galerius' expectations of an easy slaughter and before long his mounting frustration made him angry enough to issue some rash orders.
Aphalis waited until late in the battle to commit the Holy Spear of God using them to plug a dangerous gap that had emerged. Galerius finally gave up and withdrew. The next day he finally gave the order for the army at Alexandria to attack. When it did so it found only very weak opposition in front of it. It soon retook Sais which the Aksumites had abandoned. It then took Arsinoe, which had been abandoned as well, but when it approached Memphis on  April 5 it found that Aphalis had moved much of his army there. The Romans were quickly defeated and forced to make a hurried retreat to Arsinoe.
When Galerius learned of this, he believed that could now easily take Clysma but was proven wrong and suffered another costly defeat. One reason for this is that after defeating the Romans near Memphis, Aphalis had hurriedly moved back to Clysma with the bulk of his army anticipating that Galerius would again attack. Furthermore, after his defeat at Beersheba, he had decided to remove the Aksumite army in Himyar, which had been hunkered down in fortified positions since the beginning of the war with Rome. The Aksumite navy, which continued to dominate the Red Sea, transported this army directly to Clysma. Lastly, Aphalis had replenished the Holy Sword of God with qualified Christian replacements.
During the summer, Aphalis was content to defend a line that ran from Memphis to Clysma and enjoy the advantages of interior lines of communication. The Romans wore themselves out with their attacks. Meanwhile, the Christian revolt continued to spread. Aphalis built up his Christian Egyptian units and not just the Holy Spear of God. He made careful preparations for a fall offensive.
Meanwhile, the Romans had other worries. After several years of war, Diocletion had been able to impose a harsh peace on the Sassanid Emperor Narseh in 299. While the current emperor Hormizd was known to be troubled by some internal unrest, they still worried that he might see the Aksumite invasion as an opportunity too good resist. Ironically, another of the problems was Armenia, which the Romans had considered a reliable ally against the Sassanids. The problem was that King Tridates III of Armenia had converted to Christianity and made it his country's official religion around the same time that King Aphalis doing the same in Aksum. Diocletian and Galerius were worried that Aphilas' campaign would inspire Tridates into doing something similar.
So in July, Diocletian began negotiating with Aphalis, offering to let him keep Upper Egypt and to end the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Galerius did not care for the terms, but he went along as he saw it as a way to get Diocletian to finally step down as Emperor. Aphilas had his own worries. In June, he learned from his son, Prince Wazeba that a cabal which included pagan priests and some prominent merchants had tried to seize power in the capital. The merchants were upset the war had dried up their lucrative trade with the Romans. So the Peace of Leontopolis was concluded August 26. Aphilas then moved south to Upper Egypt. When he was sure that the persecution had indeed ended in the Roman Empire, he returned to Axum and clamped down hard on his political enemies. He also tried to make the controversial theology of St. Lucian of Antioch the standard within his expanded empire.
Maximian, the Augustus of the West, had been shocked that Diocletian had agreed to let Aphilas keep Upper Egypt. It so upset him that when Diocletian discussed his plans for both of them to retire together in early November, Maximian initially refused to resign. In order to placate him, Diocletian agreed to make Maximian's son, Maxentius a Caesar after the joint resignation. Galerius was unhappy with this but did not want the joint resignation that would elevate him to Augustus put off any longer. When Constantius had died, he had persuaded Diocletian to appoint Severus as his replacement.

Author's Note: in reality Lucian of Antioch remained at Antioch. He was executed in 312 as one of the victims of persecution Maximinus II. Christianity was introduced into Aksum around 320.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Guest Post: Sigurd the Stout seizes the High Kingship of Ireland

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History

23 April, 1014

On this day in alternate history, a Norse-Irish alliance defeated the forces of the High King of Ireland. Brian Boru of Munster and over ten thousand men were slaughtered in the bloody battle at Clontarf, near Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland.

The rival Irish Kingdoms had been locked in conflict for centuries. However, at the earlier Battle of Tara, Boru had emerged as a strong national leader that checked the growth of Viking power on the island. By the turn of the century, his principal enemy was Máel Mórda mac Murchada, the King of Leinster, whom he fought at the Battle of Glenmama. Unable to rally troops to his side from Ulster or the province of Connacht, Máel Mórda had to find allies outside of Ireland:  the Vikings. This desperation sowed the seeds of Boru's defeat.

The reasons for the victory were numerous: the mailed armour of the Vikings and of course the stubborn refusal of Boru, a devout Christian, to spill blood on Good Friday. Despite the immediacy of the threat from the men of Leinster and Dublin, Boru was actually praying in his tent when Brodir of Mann found and killed him. With
Máel Mórda promising alliance, the Vikings now held the upperhand over all Ireland.

It would have been a hotly disputed victory for Boru's Viking nemesis Sigtrygg Silkbeard, King of Dublin, because Sigtrygg had promised the high kingship to both of his principal allies, Brodir, who commanded the Viking fleet, and also Sigurd "the Stout" Hlodvirsson, the Earl of Orkney. Fortunately for Sigtrygg, Brodir was killed at the climax of the battle by Ulf the Quarrelsome, so this gifted the High Kingship to Sigurd.

More significantly the power of Munster had been broken and the Viking settlements at Limerick, Cork, and Dublin had been secured. This was the outcome that Boru's predecessors, the Ui Neills, had fought hard to resist. As a result of Clontarf, the Vikings would play an increasingly major role in Irish history for over the following century and a half right up until 1169 with the invasion of the Normans, who had recently conquered England.

Addendum by Eric Oppen: With Norse leadership hopefully overcoming their tendency to infighting, the Irish might be able to keep more of their independence. And with a Norse aristocracy that's culturally closer to the Normans, Ireland would not seem quite so alien and impossible to understand.

Jeff Provine's Note: In reality Brian Boru was killed at Clontarf, as were his heir Murchad and Murchad's son, Toirdelbach. While the battle secured Irish authority over the island and severely weakened Viking power, an entire would-be dynasty over Ireland was wiped out. Mael Schnaill returned to the High Kingship, which would soon fall again to squabbles and constant upheaval. In 1169, the Normans from England invaded, breaking Irish kingship. It would be the first of many English waves of conquest over the Ireland, which would not win its independence until 1922.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Guest Post by Charles K. Alexander I: Yakov Sverdlov Named General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History

OTL, Bolshevik Party day-to-day leader Yakov Sverdlov died on March 16, 1919, most likely of influenza, but in this alternative, Sverdlov instead recovers his health and is appointed the General Secretary of the Russian Communist Party three years later, in place of Joseph Stalin.
For the Information of Organizations and Members of the RKP. April 3, 1922
Pravda, 4 April 1922.
The Central Committee elected by the XI congress of the RKP has confirmed a secretariat of the TsK RKP consisting of: Comrade Sverdlov (general secretary), Comrade Sokolnikov and Comrade Kuibyshev.
The secretariat of the TsK has established the following schedule of reception hours at the TsK, daily from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m.: Monday-Sokolnikov and Kuibyshev, Tuesday-Sverdlov and Sokolnikov, Wednesday-Kuibyshev and Sokolnikov, Thursday-Kuibyshev, Friday-Sverdlov and Sokolnikov , Saturday-Sverdlov and Kuibyshev.
Address TsK: Vozdvizhenka, 5.
Secretary of the TsK RKP, Sverdlov.
Sverdlov's efforts were crucial in the slow but steady expansion of the Bolshevik Party during the Russian Civil War, and especially so in forestalling the deepening divisions of the party at it's Tenth Party Congress in March 1921. The velvet glove to Lenin's iron fist, Sverdlov was able to help Lenin win the debate over the Trade Union question that had dominated internal party discussions for months, and the near universal regard for his fairness in party matters meant that a proposal to ban party factions except during pre-Congress discussion periods was never brought forth at the Congress. In 1922, Sverdlov is appointed general secretary of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party along with two economists, Grigori Sokolnikov and Valerian Kuybyshe, both of whom had also served as political commissars in the Red Armies of the Civil War. The appointment coincided with the general deterioration of Lenin's health and was followed by a series of strokes suffered by the Bolshevik leader. While insuring, sometimes ruthlessly, that Lenin got as much rest as possible, at times even bullying Lenin in tandem with his wife, Krupdskaya, Sverdlov also made sure that all factions within the party maintained some level of contact with their acknowledged master. In his final testament to the party, read at the Twelfth Party Congress in April 1923 and published widely thereafter, Lenin drew brutally honest sketches of the strengths and weaknesses of the various leaders of the party, highlighting, for example, the sharpness both of Trotsky's mind and his tongue, and recommended that Sverdlov serve as first among equals within the leadership of the party. He also specifically enjoined the party to resist the bureaucratism of the party and the state, and humorously directed the party to not "make too much" of his name after his death, and instead make sure that he received a "swift and proper" burial.

Over the next several years, Sverdlov is able to defuse factional struggles within the party and slowly open up the political life of the country. Trotsky is shifted out of the army and his theoretical and organizational strengths redirected toward the smart and systematic rebuilding and expansion of Soviet manufacturing, and the largely peaceful and gradual collectivization of agriculture. After the failure of the German Revolution of 1923, Zinoviev is removed as leader of the Comintern but retained his post as Party Leader in Petrograd, as Kamenev was in Moscow. Stalin moves from one administrative role to another, with mixed results, and is eventually dropped from the Politburo when he accepts a position as a professor and administrator at Moscow State University, where he becomes notorious for the petty political infighting apparently endemic to academia the world over, and a steady succession of pretty undergraduate interns and personal secretaries.

In 1927, as soon as Chiang Kai-shek turns on the Chinese working class and peasantry, the CCP withdraws from the Kuomintang and launches an uprising against Chiang with the full support of Moscow and the Comintern. Backed by the small but strategically placed urban working class and a significant portion of Chiang's military - much of the officer corps had been trained by Soviet military specialists, and besides recruiting many of the soldiers, CCP cadre had been in charge of the army's political education - the CCP makes the crucial decision to back peasant uprisings in the countryside instead of trying to tamp them down. The showdown with Chiang, the hollow rump of the KMT. and the landlords and bourgeoisie of South China is short, bloody and followed by a CCP-led Northern Expedition that ultimately unites the nation. European and Japanese military intervention is checked by Soviet troop mobilizations on China's borders on the one hand and American diplomacy, generously acknowledged and compensated, on the other. After ten long years in the international wilderness, the Soviet leadership and party membership is buoyed by the world's second successful proletarian revolution, and the Soviet populace excited by their country's central role in midwifing that revolution and in forcing the imperialist powers to back down. This first crack in the Imperialist System is also welcomed with excitement across the colonial and semi-colonial world.

With the confidence it imbibed from the successful Chinese Revolution, the Soviet Communist Party in 1928 takes the important step of lifting the Civil War ban on non-Communist parties loyal to the Soviet state, allowing Left Menshevikks, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and assorted anarchists and even left nationalists to openly organize and contest elections to the Soviets or any other organs of state power, local, regional or national. On maintaining the ban on anti-Soviet parties, James P. Cannon, a representative of the American Communist Party attending the 6th World Congress of the Comintern in Moscow in the Summer of 1928, is quoted in the press to the effect that "just as parties committed to the restoration of the American colonies to the British Crown would not have been permitted in the first decades of the United States of America, so parties advocating the restoration of either czarism or capitalism could not be allowed in the still young Soviet Union."

When Hitler is offered the post of Chancellor of Germany in 1933 the German working class, Social Democratic and Communist, rises up and prevents the Nazis from taking state power. The Nazis and other far right elements, along with a significant portion of the German bourgeoisie, are driven out of Germany after a short but sharp civil war that turns into the world's third successful proletarian revolution, the first in a heavily industrialized country. The Communist Party, maintaining its political independence but supporting working class unity in the civil war, comes to the fore as the reformist left splinters, but the deep social democratic roots in the working class result in the quick development of a multi-party, revolutionary and proletarian democratic state. While German industrialists decide to spend their hopefully brief exiles in Paris, London or Zürich, the hardcore reactionaries, fascists and Nazis are concentrated in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, Poland and, especially, Austria. The Czechs largely succeed in disarming them, the Poles let them conduct terrorist attacks across the border and are tempted to allow them to launch a campaign into East Prussia, but their awful strategic position, caught between Red Russia to the east and the new Red Germany to the west, forces them to keep the leash on the German rightist exiles.

Austria is the most destabilized neighbor of revolutionary Germany, as the exiled Nazis want to take state power to secure a solid base for their campaign to win back Germany. The Conservative Party and Austro-Fascists can find only one solution that will prevent the Nazis from dragging a much-reduced Austria into another war in Germany, while still keeping a lid on "Red Vienna" and the Austrian Social Democracy's military arm, and give the bourgeoisie, petite bourgeoisie and countryside a unifying and legitimately Austrian pole around which to rally. Otto von Habsburg is invited to return to Austria as a constitutional monarch, and while the dickering over whether he would return as an Archduke or an Emperor nearly derailed the deal, he is able to unite enough of the country - social democratic left to nationalist right, farmers, workers and aristocrats - to militarily suppress the Nazis, all without provoking either a revolutionary uprising in their rear or Red German intervention. Otto thereby proves that even in a new age of revolution, the Habsburgs still have the knack for coming out on top.

Using lessons learned from the Chinese Revolution and its aftermath, and with its Communist Party playing the goad, proletarian revolution also succeeds in Spain in the mid- to late-1930's. The Spanish Left, while still deeply divided between revolutionary Communists, reformist Socialists and both revolutionary and reformist Anarcho-Syndicalists, unites in declaring proletarian political independence from the liberal and establishment backers of the bourgeois Republic and defeat the center-right lash-up of Spanish Republicans and their Catholic, nationalist, fascist and monarchist critics. The military is undercut by the left's support for independence for Spain's African colonies, the countryside is lost to the right with the left's backing of the expropriation of the land by Spain's desperate peasants, and where France's Popular Front dithers, the Soviet Union, Germany and China provide the revolutionaries with more aid than Mussolini's fascist Italy and Britain's Tories can muster for the Republic and its counter-revolutionary attack dogs. As international volunteers from the left and right join their respective Spanish allies on the frontlines, the final act of Germany's civil war is played out on the Spanish plain, with hundreds of Nazis and more than a thousand other German rightists losing their lives in support of Spanish reaction.

Twenty years after the October Revolution, with a capitalist world still deep in the throes of the Great Depression, there exists a Soviet Union with a rapidly expanding economy and a steadily broadening political sphere, a stabilizing revolutionary Germany with a somewhat chaotic but vibrant proletarian "Council Communist" republic, a Spain flying the Red and Black flag at the end of its Civil War, and a reunified China industrializing with the help of Soviet and German experts, re-writing the rules of its relationships with the imperialist powers that had carved it up, inspiring colonial and semi-colonial peoples everywhere, and arming itself in case the European powers and America decide to back Imperial Japan in a play to roll back the revolutionary tide and grab China's resources, thereby - just as an afterthought, of course - distracting resource-poor Japan from their own Asian and Pacific colonies and territories.

All this because the nearly forgotten Yakov Sverdlov survived the flu (or was it typhus, TB or an anti-Bolshevik attack?) in March 1919 and remained in charge of the day-to-day operations of the Bolshevik Party long enough for the Civil War to end, the revolution to get some breathing room, and the bureaucracy and its creature, Stalin, to be strangled in its crib and kept from seizing and corrupting the Party, the Revolution, the Soviet Union, the international Communist movement and ultimately, the very idea of revolutionary change.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Guest Post: Rise of the Sixth Good Emperor of Rome

This post originally appeared on Today In Alternate History

"[Marcus Aurelius] did not meet with the good fortune that he deserved, for he was not strong in body and was involved in a multitude of troubles throughout practically his entire reign. But for my part, I admire him all the more for this very reason, that amid unusual and extraordinary difficulties he both survived himself and preserved the empire. Just one thing prevented him from being completely happy, namely, that after rearing and educating his son [Commodus] in the best possible way he was vastly disappointed in him. This matter must be our next topic; for our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day". ~ Cassius Dio 71.36.3-4

On March 17, 175, troops stationed on the River Danube declared their former commander in the Marcomannic War, Gaius Avidius Cassius, the new Emperor.

The soldiers had just heard the tragic news that Marcus Aurelius Antoninus had perished from the Antonine Plague. This pandemic was associated with his family name having been caused by the East-West movement of troops ordered by Aureleius and his late co-ruler Lucius Verus who had died of the same cause. Of course this association was cruel because it was Cassius that had led those troops whereas it was Marcus Aurelius himself who had famously declared "Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart," a statement of his profound belief in the philosophy of stoicism.

Cassius received the opportunistic tidings from the widow Faustina but he was based in the Near East, serving in his current back-water position as the Governor of Syria. This was something of an under-utilisation of his many talents and he knew it. But fate would have to intervene for him because he was of low birth from the north Syrian town of Cyrrhus. Promoted to legatus for his service under Antonius Pius, he had distinguished himself during the Parthian War. His reward was elevation to the Senate and subsequently Imperial legate. He was then given Imperium over all of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire serving under the extraordinary title of Rector Orientis during the Bucolic War.

War had made-up Cassius but frustratingly his military career had peaked at the relatively young age of forty-five. And so shortly thereafter hearing of Marcus Aurelius passing, he received support from Egypt and that emboldened him to launch his bid to seize the throne. The timing was auspicious, Aurelius son Commodus had been born in "the purple" and would have otherwise become the first son to succeed his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. But Commodus was only fourteen and his mother Faustina feared for him; and Cassius had the good sense to name Commodus his co-ruler and effectively replace Aurelius with himself as a strong general in the style of Lucius Verus.

Marcus Aurelius had been a remarkable ruler during difficult times but he had been carried away by his own stoicism. Perhaps he realized that disaster was around the corner or maybe he feared another Civil War. It was a pity that he did not see Cassius lack of progression as a solution. But his failure to replace Lucius Verus certainly put the succession in jeopardy. And the timing was also delicately posted, because Cassius would continue Marcus Aurelius strategies sharing the same focus on the frontier. In the next five years he would annex Moravia and West Slovakia and ensure his own clients were protected from incursive threats such as the Huns that might drive them towards Italy and even turn them from allies into belligerents. And there must be doubt as to whether the young Commodus would have pursued these objectives so aggressively, his heart was not in the same place and his late father was much older and in weak health.

As events were to transpire, Commodus would not live to see twenty. An orderly succession of command of the Danubian armies ensure that hard fought victories were carried through to its conclusion and the frontier expanded to the Carpathians. The reconquest to the Elbe would then follow. In time Cassius would be recognised as the Sixth Good Emperor and the Pax Romana would continue. This continued strengthening of the Emperor prepared it for the much greater challenges four hundred years later when it managed to survive invasions from both the Maygars and the Vikings.

Author's Note in reality the reports were false and while Aurelius was amassing a force to defeat Cassius, a centurion of one of Cassius' legions murdered Cassius, sending his head to Aurelius as proof.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Guest Post: Hate-filled murder of Claudette Colvin spurs the Montgomery Riots

This post first appeared on This Day in Alternate History

March 2, 1955:

Teachers at the segregated Booker T. Washington High School led a series of studies for Negro History Month. Topics included women's rights activists such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.

Already a member of the NAACP Youth Council, a fifteen-year-old student called Claudette Colvin had been spurred into an act of civil disobedience by her educators. Joined by a pregnant woman called Ruth Hamilton, she stubbornly refused to give up their seats to whites when ordered to by motorman Robert W. Cleere. Ignoring insistence upon her constitutional rights, he made good on his threat to call the police. After a brief struggle that turned increasingly violent when Colvin was kicked by one of the officers, she was forcibly removed from the bus and never seen alive again.

Witnesses of the event raced to the house of her mother, Mary Ann Colvin. She called the local pastor, Reverend H.H. Johnson, who owned a car and together they drove them to the women's penitentiary in Atmore only to discover that she had died of head injuries. The local community was enraged and meetings were held throughout the night attended by members of the Baptist Church, NAACP and also the Communist Party, working in unison. The FBI were particularly concerned about the activities of one Communist called Raymond Parks, whom they suspected of agitating for a mass event such as a Bus Boycott. Governor "Big Jim" Folsom moblised the Alabama State Guard, but events had already taken their own course. A series of grisly murders occurred during the night including Parks and his wife Rosa, who was NAACP Secretary, and also local NAACP president E.D. Nixon. One of the perpetrators, Jim Blake, would later claim that these violence actions were necessary to save Jim Crow.

With NAACP and Communist Party organisations shattered, the church of Michael King Jr. became a focal point. He was an active committee member of the Birmingham African-American community that was overseeing the legal challenge to bus segregation. From his pulpit, he began to call increasingly for federal funding in grants for the reopening of colonization in Liberia, founded in West Africa by abolitionists during the early nineteenth century. Only a few thousand separatists, mostly escaped slaves and free men, had made it to the capital of Monrovia (named after the-then US President). Being lighter-skinned and culturally distinct, they had their own assimilation problems. Yet they founded a power structure that their descendants still held on to at the time of the Montgomery Riots, when it was the second largest black settlement after Freetown, Sierra Leone. Even though Liberia was no more an empty "Promised Land" than the biblical Canaan, King's ideas were warmly welcomed in Monrovia. But with neighboring countries moving fast towards independence from colonial powers, some feared for the viability not just of the larger colony, but the host country itself. Would this project actually lead to a greater Liberia, an African Tiger economy, or would it become even more two-tier, perhaps corrupted by the greater resources of the separatists ruling the country? Others would argue this was the same confidence issues that had been bred into African consciousness by white governments. But in retrospect, most would agree that the Montgomery Riots had been a turning point.

King, himself of Irish Ancestry, was realistic; he fully realised that Liberia could never resettle the whole African American community. In fact, he actually hoped for a wider settlement across West Africa in which millions of African Americans would re-start a historical process begun by the founders of Liberia back in 1822. But, inevitably there were resistance from both sides, because a costly government program would of course require both resettlement as well as construction and infrastructure. Consequences too for those that stayed behind, reduced in number by the successful separatists. But ultimately, "Back to Africa" would slowly take shape and over the following decades hundreds of thousands of families would cross the Atlantic and make a significant impact upon future history. Kennedy, and then Johnson and Nixon, would come to rely upon the promise of passage payments as a means of incentivising the African Americans soldiers that made up the 12 percent of the Armed forces sent even further afield to fight (mostly in the infantry) in a small country called Vietnam.

Author's Note: in reality [reports Jeff Provine] it was the later arrest of Rosa Parks that would serve as a great symbol for the growing campaign to end segregation, seemingly better suited than the arrest of Claudette Colvin in a similar incident a few months earlier. With Parks as a symbol and Colvin's case victorious in federal court for Browder v. Gayle, the road to equality began to open by means of civil disobedience.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Guest Post from Allen McDonnell - "The Exundation of 1939"

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

In what came to be the turning point of so called Western Civilization the Pope personally warned Benito Mussolini about the vision he had received early in the month of February 1939 that all ships needed to be far out to sea on Ash Wednesday. In the normal course of events the Catholic nations tended to have most of their ships in port on Ash Wednesday so that the crews could more easily participate in the sacrament that marked the beginning of Lent. The pope also warned the French, Portuguese and other predominantly Catholic countries like Poland via communication between himself and the heads of state of each power. Some, like Benito Mussolini, took the warning to heart and ordered their navies and merchant fleet to be at sea at least 100 km from any shore. Others like France had intended to ignore the warning but when they discovered the powerful Italian fleet had set every movable ship out to sea they scrambled to get their own ships to sea in order to be prepared for any sneak attack which might be in the offing.
Finally believing it was his Christian duty to warn all mankind, the pope issued a proclamation on February 19th, 1939, urging that all good Catholics and other Christians should have their ships at sea for the next week because God was going to preform a miracle and that they would regret it deeply if their ships were in port during Lent.

Stalin openly scoffed at the proclamation and ordered all of his ships to make for port in defiance of the advice. Hitler initially planned to do the same, but once Stalin had made such a big deal out of ordering his navy to port he decided a 'training exercise' was in order and commanded his navy and merchant shipping to all leave port ASAP and rendezvous at an undisclosed location south of Iceland.

With Germany and Italy putting everything to sea the other European powers almost unanimously decided that getting their fleets out to sea 'just in case' was the wisest course of action. In Catholic South America the Brazilian, Argentine and Chilean fleets had all also deployed at the advice of the pope and even the small navy of Mexico had joined in the general deployment though they all did so strictly on faith. The pope said it was God's warning they should follow and in these very catholic nations the people in control knew if they disobeyed the warning and something bad happened as a result the populations of their countries would rise up and overthrow them for letting it happen.

In the USA, none of the government officials took the warning very seriously, including the Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Leahy, but when every other navy including the British and French fleets deployed he felt it was prudent to put most of the American fleet to sea in response. While the US Navy did have replenishment ships of its own the Merchant Marine was totally independent in peacetime and whether a shipping company ordered its vessels to sea was an individual decision.

Much to the shock of the world at 6 PM in Jerusalem on February 21, 1939, the Great Exundation began. At first nobody noticed because God is a loving Father, but at 7 PM world sea level had fallen five inches. By 6 AM the Mediterranean Sea level had fallen five feet. For the people who live inland this could have been mistaken for the tide going out, but any experienced sailor in the Mediterranean knew that low tide was never more than a foot below mean sea level in the region because the small size of the water exchange at Gibraltar meant not that much water could move in and out of the basin in a tidal cycle. Exundation was even more obvious in Washington D.C. where the Washington Navy Yard routinely recorded tide levels and their records showed that as the regular tide went out sea levels on the edge of the basin fell much further and faster than normal, and when the tide came back in it peaked five feet below the expected value. If the Exundation continued for even a few days ships in port would be stuck in the mud on rapidly drying land instead of floating in the sea.

At London Bridge on the Thames River in the center of the ancient city the change was even more obvious because the tidal range on the Thames was three times larger than that on the Potomac in North America. The low tide this far up stream from the North Sea had been three feet above mean sea level and this had dropped to two feet below mean sea level while the highest tide expected that night had been 22 feet above mean sea level and had only risen to 17 feet. At this distance from the sea the river channel was nearly 60 feet deep to the bottom which was about 57 feet below mean sea level. The city of London was 115 feet above mean sea level the day before the Exundation began.

At 6 PM on Ash Wednesday in Jerusalem world sea level had fallen ten feet from its previous average and it showed no sign of the Exundation stopping. Those Captains who had been in port Ash Wednesday morning who still had vessels afloat had put to sea even if they were not really prepared for sailing wherever possible. For the Soviet navy however everyone had feared telling Stalin his decision had placed the fleet in danger and when they finally brought the news to him he had refused to believe it until his personal envoy traveled to Leningrad and confirmed what was happening. By the time the report came back it was too late for the Baltic fleet, the waters in the harbor were just too shallow at that end of the Gulf of Finland and the ships were all well stuck in the mud by the time Stalin ordered his navy to sail. The only place the USSR had not lost any naval vessels was the Black Sea fleet where the Admiral had realize the Exundation was taking place and had ordered his ships to weigh anchor and relocate in deeper water maintaining their relative distance from the new shoreline. As a result when the sailing orders came his ships were able to spread out into the central Black Sea easily. In the far North and far east a few larger ships were stranded but the harbors had been deep enough that the 36 hour delay in sailing orders had not trapped them all.

Image courtesy XKCD's "What If?"
The Exundation continued hour by hour and day by day for forty nights, and forty days. Finally at 6 PM on Palm Sunday the Exundation ended as if it had never begun. World mean sea level had fallen a total of 400 feet from where it had existed for the prior two millennia. The parallels with the Great Flood of Noah were blatant and only a dedicated atheist could deny that they existed. An even greater parallel exists in that the inhabited coastal regions around the world find themselves in a steady drizzle of rain, gently rinsing everything for the entire 40 days but not slowing Exundation in the slightest.

London was now one more city in Continental Europe because the British Isles were now surrounded by land on all sides extending west of Ireland and north of Scotland even capturing the Shetland Islands. The Thames river now merged into the Rhine and the larger river meandered north on the east side of the hills which were once Dogger Bank half way between the hills and the Jutland Peninsula until it reached the new Gulf of Skagerrak just south of Norway. The Baltic Sea had fallen greatly in level, with the passage between Copenhagen and Sweden now a dry valley leaving the city landlocked. However the remaining passage between the Baltic and the Skagerrak passed between the wider Jutland peninsula and the former island of Sjaelland now attached to Sweden from Copenhagen all the way to the new river valley that drained the shrunken Baltic. This left the nation of Denmark with much more land than before, but with a much longer border with Germany on the south and for the first time land connection with Sweden to the east and Great Britain to the west. Negotiation of the new borders was an immediate concern. The Baltic and North seas had for all useful purposes ceased to exist and were now dry, and presumably valuable, land. As the sea level fall had been relatively gentle, in effect lowering the high tide on every cycle until the exposed shore had declined down 400 feet, the rainfall had rinsed the slight salt content of the new land away even as it was exposed. Bird dropped seeds had sprouted endless seeming acres of weeds and grasses on the newly exposed land and these were sprouting even as the many nations bickered over where the new borders should be drawn. The eventual consensus in the League of Nations was to draw the new border equidistant from the prior borders of the land which had existed before the Exundation.

This left the Denmark/Sweden border just east of the now landlocked Copenhagen in the valley which now sat where the sea passage had previously been. On the south this was effectively an extension of the old Germany/Denmark border using the same standards on both sides of the wider Jutland peninsula while in the west it was half way between old England and the same former peninsula which meant the enlarge Rhine now flowed through Denmark before the Thames merged into it to pass into old England. With the lower sea level the Thames had shrunken greatly in the area through London, no longer nearly 60 feet deep it was now closer to 20 in mid channel. There was just as much fresh water as before, but now the intrusion of sea water from below no longer buoyed it up to greater depth.

In North West America an even greater change had taken place with the drying of the Bering Sea placing Alaska and Siberia in direct contact. On the Arctic side of Alaska the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea were now dry land, albeit very cold dry land, and in Canada the Canadian Archipelago of arctic islands was now a peninsula bordering on the deep regions of the Arctic Ocean. The Baffin Passage and sea and much of Hudson's Bay had also drained away leaving Greenland island now a peninsula of North America. Further south in Canada the independent colony of Newfoundland was now a peninsula jutting from the south east coast of Labrador and Quebec and the Gulf of Saint Lawrence had likewise narrowed into the Saint Lawrence River for most of its area. The only ports in North America unaffected by the exundation had been those on the Great Lakes, all of which were already well above sea level and isolated from the worlds oceans by the Saint Lawrence river. With some dredging to make sure sea going ships could make it all the way to Lake Ontario the ports of Rochester, New York and Toronto, Ontario were the first major ports back in business for international traffic. The old Erie Canal extending from Buffalo to Albany New York was also able to deploy barge traffic down the now much longer Hudson river to the new coastline of the Atlantic Ocean by midsummer. The great cities of the east coast now found themselves landlocked from dozens to hundreds of miles inland from the sea. Ships that had been under construction or in dry docks for major repairs were likewise now located dozens to hundreds of miles from the sea. Miami Florida was landlocked but not badly because the channel between Florida and the former Bahamas was still a sliver of water between, but the Gulf Coast of Florida was effectively now nearly 223 miles in average width where it had been 95 before exundation. Miami became the first American port city outside of the Great Lakes able to provide dock space to the thousands of ships stuck at sea for lack of docks.

For every major industrialized nation outside of the USA and Canada the building of new ports on their new coastlines delayed shipping for many months. The USA and Canada were also engaged in this rebuilding effort because every port outside of the Great lakes had to be replaced, as did naval bases. Army and Air corp bases suffered no losses, but the huge naval complex at Philadelphia where the US Navy built and repaired many of its ships was now 400 feet above sea level and nearly a hundred miles as the aircraft flew from the newly formed coastline. The Exundation in Louisiana and Texas ended crude oil exports instantly because the big oil tankers could no longer get to the ports where the pipelines could fill their cargo tanks. This was a major blow to the European economy as well as Japan because both regions were major importers of American crude oil. Just as bad the Persian Gulf had itself become dry desert land creating a much greater barrier between middle eastern oil and export. The same was true of the Indonesian colonies of the Dutch which had been a major oil supply and cash supply for The Netherlands, again ended at least in the short run by lack of access. The worlds third largest exporter, Venezuela, was similarly troubled in South America.

The Industrialized world, just recovering from the Great Depression, was unable to quickly deal with the new crisis. Italy for example now has a massive new area of land because to the north half of the Adriatic Sea is now dry land creating a much longer border with Yugoslavia. At the same time Sicily is now attached by land, Sardinia has grown and merged with French Corsica and the colonies in Libya and Tunis are extended hundreds of miles further north in the new dry land of North Africa. The British Empire is badly mauled by the fact that the Suez Canal is now high and dry in the desert and re-excavation is simply not a realistic option. The Straits of Gibraltar and the passage to the Black Sea are still open but both are narrower and carry swifter currents. In addition to the changes in the Adriatic Sea the Aegean Sea that created the unique Greek culture on hundreds of islands is now dry land and the islands are mountains in that vast plain.

In Central America, the land changes are just as remarkable. the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico has doubled in size, Nicaragua has a new land area 30% larger than before and narrow Panama has grown nearly 50%. Of course like the Suez the canal named for the country is no longer functional and whether it can be extended in both direction to reach the sea is an open question for later times. On the bright side a new archipelago has formed between Nicaragua and Jamaica, a scattering of Islands that much resemble the Bahamas. Speaking of the Bahamas much like Florida their area has effectively doubled and instead of dozens of islands separated by water they are now a handful of much larger islands connecting groupings of the former scattered collection. Cuba has also expanded nearly 40% and only a narrow passage now separates it from the new Big Bahama island to its north east. Directly north a new island sits between Florida and Cuba with Cuba laying claim to it and the USA not disputing the claim because it it nearly all beyond the old half way point between the two countries. Puerto Rico has grown to nearly double its former size and includes the Virgin islands now landlocked with it to the east and Mona island to the west leaving just a narrow passage between the expanded island and Hispaniola Island, which is nearly unchanged gaining just a few percent of land around its steep coastlines.

Most of the Caribbean islands have grown substantially, often merging into larger islands including several small islands together into larger landmasses. This is not a great cultural change until you approach northern South America where the islands of Trinidad and Tobago now find themselves part of the continent where Venezuela is eager to incorporate them into itself. At the time of Exundation Venezuela had the third largest oil producing nation on Earth and though it is now cut off from easily shipping oil and refined products to the rest of the world it is still quite able to haul oil and products overland to its neighbors. It also doesn't take long to extend barge capability down the longer rivers creating the ability to use coastal barge traffic to haul the same crude or fuel to neighboring countries more cheaply. Trinidad is more or less conquered as soon as it becomes attached to Venezuela because the government wants to exploit is oil resources and add them to Venezuela's own ASAP. With the drying of Lake Maracaibo and the Gulf of Venezuela additional oil drilling in areas that used to be submerged is greatly simplified and will lead to additional oil production within a few years, as will test drilling in likely locations throughout the newly dried coast regions.

Further along the coast Brazil and its northern neighbors outside of Venezuela gain modestly while to the south Uruguay adds nearly 40% to its surface area while Argentina is massively expanded as well. This does present the difficulty of making Buenos Aries and Montevideo landlocked cities, but this is the breadbasket of South America and the expansion of the fertile prairies into what was the South Atlantic is of great benefit. Fortunately for the people of South America very little that they import is actually crucial to their economies. Exporting grain and livestock to Europe in exchange for manufactured goods had served them well, but a lack of radios or even cars was not a major blow so long as everyone was well fed and healthy. Between the great widening of Argentina to the east and the doubling in size of the disputed Falkland/Malvina Islands the British colony now finds itself physically attached to Argentina. However little actually changes because with so much of an increase in territory the Argentinian's are much too busy to worry about the old claims in the short term. The islands of Tierra Del Fuego shared between Argentina and Chile are also greatly expanded though other than increasing ranch land for the Llama and Sheep ranchers this also has little immediate effect other than the closing of the Straits of Magellan.

The fertile Nile Delta has slumped outward into the new basin and the river is cutting its way down through the accumulated silt to the new sea level destroying the Egyptian breadbasket and washing away all the farmland for the last 50 miles of the Nile river valley. Unless something happens quickly the ancient famine will be visited on Egypt once again, and this time the Muslim majority will be blaming the Christian minority because the Pope was the one who prophesied the warning.

For Africa the greatest effects were in the northern coast as already discussed but a few notable exceptions do exist to the 'not much changes' rule. The Canary, Madeira and Azores islands off the north west coast generally find themselves gathered into much larger islands incorporating several or even many of the smaller pre existing islands. In the furthest south South Africa gains a new fertile plain extending the country as much as 80 miles from its old coastline and in the north east the Red Sea is shrunken with a narrow passage at the south end still connecting it to the Indian Ocean while in the north the entire Gulf of Suez from whence the canal had gotten its name is dry parched desert. Madagascar and the small island groups near it also benefit somewhat with the small island groups forming three larger islands much as took place off the opposite corner shore in the Atlantic.

Asia undergoes the greatest changes of all. Already the largest continent Asia now extends nearly 200 miles closer to the North Pole where Siberia has expanded northward. Along the east coast massive new dry lands are formed south of Beringia incorporating Sakhalin and the four main Japanese islands in a long volcanic arc that attaches to South Korea and China at its southern extent. This turns the Sea of Japan into an inland sea with rivers winding out through the gaps on the north and south ends of Honshu. If the Exundation is permanent this sea may become a new Black Sea with salty anoxic water in the lower basin covered by a brackish to nearly fresh surface layer fed by the rivers flowing down from Manchuria and the mountains surrounding the sea. The Yellow Sea and East China Sea are now broad expanses of freshly exundated land crossed by the ancient Chinese rivers. This land more than doubles the highly fertile Chinese lowlands which already support 600,000,000 rice farmers with their water buffalo drawn plows. Taiwan is an island no longer, now a mountainous plateau at the edge of this fertile territory and the Ryuku islands controlled by Japan further out to sea have gathered their clusters into new larger islands as has been seen with so many of the archipelago groups around the world.

While the Japanese main islands are no longer islands these smaller groups remain detached from the Asian mainland. Further south the expansion of Asia has brought Hong Kong and Hainan islands into the continent and the draining of the Gulf of Tonkin, Gulf of Siam and the Java Sea have tripled the size of French Indochina and merged the three main islands of the Dutch East Indies, Sumatra, Java and Borneo into Indochina. Even more surprising the additions to Borneo have captured the islands between that massive island and the Philippines forming all that formerly diverse territory into a massive new peninsula extending northeast from Borneo with the Sulu Sea a captive sea much in the guise of the Sea of Japan further north. A few of the eastern islands of the Dutch Indonesian colony escape incorporation into Asia like Celebes and Ceram, but the giant island of New Guinea split between the British in the east and Dutch in the west is now incorporated into Australia becoming the new northern end of the expanded island continent. In South Asia the Bay of Bengal is slightly shrunken adding territory to Burma and India; which now incorporates the island of Ceylon as its southern tip. The Arabian Sea is slightly smaller and as already discussed the Persian Gulf is now a dusty desert plain between Arabia and Iran.

Australia is changed almost beyond recognition, now extending north past what used to be the island of New Guinea with the Gulf of Carpentaria and Arafua sea completely drained and the Timor Sea shrunken to leave a much narrower body of water between the continent and the island of Timor in the indies. In the south the coast goes further south greatly increasing the fertile region for European crops and Tasmania is no longer a lone island but now part of continental main mass.

New Zealand is no longer two large islands in the company of dozens of smaller ones, instead it is one very large island extending slightly further north, east and west and considerably further south. The associated islands all progressed through the conglomeration effects with the two main Chatham islands becoming one larger island and the Auckland islands forming one larger island.

Across the broad pacific this same scenario is played out many times with small islands and nearby islets being gathered together by the Exundation effect to form one or more much larger islands. In Hawaii the famous Pearl Harbor is left high and dry and the island of Molokai is nearly doubled in size by the exposure if its western half known as the Penguin Bank to fishermen. As a general rule however the Hawaiian Island chain have very steep slopes below the water line so the total additional territory in general only extends outward a handful of miles and with the exception of Molokai none of the islands is remarkably enlarged or gathered together with recognized islands to form a new larger island.

Last but not least, in the little explored continent of Antarctica every ice shelf floating on the edges of the continent become hard grounded ice sheets indistinguishable from the vast dome of ice covering the interior. Because the Exundation took place late in Antarctic summer and early fall the loosely floating sea ice was at its minimum extent, but what remained was mostly grounded on the now exposed Antarctic continental shelf covering the freshly exposed mud in a meter of stranded sea ice. As a result as the fall progressed and winter set in fresh snow falling on the newly exposed shelf fell onto this freshwater ice and started easily accumulating in place.

Because the new land has been under a spring drizzle for the entire Exundation it is very wet and impassable on the night of Palm Sunday however April 3, 1939 dawns with bright sunshine and starts rapidly drying up the Exundated land to more normal condition. League of Nations diplomats had already agreed upon the new border arrangements having rapidly negotiated them during the preceding nearly six weeks as an emergency measure, but once the Exundation ceases and everyone can see where the new borders lay Hitler is no longer willing to be satisfied with his modest gains.

The proposed new borders of Germany left Hitler's nation landlocked with the UK/Denmark division of the former north sea and the French/UK border following the center of the former English Chanel from the Belgium-Dutch/UK line to where the Seine river crosses the line of the Channel Islands. From that point west their is a cut out to include the former islands in the UK, then the border is Hurd's Deep canyon. The Seine enters Hurd's Deep north of the Channel Islands, trapped by the the now exposed Hurd's Deep canyon. From west of the former islands the new agreement follows the Seine through the canyon all the way to the now distant Atlantic.

The issue is while Hitler can accept a border half way into the Baltic Valley (former sea) between Germany/Denmark-Sweden on his east accepting a similar agreement to the west with the German border synonymous with the Belgian-Dutch border and crossing over to the Denmark/German border leaves Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany just as landlocked as Luxembourg or Hungary.

Unwilling to concede and give up even his moderate naval ambitions Hitler orders the Wermacht to conquer Denmark and incorporate it into Greater Germany. While war with the UK and France is still undesirable beating up on Denmark not only restores his access to the Norwegian Sea, it also effectively doubles the size of 1933 Germany by adding half of the North Sea Basin to the gains already made in the dry Baltic extensions. June 20, 1939, Hitler declares war on Denmark and his forces invade, carefully stopping in the Baltic valley at the new Sweden/Denmark border but advancing in the Jutland Peninsula and Dry Seas to the west until they reach the Skagerrak Gulf and Norwegian Sea. The UK and France are appalled by German aggression and teeter on the edge of declaring war but developments had been too rapid for the governments to have guaranteed the new territorial integrity agreed to in the League of Nations as being worth going to war. The UK was now also face to face with the fact that the Royal Navy was no longer a shield between itself and Continental Europe. From a point just east of Hurd's Canyon all the way to the Norwegian Sea curving around east and north from that point the UK was now firmly attached to Europe by land. While the UK had some of the very largest territorial gains in Europe as a result for the first time in its two millennia history was vulnerable to land armies.

Hitler is generous in his peace terms with Denmark, at least in his own opinion. Denmark agrees to become a 'protectorate' of Greater Germany and gets to retain King Christian X on the throne. They even get to retain their territory in the Baltic and a narrow slice of land west of Jutland. However they are allowed police forces only, no military of their own, and all local laws are subject to review and modification by Germany. The vast expansion of Denmark west of Jutland beyond the new line is conceded to Germany placing the majority of the Rhine River extension in German control and giving Hitler back the access to sea for his navy. Hitler immediately orders a new naval base be built at the new mouth of the Rhine on the Skagerrak gulf and soothes the UK and France with statements that all of his territorial ambitions have now been satisfied.

Further east Stalin is no longer the least bit concerned about the UK or France coming to the rescue of the former Baltic states which escaped the USSR at the time of its founding and takes the opportunity to invade Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as well as Finland. The small states fall quickly and the exundated land in the Gulf of Finland and Gulf of Bothnia are easily seized, but when it comes to advancing into Finland proper the Red Army is far less successful. The unfortunate sailors of the Baltic Fleet whose ships were all stranded find themselves relabeled Red Army troops and on the front lines against the Finns who have more snipers than anyone had imagined possible before the war. Officers and Sergeants are effectively targeted and every time the Red Army advances a few miles it looses a dozen commanders. An Army without leaders is just a disorganized mob that isn't going anywhere fast.

In the far east Japan is able to seize nearly all of the new Chinese land and this gives them half of what they were seeking in their war against China, land to expand their population into. the other thing they desire, cheap Chinese laborers, is easily available in the portions of China already conquered and soon Japanese farms and businesses are popping up from Taiwan to Korea across the dry seas. The USA has more than enough to deal with in North America to keep it busy and the China War drops off the list of important political factors for the next few years.

On the spiritual front the Catholic faith is strongly boosted and many Protestant Christians and not a small number of non-Christians convert to Catholicism because they believe the Pope really is the conduit from God to Man on earth. This even leads to a large number of Muslims in the hardest hit areas converting, though it also hardens the resolve of the most devout Islamist's that this is all the work of Shaitan to mislead the masses away from the True Faith in Allah. Most of the Judaeo-Christian-Islamist faithful learn the story of Noah's flood from early childhood and the only thing that places special emphasis on the Papacy and Catholic division is the Pope's public warning to all Christians. This leaves more than enough wiggle room for the truly devout members of other sects within the overall belief in Jehovah/God/Allah of the Old Testament to remain within their own belief but for those doubters who want miraculous proof the Exundation is plainly what they were seeking on some level.

Site Meter