Sunday, April 11, 2021

Guest Post: Byzantine Express

The article first appeared on the Today in Alternate History blog. The scenario of a Byzantine Empire surviving until the Great War is fully explored in Alexander Rooksmoor's latest AH novel Byzantine Express.

 

5 August, 1914 - Byzantine Empire Joins the Great War

The clash of rival Empires known to alternate history as the Great War rapidly escalated when Byzantium opened hostilities on the Central Powers.

The imperial government in Constantinople recognized that its survival over the centuries had depended upon the lasting support of her long-time fighting partners, Serbia and Bulgaria. Set against German encroachment in the Balkans, she unexpectedly found herself allied with the British, French and Russians. These three rival Empires were "fair-weather friends", having their own competing interests and territorial ambitions in the near East. In fact, their only common interest was the ancient proverb "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Challenged by such a powerful array of forces, the Central Powers were eventually subdued, but Europe was shattered years by the unrelenting slaughter. In the bloody aftermath of popular uprisings and continuation wars fought, stateless minorities won their freedom and crowned heads were forced to abdicate. Riding this sea change was the nascent Byzantine Republic. She seemed incredibly fortunate to enjoy the unity of a Greek-speaking population spread across a strategic territory on world trade routes, Anatolia and the southern tip of the Balkans. In the early years of the 1920s she rapidly became a modern state at the forefront of efforts to rebuild a broken continent.

The discovery of huge oil reserves in the Levant changed everything. With the prospect of regional hegemony returning unexpectedly into sight, the victor powers quickly became deadly enemies. A group of right-wing officers known as the "Young Byzantines" seized power in Constantinople. Convinced that the former Imperium had fought on the wrong side of the Great War, they formed a Fascist State and quickly set about occupying large swathes of Arabia.

Of course, their encroachment into the Middle East was a cynical mirror image of the failed earlier German land-grab on the Byzantine's own door-step. With the Great Powers seemingly on the road to war for the second time in a generation, it appeared that the ephemeral vision of popular democracy that had first begun in Greece was a mirage. With the world's oil supplies firmly in the greedy hands of the Young Byzantines, W. B. Yeats bitterly noted that democracy was only a fleeting interlude between lasting eras of demagoguery.

Author's Note:

In reality, Byzantium was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in AD 1453.

 

Provine's Pondering

As noted on Today in Alternate History, the timeline follows from a hypothetical, "what if the Ottoman Turks had never headed west?" Alexander Rooksmoor goes into deep reflection on potential changes in his Tablets of Lead blog post. In summary of the fascinating counter-factual analysis, the call for aid to crusaders from Western Europe allowed the Ottomans to recover their lands (rather than those lands being set up as Crusader States). Presumably, the big change was the Fourth Crusade where, as one History professor summed, "drunken Normans stormed Constantinople." Returned to power with a strong eastern buffer, the Byzantines withstand any incursions by Seljuk Turks. The later Ottomans (if Osman I isn't butterflied away from being born) would be one of several diverse states throughout the Muslim world farther southeast.

While digesting all this, multiple other points-of-departure may bubble up. One potential point-of-departure for such a TL could be even farther back with the incursion of the Seljuk Turks that began the call for Crusades. If the Battle of Manzikert of 1071 had been a rousing Byzantine victory rather than many of their mercenaries joining the Seljuk side, Byzantium could have maintained Anatolia and perhaps had to battle Mongols on their eastern frontier.

The extensive history of the Turkish people has plenty of PODs, including if they had never been converted to Islam and instead remained worshipers of Tengri. The Turks originated in northeastern Asia and migrated southwestward, where they came into the Muslim world via missionaries in Central Asia. Mercenaries and more formal armies made up much of the Seljuk push westward, moving into the territory conquered. If culture wars (and more literal wars) had broken out between the Turks and the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, that would had discouraged further migration.

On the Byzantine side, more alternatives come to mind. Perhaps if the Byzantines and Sasanids had not fought in the seventh century, conducting the final "Roman-Persian" war, there would not have been so much back-and-forth destabilizing the area. Or, what if the Plague of Justinian hadn't ravaged the Mediterranean economy and Justinian's conquests had time to affirm Byzantine rule and recoop wartime investments?

Monday, March 15, 2021

Guest Post: Oumuamua Intercepted 0.22 AU from Earth

This article was developed by Allen W. McDonnell, Steve Payne, Eric Oppen and John Braungart, first appearing on Today in Alternate History

19 Oct 2017: The experimental probe USS Arthur Trudeau intercepted an interstellar object 33 million km from Earth (about 85 times as far away as the Moon) as it was already heading away from the Sun. First identified by astronomers at the Haleakala Observatory, this mysterious object had been assigned the descriptive name "Oumuamua", the Hawaiian term for "Scout".

A consortium of space-faring nations had worked around the clock to develop the unmanned probe in record time. The result, the USS Arthur Trudeau, was powered by gravitic propulsion technologies that had been reversed engineered from the Roswell UFO seventy years earlier. The architect of that ground-breaking project was in charge of Army Research and Development, Lt. General Arthur Trudeau. As the functional head of the Foreign Technology Desk, he had been put in charge of working with private industry to reverse-engineer equipment of foreign origin that had been captured by the American forces.

A thorough investigation of the 1947 Roswell UFO determined that the "flying disc" was an unmanned probe of extraterrestrial hardware. Although the individual components were vastly superior to human technology, the fundamental sub-system design was recognizable. The two notable exceptions were the "intelligent" exterior metal which looked like aluminum foil but had the startling ability to return to its original shape. After years of not understanding heads nor tails of the engines other than that they should be ones, researchers unraveled the anti-gravity sub-system. The recognizability of similarities in designs with primitive human technology overcame the No Copying Allowed theory proposed by science fiction author John W. Campbell, Jr. He had argued that it would be simply impossible to understand futuristic technology, even of human origins, writing,
"The proposition involving the science-fiction hero who captures an enemy device, brings it home, copies it and puts it into production is being abandoned in modern stories. But the actual difficulty of such a problem is always interesting and worthy of consideration. Only recently has Earth's own technology reached the point where such copying is not possible; today it is definitely impossible in a large field of devices."

Campbell was only partly wrong, because the two decades between Roswell and Apollo 11 were insufficient to fully take advantage of the technologies present in the craft. However, the emergence of microchips and understanding of subatomic particles gradually brought anti-gravity technology into human understanding, which continued to develop under the auspices of the United Nations. By the third decade of the twenty-first century, there were increasingly loud calls for a truly international deep space program that could exploit the Roswell Technologies and take mankind forward more quickly. Cynics had long suggested that a second alien crash was the breakthrough needed to force such a change.

Without the enhanced acceleration of gravitic engines, it would never have been possible to have intercepted an object moving at such velocity before it left the Solar System forever. Capturing Oumuamua was a lucky break because even more secrets were revealed than from the New Mexico Crash. Alternate history would repeat itself--once again, the technology of extraterrestrial origin was recognizable to human development and yet sufficiently advanced to permit reverse engineering.

Oumuamua was an alien lightsail, an ultra-thin object deflecting charged particles radiated by the Sun as a plasma wind to achieve excess acceleration. Over the next few decades, the application of Oumuamua mass-density technologies would enable an even bigger leap-frog in deep space. In a second application, Oumuamua technology acted as a braking mechanism to decelerate starships from relativistic speed.

Unfortunately, external markings on Oumuamua were obscured by years of damage from space debris; however, linguistic experts surmised that Oumuamua did not originate from the Roswell aliens. More disappointingly, Earth scientists were unable to determine whether the lightsail was detached from a larger vessel as many surmised. Certainly there was no evidence of communication technology, and therefore it was maddeningly unclear whether this was a reconnaissance mission being undertaken.

The two events, seventy years apart, gave the space program a tremendous impetus. Even more than that, the calculation that alien contact was inevitable drove scientists to further develop space technology to ensure that humanity was prepared for such a historic first meeting.

Author's Note:

In reality, astronomers concluded that Oumuamua is most likely a natural object. A small number of astronomers suggested that Oumuamua could be a product of alien technology, but evidence in support of this hypothesis is weak. Roswell has been described as "the world's most famous, most exhaustively investigated, and most thoroughly debunked UFO claim".

Provine's Addendum:

While many humans looked toward the stars for the next great moves of civilization, others were more focused on setting our own house in order before reaching out. Applications of the Roswell Technologies had transformed the Earth with green-energy reactors and no-emission vehicles lifted by anti-gravity fitted with memory-metals that had reduced crash fatalities to nearly zero. Weather satellites broke up hurricanes and shifted rain to drought-stricken areas. Hunger and natural disasters (other than geological ones) looked soon to be things of the past.

Calls for extending humanity's reach continued and were increasingly heard as AI automation took over most traditional jobs in industry and agriculture. Skeptics pointed out that colonies on the moon and Mars were largely research stations and political stunts rather than being grand metropolises of the future, though these would likely serve as the first signs of big things to come as many compared them with Jamestown in North America.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Guest Post: Trial of European War Criminals set for Geneva

 This article was collaboratively developed by Allen W. McDonnell, Robbie Taylor, Steve Payne, and Jeff Provine and first appeared on Today in Alternate History with revisiting "Guisan Insults Hitler."


4 Feb, 1945 - At the Yalta Conference, Geneva was chosen as the best possible location for the forthcoming trial of the Nazi leadership.

The proposal was made by the battling Swiss General Henri Guisan. He had been elected by the Federal Assembly to defend the country against Nazi invaders after he slipped an insult upon Hitler's character, saying the cowardly Fuhrer should never and would never test the Swiss.

The Bavarian city of Nuremberg had been considered first choice, but Morgenthau's Plan for the total denazification of Germany was out of favour. Instead, international cooperation had become far more pressingly important. Consequently, Roosevelt and Stalin readily agreed with the proposal. FDR died a few months later, and Henry Wallace was the new president when details of the trial were being finalised. Circumstances had dramatically changed since Yalta because the north of Switzerland was being occupied by the Red Army.

Nevertheless, there were many good reasons for choosing the second-most populous city in Switzerland (after Z├╝rich). With Hitler in Allied custody, there was a very real possibility that the commando Otto Scorzeny would launch a daring rescue Operation Eiche-style mission. This ruled out Nuremberg for security reasons. Having defeated the Nazis with Allied assistance, the Swiss were fiercely proud of their neutrality, and they had lots of well-trained security in place to secure the Nazi leadership. Should Scorzeny make such an attempt, they might even catch him as he tried to suborn the security men, who would likely shoot him rather than accept whatever bribe he offered.

By fully recognizing the human suffering of the USSR during Hitler's trial, the active participation of Soviets relieved tensions in the Grand Alliance. President Wallace was even able to convince the Soviets to withdraw from Switzerland as well as neighboring Austria. Both Wallace and Stalin fully understood the military reality: North Switzerland was not a viable Soviet satellite. This was because the mountainous terrain would be as tough on the Soviets as it was on the German invaders. Most likely, they would never hold it and lose anything they tried to do so.

To mark this important forward step in progress, the leaders of the Grand Alliance agreed to locate the new United Nations Headquarters in Geneva next to the old League of Nation offices. The city that became synonymous with compassion in the midst of warfare, the general rules for civilized behavior from the Geneva Declarations, became the standard by which the world entered the next century together. Guisan was the guest of honour, and by the time that Hitler was executed, there was every reason to believe that Wallace's promise of the "century of the common man" had just begun.

Author's Note:

In reality, the trials were to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Guest Post: February 15, 1898 - Cuban Rebels Arrested while Attacking Ships in Havana Harbor

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History.
 

In 1898, U.S. Naval forces were dispatched to Havana Harbor in order to protect U.S. interests during the Cuban War of Independence. In the opinion of many dovish politicians, this ill-advised and preemptive move by the hawkish Assistant Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt was a thinly disguised forward deployment in anticipation of a war with the crumbling Spanish Empire.

The chauvinistic desire to build an American empire by acquiring Spanish territories was an extension of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. The growing sense that war-mongers and yellow journalists were agitating for conquest was soon highlighted by the arrests of subversives in Havana Harbor on February 15. Ultimately, political pressure from doves prevailed and the Sampson Board of Inquiry placed the blame on the actions of Cuban rebels. Roosevelt was disgusted by this whitewash and left office soon afterwards.

A Spanish-American war had been averted, but, of course, matters did not rest there. Spain was losing control of the island because she was hopelessly incapable of keeping her far-flung empire together. Despite not having a history of selling-up, the near-bankrupt Spanish government decided to cash in her chips. This occurred right after the next crisis in Morocco , which brought the expanding German Empire into Spain's orbit. One direct consequence of this engagement was the purchase of the Philippine Islands by Berlin. A nascent Great Power, Germany, like the U.S.A., was rapidly playing catch-up in the scramble for overseas territories.

Named after Phillip II of Spain, and dominated by Catholics, the Philippine Islands at least had some religious affinity with their new German overlords. The Kaiser quickly lost interest in Tsingtao and sent the East Asia Squadron of the German Imperial Navy to Manila. Sixteen years of rapid development then followed as Wilhem basked in the summer of his long-desired "Place in the Sun."

The First World War brought unexpected changes to the balance of power. This opened the door to the troubling development of the Japanese conquest of the Philippines on the eve of the U.S. entry into the war. The architects of the Treaty of Versailles would reluctantly create a Japanese Mandate, although the rising civilian disorder under German rule would only intensify under Shinto over-lordship. This acquisition unsettled Western powers for numerous reasons: the precedent of Christians being ruled by non-Christians as well as the strategic position of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the sea-lanes. Immediately after the armistice, the ever-belligerent Theodore Roosevelt called for a U.S.-led international force to expel the Japanese invaders. But the Great Powers were simply exhausted, America was heading towards isolationism, and the broadsheet newspapers mocked "Roosevelt Riders" for its unwanted adventurism.

Oppression on the Philippines was brutal. It was a clear sign of future intent because Tokyo was eyeing nearby strategic resources of oil and rubber under European control. The British and French, who were absorbing other mandated territories, still believed that they could maintain control of their Far Eastern Empires, but the unstoppable rise of Hitler would lead to much more pressing security issues for them much nearer to home. Although the abdicated Kaiser would never forgive the Japanese, Hitler could not care less about the Far East.

With Japanese forces directly threatening U.S. interests in China, there was growing pressure to move the U.S. Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Pearl Harbor in an echo of 1898. However, much like the last months of Buchanan's presidency eighty years earlier, the timing was all wrong for such a change of direction. Having lifted America out of the Great Depression, the former Maryland governor Albert Ritchie was in the final months of his second presidential term. An isolationist America headed to the polls in 1940 with the so-called Japanese Question unresolved. But at some point, the American military would have to confront the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere while the British and Dutch Empires and their allies could still provide a platform for a near-future war in the Pacific.

Robbie Taylor's Addendum:

After Germany's entrance into the Boer War, and German-puppet Spain's North African possessions attacking eastward, the African continent became as embroiled as Europe in the great conflict, devastating a land that had already been sucked dry of resources by Europeans. It is considered that if the Axis powers had not had so much control over Africa due to the German/Spanish alliance dating back to the Spanish-American affair, the outcome of the Second World War would have been much more tilted to the Allied side... 

Provine's Addendum:

The United States would be jolted out of isolationism in 1959 when Japan-Peru relations reached a new level of trade agreements giving Japan, rather than the U.S., preferential treatment. Shocked cries protested violation of the Monroe Doctrine, which was already under fire from Atlantic-facing South American countries courting German diplomacy. Efforts to secure "everything north of the Panama Canal" would lead to extensive U.S. investment in Central America and the Caribbean and a much freer flow of immigration, causing an abrupt about-face with American support for the Castro government in Cuba.

Author's Note:

In reality, the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine contributed to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War. This led to the transfer of sovereignty for the Philippine Islands to the United States, which set the stage for war with Japan.

Friday, January 29, 2021

1312 - Abu Bakr II Discovers Western Continent

After ascending the throne of the Mali Empire, Abu Bakr II became Mansa Qu, but his aspirations did not lie in ruling the land. Instead, he looked westward, fixated on the idea of finding the far edge of the ocean and a new land beyond it. The circumference of the earth had long been calculated by Greeks, which illustrated just how little of the globe was known within the far reaches from the Canary Islands to China. There were legends of land in the “ocean of fogs” as the far Atlantic had been nicknamed, such as an expedition from Cordoba by Khashkhash before 1000 AD and another from Lisbon recorded by Idrisi’s Nuzhatal Mushtaq that described people with red complexions and straight hair using canoes as transport.

Abu Bakr II organized a flotilla of two hundred boats and outfitted it with enough supplies for literal years of travel. It sailed west from the coast of Africa, disappearing over the horizon. After many months of anticipation, only one boat returned. During the inquest to discover what happened, the captain of the surviving ship explained that their supplies had indeed lasted, which was the fear of the king. The fleet came upon a strong current within the ocean, driving them like a river. The current pulled boats into an enormous whirlpool from which there was no return. This surviving ship was fortunate to be the furthest east and received warnings from the others enough to sail counter to the current and escape.

Though he faced the literal forces of nature, Abu Bakr II was not deterred. He assembled a new flotilla, this one with two thousand boats that he would command himself. Appointing a trustworthy steward who would become Mansa Musa, the king-turned-admiral set his affairs in order and set off himself. Rather than following the same path as the previous fleet, the new expedition took a note from the voyage recorded by Idrisi to sail south first to avoid strong waves, ill-smelling water, and shallows in the fog. This took the fleet away from the prevailing winds to doldrums, leading to disquiet among the crew, but when they came upon a new set of winds to the south, morale was restored.

The winds took the fleet west and then south until they indeed made landfall. They discovered a forested countryside that later expeditions overland that had great deserts and savannah to the west, much like Mali had to the north. Finding a good port, Abu Bakr II established a city and traded with the locals, who were much like the legends had described. Sending ships back to Africa for more supplies and open invitations for settlers to be awarded with their own farms, Abu Bakr stayed in his new land to organize more explorations up and down the coast. In the north, they found dense jungle and an impossibly wide river; in the south, more grasslands that the Mali emperors adopted as huge herding grounds.

Over the coming two centuries, Mali would become the center of a trade network that stretched from the Aztec Empire to India with trade partners that reached as far as China. While enjoying the great boons of wealth and knowledge of seafaring, Mali along with these partners did suffer the brunt of transatlantic exchange, especially disease. The Black Plague gutted the regions via fleas on ship-borne rats. Recovery brought West Africa back to the forefront of world power, though it soon faced rivals in Europe who worked to colonize the northern continent not yet explored by Mali.

 

--

In reality, the second fleet of Abu Bakr II sailed west and never returned. Theories suggest that both fleets ran into storms, perhaps hurricanes, that destroyed them. Others state that the Africans did reach South America. One of the goals of the third voyage of Christopher Columbus aimed to investigate King John II of Portugal’s claims that West African ships traded with a continent southwest of Africa.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Guest Post: Agadir Crisis Leads to War

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

July 1, 1911 - On this fateful day in alternate history, the Kaiser's naval intervention in the Third Morocco Crisis turned to disaster when the German gunboat SMS Panther exploded and sank in Agadir Harbour.

The Germans had a limited goal of gaining compensation for French expansion, but they also sought to test the strength of the Great Power alliances. Choosing Morocco for such a test proved unwise because the only interested parties were Great Britain, France, Spain, and Germany. Unsurprisingly, the remaining three parties, the Ottoman, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires, all withdrew from their alliance obligations.

The Kingdom of Spain had barely recovered from their disastrous war with the United States and was facing ignominious humiliation to stay in control of Spanish Morocco. An escaped anarchist had made a recent assassination attempt on the king's life. Despite the appeal of the kaiser's extravagant promises of both Gibraltar and Morocco, the Spanish did not trust the Germans to come to their relief in either the Pyrenees or the Mediterranean, instead expecting to see combat on the Franco-German border in a repeat of the Prussian victory of 1870. Alfonso XIII was actually more much concerned about hanging onto his throne. Also, another obstacle was that he was married to Victoria Eugenie, daughter of Queen Victoria. Consequently, he had no choice but to refuse to join the Germans in fighting the remaining Entente powers.

Forced to make a decision, and under pressure to climb down, the kaiser consulted with Alfred von Schlieffen. The maniacal former Chief of Imperial Staff had developed the battle plan for a one-front war against the French Third Republic. This "Schlieffen Plan" had been successfully tested in war games during 1901 although it necessitated the invasion of the low countries, whose neutrality had been guaranteed by Great Britain. Since Great Britain had committed itself aggressively ever since Lloyd-George's Mansion House speech1, neither man considered this a key factor in the decision.

The ageing von Schlieffen had feared he would not live to see the result of his strategic genius. Not only did he consider the military conditions to be highly favourable, he was absolutely convinced that there would be no better opportunity. He was to be proven right, the Germans would emerge victorious from this Great War. But not long after von Schlieffen's death in 1913 there would emerge fresh evidence that it was subversive elements of the German military that were actually behind the sinking of the so-called Panthersprung.

Wikipedia Note:

In reality, negotiations between Berlin and Paris resolved the crisis: France took over Morocco as a protectorate in exchange for territorial concessions to Germany from the French Congo, while Spain was satisfied with a change in its boundary with Morocco. There was talk of war, and Germany backed down. Relations between Berlin and London remained sour.
1) We assume an earlier speech at Mansion House triggered by the sinking of the German gunboat, changing the timescale of events.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Guest Post from Allen McDonnell - "The Exundation of 1758"

 This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History. In this scenario, Allen W. McDonnell imagines the world mean sea level fell by a total of 400 feet two centuries earlier than in his guest post The Exundation of 1939.


In 1758, the world mean sea level fell by a total of 400 feet from where it had existed for the prior two millennia. This event, subsequently known as "the Exundation," would become the turning point of so-called Western Civilization.

THE WARNING
 

In his last days, Pope Benedict XIV personally warned about the vision he had received early in the month of February. 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 warned the French, Portuguese and other predominantly Catholic countries like Poland via communication between himself and the heads of state of each power. Some took the warning to heart and ordered their navies and merchant fleet to be at sea at least at the horizon from any shore. Others like France had intended to ignore the warning but when they discovered the powerful Venetian 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 urging that all good Catholics and other Christians should have their ships at sea for the Lent because God was going to preform a miracle and that they would regret it deeply if their ships were in port. The Orthodox Czar of Russia openly scoffed at the proclamation and ordered all of his ships to make for port in defiance of the advice. The Lutheran powers of Northern Europe were torn, but when the French repented and sent their ships to sea, they followed to prevent a sneak attack bottling their ships up in port.

With Spain and Venice 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 Latin America, the Spanish and Portuguese colonies did not get the warning in time being so distant from Europe. This resulted in hundreds of merchant ships including the heavy Galleon designs still in use for cargo transport in the region and dozens of lighter faster naval vessels normally used for chasing down pirates and moving messages as quickly as possible all becoming stranded.

THE BEGINNING

In the North American British colonies, a fresh shipment of Redcoats had arrived late in 1757 and were preparing for the assault on Fort Louisbourg on Isle Royal which guarded the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River. These 1,500 men were mostly barracked on the troop ships which had ferried them across the Atlantic in the port of Halifax or for the officers and senior enlisted ranks quartered in civilian housing at the expense of the residents. No warning reached the colonists in North America for the same reason that it was lacking in Latin America. Over the great Ocean reaches, there was simply not time for even a fast courier ship to depart Europe and reach North America in the time between when the Pope issued his warning and the governments of France, the United Kingdom, and Spain reacted. It was later learned that a Spanish ship had been dispatched but ran aground on the Bahamas before reaching Saint Augustine in Spanish East Florida.

Much to the shock of the world at 6 PM in Jerusalem on February 8, 1758, 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 Boston and Halifax where the ports routinely recorded tide levels and their records showed that as the regular tide went out sea levels on the edge of the harbor fell much further and faster than normal. Then when the tide came back in after twelve and a half hours, 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. All the ships which had been at anchor were already firmly grounded by the time anyone realized action needed to be taken.

At London 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 in North America. The low tide this far upstream 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 Russian navy, however, everyone had feared telling the Czar, but in Saint Petersburg he could see for himself 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.

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.

THE CONSEQUENCES EMERGE

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 halfway 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.

Birds miraculously dropped seeds which had sprouted endless seeming acres of weeds and grasses on the newly exposed land and these were growing even as the many nations bickered over where the new borders should be drawn. Initially powers drew borders half way between themselves and whatever power occupied the dry land on the opposite side of the new dry seabed as a negotiation starting point.

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 Northwest 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 New France (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, the Saint Lawrence Estuary had shrunk and moved far east and passed just south of the British island colony of Newfoundland, which was now a peninsula jutting from the south east coast of New France (Labrador and Quebec).

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 world's oceans by the Saint Lawrence river. Unfortunately these ports like Fort Ruoille on Lake Ontario and Montreal in the channel of the Saint Lawrence itself were under threat of attack by the Redcoats as the French and Indian war had been raging for several years by this time.

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. Saint Augustine and Pensacola Florida were landlocked but the channel between Florida and the former Bahamas was still a sliver of water. The Gulf Coast of Florida was effectively now nearly 223 miles in average width where it had been 95 before exundation leaving the small port of Tampa and the administrative city of Pensacola far inland.

For every major nation outside of North America, the building of new ports on their new coastlines delayed shipping for many months. The war in North America disrupted this rebuilding effort because every port outside of the Great lakes had to be replaced but people were preoccupied with defensive works.

Philadelphia, where many ships had been built and repaired, scores of ships were now 400 feet above sea level and nearly a hundred miles as the crow flew from the newly formed coastline.

THE FUTURE BEGINS

The world 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 Morlachia, Hungary. At the same time, Sicily is now attached by land, Sardinia has grown and merged with French Corsica, and the Barbary Pirates in Libya and Tunis are landlocked because the sea is hundreds of miles further north in the new dry land of North Africa. In the majority of the Balkans and eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea the Ottoman Empire was still the major power but things had changed a great deal. The Persian Gulf had drained down into a river mostly fed from the Tigris and Euphrates arising in Mesopotamia. The Sea of Azov had likewise drained to just the Don river valley, and the Crimean Peninsula was now merged into the greater north shoreline of the Black Sea. The rivers Dnieper and Danube were still major influx sources but the lower sea level meant the flow out through the Bosporus was much more rapid and harder to sail against.

The growing British Empire is badly mauled by the fact that much of the Royal Navy is now high and dry. The Straits of Gibraltar had been captured just 54 years earlier and had become a major naval fortification to make passage by enemies more difficult. Now the passage was narrower and far below the altitude of the existing fort making the guns there ineffective. To keep their influence, a new fort at the much lower level would need to be built and the heavy guns re-positioned, none of which would be quickly nor cheaply accomplished.

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 New Spain (Mexico) has doubled in size, Nicaragua has a new land area 30% larger than before and narrow Panama has grown nearly 50%. The relatively short trip across the isthmus to get to the Pacific is more than doubled and the fortified ports on each side are now high and dry with trapped ships inside the dry harbors.

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. 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 the least changed 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.

Further along the coast, Brazil and its northern neighbors outside of Venezuela gain modestly while to the south lightly explored 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 where yet again many ships are stranded in these fairly young colonial cities. This is the breadbasket of South America, and the expansion of the fertile prairies into what was the South Atlantic will eventually be of great benefit. Fortunately for the people of South America, very little that they import outside of slave labor is actually crucial to their economies. 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 quickly changes because with so much of an increase in territory, the Spanish are much too busy to worry about the old claims in the short term. The not-yet-colonized islands of Tierra del Fuego 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. 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 are 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, Africa gains a new fertile plain extending the continent 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 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 300,000,000 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 only the Japanese Honshu island is an island, 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 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 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 the Indian subcontinent, 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 Persia.

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 of 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. 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 rainy drizzle for the entire Exundation, it is very wet and impassable on the night of Palm Sunday; however, March 19, 1758, dawns with bright sunshine and starts rapidly drying up the exundated land to more normal condition.

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. France immediately takes advantage of these new facts to attack Great Britain directly in what evolves into a new Fifty Years War.

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 Islamists 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.

In Latin America, it sinks in to the Spanish and Portuguese colonists that they are effectively cut off from exporting mineral wealth, sugar and tobacco to markets in Europe. They also realize they will no longer have a steady supply of African slave laborers flowing into their lands. A struggle to adapt to a more self-sufficient culture ensues.

In North America, the opportunistic Baron Jeffery Amherst sees the Exundation as a clear miracle separating him from Great Britain. At first he carries through the grand strategy drawing on colonial population to increase his military strength and using his advantages and skill to overwhelm the French fortifications, effectively ending the war in 1761. By this time, small boats have been built in the new harbors of the east coast and have discovered that the United Kingdom and France are engaged in a vast war and both sides have completely forgotten their colonies in the face of total war between themselves. Amherst surprises the colonials by declaring himself King of America as the most senior official of the now-absent British government. To solidify his throne, he creates his own American nobility, giving titles of Marquis, Viscount, Earl, and Baron to leading citizens born in the colonies almost all of whom are from the wealthiest families. A few exceptional colonial officers like Baron George Washington of limited wealth but military prowess are added into the new nobility by virtue of their usefulness to the new Royal Family. With military skill and an American Parliament meeting in Philadelphia which he selected as his capital in imitation of London. The city is now far from the coast, but the Delaware River meanders down the 400 foot slope to the new sea shore and ensures fresh water will always be available to the city, and, with a lot of work, the ships trapped in dock can be moved to the river and gotten back out to the Atlantic to serve as the core of a new Navy.

Jeffery I is a dedicated expansionist, and one of his favorite methods of negotiating with First Peoples on the edge of his nation is to gift them with blankets carefully selected from the sick beds of persons infected with smallpox. After the disease sweeps through the settlements so treated, it is a simple matter for his standing army of ruthless redcoats to secure the new territory while the nobility has the area surveyed and distributed for development. At the same time, all the newly exposed continental shelf is quickly converted into pasture lands and agricultural developments because the fast-growing seeds dropped by the birds during the Exundation are no obstacle to the plow. Surveyors mark out areas reserved as woodlots and teams of foresters bring in the desired tree species, but it will be a decade or several decades before the newly planted trees are worth harvesting for any useful purpose. Plowing the newly defined fields is mostly a case of scouring the soil for field stones and then working the new land with an ox drawn plow for planting. The short sharp brutal war on New France delays these actions for two years, but by then the sod has completely stabilized the new lands and the area is ripe for development.

AUTHOR'S NOTE

After talking it over with Steve a few weeks ago, I have written up what I think may have happened if the proposed Exundation of the continental shelf had taken place 150 years after the founding of the Jamestown colony in Virginia. I hope you all enjoyed it. By this point, after the founding the English were in firm control of the coast from Spanish Florida all the way to the tip of Nova Scotia with Acadia in what is today New Brunswick being the only real exception and the French colonists there were few and far between. Climate-wise this is still "The Little Ice Age," and a modern resident of Philadelphia or Wilmington would be shocked by the cold winters and cooler summers compared to 2021. Benjamin Franklin is a successful inventor and printer in Philadelphia in his early 50's, and I see him being an early and eager convert to an independent American Monarchy. With all the wars erupting in Europe due to the Exundation, the colonial period is at the very least going to suffer a long interruption, and, in those places where the European colonists can stay in control and prosper, the old home countries will face stiff competition if they try and resume their empires once they have settled things in Europe. British North America is particularly well positioned for this breaking off of contact as the population is already undergoing rapid growth and an increasing majority of leading citizens are born Americans, not immigrants. Historically less than a century after this date the USA+Canada will have a population larger than Great Britain. In large part, this is because North America east of the Mississippi is about five times the size of the island of Great Britain, and European diseases have weakened and depopulated the natives to the point the newly born palefaces can move into these lightly populated frontiers and convert them into European-style landscapes with small farms and ranches interspersed with woodlots.

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