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The Fermi Paradox

Posted 8 years 339 days ago ago by Francis Meyrick


Some things have long intrigued me. Understanding, despite my best efforts, eludes me. No, I’m not referring to Woman.   Although in that area too, my L-plates are permanent. What I am referring to is the great “Fermi Paradox”. If there are billions of stars, more stars than grains of sand on all the beaches on this minor planet, then there are multi-multi-billions of planets, and if just one in XXXX thousand houses intelligent aliens, then that amounts to ga-zillions of intelligent civilizations polluting the Universe out there.  And doubtless, somewhere, somebody has long since discovered the recipe essential to my personal contentment in this Universe: a simple formula.

Lift = 1/2 x rho x V(squared) x Coefficient of Lift x S

Somewhere, somebody has perfected the art of rotating blades, and the smooth attachment of laminar airflow to composite airfoil shapes. There have GOT to be good old Chopper Jockeys elsewhere in the Milky Way alone, never mind planet Nabiru in the Pleiades or where ever. Now I sure would love to meet them. It would be real swell to exchange notes, and maybe they could have a shot at my Bell 407, and I could have a quick whiz in their UFO. A barrel roll over the White House, and inverted under London Bridge. Just for fun. It would be great. I just know, seeing as we all belong to the I.Q. challenged genus “chopper eejit”, we’d hit it off fabulously. Call it the instant collective “sense of belonging” so common amongst the lower castes. Hey, wanna see my rickshaw?

Which begs the question: Where the hell & Nabiru IS everybody?

If “they” are about town, why don’t they extend a hand in friendship? Or a paw, a tentacle or a scaly fin? An electron or two, a binary greeting, or even a modulated sinus wave?  Why the reticence?  What’s wrong with auto-rotating in spectacular fashion out of a sudden rainbow, and landing neatly on the White House lawn? I think maybe, where Fermi’s Paradox is concerned, I could venture an explanatory guess…

*                    *                   *                   *                       *

You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Maybe even an intruder.  

A thousand miles offshore, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Where I could see only waves. No land, no ships, no oil and gas platforms. Nothing. Just me, in my Hughes 500 Charlie model, whistling low over the endless marching waves. My mothership long since out of sight, way over the horizon, fifty miles away.



And all of a sudden, unexpectedly, truly in the middle of nowhere, I have seen an amazing sight. I have seen Nature at work, powerfully, with a timeless rhythm. The song of the Seas. A turtle perhaps, swimming along, purposefully, steadily, in obedience to a Law that we, simple ones, have barely even begun to grasp. And I have orbited that turtle, until my fuel ran low, and marveled at The Design. I have wondered at the risks ahead, the predators, the longliners, the miles of baited hooks. And, even more menacingly perhaps, the waiting dark shadows of plundering egg thieves. I have asked myself how such a small creature, kind of bulky and gauche, swimming along at such a slow speed, could possibly traverse such astonishing distances. Thousands of miles. To arrive at the exact same beach of birth, to repeat the Great Cycle.  Who… designed that? An accident? Evolution…? That brilliant? Some accident…

And I have stood, silently, on one such a beach, (*1) and gazed in a sad reverie at the destruction left behind by Man. The abandoned turtle nests, plundered, the long tunnels, dug by avaricious human hands, and the rotting signs. Pleading. In different languages. To respect the turtles’ habitat. In vain. And I have wondered at the finality. A cycle of tens of thousands of years, brought to an abrupt end, a permanent end, by Man. I understand, war torn Angola, how a man would resort to anything to feed his starving children, and I judged him not for it. But to think of that beach, with its rotten signs, and the empty tunnels dug by human hands, and to dwell upon the awful finality of what had been perpetrated there, was disheartening. If I could have done something to ameliorate the situation, to intervene, I would happily have done so. But there was nothing I could do…   

 You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Maybe even an intruder.

I have banked, blades slapping hard, over the beach on Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati, a former Pacific World War Two battleground. Today covered –teeming- with litter, not American blood. With only faint –but resonating- echoes of the screams of the dying Marines. Sailing into hell, on their vulnerable landing craft, at the most fortified point of the island. Thanks to extremely faulty intelligence, or, alternatively, extraordinarily arrogant planning by some back-room General. Who, sure as hell, was far too important (the euphemism is ‘senior’) to place HIS favorite neck in one of those flimsy landing craft. How many young, well meaning men were rhythmically slaughtered there, RAT-TAT-TAT, by well entrenched Japanese? How many young men gazed their last at the Blue Sky that day?  On both sides? I subsequently walked that beach, thoughtfully, that before I knew only from my beloved History Books. Past the remains of War, the remains of slaughter.  The fortified killing towers are still there. From which the Japanese defenders steadily disseminated a hail of lead. Slaughter on an industrial scale. Efficient. Well planned, rehearsed. Bloody.

I remember standing on that beach, alone, and imagining those young Americans. The desperation. The helplessness. And those young Japanese. Far from home, all of them. And all of them bombarded. By marching, drills, music, the patriotic speeches by emotionally withered old men, and the ringing appeals to serve Flag. The Empire. The Emperor. The folks at home. Alone and despondent, what, behind the facade, did they really think of? What did they miss? Mum’s apple pie? The girl in the flower shop? With the down-cast doe eyes? And the pale blue Kimono? Or just going fishing with Dad?

You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. In my mind. Detached. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Looking down, sympathetically.  

As sick as the patient was, the Med Crew were working overtime. You can tell by their voices, even if the technical jargon is lost on a humble pilot. In between their frantic labors, they would ask: “Francis! How long to go?” And I would reply, and study my GPS, and plan ahead. And I would think of the smashed pickup truck, the leaning utility pole, and the flock of attending emergency vehicles. A single vehicle accident, young driver ejected, no seat belt. And a smell of alcohol that wafted even into the front cockpit, despite the air flow through the helicopter, and the oxygen mask over his bloodied face. Doing my job, my part, I was detached, an automaton, making automaton decisions, pushing buttons and watching gauges. Radio calls and navigation observations. All on auto-pilot. But another part of me was free. A hovering spirit if you like, floating above, watching sympathetically. Wondering. Wondering about the truly gargantuan effort that had been made, and continued to be made, to help this one accident victim. The technology being brought to bear on this patient, the combined crew training and experience, the gi-normous cost of the helicopter and the attendant maintenance burden, all this and more, brought to bear on one suffering human. It was tempting to think positively of the human race. Hopefully, even. I tried not to reflect on what was occurring elsewhere during the forty minutes we had been airborne. The carnage, the hurt, the savagery, the babies shaken, wives beaten, innocents assaulted, people robbed, beaten and stabbed.  As the Air Ambulance helicopter drones noisily over, with two highly experienced Medical Staff working flat out on a severely injured young man, (and we might mention –foot note- the humble jockey at the controls?), whilst all the drama is unfolding at a thousand feet and a hundred and thirty knots, down below… Down below, they are also working real hard.  On the next two thousand nine-one-one calls…  Humans hurting humans. Humans hurting themselves.  Humans being daft, silly, irresponsible, and, occasionally, out and out evil. Very odd.  Trying to help? Or swimming up a waterfall?

And the noise of the helicopter disappears, clattering rhythmically, over the horizon…

You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Looking down, sympathetically.  An intruder, perhaps?

There was that time, Papua New Guinea? Or was it the Solomon Islands? Working as a Pilot-mechanic. Proud of my new A&P License.  But limited skills. Learning. And now…  Rabaul, maybe. Or was it Madang? They blur together. I was doing a new tail rotor gearbox check. Well, that was the excuse, anyway. Blasting down the beach. Honking her over around the bends. Palm trees and sand. Going by like the clappers. Testing. My new install. Me. Mechanic. Uh-huh.



Met these local guys, coming the other way. Walking down the beach. I could immediately sense hostility from their movements. Maybe they thought I was the biggest, fattest, juiciest flying chicken they’d ever seen. Noisy, too. Put it this way, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure out they don’t like you. They think you suck. Or maybe you would taste yummy good.

When they are pointing bows and arrows at you…

I had already increased my stand-off, out over the water, and eased back on the cyclic, when the one fired his missile. The sun caught the pale wood, as it curved up, and then dropped harmlessly far below me.  Hard, luck, my fellow human. I wouldn’t have tasted too good anyway. Too much exposure to Jet A fuel, WD40 and transmission grease.

And the noise of the helicopter disappears, clattering rhythmically, over the horizon…

You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Looking down, sympathetically.

There was another, dream-like occasion, surreal in its beauty, during which my awe of Nature held me utterly spell bound.  And I was in such a seemingly remote and deserted location,  that I really never expected to see a human. I was crossing a small and pristine atoll, head down and hammering along, blades slapping and hot gases flowing, in the middle of the truly enormous Pacific Ocean. Thousands of miles from what passes for civilization. Peaceful. Not a hut, not a tree, not one sign of the frenzied labors of Man. And the deepest, clearest, most translucent blue water inside the atoll I had even seen. And to my astonishment, three men in a dugout canoe, fishing.  I was shocked. Amazing. They must have rowed for miles and miles over open, treacherous Ocean to have gotten there, perhaps a favorite, hidden fishing spot. As the helicopter burst forth, they greeted me with undisguised delight. Waving, and jumping up and down, with big friendly smiles. Here they are:

I hauled down and around them, tight turn, the obligatory air show, waving like a mad man, and the trio were delighted. Big Smiles & happiness. Strangers meeting strangers, and only smiles & happy waves. Had we been able to meet face to face, over a cold beer perhaps, we would have shared our stories. Shared our cultures. Our values. And our smiles.

And the noise of the helicopter disappears, clattering rhythmically, over the horizon…

You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Looking down, sympathetically.  An intruder, perhaps?

I first saw the outlying Scottish isles from the cockpit of a Super Puma, nineteen passengers in the back, plowing the groove up to Sumburgh Airport, in the Shetland Isles. From the air, they look barren, rocky, with brave cattle and determined little houses putting on an almost never-ending defense against cold, rain, squalls, and low, grey clouds. I was curious, as always, what sort of folk survived down there. What made them tick.

In the event I was to get more than I ever bargained for, in the form of a gentle lady, with a huge big heart, who lived on one of those little islands, and who has been in and around my little life for a long time. Even now, separated by continents, we still share. In the fullness of time, after having flown over those barren, windswept islands for many hours, I got to visit. And even stay in a small cottage, on a small island named Flotta. With a seal colony down the road, an endangered Puffin bird nesting site up the cliffs, (I would spend hours watching them, lying in the grass). Oystercatchers wheeled overhead, and sea gulls quarreled with anyone who was game. In the background, constant, the music of waves crashing ashore. I ended up writing a simple story about one such Oystercatcher. (*2). A distressed Oystercatcher. An odd telling, not remotely pertaining to helicopters, but 100% factual. Sheep and cattle far outnumbered the island’s residents, who totaled to less than one hundred souls. But what struck me, apart from the characters and the inevitable local politics, was the ruins of so many countless cottages. It was clear to me that Flotta had once been a thriving mini metropolis, with several thousand busy residents. Making their living the Old Way, from fishing and farming. Everywhere, old cottages, ruined. Who once looked out those windows? Who once swept that broken down porch? Who was once proud of that house? There was only one shop on the island open, but, in the past, there had been several. What… had happened? A visit to the local cemetery, told me the story. Grave after grave, mossy and overgrown, marking the final resting spots of the island’s young men. Cut down, in the prime of their youth, by industrial era killing systems. The battle of the Somme, Flanders, all the World War 1 bloodbaths were present. And chiseled into cold, rain and windswept stone. The futility of war swept over me, as it has many times since. Here lay the cream of the crop of their age. All the marriage ready bachelors, marched off to war. Bands and speeches, flags and cheering. “For King and Country”.  And not to forget:  “We’ll be home in time for Christmas”.   Here, in this cold cemetery, there were no bands. No speeches, no flags. No cheering.

And the noise of the helicopter disappears, clattering rhythmically, over the horizon…


You see, I have flown where I was totally alone. A stranger. An alien, if you like. Looking down, sympathetically.  An intruder, perhaps?

In my mind, sometimes, I get tired of Man. I get a little discouraged. When you offer an olive branch, and they rip it out of your hand. The better to beat you over the head with it.

Pointless. I hate fighting. But I’m no door mat. If I have to dig my heels in, they go in. Hard. There is this line. Cross it, at your peril.

But it’s not my preferred stance, the fighting one, as it seems to be for many in our Society today. I encounter many at work and off duty, who seem hair-triggered towards NOT getting along. Experts in assuming the guise of indignant righteousness and outraged morality, when in fact… It is they who wear the beam in their eye. Or is it I?  I look in the mirror, squinting hard. Is that a beam, I see before me? Growing out my eye?

When I’m down a bit perhaps, I scribble. My editor asked me once why I write? Why? Duh…

To entertain, perhaps? Hopefully? And, in the case of Moggy’s Tuna Manual, (*3), to educate, for sure. But even there, not from the lofty heights of some purported superior knowledge or alleged excellence in the field.  Not at all. Even there, more from the point of view of a friendly, chatty, brother pilot. Relating his mistakes and near disasters. The cock-ups and the many “Holy Cow!” moments. In a conversational, person-to-person tone. Not from the heights of dazzling brilliance, passed down haughtily to the unwashed masses. Not at all. More of a chinwag in an old Irish pub, down in County Kerry, with the mountains throwing shadows as the sun going down. And in the background, the eternal, comforting roar of the sea. Reliable, as an old friend.  And if you can imagine a cozy, open fire, and the smoothing flavor of a well poured pint of Guinness. And the half crazy old dude, waving his arms, illustrating all our story, with warmth and enthusiasm.

Perhaps it wasn’t ever the story. We’d heard it before. But it was the telling. The light in his eyes, the infectious enthusiasm. A story teller of old, whose like has restlessly trampled his way across moors and mountains, raw fields and lawns, for as long as Man has roamed this planet.

But if I was to be honest, I confess to a third, almost hidden reason. After entertaining. And after (ahem) education. To write is to think things through. Or, if you feel that word ‘write’ should be reserved for the real McCoy, then let me call it  ‘doodling with words’. Regardless of the label, it’s about feelings. Deep feelings. And it’s about those feelings bringing back memories. Perhaps, a way to unburden. To vent memories. To remember shadows. To remember past kindnesses, and re-live the best moments of a Life that once was.  With a quiet contemplation. A gratitude. Still, after all these times, a loving. And the desire to soar above all the ugly.  If that makes sense.

Can you imagine flying thousands of miles offshore, and many hundreds of hours, looking for tuna? Beside you, exhausted and fast asleep, a Taiwanese gentleman friend with a good heart. Adona. Whose Fishing Master (Captain) was a thundering, screaming bully. My friend worked ridiculous hours, with nowhere near enough sleep, and then (when others were retiring for some well earned siesta)  he would be sent up in the helicopter as an observer, to search for fish. He would turn to me, in the helicopter, eyes blood red with exhaustion, and his face would ask the question he always did. I would smile, and nod. Poor fellow. His relief was touching. He would curl up like a baby, fold his hands, and before we were climbing through two hundred feet, he would be fast asleep. I would assume both roles. The flying, and the spotting. If I saw an interesting log drifting, I would descend for a look. The pitch and timbre of the slapping blades would change, and he would wake up, just as we slowed down for a close look.  We would make a determination, and if there were a lot of frightened bait fish present, maybe clinging in a tight ball,  (indicating predators –maybe Tuna- lurking below) we might drop/attach a radio buoy and inform the ship of the latitude/longitude. My friend would sound incredibly awake and forceful on the radio. Doing his job. Thirty seconds afterwards, as we climbed out, he would be stone cold unconscious again.

I liked Adona. We would chat for hours. He showed me photos of his beautiful girl friend, waiting for him patiently, back home in Taiwan. The Fishing Master for some reason hated Adona. And made his life absolute hell.  The crew looked up to Adona, who was skilled in many fields. I wondered if the Fishing Master was secretly jealous. The verbal abuse at times was off the charts. Adona would keep his peace, say nothing, and work like a crazy man. It was the Chinese way. Their work ethic was extraordinary.  I felt sorry for Adona sometimes, and one day, I saw the opportunity to maybe brighten his day a bit. In the event, I succeeded beyond my wildest expectations…

We were flying along, at a thousand feet or so, Adona unconscious, when I spotted white splashes in the distance. It could be Tuna. I headed over there, and came upon a fairly rare, but truly spectacular scene:  a migration of hundreds of dolphins. The weather was blustery, with a stiff wind blowing and the waves running six to eight feet. In these conditions, I think Dolphins, when they are travelling, prefer to spend less time under water. I have seen them many a time, when the water was calm, swimming mostly underwater. Then erupt-breath-splash-down again. Erupt-breath-splash-down again. Erupt-breath-splash-down again.

But when it’s more blustery, they seemed to spend less time between eruptions. The effect of course, of so many dolphins travelling together, is of an extraordinary aerial ballet. Every so often, most of them are under water, and then… suddenly seventy of them erupt out of the water, gracefully, seemingly effortlessly, all at the same time.   An aerial ballet. Beautiful.

Well, I thought I’d give my good buddy a treat, and I performed a smooth spiral descent, very gently, so as not to wake him up. Down we went, and down, until we were just coming up behind the dolphins at fifteen feet. I knew from experience that the dolphins paid us no attention. The wind played a role here as well, because the dolphins were heading into wind, and our sound was thus being blown away from them.  At the exact moment Adona woke up, alerted by the change in helicopter sound, some eighty or a hundred dolphins rose –majestically- all together out of the water in front of us. As if on cue. They sailed through the air, spraying water, in a brief but indelible picture of Nature at work, the sun bathing their sleek bodies, and then all disappeared from view. Truly spectacular. I had seen it before from a helicopter, loved it, and knew what to expect. For Adona, it was his first time. His tired, grease streaked face (he had come to the helicopter straight from working the nets) lit up instantly with the power of ten thousand candles. He positively beamed with a beautiful, child like delight. Sounds came out of his mind, that were a mixture of delight and intense emotion. It almost sounded like he was crying. I looked across at him. He was entranced. Like a child. He was gurgling, he was so happy. He looked at me, his eyes shining. Then he would point at the dolphins, leaping out of the water, and gurgle. Look at me. Laugh, and laugh. I had never seen him so happy. It was touching. How man can love Nature.  Truly, love.

But if I was to be honest, I confess a third, almost hidden reason. After entertaining. And after (cough!) education. To write is to think things through. Or, if you feel that word ‘write’ should be reserved for the real McCoy, then let me say to ‘doodle with words’ and bring back memories, is a way to unburden.

*                  *                     *                    *                      *

So if you ask me about the Fermi Paradox, and the question “where are they?”, I would dodge the answer. I would mumble something quiet and evasive, the way I often do, about ‘maybe they feel helpless’. Say, what?  Maybe they feel helpless, I say.  Stunned, by the beauty of this, our planet. Our only home. But flabbergasted about what Man is doing with it. The extremes, of Goodness and Gentleness, Compassion at its finest. And a vicious, malevolent, ISIS style, medieval Darkness that tolerates no Light.  And targets us all. Craving weapons. The worst possible weapons. Those that destroy compassion.

*                  *                     *                    *                      *

Somewhere out there, against all the odds, in this hurting world, allegorically speaking, there is a curious turtle, (*4) yet emerging from All Our Mother’s nest. (*5)   Maybe, just maybe, Man needs turtles like him. A thoughtful turtle. A quiet leader. You know him, perhaps?  Is it you?

I wrote a story about that, but it’s got nothing to do with helicopters.  And a casual reader would call it irrelevant, of no consequence. And that it reveals nothing, at all, about why I love to fly. Dreaming on. The simple way I do.


Up in the sky.

Francis Meyrick

*1)    Red Dust (2) “In the Shadow of the Turtle, Meditation”       


*2)   “The Oystercatcher who silently cried out for help”      


*3)   “Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual”     (technical, helicopter)


*4)   “The Ugly Little Turtle”


*5)    “All Our Mother”


My buddy, Adona the Great


A Little About Moggy  - Francis ‘Moggy’ Meyrick (www.chopperstories.com) admits to not being terribly bright, but he did first grace the skies (more or less) totally on his own some forty-five years ago. He is rumored to have solemnly intoned these memorable words on the downwind leg.

“Holy Crap! NOW what have I done…?”

He is working dutifully on his eighty-sixth incarnation (he does, admittedly, get sent back a lot – for another try) , and he describes himself as a ‘chopper jockey’. He says it’s basically a case of a nut, hanging under a nut. (BIG nut, though).  Compared to trying to attain Wisdom (he was a Buddhist monk once) (before he got demoted to galley hand), he reckons it beats working for a living.  It ranks right up there with being a happy penguin, and spending all day sliding down icy slopes.

Moggy loves spinning a good yarn, and his greatest reward is simply your enjoyment. His many friends caution you he does tend to tell his bar stories with verve and gusto, and much arm waving, so you are advised to move your pints and other drinks safely out of his way. Peace. Got a pickle sandwich?