Fthagn to you too

I learned something fascinating today.

There is a spot in the South Pacific called the “Oceanic pole of inaccessibility” or alternatively “Point Nemo” at 48°52.6?S 123°23.6?W. It’s the point on the Earth’s ocean’s most distant from any land – 2,688 km (1,670 mi) from the Easter Islands, the Pitcairn Islands, and Antarctica.

There are two interesting things about this spot. One is that it’s used as a satellite graveyard. It’s conventional, when you can do a controlled de-orbit on your bird, to drop it at Point Nemo. Tioangong-1, the Chinese sat that just crashed uncontrolled into a different section of the South Pacific, was supposed to be dropped there. So were the unmanned ISS resupply ships. A total of more than 263 spacecraft were disposed of in this area between 1971 and 2016.

It’s just the place to dump toxic fuel remnants and radionuclides because, in addition to being as far as possible from humans, the ocean there is abyssal desert, surrounded by the South Pacific Gyre so it’s hard for nutrients to reach the place. Therefore there’s probably no local ecology to trash.


According to the great author and visionary Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Point Nemo is the location of the sunken city of R’lyeh, where the Great Old One Cthulhu lies dreaming.

The conclusion is obvious. The world’s space programs are secretly run by a cabal of insane Cthulhu cultists who are dropping space junk on Cthulhu’s crib in an effort to wake him up. “When the stars are right”, hmmph.

EDIT: I was misled by an error in Wikipedia that claims Tiangong-1 was deliberately dropped there, and jumped to a conclusion. Now corrected.


    1. That’s what he gets for using one of them there clicky keyboards that make typing a workout.

      1. The only workout I get most days is the finger exercise on a mechanical-switch keyboard.

        (A relatively new Logitech model. I’m saving the NIB Model M in case I need a blunt instrument in the Zombie Apocalypse.)

          1. Nah, I already jumped through the hoops necessary to own a couple of firearms. Come TEOTWAWKI, I’ll be ready to be a lieutenant to the Warlord of Central Jersey.

            (The way NJ gun laws are written, once you get your first, you may as well get more – there are comparatively few NJ gun owners, but they tend to own a number of guns – my meager collection will NOT qualify me as well-armed come the apocalypse. Just better armed than most peasants)

        1. After years of trying to make my peace with a 104-key keyboard, I finally dragged my 32-year-old IBM PC/XT keyboard out and ordered a programmable keystick so I could get the extra keys needed for modern BIOSes and software (F11, F12, right control and alt, etc.)

          Yeah, it weighs more than a modern laptop computer, and the buckling spring key innards make my wife complain about the noise, but I can type 80wpm on it, and after years of practice on the AT board, I still can’t break 20. (the AT key rows are slightly shifted laterally, for some insane reason…)

  1. This is almost certainly the most interesting thing I will learn today, though. Thank you.

  2. Alternative theory: In their quest to destroy eight groups, the Cthulhu cultists crashed the satellites into the Orbital Mind Control Lasers, and timed it so they would crush the Robot Sea Monsters on the way down.

    I mean, sure, it has to be Cthulhu cultists either way. Fnord.

  3. This reminds me of one of those interesting historical facts. Specifically, that Magellan actually traversed about a third of the earth’s circumference without seeing land, between the tip of South America and Guam.

  4. > The conclusion is obvious. The world’s space programs are secretly run by a cabal of insane Cthulhu cultists who are dropping space junk on Cthulhu’s crib in an effort to wake him up. “When the stars are right”, hmmph.

    Not all that obvious, I’d say. Cthulhu could be slowly wakening already, or awake and taking stock of the world on titanic timescales, and these might be attempts to knock it back into unconsciousness. After all, if a boat to the face is so offputting*, a satellite to the head should be even more devastating. It’s hard to aim a satellite precisely enough, though, so they need a few more tries…

    *The original Call of Cthulhu, for those who haven’t read it, ends with a sailor ramming the boat into Cthulhu and then Cthulhu sinks beneath the waves. Cthulhu itself isn’t all that powerful an entity as written; more of a priest to the actual powers of the Mythos.

    I think Lovecraft really doesn’t get enough credit for the amount of his stories that end reasonably well with mundane heroes stopping the monster du jour, rather than everyone involved being insane and/or dead as many pastiches would have it. Cthulhu arising gets significantly wounded and knocked down again when rammed. The necromantic thing from essential salts is put down – “do not call up that which you cannot put down” is written in a context where there are in fact techniques for putting things down. The horror in the hole in a basement proves resistant to gun and flamethrower; so the protagonist buys six carboys of sulfuric acid and pours them down the hole and that’s that solved.

    (And some of us look back and wonder “Where the hell was Health&Safety that a man could just buy ~200L of sulfuric acid??” The past is a different country, they say.)

    1. I’ve always taken the view that good horror is heroic–it’s no good triggering a fight-or-flight response if fighting and flying are equally hopeless. In the “mythos” stories Lovecraft’s protagonists usually do win, at the very least by escaping the immediate threat. But they walk away with an understanding that greater horrors lie beyond what little they’ve seen, and that there isn’t much hope for the future.

      (The Case of Charles Dexter Ward–the one you cite and my personal favorite–is an exception. Dr. Willett prevails, the unnamed thing he lets loose does good rather than evil, and there’s only a little overlap with the Mythos tales [the single name Yog-Sothoth unless I’m forgetting something] to suggest that this takes place in their much grimmer universe.)

      P.S. – In this book I read how easy it was for Leftist terrorists to buy dynamite even in the early 70’s….much harder than getting cough syrup with codeine.

        1. You’d think that at least some of the people lamenting about today’s level of domestic political violence would remember this and mention it from time to time.

          Yes, that is amazing. I think everyone under 60 who reads Burrough’s book has the same reaction–I sure did.

          For all the casual comparisons I see with Weimar Germany, I don’t see many people “remembering” the street violence by extremists, either–or that the violence of one kind helped the other get into power. (“Okay, if we can’t have peace in the streets under a liberal order, let’s get a real strongman…”)

          1. If you are interested in how the Nazis rose to power, I highly recommend the book The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen, focused on the experience of one small German town from 1930-1933 (I think there is an updated/expanded version as well). It covers the street violence and tactics used by the NSDAP and their opponents.


    2. Oh how naive you are. The stars are right for the Great Cthulu to be reawaken. The ship merely send him back to slumber, he’s still waiting.

    3. “Where the hell was Health&Safety that a man could just buy ~200L of sulfuric acid??”

      As a boy of 13, I bought a 1L bottle of concentrated sulfuric acid and a 1L bottle of smoking nitric acid. No questions asked. It was meant to add to my chemistry box. I must admit that I was much too disorganized to do much of use with it.

      Still, no accidents happened and my grades in Chemistry were the highest in class.

      1. I remember being bought chemistry kits for birthdays/Christmas that contained a wide array of highly unpleasant & harmful substances.

        Oh the horror!

      2. All you needed was a little glycerin and some calcium carbonate and just think of the fun to be had.

        (I think Kirk Douglas was in a Western about just how much fun could be had…)

  5. > The world’s space programs are secretly run by a cabal of insane Cthulhu cultists who
    > are dropping space junk on Cthulhu’s crib in an effort to wake him up.

    Have you paid attention to what’s going on politically lately?

    The effort *succeeded*. He’s just more subtle than they thought.

    1. It makes sense, I suppose. I seem to recall it being that artists and other like-minded people could dimly perceive the thoughts of Great Cthulhu in their nightmares. And by my observation, a lot of those screaming most shrilly about politics at the moment are nominally artists. Poor souls.

    1. >Are you posting from the future? It was Tiangong-1 that just re-entered. Tiangong-2 is still in orbit.

      I just added an edit about that. What happened was that the Wikipedia article on Point Nemo claims Tiangong-1 was dropped around point Nemo. I knew the recent one was out of control when it came down – the Chinese had lost telemetry entirely- and hit way north of Point Nemo, so I incorrectly deduced that I was misremembering its number.

      Next time I’ll trust my memory more and Wikipedia less.

  6. The Volvo Ocean Race just passed Point Nemo last week. It’s a bad place to have trouble on a sailboat.

    See also Null Island if you’re not familiar.

    1. A quibble, but I wouldn’t trust snopes if they said it was sunny on the Sol side of Mercury.

      In recent years, they’ve made a burnt offering of their credibility on the altar of left-wing politics, and should be considered no more reliable than Soviet-era Pravda.

      Not that they were ever all that reliable; the people running Snopes have absolutely no qualifications to render a valid opinion on any of the areas they purport to “fact-check”.

  7. Tired: April 1 jokes. Wired: April 3 jokes. (Sorry. Too much Twitter.)

    I think Lovecraft had good ideas but was not a very good writer. There is a basic rule that you *make* your reader have a certain emotional reaction or judgement, you don’t just describe that that thing is unspeakable, horrifying, maddening etc. That’s cheap, IMHO. Stephen King is far, far better.

    1. >I think Lovecraft had good ideas but was not a very good writer. […] Stephen King is far, far better.

      Stephen King has never had nor ever will have Lovecraft’s haunting skill at original worldbuilding. The Dark Tower novels, compared to the Cthulhu Mythos, are almost pathetically weak and derivative. Derivative, among other things, of Lovecraft’s work…

      When you criticize the purple prose, bear in mind that this was considered good writing in the 1920s. It’s not that HPL was incompetent, it’s that tastes and idioms have changed. Theatergoers loved melodrama in those days; skilled acting was also a thing of blatancy and exaggerated gestures by today’s standards.

      1. Theatergoers loved melodrama in those days; skilled acting was also a thing of blatancy and exaggerated gestures by today’s standards.

        If you’ve ever watched Douglas Fairbanks in the original, silent Thief of Baghdad or The Black Pirate–his gestures are more like ballet than acting.

        I’ll concede this much to King…when I was a lot younger and read his stories under “The Suitable Surroundings” they could actually scare me in the way Lovecraft’s didn’t. But Lovecraft’s “weird tales” draw me back again and again.

        btw, a while ago we had a brief exchange on HPL’s relation to “rational knowability”…I don’t know if you’ve read the two “Silver Key” stories, but they bracket the concept strangely. In “The Silver Key” Randolph Carter seems to be rejecting rationality (and ordinary mysticism too) as giving him anything more satisfying than myth–but “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” takes him to the other extreme and gives him as much of a “reveal” as anyone ever gets. (Which may be why it was his last tale, his farewell to the Mythos and the Dreamlands both.)

        1. >btw, a while ago we had a brief exchange on HPL’s relation to “rational knowability”

          Yes, we did, and I want you to know that I have never forgotten that comment. You were onto something, and that something will be explored further in “Rational Dreamers” if I ever actually write that book.

          1. Immortality is mine! (Maybe.)

            On HPL’s prose style, thanks to YouTube I’ve discovered that he sounds very good when read aloud by a talented voice actor…as proof of which I offer this and this and that (the third may irritate people who are picky about pronunciations). Or maybe it’s just that I like the stories so much.

            (I was also impressed by “The Temple”…not a Mythos story, exactly, but one in which he broke out of his usual “voice” to tell the tale from the viewpoint of a slightly caricatured German U-boat officer. I could believe it was a translation from the German, long enough to enjoy the story anyway.)

            1. >Immortality is mine! (Maybe.)

              “That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even Death may die.”

          2. Lovecraft was the first person to understand all the implications new discoveries in astronomy and physics had for our idea of what the cosmos was and how it functioned, and how this related to the hopes and dreams of humanity. He turned this into some very scary literature, though Lovecraft may belong in the “rational nightmares” section of the book (if you ever write it.)

            If we can keep moving forward at our current pace for even a couple hundred years we might be worth talking to (rather than eating) but we should probably to stop beaming evidence of our existence into space: Nub and Geb are listening!

      2. Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote bestsellers in his day. Now there’s a Bulwer-Lytton award for purple prose.

        Tastes change.

      3. And Doc Smith wrote what’s widely considered work at the top level of SF of its day…yet tastes had changed fairly quickly: Backstage Lensman was first written in 1949, as a dead on parody. I’m not quite sure it says everything about Smith’s work that needs saying in the same way Bored of the Rings does about Tolkien, but it comes close.

        1. There’s more than a little “different people have different tastes” to it as well. David Weber can get pretty darn purple, for example, and oh my the infodumps. But he is an author who’s had books on 21st century bestseller lists.

          1. Yes, Weber can get purple, and David Weber Orders a Pizza is comparable in parody value to Backstage Lensman. But compared to Doc Smith in full flower, Weber’s purple is at best a pale mauve.

    2. Feh. I’ll take mine unfiltered. King is weak sauce. If you need to have this explained there are basic facts about our universe which you simply don’t understand. Also, what Eric said.

  8. I admit I’ve never been a huge Stephen King fan, and I do prefer the “purple prose” of Lovecraft. King, in what little I’ve read, tries to hard to be “hip” in order to relate to a modern audience. The problem is that there are plenty of us who are very self-consciously unhip. The Lovecraft type of writing appeals to me, because I tend to think in apocalyptic terms.

    1. If I remember, King started out writing “literary fiction”–ordinary, non-horror stories about working-class guys from Maine. In the best of his horror stories that I read (like ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining) he put that to good use…taking time show you a bunch of convincing, normal human beings with hopes, fears, and frustrations that you could understand…then, when they start being stalked by vampires or haunted by psychic ghosts or whatever, you could actually care and feel some fear on their behalf.

      In a Lovecraft story, showing a married couple dealing with the aftermath of adultery would be a pointless distraction, and he doesn’t do it. In a King story it’s vital to the effect he wants to achieve. They’re both classed as “horror” but to me (and I have greatly enjoyed both at different times, though HPL has a much stronger hold on me) they feel like separate genres.

      1. King first went big when female editors started passing around the scene where Carrie has her surprise first period in front of the mean girls in a high school locker room. Lovecraft could never have written that, and it grabs them by the controls. King has real powers. Good at what it’s like to be creeped out by modern America. That said, I’m not all that creeped out by modern America. Stable wealthy republic, worse things waiting. I’d rather read Lovecraft- a great golden age SF writer, okay at mauve decade purple prose, and just as you relax into that he throws punches in bunches with that Weird Tales snap.

        So, um, I don’t disagree with anything you said. I think they throw you off the internet for this.

        1. We must be talking about horses, not gods, then. What I think this suggests is that good horror (and King surely wrote that, at least on his best days he did) has a stronger relationship to good literary fiction than do good sci-fi or Lovecraftian “weird tales.”

  9. I need to point out that the Old Ones do not exist. There is no reason to worry about them. You can go about your day unbothered and can ignore any information you may get that seems contrary to what I have just said.

    All is well.

    1. Why would I believe your unsupported word and non-existent scholarly authority over the amazing truths revealed by the Pnakotic Fragments? Or the Revelations of Glaaki? Or the G’harne Fragments? Or even Peterson’s Field Guide to Lovecraftian Horrors? (All of which are available at the Miskatonic University Student Bookstore. Even the Cthliff Notes on the Necronomican has more authority than your unsupported word.)

      1. This “evidence” are merely spurious gimcracks to entice passing fools and simpletons. Mountebanks seek to draw your hard-won coin from your purse and into theirs.

        And as your purse gets lighter your woes get heavier, as now you believe in an untruth and it worries you, and gnaws at you that you and all of human-kind are doomed. You fear that what is not. You have fallen into mental disarray. Your life will become a series of miseries. You will likely take heavily to drinking or other sin-full escapes and this will cost you friends, employment, your health and maybe even your family!

        Do not let this happen! Ignore these charlatans, have nothing to do with them and encourage others to shun them as well. And all will be well for you.

        1. My thesis at Miskatonic was on the semiotics of the Eltdown Shards, but it turned out there wasn’t much work for a Mythos Scholar, and I found out early that shoggoths do nothing but talk about biochemistry – really boring stuff for me – so I got into IT. Now I’m married and have a couple kids and I don’t worry much about the fact that I’m raising num-nums for the Elder Gods. If they show up, they show up, otherwise I’ll enjoy my grandchildren.

          What amazes me is the sense of dread that simple science provokes in so many people. Yes, we’re obviously one of the youngest races in the multi-verse, edible, defenseless, and barely sentient, but I figure the Elder Things, Mi-Go and Race of Yith were all once where we are now, so I don’t let it worry me. Sure, every once in awhile I wake up screaming in Old Enochian, but that’s just part of the human condition, right?

  10. And now, barely a month and a half later, a story that octopuses filtered down from the stars…

    The zoological Establishment is predictably dismissive, doubtless out of fear for their own sanity, but how long can they hold out?

    “The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

  11. So this has nothing to do with waking ancient powers, or dooming mankind to madness, but I don’t have a better way of getting in touch with this particular group of people, and I certainly don’t know Eric well enough to e-mail him directly. I wanted to get his take on this:


    particularly where rms says “There should be a law…”, the five words of which give me pause. Given how vital the internet is, I shudder at the thought of going down the path of law and regulation. That way truly does lie madness.

    1. >I wanted to get his take on this:

      I might blog about it. I’m not a fan of the “There oughhta be a law” approach; it tends not to work well unless you can rejigger the incentives deeper in the system.

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