The Geopolitics of Herring Farts – TTG


Some of you may remember when that Soviet Whiskey class submarine ran aground off the coast of Sweden in 1981. It caused quite the stir, but it was resolved without too much huffing and puffing… and that was at the height of the cold war. It reminded me of that delightful Carl Reiner – Alan Arkin movie from 1966, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” NATO and Sweden complained of apparent Soviet and later Russian incursions into Swedish waters well into the 1990s. However, it wasn’t the Russkies, it was the herring. Here’s the story as told by the Swedish biologist who discovered the flatulent fish and possibly saved the world from a nuclear war.

For his trouble, Wahlberg was awarded the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in biology. Did he take offense. Not a bit. He runs the Improbable Research website, a site highlighting “research that makes people laugh and then think.”

I get a chuckle when I think of the reaction of those Soviet and Russian admirals who endured years of accusations from Sweden and NATO about how they were supposedly risking World War III just to have a looksie at Swedish ports. I imagine more than one of those admirals thought about pushing the button just to shut up those lying Swedish bastards. I wonder if they ever got an apology.


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15 Responses to The Geopolitics of Herring Farts – TTG

  1. Diana L Croissant says:

    Fun post. I’m passing it on to my son who served on a submarine.

  2. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Thanks for this story. Perhaps the “Russia, Russia, Russia” narrative was no more than a “herring fart” either.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  3. Rob Waddell says:

    Thanks for this timely message. It is humorous until the final quote from Wahlburg “You should always be really careful when you listen to your politicians because they are so deadly sure that we have to bomb the other nation..” (9:42).
    I think by now that all (or most) SST correspondents and viewers will agree with this statement wrt 21st century wars, The actual conflict and their public discourse at least.
    The story also has a resemblance to the ‘Havana’ effect where in 2017 Canadian and US diplomats were purported to to have suffered brain damage due ‘sonic’ weaponry. Cuban diplomats were expelled and staff returned to base to recuperate and so on. Even an undergraduate physics student will quickly determine that ultrasonic audio beams would not cause symptoms exhibited by the victims (acoustic absorption even in air is quite high) and the sonic weapon turned into a microwave weapon. Even a low ranked radio technician would know that small amounts of radio and microwave radiation can be detected with high precision using low cost tools.. and so on..
    There is no actual proof that a weapon of any type was used and when a similar ‘Guangzhou’ syndrome appeared in 2018 it had only a minor appearance in the ‘rags’and none on the tango victor.
    Anyway, I’m preaching to to the converted; many here ‘know how it works’,dating%20back%20to%20late%202016.

  4. Rick Merlotti says:

    Gives new meaning to the term “Red Herring”.

  5. Fred says:

    Just like in Otto Preminger’s movie “In Harm’s Way”
    And another whale lost it’s blubber. Or in the case of my old ‘swayback’ another school of shrimp was reported as an Oscar, causing much consternation on the bridge.

  6. Leith says:

    I knew there were valid reasons why I never liked pickled herring.
    On the other hand fish flatulence does not explain the many incidents dating back to the sixties of actual sightings. Or the “Seeteufel” tracked vehicle imprints on the seabed of Swedish waters. Or the lurking near those areas of Soviet/Russian research ships that have a well deck for launching submersibles. Those may be the reasons that both the Swedish Navy and the Coast Guard seems to be paranoid about foreign subs.

  7. lux says:

    Posted by: Leith | 21 November 2020 at 10:24 AM
    Leith I am only familiar with the traces it left in fiction, especially crime fiction. And yes, well …
    What’s the present state of Sweden and the NAT0? Still neutral?

  8. Deap says:

    Recent cruise in Antarctica had to change course because the krill was so thick in the bay, where we were doing spectacular whale watching, the ship’s underwater navigation equipment could not safely work.
    Hold your judgement on pickled herring until you taste the fresh choices at the Fischkirke Market in Goteburg, Sweden. Oh my goodness – first place we head.

  9. Deap says:

    Ooops, Fish Church in Goteborg, Sweden for fresh pickled herring closed until 2023. Under Biden, we probably would not be able to travel there anyway.

  10. Leith says:

    The Baltic Sea is bottlenecked at the three Danish straits, plus the Kattegat and the Skagerrak. The Russian Navy HQ at the Admiralty and the Baltic Fleet HQ would be derelict in their duty if they were not actively exploring that bottleneck. Admirals Yevmenov and Nosatov and their predecessors are not idiots and are not negligent on that issue. It has been a tenet of the RF and Soviet Navies since Sergey Gorshkov’s time.
    Denmark and Norway are part of NATO. And the depth of the water closer to those two countries means there is a huge amount of maritime traffic. So it makes sense to do some probing in the shallower and territorial waters of neutral Sweden. Although there has been overt reconnaissance of the seafloor closer to Denmark.
    In any case I doubt seriously that those probes into territorial waters are scouting Swedish ports and defense systems. They are more likely to be mapping those shallow waters in order to be able to navigate them in the event of hostilities. Or they could be installing sensors. Or looking for NATO sensors. Or all of the above.
    Lux – Crime fiction? Are you speaking of the Henning Mankell novel? If it is something else I’d like to read it. What is the title and who is the author?

  11. lux says:

    Yes, Mankell. There must be another one. Actually I may have mentally added instances when a side theme, the deeper historical dimensions of a character surfaced in the plot and reminded me of it. The author too? … I haven’t read much fiction lately. Olaf Palme, as he surfaces in Arne Dahl and Leif Persson is more present at the moment.

  12. Deap says:

    Marine traffic tracked around the world, with various filters for types of vessels or a specific vessel:
    Indeed, that is one heck of a Baltic chokepoint. Straights of Malacca is another one.

  13. Leith says:

    Lux – Mankell’s 2011 book “The Troubled Man”. But it was also made into an episode on a Brit TV drama by the BBC:
    As for the Seeteufel, a tracked version was developed almost 75 years ago:
    Newer versions are plentiful including manned and robotic, military or commercial or scientific.

  14. Leith says:

    Deap –
    You can add Hormuz, Suez, Panama, the Bosporus, the Bab el-Mandeb to those chokepoints. Bet on it that all are being monitored closely by intel services of multiple countries.

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