Friday, October 28, 2011

Seven Winds

Life is a mighty experiment. My grandma always said, “Lighten up, sweetheart; it’s all learning.”

I never met my grandma. My mom adopted me soon after the loss of her mom. But if I had met Grandma in person, I would have told her I agree. It’s all about putting one paw in front of the other.
Hiking allows me to practice living while satisfying my primal urge to walk.

This hike took me to Punta Setteventi, the "Point of the Seven Winds", located approximately 40 miles north of Brescia, Italy. On the north side of the mountain, the foehn wind was so strong we could barely walk. Mom struggled to stay upright.

On the south side, however, the wind was nonexistent, and it was warm enough to take a nap.

A structure that looks like a spaceship lies right on the tippy top of nearby Dosso dei Galli, the “Hill of the Roosters”.

It hosts a former NATO facility that belonged to the Allied Command Europe (ACE) High System, a long-range communication network. Designed in the late 50s, ACE High connected northern Norway to eastern Turkey. After France left NATO in 1966, new facilities had to be built to keep the network connected without using the stations on French soil. The spaceship on Dosso dei Galli was one of these new stations. It became operational in 1969 to connect Italy and Germany; this specific location in the Italian Alps was chosen to bypass neutral Switzerland.

Located in the Black Forest, the nearest German station lies 200 miles away (as the crow flies) from the Italian station at Dosso dei Galli. Due to the Earth’s curvature, no line of sight exists between the two stations. To communicate with the German station, the NATO folks at Dosso dei Galli aimed their signals at a portion of the lower atmosphere (technically, the troposphere) within the line of sight of the Black Forest station. The troposphere is full of irregularities that scatter radio signals in all directions, so a tiny portion of the signal would hit the receivers at the Black Forest station. Of course, the Black Forest folks could leverage the very same principle, known as troposcatter, to communicate with the “Hill of the Roosters”.

I only discovered the true nature of the Dosso dei Galli spaceship after we came back home from our hike. At the time, waking up from my nap and staring at the “Hill of the Roosters,” all I wanted to do was bark at it.

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