February 6th, 2011

how long before a missing person can be ruled as dead in the US military?

Setting: US, modern day

My main character is in the Navy Reserves, and is called upon to serve in a conflict (either Iraq or Afghanistan, I haven't decided which yet). Off he toddles and everything's going okay - until there's an attack, and the vehicle that he's in is destroyed.

He manages to escape and get away, but nobody knows. There were about 20 people in the vehicle at the time, and they were all killed - various body parts are strewn around, but some bodies are just too damaged to be full bodies. It's on that level of destruction. Pretty grim.

My question is - if nobody saw my character escape, and he doesn't get in contact with anyone or show any signs of life like using credit cards etc., then:

1. How long would it be before he was declared legally dead?
2. What would be the general sort of procedure for this sort of thing?
3. If he is declared dead, would a funeral be held for him?
4. And what would happen when he eventually turns up, very much alive?

I'm thinking that if I pull a Pettigrew and have one of his fingers left behind, or that sort of thing, it might assist with them presuming that he's dead.

I've nearly memorised the death in absentia wiki page, I've read it that much, and I've done a million and one google searches with a variety of terms, but I can't find any hints as to how long the process takes, and the aftermath of it.


Thank you in advance!

Treatment for, recovery from, and possible aftereffects of various injuries

Setting: modern day
Location: Scandinavia (story may be set in more than one of the countries, so I can’t really specify more than this.)

Basic rundown, in this story, my main character is kidnapped and kept prisoner for a month. The villains want to punish him for something that wasn't even really his fault. For the first couple weeks, they pretty much just use various psychological torture methods on him, and he is mostly uninjured for these weeks.

However, after the first couple weeks, they realize that the worst thing they can do him is to give him some kind of disabling injury, so that he would be forced to rely on other people. With that in mind, they begin more physical torture.

I know most of the injuries he would have suffered, but I need some information about the treatment he would need for the injuries, and how long he might be kept in the hospital. In the research I've done, I've found a lot about the individual injuries, but I'm having trouble putting it all together for the multiple injuries, and I wasn't sure how to search for that. I am going to put the rest of this behind a cut, because of the length, and possibly the subject matter.
Cut for lengthCollapse )

Sailing speed 17th 18th centuries

I'm writing a story that's an AU on an alien planet, but for all intents and purposes the ships are similar to British and Spanish vessels of 17th and 18th century Earth.

I have two ships that see each other on the horizon and realize (because of location) they're friendly and turn toward each other. How long would it take to meet?

My problem is that using math and logic my equations don't match what I've read in books and seen in movies. A frigate, for example, has a mast about 125 feet tall. From the crow's nest, the horizon would be about 14 miles away. And a frigate can travel about 10-14 knots (which is about 12 mph). So...an object on the horizon could be reached in an hour or so using this math. Theoretically if two ships were heading toward each other (taking into account that they would travel at an angle to the wind) they could spot each other on the horizon and meet fairly quickly.

BUT. This is not the way it works. Ever. I'm reading a first-hand account of 17th century travel on a Spanish ship; they spot six sails on the horizon at sunset...and the sails are still on the horizon in the morning. They are STILL on the horizon again at mid-day. They think the boats are fishermen, and aren't particularly trying to avoid them; the Spanish ships are anchored offshore to get fresh water. By evening they realize the ships are too big to be fishermen and THEN they try to outrun them.

So...what am I missing? The journal is from the POV of a priest, so he's actually probably on deck and doesn't have a telescope, and without the height of the crow's nest he can likely only see about seven miles out. How can it possibly take the ships twelve plus hours to travel less than ten miles?

I know there's not always perfect conditions for sailing, but my math seems to be on one end of the extreme (and really off from how it's portrayed in fiction); what I'm reading seems so slow, though!

Do I really need to slow down the travel pace of my ships, or what?

SEARCHED: I have read A LOT of sites on British and Spanish navies and merchants in the 17th and 18th centuries, the age of sail, pirates, privateering, and have read a few books on the subject. Also a few sites that get into comparing modern and historic sailing, and so on.

smell of the sea in a port

For those of you who live by the shore -- how far off from the shore would you expect to not be able to smell the sea?  Assuming calm air.

I tried Googling about sea smell and distance, but unsurprisingly most of it was those rare birds where you can smell it really far off.

I've got a port city and need to know whether the heroine can smell the sea all over it.

Update:  Cool stuff!  I think I've got it -- she may smell the sea, somewhat, all over the city, but the full effect will be noticable when she's dumped by the docks.