“DANGER!” Traveler – WIF Around the World

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Natural Hazards

of Planet Earth

The Earth is not always your friend, and the planet upon which we developed may not treat us gently despite the effort with which we have colonized so much of its surface. In this account, we move beyond familiar floods, tornadoes and earthquakes to discover the really weird ways that an active and sometimes badly behaved planet can create a real but strange threat to your safety. Learn, and be safe; looking out not only for wild animals, but approaching the planet itself with care as you walk its surface.

10. Tree Wells

 

The Earth is defined by interactions between the rocks, the atmosphere and water. And when that interaction involves the accumulation of frozen water in the form of snow in places where there are trees, an extraordinary level of danger may form. It is not only a crevice that may threaten skiers. A much more common and sometimes worse danger comes from tree wells. Tree wells are an ever-present risk on mountainsides that suffocate many unwary snow sports enthusiasts when they fall into a gaping hole in the snow where a tree stands, concealing the snowy well around its trunk.

When a large conifer tree stands on a mountain, snowfall may pile up to a depth of many feet. Yet around the tree trunk and within the curtilage of the tree’s branches, snow is likely to be missing. The result is the presence of a diabolically well concealed hole or “well” around the tree. Upon beginning to pass a tree at too close a range, a skier or snowboarder may pitch forward into a tree well and be stuck, often headfirst. As a result, suffocation may occur from the fine snow material while limbs may be trapped in the snow. Giving trees a wide berth is the best defense against the actual issue of falling in, while skiing with a partner affords a far greater chance of being seen and rescued.

9. Gas Lake

We all know the danger of drowning in a lake, but surprisingly, the most dangerous lakes in the world are not those in which one could drown, but rather, create the effect of oxygen deprivation while the victims are still on land. When seismic activity, organic decomposition and toxic gas combine together in the gas lake phenomenon, the results are both horrifically eerie and costly in human lives. Lake Nyos in Cameroon is the most notorious gas-releasing lake, having killed 1,746 people when stored carbon dioxide was released en masse, annihilating nearby villages. On August 21, 1986, the eerie looking lake, surrounded by dark hills and containing settled areas in its curtilage, released a massive cloud of carbon dioxide totaling 1.2 cubic kilometers in volume.

As a result, the vast majority of those who encountered the cloud suffocated to death, unable to access oxygen as the cloud hugged the ground and spread throughout the village of Nyos and other nearby settled areas including Cha, Kam and Subum. Countless animals were lost along with human lives, while the extinguishing of candles indicated the arrival of the deadly cloud. Those resting close to the ground or first encountering the gas represented many fatalities, while some still standing survived as the gas remained closer to the ground. Now, equipment is in place to release gas to prevent another deadly buildup.

8. Large Hailstone Catastrophes

Frozen rain may sting slightly, but truly monstrous hailstones, sometimes weighing over a pound and measuring several inches in diameter, have been responsible for a disturbing range of fatalities throughout world history. Being struck on the head by falling ice is no laughing matter, particularly when that ice is formed into a rock-hard ball and is falling at maximum velocity. In the United States, a number of deaths, injuries and cases of extreme property damage have resulted from hailstones of substantial size and weight. Giant hail the size of a baseball may fall at speeds at around 100 mph. Hail 2.75 inches in diameter may smash windshields, while larger hail, up to 4.5 inches may punch a hole through a roof. Injuries can be horrific.

In one case, a runner was covered in welts and bruises, while a hail strike on a pizza delivery person in Fort Worth, Texas in 2000 was fatal. Previously, Fort Worth had hosted an ill-fated Mayfest gathering in May 1995 when hail pummeled a crowd of 10,000, injuring 400 people. A total of 60 people had to be sent to hospital. In 1988, 246 individuals in India lost their lives during a tragically fatal hail onslaught. While falling ice from the sky naturally poses extreme dangers, it is worth remembering that certain storms are better met with a riot shield than an umbrella. Better yet, just stay indoors if there is any indication of hail, as you don’t know how big the stones may get.

7. Sinkholes

Wishing the ground might open up and swallow one alive may be a clichéd expression, but in fact sinkholes, sometimes in urban areas, can cause untold devastation and shake our confidence in the Earth to the core. In some cases, sinkholes can kill as they swallow individuals, roads, and even entire buildings at depths of over 250 feet. In places around the world, the ground below the surface may be pockmarked with cavities and also less than solid. In certain cases, a thin layer of the uppermost portions of the Earth’s crust may conceal gaping holes capable of swallowing buildings, buses and pretty much anything else unfortunate enough to be in the way; that is, on top of such a hidden cavity when the inevitable collapse happens.

Sometimes triggered by an earthquake, sometimes by a sudden increase in pressure (as in certain construction projects), or as the result of flash flooding or the accumulation of slow-acting, groundwater-based erosion, sinkholes may result in catastrophic injuries, deaths and property damage. While even moderately sized sinkholes may be fatal, enormous sinkholes that bend the bounds of imagination have included such horrors as the monster sinkhole that opened in Guatamala City in 2010, spurred by tropical storm induced floodwater action. The hole measures around 60 feet wide and is estimated to be in the range of 30 stories in depth as judged by University of Kentucky hydrogeologist James Currens.

6. Geyser Attack

Geysers and hot springs may look fun, but they also present the risk of simply steaming or boiling careless viewers and adventurers alive. After all, erupting magma is obviously extremely dangerous, and most people will stay away from an erupting volcano, but many explorers are less aware of the danger of an encounter with what could turn out to be a killer geyser or a hot spring from hell. When viewing geysers or examining hot springs, don’t get too close, and in an uncharted walk in geyser country, be prepared to run for your life. Geysers in popular places such as Yellowstone National Park have killed a disturbing number of visitors, adding up to more than 20 documented deaths.

The most recent fatality to take place was in 2016, when a young man walked over 200 yards into the Norris Geyser Basin, only to die in a hot spring that boiled him to death. Many people visiting Yellowstone have been burned either by spraying geysers or by breaking through the thin layer of rock into boiling water underneath. In other cases, individuals have died when attempting to navigate over or around chasms or pools of boiling water, only to fall in and get fatally scalded. The moral of the story? Avoid stepping off marked paths and be sure to resist the temptation to pioneer, as the unknown is also the most unsafe when it comes to natural areas full of boiling water.

5. Lava Haze Encounter

It’s not just the liquid magma of volcanoes that presents a threat. Just as a lake filled with carbon dioxide can pose a great risk, volcanic activity can create highly dangerous situations where those in the vicinity of the action may be deprived of oxygen, exposed to toxic fumes and possibly risk loss of life. Unnervingly, grisly deaths have occurred from lava haze, where hot gases have accumulated and subsequently suffocated and burned the lungs of those explorers who engage in geo-tourism or attempt to study volcanoes. The ground may look safe and walkable near a volcanically active zone in certain cases, but accumulating gases may suddenly make such an area uninhabitable, with no air left to breathe.

As volcanic activity occurs, a plethora of chemicals are released, which may accumulate undetected, be suddenly let forth with little warning, or be greatly compounded through chemical reactions with solutions and compounds already present on the Earth. The lava haze capable of causing death can contain extremely dangerous chemicals resulting from the mixing of hot volcanic products with seawater. The deadly vapors can not only limit access to oxygen, but cause nasty, potentially fatal chemical burns and lung damage. The makeup of volcanically produced haze can include hydrochloric acid caused by the reaction of lava with seawater, sulfuric compounds, and carbon compounds. While less visible than lava, lava haze is another reason to keep your distance when the Earth is agitated!

4. Pyroclastic Bomb Drop

More than just air raids present the risk of being smitten from above. Nature does its best to rain down not only frozen hazards in the form of hail, but freshly launched weaponry in the form of pyroclastic bombs hurled forth as the result of intense volcanic activity. Extreme dangers are presented not only by flowing magma when a volcano erupts, but by the presence of flying pyroclastic bombs. These pyroclastic bombs are little less than natural weapons of mass destruction if encountered. The objects are one of the worst ways to get clobbered to death by rocks as angry volcanos not only spew molten magma, but launch the pre-hardened, bomb-shaped stones at incredible velocities to great distances.

Unfortunately, the desire of some amateur volcanologists to collect the bombs may create an even greater risk of being hit. If small, the objects may inflict bullet-like wounds. If large, the impact may cause immediate death through the force of impact. While extremely hot, lava bombs are not molten on the outside. The largest specimens may blast entire sections of a mountainside into the air when they land, and could easily demolish a car, tree, or house. However, the lava bombs present highly useful research opportunities as freshly ejected specimens of volcanic material from deep below the surface. Researchers may forget due caution as they put themselves within a volcanic bomb volley’s striking distance just to gather a specimen.

3. Lava Tube

Volcanic areas do not just present the risk of eruption; a risk comparable to a sinkhole from falling into open lava tubes makes walking near volcanically active areas a recipe for disaster in many cases. While a sinkhole may lead to crushing or falling injuries, a lava tube fall may result in more than just injury from a fall or limb entrapment. Lava tubes that are more open and accessible are sometimes explored by the intrepid who visit volcanos, but the areas are frequently fraught with danger. Further risks are presented by the presence of either hot lava, steam, or toxic gases. The physical structure of areas near to volcanic activity can be unpredictable and hard to clearly define and navigate.

Accidentally falling into a treacherous lava tube poses the greatest threat, as one does not know what may lie at the bottom or how far or hard one may fall. Lava tubes can be incredibly deep, with serious threats facing anyone who explores out of bounds and ends up falling into the tube. In one case, a 15-year-old boy fell a full 25 feet down into a lava tube while carelessly exploring after climbing a fence. Fortunately, the victim was able to be rescued, but the results of a mishap involving a lava tube can have a far more serious end. The presence of lava tubes goes to confirm why volcanically active areas must be treated with great caution, whether or not there appears to be active magma present.

2. Rogue Wave

Not a tsunami, a rogue wave may appear at any point on the ocean, causing death by sweeping people out to sea who are near the coast, even if a little ways inland. Rogue waves at sea present further immediate threats to ships, which may be swamped, hit by debris or capsized. As a result of the risk posed to the public by rogue waves, signs indicating the dangers of standing near the open sea have frequently been posted to discourage careless beach combing. Turning one’s back on the water is especially risky, while even facing the water is not advisable in rocky areas where being caught up in a sudden avalanche of water comes with the added risk of being dashed against the rocks.

Once believed to be mere tall tales told by overly imaginative sailors, rogue waves have been discovered to be real life events backed by physics through exploration of accounts and theoretical analysis. Rogue waves can not only be reported both on the high seas and when the strike near the shore, but statistical and physical analysis shows how certain waves at intervals may gain great power and size. In certain cases, ships have been downed by absolutely enormous waves, exceeding 80 feet in certain cases.

1. Maelstrom

The ocean is a massive water body, and where whirlpools form at sea, the results can be disastrous. Immortalized in Norwegian culture as the Maelstrom and described as a phenomenon in Sicily under the name Charybdis, the oceanic whirlpool is a force to be both feared and avoided, and also difficult to study for obvious reasons. In the Scandinavian regions, the exceedingly powerful Moskstraumen Maelstrom formed where the sea is actually very shallow, between 131 and 197 feet in depth. The resulting tidal movements of the water, exacerbated by the action of the moon led to grand legends forming of enormous whirlpools capable of bringing ships down to the ocean floor. While such a maelstrom indeed would be dangerous in many craft, the reports have certainly been, shall we say, bolstered by popular mythology.

In the case of the Charybdis, one notorious Mediterranean whirlpool was ascribed to the action of a sea monster (if you’ve ever read Homer’s Odyssey you’ll no doubt be familiar). The Strait of Corryvreckan is known to be home to one of the worst whirlpools on the planet. While not the largest or strongest, this whirlpool was “tested” with a dummy wearing a lifejacket, which was sucked out of sight and recovered some distance away, showing signs of scraping the bottom deep below the swirling waves, while the depth indicator read 226 feet.


“DANGER!” Traveler –

WIF Around the World

Guidebook to America Must-Sees – WIF Travel

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 Must-Visit

Tourist Attractions

in the United States

For all intents and purposes, the United States can almost be considered an entire continent in itself. This means that a person from another country can’t come, visit for several days or a week, and say that he or she has seen what the entire US is all about. But there are several landmarks that every traveler needs to see before they can even begin to consider checking the US off of their travel bucket list. Even though there are plenty to choose from, and these are presented in no particular order, here are 10 must-visit tourist attractions in America.

10. The Statue of Liberty

As far as famous American national monuments go, the Statue of Liberty is probably the most easily recognizable of them all. Officially known as Liberty Enlightening the World, it was a gift from the French to the American people in 1886 – celebrating the centenary of American Independence. It stands at a total of 305 feet tall, of which 151 feet is the copper statue itself, while the rest is comprised of the pedestal and foundation. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue is in a neoclassical style with Art Nouveau elements, and is a representation of Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty and personal freedom. Gustave Eiffel was responsible for the framework, while the pedestal was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, a prominent American architect.

While the statue’s construction and shipment were paid for by the French, the building of the pedestal was left to the Americans. Nevertheless, the whole project was under threat when the US government wasn’t able to raise sufficient funds. Luckily, Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World newspaper, organized a drive to raise $100,000 (roughly $2.3 million today) from readers across the country by pledging to print the name of every contributor, regardless of the sum given – and the construction was finally finished. The site was chosen on Bedloe’s Island, now called Liberty Island, in New York Harbor, and the statue was aligned to face towards the southeast, thus greeting ships entering from the Atlantic Ocean.

In 2016, the Statue of Liberty was able to draw in roughly 4.5 million tourists – a number higher than in previous years. Still, this is a relatively small number compared to other famous NYC landmarks such as Central Park or Times Square, which both draw nearly 40 million visitors annually.

9. Yellowstone National Park

Covering an area of almost 3,500 square miles, mostly in Wyoming,Yellowstone National Park is one of the most stunning and unique national parks in the world. It’s home to a wide variety of wildlife (many of them endangered), vast natural forests, numerous waterfalls, roughly half of the world’s geothermal features, and two thirds of the planet’s geysers (more than 300, the most famous being Old Faithful). The park is also one of the largest intact ecosystems in the northern temperate regions of the Earth. When it was first discovered back in 1869, explorers David E. Folsom and Charles W. Cook described Yellowstone Lake as “a scene of transcendental beauty.” The two later wrote an account about their expedition, but had trouble in selling it since most magazine editors found the stories to be too far-fetched. Nevertheless, Yellowstone became the first ever national park in the world in 1872, even before the states it’s in were… well, States.

Another interesting fact about Yellowstone, and the reason why it is home to so many geological features, is because it sits right on top of one of the largest active supervolcanoes in the world. In fact, much of the park itself is the actual caldera of this huge volcano. There is so much magma below the surface that it’s estimated it could fill up the Grand Canyon to the brim 11 times over. Last time Yellowstone erupted was roughly 640,000 years ago, with a force 2,500 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Luckily, however, an eruption isn’t believed to be happening anytime soon, even though the ground has bulged up by about 10 inches over a seven-year time frame. In 2016, the park drew in roughly 4.2 million visitors, making it among the most visited natural attractions in the country.

8. Niagara Falls

Now, even though they aren’t the tallest waterfalls, Niagara Falls is definitely a sight worth seeing. Located at the border between Canada (Ontario) and the United States (New York), Niagara Falls is the largest waterfall in terms of volume in the US. Over 3,160 tons of water flow over the falls every second, at a speed of 32 feet per second. There are three waterfalls in total here. The American and Bridal Veil Falls are located on the American side of the border, and are separated by Luna Island. Some 75,750 gallons of water flow through these two waterfalls every second. The larger Horseshoe Falls is shared by both Canada and the US, and with the length of the brink at 2,600 feet, this waterfall sees over 600,000 gallons of water falling every second from a height of 167 feet. Some 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, the falls extended some seven miles down the river. But over time, the brink has steadily eroded away, bringing it to its current location.

Four of the five Great Lakes drain their waters through Niagara Falls before emptying into Lake Ontario. There are two hydroelectric plants that draw water into their reservoirs prior to the falls. Depending on the time of day and the season, the volume of water varies considerably. The best time to visit is during the day, in summertime, when the volume is greatest. People can admire the falls from both sides of the border, by making use of the many observation decks, walkways, towers, as well as a boat tour that takes you to the heavy mists of the falls themselves. Estimates point to roughly 8 or 9 million people visiting Niagara Falls every year, but local business aren’t convinced and believe the real number to be closer to 3 million.

7. The Las Vegas Strip

Sometimes called Sin City, Las Vegas is a must-see for every tourist visiting the US. The city saw its beginning with a group of Mormons that established a fort there in 1855. The settlement eventually failed, but the fort was taken over Octavius D. Gass, an American businessman and politician. Later, in 1905, Las Vegas was connected to the Union Pacific Railroad, and in 1931 the construction on Hoover Dam began. To help draw in workers for the construction project, as well as to help them pass the time, casinos and showgirl venues opened up in Las Vegas’ only paved road, Fremont Street. In 1941, the first official casino was built just outside of the city’s limits, the El Rancho Vegas resort – and the famed Las Vegas Strip began to take shape. Notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel built the Flamingo in 1946 and during the 1950s and ’60s, other mob-backed casinos began to appear, like the Sahara, the Riviera, the Sands, and the New Frontier.

What many don’t know is that the Strip is not inside Las Vegas proper. It stretches for 4.2 miles south of the city and passes through the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. The famed Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign was built back in 1959, exactly 4.5 miles south the actual city limits. Over 39 million people visited the Las Vegas Strip in 2017. Surveys also show that most US travelers marked Vegas as their desired destination for 2018. The Strip has also been designated as an American Scenic Byway, and the only one that’s enjoyable at night. It has one of the highest concentrations of neon lights in the world, and is packed with over 75 years of extravagance, history, and charm.

6. Independence National Historical Park

When it comes to history, Philadelphia is the city every tourist needs to see. Known as the birthplace of American democracy, the Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia’s historic center, is said to be “America’s most historic square mile.”  The park is home to the Liberty Bell Center, Congress Hall, the New Hall Military Museum, the Bishop White House, the Graff House, the Franklin Court, the First Bank of the United States, and Independence Hall, among other historically-important buildings. The centerpiece of the park is Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is where both the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution of the United States (1787) were debated and signed.

Among the many other buildings in the park, there is also the City Tavern. John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States, called it the most genteel tavern in America” after he was taken there by the citizens of the city when he arrived to Philadelphia to attend the First Continental Congress in August 1774. This history-packed hot spot draws in roughly 5 million visitors every year, and is a perfect place to immerse yourself in America’s Revolution against the British and the founding of the nation itself.

5. Hawaii’s Volcanoes

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park draws in roughly 1.5 million visitors every year. Located on the island of Hawaii, this national park holds two of the world’s most active and easily accessible volcanoes – Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered – 19,999 cubic miles. The summit stands at 13,680 feet above sea level, and roughly 56,000 feet from the depressed sea floor. This makes it more than 27,000 feet higher than Mount Everest, and the second largest sea mountain in the world after Mauna Kea, which is on the same island and only 110 feet higher.

But despite these record-breaking figures, Kilauea is the more impressive, and rightfully so. As the youngest volcano on the island, Kilauea has not stopped erupting since 1983, continuously spewing out lava over the landscape and creating numerous fountains and rivers of molten rock. Unlike continental volcanoes, which usually erupt in a devastating explosion, these island volcanoes are far less gaseous and more fluid, thus making them much safer to admire from a safe distance. And besides the volcanoes themselves, the park also offers a glimpse into the native flora and fauna of the isolated island, as well as the cultural heritage of the people who’ve called it home for hundreds (and hundreds) of years.

4. The Redwood Forests of Northern California

For the many interesting things California has to offer, almost nothing is more humbling and awe-inspiring than the redwood forests located in the northern parts of the state. But unlike many of the other entries on this list, these forests and the four national and state parks they encapsulate receive a relatively small number of annual visitors – almost 1.5 million in total. Nevertheless, these huge trees have been standing since before the Roman Empire. The Redwood National Park is also home to Hyperion, the world’s largest living tree that we currently know about. Discovered only in 2006, this humongous coast redwood is 379.7 feet tall, or 74 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Hyperion is also a relatively young tree – roughly 600 years old (or about 20 in human years). This means that it’s still growing. And it’s not the only one to reach this gargantuan size. Other similarly-tall coast redwoods have been discovered in the area in recent years.

Thanks to their close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, these forests have a relatively stable and pleasant climate all year round. Nevertheless, peak tourist season is during the summer and early fall months, from June to September. Now, besides the redwood forests themselves, the region has other natural wonders to offer. Over 40 mammal species call this area their home, like bobcats, coyotes, black-tailed deer, mountain lions, and black bears, as well as over 400 bird species. There are also several points that overlook the ocean and which are prime locations for spotting migrating gray whales, especially between the months of December and April.

3. Mesa Verde National Park

Another great place to experience American history is to look into the heritage of the Native Americans. The Mesa Verde National Park, located in the state of Colorado, has a total area of 52,485 acres and houses over 5,000 sites, as well as over 600 cliff dwellings. The whole area was inhabited at least as early as 7500 BC by a group of nomadic people known as the Foothill-mountain paleoindian complex. Then, in around 1000 BC, a new culture emerged in the region, the Basket makers. They were then followed by the Pueblo Culture in around 750 AD, and flourished in the region up until the end of the 13th century when they were finally driven out by social and environmental instability. It was during their last 150 or so years in the area that they built the many cliff dwellings that the park is most famous for.

One of the largest and best preserved sites here is the Cliff Palace – which is also the largest cave dwelling in the whole of North America. This settlement once contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas (special rooms used for religious rituals and political meetings). At its height, Cliff Palace was able to house over 100 people – something which doesn’t sound like much, but given its location and the fact that most other cliff dwellings contain only one to five rooms, that’s definitely a lot. Based on its size, the Cliff Palace is believed to have held an important social and administrative significance for the Puebloans before they were forced out of the area altogether. Every year, over half a million people visit the park and admire these unique structural marvels of pre-Colombian America.

2. The Grand Canyon

No list of this kind could ever be complete without the Grand Canyon. It’s nearly impossible for someone to visit this incredible geological feature and not stand in awe at its sheer size. Anyone with any sense of wonder about the world cannot help but feel a little overwhelmed by the power of nature presented here. For over 6 million years, the Colorado River and its tributaries have carved their way through the rock, deepening and widening the canyon to its current proportions. Today, the Grand Canyon measures some 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep, exposing nearly 2 billion years of geological history in its sides.

Native Americans have been living in the area for thousands of years, even building settlements within it and in its many caves. The first Europeans to see it were the Spanish during the 1540s. The first pioneers here were prospectors looking to mine copper during the 1880s, but they soon realized that tourism was a better alternative. In its first year after becoming a national park in 1919, the Grand Canyon received roughly 44,000 visitors. In 2016, than number was closer to 6 million people.    

1. Route 66

Established back in 1926, US Route 66 was the Main Street of America. Also known as the Will Rogers Highway or the Mother Road, Route 66 used to connect Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California. Covering a total of 2,448 miles, this road passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, as well as the two other states mentioned, and was the main path used by the people who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Route 66 also supported a thriving economy for the communities it passed through, and harbored much of the country’s distinct style. Among these we have the iconic American gas stations, motels, bars, diners, entertainment venues, and much more.

But as all good things inevitably come to an end, so did Route 66. With the arrival of the new Interstate Highway System, much of the historic route was being bypassed. By 1985, the entire route was replaced. Nevertheless, conservation efforts since then have revived certain portions of the route. Parts of it have also been included in America’s Scenic Byways project, and considered to be an All-American Road. In more recent years, a preservation program has been initiated, aiming to salvage and restore much of the route and its landmarks to their former glory. In more ways than one, Route 66 is a better alternative to capturing real America than taking a stroll through Manhattan or down Hollywood Boulevard.


Guidebook to America Must-Sees

– WIF Travel

 

The Name Game – United States Style

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How Did These

States Get

Their Names?

The study of place names and their origins, known as toponymy, can reveal a lot about human society as a whole. Did you know that almost every country in the world can place the origin of its name in one of only four categories? These are either a directional description of the country, a feature of the land, a tribe or ethnic group that lived there, or after an important person. Now, let’s see if the same thing applies to some of the United States.

10. Arizona

There’s a bit of a mystery surrounding the name of Arizona, with two versions of the story circulating out there. One says that Arizona comes from the Basque aritz onak, which translates to ‘good oak’. The name is said to have been given due to the many oak trees in the area, which reminded the Basque settlers of their home country. The other version says that the word actually comes from the Spanish, who called the region Arizonac, which itself was a corruption from a word in the native Tohono O’odham language, spoken in the area.  Ali-shonak loosely translates to ‘small spring’ and is in reference to the 1736 discovery of some rich silver veins located near some clear springs in the area. That silver didn’t last for long, but it made people aware of the existence of a place called Arizona.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, when the boundary between the US and Mexico was drawn at the Rio Grande and the Gila River, Arizona was part of New Mexico. But soon after its annexation, people living in what is now Arizona wanted a separate status from New Mexico. Several names were suggested for the new state, among which was also “Gadsonia.” It was proposed as a means to honor James Gadsden, the man who negotiated the purchase of land south of the Gila River. Nevertheless, in 1863, the name Arizona won out, and the rest is history.

9. Maine

Did you know that Maine is the sole state whose name contains just one syllable, and it’s the only one in the lower 48 to border only one other (New Hampshire)? Anyway, people aren’t entirely sure where its name comes from. The first time it appeared in writing was in 1622 when it was mentioned in a charter of the Council of New England as a province. The region was to be given to two English Royal Navy veterans, Sir Ferdinando Gorges and Captain John Mason. Captain Mason called his portion of the province New Hampshire, while Gorges proposed New Somerset for his. New Somerset was strongly disliked by King Charles I, who in 1639 issued another charter saying that it “shall forever hereafter be called and named the Province or County of Mayne and not by any other name or names whatsoever.” Nevertheless, some other names were being proposed in 1819, such as Yorkshire, Lygonia and Columbus, which were to be some other potential candidates for when the province became a proper state one year later as part of the Missouri Compromise.

As of 2001, the state legislature officially adopted the version in which the state draws its name from the no-longer-existing French province of Maine. Up until 1845, historians believed that the connection between the American and French regions was through King Charles’ wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. It was believed that the queen had once owned the French province, but subsequently discovered evidence shows that there was no connection. Furthermore, the king and queen married three years after the name Maineappeared in that previously mentioned charter. Another possible origin story says that Gorges proposed the name himself as a means to honor the village where his ancestors once lived in England. That village is now called Broadmayne, but in a 1086 manuscript, it appears under the name Maine – which in primitive Welsh or Brythonic meant ‘rock’. The most generally accepted version, however, is that the state name was based on a practical nautical term. As its coast is littered with many islands, sailors call the mainland simply “the main” or sometimes “Meyne” – so as to easily distinguish between it and the islands. This practice is still in use today within the Navy.

8. Oregon

Of all the states, Oregon’s name may be the most hotly debated in regard to its origins. There are several theories out there, each of which has its own share of plausible arguments. The most probable among them, however, is that it originated with the Spanish. In fact, the first mention of the term orejón in relation with the region comes from a historical chronicle dated in 1598, written by Spanish explorers who made their way into the area at the time. The term translates to “big-eared” and may be in reference to the natives they encountered there. Another possible Spanish root is that the name comes from oregano, which grows in the southern regions of the state.

Others believe that it comes from oolighan – the Chinook word for the eulachon, a smelt fish found on the Pacific coast and a valuable food source for the native tribes that lived there. Another possible Native American connection would be with the Sioux tribe, who referred to the Columbia River as the “River of the West.” The Sioux may have borrowed some words from the Shoshone, another tribe living in what is now Nevada, among other places, and whose words for river and west are Ogwa and Pe-On respectively.

A different theory talks about the French and their word for hurricane – which is ouragan. It’s believed that French explorers in the area called the Columbia River ‘le fleuve aux ouragans’ or “Hurricane River” because of the strong winds blowing through its gorges. The first use of the word Ouragon appeared in a 1765 petition by Major Robert Rogers to the Kingdom of Great Britain where heasked for an overland expedition as part of the search for the so-called Northern Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Back then, people believed that the Columbia River began somewhere in Minnesota and flowed all the way to the Pacific. In an 18th century French map, the Ouisiconsink(Wisconsin) River was misspelled as “Ouaricon-sint” and broken into two lines, with the “-sint” written below. This incomplete map gave the impression that a river called Ouaricon was flowing westward – and could have possibly been the “River of the West” that spilled into the Pacific.

7. Pennsylvania

If you’ve ever felt that there’s a connection between Pennsylvania and Transylvania, then you’d be right. But the connection has nothing to do with vampires or the two lands themselves, but through the way they were named in the first place. The word Transylvania can be broken down into three parts as follows: trans (which is Latin for over or beyond), sylva (Latin for woods), and nia (which is a common suffix used for nouns and countries). In other words, Transylvania translates to ‘Lands beyond the forest’. Now, when it comes to Pennsylvania, the difference is with the word Penn. Pennsylvania was named in honor of British Admiral William Penn, father to William Penn, the founder of the state. William Penn (senior) actually loaned some money to King Charles II of England, and in return, the king gave his son a tract of land for him to found a Quaker settlement in America.

The younger Penn proposed the name Sylvania, but King Charles II wanted Penn’s name to be included – thus the name Pennsylvania (which translates to Penn’s Woodland). The story goes that William Penn felt embarrassed about it, fearing that people would think that he named it after himself, and petitioned the name be changed to New Wales. But the King’s secretary, who was a devout Christian from Wales, was completely against it – not wanting any connection between his homeland and the Quakers whatsoever.

6. Texas

Texas also goes by the name of The Lone Star State. This is as a way to represent and signify its former status as an independent republic, as well as its struggle for independence from Mexico. That lone star can still be found on the state flag, as well as its seal. But when it comes to its actual name of Texas, its origins can still be linked to the Spanish and by extension, Mexico. The name actually comes from the Caddo – a sedentary tribe of Native Americans who lived in the area around the time when the Spanish made it there.

The Caddo, as well as other tribes that lived in the region, all had the same word, or a similar variation of it, to refer to “friends” and “allies.” That word was teysha, which the Caddo also used as a greeting in the form of “hello, friend.” This greeting was similarly used on the Spanish, who later named the Natives after it. Over the years, that word went through several changes including Tejas, finally settling on Texas. Interestingly enough, Texas’ official motto is “Friendship.”

5. Rhode Island

Back in 1524, an Italian explorer by the name of Giovanni da Verrazzano, working in service for the French crown, was heading towards Florida as part of an expedition to find a way to the Pacific Ocean and establish a trade route with Asia. On his way there, he had to make a stop in North Carolina for some ship repairs. But once he was back on the move, he no longer stuck to the original plan and began heading north instead of south. He went past the Hudson River and Long Island, ending up in Narragansett Bay, which opens up in what is now the Rhode Island Sound. As he was exploring the many islands within and around the bay, he kept a record of his discoveries. In a letter he wrote back to France in July of that same year, he said that he “discovered an Ilande in the form of a triangle, distant from the maine lande 3 leagues, about the bignesse of the Ilande of the Rodes.” Now, Verrazzano originally named that particular island Luisa, in honor of the Queen Mother of France, but in his letter he described the island as being reminiscent of the Island of Rhodes in Greece.

For almost 100 years, his letter was the only description people had about that part of the New World. Over the following decades, his letter was translated and printed into Italian and English, further distributing the idea of a Greek-looking island in North America. Now, there has been some debate about which of the many islands Verrazzano was actually referring to in his letter, and for a time it was believed that it was Aquidneck Island – the largest in Narragansett Bay. Modern-day scholars believe that there’s a better chance that he was actually talking about Block Island, which is also part of the state of Rhode Island today, and better fits Verrazzano’s description. In 1637, Roger Williams, a political and religious leader who also founded the state of Rhode Island, established a settlement on Aquidneck Island. The name was officially given to the island in a 1644 declaration saying: “Aquethneck shall be henceforth called the Isle of Rodes or Rhode-Island.”

4. Idaho

When it comes to state names, Idaho does seem like the kind that sounds Native American, doesn’t it? That’s the main reason why the name was chosen in the first place. Now, Idaho was originally given to the Colorado Territory at the suggestion of George M. Willing, an eccentric lobbyist and industrialist. He claimed that the word comes from the Shoshone language and meant something along the lines of “gem of the mountains” or “light on the line of the mountains.” And it seemed appropriate, given the fact that the name was to be chosen for a new territory around the Pikes Peak region, close to present-day Colorado Springs – a mountainous area. During the debate in the Senate, several other names were proposed, among which were Colorado, as well as Jefferson. But most senators seemed to favor Idaho instead. Luckily, Sen. Joseph Lane, from Oregon, brought to light the fact that no Indian tribe in the area has that word, or something resembling it. As it turned out, and what Willing himself reportedly confirmed some years later, is that he actually invented the word, as well as the meaning he gave for it. The name Colorado was then given instead.

This could have simply been the end of that story, but as it turns out, the word Idaho didn’t fade into obscurity. In fact, it gathered great momentum and vitality among the people living in those parts of North America. In 1861, the same year the Colorado Territory was created, Idaho County was also being established in the Washington Territory. It was christened after a steamship with the same name, which was launched on the Columbia River one year prior. With the whole affair seemingly forgotten, Idaho Territory was nevertheless created in 1863, which also included the previously mentioned Idaho County and other parts of the Washington Territory. Funnily enough, even well into the 20th century, many school books gave Willing’s version for the word Idaho as fact. In any case, there’s another theory circulating out there in regards with the name. Some people attribute it to the Plains Apache whose word for enemy is “ídaahe.”

3. Florida

Juan Ponce de León is a name that should sound at least somewhat familiar, even if you don’t really know what he was famous for – it just has that ring to it, right? Anyway, Ponce de León was a possible crew member in Christopher Columbus’ 1493 voyage to the New Word – though nobody is really sure. A decade later, he served as governor of the eastern part of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic). During his time as governor in Hispaniola, he also explored the nearby island of Puerto Rico and became governor of that too. Following some rumors of other possible islands to the northwest of Hispaniola, Ponce de León received exclusive rights from the King of Spain to become governor for life on whatever lands he might discover in that region. In return, he was expected to finance the voyage and future settlements himself. On April 2, 1513, the three ships part of the expedition came across an island, or what they thought to be an island, and named it La Florida.

The name was chosen because of the incredibly verdant and flowering landscape, and because it was the Easter season, which the Spanish called Pascua Florida or Festival of Flowers. Nobody is really certain where they made their first landing in La Florida, but they stayed there for five days before they left. A second voyage took place in 1521 with the intention of colonizing the newly discovered lands. But before the colonists could establish the settlement, they were attacked by the native Calusa warriors. Ponce de León was severely wounded in the skirmish and the colonizing attempt was abandoned. Historians believe that he was hit by a poison-tipped arrow, and died in Cuba. Now, legends have it that he was actually looking for a rumored Fountain of Youth when he discovered Florida, and this is probably why his name is so familiar. Unfortunately, however, there was no mention of any such fountain in any documents at the time, and the story was only attached to him after his death. Furthermore, it’s also believed that he wasn’t the first European to set foot in Florida either. Spanish slavers looking for new prisoners may have made it there in the years prior.

2. Delaware

The state of Delaware is named after the Delaware River. That’s it – that’s the whole story! Well fine, we’ll expand on this a little further. The river itself was first discovered by the Dutch in their attempt to find an alternative route to China in 1609. The leader of that expedition was Henry Hudson, an English navigator under the service of the Dutch East India Company. His discoveries along the East Coast ignited instead the Dutch colonization of North America, and not a new trade route to China. Both Dutch and Swedish settlers established themselves on the lower sections of the river.

Prior to the English expelling the Dutch from their New Netherland colony in 1664, the Delaware and Hudson Rivers were generally known as the South and North Rivers, respectively. After this, however, the North River was officially named after its discoverer, Henry Hudson, while the South River was named after the first governor of Virginia, Sir Thomas West 3rd Baron De La Warr. The South River may have been known to the locals as Delaware prior to the Dutch expulsion, though.

Nevertheless, this De La Warr title is pronounced the same as Delaware, but with a different spelling. Located in Sussex, England, the barony’s name has an Anglo-Norman origin. Now, there are several possibilities as to where this title actually draws it roots from. One possible connection would be with the French La Guerre, which translates to The War. It could also come from the Latin word ager which means field or land. Or from the Breton Gwern – which was a figure in Welsh tradition. The most plausible of these, however, is the French La Guerre – which would make the state of Delaware mean something along the lines of “Of the war.”

1. California

Did you know that some people are naming their kids after popular Game of Thrones characters? Well, naming people and places after fiction isn’t something new. In fact, California was named in the exact same manner. Its name was given by two Spanish sailors, Diego de Becerra and Fortun Ximenez, who landed on the southernmost tip of Baja California in 1533. The two were sent there by Hernán Cortés to claim that land on his behalf. The name was chosen based on a fictional island called California that appeared in a romantic novel at the time, written by Spanish author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo in the early 16th century. Known as Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián), the novel mentions a mythical island located east of Asia and “very close to the side of the Terrestrial Paradise; and it is peopled by black women, without any man among them, for they live in the manner of Amazons.

In the book, this island was ruled over by Calafia, a warrior queen who once led an army of women and a flock of mythical griffins from the island of California to aid a Muslim army battle against the Christians, who were defending Constantinople. Her name, and by extension the name of the fictional island, are based on the Arabic word Khalifa which is a religious state leader, and known as Caliph in English. The two Spanish navigators named the place California, thinking that the Baja California peninsula they landed on was an island. To be fair, we should also mention that some people believe that California actually comes from an indigenous phrase, kali forno, which means ‘high mountains.’ But equally as important is the fact that many other places and settlements around the world, including in South America, Europe, Australia, and the Philippines, are named California – something which makes the indigenous phrase being the actual origin seem highly unlikely.


The Name Game

– United States Style

The NULL Solution = Episode 121

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The NULL Solution = Episode 121

…#48 isn’t about to let a 2-bit/Dr. Seuss inspired/practical joke get in the way perfectly good mission…

Some people never know when to give up… Example 1-1A {with a bullet} is Roy Crippen.

As President of the United States {circa 2032-40} he was faced with the re-emergence of a terror group, the 5-man group storming a vulnerable embassy and the taking of ten hostages {one being First Lady Francine who was attending the funeral of a Middle East Leader}. After 15 tense days, which included video of hostage #3 being executed and a list of impossible demands, he refused to cave in.

It is not until Day 20 that he negotiated an end to the crisis, by personally helicoptering on to embassy grounds, with 3 aging terror leaders in tow and a trunk full of cash; $100,000,000, 2 Yemini’s and 1 Palestinian were exchanged for the 9 remaining hostages.

You can trust the leader of the free world, right?

Nope. A gross of counterfeit bills, an explosive package… and suddenly there are 8 {5+3} less terrorists in the world tonight. —

— Now, #48 isn’t about to let a 2-bit/Dr. Seuss inspired/practical joke get in the way perfectly good mission. He has been sifting through the geographical features in and around Harmonia and feels a hunch coming on.

“Hey Ricko, how deep is that river to the northeast?”

“The one that runs into the no-fly zone?”

 “Yes, that one. It appears to be one of the more established flows on the planet.”

“It is Roy. Its headwaters are up in the Xanthe Mountain Range. I tested it out yesterday. It is as pure as anything we have on Earth.”

“That is the very definition of pollution, right? But potability is not what I am after… how many feet at its deepest as it passes under the Harmonia shield… I have a theory.”

“15.7 feet.”

“How wide at that depth?”

“20 or so. It only moves at about 1.75 mph so it’s not a silt-producer either.”

“What is Gus doing?”

“He’s picking daisiesI am serious,” in the name of science of course.

“So am I. Get him back inside. I want to try something.”

“Are you thinking…?”

“Yep.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 121


page 120

Oddly Unlikely Animals – WIF Oddities

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Living Things That

Shouldn’t Exist

(But Do)

Restricted or enabled only by the bounds of natural selection, nature has proven that a vacuum is hard to maintain. While some types of creatures might seem fit for science fiction or simply defy our imagination, the natural world holds a place for creatures that defy common sense or human expectation in existing. Discover poisonous birds, freshwater sharks, plant-eating spiders, and other animals that just don’t seem right, but are out there waiting to expand your concept of life.

10. Pitohuis, the Poison Birds of New Guinea

A bird is the last thing to come to mind when we think of poisonous animals, but the different species of Pitohui from New Guinea are toxic feathered beauties from the rain forest, to be approached with great care. A poisonous bird: What will they think of next? Native to the rain forest environments of New Guinea, the Hooded Pitohui is correctly termed as a poisonous species, rather than a venomous species as a highly dangerous batrachotoxin is present throughout the bird’s feathers, skin and flesh. The bird’s toxicity became apparent in 1989 when a California Academy of Sciences based researcher named Jack Dumbacher who had set out to study birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea noticed burning pain in his hands when scratched by the peculiar Pitohuis caught in nets originally intended to catch birds of paradise for closer inspection.

The toxins that make up the chemical arsenal of these birds are in fact the same lethal compounds found in poison dart frogs notorious for being capable of killing predators and humans alike. Exactly why the birds possess this toxicity remains a matter of scientific interest, with associated speculation that the bright colors of these birds warns potential predators of their chemical laden bodies. The process by which pitohui toxins concentrate also formed a subject of scientific curiosity that was solved by Dumbacher when he went back to the rainforest and in collaboration with locals was able to determine that the source of the toxins consisted of poison-bearing beetlesthat the birds consumed in quantity.

9. Ocean Lizards

Lizards represent the hot desert in the minds of most people to a great degree, or at least a sunny, perhaps dusty garden path or tree trunk in a warm tropical jungle. Yet, a member of this vast and diverse group of small dinosaur lookalikes has done the unimaginable and become marine, basking on wave splashed rocks and foraging under the surf. Native to the Galapagos Islands and surrounding waters, the large and colorful Marine Iguana is a lizard that has mastered the sea, hauling out on rocks like a sea lion in between dives below the waves, where they forage on marine algae and seaweeds chewed off the surface of submerged rocks.

 The plant-based diet is easily harvested with the help of the iguana’s razor like teeth. Efficiency is key to Marine Iguana survival, as meals must be gathered quickly to prevent chilling and loss of heat energy. Measuring over 3 feet in length and weighing up to 22 pounds, the Marine Iguana is the only ocean-going lizard on the planet. Large groups of breeding females jockey for space in the breeding season, while males fight fiercely for a chance to mate with the female of their choice. The dinosaur-like creatures are normally blackish or grey-ish in color, but the males stand out with its greenish and reddish hues that come into color during the breeding season, signalling dominance and urging females to select them as mates.

8. Freshwater Sharks

Freshwater might seem like a place to swim safely without fear of sharks, but a population of Bull Sharks, a species known to have caused human deaths lives in Lake Nicaragua, while several species of river shark patrol fast moving waters in parts of Asia and Oceania, including Australia. Bull Sharks are a primarily ocean going species, but a population oddly yet naturally established in Lake Nicaragua ensures that swimming in a lake is not a guarantee of safety from shark attacks. While normal marine bull sharks are known to travel temporarily up rivers, the true river sharks belonging to the genus Glyphis are rare, at risk species characteristic of rivers and in some species, estuarine waters.

The Ganges Shark is the most closely associated with river habitats, while the Northern River shark and Spear-toothed Shark inhabit rivers and estuaries but more frequently swim in marine coastal zones. While the degree to which they travel in saltwater varies, what these sharks have in common is complete mastery of freshwater environments, with the Ganges shark being especially comfortable far upstream from any source of saltwater. The Bull Sharks that inhabit Lake Nicaragua are not a separate species, but as a population have admirably adapted to the purely freshwater environment of the lake. In order to survive, they draw upon their ability to excrete urine at a higher rate than normal to allow proper osmosis in their lifelong freshwater environment.

7. Meat-Eating Parrots

The Kea of New Zealand is an endangered parrot that acts like a hawk or vulture, eating the young of shearwater chicks and scavenging mammal carcasses. Superficially cute and cartoonish with huge “gooey” eyes, the Kea is the only alpine species of parrot in the world, able to handle cold winds, snow and low temperatures for prolonged periods of time. Their physical adaptations include the ability to soar like a raptor, effectively insulating, thick feathers and exceptionally sharp, hooked beaks that make them adept opportunistic harvesters of meat. Attacks on live mammals are also known to have occurred, especially presenting a concern in the context of livestock management.

Because of the tendency for Kea to sometimes prey on vulnerable sheep, wounding them and removing fat and tissue with their sharp bills, a bounty was placed on the birds, which are now protected but still classed as vulnerable. When not feeding on meat from carrion or live prey or searching for plant material, Kea may use their scythe-like bills to extract juicy grubs from the soil, drawing upon their high quantities of nourish fat and proteins. Brown and green in color at rest, the Keas may seem disappointingly dull to first time observers searching for these parrots, but offer a surprise when viewed in flight from beneath with their bright red wing linings and graceful maneuvers as they search for their next meal.

6. Bipedal Antelopes

Humans might have a near monopoly on mammalian bipedalism and antelopes seem to be the very definition of a quadruped. Yet, the slender Gerenuk, with a name that originates from the Somali word for “Giraffe-necked” defies ungulate normality as an antelope species that feeds in bipedal mode.  The silhouette of the species is unique among all mammals, crossing a stretched version of the typical ungulate body with an almost primate like-vertical stance. While Gerenuk feeds, the front legs awkwardly extend forward into the air. Standing on its spindly hindlegs to reach heights of almost 8 feet,this near threatened ungulate presents a bizarre sight in the grasslands of East Africa, browsing on leaves, berries, buds and flowers that other species cannot reach, especially Acacia leaves.  

The ability to stand upright adds to the Gerenuk’s already long legs and almost ridiculous looking, lengthened, skinny neck in allowing them to reach edible plant material well beyond the reach of most other antelope species, from which they also derive most of their water. With the remarkable occurrence of bipedalism in a hoofed mammal species attracting scientific curiosity, investigation into Gerenuk physiology has revealed interesting adaptations that facilitate and indicate significant evolutionary commitment to bipedal capabilities in this species.  Specifically, Gerenuks have smaller lumbar spinal protrusions, known as processes, allowing increased inward curvature of the spine required to stand upright for prolonged periods of time.

5. Lake Seals

A freshwater seal species does exist and it defies the very definition of marine mammal by it’s entirely lake bound occurrence. Known locally as the Nerpa and possibly half a million years old as a species, the Baikal Seal is the only true entirely freshwater seal species on the planet, restricted to the deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, which is in fact the deepest lake on Earth. Relying on the strange looking Baikal Oilfish or Golomyankas for the majority of their diet as well as sculpins and amphipods, these aquatic carnivores are a species of uncertain origin, still presenting a mystery to biologists who have yet to precisely pin down the circumstances leading up to their establishment in the lake as an endemic species.

Lake Baikal is not only extraordinarily deep, it is also extremely cold, with ice that remains into the spring breeding season. Well adapted to their environment, female Baikal Seals have developed the ability to create ice dens,in which they take shelter and subsequently give birth, usually to one pup. A small seal, the Baikal Seal may reach just past 4.5 feet in length and weigh no more than 154 pounds in most cases. The gray colored, docile lake seals maintain breathing holes in the ice and haul out along rocky shorelines in warmer weather.

4. Plant-Eating Spiders

The concept of a plant-eating spider is something that is unlikely to have entered the minds of most people. The reality that a herbivorous spider exists is likely to surprise even many who are trained biologists or biologists in training. Residing in Southern Mexico and Central America, the recently discovered jumping spider species Bagheera kiplingi is a huge eyed, rather cute looking arachnid that lives a lifestyle running completely counter to what we generally would expect of spiders. The very epitome of a carnivorous invertebrate, spiders are notorious for trapping their prey in webs, ambushing animals from tunnels, injecting doses of venom that are sometimes strong enough to kill a human and running down small prey on foot.

In contrast, the primary component of the diet of the brown and white jumping spider Bagheera kiplingi consists of Beltian bodies, tiny, fibre-rich parcels of plant material that provide certain Acacia plants with the resources to engage in a mutually beneficial relationship with ants that feed on the Beltian bodies but defend the tree from plant eaters. The enterprising Bagheera kipling,however, feeds on the Beltian bodies “intended” for the ants, while avoiding attack by the ants through what might be termed mock predation, swiftly lunging for the Beltian bodies and then beats a hasty retreat from the advancing ants. The spiders are mostly herbivorous, but at times may feed on ant larvae.

3. Nocturnal Gulls

The owls might be the first and only category of birds recalled when nocturnal avian species are brought up. Yet, a little known and unlikely marine bird from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Malpeno Island, Colombia has fully mastered the night sky through an incredibly strange detour in evolutionary history.  Foraging above the moonlit waves, the Swallow-tailed Gull sees in the relative darkness well enough to navigate and capture their fish and squid prey by moonlight, resting and tending to the young by day.

With ghostly pale spots on its plumage, a dark head and fleshy red tissue circling the eye, the Swallow-tailed Gull is the only truly nocturnal seabird on the planet. The strange looking gulls are equipped with extra large, darkened eyes containing a layer of reflective tissue that bounces light back through the retina to the bird’s photoreceptor cells, aiding it in seeing well while hunting at night. Biochemical adaptations include reduced melatonin levels, a sleep inducing hormone found in higher quantities in all other gulls. Heading out at night in large flocks, the night gulls swoop down to seize squid, small fish and any other invertebrates in reach in their prominently hooked bill before returning to their nesting colonies.

2. Fishing Cats

It is a well established fact in the minds of most that cats detest water, yet there is a species of feline from Asia so committed to an aquatic lifestyle that dramatic physical adaptations have defined its evolutionary history. Instead of shying away from water, the appropriately named Fishing Cat from South Asia and Southeast Asia inhabits wetlands, mangrove swamps and the edges of rivers and streams where they hunt for fish, catching aquatic prey with their sharp claws or seizing prey in their teeth during opportunistic dives into watery feeding areas.

Not afraid of water, the cats have a variety of physical adaptations that give them mastery of the water as some of the most skilled swimmers among predatory mammals. Fish eating cats have short tails, powerful muscles and the ability to walk in mud without sinking and excellent paddling and diving ability, allowing them to plunge deep into the water to capture fish, which forms the major portion of their diet. A thick, short fur base layer of fur insulates the cats from wet and cold when in the water, while longer hairs provide camouflage. An underwater surprise attack approach to hunting waterfowl, where the cats grab swimming birds by the feet from below has also been reported and ranks among the eeriest ways that a mammal can hunt birds.

1. Vegetarian Vultures

Vultures are the quintessential carrion scavenger and often carry a distasteful association with death in human minds. Yet, a quirky vulture widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa stands out in total rebellion against vulture ways. Through yet another unlikely and incredibly specific jog in the evolutionary history of modern fauna, the appropriately monikered Palm-nut Vulture has adapted to a diet centered primarily upon plant material, focusing its foraging on the fruits of the Kosi Palm, Date Palm and Acacia. To feed, the Palm-nut Vulture opens the kernels before extracting the nutritious, fatty meal inside each palm kernel utilizes its massive bill to crack fearsome beak to break open its palm kernel “prey” and strip fruit flesh.

At just two feet long, with a wingspan under five feet wide, the black and white bird with bright fleshy facial patches is actually the smallest Old World vulture species in the world. The plant eating raptor’s small size and agility, coupled with talon bearing, powerful feet facilitate its impressive foraging gymnastics, where it hangs upside down like monkey from palm branches, accessing its food. The entirely vegetarian source of protein forms the bulk of the natural food supply for this bizarre bird of prey, up to 92 percent of the juvenile diet and 58-65 percent of the diet of adults. Fish, insects and occasionally, bats supplement the palm nut, fruit and seed diet of this bird.


Oddly Unlikely Animals

– WIF Oddities

The NULL Solution = Episode 77

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The NULL Solution = Episode 77

…These are not ordinary times ahead for Earth or Mars…

In the time it takes to make it back to GLF and eventually Houston {they actually gain 5 hours}, there is much to discuss and even more to speculate.

— On the popular viral video show “Back from the Dead”, people are reunited with the recently resuscitated or presumed dead. Most all of the concerned parties are usually thrilled with the outcome.

— On reruns of the early century show/website Ancestery.com, folks discover their family tree, long lost relatives or relatives they didn’t know they had. Once again and most of the time they are thrilled about it.

— Like a tried and true recipe, a little of this and a pinch of that can make for a tasty result. Here is a questionable list of ingredients Gus & Crip come up with concerning a possible reunion:

  • How long would it take SEx to get to Mom & Dad?
  • Can we send a signal, now that we know what star system to look for?
  • Do you think Deke will come looking for Cerella?
  • How did she get to Earth and who brought her here and why?
  • Does the recent Lorgan sighting have anything to-do with this?
  • Can Cerella teach us the tricks her to hopscotch around the galaxy?
  • How do we break the news to whom and when?
  • Do you know what Mindy is cooking for supper?

The pair fights the Polar Hadley prevailing wind on the way back to Texas, so they choose a lower altitude to reprise of their path from southern Europe. The haste with which they came is tempered by the challenges they will soon confront.

These are not ordinary times ahead, as they find out after they land at GLF and Fletcher Fitch fills them in on the latest.

“This is the latest image from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 3.0 … and this is the one from 10 hours ago.”

“Is that a stratus cloud deck passing through?”

“Stratocumulus I am told and it contains .16 inches of evaporative moisture. There is even adiabatic cooling going on.”

“By “it”, do you mean atmosphere? Those levels would mirror what its climate was like – like before it lost “it”.”

“RR1 indicates it could be raining on the other side of the planet.” A team of Cal-Tech students sent Red Rover–Red Rover One to Mars as a prank 5 years ago. No one is laughing now.

“That’s a real blast from the past. Why is this happening now?”

“Unless Mother Nature has moved her headquarters, my guess is that Lorgan may be behind it,” Fitch surmises.

Roy remains a skeptic, “Why don’t we credit Lorgan with the Big Bang while we’re at it?”

Causality Roy, I’m a firm believer. Lorgan shows up at the same time you are leaving for Switzerland and there just happens to be rain falling on the plain of Xanthe?”

“He’s right Crip. Look for yourself. Lorgan is still parked at 200,000, and stationary I might add. That means the damn planet is spinning and Lorgan is looking down like it is a toy top. ‘Dumb-de-dumb – look at Mars go round + round – dumb-de-dumb.’ I can almost hear that thing laughing.” Gus isn’t laughing.

The concept would be delightful if it were not so maddening.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 77


page 80

The NULL Solution = Episode 32

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The NULL Solution = Episode 32

…the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth…

The foreboding posture of the United Korean Peninsula is a troubling stain on the world at large.

The planet Earth is cut in half by an imaginary, yet quantifiable, line called the equator. In geography, latitude (φ) is a geographic coordinate that specifies the north-south position of a point on the Earth’s surface. Latitude is an angle which ranges from 0° at the Equator to 90° (North or South) at the poles. Lines of constant latitude, or parallels, run east-west, circles the run parallel to the equator.

The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 684 miles (1,100 km) from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the east, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water. It is situated between the 34th and 40th degree of parallel longitude in the northern hemisphere.

Once Upon a Time in Joseon (A Korean Tale)

In a happier age, back when Baby Boomers roamed the Earth, there were two kingdoms, each named Korea (or the peninsula titled by its neighbors: Joseon). The country to the South was a friendly kingdom, a land where its people were free to prosper and participate in the beautiful planet called Earth. The country to the North was a belligerent kingdom, where its people were purposely forbidden to know the truth about their beautiful planet. The two kingdoms had to be separated by a barrier, manned by great warriors to keep the peace. But the peace was fragile and the kingdom to the North did not keep the same rules as the rest of the world and they dared to use a mighty weapon to subdue their neighbors to the South. The other kingdoms of the world could not put things back the way it was before. And so it was that the United Korean Peninsula came to be and it was bad. 

THE END

To this day, the United Korean Peninsula has been and continues to be blight upon the family of nations that makes up the rest of Earth. With undeserved impunity, they have managed to spoil some of the most progressive projects in the world’s history. Space Colony 1, the prime example, was permanently sabotaged, resulting in the stranding of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, as well as squelching any sustained appetite to replace it.

Even worse than that, they were the first nation, since the signing of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in the year 1968, to use offensive nuclear weapons. To label them as “rogue” is a gross understatement.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 32


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