Sometimes I hear or see little snippets of things that are really amazing and I think I want to follow that up and find out more but I just get busy and forget again and another amazing fact has disappeared, possibly forever. So lately I’ve been noting down keywords to remind myself of what I can go back an investigate. Today I have managed to sit down and inflate a few of the key words into their stories and here, with pleasure, I present them to you:
I must have skipped out on this class at school or something and I am now ashamed to say that I did not know that a large asteroid probably wiped out the dinosaurs. How did I not know that? As a child I could have put asteroid attack alongside the cold war to fuel my nightmares. I just thought the dinosaurs kind of petered out, evolved away, got frozen in the ice age or something. Did all of you out there know about this devastating asteroid? Why haven’t you all been asking whether there might be another one that will wipe us out too? I mean, if woolly mammoths and T-rex’s can’t survive then there’s no hope for puny little beings like humans. I was all a-panic for a while until I discovered that astrologists have cleared at least the next 100 years of any asteroid attack. Phew, because I reckon Bruce Willis is getting a bit long in the tooth for flying planes into asteroid cores.
Anyway, the asteroid buggering the dinosaurs theory is in part still a theory and it does have it’s opposition, but it’s pretty fascinating so I’ll run with it anyway. K-T is the common term for the main contributing event that likely caused the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. It is thought to have happened about 65 million years ago when a giant (10km across) asteroid hit the Earth at Chicxulub in Mexico. It caused a crater 180 km from rim to rim, now known as the Yucatan Crater. Geological evidence suggests that K-T caused climate change, dust clouds, tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters (not to mention the impact itself, thought to have been a billion times greater than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki) that all culminated in the extinction of around 70% of life on Earth. Today the only disaster we can blame for climate change is humans.
Anyway, recent studies show that while we’re not in the immediate line of
fire from an asteroid of this scope, dangerous asteroids – of the size that could wipe out whole metropolitan areas – actually do impact the Earth around every 6 months. 26 of the buggers hit Earth between 2000 and 2013. In February last year, a meteorite smashed into Central Russia and killed up to 500 people. Shame it didn’t get pervy Putin.
In 1908, an asteroid exploded over Siberia and wiped out 80 million trees. Crikey peeps, life’s short and unpredictable. Make the best of it.
On September the 2nd 1945, as World War Two approached it’s end, the Japanese Empire surrendered. Some Japanese soldiers, as a result of their extreme militaristic background and determined faith in their empire, refused to believe the news of surrender. Others just didn’t hear of it at all. They became the stragglers, or the holdouts; waiting for a superior officer to relieve them of their duty. Without such orders, they continued to fight enemy forces and when the enemy had all departed, they fought local police. They were still doggedly fighting years after the war had ended.
In 1972, almost 30 years since the war ended, an intelligence officer stationed in the Philippines, Hiroo Onoda, was at long last relieved of duty by his commanding officer. And in 1974, Teruo Nakamura, a soldier in Indonesia who had been declared dead in 1945, emerged from the Island jungles where he had set up a one man camp, and finally surrendered.
In May 2005, it was reported that two elderly Japanese soldiers – Yoshio Yamakawa and Tsuzuki Nakauchi – emerged from the jungle of a remote Philippine Island, finally convinced that they wouldn’t face court martial. However the two disappeared again, allegedly scared off by the media frenzy. Whether the story is true remains a mystery, but further reports suggest that the elderly holdouts were invented as a guise by local gangs to bring potential hostage targets to the island.
I think they’re still there, still hiding, possibly with some thylacine and a lyrebird*.
The Brewarrina Fish Traps
One of the oldest man-made structures on Earth is in Australia – it really is. The Brewarrina Fish Traps (or Ngunnhu to the local Ngemba people) are estimated to be over 40,000 years old. To put this in context a bit, Stone Henge is about 3,800 years old.
You can go and visit them anytime you are passing through Brewarrina, not far from Lightening Ridge in New South Wales (I love those names, they somehow make me hear cooees and taste red dust).
The fish traps are an elaborate network of rock weirs and pools that stretch for about half a kilometre along a section of the Darling River. They were built by ancient tribes – well versed in fish habits and river flows and other impressive science – to catch fish as they swam upstream.
And while we’re on an indigenous subject, HAPPY RECONCILIATION WEEK EVERYONE! Everything about our Indigenous Australians is amazing I reckon.
And here’s something almost as amazing – our constitution doesn’t recognise Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islanders. In fact, section 127 of the constitution used to state that: “In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.” This section was wholly removed, but not until 1967! That’s the year my husband was born and he’s really young. Incredible.
A group called “Recognise” are working hard to get Indigenous Australians recognised in the constitution. This week, the AFL announced their support of the group and the amendments they recommend. I think everyone should get behind this cause.
Monkeys – those cheeky buggers never cease to amaze me. Ever since I lived in Launceston, a kilometre or two from City Park where there’s a monkey enclosure (I know, random, but when you live there it’s not considered weird), I have had some sort of attachment to monkeys of all shapes and sizes. Those Launceston monkeys were diagnosed with herpes some years ago and they have the ugliest pink bottoms you’ve ever seen, but still I used to visit them regularly.
Last weekend my fascination with monkeys sparked up again at the Melbourne Zoo when I was reunited with my friend Vang, a dear little gibbon I met last year. Back then, Vang hang by her arms against the viewing widow and stared at us. I gazed into her little heart shaped face and fell in love. This time, she was still there by the window. I fancied she’d been waiting for me and I put my face against the window too. We stared into each other’s eyes and I wanted to take her home.
When we walked away my husband said, “I think you just had a moment with a monkey”. I thought I did too. Until I googled Vang and found her in various photos giving others the benefit of her up-close gaze. Little tart.
Later, the gorillas shagged right in front of us and the bloke next to us muttered kind of wistfully, “He’s onto a good thing.” His wife wasn’t amused. I laughed for a good few days.
Thanks again to the zoo, I discovered that Mandarin Duck isn’t a duck dish featuring small orange citrus fruit, but a very beautiful, slightly weird looking duck species peculiar to Asia.
Perhaps that one’s not so amazing, just me being a dumbo.
But oh what a world is ours.
*Lyrebirds are not extinct by any means, just very hard to spot. I spent a childhood trying to find a lyrebird and never did. Did you know they can mimic a huge variety of sounds including other songbirds, koalas, chain saws, camera clicks and baby cries. More amazement.