Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Russia. Show all posts

January 16, 2016

Andre Norton Messed with my Mind

Reconstruction of a man checking the roof
on his house framed with mammoth bones.
(The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, S.D.)


Recent Web-surfing (Do people still say that?) led me this fascinating article on Gizmodo: "A Mysterious Mammoth Carcass Could Change Human History."

The problem was that I read as far as this line — "A rounded hole through the interior jugal" —and immediately I think, "A bullet hole! Time travelers!" (And as a second thought, "What caliber for mammoth?")

Whose fault is that? Andre Norton's — pen name of Mary Alice Norton (1912–2005), who published in days when female SF writers pretty much had publish under male names for a nearly all-male readership.

Specifically I am thinking of her novel The Time Traders (1958). Wikipedia summarizes the beginning of The Time Traders
At the end of the Twentieth Century petty crook Ross Murdock is given the choice of facing a new medical procedure called Rehabilitation or volunteering to join a secret government project.

Hoping for a chance to escape, Ross volunteers to join Operation Retrograde and is taken by Major John Kelgarries to a base built under the ice near the North Pole. Teamed with archaeologist Gordon Ashe, he is trained to mimic a trader of the Beaker culture of Bronze-Age Europe.
(The Time Traders and one of its sequels, Key Out of Time, are available as free e-book downloads from Project Gutenberg.)

When I read it, after finding it in my tiny branch county library in Lakewood, Colo., I was maybe 11. It was not a good time— my parents had separated — Dad had moved out —and my mother was seeing some counselor whose office was in the same strip mall, so she would park me at the library. Then he moved back in — I was so glad —and then he moved out again. So maybe that was actually a good time for time travelers and for thinking about that evocative phrase, "the Beaker People."

Meanwhile, about that mammoth.
This 45,000 year-old mammoth’s life ended violently at the hands of hunters. That wouldn’t be surprising—it’s well known that Pleistocene humans were expert mammoth killers—but for the location. It was excavated from a permafrost embankment at Yenisei bay, a remote spot in central Siberia where a massive river empties into the Arctic Ocean.

That makes this brutalized mammoth the oldest evidence for human expansion into the high Arctic by a wide margin. Its discovery, published today in Science, might push back the timeline for when humans entered the northernmost reaches of the world—including the first entries into North America.
Reading about it is still a form of time travel, but I want to go to the Bronze Age via a secret base in the Arctic, damnit.

January 17, 2015

Would You Have Eaten What George Melville Ate?

Jeannette's boats are separated in a gale. Illustration from "In the Lena Delta"
In July 1879, the USS Jeannette, a former Royal Navy gunboat with both sails and a steam engine, left San Francisco Bay for the Bering Strait and the Arctic Ocean beyond.

Its purchase and outfitting expenses were chiefly covered by newspaper tycoon James Gordon Bennett, Jr.,  sort of the Ted Turner of his day, with the ship being commissioned by the US Navy and given a Navy crew—plus two native Alaskan dog handlers and a veteran whaling captain to serve as "ice pilot."

For two winters Jeannette explored northeast of Siberia, looking for a hypothesized open water projected — by eminent geographers— to exist north of the band of pack ice. For most of the time, of course, the ship was stuck in the pack ice, carried along by the polar drift while the crew carried out scientific observations and visited some hither-to unknown islands.

In June 1881 Jeannette was released by the ice—but then re-caught by moving floes. Despite the hull reinforcements added in preparation for the voyage, this time the ship was crushed. The crew had warning and had evacuated many supplies, sleds, dogs, and three of the ship's boats.

And then the hard part started. The story of Jeannette, the sinking, the horrible sled journey south, south, south, and the open-boat voyage toward the Siberian cost are told in Hampton Sides' book In the Kingdom of Ice, and if you like stories of adventure and endurance, you will devour it like a starving sailor eats raw fish.

But there is more. When the story shifts to the struggles of the castaway sailors and the search for the missing, Sides relies quite a bit  on In the Lena Delta (1884), an account written by the senior surviving officer, George Melville, the ship's engineer. So I had to get it.

Only two months after being rescued by some native Siberian Yakuts and still suffering from frostbite and malnutrition, Melville organized a November dogsled expedition to look for more survivors beyond those already found. (He did receive significant assistance from Russian imperial officials, once they learned of the castaways' existence.)

At one point, in the middle of howling winter gales, Melville and his Yakut guides (who always lived on the ragged edge of starvation anyway) ran out of food and were reduced to eating bits of leftover frozen reindeer and bones that the Yakuts cached here and there on their trapping routes. He writes,
With an axe the rib pieces were soon severed from the back-bone, and then from the inside of these the natives cut strips with their sheath-knives and handed me a chunky moral from the loin, as breakfast. I bit into it without any ceremony, while the dogs clamored frantically for a share. So long as it remained frozen the meat did not exhibit the vile extent of its putridity; but directly I had taken it into my mouth it melted like butter, and at the same time gave off such a disgusting odor that I hastily relinquished my hold upon it, and the dogs captured it at a single gulp. The natives first stared in genuine astonishment to see me cast away such good food to the dogs, and then burst forth into hearty laughter at my squeamishness. But I was not to be outdone, much less ridiculed, by a Yakut, and so ordered some more, perhaps a pound of the stuff, cut up into little bits. These I swallowed like so many pills, and then gazed on my Yakut friends in triumph; but not long, for in a little while my stomach heated the decomposed mess, an intolerable gas arose and retched me, and again I abandoned my breakfast — my loss, however, becoming the dogs' gain.

At this the natives were nearly overcome with mirth; but I astonished them by my persistence, requesting a third dose, albeit the second one had teemed with maggots; and swallowing the sickening bits as before, my stomach retained them out of pure exhaustion.
Remember this the next time you notice that the package of meat in your refrigerator is past its expiration date.

And In the Kingdom of Ice is a great cold-weather read. Unless you are in Yakutsk (a locale that figures in the story), it will make your winter seem like balmy spring.

September 03, 2013

What Killed the Russian Skiers? (2)

The torn tent at the skiers' campsite
Five years ago I first read of what is sometimes called "the Dyatlov Pass Incident" and was thoroughly creeped out.

This article offers another telling and more photographs, but the mystery remains. (Note: the page is "safe for work," but some networks may block the overall Vice.com website.)

If the tent was struck by an avalanche, how did they get out? People have died under relatively small amounts of snow — a foot or two — when it was heavily compacted.How come the skis used as tent poles are still standing if an avalanche swept over it?  And was that even an avalanche-prone slope?

Wouldn't experienced backcountry skiers who survived an avalanche have not reconstructed their camp as best they could?

I keep thinking that the radiation readings might be misleading, not the real issue — but that is just conjecture.

M. wonders if they did not eat bad mushrooms. That seems as possible as anything. Since it was February, someone would have had to make an error while picking mushrooms in the forest the previous season, then bring them along in dried form to be reconstituted and cooked in a stew or something. That could possibly explain the apparent delirium. Maybe.

May 04, 2013

Plains Drought not 'Global Warming' says NOAA

Although extreme, the drought is within normal variations.
 “This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years,” lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at NOAA, said. “Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event.”
The trouble is, "climate change" has become a political wedge issue, something to separate the right-thinking people from the regressive knuckle-draggers.

On the other side of the looking glass, scientists forecast some degree of global cooling. How do you say "denier" in Russian? (h/t Anthony Watts)
Just recently, experts said that the Arctic ice cover was becoming thinner while journalists warned that the oncoming global warming would make it possible to grow oranges in the north of Siberia. Now, they say a cold spell will set in. Apparently, this will not occur overnight, Yuri Nagovitsyn of the Pulkovo Observatory, says.

"Journalists say the entire process is very simple: once solar activity declines, the temperature drops. But besides solar activity, the climate is influenced by other factors, including the lithosphere, the atmosphere, the ocean, the glaciers. The share of solar activity in climate change is only 20%. This means that sun’s activity could trigger certain changes whereas the actual climate changing process takes place on the Earth."
It's the difference between "climate" and "weather." See also these reflections on the drop in the number of reported tornadoes in the United States.

December 05, 2012

Blog Stew with your Fishing Buddy

• Alfred Packerov? Cannibalism suspected in Siberian survival story.

• Is she a "horse hater" or a "realist"? A Colorado member of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board wants to talk about the 46,000 wild horses vegetating in corrals and the $60 million the government spend annually on wild horse management. One problem is that people are not lining up to adopt them. Private "sanctuaries" are overwhelmed with unwanted horses.

• New Mexico dog rescuer accused of crossing the line into theft and abuse.
Torrance County sheriff's officials say they have had a flood of new calls since news of Swenerton's arrest broke. One woman, approached at a hamburger stand, seemed startled to hear of the case.
"My dog is missing. A lot of dogs are missing," Melissa Crozier said. She said her dog, Simba, recently disappeared from inside her home, behind an unlocked door. "I came home and he was gone. I have no idea how he could have gotten out" unless someone opened the door.

March 15, 2012

Pleistocene Park, continued

The Pleistocene, when men were men and mammoth bones framed your house.
(Mammoth Site museum, Hot Springs, South Dakota)
Russian and Korean scientists are moving ahead with a plan not to breed mammoths exactly, but to inject mammoth DNA into elephant eggs and then implant the eggs in female Indian elephants. 
Mammoth remains were uncovered in thawed Siberian permafrost, and scientists around the world have been trying to extract DNA from the remains. Previously, paleobiologists were able to reproduce mammoth blood protein, and Japanese researchers want to resurrect the mammoth within five years. This new project will move forward if the Russian institution, the North-Eastern Federal University of the Sakha Republic, can ship its mammoth remains to the Koreans.
I reckon that the Russians are thinking "Pleistocene Park tourist attraction" while the Koreans . . . will do anything—or at least Hwang Woo-Suk will. Jeju Island might make a good Pleistocene Park, come to think of it.

But since mammoths used to roam the American Southwest, I think that if successfully recreated or hybridized, they should be released into the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Lots of different habitats there, and I like the idea of them splashing through Médano Creek.

October 14, 2011

Various Thoughts on Bigfoot

I am not a Bigfoot hunter. Invisible partridge are challenge enough. So I am about two years late to the party when it comes to the Lumpkin County, Georgia (northeast of Atlanta) alleged Bigfoot sighting, captured by a deputy sheriff's dashboard video camera (YouTube) and witnessed by the deputy and his civilian passenger.

This video has been supplemented by analysis of the creature's apparent speed, reference to the terrain — the embedded GPS reading helps — and so, making for eight interesting minutes. (The Discovery Channel could get a hour-length program out of that, repeating everything six or eight times.)

I read about it in a recent issue of the venerable Fate magazine, "Bigfoot in Georgia," by Daniel Perez. (Georgia has some active hunters of "the Big Guy.")

Hmm, what about Colorado?

Back in the late 1980s, as a newspaper reporter, I interviewed a man who said two "creatures" had walked past his house and left footprints in the snow, which he photographed and showed me. The large tracks just ended abruptly in the fresh powder. Odd.

Having blogged once on the mystery of "Monkey Creek," with some trepidation I now typed "Colorado Bigfoot" into YouTube's search box. Here are the results.

The "Yellow Top Bigfoot" seems to move like a hunched-over human, if you ask me. So does this one. Several others all look like the same gorilla suit. One video's makers frankly call it a "mockumentary."

Meanwhile, in Central Asia

Central Asia and Siberia have a long history of big, shaggy bipeds. In fact, the same May-June 2011 issue of Fate that carried Daniel Perez's article mentioned above also reprinted one from its May 1961 issue, "Russia Seeks the Snowman," about a Dr. Alexander G. Pronin of the "Geographic Scientific Institute of Leningrad University" (no Google hits on that name, but there could be translation issues) seeing a "snowman" while on an International Geophysical Year expedition in the Pamir Mountains.


The hypothesis of a surviving population of Neanderthals, which has been explored in fiction, is brought out again:
Igor Burtsev, head of the International Center of Hominology in Moscow -- which investigates so-called snowmen -- told The Voice of Russia radio that "when Homo sapiens started populating the world, it viciously exterminated its closest relative in the hominid family, Homo neanderthalensis."

"Some of the Neanderthals, however, may have survived to this day in some mountainous wooded habitats that are more or less off limits to their arch foes. No clothing on them, no tools in hands and no fire in the household. Only round-the-clock watchfulness for a Homo sapiens around."
Hitting the Wall
One thing I notice with Bigfoot investigations (as with UFO investigations—and some say they are related) is that people get evidence and think that they are on the verge of the big discovery — and then it all stops. Nothing seems to be repeatable in a scientific way.

I have to say that sometimes I think that Bigfoot exists—but not in our world. Rather he/she/they are in a world that sometimes intersects with ours. Yep, like fairies, etc.

The late Grover Krantz, a physical anthropologist at Washington State University, published a book arguing for a physical Bigfoot that inhabited an ecological niche sort of like a nocturnal black bear—at least in the Pacific Northwest. Rather than Neanderthal, he suggested a surviving Gigantopithecus as a possibility.

But unless it had learned to hibernate, I do not see how such a creature could live in the Pamirs—or the Rockies. Black bears do not forage for food in the winter, and neither could an ape-man.


February 22, 2011

Blog Stew Eaten in Abandoned Places

• Another site that finds abandoned structures to be sort of nonhuman.

• The Web site English Russia often features abandoned structures and machines of the Soviet era, as here: "Abandoned Soviet Trains in Belarus."

• Not abandoned: "Taos blue" doors—people still endorse the apotropaic significance of the color.

February 11, 2011

Ski News from All Over

• In Stockholm, Maine (not the other Stockholm), a resurgence in cross-country skiing.
Laurie Spooner, the school's principal, said there's no data to quantify the healthful benefits of the skiing program, but there's anecdotal evidence to suggest it's good for kids and educators alike. "We don't have as many disciplinary issues on the days the kids ski," she said.
You don't say.

• If we were still in a Cold War mind set, we would need the Stockholm program across the North, because the Red hordes are coming.

• In Colorado, a similar approach to Stockholm, Maine's, but downhill skiing and snowboarding are emphasized. 

• At some Colorado ski areas, lift passengers are being searched as resorts bring in the Law.
But under its permitted lease agreement with the US Forest Service, which grants the resort rights similar to private ownership, Steamboat can legally search its paying customers.

January 13, 2011

Winter Camping in Karelia

From the blog English Russia, a photo essay on hut-building, mink-trapping, and ice-fishing near the Finnish border. Cold, but not enough to freeze the vodka.

December 03, 2010

Pleistocene Park Update

Moving away from the cave bears to the grazing animals ... a Russian scientist argues that recreating a Pleistocene Siberia could positively affect global warming.

Other than that, it is just way cool.

August 17, 2010

No Nomex in Sight

A series of photos of (mostly) volunteer firefighters on the line in Russia.

Doesn't that red truck actually say "Telephone"? Not fire apparatus at all?

More photos here from the Boston Globe.

I do not really see the leaf blower as an effective firefighting tool, but the rest looks familiar. Fighting fires in peat bogs especially must be uniquely unpleasant.

The feds are sending some help, now that the worst may be over.

August 10, 2010

Blog Stew on the Yellowstone

• Yellowstone visitors reach an all-time high in July. You may connect that to the economy however you like. M. and I visited in September 2008 as the stock market plunged, but we saw no newspapers and had no internet access except for one morning in a Cody, Wyo., coffee shop. We called it "camping like it's 1929."

• At Querencia, Steve Bodio heralds the publication of John Vaillant's The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival.

Its protagonists are a single huge tiger, a ragged bunch of drunken poachers, and a patrol of anti-poaching rangers dedicated to protecting tigers over a huge area, with no money and inadequate tools. The beginning, as an unnamed hunter and his dog approach a dark cabin on a freezing evening, is a masterpiece of tension and quiet terror; the ending is utterly cinematic but real (the book is based on over 200 interviews).
• More Southern Rockies bloggers are reporting a great mushroom year--Peculiar even channels Chaucer.

• The Atomic Nerds buy dead critters from their dog. I had to do something similar yesterday with Fisher. 

• After a black bear sow smacked one of my scout cameras in June, I sent the damaged camera to camera-trapping biologist  Chris Wemmer in northern California, whose students conducted a proper postmortem on it.

April 15, 2010

March 14, 2010

Snow Terror

It's snowing, which is normal, although we do get tired of winter by the third week of March. (Cure: go out and play in it. Must do that.)

Meanwhile, it's always worse in Russia.

February 23, 2010

January 18, 2010

Biologist Studies Moscow's Strays and Subway Dogs

Last April I linked to an item about stray dogs in Moscow who commute to the city center.

The phenomenon of "commuting dogs" has drawn increasing scientific study.

Where did these animals come from? It’s a question Andrei Poyarkov, 56, a biologist specialising in wolves, has dedicated himself to answering. His research focuses on how different environments affect dogs’ behaviour and social organisation. About 30 years ago, he began studying Moscow’s stray dogs. Poyarkov contends that their appearance and behaviour have changed over the decades as they have continuously adapted to the changing face of Russia’s capital. Virtually all the city’s strays were born that way: dumping a pet dog on the streets of Moscow amounts to a near-certain death sentence. Poyarkov reckons fewer than 3 per cent survive.

August 22, 2008

Blog Stew with Mushrooms

• Apparently, I have stumbled on a photographic cliché: when you post mushroom pictures, such as this one from 2006, you should always include the field guide!

• Another group of mushroom hunters gets lost in the Wet Mountains. (M. is cheering for the 92-year-old man, lost or not.)

Several years ago I heard a member of Custer County Search & Rescue say that mushroom hunters were the group of outdoor users most likely to get lost. She based this statement on exactly one (1) anecdote. Now she has two. It's a trend.

• Nevertheless, it was mushroom hunting that pushed me to invest in a GPS unit -- one of Garmin's cheapest. I am still ambivalent about it, and I have a whole GPS post half-written in my head.

• This is from five years ago, but apparently Russian mushroom hunters get lost too. Eleven are still unaccounted for, the article says. Not like this, I hope.

• And mushrooms are kosher, not that that fact matters at all to us.

June 02, 2008

Blog Stew with Vodka

Peculiar Fishing

One of my favorite movies is The Cuckoo, a wartime drama (but not a "war story") set in a remote corner of Finland and directed by a Russian, Aleksandr Rogozhkin.

Netflix finally delivered one of his earlier works, Peculiarities of the National Fishing (title literally translated from Russian). Think of Caddyshack mixed with Cheech and Chong, with vodka playing the role that marijuana plays in the latter.

There is a Peculiarities of the National Hunting too, but I have not yet located it.

Some Australian Thinks You Should be Dead

The latest in antipodean environmental education. No doubt the "calculator" works because the intended audience is (a) too young to drive (b) pays no utility bills and (c) gets a free ride on their should-be-dead parents' carbon footprint.

And yet it says nothing about vodka consumption.

Expanding Tribal Lands, One Warranty Deed at a Time

Another article on Indian tribes buying their traditional lands for cash. In terms of total acres, the Navajos are probably ahead, having purchased more than 2.5 million acres.

'Burn in Hell, You Bastard -- and the Same Goes for All You Ponderosa Pine Trees!'

Terry Lynn "Oops, now what do I do?" Barton is out of prison. She does not yet have a job. Please don't let the Forest Service take her back.

February 28, 2008

What Killed the Russian Skiers?

Another reason to go into Search and Rescue work -- until the day when you end up completely creeped out and stay home with the doors locked.

(Via Hell in a Handbasket.)