“Bee”hemoth Wallace Lives


In January 2019 natural history photographer Clay Bolt captured images of Wallace’s Giant Bee. Considered one of the 25 “most wanted lost” species by Global Wildlife Conservation’s Search for Lost Species initiative, Wallace’s Giant Bee hadn’t been seen in 38 years. Thirty eight years is a long time to miss Wallace’s 6 cm wingspan, science considered the species extinct. Bolt said –

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed anymore.

To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible.”

Discovered in 1858 on the Indonesian island of Bacan by British entomologist and  namesake Alfred Russell Wallace (1823-1913), the last sighting of Wallace’s Giant Bee (Megachile pluto) occurred in 1981 when American entomologist Adam C. Messer documented six nests in Indonesia. Two specimens found in February and September of 2018 sold on eBay without a twinge of lost species conscience. Clay Bolt’s capture, imaging and release of a single female giant bee affirm the tenacity of waning species.

Elusive Wallace behemoths build nests inside active tree dwelling termite colonies. With  impressive jaws, females collect and spit out balls of tree resin, forming protective compartments within termite domain. Giant bees depend on low lying forests for resin and termite colonies. Little as we know about resin ball spitting tree dwelling termite colony squatter Indonesian giant bees, science begs us to realize how remarkable it is to photograph one.

 

See the source image

Wallace’s giant bee dwarfs the common honey bee in size. Image © Clay Bolt/claybolt.com.

https://earthsky.org/earth/found-worlds-biggest-bee-wallaces-giant-bee?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=7db7df99b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_02_02_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-7db7df99b0-393970565

 

Portal Turkmenistan


If the Republic of Turkmenistan draws a blank you’re not alone. Geography of the former Soviet Union and Central Asia lean toward murky guesses at best. If it helps Turkmenistan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, the Caspian Sea to the west. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, named Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in 1925, Turkmenistan gained independence in 1991 upon dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, with a population of barely 6 million, Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated places in Asia.

In 1971 Russian geologists thought they’d found a substantial oil field near the village of Derweze, Turkmenistan (commonly know as Darvaza) Engineers quickly moved in, made camp and started drilling to assess oil reserves. What they found was a massive natural gas pocket, the ground collapsed swallowing drill rigs and the work camp. Worried lethal methane gas could poison nearby residents, authorities set the pit ablaze. They thought it would burn itself out in a few weeks. Over 50 years later, fire rages on.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/07/140716-door-to-hell-darvaza-crater-george-kourounis-expedition/

Known today as the gate or portal to Hell, virtually all tourism in Turkmenistan is attributed to viewing the Darvaza Crater. No one knows how long it will burn, but geologists suggest it’s one of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the world.

Ponder Saharan Night Skies


Take a moment to ponder timelapse perfection by Lucie Debelkova – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClDKSZTXcuOz4lC_Zv183Ng Lucie travelled along ancient trade routes from the Atlas mountains, across the Sahara to Marrakech during darkest Moon phases to capture night skies without light pollution. Dark skies reveal the Milky Way of our ancestors – mesmerizing, irrefutable and bristling with thought provoking imagination.

 

The People vs. Donald J Trump


Ponder the words of New York Times contributor David Leonhardt ….

“The presidential oath of office contains 35 words and one core promise: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since virtually the moment Donald J. Trump took that oath two years ago, he has been violating it.

He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. He has tolerated cabinet officials who use their position to enrich themselves.

To shield himself from accountability for all of this — and for his unscrupulous presidential campaign — he has set out to undermine the American system of checks and balances. He has called for the prosecution of his political enemies and the protection of his allies. He has attempted to obstruct justice. He has tried to shake the public’s confidence in one democratic institution after another, including the press, federal law enforcement and the federal judiciary.

The unrelenting chaos that Trump creates can sometimes obscure the big picture. But the big picture is simple: The United States has never had a president as demonstrably unfit for the office as Trump. And it’s becoming clear that 2019 is likely to be dominated by a single question: What are we going to do about it?

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He has already shown, repeatedly, that he will hurt the country in order to help himself. He will damage American interests around the world and damage vital parts of our constitutional system at home. The risks that he will cause much more harm are growing.

President Trump meeting with members of his cabinet at the White House on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

Some of the biggest moderating influences have recently left the administration. The defense secretary who defended our alliances with NATO and South Korea is gone. So is the attorney general who refused to let Trump subvert a federal investigation into himself. The administration is increasingly filled with lackeys and enablers. Trump has become freer to turn his whims into policy — like, say, shutting down the government on the advice of Fox News hosts or pulling troops from Syria on the advice of a Turkish autocrat.

The biggest risk may be that an external emergency — a war, a terrorist attack, a financial crisis, an immense natural disaster — will arise. By then, it will be too late to pretend that he is anything other than manifestly unfit to lead.

For the country’s sake, there is only one acceptable outcome, just as there was after Americans realized in 1974 that a criminal was occupying the Oval Office. The president must go.”

Apollo 8, A Story of Christmas Around the Moon


December 21, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of NASA’s momentous Apollo 8 mission. Three days after launch, on Christmas Eve 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders became the first humans to orbit the Moon, the first to see an Earthrise above the lunar surface. Ponder NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine as he looks back on Apollo 8.

https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4029/Apollo_08a_Summary.htm

Pondering 100 Years


This ponder is dedicated to my dear friend and co-worker Tony. A true gentleman, salt of the earth and kind soul whose thoughtful tribute to the 100th anniversary of SS Princess Sophia’s tragic demise touched my heart.

 

The SS Princess Sophia, before her tragic end. (Alaska State Library, Sadlier-Olsen Family Collection)

http://princesssophia.org/

On the 100th anniversary of armistice take a moment to ponder the 100th anniversary of Princess Sophia, a maritime disaster worth remembering. Below, Tony’s letter to his Princess line shipmates….

One hundred years ago today, in the early morning hours of October 24th 1918 the CPR’s Princess Sophia ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal,  about 60 miles south of Skagway, Alaska, bound for Juneau and points south   The ship had left Skagway with a full load of ‘end of season’ passengers at 10 pm, three hours late.   It was one of the last two sailings southbound before winter set in; Princess Alice was on her way north and would be just about the last chance to travel south.  About 400 people were waiting in Skagway, many of them seasonal workers and crews from the paddle wheelers on the interior lakes.   There was excitement building over rumours of an end to the Great War but a number of the passengers and crew members were already sick with the ‘flu, the influenza epidemic which would kill at least 20 million people worldwide, 30 to 50,000 Canadians.

The weather deteriorated soon after departure and at the time of the grounding the Sophia was travelling at 12 – 14 knots through a snowstorm with a 50 mph tailwind.  Navigation was conducted by sounding the ship’s whistle and calculating the distance from the steep cliff sides of the channel which was about 8 miles wide at that point.  The vessel veered off course,  too far to the west and struck the reef with so much force that it was driven almost its entire length high onto the reef but settled level.  There was a radio on board and Captain Locke managed to alert both Skagway and Juneau.

The ship seemed securely wedged and not too much damage was visible to the hull. There seemed to be no immediate danger.  A decision was made wait for moderation in the weather before allowing rescue attempts from the several small vessels which had arrived to help.  At low tide it was not possible to launch the lifeboats because of the surrounding rocks and even at high tide it was thought that they would be dashed against the rocks before they could clear away.  For forty hours the ship remained on the reef awaiting the forecast improvement in the weather.   An all out rescue effort was planned for high tide on the 26th but towards the evening of the 25th fresh high winds and pounding seas moved the stern of the vessel completely around and it began to slide into deeper water.   Princess Sophia sank late on October 25th, with the loss of all the passengers and crew, about 340 souls in all.  Many bodies were found trapped inside the vessel and others were still being found in the water up to eight miles away for weeks after.  Princess Alice carried many of the bodies back to Vancouver and arrived on November 11th,  Armistice Day.  The ship anchored off shore and did not enter the port until the next day.   The arrival almost went unnoticed amid the great celebrations surrounding Armistice Day and its announcement only appeared on an inside page of the newspaper.  Despite being the biggest maritime disaster in Alaska’s history the event was quickly almost forgotten.  Unlike the great Titanic disaster, there were no survivors of the Princess Sophia sinking to tell their stories.

The attached photo is of Princess Sophia arriving in Vancouver sometime between 1914 / 1918.  The resolution is high enough that if you zoom in you can clearly see some stewards on the foredeck …..   white shirts and bow ties!  Perhaps they were looking out for wives and girlfriends on the dock.  Many soldiers are visible and there seem to be officers waiting dockside as well as a band playing just above the foredeck.    Also attached a picture of some crew members,  stewards again I think, on board before the disaster.  I wonder what the tips were like in those days.    The route the ships took back then was the same as the Princess Patricia in the 1970s,   the same ports in a different order.    It is a sobering thought to think that all of us passed that same reef many, many times,  northbound and southbound and always in darkness.   Luckily we had the benefit of radar,  depth sounders  …..   and Angus Twatt often at the helm,  a fine seaman from the Orkney Islands!

This afternoon at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver the B.C. Maritime Museum installed a plaque commemorating seven O’Brien family members lost on Princess Sophia.

https://www.vicnews.com/news/museum-marks-100th-anniversary-of-the-unknown-titanic-of-the-west-coast/