National Geographic July 2013, Part 2

Last Song, by Jonathan Franzen, photographs by David Guttenfelder

Last Song is about songbird hunting and/or poaching in countries near the Mediterranean (primarily Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Croatia, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Morocco, Romania, Spain, and Syria). One of the nice things about this article is that Franzen is against this poaching and he isn’t afraid to admit that he’s emotionally affected by the things he sees in the article.

Albania might be of the worst countries for hunting of songbirds.  At one point, Franzen says that almost none of the songbirds that enter the country ever leave it.  I did a little digging and the government of Albania finally did something about it in 2014, when they forbade all hunting in the country.  It was a pilot program that was supposed to last two years, but in February of 2016, it was extended for another five. While this has lessened the hunting somewhat, it has, obviously, only increased the level of poaching and Albania doesn’t have the resources to really crack down on poaching. Of course, what this means is that eventually only songbirds whose ancestors took migratory routes around Albania will survive to reproduce, and eventually Albania will lose all of its songbirds.

6/13/2016 Note: We went on a road trip yesterday and I finished reading July, 2013 and February, 2016.  I didn’t finish this post last night because I was exhausted when I got back.  I will, however, be able to knock out those three posts pretty quickly once I have some time to sit down and write (some of which will be after I finish today’s road trip). Now on to get started reading June 2013 . . .

The Case of the Missing Ancestor, by Jamie Shreeve, photographs by Robert Clark

In the 18th Century, a hermit named Denis supposedly lived in a cave in Siberia. Around three hundred years later, a piece of a pinkie bone was found in that cave, known as “Denisova.” When the scientists examined the DNA of that bone, they found that the owner of the bone, a girl estimated to have been around eight years old, had been of a species distinct from, but related to, modern humans.  They now call her people the Denisovans.

The Case of the Missing Ancestor goes into the discovery of the phalanx along with the discovery of two Denisovan molars, a Neanderthal toe bone, and part of a stone bracelet that, at press time was deemed probably too recent to have been made by a Denisovan or a Neanderthal, but may actually have been made by a Denisovan after all.

Speaking of things that have changed since press time, Shreeve says that the only living descendants of the Denisovans live in Oceania, including on the Aborigines of Australia and the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea. DNA studies done later indicate that there are also descendants of the Denisovans living in Tibet, including the Sherpa.

National Geographic November 2013, Part 1

Now that I’m back earlier than 2014 in this project, I sure hope that I can remember to put what year each issue came out. This is sort of an advance apology if sometime down the line, I goof and put “2012” instead of “2011” or anything like that.

The Last Days of a Storm Chaser, by Robert Draper

The Last Days of a Storm Chaser is a very long article about the life and death of Tim Samaras, who chased tornadoes, not for the thrill, but for the opportunity to study them in hopes of better understanding them and eventually saving the lives of people in the paths of them.

We start out with the video that Samaras made of the storm in question, then go back to discuss how he came to be there on that day. Draper discusses Samaras’s research, then goes a bit into how tornadoes form. Then he goes back farther to Samaras’s childhood

Samaras was well known for being very cautious. If he didn’t think that he and his coworkers, who included his son, Paul (who died in the same tornado), could get in and back out safely, he wouldn’t even attempt to place probes in the path of the tornado.

And yet, somehow, Samaras managed to make one tragic judgment call that led to his death and the deaths of two others. Samaras was videotaping the tornado and the videotape ended three minutes before his death, so it is likely we will never know why he opted to be where he was in those last minutes. Draper suggests that perhaps they were trying to deploy probes at the time, or perhaps they were attempting to get away.

Paradise Revisited, by Cathy Newman, photographs by David Doubilet

Doubilet is not only the photographer for this article, he is also the point of view character. Doubilet visited Kimbe Bay, off the coast of Papua New Guinea “seventeen years ago,” so presumably that would be 1996. We’re never told specifically. Since then, Doubilet has longed to return, to see if the coral reef in the bay is still healthy. And it is, for the time being. With global climate change being what it is, however, there are no guarantees that the reef will stay that way.

I am unsure why this is structured like a traditional article with the writer’s name at the top, rather than like other articles that focus on the work of the photographer, where top billing is given to the photographer and the writer’s name is given at the end. Perhaps over time I will see more examples of this kind of article and I will be able to figure out the pattern.

Expanded Boundaries and Hidden Treasures, by Robert Ballard

I had the pleasure to see Robert Ballard speak in person in the late 1980s. Ballard was speaking on the JASON project, which he founded to give children a chance to work with working scientists. He is an engaging speaker, and we had a chance to actually speak with him (very briefly) one-on-one after the talk.

But I digress. Expanded Boundaries and Hidden Treasures is about the exclusive economic zone (“EEZ”), which allows countries to lay claim to undersea territory at least 200 nautical miles from their coasts (if they can prove that the continental shelf extends beyond that 200-mile mark, they can claim more than 200 nautical miles). Needless to say, landlocked countries do not qualify to have an EEZ.

Through its coastline and also its island territories, the United States has claimed an area nearly the size of the continental US through the EEZ. “Last June,” presumably June of 2012, the United States sent its exploration ships out into its EEZ to uncover the natures of both the natural and the economic resources to be found there.