Breaking the Silence, by Alexandra Fuller, photographs by Robin Hammond
When I saw the previous article on Wrangel Island, my first thought was that this was going to be an article on global climate change. To my pleasant surprise it wasn’t. Then I turned the page and found an article on the other recurring theme of these issues, unrest in Africa.
The unrest, this time, surrounds the then-34-year-old reign (all things considered, I hesitate to use the term “administration”) of Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. In, apparently, the interest of full disclosure, Fuller tells us that she lived for a time in what was then Rhodesia and that her parents were active in keeping the white minority in power. She introduces Mugabe with these two sentences: Robert Gabriel Mugabe exuded an air of conciliatory magnanimity. My mother wasn’t buying it.
This sentence bothered me. I spent the rest of the article looking for bias. Granted, Fuller describes her parents’ efforts as “a questionable cause,” but still, I am not sure what purpose the sentence about her mother serves.
The rest of the article is largely a chronology of the reign of Mugabe and a look into the things that the people of Zimbabwe are doing to rebel against Mugabe.
Our Fertilized World, by Dan Charles, photographs by Peter Essick
I spend too much time surrounded by faux science pro-“organic” propaganda. The opening sentence of the blurb: If we don’t watch out, agriculture could destroy our planet, had me prepared for more of that sort of thing. The little voice that asks whom the writer would let starve to get the organic utopia he wants was just getting warmed up when Charles outright admits that our culture depends on the existence of artificial fertilizer.
Our Fertilized World is not so much pro-organic as anti-overfertilization. We see some of the studies being done to find better ways to fertilize it without overfertilizing.
Next up in National Geographic articles (to be posted on or around July 31, I think?), the little voice in my head is really, really bothered by nitrogen being given an atomic number of 123. And 127.
I don’t know when I’m going to get the reading done for this post, but I’m going to get started writing it up anyhow. Hopefully I’ll get the reading done on June 28 or 29 and get this knocked out by the end of the month. I may also get a start on the July 13 post, which will probably be another San Antonio city park, between now and then, as well.
The day after this goes live, by the way, Alex and I are leaving for our Salt Lake City/Yellowstone trip. Assuming that the flight is uneventful, we’ll be landing pretty early in the day, getting our luggage and our rental car, and heading off to Pando, the most massive single organism in the world.
July 6 – I was sort of close. I got part of the reading done in very early July but then stalled. I intended to finish up the second article while waiting for a doctor for some jaw pain I’ve been having lately. I got right in to see the doctor and got right back out again. It’s now July 6 and I’m just now starting on the writing.
Waste Not, Want Not, by Elizabeth Royte, photographs by Brian Finke
First, the meaning of the term “want” had moved from “the lack of” to “a desire for” by such an extent by my own childhood, that it took me a very long time to figure out that “waste not, want not” didn’t mean “if you don’t waste it, you won’t want it.”
Second, this article returns us to the Future of Food series for the first time since I’m-not-sure-when. It’s been so long that the “future of food” tag doesn’t even show up on my widget.
A shocking amount of food is wasted in the world. Some of it is food that was purchased in grocery stores or restaurants and went uneaten, but a lot of it is actually disposed of at the site where it is grown. Sometimes it comes out malformed and the buyers, either the shoppers themselves or the buyers who work for the retail industry. Sometimes there is actually something wrong with the produce, such as a fungal infection or an infestation by parasites.
We follow Tristram Stuart as he puts together meals from discarded food. We see him buying crookneck squash that took their name just a little too seriously, for example. These squash become part of a squash tempura, turnip dumpling, and zucchini noodle meal.
In this article, we go on to France, Kenya, Peru, and back to the United States (Las Vegas, this time) to see what Stuart, and others, are doing to use unsalable food.
The Cold Rush, by Joel K. Bourne, Jr., photographs by Evgenia Arbugaeva
With the increasing warming of the Arctic region, several countries, including Canada, Norway, and Russia are attempting to harvest the natural resources that are coming closer to (and sometimes actually reaching) the surface. Norway is drilling for oil in the Arctic Circle, and Canada is mining gold and iron. Additionally, some ships (including a cruise ship) are taking advantage of the melting ice to take the proverbial “Northwest Passage” from Europe to Asia through northern Canada.
It’s not all rosy, though. The Arctic Circle is so remote that workers need to be brought in in groups, the workers then live in those groups for weeks or months, and then they get shipped home. Also, ecological damage is being done. There are no oil pipelines that far north, so the oil has to be dumped into tankers, which leads to the risk of an oil spill. And, of course, mining always leads to damage.
The Azolla Event, which is the proliferation of azolla fern that led our carbon-rich atmosphere to go into an ice age, locked up more carbon than just the carbon in the fern. Some carbon dioxide was dissolved in the water and once the water froze, the carbon that was dissolved in it was trapped. Cold Rush points out that the melting ice is releasing further carbon into the atmosphere.
We’re going to frame my trip to the American Museum of Natural History as a flashback. Our story opens with a movie called The Relic, released in 1997. The Relic was filmed, in part, in Chicago, most notably at the Field Museum of Natural History. I’ve always loved the museum, and I got my now-ex to kinda like it, too, during our relationship. So, although I’m not a big fan of horror films, we went to see it.
The Relic featured a cargo ship in Lake Michigan, kind of by the Shedd Aquarium, if memory serves (bear in mind that this was 19 years ago now and I have never felt motivated to see the movie again). I don’t think the water is deep enough for a ship that large and according to Wikipedia the ship was originally headed for Chicago from Brazil — up the Illinois River? That doesn’t even work. I mean, the Illinois doesn’t go that far, and the ship would have to have gone through the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi first. And then from the Illinois River to the Sanitary and Ship Canal which, despite the word “ship” in the name, was probably not really intended to carry cargo ships from Brazil. In real life, by the way, a cargo ship from Brazil would dock at the Illinois International Port, which is on 95th Street at the place where Lake Michigan meets the Calumet River, so it likely would have gone up the Atlantic Ocean to the St. Lawrence and then through Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron to Lake Michigan.
The crew is all dead when the ship arrives, but if they made it that far, obviously they can’t all have been dead that long. You know? If they’d died in the Illinois River, they probably wouldn’t have made it past Lockport because, well, there’s a lock in Lockport. While having Joliet menaced by a monster would be an interesting movie (Ooh! And we could have a ragtag team of prisoners from the penitentiary be the heroes! That would be fun!), that’s not the movie that they have here.
I kind of wandered off the topic there. Sorry.
Anyway, so the film uses the outside of the museum Stanley Field Hall, which, if I recall correctly, still had at least one of its old fountains that are now long gone. It was very nice for a more or less perennially homesick Chicagoan.
Then we venture farther into the museum (to sets on a sound stage, probably in California) and suddenly it stops being the Field Museum. With no warning whatsoever, the Field Museum turns into the American Museum of Natural History.
This was, as I’m sure you can understand, kind of disorienting. It also totally spoiled my suspension of disbelief. I spent the rest of the movie thinking, “But that’s the American Museum in New York.” And when I told the now-ex of this experience, he was actually kind of confused at how certain I was that it was the American Museum, so I looked it up. Yay for our first years of Internet access at home!
And sure enough, the novel that the movie was based on was set in the American Museum of Natural History. The American Museum refused to let them film inside the museum, so they shopped around for other museums. The people in charge of the Field Museum liked the script (and probably the visibility for our city in general and the museum in particular) and so they gave permission to film there.
I remember the museum as being a very nice one, though not “home,” like the Field Museum is. Now I’m wondering, though, if we got to the whole thing. Now, granted, my folks never spent much time at the “peoples of wherever” exhibits in the Field Museum, so it’s not surprising that I don’t remember it. I suspect we might not have seen it. However, there’s a planetarium in the museum as well, and that has been my folks’ idea of a good time, but I don’t remember it at all.
I do remember the prehistoric creatures areas at the museum. In fact, the only photos we took in the museum were my pictures of the Megalodon jaw (see above — I wasn’t sure which side I liked better, so I’m including them both). I’m unclear on whether the jaw on display is a new one, or if it is the original jaw being seen from a different angle. It does appear to no longer be displayed in the doorway of a room with mood lighting.
Overall, I think I’d like to return and see what, if anything, looks familiar from the intervening nearly 30 years. I would also like to make sure that I get to that planetarium.
London Down Under, by Roff Smith, photographs by Simon Norfolk
Okay, so cities build on top of the remains of previous generations. In London Down Under (more on my reaction to that title later), we are told that the old layers of London go down 30 feet. I would assume that the materials the higher levels are built from came from outside the city and thus the city itself is getting more prominent. If this happens in all cities, would the planet actually kind of start getting bigger? You can tell I didn’t sleep well last night. I’m still a little loopy.
London was always one of the places I’ve wanted to visit, and when I had my cancer, I didn’t want to die without having been to the UK, London in particular, so we went. It took a toll on our credit cards, but it was worth it. I loved London and would love to go back someday.
London Down Under is about the archaeological digs that they are doing in London, the things they are finding, and how, contrary to what you might have expected, the dampness of London is actually protecting the artifacts. One of the archaeologists that Smith interviews, Sadie Watson, says that items that would have rotted away centuries ago. I’m trying to figure out how that would even work. I can find references to how salt water preserves artifacts, but not fresh water, like that of the Thames and the underground rivers such as the Walbrook. The water would make an anaerobic environment, but that would still leave anaerobic organisms, and anaerobic organisms can break things down. That is the source of fermentation, after all — fungi breaking down carbohydrates in an anaerobic environment.
Now to my issue with the title. “Down Under” generally means “Australia,” or, rarely “New Zealand” or, even more rarely, someplace like Chile, Argentina. I haven’t been able to find one dictionary that defines the term as “subterranean.”
The Changing Face of Saudi Women, by Cynthia Gorney photographs by Lynsey Addaria
Gorney and Addaria travel into the world of the women of Saudia Arabia. And I use the term “world” intentionally. Saudi Arabia is one of the most, if not the most, sexually segregated countries in the world. Women have different places to sit in restaurants, different lines at the grocery store, and entirely separate areas of the shopping mall. Not that men are forbidden entirely in some of these places but the only men who are allowed there are husbands or immediate family members of the women in question.
Apparently, some of the women of Saudi Arabia, at least, don’t see their segregation as creating a female ghetto but rather as a safe space rather like women-only colleges and universities. Women got the right to vote in 2015, the same year that women were first allowed to be members of the Consultative Assembly, which is, from what I can tell, more or less like a combination of Congress (in that they draft laws) and the President’s Cabinet (in that they are merely advisory and don’t make the actual decisions) in the United States. But Saudi women still cannot drive in Saudi Arabia. Some women drive outside the country, and it apparently is pretty common for cars to stop just over the border into Bahrain and for the woman to take over driving. So, when women do get the ability to drive legally in Saudi Arabia, at least some won’t need to be taught.
For the entertainment value, I went to look at the King Fahd Causeway, which links Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, on Google Earth to see if I could see any cars doing this, and there definitely appears to be a car on the shoulder just past Bahrain Passport Control. Maybe that car wasn’t switching drivers, but just maybe it was.
Midnight Slalom, by Jeremy Berlin, photographs by Oskar Enander
Midnight Slalom is a short piece with accompanying photographs about a 2014 nighttime shoot of skiers on the slopes of mountains in Alaska and British Columbia. The pictures are breathtaking.
Alex and my trip to New York City covered pretty much everything we did in New York City in 1988, with two exceptions. 1. the United Nations, and 2. The American Museum of Natural History. We fit a lot of things that we didn’t do in 1988 into our 2015 trip, though, and you can see them all under my 2015 Vacation category.
So, today we’ll focus on the United Nations.
At least in the United States, we tend to glorify World War II. At least in Europe, the United States was clearly on the side of the good guys. The Nazis were killing their own citizens by the millions. It’s really hard not to be on the side of the angels when your enemies are that bad.
During the war, the “Allies” as they are commonly known (the countries that were fighting against Germany, Italy, and Japan) decided that they needed to find a way to avoid wars like this in the future. They began in 1941 with the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, and then about four and a half months later, 26 countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations. By the end of the war, the United Nations included 50 countries who signed the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Of course, eventually Germany (then the nations of East Germany and West Germany), Italy, and Japan did join the United Nations.
The stated goal of the United Nations was to avoid a conflict like World War II from ever happening again. As an attempt to avoid all wars, it has been a pretty spectacular failure. The United States, in particular, has taken up arms in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, at the very least, in the years since 1945. Other countries have had their own conflicts, as well.
Has it avoided World War III? Perhaps the situation hasn’t arisen that would have ended up being World War III, but I like to think that just maybe it has. Unless, of course, future historians decide that the conflict in the Middle East that began in 2001 and involves something like 40 different countries, has been World War III, which I don’t think is an impossible development.
My own interest in the United Nations started in the 1970s, when Diana Prince (civilian alter ego of Wonder Woman) worked there. When I ended up being pretty good with foreign languages (a trait I inherited from my maternal great-grandmother, who spoke five), I thought about majoring in a foreign language and becoming a translator and perhaps I would have been good enough to get work at the United Nations. We’ll probably never know. As I told you in my previous post on our 1988 trip, I was beginning to date the man who is now my ex-husband at that point. I opted not to major in a foreign language because I knew that I was already only going to be able to see him every few weeks. I didn’t want to have to live in a foreign country for a semester (or more!) and miss seeing him for 16 or 32 weeks.
When we visited the United Nations in 1988, we walked from our midtown hotel to the UN building. We walked down 45th street, so close to Grand Central Terminal that we could practically touch it. Grand Central was on my list of places that I wanted to see in person, but we were on a schedule, so my folks and I kept walking. We made up for that in 2015.
The original hope for the United Nations was that they would find someplace unclaimed by any nation to hold their headquarters. That ended up being impracticable, so they decided on New York City as the location. John D. Rockefeller bought an 18-acre parcel of land that used to hold a slaughterhouse and donated it to the United Nations. The United States ceded the land to the United Nations, so the headquarters is no longer part of the United States, though all of the laws that apply in New York City are enforced at the United Nations. The United Nations headquarters uses the US dollar as its currency, but it has its own stamps.
When we visited, none of the various organs of the United Nations were in session. This was bad because we didn’t get to see any of the activities of the United Nations, but it was also a good thing because our tour guide was able to talk about the General Assembly and the Security Council and things in the chambers themselves, which made it more interesting.
One of the most memorable parts of the tour, though, was the disarmament room. This room has various artifacts in it, most notably coins and a statue that were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the nuclear blasts there. Our tour guide told us that the delegates had to walk through that room to get to the General Assembly chamber. I don’t know if that was true then, and I am less certain of that now that the delegates apparently have to go through security with everyone else.
Alex and I are planning a return trip to New York City as part of our 2017 trip to Canada (which I’ve already saved up for). The United Nations is going to be the top of our list of things to see if/when we do make that return trip.
Seeing the Light, by Ed Yong, photographs by David Littleschwager
Seeing the Light focuses (heh) on the evolution of the eye and its function in different species. Eyes all receive light, but they use that light for different purposes. In humans, the light is used to perform functions like reading, driving and functioning at practical tasks. In other species, the practical aspects prevail. Some use their eyes to look for prey, others use them to avoid becoming prey.
Yong includes the sentence, “You use it (light) to . . . . read these words.” And, of course, not all prospective readers of “these words” are able to use light in this way because they are blind. By the way, I can now read the text on-line version of the magazine if I go directly to the article. If I want to use the table of contents, though I still need to go to the text version, which one can see okay on my computer, but for which a screen reader (the software that a blind user uses to read computerized documents) would be useless. I’m not sure if software like KNFB Reader, which takes pictures of words, uses optical character recognition to turn them into text, and then reads it aloud with synthetic speech would be able to see the page clearly enough to read it. An old-fashioned screen reader, however, would be able to read the text version of the articles aloud for a blind reader, which will help for the last few years. As to the years prior to those. LibriVox volunteers are in the process of converting the public domain issues to speech, as well. However, that just covers issues through 1923 at the moment. They still have quite a ways to go (the latest issue available is from 1896), so that should hold them until at least 2019, when publications from 1924 will enter the public domain. I have actually considered reading for them, but I hate my voice. Like, really hate it. I’m not enthusiastic about my appearance, either (that’s why you’ll likely never see a photograph of me on this site). I’m trying to psych myself up to do it, but I may never reach that point.
Denali, by Tom Clynes, photographs by Aaron Huey
Clynes visited Denali National Park in Alaska at least twice — one visit was in March, when he got a chance to travel the park by dogsled. The other was in June, when he visited the park like a tourist.
Early in Denali National Park’s history was first formed, there was a debate about how many miles of roads they need to pave for visitors. They ended up with a compromise of sorts, and a 15-mile stretch was paved. The road was too narrow for the number of visitors they had, and so they ended up using a sort of mass transit system, where buses take the visitors along the road. The visitors can get on and off the buses at pretty much anywhere, and people do leave the buses.
The big draw of Denali is the wildlife. There are 39 species of mammal and 169 species of bird at Denali, according to their website. The centerpiece of Denali is their wolves. Scientists collar the wolves to study their habits and, over the last six or so years, the number of wolves in the park has been halved, from 100 to 50. This article focuses on the wolves, and why their numbers are dwindling.
Some of it, of course, is poachers — you can’t patrol the entire perimeter of a six-million-acre park, so some people will invariably sneak in to steal wildlife. Others, however, are hunts outside the park that are otherwise perfectly legal. Clynes meets a hunter who, among others of his fellow Alaskans, believes that the federal laws that protect the wildlife of the park, particularly the predators, are “overreach.”
There are no answers to the questions posed in this article yet. All we can do is wait and research and study and hope that someday there will be.
Rising Seas, by Tim Folger, photographs by George Steinmetz
Oh, look. Another article about climate change. What a surprise.
This time we’re focusing on New York City and what can be done to protect it from both rising sea levels and from future storms like Sandy. One possibility is to build storm barriers and another is to build a chain of barrier islands. Apparently there used to be barrier islands in New York Harbor, but they were removed “by . . . landfill projects,” which I assume means that the islands are now part of either Manhattan or one of the other boroughs.
Folger suggests that New York City look to the Netherlands for ideas. The Eastern Scheldt barrier which protects Zeeland, is built to a much higher standard than is usual in the United States. The dike system in Holland is not walls, as we picture, but are sometimes built almost invisibly into the landscape (Folger visits one that just looks to the casual observer to be an ordinary hill). Rotterdam is also working on building floating buildings and are planning on having floating residences actually in the harbor.
We return to the United States and talk about some of the other places that could benefit from these kinds of remediations, including New Orleans and Miami. Miami is a special case, however, because it sits on a limestone base, which means that you can’t block out the sea water — the water will just come up from underneath. This might be a job for those floating buildings that they are working on in Rotterdam.
Big Bird, by Olivia Judson, photographs by Christian Ziegler
I always loved dinosaurs. When we visited the Field Museum, I always had to visit the dinosaur hall. My now-ex also always loved dinosaurs. Early on in our relationship, we talked about how we’d always wanted to take the time to count the bones in the apatosaurus’s tail (though we still called it a brontosaurus at the time) but that the adults we were with always would get bored before we finished and drag us away. So, of course, early in our relationship, we went to the Field Museum and counted the bones in the tail. It was nearly 30 years ago, so I can’t remember the exact number we got, but 82 sounds familiar. 82? 182? I can’t remember anymore.
With two dinosaur-loving parents, it was no surprise that Alex turned out to be fond of the big critters as well. A wonderful thing had happened in the time between my childhood and Alex’s — they discovered that birds are theropod dinosaurs. I never had to tell Alex that dinosaurs were gone — they were all around us. It was magic.
The San Antonio Zoo is kind of bird-intensive. The zoo has something like 750 species, 170-some of which are birds. When I bring someone new to the zoo, I always tell them that I need to show them our dinosaurs. They usually expect me to take them to the Komodo dragons. Instead, I take them to the cassowaries — the birds have big three-toed dinosauresque feet and a casque on the head that always makes me think of parasaurolophus (the duck-billed dinosaur that has a crest on its head).
This is a roundabout way of saying that I love cassowaries and loved this article. Judson takes us to the Daintree Rainforest in Australia in search of cassowaries. We “meet” Dad, who has four chicks (cassowary fathers take care of the young) and learn about the importance of cassowaries in the ecosystem. Cassowaries eat fruit and the seeds pass basically undigested through their digestive tract. This spreads plants around and increases diversity in the rainforest. One tree, Ryparosa kurrangii, basically only germinates when it’s been pooped out by a cassowary. Scientists are unclear on why being partially digested has such a beneficial effect on the seeds.
We also learn some of how humans are threatening the future of the cassowary. As humans encroach on their territory, there is less space for the cassowary. Some are killed by dogs or in traps. And some die by being struck by vehicles. There are several schools of thought about how to help the cassowary in the future, but no consensus has been reached yet.
So, no sooner did I start getting my act back together on posting than my hard drive went out. So here I sit with my brand-new hard drive, which has a one-year warranty, so I should be set for a while. While I was gone, I read one (November 2015) and two halves (April 1889 and September 2013) of National Geographic issues, so now I just have to recap the one that I’m done with and finish the other two issues and recap them and I’m in business.
We set up a new password for our National Geographic account, so I can continue reading the issues online, rather than having to balance a magazine on my lap while I type. That’ll help me get this done a lot faster. Now on to November 2015, which is the Climate Change issue.
The Will to Change, by Robert Kunzig, photographs by Luca Locatelli
The Will to Change is about what Germans refer to as the energiewende (should that be capitalized or not? It’s a noun, and German nouns are capitalized, but I’m writing in English. Kunzig and his editor opted not to capitalize it, but that seems wrong to me). After the Fukushima power plant disaster, Germany increased its commitment to renewable energy. Angela Merkel promised to close all of Germany’s nuclear reactors by 2022 and she seems on track to do just that. Germans are picking up the slack left by the nuclear power plants with wind farms and what what is known in the United States, at least, as net energy metering. “Net energy metering” is when entities other than the power company generate their own power and sell any excess to the power company. Generally, credits are issued and used to pay back the power company for any power drawn from the grid. I’ve heard of some ambitious individuals who end up owing nothing to the power company and it is even theoretically possible to make a little profit at it.
There is a downside to the energiewende (still sticking with Kunzig’s choice here), however. Since Germany is shutting down their power plants, the needed energy that is not generated by energiewende projects have to come from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is coal-fired plants. The energiewende is driving down the cost of power, so they have priced themselves out of hard coal entirely and are left with lignite coal, the cheapest fossil fuel there is. Lignite coal is dirtier than hard coal, meaning that it produces more carbon dioxide than hard coal.
Hopefully, over time the energiewende will reach a point where the lignite coal can be phased out, but even if it can never be completely weaned from coal, Germany is definitely on its way to a cleaner future.
A Blueprint for a Carbon-Free America, by Craig Welch, graphics by Jason Treat
I’m not overly fond of the term “carbon-free.” Recently, Domino launched “carbon free” sugar, which is, um, well, water, since table sugar is C12H22o11. Take out those 12 carbon atoms and what you have left are twice as many hydrogen atoms as oxygen atoms, which is water. A carbon-free America would be one with no life left in it, since all Earth-based life forms are more or less made from carbon. A lot of dirt is carbon, as well. We’d have some metal left — iron (but not steel, since steel is iron and carbon), calcium (which is what is left over when you take the carbon out of limestone), a lot of sand and other silicon-based things like quartz (but no diamonds because, well, carbon).
I know that’s not what “carbon-free” really means. “Carbon-free” is a shorthand way of expressing the idea of ending carbon dioxide emissions from coal, natural gas, and oil. It’s imprecise, though, and that irks me.
This is just a short little blurb about replacing things that have carbon dioxide emissions with hydroelectric, solar and wind power. The graphs are nice and show, among other things, how much wind could be generated by both onshore and offshore wind farms.
Power to the People, by Michael Edison Hayden, photographs by Rubén Salgado Escudero
Throughout the developing world (India, Uganda, and Myanmar are the examples given here), people are enjoying new freedom through the use of portable solar lights. At the moment, one of the biggest players in the field is a company called Simpa, which charges around $0.35 per day to rent the light. That can be a lot of money for someone who makes only a few dollars a day, but it also, for example, allows shopkeepers to stay open later to get more customers and, thus, more money. And the solar lights are more convenient for the people using them than the old battery-operated lights some had before. When the battery ran down they would have to travel to get a new battery. With the solar lights, when the battery runs down, they just put it in the sun for a few hours, which saves time and wear and tear on their shoes and joints.
After only a year and however-many days, I finally finished this issue on January 27, 2016. I did the first article while getting in almost four miles of walking at the Leon Creek Greenway. I had a few minutes left on the second article when I finished walking, so I listened to it in the car on my way to my next errand.
The Survey of the Coast, by Herbert G. Ogden
We start this article with a history lesson about the Coast and Geodetic Survey, which was authorized by Thomas Jefferson in 1807. When Jefferson authorized it, it was called “The US Survey of the Coast,” at the time this article was written, it went by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, and since 1970 it has been known as the US National Geodetic Survey. This is one of the hazards of writing on articles written over a hundred years ago.
We get entirely too much technical information, which is great for the original intended audience, but seems a bit much for the casual reader. I did find interesting, however, that the survey, however named at the time, were put in charge of defining our measurement system. The final data had to be understandable by anyone who read it, so the Survey defined all measurements, not just the ones that they were using, including the pound.
The Survey and Map of Massachusetts, by Henry Gannett
The Survey and Map of Massachusetts begins inauspiciously with the text of the law authorizing the survey and pretty much stays in that kind of dry mode until the bitter end. If you want to know how many square miles of Massachusetts were surveyed using the traverse method, this article’s for you.
Next up in the gripping world of National Geographic in the 1800s, (possibly I will begin listening to this one on January 30, but I might not, since I have a bit of a sore throat and might be coming down with something), Volume 1, Number 2, from April 1889, which includes National Geographic’s first trip to Africa.
So, with the aid of Librivox, I knocked out another three articles from this issue during my lunch hour on three consecutive days. I have since decided that my store is too noisy for me to really hear the articles to make this a worthwhile long-term plan. I’m going to try to continue to listen to the articles on LibriVox, only in a not-so-noisy environment. I am off this coming Wednesday, so while Alex is in school, I’m going to try to get some walking done on the Leon Creek Greenway. If I have sufficient time and energy to do so, I hope to listen to one article on the way out and another on the way back. On to the articles.
The Classification of Geographic Forms by Genesis, by W.J. McGee (no photographs, since this is 1888)
The Classification of Geographic Forms by Genesis is a stupor-inducing look at the state of geomorphology (the study of how forces affect the forms and structures of geographic features. In addition to lists of forces and their effects, we also get vague references to people (presumably men, since this is 1888) who were apparently well-known in geographic circles back in the 19th Century. Perhaps Lyell, Powell, Gilbert, Lesley, Richthofen, and Dana are prominent enough that today’s geographers will know the reference just by the surname, but McGee apparently thinks that his Victoria-era target audience should know these people, as we never get any more information than just the surnames and their opinions. Also, in the case of Richtofen (uncle of the “Red Baron,” from what I can tell), we get the German-language terms he used.
The Great Storm of March 11–14, 1888: A Summary of the Remarks Made by Brigadier-General A. W. Greely, Chief Signal Officer of the Army
The best thing I can say about this article is that at least it’s short. Greely talks about the path of the storm and lists lots of barometer pressure readings. From what I can tell, this storm, which hit the northeast between New Jersey and Boston. Over 400 people died and it is still one of the worst blizzards in United States history.
This article concludes with the confidence-inspiring sentence, “These remarks are necessarily imperfect, as my official duties have been such as to prevent any careful study or examination of the storm apart from that possible on the current weather maps of the Signal Service.” So that’s exciting.
The Great Storm Off the Atlantic Coast of the United States, March 11th–14th, 1888, by Everett Hayden
This article has more detail on the formation of the storm and the effects when the storm finally hit. The article actually does have illustrations, perhaps the first ones in the magazine’s history. Well, charts, at least, but they were in color. The presence of these charts made the LibriVox reading interesting because the references to the charts did me no good.
We’ll be back to 1888 perhaps on January 30, if I can get two more articles done on January 27. If not, I’ll go on to November 2015 on January 30. The weekend of January 30 is my weekend off and Alex’s weekend with his dad, so I’ll try to walk-and-listen my way through the second article sometime that weekend.