Antarctic artifacts from doomed trip up for auction

The Canadian Press Saturday Aug. 28, 2010

Sir Charles Seymour Wright is shown in this 1912 photo by Herbert Ponting, upon his return from the Polar Journey photo. (HO, Adrian Reaside - Herbert Ponting / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

— A prized collection of artifacts that belonged to the sole Canadian among the first group of explorers to Antarctica will be put up for auction next month.

And they come with a thrilling tale of missteps and a failed pursuit of glory that cost some of the men their lives in the unforgiving Antarctic cold.

The belongings of Sir Charles Seymour Wright, which include more than 1,400 photographs, a compass, camera, and a pair of skis will be sold at Christie’s in London in September.

Wright was a Toronto-born physicist and glaciologist on the failed 1910-1913 expedition of Robert Falcon Scott, who wanted to be the first to reach the south pole.

Wright was a 23-year-old Cambridge University student in England when he walked 95 kilometres from Cambridge to London to convince Scott in person to allow him to go on the trip.

The goal was to travel 1,500 kilometres from Antarctica’s shore to the south pole while lugging weeks worth of food on a sled, in whiteout conditions, before the invention of polar fleece.

Wright’s grandson, Adrian Raeside, 53, is selling the artifacts. He says the men endured disorienting blizzards that lasted for weeks at a time.

“It’s just insane, but this was the plan,” said Raeside, who lives in Whistler, B.C.

Raeside said Wright, — who was nicknamed Silas — warned officers that the crew was ill-equipped for the journey, but they ignored his concerns.

Somehow, many of the men managed to survive even though the hair from the fur on their sleeping bags fell out, and the rubber soles of their boots fell off, said Raeside.

Wright was later ordered to leave the expedition about 450 kilometres away from the destination because Scott wanted a team of only British citizens to be in the record books as being the first to reach the south pole, Raeside said.

The decision saved Wright’s life. Scott and two others perished in the frigid Antarctic winter.

Wright and another team returned the next spring and found the small tip of their tent peering out from underneath metres of new snow.

British officials ordered survivors and search crews to not talk about the mistakes that led to the failed voyage, and Wright thought that publicly pointing out the errors of the men would hurt the feelings of their families, Raeside says.

Wright died in 1975 at the age of 88.

Raeside says he is putting his grandfather’s collection up for sale because he feels people need to know about the contribution of the lesser-known people on that trip.

“The men who were with Scott, including my grandfather, they were the ones who supported Scott and without them…the ship would’ve actually sunk, which it almost did (in a hurricane),” Raeside said.

He also said he has no children to pass the heirlooms on to, and feels the collection is too much of a responsibility for one person to take care of.

“The skis for example, they’ve been in the basement or the crawlspace and it wasn’t until recently that I realized these things should be looked after a little better than that. That’s why these things should go to a good home,” he said.

He said the skis are his favourite item on the auction block because his grandfather wore them during the entire mission and search for Scott’s body.

“You can say those skis were witness to almost everything that happened on the expedition,” said Raeside.

Christie’s estimates the skis will sell for between $US9,100 to $US12,000 when they go on sale Sept. 22.

The collection also features a set of Wright’s medals, including awards from the First World War, and the Order of the British Empire.

Christie’s estimates the medals alone could sell for between $US19,000 to $US27,000 but Ottawa is not allowing the medals and some other artifacts to leave Canada.

Raeside says officials are waiting to see whether a Canadian museum wants to purchase them.

Raeside wrote a book called Return To Antarctica: The Amazing Adventure of Sir Charles Wright on Robert Scott’s Journey to the South Pole, and recently filmed a documentary about tracing his grandfather’s footsteps on the continent.

Original article here

Canada Opens Arctic To NATO, Plans Massive Weapons Buildup

Global Research, August 29, 2010
The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently concluded the largest of a series of so-called Canadian sovereignty exercises in the Arctic, Operation Nanook, which ran from August 6-26.

Harper, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces General Walter Natynczyk visited the nation’s 900 troops participating in the “Canadian Forces’ largest annual demonstration of Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic” [1] which included “Canada’s air force, navy, coast guard…testing their combat capabilities in the frigid cold.” [2]

Nanook military exercises were commenced in 2007 when Russia renewed its claims to parts of the Arctic and resumed air patrols in the region after an almost twenty year hiatus. They are complemented by two other Canadian military drills in the region, Operation Nunalivut in the High Arctic and Operation Nunakput in the western Arctic.

Canada is formally involved in territorial disputes with two other Arctic claimants: The United States over the Beaufort Sea lying between Canada’s Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory and the American state of Alaska, and Denmark over the Hans Island between Canada’s Ellesmere Island and Denmark’s Greenland possession on the other end of the Arctic.

Four of the five nations with Arctic claims, all except Russia, are founders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization whose charter commits member states to mutual military assistance.

With the melting of the polar ice cap and the opening of the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans for the first time in recorded history, the scramble for the Arctic – reported to contain 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil according to last year’s U.S. Geological Survey – is under way in earnest. The military value of the navigability of the passage is of even greater and more pressing significance.

The George W. Bush administration’s National Security Presidential Directive 66 of January 12, 2009 states:

“The United States has broad and fundamental national security interests in the Arctic region and is prepared to operate either independently or in conjunction with other states to safeguard these interests. These interests include such matters as missile defense and early warning; deployment of sea and air systems for strategic sealift, strategic deterrence, maritime presence, and maritime security operations; and ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight.” [3]

The U.S. insists that the Northwest Passage is open to international navigation while Canada claims it as solely its own. Yet Ottawa has accommodated Washington at every turn while persisting in saber-rattling comments and actions alike vis-a-vis Russia.

Sixteen days after the release of the White House’s Arctic directive of last year NATO conducted a two-day Seminar on Security Prospects in the High North in Iceland attended by the military bloc’s secretary general, its two top military commanders and the chairman of its Military Committee, and stated that “Clearly, the High North is a region that is of strategic interest to the Alliance.” [4]

Although Canada’s territorial disputes in the Arctic are with fellow NATO members the U.S. and Denmark, the three nations have recently coordinated their strategies and in this year’s Operation Nanook have for the first time collectively participated in military exercises in the Arctic region.

In mid-July NATO’s chief European military commanders, Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and General Sir John McColl, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, arrived in the Canadian capital at the invitation of the nation’s military chief, General Walter Natynczyk. The three consulted on “how to take the Alliance forward” and Stavridis “conveyed his latest appraisal of NATO’s progress in Afghanistan and commended Canada on its contributions to NATO’s efforts around the world.” [5]

Canadian Defence Minister MacKay stated almost two years ago: “We are concerned about not just Russia’s claims through the international process, but Russia’s testing of Canadian airspace and other indications…(of) some desire to work outside of the international framework. That is obviously why we are taking a range of measures, including military measures, to strengthen our sovereignty in the North.” [6]

A year ago Canada and the U.S. conducted a 42-day joint Arctic expedition to survey the continental shelf for future bilateral demarcation, following a more modest effort along the same lines in 2008 and followed this year by one with U.S. and Canadian ships from August 7 to September 3. The latter was announced two weeks after a Russian research vessel left St. Petersburg on a mission to delimit the borders of Russia’s Arctic continental shelf.

The U.S. State Department described the purpose of this year’s expedition: “The mission will help delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean for the U.S. and Canada, and will also include the collection of data in the disputed area where the U.S. and Canada have not agreed to a maritime boundary.” [7] It is being held in the Canada Basin, the Beaufort Shelf, and the Alpha Mendeleev Ridge. The last, along with the Lomonosov Ridge, is the basis of Russian Arctic claims.

On May 14 Canada and Denmark signed a military agreement, a memorandum of understanding pledging to collaborate more closely in the Arctic “through enhanced consultation, information exchange, visits, and exercises,” according to the Canadian Forces. [8] The preceding month Denmark deployed a unit to participate in the Operation Nunalivut exercise in the High Arctic.

The Royal Danish Navy sent the HDMS Vaedderen ocean patrol vessel and the HDMS Knud Rasmussen offshore patrol vessel to join the recently concluded Nanook 10 exercises, where they were joined by the U.S. Second Fleet’s naval destroyer USS Porter and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder “for the purpose of exercising and increasing…interoperability with Arctic allies.”

As for the Canadian contribution, “The Air Force [provided] air movement and mission support through the CC-177 Globemaster III, CC-130 Hercules, CP-140 Aurora, CH-146 Griffon, and CC-138 Twin Otter aircraft.

“The maritime component [included] Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships (HMCS) Montreal, Glace Bay and Goose Bay; and Canadian Coast Guard Ships CCGS Des Groseilliers and CCGS Henry Larsen.” [9]

Military personnel involved included “About 900 Canadian troops [who patrolled] parts of the Eastern and Northern Arctic by air, land and sea.” Another “600 military personnel from the Danish Royal Navy, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are also [took] part in the operation.” [10]

In the words of Lieutenant Commander Albert Wong of Canada Command, “They’re our allies. Collaboration is part of what Canada does.” [11]

This year’s exercise was based in Resolute Bay in the Nunavut federal territory where the Harper government is building a new army Arctic warfare training center in Resolute and a deep-sea port for the Nanisivik Naval Facility to be constructed on Baffin Island. Canadian Navy Lieutenant Commander Robert Houle said before the event that “2010’s military operation will push further north than in past years.” [12] That is, north of the Arctic Circle for the first time.

“The US Navy 2nd Fleet, the US Coast Guard and the Royal Danish Navy…joined in the war games in an effort to enhance the allies’ capabilities to cooperate in Arctic waters.” [13]

In fact the NATO allies collaborated to an unprecedented degree, as “Danish and American vessels” conducted “ocean exercises throughout eastern Nunavut.” [14]

After visits by Canada’s defense and military chiefs to inspect the multinational war games, Prime Minister Harper arrived in Resolute on August 25, the penultimate day of the 20-day military maneuvers, to – in the words of one of the nation’s main news agencies – rally the 1,500 Canadian, American and Danish troops present. [15]

Harper’s visit to inspect the exercise occurred only hours after another – potentially dangerous – publicity stunt by his government: Dispatching CF-18 fighter jets (variants of the American F/A-18 Hornet) to allegedly ward off two Russian Tupolev Tu-95 (Bear) strategic bombers patrolling off Canada’s northern border, “something the Russian military does frequently.” [16]

Harper’s press secretary, Dimitri Soudas, “said the two CF-18 Hornet fighters visually identified the two Russian aircraft approximately 120 nautical miles north of Inuvik in Northwest Territories,” [17] over international waters.

The timing of the Canadian action, as that of its announcement, was calculated. As was a comparable incident in February of 2009 when then recently installed U.S. President Barack Obama paid his first visit abroad to Ottawa, to meet with Harper, and his host scrambled warplanes to intercept a Russian Tu-95 bomber – on a routine mission thousands of kilometers from the Canadian capital – in a show of bravado and of loyalty to his ally south of the border.

“The Russians said then the plane never encroached on Canadian airspace and that Canada had been told about the flight beforehand.” [18]

Last year Canada’s prime minister and defence minister made the following comments:

Harper: “We have scrambled F-18 [CF-18] jets in the past, and they’ll always be there to meet them.”

MacKay: “When we see a Russian Bear [Tu-95] approaching Canadian air space, we meet them with an F-18.” [19]

A few days before Operation Nanook began, July 28, Canada also deployed CF-18 fighters against Russian Tu-95 bombers “as debate rage[d] over whether Canada needs the next generation of fighter jets to replace the nearly 30-year-old CF 18s. The Harper government has committed to buying 65 F-35 stealth fighters at a cost of $9 billion. Critics have said such Cold War-type jets are no longer needed.” [20]

The same source provided background information concerning what is being fought over:

“Canada is in a race with Russia and other Arctic nations to lay claim to the frozen territory that may hold untold treasures.

“Geologists believe the Arctic shelf holds vast stores of oil, natural gas, diamonds, gold and minerals. A 2007 Russian intelligence report predicted that conflict with other Arctic nations is a distinct possibility, including military action ‘in a competition for resources.'” [21]

Regarding the later occurrence on August 24, “The Prime Minister’s Office used the incident to promote Ottawa’s plan to buy 65 stealth fighter jets for $16 billion.” [22]

The discrepancy in (Canadian) dollar amounts is attributable to Ottawa’s attempt in May to underestimate the actual cost of the purchase when Defence Minister MacKay said “There is eye-watering technology now available, and a fifth-generation fighter aircraft will be brought to Canada after the year 2017.” [23], but failed to disclose the total cost.

When in-service support and other additional outlays are included, the total package will be $16 billion, according to a major Canadian newspaper “one of the most expensive military equipment purchases ever.” [24]

In fact the F-35 Lightning II fifth generation stealth fighter project also has been estimated to be “the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program” at a  cost of $323 billion for 2,443 of the warplanes. [25]

Last month Defence Minister MacKay confirmed that Canada will buy 65 of the Joint Strike Fighters. At the same time Ottawa announced that the $3 billion Joint Support Ship project will be restarted, as “the military [wants] Joint Supply Ships to be capable of carrying army vehicles and to provide support to ground forces ashore. The ships would also have an air-force element on board, having helicopters and repair facilities for those aircraft. A hospital would also be included on the vessels.” [26]

On August 25 Dmitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, trumpeted the news of the non-encounter between Canadian and Russian military aircraft and laid the bravado on thickly – and not without a purpose. His comments included:

“Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces, at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace.

“The Harper Government has ensured our Forces have the tools, the readiness and the personnel to continue to meet any challenges to Canadian sovereignty with a robust response.

“This is true today, it will be true tomorrow and it will be true well into the future.

“The CF-18 is an incredible aircraft that enables our Forces to meet Russian challenges in our North. That proud tradition will continue after the retirement of the CF-18 fleet as the new, highly capable and technologically-advanced F-35 comes into service. It is the best plane our Government could provide our Forces, and when you are a pilot staring down Russian long range bombers, that’s an important fact to remember.” [27]

The Associated Press reported on the above statement that “Soudas noted…Canada’s recent purchase of 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp. The $8.5 billion purchase, one of the biggest military equipment purchases in the country’s history, was due to be debated at a parliamentary defense committee hearing on Wednesday. [August 25, the date of Soudas’ comments]. The jets will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of CF-18s.” [28]

According to a Canadian journalist:

“This week…we learned that the Cold War is not, in fact, over and that Russia remains an active threat in the north….Harper’s press spokesman, noted Sovietologist Dimitri Soudas, explicitly turned the Russian flyby into an argument for a $16-billion, sole-sourced upgrade of Canada’s fighter-plane fleet.” [29]

Canada requires an adversary to justify large-scale arms acquisitions. In the past three years it has bought and leased 120 Leopard tanks from Germany and the Netherlands for the war in Afghanistan. It has purchased and used Israeli-made Heron drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) for the same war theater and beyond, one of which crashed near a military base in Alberta last month knocking out power lines.

It has also acquired Chinook, Griffon and Mi-8 helicopters for NATO’s war in South Asia, where it has deployed 2,830 troops and where 151 of its soldiers have been killed.

The Polar Epsilon spaced-based satellite project is being developed for the Arctic, and while in Resolute Bay on Wednesday Prime Minister Harper reiterated that the RADARSAT Constellation Mission, a three-spacecraft fleet of satellites that is the centerpiece of Polar Epsilon, “will provide the Canadian military with daily coverage of Canada’s land mass and ocean approaches ‘from coast-to-coast-to-coast, especially in the Arctic.'” [30]

In June defense chief MacKay disclosed that Canada will spend over $30 billion “to build 28 large vessels for the Canadian Coast Guard and navy, as well as 100 smaller ships.” [31]

Canada is, as NATO’s top military commander Admiral Stavridis remarked in Ottawa last month, providing the Western military bloc and the Pentagon indispensable services around the world. In the Arctic as much as if not more than anywhere else.

Related articles:

Canada: Battle Line In East-West Conflict Over The Arctic

Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO Confrontation With Russia In North

Loose Cannon And Nuclear Submarines: West Prepares For Arctic Warfare

Canada: In Service To The Pentagon And NATO At Home And Abroad


1) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
2) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
3) NATO’s, Pentagon’s New Strategic Battleground: The Arctic
Stop NATO, February 2, 2009
4) Ibid
5) North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
July 11, 2010
6) Canwest News Service, September 12, 2008
7) Russian Information Agency Novosti, July 27, 2010
8) Nunatsiaq News, May 24, 2010
9) Xinhua News Agency, August 7, 2010
10) CTV, August 25, 2010
11) Nunatsiaq News, June 16, 2010
12) CBC News, August 3, 2010
13) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
14) CBC News, August 18, 2010
15) Canadian Press, August 25, 2010
16) CTV, August 25, 2010
17) Xinhua News Agency, August 25, 2010
18) Associated Press, August 25, 2010
19) Encroachment From All Compass Points: Canada Leads NATO Confrontation With
Russia In North
Stop NATO, August 5, 2009
20) Toronto Sun
Quebec Media, Inc. Agency
July 30, 2010
21) Ibid
22) CTV, August 25, 2010
23) Canwest News Service, May 28, 2010
24) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
25) PBS Newshour, April 21, 2010
26) Ottawa Citizen, July 12, 2010
27) CBC News, August 25, 2010
28) Associated Press, August 25, 2010
29) Susan Riley, The Russians aren’t coming
Ottawa Citizen, August 27, 2010
30) Agence France-Presse, August 25, 2010
31) Xinhua News Agency, June 4, 2010


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Original article here

Iceland Could Have Become German Colony in 1864

There is a statue of Christian IX outside the Government Offices of Iceland. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

(Iceland Review, 20 August 2010) — According to secret documents which Queen Margrethe II of Denmark recently gave the author Tom Buk-Swientys access to, King Christian IX of Denmark offered King Wilhelm I of Prussia to make Denmark part of the German Confederation in 1864. If he had accepted the offer, Iceland would have become a German colony. The Danish King’s offer — which apparently did not sound appealing to the King of Prussia — is considered a desperate attempt to prevent the Danish Kingdom from losing Schleswig and Holstein to Germany after a defeat in 1864, reports. According to Danish newspaper Politiken, King Christian IX did not consult his government before making the offer to the Prussian King and so it borders on treason. The King’s arguments were that although Denmark would lose its sovereignty by becoming part of the German Confederation, Schleswig, where he grew up, and Holstein would still be considered part of the Danish Kingdom. It has earlier been revealed that Denmark was prepared to trade Iceland for Schleswig in agreements with Prussia and Austria in the summer and autumn of 1864. Christian IX was the King of Denmark and Iceland from 1863 to 1906. During his reign Iceland received its constitution in 1874 and home rule in 1904. There is a statue of King Christian IX giving Iceland its constitution in front of the Government Offices on Laekjargata.

Via Circumpolar Musings
Original article here

Angelica used for beer production in north Iceland

Angelica. Photo by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.

(Iceland Review, 23 August 2010) —  The microbrewery Bruggsmidjan at Árskógssandur in Eyjafjördur in north Iceland known for its popular beer Kaldi will now, in cooperation with Saga Medica, launch a new brand, Stinningskaldi, brewed from angelica which grows on Hrísey island. Saga Medica produces remedies from Icelandic medical herbs. “We have always been interested in brewing from Icelandic plants. When the idea surfaced that we could use angelica from Hrísey we found it ideal,” Agnes Sigurdardóttir, managing director of Bruggsmidjan, told Morgunbladid. “We chose angelica because it is one of Iceland’s best known medical plants. It has been used for healing in Iceland since the settlement, or for 1100 years. Angelica is considered good for all sorts of ailments,” Sigurdardóttir said. “When the Vikings started going on trade expeditions to Europe they brought dried angelica root for trading. The angelica which grew here was considered superior to that which grew further south. It is so resilient. It became currency, in fact,” Sigurdardóttir said. “There were many things I didn’t know about angelica until we began cooperating with Saga Medica. For example, Hvannadalshnjúkur, Iceland’s highest peak, is named after angelica,” Sigurdardóttir said. Angelica is called hvönn, hvannir in plural, in Icelandic. Sigurdardóttir said through time angelica has also been used as an aphrodisiac for men. “We chose the name Stinningskaldi because it is related to meteorology but angelica is very good for men too. So we saved the name Stinningskaldi for this.” In meteorology, stinningskaldi is a strong breeze but stinning can also mean erection. “I’m not about to brew some love potion, that’s not it, but angelica is good for men,” Sigurdardóttir iterated. She hopes that the new product can enter the market in October.

Via Circumpolar Musings
Original article here

Amundsen honoured in Gjoa Haven

(CBC News, 25 August 2010) — Residents of Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, held a special flag-raising ceremony with Norwegian officials this week to honour Roald Amundsen, who spent two years in the community during his famed quest through the Northwest Passage. The Norwegian ambassador attended Monday’s ceremony, in which the Canadian and Norwegian flags were raised near the Amundsen Centenary Cairn in Gjoa Haven. Also in attendance was Gier Klover, the director of the Fram Museum in Oslo, Norway. “I’ve been interested in polar histories since I was a kid, so Gjoa Haven, that’s the place I’ve read about for 30 years,” Klover told CBC News on Tuesday. “Just to be here, and the incredible friendliness and hospitality of the community, is very touching.” Klover said his museum is dedicated to polar explorers like Amundsen, who set sail for the Northwest Passage in 1903 in his ship, Gjoa. The museum is building an extension to house the Gjoa, he added. Amundsen spent two winters near King William Island, in what is now Gjoa Haven, learning from local Inuit as he prepared for his expedition. “He perfected the skills, making him the ultimate polar explorer,” Klover said. “He had huge respect for local learnings and local knowledge, and he spent every day trying to learn as much as possible there, as opposed to many other explorers.” Amundsen made history when he completed the east-to-west voyage across the passage in 1906. Klover said Monday’s ceremony commemorates the growing partnership between his museum and the community of Gjoa Haven. He said he brought some photographs that were taken by Amundsen, as a gift to the community.

Via the excellent polar newsring Circumpolar Musings
Original article here

NRK does it again: Fake nudity and conflict in reality series with indigenous tribes

NRK, the norwegian state channel does it again: They send redneck norwegian families to live with tribes in Africa and South America to make a reality TV show. The tribes are instructed to wear penis sheaths and be topless, contrary to how they would normally dress, to make the TV images more exciting.

The norwegian participants are hand-picked for ignorance of foreign cultures and contrast in lifestyle. They are not allowed to have translators, which makes for a lot of confusing situations with the visited tribes.

Edited together back in the west, with plenty of breast and penis shots, Norwegian viewers can view with horror the “primitive” lifestyles of indegineous tribes.

This is not a culture exhange, it is pure exploitation. How about making a TV show about how these tribes actually live, and what we might learn from them? Don’t send the most ignorant norwegians there to complain about lack of makeup and fitness centers and Ipods, please!

NRK, we expect better from you – and the people of Norway pay for you to make this crap!

That said, the NRK channels are commercial-free, and they do produce some very good programs. The state-run Norwegian TV and Radio institution has mainly followed the great educational tradition of the BBC. This year the NRK celebrate it’s 50-year jubilee -to bad it has to taint their mostly excellent legacy with this crap!

Jonas Qvale/Hornorkesteret

Today’s NRK article on the current season of the series that start this fall:

My old post about this abomination from last season of the show:

Iceberg four times the size of Manhattan drifting across Arctic Ocean

The Associated Press Thursday, August 12th 2010, 4:00 AM

Satellite image shows an iceberg breaking off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland.

STOCKHOLM – An island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan is drifting across the Arctic Ocean after breaking off from a glacier in Greenland.

Potentially in the path of this unstoppable giant are oil platforms and shipping lanes – and any collision could do untold damage.

In a worst-case scenario, large chunks could reach the heavily trafficked waters where another Greenland iceberg sank the Titanic in 1912.

“It’s so big that you can’t prevent it from drifting. You can’t stop it,” said Jon-Ove Methlie Hagen, a glaciologist at the University of Oslo.

Original article here

Scott’s 99-year-old Antarctic manuscripts found

Wed, 11 Aug 2010 6:29p.m.

By Hamish Clark

A 99-year-old manuscript has been discovered detailing captain Robert Falcon Scott’s plans to be the first to reach the South Pole.

The handwritten notes, acquired by Canterbury Museum, are a lecture Mr Scott gave to his men on the ice, setting out the journey to the pole.

Hand bound in royal blue, captain Robert Scott’s plans for his southern journey to the pole were thought to have been lost forever.

“It was really amazing the first time I got to read it and see and feel the paper and you can smell the tobacco smoke,” manuscript curator Joanna Condon says.

Mr Scott loved his pipe and loved to write inside his hut at Antarctica.

The eleven page document dating back 99 years was discovered in a London bookstore.

It reveals new details of what Mr Scott thought he needed to be the first to the pole.

“This lecture is the one everyone was interested in because it was about the pole journey and everyone wanted to know what his plans were and maybe whether they would be included,” Ms Condon says.

Mr Scott set off for the pole in November 1910, only to find Norway’s Roald Amundsen got there a month before him.

Mr Scott and his remaining team of four perished on their return.

Mr Scott’s flag was found by his body, and it is also on display at the museum as part of the royal collection for the museum’s Antarctic exhibition.

Also on display are the original photos taken during Mr Scott’s and Shackleton’s expeditions – that have never before left the royal family.

“This is a once in a life time experience to see the marriage of the objects with the photos and it is the first time and the only time this will happen,” says Royal Collection co-ordinator Stephen Weber.

Mr Scott’s original manuscript will be on display for the first time in 10 days time and there will also be a digital copy for the public to flick through.

Original article here

Fossil Antelope Teeth Hold Clues to Europe’s Missing Apes

Wear patterns on ancient antelope teeth have allowed researchers to reconstruct Europe’s environment 8 million years ago, when the continent’s great apes vanished.

One of those ape species could have given rise to the human lineage, making the circumstances of their disappearance especially interesting.

“Some kind of homogeneity happened around that time,” said anthropologist Gildas Merceron of France’s University Claude Bernard Lyon, co-author of a study published June 2 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. “We suspect a uniform environment may be linked to the decrease in great ape biodiversity.”

That apes lived in Europe seems strange today, but the continent 20 million years was warm and wet, well-suited for primates that left Africa after shrinking seas exposed a land bridge between the continents. Within a few million years, Europe hosted more than 100 species of primates, and at least 10 species of great apes.

Climate change ended that geological age. The southern icecap grew, and the Antarctic circumpolar current formed. The Asian monsoon cycle started and Europe cooled. Merceron’s study gives local detail to that big picture.

The researchers analyzed hundreds of deer and antelope teeth found at sites in Germany, Hungary and Greece and dated them to the reign of Europe’s primates and to their extinction. Wear patterns told them what sort of vegetation had prevailed. In Western and Central Europe, ruminants switched from browsing bushes and trees to grazing grasses. In Eastern Europe, the opposite happened, as grazers started to browse.

This slide into woodland homogeneity likely left the apes unable to find food, and perhaps exposed them to predators, suspects Merceron’s team. But some researchers think Europe’s apes didn’t necessarily go extinct. Some may have returned to Africa, and followed an evolutionary course ending in the modern great apes, including Homo sapiens.

“For every aspect that makes us human, there is a time and set of conditions that explains that,” said Rutgers University anthropologist Rob Scott, who was not involved in the study. “This will help explain the sort of conditions that are relevant to the earliest hominids.”

The back-into-Africa hypothesis is controversial, and contradicts the standard narrative of an all-Africa origin for the human lineage. However, there’s a gap in Africa’s great ape fossil record between 14 and 7 million years ago. The Eurasian fossil record is rich at that time.

Among the candidates for an ancestor of humans and other modern great apes are Rudapithecus hungaricus, Anoiapithecus brevirostris and Ouranopithecus macedoniensis. Especially in the face, each has features hinting at those found in known human ancestors. The last of these apes to survive was Ouranopithecus, which lived in Greece and was well-suited to eating nuts and tubers. According to Scott, it’s possible that Ouranopithecus had started to come down from the trees, developing methods of locomotion that eventually turned into bipedalism. “I’d be terribly surprised if they were totally arboreal,” he said.

All this is speculation, but even if Eurasian apes didn’t give rise to humanity, the study embodies an approach that can be applied to African apes, said Scott.

“The field is progressing from the discovery of new taxa, new names to put in our charts, to having enough information to construct larger hypotheses and scenarios,” Scott said. “We want to know, why are we human?”

Image: Artist’s rendering and fossil fragments of Anoiapithecus brevirostris./Institute of Catalan Paleontology, Autonous University of Barcelona.

Original article here.