|Whalemeat On Sale! |
Cosmic Rays & Global Warming,
Stonehenge, El Dorado & More!
|Annual Whalemeat Sales Start in Japan |
|[On July 31, 2002 marine experts in the US, exhausted and heartbroken after failing to free 45 pilot whales stranded on Cape Cod, euthanized the surviving animals when they swam ashore for a third time in two days. On July 15, 2002 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cleared US Navy requests to resume long range sonar testing. Navy sonar proved to be deadly to whales after the March 2000 stranding of 17 whales and dolphins in the Bahamas. The Navy initially denied its sonar caused the subsequent deaths of six whales, but later acknowledged responsibility. No conclusive explanation has been found yet for the July 2002 stranding of the pod in Cape Cod. Ed.] |
By Elaine Lies
TOKYO July 31, 2002 (Reuters) - Nearly two thousand tons of whale meat went on sale across Japan on Wednesday in an annual event guaranteed to anger conservationists.
Proceeds, expected to be some $32 million, will be used to finance more hunts, which Japan calls "research" whaling but activists decry as commercial whaling in disguise.
"We do this to help pay for our survey whaling for the next season," said Takumi Ikeshima, a spokesman at the Institute for Cetacean Research in Tokyo.
The meat is from 440 minke whales killed in the Antarctic during the hunting season that ended in March.
Japan stopped commercial whaling in 1986 in line with a moratorium imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC), but began its research whaling the next year. Most of the meat ends up on store shelves and restaurant tables.
Tokyo agrees with protecting endangered species, but argues that others, such as minkes, are numerous and not in danger.
Japan has made numerous attempts, all futile, to reinstate commercial whaling, most recently at the May meeting of the IWC in the southwestern Japanese city of Shimonoseki.
Whale was an important protein source for an impoverished Japan after World War II, but has become an expensive, gourmet food that rarely appears on family dinner tables and can usually be eaten in just a handful of specialty restaurants.
DEFLATIONARY DAYS, PRICE CUTS
In response to complaints from consumers who say the high cost is turning them away, Ikeshima said the Institute had decided this year to cut the price of red whale meat, a cherished delicacy that is eaten raw or grilled as steaks.
It has a dark, gamey taste somewhat like beef, but richer.
"Given current deflationary trends in Japan, whale has come to be really expensive," he said, noting that even high quality tuna -- an popular sushi ingredient -- costs less.
"We sell it wholesale, as cheaply as possible, but middlemen and restaurants add still more to the price, making it quite expensive by the time it reaches your mouth," he said. The red meat is priced at $22 per 2.2 lbs., down 12.8 percent from last year. The price of one kg of blubber is unchanged at 1,050 yen.
Some 270 tons of the 1,929 tons of whale meat will be made available around Japan for local use, such as school lunches, in order to keep alive the whale-eating tradition among young people more used to Western food.
"We want children to learn what the flavor of whale is like," Ikeshima said. "If they don't eat it young, they won't understand how good it is." Of the remaining amount nearly 600 tons will be sold in wholesale markets as meat and the rest, some 1000 tons of whale parts such as internal organs and skin, will be sold for canning or other processing.
Japanese pride themselves on using every part of the whale. Skin is salted, tongue is sliced wafer thin and may be grilled, and fattier bits are made into whale bacon.
There is even the whaleburger, invented by a Shimonoseki entrepreneur to tempt the palates of young people.
Despite all these efforts, whale sales flagged last year.
"It took quite a while to sell it all, and things did not run smoothly," Ikeshima said, adding that perhaps the high price was to blame. "This year, though, I expect it all to sell by the end of August."
Japan and Norway are currently holding talks in Oslo on resuming imports of Norwegian whale products. While some hurdles remain, Norway said on Tuesday it was optimistic trade would begin eventually.
International Whaling Commission (IWC) - http://www.iwcoffice.org
Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org
|Japanese Beetle Collecting Threatens Ecosystem |
TOKYO July 30, 2002 (CBC) - Environmentalists have sounded an alarm over a popular hobby in Japan: beetle collecting. Several non-governmental groups issued a report Tuesday warning that the unmonitored influx of foreign beetles for the pet trade poses a risk to Japan's insect ecosystem.
As the number of domestic varieties wane, Japanese collectors have turned to foreign fauna, especially big stag beetles. Nearly 700,000 beetles were imported last year, according to a wildlife trade monitoring group.
Urban developers are destroying the beetles' woodland habitat and the stag beetle is considered threatened around the world.
Some Japanese consider foreign beetles more desirable because they are bigger than native species. Male beetles greater than 10 centimetres can easily fetch tens of thousands of dollars. Police in Nara say some beetles were stolen from an exhibition over the weekend. A ferocious-looking Dynastes hercules or Western hercules beetle was among the insects that were nabbed.
One Tokyo insect dealer told Kyoto's news service that he regularly travels to China on clandestine beetle smuggling services.
"Getting out of China with a panda would be impossible," he said. "But smuggling stag beetles in your luggage is a cinch."
|Anti-McDonald's Activist Released |
Montpellier France August 1, 2002 (BBC) - Radical French farmer Jose Bove, jailed for tearing down a McDonald's restaurant under construction in 1999, has been released from prison.
The anti-globalization activist - known for his opposition to multinational companies and US trade policies - went to jail on 19 June to serve a three-month sentence. He told a crowd of supporters who had gathered to greet him as he left the prison near the southern city of Montpellier that their struggle would continue.
His jail term, during which he went on hunger strike, was reduced because of his good behavior and a presidential pardon.
He was sentenced for destroying the half-built fast food outlet in Millau in a protest against US trade protectionism. He launched a series of appeals, but finally ran out of room for maneuver in February when he lost the last round of his legal battle. However, the order for him to serve his sentence was delayed until after the French presidential and parliamentary elections. Bove still faces charges of destroying fields of GM crops.
Bove does not deny that he carried out the attacks, but says they constitute a legitimate form of political protest.
|Global Warming News! |
Cosmic Rays Linked to Global Warming!
WASHINGTON July 30, 2002 (Journal of Geophysical Research) - Researchers studying global warming have often been confounded by the differences between observed increases in surface-level temperatures and unchanging low-atmosphere temperatures. Because of this discrepancy, some have argued that global warming is unproven, suggesting instead that true warming should show uniformly elevated temperatures from the surface through the atmosphere. Researchers have proposed a theory that changes in cloud cover could help explain the puzzling phenomenon, but none-until now-have come up with an argument that could account for the varying heat profiles.
A study in the July 2002 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, published by the American Geophysical Union, proposes for the first time that interstellar cosmic rays could be the missing link between the discordant temperatures observed during the last two decades (since recorded satellite records began in 1979). The report, by Fangqun Yu of the State University of New York-Albany, proposes that the rays, tiny charged particles that bombard all planets with varying frequency depending on solar wind intensity, may have height-dependent effects on our planet's cloudiness. Previous research has proposed a link between cosmic rays and cloud cover, has not suggested the altitude dependence of the current study.
"A systematic change in global cloud cover will change the atmospheric heating profile," Yu said. "In other words, the cosmic ray-induced global cloud changes could be the long-sought mechanism connecting solar and climate variability."
The hypothesis, if confirmed, could also shed light on the Sun's role in global warming. The amount of cosmic rays reaching Earth depends on solar winds, which vary in strength by space-weather conditions. Yu points out that indications of Earth's warming have coincided with decreased cosmic ray intensity during the 20th century. Such explanations for natural causes of global warming do not rule out human contributions to temperature change, but present the possibility that humans are not solely responsible for some of the observed temperature increases.
In addition, recent satellite data have revealed a correlation between cosmic ray intensity and the fraction of the Earth covered by low clouds. Yu proposes that the amount and charge of cosmic ray-generated ions can contribute to the formation of dense clouds by stimulating the production rate of low-atmosphere particles that make the clouds more opaque. In addition, natural and man-made differences in atmospheric chemistry, like greenhouse gas concentrations, can also affect the cosmic rays' influence on clouds, according to Yu. Such height-dependent atmospheric differences can increase the quantity of ambient particles in the lower troposphere and decrease the particles in the upper air, thus affecting the type of cloud cover.
High clouds, for example, generally reflect sunlight while lower clouds tend to retain surface energy; both effects are scientifically well established and have a significant effect on global temperatures. The data provides evidence supporting Yu's claim that cosmic ray-induced cloud changes may have warmed the Earth's surface but cooled the lower troposphere, which could provide an explanation of the Earth's varying temperature trends.
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.
Warmest World Yet
LONDON August 1, 2002 (Reuters) - The first six months of the year have been the second-warmest ever and average global temperatures in 2002 could be the highest ever recorded, British weather experts said Thursday.
"Globally 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001, and may even break the record set in 1998," said Briony Horton, the Meteorological Office's climate research scientist.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body that advises governments on long-term climatic variations, blames global warming ( news - web sites), caused by rising emissions of greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, for the rise in temperatures, a Met Office spokesman said.
"We agree with them," he told Reuters. "Since 1970 there has been a marked trend in the rise of global temperatures. The actual rise prior to 1970 was partly man-made and partly due to natural effects. But since 1970 scientists are in fairly general agreement that warming can be attributed to man's polluting activities."
The Met Office said global temperatures were 1.03 Fahrenheit higher than the long-term average of about 59 Fahrenheit in the period from January to June. In the nearly 150 years since recording began, only in 1998 has the difference been higher, 1.08 Fahrenheit, and that was caused by the influence of the El Nino weather phenomenon.
The figures also showed that the northern hemisphere had its warmest-ever half year, with temperatures 1.31 Fahrenheit above the long-term average.
The Met Office compiles its figures from data collected from observatories round the world, as well as from ships at sea.
|Colorado Fires Threaten Archaeological Sites |
By JON SARCHE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, CO July 31, 2002 (AP) - Tuesday's 2,000-acre wildfire charred the mesa above one of this park's signature cliff dwellings and fire workers scrambled to protect scores of archaeological sites.
Officials said none of Mesa Verde's treasures had been damaged, despite the flames close to the Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling.
The fire shut down the park in southwestern Colorado on Monday, forcing the evacuation of 2,000 visitors and employees. The park also was without drinking water because the top was burned off a million-gallon tank, contaminating the contents, and the fire had destroyed a sewage treatment plant and two park-owned employee residences.
Elsewhere, two wildfires that have charred almost 100,000 acres of southwestern Oregon threatened to unite Tuesday as they marched toward a string of towns. All 17,000 residents of the Illinois Valley had been urged to prepare for an evacuation.
Wildfires around the nation have burned more than 4 million acres so far this year, double the average, the National Interagency Fire Center reported Tuesday.
Mesa Verde, 240 miles southwest of Denver, has an estimated 25,000 archaeological sites left by the Pueblo Indian civilization that vanished more than 700 years ago. Its cliff dwellings date to the 1200s and pit houses date to the 500s.
Firefighters said their top priority was protecting a research center that holds artifacts and human remains, and park officials said they also were worried about archaeological sites.
In 2000, wildfires burned trees and brush covering more than a third of the park's 52,000 acres and shut down the park twice. Those fires led to the discovery of an estimated 2,000 archaeological sites.
|Australia Unearths Fossilized Giants |
Perth, Australia July 30, 2002 (BBC) - The fossilized remains of prehistoric giant lions and other mammoth creatures have been discovered in caves in Western Australia.
Operation Leo, carried out in three caves on the Nullabor Plain, unearthed Australia's first complete skeleton of a giant marsupial lion - Leo - as well as the world's biggest kangaroo and a wombat the size of a small car.
Paleontologist John Long from the Western Australian Museum in Perth described the fossils as "the find of the century". The animals bones have lain entombed for an estimated 1.5 million years.
Mr. Long and his 14-member team found the fossils during a two-week dig after the site was originally discovered in May. Alongside Leo lay six partial skeletons of fellow giant lions - characterized by their deadly front teeth and retractable claws - which the scientists believe were used for disemboweling animals.
Mr. Long said the bones were found in perfect condition.
"This is a unique situation where the caves must have been sealed off shortly after the animals were trapped and died so we've got these ancient animals in a perfectly undisturbed and complete state," he told the French news agency AFP.
Mr. Long said the discovery revealed how modern animals evolved from some of the most specialized creatures on earth. It has given scientists a unique insight into prehistoric life in the region.
"It tells us what the Pleistocene period was like in Australia from 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago," Mr. Long told the Sydney Morning Herald. "But it's the tip of the iceberg as to what we hope to find in future expeditions."
He said it was still unclear what drove the animals to extinction. One of the theories was that they disappeared with the arrival of humans about 60,000 years ago, while others blamed climate and vegetation changes for their extinction.
|LAPD Wants License Fees from Cop Shows |
|LOS ANGELES July 31, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - The city of Los Angeles is asking that two new police dramas on the fall TV schedule pay license fees for using likenesses of the city police department's badge and logo. |
L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo tells the Los Angeles Times that the city has "basically been lazy about [protecting] its intellectual property" and wants to rectify that by charging license fees to NBC's "Boomtown" and CBS' "Robbery Homicide Division."
Representatives from both networks say that the characters in their shows won't be displaying exact likenesses of the LAPD's badge or logos, so they shouldn't have to pay the fees. Delgadillo, however, has hinted at some sort of legal action if the shows refuse.
The LAPD is looking to improve its image to the public in the wake of the department's Rampart corruption scandal, in which several officers in an anti-gang unit were accused of abusing their power.
After seeing the pilot of FX's "The Shield," which was originally titled "Rampart," the department demanded the show remove all references to the city. Although the show clearly takes place in Los Angeles, characters rarely refer to the city by name.
The networks say they're uncomfortable with the idea of the LAPD looking over their shoulders as they develop the two series. "We really want to be able to shoot in L.A., but this makes it difficult," says Mark Graboff, NBC's West Coast executive vice president. "This kind of behavior will drive shows out of L.A."
The police department, meanwhile, is looking for a balance of "creativity and representation of the LAPD in such a way that it does not damage our image and reputation," Cmdr. Gary Brennan says.
Delgadillo says his talks with NBC took an "adversarial" tone, while discussions with CBS were more cordial.
|Genre News: Buffy, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Twilight Zone, Exorcist, Solaris and More! |
Once More With Rounder
Hollywood August 1, 2002 (eXoNews) - The soundtrack CD for Joss Whedon's Buffy mini-musical, Once More With Feeling, will be released by Rounder Records on September 17, 2002. Rounder Records is home to a vast eclectic catalog, from Grammy nominee Natalie MacMaster to Cowboy Junkies and They Might Be Giants. According to the Rounder site, the US list price will be $13.99, and yes, Buffy fans, you can pre-order it online now !
Despite the usual lack of Emmy recognition for genre shows and Buffy in particular, Once More With Feeling did garner a 2002 Emmy nomination for best musical direction. The 2-hour episode featured most of Buffy cast singing and dancing and received critical and fan acclaim when it aired last season.
No word on a DVD release for Once More, but several seasons of Buffy are now available in the US and UK, so fans can probably expect it eventually.
Rounder Records - http://www.rounder.com
The official Buffy site - http://www.buffy.com
Jennifer Love Hewitt Does If Only
By Zorianna Kit
Hollywood August 1, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Gil Junger has come aboard to direct Intermedia Films/Outlaw Prods.' romantic comedy "If Only," with Jennifer Love Hewitt attached to star and produce through her Love Spell Entertainment. The project aims to go into production in October in London.
"If Only" centers on a young couple given a second chance to relive and change the events of a day when one of them dies. Christina Welsh wrote the original draft; Allison Burnett ("Autumn in New York") is rewriting the project for the London setting.
Twilight Hopes for 21st Century Rebirth
Hollywood July 25, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Producers of UPN's upcoming update of The Twilight Zone told SCI FI Wire that they want to honor Rod Serling's original series, while bringing it into the 21st century. "I think we're going to tell simple stories with an ironic twist," executive producer Ira Steven Behr said in an interview. "And we're going to tell stories that will interest people who are watching television today. ... We're functioning with an audience that grew up on video games and George Lucas [and] Steven Spielberg. ... So we want to tell the same type of stories that Serling told. [But] we obviously have to tell them in a slightly different way."
Still, executive producer Pen Densham said that he hopes to tap the same mythic power of stories that Serling did. "The key of all these things is they have to tell the truth about human nature," Densham said. "They have to touch a poignant, powerful piece of the human condition. Whether it's about the guy who refuses to make any sacrifices for anybody else and ends up losing everything. Or whether it's about a man who has married somebody he's so incredibly jealous of that he drives her away, and then realizes when he's willing to give her her freedom so that he can live with her. ... These are the primal parts which stories come from. What Rod did ... in the 1959 era, he saw there was a need for new mythology, and he spoke to people through those stories about the things that were going on in their time and age. ... A lot of what we're doing is just touching base with those primal things, and in a very pure way."
Densham (The Outer Limits) and Behr (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) have assembled a stable of writers to come up with new stories, starting with a pilot that features Jeremy Piven as a man who acquires clairvoyance after being struck by lightning.
Each hour-long episode of the new Twilight Zone will feature two self-contained half-hour stories, introduced by actor/director Forest Whitaker.
The producers also hope to enlist the help of top-level actors and directors.
"We started off with Jonathan Frakes directing the pilot, which I think is a real achievement," Densham said. "And ... with Jeremy Piven ... as an actor to come to join us. And I think we will attract people of that caliber, if the stories we tell have a poetry that artistic people can see in them. ... I don't think people just do it because it's The Twilight Zone. Why they'll do it is those stories [that] allow them to stretch themselves in some way. To challenge what they've been conceived as, so they can reframe their own creativity, or ... find a way of exploring, which normal television strictures or feature strictures wouldn't allow. ... We're hoping ... people come and have fun."
The Twilight Zone will air on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT, right after Enterprise.
Neil Gaiman's Coraline to Film
By Josh Spector
Hollywood July 31, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Pandemonium Films has acquired the film rights to Neil Gaiman's horror-fantasy novel "Coraline," with "The Nightmare Before Christmas" helmer Henry Selick attached to adapt and direct.
"Coraline," published this month by HarperCollins Children's Books, is the story of a bored young girl who, in the course of exploring her family's new apartment, discovers a door leading to a sinister alternate world. No cast has been announced, though a posting on Gaiman's official Web site last week claimed that Michelle Pfeiffer was set to star. The posting has since been changed to state that the film will star a "well-known and highly thought-of actress." Buena Vista Pictures Distribution will release the film as part of its exclusive deal with Bill Mechanic's Pandemonium, with "Coraline" expected to start production early next year for a late 2003 release.
New Director for Exorcist
By Zorianna Kit
Hollywood July 31, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Paul Schrader is in negotiations to direct the untitled prequel to "The Exorcist" for Morgan Creek Prods., sources have confirmed. He will be stepping in to take over the job that the late John Frankenheimer voluntarily stepped down from one month before his death.
Shooting on the prequel is expected to begin in the United Kingdom and Spain in November with Gabriel Mann, Liam Neeson and Australian actor Billy Crawford continuing to remain attached to the project. The project traces the story of Father Merrin (Neeson) and his first encounter with the devil while doing missionary work in post-World War II Africa. While there, Merrin suffers from the horrors of war and loses his faith in God. When he meets the devil, he has to fight to save his beliefs.
Solaris Upgrade Due
Hollywood August 1, 2002 (eXoNews) - According to Variety, the you can expect the new version of the sci-fi classic Solaris around turkey day in November.
Solaris is based on the classic 1961 novel by Polish master sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem and was made into a Russian feature in 1972, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
The new version is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars George Clooney and Natascha McElhone (Ronin and The Truman Show). James Cameron produced.
The first movie version suffered somewhat in the 1973 English translation and was shown mostly in art theaters. Lem, like Bradbury, is one of those authors who is often best left unfilmed. There is a trailer currently showing around the US for the Soderbergh attempt, but nothing much is revealed. Let's hope the Thanksgiving release date isn't an omen.
My advice, read the book first because it works just fine and it always will :o)>
|Interplanetary Superhighway |
Pasadena July 21, 2002 (NASA Press Release) - A "freeway" through the solar system resembling a vast array of virtual winding tunnels and conduits around the Sun and planets, discovered by an engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., can slash the amount of fuel needed for future space missions.
Called the Interplanetary Superhighway, the system was calculated by Martin Lo, who used his theory to design the flight path for NASA's Genesis mission, which is currently using this "freeway in space" on its mission to collect solar wind particles for return to Earth.
Most missions are designed to take advantage of the way gravity pulls on a spacecraft when it swings by a body such as a planet or moon. Lo's theory mixes in another factor, the Sun's pull on the planets or a planet's pull on its nearby moons.
Forces from many directions nearly cancel each other out, leaving paths through the gravity fields in which spacecraft can travel.
Each planet and moon has five locations in space called Lagrange points, where one body's gravity balances another's. Spacecraft can orbit there while burning very little fuel. To find the Interplanetary Superhighway, Lo mapped all the possible flight paths among the Lagrange points, varying the distance the spacecraft would go and how fast or slow it would travel. Like threads twisted together to form a rope, the possible flight paths formed tubes in space.
Lo plans to map out these tubes for the whole solar system.
Lo has turned the theory of the Interplanetary Superhighway into a tool for mission design called "LTool," using models developed at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. The new LTool designed the flight path for the Genesis mission, the first space mission to use the theory of the Interplanetary Superhighway. Genesis launched in August 2001.
The flight path was designed for the spacecraft to leave Earth and travel to orbit the Lagrange point. After five loops around this Lagrange point, the spacecraft will fall out of orbit without any maneuvers and then loop around Earth to a Lagrange point on the opposite side of the planet. Finally, it will return to Earth's upper atmosphere to drop off its samples of solar wind in the Utah desert, at the Air Force's Utah Testing and Training Range.
"Genesis wouldn't need to use any fuel at all in a perfect world," Lo said. "But since we can't control the many variables that occur throughout the mission, we have to make some corrections as Genesis completes its loops around a Lagrange point of Earth. The savings on the fuel translates into a better and cheaper mission."
"It has been exciting and challenging to develop this field. Our work on the Genesis mission is definitely a high point," said Kathleen Howell, co-creator of LTool, and a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue. "The theory has been known for some time, but this is the first time it has been applied to a space mission."
"For all missions going to a Lagrange point, LTool will speed up computations," Lo said. "Designing the Genesis spacecraft's flight path with traditional methods used to take eight weeks, but now we can design a new flight path in less than a day -- we have redesigned a whole mission in a week."
Lo envisions a place to construct and service science platforms around one of the Moon's Lagrange points. Since the Lagrange points are landmarks for the Interplanetary Superhighway, spacecraft could easily be shunted to and from the station for repair. A team at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, working with the NASA Exploration Team (NEXT), proposes to someday use the Interplanetary Superhighway for future human space missions.
"Lo's work has led to breakthroughs in simplifying mission concepts for human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit," said Doug Cooke, manager of the Advanced Development office at Johnson. "These simplifications result in fewer space vehicles needed for a broad range of mission options."
Lo's and Howell's work on the Interplanetary Superhighway for space mission design was nominated for an annual Discover Innovation Award by Discover magazine editors and an outside panel of experts.
Spacecraft are not the only users of the Interplanetary Superhighway: asteroids and comets are known to travel on it. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter when it took an off-ramp toward the giant gas planet. Scientists think the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs could have followed Genesis' flight path -- an iridium deposit at the crash site shows the asteroid traveled fairly slowly. Just what we might expect from an asteroid on the Interplanetary Superhighway, Lo said.
JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.
|UK Mysteries! |
Sinister Iron Age Mystery
By Martin Wainwright
Askern UK July 26, 2002 (The Guardian) - The most baffling settlement ever unearthed from iron age Britain was revealed by English Heritage archaeologists yesterday, inside a prehistoric fort on former marshes by the Humber estuary.
Eerily spick and span, the rows of rectangular wooden buildings have yielded an almost complete lack of artifacts, remains or even litter, apart from one macabre find - fragments of crushed human skulls.
Guarded by stone and wooden palisade defenses, the complex also had a ceremonial gateway, vast by the standards of 600-400BC when it was built by the largely farming tribes of what is now South Yorkshire.
"It is extraordinary, like a kind of ghost village which can scarcely ever have been inhabited," said Robert Van der Noort, of Exeter University, whose students are excavating the site at Askern, near Doncaster, with a team from Hull University's archaeology department.
Checking an unusual wood-lined well - normally a prime iron age rubbish dump but in this case clinically clean - Dr Van der Noort said growing evidence suggested the complex, which is the size of two football pitches, was used for infrequent ceremonial purposes.
An artist's reconstruction shows human skulls on a strange row of spiked wooden poles, which were discovered leading up to the gate, with the fragments of cranial, cheek and jaw bones below them.
"It is particularly unusual to find a well without anything dropped or thrown into it, just clean sediment," he said. "But where is the tidiest archeological site in Britain? Stonehenge, possibly the greatest ceremonial centre of them all."
The £200,000 dig at Askern, a former pit village, has also established that the defenses form the biggest marshland fort in Britain. Henry Chapman, of Hull University, said: "The building techniques and architecture of the ramparts closely resemble those of early iron age hill forts. But there are no hills here, so the impassable wetlands were used instead, to create an impregnable site."
Whether the silent, scrubbed central buildings were quiet religious shrines, or something more sinister, may be established by further trenches due to slice through the flat, formerly agricultural turf. David Miles, chief archaeologist of English Heritage, said: "We will fund further excavations next year with the aim of resolving the enigma of this site."
The remains were damaged by intensive farming but have now been bought by a local trust, which hopes to open the site and possibly finance some reconstruction, as part of plans to revive tourism.
By Maev Kennedy
Arts and Heritage Correspondent
London July 26, 2002 (The Guardian) - The secret which Elizabeth I carried to her deathbed is finally to be publicly revealed, after 400 years.
The beautiful diamond ruby gold and mother of pearl ring, taken from her body in 1603, and unveiled yesterday at the National Maritime Museum, will go on public display for the first time next year in an exhibition at the museum - built on the south London site of Greenwich Palace, where she was born. Throughout her long reign, the ring was an agonizingly personal reminder of the consequences of one wrong move in politics.
Her diamond initial concealed a secret compartment with a portrait of her mother Anne Boleyn, who lost the king's love and her own head when Elizabeth was just two.
The little girl would later be declared a bastard by her brother Edward, then jailed and threatened with execution by her sister Mary, as each in turn ascended the shaky Tudor throne. According to legend, the ring was taken from her finger when she died at her palace at Richmond upon Thames, south-west London, in 1603, by Robert Carey. He then rode non-stop, reaching the Scottish border in three days, to bring the news to James VI of Scotland that he was now James I of England.
The ring is now part of the collection at Chequers, the country mansion reserved for the use of the prime minister of the day, and has never before been loaned.
Historian David Starkey, joint curator of the exhibition, said yesterday that Elizabeth's early experiences dictated her life. "The consciousness of vulnerability created her style of royal governance. She is much closer to the model of Tony Blair than that of her father - except she did it much better than Blair."
The exhibition, opening next May, will bring together an unprecedented collection of Elizabethan objects, almost half never displayed before. These include an opharion, a Tudor musical instrument like a lute, which was made for Elizabeth and is the only one surviving in the world.
The Queen is lending a Holbein drawing of Anne Boleyn, and the Marquis of Salisbury is lending a love letter from Elizabeth's last serious suitor, Francis of Anjou. A stove tile and a Tudor plaster rose excavated 30 years ago but never displayed are rare relics of the palace of Greenwich itself, destroyed in the 17th century.
"It's hard now to imagine just how important Greenwich was," Dr Starkey said. "This is where Henry was born as well as Elizabeth, where Henry first met Anne of Cleves, and where Anne Boleyn was arrested - the centre of the Tudor world."
|Viking Map a Fake? |
American Chemical Society Press Release July 31, 2002 - The Vinland Map shows its true colors; scientists say it's a confirmed forgery
For the first time in the controversial saga of the famous Vinland Map, scientists say they have shown with certainty that the supposed relic is actually a 20th-century forgery. The findings are reported in the July 31 print issue of Analytical Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
The Vinland Map -- a drawing that suggests Norse explorers charted North America long before Columbus -- has given scientists and historians a fertile platform for debate throughout its contentious history.
Several studies have questioned its authenticity, but disagreement about techniques and interpretations has left some adherents to the map's 15th-century origins unconvinced.
While other evidence has already established the pre-Columbian presence of the Vikings in North America, the map still serves as an important piece of history and has been valued by some at more than $20 million. It resides at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University.
"The Vinland Map is arguably one of the most important maps in the world," said Robin Clark, D.Sc., Sir William Ramsay Professor of Chemistry at University College London. Clark and Katherine Brown, a doctoral candidate, used Raman microprobe spectroscopy to identify the chemical components in the inks on the Vinland Map.
In this technique, a laser beam is directed at an object; a small portion of the light scatters off the molecules as radiation with different colors. Every material has a unique scattering spectrum that acts as a fingerprint, allowing scientists to identify it.
The ink is made up of two parts: a yellowish line that adheres strongly to the parchment overlaid with a black line that appears to have flaked off.
The yellow line contains anatase -- the least common form of titanium dioxide found in nature. Some scientists have concluded that the map must be of 20th-century origin because anatase could not be synthesized until around 1923. Others have suggested that anatase could have been formed during the medieval production of iron-based inks.
The current study is the first to establish precisely where the anatase is located on the map. The Raman technique allowed the researchers to examine the entire map in place, as opposed to other methods that drew individual samples from the map. "Anatase was detected solely in the ink lines and not elsewhere on the parchment, so [it] must be an integral part of the yellow line," the authors assert in their paper.
Prior to the development of the printing press, manuscripts were generally written in either carbon-based inks or iron gallotannate inks. Erosion of the latter makes the parchment brittle and often leads to brown or yellow staining. "Knowing that such yellowing is a common feature of medieval manuscripts, a clever forger may seek to simulate this degradation by the inclusion of a yellow line in his rendering of the map," the researchers suggested.
The study shows, however, that the black ink is made from carbon, not iron gallotannate, which makes the natural occurrence of yellowing impossible. Also, the map has not grown brittle over the years, as would be expected with an iron gallotannate ink.
"The Raman results provide the first definitive proof that the map itself was drawn after 1923," Clark said. "The results demonstrate the great importance of modern analytical techniques in the study of items in our cultural heritage."
Smithsonian Tests Point to Authenticity
Smithsonian Institution Press Release July 31, 2002 - For the first time, scientists have ascribed a date 1434 A.D., plus or minus 11 years to the parchment of the controversial Vinland Map, possibly the first map of the North American continent. Collaborators from the Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education (SCMRE), Suitland, Md., the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y., used carbon-dating techniques to analyze the parchment on which the map is drawn. Their findings, published in the August edition of the journal Radiocarbon, place the parchment of the map 60 years ahead of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the West Indies, and provide compelling evidence that the map is authentic.
"Many scholars have agreed that if the Vinland Map is authentic, it is the first cartographic representation of North America, and its date would be key in establishing the history of European knowledge of the lands bordering the western Atlantic Ocean," said Jacqueline S. Olin, assistant director for archaeometric research at SCMRE when the study began in 1995. Olin and co-authors Douglas Donahue, a physicist at the University of Arizona and Garman Harbottle, a chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory, along with SCMRE paper conservator Dianne Van Der Reyden, sampled the bottom right edge of the parchment for analysis. The dating was carried out at the National Science Foundation-University of Arizona Accelerator Mass Spectrometer in Tucson. The unusually high precision of the date was possible because the Vinland Map's date fell in a very favorable region of the carbon-14 dating calibration curve.
The parchment analysis again indicates the map's connection with the Catholic Church's Council of Basel, convened between 1431 and 1449, first posited by R.A. Skelton, T.E. Marston and G.D. Painter, the scholars who undertook a six-year investigation of the Vinland Map and accompanying "Tartar Relation," and made their argument for the map's authenticity in the book, The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation, published in 1965 by Yale University Press. Paul A. Mellon had purchased the map and manuscript for $1 million in 1958, and requested the study after donating them to Yale.
The map came to light in Europe in the mid-1950s without any record of previous ownership or provenance in any library or collection. It is now in the collection of Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven, Conn. The name "Vinland" derives from text on the map that recounts Bjarni and Leif Eriksson discovering "a new land, extremely fertile and even having vines,
which island they named Vinland." The "Island of Vinland" appears on the map in the northwest Atlantic Ocean. Scholars postulate it may represent present-day Labrador, Newfoundland or Baffin Island. The map also shows Europe, Africa and Asia.
Several previous studies challenging the map's authenticity focused on the chemical composition of the ink used to draw it, and pointed to the presence of anatase, which was not produced commercially until the 20th century. But there are questions about how an ink containing anatase could have been formulated and used by a forger. More recently, the ink has been shown to contain carbon, which also has been presented as evidence of a forgery. However, carbon can be present in a medieval ink.
"Anatase may be a result of the chemical deterioration of the ink over the centuries, or may even have been present naturally in the ink used in medieval times," Olin said, adding, "The elemental composition of the ink is consistent with a medieval iron gall ink, based on historical evidence regarding ink production."
Present carbon-dating technology does not permit the analysis of samples as small as the actual ink lines on the map.
Concluded Olin, "While the date result itself cannot prove that the map is authentic, it is an important piece of new evidence that must be considered by those who argue that the map is a forgery and without cartographic merit."
|Yucca Mountain Site Poses Volcanic Hazards |
|WASHINGTON July 31, 2002 (American Geophysical Union Press Release) - A volcanic eruption might cause greater damage than previously thought to the proposed high-level nuclear waste storage facility beneath Yucca Mountain, Nevada. This, according to research presented by Andrew Woods of the BP Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, and colleagues this month in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters, published by the American Geophysical Union. |
Yucca Mountain is located within a long-lived volcanic field. Risk assessments have suggested that the probability of volcanic activity occurring during the 10,000-year compliance period of the repository is around 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000. However, because such activity could have a significant impact on public health and safety, Woods and his colleagues developed a physical model to understand some of the risks associated with volcanic disruption of the repository.
Eruptions from volcanoes located within 12 miles [20 kilometers] of the proposed repository have tended to produce small volumes of magma, or molten rock. However, the content of volcanic gases in the magma means that the eruptions have been quite explosive.
The model developed by Woods and others envisions that magma rising from below Yucca Mountain would form a narrow body of molten rock called a dike. The dike is hypothesized to cut through several of the repository drifts and be diverted into them. Upon entering a drift, the high gas content of the magma would cause it to expand rapidly.
Based on their models, the scientists found that magma in the drifts could reach speeds on the order of 200-600 mph [100-300 m/s], filling parts of the repository with magma within a matter of hours after the initial eruption. Flowing magma might displace canisters holding radioactive waste. Additionally, intense heat associated with the magma would be expected to cause extensive damage to the containers. The results suggest that a greater number of canisters could be affected than previously estimated. The researchers also suggest that the pressure associated with the magma could be sufficient to open new and existing fractures at Yucca Mountain, providing a conduit for material to reach the surface.
Woods and his colleagues note that although their models are simplified relative to the complex interactions that would occur in the repository during a volcanic eruption, the models are consistent with understanding of these types of eruptions. Therefore, while previous estimates suggest that the probability of a volcanic event may be very low, potentially significant impacts on the site during such an event warrants further research to fully assess the risk.
|Stonehenge Rescue Underway |
Salisbury UK July 31, 2002 (English Heritage Press Release) - Stonehenge, once famously described as "a national disgrace" is at last to be rescued from its current shameful state and given the dignified setting it deserves as an iconic World Heritage Site. The £57 million scheme announced today will help to transform the ancient landscape, uniting it with the Stones and dramatically improving access for millions of visitors from across the world.
The transformation has been made possible by a funding package only agreed this week. Firstly, the Heritage Lottery Fund have pledged a commitment of more than £26 million towards the project once the planning process has been completed. The Government announced today their funding of at least £10 million, added to this English Heritage will contribute £11.7 million to improve access and visitor facilities.
The National Trust will also be organizing funding for improvements to the landscape. The balance will be raised by a major fund-raising appeal to be launched by English Heritage later this year.
Speaking today in Salisbury at the launch of the new scheme, Anthea Case, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Our support illustrates the Heritage Lottery Fund's commitment to a shared vision of Stonehenge properly seen in its ancient landscape, in a setting that honors its mysterious power. It's not an easy site and there is much work to do before a final scheme can be agreed but our Board was persuaded that support at this moment was right if the momentum towards a proper solution is to be maintained.
"The HLF believes that, for this complex project to be successful and to ensure that the greatest number of people can reach the stones, it is imperative that there is an holistic mechanism for the review, management and interpretation of the World Heritage Site, which will cover all works within it. As English Heritage and everybody else concerned realize, "the hard work starts here."
Visitors will have a variety of options for exploring the World Heritage Site from the visitor reception building. They can walk, hire cycles or take the low impact, environmentally friendly shuttle buses for the five minute journey to drop-off points within walking distance of the Stone Circle. There will be dedicated routes and drop-off points for mobility assistance buggies to help visitors and their companions with special access requirements.
There is free access to the National Trust Stonehenge estate of about 1,700 acres. People can use the existing network of public rights of way to roam across open downland surrounding the Stone Circle and explore the area's many archaeological monuments
The cost of the visitor reception building including exhibitions, audiovisual presentations, car parking and landscaping at Countess East is around £35 million. Provision of low impact, environmentally friendly visitor transport around the World Heritage Site will cost in the region of £7 million. Landscaping, land purchase and access rights, archaeology, feasibility studies, reserves and project direction make up the remaining costs.
Later this year, English Heritage will submit a planning application to Salisbury District Council for the plans revealed today. The visitor reception building is expected to open by 2006.
|Talking Counting Dogs! |
California August 1, 2002 (BBC) - Listen carefully when a dog barks at you. He may be trying to tell you something. For according to scientists, man's best friend is probably cleverer than you think. Not only does Fido use different barks to communicate but he can even count.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, US, recorded the barks of 10 dogs of six different breeds. They believe individual dogs have different sounds for different situations.
A single high-pitched bark means, "Where has my owner gone?" while a lower-pitched harsher "superbark" says, "There's a stranger coming".
The idea that dogs can count is more controversial.
A second study suggests dogs have a basic mathematical ability that enables them to work out when one pile of objects is bigger than another. Two researchers - Robert Young of the Pontifical Catholic University, Brazil, and Rebecca West of the University of Lincoln, UK - tested the idea with 11 mongrels and doggie treats. The snacks were hidden behind a screen, and then shown to the dogs. After the screen was lowered again, the researchers changed the number of treats or left them as they were, then let the dogs have another look. According to a report in New Scientist magazine, the dogs stared for much longer at the treats if there were a different number from before.
The scientists think this evidence that canines have some ability to count and that it could have played an important role when dogs were wild animals, living in packs, says Dr Young.
"The dog evolved from the wolf only 12,000 years ago," he told the BBC. "Wolves live in sophisticated social groups where knowing the number of allies and the number of enemies you have in a group would be very important in determining whether a behavioral strategy, for example trying to take over the group, would be successful or not."
Some researchers are skeptical, however. Erica Peachey, a consultant in animal behavior, has seen no evidence so far that dogs can count. She suggests that dogs' keen sense of smell might influence the results of the experiment.
"We forget that their senses are quite different from ours," she told BBC News Online. "It raises huge questions if dogs are capable of that type of theoretical thinking."
|Tipsy the Tortoise Trades In Skateboard |
PROVIDENCE, RI July 26, 2002 (AP) - Tipsy the tortoise is back on his feet.
About a year after his handlers at Roger Williams Park Zoo noticed he had a bum left front leg, the 21-year-old year-old radiated tortoise has finished his rounds of physical therapy and is back munching on plants and scoping out the females in his pen.
The endangered tortoise from the African island of Madagascar had suffered tissue damage and spent a year getting around on a makeshift skateboard that allowed him to exercise without putting too much pressure on the injured limb.
After confirming the injury during tests at Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Mass., caretakers cobbled together an oval-shaped roller.
Tipsy showed admiring onlookers Thursday just how well he could scoot around on his mini skateboard. He bounced off walls, crashed into a door, walked over shoes and wiggled between legs.
"He seemed to really enjoy (the therapy) from the beginning," Dr. Janet Martin, director of veterinary services at the zoo. "He really got the hang of it."
Tipsy's ailment was the first such injury veterinarians grappled with in the decades the zoo has housed tortoises.
|Pot Extinguishes Bad Memories in Brain |
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON July 31, 2002 (Reuters) - Feel-good chemicals in the brain, similar to the active ingredient in cannabis, can wipe out bad memories, German scientists said in a finding that could lead to new treatments for anxiety disorders and phobias.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have shown that natural chemicals in the brain similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana which produces the high, dampen nerve cell action and wipe out unpleasant memories. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, and similar molecules in the brain known as cannabinoids bind to the brain's chemical receptors, and can create a feeling of euphoria.
Cannabis and hashish, which contain THC, have been used for centuries for medicinal and recreational purposes.
Dr. Beat Lutz and his team created transgenic, or genetically modified, mice without a cannabinoid receptor. When they conditioned them to associate a musical tone with an electric shock, the mice produced a fear reaction, and continued to react even when the tone was not followed by a shock, Lutz said.
Normal mice quickly stopped reacting to the tone once it was not associated with a shock, but the genetically modified mice without the cannabinoid receptor took much longer to forget their fear.
Lutz and his team, whose research is published in the science journal Nature, also showed that blocking the receptor in normal mice prevented the animals from forgetting the painful memory.
When the scientists studied an almond shaped area of the brain called the amygdala, central to storing memory and fear, in transgenic and normal mice they discovered it was flooded with natural chemicals, or endocannabinoids, when the mice were gradually forgetting the learned response to the shock. Lutz believes the chemicals help to wipe out the fear or memory of the unpleasant response by binding to the cannabinoid receptors, he said on Wednesday.
Smoking cannabis would not produce the same effect in humans, Lutz said, because it overflows the brain and is not specific enough to extinguish the unpleasant memory. Lutz and his team think drugs that target specific enzymes to boost cannabinoids in the amygdala could help people suffering from panic attacks and fear-related memories.
"The finding that the endocannabinoids contribute to extinction raises the possibility that drugs that target these molecules and their receptors could be useful new treatments for anxiety disorders," Pankaj Sah, of the Australian National University in Canberra, said in a commentary in Nature.
|Man Rents His Head As Billboard |
|Davenport CT August 1, 2002 (AP) - Jeff Swanson is using his head as a billboard. Swanson, 39, is offering to let an advertiser tattoo his head for $100,000. |
He listed his offer twice on the Internet auction site eBay, and says at least one person has already called to express interest.
"I thought if the right person saw it and they had that kind of money, they might try to do it, maybe to get some publicity for themselves," said Swanson, who hangs hollow metal doors for a Davenport company.
The tattoo, which he would expose for a year, would be a first for the father of four young boys, who said he could invest part of the money for his children's college education.
|Scientists Eye Inside of San Andreas Fault |
By Larry O'Hanlon
Parkfield CA July 23, 2002 (Discovery) The treacherous whims of the San Andreas Fault may become less mysterious if geologists succeed with a plan to drill right through the fault's most quake-ridden zone.
The project is called the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) and will place scientific instruments into a small hole crossing the San Andreas 4 kilometers underground, right in an area where it's known to regularly jerk and slip.
Already a 2-kilometer-deep pilot hole is underway near the quake-prone town of Parkfield, Calif. "It's tantalizing and it's something we've got to do," said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ross Stein, who is not part of the fault-puncturing project, but hopes to learn from it.
For decades, geophysicists have been trying to understand earthquakes by measuring their vibrations and ruptures from the surface. That's led to theories about the role moving fluids and built-up stresses deep in the earth might play in causing faults to lock up or slip.
The problem is no one has actually gathered any information from inside the earthquake-making machine itself. That's because drilling so deep requires high-tech drilling technology used in petroleum exploration. That costs a lot of money, said Stein.
What's more, because the drill hole will cross a fault, it's highly likely to eventually get cut off by the movement along the fault. But that's not a problem, said SAFOD lead scientist Mark Zoback of Stanford University.
"We know that the fault is going to cut the hole in half," he said. How that happens, and under what circumstances, will provide extremely valuable information about the workings of the fault, he said.
Geologists have been planning SAFOD for 10 years. They've been accumulating questions for it to answer for at least 30, said Zoback.
Parkfield was chosen for the experiment because it sits atop an already very carefully monitored portion of the San Andreas Fault that creeps along at about 2 centimeters per year, guaranteeing a supply of frequent micro-earthquakes to study.
If Congress approves funding to continue the drilling, SAFOD will eventually create a 7-inch-diameter hole that diagonally crosses the fault. That hole will house instruments that measure the stress in the rocks, gage the pressure of hot briny water in the pores of the surrounding rocks, and listen for very subtle movements within the fault vibrations that are drowned out by human-made "cultural" vibrations, making seismometers at the Earth 's surface deaf to them.
|El Dorado Found! |
By David Blanco Bonilla
Lima July 27, 2002 (EFE via COMTEX) -- An international team of explorers claims to have found the legendary Inca city of gold that the Spanish knew as "El Dorado," deep in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon.
The quest began on June 30, when more than two dozen researchers began combing the wild and unexplored jungle region along the basin of the Madre de Dios River. El Dorado, called "Paititi" by the region's Indian population, is known as the last bastion of the Incas as they sought refuge from advancing Spanish conquistadors.
The leader of the expedition, the Polish-Italian journalist and explorer Jacek Palkiewicz, told EFE Saturday he was very pleased with the expedition and felt "certain" he had found El Dorado. After two years of research and exploration, Palkiewicz said, the lost city had been found in an area adjoining the Manu national park, southeast of Lima.
The journey to El Dorado has allowed the researchers to confirm all the written accounts and myths surrounding the lost city, including reports that it was a 10-day walk from Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca empire. Palkiewicz said he was most surprised to learn that stories of the city being under a lake were completely accurate.
The lake has been discovered in a four-square-kilometer (1.5-square-mile) plateau totally covered in vegetation. Russian specialists taking part in the expedition used terrestrial radar to confirm the existence of an underwater network of caverns and tunnels.
According to legend, the treasures of the last Inca rulers were buried under the lake.
He added that a final extensive expedition would be carried out in October and would include scientists specializing in the study of caves.
Palkiewicz said he had found traces of pre-Inca constructions, which indicate that the Incas had only begun to colonize the area shortly before arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
The man described by Britain's Guardian newspaper as a "self-styled academic" did not rule out the existence of other Inca constructions, but said the dense jungle and the region's torrential rains prevented the team from investigating further. The expedition, which was made up of scientists from Argentina, Italy, Poland, Russia and Peru, used terrestrial radar and satellites to locate the lost city.
The journey was planned after two previous visits to the area and was given a further boost by the discovery of a 16th-century manuscript ostensibly proving that El Dorado had been discovered by Jesuit missionaries. In the manuscript, which was found in the Vatican archives of the Society of Jesus, the pope authorizes the Jesuits to evangelize the Indians of Paititi.
Palkiewicz, a teacher of survival skills who has written some 20 books about his journeys to the most remote areas of the planet, has extensive experience in the Amazon jungles. In 1996, he led another expedition that succeeded in locating the true source of the Amazon River.
His most recent expedition had a budget of more than $1 million and received the symbolic support of Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, Poland's Aleksander Kwasniewski and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Efforts to locate the legendary city began with the arrival of Spanish conquerors in 1532. Rumors of a jungle city that supposedly held priceless treasures to be used to pay the ransom of the last Inca ruler, Atahualpa, prompted searches of the region. Many previous El Dorado expeditions ended in disaster on account of the region's hostile environment and difficult terrain.
One such failed expedition took place in 1925, when famous British explorer Col. Peter Fawcett disappeared in western Brazil while looking for the city.
In 1970, a French-American expedition led by Serge Debru disappeared, most likely at the hands of Huachipairi Indians.
A 1997 expedition led by Norwegian anthropologist Lars Hafksjold also disappeared after setting out for the Madidi River, not far from the site of Palkiewicz's discovery.