Odds and Ends March 27, 2020
By Matt Bille
It’s been such a crazy year so far, with the dominant threat of coronavirus wrecking the whole world’s plans. (LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS!!!) But there are other things going on, some of them memorable.
SHOOTING FROM THE HIPPO
I posted on FaceBook the question of a little oddity that turned up as I read Glynn Williams’ excellent book Naturalists at Sea (full review coming). William Dampier was a British naturalist, self-taught but brilliant, whose voyages took him around the world three times. (Some of that time was spent, incidentally, as history’s most inept pirate.) About 1700, in Australia's Shark Bay, he was present when a shark was caught whose stomach contained [his spellings] "the skull and boans of an hippopotamus." He specifically mentioned the jaws, lips, and teeth as identifying features. Dampier does not seem to have recorded the size or species of the shark. What could a man who wrote many volumes of exhaustive and precise notes of plants and animals all over the world have mistaken for a hippo?
German zoology expert Markus Bühler likely solved it when he suggested the dugong. “For a naturalist from 1700, who has never seen a dugong and who had likely also not exactly superior experience with hippos, it seems really not too far stretched that he would consider that a dugong´s head belonged to something hippo-like.” OK. It was cool while it lasted.
SOCIAL DISTANCING FOR CRYPTOZOOLOGISTS
If you forget the required measurement for social distancing, it’s four Bluff Creek sasquatch tracks or a little over one coelacanth.
LITTLE SURPRISE IN ANCIENT AMBER
According to the article in Science, the most prestigious journal in America, by Gretchen Vogel, “This tiny head, 14 millimeters long (including the beak), belongs to one of the smallest dinosaurs ever found. …” Oculudentavis khaungraae (eye-tooth bird) is an amazing find.
It’s one of the most controversial follis ever, though. The scientific controversy is that not everyone agrees it’s a dinosaur. Some suggest it’s an early true bird, some that it was a lizard. That will be argued out in future papers. The tough one, though, is that many publications debated covering it because it’s from Myanmar, where the province it was mined in. and from which it was smuggled to China, is mired in a brutal separatist conflict and funds one side or the other depending on who's in control of that bit of ground at any given time.
Joshua Sokol reports on that here.
Read The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams for the big picture of dinosaur smuggling and sales.
Want to read an old-but -great book in wilderness survival? Try Cache Lake Country: Life in the North Woods, by John J. Rowlands and Henry B. Kane (Norton, original edition 1947).
Rowlands recounts his North Woods adventures in a friendly campfire style and along the way includes instructions, with drawings, on how to make everything from a shelter to a water-cooled refrigerator, all with materials from the wild and the kind of gear a camper could lay hands on way back in the 1940s, before all the flashy modern stuff was even thought of. My dad had a copy of this when we were kids, and we loved it. It vanished, but I turned up a used one. It’s on Amazon as paperback, Kindle, or FREE audio book, although the hardback is now costly.
“There’s a Cache Lake for everyone, but it won’t be found by a four-lane highway.” – John Rowlands.
In a year like this, I’m sorry I’m not up in Cache Lake Country myself.