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Archive for October, 2011

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The Perch and Mudskipper: nature’s climbing fish

Posted in Fish, Nature, Oddities, Rivers, Wildlife on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about fish originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Mudskippers, picture, image, illustration

Mudskippers climb mango trees with pelvic fins acting as suckers, by Susan Cartwright

Danish explorer Gustav Daldorff had a shock when he was walking along the edge of a swamp in Tranquebar, India. On the trunk of a tall tree were some fish. At first he thought that they were dead and had been carried there by an overflowing river.

Then he saw two more fish crawling across the swampy ground. He saw that their gill covers had spines, pectoral and pelvic, which gave support and helped to push the body along.

When the fish reached the base of the palm, they climbed up the trunk and joined those already there.

The fish Daldorff saw was an anabas scandens or climbing perch. But whether he actually saw the fish climb the tree, or allowed his imagination to colour his story, is in doubt, for this occurred in 1791 and his tale could have grown with each retelling.

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Notorious Captain Bligh and the Mutiny on the Bounty

Posted in Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, Ships on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about Captain Bligh originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Mutiny on the Bounty, picture, image, illustration

Mutiny on the Bounty by Peter Jackson

Mutiny on the Bounty . . . most of us know the story of the savage and hasty-tempered Captain William Bligh. So brutal was Bligh’s discipline that many of his men revolted.

They put Bligh over the side of the ship in a small boat with 18 men who remained loyal to him.

It was early on the morning of 28th April, 1789, that Bligh found himself cast adrift in the ocean. With superlative seamanship, he navigated his small craft over 5,800 km. of the Southern seas until, finally, he and his party came to the safety of the island of Timor. This was part of the collection of islands that was then called the East Indies and is now Indonesia.

Captain Bligh eventually returned to England. Some of the mutineers were captured and hanged and others were drowned at sea.

One small party sailed on to found a community on Pitcairn Island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Their descendants are still living there to this day.

The story of the mutiny on the Bounty must be one of the best known in British naval history. It has all the ingredients of an exciting adventure story . . . and one that also happens to be a true one!

Burgh, bury and brooke – the suffixes of stronghold

Posted in British Cities, British Towns, Historical articles, Interesting Words, Language, Scotland on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about placenames originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Edinburgh's Royal Mile, picture, image, illustration

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh: a picture history by Peter Jackson

Do You Live In Edinburgh?

Or in any other “burgh”. If so, your home town bears, in part, an Anglo-Saxon name which means “a fortified place”. It is closely akin to berg – a mountain.

It is easy to see how Edinburgh gained its name for it was once an ideal place for an early tribe to choose as its home and stronghold.

On what is now Castle Rock, they built a rampart of stone and put their wattled huts inside this.

From their high home, they would be able to defend themselves against enemy tribes and to set off on hunts for food.

A variation of this term is bury, and this is found in Canterbury and Aldermanbury. It also appears as borough, as in Newborough, and as brugh, corrupted to brooke in Carisbrooke. Another version is berry, as used in the west of England place name of Berry Head.

Matthews and Finney: two of England’s greatest footballers

Posted in Historical articles, Sport, Sporting Heroes on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about football originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Stanley Matthews, picture, image, illustration

Stanley Matthews

If there is one consistent complaint most experts have made about the England football team in the past 10 years it is about the absence of a pair of good wingers. In fact, today, even one expert in wing play is considered a bonus beyond price. This is the reason why the development of a youngster like Peter Barnes of Manchester City is encouraged with keen interest by the England manager, Ron Greenwood.

What would Mr Greenwood give to have two such players as Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney in his England squad today? They are the names most mentioned by veteran followers of the game when the lack of wingers is discussed today. Yet, at the time, they unwittingly created what was perhaps the longest controversy ever known over the England team selections.

In the decade when they were both being selected for England, between 1946-57. Matthews and Finney altogether were awarded over 100 caps. Without question, they were the finest wingers in the country at that time. Yet they played together in the same England team fewer than 20 times.

Arguments raged among soccer fans up and down the country whenever one was picked for the team at the expense of the other.

On the comparatively few occasions when they were picked to play together for England, the outcome was awaited with even greater interest. On nearly every occasion there was dissent over who had made the greater contribution to the game, whether either had unbalanced the play of the other; whether England in fact could afford the luxury of two such maestros in the same side.

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Marie Curie and the discovery of radium

Posted in Discoveries, Historical articles, Medicine, Science on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about Marie Curie originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Marie Curie, picture, image, illustration

Marie Curie searching for pure radium in her laboratory by Angus McBride

Marie Curie’s life has become a legend. She was the first woman to achieve fame as a scientist. She was a heroic character, and her heroism was needed to accomplish her great work. She was a patriot who came from a small and oppressed nation under foreign rule. She was poor; she was beautiful; she married a man whose own talents perfectly matched her own. This made the most notable married partnership in the story of science; it is also a great love story.

She suffered, and remained serene. Frail with illness, she relentlessly pursued her work. Wealth, which she might have had from her discoveries, was refused by her. She had no personal interest in the honours and celebrity that came to her.

Marie Curie was the discoverer of a miraculous new substance, radium, which has been of great benefit to mankind in the treatment of cancer. In addition, it changed our basic ideas about the nature and structure of matter.

The great phenomenon which radium disclosed was radioactivity. The discovery of this was the key which unlocked the secrets of the atom and led to the development of nuclear power.

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Understanding and preserving mysterious Stonehenge

Posted in Architecture, Conservation, Historical articles, Prehistory, Religion on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about prehistoric monuments originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Stonehenge, picture, image, illustration

Building Stonehenge by Arthur Ranson

Most people who come upon Stonehenge for the first time find themselves thinking about Druid priests and human sacrifice, although many experts will argue that nobody has ever established any definite link between Stonehenge and such rites.

It seems that there are certain things that people want to believe, and will go on believing whatever the text books may say, and so far as Stonehenge is concerned, even if it is hard to prove that the Druids actually used the place, it is equally hard to prove the opposite.

Laboratory techniques now enable the past to be dated with astonishing accuracy, but the truth is that the eerie circle of stones in Wiltshire that has long been a major tourist attraction still remains something of an unsolved mystery.

Visitors will find Stonehenge on the Shrewton road, five kilometres west of Amesbury, on the edge of Salisbury plain. And there is no denying that the extent of its impact depends a good deal on the weather. Seen from the roadway on a fine day, Stonehenge can be slightly disappointing to anyone who has expected to be confronted with monoliths the height of factory chimneys.

The individual sarsens (sandstone blocks) are, in fact, about 4 metres high and weigh about 25 tonnes, but seen against the flat Wiltshire countryside they tend to look smaller. Seen on an overcast day, or through the swirling mist that is quite common in these parts, Stonehenge immediately looks as sinister as its reputation. One feels that literally anything could have happened within that circle of stones.

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Tereshkova: the first woman to orbit the earth

Posted in Communism, Exploration, Historical articles, Space on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about space originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Valentina Tereshkova and Andrian Nikolayev, picture, image, illustration

Valentina Tereshkova and Andrian Nikolayev, by Robert Brook

Flames roared from the main motor nozzles and the rocket rose slowly and then gathered speed to leap towards the sky. Inside the capsule was a woman, Valentina Tereshkova of the USSR, who was about to become the first woman to orbit the Earth, an achievement no other woman has yet attempted.

Her craft was Vostok 6 and she was launched in this from Tyuratam at 9.30 am GMT on 16th June, 1963. During the launching, the pressure on her body was considerable. But when the craft reached the altitude of its orbit the motors cut out and the pressure ceased.

The space capsule, with Valentina inside it, floated weightlessly, giving Valentina time to look out of the viewports of the craft.

“It’s so beautiful up here. I can see the earth’s curvature,” she reported by radio.

Let us now, in imagination, join Valentina in her space-craft and share her experience.

Seen from the space-craft, the horizon is clearly curved. The colours sparkle. The sunlit Earth shows its mountains, lakes and rivers. At the horizon, a thin bluish haze surrounds the Earth and shades gradually into the pure black of deep space. Myriads of stars shine brightly against the black without twinkling: the twinkle we see on Earth comes from looking at them through the atmosphere.

But Valentina has work to do.

“Hello, Seagull,” comes a voice on the radio. “Here is Hawk.”

Hawk is Valeri Bykovsky and he has already been in orbit for two days in Vostok 5, Valentina is in Vostok 6.

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Magellan discovers a way around the world

Posted in America, Discoveries, Exploration, Historical articles, History, Ships on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about the Great Discoveries originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Magellan, picture, image, illustration

Ferdinand Magellan and the discovery of the Pacific Ocean, by Oliver Frey

The dark eyes of the sallow-skinned, heavily-bearded Portuguese adventurer who stood before King Charles I of Spain shone with enthusiasm as he unfolded his “wild” plan.

“If I could sail to the west and take my ship southwards under the tip of the great American continent, I would be able to reach all the riches of the East Indies,” he told the king. “In so doing, I would be going in exactly the opposite direction to that taken by the Portuguese when they sailed southwards under the tip of Africa and then eastwards to the Indies.”

The westward route “under” America would lead to the same goal as the eastward route “under” Africa, declared the adventurer, because, as everyone – or almost everyone – now agreed, the world was round.

King Charles nodded his approval at the speaker, Ferdinand Magellan, and agreed to provide five ships, the Concepcion, Santiago, Trinidad, San Antonio and Victoria. They were all about the same size as Columbus’s Santa Maria, but altogether much better equipped. They bristled with guns and were laden with gunpowder, and they carried the best navigational aids available at the time.

On a September day in 1519 the little armada set off on what was to become one of the great voyages of all time. The early part of the route was by now familiar – the Canaries, Cape Verde, then across the Atlantic to the coast of Brazil and South America.

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The tragic destiny of Melville’s fearless Captain Ahab

Posted in America, English Literature, Historical articles, Literature on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about American literature originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Moby Dick, picture, image, illustration

Melville’s extraordinary creation, Captain Ahab, facing his nemesis, Moby Dick

The bearded captain of the three-master Southampton, just arrived off Deal, a month out of Boston, wakened his famous passenger.

“Mr. Melville! You can go ashore now.”

Herman Melville jumped lightly out of his bunk, fully awake in an instant like the sailor he was. After hastily gulping a mug of coffee, he was soon being rowed ashore. Once on the beach he immediately set out to walk to Sandwich, took a train to Canterbury, then another to London.

Installed in London, at 25, Craven Street, in the Strand, Melville made a long round of all the literary and fashionable folk.

It was November, 1849, and at the age of thirty this tough and energetic American was even more famous in England than in his home country. In three years he had written four books and he was planning his masterpiece, Moby Dick.

After two months, Melville returned to America and began writing Moby Dick. He was never to know such popularity again, though he lived for 40 years more. A disastrous fire at his New York publishers destroyed all the plates and copies of his books and they were never reprinted in America in his lifetime.

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The incredible journey from fish to frog

Posted in Animals, Nature, Wildlife on Friday, 28 October 2011

This edited article about amphibians originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 850 published on 29 April 1978.

Frog, picture, image, illustration

A frog catching a butterfly, with an inset of its lifecycle

In what animal can we see, unfolded before our eyes, the story of evolution? It seems incredible to think that any one creature could lay before us such a fascinating story. Yet there is an animal whose creation parallels the development of life on our planet.

Evolutionists tell us that single-celled creatures called amoebae living in the sea were the earliest forms of animal.

Among the myriad forms that arose from this were the fishes and then the amphibians that were equally happy in or out of the water. From these there came reptiles and, eventually, mammals.

From amoeba to amphibian is a long step, yet it is one which is taken, loosely speaking, by our present-day frogs. In them, you can see millions of years of evolution taking place in a few weeks, beginning with the jelly-like egg, which we can liken to the amoeba, and passing through the stages of water-animal to amphibian.

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