Monthly Archives: June 2014

Anniversary of First Tightrope Walk Across Niagara Falls…

 Blondin’s first tightrope-walk across Niagara Falls

Richard Cavendish remembers how the daredevil Jean-François Gravelet stunned the world on June 30th, 1859.

Jean-François Gravelet was the most spectacular funambulist, or tightrope-walker, of his day or probably any other day. Born in 1824, he was the son of a veteran of the Grande Armée who was nicknamed ‘Blondin’ for his fair hair. The family lived at Hesdin in the Pas de Calais and when a circus came to town the little boy was so fascinated by the tightrope-walkers that he decided to be one himself and started practising immediately using his father’s fishing-rod as a pole. His parents sent him for training as an acrobat at the celebrated École de Gymnase in Lyons. He made his first professional appearance as ‘The Little Wonder’ at the age of five and later adopted his father’s nickname.

Blondin’s first crossing of the Niagara Falls, in 1859, was the most famous feat in a life packed with them and like all the others was painstakingly prepared, organised and exploited for maximum publicity. He took care to enlist the support of the Niagara Falls Gazette which at first thought it was a hoax and then decided he was mad but went along anyway. Newspapers all over the country were soon interested. The rival Niagara Mail was sarcastic in its coverage and the New York Times said Blondin was a fool who ought to be arrested, but posters and handbills boosted the excitement. The railway companies laid on special trains and thousands of spectators assembled to watch.

The tightrope was taken across the river in a rowing boat. More than three inches (7.5cm) thick, it sagged by some 60 feet (18m) in the middle, so it had a steep slope. The distance was a little over 1,000 feet (305m). Blondin offered to carry a volunteer over on his back but, unsurprisingly, no one stood forward. Bands on both banks played as he began his crossing at 5.15pm and took his time over what he privately considered an easy task. He stopped and lay down for a rest at one point and stood on one leg for a while. The crossing took him a little over 17 minutes. After a pause he went back across on the rope, much faster this time. He was cheered to the echo and the feat was reported all over America and in Europe.

In several later crossings Blondin introduced variations. He carried his top-hatted manager across on his back, crossed blindfolded or on stilts or in a gorilla costume and pushing a wheelbarrow. One of the wonders of the age, he built himself Niagara House in the London suburb of Ealing in 1889 and died there of diabetes in 1897, days before his 73rd birthday. He lies buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. Neighbouring streets in Ealing, Blondin Avenue and Niagara Avenue, preserve his memory and there’s a Blondin Street in Bow.

 

 

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Hungry, Hungry Hippos – Latest Affect of Drug Lords…

Drug Lord’s Hippos Breeding Out of Control

Pablo Escobar’s foreign beasts terrifying fisherman, eating crops

By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff

 

Posted Jun 26, 2014 8:18 AM CDT | Updated Jun 29, 2014 11:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – Colombia is facing an overpopulation issue: a famed drug lord’s herd of hippos keeps expanding. Pablo Escobar built himself a zoo in the 1980s, smuggling in a host of exotic animals, including one male and three female hippos. Now, 20 years after the drug boss’s death, the hippos have found a welcoming climate—free of the drought that helps curb herd size in Africa—and apparently an appetite for sex. Estimates say there are now between 50 and 60 hippos (in 2006, the LAT pegged their population at 16), most living in one of 12 man-made lakes at Escobar’s former ranch. But a dozen have been confirmed as having broken away and into the nearby Magdalena River, meaning there could be many more; in 2009, one hippo was located 62 miles away.

Kenya Wildlife

While hippos in Africa tend to become sexually active as early as age seven for males and nine for females, the hippos in Colombia are breeding as early as three, the BBC reports. “It’s just like this crazy wildlife experiment that we’re left with,” says a San Diego University ecologist. “Gosh! I hope this goes well.” So far, it doesn’t seem to be. The beasts are terrifying fishermen, wreaking havoc on crops, and even crushing small cows. They can’t be moved back to Africa due to the possibility they carry disease, zoos aren’t interested in the adults, a reserve with hippo-proof fences would cost about $500,000, and castration would be expensive and risky for both the vets and the creatures, who the ecologist notes are highly sensitive to sedation. So how would a biologist working in the Amazon region solve the issue? “I think they should barbecue them and eat them,” he says. He isn’t kidding.

WWF - VIRUNGA CAMPAIGN 2013

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Cute Dogs for Your Monday Blues

Furry critter fun to start your week.

 

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Mars ‘flying saucer’ splashes down after NASA test

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FILE – In this undated file photo provided by NASA, a saucer-shaped test vehicle known as a Low Density Supersonic Decelerator is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility at Kekaha on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.AP/NASA

After several weather delays, NASA on Saturday launched a helium balloon carrying a saucer-shaped vehicle high in Earth’s atmosphere to test technology that could be used to land on Mars.

The craft deployed a novel inflatable braking system on its way back to Earth, but its massive parachute failed to fully unfurl as it descended to a splashdown.

Control room cheers that greeted successful steps in the complex test rapidly died as the parachute appeared to emerge tangled.

“Please inform the recovery director we have bad chute,” a mission official ordered.

Since the twin Viking spacecraft landed on the red planet in 1976, NASA has relied on the same parachute design to slow landers and rovers after piercing through the thin Martian atmosphere.

The $150 million experimental flight tests a novel vehicle and a giant parachute designed to deliver heavier spacecraft and eventually astronauts.

Viewers around the world with an Internet connection followed portions of the mission in real time thanks to cameras on board the vehicle that beamed back low-resolution footage.

After taking off at 11:40 a.m. from the Pacific Missile Range Facility on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the balloon boosted the disc-shaped vehicle over the Pacific. Its rocket motor should then ignite, carrying the vehicle to 34 miles high at supersonic speeds.

The environment this high up is similar to the thin Martian atmosphere. As the vehicle prepared to drop back the Earth, a tube around it expanded like a Hawaiian puffer fish, creating atmospheric drag to dramatically slow it down from Mach 4, or four times the speed of sound.

Then the parachute if only partially — and the vehicle splashed down about three hours later. At 110 feet in diameter, the parachute is twice as big as the one that carried the 1-ton Curiosity rover through the Martian atmosphere in 2011.

Despite the parachute problem, “what we just saw was a really good test,” said NASA engineer Dan Coatta with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The test was postponed six previous times because of high winds. Winds need to be calm so that the balloon doesn’t stray into no-fly zones.

Engineers planned to analyze the data and conduct several more flights next year before deciding whether to fly the vehicle and parachute on a future Mars mission.

“We want to test them here where it’s cheaper before we send it to Mars to make sure that it’s going to work there,” project manager Mark Adler of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said during a pre-launch news conference in Kauai in early June.

The technology envelope needs to be pushed or else humanity won’t be able to fly beyond the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, said Michael Gazarik, head of space technology at NASA headquarters.

Technology development “is the surest path to Mars,” Gazarik said at the briefing.

The Los Angeles Times reported that teams working on the project will report at different times. These teams include specialists who will launch the balloon and communication teams. There are antennas near the base, the report said.

There is a lot that can go wrong, but that’s precisely why the teams say these tests are imperative.

“We learn even more when we fail,” Robert Manning, the chief engineer, told The Times. “If you’re not dropping balls, you’re not learning how to juggle.”

Click for more from LA Times

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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Some Times Your Number is Just Up…

When you are out fishing in the middle of a river, and a tiger jumps up and kills you, it was pretty much your time.  You can prepare for a lot of deaths, but tiger attack while fishing is not usually anticipated…

Tiger leaps onto boat, snatches man in swamp in India

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April 26, 2014 – Royal Bengal tiger prowls in Sunderbans, at the Sunderban delta, about 80 miles south of Calcutta, India. An Indian fisherman says a tiger has snatched a man off a fishing boat and dragged him away into a mangrove swamp.AP

A Bengal tiger snatched a man off a fishing boat in eastern India, dragging him away into a mangrove swamp as his children looked on in horror, the man’s son said Friday.

The attack happened Thursday as Sushil Manjhi and his son and daughter were crab fishing in a stream in the Sunderbans National Park. The tiger leaped aboard the boat and clamped its jaws on Manjhi’s neck, said Sushil’s son, Jyotish.

The tiger “quickly flung my father on his back and gave a giant leap before disappearing into the forest,” Jyotish said by telephone from his village of Lahiripur in West Bengal state. He said he and his sister tried to beat the animal with sticks and a knife, but the thrashing had no effect. His father was dragged away and was presumed dead.

The attack underlines the difficult existence of millions of poor Indians who make a living by scavenging in forests and rivers, often at risk from wild predators. Many villagers fish for crabs in the Sunderbans — even though it’s illegal in the protected reserve — because they fetch a good price at markets in nearby towns.

The national park is one of the largest reserves for the royal Bengal tiger. Thursday’s attack was the fourth deadly assault by a tiger this year in the Sunderbans, wildlife officials said.

India has more than half of the 3,200 tigers believed to be left in the wild in the world. But as the country undergoes breakneck development to accommodate the growth of its 1.2 billion people, tiger habitats have been shrinking.

The big cat’s numbers have also dwindled because of rampant poaching to feed a flourishing market for tiger organs and bones in China.

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1887 – 1898: Whaleback steamships

A whaleback was a type of cargo steamship with a hull that continuously curved above the waterline from vertical to horizontal. When fully loaded, only the rounded portion of the hull (the “whaleback” proper) could be seen above the waterline. With sides curved in towards the ends, it had a spoon bow and a very convex upper deck. It was formerly used on the Great Lakes of Canada and the United States, notably for carrying grain or ore.Whaleback Steamships 2

The term developed in common usage in response to the ship’s appearance when fully loaded. A total of 44 such vessels were constructed from 1887 to 1898.

Whaleback Steamships 3 Whaleback Steamships 15 Whaleback Steamships 13 Whaleback Steamships 7

 

 

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Cosplay Pictures for Your Saturday Enjoyment

Your weekly collection of cool cosplay photos.  Enjoy!

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