Tag Archive | "mystery"

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The Remotest Island on Earth: Bouvet Island

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

Though Earth is densely crowded with humans now, yet there are places which are really remote and humans place their feet not even in decades. One such place is the remotest island in the world. It is the Bouvet island, named after it’s discoverer. The island is so remote and difficult to approach that it took around a century for any human being to land in it after its first viewing.


Bouvet Island - The most remote island on Earth


The story of Bouvet island’s discovery is interesting. The island was first discovered by Jean-Baptiste-Charles Bouvet, a French Navigator in 1739. He was born into a distinguished naval family but orphaned at an early age. As a grown up boy he joined the French India company in 1731 and eventually attained the lieutenant rank soon. For three years he tried to persuad the company to send him south on an exploration to look for harbors suitable for company’s use. He was actually hoping to locate the land reported by Binot Paulmyer De Gonneville when he returned to France after a expedition in 1505. Gonneville stated that he had spent six months in a land far south, whose fine climate and friendly inhabitants commended it to french colonization. This virtual land was called “Gonneville Land” at that time. Gonneville probably referred to a land near Brazil, but Bouvet’s expectation was to find that land sailing far south from the Cape of Good Hope.

Finally his appeal was accepted by his company and he started his expedition equipped with two ships, the 280 tonAgile and 200 ton Marie. He was supplied with provisions sufficient for a voyage of one and a half year. Captain Ducloscommanded Marie and Bouvet commanded Agile as a leader. The two ships started their voyage on 19th July, 1738 from Breton port Lorient. Expecting to find a tropical or at least temperate land, they were ill-prepared for the increasing cold. Bouvet had chosen to explore the are of the world’s oceans most empty of land. With great determination he carried out a thorough search between latitudes 44 and 55 degree South. On 1st January, 1739 a land was first seen, a high rock cliff, possibly an island, or more likely according to Bouvet, a promitory of a larger land. Despite of bad climate and scurvy rife among his crew, Bouvet kept this island in view for tweleve days. While he desperately attempted to approach closer to the island, always being kep away by the impassible ice. They also didn’t dare to launch boats for the fear that they will not be able to find Agile and Marie again in the fog.Eventually the attempt had to be abandoned, leaving the true nature of his discovery unknown, Bouvet sailed back north to reach Cape of Good Hope on 24th February and lorient on June 24th.


Bouvet Island


Unfortunately, Bouvet, a very competent navigator but handicapped by the instruments available to hime at that time, gave the position of the island as 54 degree South and 11 degree East. He named the land he saw as Cape Circumcision. Many later expeditions were made to search for Cape Circumcision. But explorer like James Cook, James Clark Ross, Thomas Moore, etc. in mid 19th century failed to find the island. This was because, there location given by Bouvet was significantly erroneous. Meanwhile the island was rediscovered in 1808 by two British whalers in their vessels Snow Swan and Otter , James Lindsay and Thomas Hopper. Because of the wrong coordinates reported by Bouvet, they considered this as a new island and was named as “Lindsay Island”. On December 7 1822, American sealer Benjamin Morrell reported sending his second mate ashore where he took 172 fur seals. he is the first recorded landing on the island. He also measured the circumference as just 25 miles. In 1825, sealers Sprightly and Lively, under the command of Captain george Norris, sighted two islands.  He also landed the islands and named them as “Liverpool” and “Thompson”. After this sighting, for decades navigators could not sight the islands. Only in 1878, Captain Williams of America claimed the sighting of the island again. Captain Joseph Fuller also sighted both islands on 1893. But mysteriously, on 1898 when it was rediscovered by Carl Chun, there were undisputed only one island. The Thompson island was never sighted later. It is most likely that the island subsided under sea.

The Bouvet island is a small volcanic island, 6 miles by 4 miles in size. It is the most isolated and remotest island in the world, being 2000 km north of Antarctica and 2525 km south west of South Africa. Bouvet’s success of falling in with this microscopic and isolated spot of land in the course of a brief excursion southward of his normal course is one of the most remarkable lucky dips in the whole history of exploration.

In 1927, Bouvet island was claimed by Norway but British annexed it initially. But later it was accepted and became dependent territory of Norway in 1930. In 1971, Norway declared it as a nature reserve. The island still considered to be difficult to approach by sea. he easiest way to access the island is with a helicopter from a ship.

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Sailing Stone – The Mysterious Nature

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

The Planet Earth is full of mysteries for the scientists of all specializations. The mysteries of nature seem to be never ending. One of those that has been giving researchers a check for more than six decades is the “Sailing Stones of Death Valley”.  It is a stunning geographical phenomenon where Stones weighing hundreds of pounds move in long tracks along a plain smooth valley without any human or animal intervention. This is observed around the dried lake Playa in Death Valley and also known a Racetrack.  These valleys are filled with dry cracking muddy ground during summer and ice during winter.


Sailing Tones in Racetrack Playa, Death Valley (Pirate_Scott) @wikipedia


Racetrack stones only move every two or three years and most tracks develop over three or four years. With time tracks of each stone varies from the other. Some stones which start next to each other start out traveling parallel, but one may abruptly change direction to the left, right, or even back the direction it came from. Length also varies because two similarly sized and shaped rocks could travel uniformly, then one could burst ahead or stop dead in its track. Some stones make linear turns others make oval turns while others create a wavy shape on their tracks. No one has ever seen them move and nobody knows the speed they move with.

There are many hypothesis proposed for this Sailing Stone phenomenon.  In 1955 George M. Stanley first proposed the theory that the rocks move with the assistance of ice sheets forming after the Playa surface is flooded. Bob Sharp and Dwight Carey started a Racetrack stone movement monitoring program in May 1972. In 1976, they proposed the ice-sheet theory. They analyzed the tracks and concluded because of track characteristics and the geometries of the tracks relative to each other that ice sheets could not have been involved in forming the tracks and moving the rocks. They stated, “It is concluded that wind moves the stones when conditions are just right, that this normally happens at least every one to three years on Racetrack Playa, and that ice sheets are not necessary.” In 1995, John B. Reid, Jr. and other geologists from Hampshire College disagreed with Sharp and Carey’s conclusion. Using data from seven Death Valley visits in the late 1980s through 1994, they support Stanley’s original ice sheet hypothesis. This is however not entirely true because the stones move during the summer when the temperature is too high and even dries the stones themselves.The mysterious sailing stones of Death Valley not only slide on smooth ground but dig and leave shallow track in their wake.

We hope future advanced technology will shed more light no the mystery of the sailing stones at the Racetrack Playa of Death Valley, however no matter how much is determined about the sailing rocks, their beauty and magic will stand as unique creation of Nature.

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Where the birds commit suicide!

Posted on 04 June 2012 by RE Team

It is one of the unresolved mysteries of nature why this place named, Jatinga, in the North-East India region attracts birds from high sky to the ground on special weather conditions and the birds of various species fall prey to hunters and tribal villagers! Jatinga is a small village in the North-Cachar Hills of Assam where few thousands villagers of the Jayantia tribe live.


Jatinga Bird - Courtesy ZAHID AHMED TAPADAR @flickr


Jatinga was first inhabited by a tribe called Zeme Nagas in 1890 under the discretion of the Dimasa king who was the sovereign ruler. They were the first to witness the mystery when their camp fires attracted various birds. They considered this as the act of some evil spirits and the frightened tribes deserted the settlement. The Jaintias, who moved in around 1905 under their leader Lakhanbang Suchiang, tumbled upon the mystery while venturing into the valley at night with lightedtorches to round up stray cattle. The bamboo torches attracted showers of birds which the Jaintias regarded as a “gift of God”. The first mention of this mystery is found in the Wild Life of India (1957) by the British tea planter andorinthologist E.P. Gee. “The whole thing is extraordinary” Gee wrote. He notedthat the bird death took place only at this spot. Even when lights were put up in nearbyplaces, the phenomenon did not occur. He also noted that some conditions are necessary for the phenomenon to take place. In the following years, this phenomenon was referenced as “Birds committing suicide”.

This mysterious phenomenon takes place only in the later days of rainy season from September to November. During moonless and foggy dark nights between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., flying birds come crashing to the ground with no prior warning whatsoever. Curiously, most of the doomed birds do not attempt to fly away after they land near the lights. They look dazed and disheveled, perhaps due to the trauma of the whole shocking experience. This is not confined to a single species but around 50 birds species fall prey to this nature’s mystery. Tiger Bittern, Black Bittern, Little Egret, Pond Heron, Indian Pitta and Kingfishers are some of the species to name.
Another interesting point is that, this phenomenon does not occur in the whole valley but only in a well-defined strip, 1.5 km long and 200 mts. wide. Invariably the birds come in only from the north and attempts at placing the lights on the southern side of the ride to attract the birds have failed. Another fact is that no long distance migratory bird gets attracted to the light traps. Some common resident birds like grouse, hornbills and imperial pigeons do not get caught at Jatinga. The directionless, hapless birds fall prey to the villagers after they land into the ground.


Jatinga Hills - Courtesy ZAHID AHMED TAPADAR @flickr


Various studies have been conducted to unravel the causes behind this phenomenon. But the root cause of this mysterious behaviour of the birds is not yet determined. Conservation groups and wildlife officials in India have taken steps to prevent this wanton killing of the birds, creating awareness in the illiterate villagers. Since then, the amount of birds killed have decreased by about 40 percent. However, there is still need of more research to unravel the real cause behind this un-natural phenomenon.

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The Mystery of Hoan Kiem Turtle

Posted on 11 January 2011 by RE Team

This is a story of a giant turtle species that is more than 200 Kg in weight and more than 2 meter in length could keep itself unknown to human eyes for more centuries. Even in 21st century, this species is a mystery and viewed by humans a few number of times only. This could even be the largest fresh water turtle in the world. 

Almost 500 years from now, a King of Vietnam found a giagantic holy turtle during a cruise on a lake called Luc Thuy(Green Lake) near Hanoi. There is a mythical believe that the turtle told the King to return the sacred sword that he had gotten from Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God and had helped him defeat the northern Ming aggressors returing peace to the region. The king unsheathed his sword and threw it to the turtle. The turtle took it and dove away. The king was none other than  Le Loi, also known as Le Thai To, the founder of the Le Dynasty in Vietnam, under whom the Chinese had accepted Vietnam’s independence. Later the king renmaed the lake as Hoan Kiem” (Lake of Returned Sword). For hundreds of years, people couldn’t discover any turtle like reptile in that lake, until when a giant turtle was actually captured late 20th century. The giant turtles mysteriously kept themselves away from the human eyes for centuries!

The story of the king Le Loi has been passed down from generation to generation and recorded in history books, and there were no real evidence of what the giant reptile may have looked like until 1967. It was the year when Vietnam war was on its peak. Ha Noi Food company caught a giant turtle from the lake. The turtle weighed about 200 kilos and was about 2 metres(6 ft 3in)[ long. The company was going to sell the meat, but someone alerted the Ha Noi People’s Committee and the then mayor Dr Tran Duy Hung ordered them to stop the sale. Unfortunately the turtle died on June 2, the same year because of mishandling. It was later stuffed and is now on display at the Ngoc Son Temple which is situate on the northern shore of the lake.


Rare photo of the Hoan kiem Turtle


But after the single catch, the turtle was hardly ever viewed by the common people. Mysteriously the giant turtle shy away from revealing itself inthe small shallow lake, measuring 200 meters wide, 600 meters long, and only two meters deep.  But on March 24, 1998 an amateur cameraman caught the creature on video, conclusively proving the elusive creatures still survived in the lake. Apart from this photography, few local researchers done extensive study of the turtle too.
Ha Dinh Duc, one of the best known local biologists who has done extensive research on the turtle for decades. He  teaches in the Biology Department of the School of Natural Sciences in Vietnam. He gave the Hoan Kiem turtle its scientific name, Rafetus leloii, after the King Le Loi’s name.

Duc believes that the species could be related to the trionychidae species, Rafetus swinhoei, also known as the Shanghai soft-shell turtle, a critically endangered species found in China. There are only two known turtle of this species in captivity in China. Another one is believed to be in Dong Mo Lake near Hanoi. He has studied and preserved anything related to soft-shell turtles. He also studies the aquatic conditions and life forms in Hoan Kiem Lake which may affect the rare species.

“I believe the turtle living in the lake now is the very one that took away King Le Loi’s sword, as this species can live as long as 500 or even 700 years,” Duc says. According to him this species is near to extinction. He also explains that the turtle that lives in Hoan Kiem Lake can be recognised by the white spot on his head and a tendency to turn left when he swims.

Duc , who also keeps around 300 -400 collected photographs of the turtle, says  “The problem is we do not know how to test Rafetus Leloii’s sex. Moreover, he is too old and fragile for any testing.”

Vietnamese belive that over the last two millennia, the turtle deity is said to have helped design fortifications, thwart enemy armies and produce a number of enchanted weapons.

In 1995, the Ha Noi People’s Committee turned down an offer from Peter Pritchard, a researcher from the Archie Carr Centre for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida to study the lake’s turtle . The authorities declined the request for joint-research efforts on the grounds that it is a sacred creature closely related to the soul of the Vietnamese people.  Similarly The World Wildlife Fund for Nature, agrees and does not finance any programs to study the species.

Similar to Duc, another local researcher, Ngo believes that there are actually five turtles living in Hoan Kiem Lake. Ngo started paying attention to the turtle when he first glimpsed of a sighting in 2002. His new theory has shocked local people, but like others he also believes the turtles in the lake are supernatural creatures. Ngo said he has been lucky to witness 40 of the 60 recorded times the Great Turtle has surfaced since 2003.

Though, very little bit of research is going on this turtles, one thing is sure that the turtle is threatened to extinct and Lake’s conditions are getting worse day by day. Pollution and illegal fishing  in the lake is threatening the life of the Hoan Kiem Lake turtle. Another threat is coming from a notorious invasive species – red-eared slider turtle in the lake.

Duc said he has warned against the invasion of red eared sliders in Hoan Kiem Lake since 2004 but local authorities have taken no action against the problem.


Red Eared Turtle beside the rare Hoan Kiem Turtle


“City leaders should discuss the issue thoroughly before launching a long-term plan to protect the giant turtle,” he said.

Many Vietnamese people have the habit of releasing animals, including red eared sliders, into the wild to pray for good luck, an action that has been severely criticized by conservationists.  The  red eared slider turtles are outcome of the same activity only.

We hope the turtles will be reseached well and also preserved. None knows it could be last one who is representing an unique species of  the planet.

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Cracking Arkansas Death Mystery

Posted on 04 January 2011 by RE Team

The new year brought mystery and tragedy to the southern state of United States of America, Arkansas. The land of mountains, valleys, forests and rich wildlife has seen massacre of birds, fishes due to still unknown and mysterious cause.


A poor dead black-bird in Arkansas


This mysterious event first occurred in the small town of Beebe on the day of New Year. Within an area of just one-mile diameter, birds started falling out of the sky. The tragic event stunned thousands of people in the town. Within few hours the number of falling birds increased to more than thousand.  It was like a doomsday event in movies, the red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and starlings fell all over from the skies filling the roads and walkways. The death fall that started at around 11:30 pm just on the New Year Eve, gave the residents a horrifying experience. The total number of deaths of those poor birds may cross five thousands.

Adding more to it, Arkansas River saw another strange and unexplained event. On a 20-mile stretch between Ozark and Clarksville the river washed up hundreds of thousands of dead drum fish. This new report made the locals of Arkansas crazy and they are horrified at these unnatural incidents.


Dead drum fish at Arkansas river


Scientists are still not in a position to find the exact cause of these two incidents. This inability of the scientists has compelled common people to think out of the track and consider these events to be the act of supernatural.  Some believe these two incidents are not just coincidence, they have hidden meaning. There are more speculations like alien acts, ghostly affair, or some conspiracy theory etc.

But it may not be a strange event for the scientists. These are definitely two independent accidents happened at the same time in the same area.

The fish death can be explained easily as some disease, similar to what The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission believes. Because the fish are from the same species, it is highly possible that some unknown disease stroked them. The possible cause of any pollutant is ruled out because, it would have killed all the fished but not only one species.

The recent lab result on the birds also says that there is no involvement of poisonous material. It has been discovered that the birds all suffered from blunt force trauma. Authorities have stated that the incident could have possibly been the result of hail, lightning, or even trauma from fireworks. And this is absolutely true and is considered as a regular event in other parts of the world. Jatinga, a small village in North-East India sees this event every year during winter. Any torches or fire, on special weather condition of the region, attracts birds of some specific species. The birds fly down straight from the high sky at night and fall prey to the fire or torch. This was considered as a “Gift of Gods” by the tribal of the region historically. This is well explained in this website already. The Arkansas bird death is pretty much similar to this and can be related.

The Arkansas events are definitely two independent accidents happening at the same time in the same place, creating chaos among people. But in reality, the birds’ deaths can be explained as a known incident similar to Jatinga bird suicide, while the fish deaths can be considered as an act of some deadly disease.  We hope scientists will soon resolve the mystery with firm results.

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Photos of Nature