Monday, November 28, 2011

Sea turtle find in B.C. a first

Wickaninnish was a chief of the Tla-o-qui-aht people of Clayoquot Sound, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada during the opening period of European contact with the Pacific Northwest Coast cultures in the 1780s and 1790s. He is also known by various other names and spellings, including Wickaninish, Wickananish, Wikinanish, Huiquinanichi, Quiquinanis, and Hiyoua.

Wickaninnish was a rival of the Mowachaht chief Maquinna of Nootka Sound and in one account is blamed for the death of Maquinna's brother, Callicum, an event which spurred a war by the Mowachaht against the Tla-o-qui-aht.

A confrontation between Wickaninnish and Capt. Jonathan Thorn of the Tonquin led to the Tla-o-qui-aht massacre of the Tonquin's crew and the destruction of the vessel by one of the surviving crew members.

Wickaninnish's name is preserved in the name of Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Wickaninnish Island, and Wickaninnish Bay, and the Wickaninnish Inn. There is a surfside hotel, restaurant, and spa on Chesterman Beach, close to Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

From CBC News: Sea turtle find in B.C. a first:
A species of sea turtle that historically has no place in the waters of British Columbia has been found near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

An olive ridley sea turtle washed up this week on Wickaninnish Beach in Pacific Rim National Park, far from the species' native waters along Mexico.

The turtle, which was found by a park visitor on Wednesday, was injured. It was limp and had a large crack in its shell. Vancouver Aquarium staff quickly retrieved the animal and brought it to Vancouver for care, but it died the next morning.

A necropsy revealed that the female turtle had died from blunt force trauma. It also had pieces of hard plastic in its stomach.

Staff said the plastic did not directly cause the animal’s death, but said it serves as a reminder that debris that ends up in the marine environment is a threat to sea turtles.

Biologists at the Vancouver Aquarium said it’s the first documented sighting of an olive ridley in the region, and brings the count of sea turtles found in the wild in B.C. waters to three.

The scientists are trying to figure out where in Mexico or Central America the new arrival came from.

The aquarium, which tracks B.C. sightings of a number of marine mammals and reptiles, is asking anyone who sees a sea turtle in or around B.C. coastal waters to report it through an online web form or by calling 1-866-I-SAW-ONE.

The Oliver Ridley Turle

- up to 1.0 m

- olive-grey

- smooth, heart-shaped (as wide as it is long)
- scute behind the head is square
- shell is very domed
- has many more scutes along the length of the shell than green or loggerhead turtles.

Surface behaviour
- surfaces to breathe for a few minutes
- holds head above water, then slowly sinks back down

Group size / social behaviour
- solitary

Other characteristics
- smallest of the sea turtles

Can be confused with
- loggerhead sea turtle
- green sea turtle


Olive ridley sea turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles. They are widespread in tropical waters in many parts of the world. In the Pacific Ocean, they are commonly found around Mexico and Central America; however many have been known to migrate as far south as Peru.

Olive ridley sea turtles are strong divers, and have been known to dive up to 150 m in search of crabs, sea urchins and other bottom-dwelling creatures. They also roam widely in the open ocean in search of sea jellies.

Like all sea turtles, olive ridley sea turtles are threatened by habitat destruction, pollution, poaching and harvesting at their breeding beaches, disease, and mortality in fishing gear.

Although olive ridley sea turtles have never been seen in British Columbia, there have been occasional sightings of olive ridley sea turtles in Oregon and Washington waters in recent years. As our oceans change, we might expect to start seeing loggerheads on Canada’s Pacific coast.


The olive ridley sea turtle is designated asVulnerable worldwide by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List. The IUCN has posted the following assessment of olive ridley sea turtles.

Olive Ridley

Olive Ridley


Cheng, I.-J. and Chen, T.-H. 1997. The incidental capture of five species of sea turtles by coastal setnet fisheries in the Eastern waters of Taiwan. Biological Conservation 82(2): 235-239

Koch, V., Nichols, W.J., Peckham, H. and de la Toba, V. 2006. Estimates of sea turtle mortality from poaching and bycatch in Bahía Magdalena, Baja California Sur, Mexico. Biological Conservation 128(3): 327-334

Mascarenhas, R., Santos, R. and Zeppelini, D. 2004. Plastic debris ingestion by sea turtle in Paraíba, Brazil. Marine Pollution Bulletin 49(4): 354-355

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Geographical Perspective on Women in Local Government in Ireland

Geography is more than just knowing where every state in the US is, where every mountain range is, and so on.

It's also about the distribution of people, of resources, of views and ideas. Practically everything can be quantified with some branch of geography.

From Feminist Open Forum: Geographical Perspective on Women in Local Government in Ireland
(Government of Ireland IRCHSS scholar, NUI Maynooth;
This short paper aims to give a brief overview of women in local government inIrelandfrom a geographical perspective. While a large body of work has explored Irish women (or rather the lack of them) in national politics, little research has focussed on the local level. However, local politics remains the most common route to Dáil Eireann and it is often at this level that aspiring TDs build up the experience, networks and recognition required to successfully contest a general election. Recent research by Buckley, Mariani, McGing and White (2011) on candidates in the 2011 general election shows that 45% of those that had previously held a seat at local level were successful in winning a Dáil seat, as opposed to just 11% that had not.

Women are markedly underrepresented in Irish politics in comparison to their presence in the population, accounting for just 15% of TDs, 30% of senators, 25% of MEPs, 16% of county and city councillors, and 22% of urban district council councillors. While females have a higher presence in local government compared to the national parliament in other democracies (Phillips, 1993), these figures show that this has not been the case inIreland, where progress in local politics has been very similar to (and as slow as) the Dáil.

Where are all the women?

The academic literature advises five main challenges preventing women from making a breakthrough in local and national politics: care, cash, culture, confidence and candidate selection. The ‘5 C’s’ interact throughout the process recruitment process. The persistent sexual division of care (for children and elderly parents) means that women lack the time required to nurture a local political base. A report from the Central Statistics Office (2011) shows that half a million women are engaged full-time in activities in the home, compared to just 7,500. With not a much earning potential as men and less cash at their disposal, women find it harder to build up the funds for a political campaign. Politics, inIreland and elsewhere, is a ‘gendered institution’. Norms, behaviour and values were established at a time when women were still campaigning for voting rights. This means that culture of political parties is intrinsically masculine, making it less attractive to women, while also acting to decrease their confidence levels. These factors come together at the most crucial barrier for females: the selection convention process. Research shows that women are severely underrepresented as convention candidates and are less successful in relative terms to men when they do seek a nomination (McGing, 2011).

Gender and geography in the 2009 local elections [i]

This section considers the importance of electoral geography in determining women’s political participation at a local level. Are females more likely to run in and/or represent certain constituencies or regions?

Table 1 below shows that 17.1% of all candidates for city and county councils in the 2009 local elections were women. This figure marginally bucks the trend set over the previous two decades of increasing levels of female participation in local electoral contests, wherein female participation rates had increased from 11.0% in 1985 to 14.0% in 1991, 15.6% in 1999 and 18.1% in 2004. Table 1 uncovers significant differences between the larger parties and the smaller, more ideological, parties in terms of their propensity to select female election candidates, although the smaller parties all failed to meet the gender quota targets that they had adopted for these elections. Labour and Sinn Féin had both proposed quotas of 30%, while the Greens were even more ambitious in their aspiration for an increase in female candidacies by pursuing a quota of 40% (Weeks, 2009: 101).

Party Total Male Female % Female
Fianna Fáil 473 393 80 16.9%
Fine Gael 470 385 85 18.1%
Labour 208 160 48 23.1%
Sinn Féin 149 115 34 22.8%
Green Party 77 60 17 22.1%
Others 446 398 48 10.8%
Total 1823 1511 312 17.1%

Table 1: Number of male and female candidates selected by political parties to contest the 2009 local elections

While the percentage of female candidates selected by Labour (4.1%) and Sinn Féin (2.7%) did improve on their 2004 levels, the proportion of Green Party female candidates actually declined, marking a decrease of 15.2% from its 2004 levels. Fianna Fáil has a target to have a third of all its candidates female in the 2014 local elections (Weeks, 2009: 101) and had announced prior to the candidate selection process that it would interview “young people and females in particular” around the country (Regan, 2009), but despite this it only registered a 2.4% increase on its relatively low 2004 female participation levels.

Significant spatial variations exist in terms of the likelihood of women being selected as candidates, mirroring the general trend observed in recent general and local elections, with the percentage of female candidacies considerably higher inDublinand its immediate commuter hinterland, as well as in some of the other city council areas.DublinCity(27.1%) had the highest number of female candidacies, followed by Dún Laoghaire (26.2%), Meath (24.2%), Kilkenny (23.5%), South Dublin (23.0%), Fingal (21.0%) andWaterfordCity(20.0%), although female participation levels inCorkCity(16.9%) andLimerickCity(12.8%) were lower than the national average. Especially high female participation levels were found in the Dublin Inner City electoral areas (45.7%), and indeed only two of the candidates selected by the three larger parties in the two South Inner City electoral areas were male. Women were considerably underrepresented as candidates in the more rural constituencies, with especially low female participation levels found in Tipperary South Riding and Clare (10.3%), Leitrim (10.8%), Mayo (11.8%), Monaghan (12.1%), Tipperary North Riding (12.2%), Longford (12.2%) andWaterfordCounty(12.5%). The regional analysis conveyed in Table 7 further confirms the urban bias in female candidate selection. Although parties speak out about rectifying the disproportionate nature of gender with regard to candidate tickets, a geographical analysis of female candidates in the 2009 local elections contends that there has been a failure on the part of party central organisations in doing so, especially in rural areas.

Region Female candidates (%) Success rate (%)
Dublin 24.8% 52.0%
DublinCommuter Belt 18.8% 40.8%
South-East 17.8% 38.3%
Border 15.2% 51.2%
Connacht andWest Munster 15.5% 45.5%
Midlands 14.0% 44.1%

Table 2: Number of female 2009 local election candidates selected by region, and their relative success levels

Nationally, the success rate of female candidates in these local elections stood at 46.8%, marking an increase on the 2004 local elections, when 42.5% of female candidates won seats. A review of other past local elections places the respective figures at 44.8% in 1999, 44.8% in 1991 and at 34.0% in 1985. Despite the sharp increase between 1985 and 1991, the amount of women winning council seats has remained relatively static since then. Notable differences existed between parties, with 65.9% of female Fine Gael and 62.4% of female Labour candidates proving successful, as against just 41.2% of female Fianna Fáil candidates and 35.3% of female Sinn Féin candidates. The Green Party failed to elect any women to county and city councils in 2009. In the Others category, 31.3% of female candidates won seats, with significant successes for female Socialist Party and People Before Profit alliance candidates in Dublin City and Fingal. In geographical terms, an urban bias is again evident, with females shown to be more likely to win seats in Dublin than in any of the other regions (Table 2), although it also shows that female candidates fared better electorally in the Border, West and Midlands regions than they did in the more urban Dublin Commuter Belt and South East regions.

Figure 1: Percentage of votes cast for female candidates at a county level in the 2009 local elections

Further proof that urban areas proved to be healthier stomping for female candidates is offered by Figure 1, which shows that the percentage of votes cast for female candidates tended to be higher inDublinand its immediate hinterland than in the more rural regions, although relatively high levels were also found in the counties of Cavan,Sligoand Kilkenny. 28.0% of all votes cast inDublinCitywere won by female candidates, while female candidates also won high votes shares relative to the national average (17.0%) in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown (26.8%), Fingal (25.0%), Meath (23.9%) andSouth Dublin(23.7%). Even though high by national standards, these figures must be viewed as disappointing given that females account for a half of the state’s population. These do, of course, compare favourably with levels for Clare, Westmeath, Monaghan and Louth where less than one-tenth of all votes cast were won by female candidates. Support levels for female candidates were highest in the Dublin Inner City electoral areas, where females won 54.0% of the valid poll in the electoral areas, and especially in the South West Inner City electoral area where female candidates won 72.1% of the vote. Female candidates succeeded in winning over half of the votes cast in only one other electoral area – Castleknock (51.2%) – although strong support levels for females were also observed in the North Inner City (49.1%), Rathfarnham (47.3%), Castleconnell (45.4%) and North Inner City (44.5%) electoral areas. Contrasting with this, there was no female candidates to contest twenty seven of the electoral areas.

Some interesting patterns emerge when candidate success rates for city and county contests are broken down by gender (see Table 3 below). With just over 50% winning seats, male candidates for rural councils were the most successful. Interestingly, men running for in urban areas were the least successful, while females saw similar rates across the urban-rural divide.

% Successful City/urban councils County/rural councils
Male candidates 42.5% 50.8%
Female candidates 46.6% 47.2%

Table 3: Successful candidates by gender and council type in the 2009 local elections

Debates for feminising Irish local politics

In May 2011, Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, announced his intention to introduce legislation whereby political parties must ensure that 30% of their general election candidates are female. The proposed sanction for non-compliance is very strict: parties face losing 50% of their state annual funding they do not meet the quota requirement. The proposed legislation is due to come into affect at the next general election. Although it has been welcomed by groups and individuals advocating greater gender equality in political decision-making, a number have argued that the quota should also be applied for elections to other levels of political office, especially for local elections. The minister has so far ruled this out due to the fact that party state funding is based on the share of the vote a given party receives in the previous general election. However, Phil Hogan has stated that he hopes all parties will replicate the model on a voluntary basis in the 2014 local elections. This paper has argued that the scarcity of women councillors prevents the development of a ‘pipeline’ of potential female candidates for the Dáil, thus making a strong case for the use of positive discrimination measures to be extended to the local level, especially in rural areas.

Why is it important to have a gender balance in local and national office? The main arguments in the academic literature for increasing women’s political representation can be broken down into three distinct themes: justice, difference and symbolism (Buckley and McGing 2011).

Justice arguments for increasing women’s political presence are the most powerful. In essence, justice advocates contend that it is simply unfair for men to disproportionately populate political assemblies (Phillips 1995). This perspective does not presume that women will make any difference to the political process, but argues that gendered barriers must be dismantled in the name of equal opportunity to ensure that political representatives are more descriptive of Irish society as a whole.

Difference arguments for increasing women’s political representation are more contentious. Looking at theory and empirical evidence, gender is seen as relevant to the ways in which elected representatives perform their role. In this line of reasoning gender is a structure that imposes a particular position on women and makes all women different from men. For some women bring different perspectives and priorities to all policy areas because of different life experiences, while others argue that there are distinct women’s issues or interests that merit political representation and an adequate number of women representatives is often required to bring these into the discourses of representational politics (Lovenduski 2005). Given the current economic situation, a gender balance in decision-making may be more important then ever. Local women’s groups have tirelessly highlighted the gendered nature of the Irish recession, showing that women suffer disproportionately from reductions in the minimum wage and social welfare payments, as well as from cuts to public services and public sector employment (National Women’s Council of Ireland 2011). Considering this, the inclusion of women voices in the discourses of economic recovery and state rejuvenation at a local and national level is absolutely vital. This paper has illustrated that rural women and their distinct interests are especially underrepresented in politics and it crucial that more are encouraged to enter political life to ensure that their voices are heard.

Some scholars have argued that the presence of women representatives is important for symbolic reasons because they may act as role models for women. Although women often appear to be slightly less interested in politics, some international studies have suggested that the presence of visible female candidates and elected representatives helps to mobilise women, stimulate their interest and activity in the election campaign, and increase their own confidence in making the decision to run themselves (Karp and Banducci 2008).


Fiona Buckley, Mack Mariani, Claire McGing and Tim White (2011) Pipeline Theory and Women’s Recruitment to the Irish Parliament., Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association of Ireland, University College Dublin , 21-23 October 2011.

Buckley, Fiona. and McGing, Claire. (2011) ‘Women and the Election’ In: Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh (eds). How Ireland Voted 2011.London: Palgrave MacMillan

Karp, Jeffrey, and Susan Banducci. (2008) When Politics is Not Just a Man’s Game: Women’s Representation and Political Engagement, Electoral Studies 27(1): 105-115.

Lovenduski, Joni. (2005) Feminizing Politics.Cambridge: Polity Press.

McGing, Claire. (2011) “Still a Man’s World? The Gender Question in the 2011 General Election in the Republicof Ireland,” Paper Presented at the Elections, Public Opinion and Parties Conference,University ofExeter, 9-11 September 2011.

National Women’s Council of Ireland(2011) Submission to Budget 2012 – (accessed 16 October 2011).

North and South Korea

North Korea to the north, without any towns listed, South Korea below that.

From Bloomberg Business Week: SKorean official travels to NKorea to monitor aid
SEOUL, South Korea -- A South Korean official will help monitor the distribution of humanitarian aid to North Korean children for the first time in three years, the Seoul government said Friday.

He is the first South Korean government official to travel to Pyongyang to monitor aid distribution since conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in 2008 with a tough policy toward North Korean aid. The visit is seen as a key sign that relations are improving after years of tension.

The divided Korean peninsula remains in a technical state of war because their three-year conflict ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

Relations have been particularly tense during Lee's presidency, culminating in a North Korean artillery attack on a front-line island a year ago that killed four South Koreans.

The South Korean official left Friday for Pyongyang along with four aid workers, the Unification Ministry said in a statement. He is expected to remain in the North until Tuesday to help monitor the distribution of 300 tons of flour for North Korean children. The flour is being provided by a South Korean civic group.

Some 6 million North Koreans, about a quarter of the population, will go hungry without outside food aid, according to the World Food Program.

South Korean officials have not traveled to North Korea to monitor food aid since Lee took office with a tough policy on linking assistance to North Korea's progress in dismantling its nuclear program.

However, in recent months, officials from both Koreas have met to discuss ways to resume nuclear disarmament-for-aid talks. Seoul has also allowed religious and cultural figures to visit North Korea.

On Thursday, South Korean scholars visited a North Korean border town to join a project to recover and preserve an ancient Korean palace.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Tenth Parallel: Where Christianity and Islam Collide

From The Tenth Parallel: Where Christianity and Islam Collide
This is a radio program, so my Kindle readers will have to visit the link above via computer to listen to it. It's pretty interesting.

Here's the subject:
Award-winning investigative journalist Eliza Griswold talks about the tenth parallel—the line of latitude 700 miles north of the equator—the geographical and ideological front line where Christianity and Islam collide. In The Tenth Parallel Griswold looks at Nigeria, the Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines—places where religious conflicts are also conflicts about land, water, oil, and other natural resources, and where local and tribal issues are often shaped by religious ideas.

What is the Knox Trail?

The Henry Knox Trail, also known as the Knox Cannon Trail, is a network of roads and paths that traces the route of Colonel Henry Knox's "noble train of artillery" from Fort Ticonderoga to the Continental Army camp outside Boston, Massachusetts early in the American Revolutionary War.

Knox was commissioned by Continental Army commander George Washington in 1775 to transport cannons from captured Fort Ticonderoga to the army camp outside Boston to aid the war effort there against British forces. They included forty-three heavy brass and iron cannons, six cohorns, eight mortars, and two howitzers. Knox, using sledges pulled by teams of oxen to haul these cannons, many weighing over a ton, crossed an icy Lake George in mid-winter. He proceeded to travel through rural New York and the snow-covered Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, finally arriving to the aid of the beleaguered Continental Army in January 1776.

Marker placement
In 1926, the 150th anniversary of Knox's march, the states of New York and Massachusetts both began installing commemorative plaques at 56 locations in towns and areas in the two states that trace the route the expedition passed through. The exact nature of the collaboration between the two states is unclear, however the work was completed in 1927. In 1975, the marker locations between Kinderhook, New York and Alford, Massachusetts were updated when research found Knox did not pass through Claverack, New York. A new marker was added to the trail at Roxbury Heritage State Park in Boston in 2009, adjacent to a house owned by General John Thomas, who guided the cannons received from Knox to their final placement on Dorchester Heights outside Boston.

From the Saratogan: A stroll back in time: Knox Trail walk to benefit New York State Military Museum, other historic sites in the region
TICONDEROGA — A walk retracing the Knox Trail from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston will raise money for the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs and three other beneficiaries.

In the dead of winter, 1775-1776, Colonel Henry Knox with a team of men and oxen hauled more than 50 tons of cannons and other arms from the upstate New York fort to Boston’s Dorchester Heights.

The threat of these cannons firing on British ships in Boston Harbor forced the British to evacuate Boston, a major victory for the fledgling Continental Army.

In 1926, New York and Massachusetts began installing commemorative markers that traced the so-called "Knox Trail" at locations in both states.

Next April, editors at Patriots of the American Revolution magazine will walk the entire route to honor Knox, promote the Knox trail and raise money for museums and parks related to Knox and the Knox Trail.

"The commemoration of Knox’s extraordinary feat next April is an excellent opportunity to focus public attention on the important role our region had in the founding of the country," said Michael Aikey, the military museum’s director.

The walk will also raise money for Fort Ticonderoga, Boston National Historical Park and Montpelier, the General Henry Knox Museum in Thormaston, Maine. Knox, a colonel at the time of his famous winter expedition, was later promoted to major general. Continued...

The walk will start in Ticonderoga on Friday, April 6, 2012 and head south along Lake George to Glens Falls. From there the trail goes along the Hudson River, in Saratoga County, passing through Saratoga National Historical Park en route to Halfmoon, Albany and Kinderhook, Columbia County, where it veers east to Massachusetts. The party is scheduled to arrive in Boston on April 18.

Along the way, magazine Managing Editor Ben Smith and copy editor Alex Culpepper will take photos of various markers along the trail and document their trip for in-depth articles that will appear in Patriots of the American Revolution magazine.

"We welcome people to join us for sections of the trail," Smith said.

Five monuments dedicated to Knox’s ordeal are found in the Lake George region alone at Fort Ticonderoga, Sabbath Day Point, Bolton Landing, Lake George and Queensbury. Each monument has a plaque telling how Knox delivered armaments to General George Washington, prompting the British to flee Boston.

Donations obtained from corporations and individuals will be collected by the American Revolution Association and distributed directly and equally to the four beneficiaries.

The magazine and American Revolution Association will get no money.

There are different levels of sponsorship. They are:

• Mortar ($50 contribution) — Knox Trail Honor Walk coffee mug; Copy of the July/August 2012 Patriots of the American Revolution; name published in the magazine’s July/August 2012 sponsor list.

• Howitzer ($100 contribution) — Copy of the book, "Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution," by Mark Puls; copy of the July/August 2012 Patriots of the American Revolution; name published in the magazine’s July/ August 2012 sponsor list.

• Bronze Cannon ($500 contribution) — 3-disc DVD series: "Liberty! The American Revolution," copy of "Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution," by Mark Puls; copy of the July/August 2012 Patriots of the American Revolution; name published in the magazine’s July/ August 2012 sponsor list. Continued...

• Iron Cannon (corporate sponsor: $1000 contribution) — Commemorative Knox Trail Honor Walk plaque; multiple copies of the July/August 2012 Patriots of the American Revolution; company name published in the magazine’s July/August 2012 sponsor list.

To donate, people may send checks payable to the American Revolution Association to Knox Trail Honor Walk, P.O. Box 838, Yellow Springs, OH 45387.

Donations received by corporations and private individuals will be collected by the American Revolution Association and distributed directly and equally to the following four museums and parks:

--Fort Ticonderoga (
--New York State Military Museum (
--Boston National Historical Park (
--Montpelier, The General Henry Knox Museum (

Patriots of the American Revolution and the American Revolution Association will keep none of the donations.

For information about the Knox Trail Honor Walk call 937-767-1433 or email Vicki McClellan at For more information about Patriots of the American Revolution Magazine and the American Revolution Association, visit

Monday, November 21, 2011

New posting schedule

Sorry for the long delay in posting - had some family issues.

The posting schedule for this blog - starting this Wednesday, Nov 23, will be Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Story of Geographical Discovery, Ch 2


In a companion volume of this series, "The Story of Extinct Civilisations in the East," will be found an account of the rise and development of the various nations who held sway over the west of Asia at the dawn of history. Modern discoveries of remarkable interest have enabled us to learn the condition of men in Asia Minor as early as 4000 B.C. All these early civilisations existed on the banks of great rivers, which rendered the land fertile through which they passed.

We first find man conscious of himself, and putting his knowledge on record, along the banks of the great rivers Nile, Euphrates, and Tigris, Ganges and Yang-tse-Kiang. But for our purposes we are not concerned with these very early stages of history. The Egyptians got to know something of the nations that surrounded them, and so did the Assyrians. A summary of similar knowledge is contained in the list of tribes given in the tenth chapter of Genesis, which divides all mankind, as then known to the Hebrews, into descendants Page 37 of Shem, Ham, and Japhet—corresponding, roughly, to Asia, Europe, and Africa. But in order to ascertain how the Romans obtained the mass of information which was summarised for them by Ptolemy in his great work, we have merely to concentrate our attention on the remarkable process of continuous expansion which ultimately led to the existence of the Roman Empire.

All early histories of kingdoms are practically of the same type. A certain tract of country is divided up among a certain number of tribes speaking a common language, and each of these tribes ruled by a separate chieftain. One of these tribes then becomes predominant over the rest, through the skill in war or diplomacy of one of its chiefs, and the whole of the tract of country is thus organised into one kingdom. Thus the history of England relates how the kingdom of Wessex grew into predominance over the whole of the country; that of France tells how the kings who ruled over the Isle of France spread their rule over the rest of the land; the history of Israel is mainly an account of how the tribe of Judah obtained the hegemony of the rest of the tribes; and Roman history, as its name implies, informs us how the inhabitants of a single city grew to be the masters of the whole known world.

But their empire had been prepared for them by a long series of similar expansions, which might be described as the successive swallowing up of empire after empire, each becoming overgrown in the process, till at last the series was concluded by the Romans swallowing up the whole. It was this gradual spread of dominion which, at each stage, increased men's knowledge of surrounding nations, and it therefore comes within our province to roughly sum up these stages, as part of the story of geographical discovery.

Regarded from the point of view of geography, this spread of man's knowledge might be compared to the growth of a huge oyster-shell, and, from that point of view, we have to take the north of the Persian Gulf as the apex of the shell, and begin with the Babylonian Empire. We first have the kingdom of Babylon—which, in the early stages, might be best termed Chaldæa—in the south of Mesopotamia (or the valley between the two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates), which, during the third and second millennia before our era, spread along the valley of the Tigris.

But in the fourteenth century B.C., the Assyrians to the north of it, though previously dependent upon Babylon, conquered it, and, after various vicissitudes, established themselves throughout the whole of Mesopotamia and much of the surrounding lands. In 604 B.C. the capital of this great empire was moved once more to Babylon, so that in the last stage, as well as in the first, it may be called Babylonia. For purposes of distinction, however, it will be as well to call these three successive stages Chaldæa, Assyria, and Babylonia.

Meanwhile, immediately to the east, a somewhat similar process had been gone through, though here the development was from north to south, the Medes of the north developing a powerful empire in the north of Persia, which ultimately fell into the hands of Cyrus the Great in 546 B.C. He then proceeded to conquer the kingdom of Lydia, in the northwest part of Asia Minor, which had previously inherited the dominions of the Hittites. Finally he proceeded to seize the empire of Babylonia, by his successful attack on the capital, 538 B.C. He extended his rule nearly as far as India on one side, and, as we know from the Bible, to the borders of Egypt on the other. His son Cambyses even succeeded in adding Egypt for a time to the Persian Empire. The oyster-shell of history had accordingly expanded to include almost the whole of Western Asia.

The next two centuries are taken up in universal history by the magnificent struggle of the Greeks against the Persian Empire—the most decisive conflict in all history, for it determined whether Europe or Asia should conquer the world. Hitherto the course of conquest had been from east to west, and if Xerxes' invasion had been successful, there is little doubt that the westward tendency would have continued. But the larger the tract of country which an empire covers—especially when different tribes and nations are included in it—the weaker and less organised it becomes. Within little more than a century of the death of Cyrus the Great the Greeks discovered the vulnerable point in the Persian Empire, owing to an expedition of ten thousand Greek mercenaries under Xenophon, who had been engaged by Cyrus the younger in an attempt to capture the Persian Empire from his brother.

Cyrus was slain, 401 B.C., but the ten thousand, under the leadership of Xenophon, were enabled, to hold their own against all the attempts of the Persians to destroy them, and found their way back to Greece.

Meanwhile the usual process had been going on in Greece by which a country becomes consolidated. From time to time one of the tribes into which that mountainous country was divided obtained supremacy over the rest: at first the Athenians, owing to the prominent part they had taken in repelling the Persians; then the Spartans, and finally the Thebans. But on the northern frontiers a race of hardy mountaineers, the Macedonians, had consolidated their power, and, under Philip of Macedon, became masters of all Greece. Philip had learned the lesson taught by the successful retreat of the ten thousand, and, just before his death, was preparing to attack the Great King (of Persia) with all the forces which his supremacy in Greece put at his disposal. His son Alexander the Great carried out Philip's intentions. Within twelve years (334-323 B.C.) he had conquered Persia, Parthia, India (in the strict sense, i.e. the valley of the Indus), and Egypt.

After his death his huge empire was divided up among his generals, but, except in the extreme east, the whole of it was administered on Greek methods. A Greek-speaking person could pass from one end to the other without difficulty, and we can understand how a knowledge of the whole tract of country between the Adriatic and the Indus could be obtained by Greek scholars. Alexander founded a large number of cities, all bearing his name, at various points of his itinerary; but of these the most important was that at the mouth of the Nile, known to this day as Alexandria. Here was the intellectual centre of the whole Hellenic world, and accordingly it was here, as we have seen, that Eratosthenes first wrote down in a systematic manner all the knowledge about the habitable earth which had been gained mainly by Alexander's conquests.

Important as was the triumphant march of Alexander through Western Asia, both in history and in geography, it cannot be said to have added so very much to geographical knowledge, for Herodotus was roughly acquainted with most of the country thus traversed, except towards the east of Persia and the north-west of India. But the itineraries of Alexander and his generals must have contributed more exact knowledge of the distances between the various important centres of population, and enabled Eratosthenes and his successors to give them a definite position on their maps of the world. What they chiefly learned from Alexander and his immediate successors was a more accurate knowledge of North-West India. Even as late as Strabo, the sole knowledge possessed at Alexandria of Indian places was that given by Megasthenes, the ambassador to India in the third century B.C.

Meanwhile, in the western portion of the civilised world a similar process had gone on. In the Italian peninsula the usual struggle had gone on between the various tribes inhabiting it. The fertile plain of Lombardy was not in those days regarded as belonging to Italy, but was known as Cisalpine Gaul. The south of Italy, as we have seen, was mainly inhabited by Greek colonists, and was called Great Greece. Between these tracts of country the Italian territory was inhabited by three sets of federate tribes—the Etrurians, the Samnites, and the Latins.

During the 230 years between 510 B.C. and 280 B.C. Rome was occupied in obtaining the supremacy among these three sets of tribes, and by the latter date may be regarded as having consolidated Central Italy into an Italian federation, centralised at Rome. At the latter date, the Greek king Pyrrhus of Epirus, attempted to arouse the Greek colonies in Southern Italy against the growing power of Rome; but his interference only resulted in extending the Roman dominion down to the heel and big toe of Italy.

If Rome was to advance farther, Sicily would be the next step, and just at that moment Sicily was being threatened by the other great power of the West—Carthage. Carthage was the most important of the colonies founded by the Phœnicians (probably in the ninth century B.C.), and pursued in the Western Mediterranean the policy of establishing trading stations along the coast, which had distinguished the Phœnicians from their first appearance in history. They seized all the islands in that division of the sea, or at any rate prevented any other nation from settling in Corsica, Sardinia, and the Balearic Isles. In particular Carthage took possession of the western part of Sicily, which had been settled by sister Phœnician colonies. While Rome did everything in its power to consolidate its conquests by admitting the other Italians to some share in the central government, Carthage only regarded its foreign possessions as so many openings for trade. In fact, it dealt with the western littoral of the Mediterranean something like the East India Company treated the coast of Hindostan: it established factories at convenient spots.

But just as the East India Company found it necessary to conquer the neighbouring territory in order to secure peaceful trade, so Carthage extended its conquests all down the western coast of Africa and the south-east part of Spain, while Rome was extending into Italy. To continue our conchological analogy, by the time of the first Punic War Rome and Carthage had each expanded into a shell, and between the two intervened the eastern section of the island of Sicily. As the result of this, Rome became master of Sicily, and then the final struggle took place with Hannibal in the second Punic War, which resulted in Rome becoming possessed of Spain and Carthage.

By the year 200 B.C. Rome was practically master of the Western Mediterranean, though it took another century to consolidate its heritage from Carthage in Spain and Mauritania. During that century—the second before our era—Rome also extended its Italian boundaries to the Alps by the conquest of Cisalpine Gaul, which, however, was considered outside Italy, from which it was separated by the river Rubicon. In that same century the Romans had begun to interfere in the affairs of Greece, which easily fell into their hands, and thus prepared the way for their inheritance of Alexander's empire.

This, in the main, was the work of the first century before our era, when the expansion of Rome became practically concluded. This was mainly the work of two men, Cæsar and Pompey. Following the example of his uncle, Marius, Cæsar extended the Roman dominions beyond the Alps to Gaul, Western Germany, and Britain; but from our present standpoint it was Pompey who prepared the way for Rome to carry on the succession of empire in the more civilised portions of the world, and thereby merited his title of "Great." He pounded up, as it were, the various states into which Asia Minor was divided, and thus prepared the way for Roman dominion over Western Asia and Egypt. By the time of Ptolemy the empire was thoroughly consolidated, and his map and geographical notices are only tolerably accurate within the confines of the empire.

One of the means by which the Romans were enabled to consolidate their dominion must be here shortly referred to. In order that their legions might easily pass from one portion of this huge empire to another, they built roads, generally in straight lines, and so solidly constructed that in many places throughout Europe they can be traced even to the present day, after the lapse of fifteen hundred years. Owing to them, in a large measure, Rome was enabled to preserve its empire intact for nearly five hundred years, and even to this day one can trace a difference in the civilisation of those countries over which Rome once ruled, except where the devastating influence of Islam has passed like a sponge over the old Roman provinces. Civilisation, or the art of living together in society, is practically the result of Roman law, and this sense all roads in history lead to Rome.

The work of Claudius Ptolemy sums up to us the knowledge that the Romans had gained by their inheritance, on the western side, of the Carthaginian empire, and, on the eastern, of the remains of Alexander's empire, to which must be added the conquests of Cæsar in North-West Europe. Cæsar is, indeed, the connecting link between the two shells that had been growing throughout ancient history. He added Gaul, Germany, and Britain to geographical knowledge, and, by his struggle with Pompey, connected the Levant with his northerly conquests. One result of his imperial work must be here referred to. By bringing all civilised men under one rule, he prepared them for the worship of one God.

This was not without its influence on travel and geographical discovery, for the great barrier between mankind had always been the difference of religion, and Rome, by breaking down the exclusiveness of local religions, and substituting for them a general worship of the majesty of the Emperor, enabled all the inhabitants of this vast empire to feel a certain communion with one another, which ultimately, as we know, took on a religious form.

The Roman Empire will henceforth form the centre from which to regard any additions to geographical knowledge. As we shall see, part of the knowledge acquired by the Romans was lost in the Dark Ages succeeding the break-up of the empire; but for our purposes this may be neglected and geographical discovery in the succeeding chapters may be roughly taken to be additions and corrections of the knowledge summed up by Claudius Ptolemy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Story of Geographical Discovery, Ch 1


Before telling how the ancients got to know that part of the world with which they finally became acquainted when the Roman Empire was at its greatest extent, it is as well to get some idea of the successive stages of their knowledge, leaving for the next chapter the story of how that knowledge was obtained. As in most branches of organised knowledge, it is to the Greeks that we owe our acquaintance with ancient views of this subject. In the early stages they possibly learned something from the Phœnicians, who were the great traders and sailors of antiquity, and who coasted along the Mediterranean, ventured through the Straits of Gibraltar, and traded with the British Isles, which they visited for the tin found in Cornwall. It is even said that one of their admirals, at the command of Necho, king of Egypt, circumnavigated Africa, for Herodotus reports that on the homeward voyage the sun set in the sea on the right hand. But the Phœnicians kept their geographical knowledge to themselves as a trade secret, and the Greeks learned but little from them.

The first glimpse that we have of the notions which the Greeks possessed of the shape and the inhabitants of the earth is afforded by the poems passing under the name of HOMER. These poems show an intimate knowledge of Northern Greece and of the western coasts of Asia Minor, some acquaintance with Egypt, Cyprus, and Sicily; but all the rest, even of the Eastern Mediterranean, is only vaguely conceived by their author. Where he does not know he imagines, and some of his imaginings have had a most important influence upon the progress of geographical knowledge. Thus he conceives of the world as being a sort of flat shield, with an extremely wide river surrounding it, known as Ocean. The centre of this shield was at Delphi, which was regarded as the "navel" of the inhabited world. According to Hesiod, who is but little later than Homer, up in the far north were placed a people known as the Hyperboreani, or those who dwelt at the back of the north wind; whilst a corresponding place in the south was taken by the Abyssinians. All these four conceptions had an important influence upon the views that men had of the world up to times comparatively recent. Homer also mentioned the pigmies as living in Africa. These were regarded as fabulous, till they were re-discovered by Dr. Schweinfurth and Mr. Stanley in our own time.

It is probably from the Babylonians that the Greeks obtained the idea of an all-encircling ocean. Inhabitants of Mesopotamia would ind themselves reaching the ocean in almost any direction in which they travelled, either the Caspian, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, or the Persian Gulf. Accordingly, the oldest map of the world which has been found is one accompanying a cuneiform inscription, and representing the plain of Mesopotamia with the Euphrates flowing through it, and the whole surrounded by two concentric circles, which are named briny waters. Outside these, however, are seven detached islets, possibly representing the seven zones or climates into which the world was divided according to the ideas of the Babylonians, though afterwards they resorted to the ordinary four cardinal points. What was roughly true of Babylonia did not in any way answer to the geographical position of Greece, and it is therefore probable that in the first place they obtained their ideas of the surrounding ocean from the Babylonians.

THE EARLIEST MAP OF THE WORLD It was after the period of Homer and Hesiod that the first great expansion of Greek knowledge about the world began, through the extensive colonisation which was carried on by the Greeks around the Eastern Mediterranean. Even to this day the natives of the southern part of Italy speak a Greek dialect, owing to the wide extent of Greek colonies in that country, which used to be called "Magna Grecia," or "Great Greece." Marseilles also one of the Greek colonies (600 B.C.), which, in its turn, sent out other colonies along the Gulf of Lyons. In the East, too, Greek cities were dotted along the coast of the Black Sea, one of which, Byzantium, was destined to be of world-historic importance. So, too, in North Africa, and among the islands of the Ægean Sea, the Greeks colonised throughout the sixth and fifth centuries B.C., and in almost every case communication was kept up between the colonies and the mother-country.

Now, the one quality which has made the Greeks so distinguished in the world's history was their curiosity; and it was natural that they should desire to know, and to put on record, the large amount of information brought to the mainland of Greece from the innumerable Greek colonies. But to record geographical knowledge, the first thing that is necessary is a map, and accordingly it is a Greek philosopher named ANAXIMANDER of Miletus, of the sixth century B.C., to whom we owe the invention of map-drawing. Now, in order to make a map of one's own country, little astronomical knowledge is required. As we have seen, savages are able to draw such maps; but when it comes to describing the relative positions of countries divided from one another by seas, the problem is not so easy. An Athenian would know roughly that Byzantium (now called Constantinople) was somewhat to the east and to the north of him, because in sailing thither he would have to sail towards the rising sun, and would find the climate getting colder as he approached Byzantium. So, too, he might roughly guess that Marseilles was somewhere to the west and north of him; but how was he to fix the relative position of Marseilles and Byzantium to one another? Was Marseilles more northerly than Byzantium? Was it very far away from that city? For though it took longer to get to Marseilles, the voyage was winding, and might possibly bring the vessel comparatively near to Byzantium, though there might be no direct road between the two cities. There was one rough way of determining how far north a place stood: the very slightest observation of the starry heavens would show a traveller that as he moved towards the north, the pole-star rose higher up in the heavens. How much higher, could be determined by the angle formed by a stick pointing to the pole-star, in relation to one held horizontally. If, instead of two sticks, we cut out a piece of metal or wood to fill up the enclosed angle, we get the earliest form of the sun-dial, known as the gnomon, and according to the shape of the gnomon the latitude of a place is determined.

Accordingly, it is not surprising to find that the invention of the gnomon is also attributed to Anaximander, for without some such instrument it would have been impossible for him to have made any map worthy of the name. But it is probable that Anaximander did not so much invent as introduce the gnomon, and, indeed, Herodotus, expressly states that this instrument was derived from the Babylonians, who were the earliest astronomers, so far as we know. A curious point confirms this, for the measurement of angles is by degrees, and degrees are divided into sixty seconds, just as minutes are. Now this division into sixty is certainly derived from Babylonia in the case of time measurement, and is therefore of the same origin as regards the measurement of angles.

We have no longer any copy of this first map of the world drawn up by Anaximander, but there is little doubt that it formed the foundation of a similar map drawn by a fellow-townsman of Anaximander, HECATÆUS of Miletus, who seems to have written the first formal geography. Only fragments of this are extant, but from them we are able to see that it was of the nature of a periplus, or seaman's guide, telling how many days' sail it was from one point to another, and in what direction. We know also that he arranged his whole subject into two books, dealing respectively with Europe and Asia, under which latter term he included part of what we now know as Africa. From the fragments scholars have been able to reproduce the rough outlines of the map of the world as it presented itself to Hecatæus. From this it can be seen that the Homeric conception of the surrounding ocean formed a chief determining feature in Hecatæus's map. For the rest, he was acquainted with the Mediterranean, Red, and Black Seas, and with the great rivers Danube, Nile, Euphrates, Tigris, and Indus.

The next great name in the history of Greek geography is that of HERODOTUS of Halicarnassus, who might indeed be equally well called the Father of Geography as the Father of History. He travelled much in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and on the shores of the Black Sea, while he was acquainted with Greece, and passed the latter years of his life in South Italy. On all these countries he gave his fellow-citizens accurate and tolerably full information, and he had diligently collected knowledge about countries in their neighbourhood. In particular he gives full details of Scythia (or Southern Russia), and of the satrapies and royal roads of Persia. As a rule, his information is as accurate as could be expected at such an early date, and he rarely tells marvellous stories, or if he does, he points out himself their untrustworthiness. Almost the only traveller's yarn which Herodotus reports without due scepticism is that of the ants of India that were bigger than foxes and burrowed out gold dust for their ant-hills.

One of the stories he relates is of interest, as seeming to show an anticipation of one of Mr. Stanley's journeys. Five young men of the Nasamonians started from Southern Libya, W. of the Soudan, and journeyed for many days west till they came to a grove of trees, when they were seized by a number of men of very small stature, and conducted through marshes to a great city of black men of the same size, through which a large river flowed. This Herodotus identifies with the Nile, but, from the indication of the journey given by him, it would seem more probable that it was the Niger, and that the Nasamonians had visited Timbuctoo! Owing to this statement of Herodotus, it was for long thought that the Upper Nile flowed east and west.

After Herodotus, the date of whose history may be fixed at the easily remembered number of 444 B.C., a large increase of knowledge was obtained of the western part of Asia by the two expeditions of Xenophon and of Alexander, which brought the familiar knowledge of the Greeks as far as India. But besides these military expeditions we have still extant several log-books of mariners, which might have added considerably to Greek geography. One of these tells the tale of an expedition of the Carthaginian admiral named Hanno, down the western coast of Africa, as far as Sierra Leone, a voyage which was not afterwards undertaken for sixteen hundred years. Hanno brought back from this voyage hairy skins, which, he stated, belonged to men and women whom he had captured, and who were known to the natives by the name of Gorillas. Another log-book is that of a Greek named Scylax, who gives the sailing distances between nearly all ports on the Mediterranean and Black Seas, and the number of days required to pass from one to another.

From this it would seem that a Greek merchant vessel could manage on the average fifty miles a day. Besides this, one of Alexander's admirals, named Nearchus, learned to carry his ships from the mouth of the Indus to the Arabian Gulf. Later on, a Greek sailor, Hippalus, found out that by using the monsoons at the appropriate times, he could sail direct from Arabia to India without laboriously coasting along the shores of Persia and Beluchistan, and in consequence the Greeks gave his name to the monsoon. For information about India itself, the Greeks were, for a long time, dependent upon the account of Megasthenes, an ambassador sent by Seleucus, one of Alexander's generals, to the Indian king of the Punjab.

While knowledge was thus gained of the East, additional information was obtained about the north of Europe by the travels of one PYTHEAS, a native of Marseilles, who flourished about the time of Alexander the Great (333 B.C.), and he is especially interesting to us as having been the first civilised person who can be identified as having visited Britain. He seems to have coasted along the Bay of Biscay, to have spent some time in England,—which he reckoned as 40,000 stadia (4000 miles) in circumference,—and he appears also to have coasted along Belgium and Holland, as far as the mouth of the Elbe. Pytheas is, however, chiefly known in the history of geography as having referred to the island of Thule, which he described as the most northerly point of the inhabited earth, beyond which the sea became thickened, and of a jelly-like consistency. He does not profess to have visited Thule, and his account probably refers to the existence of drift ice near the Shetlands.

All this new information was gathered together, and made accessible to the Greek reading world, by ERATOSTHENES, librarian of Alexandria (240-196 B.C.), who was practically the founder of scientific geography. He was the first to attempt any accurate measurement of the size of the earth, and of its inhabited portion. By his time the scientific men of Greece had become quite aware of the fact that the earth was a globe, though they considered that it was fixed in space at the centre of the universe. Guesses had even been made at the size of this globe, Aristotle fixing its circumference at 400,000 stadia (or 40,000 miles), but Eratosthenes attempted a more accurate measurement. He compared the length of the shadow thrown by the sun at Alexandria and at Syene, near the first cataract of the Nile, which he assumed to be on the same meridian of longitude, and to be at about 5000 stadia (500 miles) distance. From the difference in the length of the shadows he deduced that this distance represented one-fiftieth of the circumference of the earth, which would accordingly be about 250,000 stadia, or 25,000 geographical miles. As the actual circumference is 24,899 English miles, this was a very near approximation, considering the rough means Eratosthenes had at his disposal.

Having thus estimated the size of the earth, Eratosthenes then went on to determine the size of that portion which the ancients considered to be habitable. North and south of the lands known to him, Eratosthenes and all the ancients considered to be either too cold or too hot to be habitable; this portion he reckoned to extend to 38,000 stadia, or 3800 miles. In reckoning the extent of the habitable portion from east to west, Eratosthenes came to the conclusion that from the Straits of Gibraltar to the east of India was about 80,000 stadia, or, roughly speaking, one-third of the earth's surface. The remaining two-thirds were supposed to be covered by the ocean, and Eratosthenes prophetically remarked that "if it were not that the vast extent of the Atlantic Sea rendered it impossible, one might almost sail from the coast of Spain to that of India along the same parallel." Sixteen hundred years later, as we shall see, Columbus tried to carry out this idea.

Eratosthenes based his calculations on two fundamental lines, corresponding in a way to our equator and meridian of Greenwich: the first stretched, according to him, from Cape St. Vincent, through the Straits of Messina and the island of Rhodes, to Issus (Gulf of Iskanderun); for his starting-line in reckoning north and south he used a meridian passing through the First Cataract, Alexandria, Rhodes, and Byzantium.

The next two hundred years after Eratosthenes' death was filled up by the spread of the Roman Empire, by the taking over by the Romans of the vast possessions previously held by Alexander and his successors and by the Carthaginians, and by their spread into Gaul, Britain, and Germany. Much of the increased knowledge thus obtained was summed up in the geographical work of STRABO, who wrote in Greek about 20 B.C. He introduced from the extra knowledge thus obtained many modifications of the system of Eratosthenes, but, on the whole, kept to his general conception of the Page 30 world. He rejected, however, the existence of Thule, and thus made the world narrower; while he recognised the existence of Ierne, or Ireland; which he regarded as the most northerly part of the habitable world, lying, as he thought, north of Britain.

Between the time of Strabo and that of Ptolemy, who sums up all the knowledge of the ancients about the habitable earth, there was only one considerable addition to men's acquaintance with their neighbours, contained in a seaman's manual for the navigation of the Indian Ocean, known as the Periplus of the Erythræan Sea. This gave very full and tolerably accurate accounts of the coasts from Aden to the mouth of the Ganges, though it regarded Ceylon as much greater, and more to the south, than it really is; but it also contains an account of the more easterly parts of Asia, Indo-China, and China itself, "where the silk comes from." This had an important influence on the views of Ptolemy, as we shall see, and indirectly helped long afterwards to the discovery of America.

PTOLEMAEI ORBIS It was left to PTOLEMY of Alexandria to sum up for the ancient world all the knowledge that had been accumulating from the time of Eratosthenes to his own day, which we may fix at about 150 A.D. He took all the information he could find in the writings of the preceding four hundred years, and reduced it all to one uniform scale; for it is to him that we owe the invention of the method and the names of latitude and longitude. Previous writers had been content to say that the distance between one point and another was so many stadia, but he reduced all this rough reckoning to so many degrees of latitude and longitude, from fixed lines as starting-points. But, unfortunately, all these reckonings were rough calculations, which are almost invariably beyond the truth; and Ptolemy, though the greatest of ancient astronomers, still further distorted his results by assuming that a degree was 500 stadia, or 50 geographical miles. Thus when he found in any of his authorities that the distance between one port and another was 500 stadia, he assumed, in the first place, that this was accurate, and, in the second, that the distance between the two places was equal to a degree of latitude or longitude, as the case might be. Accordingly he arrived at the result that the breadth of the habitable globe was, as he put it, twelve hours of longitude (corresponding to 180°)—nearly one-third as much again as the real dimensions from Spain to China. The consequence of this was that the distance from Spain to China westward was correspondingly diminished by sixty degrees (or nearly 4000 miles), and it was this error that ultimately encouraged Columbus to attempt his epoch-making voyage.

Ptolemy's errors of calculation would not have been so extensive but that he adopted a method of measurement which made them accumulative. If he had chosen Alexandria for the point of departure in measuring longitude, the errors he made when reckoning westward would have been counterbalanced by those reckoning eastward, and would not have resulted in any serious distortion of the truth; but instead of this, he adopted as his point of departure the Fortunatæ Insulæ, or Canary Islands, and every degree measured to the east of these was one-fifth too great, since he assumed that it was only fifty miles in length. I may mention that so great has been the influence of Ptolemy on geography, that, up to the middle of the last century, Ferro, in the Canary Islands, was still retained as the zero-point of the meridians of longitude.

Another point in which Ptolemy's system strongly influenced modern opinion was his departure from the previous assumption that the world was surrounded by the ocean, derived from Homer. Instead of Africa being thus cut through the middle by the ocean, Ptolemy assumed, possibly from vague traditional knowledge, that Africa extended an unknown length to the south, and joined on to an equally unknown continent far to the east, which, in the Latinised versions of his astronomical work, was termed "terra australis incognita," or "the unknown south land." As, by his error with regard to the breadth of the earth, Ptolemy led to Columbus; so, by his mistaken notions as to the "great south land," he prepared the way for the discoveries of Captain Cook. But notwithstanding these errors, which were due partly to the roughness of the materials which he had to deal with, and partly to scientific caution, Ptolemy's work is one of the great monuments of human industry and knowledge.

For the Old World it remained the basis of all geographical knowledge up to the beginning of the last century, just as his astronomical work was only finally abolished by the work of Newton. Ptolemy has thus the rare distinction of being the greatest authority on two important departments of human knowledge—astronomy and geography—for over fifteen hundred years. Into the details of his description of the world it is unnecessary to go. The map will indicate how near he came to the main outlines of the Mediterranean, of Northwest Europe, of Arabia, and of the Black Sea. Beyond these regions he could only depend upon the rough indications and guesses of untutored merchants. But it is worth while referring to his method of determining latitude, as it was followed up by most succeeding geographers. Between the equator and the most northerly point known to him, he divides up the earth into horizontal strips, called by him "climates," and determined by the average length of the longest day in each.

This is a very rough method of determining latitude, but it was probably, in most cases, all that Ptolemy had to depend upon, since the measurement of angles would be a rare accomplishment even in modern times, and would only exist among a few mathematicians and astronomers in Ptolemy's days. With him the history of geographical knowledge and discovery in the ancient world closes.

In this chapter I have roughly given the names and exploits of the Greek men of science, who summed up in a series of systematic records the knowledge obtained by merchants, by soldiers, and by travellers of the extent of the world known to the ancients. Of this knowledge, by far the largest amount was gained, not by systematic investigation for the purpose of geography, but by military expeditions for the purpose of conquest. We must now retrace our steps, and give a rough review of the various stages of conquest. We must now retrace our steps, and give a rough review of the various stages of conquest by which the different regions of the Old World became known to the Greeks and the Roman Empire, whose knowledge Ptolemy summarises.

[Authorities: Bunbury, History of Ancient Geography, 2 vols., 1879; Tozer, History of Ancient Geography, 1897.]

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Text: The Story of Geographical Discovery

This book is in the public domain, so I'm going to share a chapter every other day here.

The Story of Geographical Discovery
How the World Became Known

By Joseph Jacobs

The book was published in about 1916. It has 24 maps in it as well, which I won't be sharing here.

In attempting to get what is little less than a history of the world, from a special point of view, into a couple of hundred duodecimo pages, I have had to make three bites at my very big cherry. In the Appendix I have given in chronological order, and for the first time on such a scale in English, the chief voyages and explorations by which our knowledge of the world has been increased, and the chief works in which that knowledge has been recorded. In the body of the work I have then attempted to connect together these facts in their more general aspects. In particular I have grouped the great voyages of 1492-1521 round the search for the Spice Islands as a central motive. It is possible that in tracing the Portuguese and Spanish discoveries to the need of titillating the parched palates of the mediævals, who lived on salt meat during winter and salt fish during Lent, I may have unduly simplified the problem. But there can be no doubt of the paramount importance attached to the spices of the East in the earlier stages. The search for the El Dorado came afterwards, and is still urging men north to the Yukon, south to the Cape, and in a south-easterly direction to "Westralia."


I have besides to thank the officials of the Royal Geographical Society, especially Mr. Scott Keltie and Dr. H. R. Mill, for the readiness with which they have placed the magnificent resources of the library and map-room of that national institution at my disposal, and the kindness with which they have answered my queries and indicated new sources of information.

J. J.



How was the world discovered? That is to say, how did a certain set of men who lived round the Mediterranean Sea, and had acquired the art of recording what each generation had learned, become successively aware of the other parts of the globe? Every part of the earth, so far as we know, has been inhabited by man during the five or six thousand years in which Europeans have been storing up their knowledge, and all that time the inhabitants of each part, of course, were acquainted with that particular part: the Kamtschatkans knew Kamtschatka, the Greenlanders, Greenland; the various tribes of North American Indians knew, at any rate, that part of America over which they wandered, long before Columbus, as we say, "discovered" it.

Very often these savages not only know their own country, but can express their knowledge in maps of very remarkable accuracy. Cortes traversed over 1000 miles through Central America, guided only by a calico map of a local cacique. An Eskimo named Kalliherey drew out, from his own knowledge of the coast between Smith Channel and Cape York, a map of it, varying only in minute details from the Admiralty chart. A native of Tahiti, named Tupaia, drew out for Cook a map of the Pacific, extending over forty-five degrees of longitude (nearly 3000 miles), giving the relative size and position of the main islands over that huge tract of ocean. Almost all geographical discoveries by Europeans have, in like manner, been brought about by means of guides, who necessarily knew the country which their European masters wished to "discover."

What, therefore, we mean by the history of geographical discovery is the gradual bringing to the knowledge of the nations of civilisation surrounding the Mediterranean Sea the vast tracts of land extending in all directions from it. There are mainly two divisions of this history—the discovery of the Old World and that of the New, including Australia under the latter term. Though we speak of geographical discovery, it is really the discovery of new tribes of men that we are thinking of. It is only quite recently that men have sought for knowledge about lands, apart from the men who inhabit them. One might almost say that the history of geographical discovery, properly so called, begins with Captain Cook, the motive of whose voyages was purely scientific curiosity. But before his time men wanted to know one another for two chief reasons: they wanted to conquer, or they wanted to trade; or perhaps we could reduce the motives to one—they wanted to conquer, because they wanted to trade. In our own day we have seen a remarkable mixture of all three motives, resulting in the European partition of Africa—perhaps the most remarkable event of the latter end of the nineteenth century. Speke and Burton, Livingstone and Stanley, investigated the interior from love of adventure and of knowledge; then came the great chartered trading companies; and, finally, the governments to which these belong have assumed responsibility for the territories thus made known to the civilised world. Within forty years the map of Africa, which was practically a blank in the interior, and, as will be shown, was better known in 1680 than in 1850, has been filled up almost completely by researches due to motives of conquest, of trade, or of scientific curiosity.

In its earlier stages, then, the history of geographical discovery is mainly a history of conquest, and what we shall have to do will be to give a short history of the ancient world, from the point of view of how that world became known. "Became known to whom?" you may ask; and we must determine that question first. We might, of course, take the earliest geographical work known to us—the tenth chapter of Genesis—and work out how the rest of the world became known to the Israelites when they became part of the Roman Empire; but in history all roads lead to Rome or away from it, and it is more useful for every purpose to take Rome as our centre-point. Yet Rome only came in as the heir of earlier empires that spread the knowledge of the earth and man by conquest long before Rome was of importance; and even when the Romans were the masters of all this vast inheritance, they had not themselves the ability to record the geographical knowledge thus acquired, and it is to a Greek named Ptolemy, a professor of the great university of Alexandria, to whom we owe our knowledge of how much the ancient world knew of the earth. It will be convenient to determine this first, and afterwards to sketch rapidly the course of historical events which led to the knowledge which Ptolemy records.

In the Middle Ages, much of this knowledge, like all other, was lost, and we shall have to record how knowledge was replaced by imagination and theory. The true inheritors of Greek science during that period were the Arabs, and the few additions to real geographical knowledge at that time were due to them, except in so far as commercial travellers and pilgrims brought a more intimate knowledge of Asia to the West.

The discovery of America forms the beginning of a new period, both in modern history and in modern geography. In the four hundred years that have elapsed since then, more than twice as much of the inhabited globe has become known to civilised man than in the preceding four thousand years. The result is that, except for a few patches of Africa, South America, and round the Poles, man knows roughly what are the physical resources of the world he inhabits, and, except for minor details, the history of geographical discovery is practically at an end.

Besides its interest as a record of war and adventure, this history gives the successive stages by which modern men have been made what they are. The longest known countries and peoples have, on the whole, had the deepest influence in the forming of the civilised character. Nor is the practical utility of this study less important. The way in which the world has been discovered determines now-a-days the world's history. The great problems of the twentieth century will have immediate relation to the discoveries of America, of Africa, and of Australia. In all these problems, Englishmen will have most to say and to do, and the history of geographical discovery is, therefore, of immediate and immense interest to Englishmen.

[Authorities: Cooley, History of Maritime and Inland Discoveries, 3 vols., 1831; Vivien de Saint Martin, Histoire de la Géographie, 1873.]

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Washington State: Demolition begins on largest dam dismantling project in the U.S.

There are two sides to every story. One of the commenters on this article stated:
"Notice there was no mention of the electricity these dams produce or the lakes behind them that provide irrigation water for farms nor the flood control they provide? Our 'leaders' have some bizarre priorities.Also in the mill is a plan to close several coal fired electricity generating plants.Remember Obama said he would close the coal industry during his compaign for office.Is all this an effort to drive us to nuclear power? ... "

However, if you check out Elwha River at Wikipedia, we learn that it was actually President George Bush who signed this reclamation project into law - not Obama.

From the UK Daily Mail: Demolition begins on largest dam dismantling project in the U.S.
Work has begun on the largest dam dismantling project in the U.S.

An emotional ceremony was marked by references to the spiritual and cultural importance to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe of the removal of two dams from the Elwha River near Port Angeles.

Removal of that 210-foot-tall dam and the 108-foot-tall Elwha Dam is part of the second-largest ecosystem restoration project ever undertaken by the National Park Service, after the Everglades.

The $325 million project is expected to last three years and eventually restore the Olympic Peninsula river to its wild state and restore salmon runs.

Before two towering concrete dams were built nearly a century ago, the river teemed with salmon but the structures blocked the fishes' access to upstream habitat, diminished their runs and altered the ecosystem.

An excavator began chipping away at the top of Glines Canyon Dam on Thursday.

The ceremony included drumming, singing, dancing and a blessing by tribal elder Ben Charles Sr., who made several references to tribal ancestors looking down from the clouds and witnessing the event.

A few hundred people and several dozen Chinook salmon gathered near the Elwha Dam on Saturday to witness the beginning of the process to let the Elwha River run free and restore five species of Pacific salmon to more than 70 miles of river and stream.

The ceremony concluded with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar leading a call, echoed by whoops from the crowd, to have a large piece of earthmoving equipment with a golden bucket break up a piece of concrete just upstream of the dam and carry some pieces to the bank where dignitaries were waiting.

'America's rivers are the lifeblood of America's economy - from the water for farms that produce our food to the fish and wildlife that sustain our heritage,' Salazar said.

This restoration project is a testament to what can happen when diverse groups find a way to work together and achieve shared goals of restoration for a river, a people, an ecosystem and a national park,' said National Park Services Director Jon Jarvis.

Biologists estimate the Elwha River salmon populations will grow from 3,000 to more than 300,000 as five species of Pacific salmon return to the river.

'The return of the fish will bring bear, eagles and other animals back to the ecosystem that has been stunted since 1911 when the Elwha Dam was constructed.

Officials also expect fisherman, rafters and other recreation seekers to return to the river and add to the local economy.

Salazar noted that the river restoration will help support the culture of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, which has lived along its banks for centuries.

Tribal members will again have access to sacred sites now under water and the opportunity to renew cultural traditions.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nigeria marks Muslim Eid amid fears of new attacks

From Wikipedia
Nigeria (Nigh-jeer-ee-a), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in the north. Its coast in the south lies on the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic Ocean. The three largest and most influential ethnic groups in Nigeria are the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. In terms of religion Nigeria is roughly split half and half between Muslims and Christians with a very small minority who practice traditional religion.

The people of Nigeria have an extensive history. Archaeological evidence shows that human habitation of the area dates back to at least 9000 BCE. The area around the Benue and Cross River is thought to be the original homeland of the Bantu migrants who spread across most of central and southern Africa in waves between the 1st millennium BCE and the 2nd millennium.

The name Nigeria was taken from the Niger River running through the country. This name was coined by Flora Shaw, the future wife of Baron Lugard, a British colonial administrator, in the late 19th century.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, the seventh most populous country in the world, and the most populous country in the world in which the majority of the population is black. It is listed among the "Next Eleven" economies, and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The IMF projects a 8% growth in the Nigerian economy in 2011.

Recent history
Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, as the new President of Nigeria ending almost 33 years of military rule (from 1966 until 1999) excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979 and 1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d'état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966-1979 and 1983-1998. Although the elections which brought Obasanjo to power in 1999 and again in 2003 were condemned as unfree and unfair, Nigeria has shown marked improvements in attempts to tackle government corruption and to hasten development.

Umaru Yar'Adua of the People's Democratic Party came into power in the general election of 2007 – an election that was witnessed and condemned by the international community as being severely flawed.

Ethnic violence over the oil producing Niger Delta region and inadequate infrastructures are some of the current issues in the country.

Yar'Adua died on 5 May 2010. Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in as Yar'Adua's replacement on 6 May 2010, becoming Nigeria's 14th Head of State, while his vice,a former Kaduna state governor, Namadi Sambo, an architect,was chosen on 18 May 2010,by the National Assembly following President Goodluck Jonathan's nomination for Sambo to be his Vice President.

Goodluck Jonathan served as Nigeria's president till April 16, 2011,when a new presidential election in Nigeria was conducted. Goodluck Jonathan of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner on 19 April 2011,having won the election by a total of 22,495,187 of the 39,469,484 votes cast to stand ahead of Muhammadu Buhari from the main opposition party, the The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which won 12,214,853 of the total votes cast. The international media reported the elections as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud in contrast to previous elections

From YahooNews: Nigeria marks Muslim Eid amid fears of new attacks
DAMATURU, Nigeria — Nigeria marked the Muslim feast of Eid el-Adha amid fears and tears as the US warned of possible new attacks after after deadly blasts claimed by Islamists killed 150 people in the northeast of the country.

The attacks on Friday in Damaturu were among the deadliest ever carried out by Boko Haram, an Islamist sect based in the north of Africa's most populous country.

The US embassy in Nigeria warned that the sect could next attack hotels and other targets in the capital Abuja during the Muslim holiday.

"Following the recent Boko Haram, aka Nigerian Taliban, attacks in Borno and Yobe State, the US embassy has received information that Boko Haram may plan to attack several locations and hotels in Abuja," during the Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday, the embassy said in a statement.

Security was stepped up in Abuja, which has been a target of past extremist attacks, including the August 26 suicide bomb at the UN headquarters which claimed 24 lives.

Some 13,000 policemen and specialist anti-terror squads were deployed to mosques and churches and other strategic locations in the city, a police official said. Worshippers were screened by metal detectors before they entered some churches.

In the grief-stricken city of Damaturu where the 150 died, thousands of Muslims gathered for Eid el-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifices prayers at an open ground patrolled by dozens of armed police.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan, who described the wave of gun and bomb attacks in the capital of Yobe state as "heinous", appealed to Muslims to pray for peace in the country as they marked Eid.

"It is a period that we are all expected to live in peace but as a nation we have our own challenges, even during this holy period we still have incidents happening here and there," he said.

While Christian churches and police were among the initial targets for the attacks, gunmen fired indiscriminately in the streets and Muslims and Christians alike were among those killed, local officials reported.

"The death toll cuts across religion, profession, status. There was no particular social stratum that was excluded," said Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for Nigeria's emergency management agency in the northeast.

"The attack seems to have been haphazardly carried out which explains the heavy toll. Both Muslims, Christians, civilians, soldiers, policemen and other paramilitary personnel were all part of the casualties."

Eid celebrations in the sleepy and dusty city of Damaturu were low key on Sunday.

Gudusu, a 58-year-old resident who lost a brother in the attacks, voiced outrage at Boko Haram, sobbing as prayers were offered for the sibling he buried on Saturday evening.

His family called off the celebrations but simply prayed and slaughtered a ram to mark Eid al-Adha, one of the most important feasts in the Muslim calendar.

"It's a season of mourning and celebration at the same time," said another resident Aisami Bundi.

"People are struggling to strike a balance between the merriment of the season and the losses the city has incurred from the attacks, especially the large number of people that have been killed," he said.

Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to the violence, saying it did "not resolve problems but increases them, sowing hatred and divisions, even among the faithful."

Boko Haram claimed Friday's rampage and warned of further attacks.

Meantime, gunmen suspected of being members of Boko Haram on Sunday shot dead a police officer at his home as he returned from Eid morning prayers in Maiduguri, the sect's base, local police chief Simeon Midenda told AFP.

Militants from Boko Haram, whose name means "Western Education Is Sin" in the regional Hausa language, have in the past targeted police and military, community and religious leaders, as well as politicians.

The sect, which wants to see the establishment of an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, staged an uprising which was brutally put down by security forces in 2009.

Nigeria's more than 160 million people are divided almost in half between Muslims and Christians, living roughly in the north and south of the country respectively. Regions where they overlap are prey to frequent tensions.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Warming Seas Continue to Plague Coral Reefs in Maldives

The Maldives (from Wikipedia)
The Maldives (Mall-deeves), officially Republic of Maldives (also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and Chagos Archipelago. It stands in the Laccadive Sea, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka and 400 kilometres (250 mi) south-west of India. During the colonial era, the Dutch referred to the country as "Maldivische Eilanden" in their documentation, while "Maldive Islands" is the anglicised version of the local name used by the British, which later came to be written "Maldives".

This chain of islands is an archipelago located among the Lakshadweep-Maldives-Chagos Group, which are the tops of a vast undersea mountain range in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

The atolls of the Maldives encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making it one of the world's most dispersed countries in geographic terms. Its population of 313,920 (2010) inhabits 200 of its 1,192 islands. Maldives capital and largest city Malé has a population of 103,693 (2006). It is located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, in the Kaafu Atoll. It is also one of the Administrative divisions of the Maldives. Traditionally it was the King's Island where the ancient Maldive Royal dynasties were enthroned

The Maldives is the smallest Asian country in both population and land area. With an average ground level of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, it is the planet's lowest country. It is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world, at 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in); the Maldives forecast inundation is a great concern for the Maldivian people.

From National Geographic: Warming Seas Continue to Plague Coral Reefs in Maldives
There are few places on the planet as remote as the Maldives. Landfall is a thousand miles away from much of the long string of 1,200 islands, most of which are little more than thin, uninhabited strips of sand. Diving into the heart of a Maldivian lagoon it is easy to imagine you are alone in one of Planet Ocean’s most distant paradises.

Yet when I did just that a few days ago, in the heart of the Baa Atoll — 463 square miles of aquamarine Indian Ocean recently named a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — something didn’t feel, or look, quite like paradise.

The ocean, though jaw-droppingly beautiful, was a bathtub warm 86 degrees F. Diving to its shallow floor it was quickly clear that the realm below sea level here has been badly impacted in recent years by a combination of man and Mother Nature and resulting fast-warming temperatures.

The coral reefs of the Maldives were first badly damaged in 1998, when shifting ocean patterns associated with El Niño raised sea level temps above 90 degrees. The result then was that 70 to 90 percent of the reefs surrounding the Maldives 26 atolls were badly “bleached,” the warm temperatures killing off the symbiotic algae that lives within the coral and gives it color. While since then many of the reefs have been recovering, according to a report by the Maldives-based Marine Research Center, another warming last year (2010) estimated that “10-15 percent of shallow reef coral is now completely white, while 50-70 percent has begun to pale.”

On this day I was diving with Fabien Cousteau, grandson of Jacques and executive director of Plant A Fish, and Mark Lynas, author and climate change adviser to Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed. During our first dive along a shallow reef in the middle of Baa Atoll we repeatedly signaled “thumbs down” to each other, as it became clear that this reef was troubled. Blanched the color of cement, the coral tips were mostly broken off leaving just behind bare rock.

Maldives-based marine biologist Kate Wilson dove with us and explained recovery was slowed this past April when another bleaching event occurred, with high sea temperatures again sweeping the area.

Mark would later describe the scene as “eerie;” Fabien’s photographs illustrated a murky, fish-less seafloor.

Kate assures us there are nearby reefs less impacted by local fishing and closer to colder currents, which may help them recover faster.

I hesitate to paint an overly bleak picture of the Maldives because there are some very good things going on here too. Last year the island nation (home to 320,00) became just one of two countries to completely ban shark fishing in its 35,000 square mile exclusive economic zone (Palau is the other). Maldivians no longer eat shark, they were only being hunted here for shark fin soup for export to China. It’s estimated the value of a single shark to diving tourists versus fishermen was $3,300 to $32.

Tuna in the Maldives is limited to being caught by pole, one of the most sustainable forms of fishing. And the naming last year of Baa Atoll as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is significant, placing it along such sites as the Galapagos, Ayer’s Rock in Australia, the Pantanal wetlands of Brazil and Amboseli National Park in Kenya. The challenge now is to help educate the local populace about the reserve-status, help impacted fishermen find alternative employment and fund enforcement.

And the next day we would visit a reef in the center of the Baa atoll which showed signs of a strong recovery.

It is dramatically different.

Just below the brightly sunlit surface hundreds of shiny reef fish dart and feed. In the deep, dark blue swim the Maldivian big guys: Jackfish, tuna and red snapper. An occasional spotted eagle ray elegantly flaps past, as do a pair of green turtles.

During a mile-long swim we spy an incredibly beautiful and vast variety of wrasses, clown, surgeon and parrotfish. A dusky moray eel peeks out of its coral hideaway. And a square-headed porcupine fish attempts to hide itself deep inside a rock crevice. The shallow, sandy floor running to a sandbar is heavy with gray-beige coral, colorful clams and even a few handsome sea cucumbers.

On the way back to shore, we quiz Kate about the future of the reefs and the Biosphere.

Where will the funding come to protect the new park? “The government and a half-dozen resorts that operate within the atoll. Starting in January 2012 tourists are going to pay too, buying permits for things like sport fishing and swimming with the manta rays, which will all go into the management of the biosphere.”

Are some zones in the atoll already off-limits to fishing? “Nine core areas are strict no-take zones,” she says.

What about pelagic, open-ocean fishes like bluefin tuna, are they protected? “Since they are migratory species it is quite hard to manage them. Once they are out of Maldivian waters and into open ocean international fishing fleets target them. So even though the Maldives fisheries is one of the most protected, by sustainable fishing, stocks are still declining.”

Can the coral truly recover if water temperatures keep rising as they have been? “It’s a good test here to see just how fast corals can adapt. It’s not just about the temperature but also about acidification as well, so all of the corals are really at a critical point. No on really knows how quickly they’ll adapt, if at all. If we are not careful globally what you’re seeing could become the new norm.”