Monday, January 31, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Whales Return to NYC, Russian Frankenstein and Egyptian Antiquities Looted


Whales, dolphins and seals return to New York City Harbor

NYDailyNews - Whales, dolphins and seals have made a triumphant return to the waters just outside New York Harbor - and the comeback has even sparked whale and seal-watching tours.

Tom Paladino, captain of two ferry boats from the Rockaways, says pods of aquatic mammals off the city's coast have "increased tenfold."

"We used to see 10 whales a year - now we see 100," he said. "We saw dolphins almost on a daily basis between June and September."

There are so many more seals in New York Harbor that earlier this month he started weekend tours on his ferry, American Princess.

On one trip last weekend, he counted 14 lolling on a small island off Staten Island.

Cornell University Prof. Chris Clark estimates that as many as 30 to 50 fin whales now live full-time in the waters just past the Verrazano Bridge.

Acoustical monitors installed by Cornell in and near the harbor discovered six species of whales touring the New York-New Jersey bite - "a real menagerie of giants," he said.

Experts say anti-hunting laws and cleaner waters may have brought back whales and their cousins after being largely absent for a century.

The numbers are "far, far more than expected, even for me," Clark said. "I've been surprised elsewhere in the world, but off New York - yikes!"

Much of the data was collected by a federally funded study by Cornell and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

When acoustical traps were laid in New York waters in 2008, researchers were surprised to hear not only the 20-minute serenades of humpbacks, but a cacophony of other fish making a racket, Clark said.

"Black drum fish lit up the night with their choruses. Males were out there singing their hearts out: 'Hey Baby! Hey Baby! Hey Baby!' There's a cornucopia of life 10 miles off the Verrazano Bridge. It's mind-boggling!" he said.

Officials said the study was supposed to last three years but was abandoned when a DEC official overseeing the project quit to get her doctorate. Budget cuts made it impossible to hire a replacement.

Clark said the whale study needs to be revived because no one knows the extent of whale activity around New York Harbor - or how best to protect them.

Environmentalists are especially worried about endangered species like the Right Whale, spotted locally along with Humpback, Fin, Sei, Minke and Blue whales.

The Right Whale is the slowest-moving local species, traveling at no more than 10 knots, and is the most prone to being killed by ships.

Clark is hoping to raise $1 million to revive the whale study and install a sophisticated monitoring system like one in Boston that notified boats to slow down.

"We don't know what's off our coastline," said Maureen Murphy of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "I know more from 19th century books than I do from anything printed in the last century."



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Mummy fried - woman sets fire to house while trying to reanimate long-dead sister

RT - A night fire in an apartment block has been caused by a woman who tried to reanimate her long-dead elder sister with electricity.

The horrific story happened in Ekaterinburg, the biggest city in the Urals.

The suspected arsonist, 69, apparently was not completely of sound mind, judging by her mental health record.

A year ago, her 73-year-old sister died from natural causes, prosecutors told Noviy Region news agency. However, instead of reporting the death, the woman preserved the body with gasoline and had been trying the reanimate it ever since.

Her last macabre experiment on Tuesday night involved “jump starting” the mummified corpse with two wires connecting the body’s hand and neck to the mains.

Despite what Frankenstein movies suggest, the electric current did not revive the body, instead setting it on fire.

The surviving sister is now in hospital suffering from burns and smoke inhalation.

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Mystery of 200 Dead Cows in Wisconsin Solved...Moldy Sweet Potatoes

aolnews - Authorities investigating the deaths of 200 cows in Wisconsin have come up with an unlikely culprit: the sweet potato.

The cows were found dead in a Stockton pasture two weeks ago. Locals were left scratching their heads about what caused the mass die-off.

Investigators from the University of Wisconsin have determined that the animals were killed by a poison found in spoiled sweet potatoes that were part of the cattle's feed.

"It is likely that a mycotoxin from moldy sweet potato was a major factor in the disease and deaths of these steers," said Peter Vanderloo, associate director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

There's been a spate of mass animal deaths in recent weeks, from fish in Maryland and Arkansas to birds in Louisiana and South Dakota.

The farmer who owned the cows had thought they might have fallen victim to disease such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, according to The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Vanderloo and his team ruled that out.

"None of the major respiratory pathogens of cattle were identified in the samples provided to the lab," said Vanderloo.

He also explained that the toxic sweet potatoes were not in the human food supply chain, so there was no threat to people.

While the recent mass deaths of animals have spawned some exotic conspiracy theories, scientists have come up with more mundane solutions for some of the mysteries.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged last week that it was behind the deaths of thousands of starlings in South Dakota. The USDA said it put out poisoned bait after a farmer complained the birds were defecating in his animal feed.

The thousands of red-winged blackbirds that dropped out of the sky in Arkansas on Dec. 31 apparently died of blunt force trauma. Investigators say loud noises prompted the birds to take a rare night flight, and that they likely slammed into objects such as trees and houses.

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Climber survives and stands up after 1000 foot fall

guardian - A climber who fell 1,000ft (300 metres) down the face of a Scottish mountain was found by a rescue helicopter, standing up and studying a map and suffering only cuts and bruises.

The 36-year-old man, who has been named as Adam Potter, from Glasgow, was in a group of four climbers who reached the 3,589ft summit of Sgurr Choinnich Mor, about five miles from Ben Nevis, early yesterday afternoon, when he lost his footing and fell. He was kept overnight at the Southern General hospital, in Glasgow, for observation for injuries that were said to be "non life-threatening".

Police said Potter was happy for his name to be released but would not be giving any interviews. They described him as "the very fortunate climber".

His first piece of good fortune was that a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter was already in the air on a training exercise and arrived at the scene only 35 minutes later.

The rest of the group pointed rescuers in the direction of Potter's fall, down the steep and craggy eastern slope of the mountain.

When they spotted somebody standing far below at 792.5 metres and beneath three high craggy outcrops, they assumed it must be the wrong man and flew back to the summit, where they saw bits of Potter's kit scattered in a vertical line down the face of the mountain.

A paramedic was winched down to check him and found him bruised, with a minor chest injury and some superficial cuts, although he was described as "shaking from extreme emotional shock and the sheer relief of still being alive".

"We honestly thought it couldn't have been him as he was on his feet, reading a map," Lieutenant Tim Barker, the observer for the crew from HMS Gannet, based in Prestwick, Ayrshire, said. "It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying."

Potter was winched on board the helicopter, where he was checked again by a doctor before being transferred to hospital in Glasgow.

Barker said: "He is lucky to be alive. It's hard to believe that someone could have fallen that distance on that terrain and been able to stand up at the end of it, let alone chat to us in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. I have to say that, when we got the call and realised the details of where he'd fallen, we did expect to arrive on scene to find the worst-case scenario."

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Plundering of Tombs, Museums, Antiquities Widespread, Egyptian Official Reports

NatGeo - Widespread looting of museums and antiquities are occurring across Egypt, not just in Cairo, the news website Bikya Masr reported an Egyptian official saying in a statement. The official called on the global archaeology community to be on "high alert" for ancient artifacts being smuggled out of Egypt.

The website quoted an antiquities official, Mohamed Megahed, saying that "Immense damages to Abusir and Saqqara" have been reported. Looters allegedly have gone into tombs that had been sealed and destroyed much of the tombs and took artifacts, the site added.

Gangs 'Digging Day and Night'

"Only the Imhotep Museum and adjacent central areas were protected by the military. In Abusir, all tombs were opened; large gangs digging day and night," Megahed said.

Bikya Masr added:

"According to Megahed, storage facilities in South Saqqara, just south of Cairo, has also been looted. He did mention it was hard to ascertain what, and how much, was taken.

"He said Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) officials 'are only today [Sunday] able to check on the museums storage, but early reports suggest major looting.'

"Please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide."

"He called on the international archaeology community to issue a 'high alert' statement on Old Kingdom remains and Egyptian antiquities in general, "and please spread the word to law enforcement officials worldwide."

Looters of museums, 'who may be encouraged by outside Egypt entities, may try to use general confusion to get things out of the country.'"

Egyptian Museum "Looted by Security Guards"

The looting and destruction of antiquities in the Egyptian Museaum in Cairo on Friday evening was the work of the museum's poorly paid security guards, a former director of the museum is reported saying on the website of the German news organization Die Zeit.

Wafaa el-Saddik told Zeit Online that the museum's security guards earned about 250 Egyptian pounds, or 35 euros (U.S.$ 48) a month. "We have about 160 security guards plus several dozen police officers who are basically conscripts in police uniforms. These policemen earn even less," Wafaa el-Saddik said. Some of the guards had nothing, she added. One sold everything he had to get medicine for his sick child. Others were hungry "even at home."

El-Saddik also said that the antiquities museum in Memphis and its storerooms "were robbed on Saturday morning completely." She said she had received calls from the staff asking for help and she had alerted the police and the military.

"The biggest problem is the lack of protection of our museums," she said.

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