Catalogue of Bizarre Naval Doctors' Records Disclosed by the National Archivestelegraph - In the calm lines of the notebooks' closely spaced copperplate are records of lightning strikes, gun fights and mutinous crews.
There are courts martial, shipwrecks and even murder during the long ocean journeys undertaken by the doctors' ships between 1793 and 1880.
The patients were the ratings, officers, emigrants and convicts being taken - often permanently - to other parts of the Empire and the records of their treatment provide a detailed glimpse into the past.
More than 1,000 Royal Navy Medical Officer Journals have been made accessible to the public following a two-year cataloguing project at the National Archives in Kew.
One passenger was 12-year-old Ellen McCarthy, who was on board the Elizabeth sailing from Cork, Ireland, to Quebec, Canada, in June 1825 when she fell ill and coughed up three intestinal worms which her mother took to the ship's surgeon.
The doctor, identified only as one P Power, wrote: "Complained yesterday evening of pain in the bottom of the belly increased on pressure, abdomen hard and swollen, picks her nose, starts in her sleep, bowels constipated, pyrexia [fever], tongue foul, pulse quick, skin hot, great thirst.
"Her mother brought me a lumbricus [worm] this morning 87 inches long which the patient vomited. The medicine operated well."
The naval surgeon treated the girl with a range of syrups and injections including barley water, calomel [mercury chloride - a laxative now known to be toxic], jalap [a tuber with laxative effects] and brandy punch to ease the symptoms and restore her digestive system to normality."
However, he said the most effective treatment was "oil of terebouth" - or turpentine.
Cures were required for scorpion, tarantula and shark bites, scurvy and many different forms of sexually transmitted diseases, while some of the doctors collected poisonous sea snakes for further study.
Other incidents recorded include offerings of disinterred skulls to Inuits, the 55-year-old sail maker who served in the Navy at Trafalgar and the Army at Waterloo, and the second mate who was lost overboard with the ship's keys in his hand.
Another surgeon was asked to observe Samuel Tapper, an 18-year-old sailor in 1802, and noted: “Tapper’s breasts so perfectly resemble those of a young woman of 18 or 19 that even the male genitals which are also perfect, do not fully remove the imporession that the spectateor is not lookin on a female.”
He was returned to active duty while in January 1802 one James Calloway, a seaman aged 40, fell overboard and was only revived when tobacco smoke was blown into his lungs.
The remedies prescribed seem harsh to modern eyes but the doctors of the time were often pioneering treatments which would later be refined, according to Dan Gilfoyle, the National Archives' diplomatic and colonial records specialist.
Bruno Pappalardo, the project manager, said: "The journals are the most significant source for the study of the history of health at sea for the 19th century."
Habitable Exoplanet Discovered
wired - After years of saying habitable exoplanets are just around the corner, planet hunters have finally found one. Gliese 581g is the first planet found to lie squarely in its star’s habitable zone, where the conditions are right for liquid water.
“The threshold has now been crossed,” said astronomer R. Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, one of the planet’s discoverers, in a press briefing Sept. 29. “The data says this planet is at the right distance for liquid water, and the right mass to hold on to a substantial atmosphere.”
The discovery is both “incremental and monumental,” comments exoplanet expert Sara Seager of MIT, who was not involved in the new study. When a recent study predicted the first habitable world should show up by next May, Seager rightly said the real answer was more like “any day now.”
“We’ve found smaller and smaller planets that got closer and closer to the habitable zone,” she said. “But this is the first that’s in the habitable zone.”
The new planet is one of six orbiting the star Gliese 581, a red dwarf 20 light-years from Earth. Two of the planet’s siblings, dubbed planets C and D, have also been hailed as potentially habitable worlds. The two planets straddle the region around the star where liquid water could exist — 581c is too hot, and 581d is too cold. But 581g is just right. The discovery will be published in the Astrophysical Journal and online at arxiv.org.
The new planet is about three times the mass of Earth, which indicates it is probably rocky and has enough surface gravity to sustain a stable atmosphere. It orbits its star once every 36.6 Earth days at a distance of just 13 million miles.
The surface of a planet that close to our sun would be scorching hot. But because the star Gliese 581 is only about 1 percent as bright as the sun, temperatures on the new planet should be much more comfortable. Taking into account the presence of an atmosphere and how much starlight the planet probably reflects, astronomers calculated the average temperature ranges from minus 24 degrees to 10 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.
But the actual temperature range is even wider, says astronomer Steven Vogt of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who designed some of the instruments that helped find the planet. Gravity dictates that such a close-in planet would keep the same side facing the star at all times, the same way the moon always shows the same face to Earth.
That means the planet has a blazing-hot daytime side, a frigid nighttime side, and a band of eternal sunrise or sunset where water — and perhaps life — could subsist comfortably. Any life on this exotic world would be confined to this perpetual twilight zone, Vogt says, but there’s room for a lot of diversity.
“You can get any temperature you want on this planet, you just have to move around on its surface,” Vogt said. “There’s a great range of eco-longitudes that will create a lot of different niches for different kinds of life to evolve stably.”
Another advantage for potential life on Gliese 581g is that its star is “effectively immortal,” Butler said. “Our sun will go 10 billion years before it goes nova, and life here ceases to exist. But M dwarfs live for tens, hundreds of billions of years, many times the current age of the universe. So life has a long time to get a toehold.”
The discovery is based on 11 years of observations using the HIRES spectrometer at the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, combined with data from the HARPS (High-Accuracy Radial-velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile.
Both instruments looks for the small wobbles stars make as their planets’ gravity tugs them back and forth. The HIRES project started looking for planets 25 years ago, back “when looking for planets made you look like a nut,” Butler said. At first the instruments could detect changes in a star’s velocity that were 300 meters per second or larger. That’s why the first extrasolar planets discovered were almost exclusively hot Jupiters: These monstrous planets that sit roastingly close to their stars will exert a bigger gravitational pull.
Since then, techniques have improved so that changes as small as 3 meters per second can be seen. That wouldn’t be enough to see Earth from 20 light-years away, Butler says. Because red dwarfs are so small and their habitable zones so close, though, Earth-sized planets have enough gravitational oomph to make a difference.
“The excitement here is that by looking at stars that are small it’s much easier to find small planets,” said exoplanet expert David Charbonneau of Harvard, who is hunting for small planets that cross in front of dwarf stars. “I think it’s great news for those of us looking for this kind of thing around this kind of star.”
But finding them takes a long time. In all, 238 measurements of the star’s wobbles, went into the discovery, and each measurement took a full night of observing.
For Butler and Vogt, though, 11 years wasn’t so long to wait. He’s actually surprised that a potentially habitable planet showed up so quickly and so nearby.
“The fact that we found one so close and so early on in the search suggests there’s a lot of these things,” Butler says. Only about 100 other stars are as close to Earth as Gliese 581, and only 9 of them have been closely examined for planets. Odds are good that 10 to 20 percent of stars in the Milky Way have habitable planets, Vogt says.
Finding them won’t take a huge advance in technology, he adds. It will just take more telescope time.
“I have suggested that we build a dedicated automated planet finder to do this kind of work 365 nights a year,” he said. “If we had something equivalent to Keck that we could use every night, these things would be pouring out of the sky.”
Drug-Filled Mice Airdropped Over Guam to Kill Snakes
NatGeo - Dead mice packed with drugs were recently airdropped into Guam's dense jungle canopy—part of a new effort to kill an invasive species of snake on the U.S. Pacific island territory.
In the U.S. government-funded project, tablets of concentrated acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, are placed in dead thumb-size mice, which are then used as bait for brown tree snakes.
In humans, acetaminophen helps soothe aches, pains, and fevers. But when ingested by brown tree snakes, the drug disrupts the oxygen-carrying ability of the snakes' hemoglobin blood proteins.
"They go into a coma, and then death," said Peter Savarie, a researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services, which has been developing the technique since 1995 through grants from the U.S. Departments of Defense and Interior.
Only about 80 milligrams of acetaminophen—equal to a child's dose of Tylenol—are needed to kill an adult brown tree snake. Once ingested via a dead mouse, it typically takes about 60 hours for the drug to kill a snake.
"There are very few snakes that will consume something that they haven't killed themselves," added Dan Vice, assistant state director of USDA Wildlife Services in Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Islands.
But brown tree snakes will scavenge as well as hunt, he said, and that's the "chink in the brown tree snake's armor."
Snakes Pests Decimated "Naïve" Wildlife
The brown tree snake is an arboreal species native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, and several Pacific islands. The snake preys on birds, lizards, bats, and small mammals.
Inadvertently introduced to Guam from the Solomon Islands after World War II, brown tree snakes are responsible for the extinction or severe reduction of several of the island's native species.
The brown tree snake "is a nocturnal, arboreal predator. There's just nothing like it here. It arrived here and found an island full of very naïve native wildlife," Vice said.
Over the years, scientists have developed several strategies to fight the reptile pest, including traps, snake-detecting dogs, and nighttime spotlight searches along airport and seaport fence lines.
Most of these strategies have focused on keeping the snake species from leaving Guam and sneaking onto ships headed for other islands, such as Hawaii, where scientists fear the predators could wreak similar havoc.
By contrast, this latest approach aims to take the fight into Guam's jungles, where most of the invasive snakes reside.
A popular misconception about Guam, Vice said, is that the entire island is overrun by brown tree snakes. In reality, most of the snakes are concentrated in the island's jungles, where it is difficult for humans to reach.
"You don't walk out the front door and bump into a snake every morning," Vice said.
Before the laced mice are airdropped, they are attached to "flotation devices" that each consist of two pieces of cardboard joined by a 4-foot-long (1.2-meter-long) paper streamer.
The flotation device was designed to get the bait stuck in upper tree branches, where the brown tree snakes reside, instead of falling to the jungle floor, where the drug-laden mice might inadvertently get eaten by nontarget species, such as monitor lizards.
There are few other species on Guam that could be tempted by the mouse bait, USDA's Savarie said, because the brown tree snakes have eaten most of them.
On September 1 USDA researchers performed a small-scale airdrop of about 200 baited mice onto 20 acres (8 hectares) of jungle around the U.S. Naval Base in Guam. USDA personnel flying low over Guam's jungles in helicopters dropped the baited devices one at a time, to ensure even coverage.
The drop was only the second in the project's history, and was done to help refine the technique before a larger field test is conducted in late 2010 or early 2011.
A small subset of mice in the latest drop was equipped with radio transmitters, which the team will use to determine the baits' efficiency.
"If we go out tomorrow and the radio signal from the bait has moved, it's very likely that [it was eaten by] a snake," Savarie said.
Wildlife Services collects the bodies of only the snakes that eat the mice that have radiocollars.
"We would not find other snakes that would eat the bait," said Kathy Fagerstone, Technology Transfer Program Manager for USDA Wildlife Services.
"However, the amount of acetaminophen in each mouse is small and would not present environmental hazards."
The baited mice could prove to be an effective tool against Guam's brown tree snakes, especially medium- and large-size adults, said Haldre Rogers, a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle who researches the effects of bird loss on Guam's native forests.
"The development of more tools like this is very important for restoring Guam's forests in the long run," said Rogers, who was not involved in the USDA project.
But all the tools currently at scientists' disposal, including the drug-filled mice, will at best simply control the island's snake population, not eradicate it entirely, she said.
"It's another arrow in our quiver," she said. "Unfortunately, we don't have the silver bullet for brown tree snakes yet."
USDA's Vice agreed: "There are a lot of things out there to control brown tree snakes. They all work, but they don't work completely," he said. "The idea of this aerial delivery of oral toxicants is that we now have a control tool that we can apply across a larger landscape."
Longer term, USDA researchers hope to create a nonbiological substitute for dead mice in the bait, something that the snakes will eat but that won't rot or attract flies, ants, and maggots in the jungle.
JonBenet Ramsey Murder Case Heating Up Again
aol - The author of a book about the slaying of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey says police want to reinterview her brother, who was 9 when the young beauty queen was killed in 1996.
Burke Ramsey, now 23, graduated from Purdue University in Indiana last year and lives in Atlanta, according to his Facebook page.
Boulder, Colo., police refuse to confirm a report that they want to question the brother of JonBenet Ramsey, shown here at a pageant in July 1996, regarding her death.
He was exonerated by DNA testing after JonBenet was strangled in the Ramsey family home in Boulder, Colo., but authorities are reportedly hoping that he may remember additional details.
Lawrence Schiller, author of a book about the Ramsey case titled "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town," told CBS's "The Early Show" on Tuesday that his sources had told him police were hoping to question the young man.
"They said the police had sent on their business cards and asked Burke, if his time permitted, if he could get in touch with them," Schiller said.
Boulder police refused today to confirm the report.
"We are not going to publicly reveal details about the investigation unless doing so would further the needs of the investigation," Police Chief Mark Beckner said in a statement.
After a seven-year hiatus, Boulder police became involved in the case again last year, creating a task force to review details and make recommendations. Beckner said at that time that advances in DNA testing and linguistics technology might help solve the case. He said agencies participating in the task force were the FBI, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the Colorado attorney general's office, the Denver district attorney's office, and the Boulder County and Jefferson County sheriff's departments.
FBI spokesman Dave Joly told AOL News today that he had not heard of any developments in the case. Ramsey could not be reached for comment. His phone number is unlisted.
Last year, Beckner said authorities had investigated 140 people as potential suspects. He said in his statement today that based on recommendations from the task force, there has been additional contact with those who may have information pertaining to the case. Authorities refused to elaborate.
JonBenet was found bludgeoned and strangled in the basement of her family's house on Dec. 26, 1996. A ransom note seeking $118,000 was also found in the 7,000-square-foot home.
Boulder, an affluent community 35 miles northwest of Denver, was shaken by the crime, the only murder in 1996. Initially, prosecutors said JonBenet's parents, John and Patsy, were under "an umbrella of suspicion." A grand jury refused to indict them, but they weren't officially cleared until 2008.
Patsy Ramsey died in June 2006 of ovarian cancer. Less than two months later, John Mark Karr, a 41-year-old teacher in Thailand obsessed with JonBenet's killing, was arrested after making bizarre, detailed confessions in her death. He was brought back to the United States, but he was released after authorities said his DNA did not match evidence in the case. No one has ever been tried for the crime.
John Ramsey, who now lives in Michigan, ran unsuccessfully for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2004.
Sarah Palin Obtains Order Against 'Evil' Stalker
Sarah Palin has obtained a protective order against an 18-year-old Pennsylvania man who began stalking the former Alaska Governor last year, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman in Wasilla, Alaska reported Wednesday.
A 20-day protective order was issued in Anchorage District Court against Shawn R. Christy who Palin, 46, said sent her receipts from a gun purchase, along with a letter which read "he tried to follow the Bible but had evil and wickedness in him."
Palin's friend Kristan Cole, 48, also received a protective order against Christy for stalking her and her family.
Christy is prohibited from following, approaching, confronting, watching or otherwise staking or threatening to stalk or assault Palin or Cole and their families.
Christy claimed he had a sexual relationship with Palin but the former Republican vice-presidential candidate has disputed the allegation.
Attorney Thomas Van Flein provided evidence from the Secret Service that alleged Christy wanted to sexually assault Palin.
Cole and Palin requested a long-term order which will be heard in court on October 13 at Anchorage District Court.
NOTE: Nut vs. Nuttier
Fortean / Oddball News: Bizarre Surgeon Records, Exoplanet Discovered and JonBenet Ramsey