Friday, November 23, 2012
Phantom Island 'Un-Discovered'
For more than a decade it has featured on the world's maps. Viewed from Google Earth, Sandy Island appears as a dark, tantalising sliver, set amid the shimmering vastness of the Pacific Ocean.
But when marine scientists arrived at the island in the Coral Sea off Australia they were in for something of a shock: it didn't exist. Where there was supposed to be a sandy outcrop complete with palm trees, a few coconuts and maybe a turtle there was merely blue undulating water.
The Australian scientists, led by Maria Seaton, a geologist at Sydney University, had embarked on a voyage to study plate tectonics. They spotted that the enigmatic island lay along their route.
But there were several puzzling discrepancies: though the island appeared on the Google Earth map, there were no images of it.
It had also featured for the past 12 years on the usually reliable world coastline database. But there was no sign of it on their sea chart.
Dr Steven Micklethwaite, a crew member from the University of Western Australia, recalled: "We went upstairs to the bridge and found that the navigation charts the ship uses didn't have it.
"And so at that point we thought: Well, who do we trust? Do we trust Google Earth or do we trust the navigation charts? "
The scientist added: "This was one of those intriguing questions. It wasn't far outside of our path. We decided to actually sail through the island ... Lo and behold there was nothing! The ocean floor didn't ever get shallower than 1300 metres below the wave-base. There's an island in the middle of nowhere that doesn't actually exist."
Micklethwaite told the Sydney Morning Herald that the ship's captain was nervous about running aground and proceeded cautiously as they made their "un-discovery". "We all had a good giggle at Google as we sailed through the island. It was one of those happy circumstances in science. You come across something somebody has never noticed before."
The scientists would now send the correct data to the authorities to get the world map fixed, he said.
The non-discovery took place during a 25-day expedition by Australia's Marine National Facility, on board its RV Southern Surveyor research vessel. Had the island existed it would have belonged to France, since its location near the archipelago of New Caledonia is in French territorial waters. (If real and emphatically Gallic, it would presumably have been called Île de Sable, rather than the less than inspiring Sandy Island.)
Speaking on Thursday, Danny Dorling, president of the British Society of Cartographers, said it was not surprising that the error had crept in. "You can't create a perfect map. You never will," he said. "Our current world map is a collection of highly accurate satellite maps and some of the oldest data collected from Admiralty charts."
The mistake would have been surprising if the location had been a busy shipping lane or populated area, Dorling said. "The Coral Sea is in the middle of nowhere."
Humans have been making maps for thousands of years. They probably predate writing. (The earliest – a cave painting 30,000 years old – shows some early humans in a rectangle.) According to Dorling, maps serve two purposes: one practical, to help us navigate and find our way around; the other existential, to give us a sense of perspective, and to define our place on a large and ever-changing planet. "It gives you a sense of identity," he said.
Dorling also said that in the case of Sandy Island it was probably human error that had led to its creation. Charts were, after all, originally compiled by sailors using a watch and measuring longitude, with ancient sailors travelling by the stars. Far from being fixed, the world map is mutable too: with new islands and archipelagoes appearing following volcanic eruptions, and others disappearing in the same way.
The cartographer said it was just possible that Sandy Island – now a non-island, according to its Wikipedia entry – would have the last laugh.
"It's unlikely someone made this island up. It's more likely that they found one and put it in the wrong location. I wouldn't be surprised if the island does actually exist, somewhere nearby."
The legendary island has been the subject of discussion and parody since ancient times. According to Plato, Atlantis sank into the ocean "in a single day and night of misfortune". This was 10,000 years ago. No-one has been able to find it since. Numerous locations have been suggested: the Mediterranean, the middle of the Atlantic, Turkey, Crete, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico and southwestern Andalusia. Despite its enduring appeal, scholars can't agree if Atlantis really ever was a naval power, or a historical fiction dating back to earliest times.
Invented by Jonathan Swift, Laputa is a flying island or rock that features in Gulliver's Travels. Its residents use magnetic levitation to manoeuvre the island in different directions. Laputan society is divided between the educated - who practice maths and astronomy - and servants. A tyrant is in charge; he crushes his enemies by landing on them.
Less famous, perhaps, than Atlantis but no less worthy, San Serriffe is a fictional island nation created by journalists at the Guardian. The nation was invented as an April Fool's Day spoof in 1977; a description of it ran over 10 pages and appeared to fool some people. San Serriffe was located in the Southern Ocean (not far from Sandy Island, relatively speaking) Its inhabitants were called the Flong; for many years the autocratic General Pica was its ruler; happily, it later became democratic. - Guardian
My friend and colleague Rick Phillips has posted an interesting take on the 2012 'end of times' craze - "No One Left Alive In 1985 Will Ever Do"
Daytime Disk UFO - Ulster County, New York
A reader has forwarded their recent report to NUFORC:
Occurred: 11/19/2012 11:50 (Entered as: 11/19/12 11:50)
Reported: 11/19/2012 1:49:21 PM 13:49
Location: Saugerties/Kingston, NY
Rocking, slow moving disk high in sky visible due to reflected sunlight
I was traveling south on the New York State Thruway between exits 20 (Saugerties) and 19 (Kingston). The sun was quite bright overhead - not visible to me. Ahead of me were high flying clouds approaching from the south (they then totally dispersed, on the trip back they were nowhere to be seen.) These were, again, HIGH flying clouds.
I was going 62 miles per hour (I know this because I watch my speedometer carefully and the car in front of me was a bit slower than usual). I had reached (approximately) the mid-way point (mile marker 96-95) between Saugerties and Kingston exits which are eight miles from one another. I’m unsure the exact direction since the road has many wide curves but it was the southbound lane (two lane thruway, I was in the right hand lane). It was approximately 11:50 AM (I checked the car clock a couple of minutes later at 11:54). I noticed a very bright, gleaming object reflecting sunlight. It appeared in the sky immediately to my left in front of me (impossible to know how high it was.) It was not low flying, it had no wings or rotors, and if it were at a cruising altitude of a commercial airliner, it would have been huge. It flew much higher than a small plane could or any helicopter, it was not a dirigible or anything easily identifiable. As directed, if I had to compare i! ts size to that of the sun (mid-day) it appeared flatter top and bottom, and perhaps 3/4 as wide.
It drifted "slowly" (in an easy manner) more toward the center of my windshield (this all took place in 7 to 10 seconds), stopped, rocked two times (like a plane rocking its wings) and slowly and smoothly went back to the original position. It was metallic (which caused the sun to reflect off it as I stated) and shaped rather like a disc (saucer). The road then curved widely and treed area came between me and that portion of the sky for several seconds (perhaps another eight) before I could get a glimpse of that piece of the sky again (which was extremely identifiable because of the formation of high flying clouds in an otherwise crystal blue sky). The object was no longer visible.
When I reached my destination and parked, it so happened that the formation of clouds was directly in my line of vision. I was able, standing still, to see that they were quite high. A commercial jetliner was climbing to cruising altitude (I am 40 miles from both Albany and Newburgh airports, so planes climbing are commonly seen). The plane appeared to be almost at cruising altitude and was quite high. It entered the cloud structures and I lost sight of it. I believe that the object I saw while driving also got "lost" into the cloud structure which explains why it was suddenly no longer visible (as the plane was suddenly no longer visible). This suggests to me that the object I saw was flying as high as, or close to, the altitude of the commercial jetliner (since the same formation of clouds provided cover for both, once entered).
The most interesting aspect was the "rocking," a lazy but precise maneuver, before it went back toward the direction where I had first seen it. It was oval, as I said, rather like ( ) but with brackets top/bottom and very bright due to reflected sunlight. It was obviously under control (the rocking indicates that to me) and was being deliberately maneuvered.
((NUFORC Note: We spoke with this witness, and she seemed to us to be quite eloquent and sincere in her description of her sighting. We suspect that she is a highly reliable witness. PD))
The Everything UFO Book: An investigation of sightings, cover-ups, and the quest for extraterrestial life (Everything Series)
UFOs: The Great Debate: An Objective Look at Extraterrestrials, Government Cover-Ups, and the Prospect of First Contact
Chariots of Gods or Demons?: The Incredible Truth About UFOs and Extraterrestrials
Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus’ Date of Birth
Pope Benedict XVI has revealed in the third installment of his trilogy, dedicated to the life of Christ, that Jesus may have been born earlier than previously thought. The calendar we use today, which commences with the birth of Christ and was created by a Dionysius Exiguus, a 6th century monk, may be mistaken. According to the Telegraph, the Pope explains in his book that Exiguus, who is considered the inventor of the Christian calendar, “made a mistake in his calculations by several years. The actual date of Jesus’ birth was several years before.” The suggestion that Jesus wasn’t actually born on Dec. 25 has been tirelessly debated by theologians, historians and spiritual leaders, but what makes this case different is that now the leader of the Catholic Church is the one asking the questions.
Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives was published on Tuesday. Like the previous two installments, it’s predicted to be a best seller, and a million copies of the book have already been printed. It is expected that the book will be translated into another 20 languages for publication in 72 countries. The Infancy Narratives follows the life of Jesus from conception to his presentation in the temple at the age of 12. The Pope describes this third book as a “small antechamber” to the trilogy on Jesus of Nazareth, reports the Vatican Press Office. Continue reading at Pope Benedict Disputes Jesus’ Date of Birth
Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection
Stranded (at Home) in China
*An elderly couple refuse to move as a road is built around their apartment
*They insist the government's relocation compensation is not enough
A lone apartment building stands in the middle of a newly built road after an elderly couple refused to relocate.
Luo Baogen and his wife insist on living in the half-demolished building in the city of Wenling, in Zhejiang province, China because they believe that the relocation compensation offered by the government is not enough.
Now the only building left standing, the five storey block is a strange sight as cars drive around it while the couple remain living inside.
To ensure the couple’s safety, adjacent rooms in the building have been left intact but all their neighbours have moved out, according to local media.
The road paved through the Xiazhangyang village leads to the Wenling railway station and is yet to be officially opened.
Mr Baogen and his wife believe that the compensation on offer would not be enough to cover their rebuilding costs.
In the People's Republic of China, during most of the Communist era, private ownership of property was abolished, making it easy for residents to be moved on - but now the laws have been tightened up and it is illegal to demolish property by force without an agreement.
Property owners in China that refuse to move to make way for development are known as 'Nail Householders' referring to a stubborn nail that is not easy to remove from a piece of old wood and cannot be pulled out with a hammer.
Earlier this year, Hong Chunqin, 75, and her husband Kung, who live in the two dilapidated buildings with their two sons, had initially agreed to sell the property in Taizhou, in Zhejiang province and accepted £8,000 in compensation.
But then she changed her mind and refunded the money once work on the road had started.
Earlier this year, Niu Chuangen and Zhang Zhongyun dared to stand in the way of a local property developer in Zaozhuang, in the Shandong province.
As a result, the resolute couple, both in their 60s, have been left stranded on their tiny spot of land, while all around them the ground is dug up and skyscrapers erected.
The distraught pair were regularly threatened by gangsters and have had to fend over a number of attempts to illegally demolish their ramshackle home.
They were cut off from utilities in 2009 when a local developer started the enormous earthworks involved in building dozens of high-rise residential buildings in the area.
In another case, one family among 280 others at the site of a six storey shopping mall being built in Chongqing refused to leave their home for two years.
Developers cut their power and water, and excavated a 10-meter deep pit around their home, which their family had inhabited for three generations.
The owners broke into the construction site, reoccupied it, and flew a Chinese flag on top and then Yang Wu, a local martial arts champion, used nunchakus to make a staircase to the house and threatened to beat any authorities who attempted to evict him.
The owners turned down an offer of £300,000 but eventually settled with the developers in 2007. - Daily Mail