A peregrine falcon dives, with free fall parachute camera crew, for a meat target. The bird of prey reaches a speed of 180mph with ease. This is a clip from a BBC wildlife documentary.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
During Queen Boudicca’s Iceni revolt against the Roman Empire in the years of AD 60 to 61 near Camulodunum (Colchester, Essex – Today’s England); A large number of soldiers from Rome’s Ninth Legion was almost wiped out. It was the famous Hispania IX Legion, which has become legendary in stories concerning its time in Ancient Britain. Such stories like; Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff caused many to wonder about the famous Ninth Legion. Some historians know that this Hispania IX was permanently stationed in Britain for a long period of time – around one hundred years, but then it suddenly vanished from the record without mention.
The Rosemary Sutcliff novel is, of course, fictitious but tells the story of the Legion being destroyed in Caledonia (Today’s Scotland.) This is almost certainly not true and the most likely probability is; Rome disbanded the Hispania IX or stationed it somewhere else without the detailed and historical documentation to hand. Also, some of the high-ranking officers of the Ninth are later recorded in other Legions in other parts of the Empire. They (Roman Ninth Legion) are recorded as being in areas of Germany and the Netherlands after Britain.
However, in reality; it is known that a large portion of the Ninth was slaughtered in battle by Boudicca’s Iceni, who were allied with Trinovante warriors during her attack on Camulodunum. This Roman relief force of the Hispania IX was dispatched to march to the aid of the remaining Roman survivors in Camulodunum. The last wretched inhabitants of the settlement for discharged Roman soldiers and their families. Some of the ex-soldiers had escaped with women and children from Boudicca’s initial attack. They sought sanctuary in the huge Claudian Temple and were besieged by the Iceni and Trinovante. Here the remaining defenders had barricaded themselves in and tried desperately to resist the merciless onslaught of Boudicca's Celtic warriors.
The unfortunate people of Camulodunum who got caught by the sudden attack had been slaughtered in horrific ways. These inhabitants had not been able to get to the Claudian temple and were caught in the streets and their dwellings. The mayhem and panic must have been horrendous. Woman and children who were Roman; or British who worked for the Roman settlers were butchered without any moderation – even slaves. Many were believed to have been impaled as the town was set ablaze - families put to the sword before the eyes of their relatives. In Colchester today; there is a layer of ash in the ground and archaeologists know that anything below the ash layer is the pre-chaos time of Boudicca AD 60.
The Ninth Legion is ordered to March
A Roman soldier named Quintus Petillius Cerialis was legate of the Hispania Ninth Legion and ordered by Suetonius (Roman Governor of Britain) to rescue the last remaining survivors of the besieged Claudian Temple. The forces of Cerialis were spread in various locations around the Cambridgeshire area some 75 miles away from Camulodunum. In surrounding forts of the marshy and flat Fenlands; he commanded around 5,000 troops. He was able to muster about 2,500 Roman soldiers, around fifty percent of his overall command. Once this was done, Quintus Petillius Cerialis hurriedly set off for Camulodunum. It is believed that the location was just north of the besieged town where the Iceni and Trinovante Britons lay in ambush along a pathway leading through dense woodland. Their own scouts would have learnt of the relief force and it is thought that 10,000 plus warriors were included in the British force that would confront the advancing Roman cohorts. Around 2,000 soldiers on foot and about 500 horsemen.
The Claudian temple, where the last remaining survivors were, might have fallen already by this time. It held for two days before being set ablaze with everyone inside. The last settlers perished amid flame and cascading debris as the temple was destroyed by the inferno. This might have given Queen Boudicca more time to prepare for the conflict that would come about.
Compared to the massacre of Camulodunum, then the further events of Londinium, Verulamium and the final Battle of Watling Street; the defeat of the Ninth Legion seems to be overshadowed. It was, however, a significant defeat upon Rome as the Britons were up against a more organised resistance. It might have been what led the British tribes to have ill-deserved confidence when they finally faced Gaius Suetonius Paulinus at the Battle of Watling Street.
What the conditions of the conflict with the Ninth Legion were is not properly known, though the ambush in dense woodland seems plausible. The Roman soldiers could have been rushed while on the march and from close proximity. They would have been spread out along a road carrying their equipment, allowing no time to form organised battle formations. The foot soldiers and other auxiliaries were overwhelmed and slaughtered. Only the troops on horseback escaped – among them Quintus Petillius Cerialis. Around 80% of the 2,500 troops were lost and this left the rest of the Ninth hold up in fortifications in the Fenlands of today’s Cambridgeshire, awaiting new instruction from Suetonius. These events were recorded by the Roman historian Tacitus and the British force that attacked the Ninth Legion was believed to be in excess of 10,000 warriors.
Cerialis was able to make some amends by taking part alongside Gaius Suetonius Paulinus during the final confrontation with Boudicca’s warriors at Watling Street. He would later become the Roman Governor of Britain in AD 71, some ten years later. After AD 69 – (Year of four Emperors,) he was seen in favour by Emperor Vespasian. He would lead campaigns against Venutius of the Brigante and may have destroyed the Great Hill Fort.
Saturday, 28 April 2012
The late Mariska Veres was from Belgium and here she is in 1969 singing Venus with her band Shocking Blue. The song has been done by other bands since, but Mariska is still my favourite for this particular track. Good old sound of the retro sixties and I'm sure there are many of you out there that can go back and remember these times of a rather rummy decade. Click and enjoy... :)
Sunday, 8 April 2012
I've always liked this folk jig done by Steelye Span - though I'm sure the jig is much older then this and has been done by many folk musicians prior. It a very jolly rum ditty tune.
|St Mary the Virgin Church|
I had never been to Foulness Island, even though it is close to where I live in Leigh-on-Sea. There is not much over there from what I've been told except some old British Army ranges and farm fields. I think because there are army ranges, the isolated islanders enjoy protection from the, so called, 'rat race' of modern life. This is not uncommon in the Highlands of Scotland or some of the areas of North Wales and North England, but down in the bustling South East corner of Britain and only 50 miles east of London - well...
|Foulness is cut off from mainland by river Crouch and the river Roach tributaries that flow back round into the sea|
Most places are rather populated, but once you venture past Southend and Shoeburyness, things become a little more sparse. There is a town called Great Wakering, which is rather small - mainly a high road and a few side streets that end at farm fields. Beyond this is the river tributary ( the Roach, I think) from the river Crouch leading back out to the sea. This is what cuts Foulness from the mainland as an island.
Down one such side street in Great Wakering; one can drive to a fenced off enclosure. This stops people getting into the army area where test shooting goes on. Therefore a restricted area where one needs permission to pass at a checkpoint.
On Thursday 6th April 2012, I went to this check point for the first time because I had a van and a trailer with grass cutting equipment aboard. A triple mower that a work mate used plus a push mower and a petrol operated strimmer. We had to cut the grass of the old church on the island of Foulness but had to pass the checkpoint on the mainland before driving over a bridge and onto the isolated island of Foulness. When we gave our reasons for going onto the island, we were given a pass and went on our way. I was surprised at how big the island was and the small community of island dwellers that worked the farms and some that lived in a village called Churchend. There was a sea wall to our right as we went through the small community of the village and my work mates met another grass cutter working on some verges here. We stopped and exchanged a few pleasantries before moving onto to St Mary the Virgin Church. As I drove along the island was mostly farms and flat coastal marshland with scattered trees.
Next to the old church was an old pub - no longer in use, and an old looking groceries store (All in above pictures.) The old Scottish security guard at the checkpoint was telling us that the church had no one looking after it anymore but there were preservation people interested in buying the building. However, there was no solid foundation to the church and it was sinking a bit and was fenced off around the building. Evidently St Mary the Virgin Church needs to be underpinned.
We went into the cemetery and cut the overgrown grass and I was trimming all around the grave stones. This took us a few hours, but was very pleasant work on the isolated island. The place was teaming with the more rare birds and a huge hare darted up from behind one of the old grave stones as we worked. Some of the stones were so old and weathered that they could not be read. I did make one out as departing this world in 1769 at the age of eighty. There were some more modern grave stones too.
There is also a small museum further along from the church which was once a school that closed in 1988. In this museum, there are artifacts that offer evidence of a Roman-Briton settlement upon the island. It was also flooded in 1953 during the great flood of this time. Two people were killed and the rest of the islanders had to be evacuated from the high point by the church where most of the islanders had to gather. Some had to be forcefully removed because they did not want to leave their live stock.
All these things seemed far removed from the quite of this island when I was working in St Mary the Virgin church grave yard. Also the TV series of Sharpe was once filmed here during the story of Sharpe's Regiment with Sean Bean.
|Gravestone of Ionas Allin|
(I remember this one, but I'm certain I saw one saying aged 80 in passing.)
Saturday, 7 April 2012
Today 7th April, we acquired this little Moggy Kitten called Lilly. She was born 5th February and is two months. She was meowing all the way from Canvey Island to Leigh-on-Sea, because she was a little confused. However, once indoors, she seemed to settle down and become very nosey concerning her surroundings. As I type these words, Lilly as fallen asleep on my lap. I think she has taken a shine to me.
We are going to allow her to have a litter when she gets older, but until then; no acne faced Toms are getting anywhere near her. She has become more settled and playful as time goes by. At first she was crouching nervously as she explored, but a little later, Lilly became bolder and started moving around with more confidence.
She enjoys her toy mouse filled with catnip - a garden herb that cats are attracted to.
Next Day 8th April.
Lilly seems very at home now and is jumping and running about - climbing all over Carole and me while we watch tv. I'm wondering if she is enjoying the attention more, because there were about seven or eight kittens in the home we got her from. She uses the litter tray and is looking out through the conservatory windows into the garden. Obviously she is too young to go out just yet, but soon she'll be able to and then Lilly will be able to explore a whole new world.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
The sheer size of Titanoboa meant it had no trouble devouring prey as large as alligators
A recently discovered prehistoric monster snake provides answers about the past - and raises questions for the future.
Around 58 million years ago, a monstrous snake slithered out of the swampy jungles of South America and began a reign of terror.
Weighing more than a tonne and measuring 14m (approximately 50ft) the giant reptile could swallow a whole crocodile without showing a bulge. But a few years ago, scientists never even knew it existed.
"Never in your wildest dreams do you expect to find a 14m boa constrictor. The biggest snake today is half that size," says Dr Carlos Jaramillo, a scientist with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and part of the team that made the discovery.
'World of lost reptiles'
Thought to be a distant relative of the anaconda and boa constrictor, the snake - named Titanoboa - was not venomous. Instead, it crushed its prey with the constricting force of 400lbs per sq inch - the equivalent of lying under the weight of one and a half times the Brooklyn Bridge.
Changing climates and changing continents are the fuel of evolution. But things that happen very quickly can result in the types of change we might not view very positively”
End Quote Jonathan Bloch University of Florida
The fossils were exposed by excavation at the massive Cerrejon open-face coal mine in northern Colombia. In 2002, scientists had discovered at that site the remains of a tropical rainforest from the Palaeocene Epoch - perhaps the planet's first.
As well as fossilised leaves and plants, they unearthed reptiles so big they defied imagination.
"What we found was a giant world of lost reptiles - turtles the size of a kitchen table and the biggest crocodiles in the history of fossil records," says Jonathan Bloch, an expert in vertebrate evolution at the University of Florida.
They also found the vertebrae of a colossal snake.
"After the extinction of the dinosaurs, this animal, the Titanoboa, was the largest predator on the surface of the planet for at least 10 million years," says Dr Bloch. "This was a major animal in any sense of the imagination."
Search for skulls
But scientists needed the snake's skull to get a full picture of how it looked, what food it ate and how it might be related to modern species. Last year, a team set out to find it, with little expectation of success. Because the bones of a snake's skull are so fragile, few survive.
"Unlike our skulls, snake skulls aren't fused together. Instead they're connected with tissue," says Dr Jason Head, a snake specialist from the University of Nebraska.
"When the animal dies, the connective tissue decomposes and all the individual bones are generally dispersed. They're very thin and fragile too and often get destroyed. Because Titanoboa is so big and the skull bones are so large, it's one of the few snakes that do make it into the fossil record."
To their amazement, the team recovered the remains of three skulls from which the reptile could be accurately reconstructed for the first time.
Giant animals in history
- Blue whale: still swimming today, blue whales measure 30m (100ft) long
- Brachiosaur: this dinosaur measured 23m (75ft) long and 12m (40 ft) high
- Chan's Metastick: this stick insect, native to Borneo, measures 56.7cm, (22.3 in)
- Pterosaurs - this flying reptile had a wingspan of 5.1 meters (16ft)
From that, they were able to get a better sense of how Titanoboa lived and looked. A life-sized replica is now on display at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, and will begin a nationwide tour in 2013.
Aside from the excitement of discovering a new and enormous species of snake, the reptile can tell scientists a lot about the history of the Earth's climate - and offer a glimpse of the possible effects of global warming today.
Snakes are unable to regulate their own temperature and depend on external heat to survive.
"We think the Titanoboa became this large because it was much warmer on the equator after the dinosaurs died 60 million years ago," says Dr Bloch. "We think that's why reptiles in general were larger.
That ability to thrive in a warm climate could be relevant in the event that global temperatures rise according to the projections of climate scientists, Dr Bloch adds.
"It's evidence that ecosystems can thrive at temperatures of the levels that are being projected over the next one or two hundred years."
But the climate changes that produced Titanoboa took millions of years. Scientists are less certain about the effects of sudden temperature change.
"Biology is amazingly adaptable. Changing climates and changing continents are the fuel of evolution. But things that happen very quickly can result in the types of change we might not view very positively," says Dr Bloch.
As well as being warmer, CO2 levels were also 50% higher during the period of the Cerrejon rainforest.
"One big lesson we are learning from the fossils in Cerrejon is that tropical plants and the ecosystem in general have the ability to cope with high temperatures and high levels of CO2, another major concern with the current trend of global warming," says Dr Jaramillo.
"Perhaps the plants and animals of the tropics today already have the genetic ability to cope with global warming."
Does that mean the Titanoboa could one day return?
"As the temperature increases, you have the probability they will come back," says Dr Jaramillo. "But it takes geological time to develop a new species. It could take a million years - but perhaps they will!"
Sunday, 1 April 2012
Once again, Moyra Melons' happily over excited husband came home from work, to be asked for the benefit of his opinion, concerning her new ear rings.
"What do you think of these?" she asked as he walked into the lounge.
For a brief moment, he was taken aback; as one might well imagine. His reply was a little confused at first.
"Think of what?" He babbled as his eyes almost bulged out of his head.
"Do you like what you see? I have to make sure I get it right and create an impression when we go to your works function," Moyra added excitedly. She was rather fond of these particular ear rings.
"Well I certainly think you'll cause a commotion dear," came his startled answer.
Moyra frowned and looked confused. "A commotion? Oh dear, I just wanted to turn a few heads with these."
"Oh, I can guarantee you'll turn a few heads Moyra."
Moyra Melons calmed down a little as she continued. "Well that is fine, but it still does not explain why I would cause a commotion."
"Oh well," replied her husband. "Perhaps I should demonstrate why you would cause a commotion."
"Please do," replied Moyra as her smiling and appreciative husband closed the lounge door.
Afterwards, Moyra wanted to show him the dress she intended to ware because she had an inkling that he might have been confused on certain matters concerning what she would be showing at the works function besides her ear rings.