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October 2002 Archive

James Cook was the 18th-century explorer who sailed off the map to become the first European discoverer of many places and cultures in the Pacific Ocean. In his new book, Blue Latitudes, Tony Horwitz records how he retraced Cook's journeys, looking for traces of the intrepid mariner in places as far flung as the Tongan archipelago, Niue, the Cook Islands, and the Aleutians.

With no regulations in place, Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast has become overfished and the reefs wiped clean. The lobster industry has shifted its diving sites to deeper water, and lobster boat captains push inexperienced, ill-equipped divers to probe greater depths and risk their lives for bigger catches. The results are gruesome.

Kids reading books to dogs? It may seem silly to some, but the results of an innovative Salt Lake City program are no laughing matter. Participating children have shown dramatic improvement in their reading skills, and 14 other states are now following Utah's lead.

Scientists find that some types of sea snake possess homing behavior that may scupper conservation efforts. Researchers had proposed relocating the amphibious reptiles from healthy populations to snake-depleted islands, but now it looks as though they may have to find an alternative solution.

India is home to some 1,200 different species of birds. Despite measures designed to protect this rich array of bird life by banning the capture and trade of wild birds, records indicate that as many as 300 of these species are caught and traded with impunity.

Efforts to treat and prevent malaria, one of the world's most pressing health problems, just got a major boost. Two teams of scientists have decoded all the genes of the parasite and the mosquito associated with the most severe form of the disease.

Archaeologists in Egypt continue to uncover pieces of the ancient past—and not all of their discoveries are found in the tombs of pharaohs. An upcoming National Geographic Television Special, Egypt Eternal: The Quest for Lost Tombs, follows archaeologists as they dig to uncover the mysteries of ancient Egypt.

The world's most abundant insect, Collembola, have been around for at least 400 million years, and exist in as many as 100,000 varieties. Many species live in soil and are an important component of agricultural ecosystems. Now, a scientist is scouring the soils of Brazil to find out more about the Collembola that dwell there—knowledge that could benefit farming in one of the world's most threatened ecosystems.

The first expedition-style, international adventure race in seven years was held in the U.S. this summer. Environmentalists feared the event would do serious damage in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. National Geographic Adventure magazine discusses the event with its organizer, Dan Barger.

Astronomers have discovered the largest object in the solar system since Pluto was named the ninth planet in 1930. The object is half the size of Pluto, composed primarily of rock and ice, and circles the sun once every 288 years. Full story and photo gallery:

How do female Asian elephants signal roaming males that it's mating season? They produce "chemical love letters" in the form of a female pheromone. Now new research reveals a chemical in the male that alerts him that the amorous encounter is finished. This story airs on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today.

Swedish adventurer Göran Kropp, 35, fell to his death while climbing a popular route on the Frenchmen Coulee, in central Washington state. Kropp was known for his 7,000-mile bike ride from Sweden to Nepal, when he summited Everest without oxygen, and rode his bicycle back home. This story is reported by National Geographic Adventure magazine.

Wild salmon populations in North America face a multitude of threats: overfishing, dams blocking access to spawning grounds, commercial salmon farms, water diversion and irrigation projects, and timber companies clear-cutting forests to name just a few. Two recently published books tell the stories of two salmon rivers—one in Maine, the other in Alaska—and the efforts being made to protect them. Full story and photo gallery:

The Arctic has become a repository for some of the world's most toxic chemicals, and at higher concentrations than previously thought. The effects are being felt by humans and animals—from high blood pressure in newborn Inuits to fewer births for polar bears. This story airs on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today.

Veteran climber Gregory Crouch has climbed the Patagonian Andes seven times—and counting. Along the way, he's penned yarns of summits reached, opportunities lost, laughs shared, and snowbound days up high. His new book, Enduring Patagonia, provides a window to cutting-edge alpinism in a remote corner of the world. The Quest for Adventure lecture series,sponsored by Nature Valley, brings great explorers and adventurers to the National Geographic Society. If you missed this year's explorers, read the tale of their adventures.

One in every three of the world's apes, monkeys, lemurs, and other primates is now endangered with extinction, according to a report released this week by Conservation International (CI) and the Primate Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The number of species and sub-species classified as "critically endangered" and "endangered" jumped nearly two-thirds to 195 over the past two years.

Peruvian archaelogists used aerial photography to identify new giant "geoglyph" etchings south of Lima. These new geoglyphs predate previously discovered giant figure etchings made by the Nasca people, who flourished in the desert valleys of Palpa from 200 B.C. to the middle of the seventh century A.D.

In a study of three species of monogamous shorebirds, researchers found that "illegitimate" chicks were found overwhelmingly in the nests of partners with a high degree of genetic similarity. Scientists think that the birds cheated on their partners to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

A row has erupted between scientists over whether a fossil found in Chad and described in a research journal a few months ago really is a skull of the earliest known human ancestor. The dispute is about whether the six to seven million-year-old fossil is a hominid or an ape. Both views are argued in this week's journal Nature.

The prime minister of Canada recently announced that his government would create ten new national parks, which would double the total area of the country's existing park lands. Now, environmentalists are watching closely to see whether the government follows through.

Scientists have announced the discovery of a dinosaur fossil so intact that they have found its skin, muscle, foot pads—and even its last meal in its stomach.

Amid reports of declining amphibian populations worldwide, scientists have made an unexpected discovery of more than a hundred new species of frogs in the Sri Lankan rain forest, making the Indian Ocean island one of the world's "hot spots" for these environmentally sensitive animals.

In a recent National Geographic News interview, Traveler Editor Keith Bellows asserted that the United Nations failed to give tourism the attention it deserved at the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa. Eugenio Yunis—head of Sustainable Development of Tourism at the World Tourism Organization, dismisses Bellows's claim, arguing that tourism was a high priority. Here, Yunis gives his take on tourism's place at the Summit.

Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley put their storytelling skills to work in a book overflowing with larger-than-life historical figures—heroes and villains, the famous and the obscure. The Mississippi and the Making of a Nation, written to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, celebrates the history, people, and geography of the region acquired in that deal. Full story, video, and photo gallery:

The carousel of life keeps turning, in time showing sides you might never see while moving with it. You need not always go to the birds. If you're patient, nature's ultimate travelers will come to you—the inspiration for the Big Sit, a birding event that takes place the second Sunday in October.

For his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development, former President Jimmy Carter has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002.

For his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development, former President Jimmy Carter has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002.

For his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development, former President Jimmy Carter has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002.

Terrorist groups are seeking nuclear weapons, according to intelligence agencies. If they acquire them, the world will face a threat unlike any other in its history. How are these rogues pursuing their nuclear ambitions? What can be done to stop them? This report airs on National Geographic EXPLORER this weekend.

While tattoos will always remain taboo to some, they have gone mainstream in the United States—and you might be surprised to learn who is sporting them. Tattoos are the subject of Taboo, airing on the National Geographic Channel in the United States on Monday.

Stephen E. Ambrose, one of the most popular historians to hit the New York Times best-seller list, died Sunday, October 13. Ambrose was a prolific writer, founder of the National D-Day Museum, and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

More than a thousand years after the fall of the Great Library of Alexandria, a marvel of ancient Egypt, a new Bibliotheca Alexandrina opens today in this storied Egyptian coastal city. This report airs on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today. Full story and photo gallery:

No season brings out photographers like autumn. It's not only because this is arguably the most colorful time of year—spring, summer and winter are, in their ways, every bit as beautiful. National Geographic News birding and nature correspondent Robert Winkler shares his tips about photographing fall. Full story and photo gallery:

In a centuries-old ritual in northern Thailand known as the "training crush," young elephants are subjected to beatings, sleep deprivation, hunger, and thirst to break their spirit and make them submissive to their owners. This story airs on our U.S. cable television program National Geographic Today. Full story and photo gallery:

Scientists and divers will participate in an expedition to the barrier reefs of Belize in November, as part of a worldwide celebration of the 30th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention. The convention has been ratified by 175 nations, making it the world's most widely recognized tool for protecting the sites, landscapes, and monuments that represent our global natural and cultural heritage.

Jennifer Hile, a freelance journalist and documentary-maker, spent two and a half months in Northern Thailand investigating the plight of domestic elephants. During her visit she sent frequent dispatches to National Geographic Today. This one describes her experience with elephant orphans and "Elephant Heaven"—a sanctuary for abused elephants founded by Sangduen "Lek" Chailert. Chailert is a well-known Chiang-Mai based activist who runs Jumbo Express, a program bringing free veterinary care to elephants. Full story and photo gallery:

Visit the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 remote islands off the coast of Africa, and you'll find hardly a footprint in the sand. The islands have remained largely untouched and unchanged over the years because of enlightened tourism policies. Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows, having just returned from a trip to the Seychelles, talks about why this corner of the world is truly remarkable, and why it just might stay that way.

For years, Bali was a peaceful enclave in conflict-ridden Indonesia. The popular tourist destination attracted 1.5 million visitors just last year. But on October 12, the peace was shattered when a car bomb exploded outside a tourist-packed nightclub, killing over 180 people. Now, few visitors are likely to return anytime soon. Here Traveler Editor Keith Bellows talks about the future of Bali's travel industry, alternative island getaways, and more.

Biologists in Peru experienced the highs and lows of wildlife research this summer in the Peruvian Amazon. After three years of unsuccessful attempts to capture a rare short-eared dog in the wild, they finally caught one, fit it with a radio collar, and released it. Two weeks later, the dog was dead, shot by a hunter.

Researchers may have uncovered the first ancient artifact that refers to Jesus as an actual person and identifies James, the first leader of the Christian church, as his brother. The evidence comes from an inscription on a 2,000-year-old box that once held bones.

Most of America's dogs are pampered pets, but a small percent work for their biscuits. Among these gainfully employed canines, there's a range of occupations, from seeing-eye and guard dogs to sheep herders and hunting dogs. But artists? This story is part of the Dogs With Jobs series airing on the National Geographic Channel.

Voodoo is widely regarded as a mysterious and sinister practice that's taboo in many cultures. But a program airing on the National Geographic Channel tonight, Taboo: Voodoo, punctures some widespread misconceptions and shows just how much voodoo has in common with mainstream religions.

For more than a decade anglers and environmentalists have suspected the collapse of sea trout stocks in western Scotland was linked to a parasite found around salmon farms. Their fears have now been confirmed by a government study.

Forty years ago this month, the Kennedy administration discovered that the Soviet Union was constructing missiles in Cuba—and the resulting U.S. government ban on U.S. tourist travel to Cuba remains today. Traveler Editor Keith Bellows recalls his visit to Cuba, predicts what could happen if the embargo were lifted, and more.

When birder and illustrator David Allen Sibley published a hefty new book two years ago that went well beyond the usual field guide, it was an immediate success. His latest book, a slim paperback titled Sibley's Birding Basics, concentrates on the human side of field identification. Birders at all levels of experience will find nuggets of value in it.

Birder Mel White muses on rediscovering a passion nurtured in childhood after he was introduced to birds by his mother in Arkansas. "Birds have enhanced my life in ways that I couldn't have imagined at 20," he writes.

On a cold, rainy day in January 2001 when George W. Bush took the oath of office as President, Diana Walker retired from more than 20 years of photographing inside the White House. Her book, Public & Private, captures memorable photos of Presidents, First Ladies, and others as they walked into history. Full story and photo gallery:

Researchers studying prehistoric human migration patterns in Chile's Atacama Desert have long been perplexed by a pattern of occupation, abandonment, and recolonization in the region and what accounted for it. New findings link the situation to climate change—specifically, bouts of extreme drought.

Mother and daughter paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey have been named the newest explorers-in-residence at the National Geographic Society. Carrying on the fossil-hunting work begun by Louis Leakey in 1924, they have made many important discoveries that are helping to answer the mysteries of human origins.

Warmer temperatures are melting ice and eroding the world's glaciers. But scientists do not know how global warming may affect Earth's two major ice sheets, in Greenland and Antarctica, which contain enough fresh water to potentially raise the sea level approximately 225 feet (70 meters). NASA plans to launch a new satellite to study the ice and how it moves.

A new report asserts that elephants in European zoos are often in ill health, endure considerable stress, and have a much shorter life than their counterparts in the wild. The report by the UK's Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals calls for wide-ranging changes in the way captive elephants are treated.

Giant hornets in the mountains of Japan have venom so strong it can dissolve human tissue.

Scientists have produced the first map that traces human influence on the natural world, and the numbers are big. Overall, 83 percent of total land surface and 98 percent of the areas where it is possible to grow the world's three main crops is directly affected by human activities.

Witchcraft is an ancient practice, rooted in the celebration of the natural world but long viewed by wary outsiders as an evil taboo. Practitioners of witchcraft exist today in many societies around the world, conjuring both good and ill. But does their magic have any real power?

National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths Belt and prize-winning author Barbara Kingsolver have collaborated on a book that looks at some of the last remaining remnants of U.S. wilderness. To help ensure the survival of natural places such as these, the two women have tied the project to conservation efforts.

In William Shakespeare's Macbeth, three witches brew a potion of animal parts: toad "venom," snake fillets, newt eyes, and more. What is it about certain animals and their body parts that makes us think of witchcraft and Halloween? Full story, dramatic reading, and photo gallery:

Experts have been studying a roll of papyrus found with a mummy from the second century B.C. It is, they say, the oldest surviving example of a Greek poetry book, making it the most significant discovery in Greek literature in several decades.

A recent deep-sea expedition to the Galápagos Rift focused on giant tubeworms that live amid underwater hydrothermal vents discovered 25 years ago. Biologists are eager to find out how the worms survive the harsh conditions, which may resemble the environment in which life first evolved.

Grey-headed flying foxes are moving into the botanic gardens of Sydney and Melbourne in huge numbers. These normally nomadic bats are settling down in the city because of changes to the environment, and so far are resisting attempts to move them on.

In the United States and other countries, populations of barn owls have declined dramatically over recent decades, mainly as a result of shrinking farm land and expansive areas the owls need for foraging. Now, farmers, conservationists, and scientists in many areas are working to reintroduce these "ghost" owls by installing nesting boxes.

Was Dudleytown in northwest Connecticut cursed from the start? Many people believe that's what explains the disproportionate number of horrors that befell residents of the tiny town before it was abandoned a century ago. Today, reports of ghosts and other strange experiences in the area's dark, owl-filled forest draw curiosity-seekers to the legendary site.

Halloween is the perfect time for hair-raising adventures away from home. Traveler Editor in Chief Keith Bellows offers his take on five of the world's scariest experiences.

A museum in Guanajuato, Mexico, takes pride in one of its permanent exhibits: more than 100 former residents who were mummified unintentionally as a result of an overcrowded cemetery and the area's extremely dry environment. Mummy specialists Ron Beckett and Jerry Conlogue recently examined the diverse collection. What they found supported some colorful local legends about the fates of the town's ancestors.

Druids, Pagans, Travelers, and other alternative groups in the United Kingdom are demanding a say in the management of ancient sacred monuments such as Stonehenge. Researchers who studied the issue agree that the groups should have a bigger role.

San Diego researchers are implanting radio transmitters into rosy boas, red racers, and red diamond rattlesnakes to identify areas they consider prime real estate. Scientists anticipate that using the animals to mark out their own critical habitat could ultimately guide conservation efforts and influence city planning. logo