Saturday, August 20, 2016

Some Smithsonian Snippets

From the Smithsonian online magazine  . . .

Adorable Stubby Squid Found Off the Coast of Southern California

Researchers aboard the Exploration Vessel Nautilus came across a goofy-looking, googly eyed purple squid while mapping the seafloor off southern California last week. The creature, a stubby squid, Rossia pacifica, lives in the Pacific ocean from Japan to southern California. The creature was just sitting out in the open on the sea floor when the crew spotted it. “It looks so fake,” one of the researchers says in a video of the encounter. “It looks like some little kid dropped their toy.” According to Samantha Wishnak, a science communication fellow aboard the E/V Nautilus, “They actually have this pretty awesome superpower, they can turn on a little sticky mucus jacket over their body and sort of collect bits of sand or pebbles or whatever they’re burrowing into and make a really nice camouflage jacket,” she says. “When they go to ambush something and prey on something, they're able to sort of turn off that mucus jacket.”


Dig to Find Fabled Nazi Gold Train Begins

A German armoured train

A pair of researchers, Piotr Koper, a Polish builder from Walbrzych, and Andreas Richter, a German genealogist, are using their own funds to follow up a belief in what may be only a legend that at the end of the war, the Nazis hid an entire train full of guns, gems, gold and valuable art in a series of tunnels in a Polish mountain. 

They have begun digging at the site where they believe that treasure train is buried, the BBC reports, despite the fact that a team of geologists and engineers failed last year to find any trace of train in the location they're excavating. 

The story goes that an armoured train full of Nazi loot was traveling out of the nearby city of Wroclaw in 1945 when the Red Army began closing in. The train disappeared near Książ Castle two miles outside of Walbrzych, and many believe it was sequestered in a series of tunnels in the Owl Mountains, with at least one German miner claiming that he saw soldiers wheeling the loot into the tunnel.

Hitler did order a vast system of underground tunnels to be built in the Owl Mountains. Thousands of prisoners of war constructed seven huge tunnels in the area as part of Project Riese (Giant), though the purpose for them remains unclear. The Nazis were also known to hide stolen art and treasure in underground salt mines and tunnels. Who knows, maybe the unlikely alliance of Piotr And Andreas will have the last laugh.


The So-Called “Superhenge” Was Made of Wood, Not Stone
New research shows that the ancient structure was also taken down in a hurry

One of the dig sites at Durrington Walls where researchers have uncovered a post that once held a large, prehistoric timber post. 

Researchers at Durrington Walls, near Stonehenge, have discovered that an area suspected of having over 100 Neolithic standing stone monuments, dubbed “Superhenge”, had no stones, only holes. They have also discovered that the holes once held timber posts that were later removed, with the holes then being filled with chalk rubble.

Discoveries and comments:

· The ancients, for some reason, removed the timber posts and instead constructed an enormous ditch and bank.

· It appears that the dismantling happened before construction was complete.

· Stonehenge, 2 miles southwest, itself was being converted from a larger circle of standing stones to the more constrained monument of massive monoliths that still stands today.

· Meanwhile, two other massive prehistoric religious monuments at Avebury and Silbury Hill were being constructed or expanded.

· It is possible that all these events are related.

· One theory is that the shifting construction at these sites came from a clash of cultures, such as the arrival of a new society that archaeologists have dubbed the “Beaker culture,” 

· It is also theorized that the builders at Durrington Walls were given new plans for the site by new religious leaders who wanted to literally bury the past.

A pit that once held a large, Neolithic timber post, as well as a ramp that was used to bury and remove it.

After the timber posts were removed, the site was buried in chalk rubble.

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