Thursday, 5 June 2014


         Sorry, Africa, but it is time to relinquish the crown to Canada to hold until it has to give it back to Mars.  Sometime this century?  We do thank you for allowing us to use your trees, your savannahs, and your predators to guide us through some of our growing stages.  We did need those 6 million years with you for our Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, and various Homo stages before leaving for the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.  And, yes, we can increase that to 20 million years if we include our Orangutan and Chimpanzee stages.  Some of us did leave you, starting 1.8 mya (million years ago) as Homo erectus.  It was only 125,000 ya (years ago) when restless Homo sapiens members started leaving.  Some of us are still meandering.
What a mobile creation we are!  If Mars is our next stop we may be completing a cycle because the chances are high that we came from there originally, as tiny prokaryote-cell passengers on a meteorite 3.6 billion years ago.
However, let us pause to add to our genealogical wall chart our time on the world’s 10th largest island -Ellesmere.  For shame, few of us have visited Canada’s second largest national park located on its northern tip, 800km from the North Pole.  I did fly over it in 1947-9, before it was made a park with its spectacular scenery and Lake Hazen, remarking what a great location for a POW camp - no escapes with miles upon miles of ice-covered mountains, fiords, plateaus, and lakes.
     Like the rest of us, Ellesmere Island is not what it used to be, yet in basic format is much closer to its youth than we, giving us much history to explore.  Some 4 billion years ago it was one of the first bits of rock on this planet to poke its head above the molten sea.  It did cool to a tropical retreat so it was ready, 375 mya, to welcome Tiktaalik, a foolish teenager bent on adventure or, more likely, a girl chased by boys, who dared to use her four flippers to ease herself up onto a beach out of their lusty reach.    
     Now, Canada is a much more peaceful land than Africa, or most of the rest of the world for that matter,  so its Ellesmere Island was a huge, predator-free, refuge for Tiktaalik.  But boys, the same for most species, did summon the courage to follow her, resulting in a dozen fossils, ranging in length from 3 to 9 feet, for scientists to find so far with only a tiny fraction of the land examined.
     Knowing the unique preservation of Ellesmere’s ancient soil, scientist started looking there in 1999 for traces of our first use of the amphibian format.  Although currently warming dramatically, digging for fossils is still limited to July and it took five of them before Tiktaalik, a complete and perfectly preserved fossil, was found.  
     Ellesmere Island provided the laboratory for them to evolve into more mobile land tetrapods (4-footed), then wander off to far away places to become you and me.  And, we will continue to evolve if we can find the wisdom and the will to avoid exterminating ourselves and the environment we need.
So, what did we look like 375 million years ago when we were all Canadian tetrapods?
We Canadians were flat headed, much like a crocodile.  Unlike our fish ancestors we had a neck so could move our head without also moving our body.  We were well adapted for life in shallow seas.  We had fins, scales, and gills, but we also had sturdy wrist bones permitting us to raise ourselves from the sea floor to snap at prey.  The transition to life on land, from a brief refuge to a permanent residence, was slow and painful, definite proof as to what a sturdy lot we Canadians are.  For instance our large cranial bone, hyomandibula, that connected our upper jaw to our brain case and helped with gill breathing evolved to where it is now tiny and helps with hearing in our middle ear. Why, Tiktaalik, am I, then, going deaf so young in life? 
     Some 4,000 years ago Tiktaalik returned to northern Ellesmere in the form of palaeo-Eskimos from Siberia via Alaska.  They hunted caribou and musk-ox, but left during the Little Ice Age (1300-1870).  Modern humans did not arrive until the 1800s in the form of European explorers.  Today the population of humans is only 146 of whom 141 are in Grise Fiord on the south coast and 5 (overwintering) at Alert CFB on the north coast.  As I type this (Noon 04 June 2014) the temperature there is zero celsius or 32 Fahrenheit with 80% humidity.  It is 3 degrees celsius at Grise Fiord.  The Eureka weather station is now unmanned. 
      Man-made climate change is dramatic.  90% of the coastal ice sheet has been lost as well as the habitat for some species of waterfowl, invertebrates, algae, and marine life.  Yet another big change is in the making.
     All of you Tiktaaliks are destined for museums while we who put you there ponder what thanks, or blame, we need to give you for your role in making us what we are.
Ye Olde Scribe who is not all that happy when he looks in a mirror.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


     “Hoax, hoax, hoax.  Period!  Case Closed!”  It saddens me to get this response when I try to broach the subject.  Have we all lost our youthful curiosity due to our world having too many misfits forever trying to deceive us? 
     Crop circles entered our lives in Wiltshire in 1991.  Joan and I were on one of our month-long UK tours, hiring a car and enjoying the unique pleasures of Bed and Breakfast abodes.  In our carefully-planned itinerary we had included a few days in Peterborough with Jack Ball, a fellow POW who had been shot down on Christmas-day, 1944.  Post war, Jack had lost his 2 sons to a mysterious illness, then his wife.   Part way through our tour, we received word Jack had died suddenly.  We decided instead to head for Cornwall.  En route, we stopped at a B&B across the road from Silbury Hill, Europe’s largest man-made ancient mound.  There we met a scientist planning to stay up all night on top of a nearby, slightly-excavated, 4,000-year-old burial mound on the look-out for crop circles being formed.  I jumped at the chance to join him.  For a 360 degree view we stood back-to-back on top of the long, wide mound, situated on top of a slope.
       About 0200 we were startled by a voice asking “Are you well?”  Three, of what to us were Hippies, appeared out of the darkness carrying guitars.  They had come to  commune musically with the spirits in the small, excavated, entrance to the tomb.  About an hour later a dog in the distance started a loud barking, lasting 30 minutes.  But dawn arrived and we had not heard nor seen anything of crop-circle activity.  At breakfast we heard that a new crop circle in the shape of a whale had appeared - within our night’s line of sight!  Joan, well rested, was anxious to rush out to inspect it.  We did, then found another one a mile or so away but it had been formed a few nights earlier.  We stayed another night at the B&B to inspect Avebury, Stonehenge, and visit the Pub frequented by world-wide scientists with lots of crop-circle talk.  Fabulous!  This was before the hoaxers took centre-stage.  We learned that nodule points on the wheat or barley stems inside the circles had been burst open as though by the heat of a microwave.  I brought home two samples from inside and outside the circles, giving them to a crop scientist at a Colorado university to examine.  He never did.  It reminded me of the nights at NORAD that I carefully recorded phoned-in accounts of UFO sightings  only to have them filed and forgotten somewhere up the line.  And then there was the day we sighted a surfaced sub off the Cape Parry Dew Line site, prompting me to fire off the signal “Sub sighted, Beaver Scrambled, Sub Fled.” (the Beaver was my entire Air Force and, yes, I followed with a detailed report, but we never heard whether it was one of ours or one of theirs).  
     Hoaxers and disinterest have done great harm to scientific research, especially with needed public support.  For 23 years now, Joan and I have admired the design, complexity, language, mythology, biology, mathematics, physics, and other aspects of crop circles.  While allowing for the incredible ingenuity of humans as hoaxers, there is more than enough left to warrant continued research.  Humans are actively engaged in trying to understand Reality and unmask the unknown from the minds of animals to the tiny particles and forces of Nature.  Crop Circles, while centuries old, have matured in intricacies that hint at something trying to communicate with us.   The media they use has involved wheat, barley, lavender, snow, and sand with ley lines often involved (energy forces connecting geographic features) and floating lights of magnesium-flare intensity.
     The world’s favourite location for the originators of crop circles is the county of Wiltshire in England.  Now, if that county can boast of having humans clever enough to create the intricate designs  in the few hours of darkness that latitude provides while never being detected they would first have to design and produce a template that they could rigidly mount, then forced through microwaves that spread out to enlarge to 200 feet or more on reaching the crops.
     There are hundreds of crop circles each season.  What benefits would ensue to human hoaxers to do more than a few crude circles just for kicks?
     Then, there are those so addicted to Crop Circles that they inhale bizarre explanations and they have come up with explanations that are involved and beyond the understanding capabilities of most of us, but then so is quantum and other branches of physics .
     Nevertheless, there remains an intriguing and on-going presentation of crop circles in complicated designs that cover a wide field of thought.  Core groups continue their investigations, magazines and books on the subject continue to be published, and . . .
     We applaud PBS Channel 12 for featuring crop-circle research in a couple of recent programs.