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Saturday, 13 October 2018

The drinking of gold

I am knee deep in work, the like of which I will reveal in the near future, but something described on an old-fashioned email list reminded me of a discarded story. Neek spoke of not being able to eat gold, I addressed the question of drinking gold, as follows:

A Roman named Crassus went to what is now southern Turkey to capture Parthian gold, and lost the battle of Carrhae. According to some accounts, Crassus survived, and the Parthian king, Orodes, executed him by pouring molten gold down his throat. Another version has Orodes filling the skull of the dead Roman general with molten gold. Agricola certainly believed this story in the 1540s and published it:

… his enemies … poured liquid gold into the gaping mouth of the slain Crassus, saying: “Thou hast thirsted for gold, therefore drink gold”.

Then there was Manius Aquillius, a Roman consul who had waged war on Mithridates VI of Pontus (also in modern Turkey) without getting approval from the Senate. The consul was captured and ridiculed by being paraded on an ass. Then according to Appian, King Mithridates poured molten gold down his throat at Pergamon, as a rebuke against the Romans for their bribe-taking.

This was probably just propaganda, but the theme remained popular. In 1599, a Spanish governor in Ecuador supposedly suffered the same fate. Members of the Jivaro tribe, objecting to Spanish taxation on their gold trade, attacked his town and executed the greedy governor by pouring molten gold down his throat.

The same tale surfaces, again and again. Alleged users include the Spanish Inquisition (accused of using molten lead and pitch), and Mongol invaders who were supposed to have killed Inalchuk, the Muslim governor of Otrar, a town in central Asia when they poured molten silver into his ears, eyes and throat. In most cases, the story includes the victim’s intestines exploding from the steam pressure.

Some critics (including me) wonder if nomadic tribesmen would be carrying the necessary furnace and crucibles to melt gold or silver. And would it really kill—and would the victim really explode? We have some evidence on that from a human case study.

In 1755, Henry Hall, then aged 94, was hurt during the burning of the Eddystone Light. He staggered home and reported in a hoarse voice that melted lead had fallen down and entered his throat. Edward Spry, a surgeon, reported on this in the Universal Magazine for July 1757. According to Spry, after three or four days, Hall was on the mend before he took a turn for the worse, and died.

The surgeon dissected the body and removed a “great piece of lead” which weighed seven ounces, five drachms and 18 grains. Spry explained that Hall had been helping fight the lighthouse fire when a large amount of lead fell from the roof, some of it covering his face and clothes, and some entering his mouth, “then lifted up and open”, and so it flowed into his stomach. There was no mention of Hall exploding, but molten lead is some 600°C cooler than molten gold.

In 2003, some Dutch pathologists wondered if the various accounts, which all stressed the bursting of internal organs, could be relied on, and they decided to test the situation. They made it clear that “no animal was harmed or killed specifically for this purpose”, explaining that they bought bovine innards from a local slaughter house.

They set up some cow parts on a board and closed the lower end of the oesophagus with a wad of tissue paper before pouring 750 grams of molten lead (at around 450°C) into the throat. The results were spectacular, with steam coming out of both ends and the tissue paper being blasted out of the lower end. Within ten seconds, the lead was solid, blocking the throat, which would have meant a tremendous build-up of steam pressure in a live animal. We must conclude that an explosion is possible.

Understandably, people who are being robbed of gold do not take kindly to the theft, because winning gold is hard work. It follows that rough justice may sometimes have been applied. Leaving aside the practical problems of getting enough gold in one place and then finding a furnace to melt it, the punishment would work, but the tales of its use must be regarded with some doubt.

* Reference: F R W van de Goot, R L ten Berge, R Vos, ‘Molten gold was poured down his throat until his bowels burst’, Journal of Clinical Pathology, 2003. https://jcp.bmj.com/content/56/2/157

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

An initiated man

I'm busy on Playwiths, of which more later.  Here's something from the pile to show that I Aten't Dead Yet.

*

Many convicts were accepted by the Aborigines at different times, but the original inhabitants were choosy. Watkin Tench wrote, probably about John Caesar:
One of the convicts, a negro, had twice eloped, with an intention of establishing himself in the society of the natives, with a wish to adopt their customs and to live with them: but he was always repulsed by them; and compelled to return to us from hunger and wretchedness. [1]
Tench also reported that Bryant’s party often had to flee when threatened by Aborigines along the coast. [2] Against that, we have the cases of William Buckley (who may be the original Buckley of “Buckley’s chance”), Eliza Fraser of Fraser Island, Barbara Thomson who was eventually rescued from Torres Strait by the crew of HMS Rattlesnake, Clarke the Barber and Tarwood’s party, taken in by the Aborigines at Port Stephens, north of Newcastle.

Nearer to Sydney, the local inhabitants knew about these invaders who failed to understand that Aboriginal tools and possessions, left in the open, were not abandoned. They were also aware that these pale people with their different smell were unable to catch food or be of any use. They must have asked themselves “who would want them?”—and equally reasonably, answered “not us”.

John (called James by Collins) Wilson, a Lancashire thief, probably the same one who is listed by Governor Phillip as being sentenced at Wigan in 1785 to seven years. He must have had some good qualities or skills, because when he had served his sentence, he was accepted among the Aborigines on the Hawkesbury River, who gave him the name Bun-bo-e.

David Collins did not approve of this at all, and later claimed that Wilson tricked them into accepting him as a former black man, pointing out “… a very old woman as his mother, who was weak and credulous enough to acknowledge him as her son.” [3] Collins described him as:
“… one Wilson, a wild idle young man, who, his term of transportation being expired, preferred living among the natives in the vicinity of the river, to earning the wages of honest industry by working for settlers. He had formed an intermediate language between his own and theirs, with which he made shift to comprehend something of what they wished him to communicate… [4]
Wilson was taken on one exploration trip to Port Stephens, not long before Tarwood and his companions were found. Tarwood and his companions said later that at the time of Wilson’s visit, they were some distance inland. That meant he mnissed his first chance to gain a small place in the history books. He won, though, when he was used as a tool to educate some of the more ignorant convicts.

In the earliest days, the convicts had little idea of where they were. For much of the voyage, they would have been kept below-decks, but they were Britain’s poor, and that meant they were badly educated, and often could not read.

Books were expensive, so even the ones who could read, they would be unlikely to have read any books about Australia. There were really only three to read in 1788: William Dampier’s two books, written almost a century earlier and Captain Cook’s journal, almost twenty years earlier. None of them was written as a handy guide for convicts wanting to leave Australia.

I grew up on tales of convicts who thought China was just up the coast a bit, or just over the mountains—somewhere in easy walking distance, in any case. I always thought these yarns made no sense at all, that they were just made-up tales, but a bit of checking made me realise that they were real. Watkin Tench reported that in November 1791, twenty men and a pregnant woman took off into the bush, believing that China was “… not more than 100 miles distant, and separated only by a river…” [5]

One or two of that group never returned, and must bave died in the bush, A some of the others had been wounded by Aborigines, it was assumed that the dead were killed by “natives”. Aside from those who believed in escaping to the north, there were those who believed:
… that there was a colony of white people, which had been discovered in this country, situated to the SW of the settlement, from which it was distant between three and four hundred miles, and in which they were assured of finding all the comforts of life, without the necessity of labouring for them. [6]
A look at a map shows that path would cross the upper Murray, going close to Mount Kosciuszko, ending up in Victoria, somewhere between Albury, Shepparton, Sale and Mallacoota, probably between Falls Creek, Eildon, Sale and Lakes Entrance! In either case, there was a lot of rugged territory to get through.

The governor, John Hunter, formerly of HMS Sirius, worried that many gullible convicts would die in agony or end up returning to an almost equally agonising punishment. He declared that four men, picked by the convicts, were to be taken on the route shown on the map by three experienced bushmen, so they might see that the hope was forlorn.

The convicts were determined not be fooled by the governor. They conceived a cunning plan to hijack the expedition, with a larger body absconding, murdering the guides and then proceeding to the safety of the fabled white colony. Luckily for them, this scheme was uncovered and four soldiers were added to the party, scotching the plot.

Among those sent with the party were Hunter’s servant, the 19-year-old John Price, and Wilson. They set out on 14 January 1798. Ten days later, the soldiers returned with three of the convicts. The soldiers had been instructed to return when they reached the foot of the mountains, but the three convicts said they had seen and suffered enough, and begged to be allowed to return with them. [7]

The rest of the party arrived at Prospect Hill, on the outskirts of the settlement, on 9 February, praising Wilson for keeping them alive. The expedition achieved little. They kept no clear record of where they had gone, though they said they had seen creeks and a large river.

They claimed to have met few natives, but those they saw were dressed in skins from head to foot (unlikely in summer), and they reported seeing a fat mountain wallaroo. They returned with a specimen of a lyrebird and reported dining on ‘a kind of mole’, apparently a wombat, but that was the limit of their achievements. They said the meat tasted like pork, but that it was red meat, coarse and very fatty.

We know very little about Wilson. He was probably associated with the Darkinyung people. He and another white man called Knight were accused of helping Aborigines mount attacks on settlers. David Collins claimed that these two had explained that a musket, once fired, was of no use until it was reloaded, “… and this effectually removed that terror of our fire-arms with which it had been our constant endeavour to inspire them.” [8]

We have Collins to thank for the information that Wilson had been scarred on his breast and shoulders as a sign of initiation, adding that Wilson said it was very painful. Collins also added that Wilson had “… made his appearance with no other covering than an apron formed of a Kangaroo’s skin, which he had sufficient sense of decency remaining to think was proper.” [9]

Collins also gave us the best account of the man’s death. Wilson had taken liberties, laying claim to a young girl in a way that was culturally unacceptable, though we have no way of knowing the details. Perhaps the girl was considered a close relative of the man whose spirit he claimed to be, or maybe it was just that he had not asked in the right way. The result was that her friends speared him, “… and left them to expect his return at some future period in the shape of another white man.” [10]

The story of the First Fleet has to be understood as a clash between cultures and cultural expectations. The free people mainly had a common set of expectations about honesty, the convicts had in most cases, another view, and the people who had been living happily around Sydney Harbour for thousands of years had another. Quite a few Aborigines and a rather smaller number of white people died because others could not understand that no culture is better than any other: each has its rightful place, given the right conditions.




[1] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/p00044.pdf, p. 144.
[2] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/p00044.pdf, p. 147.
[3] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume II, online at http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/colacc2.pdf, p. 199.
[4] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume I, online at http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/colacc1.pdf, p. 341.
[5] Watkin Tench, A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/p00044.pdf, chapter XV.
[6] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume II, online at http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/colacc2.pdf, p. 57 (54 in the print edition).
[7] Extracts of Price’s journal are online in the State Library of NSW’s digitised collection of Banks papers at http://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/banks/series_38/38_21.cfm
[8] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume I, online at http://setis.library.usyd.edu.au/ozlit/pdf/colacc1.pdf, p. 377.
[9] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume II, online at http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/colacc2.pdf, p. 47.
[10] David Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, volume II, online at http://adc.library.usyd.edu.au/data-2/colacc2.pdf, p. 199.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Who named Australia?


I just had to dig this out of my files, because somebody cited a page that cited Wikipedia, but the material I found there was only a common misconception that Matthew Flinders was the first to use "Australia" in print.

I am putting it here, because I'm too busy to correct the Wikipedia entry, but somebody else can, if they like (and at least I know where I can look for it now).  [Later: I had tried to add this info, and thought it had failed, but it's there now, albeit without the references given here. Somebody else can fix that, if they wish.]

* * * * *

You might think putting a name on the place you had settled would be a high priority for the colonists, but James Cook had named the land when he mapped the whole east coast in 1770, and called it “New South Wales”, based on some fancied resemblance to the southern coast of Wales. On the west side, the Dutch navigators called that area “New Holland”.

Until Matthew Flinders’ mapping voyage in the early 1800s, people were uncertain whether or not these two coasts were part of a single land mass or separated by a sea channel.

Officially, Flinders was the first person to use the name ‘Australia’, in his book, A Voyage to Terra Australis, published in 1814, but there is more to the story.

In 1793, George Shaw and James Edward Smith published the first volume of a planned 2-volume work called Zoology and Botany of New Holland. That first volume covered animals only, and on page 2, the careful reader might have noticed this:

The vast Island or rather Continent of Australia, Australasia, or New Holland, which has so lately attracted the particular attention of European navigators and naturalists, seems to abound in scenes of peculiar wildness and sterility …

Smith’s botany section, if it was ever written, never came out. Shaw wrote up the animals, so he probably deserves the credit for using ‘Australia’. In the Transactions of the Linnaean Society vol. iv, p 213 (1798), Smith called the continent ‘Australasia’ several times. 

The name ‘Australasia’ was certainly known before Flinders went into print, because an 1808 piece of verse in The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser makes a reference to “Australasia’s Black tribe”.

[It's here: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 6 November 1808, 2, https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/627622.]

Then just a few years later, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser printed a poem in January 1813 which mentioned “… Australia’s rude Shore …”. 

[It's here: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 30 January 1813, 3, http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/628623 ]

This poem also pre-dates Flinders’ book, which came out the next year. Here is what Flinders wrote, on page iii:

It is necessary, however, to geographical precision, that so soon as New Holland and New South Wales were known to form one land, there should be a general name applicable to the whole … I have … ventured upon the readoption of the original TERRA AUSTRALIS, and of this term I shall hereafter make use, when speaking of New Holland and New South Wales, in a collective sense; and when using it in the most extensive signification, the adjacent isles, including that of Van Diemen, must be understood to be comprehended.

Having introduced ‘Terra Australis’, Flinders then added a footnote:

Had I permitted myself any innovation upon the original term, it would have been to convert it into Australia, as being more agreeable to the ear, and an assimilation to the names of the other great portions of the earth.

Within a few years, Governor Macquarie was referring to ‘Australia’ in dispatches to London, and in 1824, Sir Thomas Brisbane, governor of New South Wales, was delighted when his wife presented him with an heir, whom he named Thomas Australia Brisbane.

The land, the continent, the future nation, had a name, but that isn't how Wikipedia tells it.

That's why I once had to call for the sacking of an editor who altered my meticulously researched and correct spelling to follow three wrong spellings that said idiot had found on Wikipedia.  There's a price to pay if you rely mindlessly on the rich resources that Wikipedia delivers.


Thursday, 13 September 2018

ABES Teaching Pictures 6


My new book, Australian Backyard Earth Scientist, is due out next January, and I have just been writing the Teachers' Notes. I pulled out all the pictures I might use, and put them in a folder, then I decided to make the used shots available in three sets.


Then I looked at the others and thought, hey, I've been collecting nice geology for yonks, so I'll share the best ones of the discards as well. This is the third of those bonus sets.   I retain all copyright, but note the following let-out:


This Creative Commons copyright allows non-commercial use in any form, with attribution and share-alike.

 
Most of the images will look huge on the blog page, because they are all inserted as "original size" which means they will normally come out as 1600 x 1200 (some images are older and smaller format). Titles appear under the images: to get any picture onto your computer, right-click and choose "save image as".  The file titles are complex but sufficiently descriptive, while the captions will help.

There are multiple pages:

ABES Teaching Pictures
ABES Teaching Pictures 2
ABES Teaching Pictures 3

 King tide, Devonport, Auckland, February 2018.
 Myrvatn Krafla geothermal power station, Iceland.
  Myrvatn Krafla geothermal field, Iceland.
 Dyke, Bingie Bingie Beach, NSW
 Weathered-out dyke, between Gerringong and Kiama, NSW.
Dyke, 1080 Beach, NSW.
Lava flow, Kilauea, 2005.
 Crater, Mt Vesuvius.
 Pebbles between Gerringong and Kiama.
Dropstone on rock platform, Ulladulla.
Permian conglomerate (base of Sydney Basin), Budawang Ranges, NSW.
Permian conglomerate (base of Sydney Basin), Budawang Ranges, NSW.
 Damage caused by mining: mud like this indicates somebody is 'washing for gold' upstream.
Damage caused by mining: Hunter Valley coal damage.
Damage caused by mining: Las Medulas Spain, ruined 2000 years ago by Roman slaves seeking gold.
Damage caused by mining: the Oriental Claims goldfield was subject to 'hydraulicking'.
  Damage caused by mining:  the Oriental Claims goldfield was subject to 'hydraulicking'.
 Damage caused by mining:  the Oriental Claims goldfield was subject to 'hydraulicking', using nozzles like this.
  Damage caused by mining: near Hill End, NSW.
Uluru, central Australia, known to the ignorant as "Ayer's Rock".
Standley Chasm will one day be referred to as Angkerle Atwatye, which is what it has always been called by its owners.


One of the labels for this is the book title: click on that to see what else is available: the link is just below this.

ABES Teaching Pictures 5


My new book, Australian Backyard Earth Scientist, is due out next January, and I have just been writing the Teachers' Notes. I pulled out all the pictures I might use, and put them in a folder, then I decided to make the used shots available in three sets.


Then I looked at the others and thought, hey, I've been collecting nice geology for yonks, so I'll share the best ones of the discards as well. This is one of those bonus sets.   I retain all copyright, but note the following let-out:


This Creative Commons copyright allows non-commercial use in any form, with attribution and share-alike.

 
Most of the images will look huge on the blog page, because they are all inserted as "original size" which means they will normally come out as 1600 x 1200 (some images are older and smaller formatTitles appear under the images,: to get any picture onto your computer, right-click and choose "save image as".  The file titles are complex but sufficiently descriptive, while the captions will help.

There will are multiple pages:

ABES Teaching Pictures
ABES Teaching Pictures 2
ABES Teaching Pictures 3
 Joints, Triassic Hawkesbury sandstone, Fairlight, Sydney.
  Weathered joints, Triassic Hawkesbury sandstone, Manly, Sydney.
Iron oxide-filled joints, Permian sandstone, Broken Bay.
 Unconformity, Myrtle Beach, NSW.
 Folding and faulting, Aragunnu, NSW.
Folding in a sheep paddock, Wee Jasper road, south of Yass, NSW.
 Folds, Mt Pilatus, Switzerland.
 Folds, Mystery Bay NSW.
 Folds, Cascade Mountain near Banff, Canada.
 Weathering and hoodoos, Bryce Canyon, USA.
  Weathering and hoodoos, Bryce Canyon, USA.
 Weathering and hoodoos, Bryce Canyon, USA.
 Natural bridge, weathering in Triassic sandstone near Frenchs Forest.
 Lighning blast in Hawkesbury sandstone: weathering with attitude.
 Liesegang weathering near Swansea Heads NSW.
  Liesegang weathering near Swansea Heads NSW.
  Liesegang weathering near Swansea Heads NSW.
  Liesegang weathering near Swansea Heads NSW.
  Liesegang weathering near Swansea Heads NSW.
Honeycomb weathering, Cape Banks near Sydney.


One of the labels for this is the book title: click on that to see what else is available: the link is just below this.

ABES Teaching Pictures 4


My new book, Australian Backyard Earth Scientist, is due out next January, and I have just been writing the Teachers' Notes. I pulled out all the pictures I might use, and put them in a folder, then I decided to make the used shots available in three sets.

Then I looked at the others and thought, hey, I've been collecting nice geology for yonks, so I'll share the best ones of the discards as well. This is one of those bonus sets.

I retain all copyright, but note the following  let-out:

This Creative Commons copyright allows non-commercial use in any form, with attribution and share-alike.

Most of the images will look huge on the blog page, because they are all inserted as "original size" which means they will normally come out as 1600 x 1200 (some images are older and smaller formatTitles appear under the images,: to get any picture onto your computer, right-click and choose "save image as".  The file titles are complex but sufficiently descriptive, while the captions will help.

There will are multiple pages:

ABES Teaching Pictures
ABES Teaching Pictures 2
ABES Teaching Pictures 3


The gob-stopper model of packing (see the book for how this relates to crystals!)

Ice crystals.

Unconverted shell fossils

 A mould fossil from Ulladulla.
 Fossil tree, Swansea Heads.
  Fossil tree, Swansea Heads.
 Fossil coral in my marble table.
 Marble paving stone, Suomenlinnen, Helsinki.
 Angle of rest measurer (the crack in the Vegemite jar cam from over-enthusiastic microwaving: be warned!).

Leigh Creek, South Australia, spoil heap from a coal mine (now closed) showing erosion.

Hawkesbury sediment, being picked up and carried north after heavy rain.
Mud cracks.
Dunes in the Sahara. Note the angle of rest. This pic has been enhanced.
Beach landform, Cyprus.
Sandbank, The Entrance, with mineral sands exposed.

 Sand spit
 Mesa, on the road to (ptui!) Las Vegas.
 A neat inclusion, a pebble in Hawkesbury sandstone.
 A normal fault in varved shale, taken with a Go Micro at x15: the field is 9 mm across.
 Slate sample, Heidiland, Switzerland.
Look closely at this Norwegian slate, and you can see cross-bedding, so maybe, it's quartzite, rather than slate. Think about it!



One of the labels for this is the book title: click on that to see what else is available: the link is just below this.