Tag Archives: story

Firepits of the Gods: ancient memories of maar volcanoes


The town of Schalkenmehren and its adjoining maar lake, Germany.
Wikimedia Commons

Patrick D. Nunn, University of the Sunshine Coast

In the heart of Takapuna, north-central Auckland, is a natural lake – Pupuke – while a little way offshore lies the volcanic Rangitoto Island. Long ago, a family of giants lived at Takapuna until one day, ill-advisedly, they insulted the irascible fire goddess Mahuika. Enraged, Mahuika tore a hole in the land where the giants lived, creating what became Lake Pupuke, dumping the material offshore to form Rangitoto Island.

Similar to other Maori stories about volcanic activity in New Zealand, this one is consistent with memories of the formation of Lake Pupuke and that of Rangitoto Island, the latter erupting into existence about AD 1312, perhaps just decades after people arrived in NZ.

Lake Pupuke sunset through trees.
Wikimedia Commons

Lake Pupuke formed far earlier, through a singular process involving liquid rock (magma) rising up through fissures in the earth’s crust until – close to the surface – it encountered bodies of cold groundwater. The juxtaposition of the cold and the extremely hot resulted in a spectacular explosion, splattering solidifying rock fragments into the air that settled to produce a ring of rock enclosing a crater.

These types of volcanoes are known as maars, after a German name given them in the Eifel Mountains where they are especially abundant. After maar craters form, most become filled with water, forming lakes like Lake Pupuke.

Many maars are polygenetic – they are sites of periodic volcanic activity – and it may well be that Lake Pupuke showed signs of activity at the same time as Rangitoto Island formed, leading Maori observers of the events to link them.




Read more:
Essays On Air: Monsters in my closet – how a geographer began mining myths


Since people arrived in Australia, maar volcanoes have erupted in both the southeast and the northeast of the country. Stories of these eruptions have been told, so convincingly that it is difficult to suppose they are not eyewitness accounts. As an example, the Dyirbal story of the formation of the Lake Eacham maar in Queensland recalls

The camping-place began to change, the earth under the camp roaring like thunder. The wind started to blow down, as if a cyclone were coming. The camping-place began to twist and crack. While this was happening there was in the sky a red cloud, of a hue never seen before. The people tried to run from side to side but were swallowed by a crack which opened in the ground.

Lake Eacham in Queensland.
Wikimedia Commons

Science shows us that Lake Eacham formed more than 9,000 years ago, meaning that the Dyirbal story is probably at least this old. Perhaps even older stories may apply to the formation of nearby Lakes Barrine and Euramoo.

Recent research has focused on ancient “maar stories” worldwide, highlighting their similarities but, most importantly, using these memorable events to illustrate the extraordinary longevity of human memories. Many maar stories must have endured for thousands of years, passed orally across hundreds of generations.

Minimum ages for some maar stories (after Nunn et al., 2019, Annals of the American Association of Geographers).

Some of the best-documented are those from the Lago Albano maar that towers above the Ciampino Plain, southeast of Rome (Italy). Formed maybe as recently as 8,000 years ago, stories about the Albano maar that were first written down about 2,000 years ago originated as oral traditions many millennia earlier.

Periodically, the Albano maar gurgles and moans as liquid rock and superheated water is shunted around within the Colli Albani volcano, of which it is part. Sometimes this causes the form of the maar crater to abruptly change shape, leading the lake to spill over its rim, events that flood the plains below.

Painting by Jacob Philipp Hackert (AD 1800), View of Lake Albano with Castel Gandolfo (Blick auf den Albaner See mit Castel Gandolfo), showing the contemporary form of the Lago Albano maar.

About 2,400 years ago (in 398 BC), during a prolonged drought, there are records showing that the lake level rose slowly and calmly up to the crater rim. According to the account of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the pressure “carved out the gap between the mountains and poured a mighty river down over the plains lying below”.

To prevent such events reoccurring, the Romans built a tunnel through the Lago Albano crater wall, an incredible 70 metres below the rim, that can still be seen today. No-one seems entirely clear how this engineering feat was accomplished or whether, as some accounts hint, the tunnel simply re-excavated an Etruscan tunnel built centuries earlier!




Read more:
Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level


And so to Mexico, the eastern part of which is bisected by the active Trans-Mexican Neovolcanic Belt, parts of which are peppered with maars. Of one, Aljojuca, the story goes that countless years ago during a prolonged drought, a cow belonging to a poor family went off wandering and, some days later returned home, its feet wet.

Following the cow’s footprints, the family located a “puddle” where today lies a maar crater with a lake (axalapaxco). The story may recall the formation of Aljojuca Maar more than seven millennia ago.

How many more ancient stories might there be hidden under our noses, within tales we have hitherto dismissed as myth? Should we continue to conveniently dismiss all these stories or would we gain something from treating them as accounts of memorable events, conveyed in the language of science as it was known thousands of years ago?

Patrick Nunn acknowledges his collaborators, Loredana Lancini and Rita Compatangelo-Soussignan (Le Mans Université, France) and Leigh Franks and Adrian McCallum (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia).The Conversation

Patrick D. Nunn, Professor of Geography, School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Australia: Ned Kelly Story Twisted


The link below is to an article that reports on the historical twisting of the Ned Kelly story.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/09/ned-kelly-expert-accuses-government-of-pushing-biased-view-of-bushranger


‘It makes one feel and realise what a dreadful thing war is’ – a nurse’s story


Janet Scarfe, Monash University

Five thousand Australian nurses served during the second world war. The most famous of these, Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel, survived a massacre on Bangka Island, and Japanese “hell camps” in Sumatra.

For many other nurses, life in WWII was by turns tedious, perilous and adventurous. Dorothy Janet Campbell was one of the vast majority who survived without capture, imprisonment or fatal illness. Her experiences are caught in her extensive diaries and photographs shared here by her niece Janet Scarfe.

Dorothy Campbell, 1940.
Author provided

South Australian Dorothy Campbell (known throughout her life to all as “Puss”) served in the Australian Army Nursing Service from 1940 to 1946, in England during the Blitz, in the Western Desert during the siege of Tobruk, in Papua New Guinea, and in Queensland and South Australia.

She spent many nights in air raid shelters and nursing in a tin hat but she was never directly bombed on land or sea.

Campbell’s diaries and photos record the nurses’ day to day lives, mostly away from the wards. She and her friends took full advantage of their split shifts and days off. There were sherry parties, tennis and golf, and sightseeing.

For all that, Campbell’s “real work” was “looking after our boys”. Long periods of inactivity, such as waiting for hospitals to be set up or weeks at sea became tedious, despite the games and socialising.

Campbell nursed in several hospitals that were state of the art, including the Australian Hospital in Surrey and in the Greek hospital in Alexandria. She also worked in freezing tents in Queensland and grass huts in Buna in Papua New Guinea.

She was devoted to her patients – provided they were genuine. She deplored the “B Class” men she nursed in England in 1940. Deemed unfit for service and awaiting repatriation to Australia, they made difficult patients, malingering, drunk and dismissive of the nurses’ orders. By contrast, the sick and wounded evacuated straight from Tobruk received her complete attention:

How I love to be able to help them, and to listen to their great stories they tell … it makes one feel and realise what a dreadful thing war is …

Occasionally she described cases as “very interesting” or “difficult” but mostly her comments relating to work were “busy”, “very busy” or “dog-tired”. Comparisons between her diary entries and the hospital daily war diary show what an expert in understatement she was.

Campbell was never too tired to sight see. She loved England and Scotland. In Alexandria, she sponged her patients very early one Saturday morning, rushed off duty and caught the train to Cairo with several nurses and officers. They shopped, dined and danced till late, saw the sphinx and pyramids, rode camels and donkeys, had their fortunes told (“damn lot of rot”) then caught a small plane back to Alexandria on Sunday afternoon.

She and the other nurses had a rich social life. In Alexandria, there were sea bathing and sailing, occasional dinners with colonels yearning for some female company, mosques to visit, and customs to marvel at.

The American base near Buna guaranteed a rich social life. She learned to drive a jeep, spent time off socialising with American officers and fell for one who was charming but duplicitous.

Dorothy Campbell (first women on the left) at an American officers’ club, Buna c1943.

Campbell’s diary entries change over the years. Exhaustion and monotony set in as the war ground on. England, Egypt and Papua New Guinea were highlights.

Queensland in 1942-43 and 1945 was dull and she never liked dull. Entries from Townsville in 1945 were brief and largely confined to golf games (nine holes most days between shifts) and the narrow-minded matron. There were few photos. Her exaltation at the news of peace was personal, professional and patriotic. Here are her diary entries for 15th and 16th August 1945:

Wednesday. 15th

Very exciting day PEACE. Every body very excited – Party arranged in Red + Hut for all Hosp. (pts and staff.) – had few drinks in our Mess first, then… went to Sgts Mess – and then to dance, and then on to Officers Mess and spent very bright evening happiest night ever spent in army – felt rather ill and went out for walk…

Thursday Aug 16th [Townsville].

Terriffic [sic] headache., after a few hrs felt better and got busy and arranged party in our Mess – Off [duty] 1–6 – had a little rest and helped to prepare supper… Went off duty 8pm to party, it was one of the best we have had and it kept on until 1 am. every body thoroughly enjoying themselves.

The diaries end abruptly the night before she boarded the train home to Adelaide on 28 November 1945. Her great adventure was over.

Campbell (front right wearing green) in the 1994 Adelaide VP Day Parade. CLICK TO ENLARGE.
Author provided

She had nursed men with battle wounds and serious illnesses. She knew the anxiety of air raids and long sea voyages. But she also relished all the opportunities that came her way, particularly the friendships, the sightseeing and new experiences.

Campbell remained in the Citizens Military Forces until 1958 and was decorated for her work with the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps.

After her demobilisation, Campbell worked as a radiotherapy technician, one of the first women in South Australia to do so. She remained single, explaining to a small boy in an Anzac Day school talk that she “had loved them all and married none”.

She spoke of her time in the war to her family only in the broadest terms (“When we were away …”). She kept her diaries to herself to the end of her life. But kept them on her bookshelves for easy discovery.

The Conversation

Janet Scarfe, Adjunct research associate, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Article: Ireland – The Pisces III Rescue


The link below is to an article that retells the dramatic survival story of the Pisces III off Ireland in 1973.

For more visit:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23862359


Article: The Drunken Moose of an Astronomer


The link below is to an article that tells the amusing story of Tycho Brahe, an astronomer, who owned a drunk moose.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/50409/tycho-brahe-astronomer-drunken-moose


Article: WWII – Major William Martin


The link below is to an article that tells the story of Major William Martin in WWII.

For more visit:
http://mentalfloss.com/article/49029/corpse-fooled-hitler


Article: The True Story of ‘Moby-Dick’


The link below is to an article that looks at the sinking of the Whaleship Essex that inspired the story of Moby-Dick.

For more visit:
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2013/03/the-true-life-horror-that-inspired-moby-dick/


Article: Mexico – Julia Pastrana


The link below is to an article about the very sad story of Julia Pastrana, who was called the ‘Bear Woman’ and the ‘World’s Ugliest Woman.’

For more visit:
http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/02/14/worlds-ugliest-woman-finally-given-a-dignified-burial-153-years-after-her-death/


Article: Operation Paul Bunyan


The link below is to an article that looks at an odd story form the history of North and South Korea, that includes the death of two Americans.

For more visit:
http://www.neatorama.com/2013/02/04/Cold-War-Tales-Operation-Paul-Bunyan/


Article: Good King Wenceslas


The link below is to an article that takes a look at the story and history of Wenceslas.

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/21293


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