|HMS Oriole, Salt Spring Island|
Tuesday, 7 March 2017
Born into a world at war just two years before the Romans sacked Corinth to bring Greece under Roman rule, Quintus lived much of his life as a military man far from the hills, mountains, and valleys of his birthplace.
In 81 BC, he traveled to Morocco, the land of opium, massive trilobites and the birthplace of Antaeus, the legendary North African ogre who was killed by the Greek hero Heracles.
The locals tell a tale that Quintus requested proof of Antaeus, hard evidence he could bring back to Rome to support their tales so they took him to a mound at Tingis, Morocco, where they unearthed the bones of a Neogene elephant, Tetralophodon.
During the Miocene and Pliocene, 12-1.6 million years ago, this diverse group of extinct proboscideans, elephant-like animals walked the Earth.
Most of these large beasts had four tusks and likely a trunk similar to modern elephants. They were creatures of legend, inspiring myths and stories of fanciful creatures to the first humans to encounter them.
I was lucky enough to travel to Morocco a few years ago and see the Tetralophodon remains. At the time, the tales of Antaeus ran through my head. Could this be the proof that Quintus wanted. As it happens, it was.
Friday, 3 March 2017
Although the least tall of the redwoods, it grows to at least 200 feet (60 meters) in height. Local villagers refer to the original tree from which most others derive as Shui-sa, or "water fir", which is part of a local shrine. Since its rediscovery in 1944, the dawn redwood has become a popular ornamental tree in the Pacific Northwest. Metasequoia was first described as a fossil from the Mesozoic Era by Shigeru Miki in 1941. Later in 1944, a small stand of an unidentified tree species was discovered in China in Modaoxi (磨刀溪; presently, Moudao (谋道), in Lichuan County, Hubei province by Zhan Wang.
While the find was exciting, it was overshadowed by China's ongoing conflict with Japan. In 1937, a clash between Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge, just outside Beijing, led to an all-out war. A year later, by mid-1938, the Chinese military situation was desperate. Most of eastern China lay in Japanese hands: Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan. Many outside observers assumed that China could not hold out, and the most likely scenario was a Japanese victory over China. Yet the Chinese hung on, and after Pearl Harbor, the war became genuinely global. The western Allies and China were now united in their war against Japan, a conflict that would finally end on September 2, 1945.
With World War II behind them, the Chinese researchers were able to re-focus their energies on the sciences. In 1946, Wan Chun Cheng and Hu Hsen Hsu were able to further study the trees from Lichuan County and publish their work describing a new living species of Metasequoia in 1948. That same year, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University sent an expedition to collect seeds and, soon after, seedling trees were distributed to various universities and arboreta worldwide for growth trials.