One of the most fascinating animals in the world is the kangaroo. If there is nothing else that shows God’s sense of humor, the kangaroo would be enough all by itself to convince us that God likes to laugh! It has ears and feet like a rabbit, a tail that is powerful, front legs that are way too small for the rest of the body, an undersized head and a pouch for carrying check books, cough drops, gold coins and cell phones!
The name “kanguru” first appeared on July 12, 1770 in an entry in the diary of Sir Joseph Banks; this occurred at the site of modern Cooktown, on the banks of the Endeavour River, where HMSEndeavour under the command of Lieutenant James Cook was beached for almost seven weeks to repair damage sustained on the Great Barrier Reef.
A common myth about the kangaroo’s English name is that “kangaroo” was a Guugu Yimithirr phrase for “I don’t understand you.” According to this legend, Lieutenant Cook and naturalist Joseph Banks were exploring the area when they happened upon the animal. They asked a nearby local what the creatures were called. The local responded “Kangaroo”, meaning “I don’t understand you”, which Cook took to be the name of the creature. The Kangaroo myth was debunked in the 1970’s by linguist John B. Haviland in his research with the Guugu Yimithirr people.
Kangaroos are often colloquially referred to as “roos”. Male kangaroos are called bucks, boomers, jacks, or old men; females are does, flyers, or jills, and the young ones are joeys. The collective noun for kangaroos is a mob, troop, or court. A red male kangaroo (the largest marsupial in the world) can reach 6’7″ tall and weigh 200 pounds.
The comfortable hopping speed for a red kangaroo is about 13–16 mph, but speeds of up to 44 mph can be attained over short distances, while it can sustain a speed of 25 mph for nearly 1.2 miles.
Kangaroos and wallabies have large, elastic tendons in their hind legs. They store elastic strain energy in the tendons of their large hind legs, providing most of the energy required for each hop by the spring action of the tendons rather than by any muscular effort.
Oh, yeah…one more thing…they are really cute when they are sleeping! I photographed this one at the Atlanta zoo slightly over a week ago.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1944, a train stopped in a tunnel near Salerno, Italy, and more than 500 people on board suffocated and died. Taking place in WW2, the details of this incident were not revealed at the time and remain somewhat murky.
Train 8017 left Salerno heading for the rural area south of the city through the Apennine Mountains. Although it was a freight train that was not supposed to carry passengers, it was common at the time for both soldiers and civilians to hitch rides on any convenient train. Passing through the various towns, the 8017 picked up approximately 650 passengers by the time it reached Balvano.
Balvano was a tiny town between two long tunnels in the Apennines. It was raining as the 8017 began to ascend the Galleria delle Amri tunnel pass just outside of Balvano. Almost immediately, it was forced to stop. There were conflicting reports as to why this happened: either the train was unable to pull the overloaded freight cars up the slope or the train stopped to wait for a train descending in the opposite direction. In any case, the train sat idling in the tunnel for more than 30 minutes. While this might not have posed a severe danger in some circumstances, the train’s locomotives were burning low-grade coal substitutes because high-grade coal was hard to obtain during the war and the coal substitutes produced an excess of odorless and toxic carbon monoxide.
Approximately 520 of the train’s passengers were asphyxiated by the carbon monoxide as they sat in the train. The government, in the midst of an intense war effort, kept a lid on the story–it was barely reported at the time although it was one of the worst, and most unusual, rail disasters of the century and came less than two months after a train wreck in the Torro tunnel in Spain killed 500 people.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: When McDonald’s opened an outlet in Kuwait shortly after the end of the Gulf War, the line of cars waiting to eat there was seven miles long.