Swallowed Whole

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Have you seen that video that has been going around on Facebook about the divers who were in the ocean and a huge whale comes up almost beneath him and it appears as if the diver was nearly swallowed whole?  It’s impressive…in spite of the fact that the whale was a plankton eater and not the kind of whale that opens its mouth wide enough to swallow a human.  I know, though, that if I’d been that diver, I’d have swam as hard and fast as I could to get to the boat and get out of the water after that experience!!!  And, I doubt that I’d ever go diving again except in the neighbor’s swimming pool.  There is just something about being adrift in water that holds creatures that are far larger than I am and that can be very, very hungry!

Not everything that is swallowed whole, though, is life-threatening.  Take today’s photo for example.  About two miles from where we live is an old farmstead that is a historical place.  Along the road right in front of it they are widening the road and doing lots of construction.  But off the the left (as one travels southward) you can catch a glimpse of a couple old buildings that have been eaten alive and swallowed whole by the Georgia woods.  Plant life grows rapidly here – there’s plenty of rain year round for it to suck up through the root system and it appears that the soil must be rather fertile as a result of the plant detritus that covers the ground.  The net result: the woods and undergrowth spring up all over the place in a rather voracious fashion.  Any old buildings that are left standing for very long can rather quickly be overtaken by the flora.

Such is the case with today’s photo.  I wonder how this old barn feels about it?  I suspect it could sympathize with that diver…

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: Although accounts of an aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster was born when a sighting made local news on May 2, 1933. The Inverness Courier reported that a local couple claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.” The story of the “monster” (a moniker chosen by the Courier editor) became a media phenomenon, with London newspapers sending correspondents to Scotland and a circus offering a 20,000 pound sterling reward for capture of the beast.

Loch Ness has the largest volume of fresh water in Great Britain, reaching depths of nearly 800 feet and a length of 23 miles. No less than a dozen references to “Nessie” are found in Scottish history, dating back to around A.D. 500, when Picts carved a strange aquatic creature into standing stones near Loch Ness. The earliest written reference to a monster in Loch Ness is a 7th-century biography of Saint Columba. In 565, Columba was on his way to visit the king near Inverness when he stopped at the Loch to confront a beast that had been killing people in the lake. Seeing a large beast about to attack another man, Columba intervened, invoking the name of God and commanding the creature to “go back with all speed.” The monster retreated and never killed another man.

In 1933, a road was completed along the shore, giving drivers a clear view of the loch. After the sighting was reported in the local paper on May 2, interest steadily grew, especially after another couple claimed to have seen the beast on land, crossing the shore road. British papers sent reporters to Scotland, including London’s Daily Mail, which hired big-game hunter Marmaduke Wetherell to capture the beast. After a few days searching the loch, Wetherell reported finding footprints of a large four-legged animal. In response, the Daily Mail carried the dramatic headline: “MONSTER OF LOCH NESS IS NOT LEGEND BUT A FACT.” Scores of tourists descended on Loch Ness and sat in boats or decks chairs waiting for an appearance by the beast. Plaster casts of the footprints were sent to the British Natural History Museum, which reported that the tracks were that of a hippopotamus, specifically one hippopotamus foot, probably stuffed. The hoax temporarily deflated Loch Ness Monster mania, but stories of sightings continued.

A famous 1934 photograph seemed to show a dinosaur-like creature with a long neck emerging out of the murky waters, leading some to speculate that “Nessie” was a solitary survivor of the long-extinct plesiosaurs. The aquatic plesiosaurs were thought to have died off with the rest of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Loch Ness was frozen solid during the recent ice ages, however, so this creature would have had to have made its way up the River Ness from the sea in the past 10,000 years. And plesiosaurs, believed to be cold-blooded, would not survive in the frigid waters of Loch Ness. More likely, others suggested, it was an archeocyte, a primitive whale with a serpentine neck that is thought to have been extinct for 18 million years. Skeptics argued that people were seeing “seiches”–oscillations in the water surface caused by the inflow of cold river water into the slightly warmer loch.

In the 1960’s several British universities launched expeditions using sonar to search the deep. Nothing conclusive was found, but in each expedition the sonar operators detected large, moving underwater objects they could not explain. In 1975, Boston’s Academy of Applied Science combined sonar and underwater photography in an expedition to Loch Ness. A photo resulted that, after enhancement, appeared to show the giant flipper of a plesiosaur-like creature. Further sonar expeditions in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in more tantalizing, if inconclusive, readings. Revelations in 1994 that the famous 1934 photo was a hoax hardly dampened the enthusiasm of tourists and professional and amateur investigators to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: One observer in 1959 noticed that the dirt at the Treblinka concentration camp was not brown but gray. As he felt the dirt trickle through his fingers, he realized the earth was “coarse and sharp and filled with the fragments of human bone.”

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2 thoughts on “Swallowed Whole”

  1. You know, I don’t really have too many. I’ll have to try to get some more, but we’re heading back to CA tomorrow…won’t be back to Georgia until next spring…won’t find too many in CA, I don’t think. If I get more, I’ll probably post them somewhere along the line!

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