Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sacred Groves - 8

Jasper Francis Cropsey, Pool in the Woods

For every man there is some spot on earth, I think, which he has pledged himself to return to, some day, because he was so happy there once. Even to long for it is holiday of a sort. These visits of revery may be all that he can pay it, for years, perhaps until his shade is free to haunt where it pleases. But some are lucky; some get back, and find it, to every trembling leaf and stanch old tree trunk, untouched by any alteration but the seasons'.

-Donald Culross Peattie, Flowering Earth (1939)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost in New York City

Physicists say we are made of stardust. Intergalactic debris and far-flung atoms, shards of carbon nanomatter rounded up by gravity to circle the sun. As atoms pass through an eternal revolving door of possible form, energy and mass dance in fluid relationship. We are stardust, we are man, we are thought. We are story. — Glenda Burgess

While trying to find some old documents on NC meteors, I did track down an article from the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, Vol 7 (1890) - "A List and Description of the Meteorites of North Carolina," by F. P. Venable. He catalogues the 23 meteorites then known to have fallen in North Carolina.

Several had been found in Western North Carolina: in Asheville, Black Mountain, Hominy Creek and Madison County. The best story accompanies the “fresh” meteorite found in Haywood County:

On the Meteoric Stone from Ferguson, Haywood County, North Carolina. Mr. W. A. Harrison, of Ferguson, Haywood County, North Carolina, says: that about six o'clock on the evening of July 18, 1889, he noticed a remarkable noise west of him, and that fifteen minutes later he saw something strike the earth, which, on examination, proved to be a meteoric stone, so hot that he could scarcely hold it in his hand five minutes after it fell. Two-thirds of its bulk was buried in the earth when found. This stone was sent to the writer and was unfortunately lost in New York city during the month of December. The stone was slightly oblong, covered with a deep, black crust, which had been broken at one end, showing a great chondritic structure with occasional specks of iron. Its weight was about eight ounces: and it very closely resembled the meteoric stone from Mocs, Transylvania. It remained in the writer's possession so short a time that it was not properly investigated, but still the mere mention of a fall which had been so carefully observed is thought to be well worthy of publication.

In the early 1900s Dr. Oliver Cummings Farrington, Curator of Geology in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, published a couple of books on meteorites, including A Catalogue of the Meteorites of North America.(1909) Regarding the distribution of 247 verified meteor "falls” found to date in North America, Dr. Farrington observed:

The greatest massing of meteorites in the whole province of North America occurs in the region of the southern Appalachians, where the states of Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama adjoin. A circle with a radius of 300 miles drawn about Mount Mitchell, North Carolina, as a center, will include nearly half of the known meteorites of North America. Twenty-five of these, or nearly half of the known falls of the continent, are observed falls, and it would seem possible at first thought that many of the meteorites in this area might have come from a single shower. This would reduce the number, but the writer has made a careful study of the history of each meteorite and its geographical relation to those of similar character without finding any support for such a view. Not only does the area contain a large number of observed falls, but the finds embrace a variety of types larger than any known to be produced by a single shower.

Farrington came up with an explanation for this concentration of reported meteorites:

Density of population will increase the number of meteorites known from a region, because the greater the population the greater the number of observers and the more numerous the chances both that the meteorite will be observed when it falls and that it will be found after it has fallen. As regards character of population, a high order of intelligence is favorable not only to the observation but to the preservation of meteorites. The writer has elsewhere called attention to the fact that the distribution of meteorites on a map of the world is almost exactly that of the Caucasian race. This seems to prove quite conclusively that the distribution of meteorites is largely dependent on the degree of civilization attained in a region. That this factor is more important than density of population is shown by the fact that no meteorites are known from China in spite of its immense numbers of people. In the province of North America it is hardly likely that the different degrees of intelligence existing in different regions would exert any discernible influence on the number of meteorites known.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Super Glue Inventor Dead at 94

I can't resist the obvious...

He stuck around a long time!

Kingsport, TN. - Harry Wesley Coover Jr., known as the inventor of Super Glue, has died. He was 94.

I had no idea Super Glue was discovered in Kingsport.

According to the Associated Press report, a small mishap at the Tennessee Eastman plant gave the world that high-performance adhesive. In 1951, a Coover assistant "was distressed that some brand new refractometer prisms were ruined when they were glued together by the substance."

Coover recognized its potential, and the adhesive reached the market seven years later. The AP report added: Cyanoacrylate, the chemical name for the glue, was first uncovered in 1942 in a search for materials to make clear plastic gun sights for World War II. But the compound stuck to everything, which is why it was rejected by researchers.

Kingsport has one of the most unique histories of any city in the Southern Appalachians. First posted here 7/19/07, the ominous past of the Long Island on the Holston is such a story that I'm reposting it as follows...

In July of the year 1777 the Overhills Cherokees in Tennessee negotiated the Treaty of Long Island of the Holston, whereby they relinquished their claims to the land occupied by whites in east Tennessee. From the National Park Service, we read this about the Long Island of the Holston, in Kingsport: Located just east of the junction of the North and South Forks of the Holston River, Long Island was a sacred council and treaty ground surrounded by the vast hunting territory of the Cherokee Nation. Starting at Long Island in March 1775, Daniel Boone (1734-1820) led a team of 30 axmen to open the trail through Cumberland Gap that was to gain fame as the Wilderness Road. Between 1775 and 1795, this trail was used by more than 200,000 emigrants. Condition: The island has been covered with chemical factories and lost its integrity. The island is about four miles long and one-half mile wide.

From the treaty proceedings of July 18, 1777:

Colo. Christian spoke as follows.

Friends & Brethren, Our business at this place was to make peace with our ancient allies the Cherokees; . . . to fix a boundary between you and your brothers of Virginia that may stand firm & unbroken thr'o ages yet to come. . . . You are sensible that if we had a desire or wanted your land, we should have left an army in your Country and not have invited you to treat with us. . . . we propose to give you two hundred head of breeding Cows and one hundred head of Sheep for it, by the fall to be delivered at this place when the line is run, at which we desire some of your Warriors to be present that your people may have stocks of their own. This stock we give as a compensation for the land that falls within our state when the boundary line between Virginia and North Carolina is run, which may be of great use in cloathing and supporting your people.

The Commissioners then withdrew, and left the Indians alone to consult, after a short time being met again, the Raven spoke as follows.

Now my elder Brothers shall hear what I have to say which is the certain truth without wavering. You and me have each other fast by the hand and we will forever keep our hold; altho some differences may arise in our opinion, while we are talking the friendly talks together. The bright chain of friendship is laid aside till we can settle the bounds of our Countries. . . . My elder Brothers desired me to mention a boundary, and after that you proposed another. But I tell you now we will begin our line at the mouth of big Creek just below Robinsons fort, and run thence a straight line three miles to the left of Cumberland Gap. Colo. Christian then spoke as follows.

…th'o from the mouth of the Creek you mentioned, to that we proposed, the line to begin at, is but a verry little way, it will leave out near twenty of our people, who have planted corn there, and can be of little use to you. Therefore we expect you will allow the line to begin at the mouth of the second Creek below the ford and extend to the place you point out in Cumberland mountain. The Raven then spoke as follows.

I depend on you to let the Governor of Virginia know that I had fixed a boundary, but that at your request I suffered it to go up to the place you propose upon my land. Col. Christian spoke as follows.

We have now settled the boundary between you & your Brothers of Virginia and you may be assured our Governor and great council will make it verry strong. What we have promised you shall be delivered when we run the line, of which you shall have due noticed. We will inform our Governor, of your friendly behaviour at the treaty, and show him your good talks. From another source we learn that the once-sacred island was cursed after the acceptance of the treaty: The Long Island of the Holston River…is a cursed place with a checkered history.

This was once sacred ground to the Cherokee Indians--a place of peace where no man could be killed. It was also a meeting ground where treaties were written and agreed upon. On July 20, 1777, Cherokee chiefs--including the legendary Attakullakulla--and white soldiers signed a treaty there that forced the Indians to give up millions of acres of their territory, including the island itself. The decision was not unanimous--especially among the rank and file. It is said that, after the signing and as the Indians were leaving, a medicine man cursed the island saying that no white man would ever live there in peace. Undeniably, this curse still holds true today.

Over the years, Long Island has been the scene of a number of violent murders, including that horrifying day in 1925 when a fugitive named Kinnie Wagner gunned down a number of law enforcement officers who had come to arrest him.

Long Island is even considered haunted. Tales are told of an apparition who roams the island, armed with a long knife, who attacks couples who go there at night to be alone.

There are no houses on the island and about half of it now contains a park administered by the City of Kingsport. The other half of the island--ironically--is the home of a waste treatment plant owned by Tennessee Eastman. Indeed, even if they could, no one would want to live there.

Finally, link over to Discover Kingsport for "new images historically imagined" of Long Island.

I really like these. The photographer has taken present day photos of Long Island, and then altered the photos to take out the "improvements" to the land. Not exactly before-and-after photos…more like after-and-before. Nice concept. The photographer wanted to see "old Kings Port" as he imagined it might have been. .

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Other Meteor of 1860

We are the local embodiment of a Cosmos grown to self-awareness. We have begun to contemplate our origins: starstuff pondering the stars; organized assemblages of ten billion billion billion atoms considering the evolution of atoms; tracing the long journey by which, here at least, consciousness arose. Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive is owed not just to ourselves but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring. — Carl Sagan

Not to be confused with Thomas Clingman’s “meteor of 1860” is another “meteor of 1860” known to Whitman and Church.

The Meteor of 1860, by Frederic Church, 1860.

The northern meteor, falling just a couple of weeks before the one in Asheville, was the subject of some attention in 2010, when physics professors verified that an actual event had inspired Walt Whitman’s poem, Year of Meteors (1859-60). An essential clue for the researchers was Frederic Church’s 1860 painting which they believed fit Whitman’s description perfectly.

More on the 2010 announcement:

Frederic Church (1826-1900), landscape painter of the Hudson River School, was watching the Catskills evening sky of July 20, 1860, and witnessed a string of fireballs, spawned by a rare Earth-grazing meteor procession. Rare indeed! It was one of only four such meteor processions viewed and listed during recorded history.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was writing “... strange huge meteor procession, dazzling and clear, shooting over our heads" in his poem Year of Meteors (1859-60). Over time, the inspiration for Whitman's poem was forgotten, until the Texas State University physicists cracked the case.

Year of Meteors [1859-60]
by Walt Whitman

Year of meteors! brooding year!
I would bind in words retrospective some of your deeds and signs,
I would sing your contest for the 19th Presidentiad,
I would sing how an old man, tall, with white hair, mounted the
scaffold in Virginia,
(I was at hand, silent I stood with teeth shut close, I watch'd,
I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling
with age and your unheal'd wounds you mounted the scaffold;)
I would sing in my copious song your census returns of the States,
The tables of population and products, I would sing of your ships
and their cargoes,
The proud black ships of Manhattan arriving, some fill'd with
immigrants, some from the isthmus with cargoes of gold,
Songs thereof would I sing, to all that hitherward comes would welcome give,
And you would I sing, fair stripling! welcome to you from me, young
prince of England!
(Remember you surging Manhattan's crowds as you pass'd with your
cortege of nobles?
There in the crowds stood I, and singled you out with attachment;)
Nor forget I to sing of the wonder, the ship as she swam up my bay,
Well-shaped and stately the Great Eastern swam up my bay, she was
600 feet long,
Her moving swiftly surrounded by myriads of small craft I forget not
to sing;
Nor the comet that came unannounced out of the north flaring in heaven,
Nor the strange huge meteor-procession dazzling and clear shooting
over our heads,
(A moment, a moment long it sail'd its balls of unearthly light over
our heads,
Then departed, dropt in the night, and was gone;)
Of such, and fitful as they, I sing--with gleams from them would
gleam and patch these chants,
Your chants, O year all mottled with evil and good--year of forebodings!
Year of comets and meteors transient and strange--lo! even here one
equally transient and strange!
As I flit through you hastily, soon to fall and be gone, what is this chant,
What am I myself but one of your meteors?

An 1888 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica mentions the meteor:

...[it] was seen in the evening of July 20, 1860, by persons in New York, Pennsylvania, New England, etc, which first appeared over Michigan, at a height of about 90 miles. The light was so brilliant as to call thousands from their houses. It passed east-southeast, and over New York State, at a height of about 50 miles, broke into three parts which chased each other across the sky. At New York city it was seen in the north, while at New Haven it was in the south. At both places the apparent altitude was well observed, and its true height proved to be about 42 miles above the earth's surface between the two cities. It finally disappeared far out over the Atlantic Ocean. 'It is doubtful whether any one heard any sound of explosion that came from this meteor, and no part of it is known to have reached the ground. The velocity was at least 10 or 12 miles per second, or fifty times the velocity of sound. These two meteors were evidently of the same nature as those which have furnished so many stones for our museums, except that the one was so friable that it has given us but one known fragment, while the other was only seen to break in two, not even a sound of explosion being known to have come from the meteor.

Next to the stone-producing meteor is the fireball, or bolide, which gives generally a less brilliant light than the former, but in essential appearances is like it. The meteor of July 20, 1860, above described, though unusually brilliant, was one of this class, and represents thousands of bolides which have been seen to break in pieces. The bolides leave trains of light behind them just as the stone meteors do; they travel with similar velocities both apparent and actual, and in all respects exhibit only such differences of phenomena as would be fully explained by differences in size, cohesion, and chemical constitution of stones causing them.