Saturday, November 17, 2018

Cleopatra’s Alexandria

Alexandria was founded around 332 BC by Alexander the Great. It became an important center of Hellenistic civilization and remained the capital of Ptolemaic Egypt and Roman and Byzantine Egypt for almost 1,000 years, until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641.

Alexandria was best known for
  • the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; 
  • its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world; and 
  • the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages.

Alexandria was at one time the second most powerful city of the ancient Mediterranean region, after Rome.

Alexandria Today

Sunken Treasure

In 1998 a French archeologist, Franck Goddio found the remains of the ancient city and Cleopatra’s spectacular palace at the lost, sunken island of Antirhodos.

Why was Cleopatra’s palace submerged?
Scientists believe a few centuries after Cleopatra’s reign (1400 years ago) there was a terrible earthquake and a huge tsunami in Egypt, which hit the coast of Alexandria. It is this natural disaster, they believe, which resulted in the island of Antirhodos sinking with the, once great, royal harbor, palace and lighthouse.

Further Info

Friday, November 16, 2018

Black Drink - Ilex vomitoria

Long before Europeans arrived, Native Americans made a caffeinated beverage, known as the Black Drink, from toasted leaves of the yaupon holly plant.  The drink was typically used in rituals promoting purity, peace and friendship. The leaves were traded with tribes outside the plant's natural range. It was offered to former enemies during peacemaking ceremonies.  While the recipe can vary between tribes, the full formula was not given to outsiders.
Native American Black Drink - Preparation/Ceremony

It is speculated that the black drink may have contained emetic herbs in addition to yaupon leaves, since rituals often, but not always, included vomiting.  Although the scientific name for yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, refers to vomiting, the leaves do not cause vomiting.

Yaupon Holly

Ilex vomitoria - The plant is the only known indigenous plant to North America that contained caffeine.The Latin name comes from an incorrect belief by Europeans that the plant caused vomiting in certain ceremonies.
Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon Holly

Cassina or yaupon tea

After European contact with tribes in what is today the Southeastern United States, colonists began using the charred leaves of the yaupon holly to make a tea similar to the black drink, but without the ritual of vomiting.

During the Civil War, yaupon tea was used as a substitute for coffee and tea throughout the South.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Great Infographics from National Geographic

National Geographic has an amazing array of high-quality infographics - artistry at its finest! Here'e a sampling of just a few - highly recommended...

Amazonia: Vital and Fragile

Talking Trees, illustration for National Geographic
Beau and Alan Daniels

In Harm's Way

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Catskill Mountain Narrow Gauge Railroads

Did you know there were narrow gauge railroads in the Catskills that operated for nearly forty years transporting vacationers up to the mountains. Its fascinating story and even includes an inclined railway the Otis Elevating Railway.

This Otis Elevating Railway was a  cable funicular line that opened in 1892 and rose 1,630 ft up the mountain. in just 7,000 ft!

Further info will be forthcoming once a trek to the site is scheduled!

Railroad Maps of the Area

The Otis Elevating Railway

This was even featured in a Scientific American article on, Oct. 5, 1895!

Historical Railroad Map 

Folks travelled by Steamer to  either Kingston or Catskill and boarded a narrow gauge train to bring them to the mountain resorts,

Elegant Hotels

At the top of the incline railway, there were a few very elegant hotels...

Catskill Mountain House
Hotel Katerskill

Further Info

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pequonnock Valley History

I have had a fascination for this park ever since I started mountain biking there ages ago with my son. Old abandoned mills, a rail trail full of history and magnificent scenery make every visit an enticing adventure.

Researching history thru old maps always brings little rewards of discovery. A remnant of an old path semi-obscured in the woods... the mystery behind an old foundation... discovering and learning their origins keeps me coming back for more :-)

Pathways to the former pond

Remnants of an old road leading down to the railroad bed

Old Mine Park

Photo of Tungsten Mine (it ceased ceasing operations after a suspicious fire in 1916)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Great Flats Aquifer

The Schenectady Aquifer (a.k.a. the Great Flats Aquifer) is one of the most productive aquifers in New York State. It is also the most heavily pumped aquifer in upstate New York.

Schenectady first tapped the aquifer as a water source in 1897. Today Scotia, Glenville, Rotterdam and Niskayuna also draw their main water supplies from the aquifer, a total of 24 million gallons per day. The Department of Health estimates as much as 65 million gallons could be safely withdrawn.

The Great Flats Aquifer is a large deposit of water-saturated sand and gravel that was deposited as glaciers receded around 10,000 years ago. A large lake some researchers have compared to Lake Ontario once drained into those sands.

  New Your State Aquifiers