Category Archives: Nature

Wind Cave National Park: A most unusual cave and wildlife preserve

Wind Cave Entrance

Wind Cave Entrance

Fun Facts About Wind Cave National Park

Wind Cave National Park is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Tom and Jesse Bingham are credited with the discovery of Wind Cave in 1881.

Exploration has revealed 87 miles of passageways to date, which makes Wind Cave the fifth largest cave system in the United States, and eighth in the world.

The Cave gets its name from the wind that blows through, which during March-August of 1985 was measured to be >75 mph (120 kph) is highest recorded measurement at Walk-In Entrance before revolving door was installed. The highest recorded measurement at the Natural Entance was 25 mph (40 kph). North Room 0.28-1.75 mph (.5-2.8 kph).

An average of 1,000,000 ft³ (28317 m³) of air from the cave is exchanged with the surface each hour.

The Park features the most boxwork of any known cave and the most complex 3D rectilinear maze cave (network maze).

The Park also features one of the most diverse mineralogical and speleothem assemblages and one of the largest barometric wind caves in the United States.

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Boxwork - a rare rock formation, or "speleothem"

Other natural features of the Cave are helictite bushes, quartz rinds, logomites, hydromagnesite ballons, dogtooth and nailhead spar, quartz, christmas trees, button popcorn, sawtooth flowstone, gypsum luster, flowers, starbursts, and hair conulites.

Wind Cave is over 300 million years old, making it one of the oldest in the world. Besides extreme age, other features make Wind Cave unique. The cave is large and extremely complex, the 81 miles of known cave (1998) fit under one square mile of land. The boxwork is rare and found in few other caves. Wind Cave has undergone many geological changes and the processes continue.

The Cave’s boundaries are within a 1.1 by 1.3 mile rectangle (370.4 ha) on the surface.

The park was heavily exploited during it’s early days. Many features were removed, names carved on walls, and a lot of trash and outside debris was brought in.

On Jan 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave National Park. It was the seventh national park and the first one created to protect a cave. The parklands at that time were small and there were no bison, elk, or pronghorn. They came later as the park boundaries expanded.

In 1912, the American Bison Society was looking for a place to reestablish a bison herd. Because of the excellent prairie habitat around the park, a national game preserve was established bordering Wind Cave. It was managed by the U.S. Biological Survey. In 1913 and 1914, the animals began to arrive. Fourteen bison came from the New York Zoological Society, twenty-one elk arrived from Wyoming and thirteen pronghorn came from Alberta, Canada.

In July of 1935, the game preserve became part of Wind Cave National Park. During the early years of the preserve, the animals were kept in small enclosures. Eventually, it was realized that they needed more space. The bison and elk needed additional forage and the pronghorn needed room to escape from predators. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), fences within the park were removed. And in 1946, 16,341 additional acres were added, enlarging the park to 28,059 acres.

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Aside from the Cave, the park is a nature preserve for bison and other fauna

Serious exploration of the caves did not begin until 1956, and during 1963 to 1965 major additions to the known territory of Wind Cave were made.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, managers continued to focus on caring for the wildlife and rangeland by building an understanding of how the natural systems should function. The reintroduction of fire as a natural means to improve the range and to limit the expansion of the forest onto the prairie was researched. An active fire program was started, with the first prescribed fire occurring in 1972.

Exploration is still on going today (and the ranks of which cave is largest changes frequently).

Wind Cave National Park is open year round with visitation the highest in June, July and August and lowest in December, January and February.

The length of the surveyed cave is 135 miles (217.26 kilometers).

The deepest point surveyed are the underground lakes, which are 654 feet (199.3 m) below the highest point in the cave.

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

On the banks of Wind Cave's underground lake

Not only does Wind Cave National Park protect the 87 miles of passageways below it, but is home to a host of Black Hills features including mountains, ponderosa forest, prairies, and the most miles of established, maintained, hiking trails of all of the National Park facilities located in South Dakota.

Wind Cave National Park by default is also an excellent jumping off point to see other Black Hills attractions like Custer State Park, Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument, and the Crazy Horse Memorial.

Calcite Rafts, a thin layer of calcite stone, floats on the top of the lakes.  The unusual stone formation will sink when the surface tension of the water is broken.  These formations have been found in dry parts of the cave, adding to the evidence that the water levels in the Black Hills have rose and receded over the millennium, creating the numerous caves we can see today.

Wind Cave National Park also offers a wider variety of tours and programs for visitors than it’s smaller sibling to the west, Jewel Cave National Monument.

 

Special thanks to wind.cave.national-park.comoutdoorplaces.com and nps.gov

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The Turkey: Holiday Delicacy and One-time Proposed Symbol of the United States

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

A Broad Breasted Bronze tom (male turkey)

Fun Facts About the Turkey

 

  • Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Wild turkeys in their natural habitat

    Turkeys originated in North and Central America.

  • Usually the turkeys are found in hardwood forests with grassy areas but they are capable of adapting themselves to different habitats.
  • Turkeys spend the night in trees.
  • You can easily see a turkey on a warm clear day or during light rain.
  • Turkeys fly to the ground at first light and feed until mid-morning. Feeding resumes in mid-afternoon.
  • Turkeys start gobbling before sunrise and generally continue through most of the morning.
  • The field of vision of wild turkey is so good that it is about 270 degrees.
  • The wild turkey has excellent hearing.
  • A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A turkey can run up to 20 mph

    A spooked turkey can run at speed up to 20 miles per hour.

  • A wild turkey can run at speed of up to 25 miles per hour.
  • A wild turkey can fly for short distances at up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Domesticated turkeys or the farm-raised turkeys cannot fly.
  • Turkeys were one of the first birds to be domesticated in the America.
  • The male turkeys are called ‘tom’, the female turkeys are called ‘hen’ and the baby turkeys are called ‘poult’.
  • The male turkeys gobble whereas female turkeys make a clicking noise.
  • The male turkeys gobble to attract the female turkeys for mating. The gobble is a seasonal call made during the spring and fall.
  • A mature turkey generally has around 3,500 feathers. The Apache Indians considered the turkey timid and wouldn’t eat it or use its feathers on their arrows.
  • Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    Roast turkey is typically consumed in America during Thanksgiving and/or Christmas

    According to an estimate, during the Thanksgiving holiday more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and around 525 million pounds of turkey is eaten.

  • About ninety-five percent of American families eat turkey on the Thanksgiving Day whereas fifty percent eat turkey on Christmas holiday.
  • Almost fifty percent of Americans eat turkey at least once every 2 weeks.
  • According to the National Turkey Federation about twenty-four percent of Americans purchase fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving and seventy percent purchase frozen turkeys.
  • North Carolina is the number one producer of turkeys. It produces around 61 million turkeys per year. Minnesota and Arkansas are second and third number producers of turkey.
  • The part of the turkey that is used in a good luck ritual is known as the ‘wishbone’.
  • The red fleshy growth from the base of the beak that hangs down over the beak is called ‘snood’. It is very long on male turkeys.

 

Special thanks to www.thanksgivingnovember.com

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Taxes: The Bad, The Ugly and the Absolutely Moronic

Russia's Peter the Great, 1672 - 1725

Russia's Peter the Great, 1672 - 1725

Fun Facts About Dumb, Annoying, Crazy or otherwise Controversial TAXES

BeardBeard Tax

To Shave or Not to Shave? Peter the Great taxed all (non-clergy) facial hair in 1705. As much as 90% of Peter the Great’s tax revenue used for military. (also taxed souls)

Facial Hair Tax

Massachusetts has a law on the books that makes it illegal to have a goatee without first purchasing a license to do so. A small fee must be paid in order to wear the facial hair in public, and one can be fined if a license is not presented to a law enforcement official upon request.

UrinalUrine Tax

Nero and Vespasian taxed collections from latrines. (used for textiles)

BribeBribe Tax

According to Page 87 of the IRS code, “if you receive a bribe, [you must] include it in your income.”

Mahatma GhandhiSalt Tax

Worth your weight in salt. 1930 Ghandhi’s first steps toward Indian Independence.

Ski Resort

Amusement Tax

In most states including Massachusetts and Virginia, is considered a tax on the patrons of places such as ski resorts, craft shows, and golf courses, but in reality is collected from the operators of such places. The government taxes the owners of places that offer “amusement” and in return those businesses pass the aforementioned taxes on to us.

Fountain sodaFountain Soda Drink Tax

Illinois has on record a tax rate on fountain drinks of 9 percent, as opposed to the standard sales tax of 3 percent.

Chinese take outTake-out Tax

Little did you know some areas levy a 0.5 percent tax on all take-out food. Chicago and Washington, D.C. both have enacted a tax on fast food, purportedly to pay for the removal of litter often accrued with the purchase of burgers and dogs. This tax applies to everything take-out, from your morning egg McMuffin to your late night cheese steak.

BlueberriesBlueberry Tax

In Maine, “anyone who grows, purchases, sells, handles, or processes the fruit in the state” makes those persons eligible for a ¾ cent per pound tax.

Playing cardsPlaying  Card Tax

Alabama has in place a 10 cent tax on the sale of all playing cards with 54 cards or less.

sparklerSparkler and Novelties Tax

West Virginia imposes a special fee on all businesses selling sparklers and other novelties. On top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax you can expect to pay an additional fee courtesy the state.

Illegal drugsIllegal Drug Tax

11 states in the U.S., including North Carolina and Nevada, tax citizens on possession of illegal drugs. After acquiring an illegal substance in North Carolina you are supposed to go to the Department of Revenue and pay a tax on it. In exchange, you will receive a stamp to affix to your drug which serves as evidence that a tax was paid.

NudityNudity Tax

In the State of Utah, taxpayers that own businesses where “nude or partially nude individuals perform any service” have to pay a 10% sales and use tax. It applies to all revenue from admission fees as well as the sales of merchandise, food, drink and services. These expenses are paid by the business owners who likely pass along the additional costs to their customers.

 

Special thanks to Huffington Post: A Dozen Dumb Taxes (from a compilation by Nick Sabloff)

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Alaska: The United States’ 49th and Largest State

Alaska, 49th State of the United States

Alaska, 49th State of the United States

Fun Facts About Alaska

2 CentsIn 1867, United States Secretary of State William H. Seward offered Russia $7,200,000. How much was that per acre?

two cents.

Where does the word ‘Alaska’ come from?

An Eskimo word Alakshak meaning great lands or peninsula.

Rhode Island can fit into Alaska 425 timesHow many times could Rhode Island fit into Alaska?

425.

What is Alaska’s official state sport?

dog mushing. The Alaska Legislature adopted this in 1972.

Anchorage, AK

Anchorage, AK

What is Alaska’s largest city in population?

Anchorage. Alaska’s second largest city is Fairbanks. The third is Juneau.

Secretary of State, William Seward circa 1860-1865

Secretary of State, William H. Seward circa 1860-1865

On what date did Alaska officially became the property of the United States?

October 18, 1867. The purchase of Alaska was called ‘Seward’s Folly’ by many Americans.

What is Alaska’s official state gemstone?

Jade.

Alaska State Flag

Alaska State Flag

In what year did Bennie Benson design Alaska’s state flag?

1926. Bennie Benson was only 13 years old when he designed Alaska’s state flag.

Mt. Augustine

Mt. Augustine

In what year did Mount Augustine erupt?

1986. Mt. Augustine is 104 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Tongass National Forest

Tongass National Forest

True or False? Alaska contains the largest national forest in the United States.

True . The name of this forest is the Tongass National Forest.

Juneau, capital of Alaska

Juneau, capital of Alaska

True or False? Juneau is only accessible by boat or plane.

True . It is the only capital city in the United States that is only accessible by boat or plane.

Prospect Creek Camp

Prospect Creek Camp

What is the lowest recorded temperature for Alaska?

-80 degrees F. This temperature was recorded at Prospect Creek Camp in 1971.

The Yukon River

The Yukon River

How many rivers does Alaska have?

Over 3,000. The largest of these is the Yukon, which flows for 1,980 miles into the Bering Sea.

Barrow, AK

Barrow, AK

What Alaskan city is the northernmost in the US?

Barrow. It’s only 800 miles from the North Pole. Wonder if Santa stops there first?

Libby Riddle

Libby Riddle

What is Alaskan Libby Riddles noted for?

First woman to win the Iditarod. In 1985 she won the Iditarod, Alaska’s famous 1,049-mile dogsled race. Her time, from Anchorage to Nome, was 18 days, 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

Sitka, former capital of Alaska

Sitka, former capital of Alaska

What was the capital of Alaska when it belonged to Russia?

Sitka.

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park

Which Alaskan National Park is the nation’s largest?

Wrangell- St. Elias. It encompasses 12.4 million acres, including ten of America’s highest peaks.

What’s the meaning of the term ‘Cheechako’?

Newcomer to Alaska. Term meaning first-time Alaskan traveler or newcomer to the area.

Muktuk, an Eskimo delicacy

Muktuk, an Eskimo delicacy

If you ordered muktuk, what would you be served?

Raw whale blubber. This is considered a delicacy by the Eskimos.

Juneau, AK

Juneau, AK

What is the capital of Alaska?

Juneau. Anchorage is the largest city, but Juneau is the state capital.

In Alaska the length of daylight is ___________ ?

more in the summer. The days are much shorter(darker)in the winter and, in the the summer the days are much longer(lighter). This is due to the tilt in the earth’s axis.

In 1998 which Alaskan High school won the 4A state championship for football?

Service. The Service Cougars won the state championship in 1997,1998,and 1999.

In 2002 Anchorage had a record snowfall for a 24 hour period. How much did they get?

30 inches. In the deepest spots it was inches but, the at the airport were the official depth is recorded it was 28 inches.

Mt. McKinley, US's largest mountain

Mt. McKinley, US's largest mountain

North America’s largest mountain (Mt. McKinley) is in Alaska. What is the name of the national park it is in?

Denali National Park.

From what country did the U.S buy Alaska?

Russia. It was bought from Russia in 1867 at two cents an acre. At the time it was known as “Seward’s Folly”, after the Secretary of State who arranged the purchase.

The forget-me-not

The forget-me-not

The Alaskan state flower is a_____ ?

forget-me-not.

The Alaskan oil pipeline

The Alaskan oil pipeline

Alaska is known for the great Alaskan pipe line. What runs through it?

Oil. The great Alaskan Pipeline carries oil from the north slope to Valdez. This is a distance of about 800 miles.

The Willow Ptarmigan

Willow Ptarmigan

What is Alaska’s state bird?

Willow ptarmigan. The origin of the word “ptarmigan” is unknown. One theory is that it comes from a Gaelic word meaning “mountaineer”. Feathered feet help this bird conserve heat and it can survive the winter by eating nothing more than willow buds. Also in the winter, the birds are camouflaged by turning completely white.

Sitka Spruce

Sitka Spruce

What is the state tree?

Sitka spruce. Spruce needles are usually sharp and four-sided and emit a pungent odor when crushed. The mature cones hang down from a branch, instead of erect like the cones of a fir. Spruces are typically tall and conical, but soil and climate can change their growth pattern.

Bowhead Whale

Bowhead Whale

What is the state sea animal?

Bowhead whale. Other wildlife found in Alaska are bears, moose, elk, deer, wolves, mountain goats, and many kinds of birds and fish.

What is the state fish?

King salmon. A salmon’s appearance is molded by the environment to an extraordinary degree; therefore, scientists do not know the exact number of species in the group. There are believed to be about 40 species native to North America.

Special thanks to www.funtrivia.com

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Stonehenge: Ancient Monument, Astronomical Observatory or Something Else?

The Rock Pillars of Stonehenge

The Rock Pillars of Stonehenge

 

Fun Facts About Stonehenge

 

  • Stonehenge is located on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England – about 137 kilometers Southwest of London.
  • The origins of the name Stonehenge is taken from the combination of ‘stone’ and ‘henge’, a tribute to the biggest henge in Britain.
  • Though there is no specific evidence about who built the Stonehenge. It is believed that Druids, Greeks, or Atlanteans might have built the Stonehenge.
  • Stonehenge was constructed somewhere between 3100 – 1100 BCE.
  • On September 21st, 1915, C.H. Chubb purchased Stonehenge for 6,600 pounds
  • Stonehenge and its surroundings were added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986 and is also legally protected by the Scheduled Ancient Monument.
  • Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.
  • The circle was aligned with the midsummer sunrise, the midwinter sunset, and the most southerly rising and northerly setting of the moon.
  • The builders of Stonehenge have featured it in a way that it encompasses sophisticated mathematical and geometrical understandings of the framework and the structural engineering of the construction.
  • Stonehenge has a henge, or a ditch and bank, which surround the large stone circle.
  • The stones of Stonehenge were placed in such a way that they increase in size towards the centre and alternate in shape between tall, thin pillar-like stones and stones of a tapering obelisk shape.
  • Two types of stone were used for the construction of Stonehenge- the ‘bluestones’ which weighed almost four tons and were brought from 240 miles away. The other type of stone used was the ‘Sarsen’ stones which had a height of about eighteen feet and weighed twenty-five tons.
  • It is anticipated that more than thirty million hours of labor was required for the construction of Stonehenge.
  • Stonehenge is the most well known among the nine hundred stone rings which exists in the British Isles.
  • Most archaeologists believed that Stonehenge’s use had been limited to the ritual activities of different Neolithic chiefdoms before 1950. However, its use as an astronomical observatory was an equally important function of the Stonehenge.
Special thanks to www.iloveindia.com

 

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The Giant Panda: China’s Endangered and Solitary Creatures

The Giant Panda

The Giant Panda

Fun Facts About the Giant Panda

Order: Carnivora

Family: Ursidae

Genus and species: Ailuropoda melanoleuca

Geographic distribution

Giant pandas live in a few mountain ranges in central China, in Sichuan, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces. They once lived in lowland areas, but farming, forest clearing, and other development now restrict giant pandas to the mountains.

Habitat

Giant pandas live in broadleaf and coniferous forests with a dense understory of bamboo, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet. Torrential rains or dense mist throughout the year characterizes these forests, often shrouded in heavy clouds.

Physical description

The giant panda, a black-and-white bear, has a body typical of bears. It has black fur on ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs, and shoulders. The rest of the animal’s coat is white. Although scientists do not know why these unusual bears are black and white, some speculate that the bold coloring provides effective camouflage into their shade-dappled snowy and rocky surroundings. The panda’s thick, wooly coat keeps it warm in the cool forests of its habitat. Giant pandas have large molar teeth and strong jaw muscles for crushing tough bamboo. Many people find these chunky, lumbering animals to be cute, but giant pandas can be as dangerous as any other bear.

Size

About the size of an American black bear, giant pandas stand between two and three feet tall at the shoulder (on all four legs), and reach four to six feet long. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 250 pounds in the wild. Females rarely reach 220 pounds.

Status

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Animals. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. Nearly 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

Life span

Scientists aren’t sure how long giant pandas live in the wild, but they are sure it’s shorter than lifespans in zoos. Chinese scientists have reported zoo pandas as old as 35. The National Zoo’s Hsing-Hsing died at age 28 in 1999.

Diet

A wild giant panda’s diet is almost exclusively (99 percent) bamboo. The balance consists of other grasses and occasional small rodents or musk deer fawns. In zoos, giant pandas eat bamboo, sugar cane, rice gruel, a special high-fiber biscuit, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes.

Social structure

Adult giant pandas are generally solitary, but they do communicate periodically through scent marks, calls, and occasional meetings. Offspring stay with their mothers from one and a half to three years.

The giant panda has lived in bamboo forests for several million years. It is a highly specialized animal, with unique adaptations.

Feeding adaptations

Millions of Zoo visitors enjoy watching giant pandas eat. A panda usually eats while sitting upright, in a pose that resembles how humans sit on the floor. This posture leaves the front paws free to grasp bamboo stems with the help of a “pseudo thumb,” formed by an elongated and enlarged wrist bone covered with a fleshy pad of skin. The panda also uses its powerful jaws and strong teeth to crush the tough, fibrous bamboo into bits.

A giant panda’s digestive system is more similar to that of a carnivore than an herbivore, and so much of what is eaten is passed as waste. To make up for the inefficient digestion, a panda needs to consume a comparatively large amount of food—from 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo

each day—to get all its nutrients. To obtain this much food means that a panda must spend 10 to 16 hours a day foraging and eating. The rest of its time is spent mostly sleeping and resting.

Water

Wild giant pandas get much of the water they need from bamboo, a grass whose contents are about half water. (New bamboo shoots are about 90 percent water.) But giant pandas need more water than what bamboo alone can provide. So almost every day wild pandas also drink fresh water from rivers and streams that are fed by melting snowfall in high mountain peaks. The temperate forests of central China where giant pandas live receive about 30 to 40 inches of rain and snow a year. Charleston, West Virginia—a city with a similar temperate climate—receives about the same amount of rain and snow: an average of 42.5 inches a year.

Reproduction

Giant pandas reach breeding maturity between four and eight years of age. They may be reproductive until about age 20. Female pandas ovulate only once a year, in the spring. A short period of two to three days around ovulation is the only time she is able to conceive. Calls and scents draw males and females to each other.

Female giant pandas give birth between 95 and 160 days after mating. Although females may give birth to two young, usually only one survives. Giant panda cubs may stay with their mothers for up to three years before striking out on their own. This means a wild female, at best, can produce young only every other year; in her lifetime, she may successfully raise only five to eight cubs. The giant pandas’ naturally slow breeding rate prevents a population from recovering quickly from illegal hunting, habitat loss, and other human-related causes of mortality.

Development

At birth, the cub is helpless, and it takes considerable effort on the mother’s part to raise it. A newborn cub weighs three to five ounces and is about the size of a stick of butter. Pink, hairless, and blind, the cub is 1/900th the size of its mother. Except for a marsupial (such as the kangaroo or opossum), a giant panda baby is the smallest mammal newborn relative to its mother’s size.

Cubs do not open their eyes until they are six to eight weeks of age and are not mobile until three months. A cub may nurse for eight to nine months. A cub is nutritionally weaned at one year, but not socially weaned for up to two years.

Lifestyle

A wild panda spends much of its day resting, feeding, and seeking food. Unlike other bears from temperate climates, giant pandas do not hibernate. Until recently, scientists thought giant pandas spent most of their lives alone, with males and females meeting only during the breeding season. Recent studies paint a different picture, in which small groups of pandas share a large territory and sometimes meet outside the breeding season. Much remains to be learned about the secret lives of these elusive animals, and every new discovery helps scientists in their battle to save this species.

 

Special thanks to nationalzoo.si.edu

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