19 November 2010
NZ South Island coal mine fatal explosions. Victims never exhumed.
Flames burst from a ventilation shaft at the Pike River mine (Iain McGregor/Getty Images)
The Pike River underground coal mine is high in the rugged Paparoa Range, on the West Coast of the South Island. The only access to the mine workings was through a 2.3-km-long tunnel that intersected with the Brunner coal seam.
At 3.45 p.m. on Friday 19 November 2010, the mine exploded. Twenty-nine men underground died immediately or shortly afterwards from the blast or because of the toxic atmosphere this generated. Two men in the tunnel, some distance from the mine workings, managed to escape. Over the next nine days the mine exploded three more times before it was sealed.
In 2014 the National-ledgovernment accepted a decision by Solid Energy, the new owners of the mine, that ‘potentially fatal risk factors’ made it too…
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18 November 1947
Fighting the fire at Ballantyne’s department store (Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-5936-48)
The fire in Christchurch’s prestigious department store was one of the worst in New Zealand’s history.
When the fire began in a basement about 3.30 p.m., 250–300 people were shopping at Ballantyne’s, which had a staff of 458. The staff member who saw smoke coming from a stairwell asked a colleague to call the fire brigade.
Tragically, the brigade did not log this call. By the time firefighters arrived at 3.48 – ill-equipped to tackle anything more than a fire in a cellar – the blaze was out of control.
However, staff on the ground floor assumed the fire could be contained and no general evacuation was ordered. Staff returning from a tea break were told to go back to work, and customers entered the store as late at 3.56.
As the smoke…
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Clean transport is a hot topic, and as we move towards a low-emissions economy and international manufacturers phase out conventional vehicles, both electric and hydrogen are vying for a place.
And with good reason. At the moment, transport contributes almost a fifth of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions — with passenger cars and road freight together emitting more than three-quarters of the transport sector’s share.
Overall transport emissions have grown 1.3 per cent since last year, as motorists switch from petrol to diesel vehicles and freight activity rises.
But the need to reduce emissions isn’t the only driver for a transition to cleaner transport.
Concerns over the security of our petrol and diesel supply, shifts in international car manufacturing trends and the health impacts of exhaust fumes are piquing interest in greener options.
Where are we now?
Australia no longer makes cars locally, and overseas car companies are being pushed towards cleaner technologies by government restrictions on the manufacture of internal combustion engine vehicles.
This could mean that the supply of new conventional cars to Australia may eventually peter out.
“There is probably a sunset on the availability of [conventional] vehicles,” says James Kennedy of electric vehicle charger company Tritium, adding that this would likely be after 2040.
Over 750 million royal fans from all over the world tuned in to their TVs on July 29th, 1981, to watch as the fairytale wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer took place in London.
It was everything supporters of the Crown could have wanted from a royal wedding – the couple had 27 wedding cakes, Diana’s Emanuel dress had the longest train in royal history and the day was announced as a public holiday in the UK.
But while their lavish ceremony may have pleased the droves of well-wishers who turned out to line the streets on the day, the marriage of a then 20-year-old Princess Diana and 32-year-old Prince Charles was doomed from the very beginning, with the future king reportedly ending up in tears the night before the wedding because he was so deeply in love with his then-mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles.
It was the love triangle of the century, which would go on for the duration of Charles and Diana’s 11-year marriage, with the princess famously stating in an interview with Martin Bashir in 1995: “Well there were three of us in this marriage. So it was a bit crowded”.
Now, as Netflix’s The Crown promises to delve into the rocky royal past of Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Camilla Parker Bowles, we chronicle their relationship timeline.
One of the world’s most instantly recognizable cultural icons, Napoleon Bonaparte is usually depicted with one hand in his waistcoat—and short and aggressive. His supposedly small stature and fiery temper has inspired the term the Napoleon Complex, a popular belief that short men tend to compensate for their lack of height through domineering behavior and aggression.
But was Napoleon really short?
In fact, he was probably of average height. According to pre–metric system French measures, he was a diminutive 5′2.” But the French inch (pouce) of the time was 2.7 cm, while the Imperial inch was shorter, at 2.54 cm. Three French sources—his valet Constant, General Gourgaud, and his personal physician Francesco Antommarchi—said that Napoleon’s height was just over ‘5 pieds 2 pouces’ (5’2”). Applying the French measurements of the time, that equals around 1.69 meters, or just over 5’5”. So at 5’5” he was just an inch or so below the period’s average adult male height.
British Cartoonist James Gillray’s Famous Depictions
So if Napoleon was of average height, where does the legend of his small stature come from? It was, in fact, largely the work of one man: the British cartoonist James Gillray (1756-1815). Gillray’s caricatural depictions of the French general were so popular and influential that at the end of his life Napoleon said that Gillray “did more than all the armies of Europe to bring me down.”
From the start, Gillray satirized Napoleon as a thundering, boastful character, if not necessarily short. In 1798, the English Admiral Horatio Nelson destroyed the French Fleet at the Battle of the Nile. In Gillray’s cartoon, “Buonaparte hearing of Nelson’s Victory swears by his Sword to Extirpate the English from off the Earth,” Napoleon brandishes a bloody sword and boasts of the many military victories he has already carried off—so many that the speech bubble threatens to overwhelm the image. But in this image he is more muscular than small. It was a later cartoon that ushered in the diminutive image we are so familiar with today.
Gillray’s cartoon “Maniac-raving’s-or-Little Boney in a strong fit” (1803) was a satire of a genuine diplomatic incident which had occurred on March 14, 1803 at the Tuileries palace in Paris. In front of hundreds of European dignitaries, Napoleon vented his rage at Lord Whitworth, the British ambassador:
“On the appearance of Lord Whitworth in the circle, he approached him with equal agitation and ferocity, proceeded to descant, in the bitterest terms, on the conduct of the English Government—summoned the Ministers of some of the Foreign Courts to be witnesses to this vituperative harangue—and concluded by expressions of the most angry and menacing hostility….this brutal and ungentlemanly attack… terminated by the First Consul [Napoleon] retiring to his apartments, repeating his last phrases, till he had shut himself in; leaving nearly two hundred spectators of this wanton display of arrogant impropriety, in amazement and consternation.”
Gillray’s cartoon depicts a tiny Napoleon wearing boots that dwarf him, tearing his hair out in rage. He is surrounded by overturned furniture that is as big as he is, with speech bubbles swirling around him filled with manic raging thoughts about Britain. The name “Little Boney” would stick, and Gillray from that point on continually depicted the French Emperor as dimunitive, raging and boastful—like a child throwing a temper tantrum.
Described as “probably the most famous political cartoon of all time,” Gillray’s 1805 cartoon, “The Plumb-pudding in danger, or, State epicures taking un petit souper,” shows the British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Napoleon carving up the world into spheres of influence. Napoleon is drawn as half the size of his British counterpart, having to stand up to be able to use his carving knife, which is actually a sword. While Pitt’s share of the globe is much bigger than Napoleon’s, it is telling that Napoleon easily takes all of Europe (except Britain and Ireland).
Fear of French Conquest
British anxieties over Napoleon’s breakneck conquest of continental Europe and his evident intent to install relatives and favorites in positions of power were manifest in Gillray’s 1806 cartoon, “Tiddy-Doll, the Great French-Gingerbread-Baker; Drawing Out a New Batch of Kings.” It portrays Napoleon as a baker, whipping up gingerbread monarchs while his assistant, French Foreign Minister Talleyrand kneads up Poland, Hungary and Turkey.
While the name “Tiddy-Doll” referred to Tiddy-Dol Ford, a famous London gingerbread street hawker, the depiction of Napoleon a small, doll-like figure could only heap ridicule on him, despite the fears of his seemingly unstoppable power that the cartoon clearly responds to.
And it worked. Shortly after these cartoons appeared, Napoleon sent a flurry of diplomatic notes across the English Channel demanding that the British government censor its press. Needless to say, British ministers ignored him.
Gillray’s image of Napoleon as a small man was so popular that other cartoonists took it up. An anonymous 1811 cartoon, “Bony’s visions or a great little man’s night comforts,” shows Napoleon having night terrors as the cracks in his empire had begun to show. Among the many fearful figures swirling around him, a demon holds up a placard inscribed with the horrors of political satire, among which “Gilray’s Caricatures” is listed.
The enduring influence of Gillray’s satire that reduced the once-inexorable and mighty general Napoleon Buonaparte to a tiny, raving figure shows how mockery can be a powerful weapon against the powerful.
“People have never forgotten poor little Karla Cardno, a neighbour around the corner from us in Taita:”
Presented by Peter Petterson:
by Tom Hunt and Tommy Livingston
Churton Cres, Taita, could be suburbia, anywhere. Except for that house.
“You just don’t walk past it,” a neighbour says.
The two-storey Lower Hutt home is where Paul Dally took 13-year-old Karla Cardnoand put her through unimaginable hell in 1989 -30 years ago.
Her naked and beatenbody would be found face down six weeks later,her hands tied behind her back in a shallow grave on anisolated beach at Pencarrow. There was evidence of sexual assault.
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The Legendary Emerald Tablet and its Secrets of the Universe
The origins of Western alchemy can be traced back to Hellenistic Egypt, in particular to the city of Alexandria. One of the most important characters in the mythology of alchemy is Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes the Thrice-Great). The name of this figure is derived from the Egyptian god of wisdom, Thoth, and his Greek counterpart, Hermes. The Hermetica, which is said to be written by Hermes Trismegistus, is generally regarded as the basis of Western alchemical philosophy and practice. In addition, Hermes Trismegistus is also believed to be the author of the Emerald Tablet.
Legends of the Emerald Tablet
The Emerald Tablet is said to be a tablet of emerald or green stone inscribed with the secrets of the universe. The source of the original Emerald Tablet is unclear; hence it is surrounded by legends. The most common story claims that the tablet was found in a caved tomb under the statue of Hermes in Tyana, clutched in the hands of the corpse of Hermes Trismegistus himself.
Hermes Trismegistus. ( Public Domain )
And the creator of the Emerald Tablet has been provided in myth as the Egyptian god Thoth, who Armando Mei writes “divided his knowledge into 42 plates of emerald, codifying the great scientific principles ruling the Universe. The legend tells that after the gods’ fall, the Hermetic tablets were cleverly hidden so that no human being might find them. Only Thoth, on his return to that dimension, was able to recover the mysterious book
Beehive catapults. Scorpion bombs. Bug pit prisons. For thousands of years, military strategists have used insects as weapons of war—not only to inflict debilitating pain on enemies, but also to deliver deadly pathogens and destroy agriculture, with the intent of causing widespread misery, sickness and hunger.
Delivering disease via insect vectors has been wickedly effective. During WWII, Japanese biological warfare units dropped plague-infected fleas and cholera-coated flies on Chinese cities—killing some 440,000 people. The Japanese military also developed plans to spread plague-carrying fleas over San Diego in 1945, but never followed through.
In 1989, domestic bioterrorists told authorities they were breeding and releasing medflies in California—and the eco-radicals would continue doing so until the government halted insecticide spraying. Had this devastating pest become established (the infestation was suppressed), the resulting quarantine on California fruits would have destroyed crops in one of America’s vital agricultural regions, costing tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.
But for millennia, six-legged soldiers have been most consistently deployed to torment and disperse enemies. From Old Testament accounts (“I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out…”—Joshua 24:12) to the Vietnam War and beyond, insects have been effectively weaponized. Here are some of the most fiendish examples:
A scorpion blitz
At the end of the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus was on his way to wresting control of Mesopotamia from the local monarchs—that is, before a shower of scorpions helped waylay his plans, according to an account by ancient historian Herodian.
As the Roman legions advanced on the desert stronghold of Hatra—desirable for its control of Silk Road caravan routes—King Barsamia and his citizens holed up behind its 40-foot high perimeter walls. The defenders crafted earthenware bombshells loaded with scorpions—which were so prevalent in the region, and so dangerous, that Persian kings regularly ordered scorpion hunts and offered bounties to assure safe passage for the caravans. The locals knew first-hand that scorpions inflicted intensely painful stings and that their venom can induce irregular breathing, slowed pulse, convulsions—and occasionally death.
As Severus’s men reached the walls of Hatra, scorpion bombs rained down, inflicting agonizing punishment on the Romans wherever they had exposed skin—legs, arms and, worst of all, their faces and eyes. With six-legged arachnids among the Hatreni defenses, Severus was held at bay for 20 days, until his troops finally broke off the battle and retreated.
Tune in to “Kings of Pain” on HISTORY starting Tuesday, November 12 at 10/9c
Operation fling and sting
A major breakthrough in military pain delivery came with the development of machinery capable of launching insect-heavy payloads. What the slingshot did for the humble rock, the catapult did for bees—and shifted the balance of entomological power in favor of the attacking forces.
European history is replete with accounts of beehives and wasp nests being used as warheads—including on the high seas as a highly effective way to clear the decks of an enemy ship. The technological high point in hive-heaving machinery emerged in the 14th century with the development of the entomological predecessor of the Gatling gun—a windmill-like device that propelled straw hives from the ends of the rapidly rotating arms.
But attacking forces weren’t the only ones employing stinging insects. European nobles assured that their bees were ready for producing honey or havoc, as the situation demanded. The interior walls of medieval castles were often equipped with recesses, termed bee boles, as homes for the six-legged troops.
READ MORE: When the CIA Learned Cats Make Bad Spies
Slowly eaten alive
Nasrullah Bahadur‑Khan, the 19-century Emir of Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan), was known for his sadistic streak—and perhaps best remembered by history for what the locals called the Black Well. According to western historians, the hole was 21 feet deep, covered with an iron grate and accessible only by a rope. The Emir seeded the “Bug Pit” (as it’s known today) with insects to assure a constant, torturous experience for his victims.
The foulest of the ruler’s six-legged minions were the assassin bugs, although their eight-legged cousins, the sheep ticks, added to the torment. Assassin bugs are inch-long, carnivorous insects endowed with stout, curved beaks for piercing their prey—most often other insects. But they’ll feed on people rather than starve. The bite of these insects has been compared to being stabbed with a hot needle, and the digestive enzymes that they inject to liquefy the tissues of their prey cause festering sores in human flesh.
The Emir’s jailer described how two British prisoners were slowly eaten alive as “masses of their flesh had been gnawed off their bones.” In their case, Nasrullah mercifully (in his words) ended their agony with beheading.
Buggy booby traps
Using insects to inflict pain has continued into recent times. During the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong dug a network of underground tunnels allowing them to decide when and where to fight—sometimes lobbing wasp and hornet nests into U.S. positions to disrupt defenses before launching an attack.
Pity the Americans commandoes who, sent into the subterranean passages to engage the enemy, stumbled into booby traps instead. Feeling his way through a dank passage, a “tunnel rat” might overlook a trip wire and have a load of scorpions rain down from a hidden cavity in the roof.
The Viet Cong also conscripted the Asian giant honeybee, described by tropical entomologists as “the most ferocious stinging insect on earth.” Soldiers gingerly relocated colonies to trails used by the Americans and then attached a small, explosive charge. When an enemy patrol passed by, a patiently waiting VC set off the blast. The infuriated insects drove the soldiers into dangerous disarray.
For their part, the U.S. military funded a research program to devise an apparatus to spray the Vietnamese enemy with the alarm pheromone of bees, thereby converting the local insects into fierce allies. This chemical signal functions like a cavalry bugle, inciting bees to attack. But the “weapon” was never deployed. It’s a reminder that, while these insects were just doing what they’ve evolved to do—inflict pain—humans can decide whether or not to create misery And since the dawn of time, we’ve been conscripting six-legged warriors to do our brutal bidding.
Jeffrey A. Lockwood is a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming and the author of Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War and The Infested Mind: Why Humans Fear, Loathe, and Love Insects.