Archive for June, 2010

Napoleon’s hairs sold in NZ auction


Rare memorabilia of former French Emperor Napoleon 1st, including a lock of hair cut from his head after he died in exile in 1821 on the remote island of St. Helena, have fetched 140,000 New Zealand dollars ($97,000) at auction.

Bidders from England, France, Lithuania, Hong Kong and the United States joined the auction by phone for the 40 items — sold by a New Zealand family, descendants of Denzil Ibbetson, commissionary officer on St. Helena during Napoleon’s incarceration on the remote island.

The highest price, NZ$21,000 ($14,500) was paid for a lithograph and watercolor death bed sketch of Napoleon by Ibbetson, Art+Object auction house managing director Hamish Coney, said Wednesday. The unnamed buyer bid by phone from London.

A lock of hair Ibbetson cut from the former emperor’s head fetched NZ$19,000 ($13,100) from a private collector in London who did not want to be identified, he said.

Ahead of the sale, Coney said he expected the hair to sell for up to NZ$300,000 ($207,000).

Anthrax kills 30 hippos in popular Uganda park


Anthrax has killed at least 30 hippopotamuses in a popular Ugandan game park that saw a similar outbreak six years ago, officials said Wednesday.

Tom Okello, conservation area manager at Queen Elizabeth National Park, a much-visited safari destination, said 10 of the hulking semi-aquatic animals were found dead over one half-day period alone.

“This was something that we had seen before, so I knew immediately that we had to get the blood samples tested,” he said, recalling a 2004 outbreak that claimed around 300 hippos around a small lake in the park.

“When anthrax is involved, the blood doesn’t clot. That is the reason we have to act very fast,” he said.

Anthrax emanates from spore-forming bacteria in soil along a lakeshore. It can be contracted by wildlife through open wounds; flesh-eating vultures and big cats in the park can also spread the illness.

Sections of the park frequented by tourists are unaffected, but Okello warned that the threat is not fully contained. “At this time it is just localised, but you never know how these things can spread,” he said.

White tiger who eat meal underwater


This large male white Bengal tiger named Odin simply loves to dive underwater to fish out meat.

The 10ft long cat is living at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom Zoo in Vallejo, near San Francisco. While most big cats wouldn’t like to even be near water, Odin enjoys every second of it while the zoo visitors are watching him through glass walls and taking photos.

World’s oldest shoe found in Armenia


For lovers of fashion, it’s the ultimate vintage shoe.

Created more than 5,500 years ago at the dawn of civilisation this perfectly preserved brown leather lace-up is the oldest shoe in the world.

It was created from a piece of cow hide 1,000 years before the Great Pyramid of Giza and stitched together with leather thread.

The size 4 shoe – discovered buried in a cave in Armenia – is so well preserved that its lace is still intact.

Archaeologists say it probably belonged to a woman who deliberately buried it in the cave during a mysterious ritual. The cave also contained three pots, each containing a child’s skull, along with containers of barley, wheat and apricot.

For Dr Ron Pinhasi, University College Cork, the shoe is a discovery of a lifetime.

‘We thought initially that the shoe and other objects were about 600-700 years old because they were in such good condition,’ said Dr Pinhasi.

‘When we discovered that the shoe dated back to 3,500 BC and that it was the oldest leather shoe, we were very excited.’

The shoe was worn by an early farmer living in the mountains of Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia close to the border of modern day Turkey and Iran.

The region was on the edge of the Fertile Crescent – the great sweep of land that gave birth to the first towns, cities and farms.

It was made from a single piece of leather, tanned using vegetable oil, and shaped to fit the wearer’s foot. It contained grass, although archaeologists are unsure whether this was to keep out the cold, or maintain the shape of the shoe.

It was laced using a strip of leather through slits. At some point in its life, one of the slits tore – forcing the wearer to make repairs by recutting another gash for the lace.

‘It is not known whether the shoe belonged to a man or a woman,’ said Dr Pinhasi, who reports the findings in the journal PLoS One.

However, the small size makes it most likely that it belonged to a woman, he added.

The cool and dry conditions in the cave helped preserve the shoe which appears to have been buried in the ground on its own. The floor was covered with a thick layer of sheep dung which helped conserve the shoe and other finds.

Three samples of the shoe were carefully radiocarbon-dated at laboratories at Oxford University and the University of California, Irvine.

The shoe was discovered by Armenian PhD student, Diana Zardaryan, of the Institute of Archaeology, Armenia, in a pit that also included a broken pot and sheep’s horns.

Researcher Dr Gregory Areshian, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said: ‘We couldn’t believe the discovery. The crusts had sealed the artefacts and archaeological deposits and artefacts remained fresh dried, just like they were put in a can.’

The previous oldest known footwear were sandals made from plants found in a cave in Missouri. They were made and worn a few hundred years after the Armenian shoe.

The design is similar to the ‘pampooties’ worn on the Aran Islands in the West of Ireland up to the 1950s.

‘We do not know yet what the shoe or other objects were doing in the cave or what the purpose of the cave was,’ said Dr Pinhasi.

‘We know that there are children’s graves at the back of the cave but so little is known about this period that we cannot say with any certainty why all these different objects were found together.’

Armenia’s climate 5,500 years ago was similar to today’s – hot in the summer, snowy in winter. The owner of the shoe would have worn wool and leather clothes, and relied on the shoes for protection as she walked around the rocky terrain.

The shoe may have been made locally, or traded with the more sophisticated towns and villages in the heart of Mesopotamia, Dr Pinhasi added.

Longest Painting


On Friday, 28 May, months of preparation by the Comisión Estatal de Garantía de Acceso a la Información Pública del Estado de San Luis Potosí culminated in a new Guinness World Records achievement for the longest painting, which measured a staggering 6,001.5 m (19.689 ft 11 in).

In the weeks leading up to the event, students from participating schools had been taught about the importance of free exchange of public information between government and citizens, and were asked to create a drawing to represent this transparency. These drawings would eventually become the 3,000 participating students’ individual contributions to the painting. Each child was given a 2-metre space to turn their drawing into a full-color painting.

In the early hours of Friday morning, organizers began laying out the paper and painting the blue background, using only brushes as required by Guinness World Records guidelines. The guidelines also required that in order to qualify as a painting, there could be no handprints, no footprints, and no words. Organizers reminded the students during the event that their contributions needed to be pictures and pictures alone, so in the end the painting was a series of visual representations of their individual interpretations on the theme.

he mayor of San Luis Potosí, a representative of the governor of the state, and several other officials were in attendance to kick off the event and wish everyone luck. As it turned out, they would need it! An unseasonably windy day often made it difficult to keep the paper together and on the ground. Organizers and volunteers had to constantly keep an eye out and secure any portions that started to succumb to the strong winds.

At the end of the day, I was able to walk the length of the painting with a surveyor to perform the final measurement. It was a long walk of just over 6 kilometres, but was more than worth it to be able to witness and officially recognize the beautiful piece of hard work from the Comisión Estatal de Garantía de Acceso a la Información Pública as a new Guinness World Records achievement for the world’s longest painting!

Antique camera auctioned in Austria


One of the world’s first commercially produced cameras, a “Giroux Daguerreotype” designed and produced in Paris in 1839, was sold in Vienna for 732,000 euros, according to the Austrian auction house Westlicht Photographica Auction.

It is one of the only cameras by Daguerreotype that still exists and is described as being in excellent original condition, including the lens, the plaque signed by Daguerre himself, the black velvet interior, and the ground-glass screen. There is also a 24-page instruction manual attached to the camera.

The camera was made from a wooden sliding box way back in Paris in September 1830 by Alphone Giroux. It also bears the signature of Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre that adds authenticity to it.

It is reported that there are only a few of these cameras that still exist in the world, and most of them are in the possession of public museums. The auctioned camera was owned by a private person, who received it from his father as a gift in the 1970s.

The value of the Giroux was expected to stay between 500,000 and 700,000 euros before the auction. In 2007, the Westlicht auction house once auctioned off a Daguerreotype camera from 1839 for 576,000 euros.

Tallest waterfall kayaked by a woman


Christie Glissmeyer, 31, of Hood River, Oregon, a student and part-time bar worker, who is part of Femme 45, a ladies’ kayaking adventure team, plummeted 82 feet off Metlako Falls at Eagle Creek, Oregon – setting the new world record for the Tallest waterfall kayaked by a woman.

Speaking of her new world record, she said: “It was about double the size of any waterfall I had previously run.

“The horizon line was very intimidating and it looked like the river was dropping off the face of the earth. It took a lot of concentration to keep my nerves under control so that I wouldn’t make a mistake.

“But halfway down I was enveloped by the veil of water around me and the landing was surprisingly soft. It was a very exciting day.”

The incredible feat added to Christie’s already impressive repertoire of extreme sports trophies collected around the world.

In 2009 and 2008 she was undefeated in the Western Whitewater Championship racing series, Western US.

In 2008 she was Women’s Champion of the Himalayan Whitewater Festival in Nepal, and in 2007 she scooped first place in the Teva Extreme Games, Italy.

Brave kayakers Christie Glissmeyer, 31, (a student), Kate Wagner, 29, (a mental health therapist) and Melissa DeCarlo, 30, (a certified public accountant ) take life to the limit with their daring antics down some of America’s fastest and most dangerous rivers.

Together they form ladies’ adventure team Femme 45 and recruit other daredevil women who want more excitement from their lives.

The group’s name comes from the signature 45-second video clips they shoot to document and share their extreme experiences.

All three of the girls are actively involved with volunteering at some of the camps. Christie is volunteering as a safety boater, Kate is volunteering as a photographer, and Melissa is volunteering as a camp counsellor.

The previous Guinness world record for the tallest waterfall kayaked by women was 78-foot, set by Shannon Carroll in 1998.