Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sinbad the Sea Dog

K9C Sinbad, USCG, Retired was a mixed-breed canine sailor aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter George W. Campbell. Sinbad holds the distinction of having been enlisted in the United States Military, serving 11 years sea duty including combat in WWII, never having an owner or master, and having been the only Coastguardsman to be the subject of a biography until the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Sinbad's birth is not recorded, but he was first obtained by CBM A.A. "Blackie" Rother of the Campbell who intended the dog as a gift for a girlfriend. She did not take him in due to a restriction against pets in her apartment building leaving "Blackie" with the dog as he returned from liberty in 1937. He displayed the attributes of a sailor: namely drinking coffee, whiskey with beer chasers at port bars, having regular and general quarters duty stations, and generally demonstrating seamanship. Sinbad was enlisted into the service with his pawprint on enlistment papers, his own service and Red Cross identification numbers, service record, and bunk. He was subject to military disciplinary proceedings twice and was promoted and busted in rank on several occasions. Sinbad retained the rank of Chief Petty Officer - Dog, Retired (K9C (Ret)) following his retirement.

Sinbad served aboard the USCGC Campbell throughout the Second World War. The Campbell was assigned to convoy escort duty in the Atlantic. Although publicity photos depicted Sinbad standing helmeted on the barrel of a large gun, his actual general quarters duty post was below decks assigned to damage control where his canine ears would not be damaged by the sound of gunfire.

The Campbell 's most significant action involved combat with, and sinking by ramming of, the German submarine U-606. When the cutter suffered severe damage, becoming disabled and without power due to flooding, Sinbad was among the "essential crew" left aboard the otherwise evacuated ship to keep it afloat as it was towed to Canada for repair. It was Captain James Hirschfield's belief that nothing could befall the ship if Sinbad remained aboard. That superstition may be credited with the presence of Sinbad's statue in the mess hall of the current USCGC Campbell

Sinbad was ultimately awarded the following : American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal and Navy Occupation Service Medal.

Sinbad died on 30 December 1951 and was buried beneath a granite monument at the base of the light station's flagpole.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alexis St. Martin

On June 6, 1822 Alexis St. Martin was working at a fur-trading post in Mackinac Island in Lake Huron when he was accidentally shot with a musket at close range. The charge of the musket-shot blew a fist-sized hole through his side and into his stomach.

William Beaumont, a US Army surgeon stationed at a nearby army post, treated the wound. Although St. Martin was a healthy 28-year-old, he was not expected to recover due to the severity of his wound. Beaumont explains in a later paper that the shot blew off fragments of St. Martin's muscles and broke a few of his ribs. After bleeding him and giving him a cathartic, Beaumont marked St. Martin's progress. For the next 17 days, all food he ate reemerged from his new gastric fistula (an abnormal passage from an internal organ to the body surface). Finally after 17 days, the food began to stay in St. Martin's stomach and his bowels began to return to their natural functions. When the wound healed itself, the edge of the hole in the stomach had attached itself to the edge of the hole in the skin, creating a permanent gastric fistula. There was very little scientific understanding of digestion at the time, and Beaumont recognized the opportunity he had in St. Martin - he could literally watch the processes of digestion by dangling food on a string into St. Martin's stomach, then later pulling it out to observe to what extent it had been digested. Beaumont continued to experiment on St. Martin off and on until 1833.

Alexis St. Martin did not allow the experiments to be conducted as an act to repay Beaumont for keeping him alive, but rather because Beaumont got the illiterate St. Martin to sign a contract to work as a servant. Beaumont recalls the chores St. Martin did: "During this time, in the intervals of experimenting, he performed all the duties of a common servant, chopping wood, carrying burthens, etc. with little or no suffering or inconvenience from his wound." Although these chores were not bothersome, some of the experiments were painful to St. Martin, for example when Beaumont had placed sacks of food in the stomach, Beaumont noted: “the boy complained of some pain and uneasiness at the breast.” Other symptoms St. Martin felt during experiments were a sense of weight and distress at the scrobiculus cordis; slight vertigo and dimness of vision.
When Alexis St. Martin died at St. Thomas de Joliette, Quebec in 1880, his family delayed his burial until the body began to decompose, in order to prevent his “resurrection” by medical men. Many of the latter were interested in performing an autopsy and there was even interest in obtaining the stomach for the Army Medical base in Africa.


(Today they do the same thing on cows by design. They are called Fistulated Cows)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Great Stalacpipe Organ

The Great Stalacpipe Organ is an electrically actuated lithophone located in Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA. It is operated by a custom console that produces the tapping of ancient stalactites of varying sizes with solenoid-actuated rubber mallets in order to produce tones. The instrument's name was derived from the resemblance of the selected thirty-seven naturally formed stalactites to the pipework of a traditional pipe organ along with its custom organ-style keyboard console. It was designed and implemented in 1956 over three years by Leland W. Sprinkle inside the Luray Caverns near Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, USA.

Sprinkle created the Great Stalacpipe Organ over three years by finding and shaving appropriate stalactites to produce specific notes. He then wired a mallet for each stalacite that is activated by pressing the correct key on the instrument's keyboard. The stalactites are distributed through approximately 3.5 acres of the caverns but can be heard anywhere within its 64-acre confines.

During its first three decades, vinyl records (both 7-inch 331⁄3 rpm and 45 RPM) of the Great Stalacpipe Organ were sold in the Luray Caverns gift shop. These early recordings featured Sprinkle at the organ manual. Later recordings of Sprinkle's performances were sold on cassette tape before organist Monte Maxwell created his own arrangements and recordings of the organ which are currently sold on CD at Luray Caverns.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Kopi Luwak

Kopi luwak is coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet then passed through its digestive tract. A civet eats the berries for their fleshy pulp. In its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet's intestines the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness, widely noted as the most expensive coffee in the world.

Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines and also in East Timor

Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for between US $100 and $600 per pound. The specialty Vietnamese weasel coffee, which is made by collecting coffee beans eaten by wild civets, is sold at $6600 per kilogram ($3000 per pound). Most customers are in Asia - especially Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.


Thursday, June 2, 2011


A fire balloon, balloon bomb, or Fu-Go was an experimental weapon launched by Japan during World War II. A hydrogen balloon with a load varying from a 12-kilogram (26 lb) incendiary to one 15 kg (33 lb) antipersonnel bomb and four 5 kg (11 lb) incendiary devices attached, they were designed as a cheap weapon intended to make use of the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean and wreak havoc on Canadian and American cities, forests, and farmland.

From late 1944 until early 1945, General Kusaba's men launched over 9,000 balloons throughout the course of the project from Japan. The Japanese expected 10% (around 900) of them to reach America, which is also what is currently believed by researchers. About 300 balloon bombs were found or observed in America. It is likely that more balloon bombs landed in unpopulated areas of North America. They were found in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan, and Iowa, as well as Mexico and Canada.

The jet stream blew at altitudes above 9.15 km (30,000 ft) and could carry a large balloon across the Pacific in three days, over a distance of more than 8,000 km (5,000 miles). Such balloons could carry incendiary and high-explosive bombs to the United States and drop them there to kill people, destroy buildings, and start forest fires.

The bombs caused little damage, but their potential for destruction and fires was large. The bombs also had a potential psychological effect on the American people. The U.S. strategy was to keep the Japanese from knowing of the balloon bombs' effectiveness. In 1945 Newsweek ran an article titled "Balloon Mystery" in their January 1 issue, and a similar story appeared in a newspaper the next day. The Office of Censorship then sent a message to newspapers and radio stations to ask them to make no mention of balloons and balloon-bomb incidents, lest the enemy get the idea that the balloons might be effective weapons. Cooperating with the desires of the government, the press did not publish any balloon bomb incidents. Perhaps as a result, the Japanese only learned of one bomb's reaching Wyoming, landing and failing to explode, so they stopped the launches after less than six months.

With no evidence of any effect, General Kusaba was ordered to cease operations in April 1945, believing that the mission had been a total fiasco.