Boobies

Boobies… we at The Proceedings love boobies… big boobies… small boobies… brown boobies… boobies; a genus of seabirds in the Sulidae family.

blue-footed-booby2

Oh you thought… no, sorry… though you might want to ask the Major about his collection of anthropological etchings. Of course we are talking about the rather enchanting sea bird from the Pacific. Their name is of course rather rude… yes as you suspected it is a bastardization of an old Spanish naval slang for a half-wit or clown. Naturally among sailors these affable birds were really rather popular. They would comically drop in to say ‘how do you do’ on ships that were mid-voyage. What sailor couldn’t be taken in by this birds comical looks, bold as brass personality, waddling gate… and of course being a hell of a lot tastier than a biscuit full of weevils and a flask of your own urine can’t have done much to decrease their charisma.

catesby-86-booby

Though it’s not for any of these reasons that this smasher is propelled into The Proceedings. It’s actually because of his poo…. and to be fair the poo of a couple of his chums; the Peruvian cormorant and the Peruvian pelican… a triumvirate of the most important pooers the world has ever seen.

The Incas are of course famous for building cities of gold that are even more difficult to find than a monogamous Frenchman. What is less lauded is their love of bird poo. The Inca revered the islands of fertilizer and anyone who disturbed the holy birds were subject to the death penalty. The Inca, in their native Quechua, referred to this white stinky gold as ‘wanu’. The Spanish of course, not happy with merely oppressing the natives, felt they should also spray them with spittle… so changed the name to ‘guano’.

i say old boy... i think you might have trodden in something there

i say old boy... i think you might have trodden in something there

Of course it wasn’t just the natives that thought the poo rather smashing. Step forward the great poo rush of the 1800’s. Fortunes were born from the bums of seabirds. In 1858 alone Great Britain imported 300,000 tonnes of Peruvian guano, mainly for growing turnips. The British Empire pretty much ran the whole guano empire, rather annoying our American chums, and indeed it became US law that if an American found an island full of bird poo he was allowed to keep the entire island… as long as he sent all that poo back to the US.

Between 1840 and 1880 the Peruvian guano boom was at its highest height. Twenty million tonnes were exported earning the country two billion dollars, indeed the president of Peru was said to be more important than the president of the United States at the time. Sadly, with all the business acumen of Jack on his way to market, he thought a windfall of two billion dollars not enough to bolster his country’s coffers and promptly took out a number of crippling loans. Of course wars soon broke out over the precious poo, resulting in a number of bloody wars culminating in poor blooming Bolivia being the only landlocked country with an active navy… and it wasn’t just Bolivia that was left in a right bloody mess. No, I’m not talking about the ‘islas de la poo’ either. It’s often cited that many of South Americas woes are because of this financial mismanagement of such a precious early resource.

Booby

All of which of course the daft bugger the booby, and indeed his poo, is utterly oblivious to.

Of course we’d like to finish the Proceedings tonight by saying that of course our educational body is based in the heart of the British Empire, and we’d like to add that we, unlike the blasted Spanish, would never do such a wonderful bird the injustice of giving it such a silly name. No… no… no… it would take a right bunch of tits to do that.

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Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 9:29 am  Comments (2)  

Komodo Dragon

This is the story of an island giant… no not that film about that big bugger off monkey… but huddle up dear reader as here is a tale every bit as incredible and a monster every bit as abominable…

komodo

In 1492 Martin Behaim covered a metal ball with a map and thought it rather splendid, he called it the ‘Erdapfel’ and though it lacked the Americas and even had a few made up countries for good measure, it was the first globe. The second oldest globe is of an unknown origin… the Hunt-Lenox globe. It is dated variously between 1503 and 1510 and is emblazoned with the really rather smashing description across Asia… HC SVNT DRACONES… HERE BE DRAGONS.

Remarkably it is the only time that such an inscription has appeared on any antiquated map… though dragons indeed here there be… it just took us a while to find them.

In 1908 a pioneering Dutch aviator crash landed into the shark-infested waters in a far flung arm of the East Indies. He thought himself the luckiest chap alive as he had managed to cheat a certain death… he quickly re-thought his position however when he found himself shacked up on an island with slobbering three-metre-long man-eating lizards. Somehow our Dutch friend escaped this devil of a pickle, and three months later upon his return he told everyone he knew about his incredible escapades on the island of the dragons. Unfortunately living in the Netherlands it was presumably commonplace for people to hallucinate fantastical creatures most days of the week and everyone thought him quite the silly sausage.

Dragon

Years after our hapless Dutch friend crashed, skins and bones of a Komodo made it to Java where a learned type wrote a paper about them. Though it wasn’t until 1926 that the world famed explorer W. Douglas Burden put forward an expedition to catch a glimpse of the magnificent beasts. Unfortunately it still being the Victorian period ‘catching a glimpse’ generally meant filling them with lead pellets. Thankfully some Komodo were a bit luckier and W. Douglas Burden took a couple of live ones back to civilization.

This massive lizard, like the rest of the monitor lizards, first evolved in Australia. Fifteen million years ago Australia rather clumsily bumped into Southeast Asia, though no one knows if it was because he’d been drinking again, sloshing some of its native monitor lizards into the islands of the Pacific ring of fire. It is because of this collision that we are fortunate enough to have this incredible abominable lizard. So how did this monstrous chap get so big? Well on the tiny island of Komodo it was subject to those tricksy laws of evolution, growing huge… an example of Island gigantism… yes much like that massive movie monkey … and gigantic they are… more than 3 metres long in some cases. What’s more they have a great big mouth full of nasty bugs that means if you are unlucky enough to get bitten by the sod then you slowly succumb to blood poisoning. Recently it has been found that Komodo dragons have venom glands in the lower jaw, this venom causes shock and general wooziness… as if shock and wooziness was needed when you have just been bitten by a 3-metre-long lizard.

komodoeat

Komodo dragons wouldn’t think twice about gobbling you up either as these sods are man-eaters; in fact they’ve killed 5 people since 1974. These devilish cads are even partial to a bit of cannibalism, 10% of their diet is young Komodos, who not surprisingly have decided to live in trees. While eating babies is frowned upon in most societies it’s necessary for Komodo as they have very few medium sized prey on the islands.

All big horrible cannibalistic man-eating lizards can have a sweet side though and it turns out these dragons are actually remarkably intelligent. Not a very lovable trait in an enormous venomous man-eating lizard you’d think… but they actually like to play. They even recognize their individual keepers and can even be taught to do tricks. Unlike a certain King Kong… which let’s not forget to mention… was a film that was originally inspired by the story of the discovery of a big bugger off lizard.

Published in: on September 8, 2009 at 9:12 pm  Comments (8)