Monday, August 26, 2013

Port Discover: A look at sinkholes from geology to mythology

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Port Discover: A look at sinkholes from geology to mythology
Recently, Summer Bay Resort in Clermont, Fla. visitors thought they were hearing an impending thunderstorm, but within a few hours, one-half of the resort had collapsed into a 100-foot hole in the earth. One hundred, five guests quickly evacuated, and miraculously no one was injured.

During last March, sixty miles southwest of the resort a man sleeping in his bed was swallowed-up by a sinkhole, and he was never seen again. Geological testing done fifteen years previously in the area of the resort had shown that the ground was stable. Twenty percent of the U.S. is prone to having sinkholes including Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.

North Carolina has some areas in the piedmont and the southern coast that have the conditions necessary for sinkholes to form. Northern coastal areas are not at risk for developing sinkholes.

Last year, an eight-foot wide sinkhole swallowed a car in Durham. A twenty-foot wide sinkhole was caused by a waterline break that weakened the earth below. Since 2010, Raleigh has experienced a sinkhole that took down a city bus and a few months later a sinkhole opened on Wade Ave.

Geologists know that sinkholes appear in karst terrain where the underlying rock of gypsum, limestone, or other carbonate rock can be dissolved by underground water. When the rock becomes unstable because of the water flow, the ground above collapses into the hole that has been formed. Often the event happens quickly and with no warning.

Sinkholes can be a few feet or hundreds of acres wide and the depth can range from one to one hundred feet. They have swallowed highways, buildings, and swimming pools. The more urban the setting, the more damage is done.

Human activities that can eventually contribute to the earth’s giving-way include broken pipes, old landfills and collapsed mines. Scientists working at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) develop geological maps which are used by planners, policy makers, and the public to determine if land is at risk.

For thousands of years, Mayans have inhabited the Yucatan Peninsula, and the ancient Mayans were advanced in mathematics, language, and art. The peninsula itself, which is surrounded by the Bay of Campeche, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea is underlined with limestone that makes it vulnerable to the formation of sinkholes.

Ancient Mayans considered the geological phenomenon to be a gateway to the underworld and the home of their god of water, Chac.

These deep wells or cenotes were considered sacred places, and often the Mayans would throw the human victims of their sacrificial ceremonies into the clear water.

In modern times, the wells have been explored and human remains and jewelry have been found. Mayans thought that they gained favor with their gods by performing sacrifices.

Even now, some people consider it a blessing to be able to drink from the cenotes.

Often in human history science, religion, and mythology form a continuum of human understanding.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Red or Grey, don't let those foxes out-fox you

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager

Red or Grey, don't let those foxes out-fox you

The first time I saw the red fox in the yard, I was taking a walk down our long driveway. Startled, I stopped and looked at him, and he returned the stare. What bothered me was that he didn’t run as I expected even when I waved my hands and made noise.

That’s when I started backing up and ended the exercise for the day.

Later, we started seeing a gray fox walking through the back yard every day at about the same time. Hubby discovered a den with four pups under some tree branches. It was time for some research.

Both red and gray foxes live in all parts of North Carolina, but the gray fox is the native. European settlers who liked to hunt them brought red foxes to America in Colonial times. The same shade of red fur covers their heads, bodies, and tails, but the underside is light and its legs and tail are tipped with black. Gray foxes are smaller and have some red on their neck and legs, but their overall color is gray with dark streaks. The gray fox can climb trees and the red fox cannot.

Many people are afraid when they see a fox in the daytime and think it might be rabid or aggressive. In recent years, foxes have become used to the lack of threats by humans and the availability of food near urban areas.
If you see a den of pups, it is best to leave them alone until the babies are older and the family moves on. Try to fill the den with something like branches so that they will not nest there again.

There are several steps you can take to so that conflict with the fox will be reduced. Of course, you should never approach or try to pet a fox, and do not feed them or any wild animal. If they lose their fear of people, they might become more aggressive. Keep your pet’s food and garbage containers secured. Also, keep bird feeder areas clean and pick-up any fruit that has fallen from trees.

Keep your own pets away from the den because the fox may become aggressive if he feels threatened by another animal.

Close crawl spaces and places underneath porches so that they won’t be encouraged to rest there or build dens too close to your home. Yelling or banging pots and pans may discourage them also.

The most important thing to do is to teach children that they should never approach any wild animal. Foxes may be particularly attractive to children because they look like dogs.

Call local animal control if you see signs of rabies in any animal such as aggression, stumbling, turning in circles, or foaming at the mouth.

It is illegal to relocate foxes in North Carolina because if there is a problem, it will just spread. Mutual respect and caution is the key to living with wildlife nearby.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...