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Weird National Briefs (12/02/2020)

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Monolith madness

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A mysterious silver monolith that was placed in the Utah desert has disappeared less than 10 days after it was spotted by wildlife biologists performing a helicopter survey of bighorn sheep, federal officials and witnesses said.

“We have received credible reports that the illegally installed structure, referred to as the ‘monolith’ has been removed from Bureau of Land Management public lands by an unknown party,” on Nov. 27, BLM spokesperson Kimberly Finch said in a statement. The agency did not remove the structure, she said.

The Utah Department of Public Safety said biologists spotted the monolith on Nov. 18, a report that garnered international attention. It was about 11 feet (3.4 meters) tall with sides that appeared to be made of stainless steel.

While Utah officials did not say specifically where the monolith was located, people soon found it on satellite images dating back to 2016 and determined its GPS coordinates, prompting people to hike into the area.

Reporters with The Salt Lake Tribune hiked to the spot on Saturday and confirmed that it was gone.

Spencer Owen of Salt Lake City said he saw the monolith Friday afternoon and camped in the region overnight, but as he hiked to the area again on Saturday people passing him on the trail warned him it was gone, the Tribune reported. When he arrived at the spot, all that was left was a triangular piece of metal covering a triangular-shaped hole in the rocks.

“I was really bummed,” said Owen, who posted a video on his Instagram. “It was so pretty and shiny. I wanted to go see it again.”

Riccardo Marino and his girlfriend Sierra Van Meter were traveling from Colorado to California on Friday and decided to stop and see the object after finding the GPS coordinates online.

“This was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience that we couldn’t miss out,” Marino told KUTV.

On the way, they passed a long-bed truck with a large object in the back and he said he joked “oh look, there’s the Utah monolith right there,” he said.

When they arrived at the spot, it was gone.

TME – Nothing weird about this – carry on.

Phallus farewell

BERLIN (AP) — Police in southern Germany have opened an investigation into the disappearance of a large wooden sculpture of a phallus from a mountainside where it appeared without explanation several years ago.

Local newspaper Allgaeuer Zeitung reported Monday that the 2-meter-tall (almost 7-foot) tall sculpture appeared to have been chopped down over the weekend, with just a sorry pile of sawdust left behind on the 1,738-meter (5,702-foot) high Gruenten mountain.

The male genitalia had gained celebrity status in recent years as a destination for hikers, and even appeared on Google Maps, where it was classified as a “cultural monument.” Local lore has it that it was made as a prank birthday present for a young man whose family didn’t appreciate the gift and so the 200-kilogram (440-pound) sculpture was hauled up the mountain and left there.

The German news agency dpa reported that police in the Bavarian town of Kempten are investigating the disappearance, although it wasn’t clear whether a crime had been committed.

TME – It’s probably in the same place as the monolith.

Turtle trip

BOSTON (AP) — They might have gotten there faster by walking, but at any rate, these endangered turtles had a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Bad weather, a damaged propeller and an unscheduled stop in Tennessee complicated the rescue of 30 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that were among hundreds recently found on the beaches of Cape Cod, stunned and almost killed by falling ocean temperatures.

Volunteers and conservation experts initially took the turtles to the New England Aquarium in Boston and the National Marine Life Center on Buzzards Bay, where they began the long rehabilitation process before being moved to wildlife centers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

A batch of 30 New Orleans-bound turtles had a harder trip than most.

Their plane left Wednesday but had to change course and refuel twice because of storms and strong winds. A rock kicked up during takeoff after the second refueling, in Chattanooga, damaged the propeller and grounded the plane.

Staff members of the Tennessee Aquarium collected the animals and cared for them overnight. On Thanksgiving, the turtles were loaded onto a shuttle bus borrowed from the airport and driven the rest of the way to New Orleans, arriving on Thanksgiving Day.

“When we learned the plane could not reach its final destination, a flurry of calls went out, and within an hour, we had safe, warm overnight housing secured for these turtles,” said Connie Merigo, manager of the New England Aquarium’s marine animal rescue department.

The turtles appear to be in good condition at their new home, operated by the Audubon Nature Institute’s Coastal Wildlife Network, but they will require significant care before they can be released back into the wild, according to the New England Aquarium.

Kemp’s ridley turtles are the smallest sea turtles in the world, growing to a little over 2 feet. They are found in the Atlantic as far north as Nova Scotia but are seen most often in the Gulf of Mexico.

TME – That’s one shell of a journey.

Feted fly

BERLIN (AP) — The Danish Mayfly was selected Friday by an international group of entomologists and others as the Insect of the Year for 2021, but it won’t have long to celebrate its 15 minutes of fame.

The insect, whose scientific name is Ephemera danica, only has a few days to fly, mate and lay new eggs.

“What makes the mayfly unique is its life cycle: from the egg laid in the water to the insect capable of flight and mating, which dies after a few days,” said Thomas Schmitt, chairman of the commission of scientists and representatives from research institutions and conservation organizations from Germany, Austria and Switzerland that made the choice.

Mayflies have existed for about 355 million years and today some 140 species live in Central Europe, the commission said.

Despite their fleeting time on earth in their final form, their developmental cycle is quite long.

Female mayflies zigzag over water between May and September, laying thousands of eggs that then sink.

Larvae hatch within a few days, and eventually develop gills. Buried in riverbeds, they take between one to three years to develop.

“Shortly before the transition from aquatic to terrestrial life, a layer of air forms between the old and new skin of the adult larvae,” said Schmitt, who is also director of the Senckenberg German Entomological Institute in Muencheberg, east of Berlin. ”By reducing its specific weight, the larva rises to the water surface. Once there, the larval skin bursts and within a few seconds a flyable mayfly hatches.”

TME – Does this story bug anyone else?

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 December 2020 09:22

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