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June 27, 2011


I saw an article about fires in southern Georgia recently. One of the fires has burned a huge area of more than 200,000 acres. The fire even has a name, the Honey Prairie Fire. You know it's a really big fire if it even has a name. Not only does it have a name, it has a Wikipedia entry. 200,000 acres is a huge area: 400 square miles. Today I found out that almost the entire area is in the Okefenokee Swamp and particularly the national wildlife refuge. According to this page it looks like about two-thirds of the wildlife refuge has burned. Here's a map showing the extent of the fire, but keep in mind that even the green part has also burned, it just burned back in May when the fire was first started by lightning. Maybe not so surprising, the Okefenokee Swamp is closed right now.

I don't know how worrisome any of this is. The swamp is supposed to catch fire every now and then and clear out underbrush. However there has been a really bad prolonged drought in the swamp, so bad that some of the places where they take canoe trips are just dry ground now.

June 23, 2011

Glider Snatch

I was watching last night's Daily Show today and the guest, Mitchell Zuckoff, was promoting his book, Lost in Shangri-La, about the rescue of some plane crash survivors in New Guinea during World War II. Some airborne soldiers parachuted in first and cleared off a patch so some gliders could land. Eventually they flew everyone out on gliders, which Zuckoff said was done with rubber bands, so I envisioned them building a giant slingshot and shooting the gliders into the air. I knew gliders were used on D Day, towed behind airplanes from England, but it was a one-way mission to land troops and equipment together in fields rather than spread out like paratroops would be. I didn't think they could take off again especially since there was no runway, just a clearing. I found an interview with the commander of the rescue mission where he said they snatched the gliders up and everyone got out okay. Then I had to look up exactly how you snatch a glider up. It turns out they would tie an elastic tow rope up on some poles and a plane would fly in very, very low with a hook lowered that would catch the tow line and yank the glider up into the air. There's even a YouTube video: