1. Dec. 29 - The recent (Dec.26) eruption of Mt. Etna (image) and simultaneous earthquake in the area near Catania and the eruption on the island of Stromboli north of Sicily have naturally set people to asking if the two eruptions are related. No. They are two different systems. Stromboli is part of the Tyrrhenian "ring of fire" north of Sicily that extends up to and includes Naples and the Flegrean Fields. Etna is actually an extension of the Apennine mountain chain that runs the length of Italy. They're separate; it's just that both are very active, so one should not be surprised if they happen to erupt at the same time every once in a while. As far as Etna goes, this is typical for the area -- periodic tectonic movements and eruptions feeding off each other. It starts with a tectonic process that breaks a magma chamber in Etna and releases magma as an eruption, usually laterally, that is, at some point farther down on the slopes. The terrain around the emptied chamber will probably slide, collapsing more earth around it and creating an imbalance in the entire system, producing the quake. Usually the quakes are more towards the surface. They can cause significant damage but in a limited area. This kind of reciprocal action between seismic and volcanic activity has been frequent over the years. The Etna eruption did not cause severe injury or deaths but did cause significant damage to some structures in the town of Fleri (part of the municipality of Zafferana etnea) where it collapsed part of the facade of the church of Santa Venerana, toppling the statue of that saint. Ironically, she is the patron saint that guards against earthquakes. Etna is messing with us again.
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added Feb. 2020:
Etna and Ice-Caves !
inside the Grotta del Gelo
First, anything accurate I have ever said about geology on this website is because I let Peter H. read it first. He is a student/scholar in geology, linguistics, political science, comparative religion, a diplomat and was born in 1503 -- a Renaissance Man! Imagine my delight when I read that there are ice-caves on Mt. Etna! Imagine my dismay when I didn't understand how you can have ice right next to flowing lava (Etna is always erupting). Switch back to delight. I decided to ask the Aitch! Clear, concise and it makes sense. This is why he is on the pay-roll:
"...all the loose material in a stratiform volcano is a pretty good insulator with lots of air between that crumbly stuff (pumice, mud floes, incandescent clouds of gas and volcanic fragments ), so ice caves are a real possibility even at modest altitudes -- and of course easier for water to permeate. Compare this to solid rock, lava or solid concrete, a great heat transmitter and sure to divert most water, raising the downtown temperature of many cities that use it."
A novice such as yours truly only needs to know that statiform volcanoes (also called "composite volcanoes") --Etna, Vesuvius, Krakatoa, Mount St Helens and Mount Pinatubo and many others in the world are what most people think of when they hear "volcano". Stratiform volcanoes are common around the world, especially over tectonic plate boundaries, where continents collide! They are typically symmetrical with a summit crater and contain a central vent or a clustered group of vents, that is, a conduit system through which magma from a reservoir deep in the Earth's crust rises to the surface. And they are typically considered grand and beautiful (especially when they are not erupting!) People love to climb these things. I note that there are four types of volcanoes; cinder cones, shield volcanoes, lava domes, and what we are interested in here, stratiform or composite volcanoes (such as Etna). As stratiform volcanoes go, Etna is enormous. It lies in eastern Sicily between the cities of Messina and Catania (map below, left). It is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps with a current height of 3,326 m (10,912 ft) though this varies with summit eruptions. (Most stratiform volcanoes in the world top out below that height above their own base, so Etna is just plain huge. I've flown over it in a small plane a few times, and it is stunning. Etna covers an area of 1,190 sq km (459 sq mi) with a circumference at its base of 140 km (87 miles). Only Mount Teide on Tenerife in the Canary Islands surpasses it in the whole of the European–North-African region west of the Black Sea.
Etna has more than one ice cave: the Grotta del Gelo ("Cave of Frost") is at 2,030 meters (6,660 ft) near the town of Randazzo within the Etna National Park. The ice started to form in 1614-1624 during a large eruption in a period of low sunspot activity. Today, the "Cave of Frost" is a tourist attraction. It contains about 1,500 cubic metres (53,000 cu ft) or 220–260 cubic meters (7,800–9,200 cu ft) of ice, which stacks on the cave floor and the walls. The ice is adorned with stalagmites, stalactites and ice columns. The ice fills the deeper parts of the cave. Other caves in the area are the Grotta dei Aci, Grotta dei Lamponi and Grotta dei Pastori, the first two of which formed during the same eruption as the Grotta del Gelo. There are a few such caves that are not accessible. The ones that you can get to were also used as a source of water by farmers, who brought their animals there. Increased scientific interest and investigations are recent, beginning in the 1980s. And, of course, legends abound -- buried treasure and what not.
2. Dec. 31 - Tonight is New Year's Eve. I usually spend the day wondering and worrying if Naples will once again walk off (or stump off) with the coveted Shredded Body Parts Prize for most injuries from fireworks. "We're number 1... we're number!..." Tonight, however, I shall just grab an abandoned dog (they're everywhere) and we can both crawl beneath the bed and -- as it says in Ecclesiastes -- "Yea, we shall quiver together".
Viaggo in Italia (part 2)
I'll talk about something else. This a supplement to an item on the previous Miscellany page (72) at this link, an item about Robert Rosselini's film, Viaggio in Italia. (You may wish to review that before continuing.) I made the point that the film is boring and revolutionary at the same time. At a certain point in the film, morose and melancholy co-star Ingrid Bergman tours a few sites in Naples to try to unbore herself a bit. She goes, for example, to the Fontanelle cemetery and ossuary (bone yard). For some reason, that doesn't do the trick. But there is one scene in which she seems excited and enthusiastic. (I glossed over this in part 1.) She is led by a guide through the Solfatara sulfur pits near Pozzuoli. (Fumaroles are venting at a few points and the site has been used as the Inferno in some films. The guide then shows her an example of what he calls "ionization" by shining a flash-light (torch) into one of the vents and even holding a burning cigarette next to the same vent. In both cases, every other vent in the area goes beserk, all at once spouting sulfur steam. "Oh, look at that!" she says excitedly. She actually laughs. It is the happiest break from domestic drear in the entire film (if you don't count the thigh-slapping happy ending in which they agree to try not to hate each other any more).
I think the answer to that flaring up phenomenon at Solfatara (shown, left) -- "ionization"-- involves terminology normally found in discussions of astronomy, in which very large amounts of hydrogen are ionized or deionized. But at Solfatara, the gas is not just hydrogen, but hydrogen sulfide (H2S), the stuff that smells like rotten eggs. (OK, this gets hard -- start paying attention!) An ion is an atom or molecule that has a non-zero net electrical charge. Since the charge of the electron (considered "negative") is equal and opposite to that of the proton (considered "positive"), the net charge of an ion is non-zero due to its total number of electrons being unequal to its total number of protons. (That's ok. Read that part again. I'll wait. Move your lips if you have to.) So at Solfatara the combined (connected) chambers containing hydrogen sulfide are in equilibrium-- that is, it may be considered one huge cloud of hydrogen sulfide. The fumaroles may leak up and off, as they do, but they don't disturb the general ionic equilibrium. You disturb that by holding a heat or light source to one vent. That starts the process of ionization going by which an atom or a molecule (not ions, but whole atoms and molecules just hanging around as part of the gas) acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons to form ions. It's like setting off a string of firecrackers. The process of ionization sets up what is called an ionic front; it moves at 10km per second. That's fast enough to make those flare-ups look instantaneous as they shoot out of their vents and become part of the general atmosphere.
Hmmmm. I wonder if that is correct. If it is, send me my Nobel Prize, pronto. I should note that correspondent and good friend of this website, Jeff Miller, actually saw a demonstration of this at the Solfatara some years ago where a guide used a burning newspaper to set off the process. Jeff is said to have exclaimed with typical mid-western overstatement, "Golly". I have not seen it personally, and I thank him for his contribution. If I have not described the process accurately, please let me know.
3. Jan. 1 - With all hospitals and first responders reporting, it was more or less par for the course. To me, it actually seemed subdued (from my vantage point under the bed). I wasn't paying attention.There were 37 injuries in the province of Naples, which includes the capital of the province, itself, the city of Naples. That is one fewer than last year, so gooooo team! In the city of Naples, itself, there were 23 injuries. Typically, most injuries are to the hands, face, and eyes. (They range from superficial burns and boo-boos to missing fingers and, this year, a missing hand. You can lose an eye or be blinded.) There were no deaths, but there was one serious injury to a 37-year-old woman in the town of Sant'Agata dei Goti in the province of Benevento when a sky-rocket exploded inside a temporary structure set up to accommodate revellers. Someone set it off at the stroke of midnight and she took it directly to the chest. She is in critical condition.
An ambulance in service for the night was damaged by various explosives purposely (!) tossed at it in Pianura. That report comes from an association that really exists called "Nessuno tocchi Ippocrate" (roughly: Leave Hippocrates Alone!), formed to try to get hoodlums not to attack first response vehicles of the health services. The association reports that in 2018, there were 82 such attacks in the province of Naples. And someone tried to rob a bank by blowing the ATM machine off its foundations and loading it onto their small flatbed truck with a crane that they happened to have handy (Never leave home without one!) The coppers, however, chased them down, got back the loot-o-matic and actually apprehended one of the n'er-do-wells. So, all in all -- subdued.
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Befana for Refugees
4. Jan. 6 -
Today is Sunday, January 6, the 12th Day of Christmas, the Epiphany (from Greek, meaning appearance or manifestation). It is the feast day in Western Christianity that marks the visit of the Magi ("Wise Men from the east" in Matthew 2:1) to the Christ Child. In Italy it is also known as Befana, (usually shown as a witch-like crone) plausibly a bit of linguistic sleight-of-tongue from "epiphany." It is the last "gift-giving" day of the holiday season, remembered in the English-singing world as "Twelve Something Something." The day is eagerly awaited by children (and no doubt by parents, who are finally out of money anyway.) A gift from Befana came a day early yesterday when the rescue ship Sea Watch docked in Naples with 32 refugees aboard after spending two weeks at sea looking for a port that would take them. (The rescue ship is run by Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish non-governmental organization. She cruises a given area in the Mediterranean waiting for distress calls.) The mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, issued a statement welcoming them and giving an email address where citizens can indicate their willingness to provide lodging, money, transportation, food and medicine. All this, of course, is contrary to the declaration by leaders of the current "populist" government of Italy (elected largely on a single-issue anti-immigration platform) that Italian ports are closed to immigrants. This kind of confrontation goes on quite a bit between the federal government and the city of Naples. The last time was when the mayor heard that a U.S. nuclear-powered vessel would be passing across the Bay of Naples, but he, the mayor, had declared Naples a nuke-free, peace, love and kumbaya city, dude. The Italian Ministry of Defence informed the mayor that Naples was part of Italy and that he could take his declaration and... (the next part was garbled in transmission). Win some, lose some.
[There is a related item about a Sea Watch landing at the port of Lampedusa later in 2019 here.]
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4. Jan. 18 - This boxed entry comes from Marius Kociejowski [MK]. He lives in London and is a friend to this website, a poet, essayist and all-round magical maker of words. If we need a phrase to describe his writings, he has referred to himself as a "metaphysical journalist," writing not so much about places as from places through the lives of the people he meets. He has books with titles as delightful as Zoroaster's Children. That one was my favorite title until this next one, The Serpent Coiled in Naples, soon to be published. This look at the life and work of photographer Riccardo Carbone, exceptionally, is not a short excerpt from that book but was written for my Naples: Life, Death & Miracles website. The other links, below, are from the book. I can't wait! [I have added a single editorial aside about the history of photography— jm.]
Capturing the Soul of Naples
A single man is responsible for what is perhaps the most important visual history of Naples in the 20th century, the photographer Riccardo Carbone (1897-1973) who during his lifetime produced approximately half a million images.
His earliest surviving photograph, dating from 1926, is of the sculptor Vincenzo Gemito working on the bust of the author and musician Raffaele Viviani. Thereafter he took images of whatever presented itself to him, there being no subject too big or too small for him: shoeshine boys are on a par with royalty, fishermen with politicians. Among the photographs he took there are haunting images of the devotees to the cult of anime pezzentelle at Fontanelle, Italian soldiers returning from prisoner-of-war camps and emigrants departing Naples for a new life, all the most notable Neapolitan actors and musicians as well as the city’s top cultural figures, the philosopher Benedotto Croce, the playwright Eduardo de Filippo, the film directors Vittorio De Sica and Pier Paolo Pasolini, visitors to Naples such as Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, Gloria Swanson, John Steinbeck, John F. Kennedy, Rita Hayworth, Alfred Hitchcock and Queen Elizabeth, historical events such as the effects of the Irpinia earthquake, the arrival of an elephant from the Sudan, a duel with swords at Solfatara, a well-dressed lady with her pet leopard and Anna Magnani who deserves a category absolutely her own. Most important of all, however, he photographed ordinary people, superbly, among them images of street children, newspaper sellers, fruit and vegetable sellers, etc, etc, and in doing so he captured the soul of Naples. There are many street scenes, enough for the production team from RAI television who spent some weeks researching sites for the highly-acclaimed adaption of Elena Ferrante’s L’amica geniale, Naples as it was during the 1950s.
One of Riccardo Carbone's many thousands of images is this popular
memory of US President John F. Kennedy in Naples from June, 1963.Strangely enough for someone whose life was spent revealing people, we know little about him other than he was a monarchist, studied chemistry at university, flew an airplane during World War One, was a chain smoker and amateur photographer. After a while Il Mattino took him on as a photojournalist and as such he was the first man in Naples to wed news items to images. Very little survives from the pre-war years because, O Italia, a foolish associate of his sold the tens of thousands of photographic glass plates to an American company specialising in hand mirrors. Their loss is immeasurable, but in the years following the war everything has survived although much of it is badly in need of restoration.
During the war Carbone escaped Naples, quite literally headed for the hills. Carbone’s son, Renato, who is president of the Associazione Archivio Fotografico Carbone recognised the value of his father’s work at a time when friends and colleagues were advising him to ditch the heavy burden of an archive, which he took with him every time he had to make a move. It was not until 2016 that the association was formed and the images professionally housed in a small office at Via Toledo 406, which researchers can visit by appointment. Although the archive has been saluted by Ministry of Cultural Heritage as being of “particular historical and cultural interest”, it has received virtually no public funding. It is run entirely by volunteers who go to painstaking lengths to conserve the precious images, including their digitisation and cataloguing.
Only a fraction of the 500,000 images has been developed, and it is a race against time because many of the negatives were in previous years subject to fungi and bacteria and now require immediate attention. The small operation operates by means of crowdfunding, donations and a brilliant scheme whereby one can adopt a photograph, a copy of which is given to the donor. There are many thousands to choose from because Carbone seemed incapable of taking a bad photograph. So if you wish to have a photograph of a school beauty pageant which just happens to include a yet-to-be discovered Sophia Loren then this is the place to go to. Should one wish to arrange a visit one can contact Giovanni Nicois or Letizia Del Pero at (+39) 0812514023.
[ed. note: About the loss of some of Carbone's early glass-plate negatives, readers should note that in the early decades of photography, glass plates were used as negatives; indeed, they were common even into the 1930s, well after the development of the newer celluloid alternatives. The destruction of many thousands of such plates in early photography around the world is a great loss. The prominent example of Matthew Brady, US Civil War photographer, comes to mind. As famous as his work became, many of his plates were sold off for their glass value to function as glass panes in greenhouses, where exposure to direct sunlight soon destroyed whatever images were chemically preserved on them.
These are the chapters in Marius Kociejowski's The Serpent Coiled in Naples that currently have small excerpts on Naples, Life, Death & Miracles. There is an extra item (this box) from MK.
Ch.1 - introduction - Ch.2 - An Octopus in Forcella - Ch.3 - Listening to Naples - Ch.4 - Lake Averno -
Ch.5 - Street music - Ch.6 - Leopardi - Ch.7 - R. di Sangro - Ch.8 - Old Bones - Ch.9 - The Devil -
Ch.10- Signor Volcano - Ch.10(2) - Ch. 11- Pulcinella - Ch.12 - Boom - Boom (2) - Ch.13-Two Women -
Ch. 14- The Ghost Palace - Ch. 15- An Infintesimal Particle - (extra) Riccardo Carbone, photographer (above).
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Jan. 28 - 2019
In Memory of my wife, Luciana
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Restart website - March 4, 2019
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5. March 4. 2019
The local artists' collective Opus Continuum has announced their second annual art show, IMMAGINARIA 2019 - Sulle orme di Partenope [In the Footsteps of Parthenope]. It will run from 16 March through 1 April at the Casina Pompeiana in the Villa Comunale, the large park on the seaside in the Chiaia section of Naples. (Details of last year's event and information on the organization are here.) There is no charge for general admission, but as with the 2018 event a painting will be auctioned off; that "lottery" ticket costs £5.
This year, the show features, among other things, the works (paintings and photography) of 16 local artists; also, there will be a showing of the short film by director Salvatore Polizzi, Sulle orme di Partenope as well as a theatrical performance of "La Sirena" (with musical accompaniment and simultaneous translation into Italian Sign Language!); also, a presentation of the novel Le metamorfosi dell'anima. Amedeo Modigliani e Pablo Picassoda Montematre a Napoli by Maria Simonetta De Marinis. The hours are 9.30 - 18.30. Closed on Sunday.
See this Facebook page for all information about IMMAGINARIA 2019
Follow-up: Mar 17. The opening was well attended and a grand success.
There is a complete photographic array of the opening at this Facebook page.
Follow-up: April 1. Extended until April 7. I'm sure that is not an April Fool's joke!
Follow-up: April 13. Opus Continuum announces that IMMAGINARIA 2019 has concluded, but that
"we are planning 2 new expos -- one at the end of April and the other in September on the island of Procida."
update - for next year's IMMAGINARIA 2020
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6. Mar. 8 -- Boats of the Bay 2019. The Georg Stage, Danish "tall ship" merchant marine training vessel (shown -- in the background you see the end of the Sorrentine peninsula). Many navies and merchant marine fleets in the world maintain a wooden sailing ship or two as training vessels for cadets. Training is in basic seamanship skills. Usually, the only such vessels we see in the bay here are the Italian naval training vessels, Amerigo Vespucci and the Palinuro. The ship you see here, however, from Denmark, is now at anchor off the Chiaia seafront near Mergellina. I've not seen this ship in Naples before.
Stats and history: Built: 1935 in Fredrikshavn, Denmark. Callsign: OYKL, Length 54.0 m (177.2 ft), Beam (width) 8.5 m (27.9 ft). She was built to replace the previous Georg Stage. This second version of the ship is an iron-hulled, fully rigged, three-masted sailing ship. It has been refitted several times. The ship spawns 20 sails with a total area of 860 sq. mts (9,300 sq ft), with the tallest mast extending 31 mts (102 ft) above deck height. In 1956 the Georg Stage participated in her first regatta, the predecessor to The Tall Ships' Races. In 1989, the Georg Stage made her first Atlantic crossing and teamed with her predecessor, now renamed the Joseph Conrad. The ship serves 63 program members and a 10-person regular crew. Since 1981, females may also apply for the program.
More Boats of the Bay at entry for June 6, June 21, July 2, below.
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7. Mar. 16 - If you like tales of travel trivia on the order of "Eight Great Places to Find Jewish Turnips (Rutabagels) in Ruthenia" try almost any copy of the New York Times, and if you want to come to Naples just for the pizza, please stay home. On the other hand if you want to know what makes Naples really tick -- and, yes, even surreally tock -- try Delirious Naples, A Cultural History of the City of the Sun. One of the editors, Prof. Stan Pugliese, of Hofstra University sent the book to me, modestly calling it a "volume of conference proceedings on Naples." That is true, but let's just say that Stan is a great fan of understatement. I add simply that this book is too good to be true. Here is what you get after the introduction: 25 essays in six sections -- 1."Learning from Contemporary Naples-Writing as a Neapolitan"; 2. "The View from America"; 3. "History, Memory, and Mercy"; 4. "Malanapoli - From the Lazaronitum to Gomorrah/Camorra"; 5."Writing and Singing Naples"; 6. Omaggi, or Parole d'Amore. There is a list of the 25 contributors with details of their professional qualifications, all of which are formidable in the field of general Italian history, life, and culture and, specifically, Neapolitan history, life, and culture.
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8. Mar. 31, - An earlier entry from 2016 deals with the painting Salvator Mundi (shown, unless this is the phony -- see "earlier entry," above) attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, at the time on display in Naples. The New York Times reported yesterday on the disappearance (!) of the painting. The NYT permalink to their article is here. Spoiler alert: there is something rotten in Saudi Arabia. Yawn.
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9. Apr. 3, - Jeff Miller, our roving New World correspondent, tells me they have discovered yet another thermopolium in Pompeii (although how he knows that from way over Beyond the Great Pond beats me since the Romans had no internet.). A thermopolium was a place that prepared hot food, ready to eat -- a restaurant, a fast-food place, and since there were about 80 of these places in Pompeii, you might think that the discovery of yet another one is no big deal. (Golly, you might even be right.) This one is significant in that it was found in the area of Pompeii currently being explored, an area that has lain untouched for, oh, about 2000 years. It has yielded some other interesting finds, some of which are mentioned on the general Pompeii page, here. The Romans were big on brothels and burger joints, a pleasant, pain-free way to build a great empire. A general entry (subtitled Possum tubera solani fricta habere? / Can I get some fries with that?) on Roman fast-food is here. (I'm still researching the entry on brothels. I'll get back to you.) A complete discussion of this most recent find is on the archaeology news network blogspot here.
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10. Apr. 22 - Pasquetta...And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus…and they talked together of these things which had happened…[and] Jesus himself drew near and went with them… (Luke 24:13-15)
That biblical passage is the source of the traditional outing on Easter Monday (today), called Pasquetta (little Easter) in Italy. Everyone goes out for a walk. It is a prominent holiday, commemorating the Risen Christ's first appearance after His Resurrection. The Emmaus episode is simple, powerful and obviously meaningful to Christians; if the story really happened as described in the Gospel of Luke it shows the historicity of the Resurrection and that Jesus was the Messiah. (I deftly leave the difference between belief and knowledge to you.) (Whether it all has anything to do with the image on the right, well...)
My original entry on Pasquetta is at this link. That entry and the update, a few years later, describe the biblical origins of Pasquetta and its recent transition from loud, obnoxious holiday of great interest to Martian anthropologists and other lunatics to the eerie digitally-driven silence of mobile-phone zombies lumbering along talking to their "friends" who are somewhere else. Direct human interaction is nowhere to be seen except when they walk into one another, which happens all too infrequently for my tastes. (What you want is the amazing ZDC, the "Zombie Domino Chain," toppling over from foreground in this image all the way to background -- Mt. Vesuvius. Photo by Selene Salvi.) The image here is from that 2014 update. I can only report that the transition is now complete. No one really talks to anyone. Oh, don't forget to "like" Jesus.
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11. May 6 -
A Whale of a Tale
This comes from Matera, south of Naples. The original entry on that fascinating city is here. This entry is not about the city. It's about the nearby lake. And it's not a fish story because a whale is a mammal, not a fish (it's not a bird, either, but you probably knew that).* The item comes from Jeff Miller, our one and only roving reporter (I have in fact no idea where he is right now.) He is a sleuth of the mysterious and strange, who delights in coming up with these things and to whom I am in debt.
*In common taxonomy, all whales are cetaceans and are placental marine mammals. Some marine mammals, such as dolphins, have teeth to chew their food. Others, such as the blue whale, do not. Instead they have a bristle-like filter-feeder system (called 'baleen') inside the mouth. The system strains out small organisms to provide nourishment.Jeff reports an item on the archaeology news network, itself linking to the original publication in Biology Letters. The headline is simple and stunning: Blue whale fossil found in Italy is largest skeleton ever discovered. Read that again -- ever discovered. The discovery was at Lake Giuliana, about 10km SW of the city of Matera. The discovery implies, for one thing, "an early origin of modern mysticete [baleen whale] gigantism." The bones are about 1.5 million years old and were originally uncovered in 2006 by a farmer who noticed a set of enormous vertebrae lodged in the clay on the shore of the lake. It took the team nearly two years to dig them out and collect them. The discovery adds to speculation that whales took far longer to become the giants we know today than previously believed. There may more bones waiting to be dug up, but they may be many meters below the current lake bottom. The specimen found and assembled measures 85 feet (26 meters) in length and would have weighed between 130 and 150 tons. That is marginally smaller than the average modern blue whale.
The image of a blue whale shown (above) is of a display in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
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12. May 12-
What, Me Worry?
--just a new wrinkle, right?
It's Miller time again! Jeff Miller, that is. (I can't give him a press pass because my printer was engulfed by a recent lava flow) -- the guy who told me about the whale (the item above this one). Jeff likes things about Pompeii, mosaics, whales, Greek tombs, and volcanoes. He's eclectic. His latest report, from the archaeology news network and the journal Geology, bears the misleadingly calm title, "Mysterious volcanic ash layer blanketing Mediterranean 29,000 years ago traced to volcano in Naples, Italy." In short, if you are one of those fortunate, smug billions of persons who don't live near a supervolcano and are not worried ...uh...start worrying. When (not if) one of those things blows, such as the one below Yellowstone or even our own dear Big Archie (an entry on the original Archiflegrean Ignimbrite Eruption is here), it will block enough sunlight (i.e. heat) to cool the Earth such as to make you nostalgic for the current balmy beaches of Antarctica.
Just a new wrinkle? No, not a wrinkle, but rather a "previously unreported, ash-rich eruption deposit," evidence of a large-scale eruption BETWEEN (!) the original big one of 40,000 years ago (link above) and the smaller one of 15,000 years ago that produced those pipsqueak widdle secondary volcanoes now pompously called the Campi Flegrei (Fiery Fields). This discovery (start worrying right about here) "drastically reduces the reoccurrence interval of large magnitude eruptions at the volcano." This thing goes off not every 25,000 years, but maybe every 10 or 12 thousand. "But, golly, both Jeffs," you say, that's still thousands of years away. Why should I worry? Because (both Jeffs remind you) "between" comes with lots of wiggle room and uncertainty. It might also mean tomorrow. (God, optimists are so cute and cuddly.) Now reach back and down and see if you can still find it with both hands. Good, that is your dangerously enlarged optimism gland (you probably call it your "Happy Place.") Now kiss it good-bye.
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13. May 18 -
This is from Jeff Miller. He noticed on the www.livescience.com website an intriguing article about how the ancient Romans used molten iron to repair roads in Pompeii. If you have been anywhere where the Romans built roads you will have noticed scenes such as the one in the photo (taken at Pompeii by Eric Poehler, and from the website noted above). The passage of carts over decades wore ruts such as those shown. Places with a lot of traffic, such as Pompeii, were particularly prone to problems much worse than modern "potholes" (they still give us problems). Entire long stretches of road simply became impassable. There are two ways to fix that problem: (1) tear up the stretch in question and rebuild it, which is tantamount to building a new road (possible but extremely impractical and very time consuming -- ("Sorry, folks, come back next year") or (2) fill in the ruts with something.
That something was molten iron. Archaeologists have discovered that that is precisely what the Romans did at Pompeii (and, plausibly, elsewhere). The researcher who took the photo says it represents "the first large-scale attestation of the Roman use of molten iron." The team's results are published in the American Journal of Archaeology.
There is a still a mystery as to the exact procedure of "ironizing" your roads. You have to heat up iron or iron slag at 1,100 to 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,000 to 3,000 F). Researchers note that reconstructed Roman furnaces can reach these temperatures. How about the pouring? There are many drops and splotches of cooled iron along repaired roads; that means that the molten material was carried to where it was needed and some of it spilled along the way. Who did the carrying and pouring? That's why you have slaves. ("Pssst! Pssst! Aurelius! I thought we were on the Cleaner Pools and Fountains detail today! Where's our union rep?! Oh... wow... crocodiles, huh?)
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14. May 29 - New ship, the Trieste, an LHD (Landing Helicopter Dock) launched at Castellammare. See this link.
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15. June 6 -- Boats of the Bay 2019 --
D-Day indeed! The Naples version of that great invasion looks like this photo, an array of conspicuously consumptive (when they start their engines at the same time, the bay lets out an audible hacking cough) of very large motor yachts, at anchor in the morning sun in a colorless haze off the Chiaia coast a few hundred yards east of the small port of Mergellina. There is no visibility out to sea. Capri might be 25 miles away, but maybe it has disappeared and been replaced by the dragons that lurk at the edge of the earth. The haze has been routine this spring, but you might get lucky and have rain.
The dimensions of these craft requires comment. Just to the right of center in the photo are two 80-meter motor yachts that you can charter for your dining and dancing pleasure for only $400,000 per person per cruise (they take 14 passengers) -- but you get unlimited bread sticks. God, I'm so happy it's overcast and miserable -- but why be bitter when there is such equanimity and happiness in the world? They are among the largest luxury yachts in the world. They now seem puny compared to the big bright boat on the left, the Bravo Eugenia, 92 meters of luxury, owned by Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys football franchise in the National Football League in the U.S. If you are an angry revolutionary who thinks we should eat the rich, you might cut ol' Jerry some slack. He gives a lot of money to charity. Sociological bickering aside, I dutifully remind him of the grammatical mistake in the name of the boat, which he named for his wife, Eugenia. In Eye-talian (as they probably say in Dallas) the adjective must match the gender of the noun, thus BravA Eugenia would be the correct form unless there is something super-sociological going on. Maybe it's a sly covert dig at his spouse's sexual self-identification, the so-called LGBTQ factor (Lettuce, Ground Beef, Tomato, Qucumber, which, I remind you, is a great sandwich). I wouldn't touch that possibility with a 10-foot pole, but if Spouse gets wise to it, Jerry's in trouble. In fact... in fact... yes... yes! There's a woman with a 10-foot pole creeping up behind Jerry.
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16. June 21 - Boats of the Bay 2019 - This one just showed up. You're looking at the Andromeda, a 107-meter luxury expedition yacht (built in 2015) formerly owned by New Zealand billionaire Graeme Hart. It is not clear who currently owns it, and it is not listed for sale or as available for charter. It's just there. This is one of the longest vessels I have seen at anchor here (off the Chiaia coast just outside the small port of Mergellina, visible on the right). Hart, the original owner is the richest person in New Zealand and, like many leveraged buyout private equity investors --whatever that is -- he does all right. He has now bought another yacht to replace this one. Hart says he has no interest in making money for its own sake and says his personal wealth is just a "by-product" of what he does. Uh...OK, I guess. He just made a $10m donation to his alma mater, the University of Otago in New Zealand, towards opening their $28.2 million teaching hospital for dentistry. So I guess he's a good guy. If you want to eat the rich, cut this one some slack.
boat not yet of the bay
On the other hand, you might try your dental work on the owner of the largest private motor yacht in the world (the 107-meter tub shown above doesn't even come close!). I refer to the Azzam (the Arabic word for 'Resolute') a private super-yacht launched in 2013 and the property of Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the current President of the United Arab Emirates, the Emir of Abu Dhabi, and the chairman of the Supreme Petroleum Council. (He does all right, too.) His boat, Azzam (image, left), is 180 meters (590 ft) long! I don't think it has been in Naples or I would have boarded her and demanded small, unmarked, currency with non-consecutive serial numbers. The vessel is currently off the SW coast of the island of Sardinia. She was off of southern Sicily yesterday, so I was hoping. Vessel trackers list her as "cruising" with no listed destination or time of arrival. I'll guess Barcelona. I was going to chase her down in my Batplane, but this thing has an anti-missile system. No kidding. And a bullet-proof bridge. No kidding. I can wait.
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17. July 2 - Boats of the Bay 2019 - This is not Darth Vader's boat. Damn. (That black is really a dark translucent blue. It shimmers.) She's named Better Place, a sailing yacht built in 2012 in Monaco. (I haven't noticed it in Naples before, but I sleep a lot now.)
Impressive: length, 50.50m (165'8"ft); length at waterline, 44.80m (146'11"ft); beam (width), 10.25m (33'7"ft). She has a flying bridge: an open area on top for a 360° view of fore, aft, and the sides. It is the control center for the vessel. Better Place has 5 cabins for guests and carries a crew of 10. The common areas and dining room are beautiful. The original builder was Luca Bassani a Milanese entrepreneur and boat designer who pioneered the use of carbon fiber as a yacht-building material and for the sleek interior of his vessels of which Better Place is a splendid example. They are at home at call-sign ZGCL2. Don't mention my name. Please.
[to Boats of the Bay homepage] more boats on next page
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The Marian church in Pompei
18. July 2 - Mary, the mother of Jesus, is important in many Christian denominations, notably Roman Catholicism (RC). Modern times have seen in RC a worldwide growth of Marian churches and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and an increase in the number of pilgrims at these sites. Many of the sites are believed by the faithful to mark an apparition of Mary or a miracle ascribed to her, or they may simply be at a site with an historically strong Marian devotion. There are hundreds of such religious structures in the world. There are 12 in Italy, and one in the Campania region of Italy, in Pompeii. It is the Pontificio Santuario della Beata Vergine del Santo Rosario di Pompei [Pontifical Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary of Pompei -- [shown, image, right].END of Misc. p. 73
The church was commissioned by Bartolo Longo (a cleric of the Dominican order, since beatified by the RC church), who started in October 1873 to restore what was then "just a church" in disrepair. He promoted a festival in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 1875 Longo placed a painting in the church of Our Lady of the Rosary from a convent in Naples, and pilgrims started to arrive. The cornerstone for a large expansion of the church was laid in 1876 and the expanded church was consecrated on 7 May 1891 by Cardinal Raffaele Monaco La Valletta, representing Pope Leo XIII. That building followed a Latin cross design.* The construction of the façade (work of G. Rispoli) started on 15 May 1893. The facade is topped by a statue of the Virgin of the Rosary (work of G. Chiaromonte), carved from a single block of Carrara marble, beneath which are the words "PAX" ('peace' in Latin) and the year "MCMI" (1901). The sanctuary was expanded between 1934 and 1939 from one to three aisles, keeping its Latin cross plan.*
*a Latin cross is a plain right-angle cross with the horizontal bar off-center towards the top and shorter than the vertical bar. It's what you get if you print a simple lower case letter t (leaving off, of course, that curved doo-hickey at the bottom, called a 'serif'.
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19 - Nov. 17 - A new painting by Selene Salvi. She has always been fascinated by what she calls the "Sea of Posillipo" -- the high, rugged cliffs, of course, but even the more domestic areas such as these seaside homes along the Marechiaro section of the Posillipo coast. This is Marechiaro, looking back at Vesuvius." Marechiaro means
"Clear Sea" and you could fill a library with Neapolitan poets and singers who have sung and written about this as the most romantic spot along the coast of the entire Gulf of Naples. Chronologically, this entry should be on the next page, but things are getting crowded up there, though you'll find Selene there as well. Other material by Selene in these pages is here, here, and here.