Dispatches From the Stacks Has Moved

Photo by Rebecca Hale

We’ve moved! Dispatches From the Stacks is now posting on the National Geographic News Watch blog. Click here to read our posts and other National Geographic news stories.

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A Royal Wedding Primer (NG Revisited)

Grenadier Guard on duty at Buckingham Palace; photo by Franc Shor, 1953

Do you know who the Baron of Renfrew is? It’s Prince Charles, father of the groom! If you are planning to watch the royal wedding of William and Kate Middleton this Friday it’s time to brush up on London and all things royal. Check out some recent info from our website and then take a trip back in time through the pages of National Geographic, with articles and photos showing the royal traditions and pageantry that will be echoed this week. Best wishes to the happy couple!

Print issues or the Complete National Geographic may be needed; click here for help.

  • London home page on our website, including photos, a quiz, and more. Fast facts on England at our KIDS site.
  • 2006 May–National Geographic magazine. Prince Charles–Not Your Typical Radical. 96-115. Prince Charles, presumed future King of England, has taken a leadership position on community planning and sustainable agriculture, and he is putting it to the test in the Duchy of Cornwall. Sandy Mitchell follows along as Prince Charles describes his vision, with photos by Catherine Karnow.
  • 1980 November–National Geographic magazine. Windsor Castle. 604-631. Anthony Holden provides history and anecdotes about one of the official residences of the Queen, begun in 1070. Find out about the unusual alarm clock that rouses everyone each morning. Photos by James L. Stanfield show a table set in the Waterloo Chamber, a suit of armor, and St. George’s Chapel.
  • 1980 November–National Geographic magazine. Royal House for Dolls. 632-643. This royal house is a miniature built in the 1920s as a gift for Queen Mary. David Jeffery describes the enormous doll house based on plans by Edwin Lutyens, which has electricity, hot and cold running water, full sets of china for dinner, and much more. Photos by James L. Stanfield.
  • 1969 November–National Geographic magazine. The Investiture of Great Britain’s Prince of Wales. 698-715. Want to find out the full name of Prince Charles? Allan C. Fisher, Jr. answers that question and provides a full description of the investiture ceremony held in 1969 at Caernarvon Castle, Wales. Photos by James L. Stanfield and Adam Woolfitt show the placing of the coronet on his head by the Queen, the crowds, and the castle decked out in banners.
  • 1937 May–National Geographic magazine. Along London’s Coronation Route. 609-632. Maynard Owen Williams reports on the sights and sounds of London preparing for the coronation of King George VI, who stepped in for his brother who abdicated the throne in order to marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Photos include monuments, the parade route, and the royal coach.
Posted in NG Revisited

The Time Is Out of Joint (Earth Current)

Vintage image of clock in Rouen, France by Gervais Courtellemont.

It seems we are always keeping track of time, but do we really even know what it is? Recent scientific studies are calling into question Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of time and the idea that it may represent a fourth dimension.

For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current.

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Earth Day and E-waste (NG Revisited)

Cell phone; photo by Jeanne Modderman

April 22nd is Earth Day. Mark the day by learning what happens to your e-waste, possibly despite your best efforts. You have generated e-waste if you’ve ever discarded a computer, monitor, cell phone, or television. Chris Carroll reported in the 2008 National Geographic article, High-Tech Trash, that “in the United States it is estimated that more than 70% of discarded computers and monitors, and well over 80% of TVs, eventually end up in landfills…” Maybe you are taking your e-waste to an appropriate recycling center and assuming it will be disposed of properly. It may be, but then again, the recycler may be selling it to the developing world for the conductive components and precious metals. What is released along with the valuable components is chromium, beryllium, and other toxic elements. Read the article to find out what the European Union and the United States are doing to lessen the impact of these toxic recyclables. Photos by Peter Essick show who’s paying the price for working with the hazardous e-waste, and an interactive diagram shows what’s inside your computer and monitor.
How to help? Check out E-cycling Etiquette to find out who has pledged to safely dispose of e-waste, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s page on eCycling to find out where you can take your old electronics for safe disposal in your region. Then take an an e-waste quiz and find out if you are now a knowledgeable e-waste recycler.
Does recycling always make sense? Tom Zeller, Jr. tackles this question in a short companion article, Recycling: The Big Picture. Zeller examines the cycle of manufacturing and where recycling fits in. He also explains the concept of “extended producer responsibility” and how European Union manufacturers shoulder some of the burden of recycling packaging debris.
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On Everest, It Is Always the Wind

The man with three dreams: going on expedition with Admiral Byrd, working for National Geographic, and climbing Everest…Listen to an excerpt.

The view from Everests summit by Barry Bishop, c. NGS.

It’s climbing season on Mt. Everest, so let’s take a look back at one of the pioneers of that deadly mountain. Thanks to his fortitude and harrowing tale of survival, Barry Bishop became the stuff of legend around National Geographic.  A barrel-chested man with a handlebar mustache, he resembled nothing so much as a sturdy elf.  During an era when most Americans had no interest in climbing, he had become an expert from an early age.  When Swiss climber Norman Dhyrenfurth cast about for members for his 1963 attempt on Everest, he called Bishop.  This “little war on a big mountain” included 19 climbers, 32 Sherpas and 909 porters.

On May 1, Big Jim Whittaker became the first American to reach the rooftop of the world.  A few weeks later, leader Norman Dhyrenfurth decided they had just enough oxygen and strength to get a few more team members to the top. Willi Unsoeld and Tom Hornbein would ascend via the West Ridge route they had reconnoitered a few weeks prior to this. Lute Jerstad and Bishop planned to  follow Whittaker’s path up the South Col, hoping to meet the other two on the summit and then descend together.

Bishop and Jerstad, having made their way up to the advanced Camp VI, got off to an unpromising start after dealing with a fire in their tent caused by one of the butane cylinders. Then for the real challenge. Bishop later described the South Col as “the most desolate, God-forsaken spot on the face of the Earth,” with winds never dropping below 60 miles per hour…On Everest the wind speaks with many voices. It rises, it falls, it thunders. Sometimes it is the remote night cry of a sick child. But it is always the wind.”

Seven and one-half grueling hours later, however, they stood atop the roof of the world, Bishop planting the Society’s flag next to the American one recently left by Whittaker. Jerstad took the first motion pictures from the summit while Bishop laboriously concentrated on still photography–the latter actually recorded on his parka a list of photos to capture in case the altitude clouded his mind. Both men’s hands were freezing, and the wind chill factor registered approximately -85 to -90 degrees Fahrenheit. No sign, however, of Unsoeld and Hornbein, and after remaining on the summit for 45 minutes, Bishop and Jerstad had to descend. They were worried about their dwindling supply of oxygen, and due to their late start, nightfall would catch them still far from Camp VI.

They eased their way downwards in the gathering darkness, and after a while heard voices. Surely a trick of the reverberant wind, playing on their dazed senses?  But the voices grew more insistent–it was Unsoeld and Hornbein. They had successfully summited as well, the first to do so from the West Ridge route, but not before overcoming their own set of problems. Now they were descending down an unfamiliar route. Bishop and Jerstad stopped in their tracks, spending the next couple of hours stamping their feet to keep warm while leading their comrades down by the sound of their own voices. The four climbers, now reunited, resumed their cautious descent, continually urged on by Unsoeld. But after awhile the path became too complicated to follow, and they worried that in the dark they might miss the turn-off to camp. The wind having finally died down, at 12:30 a.m. the four decided to wait on an outcrop of rock for the sun to rise. Hornbein and Unsoeld huddled together; the latter unselfishly using his own body heat to ward off frostbite in his teammate’s freezing feet.

Miraculously, they all survived their night out-of-doors high up on the mountain, a first in Everest history. When morning dawned, the men set off again, encountering Dave Dingman, who had forfeited his chance to try for the summit in order to search for them despite the odds of their survival. Dingman and one of the Sherpas administered oxygen and escorted the exhausted climbers down to Camp VI. Later, farther down at Camp I, Maynard Miller, whom Bishop called a “veritable Florence Nightingale,” melted some of his hard-won ice samples in order to get liquids into the dehydrated men. Various Sherpas performed a relay race of sorts in order to transport Unsoeld and Bishop to Namche Bazar where a helicopter took them to a hospital in Katmandu. Bishop had to be evacuated via military transport to New Delhi to be under the care of a Navy doctor expert at dealing with frostbite cases. Bishop’s case was severe, however, and would cost him all ten toes plus the tips of his little fingers. Unsoeld remained hospitalized for several months as well, ultimately losing nine toes but eventually able to resume his work with the Peace Corps in Nepal.

Apart from being the first Americans to climb the world’s tallest mountain, the American Mount Everest Expedition also racked up many other “firsts,” among them getting the most men to the top and making the first simultaneous climb from two directions. In July 1963, President John F. Kennedy presented the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal to Dyhrenfurth and his team, and the story was featured extensively in the Magazine’s 75th Anniversary issue appearing that October, then passing into the realms of Society legend.

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Pop Quiz on Climate Change? Teens Get an F (Earth Current)

Student learning of pollution in a classroom; photo by James P. Blair

Maybe your teenager is getting straight A’s in school, but there’s one topic she still needs to study up on: climate change. According to a recent poll conducted by Yale University, only half of teenagers believe that climate change is occurring, and even those who may not understand the reasons why. When the results were tallied up, only one-fourth of the teens surveyed received a passing grade compared to 30% of older respondents.

Among the findings:

  • 54% of teens say that global warming is happening, versus 63% of adults
  • 35% of teens understand that most scientists agree global warming is happening, compared with 39% of adults
  • 46% of teens understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming, versus 49% of adults

Teens won out on a few questions however. Fifty-seven percent of them understand that global warming is caused by human activities compared to only 50% of grown-ups.

And the good news? Seventy percent of teens say they would like to learn more about global warming.

For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current

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Regrets? I’ve Had a Few (Earth Current)

Microchip on a postage stamp; photo by Bruce Dale

People say it all the time. “If only.” “If only I’d remembered our wedding anniversary.” “If only I’d taken that other job.” “If only I’d brought my umbrella to work today.” Regret is a distinctly human trait, but computer researchers at Tel Aviv University and the folks at Google are out to change all that. Professor Yishay Mansour and his team have developed an algorithm so that computers programs can minimize “virtual regret”–that is, to cut down on the difference between a desired outcome and an actual outcome. This can result in better decisions. Prof. Mansour notes that computers can take advantage of “regret” more quickly than people can: “We are able to change and influence the decision-making of computers in real-time. Compared to human beings, help systems can much more quickly process all the available information to estimate the future as events unfold–whether it’s a bidding war on an online auction site, a sudden spike of traffic to a media website, or demand for an online product.” Google hopes to apply this research to improve its online technologies.

For all the latest science news, check out our twice-weekly news rundown, Earth Current.

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Eagles Take Their Star Turn (NG Revisited)

Bald eagle in Tongass National Forest, Alaska; photo by Michael Melford

The Raptor Resource Project in Decorah, Iowa, has mounted an eagle webcam (eagle webcam FAQs), to track the daily life of a nesting bald eagle pair who are hatching eaglets. The sturdy looking nest is high up in a cottonwood tree with large twigs and small branches on the outside, and fluffy material on the inside. There is usually an adult eagle sitting on the nest and if you are patient you will see two fuzzy eaglets pop out from under the eagle, along with an egg that may hatch any minute; the eaglets look like tiny bandits with black markings around their eyes. The two eaglets seem to treat the egg as if it were a coffee table, leaning on it as they get their wobbly bearings. There is an array of “leftovers” scattered about the nest which the nesting eagle chews up and feeds to the babies. Get the facts on bald eagles, check out the webcam and send an eagle ecard to a friend.

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Wrapped up in Books: Songs for National Library Week

Librarian Michael Jourdan reads Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity"

“Such sweet compulsion doth in music lie.” – John Milton

What do National Geographic librarians do on their days off? Would it surprise you to learn that they continue to obsess about libraries and books? When I’m not at work, I deejay at my online radio station, Radio Sweetheart. This week, I’m playing songs inspired by libraries, books and reading. Among the highlights:

  • The “Little Prince” tames Regina Spektor in “Baobabs”
  • The Divine Comedy sings of the frizzies and Fitzgerald in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”
  • The Decemberists spell out “Bee Season” with “Song for Myla Goldberg”

The book mix will be playing from 9am-5pm ET each day during National Library Week. Listen here.

For more information on songs inspired by books, check out these lists from Artists for Literacy and The Guardian.

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Celebrate Our Nation’s Libraries!

Barbara Ferry, Director, National Geographic Library

Barbara Ferry, reading Ahab's Wife in the NG Library reference room.

I remember getting my first library card when I was about eight. My family couldn’t afford to buy many new books and my mom would drop me at the Public Library’s front door nearly every weekend. I would sit for hours exploring the world from the Library’s stacks. If I got stuck, there were always helpful librarians to dispense guidance on the best things to read. (The original content curators!) Even today, with all that the Internet offers in terms of information and entertainment, 68% of U.S. information consumers have a library card and that that number rises to 81% for those who have been economically impacted by the recession. Those impacted Americans (about 20% of the U.S. population), are using their public libraries more than ever to check out books, visit the Internet, and use the other free resources that their libraries provide.*

This week is National Library Week (April 10-16), an event sponsored by the American Library Association, which represents thousands of public and school libraries in the U.S. We celebrate these institutions that are also aligned with the Society’s mission to increase and diffuse knowledge about geography and the planet. Our library is celebrating by planning some fun events for staff: we are taking their photos for their own READ posters (our first customer was John Fahey, CEO of National Geographic!) and offering demonstrations of how to download free public library e-books on their Android and Apple devices. (Many National Geographic e-books are already available in public libraries though NetLibrary and Overdrive.)

It is easy to take for granted the free, public access to libraries that our nation provides. In many countries, libraries are still for the rich if they are allowed at all. You can show your support for public libraries and celebrate what they do for your community by visiting your local library or their website during National Library Week. They may have some fun activities planned! You can locate branches by state and county at this website, PublicLibraries.com or visit your municipality’s website.

NG Library staff read next to the pliosaur in the courtyard.

*Perceptions of Libraries, 2010 (OCLC)

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