National Geographic : 1991 Oct
Geographica Creating a Leonardo Statue in Pennsylvania In 1482 Leonardo da Vinci's patron, Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, commissioned a 23-foot-high bronze equestrian stat ue for his courtyard (GEOGRAPHIC, September 1977). Leonardo studied equine anatomy, drew sketches (below), and built a clay model of the horse. Then came war: The duke made cannon from the bronze, and invading French troops used the model as an archery practice target. ROYALLIBRARY,WINDSORCASTLE The bronze horse was never cast. Enter Charles C. Dent, a retired airline pilot and art collector. Dent read the GEOGRAPHIC article and decided to create the horse as a gift to the people of Italy. He sought aid from scholars-one expert, noting Leonardo's drawings, called the plan "wholly possible and immense ly exciting." Several artists, working with Dent in his Fogelsville, Penn sylvania, studio, fashioned a clay model (above right). If Dent's team can raise four million dol lars to cast the bronze and ship the ten-ton statue to Italy, they hope to see it unveiled in Milan in 1993, 500 years after Leonardo showed his model to Lodovico. Dent does not claim to be Leo nardo. He says only that his horse will be "in the master's style." Unlike the original plans, Dent's horse will lack a rider. Did Lucy's "Family" Wander East Africa? The fossil remains of Lucy, the most complete of the earliest human ancestors known to walk on two legs, were discovered in 1974 at Hadar in northern Ethiopia (GEOGRAPHIC, December 1976). Some scientists think specimens found more than 1,000 miles away, at Laetoli in northern Tanzania, are also those of Lucy's species. Other researchers believe the Laetoli remains are of a different hominid. Now a team of American and Ethiopian scientists supported by the National Geographic Society has discovered a handful of teeth from members of Lucy's species 600 miles south west of Hadar. The find lends credence to the notion that the species, Australopithecus afarensis, ranged extensively throughout eastern Africa. The scientists, led by John Fleagle and Solomon Yirga of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, found seven teeth, including these five from one individual (above), at Fejij in the remote bad lands of southern Ethiopia, near the Kenya border. They are between 3.7 and 4.5 million years old. National Geographic, October 1991 Waterfowl Return As Salt Lake Retreats The waters of Utah's Great Salt Lake, which rose to record levels in the 1980s, now have dropped nearly ten feet below their peak. From 1983 to 1985 rain and snow pummeled Utah, and the shallow lake rose. Without a natural outlet, it flooded highways, railroad tracks, wildlife refuges, and evaporating salt ponds used to mine potassium sulfate fertilizer (GEOGRAPHIC, June 1985). In 1987 the waters peaked: 4,211.85 feet above sea level. Drought set in in 1988, and by last January the lake was down to 4,202.4 feet. Waterfowl enthusiasts cheered. The flooding had killed off vegetation that nourished millions of migrating birds. In earlier years as many as 60,000 tundra swans stopped at area marshes in the fall; by decade's end only 1,500 showed up. But with the lake level dropping and revegetation under way, some 6,000 swans appeared in 1990. Tom Aldrich, the state's waterfowl coor dinator, expects another increase by the time this autumn ends.