National Geographic : 1989 Aug
AUGUST 1989 GEOGRAPHIC numerous proposals for action by gov ernment and private groups, all based on the no-net-loss goal. An EPA official says the plan calls for no new funds and is "a short-term response to get something started." Nine Men's Morris in a Manhattan Cellar "Time Capsule" Floats from the Pole to Ireland When Will Steger and his party reached the North Pole by dog sled in May 1986 (NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September 1986), they placed a "time capsule" on the ice for the currents of the polar sea to carry away. It was a sealed piece of plastic tubing more than a foot long filled with mementos of their trip, including a Jim Brandenburg photograph of the team. "I really never thought we'd see it again," Steger says. Last February 5, Peadar Gallagher (above), a 62-year-old carpenter who lives in County Donegal on Ireland's northwest coast, in an area called Bloody Foreland, was walking on the seaside rocks by his home when he spotted a plastic cylinder. "I tried to open it, but I couldn't, and I saw wa ter dripping out," he recalls. "I took it home, pried it open, poured the water out, and things began to emerge." Gallagher had never heard of the Steger expedition, but a photograph in the cylinder bore the name of the Na tional Geographic Society. He wrote to the Society, asking help in explaining his find, and that is how Steger and his party learned what had happened to their time capsule. Steger was surprised that the cylin der had floated some 2,400miles to Ire land; he had thought that if it turned JAIMIE BLANDFORD,THE SLIDE FILE up anywhere, it would be Iceland. Gal lagher returned the cylinder and its contents and received a $5,000 reward from Du Pont, an expedition sponsor. EPA's Wetlands Goal: No Net Loss The nation's wetlands-those bogs, swamps, marshes, prairie pot holes, and riverine forests that nurture wildlife, offer protection from flooding and erosion, and produce organic material to support the food chain-have long been disappearing. Half of the lower 48 states' 200 million acres of wetlands have vanished as these precious areas were drained, ex cavated, and converted to agricultural or urban use. Each year 300,000 to 450,000 acres are lost. Now the U. S . Environmental Pro tection Agency has adopted a plan to fight the decline. If its central goal is met, any newly converted wetlands must be offset by the creation or resto ration of wetlands elsewhere. The plan was EPA's response to a report of the National Wetlands Policy Forum, a 20-member group of state and local officials, environmental and business leaders, farmers, ranchers, and academic experts organized by the Conservation Foundation, an en vironmental group affiliated with World Wildlife Fund. The report listed By his own admission Donald De Fillo plays "a lot of somewhat ob solete games." So when DeFillo (below), supervisor of historic house restoration for the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, walked into the cellar of the city-owned Dyckman House at 204th Street and Broadway, he had no trouble identify ing a pattern oflines that someone once carved into a rock outcropping there. "I recognized it as a game board for nine men's morris," DeFillo said. Nine men's morris, a checkers-like game, has been played for at least a thousand years and takes its name from the number of pieces, or "men," each player has. The game had a brief moment in the literary sun: In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania tells Oberon that be cause they fought, nature wept, and JOE McNALLY "the nine men's morris [board] is filled up with mud." The house at 204th Street was built after the Revolution by William Dyckman, a prosperous farmer whose grandfather emigrated from Germany more than a century earlier. The rock outcropping on which the game board was carved is beneath the stairs, sug gesting that it was there before the staircase. DeFillo is trying to find out when and how the board got there.