National Geographic : 1988 Nov
NAIOAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: GEOGRAPHCA Citizens Join Together to Save Their Environment WT hen residents of Scientists Cliffs, Maryland, heard that for ests and abandoned farms sur rounding their homes were to be sold, possibly to developers, they bought the land. A tract of 436 wooded acres near the Chesapeake Bay became the American Chestnut Land Trust. Peter Vogt, a government geophysi cist who spearheaded the drive, never thought of saving the whole expanse when he started the movement in 1984. "But there was a lot of interest," he says. "Three hundred people have con tributed. My share could have bought a new car." So what might have become a housing development or a golf course remains home to Maryland's only known colony of sweet pinesap and a single American chestnut, a species deci mated by blight. Buoyed by its success, the trust hopes to help preserve the adjacent estuary of Parker Creek, where bald eagles circle and great blue herons stalk the salt marsh. Inquiries are welcome: ACLT, Box 204, Port Republic, Maryland 20676. Celebrating Peoples of the Bering Strait "Crossroads of Continents: Cultures Sof Siberia and Alaska," a joint Soviet-North American exhibit, will be at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washing- ERIC L. WILLIAMS,NGS STAFF ton, D. C., from September 23 through April 2,1989. Kayaks, harpoons, ivory carvings, beadwork, masks-592 arti facts in all-demonstrate the culture and history of Siberian, Aleut, Eski mo, Athapaskan, and Northwest Coast peoples. The exhibit will later travel to Seattle, New York, Indianap olis, Anchorage, and Ottawa, and from 1992 to 1994 in the Soviet Union. School Field Trip Yields Prehistoric Bone t first it appeared to be nothing but an old tin can. But the cylindrical 1 I object discovered near Washing ton, D. C., by a ten-year-old schoolboy turned out to be exciting news for paleontolo gists. On a field trip from Polk Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Colin McEwen found a vertebra of a plesiosaur, an extinct marine reptile with a long neck and paddle-like limbs that lived 65 million to 210 million years ago. The fossil is important evi dence that the creatures lived in the area, then a subtropical seashore. Colin found the fossil in Largo, Maryland, SUSANSTEINKAMPwhere earth had been dug up to lay underground utilities. "I wanted to find some shark teeth," he said. "I was climbing a pile of dirt when my toe hit the edge of the fossil." Colin donated the bone tothe Smith sonian's National Museum of Natural History. In return he will receive a plas ter cast of his find. "I've wanted to be a scientist for a long time," Colin added. "Now I'd like to go to more digs." Lonely Rocks Important to Japan In a remote expanse of the Pacific Ocean 1,800 kilometers (1,118 miles) southwest of Tokyo in the path of typhoons, two rocks barely pierce the water's surface. But because they do, Japan claims exclusive fishing and undersea mining rights over a 400,000-square-kilometer (154,452 square-mile) area. Rich deposits of cobalt and manga nese may underlie the seabed around Okino Tori Shima-Island of the Off shore Birds. This and the voracious Japanese appetite for seafood make the area a prized part of the country's economy. While low tide reveals a reef of coral and limestone, at high tide Okino Tori Shima almost disappears, shrinking to two rocks a mere 70 centimeters (27 inches) above the sea. Pounding waves threaten to erase them altogether. The Law of the Sea states that an is land must be above sea level at all times. Therefore, the Japanese gov ernment embarked on an ambitious multimillion-dollar construction proj ect hoping to halt erosion. Last April ships, helicopters, and several hundred workers converged on Okino Tori Shima and began to encircle the out crops with walls composed of thou sands of cast-iron tetrapod forms and concrete. By March 1990 the wave absorbing barrier will guard Japan's southernmost point from disappearing under the unrelenting waves.