Reed Flute Cave

Caves just don’t get any more colourful than the Reed Flute Cave!

  • The Reed Flute Cave is a subterranean complex located in the Guangxi Zhuang province of China’s south, in the city of Guilin.
  • The ‘Reed Flute Cave’ is also known as the ‘Guilin Reed Flute Cave’, the ‘Palace of Natural Art’ and ‘Nature’s Art Palace’.
  • The Reed Flute Cave covers a distance of 240 metres (262 yards) in total, and is believed to have formed by erosion due to the movement of water.
  • A variety of limestone stalactites, stalagmites, pillars and other rock formations are featured in the Reed Flute Cave, as well as stunning pools of water.
  • The name of ‘ Reed Flute Cave’ was inspired by the abundance of reed prominent at the cave entrance, which has been used to create flutes and pipes.
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Part of the Reed Flute Cave
Image courtesy of Bernt Rostad/Flickr
  • Writing can be found inside the Reed Flute Cave, dated to circa 792 AD, from Ancient China’s Tang Dynasty.
  • After being forgotten for some 1000 years, the Reed Flute Cave was rediscovered by the area’s inhabitants in World War II, who sought protection from the Japanese military.
  • The year of 1962 marks the date of official opening of the Reed Flute Cave to visitors, and millions of people have since toured the cave.
  • The Reed Flute Cave contains many rock formations that take an appearance comparable to many objects of nature, including animals and a human, some of which have been given a unique name and legend.
  • Man-made neon lights illuminate the Reed Flute Cave, colourfully enhancing the rock formation; and a fee is payable to enter the cave.
Bibliography:
Guilin Reed Flute Cave, 2004, Guilin China, http://www.guilinchina.net/attraction/reed-flute-cave.htm
Reed Flute Cave, 2016, Atlas Obscura, http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/reed-flute-cave
Van Hinsbergh G, Reed Flute Cave, 2016, China Highlights, http://www.chinahighlights.com/guilin/attraction/reed-flute-cave.htm

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Tamarillo

Meet the long lost cousin of the tomato – the tamarillo!

  • Tamarillos are a variety of fruit, comparable to the tomato, and they are native to South America.
  • New Zealanders gave the name ‘tamarillo’ to the ‘tree tomato’ fruit, a name it is also known by, in 1967 for commercial purposes, and the fruit is also called ‘tamamoro’, ‘tomate dulce’, ‘tomate granadilla’ and ‘tomate de árbol’ among other names.
  • The tamarillo grows on the plant with the scientific name Solanum betaceum, and it is from the family Solanaceae, the family of nightshades.
  • Tamarillos are somewhat ovoid in shape, and typically reach a length of 4 to 10 centimetres (1.6 to 4 inches) and have a diameter of 3.8 to 5 centimetres (1.5 to 2 inches).
  • The skin of tamarillos can be yellow, red, orange, or purple, while the flesh is often a similar colour to the skin but it sometimes differs.
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  • Tamarallos grow on a tree with a height generally between 3 to 5.5 metres (10 to 18 feet); and a single tree can produce 20 to 30 kilograms (44 to 66 pounds) of fruit each year.
  • A tamarillo’s flavour varies with the colour, with red variants generally having a tart flavour, while the yellow varieties are typically sweet, having a flavour combination of kiwi or passion fruit and tomato.
  • While tamarillos can be eaten raw, often with a utensil that is used to spoon out the flesh, the tough bitter skin is usually left uneaten unless cooked; and the fruit is also popularly made into spreads, stews, curries and other sauces.
  • Tamarillos are very high in vitamin C and are good sources of vitamins A and E, as well as iron and pyridoxine.
  • Tamarillos have been cultivated in parts of Asia and Africa, and they have also been commercially grown in New Zealand since the 1920s, after which demand increased during World War II, due to the fruit’s vitamin C content.
Bibliography:
History, NZ Tamarillo Growers Association, 2008, http://www.tamarillo.com/history/
Tamarillo, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarillo
https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/tree_tomato.html

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Whistle

The whistle does not break the silence – it shatters it!

  • Whistles are noise-making devices that produce sound due to a burst of air movement, and the air often comes from a person blowing into the device with their mouth.
  • Whistles consisting of wooden or bone pipes have been crafted since ancient times, and they had notable applications in Ancient Greek and Roman culture, where they were used to keep the timing of galley boat rowing strokes.
  • Whistles have a wide range of potential purposes, with common applications including to enforce authority, to signal, to alert and to entertain.
  • One of the modern style whistles, known as the ‘pea whistle’, was invented in 1883 by Joseph Hudson, a toolmaker from England, and it was the first portable modern device that could produce such a commanding shrill sound.
  • Most whistles function by a burst of air being split by a bevel, part of which exits out the top hole in the whistle, while the other half enters the chamber and exits a second hole to create the sound.
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A Pea Whistle
Image courtesy of Greg Goebel/Flickr
  • The modern pea whistle is one of the most popular style whistles in the world, and it was inspired by the noise Hudson’s violin made whilst breaking, as it produced a trill sound when the string broke.
  • A small ‘pea’, usually made of a synthetic or natural cork, is located in the chamber of a pea whistle, and it is used to manipulate the stream of air when the device is blown into.
  • Whistles were quickly adapted for refereeing sport matches, and one was first used in a football game in 1878; and they started replacing police officer’s cumbersome hand rattles from 1883.
  • Materials that whistles are created from include metal, such as brass, although cheaper variants will often be manufactured from plastic; and the sound of the device is altered by the material used, its thickness, the size of the device, the size of the holes, the angle of the bevel, and the force of the air.
  • The design of the modern whistle has remained largely unchanged since its invention, although ‘pea-less’ variants are available, and tend to be more reliable due to the lack of moving parts.
Bibliography:
History of the Whistle, 2016, Granville District Football Referees Association, http://gdfra.org.au/history_of_the_whistle.htm
Whistle, How Products are Made, Made How, http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Whistle.html
Whistle, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whistle

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Wreath Lechenaultia

Wreath lechenaultias really brighten up the Australian desert.

  • Wreath lechenaultias are perennial plants, native to the woodland and desert habitats of the Southwest Australia savanna area, located in
    the Australian state of Western Australia.
  • The scientific name of a wreath lechenaultia plant is Lechenaultia macrantha and it is from the family Goodeniaceae, a family of flowering plants.
  • Wreath lechenaultias generally grow to a height of up to 15 centimetres (6 inches) and reach a diameter of 1 metre (3.3 feet).
  • The blooms of wreath lechenaultia plants typically range from pink to red, and they are a white or yellow colour in the middle.
  • Wreath lechenaultias grow best in full sun and in a fairly dry, well-drained soil that consists of sand or small pebbles.
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A Wreath Lechenaultia
Image courtesy of Derrin Images
  • Wreath lechenaultia plants bloom during late winter months and spring, and the flowers are usually produced around the outer edge of the plant, forming a wreath-like shape around the foliage.
  • Each flower of the wreath lechenaultia plant consists of five petals and is roughly 3 to 3.5 centimetres (1.2 to 1.4 inches) in diameter.
  • Wreath lechenaultias are commonly grown for decorative purposes, both on the ground or in hanging baskets, though they tend to be difficult to grow.
  • Kurt Krausse, a German botanist, was the first to scientifically describe the wreath lechenaultia, doing so in 1912.
  • Wreath lechenaultia plants tend to sprout after the event of a bushfire, and new plants can be grown from cuttings.
Bibliography:
Lechenaultia Macrantha, 2010, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lechenaultia_macrantha
Lechenaultia Macrantha, 2016, Australian native Plants Society (Australia), http://anpsa.org.au/l-macr.html
Lechenaultia Macrantha (Wreath Lechenaultia), 2016, Home Design Directory, http://www.homedesigndirectory.com.au/gardening/plant-finder/plant-descriptions/lechenaultia-macrantha/?plant-id=449
Lechenaultia Macrantha – Wreath Lechenaultia, n.d, Gardening With Angus, http://www.gardeningwithangus.com.au/lechenaultia-macrantha-wreath-lechenaultia/

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Goliath Beetle

Goliath beetles are at the top of their game.

  • Goliath beetles are five species of large beetles native to Africa’s tropical habitats.
  • The scientific name of the Goliath beetle is Goliathus and it is from the family Scarabaeidae, the family of scarabs.
  • With an adult length generally ranging from 5 to 11 centimetres (2 to 4.3 inches) and a larvae weight reaching 80 to 100 grams (2.8 to 3.5 ounces), the Goliath beetle is one of the largest extant insects.
  • The diet of the larvae of Goliath beetles consists primarily of decaying wood and vegetation, while the diet of the adults consists of fruit and sap from trees.
  • Goliath beetles can be a black, brown, yellow or white colour, and they generally feature black coloured patterns.
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  • During the dry season, Goliath beetle larvae will pupate to become an adult, and they emerge in the wet season as beetles.
  • Male Goliath beetles boast a horn that is shaped as a ‘y’, a feature absent in females who instead have a head that tapers to a thin edge.
  • Goliath beetles tend to be inactive during cooler temperatures and become mobile on both foot and in flight when temperatures become warmer.
  • Some people keep Goliath beetles as pets, and when captive, the beetles will commonly consume cat or dog food, which is effective in providing the large quantity of protein that the beetles require for breeding purposes.
  • To fly, an adult Goliath beetle can extend its wings from the side of its body, rather than lift the wing shield-flaps up as most beetles do.
Bibliography:
Goliath Beetles, 2010, Australian Museum, http://australianmuseum.net.au/image/goliath-beetles
Goliathus, 2006, Natural Words, http://www.naturalworlds.org/goliathus/
Goliathus, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goliathus
Nelson B, 10 of the Largest Insects in the World, 2016, Mother Nature Network, http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/photos/10-of-the-largest-insects-in-the-world/goliath-beetle

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Dead Sea

The Dead Sea may not be deadly, but it is pretty dead.

  • The Dead Sea is a large lake containing a very high salt concentration, more than 30%; and it sits adjacent to Jordan, Israel and Palestine of the Middle East.
  • The ‘Dead Sea’ is also known as the ‘Death Sea’ and the ‘Salt Sea’, and its names are somewhat literal translations of the Arabic and Hebrew names given to the lake.
  • The Dead Sea is absent of life aside from select species of bacteria and algae due to the lethally high salt concentration, which is roughly ten times the ocean’s salinity.
  • At its longest point, the Dead Sea spans 50 kilometres (31 miles), however it is only 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) at its widest point.
  • The Dead Sea covers a surface area of roughly 600 square kilometres (231 square miles), however it is shrinking rapidly due to evaporation and a reduced quantity of inflowing water, with the depth dropping by around 1 metre (3 feet) annually.
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The Dead Sea
Image courtesy of Michael Tyler/Flickr
  • The saltiness of the Dead Sea is primarily due to the lack of outgoing rivers or streams, which means that salt from the incoming Jordan River and other sources, is trapped within the lake and builds up.
  • The Dead Sea has an increased density, due to the high salt content, that allows humans to easily float; however contrary to popular belief, the water can be highly dangerous if a person flips face-down, as the high buoyancy renders it difficult to return upright.
  • Minerals are abundant in the Dead Sea, and these have been harvested even since ancient times for health and cosmetic purposes, and the asphalt discharged by the lake has been used by the Ancient Egyptians to coat mummies.
  • The Dead Sea is commonly considered the lowest point on Earth, being approximately 429 metres (1407 feet) below sea level.
  • The Dead Sea is a popular tourist attraction and a site of many resorts, with the first dating back to the days of King Herod; however the retreating waters have caused numerous sinkholes to form nearby.
Bibliography:
Connolly K, Dead Sea Drying: A New Low-Point for Earth, 2016, BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36477284
Dead Sea, 2016, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea
Inglis-Arkell E, Why So Many People Drown in the Dead Sea, 2011, Gizmodo, http://io9.gizmodo.com/5798844/why-so-many-people-drown-in-the-dead-sea
Lowest Elevation: Dead Sea, 2015, Extreme Science, http://www.extremescience.com/dead-sea.htm
Why is the Dead Sea called the Dead Sea?, 2016, Dead Sea, http://www.deadsea.com/why-dead-sea/

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