Category: tourism

Picture Parade Four Hundred and Sixty-One

Just a change for today! A fabulous change!



Tinker on the Beach


Tinker and Lucy


Tinker and Lucy playing




Princess sharing her bed with Smokey the cat.




Princess in her new bed.

I can’t put it better than the email that I received recently from Chris. Here it is:

Hi Paul

Happy Thanksgiving. Hopefully you had a far better one than the last time I celebrated with American friends when I lived in Indonesia. We ended up having to evacuate the house (including the deputy US ambassador) as the kitchen caught fire!

It’s been a bit of a journey writing the post as so many adventures with the dogs came back to me. In the end I focussed on the first one Princess and the latest Tinker. I hope it’s OK. Let me know if not, as I can always rewrite it. There are so many other dogs I could have mentioned which is the scary thing! Still, the copy is attached and I’m sending photos using They’ll send you an email with a link to download the pics. It’s totally safe and free (It’s been a godsend for designing book covers as it stops emails getting clogged up). I’ve put far too many pics in there so please feel free to use the ones you like and discard others.

Thank you so much for letting me do this post. It’s been quite emotional, but put a huge smile on my face all week.

Best wishes


The incredible story of Diablo

Just watch this after the introduction.

Countless numbers of people have dreamt that they can communicate with animals and I would imagine an enormous percentage of those would have dreamt that they can communicate with dogs.

Certainly of the three dogs we have alive still here at home (we had in the past some fifteen dogs) Oliver below appears to understand much of what is said to him by me and Jean

If one goes to the YouTube website then one is introduced to Anna Breytenbach who has made it her life’s passion to better communicate with animals. Here’s a small piece from the extensive WikiPedia entry:

In her twenties she decided to pursue her passion for wildlife (big cats in particular) by becoming a cheetah handler at a conservation education project. On moving to America, she explored wolf and other predator conservation. She has also served on committees for wolf, snow leopard, cheetah and mountain lion conservation.

Anna Breytenbach and friend

So now we come to this video of Anna and Diablo, more properly called Spirit, (and the video will make that clear).

Arjan Postma explains the background to the film:

I just want to share this message as much as possible without any commercial intent, personal benefit or whatsoever. All used materials and therefore copyrights do not belong to me. I hope you enjoy discovering and watching this story and skill as much as I did: What if you could talk to animals and have them talk back to you? Anna Breytenbach has dedicated her life to what she calls interspecies communication. She sends detailed messages to animals through pictures and thoughts. She then receives messages of remarkable clarity back from the animals. In this section, Anna transforms a deadly snarling leopard into a relaxed content cat. The amazing story of how leopard Diabolo became Spirit… I found the source of this amazing documentary here:… This is the first full length documentary film on the art of animal communication. Nominated for Best Long Documentary, Best Director of “Jade Kunlun” Awards of 2012 World Mountain Documentary Festival of Qinghai China. Director: Craig Foster | Producer: Vyv Simson | Narrator: Swati Thiyagarajan Genre: Documentary | Produced In: 2012.

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

A fascinating article about Pit Bulls

The breed has come full circle!

We have had a couple of pit bull mixes here at home and they have been nothing but fabulous dogs.

So just three weeks ago The Conversation published an extensive account of the recent history of the breed. It is republished for you all today.


Pit bulls went from America’s best friend to public enemy – now they’re slowly coming full circle.

A pit bull is not an official breed – it’s an umbrella term for a type of dog. Barbara Rich via Getty Images

Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt University

As recently as 50 years ago, the pit bull was America’s favorite dog. Pit bulls were everywhere. They were popular in advertising and used to promote the joys of pet-and-human friendship. Nipper on the RCA Victor label, Pete the Pup in the “Our Gang” comedy short films, and the flag-wrapped dog on a classic World War I poster all were pit bulls.

With National Pit Bull Awareness Day celebrated on Oct. 26, it’s a fitting time to ask how these dogs came to be seen as a dangerous threat.

A black and white dog runs with a tennis ball in its mouth
Stella, a pit bull owned by author Colin Dayan. Colin Dayan, CC BY-ND

Starting around 1990, multiple features of American life converged to inspire widespread bans that made pit bulls outlaws, called “four-legged guns” or “lethal weapons.” The drivers included some dog attacks, excessive parental caution, fearful insurance companies and a tie to the sport of dog fighting.

As a professor of humanities and law, I have studied the legal history of slaves, vagrants, criminals, terror suspects and others deemed threats to civilized society. For my books “The Law is a White Dog” and “With Dogs at the Edge of Life,” I explored human-dog relationships and how laws and regulations can deny equal protection to entire classes of beings.

In my experience with these dogs – including nearly 12 years living with Stella, the daughter of champion fighting dogs – I have learned that pit bulls are not inherently dangerous. Like other dogs, they can become dangerous in certain situations, and at the hands of certain owners. But in my view, there is no defensible rationale for condemning not only all pit bulls, but any dog with a single pit bull gene, as some laws do.

I see such action as canine profiling, which recalls another legal fiction: the taint or stain of blood that ordained human degradation and race hatred in the United States.

Painting of a black and white dog looking into the horn of a Victorian record player
English artist Francis Barraud (1856-1924) painted his brother’s dog Nipper listening to the horn of an early phonograph in 1898. Victor Talking Machine Co. began using the symbol in its trademark, His Master’s Voice, in 1900. Wikipedia

Bred to fight

The pit bull is strong. Its jaw grip is almost impossible to break. Bred over centuries to bite and hold large animals like bears and bulls around the face and head, it’s known as a “game dog.” Its bravery and strength won’t allow it to give up, no matter how long the struggle. It loves with the same strength; its loyalty remains the stuff of legend.

For decades pit bulls’ tenacity encouraged the sport of dogfighting, with the dogs “pitted” against each other. Fights often went to the death, and winning animals earned huge sums for those who bet on them.

But betting on dogs is not a high-class sport. Dogs are not horses; they cost little to acquire and maintain. Pit bulls easily and quickly became associated with the poor, and especially with Black men, in a narrative that connected pit bulls with gang violence and crime.

That’s how prejudice works: The one-on-one lamination of the pit bull onto the African American male reduced people to their accessories.

A dog confined in an animal crate, with police in the background.
A pit bull-type dog seized during a 2007 raid on an illegal dogfighting operation in East Cleveland, Ohio. Owen Humphreys – PA Images via Getty Images

Dogfighting was outlawed in all 50 states by 1976, although illegal businesses persisted. Coverage of the practice spawned broad assertions about the dogs that did the fighting. As breed bans proliferated, legal rulings proclaimed these dogs “dangerous to the safety or health of the community” and judged that “public interests demand that the worthless shall be exterminated.”

In 1987 Sports Illustrated put a pit bull, teeth bared, on its cover, with the headline “Beware of this Dog,” which it characterized as born with “a will to kill.” Time magazine published “Time Bombs on Legs” featuring this “vicious hound of the Baskervilles” that “seized small children like rag dolls and mauled them to death in a frenzy of bloodletting.”

Presumed vicious

If a dog has “vicious propensities,” the owner is assumed to share in this projected violence, both legally and generally in public perception. And once deemed “contraband,” both property and people are at risk.

This was evident in the much-publicized 2007 indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for running a dogfighting business called Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia. Even the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – two of the nation’s leading animal welfare advocacy groups – argued that the 47 pit bulls recovered from the facility should be killed because they posed a threat to people and other animals.

If not for the intervention of Best Friends Animal Society, Vick’s dogs would have been euthanized. As the film “Champions” recounts, a court-appointed special master determined each dog’s fate. Ultimately, nearly all of the dogs were successfully placed in sanctuaries or adoptive homes.

This 2010 report describes the successful rehabilitation of dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz dogfighting operation.

Debating breed bans

Pit bulls still suffer more than any other dogs from the fact that they are a type of dog, not a distinct breed. Once recognized by the American Kennel Club as an American Staffordshire terrier, popularly known as an Amstaff, and registered with the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association as an American pit bull terrier, now any dog characterized as a “pit bull type” can be considered an outlaw in many communities.

For example, in its 2012 Tracey v. Solesky ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals modified the state’s common law in cases involving dog injuries. Any dog containing pit bull genes was “inherently dangerous” as a matter of law.

This subjected owners and landlords to what the courts call “strict liability.” As the court declared: “When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”

Dissenting from the ruling, Judge Clayton Greene recognized the absurdity of the majority opinion’s “unworkable rule”: “How much ‘pit bull,’” he asked, “must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict?”

It’s equally unanswerable how to tell when a dog is a pit bull mix. From the shape of its head? Its stance? The way it looks at you?

Conundrums like these call into question statistics that show pit bulls to be more dangerous than other breeds. These figures vary a great deal depending on their sources.

Any statistics about pit bull attacks depend on the definition of a pit bull – yet it’s really hard to get good dog bite data that accurately IDs the breed

Prince George’s County, Md., is negotiating with advocates suing to revoke the county’s pit bull ban.

Over the past decade, awareness has grown that breed-specific legislation does not make the public safer but does penalize responsible owners and their dogs. Currently 21 states prohibit local government from enforcing breed-specific legislation or naming specific breeds in dangerous dog laws. Maryland passed a law reversing the Tracey ruling in 2014. Yet 15 states still allow local communities to enact breed-specific bans.

Pit bulls demand a great deal more from humans than some dogs, but alongside their bracing way of being in the world, we humans learn another way of thinking and loving. Compared with many other breeds, they offer a more demanding but always affecting communion.

Colin Dayan, Professor of English, Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


That is a very interesting account of the breed and shows the complexities of owning Pit Bulls in certain States, or rather local communities enacting breed-specific bans.

However, in our experience, we have found them to be smart, loving animals, and we know we are not alone in having those thoughts.

The wonderful history of our dogs!

A superb guest post from Jackie Lambert!

I have said it many times before and, knowing me, will undoubtedly say it many times again. That is that this blog wouldn’t still have in excess of 4,000 followers if all these good people had only me to read.

I know you will enjoy Jackie’s post and it is a most important post looking at the history of the dog. Jackie and her husband look at the dog back in Roman times. You will love this!


Pup Pompeii – Discovering the Dogs of Ancient Rome

Research has now proven that dogs have been companions to humans for 40,000 years. DNA analysis of a 35,000-year-old bone fragment from an ancient wolf, discovered on the Taimyr peninsula in Siberia, presented evidence that dogs diverged from the wolf species much earlier than previously thought. The findings, published in the journal Current Biology, state that Siberian Huskies and Greenland Sled Dogs share many genes with the Taimyr Wolf.

As such, it is no surprise to learn that, a mere two thousand years ago, the ancient Romans kept dogs. However, on a recent road trip to the ruined city of Pompeii with The Fab Four, our four Cavapoos, my husband Mark and I discovered some fascinating facts about the relationship between ancient Romans and Man’s Best Friend.  

Pompeii in southern Italy is the most extraordinary time capsule. It grants the onlooker a fascinating and sometimes painfully intimate window into an ancient civilisation. Snuffed out almost instantly by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, metres of volcanic ash preserved the entire city for two millennia, exactly how it was on those two fateful days in 79 AD. 

My husband, Mark, and I visited in April this year with The Fab Four, our four Cavapoos (Cavalier/Poodle cross.) Within thirty minutes of leaving our campsite, I had bought my first Pompeii souvenir – a coaster portraying the striking black-and-white mosaic of a dog wearing a spiked collar crouched and ready to pounce, along with the words Cave Canem – Beware of the Dog. 

Cave has nothing to do with underground chasms. It comes from the same Latin root as caveat, as in caveat emptor – buyer beware. The original mosaic is in the entrance to the House of the Tragic Poet. Since we were investigating Pup Pompeii, we had to find the real thing and when we got there, The Fab Four thrilled me by lining up in front of it, unasked!

If you think about it, Rome’s canine connections go right back to the beginning. According to the legend, a she-wolf suckled the twins, Romulus and Remus. Although Remus was killed, Romulus went on to found Rome. 

Many objects and artefacts confirm Romans kept dogs. It is no surprise to find pooches employed as guardians, hunters, soldiers, and entertainers; both on the racetrack and as gladiators in the arena. Sculptures, paintings, and mosaics often depict these large and muscular dogs wearing spiked collars to make them look fierce, or protect them from the dangerous predators that were their prey, such as wolves, bears, and boar. 

They also protected against the supernatural. Trivia, the Roman goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, held sway over places of transition, such as graveyards and crossroads. Also known as ‘The Queen of Ghosts’, she wandered during the night and, like her Greek counterpart, Hecate, was silent and invisible. Yet, the Romans believed dogs could see and hear her, so a dog seemingly barking at nothing was warning its owner that Trivia or her ghosts were approaching. 

I was touched to discover a softer side of dog ownership, too. Romans also kept dogs as companions, status symbols, used them as hot water bottles, and revered them as an emblem of loyalty and devotion. Infrared analysis of a dog’s collar discovered in Pompeii carries praise for it saving its master’s life in a wolf attack. The archetypal mutt’s name, ‘Fido’, is the Latin word for ‘trust’ or ‘fidelity’, which explains why dogs were popular gifts between lovers.  

There was no Kennel Club in ancient Rome, so dog breeds, as we know them today, did not exist. Ever practical, the Romans classified dogs according to their function, or place of origin. 

In 2020, archaeologists in Pompeii discovered the skeleton of a tiny adult dog, about 10 inches (25 cm) at the shoulder – the size of a Yorkshire Terrier or Maltese. Malta is just 60 miles south of Sicily, and the “Roman Ladies’ Dog”, Canis Melitae or Melitan, was an expensive status symbol, affordable only to the upper classes. Besides providing companionship and warmth, the Romans believed they drew fleas away from their owners. 

The Cave Canem mosaic of a black-and-white dog wearing a spiked collar possibly depicts a Molossian, forbear of the Roman Canis Pugnaces. In modern English, pugnacious means ‘ready to fight’, so there are no prizes for guessing the purpose of Canis Pugnaces!

The legions imported Molossians from Epirus, a mountainous region in the southern part of modern-day Albania. The name Molossian derives from the ruling dynasty of Epirus at the time. Alexander the Great’s ‘terrible mother’, Olympias, was a Molossian princess. Historian Plutarch suggested she slept with snakes in her bed!  

Molossians may also have found their way to Britain with the Phoenicians, where they founded the Pugnaces Britanniae, which the Romans not only faced in battle, but subsequently captured, imported, and selectively bred with their own Pugnaces, because the British version was “inflamed with the spirit of Mars, the god of war.”

Roman classical poet Virgil praised the Molossian’s abilities as a guard dog. “Never, with them on guard, need you fear for your stalls a midnight thief, or onslaught of wolves, or Iberian brigands at your back.”  

The Molossian and Pugnaces Britanniae are the ancestors ofthe Neapolitan Mastiff and the lighter Cane Corso. The Romans used both types in war, notably as piriferi (fire bearers).Greek writer Polybius notes thesefearless canine warriors charging towards enemy lines with containers of flaming oil strapped to their backs. 

In 300 AD, the Greco-Syrian poet, Oppiano, described the Molossian as, 

“A dog of large size, snub nosed, truculent with its frowning brows, not speedy but impetuous, a fighter of great courage and incredible strength, to be employed against bulls and wild boar, undaunted even when confronted with a lion.” 

Alexander the Great’s favourite dog, Peritas, is believed to have been a Molossian. It reputedly changed the course of history by saving Alexander’s life twice; protecting him from a war elephant at the Battle of Gaugamela, and holding off Malian troops until reinforcements arrived, even though it was mortally wounded. The legend says it died with its head in Alexander’s lap. 

Among the fabulous mosaics that adorn the floors of the house of Paquius Proculus in Pompeii, a rather regal lurcher-type dog guards the door – perhaps a Vertragus – ancestor of the modern Greyhound. The Romans prized this sighthound as a hunter as well as guarding, and, like the smaller lapdogs, also cuddled them for warmth. 

Poet, Grattius, who lived from 63 BC to 14 AD, during the time of Emperor Augustus, praised the Vertragus for its speed and refined features, noting rather splendidly that it runs “swifter than thought or a winged bird.” 

Vertragus is a word of Celtic origin, and Greek historian Arrian of Nicomedia suggested the breed originated on the plains of Eurasia and was introduced to Europe by the Celts. Genetic research refutes the common belief that the Vertragus, and hence the Greyhound, originated in Egypt, and confirms that Greyhounds are not related to the Saluki or Afghan hound as was previously thought. 

The Celtic people originated in the upper Danube basin and expanded their culture across great swathes of continental Europe, including France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Balkans, as well as in the east in places such as Asia Minor and Anatolia (part of Turkey) – and took their dogs with them. 

Curiously, despite its Celtic connections, studies in the 1970s and 2000 confirm that prior to Roman occupation, Greyhound-type dogs did not exist in Britain. The wooden Vindolanda tablets, the oldest handwritten account of life in the north of Roman Britain, do mention that Imperial troops either knew of the Vertragus, or had them with them

Julius Caesar allegedly castigated Roman citizens for caring more for their dogs than their children. As is so often the case, funerary goods shed light on ancient civilisations. Many inscriptions on Roman tombs highlight the high regard in which the Romans held their dogs. They also suggest that in the past, dogs may have lived longer than in modern times, perhaps because of the interbreeding required to create pedigree strains.

These heartrending inscriptions will strike a chord with any modern dog owner. The first two could easily refer to Canis Melitae:

“Behold the tomb of Aeolis, the cheerful little dog, whose loss to fleeting fate pained me beyond measure.”

“Bedewed with tears I have carried you, our little dog, as in happier circumstances, I did fifteen years ago. So now, Patrice, you will no longer give me a thousand kisses nor will you be able to lie affectionately ’round my neck. You were a good dog and, in sorrow, I have placed you in a marble tomb and I have united you forever to myself when I die. You readily matched a human with your clever ways; alas, what a pet we have lost! You, sweet Patrice, were in the habit of joining us at table and fawningly asking for food in our lap, you were accustomed to lick with your greedy tongue the cup which my hands often held for you and regularly to welcome your tired master with wagging tail.” 

Yet it wasn’t just lap dogs who earned tributes from their owners. Here is a truly beautiful and touching dedication on a Roman marble tablet from the first century AD in the British Museum, contemporary with Pompeii. It is written in verse, from the point of view of a prized hunting dog, Margarita (Pearl), from Gaul, who died giving birth. With allusions to the poetry of Virgil, who stated “Mantua gave birth to me”, the care taken over this memorial proves Margarita was clearly a very beloved family member. 

“Gaul gave me my birth and the pearl-oyster from the seas full of treasure my name, an honour fitting to my beauty. 

I was trained to run boldly through strange forests and to hunt out furry wild beasts in the hills, never accustomed to be held by heavy chains nor endure cruel beatings on my snow-white body. 

I used to lie on the soft lap of my master and mistress and knew to go to bed when tired on my spread mattress and I did not speak more than allowed as a dog, given a silent mouth 

No-one was scared by my barking but now I have been overcome by death from an ill-fated birth and earth has covered me beneath this small piece of marble. 

Margarita (‘Pearl’)” 

In the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian, an anti-Roman revolutionary famously asks, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” 

Yet, besides roads, aqueducts, plumbing, sanitation, and fast food, they have clearly passed on a deep love and appreciation of dogs!


  • Photo of Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf courtesy of Benutzer:Wolpertinger on WP de, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Photo of Bronze Vertragus from the Roman period courtesy of Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, CC BY 3.0 NL <;, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Photo of Roman tomb of a dog named Aminnaracus in the National Museum of Wales courtesy of Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Words & photos © Jacqueline Lambert / World Wide Walkies, except where specified. All information is provided in good faith, subject to World Wide Walkies’ disclaimer.

Pompeii visitors information:

  • Pompeii Official Website
  • Regulations – dogs must be kept on a leash, and cannot enter the houses unless you carry them. Dogs over 10 kg may not visit the site
  • Downloadable guide to the excavations
  • Map of Pompeii Excavations
  • FREE Tickets – these are available for visits on the first Sunday of every month. They must be downloaded online and the gates close once a mere 15,000 have been admitted
  • Self-Guided Walking Tour App – there are few interpretive signs on the site. ‘These two expert-designed self-guided walking tours to explore Pompei, Italy on foot at your own pace. You can also create your own self-guided walk to visit the city attractions which interest you the most.’

Author Bio:

Jacqueline Lambert is an award-winning author and blogger, who gave up work in 2016 to tour Europe full-time with her husband and four dogs. “Laugh out loud funny and a great travel guide.” is just one of many five-star reviews of Jackie’s ‘Adventure Caravanning with Dogs’ series of light-hearted road trip memoirs.

Follow her blog to keep up to date with their latest expedition, get travel tips and advice, or find out how they live their dream without a lottery win.


The photograph below is from a collection of photos on the tombstones of ancient Roman dogs. More images may be seen here!

It just goes to show how long these incredible animals have been associated with humans.

Ancient history of the climate.

Showing that droughts have been in evidence for 1,000 years or more!

It is very easy, well it is for me, to think that the changes we are seeing in the climate are purely recent. There is no question that we are experiencing changes in the global climate. But it would be too easy to think that these changes are only the result of recent times.

My way of an introduction to this post from The Conversation.


1,000-year-old stalagmites from a cave in India show the monsoon isn’t so reliable – their rings reveal a history of long, deadly droughts.

Published on the 19th September, 2022 by:

  1. Gayatri Kathayat Associate Professor of Global Environmental Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University
  2. Ashish Sinha Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences, California State University, Dominguez Hills

In a remote cave in northeast India, rainwater has slowly dripped from the ceiling in the same spots for over 1,000 years. With each drop, minerals in the water accumulate on the floor below, slowly growing into calcium carbonate towers known as stalagmites.

These stalagmites are more than geological wonders – like tree rings, their layers record the region’s rainfall history. They also carry a warning about the potential for catastrophic multiyear droughts in the future. 

By analyzing the geochemistry of these stalagmites in a new study published Sept. 19, 2022, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we were able to create the most precise chronology yet of the summer Indian monsoon over the past millennium. It documents how the Indian subcontinent frequently experienced long, severe droughts unlike any observed in the last 150 years of reliable monsoon rainfall measurements. 

The drought periods we detected are in striking synchrony with historical accounts of droughts, faminesmass mortality events and geopolitical changes in the region.

They show how the decline of the Mughal Empire and India’s textile industries in the 1780s and 1790s coincided with the most severe 30-year period of drought over the millennium. The depth and duration of the drought would have caused widespread crop failures and the level of famine discussed in written documentsat the time. 

Another long drought encompasses the 1630-1632 Deccan famine, one of the most devastating droughts in India’s history. Millions of people died as crops failed. Around the same time, the elaborate Mughal capital of Fatehpur Sikri was abandoned and the Guge Kingdom collapsed in western Tibet.

Buland Darwaza (Door of Victory) at Fatehpur Sikri, India.

Our findings have important implications today for water planning in a warming world, particularly for India, which, with its vast monsoon-reliant agriculture industry, is on pace to soon be the most populous country on the planet.

Why the monsoon’s history matters

Scientists began systematically measuring India’s monsoon rainfall with instruments around the 1870s. Since then, India has experienced about 27 regionally widespread droughts. Among them, only one – 1985 to 1987 – was a three-year consecutive drought or worse.

The apparent stability of the Indian monsoon in that data might lead one to surmise that neither protracted droughts lasting multiple years nor frequent droughts are intrinsic aspects of its variability. This seemingly reassuring view currently informs the region’s present-day water resource infrastructure.

However, the stalagmite evidence of prolonged, severe droughts over the past 1,000 years paints a different picture.

It indicates that the short instrumental period does not capture the full range of Indian monsoon variability. It also raises questions about the region’s current water resources, sustainability and mitigation policies that discount the possibility of protracted droughts in the future.

Timeline of major societal and geopolitical changes in India and the oxygen isotope record from Mawmluh cave. Gayatri Kathayat

How do stalagmites capture a region’s monsoon history?

To reconstruct past variations in rainfall, we analyzed stalagmites from Mawmluh cave, near the town of Cherrapunji in the state of Meghalaya – one of the wettest locations in the world.

Stalagmites are conelike structures that grow slowly from the ground up, typically at a rate of about one millimeter every 10 years. Trapped within their growth layers are minute amounts of uranium and other elements that were acquired as rainwater infiltrated the rocks and soil above the cave. Over time, uranium trapped in stalagmites decays into thorium at a predictable pace, so we can figure out the age of each stalagmite growth layer by measuring the ratio of uranium to thorium.

The oxygen in rainwater molecules comes in two primary types of isotopes – heavy and light. As stalagmites grow, they lock into their structure the oxygen isotope ratios of the percolating rainwater that seeps into the cave. Subtle variations in this ratio can arise from a range of climatic conditions at the time the rainwater originally fell.

Stalagmite formation are marked inside Mawmluh Cave, where the new study was based. Gayatri Kathayat
A cross-section of a stalagmite shows differences in its ring formation as climate conditions changed. Gayatri Kathayat

Our previous research in this area showed that variations in oxygen isotope ratios in rainwater, and consequently, in stalagmites, track changes in the relative abundance of different moisture sources that contribute to summer monsoon rainfall.

During years when monsoon circulation is weak, rainfall here is primarily derived from the moisture that evaporated from the nearby Arabian Sea. During strong monsoon years, however, atmospheric circulation brings copious amounts of moisture to this area all the way from the southern Indian Ocean.

The two moisture sources have quite different oxygen isotope signatures, and this ratio is faithfully preserved in the stalagmites. We can use this clue to learn about the overall strength of the monsoon intensity at the time the stalagmite formed. We pieced together the monsoon rainfall history by extracting minute amounts of calcium carbonate from its growth rings and then measuring the oxygen isotope ratios. To anchor our climate record to precise calendar years, we measured the uranium and thorium ratio.

Stalagmites grow from the ground, and stalactites grow from above. These are in Mawmluh Cave, where the authors conducted their research. Gayatri Kathayat.

Next steps

The paleoclimate records can usually tell what, where and when something happened. But often, they alone cannot answer why or how something happened. 

Our new study shows that protracted droughts frequently occurred during the past millennia, but we do not have a good understanding of why the monsoon failed in those years. Similar studies using Himalayan ice cores, tree rings and other caves have also detected protracted droughts but face the same challenge. 

In the next phase of our study, we are teaming up with climate modelers to conduct coordinated proxy-modeling studies that we hope will offer more insight into the climate dynamics that triggered and sustained such extended periods of drought during the past millennium.


So there we are. Droughts are a thing of the ancient past. But only a partial understanding for why the monsoons failed is known. Despite these modern times with so much general access to knowledge there are still things that we do not know!

Finally, one hopes that the next phase of their study will be along in reasonable time! I would love to report on it.

Picture Parade Four Hundred and Forty-Five

The second selection of my son’s photographs.







Well I for one just loved all these photographs from today and last Sunday. They were taken on the Isle of Mull.

A very special treat! And for those that either haven’t seen the first set of photographs or want to be reminded of what Alex said, here are his words again.

Was very lucky to spot this Otter Family whilst on a guiding trip with Brian Boyes and Lisa Williams on the Isle of Mull, the Mum fed the young pups three fish, we watched from the road and then later using Brian’s advice, quietly settled into the rocks and watched the Mum come right past us, a fantastic encounter and these are only a few of the photos I got.

Picture Parade Four Hundred and Forty-Four

A complete change of photos but I guarantee you will love these!

My son, Alex, and his partner, Lisa, recently returned from a vacation on the Isle of Mull. This is a Scottish island lying off the west coast of the mainland. (Home for Alex and Lisa is just outside Bristol in the south-west of England.) Between them they took many photographs.

For the next two Sundays I want to share the photos that Alex took of the otters, eight today and seven next Sunday.

Here is the introduction that Alex wrote on Facebook.

Was very lucky to spot this Otter Family whilst on a guiding trip with Brian Boyes and Lisa Williams on the Isle of Mull, the Mum fed the young pups three fish, we watched from the road and then later using Brian’s advice, quietly settled into the rocks and watched the Mum come right past us, a fantastic encounter and these are only a few of the photos I got.








These are absolutely gorgeous and that’s an understatement!

Cruising over the Edge

I am very grateful to the Free Inquiry for permission to republish this article!

I am a subscriber to the print edition of Free Inquiry. Have been for quite a while. In the last issue, the April/May magazine, there was an article by Ophelia Benson that just seemed to ‘speak’ to me. I was sure that I was not alone. It was an OP-ED.

I emailed Julia Lavarnway, the Permissions Editor, to enquire what the chances were of me being granted permission to share the story. Frankly, I was not hopeful!

So imagine my surprise when Julia wrote back to say that she had contacted the author, Ophelia, and she had said ‘Yes’.


Cruising over the Edge

By Ophelia Benson

The trouble with humans is that we never know when to stop. We know how to invent things, but we seem to be completely unable to figure out how to uninvent them—or even just stop using them once we’ve invented them. We can commission like crazy but we can’t decommission.

Like, for instance, cruise ships the size of condo towers. They’re feats of engineering and ship building no doubt, but as examples of sustainable tourism, a small carbon footprint, a sensible approach to global warning, not so much. How many gallons of fuel do you suppose they burn while cruising? Eighty thousand a day, for one ship.

We can’t uninvent, we can’t let go, we can’t stop. We can as individuals, but that’s useless when most people are doing the opposite. It’s useless when cruise ships keep cruising, SUVs keep getting bigger, container ships are so massive they get stuck in canals, more people move to Phoenix as the Colorado River dries up, more people build houses in the Sierras just in time for more wildfires, air travel is almost back to “normal,” and Christmas lights stay up until spring.

So heads of state go to meetings on climate change and sign agreements and pretend they’ve achieved something, but how can they have? Have any of them promised to shut down nonessential enterprises such as the cruise industry? Will they ever? The CEOs and lobbyists and legislatures would eat their lunch if they did. They can’t mess with profitable industries like that unless they’re autocrats like Putin or Xi … and of course Putin and Xi and other autocrats have zero inclination to act in the interests of the planet.

Janos Pasztor wrote in Foreign Policy after COP26, the UN climate change conference in Glasgow this past November:

Even if all Glasgow pledges are fulfilled, we are still facing a temperature overshoot of approximately 2 degrees Celsius. In the more likely scenario of not all pledges being fulfilled, warming will be more: perhaps 3 degrees Celsius. This would be catastrophic in nearly every sense for large parts of humanity, especially the poorest and most vulnerable who are suffering first and worst from escalating climate impacts.

Ironically, the technologies we can’t uninvent aren’t just the material luxuries such as huge cars, they’re also intangibles like democracy and freedom and individual rights. It may be our very best inventions along these lines that are the biggest obstacles to doing anything about the destruction we’ve wrought. We believe in democracy, and a downside of democracy is that governments that do unpopular things, no matter how necessary, are seldom governments for long. Biden and Macron and Trudeau and Johnson probably can’t do anything really serious about global warming and still stay in office to carry the work through.

Pasztor went on to ask a pressing question:

So how do we avoid temperature overshoot? The most urgent and important task is to slash emissions, including in the hard-to-abate sectors (such as air transport, agriculture, and industry), which will require substantial lifestyle changes.

Yes, those substantial lifestyle changes—the ones we show absolutely no sign of making. Maybe the biggest luxury we have, and the one we can least afford to sustain, is democracy.

Democracy at this point is thoroughly entangled with consumerism or, to put it less harshly, with standards of living. We’re used to what we’re used to, and anybody who tries to take it away from us would be stripped of power before the signature dried.

This is why beach condos in Florida aren’t the only kind of luxury we have to give up; we also have to give up the “consent” part of the “consent of the governed” idea when it comes to this issue. Not that I have the faintest idea how that would happen, but it seems all too obvious that democratic governance as we know it can’t do what needs to be done to avoid catastrophe.

We don’t usually think of democracy as a luxury alongside skiing in Gstaad or quick trips into space, but it is. It relies on enough peace and prosperity to be able to afford a few mistakes.

We take it for granted because we’ve always had it, at least notionally (some of us were excluded from it until recently), but it’s not universal in either time or place. To some it’s far more intuitive and natural to have “the best” people in charge, because they are the best. It’s a luxury of time and location to have grown up in a moment when non-aristocrats got a say.

The British experience in the Second World War is an interesting exception to the “take people’s pleasures away and lose the next election” pattern. Hitler’s blockade on shipping created a very real threat of starvation, and the Churchill government had to take almost all remaining pleasures away in pursuit of defeating the Nazis. Rationing, the blackouts, conscription, censorship, evacuation, commandeering of houses and extra bedrooms were all commonplace. Much of the dismal impoverished atmosphere of George Orwell’s 1984 is a picture not of Stalin’s Russia but of Churchill’s Britain. Life was grim and difficult, but Hitler was worse, so people drank their weak tea without sugar and planted root vegetables where the roses had been.

It’s disastrous but not surprising that it doesn’t work that way with a threat that’s unfolding swiftly but not so swiftly that everyone can see how bad it’s going to get. We can see what’s in front of us but not what’s too far down the road, especially if our contemporary pleasures depend on our failure to see. We’re default optimists until we’re forced to be otherwise, Micawbers assuring ourselves that “something will turn up”—until the wildfires or crop failures or mass migrations appear over our horizons.


I do not know what the answer is? But I do know that we have to change our ways and change in the relatively near future; say, ten years maximum.

Because as Janos wrote, quoted in part above: “This would be catastrophic in nearly every sense for large parts of humanity…”

We are in a war. Not a military one but a war with the reality of where we are, all of us, heading. We have to stop ducking and weaving and come out fighting. Fighting for the very survival of our species. Do I think it will happen? I am afraid I do not. Not soon enough anyway: not without the backing of every government in the free world.

I really wonder what will become of us all!