What Killed off the Neanderthal’s?

Some 30,000 years ago, the Neanderthal’s vanished from the earth. The cause of their extinction has long been a source of debate. Now, a team of academics believes that they have the answer. So, what’s the story? What killed off the Neanderthal’s?

Who were the Neanderthals?

The Neanderthal was a man-like species that once lived in Europe and parts of Asia. They are believed to have originated some 350,000-600,000 years ago. Modern scientists are locked in a debate about whether to categorize them as a subspecies (or race) of humans or a separate human species altogether. Regardless, compared to anatomically modern humans, Neanderthal’s were probably more robust, stronger, and exhibited a higher degree of facial sloping.

What happened to the Neanderthals?

Scientists have proposed numerous theories to account for their unexplained extinction. As you will see below, most of these theories are based around a sudden influx of competitors…namely modern man.

  • Genocide: Anatomically modern humans are believed to have evolved from an archaic human species some 200,000 years ago. As these early humans drifted out of Africa, they might have engaged the indigenous Neanderthal’s in war and killed them off.
  • Disease: Similar to the above except with pathogens as the agent of death. Humans might have accidentally infected Neanderthal populations with one or more diseases which proceeded to wipe them out.
  • Lack of Competitive Advantage: Humans may have held some kind of competitive advantage that enabled them to outlive the Neanderthal’s. Possibilities include technology or anatomical differences that made it more difficult for the Neanderthal’s to run and caused them to burn far more energy while doing so.
  • Interbreeding: Neanderthal’s might have bred with early humans, causing them to be completely absorbed into the Cro-Magnon population. This theory is backed to some degree by genetic studies and skeletal analysis.
  • Lack of Specialty: Neanderthal men and women may have both focused on hunting big game. With no one gathering plants or performing other home-based activities, they wouldn’t have been able to make full use of their environment.
  • Climate Change: The arrival of an Ice Age reduced plant growth in Europe. The Neanderthal’s might have been unable to adapt to the corresponding decline in plant-eating animals.

A New Theory?

A few days ago, Sir Paul Mellars, Professor Emeritus of Prehistory and Human Evolution at Cambridge University, and his student Jennifer French announced new findings that may help explain why the European-based Neanderthal’s went extinct. Their research at Périgord, France shows that a great mass of African-based humans swarmed western Europe about 40,000 years ago. Outnumbered ten to one, the Neanderthal’s were forced to compete heavily for resources against a human population that was, in all likelihood, technologically superior.

“Faced with this kind of competition, the Neanderthals seem to have retreated initially into more marginal and less attractive regions of the continent and eventually, within a space of at most a hundred thousand years, for their populations to have declined to extinction – perhaps accelerated further by sudden climatic deterioration across the continent around 40,000 years ago.” ~ Professor Sir Paul Mellars

In addition, Professor Mellars believes that interbreeding, a theory favored by many scientists, had less impact than is generally accepted.

“There’s some evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, but that most likely happened 100,000 years ago, probably in the Near East. Modern humans swept into Europe much later – about 40,000 years ago – and there’s no evidence for interbreeding then.” ~ Professor Sir Paul Mellars

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

I have no doubt that other scientists and archaeologists will soon step forward, providing fresh challenges to Professor Mellars’ theory. Still, it seems probable that increased competition helped kill off the Neanderthal’s. But are they really extinct? Modern research shows that the average person living outside of Africa carries Neanderthal genetic material in the range of one to four percent. Thus, while the Neanderthal’s are no longer around, their legacy continues to live on inside many of us, a small but enduring reminder of the long and twisting path of modern man.

The Mysterious Rain of Blood?

In mid-2001, the skies opened up, unleashing a deluge of rain on the southern half of the Indian state of Kerala. But this was no ordinary rain. This was “blood rain,” a strange phenomenon where ordinary raindrops appear red in color. What caused the red rain? Something from this earth? Or did it come from somewhere else?

Red Rain?

On July 25, 2001, the sky over Kerala erupted. Thunder roared. Light flashed. Then, strange red rain began to fall. Although the majority of these raindrops were red, other colors were also reported, including yellow, green, and black. Over the next two months, the blood rain made sporadic appearances, leaving a trail of shriveled leaves in its wake. Finally, on September 23, the last drop of red rain fell, marking the end of the unsettling storm.

While certainly rare, Kerala’s red rain was not unique. Ancient texts describe similar events throughout known history. For example, Homer’s Iliad states that Zeus caused blood to rain from the sky on two separate occasions. In 582 AD, Gregory of Tours reported on a rain of blood that caused Paris citizens to frantically disrobe themselves. And there were reports of blood rainstorms prior to the arrival of the Black Death. As some of you know, I tend to think that the Black Death was caused by a comet, the significance of which you will see shortly.

Where did the Red Rain Originate?

Numerous groups of researchers studied the physical evidence from Kerala. They quickly discovered that solid particles within the raindrops provided the reddish hue. These particles consisted of several elements, including carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, silicon, chlorine, as well as various metals. But where did they come from? Various theories have been put forth to explain Kerala’s blood rain. They include:

  • Spores of Lichen: The Centre for Earth Science Studies (CESS) believes that the particles within the rain consist of lichen spores. Supposedly, heavy rains caused increased growth of the lichens. These lichens released their spores simultaneously, leading to a large build-up in the atmosphere. However, even the CESS indicated that this was a highly improbable scenario and furthermore, did not explain the widespread nature of the rain or how the spores got into the clouds in the first place.
  • Transplanted Sand: In 1903, dust from the Sahara desert was sucked into the sky and deposited onto England during a series of rainstorms. Some researchers initially believed that Kerala’s red rain arose via similar means, with dust coming from the Arabian deserts. However, lab tests ultimately debunked this theory.
  • Volcanic Eruption: One scientist suggested that the eruption of Mayon Volcano in the Philippines caused dust and other materials to enter the air. Jet streams proceeded to propel these particles to Kerala where they fell to the earth via rainstorms. However, this theory was also discarded due to the fact that the particles consisted of spores rather than dust.
  • Outer Space: Many incidences of red rain throughout history can be tied to meteors or comets. In the case of Kerala, two physicists, Godfrey Louis and Santhosh Kumar, suggested that a meteor exploded over Kerala. Then, material mixed with the clouds and slowly drifted to the ground as rain over the next two months. While they conceded that the red rain contained biological matter, they proposed that this matter came from outer space, in line with the panspermia hypothesis. This conclusion, of course, is highly controversial.

No one seems to dispute the fact that the raindrop material was at least similar in shape and form to lichen spores. And yet, the mechanism by which those spores could’ve reached the atmosphere and stayed in the same area for over two months remains unknown.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Personally, I find the outer space theory particularly interesting. The disintegration of a meteor or comet would help explain the crashing sound and flashing light that preceded the blood rain. In addition, the idea that organic material can survive the extreme conditions of outer space is not as far-fetched as it first appears. In August 2009, NASA discovered glycine in Comet Wild-2. This represented the first time a chemical building block for life was discovered in outer space.

The source of Kerala’s mysterious blood rain continues to elude the world’s finest minds. However, the recent research, coupled with the NASA discovery, indicates that we might be closing in on an answer. Perhaps Kerala’s blood rain was nothing more than a freak infusion of localized lichen spores into the sky. On the other hand, maybe the rain came from somewhere else…somewhere beyond this world.

 

Guerrilla Explorer’s Coverage of “Blood Rain”

Who is D.B. Cooper?

In 1971, Dan Cooper skyjacked a Boeing 727. After pocketing $200,000 in ransom money, he parachuted into the night, never to be seen again. Now, almost forty years later, the FBI has announced a breakthrough in the case. Is the truth behind D.B. Cooper finally at hand?

D.B. Cooper hijacks Flight 305 

On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper purchased a one-way ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a thirty-minute trip from Portland, Oregon to Seattle Washington. After takeoff, he passed a note to a flight attendant named Florence Schaffner. Although he later took the note with him, she later recalled that it said, “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.” D.B. Cooper showed her the bomb, which she described as eight red sticks, wire, insulation, and a battery. Then, he proceeded to make his demands:

“I want $200,000 in unmarked 20-dollar bills. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff or I’ll do the job.” ~ Dan Cooper

It seemed clear that D.B. Cooper intended to jump from the plane with a hostage. Donald Nyrop, the President of Northwest Orient, agreed to meet the demands. Upon landing in Seattle, the FBI provided Cooper with the money and four civilian parachutes. In exchange, Cooper released Florence, another flight attendant, and all thirty-six passengers. After refueling, the plane lifted into the air again, on course for Reno, Nevada.

D.B. Cooper Parachutes into History…and Mystery

After takeoff, D.B. Cooper ordered the remaining crew to gather in the cockpit. Around 8:00pm, the crew noticed a flashing warning light, indicating that a passenger staircase in the rear of the aircraft had been deployed. At 8:13pm, the plane jolted. Two hours later, the crew landed in Reno, with the airstair still open. Cooper was nowhere to be found.

Two of the parachutes remained onboard and it quickly became apparent that D.B. Cooper had jumped out of the airplane with the other two, most likely somewhere over Washington’s lower Cascade mountains. The FBI swarmed the plane, gathering additional evidence such as 66 partial fingerprints, a black clip-on tie, and a mother of pearl tie clip.

Using available data, the FBI determined his likely landing area and initiated a manhunt. They also distributed a list of serial numbers corresponding to the ransom money to law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, casinos, racetracks, and other places.  But the investigation failed to unearth any evidence.

What happened to D.B. Cooper?

In February 1980, eight-year old Brian Ingram found three packets of waterlogged bills on the banks of the Columbia River. The money, which totaled $5,800, matched the serial numbers of bills given to D.B. Cooper. The FBI relaunched its investigation. However, they failed to determine how the bills arrived at the location. To this day, the money as well as an instruction placard found in 1978 remain the only pieces of hard evidence found outside the aircraft that can be tied directly to D.B. Cooper.

No one is quite sure what happened to Cooper and the ransom money. Many people believe that he died during his parachute attempt. He wasn’t an experienced jumper, evidenced by the fact that he chose to take flight with a dummy chute used for training exercises that had been purposely planted by the FBI. Also, his jump took place at 10,000 feet in the middle of a raging storm complete with powerful winds, freezing rain, and below-zero temperatures. Under those conditions, he needed to land safely in extremely difficult terrain, something that would be challenging even for an experienced jumper.

Other people believe that he survived the jump and proceeded to live a long life. They point to literally dozens of serious and semi-serious suspects, each one backed by considerable circumstantial evidence. Perhaps the most popular suspect is Kenneth Christiansen. However, a lack of hard evidence makes it difficult to be sure.

Now, investigators hope to finally settle the debate. A few days ago, the FBI made a series of startling announcements pertaining to the D.B. Cooper investigation.

“We do actually have a new suspect we’re looking at…It comes from a credible lead who came to our attention recently via a law enforcement colleague…The credible lead is somebody whose possible connection to the hijacker is strong…And the suspect is not a name that’s come up before.” ~ Ayn Dietrich, FBI Spokeswoman

Ayn also mentioned that the FBI is attempting to compare fingerprints and DNA from the suspect to those found on items recovered from the airplane. She even went so far as to call the lead the “most promising one to date.”

The FBI will face significant hurdles if it wants to prove the identity of D.B. Cooper. Apparently, it is uncertain if the fingerprints recovered from the plane actually belonged to Cooper in the first place. Also, the FBI appears to have misplaced cigarette butts belonging to Cooper, which could dash any hopes for a DNA test.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Forty years have passed since Dan Cooper vanished into the night. His case is shrouded in mystery and mythology. Even his name remains a source of confusion to the general public. Due to a media miscommunication, he is commonly known as D.B. Cooper when in fact, he never used the initials D.B. at all.

Will this latest suspect and supporting evidence be enough to put the case to rest? I have to admit I’m skeptical. Over 1,000 people have been suspected of being D.B. Cooper. And every few years, a new piece of explosive evidence emerges only to be ruled out. There was that misidentified skull in 1981, that tattered parachute in 1988, and that other tattered parachute in 2008. But all the same, I’ll be following this story closely. The unmasking of D.B. Cooper would close America’s last unsolved skyjacking and finally, bring an answer to a case that has baffled hundreds of thousands of people for over forty years.

What was the Bloop?

In 1997, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detected a strange noise in a remote part of the Pacific Ocean. After several repeated incidents, the sound vanished, never to be heard again. What did the bloop sound like? And what was behind the strange noise?

What was the Bloop?

The Bloop was a powerful, ultra-low frequency underwater sound. During the summer of 1997, it was detected several times by a hydrophone array in the Pacific Ocean, southwest of South America. After that summer, the sound never returned.

“[The Bloop] rises rapidly in frequency over about one minute and was of sufficient amplitude to be heard on multiple sensors, at a range of over 5,000 km.” ~ NOAA

Speculation about the Bloop’s origin continues to this day. Dr. Christopher Fox, who named the Bloop, doesn’t believe that it originated from humans or a geological event. In fact, he thinks it came from an animal due to the fact that “its signature is a rapid variation on frequency similar to that of sounds known to be made by marine beasts.” There’s just one problem with his theory. The Bloop was far louder than noises caused by any other ocean-based creature, including whales. So, whatever caused the Bloop is either bigger than a whale or far more efficient at generating sound.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Is it possible that the Bloop was some sort of sea serpent, similar to the one reported by the 1840 voyage of the HMS Daedalus? It seems possible but until the Bloop decides to resurface again, the best we can do is speculate.

The Missingest Man in New York?

On August 6, 1930, Judge Joseph Crater left Billy Haas’s Chophouse in New York City. He was never seen again. His high-profile disappearance rocked the nation and despite decades of police work, his case remains unsolved to this day. So, what became of Judge Crater, the infamous “Missingest Man in New York”?

The Disappearance of Judge Crater?

Joseph Force Crater was an Associate Judge of the New York Supreme Court. He was appointed to office in mid-1930 by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who at that time was the state’s Governor. His strange story begins during the waning days of July 1930.

While on vacation in Belgrade, Maine, Judge Crater received a phone call. Afterwards, he told his wife that he needed to return to New York City in order “to straighten those fellows out.” He traveled to New York and then returned to Maine on August 1. Two days later, he departed again for Manhattan, promising his wife he would return within a week.

On August 6, Judge Crater bought a single ticket for a Broadway show called Dancing Partner. Then, he met up with two friends at Billy Haas’s Chophouse on West 45th Street. After dinner, the two friends entered a taxi. Meanwhile, Judge Crater walked down the street, presumably heading for the Belasco Theatre. He was never seen again.

Judge Crater’s Secret Life

Around August 13, Judge Crater’s wife, a woman by the name of Stella Mance Wheeler, began calling friends in New York, searching for her husband. On August 25, he failed to show for court, raising eyebrows amongst his colleagues. Finally, on September 3, nearly a full month after his last sighting, the police were alerted to the case.

Judge Crater’s disappearance became national news and led to a gigantic investigation. As the police waded through information and thousands of false sightings, they quickly learned that there was more to the story than met the eye. Layers of the Judge’s life were peeled back, revealing numerous strange facts.

  • The Affair: Judge Crater was having an affair with Sally Lou Ritz, a showgirl. After he received the mysterious phone call in July, he returned to New York, supposedly “to straighten those fellows out.” Instead, he took Sally on a trip to Atlantic City. Later, Sally was of the last two people, along with the Judge’s lawyer, to see him alive.
  • The Money: On August 6, just hours before his disappearance, Judge Crater asked his assistant to cash two checks totaling $5,150. He also removed $20,000 from campaign funds, close to a year’s salary. They proceeded to carry the cash in locked briefcases to the Judge’s apartment. Afterwards, the Judge gave his assistant the rest of the day off.
  • The Missing Safety Deposit Box: During the course of the investigation, the cops learned that Judge Crater had emptied his safety deposit box prior to going missing.

In January 1931, the Judge’s wife opened a desk drawer and discovered uncashed checks, stocks, bonds, and three life insurance policies. She also found a long note from the Judge, part of which read, “I am very whary (weary). Joe.” Ultimately, the investigation ended with a whimper and on June 6, 1939, Judge Crater was declared dead in absentia. His case was officially closed forty years later.

What happened to Judge Crater?

Numerous theories have been put forth to explain the Judge’s vanishing act:

  • Political Victim: The Judge’s wife believed that he was murdered “because of something sinister connected to politics.” Also, there were many rumors at the time of a pending legal scandal. It should be noted that Judge Crater was deeply involved in the machinations of the Tammany Hall political machine.
  • Lover’s Quarrel: This theory, advanced by Mrs. Crater’s attorney, indicated that the Judge was being blackmailed by a showgirl. The Judge refused to pay her off and was killed for his troubles.
  • The Wife: Over the years, many have viewed Mrs. Crater with suspicion. The Judge was obviously cheating on her. Also, the fact that she didn’t involve the police until four weeks had gone by is somewhat strange.
  • Extended Vacation: Some think that the Judge skipped town and resettled elsewhere under a different name in order to live with another lover or to avoid a scandal.
  • Murder by Madam: In his book, Vanishing Point, Richard Tofel makes the argument that the Judge ended August 6 in a well-known brothel run by a woman named Polly Adler. Polly later wrote a popular book about her life as a madam. According to Tofel’s research, early drafts of the book stated that Judge Crater died of natural causes while in her brothel and that she had his body removed to an unknown location. While this is an interesting possibility, it should be noted that these early drafts have yet to be found.

On August 19, 2005, a handwritten note was discovered in a metal box after the death of a seemingly random woman named Stella Ferrucci-Good. The letter claimed that Judge Crater was murdered by three men: Robert Good and two brothers named Charles and Frank Burns. Robert Good was a Parks Department supervisor and Stella’s late husband. Charles was a New York police officer and Frank was a cab driver. While she didn’t mention a motive, she did state that the three men supposedly buried Judge Crater’s body under the boardwalk in Coney Island, Brooklyn.

In the mid-1950’s, the boardwalk had been torn up and the New York Aquarium built in its place. Unsubstantiated reports indicate that the remains of five bodies were found at the time. These skeletons were later interred in a mass potter’s grave on Hart Island.

Interest surged in the cold case. But the excitement quickly died off. The police were skeptical of Stella’s claim. And unfortunately, there was no way to substantiate it. Even if bones had been recovered from under the boardwalk, it would take a miracle to find them. It would take an even greater miracle to identify them, given that Crater has no living direct relatives from which to extract DNA.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

For decades, Judge Crater’s disappearance was one of the most famous unsolved disappearances in American history. Indeed, he was as well-known as Amelia Earhart or Glenn Miller. The term “to pull a Crater” became an established expression. “Judge Crater, call your office,” became a national punchline.

Although the Judge’s fame has waned, the mystery continues. In my mind, the most believable theory is the one offered by Ms. Stella Ferucci-Good’s letter. However, in order to prove it, we need more evidence. Interested researchers might want to consider tracking down workers who helped build the Aquarium. A detailed search of tabloids of the time, which supposedly reported the five bodies, might also prove helpful. With a little legwork, we might finally be able to close the books on Judge Crater, one of history’s strangest mysteries.

Apostle of Christ Unearthed?

On July 26, a team of archaeologists announced the discovery of an ancient tomb. But not just any tomb. They claim that this particular tomb belongs to St. Philip, one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. If correct, it promises to be one of the most astonishing discoveries in recent memory. But is this really Philip’s tomb?

Who was St. Philip?

Philip was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. He rarely appears in the New Testament. His most notable showing is during the Last Supper, when his question led Jesus to teach the disciples about the unity of the Father and the Son.

Much of our knowledge of Philip derives from non-canonical texts. According to the Acts of Philip, he was crucified upside-down in Hierapolis for converting a city official’s wife. He died while preaching to a gathered crowd, sometime around the year 80 AD. Afterwards, he was buried in an octagonal tomb named “The Martryium.” It should be noted that the Catholic Church does not accept this story as fact.

St. Philip’s Tomb?

Since 2003, Italian professor Francesco D’Andria has been leading archaeological excavations within the ancient city of Hierapolis. Recently, he unearthed an old tomb near the ruins of a church.

“Until recently, we thought the grave of St. Philip was on Martyrs’ Hill, but we discovered no traces of him in the geophysical research conducted in that area. A month ago, we discovered the remnants of an unknown church, 40 meters away from the St. Philip Church on Martyrs’ Hill. And in that church we discovered the grave of St. Philip.” ~ Francesco D’Andria

The tomb has yet to be opened. However, according to D’Andria, its structure and etchings prove that it belongs to St. Philip.

“St. Philip is considered a martyr. In fact, the church built in his name on the Martyrs’ Hill is, for this reason, also called Martyrion, despite the fact there were no traces of the grave of St. Philip. As we were cleaning out the new church we discovered a month ago, we finally found the grave. With close examination, we determined that the grave had been moved from its previous location in the St. Philip Church to this new church in the fifth century, during the Byzantine era. We are extremely happy and proud to have discovered the grave of a saint whose name appears in the bible – this surely is an important discovery for religious tourism, archaeology and Christendom.” ~ Francesco D’Andria

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

D’Andria has been working in this area for over three decades. His recent article for the Biblical Archaeology Society, Conversion, Crucifixion, and Celebration, provides terrific background on the story of St. Philip as well as his own excavations at Hierapolis. He is more than credible which makes impossible to dismiss his claim. Still, its a rather extraordinary claim, seemingly based on nothing more than the structure of the grave and its inscriptions. Heck, the tomb hasn’t even been opened yet.

As for me, I remain skeptical. I would like to learn more about D’Andria’s evidence before I form an opinion. I read every single article I could find on this discovery but unfortunately, none of them discussed why the tomb’s structure and inscriptions pointed to St. Philip as the only possible occupant. So for the time being, I’ll eagerly await future news on D’Andria’s work. For if his claims prove accurate, then the tomb is one of the most significant archaeological finds in recent memory.

Deciphering Ancient Texts?

In 1896, two undergraduate students unearthed an underground cache of over 200,000 pieces of papyri. The collection includes letters and other documents dating from 500 BC to 1000 AD. Despite over one hundred years of work, researchers have only managed to transcribe two percent of the ancient texts. They need help to transcribe the rest…YOUR help.

A Treasure Trove of Ancient Texts?

In 1896, Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt discovered an ancient dump near the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. With the help of locals, they proceeded to uncover a treasure trove of papyri, digging as far down as twenty-five feet in some cases. The papers, which dated back to Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, included letters, documents, receipts, loans, work contracts, gossip, and other things. After a decade, Grenfell and Hunt brought the recovered papers back to Oxford University where they have remained ever since.

For over a century, researchers have worked to transcribe the documents. In the process, they have made numerous important discoveries, including a lost play by Euripides entitled Melanippe the Wise, lost works from the poet Sappho, and lost letters from the philosopher Epicurus. Amazingly, they also found tiny fragments of a “lost gospel” which appears to describe Jesus exorcising demons.

However, the process has been slow and many of the ancient texts remain unstudied to this day. In fact, Oxford University researchers estimate that only two percent of the documents have been successfully transcribed. Now, they are seeking the help of outsiders to help decode the rest of the works.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

You don’t need to know Greek in order to help. You merely need to visit Ancient Lives and use pattern recognition tools to match letters to symbols. The site will then store your translation and wait for others to view the ancient text. By having multiple people study each fragment, scholars hope to weed out mistakes and discrepancies.

If you have time, please stop by Ancient Lives and lend a hand. Who knows? You might find yourself reading a lost play or a lost letter. You might even find something really important…something that changes history as we know it.

Who Framed Captain Kidd?

Captain William Kidd is one of the most notorious pirates in history. In 1701, he was executed in London after being found guilty of murder and five charges of piracy. Two hundred years later, documents emerged that called into question the official story. Was Captain Kidd framed? If so, why?

The Adventures of Captain Kidd

In 1698, King William III offered pardons to pirates who surrendered themselves to England. Only two men, the apparent worst of the worst, were denied such pardons. The first such pirate was “Long Ben” Avery, who eluded punishment and vanished. The second pirate was a man known as Captain William Kidd.

Kidd was a Scottish sailor turned British privateer. Privateers were essentially government-sponsored pirates. They were issued letters of marque and were only permitted to attack ships belonging to enemy nations. As such, Captain Kidd received a government license, some funding from prominent members of the Whig Party, and permission to keep a percentage of his profits. In turn, King William III gained another vessel to disrupt enemy trade as well as rights to ten percent of all of Kidd’s profits.

In September 1696, Kidd launched from London in the Adventure Galley and set course for Madagascar. Hopes for a successful voyage quickly crumbled and the ship’s crew suffered an outbreak of cholera, constant leaks, and few prizes. By October 30, 1697, part of the crew had deserted and the rest were openly talking about mutiny. On that day, Captain Kidd fought with gunner, William Moore. The argument ended when Kidd slammed a bucket into Moore’s head, fracturing the man’s skull. Moore died the next day.

Captain Kidd becomes a Pirate

A few months later, on January 30, 1698, Kidd finally captured the large prize that had eluded him and his crew. The Quedah Merchant was a four-hundred-ton Armenian ship, filled with satins, muslins, silks, sugar, opium, guns, silver, and gold. However, although the vessel was under French control, it was captained by an Englishman. After news of the Quedah Merchant reached England, Captain Kidd was declared a pirate.

After capturing at least four smaller ships, Kidd learned that he was being hunted. He sought support from Lord Bellomont, one of his investors and the newly appointed governor of Massachusetts. Bellomont offered him clemency. But when Kidd arrived in Boston, Bellomont had him arrested instead.

Kidd’s trial started on May 8, 1701 in England. He was accused of Moore’s murder and five counts of piracy. Kidd claimed that his attack on Moore was due to the man’s role in an attempted mutiny. He also claimed that four counts of piracy were done against his wishes by the mutineers.

The fifth count proved more troubling to explain. The Quedah Merchant was captained by an Englishman and carried strong connections to the England-based, East India Company. Also, Kidd did not take his spoils back to England as his contract required. Instead, he dispersed it amongst his crew and kept the rest for himself. Kidd fought back, alleging that his mutinous crew took the spoils. He also insisted that the Quedah Merchant was clearly a French ship and that he had the papers to prove it. However, these papers mysteriously disappeared prior to his trial. On May 23, 1701, Captain Kidd was executed via hanging.

Was Captain Kidd Framed?

While the charges were serious, many people continue to believe that Captain Kidd was framed or at the very least, sacrificed for the sake of politics. Its important to note that he didn’t dispute the killing of William Moore or the seizure of four of the ships. His defense for those crimes hinged on his statement that he was under constant attack by a band of mutineers. Regardless, his crimes weren’t exactly unusual given the times.

As for the Quedah Merchant, Kidd based his defense on a “French pass,” which was a piece of paper indicating that the ship was controlled by France. Kidd reported that he took the pass from the vessel’s captain and sent it to Lord Bellomont, his old business parter. Bellomont wrote a letter to Kidd which seemed to confirm the pass’s existence. However, it vanished prior to trial. Over two hundred years later, in 1911, a writer named Ralph Paine made an astonishing discovery. While searching London’s Public Record Office, he found the missing French pass. Its existence caused many to question if it had been hidden on purpose, in order to throw doubt on Kidd’s story.

Several groups stood to gain from his execution. He was initially backed by prominent members of the Whig Party. After news of the Quedah Merchant went public, the Whigs found themselves under heavy attack from the Tories. Wishing to avoid an embarrassing situation, the Whigs were eager to abandon Kidd. They went so far as to declare that he’d turned rogue after they’d outfitted him and his ship.

Another group who stood to benefit from Captain Kidd’s death was the East India Company. Kidd’s capture of the Quedah Merchant angered the India emperor, who threatened to close down trade routes. The East India Company, eager to placate the emperor and discourage future piracy, had strong motive to make an example out of Kidd.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Captain Kidd was a privateer who either turned pirate or was forced to do so by a mutinous crew. He never gained much success and if it hadn’t been for his sensational trial and his subsequent attempt to barter his life for a vast, hidden treasure, he would’ve been easily forgotten.

So, was he framed? Not exactly. After all, he committed at least some of the crimes of which he was accused. However, other pirates got away with far worse. It seems clear that both the Whigs and the East India Company had strong reasons to see him hang. This caused his supporters to abandon him and most likely led Lord Bellomont to file away the French pass rather than present it at his trial. While Kidd wasn’t framed, he was a victim…a victim of politics.

What killed the Dinosaurs?

Sixty-five and a half million years ago, dinosaurs vanished from the earth. The fate of these magnificent beasts remains a mystery to this day. However, new evidence has recently emerged that might help solve this mystery once and for all. So, what killed the dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs & the Mysterious K-Pg Boundary?

Dinosaurs roamed the earth for about 160 million years, encompassing large parts of the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. While the size, shape, and features of dinosaurs varied extensively, they all share one thing in common. Sixty-five and a half million years ago, all non-avian dinosaurs perished in the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, or the K-Pg extinction event. The K-Pg boundary is a layer of sediment in the earth’s crust that marks the switch from the Cretaceous Period (K) to the Paleogene Period (Pg). Non-avian dinosaur bones are never found above this layer, which indicates that dinosaurs became extinct at or before the same time it was created.

Did an Asteroid or Comet Kill off the Dinosaurs?

In 1980, the father/son team of Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered that the K-Pg boundary contained iridium, an element not usually found in the earth’s crust. After eliminating other possible sources, they concluded that the iridium most likely arrived via comet or asteroid. Although hotly contested at first, this theory later found broad acceptance due to the announced discovery of the Chicxulub Crater. The crater, located under Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, measures over 110 miles in diameter. Most scientists today believe that an asteroid or comet, measuring over six miles in diameter, impacted the earth sixty-five and a half million years ago. In the process, it created the crater and drove the dinosaurs to extinction.

The Problematic “Fossil Gap”?

However, not everyone believes the official story. These individuals point to the fact that dinosaur bones become less frequent as they approach the K-Pg boundary. Also, there is a “fossil gap” since no bones have ever been found within the boundary itself. Taken together, these things indicate that the extinction predated the impact at Chicxulub. If this is the case, then dinosaurs were probably killed off more gradually, by things such as a volcanic winter, the Deccan traps, falling sea levels, and/or climate change.

That brings us to the present. While working in Montana, a team of Yale scholars recently discovered a dinosaur bone just thirteen centimeters below the K-Pg boundary. This marks the closest a bone has ever been found to the boundary, beating the old record by twenty-four centimeters. The discovery, made by Yale anthropologist Eric Sargis and graduate student Stephen Chester, indicates that dinosaurs were still alive a few thousand years before the impact event.

“Here we have a specimen that basically goes right up to the boundary, indicating that at least some dinosaurs were doing fine.” ~ Tyler Lyson, Paleontologist, Yale University

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The discovery is exciting and lends weight to the theory that dinosaurs were still alive at the time of the impact event. However, it hasn’t ended the debate as to what killed the dinosaurs. This particular bone could’ve easily belonged to one of the few remaining dinosaurs as they gradually became extinct. Unfortunately, without more bones there’s no way to be sure.

In March 2010, forty-one experts from across the globe reviewed evidence in the fields of paleontology, geochemistry, climate modeling, geophysics, and sedimentology. They concluded that a giant asteroid caused the Chicxulub crater, triggering mass extinctions of the dinosaurs. So, it would appear that there is a sort of scientific consensus in support of the impact theory.

But does that even matter? History is full of scientific consensuses that were later overturned. Heck, thirty years ago, no one believed that an asteroid caused dinosaurs to go extinct. Now, its the most popular opinion. Who knows what the next thirty years will bring?

Was Alexander the Great Poisoned?

In June 323 BC, Alexander the Great died in Babylon after a two-week battle against an unknown ailment. Since then, historians have blamed his mysterious death on any number of things…excessive drinking, malaria, and typhoid fever to name just a few. However, new research points to something far more sinister…poison.

The Mysterious Death of Alexander the Great?

Alexander the Great was a king of Macedon. Considered a mighty warrior, he built one of the largest empires in history. In late May 323 BC, he grew ill after a night and a day drinking with Medius of Larissa at the Babylonian palace of Nebuchadnezzar II (located in modern-day Iraq). He took to bed for the next two weeks, complaining of a high fever, liver pain, and joint pain. After falling into a coma, he never awakened. Alexander the Great died on either June 11 or June 12, at the young age of thirty-two.

Rumors of an assassination soon began and his close friends suspected a poison procured from the legendary River Styx. Supposedly, the waters of the River were so corrosive that they dissolved any drinking vessel, short of one made from a horse’s hoof. Intriguingly, while their contemporaries doubted the poison rumors, they never doubted the existence of the River Styx. Regardless, the problem with the poison theory has always been the fact that Alexander suffered for about twelve days before dying. A long-acting poison of that nature seems doubtful in those ancient times.

Was Alexander the Great Poisoned?

In August 2010, Adrienne Mayor and Antoinette Hayes, both from Stanford University, proposed a new theory that breathed life into the possibility of an assassination. Similar to the ancient rumors, they speculate that Alexander might have died from ingesting a vial of water from the River Styx.

While the River Styx is popularly known as the mythological gateway to the underworld, Mayor and Hayes believe that it is based on a real-life river, namely the Mavroneri Stream, or Black Water. The Mavroneri has a strange history and the local people were once known to avoid it, claiming that its waters caused damage to metal and clay vessels.

Mayor and Hayes further speculate that the river once held a highly lethal bacterium known as calicheamicin. Calicheamicin, which was only discovered by modern science in the last few decades, grows on limestone deposits, some of which are found in the Mavroneri. While scientists have not yet looked for calicheamicin in the Mavroneri, there may be an expedition to do so as soon as October 2011. However, we do know that drinking water containing the bacteria would result in “an agonizing death over several days, a course of events compatable with those described in the ancient sources recounting the death of Alexander.”

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

The true cause of Alexander’s death may never be known. However, Mayor and Hayes have gotten closer to unraveling it than anyone else in recent memory. If evidence of calicheamicin is discovered in the Mavroneri, it will provide additional support to the assassination theory. But the mystery won’t end there. If Mayor and Hayes are correct, than we have a whole new set of questions to consider such as: Who killed Alexander the Great?

And why?