Tag Archives: Smithsonian Magazine


Smithsonian Magazine – March 2017
“Mystery on the Savanna” by Alex Shoumatoff
Photographs by Melissa Groo

My two-almost-three-year-old granddaughter is fascinated with giraffes. She loves the zoo. I confess I would never visit a zoo without a stop to observe the giraffes. They seem almost other-worldly with the longest necks imaginable, funny ears, and facial expressions that say something even if I don’t know what it is?!

This month Smithsonian Magazine has an article addressing human understanding of this animal and their shrinking numbers. According to the author Alex Shoumatoff, giraffes are the least understood of the African megafauna. The status of the giraffe population is listed as vulnerable. Poaching is one threat. Why poach a giraffe? Some are convinced that eating giraffe brains and bone marrow can cure HIV/AIDS. Leg bones can be carved to look like ivory or used for soup. Tails are used for dowries among some groups. These ideas border on the bizarre. What is more understandable is giraffe loss of habitat due to road building, mining and oil drilling. People want their territory.

Fascinating photos accompany the Smithsonian article. Close-ups show the giraffe’s long eyelashes and unique beauty. Even the pattern of their spots is individual and unique, like a fingerprint. My favorite photo is one where two giraffes appear to be scratching each other’s necks by elongating and entwining their necks.

Fascinating facts from the magazine article. Long necks enable them to reach the highest leaves on the acacia trees. Rubbery tongues protect against injury. Thick saliva coats thorns they may swallow.

Let’s start a giraffe fan club. What do you think? Pick up a magazine or check their website. Informative reading.




This article transports readers to a most treacherous battle of World War I fought 100 years ago. (Another connection to Noonday and Peaky Blinders. See post from June 10 and current topic on the Reading Page.) Austrian and Italian soldiers climbed the mountains of northern Italy in snow and extreme cold. High mountains had never before been a battlefield.

In spring 1915, the Italians abandoned their alliance with Austria-Hungary and Germany to join the United Kingdom, France and Russia. In subzero temperatures small units dug miles of tunnels through glacial ice. They hauled heavy artillery and other instruments of war up the mountain. This is one of the least-known battlefields of that war.

Reading of these war events stabs at the soul. Such hardship. One misstep can be easily fatal, but….so is war for so many. The whole operation is rightly described as daring and difficult. The article by Brian Mockenhaupt with photos by Stefen Chow is a mesmerizing read.

The beauty and horror in this place, the geology, geography and archaeology are more exciting than any futuristic scenario. See more photographs of alpine battlefields at Smithsonian.com/dolomites. Through cracks in the rocks Italian tunnelers could smell the cooking of the Austrians. These alpine battles may have been of lesser importance in the grand horrors of the war but the causalities were real as was the suspenseful adventure scaling and digging among the cold rocky peaks. It must have been difficult just to catch one’s breath!

See more at Smithsonian.com