Most of us are familiar with African and Indian elephants, in fact the African and the Asian elephants diverged from a common ancestor some 7.6 million years ago.

There are actually three species of elephant in existence today - the Indian (or Asian) elephant the African Bush (or Savanna) elephant, and the African forest elephant.

However, these last two are usually just grouped together and known as the 'African elephant'.

The African Bush elephant is the largest of all elephant species and ranges over much of the savanna zone south of the Sahara. They usually live in grasslands, marshes and beside lakes.

The African Forest elephant inhabits the dense African rain forests of central and western Africa, although occasionally they roam the edges of forests, thus overlapping the savanna elephant home ranges and hybridizing.

The Asian elephant species is the only surviving member of the Asian elephant genus, in fact, the Asian elephant is the sister species to the woolly mammoth! However, the Asian elephants can be divided further into the following four subspecies.

1. The Sri Lankan elephant is found only on the island of Sri Lanka and is the largest subspecies of the Asian elephant.

2. The Indian elephant makes up the bulk of the Asian elephant population. The mainland Asian can be found in 11 Asian countries, from India to Indonesia and including western China. They prefer forested areas and transitional zones, between forests and grasslands, where greater food variety is available.

3. The Sumatran elephant is found only on the island of Sumatra, usually in forested regions and partially wooded habitats.

4. In 2003, a further subspecies was identified on Borneo. Named the Borneo pygmy elephant, it is smaller and tamer than any other Asian elephants. It also has relatively larger ears, longer tail and straighter tusks.

For related articles click onto the following links:

COWBOYS AND LAWMEN: Who was Wyatt Earp?

Take a small step back into American history, and you will be inundated with colourful and heroic stories about the old Wild West. Names like Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday are all part of our common global ancestry, but one mans name stands head and shoulders above them all - Wyatt Earp.

Known as the toughest and deadliest gunman of his day, he is now considered a cultural icon, a man of law and order, and a mythic figure of an American West where social control and order were notably absent.

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois, on March 19, 1848, to widower Nicholas Porter Earp and Virginia Ann Cooksey in Hartford, Kentucky on July 30, 1840. He was one of eight children; James Earp, Virgil Walter Earp, Elizabeth Earp, Morgan Seth Earp, Warren Baxter Earp, Virginia Ann Earp, and Adelia Douglas Earp. From his father's first marriage, Wyatt also had an elder half-brother, Newton, and a half-sister Mariah Ann, who died at the age of ten months.

Wyatt was named after his father's commanding officer in the Mexican-American War, Captain Wyatt Berry Stapp, of the 2nd Company Illinois Mounted Volunteers.

Like his brothers, Wyatt Earp was a physically imposing figure for his day: 6 feet tall, when most men were only about 5 feet 6 inches. He weighed about 165 to 170 pounds. According to contemporary accounts he was broad shouldered, long-armed, and all muscle. He was a natural fighter and was very capable of using his fists instead of his weapon to control anyone resisting his authority. He was reputed to be an expert with a pistol, and it is said that he showed no fear to any man.

Wyatt is often viewed as the central character and hero of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, at least in part because out of all of his brothers, he was the only one never to have been wounded or killed!

In gunfight after gunfight, from Wichita to Dodge City, during Tombstone and the Earp Vendetta Ride, Wyatt was never even scratched by a bullet, although his clothing was shot through with bullet holes.

Gunfight at the OK Corral

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a gunfight that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory, of the United States and which is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West.

The gunfight - believed to have only lasted only about thirty seconds - was fought between the outlaw Cowboys Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and his brother Frank McLaury, and the opposing lawmen Virgil Earp and his brothers Morgan and Wyatt Earp, aided by Doc Holliday acting as a temporary deputy of Virgil. Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight, unharmed, but Ike's brother Billy Clanton, along with both McLaurys, were killed. Lawmen Holliday, and Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded. It was only Wyatt Earp came through the fight unharmed. The fight eventually came to represent a time in American history when the frontier was open range for outlaws opposed by law enforcement that was spread thin over vast territories, leaving some areas unprotected.

The gunfight was relatively unknown to the American public until 1931 when author Stuart Lake published what has since been determined to be a largely fictionalised biography, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, two years after Earp's death. Lake retold his story in a 1946 book that director John Ford developed into the movie My Darling Clementine. After the movie' Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' was released in 1957, the shootout came to be known by that name. Since then, the conflict has been portrayed with varying degrees of accuracy in numerous Western films and books.

Despite its name, the gunfight actually occurred in a narrow lot six doors west of the rear entrance to the O.K. Corral on Fremont Street, and also in the street. The two opposing parties were initially only about 6 feet (1.8 m) apart. About thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds. Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday but they were eventually exonerated by a local judge after a 30-day preliminary hearing and then again by a local grand jury.

On December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was maimed in an assassination attempt by the outlaw Cowboys, and on March 18, 1882, they assassinated Morgan Earp. This led to a series of further killings and retributions, with federal and county lawmen supporting different sides of the conflict, which became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.

The gunfight in Tombstone lasted only 30 seconds, but it would end up defining Earp for the rest of his life. After Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell in Tucson, his movements received national press coverage and he became a known commodity in Western folklore.

The Tombstone Epitaph said of Wyatt, "bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place."

Setting the story straight!

It was actually Virgil Earp who held the legal authority in Tombstone the day of the shoot out. In fact, Virgil was both Tombstone City Marshal and Deputy U.S. Marshal. Furthermore, Virgil had considerably more experience than his brother Wyatt with both weapons and combat as a Union soldier in the Civil War, and in law enforcement as a sheriff, constable, and marshal.

As city marshal, it was Virgil who made the decision to disarm the Cowboys in Tombstone as Wyatt was only a temporary assistant marshal to his brother. But because Wyatt outlived Virgil and due to a creative biography written by Stuart Lake that made Wyatt famous, his name became well-known and the subject of many movies, TV shows, biographies and works of fiction.

Was Wyatt Earp truly the heroic gunfighter and lawman that history has portrayed him to be? Was Wyatt Earp actually taking the glory for his brother Virgil's actions? Whatever the truth is, the facts are all but lost to us. However, the legend of Wyatt Earp appears to be one that will fascinate fans of the Wild West forever.

For related articles click onto he following links:
AMERICAN REVOLUTION: The Truth behind the Boston Tea Party
COWBOYS AND LAWMEN: Who was Wyatt Earp?


How to grow Okra from seed

Although the typical northern European climate will be colder that the okra plants native habitat, you can still produce a viable crop. To make the most of the shorter growing season start by sowing the seed under protection indoors.

Once the threat of frosts have passed, harden them off before planting outside.

In warmer temperate climates sow Okra seeds 4 inches apart into rows that are at least two feet apart. Place each seed in to the ground at about ½ inch deep then gently water gently in.

Try and mimic their natural habitat by planting in a well drained and sheltered position with plenty of sun. They will also require plenty of water over the growing period so mulch and fertilize the soil throughout the summer.

Once the seeds have begun to germinate they can be thinned out to about a foot between plants, but always leave the strongest plants in place.

Harvest okra once the seed pods are ripe, they will usually be about three to four inches in length. Check every other day for new okra pods and harvest them quickly as this will encourage the plant to grow more pods.

For related articles click onto:


Lavender is without doubt one of the most popular of all hardy shrubs, and why not? Tolerant of drought, heat, poor soils and most pests and diseases, not only does will lavender flower its heart out, it is a fantastic source of nectar for pollinating insects!

However, you can't just plant lavender anywhere and they can easily be killed by too much kindness.

Lavender seed can be sown from late winter to summer. However for best germination results place the seeds in the bottom draw of your fridge 4-6 weeks before sowing. Use a modular seed tray filled with a good quality, free-draining soil-based compost. Sow the seeds so that they are just below the surface. Seal the seeds and tray inside a polythene bag and place in a warm, bright room with a temperature of 15-18 Celsius. The seedlings should emerge in 1-3 months.

When the seedlings are large enough to handle they can be popped out of their modules and potted on into 3 inch pots and placed in a coldframe.

For related articles click onto the following links:

THE MONKEY PUZZLE TREE - Araucaria araucana

The monkey puzzle tree 

The monkey puzzle tree - also sometimes known as the monkey tail tree, is a native of central and southern Chile, and western Argentina. It gained the common name of 'Monkey puzzle' as popular belief has it that it is the only tree that a monkey cannot climb. The monkey puzzle prefers well drained, slightly acidic, volcanic soil, but will actually tolerate almost any soil type provided it drains well. A fact that has enabled it to successfully transplant into many of the country estates of England.

The monkey puzzle tree 
Since the Victorian era, the monkey puzzle has become a popular - although expensive - garden tree. It is favored for its unusual effect of the thick, 'reptilian' branches which grow out from the central trunk showing a highly symmetrical appearance.

Another aspect to its popularity it that the monkey puzzles ability to thrive in temperate climates with abundant rainfall. Amazingly they can also tolerate temperatures down to about −20 °Celsius. It is far and away the hardiest member of its genus, growing well in western Europe, the west coast of North America, New Zealand and south-eastern Australia. It is also tolerant of coastal salt spray, but it does draw the line at exposure to pollution.

The seeds of the monkey puzzle tree are edible - similar to large pine nuts, and are extensively harvested as an edible crop in Chile and Brazil.

The monkey puzzle tree 
The tree has excellent potential to be a food crop of the future, but unfortunately it will not yield its seeds until it is around 30–40 years old. This length of time discourages investment in planting orchards, even though yields at maturity can be fantastic. Furthermore, once established, monkey puzzle trees can live as long as 1,000 year.

Once valued as timber for its long, straight trunk, its current rarity due to excessive logging mean its wood is now rarely used. The tree became protected by law in 1971, and is listed in the CITES Appendix I as an endangered species.

For related articles click onto the following links:


If you are a parent, then the question '...Why do elephants have big ears..? is likely to be one of many that your child or children will ask you. You will feel that you should know the answer, but as with many things in life - you will struggle to find a reasonable or even 'truthful' answer. Lying is usually the best course of action as this can avoid the embarrassing situation of appearing ignorant. But worry no more, as the answer to 'Why do elephants have big ears?' can be discovered below.

Why are elephants ears so big?

The primary reason behind the big ears is that they are there to help the elephant to stay cool. Unlike humans, elephants do not sweat, so they have a hard time getting rid of their excess heat. This is why it is vital that they are able to keep themselves cool and prevent overheating.

Overheating is a big problem for large mammals and as the elephant is the world's largest living land animal, it's ears have evolved to stop them from boiling to death.

The enormous ears of elephants act as cooling devices. This works because their large ears contain an intricate web of large blood vessels that are situated just below the surface of the skin. As an elephant heats up, they pump hot blood into these specialized veins which allows the heat to escape into the air. Their gigantic ear flaps can measure up to 2 square meters and when the elephant flaps its ears, the blood temperature can drop by as much as 5 degrees Celsius!

The pattern these specialized blood vessels create in the ears are unique to each elephant and can be used to identify them, like human fingerprints.

Because of the high daytime temperatures, hot Savannah-dwelling African elephants have evolved larger ears than their forest-dwelling Indian cousins.

For related articles click onto the following links:


At 11.40pm on 14 April, 1912, the famously 'unsinkable' ocean liner, Titanic, struck an iceberg. Two hours and 40 minutes later she sank deep into the freezing Atlantic waters. Less than a third of the people on board survived.

Over the years, the BBC has heard from some of the men and women who lived through that 'night to remember'. Their memories, and internal BBC documents about the controversies that followed, are now gathered together to tell the true story of the disaster.

Commander Lightoller was the second mate on board the RMS Titanic, and the most senior officer to survive the disaster.

Lightoller was decorated for gallantry as a naval officer in the First World War and later, in retirement, further distinguished himself in the Second World War by providing and sailing one of the "little ships" during the perilous Dunkirk evacuation.

In this film 'The Titanic Disaster' Lightoller gives his version of events on the fateful night in April 1912. He lays great weight on the fact that a warning message about the amount of ice in the area was never delivered to the bridge, seeming to imply that if this news had been received, the accident could have been avoided.

The memories of Eva Hart

What happened next?

Carpathia took three days to reach New York after leaving the scene of the disaster. It should have been much sooner but the journey was slowed by pack ice, fog, thunderstorms and rough seas. However, the Carpathia was able to pass news to the outside world by wireless about what had happened. Unfortunately the initial reports were confused, leading the American press to mistakenly report on the 15th April that Titanic was being towed to port by the SS Virginian.

Later that day, confirmation arrived that Titanic had been lost and that most of her passengers and crew had died. This terrible news attracted crowds of people to the White Star Line's offices in London, New York, Southampton, Liverpool and Belfast.

It hit hardest in Southampton, whose people suffered the greatest losses from the sinking. According to the Hampshire Chronicle on 20 April 1912, almost 1,000 local families were directly affected. Furthermore, almost every street in the Chapel district of the town lost more than one resident and over 500 households lost a member.

The British Army's newspaper, The War Cry, reported that:

'...none but a heart of stone would be unmoved in the presence of such anguish. Night and day that crowd of pale, anxious faces had been waiting patiently for the news that did not come. Nearly everyone in the crowd had lost a Relative...'
It was not until 17 April that the first incomplete lists of survivors came through, delayed by poor communications.

The Carpathia docked at 9.30 pm on 18 April at New York's Pier 54, and was greeted by some 40,000 people waiting at the quayside in heavy rain. Many of Titanic's surviving passengers did not hang around in New York but immediately headed onwards to relatives' homes.

Some of the wealthier survivors chartered private trains to take them home, and the Pennsylvania Railroad laid on a special train free of charge to take survivors to Philadelphia.

Titanic's 214 surviving crew members were taken to the Red Star Line's steamer SS Lapland, where they were accommodated in passenger cabins. Carpathia was then hurriedly restocked with food and provisions before resuming her journey to Fiume, Austria-Hungary. Her crew were given a bonus of a month's wages by Cunard as a reward for their actions, and some of Titanic's passengers joined together to give them an additional bonus of nearly £900 (£66,038 today), which was divided between the crew members.

In conclusion

The sinking of the RMS Titanic was one of the most dramatic events of the twentieth century. In a mere four hours after striking an iceberg, the largest passenger ship so far built sank while on its maiden voyage, and claimed the lives of over 1,500 persons. Many of those lost were from the upper crust of British and American society.

The sinking of the Titanic, which had been popularly regarded as unsinkable, put doubt in the belief that modern man had dominance and control over nature, a mistaken belief that had grown out of the Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era.

For related articles click onto:
RMS TITANIC - Father Frank Browne's Photographs
TITANIC: The last radio transmissions

DINOSAUR: Archaeopteryx

Living 150 million years ago, the Archaeopteryx is the earliest known animal that resembles modern day birds. Fossilised remains of Archaeopteryx lithographica show that it was covered in feathers, had long, clawed feet and a beak lined with razor sharp teeth.

When the first Archaeopteryx fossil was found in 1861, the discovery shook the scientific world. For the first time a possible link between reptiles and the ancestors of birds had been found.

Archaeopteryx behaviour

With fully feathered forelimbs and the characteristic wishbone of birds, Archaeopteryx was probably capable of limited true flight. Using its long legs, it could have run along the ground until it had enough momentum to launch itself into the air and then use its wings to maintain its flight.

It is likely that Archaeopteryx spent much of its time in trees, using the sharp claws on its feet and wings to climb into the canopy. It could have then used its wings to climb from branch to branch or swoop down to the ground.

 Archaeopteryx facts

It is generally believed that Archaeopteryx evolved from small, two-legged dinosaurs that began to climb trees

The excellent quality of Archaeopteryx fossils led to claims that they were a man-made hoax. Today there is now no doubt.

The name Archaeopteryx derives from the Greek word meaning 'ancient wing'.

Some scientists believe that modern-day birds are in fact dinosaurs, alive and thriving millions of years after their relatives became extinct.

No fossil birds have been found that lived in the 30 million years following Archaeopteryx.

What did Archaeopteryx eat?

Armed with a large, tooth-lined beak and long, well developed legs, Archaeopteryx was certainly not a plant eater. On the other hand, most dinosaurs at the time would have been too large for the relatively tiny Archaeopteryx to overpower, but it may have fed on small lizards.

However, insects were abundant during the Jurassic period, and so it is highly probable that they too provided part of their diet. Due to the Archaeopteryx's agility, insects such as beetles and small dragonflies could have been caught either on the ground, within the tree canopies, or even on the wing!

Archaeopteryx breeding

The Archaeopteryx with its obvious covering of feathers was almost certainly warm blooded. Consequently, unlike its near relatives the coelurosaurs, which probably abandoned their eggs in shallow holes in the ground, Archaeopteryx could have incubated its young in the same way as modern-day birds.

It seems likely that if Archaeopteryx did incubate eggs, it would have done so in a crude nest built on a rocky cliff-face or in a tree, so as to protect its young from predators.

Furthermore, unlike dinosaurs - which probably hatched as small, self-sufficient versions of their parents, it is likely that the young of Archaeopteryx would have emerged from their eggs without feathers again, like modern-day birds.

This would have made the young extremely vulnerable during the first few weeks, so it is probable that Archaeopteryx showed some degree of parental care as do most of today's birds.

For related articles click onto the following links:
DINOSAUR: Archaeopteryx
DINOSAUR: Did Pterosaurs hang upside down?
DINOSAUR: The Pterodactyl
TERRA NOVA - Dinosaur trailer


The African elephant is the largest and most powerful of all living land mammals. Essentially an animal of the open grassland, it is also sufficiently adaptable to live quite happily in a variety of habitats within its sub-Saharan homeland.

African elephant behavior

African elephants are social creatures with strong family ties. So close can these relationships be that they find it extremely difficult to leave a dead companion. In fact, like humans, African elephants will grieve over the loss of a family member, staying by the 'grave' for many hours after the death.

Female African elephants and their young (calves) live in family units, under the leadership of a mature female (the matriarch)  to whom every member of the group is related.

The young bull elephants are driven out of the family group when they reach puberty. They then join together to live in separate bachelor herds. Adult bulls live alone and are only briefly permitted to enter a family unit when a female member is ready to breed.

Although these African elephant herds may wander great distances, they are never too far away from water. As well as drinking, African elephants have a fondness for bathing which they like to enjoy every evening.

In the dry season, when many rivers would have dried up and water holes become evermore scarce, African elephants generally have to make do with a shower. This is achieved by sucking what water there is into their trunks, and squirting it over themselves.

After bathing they 'dust' their wet skin with dry soil. This coating of dust or mud then helps to protect their skin from the ceaseless and irritating attacks by biting insects. It also helps to keep their skin moist and protect them from the damaging effects of exposure to strong sunlight.

What do African elephants eat?

African elephants are entirely vegetarian, and eat a wide variety of grasses, foliage, small branches, twigs and various fruits. They tear at these, gathering them in their trunks, ready to stuff into their mouths.

The few teeth that African elephants have (four at any one time with around 6 replacements sets during its lifetime) are used to grind the food before swallowing.

Once the elephant has lost all of its teeth it will be unable to feed itself and will die of starvation - usually at about 70 years of age.

Not surprisingly, African elephants have enormous appetites and need a large intake of food to satisfy them. Nighttime and early morning and evening are favorite eating and drinking times, but African elephants will also happily graze whilst on the move. They are quite capable of snatching at clumps of grass and leaves without pausing in their stride, or reducing their speed of pace.


African elephants will mate when they are about 14 or 15 years old. Their courtship involves a display of affection between the cow and the bull in which they use their trunks to caress one another. Normally a single calf, weighing about 110 kg is born 22 months later.

The calf is suckled for at least two years - sometimes longer, and will remain as part of the family unit after the birth of the mother's next calf. A cow usually gives birth every four years and will often have two or three calves with her at the same time ranging from newborn to eight or even twelve years old.

The female African elephant will defend her young vigorously. In fact, if she feels that her calves are being threatened, she will charge at the intruder. As the calves grow older, then older females in the family will muck in and also help to look after them.

For related articles click onto the following links:


There are six subspecies of tiger in the world today, each living in different habitats around the world. Bengal tigers are the most numerous and their populations are concentrated in the mangrove forests of Eastern India and Bangladesh where the River Ganges pours out into the Bay of Bengal. They are also found in other areas of India as well as some parts of Nepal and Burma.

Tigers need a large home range in which to hunt. Within this they mark and defend territories which can be up to 100 sq km for a male tiger. As Bengal tigers are solitary animals and do not like to share their hunting grounds, even a small population requires a very large area in which to live and hunt successfully.

Usually, a tiger will have several dens in its home range and uses whichever den is most convenient at the time.

Tiger behaviour

A Bengal tiger is a solitary and nocturnal creature. In order to deter intruders, all Bengal tigers will mark their territory with strong smelling urine and secretions which serve as a warning to other, nearby tigers. Shredding the bark of trees is another way tigers mark their territory.

Tigers usually cover their faeces with earth. They will also drag the remains of a kill to a thicket and loosely bury it with leaves, then return to it later.

Despite their size, Bengal tigers can climb trees effectively, however, they are not as agile as the smaller leopard, which hides its kills from other predators in the trees. Bengal tigers are also strong and frequent swimmers, often ambushing drinking or swimming prey or chasing prey that has retreated into water. Bengal tigers also like to play and often engage in play-fighting.

Bengal tiger breeding

Bengal tigers usually breed in the spring. The female is visited in her home range by a male with a neighbouring home range.

During this time the female is only fertile for three to seven days. After mating, the male returns back to his home range subsequently playing no further part in rearing the cubs.

About 15 weeks later, the tigress will give birth to between two and four cubs. The cubs are born blind and will remain so for the first 10 days. The mother will suckel them for eight weeks, after which she will supplement their diet with small prey to eat as well.

After six months, the mother will leave them alone in the den for days at a time while she is hunting. When they are bigger, the tigress will take them hunting with her. At 11 months old, the young tigers can hunt alone and at 16 months they are strong enough to tackle large prey.

Bengal tiger conservation

Bengal tigers are now listed as an 'endangered species'. The current population of wild Bengal tigers in the Indian subcontinent is now estimated to be around 1300 - 1500. which is less than half of the previous estimation of 3000 - 4500 tigers.

Habitat loss and poaching are the main threats to the survival of the Bengal tiger subspecies. Poachers kill tigers not only for their fur, but also for ingredients to make various traditional East Asian medicines. Other factors contributing to their loss are the urbanization of their habitat and revenge killing. Revenge killing occurs as locals such as farmers who own livestock hunt down the tigers to prevent them from preying on their cattle. Poachers also kill tigers for their bones and teeth to make medicines that are alleged to endow them with the tigers strength.

For related articles click onto the following links:


Contrary to the belief of many men, humans do not possess the largest brain in the world, and while the average sized brain of a dolphin is indeed bigger than our own it is still 'small potatoes' when compared to the world's largest.

Brain size tends to vary according to body size, so you would think that the worlds biggest land animal, the elephant, would be in with a chance of the title.

Well compared to a human brain that weighs around 1.3 to 1.5 kg (3 lbs), it does well weighing in at just over 5 kg (11 lbs). The previously mentioned dolphin's brain will vary between 1.5 to 1.7 kg.

However, the world's largest brain actually belongs to a sea mammal. It is not the blue whale as you might expect being that it is the largest animal ever to have existed in the history of the planet! The largest brain in the world belongs to the amazing sperm whale.

The sperm whale doesn't just break records with regards to its brain size. A mature male sperm whale can grow to 20.5 metres (67 ft) long, which also makes it the largest living toothed animal in the world.

For large males, the head can represent up to one-third of the animal's length.

Sperm whales feed primarily on squid but to some extent on fish, diving as deep as 3 kilometres (9,800 ft), which also makes it the deepest diving mammal.

Even when communication to others, the sperm whale doesn't do things by half as the sperm whale's clicking vocalisation is the loudest sound produced by any animal.

The sperm whale can live for more than 70 years, and has a diet which includes giant squid and colossal squid.

This just reinforces what all old wives already believe, that a diet of seafood is indeed good for the brain!

For related articles click onto the following links:


The tiger is the largest big cat species in the world. More specifically the Siberian tiger, but together with the Caspian tiger and Bengal tiger subspecies they represent the largest living cats and rank among the biggest cats that have ever existed! So you would think that the question of '...what is the biggest tiger in the world...' has fully answered, but you would be wrong. Why? Because a rare hybrid can produced between a male lion (Panthera leo) and a tigress (Panthera tigris) and this lion/tiger progeny can grow to gigantic proportions!

The world's biggest cat

Hercules is a 900-pound-heavy, 6-feet-tall and 12-feet-long 'liger' who holds the Guinness World Record for being the world's largest cat.

Born from a lion father and tiger mother, Hercules has grown into an impressive creature, able to run at speeds of up to 50 mph and can eat 100 pounds of food in one sitting! Ligers are generally known to be rather fat and unhealthy cats, but Hercules is an exceptional specimen that has received the best genes from both feline species.

During a photo-shoot, Hercules’ handlers wanted to show his enormous size so they modelled him against some popular English symbols, like an old double-decker bus or a black cab. He is so large that he was actually able to climb the bus to receive a treat!

For related articles click onto the following links:


To call a tiger a tiger is a little misleading as today there are 6 subspecies that make up the tiger family as a whole. The Siberian tiger is the largest living cat in the world, with a grace and beauty to match. Sadly this magnificent creature is becoming an increasingly rare sight in the wild.

The exquisite grace and power of the Bengal tiger evokes both awe and fear. Capable of killing animals over twice its size, it is one of nature’s most feared predators. The South China Tiger, the Indochinese Tiger, the Sumatran Tiger, and the Malayan Tiger make up the rest. Sadly, there were 9 species of tiger previously known but the Bali, Javan, and Caspian tigers have all become extinct in the past 70 years.

Although scientists no longer classify tigers into subspecies, these names are still commonly used to describe "races" of tigers from different regions.

The Siberian Tiger

Despite the Siberian tiger’s power and acute senses, it has to dedicate a lot of time to hunting. This is because approximately only one in ten of its hunting forays are successful. The Siberian tiger mainly feeds on deer or wild pig, but surprisingly it is also known to eat fish!

Creeping to within 10-25 metres of its victim, the tiger will suddenly pounce and grab the prey by the back of its neck with its feet still planted firmly on the ground.

Small prey are killed by this bite to the neck, but larger prey are brought to the ground before being killed by a suffocating bite to the throat.

The other subspecies

The rest of the subspecies tigers hunt by stealth at night. Although powerful and fast over short distances, they cannot outrun fleet footed prey like deer.

A tiger will attack its prey from the side or the rear. Like the Siberian tiger, it will kill small prey with a bite to the back of the neck, and larger prey by a suffocating bite to the throat.

Game is the tigers favourite food. They will hunt wild ox and buffalo. An adult male ox can weigh 900 kg which is twice the weight of an average tiger. Although it is clearly capable of taking down such a beast, more often than not the tiger will attack young or old animals as they will put up less of a resistance.

In certain areas, the tigers prey is chital deer, wild boar, monkeys and lizards. Tigers will sometimes even attack porcupines. However, this can be very dangerous. Why? Because if any of the sharp quills become lodged in the face, eyes or paws they can cause infections which in extreme cases can result in death!

For related articles click onto the following links:


This year witnesses the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the titanic - the largest passenger steamship in the world at this time - which happened while on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York.

This terrible tragedy occurred on April 15, 1912, and resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people. This shipwreck also turned out to be one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. Why? Well, it was partly due to the shipping regulations of the time as the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people. Even so, a disproportionate number of men died due to the "women and children first" protocol that was enforced by the ship's crew. This procedure meant that many of the lifeboats ended up only being half filled. This was a tragedy in itself as since the sea was calm, it would have been safe to fill all boats to capacity and thereby rescue an additional 500 persons! Furthermore, only a few passengers were picked up from the water after the sinking out of fear of the boats being overfilled or capsizing.

However, incredible photographic evidence from Father Frank Browne has helped to bring this disaster to life and so the world is able to learn the story of the Titanic from his personal perspective.

A student of theology who later was to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest, Father Browne had been sent a ticket for the first leg of the maiden voyage of the Titanic, which went from Southampton to Cherbourg, France, to Queenstown, Ireland.

During this leg of the voyage, an American millionaire offered to pay for Father Browne's passage for the rest of the trip to New York! Luckily for him, upon being apprised of this offer, Browne's Jesuit superior cabled Queenstown saying - succinctly, "Get off that ship -- Provincial."

Browne's great collection of photographic negatives of the Titanic - and other subjects - lay forgotten for 25 years after his death. In 1986, the Rev. E.E. O'Donnell, another Jesuit, accidentally discovered it in a large metal trunk. He brought the negatives to the attention of the features editor of the London Sunday Times who called them:
"the photographic equivalent to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Luckily for Father Frank Browne, he didn't get to experience the horrors of what happened next!

The sinking of the Titanic - minute by minute.

At 11.40 pm (ship's time), lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg immediately ahead of Titanic and alerted the bridge. First Officer William Murdoch ordered the ship to be steered around the obstacle and the engines to be put in reverse, but it was too late. The starboard side of Titanic struck the iceberg, creating a series of holes below the waterline. Unbelievably, five of the ship's watertight compartments were breached, and it soon became clear that the ship was doomed. Why? Because she could not survive more than four compartments being flooded. The Titanic began to sink - bow-first, with water spilling from compartment to compartment as her angle in the water became steeper.

Those aboard Titanic were poorly-prepared for such a terrible emergency. There was only enough space in the lifeboats for a third of her maximum number of passengers and crew, and worse still, the crew had not been trained adequately in carrying out an evacuation. Furthermore, the officers did not know how many they could safely put aboard the lifeboats and launched many of them barely half-full. As the nightmare progressed, third-class passengers were largely left to fend for themselves, causing many of them to become trapped below decks as the ship filled with water. A "women and children first" protocol was put in place and  generally followed for the loading of the lifeboats and most of the male passengers and crew were left aboard.

Two hours and forty minutes after Titanic struck the iceberg, her rate of sinking suddenly increased as her forward deck dipped underwater and the sea poured in through open hatches and grates. As her unsupported stern rose out of the water the propellers became exposed. After this, the ship split apart between the third and fourth funnels due to the immense strain on the keel.

The severed bow section headed for the sea bed, while the stern remained afloat for a few minutes longer, rising to a nearly vertical angle with hundreds of people still clinging to it

 At 2.20 am, the stern sank, pitching the remaining passengers and crew into lethally cold water with a temperature of only 28 °F (−2 °C). Almost all of those in the water died of hypothermia or cardiac arrest within minutes. Incredibly, only 13 of them were helped into the lifeboats though these had room for almost 500 more occupants.

Distress signals were sent by wireless, rockets and lamp, but none of the ships that responded were near enough to reach her before she sank.

A nearby ship, the Californian, which was the last to have been in contact with her before the collision, saw her flares but failed to assist.

Around 4 am, RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene in response to Titanic's earlier distress calls. 710 people survived the disaster and were conveyed by Carpathia to New York, Titanic's original destination.

Another 1,517 people were lost, either drowning inside the sinking ship or freezing to death on the surface (kept from drowning by their lifebelts).

For related articles click onto the following links:
RMS TITANIC - Father Frank Browne's Photographs
TITANIC: The last radio transmissions

LONDON: Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge is one of the great iconic structures that London has to offer. Built during the affluent Victorian period following the industrial revolution, Tower Bridge also finely represents the ‘can do’ attitude and cutting edge engineering skills that Britain had to offer at that time.

The history of Tower Bridge

A Special Bridge or Subway Committee was formed in 1876, chaired by Sir Albert Joseph Altman, to find a solution to the river crossing problem. It opened the design of the crossing to public competition. Over 50 designs were submitted, including one from civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The evaluation of the designs was surrounded by controversy, and it wasn’t until 1884 that a design submitted by Sir Horace Jones, the City Architect (who was also one of the judges), was approved.

Jones' engineer, Sir John Wolfe Barry, devised the idea of a bascule bridge with two towers built on piers. The central span was split into two equal bascules or leaves, which could be raised to allow river traffic to pass. The two side-spans were suspension bridges, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge's upper walkways.

Two massive piers, containing over 70,000 tons of concrete, were sunk into the riverbed to support the construction. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. This was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland stone, both to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a pleasing appearance.

The bridge is 800 feet in length with two towers each 213 feet high, built on piers. The central span of 200 feet between the towers is split into two equal bascules or leaves, which can be raised to an angle of 83 degrees to allow river traffic to pass.

The bascules, weighing over 1,000 tons each, are counterbalanced to minimise the force required and allow the bascules to be raised in a relatively speedy five minutes.

The two side-spans are suspension bridges, each 270 feet long, with the suspension rods anchored both at the abutments and through rods contained within the bridge's upper walkways. The pedestrian walkways are 143 feet above the river at high tide.

Jones died in 1887 and George D. Stevenson took over the project. Stevenson replaced Jones's original brick fa├žade with the more ornate Victorian Gothic style, which makes the bridge a distinctive landmark, and was intended to harmonise the bridge with the nearby Tower of London.

The bridge was officially opened on 30 June 1894 by The Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), and his wife, The Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark). Once opened, the bridge connected Iron Gate, on the north bank of the river, with Horselydown Lane, on the south – now known as Tower Bridge Approach and Tower Bridge Road, respectively.

As majestic as it is, Tower Bridge also boasts a more seedy history. During the beginning of the 1900’s the high-level open air walkways between the towers gained an unpleasant reputation as a haunt for prostitutes and pickpockets. These walkways were seldom used by regular pedestrians, as they were only accessible by flights of stairs and were closed in 1910.

 In 1982 these flights of stairs were reopened as part of the Tower Bridge Exhibition. This exhibition is now housed in the bridge's twin towers, the high-level walkways and the Victorian engine rooms.

Why build Tower Bridge?

In the second half of the 19th century, increased commercial development in the East End of London led to a requirement for a new river crossing downstream of London Bridge.

A traditional fixed bridge could not be built because it would cut off access by tall-masted ships to the port facilities in the so called ‘Pool of London’ – the area between London Bridge and the Tower of London.

A close shave..!

 In December 1952, the bridge opened while a number 78 double-decker bus (stock number RT 793, registration plate JXC 156) was crossing from the south bank. During this period of the bridges history, the gateman would ring a warning bell and close the gates when the bridge was clear before the watchman ordered the lift.

Unfortunately, this routine process failed while a relief watchman was on duty. The bus was near the edge of the south bascule when it started to rise; driver Albert Gunter (possibly Gunton) made a split-second decision to accelerate, clearing a 3 ft gap to drop 6 ft onto the north bascule, which had not yet started to rise. There were no serious injuries.

Another close shave..!

On 5 April 1968, a Royal Air Force Hawker Hunter FGA.9 jet fighter from No. 1 Squadron flew through Tower Bridge piloted by Flt Lt Alan Pollock. Unimpressed that senior staff were not going to celebrate the RAF's 50th birthday with an authorised fly-past, Pollock decided to do something himself.

Without the RAF’s permission, Pollock flew the Hunter at low altitude down the Thames, past the Houses of Parliament, and continued on towards Tower Bridge. He flew the Hunter beneath the bridge walkway, remarking later that it was an afterthought when he saw the bridge looming ahead of him. Pollock was placed under arrest upon landing, and discharged from the RAF on medical grounds without the chance to defend himself at a court martial.

True or false..?

Tower Bridge is often mistakenly called London Bridge; however the true London Bridge is in fact the next bridge up river. Be that as it may, there is a popular urban legend that relates to this very case of ‘mistaken identity’. It is said that in 1968, Robert McCulloch - the purchaser of the old London Bridge that was later shipped to Lake Havasu City, Arizona - believed that he was actually buying Tower Bridge. This was denied by McCulloch himself and was later debunked by the vendor of the bridge - Ivan Luckin. Sounds a bit fishy to me, but what do you think?

For related articles click onto the following links:
LONDON: The London Eye
LONDON: The Tower of London
LONDON: Tower Bridge