The polar bear is arguably the most impressive and iconic mammals of the arctic tundra. Unfortunately, due to a combination of hunting, loss of habitat, increased pressure from an expanding local human population, global warming and the associated melting of the ice caps and accidental poisoning, polar bear numbers are now in decline.

This problem is exacerbated as polar bears have low reproduction rates, but before we can address, and hopefully arrest the decline in polar bear numbers we need to know as much as we can about their behaviour and habitats.

Polar bear facts

1. The polar bear is only found in the Arctic region of the northern hemisphere, and NOT AT ALL in the Antarctic region of the southern hemisphere.

2. The polar bear is not only the world's largest land carnivore, it is also the world's largest bear! An adult male weighs around 350–680 kg (770–1,500 lb), while an adult female is about half that size. This make a large male twice as big as the Siberian tiger!

3. The polar bear is classified as a vulnerable species, with eight of the nineteen polar bear subpopulations in decline.

4. The scientific name Ursus maritimus, the Latin for 'maritime bear', due to the animal's native habitat.

5. Polar bears can breed with brown bears to produce fertile grizzly–polar bear hybrids. This indicates that they have only recently diverged and are genetically similar.

6. Research on fossilised bones has shown that there is a giant form of the polar bear once roamed the arctic. Known as Ursus maritimus tyrannus it became extinct during the Pleistocene, and was significantly larger than any living subspecies.

7. Polar bears overheat at temperatures above 10 °C (50 °F), and are nearly invisible under infrared photography.

8. Polar bears are superbly insulated by up to 10 cm (3.9 in) of blubber!

9. The polar bear is an excellent swimmer. In fact they have been seen in open Arctic waters as far as 200 miles from land. It swims in a dog paddle fashion using its large forepaws for propulsion. Polar bears can swim 6 mph.

10. The skin of a polar bear is black while the hair of a polar bear is not white! It is in fact transparent and hollow!

11. When sprinting, a polar bear can reach up to 25 mph!

12. The polar bear has an extremely well developed sense of smell, and is able to detect seals up to 1 mile away and buried under 3 ft of snow.

13. Mature polar bears tend to eat only the calorie-rich skin and blubber of the seal, whereas younger bears consume the protein-rich red meat.

14. A polar bear can kill an adult walrus, although this is rarely attempted. Why? Because a walrus can be more than twice the bear's weight and has up to three feet long ivory tusks that can be used as formidable weapons.

15. Unlike brown and black bears, polar bears are capable of fasting for up to several months during late summer and early autumn.

16. As of 2008, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) reports that the global population of polar bears is 20,000 to 25,000, and is declining.

17. The Inuit (Eskimo) people of North America and Greenland hunt the polar bear for its meat and fur. However, they cannot eat its liver. Why? Because its holds such a high content of vitamin A, polar bear liver is poisonous to humans!

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What is watercress?

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale, N. microphyllum; formerly Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum, R. microphylla) are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plants. Their natural habitat ranges from Europe to central Asia, and it is one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings. These plants are members of the Family Brassicaceae or cabbage family, botanically related to garden cress, mustard and radish — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavour.

History tells us that the ancient European civilizations had great faith in the health giving properties that watercress had to offer. In fact, Hippocrates - the Father of modern medicine - is said to have deliberately located his first hospital beside a stream so that he could grow a plentiful and convenient supply of watercress with which to help treat his patients.

What is watercress?
Through the latter half of the twentieth century the popularity of watercress had been falling, mainly due to increased competition from imported and more exotic ‘fresh produce’. However since its identification as a ‘superfood’, watercress has been experiencing something of a revival and has now become one of the most popular salad crops available today.

Brimming with more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals and packed full of beneficial glucosinolates, watercress contains- gram for gram - more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folic acid than bananas.

However what really makes watercress a ‘super food’ is the release of recent research which shows that eating watercress regularly can help cut the chances of developing cancer.

The University of Ulster has published a report in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’ that suggests a regular intake of fresh watercress can significantly reduce DNA damage to white blood cells within the human body. In fact, they found that DNA damage to white blood cells was cut by an incredible 22.9%. This is a terribly important find, especially as white blood cell damage is considered to be an important trigger in the development of cancer.

In addition to this, watercress also appears to raise the levels of beneficial compounds within human cells allowing them to protect themselves from the damaging effects of particles known as ‘free radicals’.

When cell samples were exposed to hydrogen peroxide – a highly reactive substance which is used to generates large numbers of free radicals within the body - damage levels were found to be 9.4% lower than would normally be expected. In addition to this, the research found that the blood levels of antioxidant compounds, such as lutein and beta-carotene (naturally occurring chemicals important in combating the effect of free radicals) were also increased significantly. In contrast, levels of potentially harmful triglycerides were reduced by an average of 10%.

With important discoveries such as these being discovered within one of the cheapest and easiest to grow salad plants that you can find, you would be foolish not to include watercress as a part of your everyday meal plan. Not only can it help reduce the incidence of this country's number 1 killer, it actually tastes good too.

Main image credit - HealthAliciouNess.com https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

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The lion is the largest and most powerful of all the African big cats, in fact with some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, there is only one species of cat larger – the tiger!

Unlike most other members of the cat family, the lion is a social animal living in a family group known as a ‘pride’. A pride can hold between 16 and 30 members. Lions are apex predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so. Those that do are given the name 'Man Killer' and are hunted until they are caught and killed by locals.

Sleeping mainly during the day, lions are primarily nocturnal, although bordering on crepuscular in nature. This means that they are active primarily during dawn and dusk.

Some prides included a single male, while others can have up to 6 males. Where a pride has more than one male lion, they are probably litter mates or have established a permanent bond as siblings.

Nowadays, wild lions only remain in remote areas which have yet to be developed by man.

Where do lions live?

Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India. Unfortunately, lion populations disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. A small population was once believed to have survived in remote parts if Iran, but these too are now thought to be extinct.

Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. In fact, they were once found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from Western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.

Unfortunately today, the lion has become a species at risk, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over the past two decades in its African range.

This means that lion populations are now next to untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.


A lioness will produce a litter of cubs about every two years. Shortly before giving birth, she chooses a suitable site for her lair, which must be sheltered, close to water, out of sight, and safe from potential predators. The cubs are born blind, with a spotted coat. For two months they are completely dependent on their mother’s milk.

At six weeks they begin to accompany their mother to the kill, where they acquire a taste of meat and learn how to hunt. A lion cub cannot tear meat until it has permanent teeth - usually produced once it has reached about one year old, so it continues to rely on its mother for food. Slowly the cubs will master the art of hunting and by 15 months the cubs will be able to catch and kill small prey.

When the cubs reach two years of age, their mother is usually pregnant again and they are forced to leave her. However, some female cubs may be allowed to stay in the pride, but the dominant male will drive out all the male cubs. Less than half the young lion survive their first few weeks alone .

What do Lions eat?

Lionesses usually hunt for the pride which is probably why they are more aggressive by nature. However, the male lion will always take precedence at the kill, dragging the prey in to the shade, then gorging himself before the females and cubs begin to eat.

The male lion usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt. Typically, several lionesses work together and encircle the herd from different points. Once they have closed with a herd, they usually target the closest prey. The attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap. The prey usually is killed by strangulation, which can cause cerebral ischemia or asphyxia (which results in hypoxia, or "general" hypoxia). The prey also may be killed by the lion enclosing the animal's mouth and nostrils in its jaws which would also result in asphyxia. Smaller prey, though, may simply be killed by a swipe of a lion's paw.

However, lions are not particularly known for their stamina—for instance, a lioness' heart makes up only 0.57 percent of her body weight (a male's is about 0.45 percent of his body weight), whereas a hyena's heart is close to 1 percent of its body weight. Therefore, they only run fast in short bursts, and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around 30 metres (98 ft) or less.

The lions preferred prey are wildebeest and zebra which are slower and easier to catch than small antelopes and gazelles.

When water is scarce, lions will often lie in wait close to a water hole, knowing that its prey will eventually go there to drink.

When prey is scarce, lions will then eat almost anything, including carrion. They may even attack larger prey such as giraffe, buffalo, and hippopotamus. They are have also been known to take on elephants and rhinoceros, but this is rare due to the danger of injury.

Of course, lions will also attack domestic livestock. In India, cattle contribute significantly to their diet. Lions are also quite capable of killing other predators such as leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs, though unlike most big cats, they will seldom eat the competitors after killing them.

A lion may gorge itself and eat up to 66 lb in one sitting, and if it is unable to consume all the kill it will rest for a few hours before consuming more. An adult lioness requires an average of about 11 lb of meat per day, while a male needs about 15.5 lb.

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Lion Facts


Perhaps most identified with the welcoming floral wreaths of the Pacific islands, Hibiscus are in fact a huge and varied family containing 300 species of hardy and tender annuals, evergreens and deciduous shrubs. Of these, three tender evergreen are in general cultivation, but in Great Britain they will require protection so should be treated as houseplants.

Native to much of Asia, hardy hibiscus has been been grown as a garden shrub in Korea since time immemorial. In fact, it has become the national flower of South Korea where its flowers are eaten and the leaves are brewed for a tisane - whatever that is (fancy herbal tea apparently)!

For general hardiness, the strongest species is Hibiscus syriacus and luckily for gardeners, this species comes in at least a couple of dozen colour forms. These include double flowered forms as well as some varieties which display variegated leaves!

How to grow tender Hibiscus

The most popular species is the gorgeous, evergreen Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, but unfortunately is not hardy. If you can expect winter temperatures of no less that 7-10 degrees Celsius then it can be planted outside in any ordinary well-drained garden.

Give them a sheltered position, with as much sun as possible. You can of course choose to grow it as a container specimen, in which case plant into a good quality compost such as John Innes 'No 2' or 'No 3'.

When over-wintering, try to maintain a minimum temperature of 7-10 degrees Celsius, and the soil moist, but don't be surprised if you begin to experience leaf-drop.

However the foliage will remain when temperatures can be kept above 16 degrees Celsius. Just keep the compost on the moist side in these warmer temperature and you can expect your plant to continue to flower. If temperatures exceed 21 degrees Celsius then provide plenty of ventilation.

How to grow the hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus syriacus and its numerous varieties will thrive in any well drained, fertile soil. Fertile is the key here as this species is incredibly hungry. Even the spring new growth will emerge looking nitrogen deficient so regularly top dress with a rich compost. Failing that, give them a regular liquid feed.

If your hibiscus plant is container grow then it can be planted at ant time, just be aware that you will need to keep an eye on the watering if you decide to plant during the height of summer.

Plant in a sheltered border, but make sure that it is in a position that takes full advantage of the sun. As hardy hibiscus are late flowering, it is advisable to protect them further by growing them against a wall or the side of a house in northern gardens.

Once established, there is no need to prune your hardy hibiscus, but long shoots can be trimmed back after flowering.

Be aware that drought conditions and low night temperatures can cause bud drop.

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There can be no question as to which is the most spectacular of all the carnivorous plants - the Venus flytrap. Related to the ‘Sundews’, it is the only species within this family that has evolved such an elaborate trapping mechanism.

It has narrow, green leaves that are formed into the shape of a rosette that extend from the base of the plant. Each leaf is prolonged into two reddish, kidney shaped lobes that are hinged on either side of a mid-rib.

The outer margin of each lobe is fringed by a line of spikes and just beneath them is a band of nectar glands. If you look closely you can also see a few isolated hairs on each lobe, and these are the triggers that are waiting to set the trap!

An insect that is attracted to the nectar can move around the upper surface of the lobe with absolute impunity, in fact ‘knocking' into one of these trigger hairs will cause the plant to do precisely nothing! However, if the creature touches the same or another hair in the lobe within a 20 second timescale, the trap will shut with such a speed that few, if any, insects will have a chance of escape.

It takes no more than a third of a second for the trap to close on its prey. Exactly what produces this speed of movement is unknown, but it is thought to be instigated by some rudimentary electric impulse.

.Although the line of spikes found on each lobe interlocks neatly, they do not close tightly on the initial movement, it is only when the trapped insect thrashes around inside its makeshift prison that more trigger hairs are activated - stimulating the lobes to close so tightly that the bulge of the insect's body can often be seen on the outer surfaces of the closed lobes.

Once the prey is secured, the edges of the lobes will begin to form a hermetic seal and inside the trap digestive juices rich in hydrochloric acid seep from glands on the face of the lobes – dissolving the body of its captive and releasing its valuable nutrients.

It takes about ten days for the trap to fully digest the vital nutrients from its captives body, after which it is reduced to little more than a dry husk.

The trap then reopens, ready for its next victim.

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TITANIC: The last radio transmissions

On the night the Titanic struck an iceberg, a network of wireless operators on ships and land stations frantically communicated with each other across the expanses of the North Atlantic in an effort to mount a rescue mission. The surviving messages from a real-time record of the events of that night.

Luckily for us, a first-hand, real-time record exists of what happened over that terrible night in April 1912.

Unlike in the Hollywood films of the tragedy, these wireless messages are stoically understated. Copied out in neat copperplate handwriting, and kept on the ships that had been in contact with Titanic, they are the actual words of the crew and passengers.

The Marconi Wireless

Wireless was still a relatively young technology at the time of the Titanic's maiden voyage.

The Marconi company - the Edwardian equivalent of a top technology brand - had put its wireless operators on board some of the more prestigious ships.

The Titanic, as the showcase of an ambitious, optimistic era, had the biggest and best wireless equipment in the world. It was still something of a novelty and much of the initial wireless traffic was from first class passengers sending messages to their friends, rather like text messages showing off about a glamorous trip.

"Hello Boy. Dining with you tonight in spirit, heart with you always. Best love, Girl," read one message sent on to New York, the Titanic's intended destination.

A message sent on to Los Angeles said: "No sickness. All well. Notify all interested in poker."

"Fine voyage, fine ship," wrote another, unaware of the awful irony of how that might later sound.

The wireless operators sending these messages were independent young men of the modern age, who had been recruited with the promise of escaping "blind alley careers".

They chatted to wireless operators in other ships in a jaunty, mock public school slang, calling each other "old man".

As well as letting passengers send personal messages, they provided the first wireless news service for ships. News headlines of the day were concentrating on industrial unrest on the railways and a high-profile murder in France.

However the wireless was also beginning to be used for more serious purposes. Ships would give each other safety information and before the infamous disaster the Titanic received detailed advice about the location of icebergs - or "bergs, growlers and field ice" as one ship's captain described them. Unfortunately investigations after the sinking would never satisfactorily establish why these warnings had been ignored.

The senior wireless operator, Jack Phillips, had still been sending passengers' messages when the ship struck an iceberg. The collision was described as sounding like the tearing of calico.

With only enough room in the lifeboats for half the passengers and crew, the Titanic's captain turned to his only lifeline - the wireless - and asked the two Marconi operators to call for assistance.


Wireless operators originally used Marconi's "CQD" distress signal. "CQ" was the signal to stop transmission and pay attention. The "D" was added to signal distress. In 1906 the International Radiotelegraph Convention in Berlin created the signal "SOS" for summoning assistance. The letters were chosen for their simplicity in Morse Code - three dots, three dashes and three dots. While the "SOS" superseded "CQD" in 1908, the Marconi operators rarely used it. It became standard after the sinking of the Titanic.

The distress signal used by Marconi operators - CQD - boomed out over the Atlantic. The wireless operators joked they may as well also try another new distress signal that had been introduced - SOS - because they might never get a chance to use it again.

While the lifeboats were lowered, with awful goodbyes between husbands, wives and children, the wireless operators stuck to their task.

While these are not every wireless message to go from or to the Titanic, they are the most pertinent to the tragedy which befell the ship:

The Titanic's last wireless transmissions

1.40 p.m.
14 April 1912
S.S. Baltic to R.M.S. Titanic:
"Captain Smith, Titanic. Have had moderate variable winds and clear fine weather since leaving. Greek steamer Athinai reports passing icebergs and large quantity of field ice today in latitude 41.51 N, longitude 49.52 W. Last night we spoke (with) German oil tanker Deutschland, Stettin to Philadelphia, not under control, short of coal; latitude 40.42 N, longitude 55.11 W. Wishes to be reported to New York and other steamers. Wish you and "Titanic" all success".

7.30 p.m.
14 April 1912
S.S. Antillian to R.M.S. Titanic:
"6.30 p.m., apparent time, ship; latitude 42.3 N, longitude 49.9 W. Three large bergs five mile to southward of us".

9.30 p.m.
14 April 1912
S.S. Mesaba to R.M.S. Titanic and All Eastbound Ships:
"Ice report: In latitude 42 N to 41.25 N, longitude 49 W to 50.3 W. Saw much heavy pack ice and great number of large icebergs, also field ice. Weather good, clear".

9.35 p.m.
14 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to S.S. Mesaba:
"Received, thanks".

9.38 p.m.
14 April 1912
S.S. Mesaba to R.M.S. Titanic:
"Stand by".
(Stanley Adams, on the S.S. 'Mesaba', was waiting for the Titanic to indicate the message had been given to the captain. Jack Phillips did not respond, but continued to send passenger messages to Cape Race.)

11.00 p.m. (approx)
14 April 1912
R.M.S. Californian to R.M.S. Titanic:
"Say, old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice".

11.10 p.m. (approx)
14 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Californian:
Keep out! Shut up, shut up! I am busy, I am working Cape Race.

11.15 p.m. (approx)
14 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to Cape Race, Newfoundland:
"Sorry, please repeat. Jammed".

Between 11.35 and 11.45 p.m. (most likely the latter) Captain Smith informed Phillips and Bride that the ship had hit an iceberg, and to prepare a distress call. The captain returned at 12.15 a.m. and told them to send it.

12.15 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to Any Ship:
"CQD Titanic 41.44 N 50.24 W"
(CQD was the contemporary distress signal, though soon, the new distress signal would be put to use for the very first time).

12.17 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to Any Ship:
"CQD CQD SOS Titanic Position 41.44 N 50.24 W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking".

(SOS was the first use of the new distress signal. So far, two ships had responded to the Titanic's distress call. They included the 'Frankfurt', nearly 170 miles away, and the 'Olympic', nearly 500 miles away.)

12.20 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Carpathia:
"Come at once. We have struck a berg. It's a CQD, old man. Position 41.46 N 50.14 W"

12.21 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Carpathia to R.M.S. Titanic:
"I say old man, do you know there is a batch of messages coming through for you from MCC (MCC indicated Cape Cod) ?"

12.22 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Carpathia:

12.25 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Carpathia to R.M.S. Titanic:
"Shall I tell my captain? Do you require assistance?"

12.26 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Carpathia:
"Yes, come quick!"

12.32 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Carpathia to R.M.S. Titanic:
"Putting about and heading for you".

12.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Carpathia:
"SOS Titanic sinking by the head. We are about all down. Sinking. . ."

From 12.40 a.m. until the final message was sent from the Titanic sometime between
2.15 a.m. and 2.25 a.m. the Titanic, the 'Carpathia' and other ships kept a steady stream of messages, updating their progress and Titanic's condition.

The Titanic continued to send out general CQD and SOS messages, in the chance that there might be a closer ship.

12.45 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic calls 'Olympic', (sister ship - 500 miles away en route to England) "SOS" (first use of SOS by Titanic - Bride jokingly suggests to Phillips that it may be his last chance to use the new distress call).

12.50 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic calls CQD and says, "I require immediate assistance. Position 41.46 N. 50.14 W." Received by 'Celtic'.

12.53 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Caronia' to MBC ('Baltic'), "MGY (Titanic) CQD in 41.46 N. 40.14 W. Wants immediate assistance".

1.00 a.m.
15 April 1912
MGY (Titanic) gives distress signal. DDC ('Cincinnati') replies. MGY's (Titanic) position 41.46 N. 50.14 W. Assistance from DDC ('Cincinnati') not necessary as MKC ('Olympic') shortly afterwards answers distress call.

1.00 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic replies to 'Olympic' and gives her position as 41.46 N. 50.14 W., and says, "We have struck an iceberg".

1.02 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic calls 'Asian' and said, "Want immediate assistance". 'Asian' answered at once and received Titanic's position as 41.46 N. 50.14 W., which was immediately taken to the bridge. Captain Smith instructs operator to have Titanic's position repeated.

1.02 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' calls Titanic but gets no response. Cape Race tells 'Virginian' to report to his Captain that the Titanic has struck iceberg and requires immediate assistance.

1.10 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic to MKC ('Olympic'), "We are in collision with berg. Sinking Head down. 41.46 N. 50.14 W. Come soon as possible".

1.10 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic to MKC ('Olympic'), Captain says, "Get your boats ready. What is your position?"

1.15 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' to 'Caronia', "Please tell Titanic we are making towards her".

1.20 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' hears MCE (Cape Race) inform MGY (Titanic) "That we are going to her assistance. Our position 170 miles N. of Titanic".

1.25 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Caronia' tells Titanic, "Baltic coming to your assistance".

1.27 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Olympic' sends position to Titanic, "1.24 a.m. G.M.T. 40.52 N. 61.18 W", and asks "Are you steering southerly to meet us?" Titanic replies, "We are putting the women off in the boats".

1.30 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic tells 'Olympic', "We are putting passengers off in small boats." "Women and children in boats, can not last much longer".

1.35 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Olympic' asks Titanic what weather she had. Titanic replies, "Clear and calm".

1.35 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' hears Titanic say, "Engine room getting flooded." (Captain Smith had just visited the Titanic's radio room and advised this to Phillips and Bride).

1.35 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Mount Temple' hears DFT ('Frankfurt') ask, "Are there any boats around you already?" No reply.

1.37 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' tells Titanic, "We are rushing to you".

1.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Olympic' to Titanic, "Am lighting up all possible boilers as fast as (we) can".

1.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
Cape Race says to 'Virginia', "Please tell your Captain this: "The 'Olympic' is making all speed for Titanic, but her ('Olympic) position is 40.32 N. 61.18 W. You are much nearer to Titanic. The Titanic is already putting women off in the boats, and she says the weather there is calm and clear. The 'Olympic' is the only ship we have heard say, "Going to the assistance of the Titanic. The others must be a long way from the Titanic".

1.45 a.m.
15 April 1912
Last signals heard from Titanic by 'Carpathia', "Come as quickly as possible old man: our engine-room is filling up to the boilers".

1.45 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Mount Temple' hears 'Frankfurt' calling Titanic. No reply.

1.47 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Caronia' hears Titanic though signals unreadable still.

1.48 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Asian' heard Titanic call SOS. 'Asian' answers Titanic but receives no answer.
DFT ('Frankfurt') calls Titanic and says, "What is the matter with u ?"

1.50 a.m.
15 April 1912
Titanic says to 'Frankfurt', "You are a fool, stdbi - stdbi - stdbi and keep out".
'Caronia' hears 'Frankfurt' working to Titanic. 'Frankfurt' according to position 172 miles from MGY (Titanic) at time first SOS sent out.

1.55 a.m.
15 April 1912
Cape Race says to 'Virginian', "We have not heard Titanic for about half an hour. Her power may be gone".

2.00 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' hears Titanic calling very faintly, her power being greatly reduced.

2.10 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' hears 2 V's signalled faintly in spark similar to Titanic's (Phillips adjusting his transmitter to compensate for the dying power supply from the engine room).

2.17 a.m.
15 April 1912
Virginian hears Titanic, call "CQ" (call to all ships) , but unable to read him. Titanic's signals end very abruptly as power suddenly switched off.
(Phillips had actually intended to send "CQD DE MGY", however at this point there is a loss of all power to the radio room - water can be heard flooding the wheelhouse - Phillips says to Bride "Come on, let's clear out". Bride climbs to the roof of the officer's quarters and assist with launching collapsible Lifeboat B - Phillips disappears aft).

Sometime between 2.15 a.m. and 2.25 a.m.
15 April 1912
The final wireless message sent from the Titanic:
R.M.S. Titanic to R.M.S. Carpathia: "SOS SOS CQD CQD Titanic. We are sinking fast. Passengers are being put into boats. Titanic."

Bride and Phillips left the wireless room after that message, after being urged to leave their post by Captain Smith. They made their way to the Boat-Deck and began trying to help the other men in the releasing of collapsible Lifeboat B. While neither of them immediately made it onto a lifeboat, both were rescued from the sea. Bride's feet were so severely frozen he could not walk. Phillips died of hypothermia on or near Collapsible lifeboat B, his body was never recovered.

2.17 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' called Titanic and suggested he should try emergency set, but heard no response.

2.20 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Virginian' to 'Olympic', "Have you heard anything about Titanic?" 'Olympic' says, "No. Keeping strict watch, but hear nothing more from Titanic. No reply from her".

2.20 a.m. (approx)
15 April 1912
This was the official time the Titanic foundered in 41.46 N. 50.14 W. as given by the 'Carpathia' in message to the 'Olympic'.

Between 2.20 a.m. and 9.00 a.m. April 15th, the 'Carpathia' and the other ships kept a steady stream of messages, updating their progress to reach the Titanic's last known position in order to rescue the survivors of the sinking in that "Fateful Night".

2.35 a.m.
15 April 1912
Mount Temple hears MPA ('Carpathia') send, "If you are there we are firing rockets".

2.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
MPA ('Carpathia') calling MGY (Titanic).

2.58 a.m.
15 April 1912
SBA ('Birma') thinks she hears Titanic so sends, "Steaming full speed for you. Shall arrive you 6.00 in morning. Hope you are safe. We are only 50 miles now".

3.00 a.m.
15 April 1912
MPA ('Carpathia') calling MGY (Titanic).

3.28 a.m.
15 April 1912
'La Provence' to 'Celtic', "Nobody has heard the Titanic for about 2 hours".

4.24 a.m.
15 April 1912
SBA ('Birma') says, "We are 30 miles S.W. off Titanic".

6.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Parisian' hears weak signals from MPA ('Carpathia') or some station saying Titanic struck iceberg. 'Carpathia' has passengers from lifeboats.

6.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Asian', with German oil tank in tow for Halifax asked what news of MGY (Titanic). Sends service (message) later saying heard MGY (Titanic) V. faint working.

7.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Mount Temple' hears MPA ('Carpathia') report rescued lifeboats.

8.07 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' sends following to 'Carpathia', "Can I be of any assistance to you as regards taking some of the passengers from you? Will be in position about 4.30 p.m. Let me know if you alter your position".

8.10 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' in communication with MPA ('Carpathia'), "Exchanged traffic re passengers, and get instructions to proceed to Liverpool".

8.15 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Baltic' turns round for Liverpool, having steamed 134 miles W. towards Titanic.

8.40 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Mount Temple' hears MPA ('Carpathia') call "CQ" (message to all ships) and say, "No need to std. Bi (stand by) him. Advise my Captain (sic), who has been cruising round the icefield with no result. Ship reversed".

8.45 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Olympic' sent MSG (message) to Owners, New York via Sable Island saying, "Have not communicated with Titanic since midnight".

8.55 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Carpathia' replies to 'Baltic', "Am proceeding to Halifax or New York full speed. You had better proceed to Liverpool. Have about 700 passengers on board".

9.00 a.m.
15 April 1912
'Carpathia' to 'Virginian', "We are leaving here with all on board about 700 passengers. Please return to your Northern course".

The Carpathia now heads for New York where she will arrive at 9.00 p.m. on the evening of April 18th with aboard the 705 survivors.

The survivors

Afterwards, the wireless became the only way for survivors to contact their families.

"Meet me dock with two hundred dollars, underwear, cap, big coat - am well but slightly frozen," messaged one survivor from the Carpathia rescue ship.

"Completely destitute, no clothes," said one another. Words cost money - and a masterpiece of brevity reported: "Safe, Bert."

These poignant, first-hand reactions to the disaster had been gathered in an archive by John Booth, a Titanic historian and expert on old prints. But many were sold off at auction in the early 1990s.

Jack Phillips did not survive the sinking. But his heroism, staying at his post after being released from his duty by the captain, became an enduring part of the Titanic story.

Not least because one of the most influential templates for all future Titanic stories came from Harold Bride, his junior wireless operator.

Bride survived on an upturned lifeboat and then sold his story to the New York Times. His story was a global media sensation, setting the tone of heroic self sacrifice, with the first accounts of the band playing while the ship sank, with tales of selflessness and cowardice.

And he commemorated the role of Jack Phillips, unflinching, even when he knew better than anyone else that there was no chance of a rescue ship arriving in time.

"I will never live to forget the work of Phillips during the last awful 15 minutes," said Bride.
"I suddenly felt a great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody else was raging about."

RMS TITANIC - Father Frank Browne's Photographs
TITANIC: The last radio transmissions

GREEK HISTORY: Who was Archimedes?

Archimedes was a Greek mathematician, philosopher and inventor who wrote important works on geometry, arithmetic and mechanics. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. He used the method of exhaustion to calculate the area under the arc of a parabola with the summation of an infinite series, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of pi. He also defined the spiral bearing his name, formulae for the volumes of surfaces of revolution and an ingenious system for expressing very large numbers.

Archimedes was born in Syracuse on the eastern coast of Sicily, (287 BC – c. 212 BC) and educated in Alexandria in Egypt. He then returned to Syracuse, where he spent most of the rest of his life, devoting his time to research and experimentation in many fields.

Archimedes inventions

In mechanics he defined the principle of the lever and is credited with inventing the compound pulley and the hydraulic screw for raising water from a lower to higher level. He is most famous for discovering the law of hydrostatics, sometimes known as 'Archimedes' principle', stating that a body immersed in fluid loses weight equal to the weight of the amount of fluid it displaces.

Archimedes is supposed to have made this discovery when stepping into his bath, causing him to exclaim 'Eureka!'

Archimedes weapons of war

During the Roman conquest of Sicily in 214 BC Archimedes worked for the state, and several of his mechanical devices were employed in the defence of Syracuse. Among the war machines attributed to him are the catapult and - perhaps legendary - a mirror system for focusing the sun's rays on the invaders' boats and igniting them. This 'heat ray' is believed to have worked by using a large array of highly polished bronze or copper shields acting collectively as a parabolic reflector to focus sunlight onto a ship.

A test of the Archimedes heat ray was carried out in 1973 by the Greek scientist Ioannis Sakkas. The experiment took place at the Skaramagas naval base outside Athens. On this occasion 70 mirrors were used, each with a copper coating and a size of around five by three feet (1.5 by 1 m). The mirrors were pointed at a plywood mock-up of a Roman warship at a distance of around 160 feet (50 m).

When the mirrors were focused accurately, the ship burst into flames within a few seconds. The plywood ship had a coating of tar paint, which may have aided combustion. This coating of tar would have been commonplace on ships in the classical era.

After Syracuse was captured, Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier. It is said that he was so absorbed in his calculations he told his killer not to disturb him.

In conclusion

Unlike his inventions, the mathematical writings of Archimedes were little known in antiquity.

Mathematicians from Alexandria read and quoted him, but the first comprehensive compilation was not made until c. 530 AD.

Likewise, relatively few copies of Archimedes' written work survived through the Middle Ages. However, those that did were an influential source of ideas for scientists during the Renaissance.

Furthermore, the discovery in 1906 of previously unknown works by Archimedes in the Archimedes Palimpsest has provided new insights into how he obtained his complex mathematical results.

For related articles click onto the following links:
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ATHENS: Tower of the Winds
Who was Archimedes?


How to grow blueberries
How to grow blueberries

Blueberries are a fruit rich in health promoting benefits. So many in fact that it is considered by many to be a 'super food'! To reinforce this belief research from the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center has found that blueberries can reduce belly fat, and lower the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

How to grow blueberries
How to grow blueberries
Furthermore, a study published in the 2009 Experimental Biology conference has also found that a diet rich in blueberries results in lowers cholesterol levels, improve glucose control and insulin sensitivity, and lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes. So knowing this, how can you not include blueberries as part of your normal diet?

For those of you who love to eat fruit and have yet to discover the flavoursome, goodness of freshly picked blueberries you may be interested to know that growing blueberry plants is relatively simple and inexpensive. And don't forget, you cannot get a better quality fruit than that you have just picked of the plant yourself.

So, just how do you grow a blueberry bush?

How to grow blueberries
How to grow blueberries
Growing blueberries is really easy and can produce great results. All you need is a light, free-draining acidic soil. However to get the best out of crop it is well worth adding plenty of rich, organic matter.

Native to North America, they prefer a nice sunny or semi shaded position, but if you soil is not acidic you will still have a couple of options.

Firstly you can 'acidify' your soil by digging in sulphur chips or dust. However, they'll need to be added three weeks before planting for it to take effect. If this is not an option then dig in plenty of good quality ericaceous compost and water in sequestered iron.

Alternatively you can try growing blueberries in containers using an ericaceous compost mix.

One top tip to remember is that like all acid loving plants, blueberries are best watered with rainwater whenever possible as tap water can make the compost more alkaline over time.

Pruning blueberry plants

Blueberry bushes don’t really require a lot of attention. But to ensure that your plant remains productive over many years you will need to prune them each spring around February or March, while the plant is still dormant.

How to grow blueberries
How to grow blueberries
Pruning blueberries is really straight forward once you know what you are trying to achieve. The idea is to ensure that your plant always has a good selection of productive young red stems with plenty of fat fruiting buds.

These buds are much rounder than the vegetative buds so you can easily tell which stems will produce the most fruit. It’s the two year old wood that is most productive.

Cut back the just very oldest stems to ground level each year to encourage new stems to be produced - creating a constant process of rejuvenation.

While you are pruning you should also aim to trim out any dead or damaged stems to help create a healthy open framework. Blueberries tend to send out some low horizontal stems close to the ground and these can also be pruned out too.

With regular pruning your highbush blueberry plants should remain productive for many years producing delicious fruit every summer. And with its attractive flowers and glorious autumn foliage your blueberry plant will make a stunning feature in your garden too!

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If you are unfortunate enough to have not been born in the green and pleasant land that is known to all as England, then your first thoughts of Her Royal Highnesses' kingdom is likely to be the City of London. More specifically, Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral, and Big Ben!

Of course, when it comes to the iconic landmark Big Ben, an explanation is required due to persistent an erroneous confusions over its correct name. The building that is often perceived as Big Ben is in fact the Palace of Westminster, which itself is also incorrectly called the Houses of Parliament.

The Palace of Westminster dates from the medieval period when it was a royal residence. In fact, it still home to a royal medieval throne which is situated in the Lords Chamber which is known as St Edward’s Chair, or more popularly as the Coronation Chair. Why is this important? Because each year the Royal Head of State travels in splendid procession to the Palace of Westminster for the annual State Opening of Parliament. This colourful pomp and ceremony of Parliament is one of Britain's most famous traditions.

Be aware that the Palace of Westminster is still called the Palace of Westminster and only houses the Houses of Parliament!

Furthermore, the Gothic tower built at the east of Westminster palace is also often mistakenly called Big Ben. The truth of the matter is that the name Big Ben refers to the bell within the tower on which the clock strikes the hour, while the tower itself is called Saint Stephen's tower. Be that as it may, the clock - known as 'The Great Westminster Clock' and still not Big Ben - is considered by many to be the most famous clock in the world.

Big Ben Facts

1. The Great Westminster Clock became fully operational in 1859.

2. The Big Ben Bell weighs 13.5 tonnes.

3. Pre-Decimal pennies used to adjust the clocks timings. One penny will add around two-fifths of a second in 24 hours.

4. The Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airey and Edmund Denison QC MP designed the Great Clock and recommended clockmaker Edward Dent to build it.

5. In order to fit the huge mechanism, the clock was winched up inside the Clock Tower.

6. The pendulum is 3.9 metres long and beats every two seconds.

7. The clock mechanism weighs around 5 tonnes.

8. What runs the great clock now composes of contemporary metal work. However, the original parts from the clock mechanism on display about a third of the way up the Clock Tower.

9. The original clapper cast in 1858 but was never used.

10. The original the original hammer used to strike Big Ben in 1859 was found to be too heavy at 6 1/2 cwts. This was replaced in 1862 by the present hammer of 4 cwts.

11. The first Big Ben bell was caste and brought down from Stockton On Tees to London. It weighed 16 tons and was mounted on a trolley pulled by 16 horses. Sadly this original bell cracked during testing and was replaced by another weighing 13 tons cast in Whitechapel, London.

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LONDON: The London Eye
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LONDON: Tower Bridge


How to grow Dahlias from seed

Written by guest author Graham Rice

The bright flamboyance of the dahlia is something that gardeners either love or hate and the dinner-plate sized blooms seen in shows excite the most controversy - some wouldn't grow anything else, others wouldn't grow them at all.

Show varieties are raised from cuttings but feelings are much less intense about the bedding dahlias which are raised from seed. Of course even the most prized show varieties, or at least those that have not arisen as sports, must be raised from seed at some stage following hybridisation, but for most gardeners raising dahlias from seed concerns bedding varieties and varieties for cut flowers. No seed raised strains have consistently reached the standard required for success at shows.

The dahlia originates in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala where it grows in the high plains, usually in a well drained soil although the heavy rainfall of the area ensures that the plants are never short of water. Originally the plant was thought to grow in subtropical conditions but, growing as it does above 3,000ft, although there is rarely a frost, growing conditions are quite cool.

It was first noted by botanists in the sixteenth century and was cultivated by early settlers and it is thought that the first three species introduced from Mexico were probably hybrids. The first plants arrived in Madrid in 1798 but they were soon lost as they were grown in conditions which were far too warm. In the early years of the nineteenth century, plants were introduced again and as its cultivation became better understood were grown more and more widely.

The first three introduced were Dahlia coccinea, a single red, D. rosea, a single pink and D. pinnata a semi-double purple. A fully double variety was raised in 1815 and the introduction of Dahlia juarezzii in 1876 with its long narrow petals with recurved margins led to the development of cactus dahlias. By the 1830s there were literally hundreds of varieties available. The National Dahlia Society was founded in Britain in 1881 and varieties are still appearing constantly.

In 1922 the first successful bedding dahlia was introduced 'Coltness Gem', and a mixture of colours under this name is still available. Seed collected from tall show varieties has been available for many years but tends to yield largely unsatisfactory results. Although the individual flowers are often perfectly adequate for cutting for the house, the number of flowers produced compares very unfavourably with vegetatively propagated varieties. It's in the small bedding types that seed raised dahlias really come into their own.

Growing Dahlias from seed

The NCCPG feels that these plants are in danger of disappearing from cultivation and deserve to be grown much more.

Raising dahlias from seed is not a difficult business although they do need a fairly high temperature for germination followed by frost protection until planting out.

The seed is best sown in spring and given a germination temperature of about 65F (18C).

Sow in modular trays or other small containers and pot up into individual pots. It's best to sow in a 5in (7.5cm) half pot as the roots tend to develop quickly. If the seeds are spaced about 1 inch (2.5cm) apart they can be left until the leaves touch before being potted up.

The type of compost is not crucial. A soil-less compost works well as long as there is some drainage like perlite or sharp sand added. John Innes Seed Compost is also perfectly satisfactory. After sowing the seed and spacing it out, cover the seed with sifted compost to a depth of about 3mm. It is important that the compost be moist, though not sodden, before the pot is filled and that the compost sifted over the seed is also moist. A light watering from a can with a fine rose is then all that's needed.

The seed pot should go in a propagator at a temperature of 65F (18C). No covering is required save the lid of the propagator and any shading material necessary to prevent overheating.

Germination will usually be fairly rapid, 10-14 days, quicker if the temperature is higher. When the leaves of the seedlings touch they can be potted up. Most of the seed will germinate together so the compost can be removed from the pot and broken up for the seedlings to be removed. The root system may be well developed by potting time so the seedlings must be handled with care.

Growing on

Young plants can be grown in a relatively cool temperature once established in their pots. 45F (7C) is the absolute minimum and the higher the temperature the quicker the seedlings will develop. If minimum of more than 55F (13C) is maintained the plants may develop more quickly than is wise and become tall and drawn. If temperatures are likely to be high, sowing should be delayed.

The plants should not be planted in the garden before the last frost. For about three weeks before planting time the plants should be hardened off in a well ventilated cold greenhouse or a cold frame to accustom them to life outdoors.

Flowers may well be in evidence at planting time but, if not, will soon appear and then continue until the first autumn frosts.

Dahlias can also be raised in a cold greenhouse with a propagator in spring (early April in the UK) and potted the seedlings about six weeks later. After a further month they were planted outside and came into flower on small plants about a month after those sown with warmth. A well drained compost is especially important if you're following this method.

 Delay sowing until about a week or two before the date of the last frost and make sure the plants do not go short of water. Flowers should appear about 10 weeks after sowing, when the plants are still quite small, depending on the weather.

In the garden bedding dahlias thrive in a sunny site which does not dry out too much. Ensure that they are watered well after planting and that they don't dry out during the summer. The smallest varieties are excellent in tubs and window boxes and slightly taller ones will also provide flowers for the house.

Deadheading is vital right through the season and the seed heads can simply be pulled off the stems with a sharp tug - there is no need to cut them off individually. Liquid feeding is useful, especially for plants grown in containers. The only pest is likely to be blackfly and an insecticide containing pyrimor is the safest spray.

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DAHLIA 'Bishop of Llandaff'
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