strange behaviors

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    Ending Epidemics: A History of Escape from Contagion: “Ending Epidemics is an important book, deeply and lovingly researched, written with precision and elegance, a sweeping story of centuries of human battle with infectious disease. Conniff is a brilliant historian with a jeweler’s eye for detail. I think the book is a masterpiece.” Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone and The Demon in the Freezer

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Amazonian Terrors

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 9, 2010

Species Seeker extraordinaire Henry Walter Bates reported that Amazon boatmen “live in constant dread of the ‘terras cahidas’.”  What are they?

1.  Earthquakes.

2.  Giant crocodiles.

3.  Landslips.

4.  Floating logs.

And the answer is:


Canoemen, Bates wrote, “live in constant dread of the ‘terras cahidas,’ or landslips, which occasionally take place along the steep earthy banks, especially when the waters are rising.” He was inclined to dismiss the stories that “these avalanches of earth and trees” could swamp even larger vessels.  But one morning before dawn “an unusual sound resembling the roar of artillery” startled him out of his sleep.  It felt at first like an earthquake, “for, though the night was breathlessly calm, the broad river was much agitated and the vessel rolled heavily.”

The “thundering peal” of explosions rolled back and forth along the river, with “a long, continued dull rumbling” in the intervals.  When day broke, he looked to the opposite riverbank, three miles off, and saw that “Large masses of forest, including trees of colossal size, probably 200 feet in height, were rocking to and fro, and falling headlong one after the other into the water.”  The impact sent out a sort of Amazonian tsunami that undermined other parts of the bank, extending the landslip over a mile or two of coast.   “And thus the crashes continued, swaying to and fro, with little prospect of a termination” as their boat went out of sight up river two hours later.

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