Home' Greymouth Star : October 14th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Wednesday, October 14, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1066 - Normans under William the
Conqueror defeat English at Battle of
1947 - Air Force test pilot Charles “Chuck”
Yeager becomes the first person to
break the sound barrier.
1959 - Tasmanian-born film
star Errol Flynn dies suddenly in
1964 - US civil rights leader
Martin Luther King Jr is named
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
1977 - Popular American singer
Bing Crosby collapses and dies, aged 73.
1990 - US composer-conductor Leonard
Bernstein dies in New York at age 72.
1992 - Russia’s worst serial killer, Andrei
Chikatilo, is convicted of mutilating and killing
52 women and children (he was executed).
1994 - Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and
Shimon Peres share the Nobel Peace Prize
with PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Eamon de Valera, Irish statesman (1882-
1975); Dwight D Eisenhower, US general
and 34th president (1890-1969); Lillian Gish,
US actress (1896-1993); Sir Roger Moore,
English actor (1927-); Empress
Farah Pahlavi of Iran (1938-);
Ralph Lauren, US fashion designer
(1939-); Sir Cliff Richard, British
singer (1940-); Justin Hayward,
British singer-musician of The
Moody Blues fame (1946-); Beth
Daniel, US golfer (1956-); Natalie
Maines, American musician of
the Dixie Chicks (1974-); Floyd Landis, US
cyclist (1975-); Usher, US singer (1978-); Mia
Wasikowska, Australian actress (1989-).
“ It is amazing how complete is the delusion
that beauty is goodness.” — Leo Tolstoy,
Russian author (1828-1910).
“S he ... began to bathe His feet with her tears
and to dry them with her hair.” — (Luke 7:38).
fishermen may have
their new wharf by
the end of next March
if all goes well. Already one third of the work
has been carried out on dredging the berthing
basin sufficiently to allow it to float the fishing
Its construction on the western bank of the
Erua Moana lagoon wiil be entirely undertaken
by the harbour board employees and no tenders
are to be let to private contractors. The harbour
board has in hand a £7500 government grant
for the undertaking. If more is required it will
have to be met by the board.
A rescue party is due back at Fox Glacier
tonight or early tomorrow morning with the
injured Wellingtonian, Mr Duncan Ferguson,
who was injured when he fell down a 40ft
bluff in remote Karangarua Valley on Sunday.
Mr Ferguson suffered ankle and possible chest
injuries but was fit to ride a horse for some
The Karangarua Valley is on the western
side of Mt Cook, between Bruce Bay and Fox
Lieutenant Colonel Charles Skinner, head
of the Salvation Army ’s music department
in London and composer of 30 brass
compositions and 70 hymns, is the man who
named the popular pop group the Joystrings.
He left Greymouth this morning after a brief
He said the name for the Army group was
born in mind almost immediately. The leader’s
name was Joy and hence the title. In certain
circumstances he favoured the Salvation
Army ’s rather recent trend to the “ beat ” music.
“ In some places it has been very effective in
turning youth towards the Gospel,” he said.
uFood for thought
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he sound was like nothing
Tom Hinton had ever
heard before: a chorus of
baleful wolf howls, long
and loud and coming from
seemingly every direction
in the darkness. The predators yipped and
chirped and crooned to one another for
what seemed like forever, sending a shiver
of awe and intuitive fear down Hinton’s
“It was a primordial experience,” he said,
something most of humanity has not felt
for tens of thousands of years. “ That dates
back to when humans were prey.”
It was only possible because of where
Hinton was standing, a remote area along
the Belarus-Ukraine border that has been
uninhabited by humans for decades.
They all left in the wake of a very
different sound nearly 30 years earlier:
the massive explosion of the Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant in 1986, which
left dozens dead and drove more than
100,000 people from their homes across a
2574-square-kilometre swath of Ukraine
These days, abandoned apartment
complexes are nothing more than
crumbled concrete wrecks. Vines crawl
up the decaying walls of old farmhouses
and break unintended skylights into their
roofs. No one lives in the post-apocalyptic
No one human, that is. Wildlife
populations there — shaggy-haired
wild boar, long-legged elk, the howling
choruses of wolves that so captivated
Hinton last August — are flourishing.
That is according to a study published
this week in the journal Current Biology,
which found that mammal numbers in the
exclusion zone are as high, if not higher,
than in even the most protected parks in
“That wildlife started increasing when
humans abandoned the area in 1986 is
not earth-shattering news,” Hinton, a
radioecology expert and co-author on the
paper, said. “ What ’s surprising here was
the life was able to increase even in an
area that is among the most radioactively
contaminated in the world.”
In other words, whatever the fallout from
the disaster may have been, it turned out
that the absence of humans was more than
enough to compensate.
“It shows I think that how much damage
we do,” said fellow co-author Jim Smith,
an environmental science professor at
the University of Portsmouth. “It’s kind
of obvious but our everyday activities
associated with being in a place are what
damages the environment.”
“Not that radiation isn’t bad,” he added,
“ but what people do when they’re there is
so much worse. ”
The study is the first real census of wild
animals in the exclusion zone. It relies on
a decades worth of helicopter obser vations
in the years right after the disaster,
and three winters of scientists carefully
counting animal tracks on foot between
2008 and 2010 in the Belarusian section
of the zone.
Though animal numbers were low when
scientists first started counting them in
1987 (because no data was taken before
the disaster, they can not tell to what
degree the populations were hurt by the
explosion), they rapidly rose once humans
left the region. Brown bears and rare
European lynx — predatory cats the size
of a Great Dane with tufted ears and
glimmering gold eyes — quickly appeared
in the forests, even though they had not
been seen for decades before the accident.
Wild boar took up residence in abandoned
buildings. Forests replaced humans in the
villages’ empty streets.
Within 10 years, every animal
population in the exclusion zone had at
least doubled. At the same time, the kinds
of species that were flourishing in the
exclusion zone were vanishing from other
parts of the former Soviet Union, likely
due to increased hunting, poorer wildlife
management and other economic changes.
By 2010, the last year of the on-foot
census, the populations for most species
were as large as in any of Belarus’ four
national parks. For one species, the wolves,
the population was seven times bigger.
This indicates to researchers that chronic
exposure to radiation from the explosion
has had no impact on overall mammal
populations. Whatever fallout may have
come from the initial explosion was
completely offset by the benefits of life
This does not mean that the zone is not
dangerous, Hinton stressed. He and his
colleagues did not study the individual
— a nd molecular-level damage caused
by lingering contamination. While
whole populations are not dying out,
individual animals might be getting sick.
And sur veys have shown that the soil in
areas close to the reactor site still exude
But, “the environment is very resilient,”
The presence of wolves is particularly
telling. As apex predators, they are a sign
of the health of the entire ecosystem —
if they are flourishing, that means that
every other level of species, from elk and
deer on down to insects and plants, must
also be healthy.
Another team of researchers is currently
using camera traps to count wildlife on
the Ukrainian side of the exclusion zone.
Nick Beresford, a radioecologist at the
National Environment Research Council
in the United Kingdom, said that their
work will not be done until the end of
the year, but he expects to reach the same
conclusions as those working in Belarus.
Beresford praised the Current Biology
study and its findings: “People have
said before that wildlife in the zone is
flourishing, but those accounts were
rightly criticised as anecdotal,” he said.
“This is the first study to really back it up
Walking around the exclusion zone is
like being in “a national park without
the people,” Hinton said. The forests are
nearly pristine, the animals abundant.
What relics of human presence do
remain have been almost entirely
reclaimed by nature.
Even the Soviet city of Pripyat in
Ukraine, which once housed tens of
thousands of workers at the Chernobyl
plant, has been subsumed by trees.
“ When I was there 15 years ago,
it looked like a city with some trees
growing in it,” recalled Smith. “Now it
looks like a forest with some buildings
For Hinton, who is currently studying
the effects of the 2011 Fukushima
nuclear disaster in Japan, the impact is
both astounding and sobering.
“It’s an amazing experience from a
wildlife perspective, but it’s also a sad
experience because you see homes
that have been abandoned and you
imagine the people’s lives that have been
disturbed,” he said. “It’s sad to see the
houses and the cars and the baseball bats
and you envision the life that people had
to drop and leave. But you also see wild
boar running around and you don’t see
that as soon as you leave the zone.”
— New Zealand Herald
Bumper cars stand in an abandoned amusement park near the former Chernobyl nuclear power station.
A wolf in a wild wood in Ukraine’s Chernobyl.
Scientists at De Beers can make near-
flawless diamonds in a lab, but they will
never sell you one.
The 127-year-old mining company ’s
Element Six unit, named for the carbon
atom’s rank on the periodic table, makes
gems that are as perfect as any found
at Tiffany and Co stores, yet their
destination is a 1980s office complex on
the edge of London. There, a team of
62 studies their creations and develops
machines for diamond buyers trying to
spot synthetic stones being peddled as
the real thing.
While still a small part of the market,
man-made diamonds are now being mass
produced, and retailers like Wal-Mart
Stores sell them to customers seeking
But because the gems are almost
indistinguishable from those naturally
formed, some sellers have tried to pass
off synthetic types as ones that have been
mined. Parcels in Indian cutting centres
were found to contain a mixture of man-
made and mined gems.
For De Beers, formerly a near-
monopoly distributor that both ruled and
nurtured the market, cheaters pose a risk
to consumer confidence in an $80 billion
“ We’re very focused on detection,” said
Simon Lawson, head of Technologies
United Kingdom at De Beers. “It
underpins the integrity of natural
diamonds and ensures that consumers
can not be duped into buying a synthetic
The illegal art of mixing man-made
with mined gems, known as peppering,
is a threat to producers’ efforts to defend
and promote the image of natural
diamonds that command a premium
to man-made. While De Beers makes
its own synthetic stones, 99% of those
are used for industrial purposes such
as oil- rig drills, with the gem-quality
types destined only to help the company
identify those made in other labs.
Retailers sell man-made gems at
discounts of 30% to 40%. Technicians
create them using a carbon seed in a
microwave chamber with methane or
another carbon-containing gas and then
superheated into a glowing plasma ball.
That creates particles that crystallise into
diamonds in as many as 10 weeks.
While synthetics make up just a
fraction of the market, they have growing
appeal to younger buyers. That is another
headache for mine owners, who are under
pressure to cut supply and lower prices,
because traders, cutters and polishers are
struggling to profit amid a credit squeeze
and languishing jewellery sales. An index
of polished prices reached a five-year low
De Beers, founded on South Africa’s
giant Kimberley mine and built up under
Cecil Rhodes, now uses the scientists and
technology to help prevent deception. At
its Maidenhead offices in the UK, near
the former home of billionaire diamond
magnate Harry Oppenheimer, the aim
is to create new gems that can fool the
detection machines so that the company
will have a sense of what it will be up
against from competing synthetics in the
next few years, Lawson said.
The researchers have developed three
types of machines that sell for as much
as $55,000 each, usually purchased by
trading bourses around the world. One
device takes about four seconds to scan a
stone’s atomic make-up for impurities.
Man-made diamonds, now being sold
by retailers such as Wal-Mart, are almost
indistinguishable from real ones.
The 2% of diamonds that fail the
test are then bathed in ultraviolet
light and viewed in another machine.
Inconsistencies in the phosphorescence
and fluorescence glow can tell the
operator the gems may be man-made.
“ When you polish a gemstone, there
is a memory of how it grew,” said Philip
Martineau, head of physics at the De
Beers Research Centre. “ They’re not
mimicking nature. It’s the differences that
give us the clues.”
De Beers is not the only maker of
detection machines. The Gemological
Institute of America, which sells its own
devices, said last month that it also plans
to start making synthetic diamonds to
help it spot them.
The great diamond centres have been
duped before. In 2012, 600 undisclosed
synthetic gems sized between 0.3 and
0.7 carat were found in Antwerp and
Mumbai, and more were discovered
in 2013 and this year, according to the
International Gemological Institute.
A parcel containing 110 man-made
diamonds was intercepted in India as
recently as February, according to the
Surat Diamond Association.
The effort companies such as De Beers
and the GIA are making to clamp
down on deception benefits retailers,
said Daniel Rosen, the owner of 4Cs
Diamonds, a jewellery seller in London’s
Hatton Garden diamond district.
“It’s an industry that ’s built on trust,” he
said. “If you break that trust you are out.
You only have to do it once.”
While there’s little data on the amount
of undisclosed synthetics, organisations
including the GIA said more are being
detected. India’s Gem Jewellery Export
Promotion Council has threatened legal
action against those caught peppering.
The Surat Diamond Association, based
in the Indian city that is the world’s
biggest gem-cutting centre, terminated a
diamond manufacturer’s membership in
August after it was accused of presenting
synthetics as naturally formed, according
to a Times of India report.
Findings like those “were a wake up call
for the trade,” Martineau said. “It brought
the work we’d been doing into focus.”
About 360,000 carats of man-made
gems were produced last year, compared
with 126 million carats of natural
diamonds. Synthetic production, fuelled
by increased demand from retailers for
cheaper alternatives, probably will jump
to 2 million carats in 2018 and 20 million
carats by 2026, according to researcher
Frost and Sullivan.
Despite the increased competition,
De Beers has no intention of selling
“De Beers’ focus is on natural
diamonds,” Lawson said. “ We would not
do anything that would cannibalise that
industry.” — New Zealand Herald
Man-made diamonds De Beers will never sell
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