“If they want to kill you, you won’t have a chance, revolver or no revolver.”<
The Trail of the Money Bird by S. Dillon Ripley
(in conversation with a Dutch colonialist about the natives of New Guinea)
In December of 1936 a sixty-foot schooner named Chiva set sail towards Dutch New Guinea with funding from the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia. Seven souls travelled for nine months through the Panama Canal, each with different goals for the voyage. The tale is one of active volcanoes, paradise birds, dense jungles, and the looming specter of cannibalism. Obviously it was great fodder for the daily newspapers of the time.
An aged binder sits in the Curious Vault, which contains many of these clippings and pages of original photos from the Denison-Crockett Expedition, so named for its 29-year-old Captain Frederick Crockett and his wife Charis Denison-Crockett. Other notable adventurers were S. Dillon Ripley, a zoologist and the navigator George Adams, whose wife donated a trove of South Pacific materials to the museum in the 1976.
The clippings read like the trailer to a movie, describing the dangers they might face from cannibals, as well as the strange trinkets they carried to trade. Crockett packed soap because apparently the natives like to eat it, and corn cob pipes for them to blow bubbles. He also learned sleight of hand to impress them. One article makes note of the fact that two women were on board, making the trip notably progressive in at least one way.
The reality of the voyage was a bit different from what the clippings suggest. Parsing through sensationalized media accounts can be tricky; much like the click bait of today, newspapermen of the mid twentieth century were sometimes trained to sell newspapers, not focus on boring realities. The best account we have of the journey is a book called Trail of the Money Bird: 30,000 Miles of Adventure with a Naturalist published in 1942, written by Ripley. It paints the voyage as a sort of quaint loll through paradise, with the ominous and ever present danger of cannibal natives. The audience for the book is clearly bird enthusiasts and fans of travel writing given the detailed descriptions of the specimen Ripley collected and countless tropical pastoral imageries. Treks like these don’t make it into the collective consciousness unless there is a discovery of colossal historical impact or a great tragedy, and the Denison Crockett expedition had neither (although one member of the team, Doan Nickerson, did die of an accidental gunshot wound).
Much like the newspapers, Ripley overplays cannibalism in the book, but in a letter back to the museum admits that it was mostly a lost practice at that point. In the correspondence, kindly shared by the archival staff of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University (formerly the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia), he admits in a 1938 letter that, “the legend that white people are likely to be killed, ambushed or captured for eating, in the uncontrolled areas of places like New Guinea is, nowadays, only a legend.”
This is a product of what we now understand to be racist. Charis Crockett, an anthropologist in her own right, was actually on board to study the skull sizes of the South Pacific peoples, a pseudo-scientific practice known as phrenology that is now proven to be a prejudiced and outdated line of inquiry (and was even basically archaic in 1937). Much of the wording that Ripley utilizes in his book would be considered flat out racist today, describing the skin tones and facial features of the various peoples they encounter.
Ripley himself is an otherwise fascinating character. He was an spy in India and Pakistan during World War II serving as chief of the Office of Strategic Services, secret intelligence branch in southeast Asia. He went on to be the Secretary of the Smithsonian (the museum’s highest office) during its period of greatest growth and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan. No relation to the creator of Ripley’s Believe or Not, though on the Denison Crockett expedition many of those who took them in along their 30,000 mile voyage mistook him for the founder—a fact he was not quick to correct— and he was always the guest of honor. The New Yorker profiled the birder/spy in 1950, before his tenure as one of the most influential museum professionals in American history, and it is a fascinating read.
Along the way the navigator of the Chiva George F. Adams acquired a handful of artifacts, some of which are now secure in the Curious Vault. Oceanic Art is a complicated art historical tradition for a handful of reasons. For one, the countless different tribes also have countless different customs, each as subtle as the next. Like much of non-Western art, the culture is heavily object focused in Oceania, and the aesthetic often extends into the tattooing and body paint as well. The tradition includes several unique objects such skull houses, canoes, teeth beads, shields and war clubs.
Of particular note in the collection is a set of war clubs from the Solomon Islands. The clubs were typically used for ritual, but sometimes did get used for actual battle. They would have been carved and then soaked in mud for a month to give them a darker finish. They range from plain, to sharply incised designs. The original museum records claim the heavily decorated club with the flat end was used to kill sacrifice victims. This, can obviously, not be confirmed.
The most notable club is shaped like fish which upon further research revealed itself to be a bonito. The bonito fish is plentiful off the Solomon Islands and very important to puberty initiation ceremonies. Young men are expected to catch one, and hug the fish to their bodies as well as drink its blood. The fish then becomes a symbol of power and strength. There are also two paddles as well as an adze, which would have been quite valuable to a Solomon Islander in the 1930s, as metal was very scarce. Adams must have been a skilled negotiator.
Unfortunately information about George Adams is sparse, although we know he was a founding member of the sailing organization The Corinthians. We know that he acquired the objects that now lie in the Curious Vault. Not much is mentioned of Adams in the Trail of the Money Bird, mostly because his relationship with Ripley seems to have been somewhat begrudging. It appears Adams wasn’t much of a scientist, and didn’t really understand what the point of caging and transporting such an large amount of birds or the importance of the expedition altogether. Ripley says of the cages, and “I suppose, my presence on the boat, George could never rationalize in his mind. The important thing to him was the boat of which he thought so much.” He also claims that “like my bird-skinning board, my bird-box was an object of contempt and irritation to poor George.” So George, unfortunately, our museum’s gracious donor is mostly left out of the saga.
Please help us identify the location of these rock formations. Leave a reply below with your idea.
But an impressive handful of scientific research, mostly on birds— but also fish, reptiles, and amphibians as well— was completed because of the Denison- Crockett Expedition. The Curious Vault is proud to house the artifacts collected by the navigator of this notable adventure and the war clubs remain a reminder of a different time in a less connected world.
Special thanks to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University for their help in research.
The Curious Vault is an online cabinet of curiosities featuring objects from the collection of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, presented by writer Nathaniel Sandler and Kevin Arrow, Art & Collections Manager. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Postscript: We have a lead on George F. Adams through The Corinthians, still active sailing organization, he was involved with throughout his life. We are trying to confirm if a gift he gave them, a piece of the rudder of the infamous HMS Bounty, has been verified and still with the organization. If anyone has any additional information about Adams please contact the museum.
On Saturday, October 24th, 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach hosted Ecosystem Exploration presented by the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, as part of the hotel’s Seedlings program. The program allows parents to take time for themselves while the children participate in activities focused on educating and bringing them closer to nature throughout the day.
The little learners dove deep into South Florida’s marine ecosystem and explored the various critters and plant life that make our region beautiful. Guests met a real reptile from the museum’s Batchelor Wildlife Center, explored the world of coral reefs by examining different coral skeleton, and got their hands dirty with a mangrove propagule plantings with MuVE (Museum Volunteers for the Environment).
We have some exciting news here at the Batchelor Wildlife Center! We’re taking some unusual and creative steps to see if we can get a rare reptile to reproduce in captivity.
Even though the museum is closed to the public we are still working towards prototyping, research and enhancement for exhibits that will appear at the new Frost Science. The last couple weeks we have been putting together a very large enclosure for one of the rarest animals in the collection, the giant girdle-tailed lizard, commonly known as sungazers (Smaug giganteus). Endemic to South Africa, sungazers are shifting from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to habitat destruction and illegal collection.
These lizards are very interesting. They are colonial animals, living in large grassland burrows that can reach depths of three feet and hold 8 to 16 individuals. No eggs for these guys—sungazers have live birth, producing only two to five offspring per year. They also go through a state of brumation, similar to hibernation, during the winter months.
Ok, so why are we focusing on these lizards? Well, no one has ever successfully bred sungazers in captivity. For the last two years, we’ve been researching the species, reading through various articles and scientific journals from many private collections and zoological facilities such as the San Diego Zoo, where attempts to breed were unsuccessful. The common thread in the failed attempts has been inaccurate habitat replication.
Our goal with the sungazer enclosure is to meticulously replicate this animal’s natural environment. The enclosure includes several innovative lizard luxuries: a burrow, live plants, a misting system that turns on whenever it rains in their environment in South Africa (we have to check the weather), and fans to emulate the breezes of the grasslands back home. We also think they may be more relaxed with a group of lizards around, but we only have two. Our solution was to install one-way mirrors in the den, which will hopefully make them think there are other sungazers in there with them. The two-way mirrors also give us great insight to what they do inside their burrows.
We are very excited about this project and hope you all are too. If we get a pregnancy, we’ll let you know!
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science partners with Miami Make Week to give Miami creativity and innovation a foothold.
Starting on November 6th, the first-ever Miami Make Week (MMW) is a 10-day celebration of the maker spirit and creative co-working. Sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the event will be run by local non-profit MIAMade, which has already seen success with events such as Miami Mini Maker Faire and Wynwood Maker Camp. MMW challenges local makers to assemble teams to “design and create a prototype of an innovative solution for the home that saves resources (such as energy, money, time), and does so in a sustainable way.” Teams will have complimentary access to 11 participating makerspaces for the development of their idea, and their work must result in a “physical product, or a digital tool that manipulates physical items.”
Beyond the competition, MMW invites the public, regardless of skill level, to attend the peripheral lectures and demonstrations held at the makerspaces during the 10-day event. On Tuesday, November 10th, with Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science sponsorship, Miami Industrial Arts (MIA) will host Molding Your Vision, an introduction to the basics of mold-making, an invaluable lesson in the creation of prototype models. Mentors will demonstrate techniques for slip-casting ceramics and rubber molds for plastics and participants will learn how to use the space’s facilities for these ends (November 10th, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., 300 NW 73rd Street, Miami).
“Developing partnerships with the various makerspaces within the community will help position the museum as a hub for creative thinking going forward,” says James Herring, exhibitions manager at Frost Science and advocate for the ceramics department at MIA. “The planned Innovation Labs at the new Frost Science building will be a place to showcase local makers and their products, and likewise those makerspaces will be venues for outreach in the varied neighborhoods they occupy. This kind of cross-fertilization of creative thinking, hands-on learning and celebration of local innovation in engineering and design can energize a movement that will have a community-wide impact.”
Additionally, the concept of makerspaces dovetails with the innovation and creativity that Frost Science wants to promote in Miami. For instance, a sometimes stifling challenge facing potential makers is access to equipment, tools, materials and space. “Makerspaces offer tools, mentoring and space to develop your product or idea with a minimal investment,” says Herring. They allow makers to test prototype models for trial-and-error, at a minimal cost. “Hands-on learning informs creativity beyond what digital and conceptual design can achieve by themselves,” says Herring. “Model making can be used to test concepts in real world situations,” says Herring. “Through testing of models, flaws in design can be detected and new iterations developed before launching a test run of your product.”
Aside from granting accessibility to creators, makerspaces are great additions to urban and suburban landscapes as ready-made centers for exploration. Oftentimes operated with membership fees, makerspaces—even at a premium monthly charge—are far cheaper than the overhead costs of running a specialized shop. Larger spaces such as MIA are big enough to include a woodshop, a ceramics studio, welding and metalworking equipment, a 3D printer as well as many hand tools. More than membership-based hubs, makerspaces are thriving centers that harken back to the communal spirit of creation and community betterment. “[They] build a community of people working toward similar goals and fosters learning through making,” says Herring.
As told by Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, curator of astronomy and exhibition developer, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science:
The region around a star within which planets with sufficient atmospheric pressure can support liquid water at their surfaces is known as the habitable zone or the Goldilocks zone. Closer to the star, the temperature is to high and water would vaporize. Further away, the temperature is too low and water would freeze.
Due to the importance of liquid water to life on Earth, its presence is believed to be a key indicator of the possibility of finding life elsewhere. Based on data from the Kepler space observatory, launched by NASA in 2009 to discover Earth-like planets orbiting in the habitable zones of other stars, estimations indicate that there may be as many as a few dozen billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way.
What about our Solar System? Earth is not the only planet in the Sun’s habitable zone. Mars and Venus, albeit barely, are also in the habitable zone. Let’s focus on Mars. Mars, like Mercury, Venus and Earth, is a terrestrial planet: it has a solid surface and is primarily composed of a metallic core and a silicate mantle. It has a thin atmosphere and surface features reminiscent of impact craters, volcanoes, valleys and desserts. It has also polar ice caps, like Earth.
What about water on Mars? While many lines of evidence indicate liquid water may have played a significant role in the planet’s past geologic history, on September 28 NASA announced that seasonal streams may currently be flowing on Mars. The discovery was made using data from the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter by Georgia Institute of Technology planetary scientist Lujendra Ojha and his team.
Credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/University of Arizona. Satellite images and elevation data are combined to give the impression of height.
The team studied images of seasonal trails of sludge on the Mars surface. One hypotheses is that the sludge came from underground briny water reservoirs, which found their way to the surface due to geological shifts. While pure water would freeze, salty water has a much lower freezing temperature and would flow down the surface leaving a trail during the planet’s summer season. Infrared spectroscopy data seems to confirm the presence of hydrated salts when the flows were present. The origin of this water is still a mystery and research has only just begun to further understand it.
Interestingly, one of the places these streams have been found is close to Acidalia Planitia, the landing site of the Ares 3 mission in The Martian. Have I mentioned that I cannot wait to finally see it in theaters?
If there is life on Mars chances are it may be there now. Exciting times ahead.
Mars’ proximity as the next planet in our solar system and its Earth-like seasons, storms, volcanic flows, mountains and now flowing water stir the human desire to explore. The visible red hue, born from iron oxide in the soil, connotes war—thus the name Mars, the Roman god of war and protection, who according to legend looked after a civilization that evolved into an empire. In honor of this mythically potent and scientifically fascinating planet, Frost Science has named our men’s funding group M.A.R.S. (Men Advocating Real Science).
On Saturday, September 19, 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach hosted Earth’s Energy presented by the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, as part of the hotel’s Seedlings program. Children were able to harness the power of the South Beach sun and wind through fun, hands-on renewable energy-related activities.
At this family-friendly event, guests explored how different renewable energies work by building their own systems complete with a renewable power source. Guests spent the afternoon designing their own wind turbines, experimenting with solar panels, and building a solar car. More than 40 families attended the Earth’s Energy event.
Young attendees learn about solar energy at the 1 Hotel Seedlings event.
The Frost Science team at the 1 Hotel Seedlings event.
Attendees enjoy the rock climbing wall.
Attendees learn about solar energy.
Attendees enjoy the 1 Hotel Seedlings event.
Posted in In the Community, In the Museum, Out & About with Frost Science
Tagged 1 Hotel & Homes South Beach, 1 Hotel South Beach, Earth, Energy, Family Friendly, Frost Science, Out & About with Frost Science, Seedlings, solar power
On Tuesday, September 15, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science hosted a special edition of the Science Up Close series with its Young Patrons, the museum’s membership program for young professionals, at Wynwood Brewing Company. Rik Myers, Ph.D., from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, led the insightful discussion on the biochemistry of brewing beer. Dr. Myers’ shared with guests the chemical processes of beer and the impactful scientific breakthroughs that have developed throughout the history of brewing.
Dr. Myers’ interactive discussion featured a lesson on acidity and bacteria within the beer making process which was perfectly complemented by numerous Wynwood Brewing Company beers, such as Pop’s Porter, La Rubia, Wynwood IPA and multiple special releases. The evening concluded with an open discussion on beer biochemistry between guests and the four featured facilitators: Antoni Barrientos, Ph.D.; Myriam Bourens, Ph.D.; Flavia Fontanesi, Ph.D.; Thomas K. Harris, Ph.D., all from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
Guests at Wynwood Brewing Company on September 15 for Science Up Close.
Alex Garcia & Eliza Gonzalez
Dr. Angela Colbert, Frost Science Moderator
Bryce Kerley, Manny Rodriguez & Jason Timmons
Chimene Longwater, Eldredge Bermingham, Yoshiko Inoue & Thomas K Harris
Grace Torres & Amanda Calderon
Katelyn Webb, Gibby Manatad, Jezzica Bellitti & Krissy Fassbinder
Luis Brignoni, Eldredge Bermingham & Dr. Rik Myers
Rebecca Brooks & Denis Ibarra
Dr. Rik Myers & Eldredge Bermingham
Dr. Rik Myers, Myriam Bourens, Flavia Fontanesi, & Antoni Barrientos
Posted in In the Community, MiaSci at Large, Partnerships
Tagged beer, biochemistry, brewing, Rik Myers, Science Up Close, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Wynwood, Wynwood Brewing Company, Young Patrons
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and Pérez Art Museum Miami teamed up for this year’s Miami DDA Art Days at PAMM. On Saturday, September 12, Frost Science and PAMM provided families with a day of creative experimentation including “Eco-Environments: Art Meets Science,” where PAMM Teaching Artists and Science Communication Fellows from Frost Science guided children and families in the creation of mini eco-environments, along with “The Art of Robots: Science Meets Art” sessions, where guests had a chance to explore the engineering of robots and were able to design their own creations and watch them come to life with the help of Starbot.
Both programs emphasized STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics). More than 3,000 guests were in attendance.
Guests visit the Frost Science table to learn about engineering robots.
A young guest builds his own robot out of reusable materials.
A young guest learns about the engineering behind robots with Frost Science.
Guests learn about the engineering behind robots.
Posted in In the Community, In the Museum, Out & About with Frost Science
Tagged Art, Downtown DDA Art Days, Engineering, Math, Out & About with Frost Science, PAMM, Perez Art Museum Miami, Robots, Science, Science Communication Fellows, STEAM, Technology
On Saturday, September 12, the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science hosted the Science Treehouse at The Children’s Trust Family Expo. More than 1,500 attendees stopped by and took part in one of the many science-related activities.
Frost Science’s programming emphasized STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and environmental awareness. Activities included live science demonstrations, creating objects to take flight in the wind tunnel, finding fossils, freezing objects with liquid nitrogen, and a lesson in aerodynamics. Guests also met the museum’s resident alligator and python.
Frost Science liquid nitrogen demonstration at the Children’s Trust Family Expo.
Frost Science programs and partners hosted activities in the Science Treehouse, including ECHOS who showed children how to make sand, MUVE who provided mangrove propagules for planting, and REM Learning who provided hands-on activities inside their wind tube. Guests also had the opportunity to see an exclusive look inside the progress of the new Frost Science currently under construction in downtown Miami’s Museum Park.
A curious visitor meets the Frost Science resident alligator at the Children’s Trust Family Expo.
An engaged visitor at Frost Science’s wind tunnel demonstration at the Children’s Trust Family Expo.
Frost Science ‘Who Makes You Happy?’ mental health activity at the Children’s Trust Family Expo.
Frost Science Community Engagement team at the Children’s Trust Family Expo.
As told by Dr. Jorge Perez-Gallego, resident astronomer and exhibition developer, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science:
A jaguar is going to attack the moon on September 27, at least this is what the Incas feared happened every lunar eclipse. Nearly 600 years later, we now know the truth.
Photo Credit: Dominic Milan
The two most noticeable celestial objects in the sky are the sun and the moon. The sun, moon and Earth together make an astronomical system and are responsible for eclipses and lunar phases.
The Earth rotates around its own axis as it orbits the sun. Similarly, the moon rotates around its own axis as it orbits the Earth. While the Earth rotates roughly 365 times during its trip around the sun (thus 365 days in a year), the moon only rotates once each month during its trip around the Earth. This happens because the moon’s rotation and orbital periods are tidally locked. This is also why the same side of the moon always faces Earth. As the moon, which is spherical, orbits Earth it reflects the light from the sun, and creates different lunar phases.
Depending on where the moon is located with respect to the sun and Earth, we see more or less of its surface. When the moon is located between the sun and the Earth, we cannot see it at all, as the side of the moon illuminated by the sun is the same side not facing the Earth; this is known as a new moon.
In contrast, when the moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth, the side illuminated by the sun is the one facing the Earth; this is known as a full moon.
At any given time, the side of the moon that is being illuminated is the one facing the sun. Thus, the half point phase between new and full moon (knows as the first quarter) resembles a D, and the half point phase between full and new moon (known as the third quarter) resembles an inverse D.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford
Like the sun, the moon rises in the East, and sets in the West, but its timing is different every day because it changes its phase as it rotates around the Earth. A new moon, albeit not visible, rises and sets with the sun (normally around 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.). As the moon phase increases, it raises and sets later each day, which makes the moon visible during the day. A full moon, visible at night, rises as the sun sets, and sets as the sun rises (around 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.). After a full moon occurs, the moon phase decreases over time, causing the moon to raise and set later each day, which will once again make the moon visible in the morning.
A lunar eclipse occurs when the sun and the moon are in opposite sides of the Earth. Thus, the moon is full. An eclipse only occurs when the the Earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon. This would happen every month if the moon’s and the Earth’s orbit were on the same plane, but they are not. The moon’s orbit is inclined to the Earth’s orbit by about five degrees. Nevertheless, it is scientifically possible for a lunar eclipse to occur about once every six months, even if only partial at times, since the Earth’s shadow only covers part of the moon. During a lunar eclipse the moon turns a reddish hue during totality. This is because light from the sun is refracted by the Earth’s atmosphere and indirectly lights up the moon’s surface.
On Sunday, September 27, a total lunar eclipse will be viewable from Miami. The lunar eclipse will begin at 9:07 p.m., reach totality at 10:47 p.m., and will end at 12:27 a.m. We will have to wait until January 20, 2019, to see another one with the same level of clarity from the Magic City.
The Inca used to drive the jaguar away by shaking spears at the moon and making noise. While we know there is no jaguar, Frost Science and 1 Hotel South Beach will be joining forces for a lunar eclipse viewing party at the Rooftop at 1 Hotel, on Sunday, September 27, beginning at 9 p.m. Music will be provided by DJ Leo Medina and Frost Science will be navigating the night sky for guests. The beach will be the most visible place to see the lunar eclipse until its 2019 return.