Mystery floods in Namibia, Africa

By Lahja Nashuuta Published: 20120402

Tsumeb ‑ Floodwaters, suspected to be coming from underground lakes, have destroyed huge sections of roads between Tsumeb and Oshivelo in northern Namibia and ravaged some five farms in the area.

In an interview with The Southern Times last week, the Oshikoto Police Deputy Regional Commander, William Peter, who is also a member of the region’s emergency response team, said the waters suddenly appeared around February 25.

The most severe flooding in Namibia historically occurs in Oshikoto, Oshana, Ohangwena and Omusati.

Peter said a group of emergency officers were attending to affected areas in Oshikoto.

“When we got there we found out that the road, just 40 km to Tsumeb, was completely destroyed by water and there were also three vehicles that were involved in accidents around that area due to the flood.

“No deaths were reported,” said Sergeant Noongo Thomas of the Namibian Police.

Sgt Noongo said at least five farms were under water, including one belonging to the head of the Namibia Defence Forces, Lieutenant-General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah.

Police Regional Deputy Commander Peter added, “We were astonished to discover that some of this water was coming from underground and it wasn’t rain water as we thought.

“This water was swift flowing and there was nothing we could do to stop it.”

He said people had been relocated to higher ground.

Asked if the water could be coming from the nearby Otjikoto and Guinas lakes, he said there had been heavy rains and the picture was not yet clear.

“I am not a hydrologist, but … I think the two lakes have something to do with this flood because the flooded farms are situated between the two.

“There are underground lakes and they appear at some points but never in this magnitude.”

Peter said experts were investigating and their report would be made public.

He advised people against erecting barriers around their properties, as that would merely divert the water elsewhere.

One of the affected farmers, Apie Smith, said, “We don’t know where this water is coming from … it cannot be rain water.

“Some people are saying it’s coming from (the nearby) Arab River…

“Last week I flew to my farm to relocate my livestock to high ground but this morning I was just told that the grazing is getting finished and that some of the cattle have lost weight.”

Police Regional Deputy Commander Peter said there was need for the government to prepare roads for floods.

Guido van Langenhove, the head of Namibia’s National Hydrological Services, said they were still investigating.

He said the last time flooding occurred in the area was in 1970s.

“First we were informed about this by the Red Cross.

“When I passed by I saw lots of water and I thought maybe some underground pipes had burst.

“But there are no underground pipeline routes across that area.”

He said his office had been informed that the Omiramba Omuthiya-Owambo River that is 30km away, was also flooding, which was out of character.

Van Langenhove said the Tsumeb Sub-Basin is defined by the drainage of surface and groundwater from Otavi in the south and towards the Etosha Pan in the north.

The boundary in the south is defined by the geological contact between the basement rocks and the dolomitic arc of the Damara Sequence, which represents the recharge area of the Kalahari Aquifer underlying the Etosha Basin.

He said the groundwater in the sub-basin was used for large-scale stock farming but also for crop irrigation.

Some people have superstitious interpretations for the flooding.

However, Petrus Angula Mbenzi, a lecturer at the University of Namibia, and author of books on local cultures, said this was highly unlikely.

“Water is good, even if it causes damage to people’s properties; water is known to be used for good purposes.

“It’s known for cleansing and for fighting bad luck and not for bringing bad luck.

“For example, in our culture if people are about to fight you just pour water between them and they will stop,” he said.

Otjikoto and Guinas lakes are situated on the Northern Platform of the Damara Orogenic Belt, which consists predominantly of shelf carbonates that geologists say are some 700 million years old. Carbonic acid-rich groundwater percolating on fracture planes caused dissolution of the rock and the formation of cavities, growing into huge, usually water-filled, caverns.

The resulting system of underground caverns and tunnels may become unstable and collapse, leaving behind a circular sinkhole, which ‑ with its almost vertical sides ‑ looks like an impact crater. Thus, Otijkoto and Guinas lakes represent “windows” to the surface of the groundwater flowing from the Otavi Mountain land towards the north.

Lake Otjikoto lies 20km northwest of Tsumeb along the main road to the Etosha National Park.

The lake is one of the few places in Namibia where underground water comes to the surface.

According to tradition, humans who entered such water would disappear forever.

Earliest inhabitants believed the lakes to be bottomless and connected to each other by a system of subterranean tunnels.

More recent tales tell of the ghost of a German soldier haunting Lake Otjikoto and of an incredibly rich German war chest reposing in its depths.

Today the lake water is used for irrigation, but its abstraction is strictly regulated.

During colonial times, Lake Otjikoto was also a popular recreational site but that ended with the start of World War I.

After hostilities between South African and German troops near Otjikoto, the Germans disposed most of their military equipment into the lake rather than surrender it to the enemy.

Southern Times-Mystery floods in Namibia.

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Extensive System of Caves Discovered Under the Pyramids!

created 3/22/10

Inside Giza’s cave underworld

In December 2009, after denying that they existed, Egypt’s leading Egyptologist, Dr Zahi Hawass, has had to admit that an excavation team under his charge is investigating an ancient tomb at the centre of claims regarding the alleged discovery of a cave underworld beneath the Pyramids of Giza.

This is a surprising announcement for several reasons, not the least being that the “alleged” cave system has already been explored and photographed by British writer and explorer Andrew Collins. In August 2008, Collins announced that he had rediscovered the entrance to a previously unexplored cave system, entered via a mysterious tomb several hundred meters west of the Great Pyramid. Perhaps it was how Collins discovered the cave entrance that has caused the controversy.

The alignment of the three pyramids with the stars of Orion’s belt [above] is not perfect.

Much has been made observation that the three pyramids on the Giza plateau appear slightly mis-aligned. They are not on a straight line. Since we marvel at the mathematical perfection of the early Egyptians, this has bothered investigators. Thus when in 1993 Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert in their bestselling book The Orion Mystery saw the three ‘belt’ stars of Orion as defining the ground-plan of the Giza Pyramids the theory was met with cautious enthusiasm. However, not all were convinced by the “Orion Correlation Theory” (OCT), as it became known.

The alignment wasn’t “perfect” but it was close enough for many Egyptologists. But not for Andrew Collins.

The alignment with the “wings” of Cygnus [above] is perfect.

Collins discovered another group of stars in the constellation Cygnus that matched with the same perfection that was the trademark of the Egyptians. By superimposing the stars of Cygnus over the three pyramids he could see that one star, Deneb, was not aligned. Looking where something should be — a pyramid or temple — there was nothing. Perhaps time had destroyed it? Perhaps it was buried? Or perhaps it was a sign that something else was under the plateau, waiting to be discovered.

Collins later found clues left in the 200-year-old memoirs of British diplomat and explorer Henry Salt. Salt wrote how, in 1817, he and Italian explorer Giovanni Caviglia had investigated cave “catacombs” at Giza for a distance of “several hundred yards” before coming across a “spacious” chamber. This chamber linked to three others of equal size, from which went various labyrinthine passages, one of which the Italian later explored for a distance of “300 feet further”.

Collins decided to look for these caves in the area where the unmarked star of Cygnus would align in relation to the three pyramids. He discovered a series of catacombs, as Henry Salt had described, but no sign of any caves. Then, as he was about to leave the site he noticed a break in the catacomb wall which eventually revealed the entrance to this huge complex network of caves.

Excited by this monumental discovery, Collins immediately went to inform the Egyptian authorities and expected them to be as excited as he was. Wrong!

Why Cygnus x-1 is unusual

Several thousand light-years away, near the “heart” of Cygnus, the swan, two stars are locked in a gravitational embrace. One star is a blue supergiant, known as HDE 226868. It is about 30 times as massive as the Sun and 400,000 times brighter. The other star is 5 to 10 times the mass of the Sun, but it’s extremely small. The object must be the collapsed core of a star. Its mass is too great to be a white dwarf or a neutron star, though, so it must be a black hole — the corpse of a star that once resembled the supergiant.

The system is called Cygnus X-1, indicating it was the first source of X-rays discovered in the constellation Cygnus. Discovered by the Uhuru X-ray satellite in the early 1970s, it was also one of the first suspected black holes.

The X-rays come from a disk of gas that’s spiraling into the black hole. As the two stars orbit each other once every 5.6 days, the black hole’s gravitational pull causes the blue supergiant to “bulge” toward it. In profile, the supergiant would resemble an egg, with the small end aimed at the black hole. But this egg doesn’t have a smooth edge. Instead, hot gas flows away from the star toward the black hole. The gas forms a wide, flat accretion disk that encircles the black hole. Friction heats the gas to a billion degrees or more, causing it to emit a torrent of X-rays — enough to fry any living thing within millions of miles.

But the X-ray glow isn’t steady. Instead, it flickers, which is one bit of evidence that identifies the dark member of the binary as a black hole. Gas enters the outer edge of the accretion disk then spirals closer to the star. If the center of the disk contained a normal star, or even a superdense neutron star, then the disk would get hotter and brighter all the way in to its center, with the brightest X-rays coming from the middle. Instead, the X-ray glow cuts off well outside the center of the disk. Observations with Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the central region occasionally flares up as blobs of gas break off the inner edge of the disk and spiral into the black hole.

These blobs are accelerated to a large fraction of the speed of light, so they circle the black hole hundreds of times per second. This causes the system’s X-rays to “flicker.” If the blobs of gas were orbiting a larger object, they would not move as fast, so their high-speed revolution is one bit of circumstantial evidence that identifies the dark companion as a black hole.

The black hole’s strong gravitational field “redshifts” the energy emitted by this gas to longer and longer wavelengths. Eventually, as the gas approaches the event horizon, the redshift becomes so great that the material disappears from view — just before it spirals into the black hole.

Egyptian authorities try to hide the cave discovery

According to Collins,

“Dr Hawass [Secretary General for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities] actually denied the existence of the caves. He has done this publicly. Why he has done this is a matter of debate.

The most easiest explanation is that the preliminary investigations that he did following our visit to inform him of the discovery of this cave, in April 2008, meant that his people went in the tomb overlooked the entrance, as we did initially.”

Fifteen months later, bowing to the inquiries made by the press and Egyptian scholars, Dr Hawass confirmed that he has ordered an all-Egyptian team to explore the tomb at the center of the “controversy”. Controversy? How could a discovery on such a scale be controversial?

“We are clearing this system now, and it is a Late Period catacomb, like many others around Egypt,” he stated this week. “There is no mystery about it, and there is no connection with esoteric topics. We will publish our results as part of our normal process.”

While applauding Dr Hawass’s new interest in the site, Collins remains sceptical of his motives. “We knew in August that he had started clearing the tomb,” he said. “The excavations began almost immediately after knowledge of the cave discovery hit the internet.”

Collins is also unconvinced by Hawass’s explanation of what he calls the “catacomb”. “Does his use of the term ‘system’ now suggest that he has found and entered the caves, which he previously denied even existed? he asks.

“My colleagues and I have examined photographic evidence of dynastic catacombs throughout Egypt, and these all appear to be carved by human hands.” –Hawass

But photographs don’t lie. Collins says, “Those at Giza are natural, and penetrate the bedrock for many hundreds of metres, perhaps following the course of local geological faulting.”

Although Dr Hawass suggests there is no mystery surrounding the “catacomb”, Collins suspects that the caves extend beneath the Second Pyramid, where ancient tradition puts the legendary Tomb of Hermes, Egypt’s legendary founder. This is significant because Hermes is known as the Great Wisdom Bringer and Collins suspects that the chambers could possibly reveal something left behind by Hermes — something like the legendary Hall of Records.

The Hall of Records — as prophesied by Edgar Cayce?

According to the legendary psychic, Edgar Cayce, the pyramids were constructed by an ancient civilization that had its origins in Atlantis. This great civilization existed somewhere around 10,000 to 11,000 BC and was responsible for building the Great Pyramid, and for burying the lost history of mankind in a chamber called “The Hall of Records.”

“The records are one… [They contain] “…a record of Atlantis from the beginnings of those periods when the spirit took form or began the encasements in that land.” — Cayce

The records extend through the first destructions of that ancient civilization, the exodus of Atlanteans to other lands, and the final destruction of Atlantis. They contain a description of the building of the Great Pyramid, as well as a prophecy of “who, what, where, would come [to make] the opening of the records.”

Collins says,

“This has never been found. So perhaps it is still there, awaiting discovery, somewhere close to where Salt and Caviglia reached nearly 200 years ago.

“I do believe that the caves that we have entered are part of a much larger complex that stretches right beneath the entire Giza plateau.”

Collins explains that the network of caves are natural and resemble Swiss Cheese. He believes they were formed long before the pyramids were built and suggests that they could be the reason the pyramids were built on this site. The early civilizations believed that part of the dying process involved traversing the so-called “underworld” and these caves might have been viewed as the entrance to this underworld. There is evidence of human activity in the deepest parts of the caves.

Satellite images help verify the caves

According to Collins, “Satellite images would tend to suggest that the caves… go all the way to the Second Pyramid.” A little west of here archaeologists have found a collection of bird mummies. Since the constellation of Cygnus is historically depicted as a bird, specifically a swan, it is theorized that worshippers left mummified birds as an offering associated with this star configuration or perhaps to Socar, the bird-like figure that was the ruler of the underworld.

From the entrance of the caves it appears that you can travel towards the Second Pyramid and directly under the spot where the Cygnus star, Deneb, would be aligned with the three pyramids and the wings of Cygnus. Is this where we will find the famed “Hall of Records”? Will the Egyptian government allow the world to know about what’s really there? Why are they being so secretive?

What’s in the caves

As of February 2010, Dr Zahi Hawass revealed that the system of caves was being probed by a host of experts.

“We have experts in all fields working with us,” he revealed this week.

“Archaeologists, geologists, engineers, and architects, to name a few… I will be posting information about our excavation at Giza on my web site and will be publishing the results of our work in due course.”

Work at the cave-tomb, designated “NC2” by American Egyptologist George A. Reisner, has discovered two new rock-cut shafts and stairways leading into a maze of underground chambers and galleries never seen before in recorded history. Dr Hawass has suggested that they may date to the Old kingdom period. It appears that the caves were originally used as catacombs but leter were used for a bird necropolis, where mummified birds and other small animals were offered as sacrifices.

Caves discovered under the pyramids raise excitement, questions..

Drilling Reaches Lake Vostok, Long Trapped Under Antarctic Ice Sheet

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and JAMES GORMAN
Published: February 8, 2012

MOSCOW — In the coldest spot on the earth’s coldest continent, Russian scientists have reached a freshwater lake the size of Lake Ontario after spending a decade drilling through more than two miles of solid ice, the scientists said Wednesday.


A man stood near a drilling apparatus at the Vostock research camp in Antarctica
on Jan. 13, 2006.

A statement by the chief of the Vostok Research Station, A. M. Yelagin, released by the director of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, Valery Lukin, said the drill made contact with the lake water at a depth of 12,366 feet. As planned, lake water under pressure rushed up the bore hole 100 to 130 feet pushing drilling fluid up and away from the pristine water, Mr. Yelagin said, and forming a frozen plug that will prevent contamination. Next Antarctic season, the scientists will return to take samples of the water.

The first hint of contact with the lake was on Saturday, but it was not until Sunday that pressure sensors showed that the drill had fully entered the lake. Lake Vostok, named after the Russian research station above it, is the largest of more than 280 lakes under the miles-thick ice that covers most of the Antarctic continent, and the first one to have a drill bit break through to liquid water from the ice that has kept it sealed off from light and air for somewhere between 15 million and 34 million years.

There have been much-disputed hints that life might still exist there. If so, that would give a great boost to hopes of finding life in similar conditions in icy water on one of the moons of Jupiter.

Dr. Lukin said it was a momentous, pioneering moment. “For me, the discovery of this lake is comparable with the first flight into space,” he told the Interfax news agency. “By technological complexity, by importance, by uniqueness. After reaching the water, the research team gathered by the drilling site for a photograph.

John Priscu, a geologist specializing in Antarctica at Montana State University, who has kept in contact with scientists in Antarctica and in Russia as the drilling has progressed, said that the anticipation had grown in the past two weeks as the drilling team finally came close to the lake surface just as the Antarctic summer was ending and the weather worsening.

“It has been a suspenseful two weeks for me,” Dr. Priscu said. He is headed for Antarctica next season to drill to another buried lake, and he said he was delighted with the Russian achievement. “I applaud them,” he said. “I think they have done a great job.” Russian officials said the timing of the announcement was fitting because on Wednesday, Russia celebrated “Science Day,” commemorating the occasion in 1724 when Peter the Great signed an order establishing the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences. And the drilling saga, like the expeditions of early explorers, has been years in the making and involves both scientific inquiry and national pride. In the early 1990s, an international team of researchers were drilling at the Vostok research station to obtain cores to study clues to past climate in ice that has been accumulating for millions of years. At a depth of more than two miles they reached a kind of ice different from the ice sheet and realized they had frozen lake water.

That a lake existed there was not a surprise, although its size and shape were not then known. What did raise scientific eyebrows was evidence that the lake ice contained microbes, said Robin Bell, of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, who has studied the lake extensively. But Dr. Bell said a consensus had never been reached on whether the evidence resulted from contamination from the drilling fluid.

Dr. Bell, who studies the behavior of ice sheets, designed surveys of the lake conducted in 2000 and 2001, using radar and other techniques, which showed its shape and location. Because it is such an unusual environment, there is always the possibility that it will provide other geological insights, she said, adding, “We could learn something absolutely unique.”

The drilling project has been Russian, not international. And the difficulties of drilling through more than two miles of ice and keeping the roughly five-inch bore hole from freezing over have been extraordinary. The bore hole has had to be filled with kerosene to keep it from freezing over, and the researchers have had to work in what are difficult conditions, to say the least.

Dr. Priscu said the drillers, led by Dr. Lukin, had been racing against time to complete the project before the Antarctic summer ended and flights became impossible. Temperatures have dropped to lower than minus 45 already, and at minus 50 the difficulties for aircraft become extreme.

Nowhere does it get colder than at Vostok, in the middle of the East Antarctic ice sheet about 800 miles from the South Pole. The coldest documented temperature on earth was recorded at Vostok in July 1983, minus 128.6. Some environmentalists have raised objections to drilling to subglacial lakes because of the possibility of contamination. The Russian plan to prevent the drilling fluid from reaching the pristine lake water was to plug the bottom of the bore hole with an inert fluid, Freon, and to drill the final distance with a heated drill tip instead of a motorized drill. Enough kerosene would be removed to lessen the pressure in the bore hole so that when the lake was reached, lake water would flow up the bore hole, then freezing and forming an icy plug. That is exactly what happened, Russian scientists confirmed.

The need to prevent even the slightest contamination of the lake is acute. Its environment is comparable to conditions on the moons of Jupiter, which are among the candidates for extraterrestrial life. If life exists in Vostok, it may well exist on Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, which has subsurface icy water. The water in Vostok stays liquid because of the pressure and the warmth of the earth below it.

Next season American and British expeditions will try to drill to other buried lakes, Dr. Priscu said. He is part of the American expedition that has targeted a lake in West Antarctica.

The specially designed drill that the American team will use, Dr. Priscu said, is being sent down to Antarctica by ship, and that journey has already begun. “The drill,” he said, “is on its way to the ice.”

David M. Herszenhorn reported from Moscow, and James Gorman from New York.

A version of this article appeared in print on February 9, 2012, on page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Lake Trapped Under Ice Is Reached in Antarctica.

via Drilling Reaches Lake Vostok, Long Trapped Under Antarctic Ice Sheet – NYTimes.com.