Things that caught my eye this week

I never knew…

There were once pink and white terraces on the hillside above Lake Rotomahana in New Zealand, which drew visitors from around the world (quite a journey in the mid-1800s!). Apart from the pink colour, they perhaps looked a bit like the ones pictured (which are in Yosemite National Park, in the USA). But they were lost in a volcanic eruption in 1886, and have never been seen since. The area had never been properly mapped, so no-one was quite sure where they were. Now two researchers think they may have pinpointed where they are buried.

More on the Guardian web site.

The U2 spy plane

No, I didn’t see one, but in the course of a talk by Sir David Pepper I learned a couple of things that made me admire the courage of the pilots of these secretive aircraft.

First, they flew so high, and in such rarefied air, that their speed had to be very precise to keep the aircraft stable – within only a few miles per hour either way.

Second, the wings were so long that they had extra wheels to support the ends on take-off, but these were then jettisoned to save weight. That meant that there was no such support on landing, and the plane was landing only on a pair of wheels directly below the (very narrow) fuselage, which has been likened to “landing on a unicycle”. To make matters worse, the pilot had extremely limited downward visibility, so a chase car would drive along behind and count the pilot down. You can see it all happen in this video:

Makes any commercial airliner landing look like a stroll in the park…

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