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Re: did you know

Interesting. What prompted this research? When I was 9 or 10, guano imports from South America were still a big deal. I remember learning about it in probably the 4th grade.

On Aug 2, 2008, at 12:02 PM, Kitty wrote:

The history of Bat Guano and American Expansion

Stemming from the Incan language (Quichua) for "bird droppings", guano is thought to have been used for centuries in both South American and Pacific Islander civilizations. The Incas discovered that bat rookeries established on nearby island chains contained vast amounts of this excellent soil fertilizer, which were easily accessible and provided amazing results when used on corn and bean crops. Spanish explorers took both the word and the practice back with them to Europe. Guano soon became a valuable commodity, rivaling only gold in its value as an import of the new world.

Later, American farmers eagerly took to using Bat Guano as well, with Congress going so far as establishing the Guano Island Act in 1856. This act secured future guano supplies by allowing ocean islands to be claimed as territories in the name of harvesting guano. Incidentally, many currently owned American Territories were established in this manner such as Johnson Atoll and the famous Midway Island, which served as an important forward base of operations during World War II.

It wasn't until after the invention of gunpowder that early chemists discovered that components of bat guano also lent itself to the production of powerful explosives. Guano harvesting was increased as the military found a new use for the unorthodox fertilizer. Bat guano operations began to spring up all across the world, from the remote corners of New Zealand to the depths of the Grand Canyon, and they have continued in production ever since.

Today, Bat guano is still in use as both a fertilizer and a component of some ammunitions. Bat guano has even been taken into space aboard the Mercury and Gemini space capsules, and was used as the propellant to deploy the radio transmission antennas after splashdown. Bat guano may have originally been a discovery of the ancients, but its usefulness for modern society can still be seen today.

I bet Cathy knew all this.

neIN, Zone 5
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Island Jim
Willamette Valley
44.99 N 123.04 W
Elevation 148'
Hardiness Zone 8/9
Heat Zone 5
Sunset Zone 6
Minimum 0 F [-15 C]
Maximum 86 F [30 C]

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