Tag Archives: United States

From Hope to Heartbreak: the Pathetic Case of the Frustaci Septuplets

Myself .

 By T.V. Antony Raj


Patti Frustaci, a 30-year-old English teacher at Rubidoux High School, in Riverside, California, and wife of 32-year-old Samuel Frustaci, an industrial equipment salesman for a Buena Park firm, had already conceived a child, a healthy toddler named Joseph.

Even though they already had a healthy child, Patti and Samuel opted for fertility treatment. From August to November of 1984, Dr. Jaroslav Marik, a pioneer in his field with a stellar reputation treated Patti Frustaci at Tyler Medical Clinics Inc., of West Los Angeles, where Marik was a part owner. He treated Patti with the drug Pergonal, a fertility drug used for fertility issues in women, especially women who are anovulatory and oligo ovular.

When ultrasound examinations performed during the following January revealed the presence of seven fetuses which meant that the fetuses had a slim chance of surviving until term. When Patti’s obstetrician warned of the possible outcome, and counseled her to have a selective abortion by which a doctor would remove several of the fetuses in order that the remaining unborn offsprings would have a better chance of survival. Being Mormons by faith, the Frustacis invoked God’s teaching and spurned abortion.

Patti Frustaci got admitted in St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California on March 25, 1985.

A 38-member medical team was constituted at St. Joseph Hospital to assist Patti’s obstetrician, Dr. Martin Feldman,  in what was to become the first largest multiple births in the medical history of the United States of America.

The average duration of a normal pregnancy is 280 days (40 weeks), calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period, with 85 to 95% babies born between the 266th and the 294th days. Common deviations thus range up to 14 days in either direction. However, in the Frustaci case, the medical team determined that the babies would have a better chance of survival if they completed 28 weeks of gestation in the mother’s womb before their birth.

Patti’s hypertension threatened to deprive the fetuses of nutrition. As a result of hypertension, the team of doctors scheduled the surgery after her condition declined from good to fair.

On May 21, 1985, Patti Frustaci was wheeled into the delivery room at St. Joseph Hospital.

Beginning at 8:19 am, the operation went smoothly without any hitch led by Dr. Martin Feldman. It took only three minutes for the caesarean section team to deliver the first septuplets in the United States, prematurely at 28 weeks. For Dr. Feldman, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The seventh-born septuplet, later named Christina Elizabeth, was stillborn, apparently died in the uterus several days before. The 32-year-old Samuel Frustaci, had a moment alone with the stillborn baby and held it as did his wife Patti after she came out of the general anesthesia.

The weights of the septuplets ranged from 15.5 ounces (439.42 grams) to 1 pound 13 ounces (822.14 grams).

About 10 minutes after delivery, to compensate for the immaturity of their lungs and immune systems, the six surviving Frustaci septuplets requiring a higher level of care were transferred to the adjacent CHOC Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph Hospital and placed on respirators and antibiotics.

At St. Joseph Hospital, where the babies were delivered and as Patti Frustaci remained in the intensive care unit, the switchboard was flooded with calls of well-wishers. Many of the calls were from new mothers offering support, prayers and outgrown baby clothes. Also, bouquets of flowers and huge baskets filled with stuffed toys arrived at the hospital.


 Sam Frustaci visits with baby, May 23, 1985. The infant is nicknamed 'Peanut' (Source - corbisimages.com)
Sam Frustaci visits with baby, May 23, 1985. The infant is nicknamed ‘Peanut’ (Source: corbisimages.com)


On Thursday, May 23, 1985, the sixth-born septuplet, David Anthony, the tiniest of the six Frustaci septuplets who survived birth, nicknamed “Peanut,” went into “respiratory distress” around 7 pm. The doctors were able to resuscitate him. He died the following day, Friday, May 24, 1985, at 12:34 am.

Peanut was brought to Patti from CHOC after he died, and she held him for about an hour. According to Samuel Frustaci, the hardest thing for Patti is the fact that she never got the chance to see (Peanut) alive.


Parents of septuplets Samuel Frustaci and wife (Patti) leaving the hospital
Parents of septuplets Samuel Frustaci and wife (Patti) leaving the hospital


On Wednesday, May 29, 1985, around 12:30 pm, wearing a lavender robe and cradling a bouquet of roses, a joyous Patti Frustaci emerged from St. Joseph Hospital on a wheelchair to the cheers and applause of employees of the hospital in a wheelchair. A jubilant Samuel Frustaci accompanied his wife Patti, passing a horde of reporters got into a waiting car en route to the home of Patti’s parents where she would continue recuperating while her five surviving septuplets remained behind at CHOC. A wagon full of stuffed animals attached to balloons followed her car.

The second-born septuplet, James Martin, who was in the most critical condition and had been given a 50-50 chance of survival died after 16 days on June 6, 1985.

Three days later, on Sunday, June 9, 1985, Bonnie Marie, the fourth-born septuplet, who for so long beat the odds against her survival, died at 12:25 pm. She lasted a week longer than they gave her.

All three infants succumbed to cardiopulmonary failure and arrest due to severe hyaline membrane disease, a disorder of the alveoli and respiratory passages that result in the inadequate expansion of the lungs.

The three surviving septuplets, two boys, and one girl: Steven Earl, Richard Charles and Patricia Ann, were on oxygen and medication to fight infection. Because of their traumatic birth, the doctors suspected that both boys may also have cerebral palsy. The Children’s Hospital of Orange County released them one at a time beginning in mid-August 1985 as they recovered from problems that afflict premature babies.


Patti Frustaci holds her son, the last of her three surviving septuplets to leave Children's Hospital of Orange County.
Patti Frustaci holds her son, the last of her three surviving septuplets to leave Children’s Hospital of Orange County.


Extraordinary expenses such as the cost of their medical care amounted to more than $1 million, offset only partially by offers of free food, goods and services and an exclusive interview contract with People magazine. As the infants died, many withdrew their endorsements and many offers never materialized.

The first birthday for the three surviving Frustaci septuplets was marked by disclosures that the two boys have cerebral palsy and all three suffer from eye, hearing and breathing disorders. The two boys had hernia surgery and all the infants attached to monitors that sound a warning when breathing stops.

Initially, the Frustacis considered the births as a “blessing”” on their family, but grieved the loss of four children. Then the reality of caring for three premature infants quickly became an ordeal.

Since they followed the Mormon faith, it stands to reason that the outcome of the pregnancy was God’s will. But since they could not sue God, the Frustacis went after the next best candidates, the Taylor Clinic and Dr. Jaroslav Marik.

On October 7, 1985, the Frustacis filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Tyler Medical Clinics Inc. of West Los Angeles, the fertility clinic that treated Patti Frustaci, and her physician, Dr. Jaroslav Marik who prescribed and injected Patti Frustaci with the fertility drug Pergonal.

The suit accused the clinic and the physician of failing to monitor fertility medication properly and to perform tests that could have indicated the potential for multiple births before conception. It blamed them for health and developmental disabilities of the surviving three babies afflicted with eye problems and considered developmentally retarded.

The suit also alleged medical malpractice, four wrongful deaths of their babies, loss of earnings and of earning capacity as a result of the overprescription of the fertility drugs. The Frustacis sought $1 million for current and future medical expenses, and $1.25 million for non-economic losses – $250,000 for each parent and for each of the three surviving infants.

The fertility clinic admitted no wrongdoing.

In July 1990, the Tyler Medical clinic agreed to pay $450,000 immediately and the three children would receive monthly payments for the rest of their lives. If the surviving three children live to a normal life expectancy, the award could total $6 million.

Dr. Marik, the fertility specialist who treated Patti Frustaci, refused to participate in the agreement. The doctor said at a news conference that he was not to blame for the plight of the Frustaci septuplets because Mrs. Frustaci was a patient who did not follow instructions and had a tendency to decide what she wanted to do.

On Monday, June 22, 1987, Patti Frustaci was driving from Las Vegas to Barstow on Interstate 15 with her three surviving septuplets. Her van got stuck in the sand in the middle of the highway when she tried to make a U-turn across the center divider. California Highway Patrol officers arrested her on suspicion of drunken driving. She was released five hours later on her own recognizance and her 2-year-old infants were handed over to their father.

On December 21, 1990, Five and a half years after the birth of the septuplets, the 36-year-old Patti Frustaci treated with the same fertility drug, Pergonal at another clinic gave birth to healthy twins – a boy and a girl, at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. They named them Jordan Browne and Jaclyn Lee.

Pathetically, the family broke up. Samuel and Patti Frustaci divorced a few years later.



The Hadith of Gabriel


Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj


In Arabic, the word ḥadīth (Arabic: حديث‎) means a “report, account, narrative”. To Muslims, the word Hadīth connotes “report on the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad”.

The Hadith of Gabriel (ḥadīth Jibrīl) in Sunnī Islām, is the single most important Hadīth. It is found in both the Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī and the Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim.

The five pillars of Islam

Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:

  1. Shahadah (belief, confession, or declaration of faith – Muslim life)
  2. Salat (obligatory worship in the form of prayer)
  3. Zakat (compulsory alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
  4. Sawm Ramadan (self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
  5. Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)

The Arabic word Ṣawm (Arabic: صوم‎; plural: صيام ṣiyām), regulated by Islamic jurisprudence literally means fasting – to abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

The Muslims of Iran, Central Asia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh use the words roza/rozha/roja/oruç, derived from Persian.

The Muslim communities in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines call it puasa, the word derived from Sanskrit, upauasa.

Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self-purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.

The Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]

Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th-century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green - 1
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)
Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)


While my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.



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Three Years Ago, When Hurricane Sandy Pounded USA, I Was in Ellicott City, Maryland!


By T.V. Antony Raj


Three years ago, when Hurricane Sandy, unofficially known as the “Superstorm Sandy”, devastated the United States in October 2012, I was in Ellicott City in Maryland.

Hurricane Sandy was the second-costliest hurricane in the history of the United States. It was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It all began on October 22, 2012.

A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction
Monday, October 22, 2012

Developing in the southern Caribbean Sea off the coast of Nicaragua as a tropical easterly wave causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms, The depression strengthened and six hours later becomes Tropical Storm Sandy, with maximum winds of about 40 mph. It moved slowly northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensified.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On October 24, Sandy became a  Category 1 hurricane, moved northward across the Caribbean and made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica with winds of 80 mph.

Although Hurricane Sandy’s eye does not cross the Dominican Republic and Haiti to its east, the storm dumped more than 20 inches of rain on Hispaniola. More than 50 people died in flooding and mudslides in Haiti.

A few hours later, it re-emerged into the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. Off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record as measured by diameter, with winds spanning 1,100 miles (1,800 km).

Thursday, October 25, 2012
Detailed map compiled by NOAA on October 25, 2012, that shows the track of Hurricane Sandy (Source: gowally.com)
Detailed map compiled by NOAA on October 25, 2012, that shows the track of Hurricane Sandy (Source: gowally.com)


Sandy strengthened as it moved from Jamaica to Cuba and made landfall in the historic city of Santiago de Cuba with winds of about 110 mph as a Category 3 hurricane.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy caused more devastation as it crossed the Bahamas and made a slight turn to the north-northwest.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sandy moved away from the Bahamas and made a turn to the northeast off the coast of Florida. Sandy weakened for a brief period of time to a tropical depression and then restrengthened to a Category 1 hurricane.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sandy continued moving northeast on a track parallel to the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. As it approached latitude 35 degrees north off the coast of North Carolina, the hurricane’s eye stayed well offshore. Even then, the storm still a Category 1 hurricane with peak winds of about 80 mph sent powerful tsunami-like waves onto North Carolina’s Outer Banks washing out some places in NC Highway 12.

Due to an unusual configuration of converging weather factors meteorologists warned that the storm as it churns northward would likely morph into a powerful, hybrid super-storm.

A high-pressure cold front to Sandy’s north forced the storm to  turn to the northwest toward major cities such as Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York. And the meteorologists expected that in conjunctions with the effects of the full moon Sandy’s storm surge to be 11 to 12 feet in some places and a little higher as it made landfall.

Sandy expanded into a huge storm covering about 1,000 miles with strong winds.

Monday, October 29, 2012
This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey (Source: voices.nationalgeographic.com)
This satellite image from NOAA shows Sandy on the morning of October 29, 2012 as it was about to begin its approach to the coast of New Jersey (Source: voices.nationalgeographic.com)


At 12:30 pm, Sandy made its expected sharp turn. It curved west-northwest (the “left turn” or “left hook”) and then moved ashore near Brigantine, New Jersey, just to the northeast of Atlantic City, as a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds. The storm also has started interacting with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process. The storm dumped heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

During the afternoon, Sandy brought high winds and drenching rains from Washington, D.C. northward, toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. The storm eventually affected more than 50 million people on the Eastern Seaboard.

At 8 pm, Sandy’s center came ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The storm was no longer considered a hurricane, but was classified as a post-tropical Nor’easter. But the storm’s unusual path from the southeast made its storm surge much worse in New Jersey and New York.


The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is flooded after a tidal surge caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. The storm has claimed at least 39 lives in the United States, and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is flooded after a tidal surge caused by Hurricane Sandy, on October 30, 2012, in Manhattan, New York. The storm has claimed at least 39 lives in the United States and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)


A high storm surge, a coastal flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water occurred in New York City with a high tide of 14 ft (4.2 m),  a new record for a storm surge in the harbor, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. The surge tops the sea wall at The Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and floods parts of the city’s subway system. The surge also floods the Hugh Carey Tunnel, which links Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn.


Spooky gray NYC skyline
Spooky gray NYC skyline


The wind, rain and flooding from the huge storm pounded New Jersey and New York throughout the night and through three cycles of high tides and low tides.


Tanker John B Caddell beached on Front Street, Staten Island (Photo: Jim Henderson)
Tanker John B Caddell beached on Front Street, Staten Island (Photo: Jim Henderson)


Staten Island also was hit very hard by the storm. The Seattle Times later reported that towns such as Oakwood Beach, Midland Beach, South Beach and Tottenville — which lost many residents who were police and firefighters during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — were among the hardest-hit communities.

When I look back, I remember posting several times on Facebook on 29th and 30th October 2012 about Hurricane Sandy to benefit my friends and readers in the United States and to assure my kith and Kin in India that my family was safe:

7:00 am EDT:
From the Carolinas to Maine, Hurricane Sandy will affect 50 million people.

Hurricane Sandy is churning off the East Coast and is expected to join up with two other weather systems to create a huge and problematic storm affecting 50 million people. Here’s a snapshot of what is happening or expected, state by state.
The storm lashed barrier islands off North Carolina and rendered several homes and businesses nearly inaccessible. About 90 miles off the coast, a tall ship carrying 17 people was in distress; the Coast Guard was monitoring.

The number of power outages increased quickly in a state where utilities’ response to past weather-related failures has become a political issue. Connecticut Light & Power says hundreds of customers are without power. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked a task force to ensure fuel suppliers are fully stocked. Many residents along Long Island Sound heeded warnings and evacuated.

Hundreds of people fled to shelters as the rough surf pounded the coast. Water covered some roads.

Snow is expected in mountainous areas.

Officials predict coastal flooding and beach erosion, and utility crews have been brought in from Canada to handle anticipated power failures.

Baltimore is opening six shelters; several city intersections are closed because of flooding threats. Early voting, which began Saturday and was to run through Thursday, was canceled for Monday.

Utilities brought in crews from as far away as Texas and the Midwest to cope with anticipated power failures. Most schools and colleges have canceled classes. The Boston transit authority said it would continue to operate as long it was safe.

Gov. John Lynch put 100 National Guard soldiers on active duty to help with preparations. Two shelters are being set up, and some schools have closed.

Sandy’s center is expected to make landfall in New Jersey late Monday. By daybreak, more than 5,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. Thousands of people evacuated low-lying areas, and many inland towns hit by flooding from storm Irene last year issued evacuation orders.

Many residents left low-lying flood evacuation zones, and the subway system shut down Sunday night. A storm surge of 11 feet is possible, the highest of all coastal areas being hit by Sandy. The New York Stock Exchange and other U.S. financial markets shut down for at least the day. Thousands of flights were canceled at the city’s major airports.

Residents of low-lying areas and along Lake Erie were told to watch for flooding; utilities are anticipating high winds that could blow down trees and poles. Snow is forecast in some areas.

Many schools closed. Philadelphia shut down its mass transit system, and hundreds of flights were canceled at the city’s airport. Dozens of people took shelter at evacuation centers. Thousands of members of the National Guard have been told to be ready for deployment.

Several communities have ordered mandatory evacuations and many schools closed for the day. Big waves are expected to cause flooding along Narragansett Bay, which bisects the state. Authorities told people to be prepared for long periods without power.

Snow is expected in higher elevations, where a freeze warning has been issued. High winds are expected in many areas.

About 2,000 customers lacked power, and a utility said as many as 1 million could ultimately lose electricity. Many residents of Chincoteague Island, popular with tourists, shrugged off the idea of evacuation.

Gov. Peter Shumlin declared a state of emergency to provide access to National Guard troops in a state still recovering from the devastating effects of the remnants of Hurricane Irene. Culverts and storm drainage basins in some spots have been cleared of debris.

The capital area’s transit system shut down rail service for the first time since 2003, and the Smithsonian Institution closed for the day.

As much as 2 to 3 feet of snow were forecast in mountainous areas, and flooding was possible in some areas. Several shelters were put on standby, and power crews were mobilized to handle potential failures.

3:30 pm EDT:
Here in Ellicott City, Maryland, the wind speed is 41 mph NW. Not menacing at the moment.

3:40 pm EDT:
Landfall for Sandy within 3 hours time near Atlantic City, New Jersey shore with a wind speed of 90 mph in the center. The system moves at 18 mph.

8:40 pm EDT:
In Ellicott City, Maryland, the wind speed has risen to 49 mph WNW.
8:54 pm EDT:
Sandy landfall in Cape May, New Jersey around 8 pm.
9:00 pm EDT:
Battery Park in New York City is now inundated with 11.87 feet high. Water might enter NYC subway. Trains and buses won’t run on Tuesday (tomorrow).

9:30 pm EDT:
Waters from Hudson river has breached the Manhattan Broadwalk. Battery Park in New York City is now inundated with 13.7 feet high. MTA confirms that the subways are flooded.

1.5 million homes experience power outages in many states. In Maryland, 195,000 homes are without electric power. We have still not been hit by a power cut.

9:45 pm EDT:
Power surges, outages and flashes being experienced in the New York City area. Everything is dark over there. Manhattan is in darkness as well as the Statue of Liberty.

10:47 pm EDT:
All bridges were closed for traffic. Chesapeake Bay Bridge that connects Baltimore-DC area with the northern parts of Maryland such as Kent Island too was closed for traffic around 4 pm.

10:55 pmEDT:
Sandy is still on its way towards us playing havoc with everything in its path.

Sandy had its landfall in Cape May, New Jersey around 8 pm. Ellicott City, MD is about 210 miles from the landfall area. The system is moving around 20 to 25 mph and I expect it to come here on Tuesday (tomorrow) morning around 6 am EDT.

Tuesday , October 30, 2012

2:10 am EDT:
Hurricane Sandy plays havoc: Widespread Power outages have occurred in all the north-eastern and eastern states. In Maryland, 391,005 homes are experiencing power cut.

2:15 am EDT:
Sandy is 10 miles southwest of Philadephia, PA.

10:50 am EDT:
Sandy has passed us. We did not incur any damages. We did not lose any power.

I thank all of you for praying for us.

However, my heart bleeds for those who have suffered and are undergoing hardships due to the havoc created by this “Frankenstorm” called SANDY.

11:00 am EDT:
Sandy: The loss to properties has been assessed between 10 and 20 billion dollars.

11:30 am EDT:
Sandy slammed New Jersey last night and early morning today. At least 16 deaths reported. Massive flooding, high winds, and widespread power outages hit the East Coast as Sandy moves inland.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Sandy dissipated over western Pennsylvania, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its final advisory on the storm: “multiple centers of circulation in association with the remnants of Sandy can be found across the lower Great Lakes.”


Click on this line or the photo below to see photos of the effects of Hurricane Sandy. 

People scavenging for food in a dumpster where a Key Food supermarket has discarded spoiled food, due to power outages after Hurricane Sandy hit New York (Photo: Mr. Choppers)
People scavenging for food in a dumpster where a Key Food supermarket has discarded spoiled food, due to power outages after Hurricane Sandy hit New York (Photo: Mr. Choppers)



Do You Have Tight Nuts or a Rusty Tool?


By T.V. Antony Raj



An old ad for wd-40


The above leaflet from the 1960’s  created by a master craftsman is a gross and most brazen advertisement loaded with double entendre for WD-40. It is an innuendo that seems to work with the true facts of what WD-40 can do. Even though the ad is a fake, it gives the impression of a real advert from the 1960’s with the stains and frayed edges.

On November 4, 2014,  a user posted this image showing a printed advertisement for the WD-40 spray lubricant  in a “funny photos” thread on the US Message Board, asserting it was an ad from 1960. As the image got shared on sites such as  Facebook, Imgur, and Reddit, the date changed,  with the most common claim being 1964.

Several attributes of the advertisement give it away as a fake:

1. If this was a genuine, high-profile ad for WD-40 why is it the only photograph available on the Internet documenting its existence?

2. If you look at this image critically you will note that it is not a photograph at all. The  paper on which the advertisement appears looks old and crinkled, but the letters are straight. This implies that the text is  a digital overlay on a background image of a crinkled page.

3. The image describes the product as “WD 40” when its name is, and always had been, rendered as WD-40.

4. The image refers to a ‘red knob‘ whereas the distinctive red cap that now tops the WD-40 cans was originally black!

By the way, those of you not familiar with WD-40 must be wondering what the hell it is.

Back in 1953, Norm Larsen founded the Rocket Chemical Company. The fledgling company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry.

Working in a small lab in San Diego, California, Norm Larsen, a persistent chemist, perfected his water displacing formula on his 40th try. So, WD-40 stands for “Water Displacement, the 40th formula“, a name that came straight out of the lab book used by Norm Larsen.

The formula of WD-40 is a trade secret. Out of fear of disclosing its composition Norm Larsen did not apply for a patent for WD-40 in 1953. The opportunity for patenting the product has long since elapsed since the application for a patent should have been filed prior to any public use or public disclosure of the invention anywhere in the world. Even today, the original secret formula for WD-40 is still in use.

The Convair Division of General Dynamics at the Kearny Mesa assembly plant north of San Diego, California, built the SM-65 Atlas, for U.S. Air Force. It was the first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) developed and deployed by the United States that became operational in October 1959. The Atlas missile’s warhead was over 100 times more powerful than the bomb dropped over Nagasaki in 1945.

Later on, for almost half a century, the Atlas missile served as a first stage satellite launch vehicle.

The balloon-like paper-thin stainless steel fuel tanks of the Atlas missile were and fragile, and when empty, to prevent them from collapsing, they had to be kept inflated with nitrogen.

Convair used WD-40 as a corrosion-inhibiting coating to protect the paper-thin stainless steel outer skin of the fuel tanks of the Atlas missile from rust and corrosion.


WD-40 worked well to inhibit rust and corrosion. This prompted several employees to sneak out some WD-40 cans out of the plant to use in their homes.

A few years following WD-40’s first industrial use, Norm Larsen reasoned that consumers might find a use for the product in their homes as some of the employees had. So, in 1958, he put the product into aerosol cans and made it available in stores in San Diego.

In 1960, Norm Larsen’s Rocket Chemical Company doubled in size, growing to seven people and sold an average of 45 cases per day to hardware and sporting goods stores in the San Diego area.

On Monday, September 11, 1961, Hurricane Carla, ranked as the most intense US tropical cyclone with a highest wind speed of 280 km/h made landfall near Port O’Connor, Texas.

To meet the disaster needs of the victims of Hurricane Carla along the US Gulf coast, the Rocket Chemical Company filled its first full truckload order for WD-40 to use in reconditioning flood and rain damaged vehicles and equipment.

In 1968, soldiers in Vietnam received goodwill kits containing WD-40 to help keep their firearms in superb working condition by preventing damage from moisture.

In 1969, the company changed its name to WD-40 Company, Inc., after its only product.

In 1973, the company went public. On the first day of listing, the stock price increased by 61%. From then on, the WD-40 Company, Inc., grew by leaps and bounds. In 1993, WD-40 sales grew to more than one million cans per week.

WD-40 is now virtually a household name in America with 80% American households using it. About 81 percent of professionals in many consumer and industrial markets such as aviation, automotive, manufacturing, construction, hardware, home improvement, farming, and sporting goods, use it regularly.

WD-40’s main ingredients as supplied in aerosol cans, according to U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet information are:

(1) Aliphatic hydrocarbons – 50%”.
According to the manufacturer’s website this ratio in the current formulation per se is not Stoddard solvent which is a similar mixture of hydrocarbons.

(2) Petroleum base oil – 25%.
Probably a mineral oil or light lubricating oil.

(3) Low vapor pressure aliphatic hydrocarbon – 12 to 18%.
To reduce the liquid’s viscosity for use in aerosols. The hydrocarbon evaporates during application.

(4) Carbon dioxide – 2 to 3%.
A propellant used instead of the original liquefied petroleum gas to reduce WD-40’s flammability.

(5) Inert ingredients – 10%.




Dave Whitlock Has Not Showered for 12 Years!


By T.V. Antony Raj


David Whitlock - the man who has not showered for 12 years. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)
David Whitlock – the man who has not showered for 12 years. (Source: dailymail.co.uk)


In early December 2014, I wrote a six-part series of articles titled  “To Bathe, or Not to Bathe“.  Then, I was not aware of the existence of R. David Whitlock, a chemical engineer and a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who had not showered in the past 12 years.

Whitlock claims that he has not taken a shower in over 12 years because soap and bath gels affect and deplete the natural balance of the skin microbiome.

Justin Sonnenburg, a microbiologist at Stanford, regards the human body as “an elaborate vessel optimized for the growth and spread of our microbial inhabitants.”

According to Published research for every one human gene, there are 100 associated genes within our microbiome. And so, more than 100 trillion microorganisms live in and on our body. They live in our mouths, tongues, guts, mucosal surfaces and on the surface of our skin.

These microbes perform various beneficial functions relevant to supporting life. They help to digest food, prevent disease-causing pathogens from invading the body, and synthesize essential nutrients and vitamins.

Changes in the microbiome can trigger changes in human cellular activities, resulting in disease or contribute to its progression.

Ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB)

In the late 1990s, when David Whitlock went on a date with a young woman, she asked him why her horse liked to roll in the dirt.

Horse Rolling on its back (Source: Durk Talsma/flickr.com)
Horse Rolling on its back (Source: Durk Talsma/flickr.com)


Unable to answer her, Whitlock read books on biology. He gathered soil samples and grew bacteria in his basement. After reading hundreds of papers, he concluded that it must be important for the horses to roll in the dirt.

He learned that sweat of the horse is abrasive to its skin and causes equine acne that starts as a small, oily black plugs in the skin and may develop into red, itchy inflamed bumps.

He found ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) in the soil. He realized that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) in the soil must be helping the horse to clean itself by converting urea and ammonia found in sweat into nitrite and nitric oxide.

Nitrite fights most bad bacteria while nitric oxide has anti-inflammatory properties.

In the following video, Dr. Larry Weiss, MD, a Key Member and Chief Medical Officer of AOBiome LLC talks about AOB.



From his study of the behavior of the horses, Whitlock concluded that useful bacteria once colonized on human skins too, and with the advent of knowledge in Chemistry and modern hygiene, humans eradicated them by sterilizing their bodies with soaps, lotions, and antiseptics, leaving our skin more susceptible to challenge.

Whitlock believed that by restoring the appropriate AOB levels, a range of human health conditions could be impacted.

In 2000, to test his hypothesis, Whitlock began adding AOB to water and dousing himself daily. He avoided using soaps because they kill the microbes.  For the past 12 years, Whitlock did not shower. He found that the bacteria kept him clean and odor-free. His skin looks fresh, and he smells nice.

Though Dave Whitlock does not shower, he  takes an occasional sponge bath to clean off  the accumulated grime on his skin.

Patent US7820420

On August 10, 2001, Dave Whitlock presented his application papers for obtaining a patent for compositions, including ammonia oxidizing bacteria to increase production of nitric oxide and nitric oxide precursors and methods of using same. He obtained the patent US7820420 for same on October 26, 2010.


A method of enhancing health through the generation in close proximity of a surface of a subject, nitric oxide and nitric oxide precursors using bacteria adapted to oxidize ammonia and urea derived from perspiration is described. Local and systemic effects are described including a reduction in vascular disease, enhancement of sexual function, improved skin health, and reduced transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

NitroCell BioSciences LLC

In 2012, Dave Whitlock co-founded NitroCell BioSciences LLC as a pharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The company focused on getting U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for bacteria-based prescription therapies for acne, eczema, rosacea, wound healing, and more.

In March 2013, NitroCell BioSciences LLC changed its name to AOBiome, LLC.

Now, AOBiome, LLC develops skin products based on ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB). The company’s products are used to restore the natural balance of skin microbes that have been lost due to modern living practices, including the use of soaps and shampoos. It also develops AO+ Refreshing Cosmetic Mist, a cosmetic product to improve the look and feel of skin.


Jasmina Aganovic, AOBiome's general manager for consumer products (Source: bizjournals.com)
Jasmina Aganovic, AOBiome’s general manager for consumer products (Source: bizjournals.com)


According to Jasmina Aganovic, an MIT graduate and AOBiome’s general manager for consumer products, as humans, we need to reconnect with our environment. “We’ve confused clean with sterile. … We’ve taken the dirt out of our lives. We don’t spend as much time outdoors as we used to — even as little children.

So, AOBiome, LLC has created and launched “Mother Dirt” to add a little dirt back into our lives. AOBiome is the first cosmetics company to market a product that contains live bacteriaThe company claims their products do not cause illness, even if ingested.

The Mother Dirt products set themselves apart from all other scientific skincare items that have flooded the market in recent times.

The new skincare line Mother Dirt has a new way of looking at clean. (Source: fashionnstyle.com)
The new skincare line Mother Dirt has a new way of looking at clean. (Source: fashionnstyle.com)


The Mother Dirt AO+ mist specifically contains live ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB) that’s sprayed on the skin twice a day. It has no odor and feels like water. There’s a Mother Dirt shampoo and cleanser that doesn’t contain bacteria, but Jasmina Aganovic says it won’t interfere with it either.

Though Dave Whitlock still doesn’t shower, he uses Mother Dirt every day and hopes the rest of the world will join him. He said: “I would like a billion people a day to use this.

Aobiome officials believe in the health benefits of these live bacteria. They are not making any scientific claims right now, but they will soon begin clinical trials on inflammatory skin conditions like acne.






What Do People in the IT Companies Really Do?


By T.V. Antony Raj


Sometimes back I came across on Facebook the following thought-provoking conversation between a father and his son working for an IT company. It was in Tamil. I have embellished it for your reading pleasure.


Source:- pronetusa.biz
Source:- pronetusa.biz


Dad: “By the way, what do people working in IT companies do?”

Son: “Why do you ask?”

Dad: “Because I see them strutting about like the peacocks – aloof and serious.”

Son: “Appa (Dad), do you include me also in your remark?”

Dad: “In a way, yes. Is it because you guys earn hefty salaries?”

Son: “Appa, these westerners, especially the Americans, want everything done in a jiffy. And, for this, they are ready to spend any amount.”

Dad: “Yes. Yes. Loaded as they are, they can afford to spend on such things.”

Son: Almost all companies and banks in the US, UK, and other European countries are ready to spend any amount to develop software  to do this thing or that thing. We call them ‘clients’.”

Dad: “OK”.

Son: “The IT companies have their offices and personnel in those countries to sniff out such clients who are ready to dole out heavy amounts. We call such personnel ‘Pre-Sales Consultants’, ‘Sales Consultants, etc.”

Dad: “What do your sniffers do?”

Son: “On approaching a potential client, our consultants will first introduce our company. They will highlight the pros where we excel more than our competitors.”

Dad: “So, your consultants will cast the bait and wait for the fish to bite!”

Son: “Yes. While nibbling the bait, the potential client will ask 1001 questions. They will want to know whether we can do this, do that and so on.”

Dad: “And…”

Son: “Our Consultants will assert that our programmers can develop whatever they want. They will eulogize the members of our IT personnel as demigods who can create any kind of software for quick and efficient conduct of their business.”

Dad: “Then, you are a demigod?”

Son:  “Hired as consultants at exorbitant salaries, it is their duty to say so.”

Dad: “What educational qualifications should a consultant have?”

Son: “Most of them are highly qualified MBA, MS, and such other degree holders.”

Dad: “What! Do you need people with such high qualifications to just say ‘can do’?”

Son: “Yes. Their qualifications carry much-needed weight to inveigle a potential client.”

Dad: “And then what? Will the potential client transform into a loyal client?”

Son: “Appa, it is a bit difficult to predict. There is a lot of competition in the IT field. Like our firm, other IT companies in India and other eastern countries too would have approached the potential client.

Dad: “So, how will you secure the project?”

Son: “Here comes the power of persuasion. Our consultants will promise the potential client that members of our software development team being demigods would complete their project in 60 days what in reality would take more than a year to complete.”

Dad: “How can a project that would take a year to complete be accomplished in just two months? Would it be possible even if they work 24 hours a day? Doesn’t the promise amount to cheating?”

Son: “I won’t  call it cheating because, during those 60 days, the client would be hazy about what the real needs are, neither will we be. Even so, we will deliver ‘a completed project’ in 60 days.”

Dad: “Then what will happen?”

Son: “The client will moan and say ‘This is not what we wanted’. They will then demand  that we incorporate this, that, and so forth.”

Dad: “And, then…”

Son: “Our consultants will ask them to raise a ‘CR’.”

Dad: “A CR?”

Son: “Change Request.”

Dad: “What does that mean?”

Son: “Our consultants will tell the client that during the stipulated 60 days our company had accomplished work for the amount paid, and if the client requires anything else, then the client will have to pay extra.”

Dad: “Will the client agree?”

Son: “Yes. The client has to agree. Can you face the world with a half-done haircut?”

Dad: “Ok. Now tell me what your company does once they secure a project.”

Son: “First, we will form a team for the project. A Project Manager will head the team.”

Dad: “That means, the person appointed as the Project Manager will know every aspect of that project.”

Son: “Not at all. The Project Manager knows nothing of what the programmers under him do.”

Dad: “If so, what is his work?”

Son: “If any of us make a mistake, we will point our finger at the Project Manager. He is the proverbial Redeemer, ‘The lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world‘, the martyr, and the scapegoat. He is always under stress wondering who in the team might be next trying to bury him. “

Dad: “Poor fellow.”

Son: “The success or failure of a project is in the hands of the Project ManagerIf it is a success, the team gets the accolade, but if it fails, then he gets the boot. “

Dad: “I pity the poor soul.”

Son: “If we have any problems, we approach him.”

Dad: “Will he solve your problems?”

Son: “What! Solve our problems? Never. The company pays him to shake his head in the affirmative and mumble, ‘I fully understand your problem‘. It’s like you shake your head before Amma (mom).”

Dad: “I am glad to know that you at least accept me as the manager of this house. Carry on.”

Son: “Under the Project Manager are the Tech Lead, Model Lead, Program Developers, Software Testers, etc.)”

Dad: “You come under the category of…”

Son: “Developer. Most developers are from Tamilnadu, Andhra, and Karnataka.”

Dad: “What do the Testers do?”

Son: “The sole object of the Testers is to find fault with the work of the developers.”

Dad: “What! Your company pays Testers to find fault in the work of others?”

Son: “Yes.”

Dad: “So, with the combined efforts of all these staff, the project would be easy to complete, isn’t it?”

Son: “It’s not so. Only the developers and the testers work. Others, from my point of view, just idle.”

Dad: “Will you complete the project before the due date?”

Son: “Of course not. It would be a shame if we complete the work by the due date and it would rather be better to commit suicide because the management would think the work is just simple and start the process of retrenching.”

Dad: “But, won’t the client question the company about the time lag in completing the project?”

Son: “Yes. The client will! But, we will counter the client by saying, the computers they gave us were dusty; their staff coughed during the team meets infecting our staff; inclement weather; unpleasant working environment; toilets not clean;  cobwebs on the ceiling, etc., and flabergast the client.”

Dad: “And then…”

Son: “The confused client, with no other option left, will give us some more time to finish the project.”

Dad: “And will you complete the project in time and hand  it over to the client?”

Son: “Not at all. If we do that, then half the computer savvy people in our country will have to beg on the streets.”

Dad: “So?”

Son: “A few weeks before handing over the completed project, we will stage a scene before the client. We will throw a hint that we had accomplished something stupendous in our project that only our developers could understand and manage.”

Dad: “And?”

Son: “Like a new bride, the flabergasted client will beg us to not to leave and will request us to provide them a few of our developers who could stay with them to run and take care of the project. This additional process called ‘Maintenance and Support‘ will be an ongoing project for years to come.”

Dad: “Now, I understand the workings and strategies of an IT company. It’s not only marrying a woman, but also maintaining her for an indefinite period in the future!”

Son: “Yes, Appa.”

Vikings, the First Colonizers of North America: Part 3 – America Honors Leif Erikson


By T.V. Antony Raj


On October 9, 1825, the ship Restauration came into the New York Harbor with immigrants from Stavanger, Norway. It was the first organized official immigration of Norwegians to America.

Stories of Leif Erikson’s journey to Helluland (Baffin Island), Markland (Labrador coast) and Vinland (areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence) in North America later helped the Nordic immigrants to the United States to identify themselves with pride with the great explorer of the new found land.

New England region of the Northeastern United States consists of the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In the nineteenth century, the theory that Leif Erikson and his men visited New England gained popularity. Many believed that Cape Cod in Massachusetts could have been the Vinland of the Viking sagas.

Statue of Lief Erikson at Common Wealth Avenue, Boston (Source: wrightimages.com)
Statue of Lief Erikson at Common Wealth Avenue, Boston (Source: wrightimages.com)

In 1887, the first statue of Leif Erikson created by the American sculptor and poet Anne Whitney was erected on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. It was followed by the erection of another statue of Leif Erikson in Milwaukee by Anne Whitney.

New England in the Northeastern United States consists of the six states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In the nineteenth century, the theory that Leif Ericson and his men visited New England gained popularity. Many believed that Cape Cod in Massachusetts could have been the Vinland of the Viking sagas.

Norumbega Tower,  Weston, Massachusetts.

The Norumbega Tower, Weston, Massachusetts.


In 1889, Eben Norton Horsford, a Harvard Chemistry professor, erected the Norumbega Tower in Weston, Massachusetts at the confluence of Stony Brook and the Charles River.  He built it to mark the supposed location of Fort Norumbega, a Norse fort and city. The tower is approximately 38 feet tall, composed of mortared field stones with a spiral stone staircase.

Horsford believed that the Algonquin word ‘Norumbega’, means the general region that is now coastal New England. Convinced that the word “Norumbega” was derived from “Norvega” meaning Norway, he believed Norumbega was Vinland.

In 1901, the city of Chicago erected the statue of Leif Erikson that was commissioned for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

In 1925, during the centenary celebration of the first official immigration of Norwegians in America, President Calvin Coolidge told a crowd of 100,000 people at the Minnesota State Fair that Leif Erikson had indeed been the first European to discover America.to America,

Replica of Leif Erikson’s Viking ship in Duluth

Visitors to the Leif Erikson Park and Rose Garden in Duluth, a seaport city in the State of Minnesota, USA, can view the replica of a Viking ship built in 1926 in Norway by local boat builder Christian Overlier for Captain Gerhard Folgero. It is not an exact replica of a Viking craft, but a representation of the same class and style of boat likely used by Leif Erikson himself.

The ship on display is a 42-foot wooden fembøring vessel patterned after the traditional Norwegian working craft constructed of fir or pine. Medieval Norse adventurers, explorers, traders, and fisherfolk used this type of crafts. Architects consider the dragon’s head and tailpiece fitted on the ship to be masterpieces.

Captain Folgero and his crew sailed the fembøring vessel from Bergen, Norway, to the coast of Labrador and beyond, following much of Leif Erikson’s original sea route. From Labrador, they reached Boston, covering in all 6,700 miles in 50 days. During their voyage, they faced hurricane-like winds, icebergs, and fog.

From Boston, they sailed on to Duluth to take part in a national convention of Norwegian emigrants invited by the Norwegian-American immigrant and businessman H.H. Borgen.

The crew landed in Duluth on June 23, 1927.

Bert Enger, a Norwegian immigrant and West End furniture dealer along with the wife of his late business partner, Emil Olson, purchased the Norwegian boat and presented it to the city of Duluth. The ship placed on display in Duluth’s Lake Park was later named Leif Erikson Park. The boat was once considered Duluth’s second-largest tourist attraction after the Aerial Lift Bridge.

In 1929, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill to make October 9 “Leif Erikson Day”.

A few have speculated that Norsemen may have penetrated as far as Minnesota, either down from Hudson Bay or going west through the Great Lakes. Some researchers suggest that the Mandan Indians showed evidence of being culturally influenced by pre-Columbian explorers from Europe. A Runestone with carvings of a Scandanavian nature was discovered near Kensington, Minnesota, dating to approximately 1030.

Statue of Leif Erikcson near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Statue of Leif Erikcson near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.

On October 9, 1949, a statue of Leif was erected near the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota.

In 1964, the United States Congress authorized and requested the president to proclaim October 9, of each year as “Leif Erikson Day”.

U.S. commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.
U.S. commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.commemorative stamp issued 9 October 1968, Leif Erikson Day.

On October 9, 1968, Leif Erikson Day, the United States issued a commemorative stamp to honor Leif Erikson, the first Viking colonizer of North America.


← Previous: Part 2 – Leif Erikson






Vikings, the First Colonizers of North America: Part 2 – Leif Erikson


By T.V. Antony Raj


 Bjarni Herjólfsson

The “Saga of the Greenlanders” (“Grænlendinga saga” in modern Icelandic tells that in the summer of 986, Bjarni Herjólfsson, a Norse explorer sailed to Iceland as usual, to visit his parents. Since his father had migrated to Greenland with Erik the Red, Bjarni with his crew set off to find him.


Bjarni Herjólfsson (Source: ru.warriors.wikia.com)
Bjarni Herjólfsson (Source: ru.warriors.wikia.com)


In the 10th century, they had no map or devices such as compasses to guide them. Neither Bjarni nor any of his crew members had been to Greenland before. A storm blew them off course. Bjarni and his crew saw a piece of land covered with trees and mountains. The land looked hospitable. They were not sure whether it was Greenland. Although his crew begged him to, Bjarni refused to stop and explore the new lands. He was much eager to reach Greenland to see his parents.

So, Bjarni Herjólfsson was the first European to have made landfall there and see North America beyond Greenland.

After regaining his course, and arriving in Greenland, Bjarni reported seeing the low-lying hills covered with forests some distance farther to the west. But at the time no one seems to have shown interest. Later, word spread of the lands to the west, which Bjarni Herjólfsson had seen.

As they lacked timber, Greenlanders took a special interest in what Bjarni described. They became allured by the wooded coastline Bjarni had seen. It created a great intrigue throughout the Nordic Empire. Though Bjarni was celebrated by the Greenlanders, King Eric chided him for not exploring that land mass.

 Leif Erikson

In 999, Leif Erikson, the son of Greenland leader Erik Thorvaldsson (Old Norse: Eiríkr Þorvaldsson), also known as Erik the Red (Old Norse: Eiríkr hinn rauði), travelled from Greenland to Norway.

Leif Erikson ((Source - pixgood.com)
Leif Erikson ((Source – pixgood.com)


Blown off course to the Hebrides and staying there for much of the summer with his crew, Leif arrived in Norway. He became a hirdman of King Olaf Tryggvason. He converted to Christianity from Norse paganism and took on the mission of introducing the new religion to Greenland.

Leif Erikson, having heard the story of Bjarni Herjólfsson, approached Bjarni and purchased the ship he had used for his voyage.

The Saga of Erik the Red says Leif Erikson hired a crew of 35 men. He planned to take his father, Erik the Red along with him in his expedition, however, Erik fell off his horse on the way to the ship, and this was taken as a bad omen and stayed at home. Leif with his crew set out towards the land Bjarni had described. He retraced Bjarni’s route in reverse.


Map shows the route Leif Erikson took to reach Vinland
Map shows the route Leif Erikson took to reach Vinland


They first went up the West Coast of Greenland and then crossed the Davis Strait and landed first in a rocky and desolate place which he named Helluland (“the land of the flat stones”), possibly Baffin Island.

Then, they went down south and found a forest area which amazed them because there were no trees in Greenland. They named the region Markland (“Wood Land”), possibly Labrador coast.


The Viking expedition led by Leif Eriksson lands on Vinland (Source: kids.britannica.com)
The Viking expedition led by Leif Eriksson lands on Vinland (Source: kids.britannica.com)


After two more days at sea, they landed in a luscious place. Relative to Greenland, the weather was mild. Salmon was aplenty in the streams. They named the region Vinland (“land of pastures”).

During one of these explorations, they found the land was full of vines and grapes. Leif and his crew built a small settlement, which later visitors from Greenland called Leifsbúðir (Leif’s Booths).

The earliest record of the name “Winland” is in chapter 39 of Adam of Bremen’s “Descriptio insularum Aquilonis” (“Description of the Northern Islands”) written c. 1075. Adam implies that the name contains Old Norse “vín” (Latin “vinum” meaning “wine”):

Praeterea unam adhuc insulam recitavit a multis in eo repertam occeano, quae dicitur Winland, eo quod ibi vites sponte nascantur, vinum optimum ferentes.

“In addition, the island discovered by many in one of the seas, which is called Winland, from the fact that the spontaneous growth of grapevines, produced the best wine.”

This etymology retained in the 13th-century Saga of the Greenlanders, provides a circumstantial account of the discovery of Vinland, and named from the vínber, i.e. “wine berry,” a term for grapes or currants (black or red), found there.

Archaeological evidences suggest that Vinland may have been the areas around the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the world’s largest estuary, and the outlet of the North American Great Lakes via the Saint Lawrence River into the Atlantic Ocean.

Leif Erikson formed two groups: one to remain at the camp, and the other to explore the lands.

After having spent the winter in Vinland, Leif Erikson returned to the family estate of Brattahlíð in Greenland in the spring of 1000 with a cargo of grapes and timber.

In Greenland, he started preaching Christianity. His father, Erik Thorvaldsson reacted with anger to the suggestion that he should abandon his religion –  Norse paganism.

Replica of Tjodhilde's Church, was built in Brattahlið (Source: greenland.com)

Replica of Tjodhilde’s Church that was built in Brattahlið (Source: greenland.com)


His mother became a Christian and built a church called Thorhild’s Church (actually a small chapel) in Brattahlið.

At odds with both wife and eldest son Leif, Erik attempted a sail to Leif’s Vinland with his youngest son Thorstein. They failed to reach Newfoundland, but the doughty Eric said, “We were more cheerful when we put out of the fjord in the summer; but at least we are still alive, and it might have been worse.”

Erik the Red is last mentioned in the sagas in 1005.

Leif Erickson is last mentioned alive in 1019. By 1025, he installed one of his sons, Thorkell as the chieftain of Eriksfjord (Eiríksfjǫrðr).

None of the sagas mentions Leif Erickson’s death. He must have died in Greenland. Nothing further is known about his family beyond the succession of Thorkell as chieftain.

In the early 1960s, Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad and his wife, archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad, identified a Norse settlement located at the northern tip of Newfoundland. They suggested that this site, known as L’Anse aux Meadows, is Leif’s settlement of Leifsbúðir, the first known attempt at founding a settlement by Europeans on the mainland of the Americas.

Leif Erikson had opened the way to America. Vikings ships plied from Greenland to these “new lands” (Newfoundland) during the following years.

According to Brattahlíð lore, Thorvaldur, the brother of Leif Erikson set sail to further explore Vinland. The natives of Vinland, called Skrælings (“stunted”) by the Norse because of their small size, attacked Thorvaldur and his crew. Thorvaldur received a fatal wound and his men buried him in Vinland and returned to Greenland.

According to the “Saga of the Greenlanders,” Leif Erikson’s younger brother Thorstein set sail for Vinland along with his wife Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir (Guðríður Þorbjarnardóttir) to retrieve his brother Thorvaldur’s body. Losing their way at sea they had to return. At the close of the first week of winter, they landed at Lysufiord, where Thorstein fell ill and died.

After her husband’s death, Gudrid returned to Brattahlíð. She married a merchant named Thorfinn Karlsefni, “a man of good family and good means” and “a merchant of good repute.” After their marriage, at Gudrid’s insistence, the couple set sail to Vinland with a group of sixty men, five women, and various livestock in an attempt to settle down in the camp that Leif Erickson had built some years earlier. They spent three years in Vinland.

In Vínland, Gudrid bore a son, the first European reported to be born in the Western Hemisphere. They named him Snorri Thorfinnsson,

Harassed by the natives, Thorfinn and Gudrid returned with their son to Greenland, where Thorfinn Karlsefni died.

After that, the hostile indigenous people of Vinland thwarted the many attempts by settlers from Greenland and Iceland to found a colony there. The stories of the various Viking expeditions survived in the collective memory of the descendants of those who returned by the 13th century from the North American coast to settle once again in Greenland and Iceland.

The Norse settlements in coastal North America were small. They did not develop into permanent colonies. While voyages, such as to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of enduring Norse settlements on mainland North America.

Leif Erikson has the honor of being the first European to open the way to America almost 500 years before Christopher Columbus.


Next → Part 3 – America Honors Leif Erikson

← Previous: Part 1-  Erik the Red







Vikings, the First Colonizers of North America: Part 1 – Erik the Red


By T.V. Antony Raj


For eons, the Americas were a pristine no man’s land.  Around 12,000 BC, humans first stepped onto the North American continent. But who were they?

The Clovis people
 Beringia Land Bridge. This animation illustrates the flooding of the Bering Land Bridge over the last 18,000. (Source: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Beringia Land Bridge. This animation illustrates the flooding of the Bering Land Bridge over the last 18,000. (Source: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)


Approximately 14,000 years ago, humans walked across the Bering Strait from Siberia into Alaska. They were the Clovis people.

The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Paleo-Indian culture, named after distinct stone tools found at sites near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1920s and 1930s. This culture appears at the end of the last glacial period,  roughly  around 13,200.

The Clovis people spent the next few thousand years migrating from Alaska to the south and east across North America, and then into South America.


Clovis points from the Rummells-Maske Site, 13CD15, Cedar County, Iowa, These are from the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist collection.
Clovis points from the Rummells-Maske Site, 13CD15, Cedar County, Iowa, These are from the Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist collection.


The manufacture of “Clovis points” and distinctive bone and ivory tools characterize the culture of the Clovis people. They are the ancestors of most of the indigenous cultures of the Americas: the Folsom tradition, Gainey, Suwannee-Simpson, Plainview-Goshen, Cumberland, and Redstone.

At the same time as the Clovis people began leaving behind tools, human bones and other evidence of their presence in the northwest, humans were leaving similar items along the New England coastline in the Northeastern United States. It puzzled the historians. They wondered how the Clovis people could trek from both Alaska and New England at the same time?

The answer – two different cultures discovered America: one crossing the frozen Bering Strait, on foot; and the other traveling from Europe to America’s east coast by boat.

Gunnbjørn Ulfsson

Gunnbjørn Ulfsson (circa 10th century), also known as Gunnbjørn Ulf-Krakuson, a Norwegian, was the first European to sight North America. Blown off course while sailing from Norway to Iceland, GunnbjørnUlfsson and his crew sighted islands which he called “Gunnbjarnarsker”  (Gunnbjörn’s Skerries) lying close off the coast of Greenland. They did not land on any of those islands. However, Gunnbjørn reported this find.

The exact date of this event is not recorded in the Nordic sagas. Various sources cite dates ranging from 876 to 932, but these must remain little more than guesses, but the early 10th century is more likely than earlier.

Around 978, Snaebjörn Galti (c. 910 – 978) made the first purposeful visit to Gunnbjørn’s islands. According to records from the time, this first Norse attempt to colonize Greenland ended in disaster.

Historians consider Eric the Red, the Viking rover, who soon followed Galti’s attempt, as the first permanent European settler in Greenland.

Eric the Red

According to medieval and Icelandic sagas Erik Thorvaldsson (Eiríkr Þorvaldsson) was born in the Jaeren district of Rogaland in Norway around 950.


Erik the Red, the fierce red-haired Viking discovered Greenland about AD 982. (Source: lookandlearn.com)
Erik the Red, the fierce red-haired Viking discovered Greenland about AD 982. (Source: lookandlearn.com)


He is best known as Erik the Red (Eiríkr hinn rauði). The appellation “the Red” most likely refers to the color of his hair and beard and perhaps also because of his fiery temper.

Erik’s father Thorvald Asvaldsson (Þorvald Ásvaldsson) was banished from Norway for manslaughter. Thorvald sailed West from Norway with his family and settled in Hornstrandir in northwestern Iceland, 175 miles away from Greenland.

Erik married Thorhild (Thjóðhildr), daughter of Jorund Atlisson, and as part of her dowry received land at Eriksstadir in Haukadal where he built a farm.

Around the year 980, the thralls (serfs or slaves) of Erik caused a landslide on the neighboring farm belonging to Valthjof. The landslide buried the home of Valthjof along with him and his family. Eyiolf the Foul, a kinsman of Valthjof in turn killed the thralls. Eric retaliated by killing Eyjolf and Holmgang-Hrafn. Eyjolf’s kinsmen demanded the banishment of Erik from Haukadal.

The Vikings cherished the ornamental beams which were symbols of Viking authority and had religious, mystical, and political significance known as the setstokkr. Erik had inherited his setstokkr which his father had brought with him from Norway. After giving this setstokkr to his friend Thorgest (Þórgestr) to look after, Erik and Thorhild moved to the isle of Öxney off the western Icelandic coast.

After building his new house, Erik went back to Haukadal to get his setstokkr. Thorgest refused to give them back. An infuriated Erik went to Breidabolstad and stole Thorgest’s own setstokkr instead.

Thorgest gave chase. Erik prepared an ambush. In the ensuing skirmish, Erik slew both sons of Thorgest and a few other men.

Thorgest approached the court.

In 981, the thing (Þing), assembly of Thorness resolved the dispute. Erik was banished from both Iceland and Norway, for three years.

Colonizing Greenland

Erik the Red had heard about the “Greater Ireland” settlements in Greenland, a small, unprotected Irish settlement in Greenland.

In the spring of 981 he traveled westward in his 100-foot-long ship. It was not a romantic voyage with the urge to discover new lands. It was rather a typical Viking voyage of plunder.


An illustration by Carl Rasmussen of Erik the Red on a Viking longboat as he and his men from Norway first land on what became Greenland in 982 AD (MansellGetty Images)
An illustration by Carl Rasmussen of Erik the Red on a Viking longboat as he and his men from Norway first land on what became Greenland in 982 AD (MansellGetty Images)


Erik’s party landed near Julianehåb. They arrived too late to reap the reward, for the Irish settlers had already left and mere arctic desolation greeted them.

They spent the first winter on the island of Eiriksey. In spring, he proceeded to Eriksfjord (Eiríksfjǫrðr). They spent the second winter in Eiriksholmar, close to Hvarfsgnipa.

According to the Saga of Erik the Red, Erik spent his three years of exile exploring this land. In the last summer, they explored as far north as Snaefell and into Hrafnsfjord. They even crossed the Davis Strait and reached Baffin Island, then abundant with game.

Erik was much impressed with the resources he found in the land. He was convinced that the new land was better adapted than Iceland for raising stock.

In 985, Erik returned to Iceland after the expiry of his exile period. He wanted to found a colony in the new land he had found. He knew that the success of any settlement in the new land would need the support of as many people as possible.

Erik had great powers of persuasion. He was always boasting and praising the new land he had returned from. To lure potential settlers, Erik on purpose called the land “Greenland” which was a more appealing name than “Iceland”. Many Vikings, especially those living on impoverished lands in Iceland and those that had been victims of a recent famine became convinced that Greenland held great opportunity.

The following year Erik set out from Iceland leading a fleet of 25 ships on course for Greenland. On board were around 500 men and women, various livestock, provisions and gear required to found the settlement in Greenland.

Of the 25 ships only 14 made it to the eastern shore of Greenland – of the other 11, some sank while others turned back to Iceland.

Each sea-captain claimed a fjord to which he gave his name.

Erik the Red and his wife Thorhild took the best fjord. They called it Eriksfjord (Eiríksfjǫrðr). They built the farm Brattahlið near its head (in present-day Qassiarsuk). Here, Erik lived like a Jarl (lord) with his wife and four children: Leif Erikson, Thorvald (Þorvaldr) Eiriksson, Thorstein (Þorsteinn) Eiriksson, and an illegitimate daughter, Freydis Eiríkssdóttir.


A farm house in Greenland (Source: bestof.fjordnorway.com)
A farm-house in Greenland (Source: bestof.fjordnorway.com)


Along one side of Eriksfjord was much good pasture. The farm Brattahlið lay on one of the most fertile plains in Greenland. Another large green valley lay behind it.

Erik the Red held the title of the paramount chieftain of Greenland and became both much respected, and wealthy.

Both the Eastern Settlement (the area around present-day Qaqortoq, formerly Julianehåb) and the Western Settlement (around Nuuk or Godthåb, the capital and largest city of Greenland) were presumably established soon.


The Eastern Settlement, Greenland (Source: archaeology.about.com)
The Eastern Settlement, Greenland (Source: archaeology.about.com)


The Eastern Settlement was about 300 miles south of the Western Settlement. Located near the mouth of Eiriksfjord in the area of Qaqortog, the Eastern Settlement had about 200 farmsteads and supporting facilities.

During the summers, when the weather favored travel, each fjord-based settlement would send an army of men to hunt in Iss Vagr above the Arctic Circle. They hunted  food and other valuable commodities such as seals, Walrus tusks and meat from beached whales. In these expeditions, they first met the Inuit people or Skræling.

The settlement flourished, growing to 5000 inhabitants spread over a considerable area along Eriksfjord and neighboring fjords. Groups of people escaping overcrowding in Iceland migrated to Greenland.

In 1002, a group of immigrants brought with it an epidemic that ravaged the colony, killing many of its leading citizens, including Erik the Red.

The Norse colony in Greenland lasted for almost 500 years.


Next → Part 2 – Leif Erikson







Save the Wetlands

Myself . 

By T.V. Antony Raj

Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Logo of Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On February 2, 1971, an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of sustainable wetlands called the ‘Ramsar Convention on Wetlands‘, was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the shores of the Caspian Sea. It provided the framework for national action and international cooperation. In 1997, World Wetlands Day celebrated for the first time made an encouraging beginning.


Wetland wallpaper
Wetland wallpaper (Photo credit: Jon Rieley-Goddard aka baldyblogger)


Technically a wetland is defined as:

An ecosystem that arises when inundation by water produces soils dominated by anaerobic processes, which, in turn, forces the biota, particularly rooted plants, to adapt to flooding.

In layman’s words, a wetland is a land area saturated with water, either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the characteristics of a distinct ecosystem.

Every continent has its own Wetlands that occur naturally except Antarctica. The Amazon swamp forests and the Siberian peatland are the largest wetlands in the world. Another large wetland is the Pantanal, which straddles Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay in South America.

The primary factor that distinguishes wetlands from other landforms or water bodies is the characteristic vegetation adapted to its unique soil conditions. Primarily wetlands consist of hydric soil, which supports aquatic plants.

A hydric soil is formed under conditions of saturation of soil with water, seasonally by flooding, or permanently by ponding (pooling of unwanted water) long enough to develop anaerobic conditions in the upper part. This term is part of the legal definition of a wetland included in the United States Food Security Act of 1985 (P.L. 99-198).

There are four main kinds of wetlands: marsh, swamp, bog and fen. Sub-types include mangrove, carr, pocosin, and varzea. Some experts also include wet meadows and aquatic ecosystems as  wetland types.

Marsh is a flat, wetland area, devoid of peat, saturated with moisture during one or more seasons. Typical vegetation includes grasses, sedges, reeds and rushes. Marshes are valuable wetlands that maintain water tables in adjacent ecosystems.

Swamp is a low-lying wetland area found near large bodies of open water in such places as low-lying coastal plains, floodplains of rivers, and old lake basins or in areas where glacial deposits have disrupted normal drainage. An abundant growth of rushes and sedge characterize swamps in the northern regions. Trees, such as the swamp cypress and high shrubs dominate southern regions. Swamps can prevent flooding by absorbing floodwaters from rivers and coastal regions.

Bogs and fens (in eastern England) are types of mires – an area of wet, soggy, muddy ground.

Bogs receive their water from the atmosphere. Their water has a low mineral ionic composition because ground water has a higher concentration of dissolved nutrients and minerals in comparison to precipitation. Bogs have acidic soil.

Fens, also known as the Fenland(s), are natural marshy regions in eastern England.

A fen is the local name for an individual area of marshland or former marshland and also designates the type of marsh typical of the area.

Most of the fens drained several centuries ago, became flat, damp, low-lying agricultural regions.

The water chemistry of fens ranges from low pH and low minerals to alkaline with high content of calcium and magnesium. ,


Laguna de Rocha, the largest wetland in the urban area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo - Martinsnm)
Laguna de Rocha, the largest wetland in the urban area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo: Martinsnm)


Water in wetlands along the coastal shorelines is invariably salty or brackish. Water found in inland wetlands can also be fresh water.

Wetlands have many vital and fascinating characteristics that play a number of roles in the environment while also providing recreational opportunities.

Wetland systems improve water quality, control floods and buffer coastal communities from erosion vital for shoreline stability.

Wetlands are the most diverse of all biological ecosystems. They comprise a range of plants that provide essential food and habitat for various wildlife such as fish, birds, reptiles, insects, etc.

The wetlands are pivotal to 75% of world’s migratory birds. More than half of the fish caught for recreational or commercial purposes depend on wetlands at some point in their life cycles.

Wetlands can also be constructed artificially to serve as a water management tool in the design of water-sensitive urban areas.

Frankly, much of the report compiled by the world environmental agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  (NOAA) do not portend well.

For example, NOAA has authored a report, “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004-2009,” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that summarized the status and trends of coastal watersheds.

According to the report, the coastal watersheds of the continental United States lost wetlands at an average rate of 80,000 acres a year during the study period an area about seven football fields every hour, and a 25% increase over the previous six-year study period.

The loss of these valuable wetlands threatens not only the sustainable fisheries and protected species, but also the supply of clean water and stability of shorelines in the face of climate change.

Almost half of the population in the United States now lives in coastal counties. Continued loss of coastal wetlands means less protection for those communities in the coastal counties from strong storms, such as Superstorm Sandy.

Key factors in the degradation and loss of wetlands in coastal watersheds are directly traced to population growth and its associated development — both residential and infrastructure, changes in water flow, and increased pollution.

Imagery from Earth-observing satellites that map changes in wetlands, however, show that while Mediterranean wetlands had been principally used for agriculture, less wetland areas have been changed by agriculture in the past 10–15 years. This  indicates that agriculture expansion is no longer a severe threat and successful agricultural practices can actually support healthy wetlands.

Imagery from Earth-observing satellites that map changes in wetlands, however, show that while Mediterranean wetlands had been principally used for agriculture, less wetland areas have been changed by agriculture in the past 10–15 years. This  indicates that agriculture expansion is no longer a severe threat and successful agricultural practices can actually support healthy wetlands.

Agriculture needs wetlands for water, pest management, pollination and landscape improvement. At the same time, agricultural land acts as a buffer zone around wetlands, protecting them from developing industrial zones and urban areas. This cohabitation shows that wetlands and the agriculture sector are mutually beneficial.

Recognizing this connection, common strategies for wetland and agro ecosystem-conscious management are on global agendas.

Paul OuedraogoRamsar Convention’s Senior Advisor for Africa said:

“We need to find the right balance between the economic demands of agriculture and the necessary wise use of wetlands, which benefits both and is indeed essential for each of them.”



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