Island mystery ‘solved’
A researcher yesterday claimed to have solved the riddle of a mystery island shown on Google Earth and world maps which does not exist, blaming a whaling ship from 1876. The phantom landmass in the Coral Sea is shown as Sandy Island on Google Earth and Google maps and is supposedly midway between Australia and New Caledonia. However, according to Australian scientists, who went searching for it last month, it could not be found. Intrigued, Shaun Higgins, a researcher at Auckland Museum, started investigating and claims it never existed, with a whaling ship the source of the original error. “As far as I can tell, the island was recorded by the whaling ship the Velocity,” Higgins told ABC radio, adding that the ship’s master reported a series of “heavy breakers” and some “sandy islets.” “My supposition is that they simply recorded a hazard at the time. They might have recorded a low-lying reef or thought they saw a reef. They could have been in the wrong place. There is all number of possibilities,” he said. “What we do have is a dotted shape on the map that’s been recorded at that time and it appears it’s simply been copied over time.”
Workers injured as rig tilts
About 90 workers were injured yesterday when an oil rig being built at a shipyard tilted to one side, the Ministry of Manpower said, amid reports of explosions and snapping cables. One worker was in critical condition and 22 others were seriously injured during the incident at the Jurong Shipyard, the ministry said in a statement. “Preliminary findings indicate that the jack-up mechanism of one of the legs of a three-legged jack-up rig had failed, causing the rig to tilt to one side,” the ministry said. “Some 90 workers have been sent to four hospitals — the majority had minor injuries with one worker in a critical condition and 22 seriously injured.”
Briton dies after chase
A 28-year-old British man has drowned after jumping into the sea in the resort town of Pattaya after being chased by a group of Thai men wielding sticks and knives, police said yesterday. The man, and two other Britons, aged 29 and 30, leapt into Pattaya Bay late on Sunday morning after being chased through a restaurant by several Thai men who they had argued with the previous night. A fishing boat was only able to rescue the victim’s two companions. Police said the Thai men alleged the British trio were drunk and had destroyed property in a hotel in the early hours of Sunday, prompting the argument and chase when the two groups met again several hours later. No arrests have been made so far in connection with the incident.
Troops receive drink ban
US troops in Okinawa, southern Japan, have been banned from drinking off base, a US military statement said, following a spate of crimes including the alleged rape of a local woman. The move is the latest clampdown by military commanders on their sometimes rowdy charges as they look to contain seething anger in their host community. “Drinking alcohol in off-base establishments is prohibited for all service members on Okinawa,” the US Forces in Japan said on Facebook over the weekend. “On base alcohol sales will cease at [10pm] each night, which includes clubs” and shops. The statement also said drivers departing base will be subject to breathalyzers while passengers and pedestrians may also undergo “sobriety tests.”
Natural wonder inaugurated
Table Mountain was formally inaugurated as one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature at a ceremony on Sunday, a move officials hope will bring major economic benefits to the area. The mountain, which towers over Cape Town, was crowned one of the natural wonders last year after a global poll that allowed anyone in the world to vote via telephone, text messages or social media networks. Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said she expected the listing of Table Mountain to “bring tremendous direct economic and socio-economic benefits” to the city and the country. The impact has begun to show already, with officials saying they received a record number of visitors to the mountain last month.
Programmer escapes death
Authorities have suspended the death sentence for a computer programmer convicted on charges of running a pornographic Web site after he “repented for his actions,” his lawyer was quoted as saying on Sunday. Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian citizen and Canadian resident, was arrested in 2008 while visiting relatives in Iran, according to Amnesty International. Although authorities accused him of running a pornography site, Amnesty has said the charges appear to stem from a software program created by Malekpour that was used without his knowledge to post pornographic images. Such images are illegal in the Islamic republic. Malekpour’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told Mehr news agency that his client had repented for his actions after his death sentence, issued by the Revolutionary Court, was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Rare hymn book to be sold
Congregants of one of the nation’s oldest churches have voted to auction off a 372-year-old hymn book that is expect to fetch between US$10 million and US$20 million at auction. Members of the Old South Church in Boston authorized the sale of one of its two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, which was published in 1640. It is among the first books ever published in North America, and only 11 copies remain. Board of Trustees Chairman Phil Stern says the church wants to continue growing its endowment and take care of some “critical capital needs.” He says although there was loud opposition to the sale, the vote was not close, with 271 votes cast in favor and 34 against.
Magician’s head set on fire
An American magician was recuperating on Sunday after a local television show host lit his head on fire with a flammable cologne. Wayne Houchin said he is receiving treatment for burns that doctors are cautiously optimistic will not result in scars. During an appearance on the Dominican Republic’s Closer To The Stars TV program on Nov. 26, guest host Franklin Barazarte abruptly doused the US magician’s head with Agua de Florida, a flammable cologne commonly used in Santeria rituals. A video of the incident shows the magician’s head bursting into flames as Barazarte runs his hands over Houchin’s hair. It is unclear why the TV host doused his head in the liquid and what ignited it. The incident was not broadcast on television, but a video of it has appeared on the Internet. Houchin said Barazarte’s actions were completely unexpected and he considers it a criminal attack.