Monday, March 21, 2011

Chinese Army to Enlist 10,000 Pigeons and other Stories

Chinese Army to Enlist 10,000 Pigeons

From their humble beginnings along the rocky cliff sides of Africa and Asia some 20 million years ago, pigeons can now by found pretty much anywhere there´s a statue being erected or sandwich being eaten -- though long before we they were merely pests, they served a vital purpose that has evidently not been lost.

 It was recently revealed that China plans to increase its military spending 12.7 percent, but evidently not all that money will go towards tanks and fighter jets. According to China Central Television, the People's Liberation Army will soon be training 10,000 pigeons to act as couriers in the event that traditional communication equipment fails.

Humans first began domesticating pigeons around 5,000 to 10,000 years ago -- at first for food and to use their feathers, but later as carriers, taking advantage of their superb homing abilities to deliver messages over long distances. They were ideal couriers throughout the Ancient world, like in Greece where they reported the winners of the first Olympic Games.

The opportunity to employ pigeons for military purposes was certainly not lost on some of the best military minds throughout the ages. Even Julius Caesar had occasion to use pigeons to send a receive strategic messages across the front line. This tradition carried on through to the wars of the 20th century, with a few instances of birds being honored for their contribution to the military effort. Pigeons are largely credited for opening up communications with Europe prior to the invasion of Normandy during WWII.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Interesting Story.

Here are details on Pigeons and Pigeon carriers of Messages(Courier Pigeons):

How old are pigeons?

Pigeons have lived alongside man for thousands of years with the first images of pigeons being found by archaeologists in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and dating back to 3000 BC. It was the Sumerians in Mesopotamia that first started to breed white doves from the wild pigeon that we see in our towns and cities today and this undoubtedly accounts for the amazing variety of colors that are found in the average flock of urban pigeons. To ancient peoples a white pigeon would have seemed miraculous and this explains why the bird was widely worshipped and considered to be sacred. Throughout human history the pigeon has adopted many roles ranging from symbols of gods and goddesses through to sacrificial victims, messengers, pets, food and even war heroes!

Biblical references

The first biblical reference to the pigeon (or dove) was in the Old Testament of the Bible in the first millennium AC and was the story of Noah and the dove of peace. Later, in the New Testament, the pigeon was first mentioned during the baptism of Christ where the dove descended as the Holy Spirit, an image now used extensively in Christian art. These early biblical references have paved the way for the many different ways that the urban pigeon is viewed in modern societies worldwide. Perception of the pigeon through the centuries has changed from God to the devil and from hero to zero!

The pigeon as a war hero

In modern times the feral pigeon has been used to great effect during wartime. In both the first and second World Wars the pigeon saved hundreds of thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines. Pigeons were carried on ships in convoys and in the event of a U-boat attack a messenger pigeon was released with details of the location of the sinking ship. In many cases this lead to the survivors being rescued and lives saved. Mobile pigeon lofts were set up behind the trenches in the First World War from which pigeons often had to fly through enemy fire and poison gas to get their messages home. The birds played a vital role in intelligence gathering and were used extensively behind enemy lines where the survival rate was only 10%. In the Second World War pigeons were used less due to advances in telecommunications, but the birds relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and V2 Rocket sites on the other side of the Channel.

The pigeon as a messenger

The earliest large scale communication network using pigeons as messengers was established in Syria and Persia about 5th Century BC. Much later in the 12th Century AD the city of Baghdad and all the main towns and cities in Syria and Egypt were linked by messages carried by pigeons. This was the sole source of communication. In Roman times the pigeon was used to carry results of sporting events such as the Olympic Games and this is why white doves are released at the start of the Olympic Games today. In England, prior to the days of telegraphs, pigeons were often taken to soccer matches and released to carry home the result of the game. Their use as a messenger in war time resulted in many pigeons being awarded honors by both the British and French Governments. Incredibly, the last ‘pigeon post’ service was abandoned in India in 2004 with the birds being retired to live out the rest of their days in peace.

The religious significance of the pigeon

Many religious groups including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs feed pigeons for religious reasons. Many older Sikhs feed pigeons ceremoniously to honour the high priest and warrior Guru Govind Singh who was a known friend of the pigeon (or rock dove). Some Sikhs also feed pigeons because they believe that when they are reincarnated they will never go hungry if they have fed pigeons in their previous life. Other religious groups in India believe that when a person dies his or her soul assumes the form of a bird (normally a pigeon) and therefore by feeding birds they are caring for the souls of their departed ancestors. The pigeon is revered in India with huge flocks numbering many thousands of birds being fed daily at Hindu temples in town and city centres throughout the country. In both eastern and western societies many of the most entrenched pigeon-related problems in urban areas are considered to be caused, certainly in part, by religious feeding of the birds. In the Christian religion the pigeon is both a symbol of peace and of the Holy Spirit.

Pigeon-gram Air Mail service

The first organised pigeon air-mail service was started in 1896 between New Zealand and the Great Barrier Reef. The sinking of the SS Wairarapa off the Great Barrier Reef, with the loss of 134 lives, was a catalyst for the service. News of the disaster did not reach New Zealand for 3-days and as a direct result a pigeon-gram service was set up between the two islands. The first message was carried in January 1896 and took less than 1.75 hours to reach Aukland. Up to 5 messages were carried by each pigeon with the record time for the journey being held by a pigeon called ‘Velocity’ taking only 50 minutes and averaging 125 kmph (only 40% slower than a modern aircraft!). Special pigeon-gram stamps were issued costing 2/- each (20 cents) with the fee being paid in cash before the pigeon was released.

Pigeons in Wall Street

One of the richest and most famous families in the world amassed its wealth, certainly in part, as a result of exploiting the pigeon. In the early 1800’s the Rothschild family set up a network of pigeon lofts throughout Europe and used homing pigeons to carry information between its financial houses. This method proved to be quicker and more efficient than any other means of communication available at the time. The speed of the service combined with the ability to send and receive information ahead of the competition helped the Rothschild family amass a fortune which still exists today. (Source: deterapigeoon, 21 Amazing Facts you don’t know about Pigeons).

The homing pigeon is a variety of domestic pigeon derived from the Rock Pigeon (Columba livia domestica) selectively bred to find its way home over extremely long distances. The wild rock pigeon has an innate homing ability, meaning that it will generally return to its own nest and its own mate. This made it relatively easy to breed from the birds that repeatedly found their way home over long distances. Flights as long as 1800 km (1,118 miles) have been recorded by birds in competition pigeon racing. Their average flying speed over moderate distances 500 miles is around 80 km/h (50 mph), but speeds of up to 177 km/h (110 mph) have been observed in top racers for short distance 100 miles.
Homing pigeons are referred to as carrier pigeons when they are used to carry messages.


Stamp for early Pigeon-Gram service

The Egyptians and the Persians first used carrier pigeons 3,000 years ago .They also were used to proclaim the winner of the Olympics.Messenger pigeons were used as early as 1150 in Baghdad and also later by Genghis Khan. In Damietta, by the mouth of the Nile, the Spanish traveller Pedro Tafur saw carrier pigeons for the first time, in 1436, though he imagined that the birds made round trips, out and back. The Republic of Genoa equipped their system of watch towers in the Mediterranean Sea with pigeon posts. Tipu Sultan used carrier pigeons. They returned to the Jamia Masjid mosque in Srirangapatna, which was his headquarters. The pigeon holes may be seen in the mosque's minarets to this day. In 1860, Paul Reuter, who later founded Reuters press agency, used a fleet of over 45 pigeons to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen, the terminals of early telegraph lines. The outcome of the Battle of Waterloo was also first delivered by a pigeon to England.

During the Franco-Prussian War pigeons were used to carry mail between besieged Paris and the French unoccupied territory. Possibly the first regular air mail service in the world was Mr. Howie's Pigeon-Post service from the Auckland New Zealand suburb of Newton to Great Barrier Island, starting in 1896. Certainly the world’s first 'airmail' stamps were issued for the Great Barrier Pigeon-Gram Service from 1898 to 1908. Homing pigeons were still employed in the 21st century by certain remote police departments in Orissa state in eastern India to provide emergency communication services following natural disasters. In March 2002, it was announced that India's Police Pigeon Service messenger system in Orissa was to be retired, due to the expanded use of the Internet The Taliban banned the keeping and/or use of homing pigeons in Afghanistan.
Here is an interesting story of Pigeon Carriers in India:

Homing pigeons, the winged messengers of the Indian police force, are expected to be grounded, ending more than 50 years of distinguished service.

About 800 birds from the Police Pigeon Service, which have defied cyclones and floods to deliver urgent police missives between remote stations in the north-eastern state of Orissa since 1946, may be retired under government proposals that suggest e-mail and telephones make the birds obsolete.

The pigeons, which were used extensively by the British Army during the Second World War and were then given to the Indian police before independence in 1947, have often succeeded in monsoon conditions where modern communications have failed.
The winged courier service is trained and fed by a special force of about 40 police officers in 29 lofts across the state, at a cost of about 500,000 rupees (£7,200) a year. Officials say the auditor general's department had proposed grounding the birds long before the advent of telephones because they were an unnecessary expense.

But the retirement plan has angered bird-lovers. "The old pigeon tradition should not be destroyed. It's a vanishing art which should be protected," Rajat Bhargava, an ornithologist in Delhi, said. "These pigeons are excluded from the Wildlife Protection Act. So they can be kept. We're against cruelty to animals. But we're not against captive breeding of domesticated animals," he said.

One highlight of the pigeons' service history was in 1948, when they were used to send an urgent message to a remote area about arrangements for a visit by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

They also proved invaluable in the aftermath of a cyclone in 1999 that brought down communication links with coastal areas for days.(Source: Indian police's pigeon post finally gets wings clipped, By James Palmer, Thursday, 21 March 2002,THE INDEPENDENT WORLD).

South Beach, in Miami Beach, Starts Decobike Bicycle Rentals

Here's a welcome addition to the achingly trendy South Beach scene: a new bicycle rental scheme. By day there are lots of tourists going to the beach and cruising the streets looking for fun. But there is also a thriving community of hip locals who love the ocean vibe and relative calm compared to Miami.

Called the Decobike, in appreciation of the fabulous art deco buildings everywhere, now everyone will be able to rent bicycles by the hour to get to the beach.

It's a first for Florida,the land of cars, where you have to drive to buy a newspaper. There will be 1,000 bicycles and 100 docking stations. A station will be located every 2 blocks in the busy downtown beach/shopping areas along a 7 mile stretch. Given that this is the most concentrated area of hotels, it would seem that it is a more tourist-oriented amenity than many of the other schemes in larger, more urban, places.

It will be sponsored by private companies, and since this is not just any beach, the likes of Ralph Lauren, the Shore Club, American Apparel and Benetton have all contributed. The private sponsors will pay $4M start-up for all of the infrastructure and the municipality will provide the street space for free. The city of Miami Beach will get a percentage of the revenue from rentals and from the advertising on the baskets.

They are pricing it a little differently than many other cities. There will be a free first half hour and then the next half hour is $4 or the next full hour is $5. A full day rental is $14. This would seem to encourage longer time periods that people will keep the bicycles. Most other schemes focus on a short-term rental and make a longer one prohibitively expensive. Since there is such a big tourist population, there is no pre-registration, you just swipe a credit card at the docking station (with a refundable pre-authorized hold of $250 which is a security deposit).

However residents are given a special deal: they can get unlimited usage by the month for $15.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Good scheme. I was in Denmark. There a Company designed a special bikes with its logo on it. One has to put a 20 Kroner coin in a slot to release the bike and has to put back at selected bike spots to get back the 20 Kroners. I found the same for hand drawn trolleys in the Railway Stations. This way people won’t leave the trolleys on the platform.

Cycling with Style Promotes New Bicycle Schemes in London

London's Transport Museum held a competition: asking designers and artists to create posters to push cycling and all its benefits. We know what they are: cleaner environment, healthier people, and fewer cars. But take a look at the many and delightful ways that these winning designs have illustrated the joys of cycling.
The timing is perfect: London's bicycle rental scheme, the Barclays Cycle Hire will be starting up this month, and the first of the new Barclays Cycle Superhighways is being opened next week. The top three winners' posters will be used to promote these events.
The competition was held with the Association of Illustrators and the winner was Good for You, Green For London by Rachel Lillie. All of the entrants' work is on display at the Museum hung amidst the vast collection of old buses, trains and carriages that are part of the vast and fascinating collection.

The new Barclays Cycle Superhighways is a system of dedicated bicycle lanes leading into central London from outer London. The lanes will have bright blue markings to distinguish them and are meant to provide cyclists with safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city. 

There will be a dozen in all, with the first two opening next week. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wants to increase cycling in London by 400 per cent by 2025 (compared to 2000 levels).

The new bicycle rental scheme is due to open at the end of the month. Called the Barclays Cycle Hire (this is one bank that has a lot of money; they have spent £140M on sponsorship for this), 6,000 bikes will be available for short-term rentals within central London. People will be able to pick up a bike, pay a £1 access fee and then make a free 30 minute journey, before returning it to one of 400 docking stations. Stay tuned for on the spot reports next month.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Excellent post on Cycling with Style Scheme in London. This shows the concern of people to promote Clean Transportation.

Sneak Preview of London's Bike Rental Scheme

Finally London is getting a bike rental scheme, along with Paris, Montreal, Barcelona and many others. 

It will be up and ready next summer, but new details of the programme are being announced and bike docking stations are already being installed throughout central London.

The users will pay an access fee to join, on a daily, weekly or yearly basis. The first half hour will be free and up to an hour will be a pound ($1.62 US), with charges rising for longer periods. It will be £4 for an hour and a half and £15 for three hours. As the Mayor, an infamous cyclist himself, said "It is amazing how far your bike can take you in 30 minutes if you put in a bit of pedal power."

The pricing increases with the length of rental. There will also be a late-return charge of £150 if a bike is kept longer than the access period, or for more than 24 hours. This encourages short journeys and quick returns so that someone else can use it.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Good Scheme.

Montreal has Bixi and a Great Bike Lane System

As noted before, Montreal has its own public bike-sharing programme, Bixi, which is proving to be a great success with 3,000 bicycles in 300 different locations.

But Montreal was already a cycling-friendly city, with the Bixis complementing an already energetic scene. Not that many people seem to wear helmets but the city's highly sophisticated system of 4 different kinds of bike lanes make cycling seem almost to be a safe and friendlier thing to do.

Lane One:

This is a permanent lane on one side of the street. There is a permanent raised concrete median dividing it from the main roadway and it is two-way. It is commonly known as the "super highway" because it is new, nicely laid out and very fast.

Lane Two:

The Route-Vert (green line). It's a 2-way lane, with removable bollards. It is in effect from April to November, the rest of the year is snow-plow time and the lane disappears and it is like a normal road.

Lane Three:

This lane is painted on the street, in white or orange, and no cars are supposed to drive on it. On a one way street, this lane will be one way, against traffic and the other direction will be marked with yellow bikes, on the other side of the street.

Lane Four
This lane consists of bike symbols stencilled on the street and can be very scary because cars drive through it as well.

This is a neat and simple little idea: a ring attached to the parking metre, so it is easier to attach the bike, and several can be chained at the same time.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Bicycle sharing scheme is good. In India we have millions of bicycle rental small shops where they give bikes on hourly rent basis with address proof. This way any stranger to the locality can get a bicycle for his use.

The TH Interview: Bicing, Barcelona’s Bike Sharing System (Part 1: City Council)

For ten months now, Barcelona’s citizens have been riding and sharing 3.000 cute white- and red-coloured bicycles throughout the city. There are over 100.000 subscribers now riding the bikes, from high-heeled women to guys in business-suit and trendy Barcelonans across all generations. Over 3.000.000 times has the service been used since its launch in March. The name of this bike sharing system: Bicing. (Read our previous article here.)

We tried to find out more about this new phenomenon that brings hope to make Barcelona a world-class bike city and decided to do a series of interviews. Part one is an interview with Mayra Nieto from the Mobility Division of B:SM, the Barcelona Municipal Service.

TreeHugger: When and how did you first consider the idea of starting a bike sharing system in Barcelona?

Mayra Nieto: Before Bicing, the bicycle had grown to become one of the everyday ways of transport in Barcelona over the years. During 2006, 35.000 bike journeys had been registered, of which 88% were internal (start and finish in Barcelona). The city counts 128 kilometres of bike lanes in its urban network. An additional 22 kilometres are planned to be installed for the year 2008. Moreover, 53% of Barcelona’s road network is car-free. With the installation of the Bicing, the Barcelona City Council wanted to take the next step towards prioritising its sustainable policy and the promotion of public transport within the city centre.

TH: Did you contact or visit other cities (Paris, Lyon, Copenhagen, etc.) that have set up a bike sharing system before Barcelona for advice?

MN: We visited the city of Lyon in France as it seemed the most similar one to Barcelona. In Oslo they have a similar one too although I believe it is more of a renting system where any person can take a bike during a maximum of 3 hours.

TH: What other system providers (companies) did you consider?

MN: We launched a public competition and Clear Channel won because their system was the one that could best be adjusted to the conditions we set in the competition.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Excellent post.

Bristol Gets a Pay As You Go Bicycle Rental System

Bristol is the first city in the UK to get a pay-as-you-go bicycle rental scheme. Called "hourbike", it has just been introduced on a very small scale across the city. There are four hubs and 18 bikes.

The price is right--cheaper than the Velib in Paris--but there are not enough pick-up points yet to make it really work well. The other big problem seems to be that Bristol is a very hilly town. It's controversial; in a recent article in the Guardian there were 100 comments on this subject.

Many of the commenters insist that Bristol was the wrong place to introduce the concept because it has so many steep hills. Others defend Bristol's reputation as "Cycle City" and insist that the kinks need to be worked out, as in any new system.
However there are a lot of kinks. Compared to the roll-out in Paris or Barcelona, there are very few bikes and very few locations. A critical mass is needed to get people wedded to the bicycle-rental idea. In addition, vandalism is a serious matter and the bikes are not parked in a secure, covered location. They are parked in what looks like a normal bike rack. This could prove to be huge problem. The durability of the bicycles will also be an issue.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

More and more cities adopting cycling. Good for Environment and best as an exercise.

No comments:

Post a Comment