Random Ramblings with Rebecca…How about Terrific Tales with Tiffany?

Skydiving – is in my top 5 greatest experiences.  (Birth of my child, marrying my husband, watching Celine Dion perform, skydiving, and [insert meeting the Backstreet Boys which hasn’t happened yet but will]).

Neither of you have, correct?

It’s amazing and I think everyone should experience it.

I mean, if wolves skydive, why can’t you?

Back in March of 2019, I saw an article in my Facebook feed that got me really excited and I wanted to cover it, but I couldn’t make a full episode out of it.  Fast forward over a year (and give me lots of time in self-isolation staring at walls) and I’ve finally circled back to it. 😊

Isle Royale National Park is located North of mainland Michigan (almost touching Minnesota and Canada but it’s Michigan, I promise). It’s here that biologists started studying the dynamic between the wolf population and the moose population.  They began observing in 1958 and continue to this day.  In 1980, the wolf population reached a high of 50 but by 2016, only two remained.  

What happens when a predator is not around? The prey take over.  In this case, the moose, who eat roughly the same amount a day as I do, started to eat more than their fair share and left the herbivore buffet low on stock for the remaining plant eaters. ☹  

To help with this, in September of 2018, scientists captured two wolves (one male, 5 yo, and one female, 4 yo) from separate packs in the Grand Portage Reservation (where the original canines are believed to have migrated from) and airdropped them into Isle Royale.  Although these wolves had never seen moose before, the thought was their instincts would kick in and they would know what to do.  And you know what? They were right.  The new wolves joined the remaining two wolves, formed a pack, and hunted moose. 

The end goal for them is to have 20-30 wolves on the island to restore the predator-prey balance.  To accomplish that, they will continue to airdrops over the next few years.  In March, when I saw that article, they had just dropped two additional wolves into Isle Royale.  

Now all of this was really cool to me because it meant that a minimum of 4 animals had gone skydiving (sorta).  Had others?

Well, as I’m sure has already been pointed out to me by my lovely cohosts, parachuting animals is nothing new.

Most commonly, dogs are used in military situations and can become quite accomplished divers.  “Paradogs” (parachuting dogs, obviously) were most famously used by the 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion on D-Day.  The dogs were trained to locate mines, keep watch, and warn of enemies.  

The US also trained dogs to jump from planes during WWII but with the main goal of aiding downed airmen in isolated locations.

Talk about some good boys. ::snuggle noises:

Speaking of military uses, wanna hear about how the US planned to use bat bombs against Japan in WWII? 

This hair-brained idea was the work of a dentist/inventor who was pissed about Pearl Harbor, Dr. Lytle Adams.  He had this idea that basically boiled down to gluing bombs to the underside of hibernating bats (thimble sized bombs), loading them into a five-foot-long metal tube, and dropping them on unsuspecting villages in Japan.  These bomb carriers would hold 1,040 bats in 26 round trays (40 bats/tray).  Once the bombs dropped to an altitude of 4,000 ft (1,219 meters), a parachute would open, and the sides would blow outward.  The bats would, theoretically, fly out, post up in attic or any dark place they could find, then blow up.  Thus, destroying everything in their path.  The good news is the US would never approve of testing this out as a viable option, right? 

Wrong!  President Roosevelt passed this idea along to the powers that be, and work began to make this a reality.  Blah blah stuff blah blah things TLDR… basically, once the Navy took over, the project was assigned code name Project X-Ray and by May of 1944, after two years and $2 million in research, one million bombs were scheduled to be made. 

Unfortunately for Dr. Adams, another bomb was being worked on that might be of greater use in the war… the atomic bomb.  Any hope of Dr. Adam’s creation seeing frontline action was dashed.  But, technically, bats did parachute during testing so there you go.

Now, skydiving is fun and all but sometimes it’s done to save a life rather than as an adrenaline-fueled pastime (or, you know, to kill lots of unsuspecting civilians).  For example, escape capsules in aircrafts.  Very important, right? Well, when they were creating escape capsules, they needed to test them out.  Don’t worry, they used humans to test them…until the fatalities started to pile up.  

Did you know that black bears internal organs are arranged similarly to humans?  Apparently, someone in the Air Force in 1962 knew that.  So, when they started testing escape capsules at supersonic speeds, and they didn’t want anymore human casualties, they switched to black bears.  On March 21, 1962, Yogi became the first living creature to be successfully ejected from a supersonic Convair B-58 escape capsule.  At 35,000 ft (10,668 meters), flying at Mach 1.3 (roughly 870mph/1,400k[ilometers]ph), Yogi made his escape.  The rocket booster shot him 225 ft (69 [hehe] meters) above the jet and 7 minutes and 49 seconds later, Yogi landed unharmed on the ground.  Unfortunately, he was put down to have his organs examined afterwards.  That was sad and I’m sorry.

On a lighter note, let’s talk about beavers.  ::insert some sort of dirty comment that my brain can’t come up with right now but really, these things shouldn’t feel forced…much like with beavers. Hey! I did it!::

Back on track. In 1948, in McCall, Idaho, beavers and humans were not on the best of terms.  As people started moving further and further into the beaver’s land, they started realizing that beavers didn’t care who was in their space.  They continued to do what they do best.  Unfortunately, that meant quite a bit of destruction to the homes being built in that area.  

Idaho Fish and Game had a plan.  Actually, Elmo Heter had a plan.  He knew that the beavers could be happy and prosperous in the Chamberlain Basin and the McCall residents could go about their happy lives critter free.  But how to get them there?  ::cohosts mention parachutes and I shoot them down:: The initial proposal was horses.  Since the area they were being relocated to didn’t have roads, they thought they could use horses. “Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers. These problems involve further handling and too frequently result in a loss of beavers.” -Transplanting Beavers, a report by Elmo W. Heter in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

1948, what major event had recently ended around this time?  WWII.  Heter wanted to use the surplus of parachutes left over from the war to drop the beavers into the wilderness.  Was he a mad man or a genius?  Considering this worked, I’ll say genius.  He started testing out crates to use for the beavers that could be opened without the help of man.  One idea involved crates held together with rope that the beavers could chew through but there was the possibility that they would chew through them while in the air and that would not have ended well.  He was able to create a container that would open upon impact and he tested this with weights numerous times.  Once they were confident it would work, they recruited Geronimo to help them out.

Geronimo made many jumps on a landing field to ensure this would work. “Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again.” -Transplanting Beavers, a report by Elmo W. Heter in the Journal of Wildlife Management. 

He and three lady beavers were the first to be relocated.  In all, 76 beavers were relocated and only one perished.  

Now for one that proves I shouldn’t run the world because I probably would have done something similar.

In the early 1950’s, Borneo, Indonesia was being overwhelmed by an outbreak of malaria.  Luckily, the World Health Organization had a plan.  They sprayed DDT, an insecticide that is now banned in many countries, all over the infected area to kill the mosquitos.  It worked! The mosquitoes died and cases of malaria began to decline.  Unfortunately, the quality of people’s houses started to decline as roofs began to collapse.  The DDT used to kill mosquitoes also killed a parasitic wasp that controlled the population of thatch-eating caterpillars.  Insects killed by DDT were eaten by geckos.  Geckos were eaten by cats.  Cats began to die off and rats began to rule the area.  Rats also bring plague and typhus.  To correct this, the UK’s Royal Air Force dropped 23-14,000 cats (depending on the source) into Borneo solving the rat problem.  

As you can probably tell from the wide range mentioned, accounts of this story are varied.  I did see a link to an ad requesting 30 cats to control a rat problem but I had to agree to terms before viewing it and I didn’t do it so maybe take this one with a grain of salt.

The earliest story I’ve discussed today was in WWII.  Parachutes (in some form or another) date back to the Renaissance period and parachutes as we know them were invented in 1783 so I guarantee animals have been falling from the sky long before WWII.  

Speaking of animals falling from the sky, did you guys know it’s not unheard of for it to literally rain animals?

Reports of animal rain stretch back centuries and it kind of makes sense. 

“Waterspouts form as violent storm clouds swirl above a large body of water. These clouds form a tornado-like whirlwind (called a vortex) that dips into the ocean, lake, or pond. Waterspouts can spin up to 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour), and may pull up small objects in their funnel—water, pebbles, and small aquatic animals. 

Strong winds (called updrafts) may also pull animals into their swirling vortices. Updrafts can sweep up much larger animals than waterspouts—traveling birds and bats, as well as frogs, snakes, and insects.

As waterspouts and updrafts move over land, they lose their swirling energy. The storm clouds that formed the waterspouts are forced to dump their heavy loads. The heaviest objects are dumped first, and the lightest objects (usually simple raindrops) are dumped last. This explains why reports of animal rain usually describe only one type of animal raining down. A cloud will dump all objects of a similar weight at the same time—fish (heavy), followed by insects (lighter), followed by rain (lightest), for example.” National Geographic article 

Heraclides Lembus, a Greek philosopher who lived in the second century B.C., wrote: “In Paeonia and Dardania, it has, they say, before now rained frogs; and so great has been the number of these frogs that the houses and the roads have been full of them.”

In the Bible, they talk about the ten plagues.  One of them is Ashley’s nightmare…frogs.

Exodus 8 1. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, `This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. The Nile will teem with frogs.”

There were quite a few people discussing whether or not it meant raining frogs and if animal rain was a sign of a plague.  I thought that was interesting.

There is even a city in Honduras that has annual fish rain usually between May and June. (mention festival)

While the waterspout and updraft theory is most common, it is important to note that many meteorologists don’t subscribe to this belief.  I didn’t dive too far into why they don’t believe this because I started researching last night and I had too many rabbit holes to go down. Sorry.  But I did read somewhere that one reason for this is how far inland the animals fall or the animals not being native to that area.

Lastly, I wanted to explore where the expression “raining cats and dogs” came from.  Turns out, there are a few theories but nothing concrete.  The next part is pulled straight from the History Extra article linked on the blog because I finished my notes on my lunch break.  

It first appeared in the Welsh poet Henry Vaughan’s collection, Olor Iscanus, in 1651, where he referred to a roof sturdy enough to survive “dogs and cats rained in shower”. The next year, English playwright Richard Brome wrote in The City Wit that “It shall rain dogs and polecats” – polecats being common in Britain at the time.

There are also two theories suggesting the renowned Irish satirist Jonathan Swift made the phrase popular. In 1738, in his Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation, a character is afraid it might “rain cats and dogs”. It’s fairly likely that Swift’s satire, regardless of whether he invented the term, was responsible for its following popularity. In 1710, Swift wrote the poem, City Shower, which included an image of dead animals left in city streets after heavy floods.

Not that this really answers why cats and dogs, of all animals. There are four possible origins of why the domestic pets became synonymous with torrential downpour. They are…

1) Cats and dogs used to cuddle into thatched roofs during storms, only to be washed out during heavy rains. Considering how a well-maintained thatched roof is actually fairly waterproof, the animals would have to be cowering on the outside, so this wouldn’t have been a great hiding place in a storm. This theory makes for a nice story, but is probably apocryphal.

2) In Norse mythology, Odin, the father-god responsible for storms, was often depicted with dogs and wolves representing winds. According to folklore, witches rode their brooms during storms, accompanied by their black cats, so that image took on the connotations of heavy rains for sailors. Odin and witches could be responsible for the expression.

3) We may have the words entirely wrong, and instead we should be saying ‘cata doxa’. This Greek expression means ‘contrary to experience or belief’, which an actual storm featuring falling cats and dogs certainly would be.

4) Finally, we could be using a derived form of the now-obsolete word ‘catadupe’. In old English, this meant a cataract or waterfall. Versions of this word existed in many ancient languages, like the Ancient Greek κατάδουποι, referring to a cataract of the River Nile. So when we say it’s raining cats and dogs, we might be suggesting that it is raining waterfalls.


Canadian Wolves Are Being Airdropped Into Michigan For A Special Mission

Wolves Airlifted To US Island For Reboot Of World’s Longest-Running Predator-Prey Experiment

Britain’s Luftwoofe: The Heroic Paradogs of World War II

Raining Dogs! U.S. Army Parachute Animals in World War II

‘Bat Bombs’: WWII’s Project X-Ray

History Hour: A bear ejected from a supersonic Convair B-58

The Absurdly Complete History of Animals Parachuting From the Sky

Parachuting Beavers Into Idaho’s Wilderness? Yes, It Really Happened

Beavers Once Parachuted into Idaho’s Backcountry

Parachuting beavers: Archive footage shows kooky 40s project, USA


PARACHUTING CATS AND CRUSHED EGGS The Controversy Over the Use of DDT to Control Malaria

Operation Cat Drop

Strange Rains

Strange Rain: Why Fish, Frogs and Golf Balls Fall From the Skies

Why do we say ‘raining cats and dogs’?