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A tourist generally has an eye for the things that have become almost invisible to the resident.
A new study shows that at least one long-ago journey would have required deliberate navigation.
- Historians have wondered whether ancient mariners drifted from Taiwan to Japan or navigated there on purpose.
- The passage between Taiwan and the Ryukyu islands contains one of the world's strongest currents.
- Thousands of buoys suggests that the journey was anything but an accident.
Not an easy trip<p><span style="background-color: initial;"><a href="https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/focus/en/people/k0001_03383.html" target="_blank">Yosuke Kaifu</a></span> of the University Museum at the University of Tokyo and his colleagues sought to answer the longstanding riddle. "There have been many studies on Paleolithic migrations to Australia and its neighboring landmasses," said Kaifu in a <a href="https://www.u-tokyo.ac.jp/focus/en/press/z0508_00149.html" target="_blank">press release</a>, "often discussing whether these journeys were accidental or intentional."</p><p>"Our study looks specifically at the migration to the Ryukyu Islands because it is not just historically significant, but is also very difficult to get there." </p><p>The ancient sailors would have known of the islands because they were visible from the top of a mountain on the coast of Taiwan, although not down along the coast itself.</p><p>The waters between Taiwan and the Ryukyu Islands represented an opportunity for the researchers since they are dominated by the Kuirishio current, one of the strongest currents in the world. The researchers' hypothesis was that sailors were unlikely to have crossed it accidentally. Says Kaifu, "If they crossed this sea deliberately, it must have been a bold act of exploration."</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDkzMTczNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMDE5MzY3Mn0.bwWV2NA1Dh_b0cfYKtJ6wmsBMiEvWOPMQHgHQdtCOS0/img.jpg?width=980" id="03baf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e298d9ae8b5e41ce6b1f1fd2f39a7716" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="810" />
Credit: w.aoki/Adobe Stock
Buoys will be buoys<p>Kaifu had long been interested in devising some kind of experiment to better understand those who made the journey but, "had no idea how to demonstrate the intentionality of the sea crossings." Upon meeting the study's Taiwanese co-authors, experts in the Kuirishio, the outlines of a plan because clear.</p><p>To test the possibility of an accidental arrival at the Ryukyu Islands, Kaifu and his team set 138 satellite-tracked buoys adrift and tracked how many of them managed to float over to the islands.</p><p>"Only four of the buoys came within 20 kilometers of any of the Ryukyu Islands, and all of these were due to adverse weather conditions," explains Kaifu. This was an unlikely factor in the human travelers' voyage because, "If you were an ancient mariner, it's very unlikely you would have set out on any kind of journey with such a storm on the horizon."</p><p>The results reveal that the current was more likely to take ancient sailors anywhere <em>but</em> the islands. "What this tells us is that the Kuroshio directs drifters away from, rather than towards, the Ryukyu Islands; in other words, that region must have been actively navigated."</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDkzMTc2NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDA3MzIyMH0.S3kwkamV4-AkzOeC_J5RDPFKptV1G9lYPVmJU-nnBV8/img.jpg?width=980" id="8a663" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4a38c1086300eb13308ef3a17204d44e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2331" data-height="2532" />
Where the buoys traveled
Credit: Tien-Hsia Kuo/University of Tokyo
An old current<p>Supporting the researchers findings are geologic records from the area that suggests the Kuirishio hasn't changed since the mariners' journey so long ago — it's been present in its current form for about 100,000 years.</p><p>The research appears to answer the riddle of at least this one ancient migration, says Kaifu: "Now, our results suggest the drift hypothesis for Paleolithic migration in this region is almost impossible. I believe we succeeded in making a strong argument that the ancient populations in question were not passengers of chance, but explorers."</p>
A mineral made in a Kamchatka volcano may hold the answer to cheaper batteries, find scientists.
- Russian scientists discover a new mineral in the volcanic area of Kamchatka in the country's far east.
- The mineral dubbed "petrovite" can be utilized to power sodium-ion batteries.
- Batteries based on salt would be cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries.
Excited Russian scientists at the edge of the volcanic area in Kamchatka where the mineral was found.
Credit: St. Petersburg University / Filatov
Crystal structure displaying sodium migration pathways.
Credit: Filatov et al., Mineralogical Magazine, 2020
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