Cape Town mayor praises discovery of Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship in Antarctic

By XINHUA

In this photo issued by Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust, a view of the stern of the wreck of Endurance, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship. /Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust/National Geographic via AP

Cape Town, South Africa mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis has congratulated the crew on locating the wreck of Endurance, the renowned explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship which sank off the Antarctic continent in 1915.

An expedition team, Endurance22 Expedition, departed from Cape Town last month on a South African polar research and logistics vessel to locate, survey and film the wreck of Endurance. It announced Wednesday that it had found the ship at a depth of 3,048 meters in the Weddell Sea in Antarctica.

The discovery will contribute to historical and scientific research of the Antarctic region, the mayor said in a statement issued later Wednesday, adding that he expected to receive the crew at the Cape Town harbor on their return from the Antarctic.

The wreck is protected as a Historic Site and Monument under the Antarctic Treaty.

Mummy of Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep I digitally unwrapped

By XINHUA

Royal mummy of Amenhotep I, the second pharaoh of the 18th dynasty at Cairo Museum, Egypt. (Photo /Getty Images)

Egyptian researchers have “digitally unwrapped” the mummy of King Amenhotep I for the first time, revealing many secrets about the pharaoh who ruled Egypt from 1525 to 1504 BC, a renowned Egyptologist said on Tuesday.

Researchers used advanced x-ray technology, computed tomography (CT) scanning and advanced computer software programs to digitally remove the wrappings on the mummy of King Amenhotep I in a safe, non-invasive method without touching the mummy, Zahi Hawass, also the former Egyptian minister of state for antiquities affairs, said in a statement.

The research team, which included Sahar Saleem, professor of radiology at Faculty of Medicine of Cairo University and experts in antiquities radiology, revealed for the first time “the face of King Amenhotep I, his age, health condition, as well as many secrets about the mummy’s unique mummification and reburial,” Hawass said.

Digital analysis showed Amenhotep I’s face resembles his father Ahmose I. The king was believed to be in good health when he died at the age of 35 since no disease or injury to the mummy appeared to indicate the cause of his death.

Unlike most of the rulers of the modern kingdoms, such as Tutankhamun and Ramses II whose brains were removed and embalming materials and resins were deposited inside the skull, the brain of King Amenhotep I was not removed during the mummification process, the statement added.

The mummy of Amenhotep I was found in 1881 in the Royal cache at Deir-el Bahri in Luxor, where the priests of the 21st dynasty reburied and hid the mummies of many previous kings and queens to protect them from the recurrent tomb theft.

It is the only royal mummy that has not been unwrapped in the modern era in order to preserve the unique beauty of it, which was covered with a funerary mask and garlands of colorful flowers.

King Amenhotep I was the son of King Ahmose I, who was conqueror of the Hyksos and founder of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egyptian Civilization.

Two 2,500-year-old tombs uncovered in upper Egypt

By XINHUA

An undated photo shows scarabs unearthed from an ancient tomb in Minya Governorate, Egypt. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Handout via Xinhua)

A Spanish archaeological mission discovered two adjacent tombs in Upper Egypt’s Minya Governorate dating back to the Saite Dynasty (664-525 BC), the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced on Sunday.

The mission from the University of Barcelona in Spain found the remains of two unknown persons with gold tongues in one of the tombs, Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities said in a statement.

Inside the tomb, he said, a coffin made of limestone with a cover in the form of a woman was found, adding that the remains of an unknown person were also found next to the coffin.

Preliminary studies on the tomb revealed that it was previously opened in ancient times, Waziri pointed out.

Meanwhile, the second tomb was completely closed and the mission opened it for the first time during the excavations.

Director of excavations of the mission, Hassan Amer, said the mission found at the second tomb a limestone coffin with a human face in a good condition of preservation, in addition to two coffins containing canopic pots.

“One of the pots contained 402 Ushabti figurines made of faience, a set of small amulets and green beads,” he added.

Egypt has witnessed several large-scale archaeological discoveries in recent years in different parts of the country, including pharaonic tombs, statues, coffins and mummies.

NASA launches spacecraft to kick an asteroid off course

By AFP

NASA is preparing to launch a mission to deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid. The test will help determine whether NASA is capable of deflecting an asteroid should humanity ever need to stop a giant space rock from wiping out life on Earth.

It may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is a real proof-of-concept experiment, blasting off at 10:21 pm Pacific Time Tuesday (0621 GMT Wednesday) aboard a SpaceX rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Its target object: Dimorphos, a “moonlet” around 525 feet (160 meters, or two Statues of Liberty) wide, circling a much larger asteroid called Didymos (2,500 feet or 780 meters in diameter), which together orbit the Sun.

Impact should take place in the fall of 2022 when the pair of rocks are 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth, the nearest point they ever get.

“What we’re trying to learn is how to deflect a threat,” said NASA’s top scientist Thomas Zuburchen in a press call, of the 330 million U.S. dollar project, the first of its kind.

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office is most interested in those larger than 460 feet (140 meters) in size, which have the potential to level entire cities or regions with many times the energy of average nuclear bombs.

There are 10,000 known near-Earth asteroids 460 feet in size or greater, but none has a significant chance to hit in the next 100 years. One major caveat: only about 40 percent of those asteroids have been found to date.

Planetary scientists can create miniature impacts in labs and use the results to create sophisticated models about how to divert an asteroid but models rely on imperfect assumptions, which is why they want to carry out a real-world test.

The DART probe, which is a box the size of a large fridge with limousine-sized solar panels on either side, will slam into Dimorphos at just over 15,000 miles an hour (24,000 kilometers per hour), causing a small change in the asteroid’s motion.

Scientists say the pair are an “ideal natural laboratory” for the test, because Earth-based telescopes can easily measure the brightness variation of the Didymos-Dimorphos system and judge the time it takes Dimorphos to orbit its big brother.

Their orbit never intersects our planet, providing a safe way to measure the effect of the impact, scheduled to occur between September 26 and October 1, 2022.

Andy Rivkin, DART investigation team lead, said that the current orbital period is 11 hours and 55 minutes, and the team expects the kick will shave around 10 minutes off Dimorphos’ orbit.

There is some uncertainty about how much energy will be transferred by the impact because the moonlet’s internal composition and porosity isn’t known.

The more debris that’s generated, the more push will be imparted on Dimorphos.

“Every time we show up at an asteroid, we find stuff we don’t expect,” said Rivkin.

The DART spacecraft also contains sophisticated instruments for navigation and imaging, including the Italian Space Agency’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIACube) to watch the crash and its after-effects.

The trajectory of Didymos could also be slightly affected, but it would not significantly alter its course or unintentionally imperil Earth, scientists say.

Archaeologists search for cradle of humanity in Botswana

By XINHUA

A team of French archaeologists and academics is in Botswana for a joint excavation mission with their Botswana counterparts at the Qchwihaba, Koanaka, and Aha caves in Okavango Delta region in the northwest of the country.

The excavation mission, headed by Laurent Bruxelles, a geo-archaeologist and researcher at the France National Center for Scientific Research, aims to find evidence of the new cradle of humanity in the southern African country.

“Dr Bruxelles has always expressed a great interest in the fascinating archaeological sites in Botswana and I extend many thanks to the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism and the Botswana Museum,” said French Ambassador to Botswana, Laurence Beau when welcoming the researchers recently.

Beau said Bruxelles has brought an interdisciplinary team of geologists, paleontologists, and archaeologists to explore the caves, adding that the mission will be an opportunity for a very promising scientific collaboration.

She also said there is no doubt that the scientific collaboration will have a significant worldwide impact by producing enough evidence in Tsodilo Hills and Okavango Delta.

“The French embassy in Botswana is honored to contribute to putting Botswana’s rich natural heritage and cultural sites in the spotlight,” she said.

Bruxelles expressed excitement about the scientific bilateral cooperation, adding that the research, which will be televised by two France television stations, will give the world the opportunity to know about the caves, thereby boosting Botswana’s tourism.

He said they will be in Botswana for three weeks to explore the caves.

Kenya wind power project gets court approval

By XINHUA

A Kenyan court has given approval to Gitson Energy to proceed with its 300-MW wind power project in Marsabit County, 540 kilometers north of the capital Nairobi, officials confirmed on Friday.

Gitson Energy CEO James Gitau said that the 300-MW project which the government regards as its ambition for clean and renewable energy and a symbol of its Vision 2030, will now proceed.

“Bubisa site in Marsabit has the best wind regime in Kenya and among the very best in the World. We shall now proceed with the project to its generation,” he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

The High Court in the coastal city of Mombasa gave an order on Wednesday to the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission to include the wind power project in the approved list of governments.

Gitson Energy, a Kenyan-Diaspora-owned energy company had applied and received approval to proceed with the project in Marsabit from the Ministry of Energy in 2010, but land gazettement issues delayed the project forcing the company to seek the court’s intervention which took five years.

The High Court Judge Lady Justice Pauline Nyamweya issued an order in the judgment compelling the Ministry of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to include Gitson Energy’s 300-MW wind energy project in the commission’s list of approved projects in line with the approval of February 2010 granted for the project in Bubisa, Marsabit.

The Court faulted the Ministry of Energy and ERC for attempting to apply the Public-Private Partnership law that was enacted in 2013 retrospectively.

The project ran into crosswinds at inception when the World Bank pulled out in 2012 as they said the power purchase agreement would make power too expensive for Kenyans in the long run.

The World Bank said the take-or-pay provisions in the power purchase agreement between the Kenya Power and Lighting Company and Lake Turkana Wind Power would be financially risky for Kenya Power.

The lawsuit by the local communities followed two years later over the lack of community participation in the land allocation process.

The ruling comes at a time when the government has started reforms to reduce the cost of electricity by renegotiating some electricity feed-in tariffs with Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

During the Kenya Power investors briefing on Tuesday, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy Monica Juma invited IPPs to start the process of renegotiating the tariffs to express their interest through the office of the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Energy.

“This administration is keen to engage with this process in an orderly and structured manner. I want at this point to note and thank the Independent Power Producers that have already approached me and expressed their readiness to engage,” Juma said.

The negotiations are also aimed at ending disparities in the pricing of tariffs among different IPPs.

Botswana adopts solar-powered pumps in wildlife areas

By XINHUA

Botswana has started swapping out fossil-fuel-powered groundwater pumps in its wildlife areas for solar-powered ones, according to a government official.

The pumps are used to water wild animals in the better northern part of the southern African country known for its magnificent flora and fauna and currently rely on diesel generators, said Botswana’s Minister of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism Philda Kereng.

“To ensure consistent water availability for wildlife in the area, we are currently switching from diesel-operated pump systems to the more reliable, efficient and economical solar operated pump systems,” said Kereng when addressing Botswana’s House of Chiefs Friday.

To date, four boreholes have been converted from diesel to solar. These installations will ensure consistent water supply unlike with diesel-operated engines which require continuous refueling and maintenance, said Kereng.

The just ended 26th edition of the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) held in Glasgow, Scotland saw nearly 200 nations reaching an agreement with an unprecedented reference to the role of fossil fuels in the climate crisis.

The latest landmark climate science report, published by the UN in August, called for emissions to roughly halve by 2030 and for the world to reach net-zero by mid-century to have any hope in keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius

Zambia’s emerald miner discovers rare gigantic gem

By XINHUA

Zambia’s largest emerald miner on Tuesday announced the discovery of a rare gigantic emerald weighing 1.505 kilograms.

Kagem Mining Limited said the 7,525 carats gem was discovered on July 13, 2021 at its mine in Lufwanyama district on the Copperbelt province and has been dubbed “Chipembele” (meaning Rhino), according to a release.

It adds that a share of proceeds from the sale of the gem would be donated to support rhino conservation efforts in Zambia.

“A key Gemfields tenet is that Africa’s gemstone wealth must contribute meaningfully not only to host-country economies, but also to conservation efforts, host communities and the next generation by ways of education, healthcare and livelihood projects,” Jackson Mtonga, the miner’s Sort House Assistant Manager said.

The gem was due to be sold at the next emerald auction to be conducted by the firm, with viewing expected to take place from November, the release added.

The discovery of the giant gem at the mine follows similar discoveries such as the 6,225 carats Insofu (Elephant) gem in 2010 and the 5,655 Inkalamu (Lion) in 2018, according to the release.

The emerald miner is owned 75 percent by London-based Gemfields Plc with the Zambian government retaining the other 25 percent.

Egypt discovers interior of ancient tomb at Saqqara necropolis near Giza pyramids

By XINHUA

Undated photo shows drawings on walls of an ancient tomb at Saqqara necropolis, south of Cairo, Egypt. (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities/Handout via Xinhua)

An archeological mission from Cairo University unveiled the interior of a tomb at Saqqara necropolis near the three Pyramids of Giza, south of the capital Cairo, the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said in a statement on Saturday.

The tomb belonged to Ptahemwia (Ptah Em-Wia), an official who served under King Ramses II in the 19th Dynasty around 3,300 years ago, according to the statement.

“The importance of discovering this tomb is due to the positions held by its owner, who was a royal scribe, head of the treasury, chief overseer of the cattle and also in charge of divine offerings at the temple of Ramses II (Ramesseum) in Thebes (in Upper Egypt),” said Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.

The excavations of Cairo University’s Faculty of Archaeology at Saqqara necropolis started in the 1970s and the actual search for royal tombs began in the 1980s, which led to the discovery of several tombs from the Ramesside Period, according to Ahmed Ragab, dean of the faculty.

But the current mission, led by archeology professor Ola el-Aguizy, has been working in the site since 2005 and has recently unveiled the entrance and interior of Ptahemwia’s tomb.

“What has been discovered of the tomb is its entrance built of stone carved with reliefs showing the owner of the tomb. The entrance leads to a hall whose walls have drawings painted and colored on a layer of plaster,” said el-Aguizy, head of the mission.

She added that the mission unearthed stone blocks with inscriptions and a number of Osirian columns, some standing in place and others buried by sand.

FAO launches radio program on climate-smart agriculture in Somalia

By XINHUA

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said Tuesday it has introduced a new cycle of radio programs mainly focusing on the impact of climate change on food security in Somalia.

Etienne Peterschmitt, FAO Representative in Somalia said the programs which will focus on climate-smart agriculture, will be an extension of the radio training modules which the FAO launched in 2020 to adapt to COVID-19 constraints.

Peterschmitt said there is a need to highlight the impact of climate change on food production and educate stakeholders on the same.

“Since COVID-19 measures are still in place, FAO will make use of the ongoing radio training programs to carry out remote extension focusing on the impact of climate change,” he said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

Climate-smart agriculture is an approach that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to effectively support the development and ensure food security in a changing climate.

The FAO said the new cycle of programs is launched at a time when the impacts of climate change are being felt globally, including in Somalia which has faced droughts, flood, and desert locust upsurge over the last two years.

The FAO said the new climate-smart programs will be produced and broadcast by selected major radio stations across Somalia.

A total of six episodes will be aired across the country on key topics like conservation agriculture, crop intensification, water management, and harvesting and post-harvesting management.

Ezana Kassa, head of the program at FAO Somalia said the radio programs will contribute to reducing rural communities’ vulnerability to food insecurity through adaptation of Climate-Smart practices.