Febuary 0002

Greenpeace Speaks Out! Bits Of Saints, and A Catastrophe For Soyuz.


We seem to have hit a rich seam here. This is from Dr. Laura Posthelthwaite, Reader in Siberian VariableGeology, at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, in the University of London.

Dear Doctor Scharf, I was fascinated to read your article about Glacier Collecting. It has always fascinated me, and it is a key part of my field of study, although on a university lecturer’s salary, I cannot hope to participate in it myself. However, I would like to draw your attention to another little known museum. This is the People’s Museum of Socialist Glaciology, which was established in 1927, near Murmansk, in the then Soviet Union. I quote from a handbook published in 1938 – I own the only copy known in the west. “The J.V. Stalin Museum of Proletarian Glaciology constitutes the world’s largest collection of glaciers both in numbers of glaciers, at 76 entire glaciers, and 27 part glaciers, and in tonnage, containing 9706 million tons of ice. The total volume of glacier collected through the heroic efforts of socialist workers is estimated at 320 cubic kilometers. In a notable example of fraternal competition, the Felix Dzherzhinsky Shock Brigade of Glaciological Workers overfulfilled its plan by 392%, harvesting 7 glaciers when the original requirement had been only for 2. The reader will be interested to know that the mean salinity level throughout the collection is precisely 5!”

Needless to say, the story was not quite as rosy as the guide puts it. To take one example, the Sitekai glacier, from the far north of Yakutia, was sacred to the Sitekai people, shamanic nomads of Finno-Ugric stock, When their glacier was removed, they petitioned Stalin for its return. Unfortunately, this drew the attention of the Central Committee to them, and the entire people was liquidated as a result. Also, some aesthetes have expressed doubts about the museum’s policy of painting their glaciers gray.

Although heavily bombed by both the German and Finnish air forces during the Second World War, the museum appears to have suffered little damage. Marshall Zhukov is recorded as having expressed disappointment that Hitler had been unable to realize his dream of creating a National Socialist Museum of Glaciers, as he, Zhukov, would then have been able to send the contents as particularly large and splendid items of booty to the museum at Murmansk.

The museum came to a sad end with Gorbachev and Perestroika. No funds were available for maintenance. The summer of 1986 was not particularly warm, but there was an unusual prevailing wind from the south, and the entire collection was lost like the Scottish one your earlier correspondent described.

I would also like to congratulate Wonderful World on the quality of its research.

Thank you for a most informative contribution Dr. Posthelwaite. I wonder how many of us knew anything about this?



Another contribution. This one’s more of a question.



Look, I think this idea of moving glaciers around is crazy. These people that write to you, they all end up saying that these glaciers got melted. Can’t we just leave them alone? How many glaciers have we lost anyway?

Barney DeLaval, Montreal.

Good questions Barney. Does anyone know the answers?



What amazing correspondents we have! No sooner does Barney DeLaval ask some anxious questions about Glacier Collecting, then we get an authoritative answer! Here’s a communication from Don Chigwell, Senior Glaciologist at Greenpeace.

Dear Doctor Scarf

I think I should inform you of Greenpeace’s policy on Glacier Collecting. This should answer Barney’s questions too.  We used to think glaciers should be left where they are.  However, global warming means that to preserve examples of this particular ecosphere, some glaciers are going to have to be moved.

Not the old way though. Out of a total of 1426 glaciers which existed in 1800, we have lost 14 through natural processes, 2 through “accidents” (as I understand it, these were both Chinese nuclear tests in the Antarctic) and an extraordinary 418 through the complete or partial destruction of collections. I haven’t got the space to go into it here, but the Juneau catastrophe was a particularly bad one.

The way forward is this. Only glaciers under threat from urbanization or global warming should be moved. They should be moved by minimum energy means i.e using natural lubrication, gravity, and flotation. They should only be moved to places where we can confidently expect suitable temperatures to be maintained.

These places need to be accessible to the right sort of tourist. We are particularly concerned by the Disney Organization’s plans for a Glacier Museum in Florida. This is not a suitable place.Thanks Don!



Relics are bits of saints, or things that used to be owned by saints , and stuff like that. In the Middle Agescathedrals used to collect them to encourage pilgrims to visit.

Perhaps the most extraordinary collection of relics is that of the Cathedral of St. Benedict, in Saragossa, Spain.

Among other items it has:

Nail clippings from the saviour himself, and seventeen assorted saints, including St Horatio the Lesser.

Two different versions of the lance used by St. George to kill the dragon.

The stuffed head, two claws, and some scales from the dragon.

The miraculously preserved hair of St. Lucy of Toledo, who was burned alive by the Moors in 1276 for eating fish on Friday.

The skeleton of St. Albanitus, who was thrown into a volcano by the Albigensians.

The world’s largest collection of instruments used to torture and execute saints and martyrs, including afifteenth century clockwork garotte.

The handkerchief of St. Barbara of Toulouse which has not been washed since she used it just before her miraculous transformation.

A branding iron belonging to St. Jake of Pasadena, the only cowboy saint. Also his six shooter.

A small wooden object which was the onlyproperty of St. Aloysius the Mendicant, of whom nothing is known.

The stuffed body of Humbert of Hamburg, who was transfigured into a guinea pig. This is doubly miraculous, as it occurred in the thirteenth century, before guinea pigs were known in Europe.

Two separate scalps of Justine of Clermont-Ferrand, who was known for her ability to bilocate (this means

being in two places at once: apparently some saints can do it). She was very tall, and had constant problems with low doorways.

A shrunken head from the Amazon. This got into the collection by mistake as there is nothing saintly about it. Attendants constantly have to tell visitors this is the only thing they cannot pray in front of, as it attracts a lot of attention.

The collection is continually being added to. For example, there is a copy of Paris-Soir which belonged to St. Jean of Chatelet, who was an unusually holy social worker in Paris in the 1950’s, and they have the computer mouse of the Blessed Victor of Clapham, who is not a saint yet, but soon should be. Their most recent acquisition is a breath test device with a positive reading which was used by Jim of Brooklyn. On his canonization, he is expected to be made patron saint of alcoholics. The collection is open every day from 2 to 5 in the afternoon, and financial donations are accepted.



Many accidents and fatalities that occurred in the course of the space race were concealed by the authorities.

The fate that befell Andrei Voznezhensy, an astronaut on one of the early Soyuz vehicles, was a gruesome one, and has only recently come to light. Strangely, the earliest series of Soyuz capsules were fitted with opening windows. When he was looking down at the Earth, Andrei opened one to get a better view, forgetting that he had removed his seat belt. Needless to say, he fell out. In this case, it involved a fall of almost 200 kilometers – the longest recorded fall of any description by a human being. His body is estimated to have penetrated the earth to a depth of 750 metres when it landed. Although his remains were never found, and probably can never be, Soviet authorities immediately assumed his death, and made him a posthumous hero of the Soviet Union.