More than 500 years ago, a fierce storm sank a ship carrying the earliest known marine astrolabe — a device that helped sailors navigate at sea, new research finds.
Divers found the artifact in 2014, but were unsure exactly what it was at the time. Now, thanks to a 3D-imaging scanner, scientists were able to find etchings on the bronze disc that confirmed it was an astrolabe.
“It was fantastic to apply our 3D scanning technology to such an exciting project and help with the identification of such a rare and fascinating item,” Mark Williams, a professorial fellow at the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick, in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. Williams and his team did the scan.
The marine astrolabe likely dates to between 1495 and 1500, and was aboard a ship known as the Esmeralda, which sank in 1503. The Esmeralda was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first known person to sail directly from Europe to India. [The 25 Most Mysterious Archaeological Finds on Earth]
In 2014, an expedition led by Blue Water Recoveries excavated the Esmeralda shipwreck and recovered the astrolabe. But because researchers couldn’t discern any navigational markings on the almost 7-inch-diameter (17.5 centimeters) disc, they were cautious about labeling it without further evidence.
Now, the new scan reveals etchings around the edge of the disc, each separated by five degrees, Williams found. This detail proves it’s an astrolabe, as these markings would have helped mariners measure the height of the sun above the horizon at noon — a strategy that helped themfigure out their locationwhile at sea, Williams said.
The disc is also engraved with the Portuguese coat of arms and the personal emblem of Dom Manuel I, Portugal’s king from 1495 to1521.
“Usually we are working on engineering-related challenges, so to be able to take our expertise and transfer that to something totally different and so historically significant was a really interesting opportunity,” Williams said.
Editor’s Note: This story contains some graphic images.
In an awful accident, a woman in Japan had her entire scalp pulled off her head, according to a new report of the woman’s case.
The accident occurred when the 64-year-old woman’s long hair got caught in a spinning machine, tearing her scalp away from her skull. The machine tore a line around the woman’s skull, level with the top of her nose. The top thirds of both of her ears were part of the scalp portion that was ripped away, as was her entire right eyebrow and half of her left eyebrow.
The doctors who treated the woman were able to reattach her scalp relatively quickly, according to the report, which was published yesterday (Oct. 24) in the journal BMJ Case Reports. Four hours after the injury took place, plastic surgeons had successfully reattached her scalp to her head, the doctors report. [27 Oddest Case Reports]
The type of injury, which doctors refer to as “scalp avulsion,” is extremely rare in Japan, according to the case report. This is the second case in the medical literature describing the successful treatment of the injury in the country, the authors noted.
Repairing the injury involves, in part, reattaching blood vessels and nervesin the scalp to the head. The doctors were able to successfully reattach four large main blood vessels, two on the right side of the head and two on the left. However, after the operation, the doctors found that blood flowed only through the vessels on the right side of the head — but that these vessels were able to adequately supply blood to the entire scalp. The doctors were unable to reattach any of the woman’s nerves.
Two weeks after the operation, the woman developed a lesion, 3 by 4 centimeters (1.2 by 1.6 inches) near her left eye where her skin tissue was dying. The skin in this area was removed, and the doctors performed askin graft, transferring healthy skin to the area from a different part of her body.
By two months after the initial operation, signs pointed to the woman making a good recovery: “Exuberant hair growth was evident,” the doctors wrote, though they added that there was less hair growth on the left side of her head, perhaps due to trouble with the blood vessels on that side.
A year after the injury, the woman’s hair had grown “sufficiently.” In addition, she was able to open and close both of her eyelids and move her right eyebrow. And though the doctors weren’t able to attach the woman’s nerves, she regained sensation in the front and on both sides of her head, and was able to contract her forehead muscle — these improvements suggest that the nerves recovered on their own, according to the report.
The woman told the doctors she was “very satisfied with the aesthetic result,” and noted that she had “no problems in [her] daily life activities,” according to the report.
Dozens of people in Puerto Rico are suspected to have contracted leptospirosis, a bacterial illness, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and several people have died from the disease.
Yesterday (Oct. 24), officials in Puerto Rico said they had confirmed two deaths from the disease, according to CBS News. Another 74 cases of suspected leptospirosis are being investigated, CBS reported. (In total, 51 people have died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.)
Leptospirosis is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium known as Leptospira, which can infect animals and people.
People can become infected with Leptospira bacteria when they come into contact with the urine of infected animals, or with an environment that’s been contaminated with the infected urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, the bacteria can contaminate water or soil, and survive there for months, the CDC said. [27 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
Outbreaks of leptospirosis typically happen when people are exposed to the bacteria through contaminated water, such as floodwaters, the CDC said. The bacteria do not typically spread from person to person.
The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria created conditions that increase the risk that people will contract certain infectious diseases, including leptospirosis, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which recently sent a letter to Congress urging action to prevent the spread of disease in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria.
“With water supplies still not restored and sewerage systems disrupted to many affected areas, individuals may turn to rivers, springs or other ad hoc water sources. This approach, along with the presence of floodwaters, increases the risk of illness caused by waterborne pathogens,” including leptospirosis, the letter said.
Some people infected with Leptospira bacteria may have no symptoms, according to the CDC. Others may experience a high fever, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea and photophobia (eye discomfort when exposed to bright light). In severe cases, the infection can lead to kidney damage, brain inflammation, liver failure and death, the CDC said.
Puerto Rico typically has around 60 to 95 cases of leptospirosis per year, and cases were expected to rise after the hurricane, CNN reported. Healthy officials are now awaiting lab results for the suspected cases, which are being carried out by the CDC.
Leptospirosis can be treated with antibiotics, usually doxycycline or penicillin. Treatment should begin as early as possible to reduce the severity and duration of the disease, the CDC said.
Magnets can be dangerous toys for children — if swallowed, they can stick together, creating holes in the body, and lead to a medical emergency.
The same appears to be true even in cases when children don’t swallow the magnets. Take, for example, a recent case of an 11-year-old boy in Cyprus who inserted two flat, circular magnets into his nostrils.
The magnets, one of which was in each nostril, were drawn together, and the boy was unable to remove them, according to the case report, published today (Oct. 25) in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Six hours after putting the magnets in his nose, the boy was brought to the emergency room. His nose was bleeding and he was in severe pain, the report said. X-rays revealed the two magnets stuck together, pinching the boy’s nasal septum, which is the wall between the nostrils that separates the nasal passages.
But the ER doctors were unable to pry the magnets apart: “Attempts to remove the magnets in the emergency department were unsuccessful because of intense adherence,” the report said. [27 Oddest Medical Cases]
Instead, the boy was taken to the operating room to remove the magnets under anesthesia, according to the report. To do this, the surgeons used two additional magnets, which they placed on either side of the outside of the boy’s nose, in order to pull the stuck magnets apart.
Magnets tightly pinching the nasal septum can lead to tissue death andperforation, meaning that a hole forms in the septum, according to the report. In the boy’s case, the magnets had worn away part of the mucosal lining of his nasal septum, exposing some of the cartilage below. Special barriers were put in the boy’s nose to cover the exposed area for several days while his nose healed.
When the doctors saw the boy six months later, his nose had fully healed.