Required Reading: the powerful storytelling of the natural world.
This story has everything: Mystery, science, adventure, night-time rock climbing, a race against time, politics, shark-infested waters, desperate scientists, romance, and really humongous insects.
So. Read how a giant insect long though extinct was rediscovered, in a group of only 24, on an isolated volcanic island with only the sparsest vegetation to feed on, and about the scientists who worked to save the species. Because all life deserves to be preserved, even creepy giant walking sticks that I hope never to encounter in the night.
One can never tire of all the mysterious, delightful, crazy things that are always happening on this planet, without any concern for us showboating, camera-hogging humans.
From NPR: Six-Legged Giant Finds Secret Hideaway, Hides for 80 Years, by Robert Krulwich.
Here’s the story: About 13 miles from this spindle of rock, there’s a bigger island, called Lord Howe Island.
On Howe, there used to be an insect, famous for being big. It’s a stick insect, a critter that masquerades as a piece of wood, and the Lord Howe Island version was so large — as big as a human hand — that the Europeans labeled it a “tree lobster” because of its size and hard, lobsterlike exoskeleton. It was 12 centimeters long and the heaviest flightless stick insect in the world. Local fishermen used to put them on fishing hooks and use them as bait.
Then one day in 1918, a supply ship, the S.S. Makambo from Britain, ran aground at Lord Howe Island and had to be evacuated. One passenger drowned. The rest were put ashore. It took nine days to repair the Makambo, and during that time, some black rats managed to get from the ship to the island, where they instantly discovered a delicious new rat food: giant stick insects. Two years later, the rats were everywhere and the tree lobsters were gone.
Totally gone. After 1920, there wasn’t a single sighting. By 1960, the Lord Howe stick insect, Dryococelus australis, was presumed extinct.