You know what I learned today? Carrier pigeons are freakin’ awesome!
Listening to NPR on my drive home tonight I discovered the program “Radio Lab.” For those who’ve never listened before, it is a mash up of interviews, sound effects, and entertaining banter between the show’s hosts. This evening they were recalling their trip to Fort Monmouth in the great state of New Jersey (I use the term ‘great’ loosely – no offense to my Jersian friends.)
There is a museum in the fort dedicated to great war heroes, but not the homo sapien variety. Rather, these are feathery comrades in arms. Let me tell you a little about GI Joe.
GI Joe single-featheredly saved thousands of lives. This little dude was transported hundreds of miles from his home base to an Italian village that was under German rule in 1943. He traveled the whole way in a dark box. The day he arrived was his first day ever visiting the village. It was also the day the British unexpectedly overthrew the occupying Germans at lightning speed. Amazingly this was not exactly a good thing.
See, problem was that the Americans were expecting to come in and make the job a little easier for their limey friends. They were about 20 minutes out from bombing the heck outta that little Italian village. Radios down and without the modern convenience of satellite communication, the Brits were screwed. Enter GI Joe. He emerges from his dark little box with feathers blazing. He soars to the sky and with a single-minded determination he traverses the unfamiliar terrain — arriving home minutes before the bombers take off. The message he carries stops the American bombers just in time, and everyone lives happily ever after.
How the hell does he do it? How does he pop out of a dark box, take to the sky, and without hesitation — fly directly home? Truth is, they don’t know. Nearly seventy years later, scientists are still trying to figure it out. Some theories include olfactory stimulation. Smells associated with places. This is a weak case and has already been disproven. The current favorite guess is the existence of a global magnetic resonance created by the iron that exists in the Earth’s crust. This resonates with iron particles that are present in the pigeons beak. Cool. As. Shit.
Case in point, pigeons are freakin’ awesome!