Sunday, May 01, 2005

aqua cornucopia

Downtown D.C. Duck, Offspring Get New Home

May 1, 3:35 PM (ET)


(AP) After four weeks as Washington's newest tourist attraction in front of the U.S. Treasury building...

WASHINGTON (AP) - The duck stops here. After four weeks as Washington's newest tourist attraction, a mother mallard duck and her - count 'em - 11 ducklings were transported in a motorcade Sunday to a new and far more suitable setting in Rock Creek Park.

The whole group took to the water, well, like ducks, although there was a bit of drama along the way.

The transfer had been mapped out like a military operation for the mother duck, a capital celebrity since taking up residence at the main entrance to the Treasury Department. The building is on Pennsylvania Avenue, the prime thoroughfare that tourists use in walking to the White House, which is right next door.

The Secret Service uniformed division had provided protection for the nesting mother over the past four weeks. Agents had built and then extended metal barricades to keep tourists back from the nest, which the mother had constructed in a mulch pile surrounding a tree.

Even after appearances on national television and in newspapers around the world, the mother - whom some Treasury employees had variously named Duck Cheney, Quacks Reform and T-bill - seemed oblivious to the attention as she stuck to her job of keeping the eggs warm.

The hatching began Saturday afternoon and continued into a stormy night with heavy rain. Wildlife experts who had studied the nest believed there were nine eggs. It turned out there were actually 11 eggs; all hatched.

The mother and her offspring were left on the nest overnight so the ducklings could get oriented.

Early Sunday, in an operation more elaborate than the ducks' move in the children's classic "Make Way for Ducklings," government biologists gently captured the mother duck and her yellow-and-black ducklings and put them in cages for the short ride to their new home.

Once at the park, the ducks were placed in a holding pen to get their bearings. But in only a few seconds, the mother mallard had found an opening and was headed to the nearby creek. Her ducklings scurried behind in a single line.

Duck No. 11 had a little trouble at first, stumbling and landing on its back, its webbed feet fighting the air. It quickly righted itself, only to trip again and tumble down the muddy river bank before landing with a plop in the water.

From there, all 11 ducklings quickly formed a line paddling after their mother and set out to explore their new surroundings.

While they had hatched in the rain, their first journey in their new home took place under a bright sky.

"Ducks are born knowing how to navigate in water," said Laura Illige, chief park ranger at Rock Creek. "We have a healthy duck population here and we are happy to take the new additions under our wings."


On the Net:

Rock Creek Park site of National Park Service:

Treasury Department:

Titanic Items Auction for More Than $150K

May 1, 7:27 PM (ET)

(AP) An 18-carat gold pocket watch, which belonged to a Titanic passenger, Nora Keane, was among the objects auctioned off...

BROOKLINE, Mass. (AP) - Dozens of Titanic relics auctioned for more than $150,000 Sunday, including a gold pocket watch owned by an Irish immigrant that stopped ticking the day of the sinking when she was rescued in a lifeboat.

The watch, once owned by Nora Keane of County Limerick, Ireland, was sold for $24,675, more than three times its estimated value, said Jon Baddeley, Bonhams & Butterfields auction house's marine collectibles expert.

Keane, who had emigrated to Harrisburg, Pa., was returning to the United States on the luxury liner's maiden voyage after a four-month visit to see her mother. It was damaged by water as she was rescued in lifeboat No. 10.

"It's been stopped ever since," Baddeley said. "We had a lot of interest from Ireland."

On the back of the watch was engraved the message: "To my dearest Nora, your visit to County Limerick warmed my heart. God bless and be with you on your return to Pennsylvania." It's signed: "Loving mother."

The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic on April 14 and 15, 1912, killing about 1,500 people.

The top sale price at the auction was $44,650 for the only known example of a 3rd class menu postcard, dated April 14, 1912. The card has a picture of the Titanic at the top, with the entire day's menu printed on it.

Baddeley said the items had belonged to a British private collector who wished to remain anonymous.

Rescuers Look for Boy Who Fell Off Boat

May 1, 7:44 PM (ET)

CAPE MAY POINT, N.J. (AP) - Rescue teams searched waters along the southern New Jersey coast on Sunday for the body of a boy scout who fell off a whale watching boat.

Rough conditions forced police and Coast Guard boats to suspend the search around midday, but investigators did find a piece of clothing on the propeller that might have belonged to the boy, police said.

The search was expected to continue Monday.

Nicholas Johs, 14, of Staten Island, N.Y., fell Saturday after he and several other troop members were jumping up and down in the front of the boat in time with the waves, witnesses told police.

One of the passengers threw Johs a life preserver but the youth could not reach it. Another passenger dove into the 49-degree water to try and rescue him, but had to turn back. Troop members were not wearing life vests, police said.

Prosecutors Give Arguments in Marine Case

May 1, 4:17 PM (ET)


(AP) U.S. Marine 2nd Lt. llario Pantano leaves the Legal Support Services Courtroom with his wife, Jill...

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) - A Marine accused of murdering two Iraqi detainees intended to make an example of them by shooting them 60 times and hanging a sign over their bodies, prosecutors said Saturday during closing arguments in a pretrial hearing.

"There's no other reason why this stellar lieutenant would have used such poor judgment," prosecutor Maj. Stephen Keane said. "It is not up to a 2nd lieutenant to violate the law of war and make an example of people he believes are bad."

Prosecutors allege that 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano killed the suspected insurgents in April 2004 after ordering a search of their car. Pantano, a former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks, says he acted in self-defense after the men moved toward him.

"Lt. Pantano has told this to virtually every person who asked him," defense attorney Charles Gittins said in his closing statement. "He did exactly what he was required to do under the circumstances."

Pantano declined to make a statement in court after consulting with his lawyers.

The Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury, will determine whether Pantano, 33, will face a court-martial. After his closing argument Keane said he does not believe the crime deserves the death penalty.

The investigating officer has been given at least a week to make his recommendations.

The five-day hearing came to a close Saturday after Pantano's chief accuser returned to the stand following several days of legal wrangling.

Sgt. Daniel Coburn abruptly left the stand Wednesday when he was told he was suspected of violating orders prohibiting him from giving media interviews about the case. He returned to the stand Saturday after being granted immunity from prosecution.

Coburn testified Saturday that he believed the men were going to be brought in for questioning when Pantano ordered the search of their car.

However, Coburn also acknowledged that Pantano had stripped him of his job as squad leader and elevated a lower-ranking Marine to replace him. He said he believed his last evaluation, written by Pantano and reviewed by two higher-ranking officers, was a "career-ender."

Coburn said he hadn't seen the evaluation before he began to question Pantano's actions.

Two Teens Rescued After Six Days at Sea

May 1, 4:07 PM (ET)

SOUTHPORT, N.C. (AP) - Two teenagers lost at sea for six days without food or fresh water were spotted by fishermen more than 100 miles from where they started, clinging to their small sailboat.

The boys quenched their thirst with sea water and slipped into the ocean to cool off, but sharks chased them back onto the boat. At night, they used a single wet suit to keep warm.

"I asked God to take me," 15-year-old Troy Driscoll said as he lay in a hospital emergency room. "You're out there fighting for your life. We didn't want to fight anymore."

Driscoll and his best friend, 18-year-old Josh Long, were spotted Saturday about seven miles off Cape Fear - six days and more than 100 miles from where they had put in off Sullivans Island, S.C., on April 24. The boys were sunburned, dehydrated and exhausted, but otherwise in pretty good shape.

"We were praying for a miracle and we got one," Charleston Coast Guard Cmdr. June Ryan said. "Everybody on the East Coast has been looking for these boys."

Shane Coker said first he would hug his little brother Troy - "then I'm gonna hit him and let him know how much he made us worry."

The teens set out on a 14-foot Sunfish on a blustery day when the National Weather Service warned small boats to stay off the water. The realized they were in trouble almost immediately and tried to swim back to shore, pulling the boat along with them.

Within hours, they were out to sea.

"We lost our tackle the second day," Driscoll told one of his relatives on the phone. "So we couldn't catch any fish."

The boys' hope waned as the week wore on. They stood on their Sunfish every time they saw a boat, waving their paddles and yelling. One night they were awakened by water splashing in their faces and found a large container ship bearing down on them.

"It was like some monster building in the water," Driscoll said.

At one point, the teens thought they had drifted across the Atlantic Ocean and were close to Africa. Instead, they were about 111 miles north - well outside the Coast Guard's search grid - but close enough to spot one more fishing boat.

They got up and made some noise. This time, they were heard.

"What we have is an absolutely miraculous story of survival that's going to be studied for years to come," said Richard Goerling, Long's uncle. "I think those two boys have a book to write."

The Coast Guard wants to review the case to see how the boys took a route so unanticipated by computer models and weather and nautical data.

The boys said they don't remember much about their rescue, but recalled that as they were pulled aboard the fishing boat, their rescuers asked what they wanted to do with the Sunfish.

"We told them we didn't want to see it again," Long said.


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