Take a whiff of that, Captain

Charles Laughton as Captain BlighOne of the greatest recorded feats of navigation, humans are told, was accomplished by Captain Bligh.  Skipper of the HMS Bounty, he and 18 crewmen were cast adrift in a small boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by mutineers.  After a 3600 mile voyage, Bligh landed safely in the Dutch East Indies.

What’s the big deal?  He navigated with a quadrant and pocket watch.  His boat sat effortlessly on the water, and was propelled by wind.  What if he had no hardware, and pushed the boat across the Pacific with his Imperial British body?

Such is the achievement of the noble dung beetle, every day.  It fashions a ball of ordure, which it uses both for food and as a place to live (a ball of dung is Shangri-La compared to millions of the human homes we inhabit). Because robbery is, alas, as common among beetles as among humans, it has to roll the ball away, and the escape route has to be exact.

How does the dung beetle navigate with its precious cargo? Homo sapiens, thinking man, has finally figured out that the beetle charts its voyage by observing the Milky Way Galaxy. No sextant, no pocket watch.

And, seeing as the ball is up to ten times the beetle’s weight, THIS is a feat of navigation one can salute.

Sod is my co-pilot




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