Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Lighthouses: Signs of Safety for
Travelers at Sea"

This is Shirley Griffith. And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS.

Today we tell about the lighthouses that protect ships sailing along the coast of North Carolina.


Lighthouses are built along coasts to signal to passing ships. Lighthouses are tall buildings of wood or stone or brick with large bright lights on top. Every night they shine lights to warn ships about dangerous areas where there are rocks, low water levels, or strong currents. The lighthouses along North Carolina’s coast are recognized as signs of safety for travelers at sea.

Over the years, fierce ocean storms have sent many ships crashing into the North Carolina coast. Other boats have been lost in wars. During World War Two, for example, German submarines sank many allied transport ships in that area. History experts say more than 600 ships have been wrecked near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Storms still uncover the ruins of wrecked ships along the Outer Banks

The lighthouses shine their signals to prevent more wrecks. Many ships and lives have been saved because of the United States Life Saving Service and workers at lighthouses along the coast.

The Outer Banks is a group of narrow islands stretching along the North Carolina coast in the Atlantic Ocean. The islands shelter North Carolina’s inland water passages. For thousands of years, these barrier islands have survived severe weather. Every few years, an ocean storm in the North Atlantic Ocean will move through the Outer Banks with destructive force.

Each island of the Outer Banks has its own lighthouse with a special design and history. In addition, each lighthouse has its own signal, which boats see from a distance. The different light signals help sailors identify their position from the land. This helps them judge if they are close to dangerous water passages. Today, the light signals work on an electrical timing system. In the past, workers living in the lighthouses had to turn the lights on and off.

North Carolina’s simplest lighthouse is on Ocracoke Island in the southern Outer Banks. Ocracoke Lighthouse was built in 1823ee. It is considered the oldest lighthouse on the Carolina coast. Its signal is a continuous white light, which can be seen almost 25 kilometers out at sea. Although the plans used to build Ocracoke lighthouse appear normal, the building was built off-center. As a result, it rises more sharply on one side

Ocracoke Island is said to be the place where the pirate Blackbeard lost his head in the early 1700s. This famous ocean robber was killed in a battle with a British officer more than a century before Ocracoke Lighthouse was build. Lieutenant Robert Maynard was protecting England’s colonial interest in the New World. Historians say he tricked Blackbeard into battle and then cut off his head. Stories passed down through the years say that the spirit of Blackbeard still walks around Ocracoke Island searching for his head.


Many people agree that the most recognized lighthouse in America is at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The building stretches 58 meters in the air – making it the tallest brick lighthouse in the country. It was completed in 1870. Its signal shines a white light every seven and one-half seconds. Ships 37 kilometers from land are able to see the signal.

Historians believe more people have read about, painted or taken pictures of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse than any other lighthouse in North America. It is the picture on the official documents of the United States Lighthouse Service. It is also a memorial to hundreds of men and women who worked to make North Carolina’s coast safe for sea travelers.

In 1999, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was moved more than 900 meters. Officials wanted to protect the building by moving it farther away from the ocean. Huge lift equipment picked up the more than 4,000 ton building and carried it inland. The lighthouse was then lowered onto a new 18 meter square concrete support structure

Engineers inspected the repositioned building. They declared that it is standing tall and strong on its new foundation. Visitors can climb to the top of the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, but they need to be in good physical condition. This is because 268 steps lead to the top of North America’s tallest brick lighthouse


Another lighthouse along North Carolina’s Outer Banks is the Bodie Lighthouse. Its history is quite interesting. The fifth financial inspector of the United States Treasury Department built the first Bodie Lighthouse in 1848

Stephen Pleasonton’s main concern while building the structure was to save money. As a result, his workers were not permitted to spend enough money to build a safe base. In addition, the building was fitted with a light system that was not considered effective even then. Shortly after it opened, Bodie Island Lighthouse started sinking on one side. Workers soon had to leave it

Several years later, the United States Congress ordered a new lighthouse be built. In 1852, work began on a new and improved structure. The second Bodie Lighthouse was to be representative of a new look in lighthouses. It was shaped like a circular cone, made of earthen bricks made hard in a fire. Its base was built on supporting bars driven into the earth

The second Bodie Lighthouse was destroyed in the American Civil War. Confederate soldiers from the South wrecked the building to prevent the Union navy of the North from gaining a position to help its ships. The structure was finally rebuilt and completed in 1872. It rises 48 meters in the air

Today, the Bodie Lighthouse needs several repairs. This is why the building is not open to the public to climb. However, the lighthouse signal is still recognized by passing ships. It is on, off, and on again for two and one-half seconds each time, then off for twenty-two and one-half seconds. Boats up to 33 kilometers out at sea are able to recognize the Bodie Lighthouse signal.


The most northern lighthouse on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is at Currituck Beach. Like the other lighthouses along the coast, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse still serves as an aid to sailors. The lighthouse runs its light signal from sunset to sunrise. The signal is three seconds on, 17 seconds off. The light can be seen as far away as 33 kilometers.

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse remains unpainted to help tell it apart from other lighthouses along the coast. This also gives visitors a strong sense of the one and one-half million bricks used to build the building, which stands 47 meters in the air. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse was completed in 1865. It was the last major brick lighthouse built on the Outer Banks. Visitors are permitted to climb to the top.

Wild horses run free near the Currituck Beach Lighthouse. Horses are not native to North America. Yet for more than 400 years, these animals have run unrestricted along the northern Outer Banks. Historians are not sure how the horses first arrived in America. They believe either Spanish or English settlers transported them. The wild horses are called Barbs. They are known for their size, their ability to work hard, their easy movement, and their long lives.

Historians say there was nothing but sea, sand and grass when these Barb horses first arrived on the Outer Banks. A continual increase in summer visitors over the past 40 years has made survival for the horses more difficult. Because of this, a group of concerned citizens has built a fence to separate the horses from people. This gives them about 6,000 hectares of land to live on. The group is trying to make sure the animals will be permitted to stay on Currituck Beach. Like the lighthouses, the wild Barb horses are a traditional part of life on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.


This Special English program was written by Jill Moss and produced by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember. And this is Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the Voice of America.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"The Search for Religious Freedom in Early America"

This is Rich Kleinfeldt. And this is Sarah Long with THE MAKING OF A NATION, a VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.


Today, we tell about the movement of European settlers throughout northeastern America. And we tell how the separate colonies developed in this area.

The Puritans were one of the largest groups from England to settle in the northeastern area called Massachusetts. They began arriving in 1630. The Puritans had formed the Massachusetts Bay Company in England. The king had given the company an area of land between the Charles and Merrimack rivers.

The Puritans were Protestants who did not agree with the Anglican Church. The Puritans wanted to change the church to make it more holy. They were able to live as they wanted in Massachusetts. Soon they became the largest religious group. By 1690, 50,000 people were living in Massachusetts.

Puritans thought their religion was the only true religion and everyone should believe in it. They also believed that church leaders should lead the local government, and all people in the colony should pay to support the Puritan church. The Puritans thought it was the job of government leaders to tell people what to believe.

Some people did not agree with the Puritans who had become leaders of the colony. One of those who disagreed was a Puritan minister named Roger Williams.

Roger Williams believed as all Puritans did that other European religions were wrong. He thought the Native Indian religions were wrong too. But he did not believe in trying to force others to agree with him. He thought that it was a sin to punish or kill anyone in the name of Christianity. And he thought that only church members should pay to support their church.

Roger Williams began speaking and writing about his ideas. He wrote a book saying it was wrong to punish people for having different beliefs. Then he said that the European settlers were stealing the Indians' land. He said the king of England had no right to permit people to settle on land that was not his, but belonged to the Indians.

The Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony forced Roger Williams to leave the colony in 1636. He traveled south. He bought land from local Indians and started a city, Providence. The Parliament in England gave him permission to establish a new colony, Rhode Island, with Providence as its capital. As a colony, Rhode Island accepted people of all religious beliefs, including Catholics, Quakers, Jews and even people who denied the existence of God.

Roger Williams also believed that governments should have no connection to a church. This idea of separating church and state was very new. Later it became one of the most important of all America's governing ideas.


Other colonies were started by people who left Massachusetts to seek land. One was Connecticut. A group led by Puritan minister Thomas Hooker left Boston in 1636 and went west. They settled near the Connecticut River. Others soon joined them.

Other groups from Massachusetts traveled north to find new homes. The king of England had given two friends a large piece of land in the north. The friends divided it. John Mason took what later became the colony of New Hampshire. Ferdinando Gorges took the area that later became the state of Maine. It never became a colony, however. It remained a part of Massachusetts until after the United States was created.

The area known today as New York State was settled by the Dutch. They called it New Netherland. Their country was the Netherlands. It was a great world power, with colonies all over the world. A business called the Dutch West India Company owned most of the colonies.

The Dutch claimed American land because of explorations by Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Netherlands. The land the Dutch claimed was between the Puritans in the north and the Anglican tobacco farmers in the south.

The Dutch were not interested in settling the territory. They wanted to earn money. The Dutch West India Company built trading posts on the rivers claimed by the Netherlands. People in Europe wanted to buy goods made from the skins of animals trapped there.

In 1626, the Dutch West India Company bought two islands from the local Indians. The islands are Manhattan Island and Long Island. Traditional stories say the Dutch paid for the islands with some trade goods worth about twenty-four dollars.

The Dutch West India Company tried to find people to settle in America. But few Dutch wanted to leave Europe. So the colony welcomed people from other colonies, and other countries. These people built a town on Manhattan Island. They called it New Amsterdam. It was soon full of people who had arrived on ships from faraway places. It was said you could hear as many as 18 different languages spoken in New Amsterdam.

In 1655, the governor of New Netherland took control of a nearby Swedish colony on Delaware Bay. In 1664, the English did the same to the Dutch. The English seized control of New Amsterdam and called it New York. That ended Dutch control of the territory that now is the states of New York, New Jersey and Delaware.


Most of the Dutch in New Amsterdam did not leave. The English permitted everyone to stay. They let the Dutch have religious freedom. The Dutch were just not in control any more.

The Duke of York owned the area now. He was the brother of King Charles the Second of England. The king gave some of the land near New York to two friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley. They called it New Jersey, after the English island where Carteret was born.

The two men wrote a plan of government for their colony. It created an assembly that represented the settlers. It provided for freedom of religion. Men could vote in New Jersey whatever their religion. Soon, people from all parts of Europe were living in New Jersey. Then King Charles took control of the area. He sent a royal governor to rule. But the colonists were permitted to make their own laws through the elected assembly.

The king of England did the same in each colony he controlled. He collected taxes from the people who lived there, but permitted them to govern themselves.


One religious group that was not welcome in England was the Quakers. Quakers call themselves Friends. They believe that each person has an inner light that leads them to God. Quakers believe they do not need a religious leader to tell them what is right. So, they had no clergy.

Quakers believe that all people are equal. The Quakers in England refused to recognize the king as more important than anyone else. They also refused to pay taxes to support the Anglican Church. Quakers believe that it is always wrong to kill. So they would not fight even when they were forced to join the army. They also refuse to promise loyalty to a king or government or flag or anyone but God.

The English did not like the Quakers for all these reasons. Many Quakers wanted to leave England, but they were not welcome in most American colonies. One Quaker changed this. His name was William Penn.

William Penn was not born a Quaker. He became one as a young man. His father was an Anglican, and a good friend of the king.

King Charles borrowed money from William's father. When his father died, William Penn asked that the debt be paid with land in America. In 1681, the king gave William Penn land which the King's Council named Pennsylvania, meaning Penn's woods.

The Quakers now had their own colony. It was between the Puritans in the north and the Anglicans in the south. William Penn said the colony should be a place where everyone could live by Quaker ideas.

That meant treating all people as equals and honoring all religions. It also meant that anyone could be elected. In most other colonies, people could believe any religion, but they could not vote or hold office unless they were a member of the majority church. In Pennsylvania, all religions were equal.


This MAKING OF A NATION program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Paul Thompson. This is Sarah Long. And this is Rich Kleinfeldt. Join us again next week for another VOA Special English program about the history of the United States.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"Health Tips for Travelers"

This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Bob Doughty. Summer is a busy period for holiday travel. Many people will travel great distances in airplanes, cars or other vehicles. Today, we will offer suggestions about how to avoid health problems on a long trip.


Health officials in many countries say recent news reports have raised questions about the safety of passenger airplanes. The reports described an American man with a rare kind of tuberculosis. He flew two times across the Atlantic Ocean before agreeing to go to a hospital for treatment.

At first, public health officials attempted to warn people who were passengers on the long flights with the infected man. But officials said most of the passengers had a low risk of developing the disease. They suggested that the passengers could be tested if they wished to make sure.

Since then, health officials have found all the people who sat near the man. Officials said those persons needed to be tested for tuberculosis immediately, and then again in eight to ten weeks. It takes that long for the disease to develop. The officials also wanted the passengers to know they cannot infect anyone else with TB.

Many people are concerned about the way sicknesses are spread in airplanes. It is known that diseases like tuberculosis can be spread from person to person through the air. Bacteria that carry TB move into the air when an infected person talks or expels air suddenly from the lungs. People nearby take the particles into their lungs when they breathe. But experts say healthy people are not in great danger unless they are in a closed space with an infected person for a long time.

Experts said one reason for the low risk of infection is that the man showed no signs of TB. Another reason is that the planes he flew in were equipped with HEPA filters. The Federal Aviation Administration says seventy-five percent of all large passenger planes now use such devices to remove dangerous particles from the air.

The letters H-E-P-A represent the words High Efficiency Particulate Air. HEPA filters capture at least ninety nine point nine seven percent of all particles in the air that are zero point three microns in size or larger.

America's Atomic Energy Commission developed HEPA filters sixty years ago to protect workers who were developing the atomic bomb. The first HEPA filters removed radioactive particles from the air. Today, the filters are used to clean the air in planes, hospitals, factories, and even private homes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says HEPA filters are effective in clearing the air of many particles that cause disease. Makers of the devices say they kill bacteria and viruses because they help to remove the wetness that germs need to survive. But HEPA filters cannot remove disease-causing particles smaller than zero point three microns. These will continue to move around in the air and can infect people.

Medical experts say the most common way to get an infection is by touching an infected surface, then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. They say the best way people can protect themselves is by washing their hands after touching an object where germs could be present.

Experts say the news about the man with drug-resistant tuberculosis has increased concerns about travelers who are sick. They say diseases that spread more easily than tuberculosis could cause health and security crises. In the past, public health workers were able to delay travel by persons suspected of having diseases such as influenza. They continue to ask everyone to act responsibly and not fly while they are sick.


Experts say people should know about other health problems that can strike when traveling by air. One of these is a condition called hypoxia. It results from a lack of oxygen to the brain. Experts say the body begins losing oxygen minutes after an airplane leaves the ground. The air pressure in a plane during flight is lower than at sea level. This makes it more difficult for the body to effectively use the same amount of oxygen as it would on the ground. Fewer oxygen molecules cross the tissues in the lungs and reach the bloodstream.

The result is a five to twenty percent drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood. This reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches the organs of the body.

One effect of this lack of oxygen to the brain is a headache. When this happens, the heart attempts to fix the situation by beating harder and faster. This can make the traveler feel tired.

These signs of hypoxia are not dangerous in a healthy person. But a drop in oxygen level can cause a health emergency in people with heart or lung problems. They might lose consciousness or even suffer a heart attack.

Experts say that smoking cigarettes and drinking alcoholic liquids also reduce the body's ability to use oxygen. So they suggest that people not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes either before or during a flight. They also say persons with heart or lung problems should seek advice from their doctor before flying.


Another health danger for travelers is a condition called deep vein thrombosis. A thrombosis is a blood clot -- a condition in which some blood thickens and blocks the flow to the heart.

Blood clots can kill if they move to the heart and lungs and stop needed oxygen from reaching those important organs. This is known as a pulmonary embolism.

The World Health Organization says travelers who sit still for four or more hours face a greater risk of developing blood clots. But it says only one in six thousand people develop deep vein thrombosis.

Doctors say some people have more risk than others. These include people who have had clots in the past, pregnant woman and those who take birth control pills. People who weigh too much and those with heart disease or cancer also may have a greater risk. Others include people being treated with estrogen and those who recently had an operation.

Experts say the chance of a clot also increases if a person does not drink enough water. They say travelers who sit for hours need to drink plenty of water -- not liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine. Passengers should also increase blood flow to the legs. Ways to do this include wearing support stockings on your feet. Passengers should also walk around every hour or so during the trip or at least move their feet and legs. Also, no one should sit for a long time with the knees pressed back against a seat.

Doctors say anyone with pain, swelling or red skin on a leg during or after a long trip may have a blood clot. Anyone with such signs should see a doctor as soon as possible. The condition many times can be treated with drugs that thin the blood and stop the clot from moving through the body.


Another health problem people may suffer during a flight is ear pain, also known as airplane ear. This is the result of difference in air pressure between parts of the middle of the ear and the outer ear.

The air pressure in both these areas is kept generally the same by the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the nose. The tube opens when a person swallows or takes a deep breath. These actions equalize the air pressure by permitting air to flow into or out of the middle ear. Pressure differences result when the Eustachian tube is blocked. Then the eardrum cannot perform normally. The person may not be able to hear normally…and may also suffer pain.

People with colds or allergic reactions are at greater risk of airplane ear because their Eustachian tubes may be blocked. And children may suffer airplane air more easily than adults because their Eustachian tubes are small and easily blocked. Generally, airplane ear is most painful during take off and landing. But it generally goes away a few hours after the flight. If not, a doctor can provide treatment.

Ways to prevent airplane ear include canceling plans to fly if you have a cold or an allergy. Passengers can use decongestant medicines before the flight, a nasal spray or special earplugs that can help equalize the pressure during landing and takeoffs. Swallowing and taking deep breaths during the flight may also help some people.


This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Nancy Steinbach. Our producer was Brianna Blake. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to this program on our Web site, Join us next week at this time for more news about science on the Voice of America.