CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, April 13, 2014 — Once again, it’s time for some trivia, including an interesting tidbit about a familiar historical character who may have had an enormous sweet tooth.
1. A mammoth fact: Speaking of enormous, here’s a bit of information that will probably surprise you. The woolly mammoth, which we typically think of as being around during the Ice Age, became extinct only about 3,600 years ago.
Truth is, most of them did die out about 10,000 years ago, but there was one ambitious group that endured in an isolated palce known as Wrangel Island.
Wrangel is an uninhabited island, roughly the size of Delaware, off the northern coast of eastern Siberia. It is situated 37 miles from the nearest land and 87 miles from the Russian mainland.
For context, by the time woolly mammoths went “kaput,” the great pyramids of Egypt were already 1,000 years old and Stonehenge was somewhere between 400 and 1,500 years old.
After a four-year research project by British and Swedish scientists, it is now believed that extinction was not inevitable despite the remoteness of the woolly mammoth’s location. To simplify the scientific mumbo-jumbo, it appears that the mammoths disappeared due to DNA problems in their genetic make-up.
Though they were isolated for 6,000 years, another theory is that two other factors played a role: climate and humans. Evidence shows that man arrived on the island at approximately the same time the woolly mammoths were dying out, but there is no evidence to date that humans hunted them.
The most likely culprit is climate change, which oddly enough, may have been one of the reasons humans were able to access the island when they did.
Scientists believe that, since inbreeding was not the reason for extinction, it is a good omen for conservationists. It may mean that smaller populations of very large animals can still retain genetic diversity and survive in a small area.
2. And now a word about a famous baker: Those of us old enough to remember the Vietnam War will find this item more interesting than others. You see, the leader of the Viet Cong during that war was a man named Ho Chi Minh.
There are conflicting stories about Ho’s time in the U.S., which include the urban legend that he was the creator of the Boston cream pie when he was employed as a baker in Boston at the Parker House Hotel from 1911 to 1913.
There is still some controversy as to whether Ho Chi Minh was actually employed at the hotel, but the hotel is doing everything it can to ensure the story is credible. Where they will back off is at the aspect of Ho’s being the inventor of the world famous dessert, but Parker House claims that, at the very minimum, Ho Chi Minh was an avid consumer of the product.
It seems that Ho held a few other menial jobs while in the United States in the early 20th century. He worked as a line manager for General Motors and was employed as a servant by a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918.
Ho also spent time in France and the United Kingdom before returning to Vietnam in 1941 to lead the Viet Minh independence movement. The 10,000-member “men in black” was a guerrilla force that operated with the Viet Minh.
So take your pick. Choose whatever you wish to believe about Vietnamese leaders and furry “elephants.” Who knows, if Ho had been around to feed the woolly mammoths’ “sweet teeth” with Boston Cream Pie, the world might be a very different place today.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod
In the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (Canada).