From replica bird eggs to disassembling a storm kettle, we've dealt with some fairly esoteric subjects in our first issue. In fact, one of the prevailing Ernest mottoes is 'be insanely specific', and in doing so, we discovered some surprising morsels of trivia...
Wombat scat is cube shaped
While researching our Collective Nouns feature with Woop Studios, we discovered that wombat scat is cubed shaped. This may lead you to hypothesise that these rather sweet-looking Australian marsupials have square-shaped poo-making anatomy but it really is a case of square scat out of round holes. No one really knows for definite how they make them that shape. There is, however, a widely accepted benefit of them being cubes. Wombats like to leave 4-8 of these 2cm droppings as territorial markers and to advertise their presence to other wombats, particularly on raised surfaces like logs, piles of dirt and the tops of mushrooms. Their cube shape helps prevent them from rolling off. I suppose that's one up side to being chronically constipated.
Cuckoos can change the colour of their eggs by sight
Editor Jo was amazed to find out, while interviewing Tony Ladd about his handmade replica bird eggs, that cuckoos can change the colour of their eggs by sight. Now we don't mean they have laser beams in their eyes that can magically zap their eggs a different shade. It's more amazing than that. Cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds' nests, and can adapt the colour of the eggs they lay to match those of the host bird, producing an egg with a greenish tinge for a reed warbler's nest, or a blueish egg in a robin's. That way, the host bird will unwittingly incubate and look after the hatched impostor, believing it to be their own. Crafty devils.
Marcus Aurelius had it sussed
Our cover photographer Fern Leigh Albert allowed us into her woodland world on the outskirts of Dartmoor, where she lives in an off-grid cluster of humble dwellings surrounded by trees. It was Fern who introduced us to this quote by Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, which sums up Ernest's ethos so succinctly: "Always bear in mind, that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life." So, just tea then. And custard creams.
Eating husky liver can be perilous
In everyday situations, you'd probably never concede to even thinking about eating your dog's liver but Douglas Mawson's doomed expedition across the Antarctic in 1912 was not a everyday situation. In our first issue, our resident curious histories guru Mark Blackmore powerfully recounts the harrowing journey. After losing most of their food and supplies to a crevasse fall, Mawson had little choice but to kill some of his huskies and eat their livers (as their meat was too stringy to be edible). This did little to benefit Mawson and his last remaining companion Xavier Mertz, who quickly deteriorated and died while Mawson struggled on, desperately ill. It's believed that their illness was caused by too much vitamin A, which is prevalent in the livers of huskies.
Many people wind up doing professions related to their surnames
While making the issue, we met an amusing number of crafters and makers whose names relate to their professions. There was Andrew Cooper, founder of the Wild Beer Co, who works with seasoned oak barrels. There was Steven Lamb, who is a curer and smoker of meat for River Cottage. There was... er... James Kennedy who makes... Kennedy City Cycles. Ok so we didn't meet that many but it did give us a good titter at the time. Do you know anyone who's surname amusingly relates to their profession? Do tell, do tell.