Thursday, February 4, 2010

We follow the spiders

We had several reader responses about our mystery insect. Here are comments from them. We are leaving them mostly untouched, so please forgive the ‘email casual’ format, typos, and imperfections.

From Kyle, about the “critter,” and a very interesting aside about Fort Drum:

Hi steve, Me and my uncle went on the tour with you last month and truly enjoyed it. And yes me and him always do read your weekly newsletters. its the first time ill be responding because of 2 things, first the insect that you have on there looks to be related to if not the same as the african cave spider. I saw it on some discovery channel show once and the guy had to eat it.

Second is that I realized that fort drum was used as a video game map in a game i play alot, Call Of Duty in their 5th installment, World at War as a map called Battery. I immediately hopped on in the game and explored what fort drum looked like, and from images from the interwar periods did look very much the same, except it had an extra turret. Thanks very much for this newsletter, and i was wondering if you have any images of fort drum that you took yourself? that would be great to know. Thanks very much and hope i got the spider right!

How about that, all you “Call of Duty” players? We wonder if anyone else made this connection. And we did confirm that “our” creatures are close relatives of the African cave spider. It does NOT sound like a good dinner choice! Thanks again, Kyle.

More on the creature: this great reply from Philip:

First I thought that your mystery "bug" looked vaguely like a type of Arachnid native to the American South (where I was born and raised -- in Arkansas) named "Whipscorpions" or "Vinegaroons" (Order Thelyphonida/Uropygida), but they have big long tails (hence one of their common names), and a generally more leathery appearance. Your critter looked almost like some cross between a Whipscorpion and a "Daddy-Longlegs" (Opiliones). Anyway, my initial hunch was of some help, because after a bit of snooping around on the Internet this morning, I see that there's a related Arachnid Order, Amblypygi, called "Tailless Whipscorpions" or "Cave Spiders," and that must surely be what you found. Open this Wikipedia entry and see if you don't agree: Although I now make my living as a diplomat, I'm originally a botanist and biologist by training, so these things interest me.

And more, from Kathleen:

It is a tailless whipscorpion. go to and see some more of them.

And this from Eli:

Our local name for it is 'gagambang hari' or literally, 'king spider' so named because of its size but never for its ferocity. During our younger days when we hunted for spiders as a form of kid games, 'gagambang hari' and its bigger relatives, never displayed aggressiveness even towards its smaller opponents during 'combat' on coconut leaf rib but were no doubt helpful in trapping some mosquitoes and flies in its web.
We’re not sure that Eli’s spider is the same type, since the ones we’ve seen live in tunnel or cave environments, but admit our ignorance on the matter. This may also be an outdoor ‘cousin.’

We send special thanks to Philip and Kathleen, both of whom nailed it and supplied the links, to Kyle, and to Eli for local color. From the website references, we now know that the mother carries her young on her back, and eats any baby who falls off. Just in case you thought your mother was strict! By happy accident, Marcia actually got a picture of a mother with babies “on board.” Hold on tight, kids! We didn’t even see the babies until we downloaded the photo onto Steve’s laptop…mom was so skittish that Marcia could not get the camera very close, and had no desire to get her eyes any closer! A good time for our camera with macro setting and sharp auto-focus.

On Monday, Steve guided for Sascha Jean Weinzheimer Jansen’s Return to the Philippines Tour. We wrote about Sascha last year - you can read about it at
New readers might enjoy the story of Roger Schade, who tried to return a library book that was 70 years overdue!

There were a half dozen or so in this year’s group who were returning to commemorate their February 3, 1945 release from the Sto. Tomas (Saint Thomas) University internment camp. This is another of the 65th anniversary commemorations taking place this year, ending with the signing of Japan’s formal surrender aboard the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2.

One of the members of Sascha’s group had been born in Sto. Tomas. Several were old enough to remember living there. One, Sally Morgan, was born in China and was 11 when she was rounded up with her family. She has been very active with the American Ex-Prisoners of War, being its current Quartermaster and National Secretary. She posed for a photo with Steve at Battery Way.

Groundhog Day was exciting here, not because we are going to have six more weeks of the same gorgeous weather, but because Steve had a little incident with the jeep. Early in the morning, he’d sent an order with a bancero to buy 40 liters of diesel fuel and a few vegetables for us. At noon he texted the bancero to ask if the items were here, and was told “yes.” However, yes meant that the bancero didn’t fully understand the question – our stuff was still in Bataan – so Steve went to start the jeep to drive back up to the house for lunch, and the electrical system was dead. Fortunately, Michael drove by and offered to help. Eventually he traced the problem to somewhere other than under the hood. Then Budoy came along and the two were able to find that the wiring behind the amp meter was the problem. They rewired, and Steve was on his way. By then the bancero was back with our order. Once, during the ride up the hill, the jeep seemed to go dead for a second, which told Steve that there might still be a problem. Also, the fan belt was squealing so loudly that he decided to ask Michael to tighten it after lunch.

Steve dropped off the order, ate a quick lunch, grabbed a water bottle, and headed back down the hill. On his return trip, the belt was quiet and everything seemed okay…until he got within 100 feet of the level road at Middleside. All of a sudden, he heard electrical crackling, and the jeep died and rolled forward a few more feet. Then the amp meter caught fire. Staying perfectly calm?!?!?!?, he grabbed the water bottle and put out the fire. He had no choice but to leave the jeep exactly where it was, since it was on a steep incline 50 feet below the Middleside Road. After talking with Michael and Budoy, and explaining the fire, which sent them both into hysterics, they explained that all he needed was a new amp meter and everything would be fine.

The next morning, the bancero brought the part, which cost about two dollars – two more for pickup and delivery charges – Michael and Budoy replaced the part, and the jeep is “as good as old” again. In fact, it seems to start and run better than ever.

Yesterday Steve guided for 22 fourth-year students and their advisor from the Medical College of Wisconsin. They are spending some time at the Philippine General Hospital, under the University of the Philippines in Manila. Steve had lots of fun talking with students who knew where Virginia, Minnesota is, and also Superior, Wisconsin, where we lived for three years. One student even knew of our niece Angie Keseley from her hockey days at the University of Wisconsin. Another student wore a Michigan State University baseball cap, and the advisor had spent 15 years at MSU.

As you can see, Corregidor’s tourist season is now blossoming, and we’re enjoying the guests and the weather.

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