The Police featuring Sting, one of my favorite artists (and groups) were singing a great little ditty the other day on satellite radio and it got me thinking. The name of the song was Canary In A Coal Mine.
The theme of the song was “you live your life like a canary in a coal mine”. We’ve all had friends like that, but I digress.
For the unindoctrinated or too young to know about this, years ago caged canaries were brought down into coal mine shafts.
They acted as the first warning sign that oxygen was being depleted and replaced with dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide. Their method of warning the coal miners – was to die (in most cases).
Believe it or not, canaries were still used in coal mines up until December 30, 1986. On that date a little over 200 birds were put out of work (with no benefits to draw on) and replaced with the latest and greatest carbon monoxide detectors.
One company CanarySense.com makes all its detectors and canary yellow, kind of like paying homage to the canaries that gave their lives.
A dude known as the father of oxygen therapy named John Haldae was in fact his own best guinea pig in the mid-1800s.
He studied oxygen rejuvenation and gas poisoning. He felt: “it could be safer using canaries or mice to detect gas in coal mines”..
Turns out that canaries need more oxygen and are more sensitive to toxic gases through their unique anatomy. Both the aforementioned gases have no color nor odor.
If we were to breathe in carbon monoxide directly, it would bind to our red blood cells. Then this heinous gas will actually will prevent your hemoglobin’s ability to carry oxygen resulting in feeling fatigue, chest pain and the inability to concentrate. (I find concentration elusive some times myself any way).
Turns out canaries were a great choice because they reacted quickly to the gas. Some humane miners would even go as far as carrying small oxygen vials to revive the birds before returning with them to the surface.
Better a canary than a miner, and so it went. The next time you see a lovely little canary singing his heart out you’ll remember what it’s ancestors withstood.
The canary thing then begged the question, what other birds have been put to use for tasks other than for our own enjoyment?
Surely these amazing winged creatures must have a higher purpose in life other than spreading seed husks and bird poop all over your living room floor.
With carrier pigeons being used as far back as Julius Caesar I figured there had to be some other birds that could help pay the rent.
Video – The Police – Dancing to “Canary In A Coalmine” (A Fanvid)
So I did a little drilling and came up with some interesting profiles of working birds. One of the most notable working birds is the Cormorant. Cormorant fishing has been around since approximately 960 A.D. in both Japan and China. Raised from chicks these birds grow to be absolutely trained and to be subservient to a single fisherman.