How Big Is The Easter Bunny?

Once again, we have a question without a specific context that I remembered to write down. I do remember that my son was talking excitedly about Easter, particularly since the tradition from my wife’s side of the family is that you get presents at Easter. Unlike my side of the family, where you just get a lot of candy. And I think we may have just watched a movie about the Easter Bunny as well. And that’s when he asked me:

“How big is the Easter Bunny?”

Which is, when you get right down to it, a good question. I mean, he’s got a handle on how big Santa Claus is, and how big the reindeer are, and on the size of a leprechaun and a turkey and so forth. But the Easter Bunny? Not really. And I’m not sure either – is he (or she, for that matter) human-sized, or the size of a regular rabbit. Making him the size of a regular rabbit seems to present some logistical difficulties for delivery, but then again we’re talking about a magic rabbit that delivers candy. If we can accept that, then we can accept the ability of a rabbit-sized rabbit to do the work.

Why is there an “Easter Bunny”?

This is one of those questions that doesn’t have a specific answer. There’s lots of theories, but no “smoking gun” that tells us where the Easter Bunny came from in the first place. Wikipedia says that “Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season of Eastertide.” History.com builds on this a little, stating;

According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs.

When trying to dig further into this, I found any number of unsourced claims that the Osterhase tradition ties into Mother Holda or Ostara, claiming the rabbit (and, frequently, eggs) as symbols of these goddesses. The Catholic Encyclopedia concurs to a degree – it doesn’t make mention of Germanic/Teutonic mother goddesses attended by armies of torch-bearing rabbits, but it does state that “the rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility”. So, despite a paucity of discoverable online primary sources, it seems quite reasonable to assume that the Easter Bunny is a co-opted pagan tradition.

How big is the Easter Bunny, then?

European_Hare_03

“Osterhase” means “Easter Hare” in German, and from what I can find the most common hare in Germany is Lepus europaeus – the brown (or European) hare. This animal ranges from 24 to 30 inches (60 to 75 cm), has long ears with black tips, and yellow-brown to grey-brown fur with grey underbellies. They lead a solitary lifestyle, except during mating seson, and are nocturnal. They can also run up to 35 mph in a straight line, and can swim well if need arises.

So how big is the Easter Bunny. Well, assuming it’s a larger than ordinary member of the species, it could be as much as three feet long. It’s probably delivering only one basket at a time, though, so it’s a good thing he’s fast.

Oh, European hares are also coprophagous, consuming eating their “green, soft fecal pellets” to maximize the nutritional content of the vegetation they consume. So, you may want to look askance at any green jelly beans you get in your basket this year.

What Are Those Things? (Prickly Pods)

The weather’s getting nicer, and I’ve been working on losing weight, so my whole family has been getting out and walking more and more. Recently, because it was a lovely warm day, I walked to my son’s preschool to pick him up. We both enjoy it as a way to spend time together, and he loves it because I’m rarely in a hurry to get home. So we explore and talk and have fun.

On the day in question, he stops and picks something up. “Daddy?” he asks, holding that something out. “What is this?”


I scratch my head, staring at a sort of prickly pod that I’ve seen for years and never really thought about. I mean, I’ve thrown them. And I’ve played with them, and stepped on them barefoot. But I don’t really know what they are.

“I think they’re a seed pod,” I answer, hazarding a reasonable sort of guess.

“Can I take it home?” he asks, because he’s curious and five and his room would be full of rocks and sticks if we let him.

“Sure,” I agree, because I don’t see any harm in it. “But only two.”

“Three?” he immediately counters.

“No.”

So what are those things?

It turns out it is the seed pod of the American Sweet Gum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua.  The sweet gum tree is a deciduous tree native to the Americas, with a range covering the eastern and southern United States and down into Mexico.  It has star-shaped five-pointed leaves, and grey bark, and can grow to be up to 120 feet tall.  The seed pods are technically fruit, as (biologically speaking) fruit is “an organ that contains seeds, protecting these as they develop and often aiding in their dispersal”.  It is composed of 40 to 60 capsules, each containing one or two seeds and a fitted with a pair of spikes.

Historically, sweet gum trees were raised for commercial purposes, including a call-back to an earlier post on this blog:

Known in Europe for its medicinal and aromatic qualities, sweetgum has long been valued in the New World. It is documented that in 1519. Montezuma shared xochiocotzoquahuitl (sweetgum) balsam with Cortés. Its genus name, Liquidambar, comes from the Latin liquidus (liquid) and ambar (amber) and refers to the bark’s aromatic resin. Pioneer families used sweetgum as it has been used through the ages: for healing wounds, chewing, incense and perfumery. The resin was used in manufacturing drugs, soaps and adhesives during World War I and World War II.

Also, if you’re a bird watcher, it’s handy to have a sweet gum tree around.  The ruby-throated hummingbird is a frequent visitor during the spring, when the tree is in flower.

When Is Easter?

My son actually asked this question shortly after New Year’s Day. Christmas was still fresh in his mind, particularly since he’d received gifts on three different days – once at Christmas with his maternal grandparents, once at Christmas with his paternal grandmother, and once on our own family Christmas morning. Add to that the fact that we let him try to stay up to see the New Year (he started winding down about 9 pm, so we pretended it was the New Year for him and then put him to bed), and he was pumped for the next holiday.

“When’s Christmas?” he asked, jumping on my chest.

“Not for another year,” I answered.

He looked disappointed at that. “what’s next?” he demanded.

I scratched my head at that, because there really aren’t that many holidays right after New Year. Not holidays that get small children excited, anyway. “Uhm.. there’s Valentines Day,” I say. “And then Easter…”

He lit up at that, mostly (I think) because he remembers getting a basket full of candy last year. He’s five. He loves candy. “When’s Easter?” he asks, bouncing up and down.

“Uhm…” I tell him, not remembering the date. “That’s… complicated.”

What Is Easter?

Easter, of course, is something you’ve probably heard of whether you’re Christian or not. It’s the Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of their Savior, Jesus Christ, as described in the synoptic gospels of the New Testament. Here’s the description of the event from the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24:

  1. On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb.
  2. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,
  3. but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
  4. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.
  5. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?
  6. He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:
  7. The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”

The word “Easter” does not appear in the Bible, of course. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, Easter derives from the Old English word Easterdæg, which comes from Eastre, which derives from the Proto-Germanic *austron-, meaning “dawn”. That word comes from the Proto- Germanic *aust- (“east, toward the sunrise”), which derives from the Proto-Indo-European *aus-, meaning “to shine”. We get the word ‘aurora” from the same root.

The “Venerable Bede“, a historian from the 7th century CE, told us a little about the origin of the word “Easter” for the religious holiday in De ratione Temporum, chapter 15:

In olden time the English people — for it did not seem fitting to me that I should speak of other people’s observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s — calculated their months according to the course of the moon. Hence, after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans (the months) take their name from the Moon, for the Moon is called mona and the month monath.

The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath; May, Thrimilchi; June, Litha; July, also Litha; August, Weodmonath; September, Halegmonath; October, Winterfilleth; November, Blodmonath; December, Giuli, the same name by which January is called. …

Nor is it irrelevant if we take the time to translate the names of the other months. … Hrethmonath is named for their goddess Hretha, to whom they sacrificed at this time. Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance. Thrimilchi was so called because in that month the cattle were milked three times a day…

Just how “pagan” the Easter traditions are is a matter of significant dispute, but the name certainly derives from a pagan goddess. Nothing but the name of that goddess is known, though, with some scholars speculating that Eostre may actually have been invented by Bede. Whether the traditions have pagan roots or not, though, the holiday is most certainly a Christian one now.

When Is Easter?

Like I told my son, this is complicated. Catholic Answers says:

On the Gregorian calendar (the one that we use), Easter is the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after March 21. Easter thus always falls between March 22 and April 25.

And what’s the Paschal full moon? Well, according to the same source:

Theoretically, the Paschal full moon is the first full moon occurring on or after the spring equinox. However, this day can be reckoned in different ways. One way is by looking at the sky, which yields the astronomical spring equinox. But since this shifts from year to year, most people follow the calendrical spring equinox, which is reckoned as March 21.

Now, the spring equinox in 2016 happens on March 20, and the first full moon after that date is March 23. So, by the astronomical calendar, Easter falls on March 27. Conveniently, in 2016, March 27 is also the first Sunday following the first full moon after March 21. So by either method Easter is March 27, 2016.

Why?

The date for Easter has to do with the timing of the Biblical account of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus celebrated Passover was arrested the same night, and crucified the next day. The Biblical account has him rising from the dead three days later, “after the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week”. The first day of the week, in modern calendars, is Sunday.

Based on this information, the original date of Easter was set at the first Sunday after the start of Passover. Passover, of course, starts on the 15th day of Nisan. According to the Jewish Calendar article on Judaism 101:

The Jewish calendar is based on three astronomical phenomena: the rotation of the Earth about its axis (a day); the revolution of the moon about the Earth (a month); and the revolution of the Earth about the sun (a year)….

The Jewish calendar, however, coordinates all three of these astronomical phenomena. Months are either 29 or 30 days, corresponding to the 29½-day lunar cycle. Years are either 12 or 13 months, corresponding to the 12.4 month solar cycle.

The lunar month on the Jewish calendar begins when the first sliver of moon becomes visible after the dark of the moon.

Nisan is the first month of spring in the Jewish calendar, and so Passover starts on the evening of the 14th day (making it the 15th day in this system). Why? Because Nisan 1 is the new moon, and the full moon is 14 days later. So the early Christian holiday that became Easter started on the first Sunday on or after Nisan 14 – the first Sunday on or after the first full moon following the first new moon of spring.

Clear as mud, right?

So, why is the determination slightly different from the original “first Sunday after Nisan 14” method? Well, Catholic Answers says it best:

Christians didn’t like being dependent on the pronouncements of rabbis for how to celebrate Christian feasts, so they came up with another way of determining the date. They decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after (never on) the Paschal full moon.

Happy-Easter-images-dp-pictures

What Is Gum?

My son loves candy. This really isn’t a surprise – we all do.  After all, the brain accounts for nearly 20% of our resting metabolic rate, and sugar is pretty much raw calories.  Not that he cares about any of that, mind. He just enjoys it because it’s sweet and tastes good.

He’s not so sure about gum, though. Mostly, I think, because you can’t actually eat it.  I think that’s what led him to ask, when he was given a whole pack of chewing gum, “dad, what’s gum?”

Uhm… rubber?  Or maybe it’s tree sap?  I remember something about something called “chicle” as well, I think. But to tell the truth, I’ve got no idea.

What is gum?

According to Wrigley, chewing gum is made of “gum base” – a statement that, although accurate, is not terribly informative.  Fortunately, the International Chewing Gum Association (ICGA) provides additional information:

1. What is gum base?

Gum base is what gives chewing gum its “chew.” It is made of a combination of food-grade polymers, waxes and softeners that give gum the texture desired by consumers and enable it to effectively deliver sweetness, flavor and various other benefits, including dental benefits.

2. What are polymers?

A polymer is a string of molecules (monomers) that usually contain carbon and hydrogen. Polymers are found naturally in the human body, animals, plants, and minerals. For example, DNA is a polymer, as are the proteins and starches in the foods we eat. 

Man-made polymers can be identical in structure to those found in the natural environment, but in many cases, these polymers provide guaranteed consistency, quality and purity that are not always found in some natural materials. This quality is particularly important for food-grade polymers used as ingredients.

3. What are food-grade polymers?

Food-grade polymers have been rigorously tested and have been determined to be safe for use in food. In chewing gum, polymers are what provide gum with its basic elastic properties. All polymers used in gum are food-grade and are legally permitted for use by international/national regulatory agencies, including those in the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

The most common food-grade polymer is Polyvinyl Acetate (PVAC Food Grade), a clear, solid resin that is also used in cosmetics and as a hair fixer.  It is water insoluable, but dissolves in acetone.

I suppose I could join the ranks of the tinfoil-hat-wearing alarmists who make a virtue of ignorance by proclaiming that you should only eat things you can pronounce, but I won’t. I will observe that, yes, polyvinyl acetates are also found in some glues and are used in bookbinding. But there’s a key phrase here:  “food safe”.  Food-grade PVAC meets FDA reequirements and is safe for human consumption. I don’t eat it, but that’s just because I don’t like gum.

Was gum always polymers?

It wasn’t always PVAC, anyway. Wrigley’s gives an overview of the history of gum (not surprisingly, given their professional interest…), pointing out that a number of cultures chewed tree resins to freshen their breath and help combat thirst. Modern gum starts with chicle.

Chicle is the juice of the Manilkara zapota, a tropical to subtropical evergreen in the Americas.  The juice is harvested and boiled to remove the excess water, forming a rubbery mass.

And the fact that it becomes a rubbery mass makes sense.  After all, chicle is a food-grade polymer – a polyterpene hydrocarbon nearly identical to rubber.

Can you eat it?

Not really, no.  It won’t stay in your gut for years -urban legends notwithstanding – but the human digestive tract can’t digest gum (whether made of polymers created in a tree or in a vat). It takes about a week to pass through you, and leaves the body in the usual manners along with all of the other indigestible things you consume.

Why Can’t I Have Mom’s Wine?

Technically, this should be an article on a blog titled “Things Asked By One Of My Son’s Friends”. Here’s what happened. We had three couples and a total of five children out seeing the sites in downtown Cincinnati, and we all stopped for dinner at Rock Bottom Brewery. The child who asked was intrigued by the single glass of wine her mother ordered. And why not, honestly? Wine looks tasty, and it comes in a cool-looking glass. It’s tailor-made to attract a child’s attention. Especially if you tell the child that she can’t have any.

wine glass
Seriously. It looks cool.

She thinks about that for a moment while hovering over the glass and staring down at the wine, then looks at her dad. “Why,” she asks, “can’t I have mom’s wine?”  I thought it was a good question. So, even though it’s not a question asked by my son, I think I’ll try to answer it.

The National Minimum Drinking Age Act

At present, the reason that an eight-year-old can’t have mom’s wine is because of a federal regulation. The 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act doesn’t force the states to enact a legal drinking age of 21 years old, but it pushes them hard to do so. By hitting the states in the wallet:

(a) Withholding of Funds for Noncompliance.
(1) In general. The Secretary shall withhold 10 per centum of the amount required to be apportioned to any State under each of sections 104(b)(1), 104(b)(3), and 104(b)(4) of this title on the first day of each fiscal year after the second fiscal year beginning after September 30, 1985, in which the purchase or public possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than twenty-one years of age is lawful.
(2) State grandfather law as complying. If, before the later of (A) October 1, 1986, or (B) the tenth day following the last day of the first session the legislature of a State convenes after the date of the enactment of this paragraph, such State has in effect a law which makes unlawful the purchase and public possession in such State of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than 21 years of age (other than any person who is 18 years of age or older on the day preceding the effective date of such law and at such time could lawfully purchase or publicly possess any alcoholic beverage in such State), such State shall be deemed to be in compliance with paragraph (1) in each fiscal year in which such law is in effect.
(b) Effect of Withholding of Funds. No funds withheld under this section from apportionment to any State after September 30, 1988, shall be available for apportionment to that State.
(c) Alcoholic Beverage Defined. As used in this section, the term “alcoholic beverage” means:
(1) beer as defined in section 5052(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986,
(2) wine of not less than one-half of 1 per centum of alcohol by volume, or
(3) distilled spirits as defined in section 5002(a)(8) of such Code.

The withheld funds are Federal Highway Trust Funds, which are used to fund road construction and repair. So the states didn’t have to comply, but they’d have to shoulder a greater percentage of the cost of upkeep and construction on the interstates. Unsurprisingly, all of the states increased their drinking age.

Why 21 Years Old?

It seems that tradition, as much as anything else, is the reason the drinking age is set at 21. Well, that and the NMDAA. Here’s what the Alcohol Policy Information System has to say on the subject:

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1919, prohibited the sale of all intoxicating liquors in the United States, superseding State laws on the sale of alcoholic beverages to young people. Following the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933, restrictions on possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by youth and non-commercial provision of alcohol to youth by adults became the norm. Most States applied these restrictions to those under the age of 21, making the minimum legal drinking age the same as the minimum age then required for voting in Federal elections.

LegalFlip.com expands on this:

Prior to passing NMDAA of 1984, there were many studies conducted on the effects of alcohol on younger people. Several studies determined that a youth’s brain is not fully developed until around age 21, and alcohol affects youth’s brains differently than it does adults. In addition, many special interest groups promoted NMDAA. Perhaps the most influential special interest group for NMDAA was Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). MADD claims that the higher minimum legal drinking age has saved thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives.

Exceptions

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that there are exceptions to the minimum drinking age laws. The Federal Trade Commission has links to those exceptions for each state. Those exceptions are repetitive and time consuming, so I won’t try to list them all here. I will note that Ohio permits a parent, guardian, or spouse to give alcohol to a minor and allow them to drink it. So really, in this case, the reason that my friend’s daughter couldn’t have mom’s wine was because mom and dad said “no”.

Saint Patrick

My son loves holidays, something that shouldn’t be surprising to hear. He is, after all, five. So one day, he looks at me and asks “who is Saint Patrick?” I start trying to formulate an answer, and he hits me with more questions before I can respond: “What are his colors? Is he short?”

“What?” I ask, now feeling slightly baffled.

“Why does he get money?”

It takes me a moment to get up to speed. My son, it turns out, thinks Saint Patrick is a leprechaun. And that makes a certain amount of sense, I guess. At least, it does if all you really know about Saint Patrick’s Day is shamrocks and leprechauns and the color green, that is.

To be honest, I don’t know much more than that. Oh, sure, I know there was a historical figure named “Patrick”, and I think he’s the one that brought Christianity to Ireland. Maybe? And he’s said to have driven all of the snakes from Ireland. So, to be honest, I know nothing about him at all.

Who is Saint Patrick?

St Patrick Shamrock Image

Interestingly enough, it turns out that Patrick wrote a memoir, called – in a straight-forward fashion – Confessio. A lot of the Confessio appears to be concerned with his feelings of unworthiness as a sinner, but there are some biographical details. It begins:

My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many. My father was Calpornius. He was a deacon; his father was Potitus, a priest, who lived at Bannavem Taburniae[Nota]. His home was near there, and that is where I was taken prisoner. I was about sixteen at the time. At that time, I did not know the true God. I was taken into captivity in Ireland, along with thousands of others.

He goes on to describe how, once he was taken to Ireland, he was a shepherd for six years. He escaped, fled some two hundred miles, and escaped on a boat. Then, “It happened again after many years that I was taken a prisoner.” He doesn’t say a whole lot about that, other than to say that he was a prisoner for 60 days. Finally, he made it home to Bannavem Taburniae, but started having dreams of returning to Ireland once more (presumably not as a slave, though).

The Confessio is, frankly, quite terrible at providing chronological details. For example, Patrick mentions being a Bishop, but gives no context for when that happened. Also, he gives nothing resembling a date for any of these events – the “Notes on the Translation”, however, state that “his arrival in Ireland is often dated as 432, and his death occurring in 461.” His Confessio does, however, verify that he returned to Ireland as a missionary.

Interestingly enough, Patrick was never canonized. According to the “Ask a Fransiscan”:

St. Patrick died around 461 A.D. The first saint formally canonized by the pope—for which we have a record, anyway—was St. Ulrich, bishop of Augsburg, Germany, in the year 993.

For most of Christianity’s first 1,000 years, canonizations were done on the diocesan or regional level. Relatively soon after very holy people died, the local Church affirmed that they could be liturgically celebrated as saints.

That was the case with St. Patrick, whose feast has not been dropped from the Church’s universal calendar. Because it usually falls on a weekday during Lent, the opening prayer at Mass can be for St. Patrick, but everything else comes from the Lenten weekday prayers.

If St. Patrick is the patron of a diocese or a parish, the feast can be celebrated with greater solemnity. If March 17 falls on a Sunday, the feast is not observed liturgically that year. Patrick’s admirers find many other ways to celebrate!

What was Patrick the saint of?

According to AmericanCatholic.org, Patrick is the Patron Saint of engineers, Ireland, and Nigeria. Which leads to two questions: why engineers, and why Nigeria?

  • Catholic-Saints.info says that he’s the Patron Saint of engineers because he “introduced some elements of Roman Technology to Ireland and was responsible for the initial construction of clay churches, featuring arches.”
  • As far as Nigeria is concerned, the New World Encyclopedia says that “Nigeria was evangelized primarily by Irish missionaries and priests from Saint Patrick’s Missionary Society known as the Kiltegan Missionaries.”

Are there colors associated with him??

Green, and sometimes red, are the colors associated with Saint Patrick’s iconography in the Middle Ages and later. Specifically, these were the colors associated with his chausable. Clearly, in modern times, he’s far more associated with green than red.

How Long Is The Ohio (and other questions)?

We had cause to drive into Indiana yesterday, a trip that took us across the Ohio border into northern Kentucky, and then across the Kentucky border into Indiana. And in the area we live, both of those borders are the Ohio River.

My son loves this river – my wife and/or I probably cross the river with him in the car two or three times a week. When he first learned to talk, he called it “my river”, and would excitedly point it out every time he saw it. He’s speculated on whether or not sharks and whales are in the river, insisted it’s actually the ocean, and told me that there are pirates in the river.

Today, though, he was startled to realize we’d crossed it twice while driving in a straight line (well, for “driving on a beltway” values of “driving in a straight line”).  So, from the back seat, he asks “how long is the Ohio?”

Well, I have no idea. So, let’s find out. And maybe answer a few of his other questions while I’m at it.

How long is the Ohio River?

Ohiorivermap

According to the Ohio River Foundation, the Ohio River is 981 miles long.  It begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the meeting of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers, and flows until it reaches the Mississippi River in Cairo, Illinois.  Ohio River Facts tells us that the average depth is 24 feet, although it hits a depth of 132 feet near Louisville, Kentucky, and it’s widest point is about one mile (at Smithland Dam)  Wikipedia adds that it is considered to be the main stream of the entire Mississippi river system

Are there sharks in the Ohio? Whales?

No.  Sharks and whales generally reside in salt water and generally would be unable to travel the thousand miles along the Mississippi that would be necessary to reach the Ohio River.  The Falls of the Ohio State Park does list the types of fish found in the river, though.  In brief, they are:

  • Bass
  • Bowfin
  • Carp
  • Catfish
  • Codfish
  • Darters
  • Drum
  • Eels
  • Gar
  • Minnows (and “Minnow-like” fish)
  • Lampreys
  • Mooneyes
  • Paddlefish
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Walleyes
  • Sculpin
  • Shad
  • Sturgeon
  • Sunfish

Some oceanic fish do make it up the Mississippi to the Ohio, though.  These include the Coho Salmon, Atlantic Rainbow Smelt, and the Sea Trout.  There’s also at least one documented case of a South American fish called a red pacu being caught in the Ohio – most likely something from an aquarium that was dumped in the river.

Still, crazy things happen.  Remember how I said that “sharks and whales generally reside in salt water and generally would be unable to travel the thousand miles along the Mississippi”?  Well, in 2014, a dead bull shark was found near Manchester, Ohio.  It was small, only about 2 feet 9 inches (0.8382 meters) long, but there it was.  Sadly, I couldn’t find any follow-up information about how it got there.  They are freshwater tolerant, though, so it’s not unreasonable that it could have swum all the way.  The same isn’t true for the spiny dogfish shark found in Illinois in 2010, though, which was most likely caught by a fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico and then dumped.

I couldn’t find any confirmed sightings of dolphins or whales, though.

 

Are there pirates on the Ohio River?

Yes.  Or, at least, there were.  The town of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois was home to a few different bands of river pirates in the 18th century.  Most preyed on flatboats that became stuck on rocks, but at least one gang posed as river pilots.  They would take on the job of steering the boats through the tricky waters of the area, and then maroon them at Cave-In-Rock where they could be robbed and killed.

There were others, as well.  Cave-In-Rock wasn’t the only source of pirates on the Mississippi and Ohio, after all.

Is the Ohio River the ocean?

No.  Clearly not.