Harvesting Guano
June 7, 2008 12:45 PM   Subscribe

Long revered for its value as a fertilizer, and as a raw material for explosives, guano is the dried droppings of various birds and bats. The New York Times has published an excellent account of the Peruvian harvest of this valuable resource including a multimedia slideshow. Guano was superseded by synthetics in the early part of the 20th century, due to the development of the Haber Bosch process, which fixed atmospheric nitrogen. An attempt to harvest bat guano from a Grand Canyon cave in the late 1950’s was beset by technical problems and was ultimately unsuccessful. The remaining structures at the canyon rim are now a tourist attraction.
posted by Tube (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
What, no joke tag?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:09 PM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also of interest: the Guano Islands Act of 1856, the story of Navassa Island, ruminations on the guano renaissance from a recent Salon article, and an academic paper (.pdf ) assessing management of the guano islands of Peru.

Yes, I had been planning to do a guano FPP, but I never got around to it...
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:19 PM on June 7, 2008


No batshitinsane tag?
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:20 PM on June 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


The name of the flick escapes me, but a movie ws filmed at the Grand Canyon site in the late 50s and featured a great fight scene in that tram.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2008


The movie was Edge of Eternity (1959) and features some breathtaking views
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:31 PM on June 7, 2008


In Austin, late 1860s, before Congress Avenue was paved, there were deep gullies on either side of the street from where rainwater ran down to the river. They were so deep that there were footbridges from the street to the wooden sidewalks.

This began to be a problem when horses and wagons started falling into the gullies, sometimes injuring or killing the horses. It was also a convenient place for merchants to sweep their trash (there was no municipal trash pickup in those days), so the ditches started to fester.

There were several daily papers at the time (and this was during the era of really florid newspaper prose), and all of them began editorializing about the need to fill in the gullies. The Daily Austin Republican: "The gutters are green with pollution and give out a smell prophetic of disease. Wake up, city Daddies, and use your official machinery for purposes of cleanliness!"

In an effort to alleviate the problem and quiet civic discontent, the city government indeed decided to quickly and cheaply fill in the gulches. They used the natural resource most readily and easily available -- bat guano.

The editorials after that decision were great. The Daily Democratic Statesman opined: "It stinks in the nostrils of all who pass, and is certainly contrary to the sanitary laws of the city. No doubt any citizen would be arrested and fined if caught throwing dead bats in the street, and we therefore infer that the city has got a case against itself."

Anyway, there's a little story about guano.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2008


An attempt to harvest bat guano from a Grand Canyon cave in the late 1950’s was beset by technical problems and was ultimately unsuccessful.

...no shit?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2008


I was at Grand Canyon West last summer (self link). You can definitely see all the guano on the opposite canyon wall. You can also see why it was a bitch to get to. By the way, the Skywalk is pretty cool. Maybe even worth the dusty, gravelly, bumpy bus ride to get there. Maybe.
posted by netbros at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2008


Yes, I had been planning to do a guano FPP, but I never got around to it...
posted by BitterOldPunk


Nothing to be ashamed of. I had a job where I had to read 1840's to 1860's newspapers. I often saw articles about guano deposits being found on islands and this fertilizer was going to revitalize worn out soil in the American South. There were lots of southern nationalism and pro-slavery subtexts. I'd still like to do a small article on it someday.
posted by marxchivist at 6:25 PM on June 7, 2008


I won't give you any stock tips per se... but it's also a promising green, 'sustainable' investment on the stock market.
posted by matty at 6:40 PM on June 7, 2008


when I think guano, I think Nauru ... specifically of this fantastic radio piece by Jack Hitt for This American Life, which

"tells the untold story of this dot in the middle of the Pacific and its involvement in the bankrupting of the Russian economy, global terrorism, North Korean defectors, the end of the world, and the late 1980s theatrical flop of a London musical based on the life of Leonardo da Vinci called Leonardo, A Portrait of Love. (30 minutes) "
posted by Auden at 9:02 PM on June 7, 2008


Metafilter: Long revered for its value as a fertilizer, and as a raw material for explosives,
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:53 AM on June 8, 2008


Here in the Cedar Keys, Florida, there used to be platforms anong the shore and in the marshes for sea birds to roost on. The guano was collected and shipped to Tampa ffor fertilizer.
posted by cedar key at 8:53 AM on June 8, 2008


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