In Porto-Novo’s Afro-Brazilian architecture, traces of complex history


Walk around Porto-Novo, Benin, and amid the city’s diverse architecture you’ll notice one particular style – colonial, brick, and ornate. This is the legacy of the Agudas: a local community descended from Portuguese slave traders and Brazilian enslaved people who were freed and returned to West Africa.

Each building – many of their facades worn and crumbling from neglect – is a window into the complex history of Benin, a West African country on the Gulf of Guinea. Like many parts of coastal West Africa, modern Benin was forged by the violent globalization of the slave trade, which left profound cultural influences on both sides of the Atlantic. And in recent years, as the government and private groups have pushed to renovate the city, it’s put a spotlight on the area’s heritage – including difficult, often controversial chapters related to slavery and colonialism, imprinted on each Afro-Brazilian building.

“This is complex and politicized history, and the architecture reflects that,” says Lorelle Semley, a historian of West Africa at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Porto-Novo, she has written, is a city that has worn “its history on its landscape.”

Porto-Novo, Benin

June in Porto-Novo is usually a month of cloudy skies and heavy tropical downpours, often preceded by gale-force winds, deafening thunderclaps, and lightning. In some neighborhoods of this West African city near the Gulf of Guinea, fallen trees bring traffic to a standstill, and houses that can’t weather the storm are washed away. 

But most stand tall after each torrential rain, year after year – and a few, for more than a century. Some of these are colonial, brick, and ornate, the Afro-Brazilian architecture of the Agudas: a local community descended from Portuguese slave traders, and enslaved Brazilian people who were freed and returned to West Africa.

Each building – many of their facades worn and crumbling from neglect – is a window into the complex history of Benin, a West African country on the Gulf of Guinea, home to about 12 million people. Like many parts of coastal West Africa, modern Benin was forged by the violent globalization of the slave trade, which left profound cultural influences on both sides of the Atlantic. And in recent years, as the government and private groups have pushed to renovate the city, it’s put a spotlight on the area’s heritage – including difficult, often controversial chapters related to slavery and colonialism, imprinted on each Afro-Brazilian building.

“This is complex and politicized history, and the architecture reflects that,” says Lorelle Semley, a historian of West Africa at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Porto-Novo, she has written, is a city that has worn “its history on its landscape.”

This building was erected in the early 1900s in the colonial administrative quarters of Porto-Novo. It stands opposite to the Governors’ Palace, which now hosts Benin’s legislature. The building has now been refurbished to host the Office of the Mediator of the Republic, who settles administrative disputes between private citizens and the state.

A complicated legacy

The many layers of the city’s history begin with the name itself. Three centuries ago, it was a village known as Okoro. With time, people fleeing nearby raids and enslavement settled in, and began to give it new names in a bid to claim ownership, according to retired professor Jijoho Adéwalé Padonou, a former minister of education and impassioned researcher on the history of Benin. One community called it Hogbonu, another Ajatche. When the Portuguese splashed ashore, they gave it the name that persists today: Porto-Novo.

For centuries, the slave trade between local kings and Europeans forced more than a million people across the ocean, many of them bound for Brazil. But throughout the 19th century, boats of formerly enslaved people began to flow in the opposite direction – back to the Western African nations they and their ancestors had come from, including present-day Benin.

With them, they brought new skills and crafts, building multistory brick houses that recalled the baroque, colorful architecture of Brazil. The area’s new colonizers, the French, relied on returnees to erect elaborate religious and administrative buildings. The Governors’ Palace, for example – a cream-colored structure of verandas and colonnades – was built and decorated by Aguda craftsmen; today, refurbished, it hosts the legislature.

Relations between the natives of Porto-Novo and Afro-Brazilian returnees were not always smooth, however. The Agudas were a distinct community, with foreign-sounding names – the da Silvas, the da Costas – and some were multiracial. Returnees often wore bowler-like hats and long-sleeved shirts, and many recited Roman Catholic prayers before meals. 

As with returned enslaved people elsewhere in West Africa, many Agudas were given chances to attend Western schools and occupy positions of influence, working hand-in-hand with new colonial elites and slave traders’ families. 

After Benin’s independence in 1960, however, closeness to the French elite was no longer seen as a point of pride. The new country’s government wanted to affirm a new national identity, primarily based on Indigenous cultures, and in the 1970s, Marxist President Mathieu Kérékou began expropriating large tracts of private land, including from Aguda families. Many fled into exile, and the buildings they left behind fell into disrepair. 

Polishing the past

Today, Porto-Novo is Benin’s second-largest city: a town of open food markets, of Voodoo shrines, which fills up with weddings and funerals on the weekends (though large gatherings have been prohibited in a bid to curb COVID-19). In almost every nook and cranny, men and women have something on display to sell – often smuggled from next-door Nigeria, the economic giant of Africa. A new mindset toward the Aguda community is in the works: So many mixed marriages have taken place that it doesn’t really matter whether the kids’ last name is da Trinidad or Bioku.

For years, critics have pressured governments to renovate all kinds of architecture, arguing Porto-Novo’s neglect did not befit a capital. But it was only in 2017, a year after the election of President Patrice Talon, that renovations began in earnest, prompting Afro-Brazilian descendants to undertake additional work on their own. Mr. Talon himself was reportedly born to a family once connected to the slave trade in nearby Ouidah. He has on many occasions insisted on the need to restore Benin’s historical legacy, and his government is spending roughly $5 million to restore a Portuguese fort in his hometown.

“What’s going on right now in Porto-Novo has never been seen before,” says Professor Padonou, who credits the president for spearheading the project.

The jewel of Aguda architecture has long been the Central Mosque, built in the early 20th century: a building that echoes the famed colonial architecture of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, with soaring square towers and multicolored facade. Churchgoers are said to have celebrated Sunday Mass there, till the building was handed to the Muslim community. Today, a larger cathedral sits nearby – it, too, echoing the baroque buildings of Brazil. 

Thanks to financial contributions by Porto-Novo’s Muslim community, interior renovation was completed only a couple of years ago, with key details preserved: vast ceilings, ornate chambers, and exceptional art, such as engravings of Arabic prayers, friezes, and pilasters.

“I’ve always admired old Afro-Brazilian style homes since I was a teenager. The architecture is beyond compare, and nothing is left to chance,’’ says Gérard da Silva, a retired literature teacher in Porto-Novo; his parents were descendants of formerly enslaved people who put down roots here in the late 1800s.

For those urging preservation of Aguda architecture, it is about more than buildings. It’s about recalling the legacies of returning people who were freed from slavery, and the central role they played here and across the region.

“I must insist on the specificity of the Agudas. They constitute a unique case of returnees in African, perhaps in world history,” says Olabiyi Babalola Joseph Yai, a former member of the United Nations’ World Heritage Committee and of UNESCO’s Slave Route Project. “They deliberately, very consciously chose to come back to Africa, but they did so on their free will and relying on their own resources, without the help of any white missionary, like in Liberia or Sierra Leone.”

“More importantly,” he adds, “they did not return to just any part of Africa. They made it back to the very land where they or their ancestors were enslaved and bought.’’

Staff writer Ryan Lenora Brown contributed reporting.



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Boris Johnson’s post to Joe Biden has traces of Trump message on it


Boris Johnson revealed he had become one of the first world leaders to speak to Joe Biden this afternoon – hours after an embarrassing gaffe by Downing Street in a tweet congratulating the US president-elect on his victory was uncovered.

The Prime Minister announced he had discussed the coronavirus pandemic and climate change with the Democrat by telephone after calling to ‘congratulate him on his election’ over Donald Trump at 4pm.

Downing Street said the call lasted 20-25 minutes while the Prime Minister was in his office in No10.

But while issues a number of major issues were discussed, a US read-out of the call crucially did not mention any talk between the pair about a post-Brexit trade deal.

Yet the pair are said to have discussed the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.

Mr Biden, who has extensive Irish heritage, is said to have reaffirmed his support for the 1998 agreement, amid concerns the UK Government’s Internal Market Bill could ‘jeopardise’ its future.

It is understood Mr Biden spoke to Mr Johnson before his discussion with Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheal Martin.

But the diplomatic coup of being among the first to chat with the US leader came after it was revealed No10 left parts of a message congratulating Mr Trump on being re-elected on a tweet welcoming his rival’s win.

Issued in the aftermath of TV networks calling the knife-edge result for Mr Biden at the weekend the message posted on the official Downing Street account quoted Boris Johnson offering congratulations to him and vice-president elect Kamala Harris on her ‘historic achievement’.

‘The US is our most important ally and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities, from climate change to trade and security,’ the message said.

However, eagle-eyed observers spotted traces of another – and much longer – text in the background of the slick image. By adjusting the colour and contrast, it is possible to make out the words ‘Trump’ and ‘second term’.

Later this afternoon Mr Johnson sent another tweet, saying: ‘I just spoke to Joe Biden to congratulate him on his election. I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic.’

Mr Johnson was not the first world leader to speak with Mr Biden – he spoke to Canadian leader Justin Trudeau yesterday. 

But there was initial confusion over whether Mr Biden – whose ancestry is partly Irish –  had snubbed the PM by speaking to the Taoiseach first. 

The Prime Minister announced he had discussed the coronavirus pandemic and climate change with the Democrat by telephone after calling to ‘congratulate him on his election’ over Donald Trump at 4pm (pictured)

A No10 post issued in the aftermath of TV networks calling the knife-edge result for Joe Biden quoted Boris Johnson offering congratulations

A No10 post issued in the aftermath of TV networks calling the knife-edge result for Joe Biden quoted Boris Johnson offering congratulations

However, eagle-eyes observers spotted traces of another - and much longer - text in the background of the slick image. By adjusting the colour and contrast, it is possible to make out the words 'Trump', 'second term' and 'the future'

However, eagle-eyes observers spotted traces of another – and much longer – text in the background of the slick image. By adjusting the colour and contrast, it is possible to make out the words ‘Trump’, ‘second term’ and ‘the future’

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

Mr Johnson has struck up warm ties with Mr Trump (right) since becoming PM, while there have been tensions with Mr Biden (left) and Democrats over Brexit and the impact on the Good Friday Agreement

Mr Johnson was not the first world leader to speak with Mr Biden - he spoke to Canadian leader Justin Trudeau yesterday. But there was confusion over whether Mr Biden - whose ancestry is partly Irish - had snubbed the PM by speaking to the Taoiseach first

Mr Johnson was not the first world leader to speak with Mr Biden – he spoke to Canadian leader Justin Trudeau yesterday. But there was confusion over whether Mr Biden – whose ancestry is partly Irish – had snubbed the PM by speaking to the Taoiseach first

French president Emmanuel Macron spoke to Mr Biden, but not until 5.30pm in Paris, 4.30pm UK time, according to the Elysee Palace

French president Emmanuel Macron spoke to Mr Biden, but not until 5.30pm in Paris, 4.30pm UK time, according to the Elysee Palace

Hancock takes veiled swipe at Trump over vaccine timing claims 

Matt Hancock today insisted the rules on release of clinical trials are ‘very strong’ and the timing is driven by ‘science’ – despite Donald Trump crying foul about Pfizer’s vaccine bombshell.

The dramatic news that the firm’s jab had proved 90 per cent effective in initial tests broke yesterday, less than a week after the knife-edge US election and under 48 hours after Joe Biden was declared the winner. 

Mr Trump and his allies have expressed fury at the timing, with the President saying the US regulators and Democrats ‘didn’t want to have me get a Vaccine WIN, prior to the election, so instead it came out five days later’. The company has flatly denied any political motive to the timing.

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock delivered a robust defence of the system for issuing clinical results. 

Without referring to the US backlash, Mr Hancock stressed that such information had to be published ‘immediately that the science comes good’ and the timing was not dictated by politicians or the companies themselves. 

Irish PM Micheal Martin tweeted this afternoon that he had spoken to the incoming US president, but the tweet was quickly deleted and government sources in Dublin admitted that while a call is being arranged it had not yet happened. 

Mr Martin later announced that the call had gone ahead this evening, after Mr Johnson’s 4pm call, and said the incoming US leader ‘underlined his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement’.

And French president Emmanuel Macron spoke to Mr Biden, but not until 5.30pm in Paris, 4.30pm UK time, according to the Elysee Palace. 

Meanwhile, the weekend message bungle, first noticed by the Guido Fawkes political blog, left Tory MPs in despair. 

‘This was meant to be a sure footed, collaborative government,’ one said. ‘None of that is happening.’

It fuelled fears that the relationship with the new White House administration is off to a rocky start.

Mr Johnson has struck up warm ties with Mr Trump since becoming PM, while there have been tensions with Mr Biden and Democrats over Brexit and the impact on the Good Friday Agreement.

Ministers have insisted the Special Relationship will remain strong. No10 admitted that an ‘alternative’ message had been prepared in case Mr Trump triumphed, as the election was so close.

A Government spokesman said: ‘As you’d expect, two statements were prepared in advance for the outcome of this closely contested election. 

‘A technical error meant that parts of the alternative message were embedded in the background of the graphic.’ 

In a statement this afternoon Downing Street said the PM had ‘warmly’ congratulated Mr Biden on his election win and Ms Harris on her ‘historic achievement’.

‘They discussed the close and longstanding relationship between our countries and committed to building on this partnership in the years ahead, in areas such as trade and security – including through NATO,’ the spokeswoman added.

‘The Prime Minister and President-elect also looked forward to working closely together on their shared priorities, from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy, and building back better from the coronavirus pandemic.

‘The Prime Minister invited the President-elect to attend the COP26 climate change summit that the UK is hosting in Glasgow next year. They also looked forward to seeing each other in person, including when the UK hosts the G7 Summit in 2021.’

Meanwhile, a US read-out of the call said: ‘The President-elect offered his thanks to Prime Minister Johnson for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen the special relationship and re-double cooperation on issues of mutual concern.

The US read-out of the call between Joe Biden and Boris Johnson 

‘The President-elect offered his thanks to Prime Minister Johnson for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen the special relationship and re-double cooperation on issues of mutual concern.

‘The President-elect noted that he especially looks forward to working closely together on global challenges as the United Kingdom prepares to host the 2021 G-7 and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

‘Among the shared priorities they discussed were containing COVID-19 and promoting global health security; pursuing a sustainable economic recovery; combating climate change; strengthening democracy, and working together on issues such as the Western Balkans and Ukraine.

‘The President-elect expressed his interest in cooperating with the UK, NATO, and the EU on shared trans-Atlantic priorities, and reaffirmed his support for the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. ‘

‘The President-elect noted that he especially looks forward to working closely together on global challenges as the United Kingdom prepares to host the 2021 G-7 and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26).

‘Among the shared priorities they discussed were containing COVID-19 and promoting global health security; pursuing a sustainable economic recovery; combating climate change; strengthening democracy, and working together on issues such as the Western Balkans and Ukraine.

‘The President-elect expressed his interest in cooperating with the UK, NATO, and the EU on shared trans-Atlantic priorities, and reaffirmed his support for the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland.’

At a press conference last night, Mr Johnson again offered his congratulations to Mr Biden, but refused to tell Donald Trump to throw in the towel rather than mount legal challenges. 

The premier said he did not ‘wish to offer any other commentary’ on the matter after he insisted the UK will have a good relationship with the US regardless of who is president. 

Mr Johnson said the UK has had ‘a good relationship with the White House for many, many years and I have no doubt that we will continue to have a very, very strong, very close relationship with our American friends’.

Democratic sources have questioned whether Mr Johnson is an ‘ally’, with Mr Biden having previously described him as a ‘physical and emotional clone’ of Mr Trump. 

Mr Biden is also said to still be angry about Mr Johnson’s past criticism of Barack Obama. 

Downing Street today confirmed that the two men have still not spoken after diplomatic sources said the PM was unlikely to be ‘top of the list’. 

Ministers have insisted the Special Relationship will remain strong, but it appears Mr Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) is some way down the list of world leaders Mr Biden plans to call

Ministers have insisted the Special Relationship will remain strong, but it appears Mr Johnson (pictured in Downing Street today) is some way down the list of world leaders Mr Biden plans to call

British diplomats believe Mr Biden is likely to speak to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron before Mr Johnson. 

Mr Johnson said last night: ‘I really congratulate President-elect Biden and Kamala Harris who is going to be the first ever female vice president of the United States. 

‘Yes, this country has had a good relationship with the White House over the last few years but it has had a good relationship with the White House for many, many years and I have no doubt that we will continue to have a very, very strong, very close relationship with our American friends. 

‘One thing that is very exciting that you are already seeing from the incoming administration is their willingness to join the UK in the campaign to tackle climate change and as you know we are hosting the COP26 summit in Glasgow next year. 

‘The UK has been leading in calling, the first major economy, to call for countries to get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and suddenly with the advent of President-elect Biden we are seeing the US really willing to take a lead too on climate change which I think is great news to say nothing of Nato and all sorts of other things.’ 

Trump campaign unveils new lawsuit in bid to disqualify hundreds of thousands of votes in Pennsylvania but with NO new evidence of fraud 

President Donald Trump’s campaign along with White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany staged a chaotic press conference overnight where they claimed the election is ‘not over’ and attacked ‘partisan’ election officials but offered no new evidence of the fraud they allege.

The crowded, heated affair was just latest by Trump forces alleging fraud that ended in scraps with the media – including one in Philadelphia where the first witnesses trotted out by Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani turned out to be a convicted child sex offender.

The campaing held the event to make its claims while lawyers filed a 105-page, double-spaced lawsuit in Pennsylvania court making its case to throw out more than 600,000 votes.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke at a chaotic press conference where she accused Democrats of trying to 'tip the scales' of the election. She misstated the name of the county where Philadelphia is located and didn't provide evidence of fraud

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany spoke at a chaotic press conference where she accused Democrats of trying to ‘tip the scales’ of the election. She misstated the name of the county where Philadelphia is located and didn’t provide evidence of fraud

Plaintiffs were the campaign, former Pennsylvania state Rep. Lawrence Roberts, who is a 78-year old former cosmetologist, and Lancaster County voter David John Henry.

At the presser, it was McEnany, who was there on personal time from her job as a taxpayer-funded employee, as well as Republican National Committee head Ronna McDaniel laying out the allegations, and taking just a few questions.

‘What we have seen across the country is Democrat officials systematically trying to do an end run around the Constitution to tip the scales of the election in their favor,’ said McEnany, who also lectured reporters, telling them to ask questions of election officials when they questioned her.    

‘Isn’t the president just being a sore loser?’ asked a reporter after McEnany abruptly ended the event, held at RNC headquarters in Washington.   

‘Our poll watchers were put behind barricades in a massive room. They were many feet from the counting process. And in fact when you look at all the tables, many hundreds of feet in fact from the tables in the back. They were completely in the dark,’ she said.  

‘What are Pennsylvania Democrats hiding,’ she asked.



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Traces of COVID-19 detected in wastewater at Carole Park, Ipswich as Queensland records two new coronavirus cases



Traces of COVID- 19 have been detected in wastewater at Carole Park in Ipswich, west of Brisbane.

Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said the result was concerning due to the unknown cause of the positive results.

“We have had several weeks worth of negative results at this wastewater testing location since the Brisbane Youth Detention cluster,” Dr Young said.

“There is a very real possibility this wastewater result is a sign of one or more undetected positive COVID-19 cases in the Ipswich community, and we are treating this seriously.”

Dr Young said viral shedding from a COVID-19 case that is no longer infection could occur for several weeks after someone had recovered from the illness.

The sample was taken last week as part of a research program being undertaken by Queensland Health, the University of Queensland and the CSIRO.

Water from Ipswich, Camira, Carole Park, Ellen Grove and Springfield feeds into the treatment plant at Carole Park.

A Queensland Health spokesman said the Ipswich Hospital’s Fever Clinic was ready to expand its hours if needed.

Dr Young said anyone with any symptoms, no matter how mild, should get tested immediately.

“If there is a case in the community, it is critical we detect it through our testing mechanisms as quickly as possible.” she said.

Meanwhile, Queensland has recorded two new cases of coronavirus in the past 24-hour testing period.

They are a 45-year-old man who returned from the Philippines and a woman in her 40s who flew in from Papua New Guinea.

Both are in quarantine in Cairns.



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NASA reports traces of liquid water and widespread ice on the Moon, raising hopes for exploration and habitation


There really is water on the Moon — and it might be much more widespread than previously suspected.

The findings of two separate studies, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, are a major boost for plans to send humans back to the Moon.

In the first study, a team of scientists led by Casey Honniball of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center discovered the signature of liquid water that’s either trapped in glass or between grains of sand on the Moon’s surface.

Scientists have long suspected that large amounts of frozen water lurk in deep, polar craters that never see the Sun.

But Dr Honniball and colleagues detected liquid water molecules in a pockmarked, sunlit region near the Moon’s south pole.

“Prior to this it was believed water could not survive on the sunlit Moon,” she said.

“Our detection shows that water may be more widespread on the surface of the Moon than previously thought and not constrained to only the poles.”

The water was found in the Clavius Crater in rugged highlands near the South Pole.(NASA/ABC)

The hunt for water

The two new papers are the high point in a decade of increasingly tantalising hints about water on the Moon.

Spacecraft like NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter detected hydrogen — one of water’s molecular components — in permanently shady areas at the north and south pole.

The case strengthened when data from India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft revealed tiny patches of exposed ice in some of those same shadowy craters.

But Dr Honniball’s study reports the signature of liquid water, not ice.

“Water ice at the poles is a different detection than the water we detect in glass on the sunlit moon,” she explained.

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It’s something that’s been hinted at in the past. In high-latitude, sunlit areas of the Moon, scientists have detected the presence of hydrogen bound to oxygen — but it was impossible to tell if it was molecular water (H2O) or hydroxyl groups (OH), which are common in minerals.

To find out, Dr Honnibal and her colleagues booked a flight on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) in 2018.

SOFIA is a souped-up 747 aeroplane with a telescope inside it that can collect infrared light from above the clouds; in this case, it used an attachment focussing on wavelengths in the 5 to 8 micron range.

Water molecules reflect light at a wavelength of 6 microns.

“This is unique to molecular water because it requires two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen,” Dr Honniball explained.

“Hydroxyl, with only one hydrogen atom, cannot make a 6 micron spectral fingerprint.

In fact, water appears to be present in Clavius Crater — a huge basin in the rugged high-latitude highlands — in abundances of around 100 to 400 parts per million.

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Water in glass beads — in the sunshine

Craig O’Neill, a planetary scientist at Macquarie University, said the detection of the water signature was a big result.

“We know it’s not just a little bit of water bound up in another mineral, its actually there as a water molecule in and of itself,” he said.

Dr Honniball said the detection of water in a sunlit area indicated there were processes occurring on the Moon that were creating and storing water.

She and her colleagues proposed the water could have been trapped in melted rocks, transformed into crystals by the impact of micrometeorites slamming into the surface of the Moon.

The micrometeorites either brought water with them, or the shock of the collision converted existing hydrogen and oxygen in minerals to water as the rocks melted.

Dr O’Neill said it was very common for water bubbles to be trapped in rocks transformed into glass by extreme heat and pressure.

“We see that all the time in geology,” he said.

Gathering samples of the glass beads could help answer long-standing questions about how the Moon — and Earth — got their water.

“We’ve got this entire record of micrometeorite bombardment through time locked up in there, just waiting for us to access it,” he said.

But, he added, water stored in glass beads is not as easily accessible for people to use as water stored as ice.

Widespread ice in ‘cold traps’ at the poles

Luckily, the second new study indicates that areas where water could be trapped as ice around the poles are a lot more abundant and accessible than previously thought.

“What they’ve shown in that paper is once you get above 80 degrees north or south, towards the poles, there’s an enormous potential reservoir of ice,” Dr O’Neill said.

A team led by Paul Hayne from the University of Colorado modelled the Moon’s surface and identified billions of tiny “cold traps”: freezing shadows where ice could be stable for billions of years.

Their research, based on data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, suggests approximately 40,000 square kilometres of the lunar surface at the poles has the capacity to trap water.

“We find that there are tens of billions of cold traps about a centimetre in size on the Moon,” Dr Haynes said.

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Because they are so ubiquitous, these small cold traps could be much easier to access than large craters that don’t see the light of day and can’t be accessed with solar-powered landers or rovers.

“An astronaut or robotic rover or lander could access these smaller shadows and any ice deposits inside them, simply by reaching in — as opposed to venturing into the deep, dark shadows of the larger craters,” Dr Hayne said.

Mining water on the Moon

A number of nations are eyeing the south pole of the Moon.

The US recently announced plans to put humans on the Moon in 2024 and have a permanent presence at the south pole by 2028.

This “Artemis” mission, to which Australia is a signatory, will also hunt for water.

If present, it could be used to supply drinking water as well as produce rocket fuel to sustain space exploration.

Andrew Dempster, head of space engineering at the University of New South Wales, has long argued that Australia should play a role in space mining.

He said the findings of the two papers confirmed assumptions about the Moon and reduced uncertainty for the mining industry.

“We are now much more certain that what we can go and look for is real,” Professor Dempster said.

“If [water ice] is more widespread then maybe we don’t have to concentrate on these big craters, maybe we can look at these smaller things that are easier to deal with.”



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Novichok traces found on water bottle in Alexei Navalny’s hotel room, his colleagues say


Colleagues of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said Thursday that a bottle of water with a trace of the Novichok nerve agent was found in his hotel room after his poisoning.

Navalny fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20 and was flown to Germany, where he was kept in an induced coma for more than two weeks as he was treated with an antidote.

On Tuesday, he posted a picture of himself from his hospital bed in Berlin.

A video posted on Navalny’s Instagram on Thursday showed his team working around his hotel room in Tomsk before he left the city and collapsed on a flight back to Moscow.

Navalny’s Instagram said they returned to the room an hour after learning that he had become ill and packed the bottles and other items for further inspection.

“Two weeks later, a German laboratory found a trace of Novichok on a bottle from the Tomsk hotel room,” they said.

“And then another three labs that took Alexei’s samples proved that he was poisoned with it. Now we understand: It was done before he left his room to go to the airport.”

A German military lab has determined that Navalny was poisoned with Novichok, the same class of Soviet-era agent that Britain said was used on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, in 2018.

On Monday, the German government said independent tests by labs in France and Sweden backed up its findings.

The Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is also taking steps to have samples from Navalny tested at its designated labs, Germany has said.

The Kremlin has bristled at calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders to answer questions about the poisoning, denying any official involvement.





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