12th July 1998
Once upon a time there was a long drought. All the rivers, tanks and lakes ran dry. Fish died. There was a tortoise in a lake. He was hungry. Every day two cranes came to that lake to eat fish. The tortoise and two cranes became friends.
One day the cranes promised to take the tortoise to another lake where there was water. The tortoise was pleased with the idea. Two cranes held a piece of stick at either ends. The tortoise held onto the stick with his mouth. Then they flew up into the sky.
Some boys saw this. They shouted "There is a tortoise flying". The tortoise was angry and opened his mouth to scold the boys. He dropped onto a rock and was killed instantly.
Growing and growing up to the sky.
My best friend is Refai
M. Vilayathulla M. Anas
My friendly cow, all black and white.
Sent by.Nisha Nizam
Stamp News 24
"It is about a palm in length and as thick as a man's arm to look at, it is the most resplendent object on earth. It is quite free from flaw and as red as fire. Its value is so great that a price for it in money would hardly be named at all."
This reference to a ruby that belonged to the King of Seilan (Ceylon) is found in the travels of Marco Polo dating back to the 13th century.
Sri Lanka had been the land of pearls and gems from time immemorial. In the 4th century A D, Fa Hien, the Chinese traveller spoke of the "great ruby" above the Temple of Tooth in Anuradhapura which shines "like a bright star" by night. Pearls, sapphires, rubies and other precious stones were among the earliest exports from Sri Lanka.
Four well-known types of gems found in Sri Lanka were selected for a set of stamps issued on 16th June 1976 depicting gems of Sri Lanka. The 60 cent stamp featured a blue sapphire, a flawless transparent stone of a deep blue colour which is highly prized. The most desired tone of colour is an intense cornflower blue with a fine velvety lustre. The blue sapphire is famous the world over.
The Cat's Eye is seen in the Re 1.15 stamp. When cut in a special way, it displays a silvery streak of light across its surface which moves with every movement of the stone. This streak has a striking resemblance to the pupil of a cat's eye, hence the name of the gem. The effect is best seen under a single source of light. The cat's eye is a stone of remarkable beauty and value.
The Star Sapphire is the gem featured in the Rs. 2 stamp. When cut in a particular style, it displays a six rayed star on top of the surface. Star Sapphires that display 12 rays are also known to exist. A pleasing colour coupled with a prominent star in a stone is a rare combination.
The Rs. 5 stamp, which featured a Ruby was the last in the set of four. The colour most desired is pure carmine red, often compared to the blood of a pigeon. Hence, the use of the term 'pigeon blood red'. Ones with the perfect colour and good size are rare and are considered extremely valuable.
Apart from those featured in the stamps, several other varieties of gems are found in Sri Lanka. Among them are aquamarines, alexandrites, amethysts, topazes, zircons, tourmalines, garnets and moonstones.
Gems are found predominantly around Ratnapura, Eheliyagoda, Balangoda, Rakwana and Elahera. Almost all of our gemstones are obtained from old alluvial deposits of rivers that have drained areas of gem bearing crystalline rocks. The methods of mining, through simple and primitive, are quick and efficient.
This is how the well known writer H .A. J. Hulugalle describes gem mining: "Small groups work around shallow pits in and beside rice fields, in close proximity to rivers and in other valleys and depressions which suggest water courses of the earliest times. The 'illam' or gem gravel may be close to the surface or as deep as hundred feet. The miners collect the gem-bearing gravel and transport it to a source of running water. Here they wash it in sturdy, conical, closely woven baskets, moving the containers with practised rhythmic rotation until the mud is washed away and the coarse white quartz gravel glistens in the sunlight. Keeping the load wet, the washer methodically combs off layers of gravel, seeking the colour of precious gem mineral". The rough stones recovered from the soil are fashioned into beautiful stones, which fetch high prices in the market. Gems have been a valuable foreign exchange earner for the country for many years.
One of the major invertebrate groups is the Mollusca. These are all soft-bodied animals and include slugs, snails, scallops and squids. At first it is difficult to see how such different looking animals are related.
There are five major sub-divisions or classes of living molluscs. Most of them form a hard shell. These five classes include the familiar snails, clams, octopuses, chitons and tusk-shells.
The most common molluscs are the snails or gastropods. There are around 20,000 living species. Most gastropods have a one-piece shell which may be cap-shaped as in limpets or coiled as in whelks.
The name gastropod means stomach-footed. Most gastropods have a big flat-bottomed foot, a head with tentacles and eyes. Their stomach and intestines are contained in a part of the body called the visceral mass.
There are many different kinds of gastropods. Many are marine, living either between the tide marks or in the sea. These include the whelks, winkles, cowries, coneshells and sea slugs, to name a few. These all breathe by means of gills. Other gastropods include the land snails, slugs and fresh water snails which have lungs.
The clams or bivalves are the next class with less than 10,000 living species. Bivalves have a two-piece shell which is held together by one or two muscles. All bivalves live either in the sea or in fresh water and breathe by means of gills. Bivalves do not have a head.
Bivalves may live burrowed in sand or attached to the surface of rocks. Some may even bore into rocks, coral or wood.
The cephalopods are the third most common class of molluscs and include the largest and most intelligent invertebrates. The name cephalopod means head-footed. In this class are the octopuses, cuttlefish, squids and nautilus. Of these only nautilus has a shell.
All cephalopods live in the sea. Most species are active predators, capturing prey with long tentacles.
The chitons have a shell of eight plates held together by a leathery girdle. They have a large foot and a head without eyes or tentacles.
Scaphopods or tusk-shells are tube-shaped marine molluscs. Their name means plough-footed. The scaphopods live partly buried in mud with the narrow end above the surface. They are predators and catch their prey with threadlike "captaculae."
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