Questions, Anyone?

What caused droning sound?

Q. Several Alpena readers have heard droning and diving sounds in the air in the direction of the beach, but they couldn’t see any sort of aircraft. They wonder what was making those unusual sounds a few weeks ago.

A. There has been extra air activity by Air National Guard and other armed services units, guests of Combat Readiness Training Center at the air base in Alpena. The training exercises this summer are leading to an increase in flying activity over water. Probably the low humming sounds were caused by prop planes in July training exercises.

The June 16-20 event was an “air to surface training exercise that emphasized employment of weapons in an over water environment,” according to a press release from Lt. Col. Timothy S. Brock, Michigan ANG Commander. It was “unique to the Alpena CRTC as it is the only area east of the Mississippi where this type of training can be accomplished.”

In June, the CRTC hosted Air National Guard units from Michigan, Indiana, Maryland and New York and a U.S. Navy Special Warfare Detachment. Alpena CRTC also hosted air to ground operations events July 2-25 when 15 single-engine, propeller-driven T6 planes from Milton, Florida trained for two weeks. CRTC has just concluded hosting events Aug. 4-22. Col. Andrew Roberts, newly-named CRTC Commander, says, “We have a state-of-the-art, world-class training facility; a perfect location and the perfect community to host this Air National Guard sponsored exercise.”

Fewer swans

Q. Several people have noted that there are fewer swans on the Thunder Bay River in the Alpena area. They ask why.

A. According to Katie Keen of the DNR, the harsh winter and the DNR management plan have both contributed to a decrease in the number of mute swans in the Thunder Bay River. Mute swans do not migrate, but find nearby open waters to spend their winters.

The extremely cold winter of last year, with maximum ice cover, meant that areas that were usually open water were iced over. The result was a more-than-typical swan die-off. Another factor in fewer mute swans is the DNR management plan, which is described at the website: swan. Mute swans, which are not native to Michigan, have increased so much that they have driven out the less aggressive native trumpeter and tundra swans. The Michigan DNR has developed a management plan to promote the native tundra and trumpeter swans and reduce the non-native mute swan population. Many conservation groups support the DNR’s mute swan reduction plan, such as National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, American Bird Conservancy and many others.


Q. What is the story behind the word “capital”?

A. John Train’s book “Remarkable Words” explains capital as a financial term. “From Latin caput, a “head” of cattle. Cattle are one of the oldest forms of wealth: they are movable; grow; bear interest (milk); and provide capital gains (calves). Homer valued Ajax’s shield in ox hides, and in many cultures a bride-price or damages at law are set in cattle.

“Not surprisingly, a number of our financial words derive from this source. Pecuniary and peculation come from Latin pecus, “herd” and chattel is cognate with cattle.”

Please send questions and comments to or to “Questions, Anyone?” The Alpena News, 130 Park Place, Alpena, MI 49707.