Students studying for final exams in the library at the University of Canberra in Australia recently had to pick up their books and flee because of … a fruit.
To be fair, no one at the time thought the stench permeating the building was from a little bit of discarded fruit. They thought it was a gas leak.
The durian drama began on May 9, when the stench became noticeable.
“Fortunately the suspected gas leak turned out to be a part of a durian — the offending fruit has now been removed.”
A university library in Australia was evacuated after the stench of a durian fruit was mistaken for a gas leak https://t.co/jlw71UXgny
— CNN (@CNN) May 13, 2019
“We’ve been evacuated! Will post an update when students can re-enter the building,” a post on the library’s Facebook page read.
The post was later amended to reveal the cause.
“And we’re open! Thanks to everyone for evacuating so quickly and safely – about 550 people left the building in under 6 minutes. Fortunately the suspected gas leak turned out to be a part of a durian – the offending fruit has now been removed,” the post read.
The library added a later Facebook post in case students had decided to just forget about studying.
“We are open! The lingering gas-like smell in the building is completely safe – someone left a durian fruit in one of our bins!” the post read.
The report of a leak was no joke to first responders. Gas leaks can be fatal.
“Firefighters have completed a search of the building and located the source of the smell. HAZMAT crews conducted atmospheric monitoring to ensure the area was safe. The library is now being reoccupied and the building has been handed back to University of Canberra staff,” said a statement from the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Agency.
But there were jokes about the episode on the library’s Facebook page.
“That would have been a dead giveaway that it was one of the durian-loving library staff! (I’d give it QH545.C48.) It was in a bin near a air vent on level B, very sneaky,” the library replied. The code it used was for the book “War and Nature.”
Another poster took issue with the library’s assurance that remnants of the smell were “completely safe.”
“Well, less likely to explode (maybe?). It’s been removed from the building in a sealed bag,” the library replied.
In time, one poster fessed up, posting, “oops it was me.”
The library kept its sense of humor.
“Next time bring enough to share with everyone, but please do it outside,” it posted.
The journal Nature probed the stench of the durian, noting that the fruit has been banned from hotels and public transportation in Singapore and Malaysia due to the smell.
“It has been described as decaying onion-like, rotten eggs, sulfury, and like fried shallots,” said geneticist Bin Tean Teh of the Duke–National University of Singapore (NUS) Medical School in Singapore. “First-time visitors to the region sometimes confuse it with a gas or sewage leak.”
The key element in the durian’s odor, researchers found, is sulfur.
And it has a purpose, besides annoying college students.
“Durians developed this intense and far-reaching smell as a way to advertise the presence of ripe fruits and attract animals that occur at very low densities in the rainforests,” Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz, a tropical ecologist at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus in Semenyih, told Nature.
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