Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Uluru (Ayers Rock) - Australia

Uluru, also referred to as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory, central Australia. It lies 335 km (208 mi) south west of the nearest large town, Alice Springs; 450 km (280 mi) by road. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru are the two major features of the Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park. Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, the Aboriginal people of the area. It has many springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage Site.

Uluru is one of Australia's most recognisable natural icons. The world-renowned sandstone formation stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high (863 m/2,831 ft above sea level) with most of its bulk below the ground, and measures 9.4 km (5.8 mi) in circumference. Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta have great cultural significance for the Aṉangu Traditional landowners, who lead walking tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods and the Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.

Uluru is notable for appearing to change colour as the different light strikes it at different times of the day and year, with sunset a particularly remarkable sight when it briefly glows red. Although rainfall is uncommon in this semiarid area, during wet periods the rock acquires a silvery-grey colour, with streaks of black algae forming on the areas that serve as channels for water flow.

Kata Tjuta, also called Mount Olga or The Olgas owing to its peculiar formation, is another rock formation about 25 km (16 mi) from Uluru. Special viewing areas with road access and parking have been constructed to give tourists the best views of both sites at dawn and dusk.

credited to wikipedia and flickr users: andrew, peternijenhuis, jonathansabin, yewco, markeveleigh, vtveen, the_guenni, pedroqtc, vtveen

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mackenzie River - Canada

The Mackenzie River originates in Great Slave Lake, in the Northwest Territories, and flows north into the Arctic Ocean. It is the longest river in Canada at 1,738 km and, together with its headstreams the Peace and the Finlay, the second longest river in North America at 4,241 km in length. The Mackenzie and its tributaries drain 1,805,200 square kilometers. Its mean discharge is 9,700 cubic metres per second.

The large marshy delta of the Mackenzie River provides habitat for migrating Snow Geese, Tundra Swans, and Brant as well as breeding habitat for other waterfowl. The estuary is a calving area for Beluga whales.

The river is navigable for approximately five months of the year. It freezes over in October and the ice on the river breaks up in May. During the winter months, sections of the river are used as an ice road.

During the ice-free period the river is navigable over its entire length. Barge traffic from an intermodal hub at the railhead at Hay River serves much of the Western Arctic.

The Mackenzie (previously Disappointment River) was named after Alexander Mackenzie, who travelled the river while trying to reach the Pacific Ocean in 1789. In the Dene languages it is called Deh Cho.

The divide between the Mackenzie basin and the basin of the Yukon River to the west forms the central portion of the boundary between Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

In 2008, Canadian and Japanese researchers extracted a constant stream of natural gas from a test project at the Mallik methane hydrate field in the Mackenzie delta. This was the second such drilling at Mallik: the first took place in 2002 and used heat to release methane. In the 2008 experiment, researchers were able to extract gas by lowering the pressure, without heating, requiring significantly less energy. The Mallik gas hydrate field was first discovered by Imperial Oil in 1971-1972.

credited to wikipedia and flickr users: opalmirror, anna154, evenelsewhere, jbbar, gslside, wiless, mfitch, eclecticblogs, jksnijders, nadiabob

Monday, August 11, 2008

Oasis in Morocco

Oases are formed from underground rivers or aquifers such as an artesian aquifer, where water can reach the surface naturally by pressure or by man made wells. Occasional brief thunderstorms provide subterranean water to sustain natural oases, such as the Tuat. Substrata of impermeable rock and stone can trap water and retain it in pockets; or on long faulting subsurface ridges or volcanic dikes water can collect and percolate to the surface. Any incidence of water is then used by migrating birds who also pass seeds with their droppings which will grow at the waters edge forming an oasis.

credited to wikipedia and flickr users: artour_a, rasielcom, noushynoo, ccullen222, elmnopo, missmarmelade, akapadia76, jries, gazapofera, feke

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The most dangerous beaches

A beach vacation usually conjures up images of lying on white sand relaxing not dicing with death but has come up with a list of the world's most dangerous beaches.

Strong currents and deadly jellyfish are among the dangers that spring to mind but the biggest fear is sharks, according to Stephen P. Leatherman of the International Hurricane Research Center & Laboratory for Coastal Research in Miami.

"But in reality, you've got a better chance at winning the lottery than getting bitten," he told, adding that there were only 112 incidents globally of shark bites in 2007.

Following is a list of the most dangerous beaches by category which was prepared by and focuses mainly on the United States.

1. Shark Attacks/Bites

New Smyrna Beach, Volusia County, Florida.

The were 112 incidents of shark-human "contact" in 2007, according to the International Shark Attack File released in March but only one resulted in a human fatality. New Smyrna, an inlet on the eastern coastline of Florida, had the most attacks, with 17 bites recorded.

2. Pollution

Hacks Point Beach, Kent County, Md./Beachwood Beach West, Ocean County, N.J.

According to the National Research Defense Council, an environmental action group, these two beaches had the highest percentage of samples exceeding U.S. health standards in 2006.

3. Jellyfish Attacks

Northern Australia

The coast of Northern Australia serves as a home to chironex fleckeri, also known as the box jellyfish, which has caused 60 deaths in the last 100 years, according the Center for Disease Control, Australia. While fatalities are rare, about 40 people are hospitalized each year in the Northern Territory. Last year, a 6-year-old boy died in the Tiwi Islands, north of Darwin.

4. Lightning


Florida tops off the list as the most dangerous spot for lightning, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Between 1997 and 2006, there were 71 deaths caused by lightning in Florida, more than any other state. Popular beaches such as New Smyrna and Clearwater are often evacuated and then closed for days because of the threat of lightning.

5. Boating Accidents


Data by county or beach is not available, but according to the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division, the state of Florida reported 633 boating accidents and 68 fatalities in 2006, the highest number of any state in the country with more people actively involved in boating in Florida.

6. Rip Current Drowning

Brevard County, Florida

In 2007, 10 people drowned in Brevard County due to the rip current alone, according to the United States Life Saving Association.

credited to, and flickr users: nsbbum1, kerrie radtke, coco21, rustyalaska

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Time Is Now, Climate Experts Warn

Earlier this week, renowned NASA climate scientist James Hansen warned Congress of the dangers of climate change, exactly 20 years after he did so for the first time.

The message he delivered was almost the same as it was in 1988, but there was one key difference: "The difference is that now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb," he said.

Hansen's message painted a stark and urgent picture of a world already past the point where significant damage would occur. Discovery News wanted to know if other scientists shared his view. Are we really in for it and at what point? What are our options for avoiding the worst?

Earth's Carbon Budget

Hansen argued this week that the "safe level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is no more than 350 ppm (parts per million), and it may be less." This recommended level is less than the amount currently in the atmosphere -- 385 ppm. It may also be less than the commonly discussed stabilization target of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) of temperature increase, which probably corresponds to an atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 350-400 ppm.

Already, he argued, arid lands are expanding, glaciers are receding, and Arctic sea ice is shrinking, driven by cycles of positive feedback, where melting leads to more warming of the exposed dark ocean water, which leads to more melting.

"As a result, without any additional greenhouse gases, the Arctic soon will be ice-free in the summer," Hansen said.

To forest ecologist Lee Frelich at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Hansen's argument that a lower stabilization target is safer makes sense.

"If you look at the paleological record, in the last interglacial period 110,000 to 120,000 years ago, the world was thought to have a climate that was two degrees warmer than today," Frelich said. "The oceans were 20 to 25 feet higher, but CO2 was only 290 ppm. I've always thought that if a CO2 content of 290 could cause that, why won't it do it now? Maybe there's just a lag time."

"I'm sympathetic to a more aggressive goal," said glaciologist Jay Zwally of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The goal that people have adopted of keeping it to a total of two degrees [Celsius] rise since the preindustrial is still going to allow enough warming that we'll have an even more significant impact than we've already seen," he said.

While other scientists agree that 350 ppm is a safer target that increases the likelihood we will avoid many of the negative effects of climate change, some also think it's unrealistic.

"Three hundred and fifty is impossible," said climatologist Stephen Schneider of Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. "We're going to overshoot 350 and 450 and probably 550, though I sure hope not."

Schneider's hope is that while it might still be 20 years before actions to reduce CO2 emissions really have an effect, innovations over the next two decades will make it possible to dramatically reduce emissions.

"My cynical scenario is that there will be more Katrinas, massive fires, melting of the Arctic, and people will say, 'Oh my God, what have we done. We'd better undo this,'" he said. Such catastrophes could finally spark the dramatic change that's needed, he suggests, if we don't take action sooner of our own accord.

"I try not to talk about a threshold of two degrees," Schneider added. "At 1.8 the world is not fine. At 2.2, we don't turn into a climatic pumpkin. We just have more severe events. The object is not to get hung up on the numbers. The object is to get out there and get solutions."

Others agreed.

Nevermind the Tipping Point

"Time is of the essence here. I don't know if targets like 350 ppm are that useful," said John Harte of the University of California, Berkeley. "We can't make a regulation on something we can't control. We don't regulate temperature, and we don't even regulate the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. However, we control what our automobiles look like. We control the efficiency of our devices. We control what our energy looks like."

"I'm not so enthused about the concept of the tipping point," he added. "My view is that we've probably passed some tipping points. We've entered some realms of irreversibility. There are probably many more, but we don't know where they are."

"We know that if we don't take action, it will be a disaster," he said. "That's all we need to know."

Whether they focused on thresholds or not, the scientists all agreed that the problem is urgent and that not doing anything will lead to disaster: rising sea levels, food shortages, spread of infectious diseases and extinctions.

Starting From Here...

Hansen argued that to achieve the target of 350 ppm, we need to put a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants and phase out burning coal without capturing and storing the carbon.

While scientists agree that coal is a huge part of the problem, they also emphasized the need to apply every available sensible strategy to address the problem.

"There seems to be an emphasis on coal and a distraction from other things we can be doing as well," NASA's Zwally said.

"Some people think that climate change is just about saving a few rare species, and it's just environmentalists making a fuss," Frelich said. "That's really not it."

"It's really about the quality of life for people," he continued. The Earth has been through many big changes before. There have been big extinctions, and new species have evolved to fill the ecosystems. It's not a big deal to the Earth's ecosystems, but it will be a really big deal for the quality of life of humans."

Frelich points out that right now the best soil for growing crops in the United States aligns ideally with the right climate for agriculture. But if the favorable climate moves north, it will be over Canada in an area where bedrock lies at the surface, stripped of soil by the last glaciation.

"If the best climate for growing crops lines up with the Canadian shield, that's an issue for people," he adds.

The scientists also pointed out that countries that tackle this most aggressively will be the winners, regardless of what other nations have committed to.

"The economic giants of the rest of this century are going to be the nations that are selling wind turbines and solar panels and efficient cars to the rest of the world," said Harte. "I would think we'd want to be the leader in that."

"Solving this problem is technologically and economically not that difficult," Harte added. "It's proving to be politically difficult."

credited to Discovery News

Top 10 unusual places to stay

From converted train cars to converted prisons, travel Web site has come up with its picks of the 10 most unusual places to stay.

"With limited vacation time, there's no reason your lodging shouldn't be part of the travel experience," said general manager Giampiero Ambrosi.

1. Edisto River Treehouses - Canadys, South Carolina

For those who refuse to grow up, a stay in a tree house is a dream come true. Not only is it fun, but it's clean, safe, and very reasonable.

Each treehouse is tucked in the woods out of view of any other, nestled in the trees on the river's edge, located on its own private, gurgling creek, solidly constructed of completely natural, often local materials, fully furnished with kitchen, futons, outdoor grill, dining deck, screened with a well-vented sleeping area.

This small tree-house-sized cabin is nestled in the woods. It comes simply equipped with a gas stove and a gas lamp. Those not sleeping in the loft have a double futon. A charcoal grill and picnic table are just outside your door. Rental includes the use of a canoe.Cost: $100 per person per night.

2. Celica Hostel - Ljubljana, Slovenia

If you've always wanted to spend a night in the slammer, now's your chance. Once a military prison, this happening hot spot is now an art gallery/youth hostel

Hostel CELICA is a fully artistically renewed former prison on Metelkova street in the center of Ljubljana. The hostel is only 5 minutes walking distance from the main railway and bus station.

Hostel facilities: 24/7 service, Luggage room, Safety deposit box, Guests kitchen, Laundry, Wheelchair friendly, Friendly staff, Cyber point, Library, TV room, Souvenirs, Tourist information point, Hostel Information Point - HIP, Meeting rooms

3. Schottenstift Monastery - Vienna, Austria

If the bellboys look like monks, you're not imagining things. This hotel is actually a functioning monastery where your wake-up call might just be chanting.

Staying at the Schottenstift Monastery Guesthouse was the single best thing about my trip to Vienna. I can't imagine any hotel which would have pleased me so much or any more perfect location. The Schottenstift was founded in 1155 and while the gueshouse is relatively modern, the entry through the vast door and up the winding staircase is staight out of some medieval knight-templars tale. There is one triple room here and it is worth booking for two, just for the view.

Directly opening on to the street, every morning I could throw open the windows and savour all the sights and sounds of Freyung and the Christmas market. Waking up to pealing bells was a constant pleasure and coming home each evening to this warm, other-worldy haven right in the centre of everything was a thrill every time. Breakfast is included in the price and while it does not include any hot foods ( like bacon and eggs) there are loads of cheese, salami, breads, cereals, fruit etc.

There is a small extra charge for staying just one night. The Benedictushaus is open to all. though not very many people know about it.

4. The Red Caboose Motel - Strasburg, Pennsylvania

All aboard! Although they once traveled from city to city, these little red cabooses now function as private hotel rooms. Needless to say, kids go crazy for this place.

It all started in 1969 when Don Denlinger was dared to bid on 19 old cabooses being auctioned off by the Pennsylvania Rail Road. Although Don jokingly put in a bid below the scrap value of the cabooses, he still had the highest bid and was now stuck with the old train cabooses. What can you do with 19 Rail Road Cabooses???

What started off as a dare has grown into one of Lancaster County's most unusual motel, with over 40 rooms made from fully restored 25-ton cabooses. Located in the heart of Amish farmlands, the Red Caboose is now owned by Larry Demarco. After years of neglect, Larry has begun to fully restore the many colored cabooses to bring back the family fun.

5. Propeller Island - Berlin, Germany

Art lovers rejoice! From upside-down rooms to levitating beds, it's the next best thing to spending the night in a museum.

Propeller island - this means aesthetic sensation for the eye and the ear. propeller island is a pseudonym used by the german artist lars stroschen to publish his audio-visual creations. unlimited diversity, repeating nothing and copying nothing are the guiding principles here.
the most popular result: the CITY LODGE, a habitable work of art in the heart of berlin, whose wealth of ideas never fails to attract everyone into its gravitational field and to continue inspiring guests long afterwards. a magnet for creative individuals, those weary of consumption, those who see things differently, philosophers and seekers of perspective and vision. frequented by personalities from around the globe, this vision machine is a much-desired shooting site for photo sessions and video clips. is that perhaps the reason these rooms seem so familiar to you...?

6. Schlosshotel Schönburg - Oberwesel, Germany

For a true fantasy experience, nothing beats a night in a genuine castle. In spite of its long history, all modern amenities, including Internet service, are available to guests.

Schlosshotel Schönburg in Oberwesel - about 10km downstream from Bacharach - is certainly one of the most expensive, but also very best and most exclusive castle-hotels along the river Rhine. The old castle dates back to the 10th century and today the castle is used partly as a luxury hotel and another part of the old castle is used as a "Kolpingheim / hostel" and a hotel next to the castle.

7. Ariau Amazon Towers - Near Manaus, Brazil

Connected by a series of catwalks, eight buildings comprise this compound, which has become a favorite of celebrities and everyday travelers alike.

"Imagine a hotel built among Amazon treetops: catwalks 70 feet up leading from a great circular dining room of polished tropical woods, a bar like an eagle's nest, a honeymoon suite built 110 feet up a mahogany tree, and friendly monkeys, macaws, sloths, and parrots scampering, fluttering, and dangling all over the place."

Conde Nast Traveler, March 1996

Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel is located 35 miles from Manuas, Brazil at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Ariau Creek. Built entirely at the level of the Rainforest Canopy, Ariau's towers are linked together by 4 miles of sturdy wooden catwalks. This architectural wonder affords visitors a unique communion with the regions abundant flora and fauna while leaving the fragile eco-system completely undisturbed.

8. Hotel Sidi Driss - Matmata, Tunisia

The force was with the cast and crew of Star Wars when they filmed at this out-of-this-world property. The amenities are minimal, but at less than $20 a night, so is the price.

The Hotel Sidi Driss, where scenes from the Lars homestead in Star Wars were filmed. Accommodation is simple (the bedrooms are formed from individual caves hollowed out from the rock, with shared bathroom facilities), but unique; visit for a day trip or spend the night.

Ask your hotel if they can arrange a tour of a traditional troglodyte (cave) dwelling; many such properties are located around the village and are today still inhabited by local families. There is a small museum behind the Hotel Sidi Driss, displaying local history. The stone village of Tamezret, 10km west of town on the Douz road makes an interesting side trip.

9. Euromast - Rotterdam, The Netherlands

A tourist attraction by day, this imposing tower becomes an exclusive hotel at night. Those wishing to give it a go should book early; the tower's two suites fill up three months out.

Book the Euromast for a night and you’ll feel like playing the leading role in a Hollywood movie: A bottle of champagne is waiting for you and till 1 o’clock in the evening you can order room service, the view of Rotterdam is breathtaking and inside you’ll experience the charm and romance of the sixties. The building dates back from that period and high up on the Euromast you can feel it too when you’re rocking on the wind and when in winter frost flowers are covering the windows (no double glazing). Even the furnishing of the suites is completely ‘sixties’. And you can go outside as well. From 10 o’clock in the evening till 10 o’clock in the morning (from April to September till 9.30 hrs) the biggest and highest balcony in Rotterdam is all yours and yours alone.

10. The Giraffe Manor - Nairobi, Kenya

Don't bother with a "Do Not Disturb" sign. The long-necked visitors who peek in through the windows of this extraordinary compound will just ignore it.

The Giraffe Manor is an elegant, personally hosted, small and exclusive hotel, famous for its resident herd of giraffe. The Giraffe Manor offers a rich blend of welcoming accommodation, highly trained and friendly staff, as well as one of Nairobi's finest kitchens.

Travellers from all over the world now make The Giraffe Manor part of their East African safari, the only place in the world where you can enjoy the breathtaking experience of feeding and photographing the giraffe over the breakfast table and at the front door.

credited to and