Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Amelia Earhart’s Lighthouse on Howland Island

Howland Island is an uninhabited coral island located just north of the equator in the central Pacific Ocean, about 3,100 km southwest of Honolulu. This flat sliver of land 2 km long and half-km wide is best known as the island the famous aviator Amelia Earhart was supposed to land on for refueling before continuing on her round-the-world flight. The plan was to arrive at Howland Island from New Guinea with her navigator Fred Noonan, replace him with another navigator Captain Harry Manning, and continue to Australia from where she would proceed on her own for the remainder of the project. Earhart’s plane never arrived, although her transmission was received on Howland Island. After her disappearance on July 2, 1937, the United States government, under whose possession the island was since 1856, built a lighthouse on the island as a memorial to the woman flier. Unfortunately, the short lighthouse called Earhart Light, today stand disused and in disrepair.

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Howland Island sign with daylight beacon "Earhart Light" in background. Photo credit

The Kopjes of Serengeti

Serengeti is a vast plain of grassland, woods and swamps, nearly 30,000 square kilometers, that stretches from north-western Tanzania into south-western Kenya. The plains are home to approximately 70 large mammal and some 500 avifauna species, including the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world.

Dotting this vast savannah are outcrops of granite that stick out like rocky islands in a sea of grass. They are called kopjes, and were formed when the soft volcanic rock and ash that covers Serengeti were eroded away to expose the extremely old metamorphic rock below. Standing majestically around plains of savannah with vegetation dominated by bushes and grass these beautiful metamorphic rocks consist of very hard granite capable of resisting erosion from rain and harsh tropical winds. Aside from providing a scenic contrast to the surrounding grasslands, kopjes provide habitat for many creatures because of the presence of a variety of plants, caves for dwelling, water, and a vantage point for Serengeti’s many predators.

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Simba Kopje. Photo credit

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Glittering Mausoleum of Shah-e-Cheragh

Shah-e-Cheragh is a funerary monument and mosque located in the city of Shiraz, in Iran, where lies the tomb of Amir Ahmad and his brother Mir Muhammad, sons of the seventh Imam and brothers of Imam Reza. Amir Ahmad and Mir Muhammad were hunted down and killed by the caliphate on this site in AD 835 during the Abbasid persecution of the Shi'ite sect. The brothers' tombs, originally only simple mausoleums, became celebrated pilgrimage destinations in the 14th century when the pious and art-loving Queen Tashi Khatun erected a mosque and theological school by the tombs. After carrying out essential repairs, the queen ordered the tomb to be covered with millions of pieces of colored glass that glitter in the light and magnify its brilliance a thousand times. Shah-e-Cheragh is one of the most beautiful mosques and an important pilgrimage center of the city of Shiraz.

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The glittering interior of Shah-e-Cheragh. A still from the movie Baraka.

Klaksvik, Faroe Islands

Nestled at the foot of two lofty mountain ridges, connected by a low-lying area where two inlets meet, Klaksvik is the second-largest city in the Faroe Islands and an important fishing harbour. The city is located in the island of Borðoy, in a well sheltered bay surrounded by dramatic high mountains with some of the highest peaks in Faroe islands. To the north is the 750 meter high Enniberg, the highest promontory in world, dropping vertically into the ocean. Above the entrance to the harbour, is the magnificent pyramid mountain on the island of Kunoy, that forms a great protective barrier to the waves of the northern ocean.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Karlu Karlu - The Devil's Marbles

Devil’s Marbles or Karlu Karlu, as they are known by the local Warumungu Aboriginals, are a collection of massive granite boulders strewn across a shallow valley, 100 kilometers south of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, Australia. They are one of the most widely recognized symbols of Australia’s outback.

Formed by erosion over millions of years, the Devil’s Marbles are made of granite with sizes varying from 50 centimeters up to six meters across. Some of the boulders are naturally but precariously balanced atop one another or on larger rock formations, while others have been split cleanly down the middle. Although they appear to have been carefully placed or perhaps brought here by flood or glaciers from distant places, these boulders actually formed on the ground they stand by erosion of rock that reached the surface from below.

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Photo credit

Friday, September 19, 2014

Soak in Wine, Green Tea, Coffee or Sake at Yunessun Spa Resort

Bathing in water is such old school. At Yunessun Spa Resort in Hakone, Japan, you can soak yourself in a variety of unorthodox liquids such as green tea, coffee, wine and sake, all in the name of health and well being. Each of the different pools has different health benefits, so they say. For instance, a sake bath has the potential to remove freckles and age spots, while green tea picked from the mountains of Tanzawa and Hakone, can boost skin health and the immune system. Bathing in wine is considered rejuvenating for the body, and it has been said that the Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, frequently did it. Yunessun has a few more traditional spas as well, including a couple of themed baths such as one resembling an ancient Roman bath.

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A 3.6 m wine bottle lies by the side of an outdoor pool filled with red wine. Red wine contains resveratol, an antioxidant that protects the skin from environmental damage, so fresh red wine is poured into the pool daily. While soaking in wine, bathers also enjoy a drink or two. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lake Amadeus, Australia

Lake Amadeus is a huge salt lake located the southwest corner of Australia's Northern Territory, about 50 km north of Uluru or Ayers Rock. Another, slightly smaller, Lake Neale is located adjacent to the northwest. Both lakes lie on the Amadeus Basin that was filled with sediments eroded from the nearby mountains more than 500 million years ago. Because of the aridity, the lakes are inundated only during periods of heavy rain. For the most part, Lake Amadeus remains dry and coated with a thick crust of brilliant white salt. Dozens of small islands of red sand protrude centimeters above the surface of the lake. The plants that have taken root on these sandy islands are very hardy, and able to withstand salt as well as heat and drought.

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Photo credit: Bernhard Edmaier

World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in Russia

The world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge opened this summer in Sochi National Park, Russia. Located on the extreme corner of the National Park, the 1,800-foot-long bridge was built over a picturesque 650 foot gorge, and offers visitors a breathtaking view of the mountains and the river below. Another attraction is bungee jumping. There are several different points on the bridge from which you can bungee. The bridge is part of the AJ Hackett Sochi Skypark that was opened around the same time as this bridge.

The Sochi Skypark bridge was developed in collaboration with New Zealand, and it took two years, 740 tons of metal and 2,000 cubic meters of concrete to construct. The bridge is designed to withstand a 9-magnitude earthquake and the simultaneous presence of 3,000 people over it.

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365 Postcards for Ants by Lorraine Loots

Everyday, Cape Town-based artist Lorraine Loots creates a miniature painting for her ongoing project “365 Postcards for Ants.” Using paint brushes and pencils, Loots draws superbly detailed paintings of mundane objects and landscapes, that are barely larger than a small coin. The artist has been doing this since January 1, 2013. This is the second phase of her project.

As the project evolved, people started booking sentimental dates making suggestions for the painting to be done on that day. Every day, she posted the completed picture online and unsold pieces could be reserved by commenting on the picture.

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St Michael's Mount of Cornwall

St. Michael's Mount is a tidal island located about 360 meters off the coast of Mount's Bay coast of Cornwall, England. Perched on top of a great granite crag is a castle that was once home to Benedictine monks under Edward the Confessor. Historically, St Michael's Mount was a Cornish counterpart of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, which shares the same tidal island characteristics and the same conical shape. Just like the French version, a cobbled causeway, that is passable only during low tides, connects the island to the mainland. Otherwise there are small boats that run during high tides.

The chapel was founded by Edward the Confessor in 1044 in a grant to the Benedictine Abbey of Mont Saint Michael in Brittany. Through the Middle Ages, the island was a major destination for pilgrims, and because of its location, it has seen several battles for its ownership. In 1659, St Michael’s Mount was purchased by Colonel John St Aubyn, who had been the last military governor of the island’s garrison, and it became his private home. In 1954, the Mount was gifted to the National Trust.

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