Friday, October 24, 2014

Sculpture By The Sea: An Outdoor Exhibition at Bondi Beach

Sculpture by the Sea is an annual outdoor sculpture exhibition, the largest of its kind in Australia, that takes place at the beach in Sydney and Perth. Initiated in 1996, the exhibition, currently at its 18th year, is spread over two kilometers from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach featuring over 100 sculptures by artists from 16 countries. Some of this year's highlights include Geoffrey Drake-Brockman's Counter, an interactive arch which counts viewers as they walk through it, and Andrew Hankin's giant frying pan on Tamarama beach named “We're fryin' out here.”

The 2014 Sculpture by the Sea exhibition celebrates the 1000th artist to have featured in the event.  The exhibition will run from October 23 to November 9.

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'We're fryin' out here' by Andrew Hankin, on Tamarama Beach. Photo credit: Cameron Spencer

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Moss Balls of Lake Myvatn and Lake Akan

Moss Balls or marimo (Japanese for "ball seaweed"), also known by various names such as Cladophora ball and Lake ball, is a species of filamentous green algae named Aegagropila linnaei that grow into large green balls with a velvety appearance. These balls grow to sizes of 12 to 30 cm across, depending on where you find them. Marimos are rare and is known to occur only in Iceland, Scotland and Japan, primarily Lake Akan in Japan and Lake Mývatn in Iceland. Recently, moss balls appeared in a large numbers on Dee Why Beach, in Sydney, the first such spotting of this algae in the southern hemisphere.

Marimo doesn’t grow around a core, such as a pebble. Instead, the algal filaments grow in all directions from the centre of the ball, continuously branching and thereby laying the foundation for the spherical form. Surprisingly, the ball is green all through, although light only reaches very short distance into the ball. The chlorophyll inside the ball remains dormant in the dark, but becomes active when exposed to light if the ball breaks apart. Moss balls are found submerged in the lake’s bed where the gentle wave action frequently turns them over maintaining its spherical shape, at the same time ensuring that they can photosynthesize no matter which side is turned upwards.

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Marimo in a tank in Hokkaido, Japan. Photo credit

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pantanal, The World’s Largest Freshwater Wetland

In the center of the South American continent, south of the Amazon basin and east of the Andes, lies an immense landlocked river delta called Pantanal. It lies mostly within Western Brazil but extends into portions of Bolivia and Paraguay, covering an estimated 140,000 to 195,000 square kilometres. Between November and March annual floods, fed by tropical rains, inundate this region by up to several meters transforming Pantanal into the world’s largest freshwater wetland ecosystem, half the size of France. With a variety of ecological sub-regions, nursing hundreds of species of aquatic life, birds and other animals. Pantanal is one of Brazil's major tourist draws.

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Photo credit

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Metro Stations in Naples Converted Into Beautiful Art Galleries

Over the past decade, the city of Naples, Italy, has been transforming sections of the subway system into full-fledged art galleries by contemporary artists to make the urban area’s public transport centres more attractive. Under the direction of Achille Bonto Oliva, former director of the Venice Biennale, a total of 14 stations (as of 2014) distributed along the lines 1 and 6 of the Metro network, have been decorated with over 200 works by more than 100 artists and architects such as Alessandro Mendini, Anish Kapoor, Gae Aulenti, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Karim Rashid, and Sol LeWitt.

Possibly the most beautiful of them is the Toledo Metro Station opened in September 2012, and designed by the Spanish firm of architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca. Designed around the theme of water and light, it features two mosaics by South African artist William Kentridge, as well as works by Francesco Clemente, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Shirin Nehsat and Oliviero Toscani.

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Toledo Metro Station

Layered Sand Art by Andrew Clemens

The art in these bottles were created by carefully pouring colored sand in layers, without the use of glue or any adhesive. These were made more than a hundred years ago by Iowa-born artist Andrew Clemens (1856 - 1894), who was completely deaf and mute, a condition that developed when he suffered from encephalitis at the young age of five.

Clemens' sandpainting career blossomed at the age of 13 during his summer vacations from the State School. He would collect naturally colored grains of sand from an area in Pikes Peak State Park known as Pictured Rocks, separate the sand grains into piles, by color, and used them to form the basis for his art. Clemens inserted the colored grains of sand into small glass drug bottles using fishing hooks and hickory sticks. He used no glue, relying on pressure from the other sand grains alone to held the artwork together. Once the artwork was complete, he sealed the bottle with a stopper and wax. Sometimes, Clemens created his images upside down. Upon completion, he would securely stopper the bottle, and flip it right side up. The most complex of his designs could take up to a year to complete.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Saint Helena Island: The Place of Napoleon's Imprisonment

Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory, is a remote island located in the South Atlantic Ocean about 1,950 km west of the south-western coast of Africa. The nearest land is Ascension Island, the site of a US Air Force auxiliary airfield, which is 1,125 km to the north-west. The most remote inhabited island in the world, Tristan da Cunha, is located 2,100 km to the south. Uninhabited when first discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, Saint Helena was garrisoned by the British during the 17th century, and for a long time served as an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. its importance as a port of call declined after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

Saint Helena's most famous resident was Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled there by the British from 1815 until his death in 1821. You can still visit his flower-laden gravesite and residence there. Today, the island is home to some 4,000 residents.

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Jamestown, Saint Helena Island. Jacob’s ladder is visible on the lower part of the image.  Photo credit

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Island Homes During Mississippi River Flooding

When the waters of the Mississippi River broke in April 2011, it created one of the largest and the most damaging floods in the U.S. in the past century. Flooding was caused by two major storm systems that deposited record levels of rainfall on the Mississippi River watershed. When that additional water combined with the springtime snowmelt, the river and many of its tributaries began to swell and spill over. Certain areas were inundated with 20-30 feet of water forcing evacuation of tens of thousands of homes in areas along the Mississippi and the Yazoo River. But many decided to stay put building dykes around their houses instead, creating tiny island homes.

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A levee protects a home surrounded by floodwater from the Yazoo River on May 18, 2011 near Vicksburg, Mississippi. The flooded Mississippi River is forcing the Yazoo River to top its banks where the two meet near Vicksburg causing towns and farms upstream on the Yazoo to flood. (Photo: Scott Olson)

The Coal Fires of Jharia

Jharia and the neighbouring village of Bokapahari, in the state of Jharkhand, lie within one of India’s largest coal reserves. Coke coal is important for India’s economy as more than 70% of the country’s power supply is derived from coal. But for the 90,000 people living around Jharia, there is no benefit. Coal fires rage below the surface and noxious gases spew from fissures in and around houses. The incessant mining and the underground fire that has been burning for almost a century has contaminated everything – the soil, the water and the air. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons emitted by the burning coal have caused illnesses that range from stroke to chronic pulmonary disease. Nearly everybody in Jharia is ill. Occasionally the ground collapses, swallowing buildings and people into the chasm.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Istanbul, The City That Lies in Two Continents

Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey and the fifth-largest city in the world by population, is considered European, yet it occupies two different continents. One part of Istanbul lies in Europe and the other part lies in Asia. Istanbul’s European part is separated from its Asian part by the Bosphorus strait, a 31-km-long waterway that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara, and forms a natural boundary between the two continents. Two suspension bridges across the Bosporus - the Bosporus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, also called Bosporus Bridge II, connect the two sides, yet many tourist prefer to visit the European side of Istanbul because of its historical significance. The European side is also the city’s commercial center with banks, stores and corporations and two-third of its population. The Asian side feels more relaxed, with wide boulevards, residential neighbourhoods and fewer hotels and tourist attractions.

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The Dragon Hill of Iquique, Chile

Cerro Dragon or The Dragon Hill is an enormous sand dune about 4 km long, located near the coast in the city of Iquique in Chile. Varying in height from 150 to 500 meters, it is the largest urban sand dune in the world; only the dunes of the Sahara are higher. The dune is situated on narrow rocky ledge above a cliff 500 feet high that forms a natural barrier to the sea. It is believed that the Dragon Hill was formed 20,000 years ago during the last ice age when the sea was out by a further 100 meters, exposing the shoreline to erosion and deposition by wind. Today, the dunes represents one of the most characteristic landscapes of Iquique, and is visible from throughout the city.

In 2005, Dragon Hill was designated a Nature Sanctuary with the intention of protecting the geological feature from human encroachment, especially by urban developers. Unfortunately, the designation has had little effect. The city dwellers are using the place to dump their garbage. The place is also frequented especially by paragliders and sand boarding lovers.

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Photo credit