Monday, October 20, 2014

Prince Edward Island National Park

Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island National Park, a National Park is located in Prince Edward Island. It is situated along the north shore of the island, in front of the Gulf of St, Lawrence. Prince Edward Island National Park was established in 1937 and protects a landscape that includes superlative red sandstone cliffs, submerged estuaries, offshore bars as well as some of the nations’ most popular and longest beaches.

Moreover, the park is also a narrow wooded sliver of land which stretches over 40 km along the northern coat of Canada’s smallest province where the theme of the parks is `sea people and the changing landscape’, the island’s heritage which dates back from the earliest native people to the European inhabitants who followed thereafter.

The parks’ protected beaches provide nesting habitat for endangered Piping Plover and the park has been designated a Canadian Important Bird Area. The park’s ecosystems provide various animal species and around 400 varieties of plants species and though there are no moose or deer on the island, coyotes, raccoons, red foxes, beavers, mink and weasels are common on this island. Over 3000 species of birds besides the Piping Plover, the park also plays an important role in shorebird migration during spring and fall.

Archaeological Site – 100,000 Years

Towards 1998, the park extended to include 990 acres on the Greenwich Peninsula with rare u-shaped dunes known as parabolic dunes. Besides this, there is also an archaeological site which reveals that Paleo-Indians lived here around 10,000 years back with evidence indicating that the Mi’kmaq, Acadian, French, Irish, Scots and English also settled here earlier.

There is a gradual rise in sea levels as the Pleistocene ice sheet recedes northward, cut off the low lying island from the larger land area while the estuaries of the four main watersheds have cut shallow valleys into the 200 million year old rock to drain into coastal bays.

The soft sand stone coastline on the other hand continues to get worn off by wind and water erosion at the rate of .5 to 1.0 meters annually. For around 20 kilometres, the water is not more than 15 metres deep and the general landscape features within the limits of the park boundaries include beaches and dune consisting of 37% forest till uplands which makes about 39%, salt and fresh water wetlands totals to 15% with non-forested fields together with headlands to 8% and 16% of the park has been affected by roads and other disturbing areas.


Three segments of the park are very distinct, namely Cavendish, Brackley-Dalvay and Greenwich with each having their own characteristics. On visiting Cavendish and Brackley-Dalvay, one will find supervised beaches, campgrounds together with a variety of trails easily adapted to hiking and cycling.

Cavendish and Stanhope provide full service campgrounds, where organised groups could get in touch with the park to arrange group camping at unique campsite as well as day use locations. Greenwich does not offer camping though private accommodation in the location of 30-40 minute drive to Stanhope or Brackley is available.

The evening campfire activities present the park’s heritage through storytelling and skits with the aid of interpreters, which are held at Cavendish and Stanhope Campgrounds accompanied with costumes and music.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Tuvalu – A Polynesian Island Nation

Tuvalu, was formerly known as the Ellice Island, a Polynesian island nation situated in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Tuvalu comprises of nine small islands which are placed over 500,000 sq. mile of the western Pacific to the south of the equator and the islands include Niulakita, Nukulaelae, Funafuti, Nukufetau, Vaitupu, Nui, Niutao, Nanumaga and Nanumea.

Tuvalu’s EEZ – Exclusive Economic Zone comprises of an oceanic area of around 900,000 km and its nearest neighbours are Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa and Fiji. It has a population of 10,873 making it the third least populated sovereign state in the world with the Vatican City and Nauru with few inhabitants.

It physical land size is 26 square km and is the fourth smallest country in the world though larger than Vatican City at 0.44km2Monaco at 1.98km2 and Nauru at 32km2..

 It is believed that the earlier inhabitants came from Samoa through Tokelau, while the others came from Tonga and Uvea – Wallis Island and were all Polynesians with the exception of Nui who were mostly descendants of the Micronesians from Kiribati.

Gained Independence in 1978

There are three linguistic areas in Tuvalu the first being the islands of Nanumea, Niuto and Nanumaga, the second being the island of Nui where the people speak a language that is derived from I-Kiribati and the third linguistic groups consists of the islands of Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae.

Presently, English and Tuvaluan are spoken throughout the island. Alvaro de Mendana y Neyra, was the first European explorer who sailed westward across the Pacific in 1867-8 with his ship known as the `Capitana’ and spotted the island which was Nui and named it the Isle of Jesus.

The island was then a part of the British colony of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands though ethnic difference which developed within the colony led the Polynesians of the Ellice Islands to seek separation from the Micronesian of the Gilbert Islands. And it then became the separate British colony of Tuvalu. It gained independence in the year 1978.

Contract Lease - $50 Million

Tuvalu negotiated a contract leasing its internet domain name `tv’, for $50 million in royalties in 2000, over the next dozen years. The country being placed in a remote area is not popular as a tourist site though the main island of Funafuti is the focus of travellers due to the only airport in Tuvalu being the Funafuti International Airport with the island having several hotel facilities.

The Funafuti Conservation Area on the western side of the Funafuti atoll have some of the best natural sights which comprises of 33 sq. km of ocean, gorgeous lagoon, channel, reef and six uninhabited islets while the outer atolls can be visited by passenger cargo ships namely Nivaga II and Manu Folau that provide round trip visits to the outer islands every three or four weeks.

Provision for guesthouse accommodation is also made available on several of the outer atolls. It diversity in marine life is an awesome place for scuba diving or snorkelling for those interested in it. The Tuvalu Women’s Handicraft Centre which is at the airport is an excellent place to pick some local crafts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Boiling Lake in Dominica

Boiling Lake in Dominica
Boiling Lake – Dominica’s World Heritage Site

The Boiling Lake in Dominica is located in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park which is considered as Dominica’s World Heritage site. Located in Dominica, it is a beautiful Caribbean island and is the second largest natural hot spring on earth.The lake’s cool outer areas maintains temperatures which are between 180 and 197 degrees Fahrenheit and no one till date has made any attempt to measure the temperature at the centre of the lake which seems to be actively boiling.

The lake is around 200 feet to 250 feet across and the recorded depth is said to be greater than 195 feet.It rests at the bottom of a huge sinkhole type of a basin and is a flooded fumarole which has an opening, hole or a crack in the earth’s crust within the area of a volcano that emits steam and gas from molten lava below. Presently this lake can only be viewed from a broad, cliff-top ledge which is around 100 feet above its shore. It has high rocks that surround it, creating the basin.

Water Temperature – 180 to 197 Degree Fahrenheit

The lake is filled with bubbling greyish blue water which is enveloped in a cloud of vapour. The basin’s water is filled with rainfall with two other small streams which drain in the area where the water seeps in the lava and gets heated to the boiling point.

The first records of the lake by Mr Watt and Dr Nicholls, two Englishmen who had been working at that time, were in 1870. Mr H. Prestoe, a government botanist together with Dr Nicholls was commissioned in 1875 to investigate this natural phenomenon wherein they measured the water temperature, finding it in the range of 180-197 degree F. all along the edge though could not measure the temperature at the centre which was actively boiling as portrayed in photographs taken at the site. Moreover, the temperature cannot be controlled due to the cracking in the lake bed through which molten lava erupts.

Unique Natural Phenomenon

The Boiling Lake is a unique natural phenomenon and the largest of its kind in the world after Rotorua in New Zealand’s north island. The way to reach this site is on foot, where the trail from the village of Laudat covers an area of approx. 7 miles which should not be attempted without the guidance of an experienced guide.

The hike comprises of 3 hours either way to complete, with trail climbs and descends done through forested highland through Titou Gorge, Breakfast River, Panorama viewpoint as well as the Valley of Desolation where one comes across steam and boiling water surfacing through various vents. The steaming Boiling Lake can be seen from a distance.

The trail also leads to another volcanic area known as the Valley of Desolation where the air around the area seems to be hot, steamy and moist with a sharp acrid smell of sulphur. The area is also know be filled with vapours and gases which escapes from the bubbling sulphur water, small sprays and hissing geysers, cracks and holes as well as from the small stream which runs through and below the terrain. It is said that the tiny invisible sprays of steam could also burn an ankle or foot, easily.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace – Official London Residence of the Monarch

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and the principal work place of Britain’s sovereigns since 1837 and is presently the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. The palace is located in the City of Westminster, between The Green Park, Hyde Park and St. James Park and is the centre of state occasions as well as royal hospitability.

It is the main focus for British people during times of national rejoicing. The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace can be visited by the tourist though it has been in use for several official events and receptions held by The Queen.

The Palace has 775 rooms which include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. With regards to measurements, the building across the front is 108 meters long with 120 metres deep which includes the central quadrangle and 24 metres high.
Initially it was known as Buckingham House, and the building which forms the main palace was a huge townhouse which was built in 1703 for the Duke of Buckingham on a site with private ownership which lasted for around 150 years.

Venue for Royal Ceremonies/Investitures/State Visits

Buckingham Palace’s 19 state rooms, ballroom and gardens are open for tourist during August and September when the Queen undertakes her annual visit to Balmoral. The State rooms have some of the Royal family’s priceless treasures like the painting and the finest French and English furniture. People can visit the spectacular Palace Ballroom and the Palace gardens and get glimpses of the west front of the Palace and the lake.

Visitors need to book their tickets in advance to visit the State Rooms, Ballroom and Garden. The Palace is a working building as well as the central point of Britain’s constitutional monarchy housing the offices of those supporting the day to day activities and duties of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as well as their immediate family.

It is also the venue for all their Royal ceremonies, Investitures and State Visits, which are all organised by the Royal Household. Though the Buckingham Palace is furnished and decorated with many priceless works of art of the Royal Collection and also one of the major collections in the world, it is not an art gallery or a museum.

State Rooms – Used By The Queen/Members of the Royal Family

The State Rooms are used regularly by The Queen as well as the members of the Royal Family for official and State entertainment and forms the nucleus of the working Palace. There are over 50,000 people who visit the Palace every year as guests to lunches, dinners, banquets, receptions and the Royal Garden Parties.

Those visiting the Palace on invitation, the first steps are into the Grand Hall and up the curving marble stairs of the Grand Staircase. With portraits which are still seen on the walls, as they were during the times of Queen Victoria.

The Throne which was sometimes used during the reign of Queen Victoria for gatherings as well as a second dancing room is dominated by a proscenium arch which is supported by a pair of winged figures of `victory’ holding garlands above the `chairs of state’.The Queen conducts all the special occasions like Jubilees and receives loyal addresses in the Throne Room, which is also used for formal wedding photographs.

The Ballroom – Largest Multi-Purpose Room in the Palace

It was said that the original palace of George IV lacked a large room for entertainment which was fulfilled by Queen Victoria by adding in 1853-5, which at the time of its constructions was the largest room in London.

The Ballroom was 36.6m long, 18m wide and 13.5m long and is the largest multi-purpose room in the Palace which was opened with a ball to celebrate the end of the Crimean War in 1856. Along the East Gallery, the Queen and her State guest process to the Ballroom for the State Banquet which normally takes place on the first day of the visit.

Prominent people are invited as guest who have trade or other related associations with visiting country which include members of the Royal Family, the government and other political leaders, High Commissioners and Ambassadors.

The Queen’s Gallery – Space Dedicated for Exhibitions

Presently it is being used by The Queen for State banquets as well as other formal occasions like the annual Diplomatic Reception which is attended by 1,500 guests, a formal occasion wherein The Queen meets every head of mission accredited to the Court of St. James and for the diplomats, it is one of the highlights of the annual diplomatic social calendar.

The Ballroom has also been used on various occasions as a concert hall for memorial concerts as well as performances of arts. It is also the regular venue for Investitures which are usually twenty one a year, with nine in spring, two in summer and ten in autumn.

Other interesting areas are The Victoria Memorial which is the golden statue of Queen Victoria that is in front of the Palace facing The Mall. The Queen’s Gallery, is a space which is dedicated for exhibitions of items from the Royal Collection, a wider collection of art and treasures that are held in trust by The Queen for the Nation where only a small part of it is on display which are continuously rotated making it worth visiting and glimpsing them again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

London Eye

London Eye
London Eye – Popular Giant Ferris Wheel

The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel which is a modern and a very popular tourist attraction. This amazing structure adjoins the western end of Jubilee Gardens which was previously the site of the former Dome of Discovery, on the South Bank of the River Thames between Westminister Bridge and Hungerford Bridge, in the London Borough of Lambeth.

It is a giant observation wheel that is 135 metres tall structure built as a part of London’s millennium celebrations. Known as the Millennium Wheel, the official name was originally the British Airways London Eye, then the Merlin Entertainments London Eye between January 2011 and August 2014, the EDF Energy London Eye and is presently known as the London Eye.

Towards late January 2015, the London Eye would be sponsored by Coca Cola. The overall structure has a diameter of 120 metres and when it was erected in the year 1999, it was one of the world’s tallest Ferris wheel with its height surpassing by the 160 m of Star of Nanchang in 2006, 165 m of Singapore Flyer in 2008 and 167.6 m of High Roller – Las Vegas in 2014.

Highest Public Viewing Point in London

It has been supported by an `A’ frame only on one side unlike the taller Nanchang and the Singapore wheels and the Eye has been described as `the world’s tallest cantilevered observation wheel’, by its operators.Presently it is Europe’s tallest Ferris wheel offering the highest public viewing point in London, till it was superseded by the observation deck by the 245 metre on the 72nd floor of `The Shard’ that opened on 1st February 2013 to the public.

It is one of the most popular paid tourist attractions with over 3.5 million visitors annually in the United Kingdom with several appearances in popular culture. Architects like Frank Anatole, Nic Bailey, Steve Chilton, Malcolm Cook, and Mark Sparrowhawk together with the husband and wife team of David Marks and Julia Barfield had designed the London Eye.

It was Mare who was responsible for the construction management while Hollandia was the main steel work contractor with Tilbury Douglas as the civil contractor. Tony Gee & Partners, Consulting engineers, designed the foundation works and Beckett Rankine designed the marine works.

London Eye 1
Constructed in Sections/Assembled on Piled Platform in Rivers

Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners helped in The Tussauds Group in obtaining planning as well as the listed building consent in altering the wall on the South Bank of the Thames and also examined and reported the implication of a particular Section 106 agreement which was attached to the original contract.

Thereafter they also planned and listed building consent application for permanent retention of the London Eye which also involved the co-ordination of an Environmental Statement together with the production of a planning supporting statement with details for the reason of its retention.

Tensioned steel cables support the rim of the Eye resembling a huge spoked bicycle wheel with eighty spokes connecting the rim with the spindle. Lighting was redone by Color Kinetics with LED lightning in December 2006 to enable digital control of the lights, opposed to the manual replacement of gels over fluorescent tubes.

The wheels which were constructed in sections were floated up the Thames on barges and then assembled lying flat on piled platforms in the river and once the wheel was finalised, it was lifted into an upright position by a strand jack system made by Enerpac.

Amazing Construction with Awesome View

At first it was raised at 2 degrees per hour till it had reached a 65 degree and then left in that position for a week with engineers preparing for the second phase of installing the structure. It was a European project with major components from six countries, where the steel came from the UK and fabricated in The Netherlands by the Dutch company, Hollandia.

The cables were from Italy while the bearings were from Germany – FAG/Schaeffler Group, the spindle and hub was cast in the Czech Republic. The electrical components came from the UK and the capsules were made by Poma in France and the glass for all these came from Italy.The construction of the observation wheel took over a year and a half for completion for which over 1700 tonnes of steel were used for the structure with more than 3000 tonnes of concrete used for the foundations.

The capsule accommodating around twenty five people were transported all the way from France by train through the Chunnel with each egg shaped capsule being eight metres long weighing five hundred kilograms. Its twenty five meter long spindle has been built in Czech Republic and its rim diameter around two hundred times the size of a bicycle wheel.

The observation wheel tends to turn slow enough for the passengers to embark while it moves where a complete turn takes around thirty minutes. With its amazing construction of the glass capsules on the outer side of the rim, passenger can have an awesome view of 360 degrees over London.