Friday, October 24, 2014

Centre Pompidou

Centre Pompidou
Centre Pompidou – Complex Building-High Tech Architecture

Centre Pompidou which is also known as Centre Georges Pompidou is a complex building in Beauborg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris which is near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil and the Marais. The Centre Pompidou has delighted and amazed many visitors since it was opened in 1977 not for its outstanding collection of modern art, the largest in Europe but for its radical architectural statement.

It had been designed in accordance with the style of high tech architecture by a team of architectures comprising of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano together with Gianfranco Franchini. Moreover, it also houses the Bibliotheque publique d’information or the Public Information Library, which is a vast public library, the Musee National d’Art Moderne one of the largest museum of modern art in Europe and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. The Centre is known locally as Beaubourg, due to its location and is named after Georges Pimpidou, the President of France from 1969 to 1974, who had commissioned the building and officially opened by Valery Giscard d’Estaing on 31 January 1977.

Ultra Contemporary Artistic Hub

The former President Georges Pompidou who always wanted an ultra-contemporary artistic hub finally got it and competition winning architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers designed the building from the interior out with utilitarian features like pipes, air vents, plumbing together with electrical cable as part of the external façade, sparing the exterior space for events and exhibitions.

The sculpture, Horizontal, a free standing mobile which is twenty five feet high created by Alexander Calder was placed in 2012 in front of the Centre Pompidou. The vibrant and dynamic arts centre is a delight with its irresistible cocktail of galleries as well as cutting edge exhibitions, dance performances, hand-on workshops, cinemas together with other entertainment venues.

The exterior on the other hand is an awesome area to linger and watch the street performers together with the fanciful fountains. The Centre Pompidou has attracted over 150 million visitors since 1977.

Main Attraction – Musee National d’Art Moderne

The Musee National d’Art Moderne, which is France’s national collection of art that dates from 1905 onwards is the main attraction which is on the 4th and 5th floors, a fraction from the 100,000 pieces which are on display, include the work of cubist, surrealist and fauvists together with pop art and contemporary works.

Entry from rue du Renard to the large Bibliotheque Publique d’Information takes up some of the first and the whole of the second and the third floors while the sixth floor has two galleries for temporary exhibitions together with a hyperindustral restaurant – Georges which has a magnificent view of Paris and can be accessed through a free lift or elevator.

Admission to the rooftop is included with the museum and exhibition charges or one could purchase a panorama ticket to go to the roof. On the first Sunday of every month there is also a free admission to the museum. On the ground floor and in the basement, there is extra space for cinemas as well as more exhibitions.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lake Karachay

Lake Karachay
Lake Karachay – Largest Leakiest Nuclear Facilities 

LakeKarachay is a small lake in Russia on the south west Chelyabinsk region which is close to the modern border with Kazakhstan and placed within the Mayak Production Association. It is one of the country’s largest leakiest nuclear facilities.

Built in top secret and in great haste somewhere between 1945 and 1948, the Mayak plant was at first a reactor for the creation of plutonium for the Soviet atomic bomb project. Following the procedure of Stalinist as well as supervised by NKVD Chief Lavrenti Beria, the production of large number of weapons grade material matching the U.S. nuclear superiority that followed the atomic bombing of Nagaski and Hiroshima was the highest priority, uncaring on the expenses for the same.

Workers’ safety or responsibilities on the disposal of material were not taken into consideration and the reactors were optimized for plutonium production resulting in tons of contaminated materials with utilization of primitive open cycle cooling systems that directly contaminated thousands of gallons of cooling water which the reactors used each day.

Lake Karachay 1
Safety Measures Overlooked

Being too keen in catching up with the technological development of western weapons, the engineers at Mayak did not pay much heed to any safety measures, the outcome of which ended in the facility suffering from various major accidents in the early fifties and sixties.

The lake being the largest natural water body in providing cooling water to the reactors, were getting contaminated by the open cycle system. Being closer but small to provide cooling water, it soon became a convenient dumping spot for high level radioactive waste and the Soviet Union used Karachay as a dumping site for radioactive waste from Mayak.

Built in the 40s as Soviets moved their armament production east in order to avoid the Nazi invasion, Mayak became one of Russia’s most important nuclear weapons factories whichwere beyond limits to foreigners for around 45 years.

Most Polluted Area 

It was only after the1992 signed decree by President Boris Yeltsin on the opening of the area, that the Western scientists were able to access and a report from Washington D.C based Worldwatch Institute declared it as the most polluted area on the planet. Radioactivity level was measured at 4.44 exabecquerels which was almost comparable to the entire level distributed across a larger area by the Chernobyl disaster.

As per the Natural Resources Defence Council, the lake seemed to be polluted to such an extent that its waters could kill a human being within an hour.The lake began drying up in 1960s and a drought in 1968 accompanied with strong wind carried the radioactive dust from that area affecting half a million people with levels which were similar to the Hiroshima during the atomic bombing incident.

 This resulted in the lake being filled with 10,000 hollow convert blocks between 1978 and 1986 which were to keep the sediment from shifting. Some are speculating if there is a possibility of cleaning the area and fear that the radiation could contaminate the Tetscha River as well as the Atlantic Ocean.

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.