Thursday, October 30, 2014

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park – UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Mesa Verde National Park is located in southwest Montezuma County, Colorado in United States. It is one of the largest archaeological preserve which has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was named as the `Number One Historic Monument in the World by Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic magazine called it`one of the 50 Places to visit in a lifetime’. Its canyons were created by erosion from the receding ancient oceans as well as waterways resulting in Mesa Verde National Park elevations that ranged from around 6,000 to 8,572 feet being the highest elevation at Park Point.

Now the terrain in the park is a transition zone between the low desert plateaus as well as the Rocky Mountains. The park was created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to protect some of the well preserved cliff dwelling in the world or according to him to preserve the works of man.

 Mesa Verde National Park seems to be the only cultural National Park which was set aside by National Park System and covers an area of 81.4 square miles towards the Four Corners, featuring numerous ruins of homes and villages that were built by the Ancient Pueblo inhabitants, known at times as the Anasazi. One will find over 4000 archaeological sites with over 600 cliff dwellings of these people at the site.

Known for Cliff Dwellings Structures

Mesa Verde is known for its cliff dwellings that are structures built with the caves and beneath outcroppings in cliff which include the Cliff Palace. This is considered to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.

The term Mesa Verde when translated into English from Spanish means ‘green table’, which is considered to contain some of the best and notable preserved archaeological sites. The structures within these alcoves were of blocks of hard sandstones which were held together and plastered with adobe mortar.

Specific constructions were often similar though they were generally unique in form due to individual typography of various alcoves along the canyon walls. The cliff dwelling of Mesa Verde was a contrast to the earlier constructions and villages on the top of the mesas, reflecting a region wide trend towards the growing regional population into close and defensible quarters during the AD 1200 era.

World Class Archaeological Sites

The structure here showed a trend of the inhabitants that moved towards time masonry techniques on former jacal wall which were commonplace in architectural design. Mesa Verde National Park offers the tourists glimpses into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people.

Scientist has done research on the ancient dwellings of Mesa Verde by making comparisons between the Ancestral Pueblo peoples and their contemporary indigenous descendants who continue to live there. There are twenty four Native American tribes in the southwest who have ancestral affiliation with the sites at Mesa Verde.

The entrance of the Park is nine miles east of Cortex and 35 miles west of Durango in South-western Colorado on the US Highway 160. One can schedule a day or two to explore and enjoy the beauty of Mesa Verde National Park and experience the world class archaeological sites with the beautiful canyons and plateaus of Mesa Verde Country.

Benefits Of A Cabin

A cabin in the woods probably doesn't seem like much of a vacation, but when you spend time with a large group, you will find that there are several benefits of staying in a cabin. There are many to choose from, and when looking at our cabins, you will find that there are various sizes as well as amenities that are offered.

The cost of the vacation is often lower when you stay in a cabin, especially with a large group. Each person can split the cost, or you can divide the cost up by family if there are a few families staying together. It is usually less than staying at a hotel for a few days, and the environment is often better. You can wake up in the morning, sit on the front porch, and look out to see the mountains, enjoying fresh air and the beauty of nature.

Another benefit is that you get to spend time together that you might not get to spend if you were to stay in hotel rooms. You can play board games, watch movies and simply talk about life in general. A cabin is an ideal location for a reunion or to celebrate a special event like a wedding or anniversary.

Tours of San Antonio

San Antonio
There are a lot of things to see and do in San Antonio. Visitors to this south Texas city who are having a hard time deciding what to see can take a guided tour. Inside San Antonio Tours is one of the companies in San Antonio that offers these tours.

This company offers small group tours with no more than 14 people. The small size of the group makes it easy for curious tourists to ask the tour guide questions about the attractions they see.

Orientation tours and highlight tours are available. The orientation tours leave from downtown hotels at 9:30 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. Travelers who take these tours will see downtown San Antonio, the Alamo, the River Walk, two missions and La Villita. La Villita is a square block of galleries, shops and restaurants. The tour stops for lunch in an area within walking distance of a variety of restaurants.

Highlight tours leave from downtown hotels at 1:30 p.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. These shorter tours take travelers to one mission instead of two and spend less time in the downtown area.

Travelers can also arrange to have the tour company pick them up outside the downtown area. Private tours are available.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Robben Island, South Africa

Robben Island
Robben Island – `Seal Island’

Robben Island is located in South Africa’s Table Bay which is around 4.5 miles from Cape Town’s beaches. The name is Dutch for `seal island’ and Robben Island is roughly oval in shape measuring around 3.3 km long north-south, 1.9 km wide having an area of 5.07 km.

The island is composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks which belong to the Malmesbury group. It is flat and a few metres above sea level due to the outcome of ancient erosions. This island is well known for the fact that Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was kept a prisoner on Robben Island for 18 years out of the 27 years he served in prison before the fall of apartheid.

Besides him, Kgalema Motlanthe also served as President of South Africa spending 10 years on the island as a political prisoner along with Jacob Zuma present President of South Africa. When the Dutch came to settle in Cape in the 17th century, they used the island as a prison, which continued till the year 1991.

Used as Prison/Hospital/Military Base 

Towards the 19th century, African chiefs from various tribes were banished and sent to this island as well as Muslim leaders from Dutch colonies in the East Indies who were also imprisoned. Besides them, soldiers and civilians were also sent to prison on this island.

Several of the prisoners were charged with false crimes while others were charged with no crimes at all. Between the 17th and the 20th century, this island was used as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups as well as a military base. During the period of the 19th century, several people suffered from mental sickness.

Leprosy patients were also isolated on Robben Island since the climate seemed to be healthy and they could be kept away from the society and lepers were confined to a community on the island till 1931. Robben Island is considered a South African National Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Symbolizes Triumph of Human Spirit/Freedom/Democracy over Oppression

What remains from its episodic history are the 17th century quarries, the tomb of Hadije Kramat who died in the year 1755, the 19th century `village’ administrative buildings including a chapel and a parsonage, a small lighthouse, the leper’s church, the only remains of a leper colony, derelict World War II military structures surrounding the harbour and the stark and functional maximum security prison of the Apartheid period of the 1960s.

The buildings of Robben Island, bears testimony of its amazing history while at the same time symbolizes thetriumph of the human spirit, freedom and democracy over oppression. The island is now a popular tourist destination which can be reached by ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

 It is open all year round and depending on the weather, tours of the island and prison are led by guides who were earlier prisoners on the island. The land on the island is owned by the State except the island church. The Robben Island Museum operates as a site or as a living museum.

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.

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.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mount Roraima – Venezuela

Mount Roraima – Venezuela

Mount Roraima – Highest Tepuy on Triple Border of Venezuela/Brazil/Guyana

Mount Roraima is the highest tepuy which is Spanish name for Table Mountain, on the triple border of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana and lies on the Guiana Shield towards the south-eastern corner of Venezuela’s’ 30,000 square km Canaima National Park forming one of the highest peak of Guyana’s Highland Range.

It is one of the most extraordinary natural geological formations in the world, dating back to around 2 billion years ago in the Precambrian,the highest of the Pakaraima mountain chain in South America. Mount Roraimas’ 31 square kilometre summit areasare defined by 400 meter tall cliff which is on all sides of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela.

The triple border point is at 5°12’08”N60°44’07”W though the highest mountain point is Maverick Rock which is 2,810 metres, towards the south end of the plateau and totally within Venezuela. The name has been derived from Rorai-ma which means `big blue green’ in Permon and the only way to ascend this mountain is to climb from the Gran Sabana side in Venezuela.

Sir EverardimThurn – First to Climb the Tepug

Sir Everard im Thurn was the first person to climb the tepug in 1884, the top of which consist of quartzite and sandstones, which appear to be black due to the added organic matter like fungi and moss accumulated over the years.
Erosion has created ponds and pol with clear crystal rain water. Besides this there are also some areas with pink sand which has an amazing landscape feeling. Most of the species that are found on Roraima are unique and plants like pitcher plants – Heliamphora, bellflower – Campanula and rare Rapatea heather are found on the escarpment and the summit and rainfall occurs almost every day of the year.

The entire surface of the summit is bare sandstone with only some bushes and algae present while bristling and low scanty vegetation is found in the small sandy marshes which intersperse the rocky summit, creating a unique ecosystem which include many endemic species inclusive of the unique carnivorous pitcher plant.

One of the Highest Waterfalls in the World

The species are considered as vulnerable and tourists need to be educated to bring about awareness on the importance of not handling these wild animals with close population that needs to be monitored since the species are known only from a single location.Due to the rainfall, most of the nutrients which are in the soil tend to get washed away by torrents that flow over the edge, forming some of the highest waterfall in the world.

The steep sides of the tepuy around the rainforest and altitude at the summit creates a unique climatic atmosphere which is known for its changes and the moist air which rises from the surrounding rainforest in the tropical heat gives rise to heavy rain clouds which billow up and across the top of Roraima resulting in frequent showers.

During the nights, the summits are cool due to the altitude. One may experience frequent showers while ascending or descending the cliff and if the rainfall is heavy one would also have to wait at river crossings till the level of the river recedes down. Guides are available to direct the tourist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Warsaw Old Town

Warsaw Old Town
Warsaw Old Town - Oldest Historical Centre of Warsaw

Warsaw Old Town is the oldest historical centre of Warsaw which dates back to the 13th century. It is bounded by Wybrzeze Galanskie along the bank of the river Vistula, the streets of Grodzka, Mostowa Podwale and is one of the most prominent tourist attractions in Warsaw.

At the centre of the town is the Old Town Market Place, a beautiful market square with several restaurants, shops and café while the surrounding streets comprises of medieval architecture like the City Walls, the Barbican and St. John’s Cathedral.

The largest part of the Old Town had been destroyed at the time of the Second World War but was thereafter reconstructed. The construction was done is such a precise manner that it left no traces of the war or that it had been rebuilt.

The Old Town is also a great location to purchase souvenirs since most of the souvenirs stores are located here in Warsaw. This town has been honoured by UNESCO in 1980 who added the Warsaw Old Town to its list of World Heritage Sites.

Gothic Style to Renaissance Style

The Old Town Market Place the main centre of the Old Town dates back to the end of the 13th century and till the end of the 18th century was the heart of the whole of Warsaw where the representative of guilds as well as merchants assembled in the Town Hall and where fairs and some execution took place.

This Hall was built prior to 1429, though it was pulled down in 1817 and the houses which surrounded it represented the Gothic style till the great fire in 1607 which was thereafter built according to late Renaissance style.

The Royal Castle is an excellent example of the Baroque style which was built in the 14th century. King Zygmunt III Waza, in 1569, shifted his residence there when Warsaw was the capital of Poland and between 1598 and 1619; he had the caste restyled as a polygon by an Italian architect. Towards the 18th century, King Augustus III revamped the east wing to Baroque style and King Stanislaw Poniatowski added the Royal Library.

The Royal Castle - Museum

The Royal Castle was a residence as well as hosting session location for the kings of the Sejm – Polish Parliament. Presently it serves as a museum with display of furniture, famous paintings together with several great works of art and its amazing interiors contain various original furnishings, paintings, statues and other objets d’art.

One will also find works of Bernardo Bellotto and Marcello Bacciarelli among the several paintings. Most of the buildings in the Old Town are a blend of various styles from Gothic to Baroque, a unique and old style of architecture. Other attractions are the various churches, Fukier House, Pelican House, Pod Blacha Palace, Salvator House, besides the City Walls and the Barbican.

The Barbican which was built in 1548 is located where the Old Town merges into the New Town and serves as an access gate for the Old Town. It is amalgamated directly into the Warsaw City Wall surrounding the Old Town. Most of the Warsaw Old Town Wall survived since it was built in the 14th century and it took the workers around 200 years for completion.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Puerto Iguazú
Puerto Iguazu – Tourist Destination in Northeast Argentina

Puerto Iguazu is a tourist destination in the Northeast of Argentina towards the Triborder with Paraguay and Brazil with the Iguazu Falls in the vicinity which are the most amazing falls in the world. It is surrounded by subtropical vegetation which is part of the Iguazu National Park.

The Iguazu National Park was established in 1934 by the national government and the town was then renamed Puerto Iguazu in 1943. This site has been listed as World Heritage site by UNESCO which is made up of 275 falls reaching up to a height of 70 meters that are scattered in a semi-circular shape, providing an amazing spectacle with its natural scenery, where the traces of ancient Jesuit missions are still appreciated.

This waterfall can be explored on foot since there are easy accessible circuits with footbridges meant for such purposes. Crossing stairs, bridges and trails together with the vegetation around, provides the most awesome views which can be enjoyed from the lower ground as well as from the heights where one can reach the highest point of exhilaration at `The Devil’s Throat’.

Spectacular Falls with Rainbow Formation 

Though the visitors tend to get a bit wet at a point at that spot, it is worthwhile exploring this place to witness the beauty of the waters with their fall. Its 80 metres high cliff has one of the most spectacular falls together with the rainbow formation which portrays an amazing view.

Besides the Devil’s Throat, Bosetti, Two Sisters, San Martin, Tres Mosqueteros Adam and Eve and Rivadavia are the other best known falls and during nights at the time of full moon, there are special tours that are conducted to have glimpses of the rainbow formed in the moonlight.

With the high temperature together with the moisture in the environment, this area is turned into a large greenhouse which provides the appropriate condition to accommodate above 400 bird species, with 2,000 vegetable species together with a large diversity of orchids, ferns along with typical type of pala rosa.

 Numerous insects like the outstanding colourful and large butterflies are also found here which forms this park into one of the richest biomass on the planet earth.

Several endangered species like the jaguar, alligators, monkey, snakes, tapirs as well as the funny coatis also tend to approach the tourist for some fruits.

Economy Based on Tourism 

Its economy is based on tourism and with the several hotels in the city, the principal source of jobs has been provided for the inhabitants with several international hotels being constructed all along the banks of the Iguazu River. Other attractions include Three Frontiers wherein Argentine, Brazilian and Paraguayan borders meet.

 It is also a home to a community of active artisans, the La Aripuca resort, the Museum of Images of the Jungle – a collection of woodvarvings, the Mborore Museum, the Guira Oga Centre for Bird Rehabilitation, the Luis Honorio Rolon Municipal Nature Park, the Hotel Esturion, the Lguazu Grand Hotel and Casino to name a few.

The Wanda Mines in the nearby area also draws gemstone and geode collectors whereby the mines are the site of some of Argentina’s best agate, quartz, amethyst and topaz lodes which have been operative since 1950s.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fraser Island – World Heritage Site

Fraser Island
Fraser Island is perched along the southern coast of Queensland, Australia and is about 200 km north of Brisbane and is within the Fraser Coast Region. Its length is 120 km and 24 km wide. It is a wonderful beach and is a heritage listed island in 1992.

Fraser Island is also considered to be the largest island in Queensland and Australia’s sixth largest island as well as the largest island on the East Coast of Australia. This Heritage site is an ecologist dream having around 640 square miles of natural paradise which is untouched.

One will find amazing remnants of tall rainforests with 1,000 years old trees growing on sand with half of the world’s fresh water dune lakes on the inland from the beach. The combination of shifting sand dunes, lakes and tropical rainforests has made it an exceptional site to explore.

The island is filled with eucalyptus woodland, mangroves forests, rainforests, wallum and peat swamps together with sand dunes and coastal heaths which have originated due to the accumulation of around 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock which has provided a natural catchment for sediment carried by strong offshore current along the coast towards the northern area.

From Great Sandy Island to Fraser Island

The island is also a home to a small section of mammal species together with a diverse variety of birds, amphibians and reptiles and also includes the occasional saltwater crocodile. Being a part of the Fraser Coast Region, it is protected in the Great Sandy National Park.

The island was inhabited by aboriginals for around 5,000 years. For a short period of time the island was known as Great Sandy Island and came to be known as Fraser due to the stories from a shipwreck survivor, Eliza Frazer.

Fraser’s discovery has been credited to Captain Cook who had named many of the landmark features and its European name is the outcome of the shipwreck incident and the capture of the captain and his wife by local aborigines, the ordeal of which drew worldwide attention to the island, which was renamed in her honour and is now a popular tourist destination.

A Paradise with Fauna/Flora/Fish/Fruits/Nut – Fresh Water

This island is more than a unique location for visitors, being a home to aboriginal tribes who had used it like a paradise with its fauna and flora with endless bounty in fish and seafood, fruits, nuts together with an abundant supply of fresh water.

As amazing as the coast, the waters which border the island coastline has been the site for over 50 shipwrecks, the most notable one being the Maheno, a former trans-Tasman luxury line as well as a World War 1 hospital ship.

Till date, one will find the remains of the ship lying on the beach north of Happy Valley, which is also an added attraction for tourist, visiting the island. Being listed as a World Heritage site, the island also joins the ranks of the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Parks and Uluru, as a unique environment.

From the archaeological site, their heritage is evident, together with midden heaps, ceremonial bora rings and stone implements which can be seen while touring the island. Fraser Island is a wonderful destination to explore with its amazing beauty which has been untouched

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Channel Islands – Chain of Eight Islands

The Channel Islands
The Channel Islands also known as Santa Barbara Islands, are a chain of eight islands spreading over 150 miles long and about 12 – 70 miles off the Pacific coast of Southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel in United States of America.

The island has two groups, the Santa Barbara group towards the north which is separated from the mainland by the Santa Barbara Channel, including San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa, a group of three small islets. Santa Catalina group is divided from the mainland by the San Pedro Channel and the outer Santa Barbara Channel, including the islands of Santa Barbara, San Nicolas, Santa Catalina and San Clemente.

It’s size ranges from Santa Cruz – 98 square miles, which is the largest, to the smallAnacapa islets and together cover around 1 square mile. Five of the islands form part of the Channel Islands National Park while the waters around these islands make up the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The island with its isolated chain off the Southern California coast has a splendid natural beauty with half of the Channel Island National Park covering an area of 49,354 acres which is underwater and is a home to 2,000 species of animals and plants.

Wild Selections of Organisms

Tourist while visiting the Park can explore the water around the island and check for some of the best sea kayaking and diving or trek through the park’s remote islands in California. One will also find wide selections of organisms on and surrounding the Channel Islands, like bald eagles, sharks, to intertidal species like sea stars and barnacles to the miniature parasites living on plants and animals.

The Channel Islands supports few native animal species than the similar habitats on the mainland due to the isolation and its remote nature. Around 23 endemic terrestrial animals are identified in the park which includes eleven land birds which are Channel Island subspecies or races.

There is a lot of weather variation in the Park and visitors to the islands need to dress in layers with short and long pants, along with fleece jacket or sweatshirt, windbreaker, hat, sunscreen together with waterproof outer garment.

Besides this, with regards to the footwear, visitors should wear sturdy hiking shoes which would be comfortable for hiking expedition. Since there are no supplies on the island, visitors need to carry water, food supply along with other necessities.

Site of Earliest Paleontological

The Channel Islands have provided the earliest evidence of human seafaring and is also the site of the earliest paleontological evidence of human in North America. The Northern Channel Islands on the other hand indicate the settlement by maritime Paleo Indian people around 13,000 years ago.

Some unique and invaluable record of human interaction with Channel Island marine and terrestrial ecosystems from the late Pleistocene to historic times have been found from the archaeological sites on the island.

The northern islands historically, were occupied by the Island Chumash and the southern islands by the Tongva. The Chumash with the Tongva were removed in the early 19th century from the island and taken to Spanish mission while the pueblos on the adjacent mainland and the Channel islands, for century was used mainly for ranching and fishing activities.

This had a tremendous impact on the island ecosystems, in the local extinction of sea otters and other species. With the management by federal agencies, or conservation groups, restoration of the island ecosystems has made remarkable progress.