Friday, 2 October 2015

Yosemite National Park, California

Location: California
Established: October 1, 1890
Size: 747,956 acres
In a high-country meadow two hikers crouch near the edge of a mirroring lake and watch a pika as it harvests blades of grass for a nest deep within a huge rock pile. When they resume walking, there is no other person in sight for as far as they can see. And on this sparkling summer's day, the view seems endless.
In the valley's crowded mall, families stroll by, eating ice cream, dodging bicycles. People pile in and out of buses. Shoppers hunt for souvenirs. Kids hang around a pizza place. Rock climbers, coils of rope slung over their shoulders, swap stories over beer on a patio. On a summer's day about 14,000 people are in Yosemite Village.
Both the solitude of the alpine ridge and the throngs of the valley are part of the experience when you visit Yosemite National Park. "No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite," wrote John Muir, whose crusading led to the creation of the park. To this temple come 4 million visitors annually. And about 90 percent of them go to the valley, a mile-wide, 7-mile-long canyon cut by a river, then widened and deepened by glacial action. Walled by massive domes and soaring pinnacles, it covers about one percent of the park. In summer, the concentration of autos brings traffic jams and air pollution.
Beyond the valley, some 800 miles of marked trails offer hikers easy jaunts or grueling tests of endurance in the High Sierra wilderness. Even the casual visitor can explore this solitude without getting outfitted for a backpack expedition.
This park, roughly the size of Rhode Island, is a United Nations World Heritage site. Here, in five of the seven continental life zones, live the mule deer and chipmunks of the valley and the marmots and pikas of the heights; the brush rabbit and chaparral of the near desert; the dogwood and warblers of mid-elevation forests; the red fir and Jeffrey pine of mile-high forests; the dwarf willow and matted flowers of Yosemite's majestic mountains.

Did You Know?

Towering more than 350 stories above Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is the largest exposed granite monolith in the world.

The park’s giant sequoia trees can live to be more than 3,000 years old.
Yosemite Falls usually stops flowing in late August. The cascade is fed solely by snowmelt, so the peak flow is in late May, when high snows in the Sierra Nevada melt. Over the warm summer months the flow dries up—but returns around October, when snow again begins to fall.
Copy for this series includes excerpts from the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, Seventh Edition, 2012, and the National Parks series featured in National Geographic Traveler.

Source:, (© James O'Neil/Getty Images), NationalGeographic

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Favites Coral polyps feeding at night and fluorescing when illuminated by ultraviolet light, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

          A coral reef is like an oasis in a vast, endless desert. The tropical sea is low in nutrients and has little shelter from the ravages of the seas and unrelenting predators, not to mention the endless miles of driftnets. On the contrary, the coral reef is teeming with life. It is a formidable fortress that resists the constant pounding of the waves and currents to provide shelter filled with nooks and crannies for its motley of inhabitants to hide from their predators. Records from fossil findings and carbon dating show that the reef system dates back at least 2 billion years ago and is deemed the oldest ecosystem in the world with complex animal and plant relationships that only the tropical rainforest can rival. With such long history, it's amazing the reefs could have survived so many catastrophes that the world has known. Considering the coral reefs are the oceans' barometers and are extremely sensitive to - weather pattern changes (the optimum temperature for

          These reefs to survive and flourish is between 25 and 29 degrees), - pollution washed into the sea from the land, - heavy sedimentation from flooding that flows down from the lands covering the corals or changing the salinity levels of the waters. Large areas of coral reefs can perish from such changes to their environment.

          But each time, the reefs bounced back from their states of disrepair to form new colonies and a more diverse collection of species. But remember all this happened over hundreds of millions of years and not just in our lifetime. Changes are slow and the evolutionary process is as much trial and error as persistence -help conserve what nature has already taken 2 billion years to perfect and imagine, in our short time revelling in the (mis)fortunes of the industrial revolution and the new markets etc…we are successfully breaking up the equilibrium of the Earth's momentum and relinquishing our children's' future.

How does a coral reef form?

          So then, how does it all happen? How does the first seed of life grow in this great, piece of desert under the sea? It all starts with a relationship and a simple, multicellular animal called the coral polyp. The coral polyp produces a stony skeleton from calcium particles extracted from the water. As they reproduce, they form colonies that link together to form a skeleton coral base that weigh many tonnes and can sometimes stretch for miles. The older generation dies and the new generations grow over the old layers of skeletons and so on, building and creating vast coral reefs. But the polyps grow very slowly and if on its own, they cannot build large coral reefs. Polyps are, after all animals and they do not create food but rather consume it. To be productive reef builders, the polyps sets up a symbiotic relationship with tiny, yellow-brown plants known as zooxanthellae. These plants are algae and they live inside the polyps giving the corals that familiar dull yellow, green and brown tint. These zooxanthellae pick up carbon and phosphates dissolved in the water and convert them, via photosynthesis into oxygen and various organic compounds like sugars and amino acids. The polyps then convert these into proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The zooxanthellae also consume the polyps' waste products like carbon dioxide and ammonia and recycles them, creating fresh oxygen and food from them. The algae may provide as much as 98% of the polyp's nutrients.

          As plants, zooxanthellae need sunlight for photosynthesis. This is why most corals are located in shallow, clear tropical or semitropical waters. which means that the most exuberant reef corals are found in the shallow areas not more than 75feet. The zooxanthellae also enhance skeleton growth, which therefore increases the growth rate of the coral reef. The algae convert the calcium particles extracted from the surrounding water into calcium carbonate (similar to limestone). This calcification process with the aid of the algae has a growth rate of 14 times faster in sunlight than during the night. Such symbiotic relationship is important to the growth of the coral reef… of which without, the coral reefs we see now would not even exist in such wonderful variations. This is the basis of the food structure in the coral reefs and this is now the seed is sown.

          However, not all corals are reliant on these algae for food and growth. The ones that are have dull greenish or brownish corals, adopting the colour of the algae itself whilst those that do not rely on zooxanthellae are vibrantly coloured like the Dendronephthya.

          There are approximately 500 species of corals to be found in the Indo-Pacific regions and about 70% of the total species live on coral reefs in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Hard Corals

          Hard corals are the reef builders. Many of these have created symbiotic relationships with tiny yellow brown plants called zooxanthellae. As discussed earlier the algae processes almost all the nutrients that the coral polyps need in return for a home and also by-products received from the polyps are taken in by the algae for photosynthesis. Most hard corals depend on the sunlight for optimal growth and that's why we find the greatest variety of hard corals closer to the surface. Corals found in deeper waters do not rely on the zooxanthellae for food. Instead they 'fish' for their food, utilising their stinging cells to capture planktonic prey.

          These corals are made up of colonies consisting of many individual polyps. These polyps secrete calcerous skeletons around them they retreat into, leaving only a ring of six or a multiple of 6 tentacles flagellating around the mouth opening. Each tentacle is equipped with a toxin filled, hair-like stinging cell called nematocyst. As the zooplankton touches the tentacles, it triggers a series of poisonous explosions, stunning the prey before it is whipped into the mouth. Some polyps also produce sticky threads of mucus to entrap the zooplankton. These threads of mucus are extruded from the linings of its stomach or from the edges of its mouth, used to entangle the hapless prey as it floats pass.

          soft coral Most hard corals feed during the night and on night dives, one can witness a complete transformation of the coral reef. The entire coral reef seems to be swaying with the motion of the sea like the autumn forest with leaves of various hues waving in the autumn breeze.
Those that feed day and night rely on their tentacles and their mucus strands to feed.

          Polyps can reproduce by regenerating from broken pieces of sufficient size. Soft tissues begin to grow at the line of breakage, secreting calcium carbonate for the new base. This occurs a few weeks after detachment. However, polyps also reproduce sexually. The eggs and sperms develop within the stomach walls of the polyp. The sperm is released into the water through the mouth and are drawn into neighbouring polyps, using its vacuum system created by the beating cilia in the polyp. The eggs fertilise and develop internally and leave at the swimming larval stage. The release of the larvae depends largely on the species and the region but it occurs in lunar cycles and with seasonalities. The larvae will float around for a few days or weeks and those that survive will settle on hard surfaces to found their own colonies, sometimes miles from its origin.

 Staghorn Coral (Agropora formosa) - 300cm wide

          These corals flourish in still waters of lagoons or deeper sections of fringing reefs. They are very common in our coral reefs and unfortunately, one can find many dead, bleached staghorns strewn on the beaches and shallow waters around popular holiday destination islands. About 70-80 species of the 100 known Acropora species is found in our region.

Montipora Coral (Montipora sp) - 200cm wide

          This is the second largest group of corals found on Southeast Asian reefs with habitats ranging from silty, coastal lagoons to the clear water reef fringes. This species is relatively difficult to identify with various forms such as table, branching and encrusting all in one species.

 Warty Coral (Pocillopora verrucosa) - 30cm

          This coral can be found in various habitats from strong wave exposed outer reef to the fringing coastal reefs. Warty because of the numerous wart-like growths covers the surface.

Creamy Coral (Stylophora pistillata) - 200cm wide

          Creamy corals are found in large colonies, sometimes creating large garden patches on the upper reaches of the outer reef slopes. They are recognisable from the thick branches with smooth, creamy texture. They are also found in shades of grey, pink, green or blue.

 Lobate Coral (Pories lobata) - 150cm height
        This coral is common in lagoons and coastal reefs or on the outer reefs. The ones found at Pulau Lima, off Pulau Redang has impressive structures of these porites. The largest specimens found grow to heights of 6m and are estimated to be over 800 years old! The colours tend to range from cream to khaki or green but in shallower waters the porites may be bright blue or purple coloured. Massive corals such as porites, monastrea and pocillopora have flat tops with its centre bald or killed off by siltation or regular exposure to low tides

 Mushroom Coral (Fungia scutaria) - 18cm

        This coral is flat and oval-shaped and varies in colour but is usually green or yellowish. This coral is not attached to any hard surfaces and are often found rocking and tossing on the sandy bottom or rubble areas. they are generally solitary, different from the other corals. They look as though they have been discarded especially when knocked upside down be wave actions but they are very much alive. Fleshy tentacles can be seen protruding from the gill like skeleton. They are able to move around, using these tentacles to aid them and can even extract themselves from under sand if buried.

 Table Coral (Acropora hyacinthus) - 150cm wide

        This is extremely common found growing on the upper edge of reef flats and outer reefs. They extend out like a flat plate and are seen to shelter a variety of fishes underneath, especially groupers. The large colonies are usually cream coloured or greenish brown and quite often the edges seem to have been bleached. But the growing tips are coloured pink or purplish. This is a sort of pigmentation that protects the young polyps from the u-v light.

Flower Coral (Alveopora fenestrata) - 8cm wide

        This looks like a soft coral but it the polyps on long, fleshy stalks, which gave it its namesake is connected to a hard coral skeleton. The polyp has 12 tentacles surrounding its mouth. This coral can withstand turbid waters, sometimes found in back reef channels and on outer reefs.

Tentacle Coral (Goniospora sp) - 30cm high

        Like the Flower coral, its stalked polyps are attached at the base to a hard coral skeleton. This coral is also common in turbid waters of coastal reefs and lagoons. This can be differentiated form the Alveopora where the Goniospora has 24 tentacles ringed round the polyp's mouth instead of 12 found in the former. The Tentacle coral is extremely aggressive towards other corals and can be seen whipping its tentacles around to prevent other coral species from encroaching its territory.

Cellular Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii) - 300cm

        Found in sprawling colonies in upper reaches of reef slopes, they are usually grey, brown or green in colour. They can be distinguished from the ridged margins that separate one colony from the other.

Dome Coral(Diploastrea heliopora) - 50cm high

        This coral is often mistaken for huge boulders in shallow waters where snorkellers would take their rests on. This rounded mounds have neatly arranged polyps on the surface and are densely packed. They are hardly attacked by boring worms, burrowing molluscs, even the Crown-of-thorns starfish avoids feeding on it.

Symphyllia Coral (Symphyllia sp), Crispy Coral(Oulophyllia crispia) and Brain Coral(Platygyra sp)

        These coral species are commonly found in lagoons, on the outer reefs and especially in clear waters with moderate current flow. These domed shaped species is covered with ridges and valleys. The feeding polyps are extended during the night to catch passing zooplanktons. They are generally dull coloured - brownish, creamy or greenish.

 Orange Daisy Coral (Tubastraea faulkneri) - 10cm wide

        This beautiful bouquet is often seen while exploring shipwrecks and caves at depths of 10-15m. They are able to live in dark areas as they are not dependent on the sunlight. instead they whip their numerous tentacles high on the stalks to pluck zooplanktons from the current. During the day, these tentacles are retracted. A certain species of Nudibranch and a species of mollusc that prey upon the vibrant orange polyps, assume similar coloration.

 Flex Coral (Favites flexuosa) - 40cm high

        The Acroporidae and the Faviidae are two families that are major contributors to the mass spawning scenes that have been well documented. The structure of colonies are incredibly variable from flat plates to rising columns.

 Soft corals

        These corals differ from the hard corals in that they do not possess hard skeletons. Instead they have a fleshy central body, in some species also strengthened by sclerites - a mesh made of silica or calcium particles. The polyps are attached to the central body by long stalks.
Soft Corals come in a spectrum of vibrant colours. Most do not rely of the helpful zooplanktons but instead they 'fish' for their food with the tentacles. Therefore they can live in deeper waters as they are less reliant of the sunlight for food.

        Soft corals seldom have growths of algae, sea squirts and sponges on their surface. The tentacles do a good job of clearing these unwanteds from settling. These animals also secrete various chemicals that prevent the alien elements from attaching themselves and this substance has been of great interest to scientists in search of their anti-foreign growth properties, there may be a secret key to anti cancer drugs.

 Laminar Coral (Turbinaria reniformis) - 300cm wide

This coral species is extremely difficult to identify as the form and coloration varies with the environment.

 Blue Coral (Heliopora coerulea) -150cm high

        The blue coral is often mistaken for a hard coral because of it looks as though it is protected by the calcareous skeleton and generally seem to be living in colonies The blue comes from the colour of the internal skeleton which is stored with iron salts. In shallower waters, its form is generally have robust vertical blades; in deeper waters, they form horizontal plates. These corals prefer clearer waters, in sheltered areas like lagoons, reef flats and sometimes they become dominant coral species spreading across these areas. The zooxanthellae live in these animals, providing them with coloration familiar in hard corals.

 Wrinkled Soft Coral (Sarcophyton trocheliophorum) - 60cm wide

        They are often seen in individual colonies but sometimes they form groups that can spread 10m wide and may be closely positioned to each other - giving it a sort of luxuriant carpet look. They are normally found in sheltered areas. When fully extended, they look like a furry coat and when retracted they look like the underside of a sheepskin coat.

 Dendronepthya Soft Coral (Dendronepthya sp)

        These corals stand out on its own. They are found in all reef habitats but they grow to impressive forms mostly at depths between 10-30m(33-100ft). dubbed the reef's wildflowers, these corals come in dazzling colours of pink, yellow, purple and red. They have stems where polyps are seen sprouting from the branches. The colonies look prickly which is the calcium shards used to support each polyp on the branch.

 Flexible soft coral (Sinularia flexibilis) - 50cm

        This coral has a fleshy trunk that has short vertical branches rising from it. The sclerites are densely packed into the animal's soft tissue to provide support.

        These animals have strong, horny skeletons made of gorgonin. This gives the animal strength and support but at the same time flexibility is achieved. Normally found at depths of 10 - 30m, the sea fan can be seen on vertical walls, facing currents and feeding on the microscopic food from the passing flow. Sea fans are hosts to a variety of symbiotic relationships. Some even shelters colonies of tiny seahorses.

 Black Coral (Antipathes sp) - 120cm high

        I used to be really disappointed on dives when I never got to see the black corals that the other divers were talking about. Then I realised that black corals are not black but are in fact variations of yellow, brown, orange or white. The black comes from polishing its horn-like skeleton and is used to make coral jewellery. The larger specimens are found on steep walls below 20-30ms depth.

 Harp Coral (Ctenocella pectinata) - 100cm high

        This is a rare Gorgonian sea fan which is found at depths of 20-30m (65-100ft) in areas where currents are strong. They are mostly red but sometimes can be found in shades of yellow or white. It is easily distinguished by its vertical, parallel branches rising from a y-shaped base that is anchored to the surface by a stumpy trunk.

Delicate Sea Whip (Junceela fragilis) - 180cm high

        The sea whip actually resembles long twigs that have been stabbed vertically into the ground. Individual stalks may grow to a length of 3-4m.

 Wire Coral (Hicksonella sp) - 100cm high

        The branches of this coral is covered with a soft leathery 'skin' which hides the black skeleton. This skeleton is also harvested for making black coral jewellery. As with other sea fans, this relative also thrive in areas where water currents are strong.

Source:, © Louise Murray/Visuals Unlimited, JourneyMalaysia

Friday, 17 January 2014

Marmora mines near Marmora, ontario, Canada

Marmora Mine
          Marmora is located between the towns of Madoc and Havelock along highway 7 in Hastings County. The name Marmora is taken from the Latin word for “marble”. The area was known for its rich iron content and mining operations began as early as the 1820′s to extract and smelt this mineral. Today you will find the remains of the water-powered refinery along the eastern bank of the Crowe River while the northern bank of the Crowe held the richest ore deposits. At its prime, the area was home to as many as two dozen mines. Perhaps the most successful of the mines was that of the Marmoraton which opened in 1955. The Marmoraton was owned by Bethlehem Steel Mills of New York and exported iron ore pellets.


Marmora Mine
Marmora is located between the towns of Madoc and Havelock along highway 7 in Hastings County. The name Marmora is taken from the Latin word for “marble”. The area was known for its rich iron content and mining operations began as early as the 1820′s to extract and smelt this mineral. Today you will find the remains of the water-powered refinery along the eastern bank of the Crowe River while the northern bank of the Crowe held the richest ore deposits. At its prime, the area was home to as many as two dozen mines. Perhaps the most successful of the mines was that of the Marmoraton which opened in 1955. The Marmoraton was owned by Bethlehem Steel Mills of New York and exported iron ore pellets.

          In 1953, before the Marmoraton could open, engineers first had to blast through 120 feet of limestone before reaching the high-grade ore, which was underneath. Once blasted out, the open pit mine measured approximately 1700 feet by 1200 feet and reached 600 feet deep. The mine employed some 300 men who worked to fill the 30 to 35-railway cars daily for transport south to Picton port where it was loaded into boats. The mine produced 520,000 tons of pellets annually. When the mine closed in 1979, it had mined almost 1.3 million tons of iron ore. Over time, underground streams and rainfall have slowly filled two thirds of the mine with water. So much so that it is now officially classified as a lake.

Deloro Mine Site
          The Deloro Mine Site has a rich and important history. From its place in the Madoc Gold Rush, to its innovations in creating and producing metals and alloys, Deloro played a key role in the history of mining and industry in Canada. There are many stories to be told about the Deloro Mine Site, its geology, its industry, its innovation and its people. There are also important lessons to be learned about the consequences of reckless exploitation of the environment – a legacy of our uninformed past – and the extensive cleanup that must follow.
While the first priority is to complete the cleanup of the mine site, the ministry is working with the community, heritage organizations, and other provincial ministries to preserve and promote the important natural, industrial, social and environmental history of the Deloro Mine Site. A heritage plan will be developed for the site that will include preservation of several remaining structures on the site, and the possible creation of on-site walking trails and commemorative plaques once the cleanup is complete.


Thursday, 26 September 2013

North Avenue Beach Lake Michigan, Chicago

        Many people mistake Lake Michigan in Chicago for an ocean with its expansive waters that seem to have no end in sight and its nearly endless shoreline. And with the Lake Michigan shoreline comes several top beaches in Chicago where you can play volleyball, sunbath, take walks, have a picnic, and more.        With beautiful blue water as far as the eye can see, you may think when you look out onto such beaches as Chicago's North Avenue Beach that you are in southern California not Chicago. You will see people playing sand volleyball, swimming and simply basking in the sun. And as you look out onto Lake Michigan there really is no end in sight giving it the look and feel of the Pacific Ocean. And oh those sunrises over the lake. Gorgeous.        Chicago beaches are free to the general public, and generally open for swimming from the Memorial Day to Labor Day, 9 a.m. - 9:30 p.m.        Here is a list of some of Chicago's most popular beaches with more added throughout the summer so be sure and check back often.        Have a favorite Chicag beach photo you'd like to share? E-mail your pictures to and we will feature it this summer in our Best of Summer in Chicago 2012 photo essay.        Oak Street Beach: Oak Street Beach is close to Chicago's Magnificent Mile and is a fabulous a people-watching location where several people pass by each day walking, running and rollerblading along the Lake Michigan bike path. You will also find sand volleyabll at this beach, as well as a restaurant. To get to the Oak Street Beach, which is 1000 N. Lake Shore Drive (at Oak Street), take the CTA Bus #151 Sheridan. Parking is limited.        North Avenue Beach: Just a smidge north of the Oak Street Beach is Chicago's North Avenue Beach, which is usually hopping with activity, and what some say is Chicago's equivalent to Manhattan Beach in southern California with its sand volleyball. North Avenue Beach also has mini-gym on the lakefront where you can strength training and take Spinning classes, as well as a rollerblading rink, restaurant and bar at Castaways (which is shaped like a boat) and a biking and running path. North Avenue Beach hosts to a couple professional volleyball tournaments each summer, as well as the Chicago Air & Water Show. North Avenue Beach is located at 1600 N. Lake Shore Drive at North Avenue. Take the CTA Bus #151 Sheridan. Parking is limited. (Suggested reading: Using Public Transportation in Chicago l Celebrating the Fourth of July in Chicago l Guide to the Taste of Chicago 2013)        Evanston Beaches: North of Chicago, Evanston is home not only Northwestern University but also five scenic beaches that come with views of the Chicago skyline. While a bit more low key than Chicago's beaches, the beaches in Evanston are most family focused and offer not only lakefront access but also ice cream and hot dog concessions. The beaches are located between Campus Drive and Dempster in Evanston. Parking is available so driving is fine. Take Sheridan Drive north. (Suggested reading: Fun Summer Activities for Parents and Kids l Beach Packing Checklist)        Montrose Beach: North of North Avenue Beach is the Montrose Beach, which also has sand volleyball and plenty of sand for sunbathing. This beach does not have a restaurant like North Avenue Beach's Castaways but does have a concession stand for sodas, water, hot dogs, and hamburgers. There is also plenty of parking (metered) so driving is fine. Montrose Beach is located at 4400 N. Lake Shore Drive (off of Lake Shore Drive, take the Montrose exit and head east).

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cape Greco sea caves, Cyprus

            Cape Greco is an unspoiled nature reserve, a landscape of walks, sea caves & a sea shore worth exploring , one of Cyprus natural attractions , a stunning natural beauty landmark , a protected park that offers amazing views all during the year. It is situated between Ayia Napa and Protaras, like it was intended to provide a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of these two popular holiday resorts. It is one of the top attractions of Ayia Napa , Protaras and Cyprus and the tranquility of the area is unique . Cape Greko (also known as Cavo Greco) is one of the few tourist places to visit that offers not only stunning views of the Ayia Napa coast and the Mediterrenean sea, natural beauty with wildlife but also opportunities to swim, dive, do some fishing, climbing and hiking.            The crystal clear waters of the Cape Greco sea shore are amazing. They seem to be like blue mirrors reflecting the sun's light and they provide the perfect backdrop for photographs and daily visits by boats from Ayia Napa . Wherever there are small bays , the boats make frequent stops and their passengers have an opportunity to dive and swim in these waters. A sight often seen is that of The Black Pearl pirate ship stopping only a few meters away from the shore, full of happy tourists merrily dancing to the tunes of the impresario Jack Sparrow , jumping into the waters and having a great time.            Sea caves are all around Cape Greco and one often sees people diving off the cliffs of the Cape into the sea, scuba diving, snorkeling and deep sea fishing. To grab the full beauty of these cliffs and caves a boat trip from Ayia Napa or Protaras is highly recommended             The area is covered by coastal shrubs , mostly Juniperus phoenicea and during spring time, plants such as chrysanthemums,, poppies, anemones.There about 300 plant species in the area, 11 of which are endemic. Many wild birds and small animals are seen here, such as partridge, wood pigeon, crow, owl, as well as a large number of migratory birds, which stop on the island to rest. These include blackbirds, thrushes etc. Foxes, hares and various species of bats, reptiles and butterflies are also seen here. An old lighthouse , which is no longer in use, provides a perfect watching tower for bird watchers.            There are 9 Cape Greco Walks for hikers and people that like to enjoy the beauty of the area. According to Cyprus Tourism Organisation , one of these trails forms part of the European Long Distance Trail E4, running from Gibraltar to Cyprus. The 2 kilometres Aphrodite nature trail which goes along the north east coast of the Cape Greco is part of the Aphrodite Cultural Route and commemorates the link with the goddess. Another trail leads to the small white washed church of Agii Anargyri with steps down to the sea where the locals believe that Holy Water exists. The trail leading to the so-called Cyclops’ caves provides hikers an opportunity to stop at the nearby picnic site for a pleasant rest.            Cape Greco is said to be the home of the Ayia Napa sea monster that is reputed to live in the waters and the caves around the area. Local people refer to it as the "filiko teras" , meaning the friendly monster , as there has not been any mention of it harming anything or anyone since it first became part of local folklore. Some liken it to the mythological monster Scylla , which had six heads and ate sailors that dared to go near her home. This version is highly unlikely otherwise it would not be referred to as the friendly monster!!!            There have been no sightings of this creature and it continues to evade "publicity" . Destination Truth featured an episode on the Sy Fy channel on the search for the Ayia Napa sea monster. This has proved inconclusive Also a study by Kendall Reeves to determine whether the Ayia Napa monster exists also concluded that it is unlikely             Other versions of this monster refer to it as being like a reptilian type of serpent or similar to a crocodile. This is more believable but since there are no confirmed sightings of this monster it will continue to be part of the local folklore and be used as a holiday attraction by the hotels of Ayia Napa and Protaras and their holiday brochures . Boat trips are available daily , taking holidaymakers from Ayia Napa and Protaras near Cape Greco, giving them the opportunity to enjoy the stunning views

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge, Oregon

         A waterfall as magnificent and memorable as any in the country is located just a 30- minute drive outside of Portland. Visiting Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall roaring, awe-inspiring cascade of icy water, lets you experience the power and beauty of nature up close and with ease. From the parking area off of I-84, a 5-minute walk is all that separates you from the exhilarating spray at the base of the falls.         According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. Although you can see the top portion of the falls from the highway, to view both tiers you have to walk to the viewing area located in a carved-out opening in the rock face. Tilting your head up in the narrow rocky confines of the steep cliffs, you get a mind-boggling perspective on the sheer magnitude of the falls.         For an even closer view, walk another several hundred feet up the paved trail to reach Benson Bridge, which spans the falls at the first tier's misty base. Standing on the bridge you have a perfect view of the top tier's full 542-foot height and a knee-wobbling vantage point over the second tier's 69-foot drop! The bridge is named for Simon Benson, a prominent Portland businessman who owned the falls in the early part of the 1900s. Before his death, Benson gave Multnomah Falls to the City of Portland, which later transferred ownership to the USDA Forest Service.         To make the outing complete, visit the Multnomah Falls Lodge which was built in 1925 to serve throngs of tourists who came to view the spectacular sights of the Columbia Gorge. Today, the historic structure (made of every type of rock found in the gorge) houses a gift shop with plenty of postcards, a restaurant with Northwest Cuisine and unbeatable views of the falls, and a US Forest Service Information Center where you can find trail maps. During the summer months vendors offer ice cream, coffee, sodas and other quick snacks from booths and carts in front of the lodge.

Friday, 20 September 2013

New Croton Dam in Croton, New York

 The New Croton Dam might be one of the coolest places you've never been.
              Located in Croton Gorge Park in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., it was completed in 1906 (the term "new" in its name is relative). The dam is among the most impressive man-made structures in the Northeast and boasts a majestic waterfall-like spillway, a sprawling retaining wall and an aerial bridge that offers a close-up view of the dam's rushing torrents. It's also said to be the third largest hand-hewn structure in the world, trailing only the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China. Yet outside of those who live and work in or near Cortlandt Manor and engineering history buffs, relatively few people even know about its existence.
              The structure brings to mind both Niagara Falls and the Hoover Dam, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. The dam's spillway is unusual in that it is located to the side of the retaining wall and is partly natural and partly man-made. Water flows down the natural portion in wild waterfall-like rapids, while at the man-made portion water spills down huge steps, creating a spectacle that looks like a giant wedding-cake-shaped water fountain.
              The original Old Croton Dam was built in 1842 across the Croton River. It brought water to Manhattan through a 41-mile underground aqueduct. By the 1880s it was clear New York City needed more water and plans were made to harness water from the Croton River's three branches with a new dam. To build it, a 20-square-mile area of land was needed and dozens of schools, dwellings, barns and churches were condemned. In addition, the residents of four towns had to move and 1,500 bodies in six cemeteries had to be dug up and relocated.
              Construction on the New Croton Dam began in the early 1890s. Engineers originally planned to build the dam a mile downstream where the bedrock was closer to the surface. Local protests forced the project to be moved to a location where the bedrock was at a much deeper level. As a result the dam's engineer, Alphonse Fteley, had to dig down 131 feet to find bedrock. If the spillway had gone over the front of the dam, the water might have damaged the dam's footings. To overcome this problem Fteley devised the unusual sideway spillway, which helps make the dam's appearance so unique.
Many of the workers who built the dam were stone masons from southern Italy. They earned wages of just $1.25 or $1.30 for a 10-hour workday. Not surprisingly, the workers were not always happy with the meager pay. There was a strike at the dam on April 1, 1900, and the National Guard had to be brought in to restore order.
              The dam was designed not only for function but for form as well. Scientific American wrote in 1905 that "this noble structure will form one of the most impressive and beautiful scenes, of an engineering character, to be witnessed in any part of the world."
That beauty is still visible today. From the base of the dam you can get close enough to the spillway to feel drops of water on your hair and listen to the falling waters roar, which is loud enough to drown out all but the most annoying of cellphone ring tones You also can walk right up to the retaining wall and feel like the smallest of ants in its massive shadow. On the south side of the park there's a path that goes up to the top of the dam and a bridge that crosses over the spillway. From the bridge you can gaze at the reservoir on one side, a steep drop on the other side and the dam's spillway below, which often forms rainbows that seem only feet away.
              Until recently the road across the top of the dam was open to cars, but in 1999 New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which supervises the city's water supply, closed the bridge for repairs. After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the road was kept closed because of security concerns. The dam also was guarded during World War I and II.
              In addition to the dam itself, the Croton Gorge Park is a 97-acre retreat with giant grass fields, a small playground, picnic tables and hiking trails. New York state's Old Croton Aqueduct Trail starts at the park and follows the old underground aqueduct about 40 miles to New York City, although there are breaks in the trail along the way.
The New Croton Dam is a great location for an inexpensive family outing, solitary trek, or even a romantic date. The dam itself is a breathtaking engineering wonder, and if more people don't learn about it and experience it for themselves it would be ... well ... a dam shame.