Saturday, June 28, 2014

Santorini - Austere Beauty in a Ticking Bomb

I was eager to spend a full day on Santorini, a cultured adult excursion that promised wine and good olives in a geologist's playground. It was to be a brief interlude of contemporary sophistication sandwiched between several sweaty days amongst ancient ruins, mostly brothels. But first we had to get to shore. The big boat was unable to tie to a pier or anchor--the port cannot accommodate large vessels, and the water in the caldera is too deep--so we had to take a ten minute tender to the main island of Santorini (Thera) and the port of Athinios. This time the procession to disembark the Ruby Princess was very orderly, so much so that I wondered whether body snatchers had been at work overnight. This could not be the same passenger list. I get much more fodder from standard human chaos, and this herd was just not cooperating.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pictures of the Moment - Niagara Falls

A "Maid of the Mist." The Canadian side has gone over to Hornblower Cruises and red ponchos, which sounds jarring considering 168 years of history. But the next generation won't know any better. If only there were only boats.

Niagara Falls is a natural wonder spoiled. It's a challenge to take any picture of the falls that doesn't include a high rise or a casino, let alone a wax museum, though well-positioned mist helps.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Wall in Fermont, Québec: "taking the black flies" in a north wind

One of the perks of the geology profession is travel to places that other people aren't rushing to visit. These backcountry outposts can be the most interesting destinations. You experience real culture in rural places, not the optimally-commercial faces painted by tourism marketing. And lines are short.

One such place I've spent a lot of time at recently is the "company town" of Fermont, Québec. Above the 52nd parallel, it is one of the most northerly French-speaking communities in the world, incorporated in the 1970s to exploit vast deposits of iron ore. Fermont's dominant feature is "the Wall" (le Mur), a single, self-contained apartment building--stretching a length of 1.3 kilometers (4300 feet)--that purposefully shelters most of town from the cold north wind. The building contains the police department and hospital, a bowling alley and city offices. Lucky residents of the windbreak can also enjoy shopping, restaurants, schools and a swimming pool all without having to leave the building for nine months of winter. The liquor store and bars are well-frequented.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pictures of the Moment - Grand River Country

The mighty Nith.

You can almost see the real Canada from Toronto. For me, the authentic experience means getting off the main motor route between Detroit, USA and Montreal. My own little bit of Canadian paradise is in the orderly farmlands of southern Ontario. To find this treasure, just exit Highway 401 anywhere in the greater district of Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, set your GPS to avoid highways, head opposite of any signs leading to box stores and explore.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ephesus - Hot Dust of Centuries in the Footsteps of Saints

An Apostle shook the dust of Ephesus from his feet and moved on. The sea left its silt here and also departed. All her people are reduced to dust. Only the heat remains and the glare of marble, a searing memory of what was.

Today's shore excursion began with the usual assortment of people cutting in line to be the first on a bus. It's much like the sun rising in the east. The ride to Ephesus is about 30 minutes through a lusher countryside than I expected--orchards of peach, olive, fig, mulberry and pomegranate. There were good views of the port of Kusadasi (KOOSH-ah-DAH-seh), Turkey as we climbed up from the coast, the Ruby Princess gleaming white in the distance. Our guide pointed out several luxury homes, looking down on the Aegean, that are selling for less than US$100,000. I could live here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Pictures of the Moment - Highlights of Big Nickel, Sudbury

The largest city in northern Ontario, Sudbury is a city of superlatives.

I'm in town for a few short days on a business trip to Laurentian University.

One of the local features I immediately sought out was a first hand view of shatter cones resulting from an extraterrestrial impact approximately 1.85 billion years ago. These horsetail-shaped, shock-related geological structures only form in bedrock proximal to meteorite craters or underground nuclear explosions, radiating outward from the source of the shock-wave in concentric patterns. The Sudbury Basin is the erosional remnant of such an impact crater, the second largest on Earth. A catastrophic global-change event even larger than that responsible for the Chicxulub crater in Yucatán, Mexico (which is widely believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs), the Sudbury impact was directly responsible for the metal-rich impact melt that now makes Sudbury one of the word's largest mining centers. Mines of nickel and lesser copper have operated continuously since the beginning of the 20th Century.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Day at Toronto Zoo

Zoos are controversial places these days, though not to the same extent as theme-park aquariums. For me, the benefits of a well-managed zoo outweigh the negatives. Without them, many species that are critically endangered or extinct in the wild would be gone forever. Modern civilization may be better than asteroids at killing off other species, but late 19th and 20th century creature comforts conversely gave us time to develop conservational values that are unique in human history. Ancient peoples living communally in nature didn't try to save the moa, the mammoth, or trees on Easter Island. At least we feel guilty about extinction now when clearing habitat for malls.

Toronto Zoo is divided into a separate Discovery Zone for children and six loosely-themed "zoogeographic regions" or domains representing regions of the world: Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Indo-Malaya, Tundra Trek, and the Canadian Domain. There is a lot to see, but the typical visitor--who doesn't read every informative sign in depth--can get through most of the displays in 5-6 hours. Unless bear connoisseurs, North American visitors who have been outside of a city may wish to skip much or all of the Canadian domain. I've seen enough deer looming in my headlights.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Betting on my Australian friends

Aussie, Aussie Aussie! Oi! Oi! Eh?

I know one person in Germany. I personally don't know anyone yet in Turkey or Russia (and I've never even been to Russia). But I know loads of people in Australia, having lived in the Lucky Country for three fantastic years. I only wish I'd begun this blog while I was still based in Perth.

The top 10

Attention Australians! Please share my main page link with friends to return your homeland to the three spot on my blog's all-time pageview list, in line with the other countries I've lived in. A shout-out in advance for the support. Keeping track of blog pageviews by country is like watching a horse race, and I'm betting on Australia to show.

And thank you to all kind visitors from around our beautiful world, particularity those places I've never or barely visited. I appreciate you have invested time in visiting this blog, and I hope you enjoy the content. May we cross paths someday in your home country!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pictures of the Moment - All-natural beaches of Turks and Caicos

Summer has finally arrived in the northern hemisphere. That gets me in the mood for a beach, and I can't help but think of all my favorite beaches, including this one on Little Water Cay in the Turks and Caicos. We visited here in April, 2013. Forget the crowds at Bondi, Jones Beach, or Waikiki; I'll take the solitude of a lonely strand.

I want to be here right now. It's the kind of weather you wish you could bottle up and open in February. Maybe the only other place I've seen water such an electric blue was Twilight Beach, in Esperance, Western Australia.

No crowds here, unless you count the iguanas. And they keep to themselves.

Little Water Cay is also known as "Iguana Cay." April, 2013.