Saturday, January 31, 2015

Glaciers cover 60% of Svalbard

Polar bears on Van Post Glacier, Svalbard

The remote Arctic archipelago of Svalbard lies halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole and is home to the nation's eighteen largest glaciers.

On March 20, 2015, this will be one of only two locations for viewing the expected solar eclipse. Svalbard is also home of the Global Seed Vault.

Svalbard also has a literary connection. British author Philip Pullman used it as a location in His Dark Materials, an award-winning fantasy series that was later filmed. The armored talking bear Iorek Byrnison is a character who befriends Lyra, the protagonist of this memorable trilogy.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Latest glacier archeology and the Tyrolean Alps

Left image from tyrol

Stubai glacier  below:

The famous Austrian Tyrol is the home of five glaciers. The Stubai, Pitzal, Kauernertal, and Soelden glaciers have a variety of hiking, ski and snowboard trails, and Hintertux Glacier provides Austria's only year-round skiing.

The new field of "glacial archeology," which results from receding glaciers, has led to some startling finds. Last year saw an exhibition in Italy's South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. Frozen Stories: Discoveries in the Alpine Glaciers was originally scheduled to close next month, but will now remain open till 2016.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Zugspitze Glacier in Germany is melting

Image from earth magazine

Germany's beloved Zugspitze Glacier is melting.

The showpiece of a favourite ski resort in the Bavarian Alps, this glacier is Germany's highest peak. It is located southwest of Munich, near the Austrian border.

Accessible by cable car, the mountain resort is attractive to skiers and non-skiers alike.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland

Image from The Telegraph

According to Nick Squires, for centuries, the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Swiss villages Fieschertal and Fiesch prayed for a halt in the advance of Europe's longest glacier.

In 2009, however, they requested an audience with the Pope, hoping for permission to pray for the opposite outcome. It now appears that the glacier is receding about 100 m per year.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mont Blanc

Image from france-voyage

Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there,...
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
... like vapour broods over the snow.
The secret strength of things which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!

Thus wrote English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in his 1817 mountain ode.

At 4807 metres high, this famous peak of the French Alps is the highest in western Europe. Located on the Swiss border, this enormous mountain is the home of many glaciers. Ice streams fall from the frozen dome of the "White Mountain." In the early 17th century, the glaciers advanced into the valley of Chamonix, burying homes and cultivation.

When Shelley wrote his poem. Mont Blanc was a remote and exclusive destination, with limited road access. Today it is a busy Alpine tourist resort.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Glaciers of the Pyrenees about to disappear

Image from Juan Jose Gonzalez Trueba, in Science Daily

Back in 2008, Science Daily reported a study that predicted that Europe's southernmost glaciers, located in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, would be gone within fifty years.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Atlas Mountains are snowcapped but not glacial

Image by Stuart Black

Though the snow capped Atlas Mountains of northern Africa are far from the equator, they have no glaciers.

Here these lovely peaks are seen in Morocco, near Marrakech.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya

Image from

Lewis Glacier is the largest of twelve that are located on Mount Kenya in the country of the same name. All are receding.

This imposing mountain, an extinct volcano, has been considered sacred by the people who live near it. Second Kenyan mountain in height to Mt. Kilimanjaro, it straddles the equator and is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Below: Lewis Glacier 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mount Stanley

Image from The Independent

Located in the Rwenzori moutain chain, Mount Stanley is the third highest in Africa. This icy peak straddles the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Below, climbers take in the stupendous view after ascending the glaciers on Alexandra Peak.

Image from allposterimages

The glaciers on the peaks of Rwenzori National Park, known as the Mountains of the Moon, are melting.

National Geographic has published omparative pictures from 1952 and 2008 show how dramatic the reduction is. Some glaciers have vanished altogether.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Glaciers of Kilimanjaro

Glacier on Kilimanjaro from amusingplanet.

In the past century, the snows atop Mount Kilimanjaro, on the Kenya-Tanzania border, have receded dramatically. Africa's tallest mountain is a stratovolcano, and Kibo, its highest peak, is dormant but not extinct. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, glaciers reached the treeline.

The black volcanic rock absorbs heat, causing Kili's glaciers to melt and refreeze, and creating overhangs and other dramatic ice formations. 

Right: Furtwangler glacier 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A very tiny saucepan

This is a normal saucepan, sturdy and well-made. It just happens to be very, very small. The mark visible in the picture indicates a quarter cup.

To illustrate its smallness, the picture was taken by other dishes belonging to George.

It was on sale at Winners for $2.99, and I wondered. What is it designed for? Who uses a saucepan that holds barely over a quarter of a cup? But small things are so cute. I couldn't resist buying it, just for fun.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mount Shasta glaciers

Image from shasta guides

For the past several years, several glacier tongues on Mount Shasta have been reported to be growing. the only ones in the continental US to do so.

Last September, however, the mountain erupted in a massive mudslide, thought to be caused by the heat and drought that California was experiencing at the time.

The mudslide went on for many hours; apparently the mountain was releasing a considerable volume of debris that had been dammed up when a snow melt lake on or in the Konwakiton Glacier suddenly collapsed.

Below, Shasta's Whitney, Bolam Glaciers: geotrippers

Monday, January 19, 2015

A hole in the clouds

An odd-shaped break in the clouds lets us see the blue sky that is always behind them.

The great thing about these cloud gaps is that once they start, they usually grow.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The explosive power of growth

It's been quite some time since my we nailed this aluminum sheeting around the clothes line pole tree to stop animals from climbing up there.

As the tree grew, the aluminum began to tear. Eventually it ripped wide open. Now, years later, the metal remains tacked loosely onto the tree only at the back.

Years of steady growth have broken the bonds that once held tight around this trunk.

Slow and steady growth have set it free.

Interesting metaphor, isn't it?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Angel Glacier in Jasper Park

Image by Giorgio Zanetti

One of three glaciers on the sides of Mount Edith Cavell, Angel Glacier resembles a recumbent seraph. From this perspective, we see her white wings spread wide, while her reclining head lies out of sight in the lap of the mountain. Walking the Angel Glacier Loop Trail is an excellent way to see this mass of ice, along with its neighbours, Cavell and Ghost.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Cavell Glacier

Image from Banff and Beyond

Edith Cavell Glacier is one of three visible from the glacier loop trail at Edith Cavell Mountain in Jasper National Park.

A hoary marmot looks over the lake from his vantage point on the rocks. Is he is pondering the nature of the icy striations of the glacier? Perhaps he is looking at the icebergs that result when the glacier calves into the lake.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Ghost Glacier haunted by icefall

20th century image from Peel Library, U of A

One of three glaciers visible from the Glacier Trail at Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park, Ghost Glacier is well -- just a ghost of its former self. In the summer of 2012, this glacier dropped the largest volume of ice and snow ever to fall in the park. According to Mountain News, the glacier lost up to 70% of its mass.

Fortunately, the cataclysm occurred when there were no visitors close enough to be injured. The icy avalanche, recorded by tourists with video cameras, caused at tidal wave to rise up out of the lake and wash out the trail head, picnic area and parking lot. The event was reported with accompanying video from as far off as Australia.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Phyllis Whitney reveals novelist's sleight of hand

Image from amazon

A master of romantic suspense novels as well as books for young people, the late Phyllis Ayame Whitney was born in Yokohama in 1903. She died in Faber, Virginia at the age of 104, after publishing over 70 novels.

This writer's guide is clear and eminently readable. As well as going over the nuts and bolts of plot, theme, problem, conflict, purpose and more, the author talks of what she refers to as The Force, and explains how this author got the subconscious mind to help with problems that cropped up as she wrote.

Other delightful gems in this work include Whitney's discussion of reader reaction to writerly ploys, and the need for a writer to learn constantly, feeding the mind to encourage new inspiration.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

New year projects

It's the new year, the time to clear out the old and get on with new projects.

This Christmas season, I got inspired to tackle my recipe box. Since I moved the recipes into this larger tin a couple of years ago, I hadn't got round to labelling the bigger cards, so had to delve down to find the old index cards in order to find a recipe. Made some slight adjustments too. Cheesecake now has its very own category.

Did the new address book too. It's amazing what changes with contacts in a dozen years. Sadly, I'd lost some relatives since the last book, which dated back to a trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, made with my then teenage daughter in 2003. Unlike its tattered predecessor, this one is clearly inscribed with up-to-date information. Thanks, Santa!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Life on the Wet Coast

Its winter on the wet coast. No snow, no sun.

At this time of year, the ceiling is low, the days short and the rain nearly unrelenting.

But our coastal climate has its compensations.

This picture of daffodil shoots springing from the ground was taken on the sixth of January.

I'd say they'll bloom some time next month. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Belcher Glacial Tunnel, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada

Image by Alex Gardner

This is an enormous ice cave within a glacier. It was formed by the flow of meltwater deep inside the glacier. This phenomenon is also known as an englacial melt channel.

Devon Island, the 27th largest island on Earth, is over 55,000 square kilometres, comparable in size to Croatia.

This desolate island lies at 77 degrees north. A third of it is covered by an ice cap, and enjoys fewer than two months of snow-free days per year.

In certain areas, Devon is occupied by a few musk-oxen and a few lemmings; however, no human lives there all year round.  It is the largest uninhabited island on earth.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hubbard Glacier

Image from Princess Cruises

The Hubbard Glacier in Alaska is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. It is over 122 kilometres long and plunges 365 metres into Disenchantment Bay. Because of its rapid progress toward the Gulf of Alaska, this mass of ice has been nicknamed the Galloping Glacier. Twice it has temporarily dammed Russell Fjord. As seen in this video, it also frequently calves, causing loud noises and huge waves as it births enormous icebergs.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Grand Pacific Glacier

Image from wikimedia commons

The Grand Pacific glacier lies at the end of Tarr Inlet, straddling the border between BC and Alaska. Since the Harriman expedition in 1899, when the Margerie Glacier was still its tributary, the Grand Pacific has retreated by ten miles.

Most of the ice is located in British Columbia's Tatshenshini-Alseck Provincial Park, but the toe lies in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Peyto Glacier

Image from janrik

Near the Bow and Crowfoot Glaciers, Peyto Glacier in Banff National Park can be seen from the Icefields Parkway. The silt it carries melts into Peyto Lake, dyeing it a startling azure blue. Located at the Continental Divide, this glacier is much studied by scientists, who have survey data on it going back to the 1890s. It too is receding.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crowfoot Glacier

Image of Crowfoot Glacier from tripadvisor

Crowfoot Glacier bears the name of Chief Crowfoot and flanks the eponymous Mountain. Early explorers also noted that the glacier, with its three toes, resembles a crow's foot.

Now two toes remain. Visible from the Icefields Parkway that links Jasper to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies, this glacier is just over 30 kilometres from Lake Louise.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bow Glacier

Image from janrik

As the Bow Glacier recedes, it feeds a waterfall that drains into Bow Lake. Bow Glacier Falls forms the headwaters of the Bow River.

At the north end of this lake, Num-ti-Jah Lodge lies just off the Icefields Parkway and from there a hiking trail leads to the glacier.

Situated in Banff National Park in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, this glacier is about forty kilometres from Lake Louise. In the past, it was connected to the nearby Wapta Icefields.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Athabasca Glacier

Image from

The Athabasca Glacier is part of an area called the Columbia Icefields in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The largest ice field in the Canadian Rockies, it gets about 7 metres of precipitation per year; most of this falls as snow.

Over the past 125 years, the mouth of this slow-moving river of ice has moved back 1.5 kilometers and lost half its volume. 

The cairn marks the toe of the glacier as of 1992, just 22 years ago. The recent retreat of this most visited glacier in North America is obvious. Some experts predict that this slow-flowing ice river, currently one kilometer wide and in places 300 metres deep, will vanish within a century.

This glacier lies just off the Icefields Parkway that joins Jasper to Banff. Alberta. It is located close to the roof of North America; from Saskatchewan River Crossing, water drains away to the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans.

A little further south, the Milk River system arises in Montana, enters southern Alberta, then turns once more on its long voyage to drain into the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River system.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Quiet, by Susan Cain

Image from Quirkbooks

This is a book every introvert needs to read. In her groundbreaking work, this former lawyer, once painfully shy, develops a powerful argument about the serious negative effects of the American cultural bias against introversion and in favour of extroversion.

Although extroverts get much more credit in leadership positions, introverts are thinkers.

Introverts have contributed great and visionary leadership -- think Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt. All were challenged by the need to be in the public eye, but faced their natural tendency to avoid the limelight because they were "driven to do what they knew was right."

"Solitude matters, and for some people it is the air that we breathe." Lonely creatives she mentions include Charles Darwin and Dr. Seuss. They couldn't have produced what they did without their essential periods of solitude. Spiritual seekers like Buddha and Jesus also went alone into the wilderness to contemplate, then re-entered the community to share the wisdom gained in solitude.

Over the twentieth century, the author explains, our most important institutions have evolved to greatly favour extroverts. With urbanization and industrialization, western cultures, especially that of the US, have moved away from respecting individuals of good character (often introverts); people of our era are increasingly impressed by personality (read extroversion.)

Though extroverted leaders may be admired for their pleasing personalities, an unfortunate feature they share is the tendency to "take outsize risks." Cain offers convincing evidence that extroverts control society's most powerful institutions, and connects this fact to disasters like the Enron scandal.

She discusses the power of introverts on a recent TED talk, and concludes with some advice for all of us, including "Stop the madness for constant group work." Whether doing their jobs or studying, introverts need a certain amount of privacy and autonomy. The world needs us, and we have the right to be valued for ourselves as well as for our very considerable social contributions.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Image from Susanna Kearsley

This novel is built around parallel plots in the past and present, and portrays additional history of the Jacobites. Robbie, a Scottish child seer in a former novel, is now an adult. A policeman and volunteer lifeguard, he accepts his natural ability to see into the thoughts of others, both in the present and past. Nicola feels less comfortable with her similar and equally unusual gift, and Rob challenges her: '...why are ye so afeart of what ye are?'

A London-based art expert of Russian heritage, Nicola has sought him out in the hope that he can assist a Scottish client who wants a wooden firebird appraised and authenticated, saying it has been passed down from an ancestor who was given it long ago by the Empress Catherine in St. Petersburg.

Knowing that Rob might be able to trace the bird, Nicola takes an impromptu trip to Scotland, and before long, she and Rob are on the trail of the historic owner, Anna Moray. Enroute to Nicola's upcoming work assignment in St. Petersburg, they track young Anna to Calais and then to a convent in Ypres. As the child of a Jacobite, she is hidden for her safety and that of her family. Escaping partisan pursuers who would kidnap her, she throws herself on the mercy of a Scottish Jacobite Vice-Admiral who has risen in the Russian Navy, and joins his family as his ward.

As Rob and Nicola track Anna to Catherine's court hoping to learn about the firebird, they discover her love for the exiled Irishman Edmond O'Connor, along with the machinations of the world of spies and counter-spies. Unwilling at first, Nicola hones her gift at Rob's behest. Most skills, he says, are learned, or at least developed. Soon she can see into the past and trace Anna without Rob's help. On her journey, she learns from a wise nun that 'what we do not expect to see, we rarely notice.'

Susanna Kearsley's use of language gives this reader tremendous pleasure. Her stately prose echoes in the mind with the rhythm of an ancient poetic oration. I also love her stunning evocations of historical times and places, neatly juxtaposed with a present that always rings true. Past and present settings are filled with telling details that convey contemporary speech patterns, places and mindsets.

This neatly plotted novel develops in the past and present simultaneously, with startling parallels in the historic and modern story lines. As always, the historic aspects are well-researched, and her fictional characters blend in well with the real historic people who may well have been much as the author describes them.

Thematically, the work portrays issues of courage, identity, and trusting one's own intuition, as both Anna and Nicola acquire the confidence that allows them to become wiser and more mature versions of themselves.The Firebird, also known as the Phoenix, with its bright red and gold plumage, symbolizes regeneration, rebirth and even immortality.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Anti-waterfall? Spouting Horn, Hawaii

Image from Hawaii Pictures

To complete the waterfall posts, here is a reverse action. Instead of falling down, this water leaps up.

Among the most photographed spots on the island of Kauai, this blowhole is caused by large swells of Poipu surf that enter a natural lava tube, then emerge with the hiss and roar that gave rise to the legend of the great lizard Kaikapu, guardian of this coastline.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Western Australia Christmas tree

Image by O. Roberts from Atlas of Living Australia

In the northern latitudes, standing under this tree is far from the image we have of welcoming in the New Year by kissing under the mistletoe. Those from Celtic and northern European heritage may deck doorways with a sprig of viscum album, a different type of mistletoe, in remembrance of an ancient Norse myth explained here in the Sun.

The Western Australian Christmas tree is something else again. Orange-yellow in colour, the tree blooms at this season. A kind of mistletoe, this plant is a parasite that derives its nourishment from the roots of other trees.

Though mistletoe can be toxic when ingested by humans and pets, it has long been revered for its healing properties.