Thursday, 29 April 2010

Interesting Underworld Exploration: Caving With Stephen Alvarez

Cave systems are the last underground frontier to be explored; they hold secrets that took thousands of years to form and can be damaged by the slightest touch. Cave conservation is necessary to keep the underground playground unspoiled, to keep the cave ecosystem and bio-network from collapsing. Many cavers don’t reveal cave locations for fear that others will damage or destroy the ecosystem. Cave photographer Stephen Alvarez captures and shares those previously unseen moments and unique environments in the uncharted underworld of caves.

Caving with Stephen Alvarez
Imagine living for subterranean adventures where you are attached to a rope and slowly lowered 450 feet down into a dark underground world. This underworld has been in the making for a millennium, yet remains mostly untouched by man. Few people explore the vast and uncharted underground of caves, but National Geographic adventure photographer Stephen Alvarez is a caver by trade.
Hanging by a rope in the pitch-blackness, Alvarez coordinates other dangling cavers. At the same precise instant, all of them ignite magnesium flash powder. In that split second, while the cave is brightly lit, Alvarez captures the image with his camera.
On the upper right, a caver starts his 1,234-foot descent into Sótano de las Golondrinas in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. The cave’s entrance is the second deepest in the world, but it offers a tiny bit of light into the otherwise dark pit.
Caving with Stephen Alvarez
Alvarez thrives on the underground danger that he and fellow cavers explore throughout the world. Since most people will not experience this same adventure, Alvarez shares the delicate ecosystems with us through his photo documentaries. Due to time restrictions, only the main tunnel beyond the cascade in Mageni was explored. On an island off Papua New Guinea, white-water rivers disappeared into a limestone cave that had numerous uncharted and unexplored side tunnels.
This is the Walls of Jericho in Tennessee. It is a 98-foot decent into a pit, Hytop Drop. Deep inside the earth, it has a large, bowl-shaped natural amphitheater which is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the South.
This is deepest known cave pit in the continental United States. Fantastic Pit in Georgia’s Ellison’s Cave descends 586 feet straight down into the darkness below.
The limestone is both slick and razor sharp, surrounded by underground raging rapids. Unlike the bat in the bottom picture, most of the time, cavers can see only as far as their headlamps cut into the darkness. With Alvarez along and shooting images, they all work together to light it up and capture that blink of time.
This photo adventure shoot was of Majlis al Jinn Cave, Oman. It was to determine if Oman’s 50-story deep cavern could be safe for tourists.
A shaft of sunlight shines down into the pit. Caves maintain the same temperature all year, tending to feel cool in the summer and warm in the winter. On the bottom left is Iron Hoop Cave, a long, horizontal river cave in Alabama. On the right, razor-edged limestone pinnacles are sharp enough to kill a man in Borneo’s Tardis Cave.
To get this panoramic composite which is four images of Rumbling Room in Tennessee, the cavers had to descend a 68-foot shaft. The cavern is 350 feet high, so they communicated via hand-held transceivers for the precise second to illuminate Rumbling Falls Cave.
In Handprint Cave in Belize, ancient Mayans took pigment and blew it on the walls around their hands to create negative handprints. Alvarez has been all over the world. He started his photojournalist magazine career with Time Magazine to photograph Mammoth Cave. Then, for National Geographic, his worldwide adventures and photo shoots of exotic and uncharted underground locations catapulted him to fame.
Photojournalist Stephen Alvarez photographs much more than adventuring inside the dangerous yet delicate cave ecosystems. Alvarez produces global stories about culture, exploration, religion, and the aftermath of conflict. His images have won awards like Pictures of the Year International, Communication Arts, and have been exhibited at Visa Pour L’Image in Perpignan, France. He spends a great deal of time exploring the underground. When above ground, Alvarez lives with his family in Sewanee, Tennessee.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How caring chimps mourn the death of a loved one just like humans

Anyone who has peered into the eyes of a chimpanzee knows that our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are intelligent and thoughtful creatures.
And now an extraordinary study has shown just how alike we are.
For the first time, scientists have captured on video a group of captive chimps caring for a dying elderly female, Pansy.

The researchers say the studies show that chimps - who share 98.5 per cent of their DNA with humans - have a 'highly developed' awareness of death.
They even believe the research sheds light on the origins of our own attitudes to dying.
When the keepers realised that Pansy - who was thought to have been in her sixties - was close to death, they gave her painkillers and filmed the group.
As Pansy grew weaker, the three other chimps gently lifted her head and shook her shoulders to see if she was dead.
Some stroked her head and made her comfortable. Others kept her clean and checked her regularly to see if she was still breathing.

Zookeeper Alasdair Gillies, who published an account of the mourning with colleagues from Stirling University, said: 'On the day she died, she crawled across into her daughter's nest, which was an incredible feat considering she was close to death.
'I decided to let the other chimpanzees in so that they could be together and she could die with dignity. It felt like the right thing to do.
'What followed was incredible. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. It looked like they were comforting her by grooming her intently.
'They behaved just like a group of human friends would if a friend died.'

Once they discovered she had stopped breathing, the three left the enclosure.
Dr Jim Anderson of Stirling University, a co-author of the paper in Current Biology, said: 'We found it very difficult to avoid seeing parallels between how we know human's respond to losing a close companion or family members, and what the chimps were doing.'

Dr Jim Anderson of Stirling University, a co-author of the paper in Current Biology, said: 'We found it very difficult to avoid seeing parallels between how we know human's respond to losing a close companion or family members, and what the chimps were doing.'
'This is shedding light on the origins of how humans respond to death today.'
A second study shows how chimpanzees cope with a baby's death.
Researchers, led by Dr Dora Biro of Oxford University, watched two mothers carry the bodies of their dead infants with them for weeks - caring and tending for them like real babies.
The researchers believe the mothers - studied in the forests surrounding Bossou, Guinea - used the time to adapt to the death of the infant.
This behaviour shows just how strong the bond is between chimpanzee mothers and their offspring, that it carries on even after death.
The mothers groomed their babies and took them into the nests. Eventually they allowed others in the group to handle them and tolerating longer and longer periods of separation.
After a few weeks they allow other infants and young chimps to carry off and play with the mummified corpses.

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Monday, 26 April 2010

Amazing World Wonders of Nature

Sailing stones, fire rainbows, red tides and blue holes … were just the beginning. Imagine sidestepping a house-sized hole in the ground as it forms around you in seconds, walking through a field of razor-sharp ice spikes taller than yourself or fleeing from a deadly vortex of smoke and flame far more dangerous than the raging fire that spawned it. From light pillars and sun dogs to firewhirls and sinkholes, here are seven more beautiful, terrifying and awe-inspiring natural wonders of the world.
Sinkholes
Sinkholes are one of the world’s scariest natural phenomena. Over time, water erodes the soil under the planet’s surface until – in some cases quite suddenly – the land above gives way and collapses into the earth. Many sinkholes occur naturally while others are the result of human intervention. Displacing groundwater can open cavities while broken pipes can erode otherwise stable subterranean sediments. Urban sinkholes – up to hundreds of feet deep – have formed and consumed parts of city blocks, sidewalks and even entire buildings.
Penitentes
Named after peak-hooded New Mexican monks (lower right above), penitentes are dazzling naturally-forming ice blades that stick up at sharp angles toward the sun. Rarely found except at high altitudes, they can grow up taller than a human and form in vast fields. As ice melts in particular patterns, ‘valleys’ formed by initial melts leave ‘mountains’ in their wake. Strangely, these formations ultimately slow the melting process as the peaks cast shadows on the deeper surfaces below and allow for winds to blow over the peaks, cooling them.
Lenticular Clouds
Ever wonder the truth about UFOs? Avoided by traditional pilots but loved by sailplane aviators, lenticular clouds are masses of cloud with strong internal uplift that can drive a motorless flyer to high elevations. Their shape is quite often mistaken for a mysterious flying object or the artificial cover for one. Generally, lenticular clouds are formed as wind speeds up while moving around a large land object such as a mountain.
Light Pillars
Light pillars appear as eerily upright luminous columns in the sky, beacons cast into the air above without an apparent source. These are visible when light reflects just right off of ice crystals from either the sun (as in the two top images above) or from artificial ground sources such as street or park lights. Despite their appearance as near-solid columns of light, the effect is entirely created by our own relative viewpoint.
Sundogs
Like light pillars, sundogs are the product of light passing through crystals. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals can have a drastic visual impact for the viewer, producing a longer tail and changing the range of colors one sees. The relative height of the sun in the sky shifts the distance the sundogs appear to be on either side of the sun. Varying climactic conditions on other planets in our solar system produce halos with up to four sundogs from those planets’ perspectives. Sundogs have been speculated about and discussed since ancient times and written records describing the various attributes of our sun date back the Egyptians and Greeks.
Fire Whirls
Fire whirls (also known as fire devils or tornadoes) appear in or around raging fires when the right combination of climactic conditions is present. Fire whirls can be spawned by other natural events such as earthquakes and thunderstorms – and can be incredibly dangerous, in some cases spinning well out of the zone of a fire itself to cause devastation and death in a radius not even reached by heat or flame. Fire whirls have been known to be nearly a mile high, have wind speeds of over 100 miles per hour and to last for 20 or more minutes.
Orange Moons
This last phenomena is something most people have seen before – beautiful orange moon hanging low in the sky. But what causes this phenomena – and, for that matter, does the moon have a color at all? When the moon appears lower on the horizon, rays of light bouncing off it have to pass through a great deal more of our atmosophere which slowly strips away everything but yellows, oranges and reds. The bottommost image above is true to the hues of the moon but has enhanced colors to more clearly show the differences in shade that illustrate the mixed topography and minerology that tell the story of the moon’s surface. Looking at the colors in combination with the craters one can start to trace the history of impacts and consequent material movements across the face of our mysterios moon.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Site Gruesome Nature of the Devil Smile

Would you like to know where you can find the devil? Check this out!

They say you can find the devil everywhere. He’s in the mountain, in the river, in the rock, in the sea, in the lake, in an island, in the mountain peak and anywhere else… Let’s find out!
1. Devil's town -Djavolja varos- Serbia
Devil's town -Djavolja varos is one of the most attractive natural phenomena in the world. It is a place of strange forms with a strange name, a complex of stone-capped, spindle-shaped pillars in science referred to as soil pyramids. It consists of 220 soil figures created by soil erosion.
The site got its name Devil's Town for its strange appearance, being a very rare form of erosion. It is also special for a great number of steady figures. The process of erosion has been going on at this site for centuries, therefore making some figures disappear and forming new ones...
Devil s town world nature wonderThe peculiarity which makes it different from other similar phenomenons in the world is the so called Djavolja voda (Devil's water), extremely acid water between the pillars, universally unique for its chemical composition, extereme acidity and high mineral content. Metal presence in the water is from five to incredible 16 percent.
There are many legends and folk tales about its origins, most of which say that the pillars represent people at a wedding petrified by God's will.
2.Devil’s Gate – Wyoming, USA
Welcome everyone! The entrance to the devil’s sites is widely open. This place called Devil’s Gate is located in Wyoming, USA. It is a natural rock formation, specifically a gorge situated in Sweet River. Devil’s Gate was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail.
3. Devil’s Golf Course – California, USA

Are you looking for thrill and excitement? Whether you are an amateur or a professional golfer, playing golf on the rugged and weird terrain of the Devil’s Golf Course will surely bring so much fun and adventure. This unusual geographical site is actually a large salt pan located in Death Valley National Park in California, USA. The depth of salt and gravel beds of the Devil’s Golf Course ranges from 300 to 2,700 meters.
4. Devil’s Staircase – Scotland, UK
 The devil has a slide. It also has a staircase – the Devil’s Staircase. This path which is used primarily by walkers and mountain bikers is located in Scotland, UK. Its name was given by soldiers who were part of the road’s construction due to the difficulties of carrying building materials up that stretch of the road.
5. Devil’s Slide – Utah, USA
 Sliding on tall and complex manmade slides is fun and exciting. Double the excitement by sliding at the Devil’s Slide, an unusual geological formation located in Weber Canyon in Utah, USA. This natural slide, running hundreds of feet down the mountain, consists of two parallel limestone strata.
6.Devil’s Garden – Utah, USA
After playing golf and sliding, its time to relax and feast your eyes with the natural beauty of this devil’s site known as the Devil’s Garden. It is located in Arches National Park. This spectacular series of rock fins that have broken out of the earth due to erosion is a popular tourist destination in Utah, USA. Some famous arch formations near the area include the Landscape Arch, Tunnel Arch, Pine Tree Arch and others.
7.Devil’s Playground – California, USA
And where do you think the devil play aside from his slide and golf course? Well, he also plays at the Devil’s Playground, a large sandy region in the Mojave Desert in California, USA. The area, which is consists of flat plains with several dry lake beds, stretches about 40 miles in a generally northwest-southeasterly direction. It specifically lies between the towns of Providence Mountains and Baker.
8. Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin, USA
The name of this site may sound absurd but the Devil’s Lake is a nature’s beauty to behold. This lake is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin in the USA. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of the Devil’s Lake State Park. The name Devil’s Lake was given by the Ho-Chunk and is the site of annual Ho-Chunk Nation celebrations.
9.Devil’s Punchbowl – California, USA
So this is the place where the devil make punch! The Devil’s Punchbowl is a sandstone formation located in Los Angeles County in California, USA. This unique geological formation situated at an elevation of 1,450 m above sea level is part of the Devil’s Punchbowl Nature Center.









Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Sloth as a Pet - Who Wanted it Would Not?

Sloth Love
Sloths are a species of medium-sized arboreal mammals that live in the rainforests of Central and South America. They are weird looking some might say but also have a cute and mild look, inviting you to hug them. Despite their long claws, they are slow and friendly and won’t attack. Their snout is piggy-like and they can be just ADORABLE! Here’s a collection of 19 of these amazing animals in miniature: sloth babies! Enjoy!
Baby Sloth
Baby Sloth and His Teddy Bear
Cutest Sloth Ever
Three-toed Baby Sloth
Sloth Babies
Adorable Baby Sloth
Fluffy Baby Sloth
Furry Baby Sloth
Somebody Has a Milk Moustache!
Cute Baby Sloth
Sloth Babies
Baby 2-toed Sloth
Napping Sloth Babies
I’m Home!!!
3 Sloth Babies
 Baby Sloth
Baby Three-toed Sloth
Amazon Sloth



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