Monday, April 30, 2012

Prior to our arrival at La Palma...

we chugged past El Hierro early in the morning, where months before there was an ongoing submarine eruption.  Its activity has since subsided and there was no floating pumice seen from the ship, but the nautical chart for the area had this added notification recently pasted in the lower-left (click images to enlarge):
La Palma is the northwestern-most island in the Canary archipelago, and its volcanic origin is easily seen on the east coast where a cinder cone is being eroded by wave action:
A large number of our group made the short hike along the rim of another cinder cone on the southern tip of the island, near the Teneguia vent that last erupted in 1971:
This volcanic bomb landed on the rim of the cone, and that's RP (a marine biologist and part of the Zegrahm staff) standing next to it for scale:
After our volcanic explorations, we headed to a local bodega and eagerly participated in a wine tasting and tour of the winery:
Finally, our day was rounded out with a tour of a local pottery artisan's shop:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

For two days we fight...

the southward directed Canary Current, driven by the trade winds off the Azores High, as we push north to the Canary Island group.  During these long days I like to spend time on the bridge, and here's a snap of the nautical chart at nearly the midway point (click images to enlarge):
A number of lectures were presented on board these two long days at sea, including mine on hot spot volcanism with a preview of the island geology to come.  During a mid-day break, a chocolate dessert party was held, and here, JF, one of the Zegrahm staff, reacts joyfully to the sweets:
During the second full day at sea there were several more lectures and, JM, another staff member, conducts a wine tasting seminar in the lounge:
Several pilot whales and dolphins were sighted during our long push north, but they were fleeting encounters and I didn't have my camera at the ready to capture their playful behavior off the bow of the ship. Tomorrow we make our first landfall in the Canary archipelago!

Friday, April 27, 2012

São Vicente Island...

provided a great opportunity to examine the volcanic geology of the Cape Verde archipelago. We used a local guide and driver to transport us to about 2,000 ft on Mt. Verde where our small group enjoyed a nice view of Porto Grande, a collapsed caldera that is used as the harbor where the Clipper Odyssey is moored for the day (click images to enlarge):
We hiked down the narrow cobblestone road for several miles, examining outcrops of ash flow tuffs along the way, with our driver collecting us near the bottom:
On the way to lunch in Bahia das Gates, the northeastern rocky coast with bright sandy beaches - comprised of sand blown in from the Sahara - dominated our attention:
My lunch with a locally brewed beer was quite delicious after our walk (even the fish head):
After exploring the town of Mindelo for several hours, we depart the Cape Verde group and are setting a northerly course for the Canaries.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wise words...

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel's sake.  The greatest affair is to move.

-- Robert Louis Stevenson

São Tiago Island...

greets us in the morning as we arrive in the Cape Verde islands, and in this location Charles Darwin spent some time in 1831 and 1836 on his famous voyage around the world (click images to enlarge):
After we were cleared by customs officials we set off for the central market in the port town of Praia, finding it filled with friendly female vendors, and these three ladies were particularly proud of their clever stacking of bananas:
This island, the largest in the Cape Verde chain, is crowned by Antonia Peak which rises to 4,500 feet above sea level (seen in the distance).  The basaltic geology in the foreground reminded me of eastern Washington:
On the way to the Botanical Gardens and Horticultural Institute we encountered school children playing a game of tag, and I was captivated by the time-intensive beadwork in their hair:
Here's a splash of color on display in the botanical garden:
And I managed to get a good shot of the colorful national bird, the gray-headed kingfisher:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The day at sea...

today provides an opportunity to settle in to my private cabin, which doubles as my home office for the next month (click images to enlarge):
A visit to the bridge at noon shows our  position about midway to the Cape Verde archipelago, our destination for tomorrow's explorations:
Several lectures were presented by expedition staff, and here our ornithologist talks about bird migration:
Late in the day the expedition leader briefs the guests on the next day's itinerary:
And lastly, it is traditional that during the first evening at sea the captain will host a cocktail party and introduce the ship's officers:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Africa's westernmost city...

is Dakar, Senegal, and it is illustrative of the expression "TIA" or "This is Africa." The euphemism is a way of lowering expectations when visiting the ethnically and culturally rich continent, where the old and modern are juxtaposed, and much of the infrastructure and many national political systems are broken. Here's just a slice of life in the capital city showing a typical street vendor (click images to enlarge):
The public transportation system looks adventurous:
But I'd prefer to avoid the raw sewage spilling into the city streets:
We headed out for a morning tour of infamous Gorée Island, now a World Heritage Site. From the 15th – 19th centuries Gorée was a slave-trading center, and we toured dungeon-like slave quarters where a monument provides testimony to the wretched history of this place:

Here's a look inside the dreary House of Slaves:
And a look at the interior of the fortified Le Castel, now a museum:
On the ferry ride back to Dakar, we witnessed local fishermen working the waters around Gorée Island:
Late in the day we board the Clipper Odyssey seen here docked next to a US Navy frigate:
Shortly thereafter we head west, into the Atlantic, with the Dakar skyline diminishing in the distance:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Wise words...

The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.

-- Samuel Johnson

Sunset over the Sahara...

paints the west African coast bright orange over Mauritania as I wing my way south from Madrid to Dakar, Senegal (click images to enlarge):

A couple of hours earlier in the flight I captured this shot, looking due west, through the Straits of Gibraltar. In about two week's time I'll sail through this important seafaring portal and into the Mediterranean, but before then there's a lot to experience on the upcoming voyage. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The first leg...

of my working voyage with Zegrahm Expeditions for the next month, exploring northwestern Africa and Macaronesia, is shown on the map below (click to enlarge):
We'll exchange passengers in Malaga, Spain, in early May and then head back into the Atlantic and ultimately to the Azores on the second leg (I'll post another map at that point). It's certainly my intention to write a blog entry including several images each day during this month-long adventure, but sometimes connecting to the Internet while at sea can be problematic.

This will likely be my last post from the States until I board the ship in Dakar.  Until then, here are the itineraries for both expeditions:  Leg 1 and Leg 2.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A milestone has been achieved...

on this blog:  This is the 2,500th post since it began in January 2009.

Chargers, batteries, cables, adapters,...

SD memory cards, netbook, thumb drives, USB external hard drive, GPS, cameras, lenses, microfiber cloth and lenspen, monopod, binoculars, headphones, maps, guidebooks, passport, e-tickets, yada, yada, yada are all strewn about as I go through my final preparations for extended international travel with Zegrahm Expeditions.  Departure is imminent:  I jet out of Grand Junction, Colorado this Sunday for Dallas, then onto Madrid and finally Dakar, where I'll board the Clipper Odyssey for a month of exploration of the eastern Atlantic region.

My Powerpoint lectures for presentation on board are pretty much in final form on my netbook, covering topics ranging from general plate tectonics to hotspot volcanism, with specific tidbits about local geology (Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Rock/Straits of Gibraltar, etc.) that we'll experience along our route.  I've also included snippets on the historic observations of the numerous islands we'll visit made by Columbus and Darwin on their famous voyages.  On top of this, I'm also the designated expedition photographer, and so there is considerable extra gear to organize and carry.  I think I'm pretty much ready.

Oh yeah, my toothbrush.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tip o' the Mesa...

is the name I have assigned to this new geocache deployed yesterday at the remote northwestern point of Adobe Mesa.  The polystyrene container includes some silly trinkets, a log book, and a dollar bill for the first finder (click images to enlarge):
The container is now hidden in this pile of boulders while my GPS unit gets a good fix on the location so it can be published online, allowing others to take on the fun challenge of finding it:
To complete the process of creating the new geocache I went online yesterday evening and submitted its name, lat/long coordinates, a description of the terrain/difficulty, and an encrypted hint on how to find it once you get close.  I note late this morning that my submission has been reviewed and approved and this information is now publicly accessible, with the locator designation of GC3HB9P.  All you need to do now is go to the website and register (free) to begin to search for 1,723,278 active geocaches worldwide.

RELATED:  Previous posts related to geocaching are found here and here.

Hubble captures incredible new panorama...

of the Tarantula Nebula. In a word: Wow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A mandible-jarring mountain bike ride...

for about 5.5 miles, followed by a one mile bushwhack through piñon pine and yucca, gets me close to the end of Adobe Mesa (click images to enlarge):
Here's the view from the very northwestern tippy-tip of the high mesa (elevation about 7,000 ft) showing Castleton Tower and the bucolic community of Castle Valley.  My place is to the left (west) of the large circular irrigated field:
A telephoto shot across the top of the spire shows the collapsed salt-cored anticline in the center of Arches National Park with densely-jointed sandstone on the eastern flank:
The view to the east takes in the expansive Richardson Amphitheater with the Colorado River:
And here's the view to the south, toward the La Sal Mountains, as I turn around after eating lunch and begin the arduous trek off the mesa (there's 800 ft of elevation gain on uphill grades of ball bearing-like gravel to get back to my vehicle):
Lastly, at sunset on this fine day, here's the view of the shadow cast by Castleton Tower as it slowly creeps across the northern end of Adobe Mesa (the images above were taken from the tip of the slender fin in the upper-right):
In sum:  It was a great day! 

Chromatic roadkill...

on the rust-pitted front bumper of my desert rig, dispatched today on my exploration of Adobe Mesa (click to enlarge):

The Great Utah ShakeOut...

occurred today, a test of state and local response to a scenario involving a large earthquake along the Wasatch fault.  Here's the website that details the drill.

Indeed, there was a robo-delivered message on my answering machine when I returned from the day's outing, providing information about the drill and where to go for assistance had it been a real natural disaster.  I'm impressed.

Monday, April 16, 2012

This is the view...

that doesn't suck, the one I have to take in each and every day I'm in residence here (click to enlarge):
My recreational project for tomorrow is to make my way out to the endpoint of Adobe Mesa (seen right of center in the image) on an approximately six mile long trek (one way), initially by mountain bike, and then by foot.  From that vantage I should be able to capture some seldom seen shots of Castleton Tower (the prominent spire) and down into Castle Valley.

The world's population density...

visualized in an interactive graphic.  Adjust the slider at the top of the map to see areas of the globe where the human population ranges from 5 to 500 people per square mile.

It's interesting to note that the continent of Australia doesn't appear at all, even at the minimum density setting, reflecting the sparse human settlement there.  And you can see why I love the western interior of the United States.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This day marks...

my completion of 55 laps around the Sun.  Yeah, it's my birthday.  I'm not quite sure when fossilization occurs, but I hope I've got a few more good years left.  Now, on to my 56th revolution and the adventures that await.

RELATED: Evolution has given humans a huge advantage over most other animals: middle age.

Survey of best jobs in 2012...

based on good working conditions, high salaries and relatively low stress places software engineer in first place.  However, geologists rank very well, in 21st position, of the 200 jobs considered.  The worst?  Lumberjack.

Here's the link to the article and the interactive list of job rankings.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wise words...

Mind the volcano!

-- Lewis Carrol (Through the Looking-Glass, 1871)

El Hierro vigorously degassing...

carbon dioxide from its submarine edifice in the southwestern Canary Islands, as seen in this echogram acquired between April 5-9 by a Spanish oceanographic vessel observing the eruption (click to enlarge):
The ocean surface is minimally disturbed, though slightly discolored, by this activity according to recent  reports, and I will be arriving in the Canary archipelago near this location in about two weeks.

 Track current activity here if you dare: El Hierro Volcano : Yellow alert.

Image courtesy El Instituto Español de Oceanografía.

Life on Mars...

revisited:  Complexity Analysis of the Viking Labeled Release Experiments.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Makes one want to rethink...

the whole take-me-to-your-leader approach: Could 'advanced' dinosaurs rule other planets?

One more Friday the 13th...

to go this year, in July (then we skate until September 2013).  So far today is going pretty well for me, but I would note that on Friday, 13 January 2012, the Costa Concordia sank off Italy.

Hope all's well with you.

Earth's millimeter-scale emissaries...

to other worlds, the adorable water bear (more technically known as tardigrades):
Tardigrade Eggs Might Survive Interplanetary Trip

Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring and summer streamflow forecasts...

have been published for 1 April 2012, and as expected, show that drainage basins in the Pacific Northwest are well above average due to the late season and record-breaking precipitation that occurred in March.  But down here, in southern Utah in the heart of the Colorado River basin, runoff is anticipated to be well below average.  Typical for a La Niña year, which is exactly what was predicted.

UPDATE: Idaho water supply strong heading to summer. But you already knew that having read this blog post.

The amazing trajectories...

of life-bearing meteorites from Earth seems to support the notion of panspermia and similar ideas advanced by the late English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle.  Interesting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Asking and answering...

the important questions: How Well Does Scotch Age in Zero Gravity? A Distiller Launches Some to Find Out.


goes the irrigation system as it reawakens at the beginning of the warm season at my retreat in the desert.  The low water use system provides the elixir of life to a few  cottonwood and acacia trees via drip emitters controlled by an electronic timer.  There are always a few repairs necessary and usually a reprogramming of the controller that need to be addressed on start up, and those are the big chores of today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blossoming Fendlerbush...

(Fendlera rupicola) fills the air with a sickly sweet odor along the Colorado River that can't be exaggerated, and here's the culprit (click images to enlarge):
This yellow beauty is Fremont's mahonia  (Mahonia fremontii), but it's not nearly as pungent:
The Colorado Plateau is just beginning to show its colors this spring as the parade of flowering plants commences.