Archive for the ‘wilderness’ Category

Best National Parks To Visit In Winter (PHOTOS)   Leave a comment



Bryce’s red hoodoos–limestone spires–are highlighted by the snow in the Amphitheater

Seasonal Highlights: Unlike Utah’s other national parks, Bryce Canyon receives plenty of snow, making it a popular cross-country ski area. The park’s 2½-mi Fairyland Ski Loop is marked but ungroomed, as is the 5-mi Paria Loop, which runs through ponderosa forests into long, open meadows. Snowshoes are provided for free during ranger-led snowshoe hikes. You can snowshoe on the rim trails, but the Park Service discourages their use below the rim.

Top Activities: Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing

Plan Your Trip: Fodor’s Bryce Canyon National Park Travel Guide

via Best National Parks To Visit In Winter (PHOTOS).

Posted February 16, 2011 by dmacc502 in environment, photography, travel, wilderness

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First Americans ‘reached Europe five centuries before Columbus discoveries’ | Science | The Guardian   Leave a comment

Columbus landing on Hispaniola

Image via Wikipedia

When Christopher Columbus paraded his newly discovered American Indians through the streets of Spanish towns at the end of the 15th century, he was not in fact introducing the first native Americans to Europe, according to new research.

Scientists who have studied the genetic past of an Icelandic family now claim the first Americans reached Europe a full five centuries before Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas during his first voyage of discovery in 1492.

via First Americans ‘reached Europe five centuries before Columbus discoveries’ | Science | The Guardian.

via First Americans ‘reached Europe five centuries before Columbus discoveries’ | Science | The Guardian.

Richard Evelyn Byrd   Leave a comment

Admiral Richard E. Byrd

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Join Admiral Richard E. Byrd in 1982 as he leads a term of explorers to the coldest continent on Earth to map the region and claim large tracts on Antartica for the United States.

On May 9, 1926, Byrd and pilot Floyd Bennett attempted a flight over the North Pole in a Fokker F-VII Tri-motor called the Josephine Ford. This flight went from Spitsbergen (Svalbard) and back to its take-off airfield. Byrd claimed to have reached the Pole. This trip earned Byrd widespread acclaim, including being received the Medal of Honor and enabled him to secure funding for subsequent attempts to fly over the South Pole.

From 1926 until 1996, there were doubts, defenses, and heated controversy about whether or not Byrd actually reached the North Pole. In 1958 Norwegian-American aviator and explorer Bernt Balchen cast doubt on Byrd’s claim on the basis of his extensive personal knowledge of the airplane’s speed. In 1971 Balchen speculated that Byrd had simply circled aimlessly while out of sight of land.[1]

The 1996 release of Byrd’s diary of the May 9, 1926 flight revealed erased (but still legible) sextant sights that sharply differ with Byrd’s later June 22 typewritten official report to the National Geographic Society. Byrd took a sextant reading of the Sun at 7:07:10 GCT. His erased diary record shows the apparent (observed) solar altitude to have been 19°25’30”, while his later official typescript reports the same 7:07:10 apparent solar altitude to have been 18°18’18”.[2] On the basis of this and other data in the diary, Dennis Rawlins concluded that Byrd steered accurately, and flew about 80% of the distance to the Pole before turning back because of an engine oil leak, but later falsified his official report to support his claim of reaching the pole.[3]


The Fokker FVIIa/3M – “Josephine Ford”, on display at The Henry Ford Museum

Accepting that the conflicting data in the typed report’s flight times indeed require both northward and southward groundspeeds greater than the flight’s 85 mph airspeed, a remaining Byrd defender posits a westerly-moving anti-cyclone that tailwind-boosted Byrd’s groundspeed on both outward and inward legs, allowing the distance claimed to be covered in the time claimed. (The theory is based on rejecting handwritten sextant data in favor of typewritten alleged dead-reckoning data.)[4] This suggestion has been refuted by Dennis Rawlins[5] who adds[6] that the sextant data in the long unavailable original official typewritten report are all expressed to 1″, a precision not possible on Navy sextants of 1926 and not the precision of the sextant data in Byrd’s diary for 1925 or the 1926 flight, which was normal (half or quarter of a minute of arc). Some sources claim that Floyd Bennett and Byrd later revealed, in private conversations, that they did not reach the pole. One source claims that Floyd Bennett later told a fellow pilot that they did not reach the pole.[7] It is also claimed that Byrd confessed his failure to reach the North Pole during a long walk with Dr. Isaiah Bowman in 1930.[8]

Considering that Byrd and Bennett probably didn’t reach the North Pole, it is extremely likely that the first flight over the Pole was the flight of the airship Norge in May 1926 with its crew of Roald AmundsenUmberto NobileOscar Wisting, and others. This flight went from Spitsbergen (Svalbard) to Alaska nonstop, so there is little doubt that they went over the North Pole. Amundsen and Wisting had both been members of the first expedition to the South Pole, December 1911.

25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English   Leave a comment

Chesapeake Bay Bridges

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25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.

via 25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national, natural American treasure. It was formed 15,000 years ago when an immense glacier melted and flooded an ancient river valley.  Today, the estuary marks where the Potomac and 150 other rivers, streams and creeks merge on their way to the Atlantic Ocean. The sprawling 166,000 square-kilometer watershed stretches through six states and the nation’s capital, nourishing a multitude of land and marine species.  It’s also the source of fresh drinking water, food and recreation for 17 million people.

Pollution is a longstanding problem

Pollution has long been a problem.  Since the early 1980s, a regional partnership under the federally-funded Chesapeake Bay Program has been charged with cleanup. While some progress has been made, goals have been routinely missed.  Jeffrey Lape, program director, says that failure was underscored in the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Program annual report that looked at such indicators as water quality, wildlife habitat and fish population. “We have rolled them up into a single index, which on a scale of 100, using 100 as a restored Bay; the Bay health is about a scale of 38,” Lape says.

Industry and agriculture are leading Bay polluters

This did not happen overnight.  Industrial growth, a population boom and fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns are to blame. Beth McGee, a water quality expert with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says the nutrient overload from nitrogen and phosphorus promotes algae blooms that suck life from Bay waters.  “When the algae die they settle to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and some of the deeper rivers and when they are decomposed, oxygen is used up. And like us, the animals that live in the Bay – the fish, crabs and oysters – need oxygen to survive,” McGee says.  She adds that the result is, “a dead zone in the summertime when a huge amount of the Bay is off limits to aquatic life.”

Blue point crabs, once plentiful, are nearly gone

VOA – Z. Palacio

Chesapeake Bay waterman John Freeman from Hampton, Virginia, has seen a dramatic decline in blue crabs compared to when he started crabbing 66 years ago. Today half of the 10,000 watermen are part timers.


John Freeman, 80, has watched these changes over a lifetime.  A waterman by trade, he’s trapped crabs near his home in Newport News, Virginia, for 66 years, just like his father before him.  “Right now it’s awful,” he says from the cabin of his boat. “We’re not making any money. Just surviving,” he adds.  Blue crabs, native to these waters, have declined by 70 percent over the last 15 years. Despite new restrictions on the fishery, crabs have not rebounded and watermen are turning to other jobs. Freeman says he raised six children as a crabber, a career it’s likely his 22 year old grandson Evan won’t follow.

Pollution keeps children on dry land

Howard Ernst

Charlie, Simon and Emily Ernst enjoy the beach at the end of their block in Annapolis, Maryland, yet often can’t swim there because of polluted water.


Elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, near the Maryland state capital in Annapolis, Howard Ernst, a U.S. Naval Academy political scientist, walks out on the pier at Chase Creek, a tributary of the Severn River. He lives just up the street and doesn’t allow his young children to play much in the water because of the pollution.  “You can fish, but you’d have to follow state fish advisories for mercury and there are plenty of those. You can crab there, but the primary concern is swimming in the water after rain events. For the entire Severn River the County has a warning that after a one inch [2.5cm] rain event, they advise not going in any of these waters for 48 hours,” he says.

In his new book Fight for the Bay, Ernst writes that failed policies have allowed, “pollution to go on unabated in a way that the Bay can’t handle, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s steel mills, whether it’s air pollution. It’s in their economic best interests to dispose of their waste in public spaces like the Bay.”

White House orders new clean up for Chesapeake

Earlier this year President Barack Obama issued an executive order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Ernst says a strong federal initiative could be a game-changer. “If the administration gets serious about agricultural regulations, finds funding for storm water upgrades, for sewage upgrades and addresses air pollution, which also pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, then we will be in a different situation,” Ernst says.



EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announces a presidential order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, creating “a tougher era in federal leadership.”

Lisa P. Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator calls the effort, “a new era in federal leadership.” She says a preliminary report in response to the President’s Executive Order outlines a tougher stand against Bay polluters. “We do understand that if we are going to prove that we are serious about the Bay, we absolutely must step up our oversight and if necessary our enforcement of the regulations that are there to protect the Bay, to protect human health and to protect the extraordinary ecosystem,” Jackson says.

A strategy for Bay cleanup is expected to be finalized by May 2010.


Preserving the Sound of Silence in Zion National Park : TreeHugger   Leave a comment

Zion National Park Entry # 063

Image by College of William & Mary via Flickr

Preserving the Sound of Silence in Zion National Park : TreeHugger.

via Preserving the Sound of Silence in Zion National Park : TreeHugger.

With many roads closed today for a marathon cutting through the city, parts of Istanbulwere wonderfully — if eerily — quiet and peaceful. Though I’ve become accustomed to the constant drone of urban noise, its occasional absence reminds me just how much sound is a key, if little-considered, aspect of how we experience places, whether natural or developed. For just that reason, a landmark program is under way in Utah to preserve how a popular national park sounds.

The first of its kind in a major national park, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the new Soundscape Management Plan at Zion National Park seeks to protect “attributes of sound — and the lack of it — for the benefit of wildlife and the nearly 3 million annual visitors.”

Park officials have been monitoring sound 24 hours a day in various parks of Zion since 2007, using portable, solar-powered devices. The sound maps they’ve created with the data are being used to help park managers figure out what needs to be done to preserve the current soundscape, something they call “as valuable as air qualityand watershed” despite its intangibility.

Reducing Human-Caused Sounds
In the park’s back country, for example, officials want to increase the gaps between each occurrence of human-caused sounds (generally made by aircraft) from the current two or three minutes to seven minutes. Reducing the amount of such sounds that penetrate wild areas of the park will help ensure that animals do not face further difficulties detecting prey — and preserve one of the key things people come to national parks to enjoy.

“Surveys have shown that 90 percent of people who visit the national parks want natural quiet and to be able to hear the sounds of nature,” Kezia Nielsen, an environmental protection specialist who worked on the project, told the Tribune. “It’s important for people who get out of the big cities to be able to hear nature, from the rustling of the wind to even insects moving through leaves.”