Kettle Hole Expedition II – pano and vids

As promised, a little more visual info from the great bog outing.

First, a panorama of the open water area of the bog. Side note: I downloaded and tried Hugin as a panorama stitcher (the source pix were taken w/o any assist – I can never find the pano mode on the camera and it has never done me much good anyway) and found it to be really quite excellent.

Bog pano

A video of me settling in to the mat, posted mainly for the sound of the water percolating up as I sank down.

And two videos of the mat undulating, the 1st mild and the 2nd a bit more wild.

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Kettle Hole Expedition

I’ve known about our local kettle hole for many years, but for no good reason, have never visited it. I fixed that yesterday. It’s an amazing place; I know that there are kettles and potholes elsewhere that make ours look like a teacup, but think about the size of the ice chunk that made this landform. Impressive.

Kettlehole

You first see the bog itself through the trees – lots of oak and some pitch pine as befits the very sandy soil – at the bottom of a steeply sloped dish. Most of the bottom of the kettle is a quaking bog, with some open water at the center (and around the perimeter). Here’s a shot of the bog showing the open water edge and, through the trees, the black spruce growing on the mat:

Kettlehole

And a shot from the mat, back at where the picture above was taken:

Spruce on the mat

On the mat, Sarracenia purpurea:

Sarracenia purpurea

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Sarracenia purpurea

A flowering bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia):

Bog laurel

And an especially stunted spruce:

Spruce on the mat

Expect a second post soon with video of the bog quaking (I hope) and audio of the water gurgling through the mat as yr humble correspondent stops and settles (again, I hope).

The Bathyscaphe Trieste and Captain Don Walsh, USN Ret.

With all the hubbub over James Cameron’s planned dive to Challenger Deep, a little attention should be paid to the  first and, at this point, only people to make it to the deepest point in the ocean: Auguste Piccard and then-Lieutenant Don Walsh. They did it in 1960 on the bathyscaphe Trieste.

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The Trieste was, essentially, a dirigible. It was mainly buoyancy cambers filled with gasoline (here water:gasoline::air:helium) supporting an untethered bathysphere; there’s a huge difference in compressibility between liquids and gases, so I’ll leave the blimp vs. zeppelin distinction alone. *saunters away, whistling*

The point of this post is an interview NPR did with Capt. Don Walsh. I was blown away. Check out his Wikipedia bio – adventure scientist extraordinaire – and yet in the interview (unsurprisingly), humble and thoughtful. I’d encourage folks to give him a listen either at the NPR link or here (right click and save the mp3 locally).

 

Cosmonautics Day/Yuri’s Night

A movie detailing Yuri Gargarin’s flight, 50 years ago today.

Rather than being an oversight, this probably had more to do with the fact that filming technology had been left behind by our sudden leap into the Space Age, and there simply wasn’t enought room inside the cramped Vostok 1 capsule for Yuri Gagarin to wield a primitive, bulky TV or film camera.

So in early 2010, with the new giant cupola window installed on the International Space Station, and with digital filming technology now firmly in the Space Age, I began to wonder if it might be possible to trace Gagarin’s pioneering orbit around the Earth once more – and this time to film it. *

Watch it full screen!

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More info at firstorbit.org and on the firstorbit YouTube account.

Catching up 1 – tracks

Breaking the long posting hiatus with some pictures from weekend activities.

I took a long scouting walk around a salt marsh a couple weeks back and chanced upon this set of tracks in the snow. My theory is that they show a coyote’s attempt to drag down a white-tailed deer. He wasn’t successful here, but I didn’t follow the tracks to find out what happened next – I was like a horse that knows the barn is thataway – heading for the truck!

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Kayaking the Tsangpo Gorge

Seems like once something is front and center in your imagination, you find it everywhere. I finally ordered Atomic Robo (Vols. 1-3) – I opened up volume one and found myself at a Nazi installation in the Tsangpo Gorge! A few days later I was skulking around a local used bookstore when I came across The Last River, an account of the ill-fated 1998 kayak expedition that claimed Doug Gordon’s life. Like the ijit I am, I didn’t buy it immediately; when I returned a week later it was gone. Luckily, it hadn’t sold – just moved to the ‘featured used books’ shelf at the main store – I snatched it up. The Last River gets 2 1/2 out of 5 stars – in spite of (because of?) the extensive bios of the participants, I didn’t empathize with any of them. Some of it may also be my ambivalence about modern ‘extreme’ expeditioning. It was extremely useful as an overview of some of the other western personalities kicking around that part of the world: Ian Baker, Kenneth Storm, et al. and as a decent timeline of western activity in the late 90s though.

While wandering around the internet looking for info on other Tsangpo exploration, I found the video account of the 2002 expedition on Hulu. Some thoughts -

  • Anyone who does not expect to have to re-negotiate with Monpa porters when the porters feel they have the upper hand is not paying attention. It happened to Kingdon-Ward in 1924, to the 1998 kayakers and, as you’ll see below, in 2002.
  • The river volume in 2002 is low – and yet the water is still amazingly powerful and complex. Some of it has to do with the gradient and some with the fact that ‘low’ is a relative term.
  • I can’t imagine what the holes, hydraulics etc. would be like at 2 1/2 to 5 times the volume depicted below (the conditions that the 1998 group confronted). Mind = boggled.
  • If you have Google Earth installed, plugging 29°46’9.59″N, 95°11’13.33″E into the search box will fly you  (close) to the Hidden Falls.

  • The map graphics in the video confuse the heck out of me – all I can figure is that south is at the top of the map.
  • Takin.

Three two-wheelers

If I do a three-fer on bikes, does that make it a tricycle post?

A nice old Mercian spotted at the Portsmouth Farmers Market:

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Campy downtube shifters – the retro-grouch in me is well pleased.

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A blast from the past logo (good memories):

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The Mercian badge:

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And a better version from elsewhere on Flickr:

Headbadge decal

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My guess is that the pilots of these babies were next door at the coffee shop – getting their fill of hot drinks before the cool and breezy Halloween Parade.

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Via Ride the Machine, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Simpson chain.

A draft:

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The Guvnor Owner’s Club tells us the cyclist depicted is Jimmy Michael. Wikipedia’s entry on Michael includes this interesting bit:

His biggest engagement in Britain was the so-called Chain Race at Catford track in 1896. William Spears Simpson had invented the Simpson Lever Chain, which he was so insistent was an improvement over conventional chains that he staked part of his fortune on it.Pryor Dodge wrote:

“In the fall of 1895, Simpson offered ten-to-one odds that riders with his chain would beat bicyclists with regular chains. Later known as the Chain Matches, these races at the Catford track in London attracted huge crowds estimated between twelve and twenty thousand in June of 1896. Simpson’s team not only included the top racers – Tom Linton, Jimmy Michael, and Constant Huret – but also the Gladiator pacing team brought over from Paris. Pacers enabled a racer to ride faster by shielding him from air resistance. Although Simpson won the Chain Matches, they only proved that the Gladiator pacers were superior to their English rivals.[5]“

Michael was pitched against Charley Barden in the five-mile race. What happened next – indeed whether it happened in London or at another Chain Race in Germany – is now lost. But stories start with Michael taking a drink offered to him by Warburton[6] and end with his riding poorly to his falling off his bike, remounting and setting off in the wrong direction.[7] The one thing accounts agree on is that the crowd shouted “Dope!”[8]

Michael’s strange behaviour at this meeting, and his withdrawal, led him to accuse Warburton of doping him. Many rumours surrounded Warburton but none had been proven and he sued for libel.

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And the approved ad – note the quints in the background and -I assume- pacing le Boulanger. Quads and quints were used for pacing before being supplanted by dernys.

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The Simpson Lever Chain is a bit of oddness – equal parts unnecessary complication and perpetual motion machine. The chainwheel interface operates more or less conventionally, but the cog engages the top of the triangular link – thus the ‘leverage’?

The Simpson Chain, of which so much was heard at the last Stanley show and so little since, has entered the cycle field in a practical way through the medium of a company by whom it is to be promoted. Whatever may be its ultimate fate and merits it has friends and opponents whose views are as fervid as they are diverse. The Cyclist condemns it, denies the genuineness of the victories it undoubtedly has recently gained in contests and roundly contests its value. On the other band, so important and disinterested an organ as The Sporting and Dramatic News is one of the ardent supporters of its claims, says of it, that “There is nothing simpler than the Simpson chain, which can be applied to any safety cycle now in use at a very moderate cost.”*

Colobus Day Weekend

Some highlights from the long weekend:

A front-long (its opposite is back-long) bike sighted at the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning.

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From there, off to the Athenæum book sale.

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Two words that cause my heart to race (even if there’s a little staining) – tipped in.

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More images from Ehon mushi erami here.

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They’re the reason for the season!

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Most of the rest of the long weekend was spent outside.

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Three expeditionary books.

The last three books I’ve read have all featured exploration as a thematic element. In the order I read them – and coincidentally, in reverse chronological order – most recent expeditions first:

James Tabor’s Blind Descent is the story of two series of attempts to find the deepest cave on the planet. American Bill Stone explores supercave systems in Mexico; Ukrainian Alexander Klimchouk does the same in Georgia (or what used to be Georgia – Abkhazia). I enjoyed Blind Descent – amazingly difficult caving makes for a good story. It’s comforting, for me at least, to know that there still are blank spots on the map; places that one can walk to (with difficulty) and be the first person there – ever. Shades of some of the polar explorers. A quibble – it feels like the book wants to be a profile of Bill Stone – driven, difficult genius – but can’t go all the way. Instead it pays a lot of attention to Stone, then throws in Klimchouk for contrast and because he actually found the deepest cave, and does a decent job painting, with a broad brush, the logistics of supercaving.

Stone on caving and on his next project:

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The Last of His Kind is a biography of Brad Washburn. When I thought of Mr. Washburn, it was as a photographer, cartographer and the Big Cheese (ret.) at Boston’s Museum of Science. I knew he’d done a lot of mountaineering when he was younger; I did not realize what a key figure he was in early Western Canada/Alaska climbing and exploration. This excellent bio fixed that. It did leave me curious about Washburn’s relationship with Charlie Houston. The two of them fell out during a 1933 attempt on Mount Crillon; they never climbed together again and though they remained friends it comes across in this book as an odd and strained friendship. If you’re interested in mountaineering, photography or a really interesting life, you’ll enjoy this one.

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Both of the aforementioned books use a narrative device that I’ve gotten a little tired of. The author starts the book with an especially interesting/scary/pivotal period then, in chapter 2, drops back and starts at the beginning. Sooner or later you end up back at the time period referenced in ch.1 and there’s this dislocation as the author says in effect, ‘and then, as we’ve already seen, x happens. Press on.’  Ouch – or maybe it’s just me.

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The Tsangpo/Brahmaputra River rises near Mount Kailas (along with the Indus and a major tributary of the Ganges – axis mundi, anyone?) and flows west across southern Tibet before looping – and I mean looping – south through the Himalayas in the deepest gorge on the planet. Because of the vertical relief the plant diversity in and around the Tsangpo Gorge is incredible – bamboo and Bulbophyllum orchids down low, an alpine environment up high and rhododendrons everywhere. In 1924-25 noted plant collector Frank Kingdon Ward and the 5th Earl Cawdor explored some of the Tsangpo Gorge and parts of Tibet to the gorge’s northwest.  Frank Kingdon Ward’s Riddle Of The Tsangpo Gorges river reprints K W’s original text with additional supplemental material. The Kingdon Ward story is prefaced by a brief history of exploration in the area, peppered throughout by great photography and finishes up with an overview of conservation efforts in the area. If you like plants (I do) and rivers (I do) and big mountains (yep) this book is a delight. I just wonder if there are mahseer in the river – that would make the area heaven on earth – even with the leeches.

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Photo album from the British Mission to Tibet, 1903-04

The causes of the war are obscure, and it seems to have been provoked primarily by rumours circulating amongst the Calcutta-based British administration (Delhi not being the capital until 1911) that the Chinese government, (who nominally ruled Tibet), were planning to give it to the Russians, thus providing Russia with a direct route to British India and breaking the chain of semi-independent, mountainous buffer-states which separated India from the Russian Empire to the north. These rumours were confirmed seemingly by the facts of Russian exploration of Tibet. Russian explorer Gombojab Tsybikov was the first photographer of Lhasa, residing in it during 1900—1901 with the aid of the thirteenth Dalai Lama‘s Russian courtier Agvan Dorjiyev.

In view of the rumours, the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, during 1903 sent a request to the governments of China and Tibet for negotiations to be held at Khampa Dzong, a tiny Tibetan village north of Sikkim to establish trade agreements. The Chinese were willing, and ordered the thirteenth Dalai Lama to attend. However, the Dalai Lama refused, and also refused to provide transport to enable the amban (the Chinese official based in Lhasa), You Tai, to attend. Curzon concluded that China did not have any power or authority to compel the Tibetan government, and gained approval from London to send a military expedition, commanded by Colonel Francis Younghusband, to Khampa Dzong. *

I heard about today’s auction on the radio this morning (no info on the NPR web site yet). The obvious fact that the album might as well be on another planet as regards my acquisition does not stop me from lusting after it.

An album of important photographs taken during the controversial British Mission to Tibet in 1903-04 is for sale at Bonhams Travel and Exploration, India and Beyond sale in London on 5 October (£10,000-15,000). The album can be traced to a member of the Mission – Lieut. William Pyt Bennett – and is believed to be the first with such a provenance to appear at auction.

The photographer was John Claude White, a Political Officer in the Indian state of Sikkim, and joint leader of the expedition with Major Francis Younghusband. Officially the mission’s purpose was to settle a border dispute between Sikkim and Tibet but it turned into a full scale invasion with the aim of establishing a strong British presence and, crucially, thwarting Russian ambitions in the area. *

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I have another Tibetan post in the pipeline (hint – 1924-25, rhododendrons and primulas) – stay tuned.

Yurt raising

Popped over to a yurt (ger) raising Tuesday. White Mountain Yurts were putting up a 24 footer not too far from work, so I did a quick lunchtime run.

The site is well back in the wood – maybe 800 feet from the pavement. There’s a trail leading back; you can get a pickup truck in, but I don’t think there’s going to be an eight car garage going up anytime soon (thumbs up).

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Lattice wall, cable (transfers the roof load to the walls and keeps the roof/wall interface compressed – traditionally done by a woven band), crown/roof wheel and in the lower photo the roof wheel filler.

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Lots of progress in the short time I was there.

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And a picture of the finished product (via White Mountain Yurts’ FB page).


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One possible plan I’m turning over in my mind for a few years down the road – big platform/deck with a bathhouse/kitchen/greenhouse hanging off one side and a yurt next to it as living space – maybe up (down) in Hancock or Washington counties (Maine).

Supermarket Soccer Streamers

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Dutch Supermarket Albert Heijn is one of the main players in the field of funny orange trumpery. For every 15 euro you spend at the store you receive a ‘Beessie’ mascotte (see photo). But nothing you could do with it till now. Anglers found out it’s very usefull to catch fish. On several websites people are showing their catch with the ‘Beessies’ from the supermarket.

NextNature.net – Exploring the Nature caused by People..