Neps and frogs

With longer days things are getting more active. My Phragmipedium caudatum has 10 buds distributed across 3 spikes, the frogs are having a ball and I’m busy planning a bog garden (to be put in after the ground thaws a bit – it’s still jackhammer time out there).

Amereega pepperi male transporting tadpoles (will embiggen maximally when clicked.

*

Nepenthes truncata Paisan Highlands

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.

A day in the woods

Photos, with commentary.

Clematis seed heads (I’m thinking Clematis virginiana).

*

Witch Hazel (Hamamaelis virginiana)

aka

Pistachier Noir

With a nod to NH Franco-American culture, tan seed capsules each carry one or two small shiny black seeds reputed to be edible with an oily pistachio flavor. *

*

Near a landing – I’m thinking abandoned logger’s office/shelter.

*

Beaver pond (handheld) panorama. Click on the image below to embiggen moderately; click here for the full boat.

*

In the mid 1800′s, the majority of New England was deforested. You find evidence (stone walls, cellar holes) everywhere – even deep in what is now regrown forest. I found what looks to be the remains of a sawmill foundation and millrace yesterday, miles from the nearest 2 lane road (and a half mile from the nearest tote road).

*

A short video of the site – as much for the sound effects as anything. Cameo by the lovely Dinah.

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:

*

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.

*

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.

*

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.

*

Transgenic nudibranch

Not only does E. chlorotica turn sunlight into energy — something only plants can do — it also appears to have swiped this ability from the algae it consumes.
Native to the salt marshes of New England and Canada, these sea slugs use contraband chlorophyll-producing genes and cell parts called chloroplasts from algae to carry out photosynthesis, says Sidney Pierce, a biologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
That genetic material has since been passed down to the next generation, eliminating the need to consume algae for energy.
-

Bizarre sea slug is half plant, half animal | MNN – Mother Nature Network.

Vias @SynapticNulship.

Ephemera

My Epiphyllum bloomed last night. It defines ephemeral in my little plant collection – the flowers last for hours. When I went to bed, the buds were closed, they’re open now (just before dawn) and will be gone before the sun is high in the sky. I think our hot summer was to the plant’s liking; six simultaneous blossoms is the best we’ve ever done. Unfortunately, still no appropriate bats to perform pollination duties.

*

A super secret preview of the KPK Wunderkammer

My partner in sciencecrime is pulling some of his collections out of mothballs and displaying same. We’re assembling quite an interesting little wunderkammer. I’m responsible for most things that respire, he for the things that don’t or have ceased to. The name we’ve assigned to the project is both a geologic descriptor and a mashup of our initials (the last K is for kolossal!!). I’m hoping to take a panorama shot in a bit, but for right now, a sneak peak:

The Hall of Local Skulls

*

The Hall of Porifera, Vespids and A Fish

*

Don Coyote

*

Lucy

*

Nepenthes truncata Paisan Highlands

*

“Atoms for Peas Piece Peace” Chemistry Set

*

The Siege Engine and Robot Annex

*

July photographs

Just unloaded the camera – here are some pix that may not have justified a post on their own, but taken together are a nice slice of life.

Blueberry picking with my partner in berrycrime at Sturgeon Cove:

*

*

The cove is in the background (and yes, there are sturgeon in the main river – or at least there were 10 years ago).

*

My Utricularia humboldtii bloomed! First time!

*

Two styles of rabbit dogs. The kind that come from Kearsarge Mountain Teckels:

*

And the kind that come from Popper’s Sausage Kitchen:

Rabbit hot dogs … are locally raised New Zealand White and are seasoned with sage, white pepper, garlic and ginger.

Damn good, too.