Extra Double Stranded!

Ascension Island, South Atlantic Ocean

Honest. This is huge. I first posted about cracks in Ascension Island’s airstrip under the headline Stranded last week. Now, check this out:

Eight hundred residents on the British-run Ascension Island will not be able to get a regular flight off the island until at least 2019 because of potholes on the only runway, a travel agency has said.

Ascension is governed as part of the St. Helena British overseas territory. Under the headlines Airport Tale Turns Embarrassing for British Government and St Helena Airport Opening Postponed – Again I told you last year about problems with the possibility of wind shear at the newly built but never used £285 million – and counting – St. Helena airport. That potential for wind shear was apparently never anticipated until the airport was built, but only discovered in pre-opening testing. See the test landing – which came only on the third try, in this video.

When we traveled the Namibia – St. Helena – Ascension circuit we did so aboard the Royal Mail Ship St. Helena, which sailed that circuit most of the year. There had been plans to retire the RMS St. Helena after the opening of the airport. No prospect of that now. And now, with the closure of the Ascension airport making shutting down travel to either Ascension or St. Helena by air, there’s one other problem. This month,

the ship (the RMS St. Helena) was declared out of order, twice ending up in dry dock in Cape Town, most recently due to the left propeller becoming locked in a forward position.

The British Royal Air Force had operated its “South Atlantic Airbridge” between Brize Norton Air Base near Oxford, England, Ascension Island, where there are US Air Force, UK government and BBC installations, and Stanley in the Falkland Islands. It seems that the A330s for those flights are too heavy to use the Ascension airfield, pending repairs, and so they have been rerouted via Dakar, Senegal.

For now, and by “now” I mean the foreseeable future, if you happen to be a tourist stranded on St. Helena or Ascension, it might be a good time to bear down on finishing up that novel. Ascension is the more austere, but I believe if I had to choose, I’d choose to be stuck there. The military there have planes. They can fly in more beer.

Have a look at the Ascension Island Gallery and the St. Helena Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

New Ancient Continent

If you’re geographically inclined you’ll enjoy this eight page pdf claiming to have discovered a new continent, titled Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent from the Geological Society of America, from which this map comes:

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Interesting in its own right, but also it’s not often you get to read about Kerguelen.

Short Trip to East Greenland in Photos

I thought I might compile several of the photos from our recent east Greenland trip here in one place. Each links to a larger version in EarthPhotos.com‘s Greenland Gallery.

The first two are southeast Greenland on the approach from Toronto to Keflavik, Iceland. Much closer than when you’re lucky enough to glimpse Greenland on a clear day from 10,000 meters on a trans-Atlantic flight.

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From Keflavik International you transfer to Reykjavik city field for an Air Iceland flight to Kulusuk, east Greenland. The main city on the entire 21,000 kilometer coast of east Greenland is Tasiilaq (hardly a proper city really, with just over 2000 people). Trouble is, it’s on an island without enough flat space for an airstrip. So you take a helicopter or speedboat across the Ammassalik Fjord. Here is an iceberg from the speedboat, along the way.

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It is a short walk into town, and these sled dogs are there to welcome you.

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Here are a few photos of Tassilaq, beginning with icebergs in the tiny bay beyond town. I’m guessing that once they’ve floated in they stick around for a while. Once they have floated into the mouth of the little bay, what are the odds they will soon find their way back out?

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And finally, a multiframe panorama with a wider view.

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A little stream flows through town from what they call the valley of flowers. This is where the town cemetery is, row after row of mostly unmarked white crosses. Follow the stream up the hill and you’re rewarded with this fine view back across town.

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The workshop Stunk carves all manner of bones, tusks and antlers – seal, reindeer, ox, bear, narwhal – into figurines, necklaces and the like.

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Here, a narwhal tusk is roughed into shape for carving.

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And this is a result of Stunk handiwork, a tupilak, a sort of shamanic fetish carved from seal bone.

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This is our new friend Hans, proprietor of Stunk, with his much-loved daughter Paula. Hans was kind enough to host us in his home, a real honor.

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It’s not every day: Here is new inventory for his shop on Hans’s front porch, the humerus bone of a polar bear, given to him by a friend.

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These skins do not necessarily have anything to do with the bone on Hans’s porch. They are hanging on a line all the way across town.

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After having taken the speedboat on the way from Kulusuk airport to Tasiilaq, we rode the helicopter back to the airport. Here are some of the views. In this top one, Tasiilaq is on the little bay in the center. If you click to enlarge the photo you’ll see Tasiilaq town on the bank on the left.

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This is sort of a first pass at the Greenland photos we brought back. I’ll be going through them all this fall and posting more to the Greenland Gallery at EarthPhotos.com. And this trip will be included in my upcoming book about travel in the north, which will cover Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, maritime northeastern Canada and Finland. Working title is Out in the Cold. Watch for it, and see my other two books.

Friday Photo #20, Obscure Islands Edition

Any guesses where this idyllic little spot might be? Hint: It’s where Napolean Bonaparte died. He was exiled here after the Elba thing didn’t work out. Click the photo to enlarge.

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This is St. Helena Island, a British possession off the east coast of Africa. Up to now St. Helena has relied on the last remaining Royal Mail ship for its survival, as there is no airport. But for better or worse, that should change by this time next year, as an airport is under construction. This photo is from our visit, via the RMS St. Helena, sailing from Walvis Bay, Namibia, in January 2010, and you can see more in the St. Helena gallery at EarthPhotos.com. And here are collected articles about and photos from St. Helena on CS&W.

Book Review on Goodreads

The Old Man and His SonsThe Old Man and His Sons by Heðin Brú

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a specialty read, preparatory to my trip to the Faroe Islands in two months.

Set vaguely in the first third of the 20th century, The Old Man and His Son is a snapshot of island life among the common, rural folk of the day.

The narrative returns again and again to a comparison of the way things have always been done with the newfangled, high-falutin’ ways of kids-these-days through the eyes of Ketil, the main character. In Ketil’s world the sea provides, roofs leak and conveniences are few.

The book cover says the Faroese chose this book as their ‘Book of the Twentieth Century.’ At 162 pages it’s short enough to read in a single dedicated day.

View all my Goodreads reviews