Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Ports of Call: Mumbai, India

Mumbai India -

This is one of the short videos I've prepared for my upcoming lecture series on board the Seabourn Ovation.  I often like to begin my presentations with Google Earth views to give audiences a geographic context to the locations I will be highlighting.  This video is one of my first to introduce the use of Google Earth Studio - an exciting new animation tool for Google Earth’s satellite and 3D imagery.  It is entirely web-based and allows some amazing animations such as the fly-in that I've created to swoop down to the Gateway of India (built to commemorate the visit of King George V and queen Mary to India).

The other resource I've used for this video is www.unsplash.com.  Unsplash is a completely free source of Creative Commons photos from highly skilled photographers around the world.  Many of the excellent high-definition photographs on Unsplash will completely blow you away! And they are available copyright free for any application -- perfect for my destination presentations.

Perhaps we will see you on board the Ovation, or one of my upcoming cruises.  Until then, happy adventures! keep them guessing where to next!

Cheers, George

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Seabourn Ovation - Pearls of Arabia & India

Photo by Kevin Tadema on Unsplash
Greetings!  My next lecture series will be on board the Seabourn Ovation Pearls of Arabia & India

Asian elephants are some of the most iconic creatures on the planet and will play a starring role in my lectures on board the Ovation.

One of the most exciting and hopeful stories that I've come across in my research for our upcoming travels in India involves both elephants and bees.  I don't know if elephants are afraid of mice (as the old wives would have us believe) - but it turns out that they really truly are afraid of bees!!  Which could come in handy when you want to deter elephants from trampling through your village or crossing railway tracks.

The elephants and bees project teaches villagers how to build a fence that incorporates bee hives.

The beehive fence used 15 hives colonized with the Indian bee (Apis cerana indica) at 10 meter intervals and were hung 5 meters off the ground. When the elephants hit the wire attaching the beehives, the angry bees are released which is enough to deter the elephants.

Even more fascinating is the use of buzzing to deter elephants.  Yes, the railway authority in India has learned that broadcasting the sound of buzzing bees is enough to keep them away from railway tracks.  Nearly 50 buzzing amplifiers have been deployed as part of "Plan Bee" at a dozen "elephant corridors" in the vast forests of Assam state, home to nearly 6,000 elephants, 20% of the country's total.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Flamingo feeding in Walvis Bay, Namibia

Flamingo beaks have mystified scientists for 2,000 years.
While on a visit to Walvis Bay in Namibia, I had the opportunity to film this
Greater Flamingo dancing to stir up shrimp and larvae living in the mud. 
(OK - I admit I added the music!)

Have you ever run across a bird that is a filter feeder...!?  When I think of filter feeding I think of baleen whales, like the great Blue whale and Humpback, feeding on plankton.   Turns out that flamingos have a diet of tiny creatures like shrimp and other water creatures that live in and on the muddy bottom.  Their long legs and long neck allow them to feed in a range of depths. 

But there's much more to the story...as you can see from my video, flamingos feed upside down!  Consequently these birds have undergone a series of amazing adaptations through natural selection.
Their unusually shaped bill, held upside down, contains lamellae, plates that act like tiny filters to trap the creatures they feed upon. Using their tongues they suck water in at the front of the bill and pump it out through the sides.

The fact that they feed upside down has shaped the bill into the "weird" design that we see today.

In most birds, the upper beak is larger than the lower one.  So guess what happens when these birds make a living by feeding upside down?  The beaks get reversed and the lower one becomes larger.  Not only that, but the articulation of the beak to the skull has evolved!  The upper beak can move when feeding.  Turns out flamingos keep their lower beak stationary and move the upper beak against it.

Try doing that with your upper jaw!  Say cheese!
Thanks for visiting!  Happy adventures!

For more about the wonders of the flamingo beak see the fascinating article on Curiosity.com.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Fadiouth - the Shell Village of Senegal

While visiting Senegal on the Viking Sun, we enjoyed a very interesting shore excursion to Joal-Fadiouth, known as the Shell Village.  Here's my 360 video of the fascinating local cemetery on its own separate island.  (Don't forget you can spin this with your mouse as it plays!)

Fadiouth is only accessible by boat or pedestrian bridge.  The entire island is built up of billions of shells that have accumulated over generations of harvesting. Shells are a part of everything in the town and are incorporated seamlessly into the architecture as well.  The shell-covered island and its town are well-known to tour operators and present a major tourist draw.  

I found the second shell island, connected to Fadiouth via another wooden bridge, even more fascinating!  The cemetery island also consists mainly of sea shells; but it provides an even more interesting and unique dimension.   In a country with an overwhelming majority of Muslims, the inhabitants of Fadiouth are 90% Christian.  On this island, Muslims and Christians are buried near one another, a rare occurrence in today's world. 

Location of Fadiouth
 14°09'06.9"N 16°49'24.6"W
 14.151911, -16.823485

Thanks for visiting...happy adventuring!