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!


Saturday, May 25, 2019

African Wildlife Up Close & Personal

Here's a presentation I gave on board the Viking Sun for the last leg of the 2019 Viking World Cruise while off the west coast of Africa.  A very big thank you to all the wonderful people we met on board the Viking Sun!!  You were an amazing audience and it was a great privilege to share the voyage with you.

At the beginning of the video I refer to Point Zero - located at 0 lat 0 long.  I was very impressed that the Captain made a point of crossing the Equator at Point Zero, even though it added several km to the distance sailed. I also found it rather amazing that you will find a weather buoy anchored to the sea floor via a 5 kilometer long rope!  I will provide photos and some more info on this intriguing location in an upcoming post.

Thanks for visiting and happy travels!

Cheerio, George

Saturday, April 6, 2019

South African ports and Canary Islands: Viking World Cruise

In a few days I will be presenting my upcoming Lecture series on board the Viking Sun. We will join the ship in Durban, South Africa and sail around the Cape of Good Hope, visiting East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.  From there we will sail along the West coast of Africa and Europe to London, England.  This will be the last leg of Viking's World Cruise.

I will be showing a couple of short Google Earth fly-overs that I've prepared for my presentations - here's a sneak preview!

The first one is a short intro to the South African ports from Durban to Cape Town.

The second video is a short fly-over of the beautiful island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  Some of the roads are simply amazing as they traverse the rugged terrain and explore the stunning scenery shown in this video.  Well worth a visit if you get a chance!

Thanks for visiting!  Happy travels... with just the right amount of adventure!!
Cheers, George

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Presentation on Polar Vortex & Changing Climate

Here's a short excerpt from one of my recent presentations on board the Zaandam while cruising off the coast of Chile.  The aim here is to provide some context for understanding how ocean currents interact with atmospheric circulation to breed hurricanes and how the melting of arctic ice has influenced the polar jet stream and changed climate patterns around the world.

This is an experiment to see how effective it might be to use my 360 camera (Insta360 One X) for recording presentations.  Both the image quality and the sound could be much better; I'm still experimenting with tweaking the settings for low light conditions.  One problem is the extreme contrast between the screen and the background... very hard to compensate for this.  As far as the sound goes, I think the solution is to record the audio separately and then sync the audio with video in post-production.  A second camera from the audience's perspective will also give me some better versatility.

The 360 camera offers interesting possibilities because it is like having a camera crew with you.  Since it records in 360 I can select the point of view during editing - which gives me all sorts of camera angles to choose from.  In this video you can see that at times I focus on myself as the presenter and then pan the POV to show the audience.  When I have more time I will add more powerpoint images - as I did with the water skier losing his shorts in the video above.

Right now I'm preparing for my next lecture series on board the Viking Sun from Durban South Africa to London England.

Thanks for dropping by!  Happy travels!

Cheers, George

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sea Lion colony & Albatross - Short Videos - South America

Islets in the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia, Argentina
We've just returned home from South America after a terrific cruise on board the Zaandam!  Thank you to all those guests who sailed with us for your amazing support during my series of presentations.  As you know, I love researching the latest scientific findings for the presentations I give around the world.  We had an abundance of amazing stories for this cruise, from the experiences of early seamen rounding the Horn, Darwin's travels in Patagonia... to the Yaghan canoe people who adapted to living in the windswept islands and channels of Tierra del Fuego over the past 6,000 years.

I usually include short videos that I create during each voyage in my presentations and have two for this post: Sea Lions on the Valdes Peninsula and the Black-browed Albatross.  Please enjoy!

South American Sea Lion Colony at Punta Norte

If you are wondering how I achieved some of those crazy camera angles, my new go-to travel camera has become the Insta360 one X.  An amazing camera that takes 360 videos in high-def and allows us to select our point of view after taking the shot.  Opens up a whole new world of neat visuals.

The following video shows how tricky it can be for an Albatross to become airborne!

Wishing you many happy adventures!  Hope to see you again soon.

George & Jan

PS: My next series of presentations will be on board the Viking Sun April 13 - May 11, Durban, South Africa to London, England.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Fly over Buenos Aires to Cape Horn, South America

Buenos Aires from Google Earth
Here's a short video that I've prepared for my next lecture series on board Holland America's Zaandam.  We're joining the ship in Buenos Aires and I often like to provide a Google Earth overview in my first presentation.  On this cruise we will be visiting Montevideo, Puerto Madryn, Falkland Islands (Maldivas), Punta Arenas, and Ushuaia before proceeding up the coast of Chile to Puerto Montt and San Antonio.

Here's a second video of our planned route sailing into the Strait of Magellan, past Tierra del Fuego, and then rounding Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.

There are some interesting tales regarding the rounding of the Horn. A sailor who rounds the Horn is entitled to wear a gold loop earring. Tradition has it that this should be worn in the ear that faced the Horn as it was rounded.  I've always wondered if left vs right meant anything!
Rumor has it that there were also various privileges accorded to sailors who had rounded the horn. They included being allowed to dine with one foot on the table.  OK - I believe that one... but this next one seems far-fetched.  Guess who would be permitted to put both feet on the table?  A sailor who has rounded both Cape Horn AND the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.  Good luck using your knife and fork, I say!
It was quite a trick just to survive rounding the Horn back in the days of sail...so recognition really meant something!  Apparently 10,000 sailors lost their lives in those treacherous waters over the centuries.  That number is difficult to fathom, but it seems to be the accepted estimate based on my research.
Apparently a sailor could also get a tattoo of a fully rigged sailing ship after rounding Cape Horn (if they survived).  I have already sailed around the Cape of Good Hope twice... once I've rounded the Horn I wonder if I would qualify for a fully rigged ship on each cheek!?  Derriere that is! 
Hope you enjoy!  Thanks for visiting.

Cheers, George

PS: Music for both videos is 7th Floor Tango by Silent Partner from the YouTube Audio Library.