Friday, December 18, 2020
Saturday, December 05, 2020
Friday, November 06, 2020
Sunday, November 01, 2020
I've loved my visits to the Arctic - Greenland three times and Svalbard once. So you'd think I'd have really enjoyed an exhibition at the British Museum on the subject, but I left feeling sad on three fronts.
Firstly the full title of the exhibition is Arctic Culture and Climate and the last word relates to the impact that Global Warming is having, which is to be melting away an environment and way of life. The polar ice is retreating, as shown by this map:
This map also shows the different cultures and peoples that live within the Arctic Circle. There can be significant differences, particularly between those that focus on sea animals like whales and seals (such as the Inuit in Greenland) and land animals (such as the reindeer herding Sami in north Scandinavia). These two art works nicely shows some of the differences in their life styles:
There were some gaps I would have liked to see filed. For example, the organisers missed a trick in not showing the amazing Ammassaalik wooden maps (as blogged here) owned by the nearby British Library. And the book shop was a bit gloom and doom and would have benefited from something entertaining like the marvellous Dancing on Ice, reviewed earlier.
It reminded me of the cairns we saw in Scoresby Sound, Greenland:
And that led to the second reason I left this exhibit leaving sad: the ongoing travel restrictions that make it unlikely we'll have a chance to explore again this wonderful landscape for a long time.
The third reason was the imminent lock-down in the UK, which means that the chances to visit museums like this will have to be put on hold again.
Covid and Global Warming, what a combination.
For those interested in these high latitudes I'd recommend a visit - when you can. Until then, we must keep warm indoors and dream.
Saturday, October 31, 2020
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Recently Long John Silver was heard to say:
Saturday, October 10, 2020
I've been too busy to post recently, but here are three stories about the river Thames in London from the last few weeks.
1. New Ferry at Hammersmith Bridge
The arguments about who pays to fix Hammersmith Bridge (which might be falling down, as posted earlier) roll on with no resolution in sight. But the lack of access to the other side of the Thames is driving local residents crazy, so there are now proposals for a ferry by Hammersmith Bridge run by Transport for London (TfL).
This would require work to get the moorings etc. installed so it won't be up and running until at least the new year... just in time for another Ferries of London project, maybe.
See the Evening Standard article here.
2. DHL take to the Thames
The courier service DHL have recently launched a service delivering parcels via the Thames. Their web site says:
“With traffic and poor air quality becoming an increasing problem in urban areas like London, we’re committed to finding a better blend of transport. This new and unique service, combining electric vehicles, riverboat and last-mile bikes creates fast and efficient access across the capital.”
It did make me wonder if by "riverboat" they mean "boat" (above), but the idea is a good one if it reduces traffic and emissions.
3. Thames Clipper Pirate
A little early for talk-like-a-pirate day, there was this great story of a man stealing a Thames Clipper and going for a joy-ride on the Thames - at 3 in the morning. The police were called and, with blue lights flashing, laid chase to the pirate who refused to stop, so they had to board and take back control.
But the Thames Clipper pirate managed to get all the way from Trinity Wharf to Tower Bridge, about four miles of the river, before being captured!
Apparently Thames Clippers are now called Uber Boats, but this is just branding. You can't order a Thames Clipper like you can an Uber, but it has led to a lot of jokes about U-boats being spotted on the Thames.
Alas I have no photos of the excitement, so here are some from the archives:
Friday, August 14, 2020
But this week the bridge has been closed even to pedestrians and cyclists.
And its not just traffic crossing the bridge, the PLA has closed the river to all vessels at Hammersmith Bridge!
The problem is the recent heatwave we've had in London has made cracks in the bridge worse and there's a real concern about it's integrity. In other words, it might fall down:
Hammersmith Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
Hammersmith Bridge is falling down,
My fair lady
I hope they quickly manage to stabilise the cracks as this is a lovely bridge, and we can't have an Oxford - Cambridge boat race without the ability for boats to go underneath:
The other problem is that London needs its bridges to connect north and south London and a lot of local communities are finding this a real issue.
The difficulty is it has been estimated to cost £120 million to fix - and that was before the cracks got bigger. And of course the economy has sort of tanked recently.
Update 1: British Rowing is very concerned about this
Update 2: FAQ from the PLA here
Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Maybe one day I'll go full frame, but don't feel you have to. Focus on composition and think about what lenses you need.
- Trooping the colour (below, maybe the last time we'll see these ex-Royals in a Royal coach)
- Hot air balloons over London
- Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures at Kew Gardens
Friday, June 26, 2020
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
As of today, the Thames is open yet again for recreational activity, subject to restrictions as described in the PLA Notice to Mariners No.9 of 2020, extract above, full text here.
The river has been wonderfully quiet recently, allowing wildlife to flourish:
Though during the lock-down it hasn't been entirely empty of recreational users, as have spotted the odd kayak, rowing boat, canoe or stand-up paddle board out there.
But the policing has been sensitive rather than heavy-handed. Indeed here there seems to be more interest in taking a photo than names and addresses:
Maybe things are turning a corner, for a future where R < 1. Or, as a pirate would say, where Rrrrrr < 1!
Monday, April 13, 2020
There's an interesting article in the Times today about research into the Viking Tune ship, above, in the Oslo Museum (as visited on my way up to Svalbard).
Apparently recently it has been identified was an especially fast vessel, with significantly larger rig than would be expected for its length, and particularly sea-worthy. However, as the article puts it:
Norwegian archaeologists had missed the significance of the boat because “they didn’t actually talk to people who knew boats and ships”. In contrast, [Dr Paasche] sails and is in touch with traditional Norwegian boatbuilders.
They should have talked to the sailors!
I have thought that before. Archaeologists seem obsessed in seeing religious significance in everything - no doubt future archaeologists will write articles about the religions of London involving worshipping of the gods Arsenal, Chelsea, Fulham and all.
So when they find evidence of a causeway near Vauxhall into the Thames of course its a religious site. The fact that the location is the highest point that the Thames was tidal (at the time) and hence could alternatively be a trading site, where boats would be able to take produce up and down is ignored.
The role of trade in driving humanities history of the oceans is the subject of the book "The Boundless Sea" by David Abulafia which is in my to-read pile of books, though it is dauntingly fat, heavy, long (over a 1,000 pages) and uses a small font.
Archaeologists aren't the only ones who don't seem to get sailing. I remember seeing this painting of a wave by August Strindberg at the Tate Exhibition on that artist:
In the blub around this painting, called "The Wave" (obv.) the museum described the fear the wave brings.
But to me it reminds me of sailing offshore where the wave, if coming from astern, means in a few seconds time the yacht will be surfing down its edge. So the emotions are (also) anticipation and excitement at the thrill to come.
Given one of the Strindberg's themes is the creative process, those emotions are as important if not more so than fear.
I'm guessing the museum curators are not sailors, and have not surfed a yacht down waves like those.
But Strindberg would have, as he travelled a lot by boat across the Stockholm archipelago.
The Tate too should have talked to some sailors.
Friday, April 03, 2020
The Thames is serene and quiet. Water is flat and reflections are sharp. The only sounds are the cries of seagulls and squawks of coots.
Due to the lock-down, all sorts of traffic on the tidal Thames in London has been cancelled. There are no Thames Clippers, zooming up and down, the Thames Tideway Tunnel has stopped drilling (at least in my local site) and pleasure boats are recommended not to venture out (see PLA advice above).
I have seen a couple of kayakers but I've noticed they have been stopped by the PLA. Not sure what has been said (too far away) but I'm guessing its on the lines of the message above: don't put yourself or the lifeboat crews at risk.
This is really not a good time to require a trip to A&E.
Monday, March 16, 2020
Friday, February 28, 2020
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Recently the UK has been hit by a series of storms, most recently Storm Dennis, and the Thames has not be unaffected.
On several days the Thames Barrier had to be closed to prevent storm surges and high tide flooding London. Even so, a BMW Z4 floated away from Putney Embankment, later found full of nasty brown water.
There also have been casualties amongst the trees, include the one above, rescued after floating down river. It could have been a danger to navigation so was extracted by the PLA and towed up river. One of the branches broke off:
But it was retrieved and also taken upriver:
Hopefully the next few weeks will be a little calmer.
Monday, January 27, 2020
I've just got back from Oman, which is a great country to visit.
One of the things I managed to do is drive from Muscat down to Sur and visit the last remaining boat yard in Oman. Here they use traditional methods to build the classic dhows.
No computer design used here, its all from memory and craft experience, with hand tools employed:
They also build models (which I did wonder if they use to test or document designs) and there's a gift shop where they sell things such as the classic ship-in-a-bottle:
Out in the creek there are many examples of the boats created locally:
Oman has a long tradition of sailing across the Indian Ocean, trading with India and East Africa. Its possible that the legendary Sinbad was an Omani sailor.
The oldest ocean going dhow is the Fatah al Khair (The Triumph of Good) which has been preserved for history:
There is probably a lot more I could say, but the Fatah al Khair site was closed (they are working on new maritime museum for which it will be the star attraction) and no one at the boat-building site seemed to speak English. Anyhow, try this and this blog posts for a bit more info.
Sunday, January 05, 2020
This book does what it says on the tin: give a short history of seafaring. It's broken down into age, such as:
- The first ocean sailors
- The age of exploration
and then within each section are a couple of pages of topics within that age, such as (for the first):
- Exploring the Pacific
- Seafaring in the Mediterranean
I'd be surprised if you know all about all these topics - I certainly learnt a lot. The bite sized approach means its a good book to dip into and put down. Sometimes it was frustrating that the page limit per topic resulted in missed details or limited the description to that from a single observer. Also, the maps / charts for each ocean were slotted into specific ages but contained events from all ages which was a bit distracting.
But overall enjoyed it and would be happy to recommend it.