Before they Disappear

The Arctic – Two Sides of the Same Story Pt 1

Posted on Oct 6, 2013 | Comments Off on The Arctic – Two Sides of the Same Story Pt 1

Figure

Fig 1.

Figure 1. A geography of the Arctic. (The International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean, courtesy of Martin Jakobsson.)

The Arctic shifts to a new normal

Martin O. Jeffries, James E. Overland, and Donald K. Perovich

October 2013, page 35

On 5 September 1980, when the Arctic sea-ice cover reached its minimum extent for the year, it blanketed much of the Arctic Ocean and choked the inter-island channels of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Not only did ice extend over 7.5 million square kilometers, almost equal in area to the contiguous 48 US states, but it was an old, and thus thick, ice cover: 62% was multiyear sea ice—that which survives one or more summer melt seasons—and 38% was first-year sea ice. The age and thickness of the ice made it resilient to atmospheric and oceanic forcing, such as solar radiation, storms, and air and water temperatures. Consequently, the seasonal cycle of winter advance and summer retreat was thought to be in a near steady state.
The extensive, thick ice cover that persisted through the end of the summer was considered normal at the time and for many years afterwards. It was expected of a region generally perceived to be cold, hostile, and isolated from the rest of the world, a zone of Cold War confrontation yet of little immediate consequence to most people. Northern residents would rightly have disagreed with that characterization, and multinational corporations were finding and profitably exploiting large energy and mineral reserves. The Prudhoe Bay oil field in northernmost Alaska had been producing for three years—and continues to do so—and the Polaris mine on Little Cornwallis Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago was to begin 22 years of lead and zinc production in 1981. And scientists continued to visit, almost exclusively in the summer—rather like migratory birds—to conduct fieldwork. (See figure 1 for a map of the region.)
In October 1980 Syukuro Manabe and Ronald Stouffer (both then working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory) reported the results of a numerical experiment on the sensitivity of global climate to a quadrupling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.1 The consequences for the Arctic were profound. Their model projected an asymmetric seasonal surface air-temperature response—greater winter warming than summer warming in the Arctic itself, and greater winter and annual warming in the Arctic than at lower latitudes. It also projected a large decline in sea-ice extent and thickness.
Whereas Manabe and Stouffer’s simulation quadrupled the atmospheric CO2 concentrations in its artificial world, the actual increase to date has been much lower. At Barrow in northernmost Alaska, for example, the mean CO2concentration of 385 ppm in September 2012 was only 15% higher than the 331 ppm of September 1980. And yet profound changes in surface air temperature, sea ice, and numerous other environmental conditions have occurred in the Arctic.

Retreating sea ice

On 16 September 2012, the minimum extent of sea ice was 3.4 million square kilometers, the lowest since satellite observations began in 1979 and 55% less coverage than existed in September 1980, as shown in figure 2. In September 2012 there was little sea ice in the inter-island channels of Canada’s Arctic Archipelago, and in the Arctic basin the summer ice edge was distant from the Alaskan and Eurasian coasts. The 2012 ice cover was also younger and thinner, with 58% of it less than a year old. A thin ice cover is less resilient and more prone to melting and retreat in summer than a thick one. It is also more translucent and thus allows greater light transmission into the underlying ocean. One consequence is a rise in what’s known as primary production—that is, photosynthesis by algae and phytoplankton—in the water below the ice and in previously ice-covered waters.
Figure

Fig 2.

Figure 2. The decline in areal extent of Arctic sea ice has been mapped daily since 1979 by satellites using passive microwave sensors. (a) Between September 1980, when the summer minimum was 7.5 million square kilometers, and September 2012, when there were 3.4 million square kilometers of ice, the end of summer ice extent has shrunk by 55%. (b)Minimum (September) and maximum (March) ice-extent anomalies for each year are plotted beginning in 1979, when satellite observations began. Each data point represents the departure of the measured ice extent in March and September each year from the average of those months over the reference period 1979–2012. (Data are from the Sea Ice Index, National Snow and Ice Data Center; see http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index. Walt Meier provided the plot.)
The minimum extent of sea ice is currently declining by an average of 91 600 km2 per year, roughly equivalent to the area of Maine, or −13.0% per decade relative to the 1979–2000 average. The maximum extent, typically recorded in March, is also declining, though at a slower rate of −2.6% per decade, and in March 2013 sea ice more than a year old made up only 30% of the ice cover. The shift to a younger, thinner ice cover is due to dynamic and thermodynamic processes, but determining the relative contribution of each remains a difficult research problem (see the article by Ron Kwok and Norbert Untersteiner in Physics TodayApril 2011, page 36).
The decline in summer sea-ice extent has attracted growing media attention since 2007, when a precipitous drop shook the scientific community. That drop was followed by yet another to a new low in the summer of 2012. Indeed, the six years from 2007 through 2012 have seen the lowest ice extents in the satellite record (see figure 2b). The marked downward trend experienced in those years suggests a shift to a new normal for sea ice. Profound change is not limited to sea ice, though. A new normal is evident throughout the Arctic environment—in the atmosphere, in the ocean, and on land.

What else is changing

Global warming produces a larger effect in the Arctic than it does in midlatitudes, as shown in figure 3 and as predicted by Manabe and Stouffer.1 (Incidentally, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was the first, in 1896, to quantify the contribution of CO2 to the greenhouse effect and to suggest greater warming in the Arctic than at lower latitudes.) Arctic air temperature increased in all seasons during the period 2000–09, with the greatest warming in autumn and winter.2Mean annual temperature in the Arctic is now 1.5 °C higher than the 1971–2000 average; that’s more than double the warming at lower latitudes during the same period.3
Figure

Fig 3.

Figure 3. Annual near-surface air temperature changes in the Northern Hemisphere are mapped as the average temperature measured between 2001 and 2012 relative to the average temperature for the 30-year baseline period 1971–2000. Arctic temperature changes of +2–3 °C, compared with the more modest rise of +0.5–1 °C in midlatitude regions, exemplify Arctic amplification of global climate change. Higher temperatures in all parts of the Arctic indicate a response to global change rather than to natural regional variability. (Data are from NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado:http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd.)
As the sea ice has retreated, it has exposed an ever-growing area of open water to solar radiation, and ocean heating each summer has increased due to the large difference in albedo—the fraction of solar irradiance reflected by the surface—between ice and water.4 Consequently, August sea-surface temperatures are now as much as 3 °C higher than their 1982–2006 average, and the upper-ocean heat content has increased by as much as 25% in the Canada Basin’s Beaufort Gyre, compared with its content in the 1970s. The Beaufort Gyre is also the region of the greatest freshwater accumulation in the Arctic Ocean, up about 25% since the 1970s, a rise that has strengthened the stratification of the upper ocean and deepened the halocline.3
The halocline is the upper-ocean layer in which a strong salinity gradient and near-freezing temperatures maintain the water column’s stability, which keeps apart the cold surface waters and sea ice above from the warmer Pacific and Atlantic waters below. In the Canada Basin, the halocline lies at depths of 50–150 m, just above Pacific water that enters the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait,3 where oceanic fluxes of heat and freshwater have increased by some 50% since 2001.
Sea ice is integral to the marine ecosystem, and its decline has biological consequences. Satellite measurements, shown in figure 4, reveal a roughly 20% overall increase in ocean primary production between 1998 and 2009, mostly on the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean due to increases in the extent and duration of open water.5 Unexpectedly massive under-ice phytoplankton blooms, found in July 2011 to extend at least 150 km into consolidated pack ice in the Chukchi Sea, suggest that previous estimates of annual primary production might be 10 times too low in waters where such under-ice blooms occur.6 The blooms might benefit from sea-ice melt ponds acting as skylights that channel solar radiation to the water below the ice.
Figure

Fig 4.

Figure 4. The maximum Normalized Difference Vegetation Index(MaxNDVI) is a measure of vegetation greenness observed from space. It is also a proxy for aboveground biomass at the peak of the growing season. Shown here is the change it underwent from 1982 to 2011 and, with the same color bar, the change in total annual primary production—a measure of photosynthesis by algae and phytoplankton in units of grams of carbon per square meter per year—over the period 1998–2009 in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent waters. (Adapted from ref. 3, prepared by Karen Frey and Uma Bhatt.)
In the Canada Basin, by contrast, the strengthening of upper-ocean stratification and deepening of the halocline may be limiting primary production. Coupled with the uptake of atmospheric CO2, the reduced primary production probably accounts for the acidification of surface waters in the Canada Basin.7
Researchers looking at the other end of the biota size scale find that the loss of sea-ice habitat is negatively affecting certain marine mammals. Walruses, for instance, have increasingly limited access to summer sea-ice cover where they normally rest while feeding in shallow continental-shelf waters near the coasts of Russia and Alaska; instead, they are going ashore in large numbers along the Chukchi coasts of Russia and Alaska, farther from the feeding grounds. There is also evidence for the migration of mollusk, crab, and fish species northward through the Bering Strait. A shift to an ecosystem whose food web is spread throughout the water column rather than localized on the sea bottom of the Chukchi Sea8 would favor species such as bowhead, fin, humpback, minke, and blue whales, while bottom feeders, such as walruses, bearded seals, and diving ducks, would be disadvantaged.
On land, snow-cover duration is declining in North America and Eurasia, primarily due to earlier spring melt, which reduces the land surface albedo.9,10 As terrestrial snow cover and sea ice have retreated and the sea surface has warmed, tundra greenness and aboveground biomass (see figure 4), particularly shrubs, have increased.
Change is also occurring belowground. A steady increase in permafrost temperature on the North Slope of Alaska exemplifies a circumpolar trend that has been evident since the mid-20th century.3 What’s more, the warming has coincided with observations of large fluxes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to the atmosphere from terrestrial and offshore sources. Reassuringly, though, evidence to date indicates that natural methane emissions in the Arctic have not risen significantly in the past decade.11
Glaciers, ice caps, and the Greenland ice sheet are rapidly losing mass (see figure 5), a worrisome trend given their potential role in sea-level rise. On the Greenland ice sheet, the area and duration of melting have been increasing, and the surface albedo has been decreasing7 since satellite observations of the two effects began in 1979 and 2000, respectively. Strong advection of warm air from the south in recent summers has contributed to the extensive surface melting and mass losses from the Greenland ice sheet and Canadian Arctic glaciers and ice caps.3
Figure

Fig 5.

Figure 5. The Greenland ice sheet and glaciers and ice caps in the Gulf of Alaska region and the high Canadian Arctic have been losing mass, by melting and iceberg calving, since GRACE satellite observations began more than 10 years ago. Mass loss, in gigatons, from the Greenland ice sheet is accelerating and is currently almost three times the combined total loss from the Alaskan and Canadian sources. The seasonal cycle of winter snow accumulation and summer melting is evident in the oscillations recorded from each region. (Adapted from ref. 7, prepared by Marco Tedesco and Gabe Wolken.)

Sources of Arctic amplification

Manabe and Stouffer did not use the term, but the strong, all-season temperature response in the Arctic to CO2-induced global warming is now commonly referred to as Arctic amplification. As mentioned earlier, the actual increase in Earth’s atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gas levels since 1980 is a small fraction of that used in the Manabe–Stouffer model. The disparity raises the question of what drives the amplification. The short answer is modest external forcing from midlatitudes combined with multiple positive feedbacks within the Arctic system itself; for more details, see the accounts by Mark Serreze and Roger Barry2 and by Julienne Stroeve and her coauthors.4
The spatial synthesis of atmospheric data, known as reanalysis fields, offers evidence that the poleward transport of energy in the troposphere leads to higher Arctic air temperatures at the surface, particularly in winter. Satellite measurements indicate that the heat flux into the Arctic is accompanied by an increase in cloud cover and water vapor. Clouds amplify the effects of surface warming by augmenting the net downward long-wave radiation flux and the greenhouse effect of water vapor (see the article by Bjorn Stevens and Sandrine Bony in Physics TodayJune 2013, page 29), particularly in winter and spring. Model studies indicate that the warming might be further enhanced by the rise in atmospheric concentrations of carbon aerosols, known as black carbon or soot, which also absorb solar radiation. Black carbon deposition might be reducing the albedo and thus accelerating the melting of sea ice and of snow and ice on land.
The poleward transport of atmospheric heat and moisture causes local changes in the sea-ice cover and other Arctic-specific variables. Higher air temperatures at the surface reduce winter sea-ice growth rates; the thinner cover is then more vulnerable to melting in spring. Areas of dark (low-albedo), radiation-absorbing open water, in turn, lead to further melting. The increase in the ocean’s heat content inevitably delays the autumn freeze.
Ponds of meltwater that accumulate on the sea ice absorb an increasing amount of solar radiation as they grow larger, which leads to further melting over the course of a summer. The albedo effect also applies to glaciers and snow on land. On the Greenland ice sheet, for example, the decreasing albedo of the ice surface promotes further melting and runoff, an effect enhanced by a decline in summer snowfall. On land, atmospheric warming leads to earlier snow melt in late spring and exposure of the darker land surface. That exposure, in turn, further warms the surface and the atmosphere above it.
The transport of Atlantic and Pacific waters also provides heat to the Arctic. However, those water masses flow many tens of meters below the surface, and the processes by which the heat would reach the surface of the highly stratified upper-ocean water column remain to be determined. A new upper-ocean feature is the so-called near-surface temperature maximum. Originating from solar warming in summer, the NSTM is residual heat that has survived autumn cooling and has the potential to melt ice in the subsequent winter and reduce the maximum ice thickness.
The combination of external forces and regional feedbacks doesn’t alter only the Arctic environment. Interestingly, growing evidence suggests that changes in the Arctic have their own effects at lower latitudes, as outlined in the box onpage 37.

Socioeconomic consequences

The Arctic Ocean and adjacent subarctic seas supply food for indigenous peoples whose culture and traditional way of life are affected by the prevalence of open water. They now must travel farther offshore—over more unstable ice or through increasingly rough seas—to hunt mammals that live in icy habitats. The wave action on thawing and vulnerable shorelines accelerates the coastal erosion and is affecting village, archaeological, and sacred sites. In Alaska, the estimated cost of relocating a single village farther inland is on the order of $100 million.
Roads, railways, runways, pipelines, harbors, and homes are all vulnerable to effects of warming in permafrost-rich regions. Yet the demand for new construction and its impact on residents and the environment will only rise with the predicted increase in oil, gas, and mineral extraction efforts. Recognizing a growing interest in an Arctic Ocean fishery, the US declared a moratorium on commercial fishing in its Arctic waters in 2009, citing the need to learn more about fish stocks and the ecosystem.
Maritime transportation, including cruise-ship traffic and summertime trans-Arctic shipping that takes advantage of the shorter distance between Europe and Asia, is also expected to rise. The prospect of increased vessel traffic and natural resource extraction indicates the need for other types of supporting infrastructure and capabilities—for instance, maritime domain awareness, oil-spill prevention and response, search and rescue, and communications—in a region where they are severely limited. Some people predict that global competition for natural resources will lead to confrontation, instability, and militarization. Others doubt such consequences in a region where governance is considered to be strong.

Whither the Arctic?

The Arctic environment is highly sensitive to increases in global mean temperatures and ultimately to the continuing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. That sensitivity is manifest as large and persistent physical and biological shifts relative to previous observations and suggests a new normal for the Arctic environmental system.
For all the evidence of system-wide environmental change, the Arctic remains a data-sparse region. Observations are far from comprehensive; the infrastructure required to make them—for instance, weather stations, stream gauges, and snow courses—is often threatened with diminishment or outright shutdown, and open data access has yet to be universally adopted. As a result, opportunities to detect change will remain limited, as will our understanding of the processes behind it and our ability to forecast the future. Those are all problems that frustrate public and private planners, managers, and policymakers who must make decisions based on the Arctic’s new normal environmental state.
For example, it’s been known for years that the observed rate of sea-ice retreat exceeds the rate simulated using climate models. And despite a great deal of effort that has gone into improving the models in preparation for the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the spread among the current generation of models remains large,12 as shown in figure 6.
Figure

Fig 6.

Figure 6. Sea-ice extent is declining faster than models predict.The large spread of ±1 standard deviation (SD; gray) in 84 predictions of ice extent from 36 different current models underscores the uncertainty about the future state of the ice cover and the need to improve our understanding of air-ice-ocean processes and their representation in the models. These and similar results form the basis for the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The black curve plots observational data dating back to 1953 from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The yellow and blue curves are the mean and median of the model results, respectively. (Adapted from ref. 13.)
Indeed, an extrapolation of the trend in sea-ice volume estimates suggests that nearly ice-free Arctic summers could become the norm as soon as a decade or so.13 By contrast, models that form the basis for AR5 predict that won’t happen until mid century (roughly 2060, according to the median line in figure 6). The gap is relevant for policymakers: The observation-based estimate lends an urgency to the issue of responding to climate change; the model-projected estimates do not. Many Arctic scientists consider that although the models provide qualitative support for Arctic amplification and future sea-ice loss, they have limited value for quantitative projections. Model deficiencies in ocean circulation, cloud physics, atmospheric dynamics, and albedo parameterization—details that go beyond sea-ice physics per se—all contribute to the spread among model predictions.
Therefore, improving observations, understanding, and models of sea-ice, ocean and atmospheric processes, interactions, and feedbacks are among the numerous goals identified for immediate action in the US Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) research plan.14 Released in February 2013, the five-year plan focuses on seven broad research themes most likely to benefit from better communication and coordination among federal agencies and from partnerships with the State of Alaska, local communities, indigenous organizations, nongovernmental groups, and the academic community. The IARPC plan has grown in significance with the release by the Obama administration in May 2013 of its National Strategy for the Arctic Region, which stresses the need to increase understanding of the Arctic through research that will support decision making informed by the best available scientific information.
The IARPC plan and the National Strategy also emphasize the need for the US to work with international partners. Such cooperation is exemplified by the Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO), which consists of six biological “hot spots” that extend from the northern Bering Sea through the Chukchi Sea to the western Beaufort Sea. The DBO sites are maintained by the Pacific Arctic Group of six countries—Canada, China, South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the US—all of which have agreed to make and share a standard set of biophysical measurements whenever one of their research vessels enters a hot spot. Another consortium, International Arctic Systems for Observing the Atmosphere (IASOA), which promotes data access and coordinated atmospheric observations of, among other things, greenhouse gases, clouds, energy fluxes, pollutants, and aerosols, also exemplifies good observing practice and data policy.
The DBO and IASOA contribute to Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON), a joint activity of the Arctic Council (the representatives of eight Arctic countries and indigenous peoples) and the nongovernmental International Arctic Science Committee of 21 national member organizations. The goal of SAON is to encourage partnerships and synergies among observation and data networks and to promote the sharing and synthesis of data and information.
In 1980 much Arctic science was motivated by Cold War confrontation as the US and the Soviet Union faced each other across the Arctic Ocean. Then, even at the end of the summer, the Arctic Ocean remained a largely ice-covered barrier. Today the motivation for Arctic science and the geopolitical situation have changed. The retreat of the sea ice and opening of the Arctic Ocean, their role in Arctic amplification of global warming and its impact on lower latitudes, and the socioeconomic and geopolitical ramifications of the new normal in the Arctic are feeding the need for international collaboration in policy as much as in science.

Box. Arctic amplification and lower-latitude weather

Due to positive feedback, a modest rise in temperature at Earth’s midlatitudes leads to a greater temperature rise in the Arctic. But such amplification in the Arctic can, in turn, affect the weather at lower latitudes. For instance, record winter snowfalls and low temperatures recently experienced in Earth’s midlatitudes are thought to arise in part from the heating in autumn and early winter of the Arctic troposphere—the lower roughly 10 km of its atmosphere. The weather extremes are driven by changes in wind patterns caused by the warming temperatures over areas of the Arctic Ocean free of sea ice. The winds enhance the southerly transfer of relatively colder Arctic air masses.15 Some researchers argue that such Arctic forcing, while controversial, increases the north–south amplitude of the polar jet stream and reduces its wind speed.16
The result is slower-moving weather systems in midlatitude regions and a higher probability of extreme events, such as cold spells and heat waves, flooding and drought, and Greenland ice-sheet melting.16 The eastern US, northern Europe, and far-eastern Asia seem particularly prone to such Arctic influences. Although the increased forcing from the Arctic is well documented, the processes that link Arctic forcing to the more chaotic atmospheric flow in midlatitudes are more speculative. Mechanisms for Arctic amplification and potential weather effects in lower latitudes have been documented in recent scientific articles, and they remain a major area of Arctic climate research.
Martin Jeffries is an Arctic science advisor at the US Arctic Research Commission in Arlington, Virginia, and a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. James Overland is a research oceanographer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Washington, and an adjunct professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. Don Perovich is a geophysicist at the US Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and an adjunct professor of engineering at Dartmouth College, both in Hanover, New Hampshire.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We thank the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, and NSF for their continuing support. Jim Maslanik and Mark Tschudi provided the sea-ice age data. Lori Bruhwiler provided the September 2012 atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration value for Barrow, Alaska.
This article first appeared in:
http://www.physicstoday.org/resource/1/phtoad/v66/i10/p35_s1?bypassSSO=1&goback=%2Egde_2878181_member_278003718

References

  1. S. Manabe, R. J. Stouffer, J. Geophys. Res. 85, 5529 (1980).
  2. M. C. Serreze, R. G. Barry, Global Planet. Change 77, 85 (2011).
  3. M. O. Jeffries, J. Richter-Menge, J. E. Overland, eds., Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012, http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/report12.
  4. J. C. Stroeve et al., Climatic Change 110, 1005 (2012).
  5. K. R. Arrigo, G. van Dijken, J. Geophys. Res. [Oceans] 116, C09011 (2011).
  6. K. R. Arrigo et al., Science 336, 1408 (2012).
  7. M. O. Jeffries, J. Richter-Menge, eds., Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 94, S111 (2013).
  8. J. Grebmeier et al., Science 311, 1461 (2006).
  9. M. G. Flanner et al., Nat. Geosci. 4, 151 (2011).
  10. C. Derksen, R. Brown, Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L19504 (2012).
  11. E. Dlugokencky, L. Bruhwiler, Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 93, S130 (2012).
  12. R. Knutti, J. Sedláček, Nat. Climate Change 3, 369 (2012).
  13. J. Overland, M. Wang, Geophys. Res. Lett. 40, 2097 (2013).
  14. National Science and Technology Council, Arctic Research Plan FY2013–2017, NSTC, Washington, DC (2013).
  15. J. E. Overland, K. R. Wood, M. Wang, Polar Res. 30, 15787 (2011).
  16. J. A. Francis, S. J. Vavrus, Geophys. Res. Lett. 39, L06801 (2012).
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Follow-up: Tourist’s death prompts Venice to ban cruise ships from entrance to Grand Canal

Posted on Sep 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Follow-up: Tourist’s death prompts Venice to ban cruise ships from entrance to Grand Canal

Image via telegraph.co.uk

The eyesore of cruise ships on Venice’s famous skyline could soon become ancient history, as the behemoths are set to be banned from the city’s waterways.

The new proposals by Italy’s Environment Minister follow a crackdown on water traffic, after the death of a German tourist two weeks ago.

Joachim Vogel, 50, a professor of criminal law, was crushed against a dock by a reversing vaporetto water bus as he took a tour with his family by gondola near the Rialto Bridge.

The tragic accident has prompted authorities to bring in a series of new safety regulations including ‘a floating congestion zone’ on the Grand Canal to ease the chaotic rush hour waterway traffic. Breathalyser tests for gondoliers are also imminent.

Venice’s proud residents have long been up in arms about the presence of large cruise ships passing through the lagoon, with a flotilla of protesters taking to the waters in June.

Lobbyists argue that the huge ships, sometimes ten storeys high, erode the canals and the city’s fragile foundations, contribute to the worsening flooding that occurs every winter and damage the delicate eco-systems of the lagoon.

The cruise companies pay huge port fees for the privilege, but their passengers frequently eat and sleep on board and contribute little direct revenue to restaurants and hotels.

The Italian Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said he would put the proposals in front of cross party parliamentary committee in October.

He told the Italian daily Il Gazettino: ‘There will always be a margin of risk and even that margin is too high a risk.

‘The problem is not just the presence of large ships in St Marks basin but in general the presence of ships in the lagoon.’

He expected a ‘concrete response that could be translated into immediate action’, as the problem is getting worse all the time, he said.

‘The number of cruise ships passing in front of St Marks’s Cathedral has grown by seven per cent this year alone.’

The proposals would essentially put in action emergency legislation drafted after the Concordia tragedy, that would prevent ships of more than 500 tonnes coming within two nautical miles of landscapes of value such as the Venice lagoon or fragile environments such as the marine sanctuary between Sardinia and north-east Italy.

Venice’s mayor wants to see cruise tourists dock at Porto Marghera, a town blighted by industrial pollution. Other suggestions have included a floating off-shore port.

Alternative solutions would see the number of cruise ships allowed to enter the lagoon severely limited, or the dredging of a new approach to the same cruise passenger terminals but avoiding the narrow canals around St Marks Square.

On Saturday another huge cruise ship was photographed passing within yards of St Marks, in ‘a bow’ to the city inevitably raising the spectre of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which sank after hitting rocks off the coast of Tuscany during just such a bow to the island of Giglio last year.

Tensions were raised in July after the Carnival Sunshine, which is owned by the same parent company as the notorious Costa Concordia, allegedly passed within yards of the city’s bank while performing ‘a sail by salute’ to a major company shareholder.

Film footage appeared to show the 110 thousand ton liner squeezing a vaporetto water taxi and other boats between the ship and the bank. Carnival denied any wrongdoing.

Venice_BIG

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iTT addresses the luxury in the experience

Posted on Sep 1, 2013 | Comments Off on iTT addresses the luxury in the experience

1239614_10200641356652166_2046955918_n-1

On Sunday September 1, Luxperience 2013 opened in Sydney, Australia’s Town Hall with a “Thought Leaders” evening. David McGonigal of iTravelTree was asked to present as the opening speaker –
his topic was “The Luxury in the Experience”.

Good evening. From Andrew’s introduction you may gather, I’ve been a travel writer/author and photographer for too many decades.

100 places to visit

In fact, a friend recently send me one of those Facebook quizzes on  “100 places to see before you die” –  and I had visited 90 – I’m either well travelled or ready to cark it.

My latest venture is a start-up called iTT. Basically, iTravelTree conducts a meta search of travel data filtered by your social preferences. So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to “luxury” lately – the trend I see in luxury is to collect exotic experiences not things or famous hotels.

If you had asked my mum, she probably would have defined travel luxury as a grand old hotel – like Sydney’s Australia Hotel.

Marstrand-Island-in-Bohuslan-Photo-Lisa-Nestorson

I suspect Scandinavia may agree with her. While flying on SAS last month I read in the in-flight mag: “Marstrand has something that no new luxury resort can buy: dignity and soul”.

It was both a sweeping generalization and wrong. Marstrand may do it well but so do many new resorts. Brilliant architecture, environmental sensitivity and empathy with local residents lie at the heart of dignity and soul. Some go further:

D on ele

© David McGonigal

The Anantara Golden Triangle gives you a chance to be part of a care centre for mistreated Asiatic elephants. More on that later.

My last 18 months have been special as my wife Sandra, stepped down from running Rupert Murdoch’s Australian magazine division early last year and, after a lifetime of being tied to an office has finally had a chance to travel. We’ve been referring to it as her executive gap year. Seeing our industry through her eyes is enlightening. Fittings and service are a given – and only noted in their absence – but special moments like hugging a baby orang utan or being taught to cook Tiramisu by the head chef of the Villa San Michele are prized.

Galleria

* This is Milan’s Galleria Hotel – self proclaimed 7-stars

First can I say how I hate the attempt to add more stars – Dubai’s Burj al Arab started it and the Galleria has taken it further. I think the trend is in reverse: high degree of comfort is no longer limited to 5-star properties. Some 4-star resorts now offer a standard that would have been 5-star a decade ago. And why is it new hotels that think they might be 6 or 7 star: what about grand, established hotels like Monaco’s Hotel de Paris that could probably lay a better claim?

And, anyway, many of us would forego the front door being opened (or yet another chandelier) in exchange for free high-speed internet or the chance to make a cup of coffee and tea in the privacy of our room.

So what makes a property or travel experience truly special? There are three possibilities:

  1. The destination itself is enough
  2. The travel experience itself is enough
  3. The experience maximizes the location

1.       In some rare cases, the place itself is enough.

Simply being there is a luxury. And here I’m talking about discerning, experienced travellers. For the first timer in London, a dodgy hotel in Kensington might seem like paradise – it isn’t.

What’s a destination where the privilege is simply to be there?

Paro

  • Bhutan Paro Festival © David McGonigal

I was fortunate enough to go to Bhutan some 15 years ago. The food was terrible, the accommodation basic and the roads were shocking. But the richness of the culture – and its lack of cultural pollution from modern pop culture – left all of us, all very experienced Himalayan travellers, saying that we had found Paradise. And, then and now it wasn’t cheap.

But what’s the impossible dream? As a boy, I always thought I’d go to the moon but never thought I’d visit Antarctica.

Breaking Ice South of the Antarctic Circle DSC0727

  • Antarctica © David McGonigal

I now work in Antarctica as an expedition leader – I’ve been there more than 100 times and feel privileged every time. Passengers will pay the fare for a basic cabin on a Russian icebreaker that would give them five star accommodation for the same duration anywhere in Europe: $60,000 for two weeks.

The luxury to travel to Bhutan or into polar ice is at least as special as 5-star luxury.

Lunar

Space remains the ultimate travel destination and it looks like I won’t make it there. Space travel is coming but affordability might be a problem. Mike McDowell popularized Antarctica as a travel destination – and his Space Adventures have arranged all 8 people who have paid (a lot) to go into space.

Virgin Galactica

Virgin Galactica says it’ll have first flight on Christmas Day this year. Cost for 2.5 hr flight to 360,000 ft is $250,000. Not bad value for 110 km up.

This is the category where indulgence doesn’t correlate with luxury. There are people prepared to pay $1/4M to throw up in a capsule a long way from home.

2 What about creating the unusual? Manufacturing the whole experience from scratch?

castlebuilding

In the non-luxury market, it’s hard to go past Disneyland then DisneyWorld as places that create their own need. While you’d go to London or Paris regardless, would you go to Anaheim or Orlando without Walt’s worlds?

MONA

© David McGonigal

Closer to home – both in terms of location and audience – we have David Walsh’s MONA that has brought a whole new travel group to Hobart. When a gallery is talked more about in tourism stats than in the Arts pages you know it’s significant. Amazing and confronting, too.

Dubai

Creating something from nothing is hard. Yet that’s what Dubai has done – taken a small fishing village and turn it into the world’s hub of luxury hotels and shopping.

us on eles

© David McGonigal

I go back to the Anantara because it epitomizes the luxury in the experience. And it drew us to a place we wouldn’t have visited. We signed up for a three day mahout course – and we were allocated our own elephants for the duration. Having your own elephant is absolute luxury – coming to understand the likes and dislikes of this giant gentle creature was very special. We still dream of elephants.

Oasis

*Oasis of the Seas

The modern cruise industry has done it, too – created a huge growing industry out of nothing. Of course there were cruises before but ships were mainly a form of transport not entertainment.

Fat DuckFat Duck © David McGonigal

Then we have the modern phenomenon of food tourism. Perhaps it has always existed in a small way. nearly always directed towards France.

But now Noma has as much drawing power as the Little Mermaid, El Bulli rivals Sagrada Familia and The Fat Duck has put Bray UK on the map. Even in my suburb of Balmain, many hear the name and think Adriano Zumbo’s macarons.

When you are creating something from nothing, you are limited only by your imagination. Here luxury can be indulgence and the experience.

3      Finally we have the experience that works to enhance the location – the most common scenario

Cipriani

  • Cipriani Hotel © David McGonigal

Every company that delivers a travel product needs to be thinking “what next?” There was a time when just having been to the rim of the Grand Canyon was enough. Then people said “what next?” So now we can raft through it, hike to the bottom or walk out on a glass platform. Likewise, Sydney Harbour Bridgeclimb changed the bridge (and Sydney) from a static setting to an experience.

I experienced this first hand in Venice last year. Once it would have been enough to have Venice as my destination. And for luxury it’s hard to go past the legendary Hotel Cipriani. But then the Cipriani raised the stakes into the stratosphere – “come stay with us and kayak the canals of Venice.”

kayak Venice

© David McGonigal

This was luxury at all levels – the pampered indulgence of the hotel and the experiential indulgence of seeing Venice from my own kayak. I fondly remember the Cipriani – especially breakfast on Easter Sunday – but I’ll never forget paddling under the Rialto at sunset then turning to glide under the Bridge of Sighs.

It’s hard to up the arms race in hotel amenities. Better champagne – but when you get to Krug vs Dom, what’s next? Better beds? More service? If you want to stand out you have to think laterally and offer the unusual – as the Cipriani has done.

David Bowie

Luxury can simply be service. A great concierge is there to realize your dreams. A couple of weeks ago I was London for the day and wanted to see the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A but it was sold out. So we contacted Red Carnation Hotels where we had stayed the last couple of times we’ve been in London and Egerton House Hotel provided a couple of passes that they were offering their guests. They have our loyalty.

Summer Palace

  • Summer palace, St Petersburg © David McGonigal

The ultimate luxury is not more brocade but rather “Access All Areas”. So a cruise that features a private dinner in one of Catherine the Great’s palaces has special appeal. Or a Danube cruise that includes rare tickets to Oberammergau Passion Play. In Sydney you’d hope a hotel has some Springsteen tickets in a drawer. Think big – come to LA and we’ll take you to the Academy Awards. Who would say “no”?

Hugh Jackman

“Access All People” is a luxury for the sociable. I spent a weekend at Gwinganna Health Retreat when Hugh Jackman was there (he’s a part owner) and that’s been good for a few stories afterwards. The lesson I learned was don’t try to hold eye contact with any woman when Hugh is heaving himself out of the pool behind you. I always thought the ultimate would have been on the Antarctic cruise that had the reclusive Neil Armstrong on board.

&Beyond

There’s also the wonderful experience when the environment and the property perfectly interlink. I first discovered this in South Africa where game parks like &Beyond’s are luxurious but have strong links to not just wildlife conservation but also the local community. Luxury for visitors is feeling part of the place not a casual observer.

Turtle Island

Things change. Many years ago I was asked to give Bernie Eccleston suggestions for a tropical Australian resort with no expense spared. I suggested he go to Fiji instead. Places like Turtle Island gave a better experience because you are immersed in local culture while being treated royally. Australia has evolved – today I’d say to Bernie – have a look at the website of Luxury Lodges of Oz.

Southern Ocean Lodge

  • Southern Ocean Lodge

We’ve come a long way from the days when Australian tourism culture was a reflection of Crocodile Dundee.

Bulgari Bali

It’s predicted that more hotels and resorts will align themselves with luxury brands – think the Armani Hotel in Dubai, the Missoni Hotel in Kuwait and the Bulgari resort in Bali. I hear even Vogue is considering moving into the area. Of course, the name gives instant cut-through but I think it’s lazy.

Doing the hard yards to find a way to offer a unique experience that provides your property with an authentic, memorable life moment that ties to its location will result in enduring success.

Easter island

  • Easter Island © David McGonigal

A recent report  by the Adventure Travel Association and George Washington University  defined adventure travel as any trip that includes at least

2 of

a)    physical activity,

b)   interaction with nature, and

c)     cultural learning or exchange

It valued the industry at $US263 billion pa, with 65 per cent annual growth since 2009. There’s certainly money in experiential travel.

But, if I can distill a lifetime of travel into a few words – For me luxury is not about limos or five-star fittings and glamorous furnishings, it’s about taking time to create a memory that’s held in my heart and stands out among all others. In our privileged world we can always buy ‘luxury’ things but access and experience stands out as the ultimate luxury!

Hindu devotees travel on a crowded passenger train in Goverdhan

Sadly, there are a lot of ordinary travel experiences being sold. Exceptional ones stand out – from the time you hear about them to the moment you do them. It doesn’t have to be grand –

Cafe Tartufi

© David McGonigal

I smile when I think of Café Tartufo in Florence where we had perfect truffle paste rolls and good red wine for lunch on a rainy day – it was the perfect Florentine experience.

Bora Bora

© David McGonigal

It was a highlight as much as snorkeling with stingrays in Bora Bora lagoon or

Mig 21

flying a Mig 21 jet fighter as a paying guest of the Slovakian Airforce.

It’s no coincidence that it’s 2013 and we are here at an event called Luxperience. We’re in a Golden Age of Travel and you are at the cutting edge of it. Thanks for the experiences you offer – and the wonders that are yet to come.

If you have special vision – please come and tell me about it. Meanwhile, please “like” iTravelTree on Facebook or bookmark the webpage to follow us as we develop.

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Venice Introduces New Laws for Gondolas

Posted on Aug 28, 2013 | Comments Off on Venice Introduces New Laws for Gondolas

Venice gondoliers

Gondoliers pay their respects near the scene of the German tourist’s death in Venice. Photograph: Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

 

The death in Venice this month of a tourist in a gondola that was crushed by a waterbus has prompted the city’s mayor to crack down on the chaotic congestion in the Grand Canal.

Joachim Vogel, 50, a German professor of criminal law, was taking a tour with his wife and three children on 17 August when the gondola they were in was crushed against a dock by a reversing vaporetto.

In a city free of cars, the buildup of waterbuses, delivery boats and watertaxis – owing to the steady rise of tourist numbers – means officials are now being forced to treat Venice’s canals like any busy street, with plans for bans on mobile phone use while steering and stricter rules on turning and overtaking.

“I am amazed this crash didn’t happen sooner. People do exactly what they like on the canals,” said Aldo Rosso, a former city-appointed representative of Venice’s gondoliers.

Among the 26 congestion-busting measures announced this week by Venice’s mayor, Giorgio Orsoni, are drug and alcohol tests for boat handlers, following reports that the gondolier involved in the fatal collision had traces of cocaine and marijuana in his blood.

The gondolier, Stefano Pizzaggia, is under investigation by magistrates along with the pilot of the waterbus and other pilots who were close to the incident.

“The gondola was allowed to be where it was when it was hit, so it does not look like the gondolier’s behaviour had anything to do with it,” said Nicola Falconi, the current representative of the gondoliers, who have been working the canals of Venice in their handbuilt black vessels for 1,000 years.

“A small minority of young gondoliers may use drugs but older gondoliers are more than happy at the prospect of drug testing,” he added.

Ugo Bergamo, the city council’s assessor for transport, said: “There might be a few rotten apples, but Venice’s gondoliers represent the city well.”

Gundula Vogel, the widow of the crash victim, appeared to lay the blame on the waterbus pilot. “It was an absurd situation – we continued to shout from the gondola, but the vaporetto hit us and then pulled out without being aware of what had happened,” she said on Saturday. “I cannot understand how they can undertake such manoeuvres without a sailor in the stern, a camera or mirrors that allow them to see what is happening to their rear.”

Since the crash, gondoliers have reported two near misses on the Grand Canal. “I feared for my life and those of my customers,” said Alessandro Secco, after one close shave with a waterbus.

A Venetian entrepreneur who declined to be named said: “Gondoliers are victims but they do also take advantage of the precedence they have on the water and the vaporetti pilots accuse them of getting in the way. There is an ugly confrontational atmosphere since the crash.”

Falconi admitted there was tension but said gondoliers were due to meet pilots to thrash out their differences and “avoid a manhunt”. Among the mayor’s 26 measures, which will be debated with canal users before going into effect, are bow propellers on vaporetti to allow them to manoeuvre more easily, a ban on gondolas on the Grand Canal before mid-morning to allow goods boats to complete deliveries, the removal of some landing jetties and a ban on gondolas navigating in groups during the day.

Gondolas offering rides from one side of the Grand Canal to the other – a cheap alternative to a gondola tour – may be cut back.

“I like the plan to install police officers at points along the canal with whistles and signs,” said Falconi.

Bergamo said the problem on the Grand Canal was not the level of traffic. “That has not increased since 2006,” he said. “The problem is people going too fast. Last year, the handing out of fines for going over 6km/h was halted after a judge ruled the use of speed cameras was an invasion of privacy.”

But Matteo Secchi, spokesman for the local activists’ group Venessia, disagreed. “There was already too much traffic in 2006,” he said. “It all comes back to how Venice cannot support the tourists who come here, it is a simple question of space. The difference is that changes get made when people die,” he said.

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Jersey Shore reopens post Superstorm Sandy

Posted on May 25, 2013 | Comments Off on Jersey Shore reopens post Superstorm Sandy

 

Seaside Heights Jetstar coast wreck

By Jessica Remitz

Jersey Shore reopens post Superstorm Sandy. As seaside towns across the US ready their boardwalks, beaches and storefronts for the annual crush of summertime tourists, opening New Jersey’s 130 miles of coastline – a key seaside destination for New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians as well – has required far more work than unfurling umbrellas and firing up the grill.
In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy demolished miles of beach along the US Eastern seaboard and left thousands of residents without homes or places of employment. But few places were hit as badly as the Jersey Shore, where the storm made landfall.
But in the seven months that have passed, more than one billion federal dollars have been allocated to the response and recovery of the popular summer vacation destination – made famous by its waterfront casinos, towering roller coasters and reality television series – with nearly 500 agencies working towards disaster relief. While some of the shore’s most beloved areas, including Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights, were among the most devastated, efforts to have these beaches open for Memorial Day (27 May) are moving along with success.
“The destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy has brought this community together like never before. There is a much keener sense of appreciation for what we have here,” said Tom Dunphy, managing editor of Restoretheshore.com, a non-profit organisation working with local charities to rebuild the area. “People don’t realise how much progress has been made. The beaches and boardwalks will be ready to go.”
The slowest area of recovery has been for homeowners, many of whom are still waiting on building directives from federal agencies and payouts from insurance companies. As these communities, especially Monmouth and Ocean counties that bore the brunt of the storm, work to rebuild, tourists should expect to see an overwhelming sense of pride and positivity in addition to a wide-open rental market.
“One piece of advice I would offer to tourists is to reach out to local realtors,” Dunphy said. “There are plenty of great places available for weekly or seasonal rentals.”
Grass roots organisations like Restore the Shore, Friends of Seaside Park and Hometown Heroes have received support and funding to help provide immediate relief for local families, business and communities, with exciting events including the Restore the Shore Music Festival on 18 May on the beach in Seaside Park featuring local bands that welcomed several hundred people to the area to see the progress that’s been made to the oceanfront, and the ongoing Sandy Castle project, where professional sandcastle builder Ed Jarrett is attempting a Guinness World Record for the tallest sand castle (above 50ft) at Jenkinson’s Beach in Point Pleasant.
For those planning a trip, here is the status of some popular areas along the shore:

Sandy Hook, Monmouth County Three of the six beach areas in town, B, Gunnison and North Beach, are scheduled to open Memorial Day weekend, while the Gateway National Recreation Area, a popular hiking, fishing and camping area, has been open since 1 May. Ferry services from downtown Manhattan to Sandy Hook will begin the weekend of 30 June and continue through 2 September.

Long Beach Island, Ocean County Repairs to the beaches along this 18-mile island known for its summer rentals are on schedule for completion by 18 May. The island’s popular Thundering Surf Waterpark will open 25 May, with the Thundering Surf Adventure Golf Courses already open for the season.
Point Pleasant, Ocean County Reconstruction work on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach is on schedule for completion this summer. The boardwalk’s most popular attractions, including the Jenkinson’s Aquarium, Entertainment Complex and South Amusement Park, are open for business.

Seaside Heights, Ocean County Visitors will be able to access the famous mile-long boardwalk that needed to be completely restored after the storm on Memorial Day weekend, though some additional work will be required after the holiday. The Seaside Heights “JetStar” roller coaster, an iconic shoreline image that once sat on the Casino Pier, was removed from the ocean on 14 May, the same day that Britain’s Prince Harry toured the area.

Wildwood, Cape May Located at the southern end of the shore, Wildwood’s five miles of beaches are free and open to the public. The two-mile boardwalk, named among the Top 10 American Boardwalks by Sherman’s Travel in 2009, includes three seaside rollercoasters and a beachfront waterpark, and the city’s well known Sightseer Tram Cars is also open.

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Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

Posted on May 14, 2013 | Comments Off on Elephant-man John Roberts: Anantara’s new Worldwide Conservation Director

John Roberts Anantara's Conservation Director

John Roberts has been Director of Elephants at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort since 2003. He heard of the new elephant camp being set up at a luxury resort in Thailand’s lush jungle and was drawn to Anantara’s ambition of creating unforgettable adventures for guests, as well as becoming a role model for elephant welfare and helping all of Thailand’s elephants.

Set up in 2003 as a traditional mahout village, Anantara Golden Triangle’s Elephant Camp works alongside Anantara’s Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF) to perform street rescues, provide ongoing employment and a comfortable lifestyle for each elephant and its entire mahout family, as well as to participate in bigger picture projects.  Fully self sufficient, the Camp now supports more than 25 elephants and 60 people.  All elephants receive the utmost care, while the mahout and his family receive food, housing, medical insurance, schooling for their children, and 100% of the profits from a traditional silk weaving business.

It’s a remarkable experience that has been well embraced by visitors from around the world. John Roberts has been rewarded by being appointed Worldwide Conservation Director for all Anantara properties worldwide that will now benefit from John’s conservation knowledge, experience and passion. Roberts’ skills in minimising environmental damage will play a role in developing new Anantara properties. He will also draw on his impressive knowledge of scientific conservation trends and technologies to recommend best sustainable practices and assist with Green Globe certification.

The goal is that John Roberts will continue to work closely with scientists and universities, both foreign and Thai, and will ensure that conservation initiatives produce viable scientific data.   These insider relationships will enable him to identify and develop projects which Anantara properties can become involved with, and where appropriate be incorporated into unique guest activities.

 

Background: Combining his academic background in science and engineering with his interest in the natural world, Roberts spent many years travelling the globe in search of conservation volunteer roles.  From fighting fires and making trails in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in the desert of West Texas, his knowledge of fires was put to good use in the remote parks of Northern Australia.  At Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal he helped with the International Trust for Nature Conservation’s tiger research and other projects.

As Anantara’s conservation guru he will propose and oversee resort projects of a philanthropic and eco-friendly nature. For instance, Roberts will help Anantara hideaways around the world implement the brand’s “365 Days of Good Deeds” initiative.

“Since 2001, Anantara has been committed to creating luxury travel experiences that emphasise the greater good of all, with properties across Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, the Maldives and Middle East immersing themselves in initiatives that give back to our precious planet and help people in need,” Mr. Roberts explains.  Throughout 2013 at least one good deed will take place every day.  Whether it’s rescuing street elephants in Thailand, promoting marine turtle protection in Phuket, enhancing coral rejuvenation in the Maldives or supporting local farmers in Indonesia, Anantara is dedicated to mindful preservation in each of its exotic locations around the world.   Moreover the “365 Days of Good Deeds” programme invites guests to combine their five star escape with Anantara’s sustainable endeavours, ultimately making the Anantara Experience even more rewarding.”

For more information on Anantara’s 365 Days of Good Deeds please visit http://www.anantara.com/365-days-of-good-deeds

THE END

Elephant dismount

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Antarctica action shot: Guardian Eyewitness App

Posted on Mar 8, 2013 | Comments Off on Antarctica action shot: Guardian Eyewitness App

Photographer Paul Souders took this amazing Antarctica action shot on 19th February of a Leopard seal chasing a Gentoo penguin out of the freezing waters and onto the shore of Cuverville Island.  This photo and many more amazing images are available in the Guardian Eyewitness collection App which showcases the world’s most striking and beautiful photographs. available in Apple iTunes App store

Photographer Paul Souders Barcroft Media

Photographer Paul Souders Barcroft Media

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Ivory Trade – On a serious note – Warning some graphic images

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 | Comments Off on Ivory Trade – On a serious note – Warning some graphic images

The Ivory trade is devastating Africa’s elephants. The problem of how to stop elephant poaching often comes up when the 177 countries that signed the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species CITES, meet, and with as many as 25,000 elephants now being killed for their tusks each year, the global ivory trade is again likely to be a focus of discussion when they gather in Bangkok this week ( March 2013).  A small number of mostly southern African nations periodically argue that a legal, closely regulated trade in ivory could help deflate the soaring prices that poached tusks fetch on the black market in China and other Asian countries.

Article Source WSJ Online AAP

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323293704578331771192423366.html

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Thyangboche Monastery – Nepal

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 | Comments Off on Thyangboche Monastery – Nepal

5.17 Thyangboche Monastery, Everest region, Nepal

Thyangboche Monastery, also known as Dawa Choling Gompa, located in the Tengboche village in Khumjung in the Khumbu region of eastern Nepal is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Sherpa community. Situated at 3,867 metres (12,687 ft), the monastery is the largest in the Khumbu region of Nepal. The monastery was built in 1916 by Lama Gulu with strong links to its mother monastery known as the Rongbuk Monastery in Tibet. However, in 1934, it was destroyed by an earthquake and was subsequently rebuilt. In 1989, it was destroyed for a second time by a fire and then rebuilt with the help of volunteers and international assistance

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