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Akademik Shokalskiy Antarctica Rescue Musings

Posted on Dec 31, 2013 | Comments Off on Akademik Shokalskiy Antarctica Rescue Musings

Akademik Shokalskiy

SMH Photo: Andrew Peacock/www.footloosefoto

Ice-cave-antartica-herbert-ponting-main

 Herbert Ponting – the Terra Nova

Antarctic rescue musings by David McGonigal

No I’m not stuck in the ice

Thanks for all the queries but fortunately I’m not stuck near Antarctica’s Commonwealth Bay on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, awaiting rescue or evacuation. Rather I’m sweltering in Sydney on New Year’s Eve. In my 100+ voyages to the Antarctic I’ve yet to be on a ship beset in ice (touching wood as I type). However, I’ve assisted in rescues and experienced much that the Southern Ocean can throw at you. So, since the Shokalskiy became stuck, I’ve been following the saga with great interest and here are a few observations. These are based on no more than the news reports everyone else has been seeing, too.

A summer of setbacks for Antarctic Science

Today (the morning of Tuesday 31 December) it looks like the decision has been made to take passengers and staff off the ship (by Chinese helicopter from the ice to the Aurora Australis), leaving just the Russian crew. That will take the drama out of the situation and allow the Chinese and Australian vessels to return to their resupply work for the summer science program  that runs on a very tight timetable during the short polar summer. This year looks set to be a setback for ongoing Antarctic science programs – by far the the biggest being that the US budget dispute was not resolved in time to allow US programs to run this summer and, more relevant for Australian science, my understanding is that the Aurora Australis left for the rescue attempt halfway through resupplying Casey Base.

Once there is just the 20 or so crew left on the Shokalskiy they simply wait until they can get free. That won’t be a problem for the crew – the ship normally carries months of extra provisions and Russian polar ships’ crews have done extended research in the past where they only returned home after more than a year at sea. The ship is their real home and I’ve worked with some who have been on the ship since it was built more than 20 years ago.

“Like an almond in toffee”

The Shokalskiy was built to ice-strengthened Russian specs in Finland in 1982. It’s Shuleykin-class so it’s quite small (1753 GRT) and sturdy. However, it’s getting quite old and several of the others in this class have been withdrawn from working in Antarctica. Ideally, the wind will change and the ice will scatter and the ship can escape. Or it will spend a while “like an almond in toffee” as one of Shackleton’s men put it. From what we hear, I don’t have much fear for its safety. The two main risks are that the ice will push it towards land or shoals or that an iceberg could collide with it. The sea ice that the ship is stuck in is moved mainly by the wind; icebergs, on the other hand, with their deep ‘keels’ are moved by ocean currents and sometime a large iceberg looks like an icebreaker plowing through sea ice.

I hope everyone has been impressed by the way the Chinese, French and Australian vessels rushed to the rescue?  That’s the seafarers’ code – to always aid a stricken vessel when it calls for assistance. However, once the people (and ship) are safe there’s the matter of who pays? This operation will have already directly cost millions of dollars (and many more in curtailed programs) so there will be a hefty bill. I’ve known rescuers to bill at exorbitant full commercial rates. Hopefully, insurance will cover it.

Down the line deeper questions will be asked. How and why did the ship get stuck? I have no idea but I bet there are rumours soon enough – and they will only be dispelled after a lengthy enquiry, if there is one.

Science, safety and tourism

For me, once the passengers, crew and ship are safe, the most worrying ramification will be the impact this has on Antarctic tourism. Antarctica is a continent run by the nations of the Antarctic Treaty “for peace and science”. There is provision for tourism and generally that operates in a safe and responsible way. Even so, many scientists regard tourism as a diversion and an unnecessary risk and some would like to see it limited or stopped. This incident will add to that pressure. Never mind that tourist ships often help scientific research programs and research bases, just as the science ships are helping a tourist ship right now. Antarctic tourists soon become and Antarctic advocates with an important role to play in promoting its preservation. The outcome of the next Antarctic Treaty meeting may be crucial to those of us who love Antarctica and love the opportunity to show it to travellers with a passion for the last great wilderness.

 

David McGonigal is an expedition leader in Antarctica who has visited it on more than 100 occasions. He heads back at the end of January 2014. He, with co-author Dr Lynn Woodworth, is the author of “Antarctica – the Complete Story”, “The Blue Continent” and “Antarctica – Secrets of the Southern Continent”.

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Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Posted on Oct 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Orville, Wilbur and Me

You too can fly a Wright aircraft.

  • By Phil Scott
replicaA replica is now available for flying just a few miles from where the Wrights experimented. Above: Our writer enjoys a few moments of stable flight.
It’s offered by www.wrightexperience.com

The Wright brothers never trudged up these dunes barefoot.Bruce Weaver, Andy Torrington, and I are struggling to carry a glider up a sandy winding trail in Nags Head, North Carolina. A near-exact reproduction of a 1902 Wright aircraft, the glider rests on a four-wheel dolly with balloon tires. Andy is pulling and steering, Bruce is pushing, and I’m trying to keep tree branches from snagging the flexing wings while tip-toeing on hot sand spiked with underbrush. Barefoot is the best way to get up a hill of sand, but as the sun torches the tops of my feet, I start to appreciate the Wrights’ formality. When they conducted their flying experiments a fewmiles north, they wore shoes (not to mention wool suits and ties).

The glider weighs around 120 pounds, but it feels heavier, and it’s bulky—302 square feet of yellowing cotton wings built just like the original: the same ash and spruce frame and weather-beaten, cross-stitched fabric. Constructed in 2003 by The Wright Experience, a group run by renowned Wright scholar/replica builder Ken Hyde, it’s the closest the team could get to the original. Sure, they used multiple twisted wires because the original single-strand hard wire breaks too quickly, and they added a harness rigged to hold you in when you hit the sand. You’re going to hit a lot of sand.

Complete accuracy is impossible: Of the original, only a wingtip bow exists. The brothers famously never left plans, only the patent drawings. (It was the glider, not the powered 1903 Flyer, that first achieved the three-axis control that the brothers patented.) “There are some sketches and notes in their papers, in their notebooks,” Hyde says, adding: “Luckily, the brothers took a lot of good photos.”

Hyde and The Wright Experience built this glider for the Discovery of Flight Foundation, which used it to train pilots for a flight planned in a replica Flyer for December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight. (That attempt failed.) Once the glider had served its mission, the foundation, like the Wright brothers, stashed the craft in a hangar.

Last year Paul Glenshaw, the executive director of the foundation, and his son visited Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which offers instruction in a variety of hang-gliders. Glenshaw sat down with the school’s manager, and along with The Wright Experience, they worked out an agreement in which the school would use the replica to teach gliding on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Glenshaw says he wanted people to connect with the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, and Hyde says Kitty Hawk Kites was the right group to show what the glider can do: “They know the winds and they know the weather.”

For $349, Kitty Hawk Kites offers a four-hour flight lesson in the glider, with up to five students per lesson. The company has started with one lesson a week. So far, 35 pilots have flown the Wright glider. (“Pilots” may be a misnomer: No experience in airplanes or gliders is necessary.)

When I first arrived at Jockey’s Ridge, Bruce, the clean-cut recreation manager, and assistant recreation manager Andy took me to the school’s hangar. The glider was up on a rack. “It looks fragile but it takes a beating,” Bruce said. “It flexes, it creaks, but it bounces back into shape. It’s tougher than it looks.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“I think it’s very safe,” said Bruce.

Well, no one died in the Wrights’ glider, I thought.

Bruce, Andy, and I made the long haul up Jockey’s Ridge. Andy, a happy guy with long, thinning red hair, was wearing the Kitty Hawk Kites uniform: bare feet, shorts, and a T-shirt.

Up on the Jockey’s Ridge peak, the wheat-color biplane got curious looks from nearby students in starter hang gliders. Bruce and Andy lifted the glider off the dolly and set to work connecting control wires to control surfaces. I put on the helmet that the two give fliers.

Bruce explained the canard—the forward elevator. It’s operated by twisting a one-by-four bar of ash that is mounted horizontally between the two skids, at about the pilot’s chest level. Its ends are wrapped in wax string, the duct tape of the day, to keep the wood from splintering. The bar is linked to the elevator with window sash chains that are routed around wooden pulleys bolted inside the frame. Bruce said it was my job to control pitch: “When flying it, try to make small movements. The canard may flutter—the springs dampen it. Don’t over-control it.”

To lift off, he said, “hop until your foot doesn’t touch the ground, then get it across the bar. On landing, just belly in and keep your feet up. The glider is built so when it comes in to land, it doesn’t want to nose up and stall. It wants to belly-land instead of dive into the ground—which is handy.”

In the open space in the lower wing, I got on my knees. Andy hooked my harness to the glider, had me lie prone in the cradle, and told me to hook the top part of one foot over a rectangular chunk of wood near the trailing edge. We were pointed directly in what little wind there was.

At Bruce’s signal we lifted the glider off the dune. In a 10- to 15-mph wind gust, it does weigh less, but not much. I gripped each end of the swiveling bar and held the elevator level, grinding my naked elbows onto the sandy skids.

The next gust lifted the glider; Bruce asked if I was ready.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

Bruce and Andy started hauling ass down the slope, holding the tow-lines that were attached to the ends of the wing. The glider tried to lift off, and it looked like we had enough speed to let me pull my other leg up and hook my toes over the bar.

It’s flying…. I’m flying…on my stomach behind that famous football-shaped elevator…

Without much altitude or warning, it nosed down. I rolled the ash bar back, which didn’t help the airspeed at all. The glider sort of slammed into the dune.

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked. He was sprawled out on the sand just beyond the wingtip.

“Yeah. Are you okay?” I said.

He leapt to his feet and showered me with positive reinforcement, then told me I’d violated the over-control rule. He and Andy lifted the glider, and Bruce told me to hold the elevator up to get the wings to sail us to the dune top.

Waiting for another weak gust, we sat in the wing’s shadow and guzzled the bottled water we’d packed. Bruce recounted that they’d gotten in some 300-foot glides. “The beauty of it is, if it rains, you get 25 percent more distance because that fabric shrinks up and it’s not nearly as porous. There’s a point where it gets too much, but rain is your friend with that glider.”

We launched again.

I’m flying…. I’m flying…. The left wing dipped, and reflexively I shoved my hip left. The tip stabbed the sand and the glider spiraled. The Wrights called it “well-digging.”

The wind changed direction and picked up to a steady 20 mph, so we hauled the glider from the dune’s relatively shallow east side to the south face’s deeper, wider sand valley. Bruce pointed to a weathered yellow house on the next ridge and told me to point the elevator there. We three lifted the glider—really, we just stopped holding it down—and I got situated: I slid my hips onto the cradle, using my bare feet to push against that aft horizontal bar, elbows clenching my ribcage and holding up my upper body in a sort of yoga pose, both hands gripping the ends of the elevator control bar. I felt like Orville, in the glass-plate photos I’ve seen of him in the glider.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

They ran forward and played out a few feet of line while the glider instantly gripped the wind. I held the glider level, and the ground dropped away. I’m flying…I’m flying…I’m really flying this #*%& glider…

I held the elevator steady, kept the wings level, and glanced down. We were still flying straight and they were running down the white dune backward, maybe 20 feet below. While the Wrights had no altimeter on board, that was likely their average altitude as well—though their pal George Spratt estimated that on one glide, they reached 60 feet. While the glider soared, I tried to spot the yellow house. Mostly I allowed the glider to do what it wanted to do. Don’t over-control.

It plunged, spraying sand and jarring my teeth a little.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

The next flight started out as a repeat of the first, but this time, once I was airborne, the glider dipped left and I got busy sliding the cradle right, but over-corrected; now the right wing dipped, and I slid just a little to the left, all while concentrating on holding the elevator level. We were in no danger of well-digging—then, well, the remaining few seconds played out same as before, though the landing went smoother. We didn’t measure the distance, but I may have flown as far as 200 feet. The Wrights made it farther—between September and October 1902, they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, flying from 200 and 400 feet, though their longest flight was 622.5 feet.

On October 23, 1902, Orville Wright wrote to his sister Katharine: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second or about 30 miles per hour, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind a gliding machine was ever in, so that we now hold all the records! The largest machine we handled in any kind [of weather, made the longest dis]tance glide (American), the longest time in the air, the smallest angle of descent, and the highest wind!!!”

One hundred and ten years later, strapped to an identical aircraft on the same breezy dunes, I started feeling the excitement Orville had. “The sense of connection with the Wright brothers is the overriding sensation I get while flying the glider,” Andy said. “Knowing that the Wright brothers at one point felt exactly what I felt while flying the glider is pretty amazing.” I knew what he meant. After each landing I was torn between wanting to run to my backpack for a quick swig of water, and run back to prepare for the quickest takeoff possible. Each time I realized that my tongue was sticking to the top of my mouth, I thought: There will always be time for water later, when the wind dies down.

 

article originally appeared in:

http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Orville-Wilburand-Me-162924306.html?c=y&story=fullstory

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You Light Up My Life

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 | Comments Off on You Light Up My Life

Neon Museum
Neon Museum 11/12/13 Weddings
THE NEON MUSEUM LIGHTS UP THE WEDDING SEASON ON 11/12/13 WITH SPECIAL PACKAGE FOR THAT MAGIC DAY 
LAS VEGAS (September 2013) – When that special “Magic Day” hits on 11/12/13, brides-to-be and their grooms can say “I do” in one of the most remarkable and picturesque locations in Las Vegas: The Neon Museum. Only available on 11/12/13, The Neon Museum is now offering the “Magic Day” wedding package. For this special day, there will only be four slots available for couples.
Considered one of most colorful and sought-after attractions in Las Vegas, the Neon Museum is home to the Neon Boneyard – a collection of more than 150 classic signs from the city’s most celebrated properties—including the Moulin Rouge, the Desert Inn, the Flamingo and the Stardust—which are displayed alongside those from various other bygone hotels, restaurants and businesses. The Boneyard’s two-acre outdoor area encompasses nearly 3,600 square feet and features a partial canopy.
MAGIC DAY WEDDING PACKAGE $650*
The package includes:
  • 30 minute wedding ceremony for the couple and up to four guests.
  • 30 minute photo opportunity in the Neon Boneyard.
  • One bottle of chilled champagne or sparkling wine, paired with cupcakes that are packaged to go.
  • An exclusive pair of his-and-her Neon Museum-wedding themed shirts.
For more information, go to www.NeonMuseum.org. To book a wedding, reception or other event, contact Events Manager Joel Castillo at jcastillo@neonmuseum.org or call (702) 387-6366.
*Pricing does not include ceremony officiant, catering, floral or photography. All ceremonies are performed by Elegant Vegas Weddings. A list of exclusive vendors for photography, catering, décor and equipment will be provided. A list of recommended florists is available by request. 
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Medical Tourism Boom – may move from Thailand to China?

Posted on Sep 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Medical Tourism Boom – may move from Thailand to China?

plsurgery9

For the time being at least, Thailand’s position as Asia’s pre-eminent medical tourism destination is safe, but what about China?

As reported by concerned Thai news media the words “Chinese” and “medical tourism” in the same sentence might look strange, but major efforts are underway to secure China a significant and growing share of this lucrative market.

Globally, medical tourism is booming. An estimated 6 million people travel internationally each year to seek medical treatment, with the sector estimated to be worth around US$100 billion in 2012, growing at an annual rate of 20-30 per cent.

Many medical professionals believe that China can be competitive globally, given its advantageous healthcare prices. Heart surgeries cost around one tenth of US prices while hip or knee replacements in Shanghai are more than 70 per cent cheaper than in the US.

Shanghai was among the first places in China to get serious about medical tourism. In June 2010, the Shanghai Medical Tourism Products and Promotion Platform was established with the support of local government agencies including health and tourism bureaus. The platform was soon able to bring together over 20 participating hospitals in the metropolis, handling patient inquiries online, helping contact hospitals that can offer the right treatment, and even arranging the entire trip. While it’s unclear how successful the initiative has been, the company that runs the platform cites around 100 inquiries a month, and says many patients from Argentina, for example, have been treated for cancer.

Shanghai East Hospital, located in the city’s financial centre, is one of the platform’s initiators. It treats about 50,000 foreign patients a year, although it’s uncertain how many of these have travelled to China for treatment. The platform’s websites list a dozen of wide-ranging treatments on offer, from cancer treatment to cosmetic surgery to fertility treatment.

Following Shanghai, Hainan Province in April this year published a plan to build a special zone for medical tourism, the first in the country. Some have also suggested that China promote its traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to draw in medical tourists.

For example, Sanya TCM Hospital in Sanya, Hainan Province, has been promoting TCM therapies such as acupuncture, massage and cupping therapy to attract tourists. Since 2002, the hospital has received over 25,000 overseas patients, mainly from Russia and Central Asia. The programme has proven so popular that the hospital last year set up a travel agency to help expand its medical tourism business.

But it would be misleading to imply China is ready for primetime medical tourism. Experts say the country still has a long way to go before it can challenge the industry’s established leaders – particularly Thailand, India, South Korea and Singapore – which attract the bulk of the more than 60,000 Chinese who travel abroad for medical treatment each year. They caution that Chinese hospitals don’t quite measure up to “world class” standard yet, on aspects such as international patient communication and management, patient safety and security, partnerships and value of service. Another concern is that China is undergoing healthcare reform and one of its primary goals is to strengthen the non-profit status of public hospitals. Medical tourism, as a relatively high-end form of healthcare, might take away resources needed for the basic healthcare of the Chinese population.

Promoters of medical tourism, however, point to government regulations that allow public hospitals to set aside 10 per cent of their medical resources to VIP services. Some of these VIP service resources, as well as private and foreign investments, could be introduced to develop medical tourism.

Clearly, much depends on the Chinese government’s resolve and commitment to developing medical tourism, since building the industry to be truly internationally competitive would involve cooperation between a number of government agencies including health, tourism and immigration.

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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

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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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Oslo – It’s Not Porn It’s Art

Posted on Aug 27, 2013 | Comments Off on Oslo – It’s Not Porn It’s Art

The-Thief-Oslo

Scandinavian hotel guests flicking through pay-TV channels may get more (or less) than they bargained for from now on. The Nordic Choice chain has promised to remove pornography from each of its 171 establishments and replace it with contemporary art.

The chain’s owner, Petter Stordalen, was inspired to take action after becoming involved with Unicef’s campaign to help the 1.2 million children who are victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation .

He said: “The porn industry contributes to trafficking, so I see it as a natural part of having a social responsibility to send out a clear signal that Nordic Hotels doesn’t support or condone this.”

The cliche of the travelling businessman coming back to his hotel room and watching porn is the same in Norway as in the rest of the world, admits Stordalen, but he is convinced that this can change.

“It may sound shocking or unusual [to remove pay-TV porn], but everyone said that about the ban on smoking. We were the first hotel chain in the world to ban smoking and people thought we were crazy. Now it’s totally normal for public spaces to be smoke-free.”

A well-known philanthropist in Scandinavia, Stordalen is Norwegian’s sixth richest man with a net worth of $1.2bn (£772m) according to Forbes magazine. He’s passionate about the environment, from chaining himself to Sellafield nuclear treatment plant in protest in 2002, to preserving 100 square metres of rainforest for every night booked by a guest in his hotels, and even converting his Ferrari FF to run on biofuel.

He is also an avid collector. “Art is important to me, but hotel art has always had a bad reputation – cheap paintings that match the sofas and so on,” he said. “I wanted to redefine hotel art to be something unique.”

Starting with his flagship hotel in Norway’s capital, Stordalen has done just that. Each of 121 rooms in Oslo’s The Thief is decked out with original artwork, some borrowed from Stordalen’s own collection, including a Tracey Emin and a Peter Blake. There are interactive TVs in each room offering “art on demand” with a choice of nine works of contemporary video art, including Sam Taylor-Wood’s Still Life from 2001″ – a film showing a bowl of fruit slowly decomposing.

Guests’ reactions have been positive, so far: “No one has asked for their porn back!” said the hotel’s Siri Løining Kolderup. “Instead, I think they appreciate that we’ve taken movie-on-demand to the next level, exchanging bad taste porn for high-end contemporary video art. We hope and predict porn will not be a part of the next generation of in-room entertainment in any hotel, anywhere.”

Stordalen and the team plan to roll out video art in their other hotels, with Copenhagen next on the list.

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CNN’s view of 10 of the world’s best motorcycle rides

Posted on Aug 14, 2013 | Comments Off on CNN’s view of 10 of the world’s best motorcycle rides

An interesting post by CNN. Do you agree – or have other rides to add?

The original article is at: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/08/12/travel/motorcycle-rides/index.html

By Christopher Baker, for CNN
August 13, 2013 — Updated 2325 GMT (0725 HKT)
Few activities offer the feeling of freedom, speed and adventure than a long trip on a motorcycle. Here are some of the top views to be had while biking the world.
Few activities offer the feeling of freedom, speed and adventure than a long trip on a motorcycle. Here are some of the top views to be had while biking the world.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Taking in France and Spain, the Pyrenees Loop is a favorite with European bikers
  • Dales and Moors in north England offer nonstop bends, fast straights, wild scenery
  • California’s Pacific Coast Highway takes in redwood forests, ocean cliffs

(CNN) — Nature’s beauty seems so much closer from the seat of a saddle.

Bikes offer a more intimate connection with the people of the places you pass through.

No wonder adventure motorcycling has grown massively in the last decade.

The 2004 “Long Way Round” and 2007’s “Long Way Down” TV documentary series (both featured Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s round the world rides) helped spark the trend.

In 2011, the Motorcycle Industry Council reported that sales of adventure touring bikes were up 14.2% across 12 major brands.

There are hundreds of scenic roads worldwide, but the greatest rides are spiced by the thrill of twisties and smooth hardtop where motorcyclists can crank open the throttle.

Here are 10 of the best rides worldwide, whether for a day out or a longer adventure.

All are in places where motorcycles can be rented or where tours are organized.

1. Ceuta to Marrakesh loop, Morocco

2,570 kilometers (1,600 miles)

Bikers on this route journey through an exotic realm of ancient kasbahs (citadels), souks (bazaars) and desert cultures.

After rolling off the ferry at Ceuta, riders switchback through the wild Rif Mountains to Fez, then traverse the Atlas Mountains (snow-capped in winter) to hit the Sahara at Erfoud.

More on CNN: 10 thing to know before visiting Morocco

Snaking west through the Todra Gorge, the route passes palm groves of Ouarzazate and the imperial city of Marrakesh.

Beyond, the Tizi n’Test Pass runs down to the Atlantic coast at Agadir.

It’s two days from here along blacktop to Casablanca, then the final 321 kilometers (200 miles) via Tangiers to Ceuta.

Edelweiss Bike Travel, +43 5264 5690

2. Pyrenees Loop, France and Spain

2,410 kilometers (1,500 miles), Bilbao to Biarritz

A head turner for its sensational scenery and mind-bending hairpins, this route is a favorite among European bikers.

From Bilbao you spin east on the N260 (a legendary biking road worming into the Pyrenees), hit La Seu d’Urgell, then wind north to Andorra, dropping back to Spain at Bourg-Madame for 48 kilometers (30 miles) of twisties coiling down to Ripoli.

At Figueres you can stop at the Dalí museum before rolling along the Mediterranean coast to France.

The D117 from Perpignan threads through narrow mountain passes to Col d’Aspin, with grin-inducing bends all the way to Biarritz.

Pyrenees Motorcycle Tours, +33 (0)5 62 45 08 11

3. The Great Ocean Road, Australia

Blue sky, white sand, red hot wheels.
Blue sky, white sand, red hot wheels.

290 kilometers (180 miles)

This one-day ride from Melbourne to Petersbrough winds through shoreline rainforest, skirts sensational surfing beaches and unfurls along the rugged Shipwreck Coast, renowned for limestone pinnacles piercing the sea like witch’s fingers.

More on CNN: World’s 10 ultimate drives

It’s a perfect northern winter ride.

Big Boyz Toyz, +61 (0)8 9244 4293

4. California and the American West

5,630 kilometers (3,500 miles), Los Angeles to San Francisco (the long way)

This undisputed champion of road trips weaves together many of the West’s iconic national parks.

From Los Angeles, Route 66 traces back in time to Arizona, the Grand Canyon and mesmerizing formations of Monument Valley.

More on CNN: 10 easy ways to experience Navajo Nation

Heading north, the road takes in Natural Bridges National Park, then arcing west takes in Bryce and Zion national parks.

You can twist the throttle across the Mojave Desert to Death Valley then skirt the snow-capped Sierra Nevada northbound to Lee Vining and Yosemite National Park — unrivaled in grandeur.

EagleRider Motorcycle Rental & Tours, +1 310 536 6777

5. Cape Town Circuit, South Africa

1,690 kilometers (1,050 miles)

Fantastic roads, amazing scenery and excellent climate — South Africa is perfect for a one- or two-week fly-ride vacation.

From Cape Town the wild coast heads east then the road turns north over the Olifantskip Pass to Addo National Park — a good chance to shoot big game with your camera.

A throttle-open ride across the Great Karoo to Oudtshoorn heralds dizzying switchbacks — via Route 62 — over the Little Karoo Mountains to sample the wines around Robertson before closing your loop in Cape Town.

Motorcycle Tours South Africa, +27 12 804 3805

6. Pacific Coast Highway, California

Tempting to stop at every turn.
Tempting to stop at every turn.

320 kilometers (200 miles), San Luis Obispo to San Francisco

No top 10 would be complete without this stellar ride.

Civilization disappears quickly as you dance a thrilling two-lane tango past seal-strewn beaches, redwood forests, plunging cliffs and the crashing surf of Big Sur.

Also en route — the fishing town of Monterey, the surfing capital of Santa Cruz, and everyone’s favorite city with a famous bridge, San Francisco.

EagleRider Motorcycle Rental & Tours, +1 415 647 9898

7. Dales and Moors, Yorkshire, England

440 kilometers (270 miles) from Kendal to Whitby

This one-day ride across North Yorkshire offers nonstop bends, fast straights, wild scenery and gentle vales dotted with market towns.

The A684 launches you over the Pennines to Hawes, gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park via Aysgarth to Leyburn.

Turn south here to Masham for Ripon and Thirsk, then over the heather-clad moors via Pickering to drop down to the peaceful fishing village of Whitby, where you can celebrate an exhilarating ride with fresh fish ‘n’ chips and a pint of ale.

White Rose Tours, +44 01423 770 103

8. Fjordland, Norway

450 kilometers (280 miles) Bergen to Andalsnes

The land of the Vikings is biking Nirvana. The road network takes in terrific switchbacks and awesome fjords — some crossed by ferries.

You begin in Bergen and head for Gudvangern where a ferry takes you through Naerlandsford, the world’s longest and deepest fjord.

Beyond Belstrand, you’ll need to drop gears as you climb over Gaularfjell to Moskog, then Stryn and Eidsdal, where a ferry links to the Trollstigen road, zigzagging crazily to deliver you exhilarated to Andalsness.

Edelweiss Bike Tours, +43 5264 5690

9. Istanbul to Anatolia, Turkey

Modern and ancient tech meet.
Modern and ancient tech meet.

2,980 kilometers (1,850 miles) Istanbul to Anatolia

Istanbul provides a superb starting point for an exotic circuit, taking in Cappadocia’s troglodyte houses, ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins and the beauty of the Black Sea and Taurus Mountains.

More on CNN: Best of Istanbul

A ferry across the Sea of Masmara links you to Bursa, then Safranbolu, and the eerie volcanic landscapes of Cappadocia, riddled with Christian churches.

A ride west via Konya to hit the Aegean coast — taking in the Greco-Roman town of Ephesus — closes the loop.

MotoDiscovery, +90 830 438 7744

10. Chasing Che, Cuba

2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles)

Chasing Che Guevara’s ghost down the highway of an enigmatic Communist island nation that resembles a Hollywood stage set is a thrill in itself.

Classic American cars and creaky ox carts are companions on your clockwise loop from Havana to Baracoa, with plenty of time for salsa, cigars and rum.

More on CNN: What to do in Havana

For five decades forbidden fruit, Cuba recently opened to U.S. citizens on licensed group motorcycle tours offered by Texas-based MotoDiscovery.

MotoDiscovery, +53 830 438 7744

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Fogo Island Inn now open

Posted on May 31, 2013 | Comments Off on Fogo Island Inn now open

The Canadian Press

On a gorgeous rocky shoreline where slabs of granite meet the moody North Atlantic, one of the most intriguing gambles in Canadian tourism will soon play out on Fogo Island off Newfoundland.

The new Fogo Island Inn looms over the brightly painted salt box homes and fishermen’s sheds in Barr’d Islands, one of 10 distinct communities that are home to about 2,400 people.

The Fogo Island Inn is the culmination of a major community revitalization project. The building’s rugged minimalist architecture balances traditional influences with a contemporary sensibility, which architect Todd Saunders has made and built just for Fogo.

A cultural destination in its own right where visitors and locals meet, the Inn includes an art gallery, heritage library, cinema and rooftop sauna. Each of the 29 guest rooms is unique, with every detail chosen with purpose and handcrafted by locals. A new artist’s studio on Fogo Island called Squish (meaning off-kilter). It’s one of four new studios built to host artists from Canada and around the world.

A three-year building project expected to cost more than $25 million.

The inn won’t be just any place for weary travellers to lay their heads. Its 29 rooms with panoramic ocean views, hand-crafted furniture and quilts, locally inspired cuisine, rooftop hot tubs, saunas, conference space, and a publicly accessible art gallery, library, and cinema are meant to please discerning tastes.

Multimillionaire Zita Cobb, a native Fogo Islander who is the driving force behind the new inn, says there’s a niche of well-to-do tourists who will pay for a unique, world-class travel and cultural experience, she said there’s no reason why Fogo Island’s natural beauty should not draw big money as successfully as other exotic, albeit warmer, destinations.

The ebbs and flows of a troubled fishery have threatened Fogo Island’s survival in the past, and its future is by no means secure.

Cobb is investing more than $10 million of her own money in the inn as the provincial and federal governments add $5 million each.

“There’s risk, no question,” she said in an interview. “I mean, to do nothing is a gamble.”

Marketing Fogo
One of Cobb’s biggest marketing challenges is the widespread notion that her beloved home is on a freezing rock in the Far North. In fact, it boasts what she describes as seven seasons including hot summers, snowy winters, the ice season around March and April when mammoth icebergs drift south from Greenland, fog, rain and sun in May and June, and spectacular berry picking in the fall.

It’s a place where caribou roam, seals frolic, and people go out of their way to share directions or a good story.

A slender woman who all but hums with energy, Cobb was the only girl among seven siblings raised on Fogo Island in Joe Batt’s Arm – an inlet community named for a popular early settler, as legend has it.

Cobb moved back to the island six years ago after making her fortune as a high-tech executive and ending a long run in the corporate fast lane. Now 54, she helped create the Shorefast Foundation, a federally registered charity that aims to use business as a tool to rejuvenate the local economy in ways that work for people, not against them, she said.

“Business is not unethical. It has just been practised that way too often and for too long.”

Cobb stressed that any profits from the inn, which has already created dozens of construction jobs and is expected to employ up to about 50 people when it opens next spring, belong to the people of Fogo Island and the nearby Change Islands.

But the inn will not be Fogo Island’s saving grace, Cobb said.

“Fogo Islanders are pretty darned good at saving themselves, which they’ve done for centuries,” she said. “I’m just another Fogo Islander trying to do my bit.”

Keeping it undisturbed
Wherever possible, renewable features were incorporated into construction of the inn such as a wood-burning heating system and rainwater cisterns for laundry and toilets.

If you go: Fly to Gander, rent a car and drive about 30 minutes to catch the ferry in Farewell, which takes about an hour to Fogo Island. It’s about a four-hour drive to Farewell from St. John’s.

“We’re trying absolutely to not disturb a single lichen we don’t have to destroy,” Cobb said of the land around the 44,000-square-foot building on four levels.

Three small white crosses still standing between the new inn and the sea are testament to her respect for what she calls “sacred” surroundings. They mark a decades-old pet cemetery that’s believed to be the final resting place for at least one horse, a dog and a cat, Cobb said. They will stay.

The asymmetrical X-shape of the structure is a metaphorical intersection of old and new partially supported on stilts, recalling the fishing stages where generations of Fogo Islanders cleaned, salted, and dried their cod.

Minimal outdoor lighting will create a “dark-sky” effect for star gazing. And guests will be escorted down a foot path from the nearest parking lot by two Newfoundland dogs named Make and Break, after the old-style engines, who will live at the inn.

Artists welcome
Four smaller buildings around the island are studios for artists, filmmakers, and writers invited from Canada and around the world to spend a few months.

Author Lyn Hughes arrived earlier this summer from Sydney, Australia to work on a new novel. As she settled into her dramatic new work space perched on a seaside rock, she expressed no doubt that Zita Cobb is on to something big.

“This is a very, very rare place on our planet, a very special place,” she said. “The only place I can even compare it to that I’ve been is the Azores Islands of Portugal.”

Nicole Decker-Torraville, owner of Nicole’s Cafe, said many Fogo Islanders have great hopes for the new inn, mixed with some fear and skepticism about whether it will succeed. She is part of a small wave of 20- and 30-somethings that have moved back and want their own children to have the chance to stay.

“They can travel, but they’ll know this is their home.”

Frank Lane of Tilting, an Irish settlement on the island’s east coast, is a traditional small boat builder who hopes the inn will create new jobs but help preserve old ways.

“It’s going to be a wonderful building. I don’t know if it’s going to be for me,” he said with a smile.

“You know, I might not have the money to stay there.”

 Fogo Island Inn

Behind the Scenes

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Unknown wonders: Wolfe Creek Crater

Posted on May 20, 2013 | Comments Off on Unknown wonders: Wolfe Creek Crater

Wolfe Creek Crater: the second largest meteor impact site in the world. Dainis Dravins – Lund Observatory, Sweden.

Australia is famous for its natural beauty: the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, the Kimberley. But what about the places almost no one goes? We asked ecologists, biologists and wildlife researchers to nominate five of Australia’s unknown wonders.

It is a testament to the size and isolation of many parts of Australia that it wasn’t until 1947 that the second largest meteorite crater in the world was discovered. Known as Wolfe Creek Crater, this imposing feature is located about 145km from Halls Creek in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It can be reached after a two to three-hour drive down the Tanami Road, only accessible to conventional vehicles during the dry season.

Its discovery came during an aerial survey of this part of the Kimberley region, when geologists Frank Reeves and NB Sauve, along with pilot Dudley Hart, spotted an unusual circular structure almost a kilometre in diameter. Naturally intrigued by what they saw, they were keen to inspect it a little closer.


While known by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years, Wolfe Creek Crater wasn’t officially ‘discovered’ until 1947. Dainis Dravins, Lund Observatory, Sweden.

 

Two months later, Reeves and Hart reached the site on foot and made the first detailed investigation. Their suspicion that it was a deep crater was confirmed after they climbed up the outer sloping flanks of the structure and looked down to the floor, some 30 metres below. As they made their way up the slope of the crater rim they would have seen rusty balls of rock scattered on the ground or fused to the laterite.

Known as “shale balls”, these rusty rocks provide the evidence that the structure was a huge meteorite crater. These rust balls represent the deeply weathered remains of an iron meteorite that exploded when it collided with Earth about 300,000 years ago – clear and stark evidence of what made the crater.

The hole that it gouged out of the Devonian age quartzite rocks varies in diameter from 950 to 870 metres. The only bigger crater undoubtedly made by a meteorite impact is the Meteor Crater in Arizona.

Travelling at cosmic velocity, about 15km per second (that’s 40 times faster than a bullet from a high-powered rifle, or like crossing Australia in less than five minutes), the massive chunk of iron would have exploded on impact with the earth. Most of the meteorite, which was probably getting on for 100,000 tonnes in weight, would have been vapourised, along with huge quantities of the quartzite rock into which it ploughed.

Very little of the meteorite remains today, but sufficient has been collected for us to be sure that this was what made the crater. Like all iron meteorites, this one contained small quantities of nickel. In the weathered shale balls this nickel has been incorporated into what turned out to be a nickel-iron carbonate mineral not found anywhere else and which was new to science. This was named “reevesite” after Frank Reeves.


The ‘eye’ of Wolfe Creek Crater. Dainis Dravins, Lund Observatory, Sweden.

 

Although only “discovered” in 1947, the structure had long been known to the local Indigenous people, probably for thousands of years. The local Djaru people call the crater Kandimalal. In their dreamtime stories two rainbow snakes crossed the desert and in doing so formed the nearby Sturt Creek and Wolfe Creek. The crater is the place where one of the snakes emerged from the ground.

Huge quantities of sand have blown into the crater since it was formed, so it would have originally been far deeper. Its base is essentially flat, except for a slight rise in the centre. This is a feature of many meteorite craters and represents where the earth rebounded following the explosion.

There are a number of sink holes in the centre and unusually large trees grow here. These are mainly species of Acacia and Eucalyptus, some growing up to 8m high. It is likely that the trees draw on the summer water that is trapped in these sink holes. The relatively large number of dead trees interspersed with healthy ones attests to periods of lower rainfall. The sink holes are arranged on two intersecting lines and probably reflect the location of stress fractures formed by the explosion at the base of the crater.

As well as higher moisture levels, this central vegetation patch has higher soil salinity and nitrate content. One of the consequences of the higher soil moisture content has been the production of a circular, darker patch within which more vegetation grows. So when viewed from above, the crater looks remarkably like a huge eye peering up at the sky.


The vast expanse of Wolfe Creek Crater. Flickr/Neeravbhatt

 

Wolfe Creek Crater’s future looks pretty secure. It has legislative protection in the form of Class A Reserve status in a National Park. Its isolation also affords it an added protection.

Fortunately the chances of the crater sitting on a huge resource of iron ore is remote. Virtually all would have been pulverised when this traveller from the asteroid belt made its violent contact with the Earth at a time when the only terrestrial inhabitants to have viewed the spectacle would have been a few bemused giant kangaroos and diprotodontids.

Next: Christmas Island. Read all the unknown wonders here.

 


Map of Wolfe Creek Crater Google Maps
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World’s top five lighthouse hotels

Posted on May 18, 2013 | Comments Off on World’s top five lighthouse hotels

Few buildings capture the public's imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.

By Sheena McKenzieCNN
May 9, 2013 — Updated 1442 GMT (2242 HKT)
Few buildings capture the public’s imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lighthouses illuminate world’s most dramatic coastlines, capture imaginations
  • Rise of automated lighthouses could see an end to lightkeeper
  • Many lightkeeper cottages now converted into overnight stays

(CNN) — For centuries, lighthouses have illuminated the most treacherous coastlines in the world, offering a beacon of hope to sailors in the depths of darkness.

But as an increasing number of buildings become operated by automated lights, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.

Many of these historic towers and adjacent cottages — often perched on dramatic and remote shores — are now being converted into unique overnight stays.

From the set of the 1980s TV show Fraggle Rock, to a 19th century guesthouse on the Hudson River, here are our top five lighthouse hotels.

Child’s play

If St Anthony’s Lighthouse in south west England looks familiar, then it means you were probably a fan of 1980s Muppet Show spinoff, Fraggle Rock.

The British version of the children’s TV program was set at the pretty lighthouse in Cornwall, home of the show’s Captain and his faithful dog Sprocket.

Today, guests can stay in the adjacent two-bedroomSally Port Cottage, featuring a sunlit observation room overlooking the swirling English Channel.

But be warned, the lighthouse is still fully operational, with an electronic fog signal kicking into action on really murky nights.

Dutch art deco

If you’re after some impressive panoramic views, then Harlingen Lighthouse, located just 70 miles northeast of Amsterdam, is not to be missed.

The light went out in 1998, and today guests can stay in the renovated art deco building located in the heart of the historic Harlingen Habor.

Read: Graffiti artists turn abandoned liner into psychedelic canvas

Walk up the spiral stairs to the top, and you’ll find the giant light has been replaced with a table-for-two, offering sweeping views of the small fishing town.

“For centuries, sailors’ eyes were fixed on this spot,” said Piet Beuker, Harlingen Lighthouse keeper from 1970 to 1998. “Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed — the beacon has become a lookout point.”

Hudson hideout

It’s hard to believe the secluded 19th century Saugerties Lighthouseis just two hours drive from bustling Manhattan.

The picturesque redbrick building sits on a spit of land around half-way up the Hudson River, surrounded by rolling hills and overlooking glassy water.

Built in 1869, the charming lighthouse became automated in 1954 and was largely left to decay until a campaign by local residents put it on the National Register of Historic places.

Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed — the beacon has become a lookout point
Piet Beuker, former Harlingen Lighthouse keeper

It was finally restored to its former glory in 1990, with guests able to stay in the innkeeper’s quarters, wander around the on-site museum, or stroll along the surrounding nature trails.

Down Under wonder

For many of the first European immigrants arriving in Australia in the 19th Century, the first glimpse of their new home would have been of the treacherous Cape Otway coast.

Read: The family of acrobats living aboard 12-meter yacht

After surviving the journey to the other side of the world, many ships were wrecked on the steep cliffs just outside Melbourne.

Overlooking the rumbling Southern Ocean, the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848, is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country.

Today, guests can stay in the nearby lightkeeper’s cottages. Located on the dramatic Great Ocean Road, the cottages are a 90-minute car journey to famous rock formations, the Twelve Apostles.

Island retreat

Nestled on a tiny land bank in San Francisco Bay, the East Brother Light Station is a bit like staying on your own personal island.

Guests can take a ten-minute boat ride from San Francisco to the historic lighthouse, which has been shining its light across the bay for more than 130 years.

The bed-and-breakfast guesthouse includes views over the glittering city skyline, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin coastline.

When not soaking up the ocean views, visitors can also enjoy fishing trips and wildlife walks.

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