31 January 2012

How to Blow Up a Ship

When the HMNZS Wellington had come to the end of its life the decision was made to scuttle the frigate. Yet this was no act of environmental vandalism on a grand scale. The controlled explosion, off the south east coast of Wellington, New Zealand, had a much more munificent objective. The aim was to blow up the ship in order for it to become a new reef on the ocean’s floor. It was quite an explosion, too!


Artificial reefs are being created in order to give a new habitat to coral and other small organisms. This in turn attracts larger animals and before too long you have provided local underwater wildlife with a great new home not to mention a cool new diving destination. The explosion is enough to bring out the excitable young kid in all of us too!

Down she goes!

As the frigate sinks only a cloud is left to show where it once was. Yet it is about to become home to a new set of inhabitants.


Image Credits
First Image Credit - Flickr User Philip C
Explosion images - Flickr User Pieter Pieterse
Last 4 pictures - Flickr User Phillip C

29 January 2012

Playing with Humans

Damon had to admit that playing with humans was much more fun than he had thought at first when Darrell had suggested it this morning.

Image Credit Flickr User David Blackwell - and plenty more in this ilk to be found at his Photostream!

Discobot


When the lights go off each evening in a factory the robot workers are left in the dark. Unbeknown to their human masters the machines have something of a life of their own and very soon the factory is bumping and grinding as the sometime obedient automatons become discobots!

They even have a very clever way of ensuring that the slow song necking can go ahead…

This is an amusing and engaging animation by Michel Doidic. It is amazing how something like a factory robot can acquire a personality when animated by someone who knows what they are doing!

I Watch You Paint


As a painting is painstakingly created a relationship is slowly being destroyed. This almost elegiac piece watches the man as he watches the woman, watches the woman as she extricates herself from the man.

It is almost painfully sad.

An animated short shot and rotoscoped based on the poem 'I Watch You Paint' by Albert Garcia (published by Prairie Schooner, a US national literary quarterly). It was created by Timothy Guthrie who you may also have heard about as artsyfartsytim.

28 January 2012

Shipwreck!

We normally associate shipwrecks with the bottom of the sea but with the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia our perceptions have changed. Many ships end up on or near beaches. Here are just a few of the ships around the world which did not sink but were shipwrecked nonetheless.

This is what happens when you use a single anchor to ride out a storm and the chain of the anchor is too short. The ship, the New Carissa, dragged its anchor and the crew failed to notice that the ship was moving. Once they did detect movement it was too late to properly raise the anchor and move away from the shoreline. The anchor was raised but by this point it was too late for the ship to be saved. Since February 1999 it has been a permanent feature on the coastline of Oregon. Only the stern section is still on the beach, however. The bow section was towed out and sunk at sea. Unfortunately, there was a lot of spillage of fuel and a significant amount of ecological damage was caused to the coastline.

This may well be how the Costa Concordia is removed from the coast of Italy. In 2008 an oil rig was used as a platform from which to dismantle the hulk of the Old Carissa.

This wreck lies under the cliffs at Land’s End, the most westerly point on the British mainland. The RMS Mulheim was transporting a load of over 2000 tonnes of shredded plastic from Ireland to Germany, when she was dashed on to rocks between Land's End and Sennen in March, 2003. There were no deaths and much of the cargo and other noxious waste from the ship was retrieved but there was still significant environmental harm to near bays, shorelines and their respective ecology.

At the end of 1993 the American Star left Greece for its new home in Thailand where it was to become a floating hotel.  It would never reach its destination.  A thunderstorm in the Atlantic broke the towline between the ship and its Ukrainian tug.  It ran aground on Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. The ship was left to the elements and the stern section collapsed in 2006.   In April 2007 the remainder broke in half and the ship sank – 4 years after it had originally ran aground.

A rusting hulk lies tentatively but boldly upright on the stone beach of the Aran Islands. This place is not to be confused with the Isles of Aran, which is not the home of the famous knitwear. This is this place. Perhaps the sailors on board were looking for a few new pullovers and got stitched up instead. It is hoped that they were all OK. Many of the inhabitants of the island are dependent on fishing as their main source of income.

This looks surreal. It is the wreck of a Second World War tanker, called the liberty ship and its final resting place is the northeast coast of Lanai. It literally crashed in to the island and has slowly been moldering away ever since just fifteen hundred feet from the shore. Not many people get to see this because to get to the beach needs either a sturdy four wheel drive or a two mile hike. This being America, most people get there using the vehicular option.

Cape Verde has had many shipwrecks in its history and although this is a recent one it is still a poignant reminder of our mortality. If you are more interested in what is found in shipwrecks rather than the wrecks themselves then you could do worse than visit the capital of Praia. It is host to a marine archaeology museum which documents the variety of wrecks that have happened around the island since the fifteenth century.

One thing that any sailor will tell you is that coastlines that have a barrier reef are among the most dangerous in the world. Many a wary sailor has gone down to Davy Jones’ locker when his ship has strayed too close to the shoreline and on to the reef. One such barrier reef is off the coast of Belize and it is home to a staggering amount of wrecks. The top one is situated near Half Moon Cave. If you look closely you can see people wading towards the bow of the ship, giving you an idea just how shallow the water is. The second, nearby, functions as a good spot to catch a few fush.

Cyclone Uma had many victims and this ship was one of them. It ran aground when the cyclone hit the islands of Vanuatu in the nineteen eighties. Since then it has remained on the reef – eventually becoming a popular tourist attraction. The Republic of Vanuatu is in the South Pacific Ocean consisting of eighty two islands (and counting). Sixty five of them are inhabited. It is used as a tax haven by many rich Australians, even thought the Australian government is leaning on Vanuatu to be more transparent in their financial dealings.

There are two large wrecks near Komandoo in the Maldives and this is one of them. This was not the result of any accident, however. It was what is commonly known as an insurance job. Whether or not those who wished to cash in the ship for money actually received the insurance is unsure, but the wrecking of the ship had one positive upside. Nature always gets in quickly and an ecosystem has emerged around the two ships which attracts divers and as such money to the local community. Out of every evil some good must come.

The Bettina, which arrived at this unfortunate position in 1994. The first reaction when seeing this site is an ‘ouch’ and if the ship had had receptors there is no doubt it would have felt a lot of pain. When it ran aground on the shores of Stroma in the Orkney Islands of Scotland all of the crew (six men) was saved. Tugboats – not necessarily called Willy – attempted to take her back out to sea but it was not to be. The waves and the wedge did for Bettina. In fact there are the remains of over sixty vessels on and around this single island. The Scottish hope at some stage in the future to be able to harness the awesome power of the waves to create energy for the area.

One of the most famous beach in Greece, Navagio takes it decidedly unhellenic name from the shipwreck that lies upon it. It seems in the very early nineteen eighties the ship was in a desperate rush to escape some Greek Navy ships that were dogging it. The words smuggling and cigarettes are bandied about as to the reasons for this need to flee. However, the ship ran in to some stormy weather, was abandoned by its amateur crew and landed up where it is today. It, like many other wrecks, has become a popular tourist destination but it is only accessible by boat, ironically.

Our final ship is the stuff of legend. The story goes that this ship, derelict on the shores of Roatán in the Honduras was full of contraband when it went aground. Many believe that it had involvement in the Nicaraguan Revolution of the nineteen seventies. Slightly more believable is that it was an innocent carrier of timber which was offloaded in an attempt to try and save the ship. The amount of wooden buildings from that period that dot the shoreline give us a vague hint at what may be the real truth.


Introducing Skynet

Ninja vs Pirate


Surely the only thing better than a film featuring a ninja, is when it has pirates in it too.  Of course if you have a film with ninjas and pirates the logical thing to do is to set it in outer space. Pure nerd bliss.

So, Ninjas vs Pirates does exactly that – with a lone ninja on a mission to relieve the robot pirate captain of his most treasured item.

Ninja vs Pirate, a 3-minute animated comedy short by 7 graduates from The One Academy, Malaysia who collectively call themselves Fruit Punch Studios.

The Cursor's Curse


It is a truth universally acknowledged that an animator has the power of life, death or anything over his creations. So toons must often keep their fingers (paws, claws, et cetera) crossed and hope that the person who breathed (or sometimes clicked) life in to them is not a wicked sort – a little like Jafar the genie with a keyboard. Unfortunately, in this industry, so many animators go a little, well, mad (not to put too fine a point on it) that often their characters find themselves in a far from nurturing atmosphere. Sometimes giving an animator a computer is like giving a teenage Marilyn Manson fan a gun and asking him to polish it.

So, this poor chap doesn’t stand a chance under the gentle care of his maker, Richard Gillies, who created this animation while at the Vancouver Film School. I am sure his tutors remonstrated with him about cruelty to toons, but he obviously didn’t listen...! Now he has graduated - world (and toons particularly!) beware!

27 January 2012

Don't Believe the Pipe

Hiking the Northern Hills of Chiang Mai, Thailand:

By Guest Writer Matthew Nunn
Chiang Mai is a vital and popular node in the tourist network for Thailand and the greater South East region. Travellers come here to escape the tourist centric and crowded Bangkok as well as the picturesque and often lively Southern Thai Islands. Here you can expect to find a more culture rich atmosphere, whereby Chiang Mai trades on the traditional notions of Thai culture, the hustle and bustle of its markets and the historic nature of the ancient City’s walls and moat.

A heavily visited location, it doesn’t necessarily flaunt the jet setter scene of other popular destinations the world over, but thrives on the traveler atmosphere of those looking for a more authentic travel experience. Many enjoy being part of this transient community. For those who feel that Thailand has been pounded a little too much by the tourist footprint in the last 2 decades, the hills that surround Chiang Mai effectively combat this notion. Trekking this area will, aside from your guide, the host village, and your small group, remove you from civilization and any tourist influences.


The Northern Hills offer plenty of isolation for travellers looking to escape the crowd
The hills are well accessed by road, but this consists more of steep, solid solitary access roads rather than a sprawling road network. Consequently, once removed from transportation and heading into the jungle you are entering a stunning, isolated and remote region. This is hiking in its purest form; trails are minimal, there isn’t a sign post in existence and a willingness to clamber, slide, swim and grapple with the environment is required.

This is not to say the trek is unforgiving, but instead fairly challenging for anyone in reasonable condition. Although travel to here is easy, the ensuing time that you spend in the hills is not so effortless. Trekkers pack minimal provisions, focusing on essentials such as; a spare set of suitable clothing, insect repellant, sun screen and plenty of bottled water.

The Hill Region
There are 5 main hill tribes populating the area all with their own unique history and traditions. The Tribes are; the Lahu, the Akha, the Karen, the Lisu and the Hmong. Traditional art, dress and song will vary by each tribe, however they are not alone. There are many other villages and huts dotted around the hills that, due to the vast and remote nature of the location, manage to preserve their isolation. It can be a startling yet welcoming site to clamber over a rock or stumble through a bush and find a wooden hut nestled into the landscape, complete with pigs, dogs and sometimes agricultural land.

Periodically you will stumble across isolated settlements
The inhabitants of these dwellings are also known for having skilled Elephant herders. This is sometimes a contentious issue as degrees of animal cruelty occur in some people’s eyes, but the herders are dedicated to their trade, living and sleeping 24 hours with their animals. In the lower regions of the hills these elephants are often ridden by tourists on trails nimbly navigated by the animals. 

Scaling to the tops of these hills opens up breath taking views of dense lush jungle, allowing you to peek out of the canopy that envelops you at lower altitudes on the hills. If your trek takes you in the right direction you also have the opportunity to see the Thai-Burma border in the distance.

The Thai-Burma Border in the distance
Walking down from these heights will often involve slippery muddy slopes, rushing streams and may require grabbing onto the thin tall trees. Wildlife is pretty adept at concealing itself, but there are several large species of spider present which can often be seen around the villages when you stop to rest. The locals populate the area with their dogs and pigs, as well as the aforementioned elephants.

The environment is dominated by dense, lush vegetation that is only accessible on foot
Following the hills downwards takes you past conveniently located waterfalls for a cool down and as the landscape levels out more and agricultural farms start to pop up, many trekkers then head for a bamboo rafting session. The vastness of the region means you can venture around for an extensive period of time, but there is still the accessibility in place for a brief trip. Heading back to the city of Chiang Mai offers plenty, from tracking down the rich history of this region which has seen many a contest between Burma and Thailand over the centuries, to reveling in the modern Thai culture, something the city sells itself on as the unofficial second city of Thailand.

Author Bio – Matthew completed his first RTW trip in 2011 and has been travel blogging since. He plans to explore the Indian subcontinent in 2012. He is also a regular contributor to Top Travel Blogs.

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