Showing posts with label strange places. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strange places. Show all posts

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Twice the size of Texas, a mass of non-biodegradable plastic has gathered in the waters of the northern Pacific Ocean. Brought together by ocean currents, this vast body of waste originates from countries all around the world and poses a major long-term threat to the ecosystem. Yet no nation-state or major international body has formulated a comprehensive plan for dealing with it.

The responsibility of no single nation, the great pacific garbage patch is a truly dirty secret that few outside the community of environmental activists are ready to acknowledge and act upon. The patch has formed from countless tonnes of rubbish deposited into the sea, 80% of it from mainland areas.

The Garbage patch’s location in the North Pacific is due to gyre, an ocean current that is very calm at its centre but swirls round in a circle, drawing in ever-increasing volumes of floating debris. Ecologists have been forecasting the existence of such features since at least the 1980s, but it was only in 1997 that Charles Moore and his crew confirmed the existence of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch while competing in a yachting race. Moore subsequently set up a campaigning body to bring attention to the problem.

Plastic does not degrade like natural materials such as paper or cotton: instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller harmful compounds over hundreds of years. Tiny bits of plastic found floating in the oceans are sometimes referred to as ‘mermaid’s tears ‘- surely a far more romantic name than they deserve. While many birds and mammals are killed when they become trapped in plastic debris, than the plastics introduce into the food systems, which the progress perniciously from the smallest plankton to the largest whale.

Scientists estimate that the Garbage patch contains three-quarters of million fragments of plastic per square kilometer. Plastics account for 90% of all the rubbish in the world’s oceans, and as much as 70% of it sinks, causing untold damage to life on the sea bed. Yet the great Pacific Garbage Patch remains the floating landfill site that no government seems keen to discuss. It is a safe guess that if it were the Great Pacific Oil Reserve, there would be rather more of a clamor to establish sovereignty.


Coca-Cola's Secret Formula Vault

Coca-Cola might well be the world’s favorite drink, with a reported 1.7 billion servings sold every day. Such is the mythology that has grown up around the Coca-Cola brand that its recipe is perhaps the most famous trade secret in history. Jealously guarded since first being committed to paper in the early part of the 20th century, it now resides in an extraordinary vault that doubles as a tourist attraction.

The Coca-Cola story begins in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1886 with a chemist called John Pemberton, Creator of delights such as French Wine Coca and Pemberton’s Indian Queen magic Hair Dye. Facing the spectre of prohibition, he set upon devising a non-alcoholic version of his wine coca. The result was a brownish syrup that he intended to market as a sort of ‘cure-all’. Quite serendipitously, however, a batch of this syrup was mixed with carbonated water, creating the drink that is known and loved today.

But for all his talents as a potion-maker, Pemberton was deeply flawed as a businessman. In 18891, he sold his business to Asa Griggs Candler for what turned out to be a regrettably low $2,300. Candler was quick to realize that the value of his purchase lay in Coca-Cola’s distinctive taste, and he forbade its recipe to be written down lest anyone copy it. In 1919, Ernest Woodruff led a team of investors who bought the company from the Candler clan. The purchase required a loan, which woodruff secured by offering the Coca-Cola formula as collateral. After finally persuading Candler to write it down for him, Woodruff deposited the recipe in the vault of the Guaranty Bank of New York. It remained there until 1925 when the loan was paid off and was then moved to the Trust Company Bank in Atlanta Georgia, where it stayed until 2011.

Despite countless imitators on the market, Coca-Cola has made a policy of rarely filling trademark lawsuits against them, since doing so might force them to reveal the formula in court. That said, the basic recipe is believed to include a mixture of caffeine, caramel, coca, citric acid, lime juice, sugar, water and vanilla.

The part of the recipe that remains elusive is ‘Merchandise 7X’, the ingredient responsible for the drink’s unique special flavor despite accounting for just 1 percent of its volume. Over the years, many have claimed to have uncovered the secret. For instance, in 2011, US radio show This American Life announced the rediscovery of a story published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1979. Alongside the article was a photo of the recipe from an old notebook that, it was claimed, belonged to a friend of John Pemberton. Nonetheless, Coca-Cola remains adamant that no one has yet come up with the correct formula.

Company legend has it hath only a tiny band of people know the recipe, and they are not allowed to travel together for fear of an accident in which the formula might be lost forever. In December 2011, the recipe was retrieved from its vault at SunTrust Bank and, under high security, was transferred a few minutes down the road to a new purpose-built vault at the company’s World of Coca-Cola exhibition. The decision to move the formula was apparently unrelated to SunTrust’s decision to sell off its Coca-Cola stock holdings in 2007.

In front of the watching media, a metal box believed to contain the recipe was placed into a newly constructed 2-meter high steel vault. This vault is never opened and is protected by a barrier that keeps the viewing public several meters away. The area is kept under surveillance, with guards on hand to deal with any troublemakers. By the door stands a keypad and a hand-imprint scanner, although officials have refused to confirm if there are simply for show


The Pentagon

The pentagon is the iconic headquarters of the US Department of Defense and, in terms of area, the world’s largest office building. The Pentagon is one of the world’s most heavily protected buildings.

In the early days of the Second World War, it became clear that the rapidly expanding US Department of War needed new headquarters to consolidate its operations. The Department’s chief engineer at the time, Brigadier Brehon B. Somervell came up with the basic designs for what would become the pentagon after what he described as a very busy weekend in July 1941. Several locations were earmarked as potential sites before President Roosevelt decided on the plot of the recently closed Washington-Hoover Airport.

The breaking of ground for the new headquarters occurred on 11 September 1941. Several concessions to wartime circumstances were made in the construction process. Principally, the architects employ limited use of steel which was then In short supply. This meant, for instance, that ramps were built between roofs rather than lifts being installed. The Pentagon’s basic fabric is reinforced concrete, with Indiana limestone used on the facade. The site was conveniently located on what was essentially waste ground and swampland by the Potomac River, which was dredged for sand and gravel to be used in cement making.

The building rises 23 meters (75 ft) into the air and each side is 281 meters (922 ft) in length, covering an area of 14 hectares (34 acres) including the central courtyard and providing workspace for 24,000 employees. It consists of five concentric pentagons of five floors each, joined by ten interconnecting ‘spoke’ corridors. There are more than 28 Km of corridors, yet the clever design means that no two points are more than seven minutes’ walk apart. The original construction phase took only 16 months and was completed at a cost of US$83 million. When it was officially opened on 15 January 1943, the pentagon consolidated some 17 departments of War offices.

In 11998, the Pentagon Renovation program began - the first major overhaul in the building’s history. Work was carried out in phases over 13 years, and among its provisions were the installation of improved security systems and steel reinforcements to strengthen the building’s concrete structure. Blast resistant windows were also fitted.

2001 attach served only to further focus concentration on security. In early 2002, the Defense Department established the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA), a direct successor to the federal protective service and the United States special Policemen. While focusing on law enforcement, the PFPA’s remit has extended to include security. The first line of defense for the Pentagon and its environs is the PFPA’s Pentagon police.

Other security measures added in recent years include the removal of all direct access into the Pentagon from the Metrorail station that serves it, and the filtering of road traffic away from the building. Members of the public are permitted to tour the Pentagon but must book a time in advance, undergo a security screening, provide identification and pass through metal detectors.


Snake Island

Lying just off the coast of Brazil, the island of Ilha da Queimada Grand is populated by a unique and highly venomous species of lancehead viper. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this small island has become known as snake island – an ophidiophobic,s vision of hell, only doughty scientist and crazed adventures dare set foot on its ground.

Snake Island is home to a vast colony of golden lancehead pit viper among the most poisonous snake on the planet. The golden lancehead is only to be found this one particular island, so it is understandably rather protective of its territory. Its venom is about five times as potent as that of its cousin, the fer-de –lance, which is itself responsible for more South American snakebite death than other species.

Gust getting to the island, which covers about 45 hectares, takes considerable determination. It is first necessary to cross a 30-kilometers stretch of choppy water from the coast of the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, and there are few local sea captains willing to make the trip. Once at the island, there is no beach to speak of, and access is via a steep, rocky slope covered in hand-mincing barnacles. All of which is somewhat academic, given that the Brazilian Navy expressly forbids civilian from landing there anyway. Only accredited scientists are occasionally given special dispensation to visit.

There are at least 5,000 snakes writhing around the place, with conservative estimates suggesting one for every square meter: they have been taken over a now-defunct lighthouse. Being lighthouse keeper lived there with his family until snakes got into their cottage. As they tried to flee, they were taken out one by one by vipers dangling from the branches of overhanging trees.

Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Sao Paulo State, Brazil.


The Forbidden Tomb of Genghis Khan

Given the name Temujin at birth, Genghis khan went on to unite disparate nomadic tribes to establish the Mongol Empire, winning himself a reputation as one of history’s most feared warriors in the process. In accordance with his wishes, he was buried in the utmost secrecy: the  location of his tomb remains one of history’s enduring conundrums, despite numerous attempts for finding it.

Temujin was in his mid-40s by the time he became the leader of the Mongols in the early 13th century. During his reign, he laid the foundations for a vast empire that would eventually stretch from china to Hungary, taking a title, Genghis Khan, that struck fear into hearts of both subjects and rivals. But he was more than a bloodthirsty tyrant, introducing a written language system.

He died in 1227, aged around 65. The exact cause of his death is disputed, with explanation ranging from riding accident to illness. Regardless, it was his wish to be buried in secret in accordance with tribal custom, his testing place to remain unmarked. To this end, extraordinary and infamous precautions were undertaken. Legend has it that members of his funeral escort slaughtered any person unfortunate enough to stray across their path. The slaves who built the tomb were murdered once it was completed so that they could not divulge its location, and the soldiers who killed them were in turn dispatched. It is said that the ground was then trampled by horses, planted with trees and even had a river diverted over it to hide the tomb entrance.

Debate ranges as to the location of the emperor’s body. Many believe that it is probably in Mongolia’s Khentii Province, perhaps close to the sacred Burkhan Kaldun mountain where Temujin was born. In 2004, an archaeological team claimed to have found his long-last palace in this region, which many experts assume would have been close to his final resting place.

Yet the grave remains elusive and that is no doubt what Gengish khan would want.


Tower of London Jewel House

The English Crown Jewels are estimated to be worth somewhere close to £13 billion, putting them high on the list of targets for master criminals. They have been kept under heavy guard at the Tower of London for centuries, and in 1994 were moved to a new home within the castle boundaries, a state of the are jewel house designed to keep them protected while being viewed by thousands of tourists each day.

From the King’s crown, adorned with over 3,000 jewels, to the royal Sceptre that includes the Cullinan diamond, the crown jewels are an unrivalled collection. They have been stored at the Tower of London since 1303, having previously resided at Westminster Abbey until they were subject to an attempted theft.

The nearest anyone has come to successfully snatching them from the tower was a notorious 1672 heist led by colonel Blood. At that time the jewels were held in the Martin Tower, protected by a custodian, Talbot Edwards, who would allow visitors to inspect them for a small consideration. Blood and a female accomplice duly befriended Edwards and his wife over a period of weeks.

By early May 1671, Blood had persuaded the master of jewel House to let him see the collection with a small troop of friends. He then led an ambush, the gang beating Edwards and seizing whatever valuables they could. Although they were apprehended before they could getaway. Blood somehow secured himself a royal pardon – some say as the reward for his astonishing bravado.

The chances of such a ruse proving successful today are more remote than ever. The jewels were moved to the Tower’s neo-Gothic Waterloo barracks in 1967, but by the early 1990s, it was clear that the basement room in which they were kept was unable to cope with the crowds of tourists. A new jewel house was built within the barracks, with capacity for 2,500 people each hour.

Opened in 1994, the building includes a raft of safety and security measures that cost more than £3 million. Today the jewels lie on cushions of French velvet protected by 5-cm thick reinforced glass. They are kept under 24-hour surveillance from a nearby control room while Yeoman Warders and members of the Tower Guard stand ready to step in should the need arise. So you are welcome to look but don’t even think about touching.

Location: Tower Hill, London, England.

Hunza Valley: A Spectrum of beauty.

Pakistan is one of the few countries with such a dynamic landscape.

The much renowned Hunza valley is often referred to as heaven on earth, situated in the grand Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain ranges, this place has been a great tourist attraction for many years.

For me, it all happened when I was 16 years old and left the home with father and brother, after completing a long journey of about 12-14 hours we reached Gilgit. The next day, as we proceeded according to our mission. Before that, I had only heard about Hunza valley’s beauty, so I could only paint pictures in my mind of what was coming next.
It was the mid-July, the sun was covered by the clouds and when we reached Nilt from Gilgit, I was truly mesmerized by its beauty.
The meadows, plants laden with white, pink, and orange flowers could be found all over the place. I was simply blown away by the truly mesmerizing colours.
There were so many flowers alongside the road from Hussainabad to Aliabad. Although it was not the spring season but nature was still in its bloom.
Historical Background:
Hunza is located at a distance of 100 kilometers from Gilgit. In the early 1890s, the British embarked upon a mission to annex Hunza and Nagar, which is also known as the Hunza-Nagar Campaign.
British soldiers led by Colonel Durand occupied Nilt Fort in 1890. After that, they proceeded to the Baltit Fort, but faced heavy resistance.
The British gained complete control of Hunza and Nagar with little effort. Thereafter, the Mir of Hunza, Safdar Ali Khan along with his family, fled to Kashgar in China, and his brother Mir Muhammad Nazim Khan was made the new ruler of Hunza by the British.

Hunza enchanted me so much that my heart suggested me to stay here at least for a month, but because of the school, we couldn’t stay long.
After crossing a long bridge we headed towards the Attabad Lake, the most common and accessible lake in Hunza(Gojal), as we were moving towards the lake we had to pass through several Tunnels, the combined distance of all the tunnels is round about 11km. By passing through all the tunnels, we finally saw the giant lake which was about 20.9km long. We enjoyed our lunch very much beside the lake.

Attabad Lake.
You can live a pretty comfortable life while being in your home in a large city, but as soon as you travel to the northern areas of Pakistan, you find that the real peace of mind lies within these beautiful outlooks.
A lot of foreigners come to seeing Hunza. With that, the tourism factor has increased much more than before. From winters to spring,  nature seems to be in a transition period, but this place remains remarkable with every changing season.
Whenever I am reminded of my Hunza expeditions, I have the urge to retreat to those places once again.

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