Wednesday, July 23, 2008

GRAND CANYON…one of the most spectacular natural wonders

23rd July, 2008

During our recent visit to San Francisco, Kush took us for a visit to the Grand Canyon. It is only when you go there and witness the imposing character of the canyon that you realize that it is for no illegitimate reason that it is called Grand. We all (myself, Chitra, Kush and Vasu) had flown to Los Angeles to visit Atul and Anita and their lovely and lively daughters, Priyanka and Natasha at their home in Orange County. After doing the usual circuit of LA, Hollywood, San Diego and Sea World, and witnessing the fireworks of the 4th of July, we drove to Grand Canyon. After only an hour or two, the landscape had changed into desert with huge dunes on either side. In spite of the day being hot and humid, it was a relaxed drive after bumper to bumper traffic of LA and San Diego. After passing through the magnificent Hoover Dam, we reached the southern rim of Grand Canyon just in time for the sun set. Because of the long weekend on account of US Independence Day, the lodges were full and restaurants bright with chatty people. After our dinner, we got into our cabin and retired early after a long day and also to catch some sleep before an early rise to witness the sun making its grand appearance over the canyon. We got up early and drove to the Bright Angel Lodge which is also a good location for a number of short and long hikes. We found a good location and waited expectantly. Fortunately, there was no appreciable haze or fog that early morning. We were rewarded and witnessed the spectacular sun rise. It coloured everything on the opposite side in beautiful pink. Then we started for our 5 km hike towards the gorge. We wanted a longer hike, but we were not fully equipped with liquids and food. The canyon gets humid and hot very early morning and challenges your physical fitness. There are many deaths reported among people who thought themselves to be completely fit, but met a tragic end due to heat stroke, dehydration or exhaustion during hiking or other adventure activities. On our return, we were now starving and had a relaxed and sumptuous breakfast at the restaurant.



The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world; the other being, Northern lights (aurora borealis in the Northern Hemisphere over Canada), Paricotin Volcano (Mexico), Harbour of Rio da Janeiro (Brazil), Victoria Falls (Africa), Great Barrier Reef (Australia), and of course, Mount Everest, Himalayas.
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided
gorge carved by the Colorado River in the U.S. state of Arizona. Considering its importance, the Grand Canyon and area around it has been declared as Grand Canyon National Park.
Grand Canyon is a geologist’s delight because of the ancient rocks that are beautifully preserved in the walls of the canyon. These rocks are testimony to the geological history of the North American continent.
The canyon was created by the
Colorado River over a period of 17 million year time span. The canyon is 446 km long, ranges in width from 6.4 to 29 km and attains a depth of more than 1.6 km. It is not the deepest canyon in the world, yet it is unmatched throughout the world for its overwhelming size and its colourful landscape.
Besides offering a beautiful sight, the canyon offers a number of activities for people looking for adventure sports, like, hiking, camping, and kayaking in the Colorado river. For wild life lovers, there is much to see and photograph. The Canyon is one of the few sites in the US for the habitat and breeding site of the magnificent bird, condor. I was lucky to witness the majestic flight of condor during our stay there.
I had long cherished to visit Grand Canyon. I hope to visit it once again to spend more time in the amazing, magnificent, and daunting environs of this natural wonder.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Presentation at Google, San Francisco

18 July, 2008

I was recently in San Francisco where Pranay, my nephew, organized a visit for us to his company, Google. I was asked if I would be willing in making a presentation for the interested staff on my Antarctica experience. The possibility of space flights and extended space missions becoming available to the ordinary citizens has caught people’s imagination and they want to know how such flights and missions would impact them and their health and behaviour. Since there are many common characteristics (for example, stress, isolation, and sensory deprivation) between Antarctic expedition and Space mission, my talk would be helpful to people wishing to be on the Space flights in the future. Google has uploaded this presentation on the youtube :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GLQqsv-m3A
By the way, this blog is also through the service provided by Google.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Polarman, Polarman....

POLARMAN: 3rd July, 2008

Guest column by Dr Abhijeet Bhatia

(Abhijeet is a wintering member of the 27th Indian Antarctic Expedition, and maintains his own blog: www.natureinbliss.blogspot.com)

The big day was finally here. The biggest festival in Antarctica- the Mid-Winter Day! It was the darkest day (or should we call it the darkest night) of the polar night. According to an old tradition, anyone who is in Antarctica on 21st June is called a Polarman. But it does not come so easily. Anyone who is here on this day has to spend almost a whole year here. That is because it is not possible to commute to and fro Antarctica during the winters, that is, from April till beginning of November. The last flight leaves this continent around March and start only in November. The ships also start arriving in only in December after leaving Antarctican shore in March-April. Hence, This privilege of being called ‘Polarman’ is reserved exclusively for the winter teams. So this was a memorable day for all of us, especially the first timers. After all, being a polarman is a rare feat. Congratulatory messages had come pouring in from all over the world and other Antarctic stations.

The Mid- Winter Day also means that Antarctica will only get brighter now. Half of the period of polar nights is now over. We will be able to see the sun again after 1 month, though only for, may be, four minutes. But winters are far from over. July and August are the coldest and the windiest months here. That means that the winters are just peaking.

The Russians came over to join us for the celebrations from the nearby Russian station, Novo. They were expected around 10 AM, but were late. They can't be blamed because driving time in Antarctica is highly unpredictable. When they did arrive, we all had a gala time. We exchanged small gifts, and then it was time for drinks, snacks and then tambola exclusively for the Russians. The Russians did not know how to play, so we guided them. They were playing for bottles of rum. Hence there was cut throat competition. They guzzled alcohol like water. We were no match for them. We interacted with them freely and took them around the station. Language was a major problem. But that did not hinder the conversation, which flowed like liquor. They enjoyed Indian dishes thoroughly. We had made every effort to cook according to their tastes- no chillies, minimum oil.

We had made some good friends. It was nice to see some new faces after a long time. We are now ready to face the rest of the time in Antarctica with renewed vigour, with the knowledge that now it's all downhill from here.

As our leader said- Ab hum roshni ki taraf ja rahe hain.