All posts by geogeek1726

Seljalandsfoss

I know it’s been over a month since I came home from the the land of fire and ice, but here are a few more pictures from the wonderful land of Iceland.  In this case it of the waterfalls around the area of Seljalandsfoss.  This particularly wonderful foss is on the main round south-east before you get to Vik.  It drops about 60m from the volcanic cliffs above and has calved out a plunge pool and has a fantastic undercut rock shelter that allows visitors to walk behind the falls (though I would say to watch your step as the patch can be wet and slippery – and when the weather is as windy as it was on our trip the spray will soak you).

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DSCN2634DSCN2623DSCN2639About 500m along the cliffs to the northwest of Seljalandsfoss is the hidden waterfall Gljúfrafoss.  This is worth having a look at, though your feet will get wet as you have to walk along the stream to get into the cave.  With Gljúfrafoss you have a waterfall that has cut back into the cliffs and you have to do a bit of exploring to see this beautiful foss.

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Icelandic Birds

I’ll be getting back to the geographical stuff soon, but here’s something a little different.  In addition to geology I also enjoy wildlife, in particular birds (must be the dinosaur connection).  Whilst in Iceland I managed to get a few pictures, some decent others not so…have you got any idea how difficult it is to photograph a Puffin!  Damn things just don’t stay still long enough.  This is the best I could do…

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Though they were a little easier to do as a group.

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So those are my Puffin (Fratercula arctica) pictures.  A little better was this picture of a Guillemot (Uria aalge)

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In the cliffs around Skógafoss Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) nest precariously on the rocks.

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Oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) and Harlequin Ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) can also be found.

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At Jökulsárlón I did find it a little surreal to see ducks, in this case Eiders (Somateria mollissima) swimming around the icebergs.  I know they prefer colder climates and being out at sea, but it still made me chuckle.

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I rather fond of my Redwing (Turdus iliacus) picture.  I got few good shots but this one is my favourite.

The Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is a regular sight around Skaftafell though they do carry feeding and making their trilling sound all through the sunlit night…lovely birds, but a little less so at 2am 😉 I did find this particular individual on its nest.  So well camouflaged that I never would have seen it if it hadn’t made a hell of a noise landing.

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For those twitchers reading this you may have noticed that the feature image was of the Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus).  This bird is particularly hard to see in the UK…basically you have to go to highest peaks in Scotland to have any hope, so you can imagine how excited I was to the guy at the top of the blog post.  He’d just seen off a rival and was looking pretty pleased with himself sitting on the little hillock.  That however was not my closest encounter.  The next morning this little chap sat on a fence post less than 2m from me a posed for pictures.

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As you could guess I got a little excited.  It’s such an amazing feeling when a wild animal chooses to spend time with you.  To close I want to use a picture of this same Ptarmigan sitting in the middle of the road next to Skaftafell.

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Jökulsárlón

As promised, here is another post from my Iceland trip.  This time it’s of Jökulsárlón.  To be honest I don’t know why this place isn’t better known.  For me I think it’s one of the natural crown jewels of Europe, nevermind of Iceland.  Basically Jökulsárlón is a semi-tidal lagoon on the south-east coast of Iceland and formed in the 1930’s by the retreat of Breiðamerkurjökul.  Breiðamerkurjökul’s moraines formed the edge of the lagoon and there is a small tidal river connecting the lagoon to the sea.  But what for me makes this place so special are the icebergs.  Breiðamerkurjökul carves the icebergs which then float around in the lagoon, slowly melting.  Some of them do make it down the small river floating out to the sea, but also being pushed back by the tide and landing on the beach forming yet more amazing ice blocks on the black sand.  OK so that’s enough of me talking lets have some pictures.

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I think the one above looks a bit like a seal’s head.

DSCN3065The pictures really don’t do this place justice.  Maybe I just don’t get out enough but this is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited.  I probably will never get to go to Antarctica or the high Arctic, but this is pretty close.  This is one place that should be on a lot of peoples’ bucket lists and I’m glad to have ticked it off mine.

 

Iceland Trip

At the beginning of June I was fortunate enough to go on another trip outside of my home country, and this time to a place I have long wanted to visit, that geogeek’s paradise known as Iceland.  It has been a dream I’d wanted to fulfill for a few years now and it has finally gone ahead.  Over the next few days I’ll be writing more post about the trip.  I went there with 2 friends and spent a total of a week camping, walking, driving and (surprise, surprise) taking hundreds of pictures.  For a general overview we landed at Keflavik early in the morning (seriously why does it seem that airlines only do flights that require you to get up at 3am?).  We picked up our hire car, drove to Reykjavik to pick up some food and then spent the next few hours driving along the south coast to the campsite at Skaftafell, at the south end of Vatnajökull.  We spend 3 nights there, and then drove back to Reykjavik where we spent the last 4 nights of the week.

I can’t speak for the north of the country which we didn’t visit, but the south is a beautiful mix of old lava fields, post-glacial moraines and what can only be described as a peri-glacial cold desert.  This ‘desert’ covers large parts of the south coast where areas of black sand and rubble are common and people are not.  These have formed mostly as a mixture of lava flows, glacial deposition and jökulhlaups.

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DSCN2779It even comes with its own dust clouds when the wind is strong.

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This is just the first part of my write ups, so look forward to more about Vatnajökull, Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón amongst other places.

The Brandenburg Gate

Well I did say I was going to show some more pictures of my European road trip, so for tonight’s viewing are my shots of the Brandenburg Gate.  Completed in 1791, the Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor) is possibly the most recognizable landmark in Germany.  The Gate is in the neoclassical style and is just pretty awesome to look at.  Enjoy 🙂

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The pictures with the fountain jet to the right of them required a bit of creativity: being away from the main crowd and close enough to American Embassy for the guards to pay attention to my activities.  Didn’t help that I had to wait for a cloud to pass so that I could have a clear blue background…nothing that would get me into trouble but odd enough for them to keep an eye on me until I left.  I got several nice shots though.

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I’m going to finish off with a picture of the Reichstag taken from a memorial garden dedicated to the Romani and other traveler peoples that the Nazis considered to be undesirable.  A calm and quiet place suitable for the subject.

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European Road Trip Part 1

Last week I had the great chance of having a mini-road trip to Europe.  The trip took myself and some friends all the way to Poland and back.  Over the next few days I’ll be writing up a number of posts about my activities.  If you haven’t had guessed already I’ve been to the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.  The trip also took us to the France, Belgium, the Netherlands, other parts of Germany, Poland and Luxembourg.  6 countries in 7 days…not bad going, though a little exhausting.  Just a few highlights are shown below.

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Berlin Natural History Museum

Last week I had the great fortune of a mini European road trip and being in Germany I took the opportunity of visiting the Berlin Museum Fur Naturkunde (Natural History Museum).  This particular museum has been on my bucket list for one big reason – Brachiosaurus.  She’s a beautiful beastie and like London’s Diplodocus (well until the recent announcement that they are replacing her with a Blue Whale), stands in the main entrance area of the museum.  It’s the first time I’ve seen a dinosaur this size and according to the information board she stands at 13.5m high, and is apparently the largest mounted dinosaur skeleton in the world.

DSCN1523I love the fact that they’ve put the Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Dicraeosaurus next to each other so you get a feel for the size difference.  You also have a Kentrosaurus in the central dinosaur display.

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Now I’ve been using the name Brachiosaurus for this specimen, but I am aware that she differs from the American type specimen and is now referred to as Giraffatitan everywhere except the information board next to the skeleton itself.  I found that rather amusing…I guess the matter is not settled afterall.  Along with the Sauropod centre display there is also an Allosaurus, an Elaphrosurus (shown below) and a Dysalotosaurus.

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Along with the dinosaurs you also have a wide range of fantastic fossils from the Solnhofen limestone formation, including fish, crustaceans, insects and pterosaurs.

DSCN1525There is a particularly fine specimen of a Rhamphorhynchus.  I really like the the preservation of the wings.

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The other star specimen of the museum is of course the Archaeopteryx fossil.

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Sorry it’s not that good a photo, my camera was playing up at the time.

So what is there besides the dinosaurs?  The museum also houses a large mineral collection that is considerably bigger than my own collection of rocks, a room for taxidermed specimens, rooms explaining the geological history of earth as well as the solar system, and what was my favourite room after the dinosaurs – the wet samples room, containing animal specimens in jars.  A little morbid I know, but what did you expect I’m into dead things (and please no necrophilia jokes they’re dead boring…sorry…thus ends the family friendly session of my ramblings).

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OK back to serious things.  How does it compare to London’s Natural History Museum?  Well it’s a lot smaller.  The London museum will take the best part of a day to get around, whilst you can see everything in the Berlin one in a couple of hours.  For me I felt that this was a bit of a two-edged sword.  On the one hand I was a little disappointed and wanted to see more of what they had, yet on the plus side it ment that the museum wasn’t too crowded (I went on the Saturday of a school holiday, if that had been London I’d have had to queue for hours), yet in Berlin I just walked in.  Another bonus to it being smaller is that what they do have on display is the really good stuff.  Not that I’m saying that London doesn’t have good samples, it just means that you know in Berlin you’re getting the very best that they have to show you…like a 13.5m tall Brachiosaurs/Giraffatitan.  Lets have another picture of her.

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So is it worth going to?  Oh yes.  For a guy who’s been into dinosaurs since he was 3 most definitely, nowhere else in Europe will you see a Brachiosaurus/Giraffatitan.  If you’re ever in Berlin I’d make a point to spend a coupke of hours of your trip in the museum.

I’m going to finish with one last photo of the star attraction.

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Severn Bore 21st March 2015

Well this morning saw me get up before 6am and make the trip from Telford to the village of Epney in Gloucestershire to see the Severn Bore.  With yesterday’s solar eclipse that’s two natural phenomena in two days…I wonder what I’ll see tomorrow?

Today’s showing was my second visit to see the bore.  I went last month but due to circumstances wasn’t able to get there for the morning bore and so had to see the evening one.  You wont get any decent pictures from an night time bore, but I would recommend going to see in the evening if you get a chance.  In fact if you haven’t seen the Severn Bore before my personal recommendation would be to travel down and see an evening/night time bore, stay the night somewhere close, then see the bore again the following morning.  Why do it this way around?  One word; atmosphere (in the dramatic sense).  Sure your pictures won’t be up to much in the night (see below) but that’s why you go back in the morning.

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Before & after shots near Elmore.  Funny note my friend got a little damp as he was standing next to the tree to the right as the bore came up…slipped on his arse too.

So if the pictures are rubbish what’s so good about a night bore?  For me it added an element of suspense.  The night time is quieter and because you can’t see the bore coming you rely on that sound.  When I went in February we first stopped at Epney and looking down the river there were a few of street lights reflecting on the water about a mile downstream.  You could hear the bore long before it rounded the bend at Framilode and one by one those reflections disappeared in the turbulent water.  A few minutes later the bore hits the river bank with a big crash and smooth, slowly flowing river turns into a mass of waves & wight water.  Much more exciting and dramatic.  Being at night too means that the roads are clearer which makes it easier to chase the bore and see it again further upstream.  On the 20th February we actually saw the bore at 3 different locations (Epney, Elmore and Overbridge).

After you’ve had the drama of a night bore you’ll definitely want to go back to see it in the daylight for those pictures, so here are a few of mine from this morning.

DSCN1278DSCN1285Severn Bore Screen Shot 2Severn Bore Screen Shot 3Severn Bore Screen Shot 4DSCN1295So what is the Severn Bore?  The Severn Bore is a tidal bore formed by the incoming high tide.  For a bore to form a river needs two key features: 1) it must have a large tidal range (the difference in water level between high & low tide)  and 2) it must have a rapidly shallowing & narrowing channel for the tide to flow into.  What this means is that instead of getting the gently increasing tide that you find on a typical beach, the tide rises rapidly in a flood of water.  This flood forms a wave that moves rapidly upstream, causing the the river to effectively flow uphill for a short period.  The Severn Bore is one of the best places in Europe to see a tidal bore, with the wave sometimes being over 2 metres high. and travelling from the mouth all the way to Gloucester (and if Wikipedia is to be believed) occasionally as far as Tewkesbury.

The best bores on the Severn are in the Spring & Autumn, though smaller ones can be seen in most months.  For more information and a timetable of the bores throughout the year check out www.thesevernbore.co.uk.

Oh and as a pool lifeguard of 10 years, a lifeguard trainer, an open water activities supervisor and a member of Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS) I should say don’t get too close to the bank in case you fall in.  If you are going surf or kayak the bore enjoy, but be prepared for the cold water of spring and weather conditions, don’t go in alone and make sure you know your exits before entering the water.  And a final word of warning: DON’T SWIM IT AT NIGHT!  There I’ve been a boring, old fart and said it.

Back to the fun stuff.  If you’re into natural phenomena I’d recommend putting the Severn Bore on some sort of bucket list.  As one of the best places in Europe to see a river flow backwards you’d have to go to the Amazon or the Qiantang rivers for a more spectacular example.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery

Last year a new museum opened up in Shrewsbury, and a couple of weeks ago I decided to check the place out.  It’s a decent sized museum for a smaller county city that Shrewsbury is.  It is sited in the old theatre hall in Market Street and is worth a visit if you’ve ever got a free afternoon in the area.

The museum has three main floors dedicated to the history of Shropshire.  On the ground floor you have the entrance, gift shop, cafe and local art gallery room.  After passing through this area you have the main Ancient History room.  This holds local artifacts from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman Period in Shropshire.  I’m going to place a few images as a taster; I’d encourage a visit to this place if you want to see more.

The Shrewsbury Hoard (Roman coins)

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Roman swords & other artifacts

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Roman Silver Mirror

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On the second floor is a collection of Medieval, Civil War and Early Modern artifacts.

Buckler and Chain Mail

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Gold Coins (I can’t remember which king is represented…and I can’t read the inscription properly sorry).

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Civil War Era uniform & musket (that’s the English Civil Wars of the 1640’s  [or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as it often called now] to those people reading from other countries).

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A close up of one of the seals to the right of the uniform.

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The third floor holds a wide selection of artifacts.  Part of it holds natural artifacts.  This includes samples of rock and fossils from Shropshire, including parts of the mammoths found in the county.

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Some of the fossils found in Shropshire (along with some art formed via a process called concretion)

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The third floor also has a number of 18th-20th Century artifacts; including ceramics, art work and artifacts from WWI and WWII.

For the final section there is a special exhibition room on the third floor.  This one holds (until the 24th April 2015) an Egyptian exhibit.  It is a decent sized exhibit and includes pottery, ushabti, jewellery and of course a mummy with its sarcophagus.  There is also a case containing fake items of more modern origin.

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Hope that gives you a desire to visit it next time you are in the area.  I enjoyed it and I think many others would.  Until next time.