Monthly Archives: May 2012

… And Once More to Long Island Sound

By Vladimir Brezina

On Sunday, the currents were right for a kayak trip through the East River out to Long Island Sound. Here is a slideshow of the highlights:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Where the Wild Rocks Are: Rock Gardening in Rhode Island

By Johna Till Johnson

“Rocks are our friends,” says Carl Ladd.

I look at him skeptically. That sounds insane to me. I’ve just met Carl, who runs Osprey Sea Kayaks in Westport, Massachusetts. From what I can tell he’s a talented paddler and a successful businessman with a wickedly dry sense of humor.

He doesn’t seem nuts.

But as I see it, rocks are not our friends—particularly when they’re combined with wind and waves. Rocks shatter kayaks and gear, and do worse to paddlers.

That’s why I’ve spent a fair amount of my paddling career learning how to avoid rocks. And it’s why I’m less than convinced by Carl’s comment.

Of course, maybe I’m the one who’s nuts—since I’m planning to spend a glorious cloudless weekend getting better acquainted with rocks, despite my opinion of them.

Continue reading

Travel Theme: Street Markets

By Vladimir Brezina

Ailsa of Where’s my backpack? has proposed another photo challenge—it looks like it’s going to be a regular weekly thing! This week her challenge is Street Markets.

I don’t have too many photos of  street markets. Although I do remember photographing some wonderfully colorful ones in Germany, that was many years ago, and where are those photos now? But let it not be said that I didn’t rise to the challenge!

Here is a snapshot of the crowded pre-holiday market held last December in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, at the edge of Central Park, taken at the magic hour of twilight…

And yes, I did travel to take this photo—from the East Side of Manhattan all the way to the West Side, from one culture to quite another.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer, Take Two

By Vladimir Brezina

I’ve already posted one response to this week’s Photo Challenge, Summer. Here is another.

Glover’s Reef Atoll, Belize, with Slickrock Adventures. OK, it was in March, but there it’s always summer!

More photos are here.

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Summer.

As it happens, I’ve already posted a couple of summery posts just this week, here and here. But here is another take on Summer.

Cromer, Norfolk, England.

More photos are here.
And my second response to this challenge is here.

Beach Mysteries

By Vladimir Brezina

On the beach on the northwest tip of Sandy Hook, under the skeleton tower with the ospreys’ nest…

On our last kayak trip to Sandy Hook a couple of week ago, after lunch under the skeleton tower at the northwest tip of the Hook, we went for a walk along the beach. And we saw a number of strange sights! Can you help us identify these?


1. Pirate treasure?

2. Crop circles, except in sand? A miniature bikers’ rally?

3. Pill organizer of the ancient inhabitants of Sandy Hook? (Their week—or month?—had 16 days, apparently…)

4. Tiny foxholes?


Updates, May 26 and May 28, 2012: We have solid identifications for at least three of these mysteries!

#1. Jim W. says: “It is the top of a ‘breasting float’, its about 4 feet deep in the sand.  They are used between the ships and piers at the passenger ship terminals.  You used to be able to see them rafted together in the empty slips, before the elevated highway was torn down.” Can’t do any better than that—thanks, Jim!

#2. This actually is one we had a pretty good idea about as soon as we saw it. And a number of our readers have come to the same conclusion. These are classic horseshoe crab tracks. Part of that beach consists of shallow basins that obviously fill up with water at high tide (possibly only an usually high tide) and drain again at low tide. And in these basins the horseshoe crabs clearly had a killer party! Their tracks were all over the place, some with dead crabs lying at the ends of them…

#3. Marcus says: “Number 3 is a section of a composite piling (they probably sawed it off after driving the piling to refusal). The white bits are fiberglass tension elements and the rest is an epoxy / plastic resin. It resists marine borers and doesn’t spall like concrete:”

#4. These are clearly burrows or holes made by animals of some kind, most likely insects or crabs. Fiztrainer suggests sand crabs (see comments).

So crowdsourcing really works! Without our readers’ help, we were completely stumped by #1 and #3, and not really sure about #4…

Kayaking Gold on Cape Cod Bay

By Vladimir Brezina

We really can’t set off on this summer’s kayaking adventures before we’ve written up all of last summer’s!

So, here is the last of them.


The previous days of our 2011 New England kayaking vacation (see here and here) were exhilarating, but by the same token just a tiny bit tense—although we had good conditions, they were exposed trips on which you can never really relax until you are safe home again.

In contrast, this leisurely trip on the protected, warm Cape Cod Bay was pure gold.

Continue reading

Travel Theme: Summer

By Vladimir Brezina

Update, May 25, 2012: A week later, it turns out that the theme of the official Photo Challenge is also Summer. Ailsa and Sara should really coordinate a bit better! On the other hand, I have my entry all ready:


Ailsa of Where’s my backpack?, who stepped into the breach and organized last week’s wildly successful Alternative Photo Challenge on the theme of “Reflections”—and then found the time to look at the hundreds of photos and answer the hundreds of comments that flooded in—wants to do it again!

This time she’s proposed a theme that combines her love of travel and that of the summer now upon us, at least those of us in the northern hemisphere…

As soon as I saw her double theme, I knew I had just the photos for her! I offer you… the English summer holiday at the seaside!

Lonely as a cloud

The traditional pony ride

Wetsuits of August

Please, let’s have no indignant defenses of the English summer. I know what I am talking about!

(Or, if you must, do first review the categories that this post is listed under…)

More photos are here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

By Vladimir Brezina

This week’s Photo Challenge is Hands.

It’s all about the hands!  (Well, and a few other body parts…) Here’s Joe the Guide (guess which one he is) showing a bunch of newbies the proper forward stroke.

It’s amazing how expressive the hands are, and how much we are drawn to look to them for clues—especially after we’ve cut off the heads!

Continue reading

Zooming in on Planet Earth

By Vladimir Brezina

I just can’t resist those satellite images!

Following the Blue Marble and its more recent recreations, there are now some amazing new images of the Earth out on the Internet.

These images were taken by cameras aboard Elektro-L 1, a  Russian weather satellite in a geostationary orbit ~35,700 km above the Earth’s equator. Every 30 minutes, the satellite’s cameras create a 121-megapixel image at an unprecedented resolution of ~1 km of the Earth’s surface per pixel. The images were posted on the Planet Earth website by James Drake, who obtained them from the Russian Federal Space Agency and stitched them together into various time-lapse movies.

Some of the movies, such as the one above, attempt to show approximately true color. Others use infrared wavelength information to highlight vegetation in orange.

Various movies, zoomed in on different geographical regions, are available on YouTube or at the Planet Earth site, which also has interactively zoomable images that offer some sense of the true resolution of the images (the movies have much lower resolution for posting on the web) and a beautiful image gallery.

News reports with more information are here and here.

“When I see these images, I perceive the planet we live on as incredibly beautiful, interconnected and alive,” Drake said. “They show the Earth for what it is, a spinning orb of metal and rock with a thin surface layer of unimaginable complexity. The fluid water and air that cover our planet are filled with intricate self-replicating fractal patterns called life. What is happening on this planet is absolutely extraordinary!”

Slightly disconcerting, however, are the ads served up by Google with the YouTube videos:

“The End-Time is Here! 2008 was God’s last warning. 2012 is economic collapse and WWIII. Ads by Google.”

And another about UFOs…

Is there something Google knows that planetary engineers and scientists don’t?

Since these ads are personally targeted, though, watch the videos and see what Google has in store for you!