Gullfoss – The Golden Waterfall

Gullfoss is a beautiful waterfall situated in the southwest of Iceland, about 100 kilometers from its capital city Reykjavík. The water from the Hvitá River plummets down into a rugged canyon with walls that reach up to 70 meters in height. The river is fed by Iceland´s second biggest glacier, the Lángjökull. It deposits sediment and debris into the fast flowing water and turning it a golden colour, when the sun shines on the waterfall.

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Katie Mathieson, a student fellow from Davidson College, writes about environmental activism in Patagonia, in particular a movement to stop the building of mega-hydroelectric dams, funded by Douglas and Kristine Tompkins, whose fortune comes from the North Face outdoor clothing company. Calling the Tompkins “the most controversial conservationists on the continent,“ Katie writes, “Their biggest project, Pumalin Park, is 300,000 acres and stretches from the coast of Chile to the border with Argentina. For some this is an impressive accomplishment in conservation—others, especially local residents, remain skeptical.” Carlos Olivares, who heads a local opposition group, says, “I want you all to know that Mr. Tompkins doesn’t represent us. He has come to invade our land.”

China gives environmental approval to country's biggest hydro dam

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s environment ministry has given the go-ahead for the construction of what will become the country’s tallest hydroelectric dam despite acknowledging it will have an impact on plants and rare fish.

The dam, with a height of 314 meters (1,030 feet), will serve the Shuangjiangkou hydropower project on the Dadu River in southwestern Sichuan province.

To be built over 10 years by a subsidiary of state power firm Guodian Group, it is expected to cost 24.68 billion yuan ($4.02 billion) in investment.

The ministry, in a statement issued late on Tuesday, said an environmental impact assessment had acknowledged that the project would have a negative impact on rare fish and flora and affect protected local nature reserves.

Developers, it said, had pledged to take “counter-measures” to mitigate the effects.

China aims to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2020, up from 9.4 percent in 2011. Hydropower is expected to make the biggest contribution.

It has vowed to speed up construction of dams in the 2011-2015 period after slowing it down following the completion of the controversial Three Gorges project in 2005.

Environmental groups silent. Dam will be 1,000 feet tall, about the same height as the Eiffel Tower.

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Chief Raoni of the Caiapo tribe from the Amazon basin smokes a pipe while demonstrating against the construction of the planned Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, in Brasilia February 8, 2011.

REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

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Patagonian marble cathedrals …

The Cavernas de Marmol (Marble Caves) lie at the edge of General Carrera Lake in Chile. Fed by glacial melt-water from the high mountains of Patagonia, the lake is turquoise-blue. Glacial meltwaters often take a milky-azure hue due to the high content of “rock flour” – fine rock dust produced from by grinding boulders at the base of glaciers. This fine powder stays suspended in the water and scatters sunlight within the lake. It is a similar effect to the colouration of Lake Baikal’s ice, mentioned here earlier (http://tinyurl.com/cx4hodh).

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Watershed Moments

Patagonia Rising

Water and power were two things he never associated with each other.

Sure he understood the concept. Water spun a turbine which would generate electricity. But water always seemed so gentle, so soft, so unassuming. It moved when it was pushed providing no resistance. It was, as his sister called it, the most forgiving of nature’s elements.

How then could something so weak produce as much energy as it supposedly did?

It made no sense. Or at least it made no sense until his father took him to see the dam. To stand next to the water and feel the raw power, raw energy as it sped passed.

Panem-District 5


How to Move an Ancient Egyptian Temple — The Relocation of the Abu Simbel Temples.

In the 13th century BC the mighty pharaoh Ramses II ordered the construction of two large temples in southern Egypt to commemorate the Battle of Kadesh, to honor his queen Nefertari, and to impress his Nubian enemies to the south.  Carved directly into the sandstone hillsides, the large facade of the temples feature four colossus statues of Ramses himself, each standing 67 feet in height.  The facade itself stands an incredible 100 feet high and 119 feet wide.  Inside of the temples are a network of rooms and hallways with many priceless hieroglyphic carvings detailing Egyptian history, religion, and folklore.

By the 1960’s the Abu Simbel Temples were a national treasure for the new Egyptian nation.  However, Egypt’s industrial modernization would threaten the temples in a way that no pharaoh could have ever predicted.  Near Abu Simbel was the construction of a 364 foot hydroelectric dam known as the Aswan dam.  A key objective of the Egyptian government, the dam would provide electricity for the developing nation and kick start a new agricultural plan which would create a massive irrigation project.  However, Abu Simbel was literally in deep trouble, for construction of the damn would leave the ancient temples submerged at the bottom of the Lake Nasser Reservoir.

To save Abu Simbel, a team of archeologists, historians, engineers, architects, and construction workers were recruited by UNESCO to conduct one of the most ambitious rescue operations of an ancient structure.  The plan was to relocate the ancient temples above the flood plain of Lake Nasser.  Incredibly, the team cut the temple facade and structure into individual blocks weighing 20-30 tons.  Each block was numbered then recorded to keep track of where they would go when reassembled.  The blocks were lifted out of their original foundation using massive cranes, then transported to another site where they could be catalogued and stored for later.  From 1964-1965 over 10,000 stone blocks were cut, lifted, and transported away from the site. 

The new home for the temples was located 200 meters inland and at a height  65 meters higher than the original Abu Simbel site.  To recreate the look of a temple carved from a sandstone hill, artificial hills were created using concrete which simulated sandstone.  Once the new Abu Simbel site was ready, each block was meticulously fitted back into position, reconstructing the ancient temples anew.  In fact the reconstruction is so precise that it would impress ancient Egyptian engineers, on the façade of the temples there are no visible seams where the blocks meet.  Only a few joins can be found from within the temple complex.  The project was completed in 1968 and cost $40 million, over $250 million dollars today.  The cost was well worth it as the Abu Simbel complex is considered one of the great treasures of Egypt and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Over 500,000 tourists visit the temples every year.

I'm sorry but...

Is it just me who thinks that solar energy, wind power and hydroelectricity could sound like something out of a fairy tale if they weren’t already in place. I mean, we’re capturing the sun light and turning it into electricity… We have wind farms with turbines that sound like big creatures “turning automatically towards the wind” and then there’s hydroelectricity… Harnessing the energy from falling water… It could be in a Barbie Fairytopia movie… Just saying…