Lava flows into the Pacific Ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and slowly makes the Big Island even bigger. The glowing rocks, roiling waves and clouds of steam create one of nature’s most fascinating sights. You can’t visit Hawaii without seeing it. Photo by Aaron Meyers (www.sharetheexperience.org).

'Cave of forgotten dreams' may hold earliest painting of volcanic eruption

Mysterious paintings in one of the world’s most famous caves could mark the oldest-known depiction of a volcanic eruption. Spray-shaped images in Chauvet cave in France were painted at around the same time as nearby volcanoes spewed lava high into the sky, reports a paper published this month in PLoS ONE.

Chauvet-Pont D'Arc cave, in southern France, is one of the world’s oldest and most impressive cave-art sites. Discovered in 1994 and popularized in the Werner Herzog documentary ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’, Chauvet contains hundreds of paintings that were made as early as 37,000 years ago.

Fearsome animals such as woolly rhinoceroses, cave lions and bears dominate Chauvet’s imagery. But one of its innermost galleries — named after a giant deer species, Megaloceros, that is depicted there — also contains a series of mysterious spray-shaped drawings, partly covered by the Megaloceros painting. Read more.

Why Iceland is My Favorite Country

Pristine landscapes, enormous glaciers, powerful waterfalls, active volcanoes, amazing geothermal activity, and black sand beaches….what more could a nature lover ask for?

I had heard some pretty amazing things about Iceland before visiting, but nothing could prepare me for the actual experience of being there. My wife and I visited for 2 weeks during the month of July, and despite it being the height of the tourist season, there were hardly any crowds. Iceland is located just beneath the Arctic circle, so at that time of year it was light out 24 hours a day. Combine that with the fact that most of the attractions are outside (since Iceland’s primary allure is its natural beauty) and have no closing times or admission fees, and that makes for a pretty cool combination: you can go wherever you want whenever you want.

Iceland is an absolutely pristine country, which has basically no cities or tourist crowds. Even Reykjavik, the country’s capital, feels like a small town. There isn’t much to do in Reykjavik, so don’t spend too much time here. The best way to get around is to rent a car and drive around the country’s only main highway, which is referred to as the Ring Road. Two weeks is a good amount of time to see most of the highlights.

One of the best and most popular excursions near Reykjavik is known as the Golden Circle. This consists of 3 attractions: Gulfoss, a huge and gushing waterfall, Geysir, one of many geysers located in a large geothermal field (and after which all geysers are named), and Thingvellir National Park. The last one straddles two tectonic plates (European and American), and you can actually go scuba diving in between the plates!

Speaking of waterfalls, there is no shortage of incredible waterfalls in Iceland. These range from unnamed 300+ foot cascades just off the side of the road, to Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe. In between, you have Skogafoss, a towering rectangular-shaped waterfall, Selandjafoss, a waterfall you can actually walk behind (and get soaked!), and Svartifoss, a picturesque waterfall surrounded by beautiful basalt columns. There are literally dozens of waterfalls to see driving around the Ring Road, and many are just a few short minutes hike.

Another highlight of Iceland is the glaciers. Glaciers consist of more than 10 percent of Iceland’s land mass, and the largest one (2nd largest in all of Europe) is Vatnajökull, located in Skaftafell National Park. I would strongly encourage anyone visiting Iceland to arrange for a hiking trip on this glacier. It is pristine, has beautiful blue colors, and a fantastic icefall. Nearby you can take a boat trip on the Jokulsarlon lagoon, which is filled with giant icebergs the size of houses!

Another one of the highlights of Iceland is the Diamond Circle, a trio of attractions located in the Northeast part of Iceland. These consist of Lake Myvatn, a hub of geothermal activity (mud pots, fumaroles, geysers, hot springs, you name it), Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, and Asbyrgi Canyon, which contains of some great but fairly easy hikes. If you’re in the the area, I would highly encourage you to make the short trip to the town of Husavik. This is one of the northernmost points in Iceland, and offers some fantastic whale watching. Just make sure that you dress for the weather, as it gets a bit chilly once you get off shore!

Speaking of wildlife watching, Iceland is home to a very large population of puffins, which are cute little black-and-white birds with unusually shaped beaks. Two of the best places to see them are Borgarfjörður Eystri in the Eastfjords and the Westman Islands in the south of Iceland.

One thing I would be remiss if I did not mention is Iceland’s prevalence of active volcanoes. Perhaps the best of these is the Snæfellsnes volcano, located in Western Iceland. This volcano is capped with a large glacier, and you can actually hike up the volcano! Nearby are also a beautiful coastal hike as well as a pair of towering basalt rock pinnacles.

Last but not least, the people in Iceland are some of the friendliest I have ever met in my travels. I have been to many countries with amazing people, such as Thailand, Bolivia, and New Zealand, but none can compare to the hospitality of Icelandic people. In addition, they all speak fluent English, which is great because Icelandic is basically impossible to pronounce.

Sadly, no country is perfect, and there are a few downsides about visiting Iceland. First, the weather: While not necessarily cold, it is extremely unpredictable. I had heard the expression, “If you don’t like the weather in _____, wait 5 minutes.” Well, Iceland is the only place I actually found this to be true. It would be sunny one minute, then raining the next, then warm, then cloudy, etc. In fact, it was often warmer and sunnier at night than it was during the day (and since it was 24-hour daylight, it was often difficult to tell night from day, which made for a very interesting sort of confusion). Second, Iceland is a rather expensive place to visit, in part because many things need to be imported. For example, plan on spending $100-$150 for a private room at a hostel. Lastly, if you are planning on doing much driving off the main highway, many of the smaller roads are unpaved, so it is best to rent a high clearance vehicle (especially if you want to visit the Westfjords or the interior highlands).

However, if you can deal with these relatively minor issues, I suggest you start making plans to visit Iceland sooner rather than later, especially if you love nature and the outdoors. I can guarantee it will be an adventure that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

vimeo

Professional photographer time lapses from Hawaii’s Volcanoes National park. Yes please.

worlds fall apart in the end
that is the beginning, at least

maybe that’s why
we chose to vanish into the void

the ancient greeks, they 
promised catharsis

we, we watched
named stars for flames

asked why io still strives to burst
taking universes with her

anger flames red
we wondered how fires
could coexist with ice

but then
we still beg the world for knowledge

still ask rivers
to teach us the meaning of kindness

—  WE TAUGHT OURSELVES TO THE UNIVERSE / Rishika Aggarwal © 2016

Ice Floes Along the Kamchatka Coastline

by NASA’s Earth Observatory

The vantage point from orbit on the International Space Station (ISS) frequently affords astronauts with the opportunity to observe processes that are impossible to see on the ground. The winter season blankets the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia in snow, but significant amounts of sea ice can also form and collect along the Pacific coastline. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and currents.

The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka provokes large, circular eddy currents to spin off from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current. Three such eddies are highlighted by surface ice floe patterns at image center. The patterns are very difficult (and dangerous) to navigate in an ocean vessel. While the floes may look thin and delicate from the ISS vantage point, even the smaller ice chunks are several meters across. White clouds (image top right) are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover by their high brightness and discontinuous nature.

The Kamchatka Peninsula also hosts many currently and historically active stratovolcanoes. Kliuchevskoi Volcano, the highest in Kamchatka (summit elevation 4,835 meters) and one of the most active, had its most recent confirmed eruption in June 2011. Meanwhile, Karymsky Volcano (to the south) likely produced ash plumes just days before this image was taken; the snow cover on the south and east sides of the summit is darkened by a cover of fresh ash or melted away altogether (image bottom center). By contrast, Kronotsky Volcano—a “textbook” symmetrical cone-shaped stratovolcano—last erupted in 1923.

Astronaut photograph ISS030-E-162344 was acquired on March 15, 2012, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using a 28 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 30 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Caption by William L. Stefanov, Jacobs/ESCG at NASA-JSC. The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models. Date 15 March 2012. 

Wanna know who I was?
the idiot who thought they had a chance
I took it
Thinking that maybe he’d say yes
And it blew up in my face
I sobbed
I sobbed for so long
That my soul
Didn’t even know
What it was sobbing for anymore
I still feel it
The ache
The pain in my chest
That makes me lose my breath
Or stumble upon my words
I can’t take it anymore
He played me
He played me
like that fucking violin
He plays so well
And I fell for it
I can’t breathe
I can’t speak
I can’t even move
It just hurts
It hurts too much to do anything
I can’t believe I thought
I actually had a chance
I was a fool
A dumb
Sorry old fool
That took their luck and threw it out there
For the world to judge
Or maybe it was just my world
Because as far as I know
Everyone is pitying me
They all know I’m heartbroken
And they try to make me feel better
But they don’t realize
That the only thing
that could make me feel better
Is to be in his arms again
That’s never going to happen though
He’s the reason
Hurricanes are named after people
And I’m the reason
volcanoes explode so extravagantly
And we were never meant to mix
Because fire and water
Just don’t work
The water will dry up from my heat
and I will fizzle out from his coldness
But if you take a close look enough
You’ll see it
The magic
The beautiful magic
That creates something perfect
Out of things that shouldn’t mix
And that will be our legacy
Our remembrance to one another
When we pass on the street
acting as if we’re strangers
when we really had something
you only read about in the books
Or see in the movies
We were Romeo and Juliet
And pieces of us died in each other
And ourselves
when we decided
to go our separate way
—  I still find myself wishing you’ll come through the door again
Why is Iceland so tectonically active?

Recently I was asked to give a 5 minute presentation on an area within STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that I am really passionate about. I originally wrote a speech on Alzheimers, which though is a disease close to my heart, (family diagnoses) I found none of the facts were sticking, and it just wasn’t my passion.

The night before I was to do it I decided that the best course of action was to completely revert back to the things I find most interesting, nature, Volcanoes, and Iceland. So here it is:

“Iceland is one of the most geologically interesting places in the world, for this reason it is one of my favourite places on earth. Its landscape is defined by glaciers, black sand beaches, volcanoes, geysers, waterfalls, and hot springs. You will all probably remember Iceland, through the volcano which stopped all air travel to and from most European air spaces in 2010. It has a land area of around 103000 km2, and a population of around 323000 people.

So, this leads to the question, why is Iceland so geologically active?

As a relatively new island, forming in the Miocene era about 20-25 million years ago, Iceland is one of the few islands which has established itself and now stretches over the Mid Atlantic Ridge. It is a 40,000km crack which is slowly spreading. As the North American tectonic plate pulls west and the Eurasian tectonic plate is pulled east, it created a divergence. This spreading zone let loose the upwelling of magma, which filled the rift valleys and formed the volcanoes. This continual spewing of lava from volcanoes, caused Iceland to eventually expand and allowed the basaltic rock to cool, while remaining tectonically active. Another contributor is the fact that, Iceland is on a hotspot, which moves slowly northeast, and accounts for the tectonic activity which plagues the west mid and east coasts.

A modern example of how Iceland formed is one of the newest islands in the world, which formed in much the same way: The island of Surtsey rose above the ocean in a series of eruptions between 1963 and 1968. This confirmed scientist’s theories of how it could have formed and also provided further physical evidence of the plate tectonic theory.

Currently there are about 30 active meaning they have erupted in the last few hundred years, and 200 inactive volcanoes which are more prone to lie in the central areas of Iceland. These active volcanoes vary from the most common fissure to caldera and shields, and there is also a lot of surface activity as well, which have been the most well documented events from historically ancient times. On average, there is a large volcanic eruption every 4-5 years.

Advantages to living in such a tectonically active area which I found really interesting and cool is that over 90% of housing and businesses are heated by geothermal energy, which is one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of energy humanity has harnessed. They have achieved this from the 700 geysers which are slotted around the island. In addition, there is huge potential for the creation of a hydroelectric power source, as water melted from sub-glacial volcanoes generates a huge amount of energy every day. These alternative natural power sources have meant that Iceland has become one of the cleanest countries on earth.

Also, Thingvellir, Iceland is really one of the only places where you can see the tectonic plates in action, above the height of the sea, unlike all other plates which are water bound. So, this means, if you’re standing in the valley, at about 15 or so meters apart, you can run and literally touch the North American plate, and then take a few short steps and touch the Eurasian plate.

In the future, Iceland will eventually be torn apart, though this will not happen for several millions of years due to the hotspot which constantly provides new lava, which solidifies and forms new land. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoy the fact that 54.4 % of Icelanders still believe in the existence of elves.”