February 21, 2018

Coral Reefs at Risk from Extreme Heat

Great Barrier ReefScientists fear widespread die-offs in the ocean endangering the richest ecosystems and fisheries that feed millions of people because of severe stress put on the coral reefs in the extreme heat. Corals are reacting to the heat by bleaching and going into survival mode. Many reefs from Thailand to Texas  have already died and more are expected to do so. Corals in the Caribbean may undergo drastic bleaching due to changes in water temperature.

1998 was the hottest year in historical record when 16 percent of the world's shallow water reefs died. This year the situation is looking worse. Scientists have warned that corals which are highly sensitive to excess heat, would be an early indicator of the ecological distress on the planet caused by buildup of greenhouse gases and linked to climate change.

High ocean temperatures in 2010 have been hottest January to August and matched to 1998. 2010 is also an El Nino year. Coral reefs, the rainforests of the sea, are made up of millions of tiny animals called polyps that supply the algae with nutrients and a place to live. 

High heat and bright sunshine cause the metabolism of the algae to speed out of control and they start creating toxins. Corals then become vulnerable, starve to death and may never recover. Serious bleaching has been seen recently in the flower Garden Banks off the Texas-Louisiana border. Caribbean reefs are at risk but tropical storms moving through the Atlantic have cooled the water there and saved some corals.

If Australia has a poor monsoon season this summer, the Great Barrier Reef is in for serious bleaching.

Six Summits

SummitInspired by Vern Tejas who set a record by ascending the world's seven summits, Mark Aiken sets out to climb a few peaks of his own – the six summits in each New England State. He required no pack animals, porters or supplemental oxygen; just a map, compass, hiking boots and blue Honda. His journey lasted 6 days.

New Hampshire

Mt. Washington has challenging mountain passes and attracts bikers, road cyclists and backcountry skiing. The summit has a museum and cafe but more than 135 people have died on the mountain since 1849 from it's fierce and unpredictable weather. The routes range from technically difficult (scrambling over ledges and rocks) to strenuously steep. Break up the hike by staying at one of the huts, Lakes of the clouds and Mizpah Spring for $116 on a weekend.  


Katahdin comprises several peaks, connected by ridges, saddles and precipitous Knife Edge. Baxter State Park regulates campsites, bunks, parking sports by reservations. Park entry fee is $14. Most hikers start from the campgrounds. Baxter has 18 peaks over 3,000 feet.


Mount Mansfield's ridgeline spans over a mile in length with 360 degree spectacular views.Numerous routes to the summit range from moderate hikes to the strenuously steep. Three micro breweries make their homes neart Mt. Mansfield.


Mount Greylock offers the best and longest hikes and views particularly during foliage season during the spring and fall. The south-north appalachian Trail is the most rugged and heavily used. There's shelter on the summit, a restaurant and inn but still need to pack water and a raincoat. Bascom Lodge caters to driver, overnighters, and day hikers.


Mount Frissell is full of significant landmarks, a summit, high point, and tri state marker. Watch out for unsure footing on both sides of the summit and smooth slabby rock. After the hike cool off in Bash Bish Falls State Park in Massachusetts.

Rhode Island

The high point, barely even a hill, used to be restricted to a few days a year and is currently open to the public from 8am to 4pm daily. It's just a 15 minute stroll to the high point.

Desert Road Trips

Desert RoadJohn Coleman Darnell and his wife, Deborah have driving on desolate caravan tracks west of the Nile for over the last two decades. They find pottery and ruins where travelers camped in the time of the pharoahs. They have come across some of the earliest documentation of Egyptian history and discovered inscriptions considered to be one of the finest examples of alphabetic writing.

A project co-directed by the Darnells and Yale University called the Theban Desert Road survey, calls attention to the significance of caravan routes and oasis settlement in Egyptian antiquity. Two weeks ago, they announced a spectacular find: extensive remains of a settlement-an administrative, economic and military center- that flourished 3,500 years ago in the desert 110 miles west of Luxor and 300 miles south of Cairo.

The discovery could rewrite history in Egypt's past. In 2005, on the 218acre site at Kharga Oasis, the Darnells and their team began collecting evidence of remains of mud brick walls, grindstones, baking ovens and heaps of fire ash and broken bread molds. In addition, the team found traces of administrative building, grain silos, storerooms and artisan workshops. There were probably a few thousand inhabitants here from 1650BC to 1550BC nearly a thousand years after the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

The new research explains the rise and importance of Thebes where rulers, most likely Mentuhotep 11, commanded the desert oasis now known as Umm Mawagir.

Preserving on Canvas

Paint BrushMary Whyte has been traveling around the South painting endangered species…like Gary Douglas…whose way of life is disappearing. Whyte arrives early enough to take a picture of the only movie theater (owned by Douglas) left for miles around Lewisburg Tenn. which is not much different from the way it was in the 1940's.

Her subjects are people nobody's every drawn before and Mary chooses them because they are living a life that is unique and important.

The sketches and quick watercolors are just the beginning. Making a good painting that endures and speaks forever is the difficult part. Starting with her first picture called "By a Thread" in response to a newspaper article about a mill closure, this led to 30 more paintings.

Mary leaves her home and studio near Charleston S.C. and moves upstate to Simpsonville for a couple of months each year. There, all she does is paint, eat, and sleep welcoming a hot homemade dinner every day by her landlords Doug and Bille Hogg.

Some of her subjects include – Jane Hogg in the "Beekeeper's Daughter", Algie Varn, crabber and oyster farmer, Mr. Noah a shoeshine man on Canal Street, and Berea Ky in "The Lovers".

All that she works with is a plastic tray, some color and water to produce a wonderful piece of art with translucent quality.

The exhibit "Mary Whyte: Working South" will open March 2, 2011 til October 2, 2011 at the Greenville county Museum of Art in Greenville, S.C.

Mexicana Airline to Halt Operations at Midnight

PlaneMexicana airline is halting all operations as of midnight Friday to restructure costs and debt. It was forced to shut down because of lack of funds to keep flying. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection on August 2 and stopped selling tickets and suspended some flights. Court filings state that Mexicana was badly hit by the swine flu outbreak last year and by global economic slowdown. High jet fuel prices and labor costs also contributed to its financial troubles.

The airline company unsuccessfully sought union agreement on 41 percent pay cuts for pilots, 39 percent for flight attendants, and 40 percent reduction in employees needed to keep the company a float. The proposal was rejected by labor leaders members already agreeing to cuts in 2006.

To keep flying the company needs an infusion of at least $100 million. On August 21st, a group of Mexican investors called Tenedora K bought a 95 percent stake in the holding company that controls Mexicana, Mexicana Click and Mexicana Link.

According to the company's website, Mexicana flies to 65 national and international destinations including USA, Canada, Central America, South America and Europe transporting 11.1 million passengers in 2009.

Clear? Look Again!

Car CrashDr. Redelmeier researcher for 20 years, now at the University of Toronto has applied scientific rigor to topics dismissed as quirky and iconoclastic. His work has revealed some deep truths about the predictors of longevity, health care and the workings of the medical mind.

Being the first to study cellphones and automobile crashes, in 1997 he concluded that talking on a cellphone while driving was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. He found that 25 more people die in crashes on Election Days in the US than the norm, attributed to increased traffic, rushed drivers and unfamiliar routes.

He also discovered there was a 41% increase of fatalities on Super Bowl Sunday, attributed to a combination of fatigue, distraction and alcohol. Often he works from a hunch. After examining the University of Toronto medical school admission interview reports from 2004-2009, he correlated the interview scores with weather archives and determined that on foul-weather days candidates received lower ratings than those who visited on sunny days.

During the 1980's Dr. Redelmeier met a cognitive psychologist, Amos Tversky, who inspired the field of behavioral economics and changed his thinking entirely.  He credits Professor Tversky with shaping his own approach to research in the medical realm by providing him with a language and a logic for tackling issues that seemed to be around but weren't apparent to others.

Some of his homespun philosophies seen written on index cards in his modest office are: Fans don't let fans drink and drive. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. A great deal of mischief occurs when people are in a rush.

Bedtime Stories from Marines to Children Back Home

BookSgt. Chase Sheda loves reading children's books into a small video camera at headquarters, Forward Operating Base Delhi to his children Chase (4) and Jayden (3). Sheda lives in Temecula California and has been in the Marines for 9 years.

The video was burned onto a DVD by RP2FMF Andrew Lovick and then put in the  mail for Sheda's wife Bobbi. It's a big hit for all children who have benefited from the program called "United Through Reading" which began in 1989.

The program claims to have helped 412,000 people and is beneficial for those who are separated from their children for any length of time  such as- military by deployment; parents by incarceration or drug treatment programs; and grandparents living away.

Home can be a long way during a deployment with communications relying on satellite phone calls and internet for 30 minute periods when it is available. It can be agonizing during lock down when there is a casualty or a major operation is about to start. Families have to worry or shove it out of their minds with varying degrees of success.

Skating The Roads Of Paris

SkatesHow about a new way to get around Paris: in-line skating? Every Sunday for 12 years, the Paris based in-line skating association "Rollers et Coquillages" which translates as-Rollerblades and Seashells-organizes a 3 hour skating tour leaving Nomades Skate shop at Bastille in Paris' 12th Arrondissement at 2:30p.m. The tours attract 5-7,000 people every week.

The company offers over 150 routes 12 1/2 miles each. Participants can vote for their preferred route in an online poll. The tours also incorporate tourist hot spots: Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, Quai d'Austerlitz, Boulevard Menilmontant.

Traffic in Paris is brought to a standstill while the skaters are led by a team of volunteers clad in yellow T-shirts, policed by officers and first aid-workers in case of injury.

Aspiring skating tourists should be relatively adept on in-line skates with the ability to brake being crucial especially when hurtling down a steep boulevard surrounded by thousands of other skaters.

In-line skates can be rented at Nomads Skate Shop 37 Boulevard Bourdon for 9 euros ($12) 33-1-44-54-07-44; wrist guards and helmets available for 1 and 2 euros. ID card is required on deposit.

Tibet Nepal and Bhutan at one adventure

NepalHighland Asia Travel offers and enriching cultural tour introducing three Himalayan countries, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan in a single adventure! A breathtaking flight over the Himalayas whisks us to the incomparable Tibet. In Lhasa, Tibet's long-forbidden capital city at 12,000 feet, we'll tour the major monuments, including the legendary gold-roofed, thousand-room Potala Palace. We'll walk pilgrim trails, hike up to ancient ridge-top monasteries, meet a colorful array of people, from nomads to lamas, and relish in some of the most majestic mountain scenery on earth! Come take a step back in time and join us on this enriching, non-trekking journey for an eye-opening look into traditions and cultures far removed from those in the West!

Fly to Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu, an unforgettable melting pot of Hindu and Buddhist cultures. In the local markets and bazaars, we'll rub shoulders with some of Nepal's very diverse people; explore its wealth of Hindu and Buddhist sites, as well as charming valley towns like Bhaktapur, with its well-preserved 17th-Century architecture.

Another spectacular flight brings us to the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan where we will feel time has moved back. Explore the pastoral back roads of Bhutan, a true bastion of tradition in an uncertain world, where we find an independent people who have not rejected their ancient spiritual heritage for modern ways. We'll visit the Shangri-La setting of the Paro Valley, the central Bhutanese town of Punakha, with its huge, spectacular monastery set by the river, and the capital city of Thimphu.

Trip Duration: 19 Days/18 Nights
Highest altitude in this trip: 5030 m ( 16,500 ft) at Karo-la pass
Group size: 2-10 pax
Land Cost: US$ 2399 (4 pax+), US$ 2799 (2-3 pax)
Estimated internal airfare: US$ 1394 ( Beijing/Lhasa/Kathmandu/Paro/Bangkok)

We have guaranteed departure almost every month. Most of the trips coincide with local festivals and events which is an opportunity to understand the local culture and tradition.

For  trip dates and more details, please visit http://www.highlandasiatravel.com/destination/nepal/nepal-adventure/nepal-small-group-tours/three-highland-asia-adventure-tibet-nepal-and-bhutan.html

Highland Asia Travel, Inc is specialized in small group and custom itineraries for adventure travel to Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Indian Himalayas.

Tibet Everest Base Camp Without Trekking?

Mt EverestYou are not into trekking or simply have no time for, does not mean that you cannot see Mount Everest. 4WD Land cruiser does marvelous job and drives you right to Rongbuk monastery from where the base camp is less than a hour's hiking. You will enjoy an unobstructed view of the mighty mountain from bottom to the top which is not possible even after a two weeks strenuous trekking in Nepal side.

We fly into Lhasa-the capital city of Tibet and tour its highlights while we get acclimatized. We visit the Potala and Norbulingkha Palaces of Dalai Lama, two major Gelugpa Monasteries-Sera and Drepung, ancient Jorkhang Temple and rediscover the traditional pilgrimage path of the Barkhor street. From Lhasa, we head out west on the Tibet-Nepal Friendship Highway; as we leave Lhasa behind, we climb Kamba La pass (15,700 ft) from where we will enjoy fantastic views of the Himalayas. We will also see the beautiful Yamdrok Tso Lake several hundred feet below the pass. The road drops gradually and follows the shores of the turquoise green water lake for several miles!

Leaving the lake behind, the road climbs up to Karo La pass (16, 500ft) and then drops down to the valley that leads us to Gyantse- a town largely Tibetan in character. Our next stop would be in Shigatse-the second largest city of Tibet-The road of the high Tibetan plateau runs parallel to the Himalayas and offers spectacular views of the Himalayan Peaks all the time. At Shegar, we leave the Friendship Highway and head north to the Everest Base camp. The road climbs to Pang La ( 5, 120m) that offers stupendous views of the Himalayas-including Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Gyachung and Cho Oyu. From Rongbuk, Everest Base Camp is merely an hour hike or you can opt for a horse cart ride. After a night halt in Rongbuk, retrace drive to the Friendship Highway and continue west towards Nepal. You have still quite a few high passes to conquer. The passes are sacred places for Tibetan people where they stop and offer khada, cotton scarves and lungta, prayer flags.

Tour Cost
Price: US$ 1495 (2-3 pax), US$ 1225 (4-7 pax), US$ 1060 (8-10 pax),
For more details, please visit http://www.highlandasiatravel.com/destination/tibet/tibet-adventure/tibet-everest-base-camp/everest-basecamp-4wd-adventure.html

Highland Asia Travel, Inc is specialized in small group and custom itineraries for adventure travel to Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Indian Himalayas.