Archive for May, 2007


This is yet another application for looking at the Earth, similar to the satellite images on Google Maps and including same, but also including aerial photography, Microsoft VE, Yahoo!Maps, Ask.com, Openlayers, and the wonderful NASA Terra images.

I started at the world view, then drilled down to Newfoundland, then the Avalon, then St. John’s, and finally down to the small boat basin near the Narrows. I was able to identify fishing boats, figured out it was mid-morning from the shadows, and could see it was fairly breezy when the aerial photo was shot (from the waves in the harbour).  You can also rotate the images. However, to capture an image you need to do a screen capture, and this application isn’t quite legal yet.

MODIS Images 

As a side note, one of my favourite applications for real time satellite imagery are the images from the Aqua and Terra satellites. You can access the images from the MODIS rapid response system.  You can see images up to four times per day for any area on the globe with resolutions ranging from 2 km down to 250 m, and with visible and many infrared channels. It is used for many purposes, including forest fires, oil spills, damage from natural disasters and wars, etc.

For example, here is:

  • Nova Scotia on a day with afternoon Bunny Clouds at 2 km resolution

  • The Nile, the Sinai, and Eretz Israel on (you guessed it) a sunny day at 2 km resolution and at 500 m resolution. The Nile River Valley really stands out, doesn’t it? Can you pick out the Suez Canal?
  • Oahu and Mauna Loa at 2 km and 500 m. There’s always a problem with satellite images of islands in the tropics; the larger ones tend to develop clouds even when there is very little convection elsewhere. Of course a fair bit of convection is par for the course in the tropics, which you would see if you looks at any of a series of images for the Dry Tortugas (I had to slip in a Pirates of the Caribbean reference).
    As a side note, looking for convective clouds piled up near the horizon was one of the signs the Polynesians used when looking for new islands, or when searching for an expected landfall.

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la Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystal Giants), Mexico, originally uploaded by JohnnyG BC.

This is life size. I wonder how sharp the edges are?

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There were small Blues and Big Blues, Wide Blues and Narrow Blues,

Fast Blues and Slow Blues,

Running Blues, Jogging Blues, Walking Blues and Dancing Blues.

Red Blues, White Blues, Dark Blues and Light Blues,

Happy Blues, Sad Blues, Angry Blues and those with the blues.

Marathon Blues, Half Marathon Blues, 10k Blues and 5k Blues,

and there were even Relay Blues and the Children’s Blues.

I realised that the annual Blue Nose Marathon was taking place today, and for a lark and also because it was pouring rain so that pursuing my normal photographic preferences was out of the question, I decided to have a look. Not wanting to be caught in the crowds near the finish nor the starting lines, I went to the MacDonald Bridge, where the Marathon and 10k runners would cross about halfway through their respective ordeals. There were very few spectators there, and I could walk around at will. It also turned out that the rain let up enough to allow me to take a few photos.

The 10k runners came first, because the marathoners had to circle downtown twice before crossing the bridge. The first few came in fast, and there was at least one woman in the top ten. Then a few minutes later the bridge started rumbling, and a sea of mostly red t-shirts moved towards me. I hid behind the railing, and saw a vast assortment of people walking, running, jogging, Nordic walking, and skipping with jump-ropes come towards me. They ranging in age from 6 months to over 70 years old, from anorexic to those over three hundred pounds, and were wearing (not all at the same time) shorts, at least one skirt, tights, jeans, oilskins, many colors of shirt, and some very strange hats. Most were sopping wet, but all the recreational and some of the competitive runners had grins plastered on their faces.

After the mob had moved through for their loop around Dartmouth, the marathoners started coming through. The leaders were 4-5 men, most of whom were in the 40+ age range. Then there were three women, followed by some more men. I heard later that when they crossed back over the bridge the women were still doing very well. This may be further evidence that women can approach or exceed male performance in the logest endurance events. The fact that about 7500 people participated may make this a statistically significant sample. Good on ya!

Newfoundlanders placed fairly high in the middle distance events. In the 10k run Aubrey Sanders from Corner Brook came in fourth behind three Nova Scotians led by Tyler Germani of Cape Breton with a 3:44 pace, and in the half marathon William Fitzgerald of Carbonear came in second behind Shawn Brady of Toronto with a 3:40 pace. But in the full marathon the highest placing from Newfoundland was Stephen Hunt from St. John’s in 32nd place, and Monica Kidd from the same town in 56th place.
Anyway, here are some shots taken by me with my wet camera, in low light of people moving fast (and slow). They had fun running, and I had just as much fun standing there and watching them run. It almost makes me want to switch from swimming and cycling to running. Almost!



Something worth chasing?

Something worth chasing?

Flying High

Flying High


“I love exercise. I could watch it all day.”-Russell

“I love my dad. He takes me and my little brother on a 10 km trip so I can see all these people sweating and staggering and turning all these strange and interesting colors…”

Thumbs Up!

Thumbs Up!

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings

He just hadda wear shades…

Reeling Home

Reeling Home

Perfect Cadence

Perfect Cadence


He was doing the 10 km version of the race, and he was passing some of the other runners.

Second last climb

Second last climb

Soxy Sox

Soxy Sox

Some people dare to be different, and some have a lot of fun doing it.

Latin Beat

Latin Beat

I guess the maracas helped to keep the beat?

Friendly and Happy

Friendly and Happy

“Come on, Mom! We’re almost there!”

“….yes, dear….”

“Pardon me, Miss.”

He wasn’t the oldest person there by any stretch of the imagination.

a quickr pickr post

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One of the greatest children;s novels in recent history will come out as a movie in December this year. It is the Golden Compass, first book in the trilogy His Dark Materials, and is the story of Lyra Belacqua and her adventures in an alternate reality. They were written by Philip Pullman, and the characterisation, especially of Lyra and the other children, is superb. The story is compelling and pulls no punches. However I don’t want to give too much away, except to say that in my life I’ve read more Fantasy and Science Fiction than most people, that I am very selective, and that I consider this book in particular, and the series in general, to be exceptional.

Because I admire the story and the characters so much, I have serious misgivings about how well the movie will capture the essence of both. However, some of the actors have given subtle and strong performances during their careers, including Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel, Sam Elliot as the Texan Lee Scoresby, and Nicole Kidman as Mrs. Coulter. I’m also interested in seeing Eva Green again in the role of Serafina Pekkala; she was great in The Dreamers, as well as the latest Bond film, and Kingdom of Heaven. The most critical character is Lyra herself, and she’ll be played by Dakota Blue Richards. This will be her first performance, but the director thinks she is wonderful, and Philip Pullman said

“I’m delighted with the casting of Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra. As soon as I saw Dakota’s screen test, I realized that the search was over. Dakota has just the combination of qualities that make up the complicated character of this girl, and I very much look forward to seeing the film take shape, with Dakota’s Lyra at the heart of it.”

Given the above, and the really interesting previews of Lyra’s world, I have hope that it will be worth watching. It had better be, because I’m watching it!

One aspect of Lyra’s world is dæmons, which are external expressions of the soul of an individual, and are intelligent counterparts to the person. While one is a child the dæmon changes form almost at will, but when one matures sufficiently it takes a final form for the rest of ones life. They are usually of the opposite sex and cannot be separated far from their human without great pain. In our world the dæmon is hidden within the body.

My dæmon is Pelagia. With a name like that I thought she would be some aquatic life form, which may explain why I really despise being away from the ocean (pelagic refers to that part of the ocean not affects by the coast or the ocean bottom, or in short the open ocean). However she turns out to be a tiger. Try finding yours.

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“Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.”Unknown
It's eating my thumb!

“Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men.”Kin Hubbard
Car Wash!

“Why is it that our memory is good enough to retain the least triviality that happens to us, and yet not good enough to recollect how often we have told it to the same person?”Francois de La Rochefoucauld (also mea culpa)

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As of 8 am Friday morning the last three long-liners have been escorted out of the ice field off the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland. During this three week operation the Coast Guard seems to have done an exemplary job, and many thanks are due.

Here is what they have accomplished in that time:

  • 80 boats were escorted out of the ice out of 100
  •  1 boat was lost on the first day or two that the ice closed up and the fleet was trapped
  • 31 long-liners were evacuated and 72 non-essential personnel were evacuated by Coast Guard helicopters
  • 8 were provided with fuel
  • 27 were provided with provisions (they had to pay for the groceries, but not for delivery)!
  • some commercial carriers were escorted
  • 2-3 ferry routes were kept open at least intermittently
  • no one died
  • I didn’t hear about any major injuries

As of this morning the Grenfell was in the strait of Belle Isle, the Larsen and the Pearkes were near New World Island, and the Ann Harvey was east of Cape Freels. The Terry Fox was north of Cape Freels. At least some of these will be heading home soon, but they may have to keep ferry routes open.

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In the great age of polar exploration, the major players included the British, the Americans, and the Norwegians. It was also an extremely nationalistic time. To get to the high Arctic or to the Antarctic, they needed ships capable of penetrating the ice, and sailors with a proven ability to face danger on the ice. For the Americans and the British it was strongly preferred to have English speaking sailors, preferably British or North American.

The nineteenth century ships most capable in high latitudes were arctic whaler and sealing vessels. These were wooden vessels, with thick hulls and heavily reinforced and sharp bows. Towards the latter half of the century they started installing steam engines and propellers into these vessels, thus creating vessels capable of penetrating and navigating significant pack ice. However, it must be remembered that these engines were less powerful than the average compact car (the Terra Nova‘s engine was less powerful than the engine of a Volkswagon Jetta).

One of the largest fleets of these vessels were the “wooden walls” used in the Newfoundland seal hunt. Since the 1700’s the local fisherman hunted the seals on the arctic pack that engulfed the Northeast Coast of the island in small boats, in schooners, and from the shore. When the wooden walls came into service they easily transferred their skills and experience on board, and eventually Newfoundland acquired a fleet of large ice-capable vessels with crews and captains with decades of experience in navigating through arctic pack and icebergs. It was a natural resource for the explorers of the time, who were often inexperienced and unfamiliar with the vagaries and dangers of the ice, ocean, and weather of the polar seas.

After hunting around a little, I found that Newfoundland ships and crews, and in particular one Ice Captain, contributed significantly to some of the most important and famous expeditions in the history of polar exploration. In fact, they were mainly involved with the attempts to get to the North and South Poles, the Holy Grails of exploration at the time. Here are some of the stories of how our ships and men assisted in the Great Adventure of those times.


Southern Cross:

This ship transported the first expedition to winter over on the Antarctic continent. In the process it also penetrated the Great Ice Barrier and entered the unexplored Ross Sea. It then went to the Newfoundland seal hunt for fourteen years, crewed and commanded by local sailors. Finally it disappeared in a storm on the way home from the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in 1914. 173 souls perished, making it the greatest sealing disaster in Newfoundland history.

Terra Nova:

This is one of the most famous of the Newfoundland wooden walls. She was a sealing vessel for most of her career (1884-1943), but she gained world renown as the expedition ship for Robert Scott’s tragic and unsuccessful attempt to beat Roald Amundsen to the South Pole. Her silhouette is the trademark of the Bowring Company, who owned her for much of her life, and there is also a mountain named after her on Ross Island not far from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There is also a Terra Nova Glacier and a Terra Nova Bay in the same area.


This ship was involved in three expeditions. The first was a discover and rescue mission for the Greely Expedition in 1884. The second was the Australasian Antarctic Expedition under Douglas Mawson, and the third was as one of the two ships involved in Shackleton’s attempt to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. This third expedition was famous for the loss of the Endurance, and Shackleton’s subsequent boat voyage to South Georgia island across about 600 miles of polar ocean. He was particularly famous for keeping so many of his people alive, which was rather uncommon in those days.


She was used as the expedition ship for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s second attempt to reach the South Pole, and his first as expedition leader.

Eagle and Trepassey:

  • Between 1944-1947 they were charted by the British Admiralty and sent to the Antarctic. Details are in SS Eagle: The Secret Mission by H. Squires.

Captain Robert Abram (“Bob”) Bartlett:

Captain Bob was born in Brigus in 1875 to a family of ice navigators and captains. By the time he was an adult he had significant experience with the seal hunt and on trading ships. He is primarily famous for three events in his life. He worked with Commodore Peary both as the captain of Peary’s ship Roosevelt, and as part of the group that trekked over the ice to the North Pole. He had to turn back on the final leg due to a disagreement with Peary, but otherwise they worked well together and he was instrumental in getting the Roosevelt close enough to the pole to allow for the overland trek. He also was able to get the ship further North than any previous ship.

He was also skipper of the Karluk during the ill-fated Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913-18. The ship was trapped in the ice northwest of Alaska and drifted north of Siberia before being crushed in the ice. Bartlett prepared the crew for the destruction of the ship and helped them to head south to Siberia. Then he and an Inuit companion headed east to the Bering Sea and managed to organise a rescue ship. In the end he managed to recover more than half of the crew stranded on the ice.

His third endeavor was less spectacular but probably more important than any of his previous work. He acquired a Grand Banks schooner called the Effie N. Morrissey, refitted her for Arctic work, and for the next couple of decades sailed her north every year with scientists, explorers, and the sons of influential and powerful American friends that he had made due to his earlier exploits. This produced much good research, and also a generation of influential and generous people with an interest in science, exploration, and the Arctic.

Bartlett was considered the best ice captain of his generation. There is one story that still sticks in my mind. At one time he was on a ship anchored in a narrow channel in the Canadian Archipelago. Unbeknownst to them, there was a strong intermittent tidal current in this channel; there was also a large clump of bergy bits, small icebergs, and the occasional large one near one end of the channel. Bartlett was roused by the night watch in a panic; the current had started and the ice was coming through the channel straight towards the ship. Bartlett ran to the ships wheel and signalled the engine room to fire up the boilers and get the engine running. However he knew they would be into the ice before that.

He ordered that the anchor chain be let out further; the crew momentarily looked at him as if he were stunned. They expected that he would want the anchor chain and anchor to be pulled up so they would drift with the current. But Bartlett knew they would be drifting helplessly until the engine could be started, and that there wasn’t enough time anyway. They quickly recovered and followed his orders, and then realised what he was doing. The current moving past the stationary ship would give the boat steerage way. With a longer distance between the anchor and the ship, by turning the wheel left and right he could make the ship quickly glide left and right a significant distance. He then proceeded to do just that, dodging massive chunks of ice with almost inhuman virtuosity as the boat drifted left and right across the channel. After a while most of the ice was safely past the ship, and they finally had a head of steam for the engine. He quickly pulled in the anchor and quietly sailed the ship out of the channel, found a safer place to anchor, and went back to bed.

  • Coast Guard Biography
  • Peary-MacMillan Collection Biography
  • Arctic Profiles brief Biography
  • The Roosevelt, commanded by Captain Bob Bartlett for Commander Peary during Peary’s attempt to reach the North Pole
  • New York times article on Peary’s “attainment” of the North Pole, and the controversy regarding Dr. Frederick Cook’s prior claim to having reached the Pole.
  • The Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-1918, where the Karluk was destroyed and Bartlett saved more than half of the survivors.
  • Timeline of Bartlett’s arctic schooner, the Effie N. Morrissey which he used for arctic exploration and scientific research for about twenty years, and in the meantime popularised exploration and the north to the United States in particular, and to the world in general
  • Whatever Happened to the Effie N. Morrissey?
  • History, characteristics, and research voyages of the Morrissey.

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