Beautiful images of an abandoned town

Thanks to Atlas Obscura, I found this powerful images of our presence in the Arctic and what remains when we leave.

Islands continue to fascinate.

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Island of the Turtle and Land of the Pirates

Tortuga island is located off the northern coast of Haiti and was first discovered by Europeans in 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed here and discovered the New World. After a long and bloody battle the natives lost and died. The island got its name from the shape since it looked like a turtles shell and Tortuga means turtle in Spanish. Then in the 17th century it became a Pirate Haven because of the natural harbor that exists on the southern side of the island. The pirates were able to dock there boats in the harbor and then they were able to control Tortuga with their own rules that they follow. This islands history is filled with bloodshed and fighting throughout the many years that it has been populated from the natives fighting to the Pirates fighting each other. Also, the island has been featured in many stories and video games as well such as the very popular “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag”

Pirate map of Tortuga

Pirate map of Tortuga

Island featured in the video game

Island featured in the video game

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Iwo Jima

Iwo Jima is a small island one thousand kilometers south of Japan. It is one of three Bonin islands along with Kita Iwo ad Minami Iwo. The climate there is much like it is here. Their Winters are very cold and their summers are very hot and humid. Torrential rain is very common when the seasons change and typhoons.

iwo jima map

Iwo Jima is most commonly known for its involvement in World War II. It was first settled in 1887 by Japanese fishermen. The battle of Iwo Jima occurred in 1945 in February and March. The Japanese wanted to protect their land and the US was trying to obtain a place for their planes to land for engine repairs and medical attention. The US thought Japan didn’t know that we were planning to invade the island. The Japanese had knowledge and had began digging tunnels underground in which they were able to move around the island and fight unseen. Despite the odds, the Unites States claimed the island on March 26th. From that point on the United States was able to utilize the island to save over 24 thousand air men who would have otherwise died without medical attention.

iwo jima flag

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How Ireland saved Western Euroupe

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Around the end of the 5th century A.D most of Europe was controlled by the great Roman Empire which controlled land from England to Turkey and everything in between. But such a vast empire cannot protect all of its boarders and like all great empires it fell. The fall of Rome was caused mainly by internal struggles and the attacks from Germanic barbarians from the north and north east of Europe. The fall would led Europe into a dark age. However one place was free from the dark ages, Ireland. Ireland was never controlled by the Romans mainly because they saw the Irish as uncivilized, barbarians and would do nothing to benefit the empire. However they still traded with the Irish and spread the Catholic faith and Roman writing techniques to the Irish. One such famous missionary was Saint Patrick who wasn’t born in Ireland but was born in Roman Britain. This conversion of the Irish from pagan to Christian was extremely unique, the Irish never persecuted Christians after Patrick arrived and many people started to convert in huge numbers. This type of conversion was one of the most peaceful mass conversions to Catholicism in history and would led to how the Irish saved the Western Civilization. This quick conversion allowed many monks and holy people to go to Ireland and start setting up monasteries which taught the newly converted monks and people of Ireland to read and write. Another unique ability of the Irish was how quickly they were able to learn how to write and read, along with the unique need to read as many books as they could get their hands on. The Irish monks would read everything from the Bible, to books by cicero, that were seen as evil by some holy men, and even stories of Roman and Greek gods that was heresy but the Irish monks were very open to these books. They did not see them as true they saw them as only stories and these books would not change their faith which was very different from the Roman Catholicism ideas which saw these fables as pagan, satanic works. This great need to read would led the Irish to start writing their own books and create their own writing styles which mixed roman and Celtic writing styles together and form. Two writing styles were formed Irish Half-Uncial script and Irish Minuscule script. Irish Minuscule script became so famous it would be used throughout the middle ages.

KB73B24-fol13-detailSIrish Half-Uncial script

maelbrig2aIrish Minuscule script

Once Rome finally fell guess what place had all the ideas and a lot of the books that came from Rome….Ireland!!! If the Irish did not convert to Catholicism as easy as they did and if they did not want to read and write as much as they wanted to the great literature from Rome could have been lost. After the fall of Rome Ireland would enter a golden age that would end by the 700s and have clans fighting each other until Brian Boru would unify Ireland for ten years until he is killed while praying.

Brian BoruBrian Boru

 

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The Island of New Zealand

New Zealand is a beautiful island country composed of two islands that is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, approximately 4.000 km southeast of Australia. There are approximately 4.5 million people that inhabit the two islands. New Zealand has recently earned a spot in the world of tourism, mostly due to its captivating scenery and role in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies.

New Zealand is an island comprised mainly of continental crust. The island is located on an active segment of the boundary between the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. The two plates push against each other along a curving boundary creating rifts and subduction zones. This is the reason for the mountain ranges that run down the middle of both islands. Additionally, New Zealand has over 15,000 km of coastline. In the far north and most of the east coast, there are long sandy beaches that are mainly used for swimming, surfing and sunbathing. The North Island’s west coast has dark sandy beaches that are rich in iron. South Island’s coastline, however, tends to be more rugged and rocky, although the north shore has some sandy beaches.

Another unique aspect of New Zealand is its biodiversity. High amounts of rainfall and ample sunshine allow for a diverse population of flora.  Today, 80% of the species located on the islands are native. The large evergreen forests are composed primarily of rimu, totara, beech and the kauri, which is the largest native tree species. There is also dense undergrowth of mosses, lichens, ferns and shrubs. One tree species, the pohutukawa tree, has bright red flowers that bloom in December and has been commonly used as the Christmas tree. There are also many species of animals, including an abundance of birds. Due to the fact that there were few natural predators, many of these bird species became flightless.

One of the appeals of New Zealand is the abundance of tourist attractions. Many tourists take advantage of the landscape, by walking and hiking, cycling and mountain biking, camping, scenic flights, and fly fishing. New Zealand is also known for its sports games and cultural arts and music festivals. Additionally, New Zealand’s captivating scenery was used in several films, most notably, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogy. Since 2001, New Zealand has become known as the home to Middle Earth. Many tourists come from all over the world to visit the filming locations, which has created a subculture within the tourism industry. One of the most famous locations is Hobbiton, a permanent set, which holds Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the two main characters of the Lord of the Rings. There are also a variety of tours to many of the filming locations, like the Waitomo Caves, Volcanic Ruapehu, Mangaotaki Valley, Mount Olympus and Eco Wanaka.

Map of New Zealand

Map of New Zealand

The Remarkables Mountain range

The Remarkables Mountain range

Piha Seashore

Piha Seashore

Bag End

Bag End

Mangaotaki Valley

Mangaotaki Valley

Waitomo Caves

Waitomo Caves

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The Island of Hawaii: A Day Without Aloha is Just Another Mainland Day

The volcano goddess was worshipped through a ritual dance, originally known as ha’a and now known as hula dancing. The name changed in the 19th century when Christian missionaries arrived and converted many people on the island to Christianity. “When Queen Ka’ahumanu became a Christian, she had the temples and goddess images destroyed” and as a result, “hula was banned” (‘Hula dancing history’, n.d.). However, hula dancing was still taught and performed in secret. There were two different groups of performers; one known as olapa, the agileones, which consisted of the younger generation with lots of energy and the second group was known as the ho’o-paa, the steadfast ones, which consisted of elders that sang and played musical instruments. The attire for hula dancing typically consisted of knee level length skirts made of palm leaves and leis around their necks. When King Kamehameha III gained power in the 1830s, he reestablished hula dancing as part of accepted Hawaiian culture and attempted to create religious freedom throughout the islands. However, missionaries said that the only way hula could be performed was to be done wearing high neck gowns with long sleeves (‘Hula dancing history’, n.d.). About forty years later David Kalakaua came into power and gained the nickname “Merry Monarch,” as he would travel to see his people and held celebrations in his honor thatinvolved hula dancing. After Kalakaua’s reign, hula dancing remained a popular part of Hawaiian culture. There had become a division of the hula after this time, creating a distinction between hula kahiko, ancient, and hula auana, modern (‘Hula dancing history’, n.d.). Although there had been a split, it remained a beautiful dance that portrayed nature and all of its contrasts, from the swaying of the palms to the explosions of war. Hula had also eventually made its way into the rest of the United States and has created a popular party theme of luaus. Luaus have incorporated hula dancing along with fire dancers and barbecues to incorporate some of the Hawaiian culture into the rest of American culture (The Hawaiian Islands, 2015). Hollywood has also made hula more commercialized and added the guitar and the ukulele to the dance, even though it was not in the original culture. The beauty of hula dancing remained a prominent part of Hawaiian culture throughout the years, demonstrating the strength of the cultural influence on the inhabitants of the islands.

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Some little truths about Hawai’i

 

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Glance into Tasmania

Tasmania is a perfect vacation getaway. It has beautiful landscapes from the towering ranges of Mount Ossa to the crystal clear waters of Wineglass bay. Even though 45 percent of Tasmania lies in nature reserves, it still is fairly populated. Around 515,000 people live on this gorgeous island, most of them calling the major city of Hobart home. Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and is the major metropolitan area of the island. Tasmania is just 150 miles south of Australia and its sheer size has ranked itself to be the 26th largest island in the world.

Tasmania’s landscape has much to offer to the adventurous individual. To start off, Tasmania has a combined size of 26,410 square miles, 24,911of those square miles is credited just to the main land while the rest is nearby smaller island. One of the many major attractions is Mount Ossa. Mount Ossa scales at an impressive 1,617 meters tall (5,305feet), which is definitely large enough to catch any climbers’ attention. This mount range has many jagged peaks due to glaciation and is volcanically inactive after all these years. Thanks to these mountain ranges along with the more central western mountain ranges, Tasmania is the most mountainous state in Australia.

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Mount Ossa

Tasmania has many flora and fauna to offer the world. To begin with the famous wild animals of Tasmania, a major creature is the Tasmanian devil. This nocturnal and carnivorous marsupial is only found in the wild in Tasmania and is quite the vicious animal. Devils are known to eat nearly anything they find or kill. These animals are scavengers that eat wallabies but will eat road-kill if they come across it. They are also known to eat even the bones of their prey. Carnivorous marsupials provide striking examples of recent extinction and critical population declines.

After the loss of the thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf, in 1936, the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) inherited the title of the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial. Confined, in the wild, to the island of Tasmania, it too is under threat of extinction because of a naturally occurring infectious transmissible cancer known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (Webb). The Devil Facial Tumor Disease is caused by infections from the bites of other devils. This usually occurs due to fighting between two devils over food. This disease is credited for killing many devils because the tumor can spread to the mouth of the animal and will be become so drastic that the devil could actually starve to death.

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The Infamous Tasmanian Devil

As for tourism, from the beautiful landscapes to the blooming cities, Tasmania has it all. One of the major attractions that a visitor must visit is the capital city of Hobart. This city is the largest metropolitan city in all of Tasmania and is home to some places such as Salamanca Place. Salamanca Place in Sullivans Cove is the destination for food, art, shopping and music. Here Hobart’s culture meets some of its richest history. Next on the list must be Freycinet Penisula, The peninsula is home to the breathtaking Wineglass bay which is one of the top ten beaches in the world! This bay is known for fishing, sailing, bushwalking, and even some rock climbing.

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Wineglass Bay

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Hobart

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Islands in Literature

We’ve mentioned several books about islands in class and just as we analyzed the themes found on them, I focused on four major themes that Peter Pan, The Odyssey, And Then There Were None, and Lord of the Flies have in common.

Everyone who’s seen Peter Pan knows you can only get to Neverland by flying there, but what wasn’t mentioned in the movie is that the island can hide itself from those it doesn’t want to come. The island almost has a mind of its own and because of this, is completely isolated from the outside world in its efforts to keep adults off the island. Time passes differently on Neverland and with no contact with the mainland, the children have no idea how much time actually passed on the island. They are completely cut off from their old lives so they begin to forget it. They start to feel as if they had always been there. The line between fantasy and reality is hard to distinguish on an island of make believe. The island is even physically different when the Darlings get there as opposed to their dreams about it. They do not want to admit to the dangers of it. In reality, the island is dangerous for children because there is an ongoing war between the Indians, the pirates, antree housesd the lost boys and many are often killed on all sides. The children don’t see the harshness of the island because Peter has them all playing one long game of make believe. He can sometimes go so far as to pretend to make them eat. Peter Pan is the one child who will never grow up, but because he won’t he doesn’t want anyone else to either. He thinks by forbidding the children to grow up he will keep them young forever. It is even implied that he kills the lost boys if they get too old because it is against the rules to grow up. Even Captain Hook doesn’t want to face the reality that he will get old as well. He still hides in fear as Time, the ticking crocodile, comes for him.

Neverland

The boys who are stranded on the island in Lord of the Flies are actually very similar to the Darling children because they expected living on an island with no adults to be like living in a dream. They were isolated from the mainland as well, but instead of becoming forgetful, they gave into their fears and became violent. The oldest boy on the island was twelve so it would be expected that the younger children would become frightened. They continuously talked about a “beastie” on the island which was ultimately inside the boys themselves which cause them to become violent and give into animal-like tendencies. The natural beauty of the island was quickly disrupted as the boys began lighting fires, killing the animals, and eventually killing each other. Man’s permanent mark was left on the island the moment the boys landed when the plane crash left a “scar” on the beautiful beach and the downfall of the boys led to the destruction of the island. The boys did not have a relationship with the island as the lost boys did with Neverland, in their war for control of the island, the island was left in flames and destroyed completely.lord of the flies

The children had a hard time adjusting to life on their islands, but the adults did not do that much better. In And Then There Were None, the guests are trapped on Soldier Island and are killed off by one of the other guests for past crimes. They are completely isolated and the island feels like an entirely new world that they cannot escape from. From far away it looks peaceful and like the perfect vacation spot because it is so small and the house is so modern, but this ends up being the most dangrous thing about it. Because the island is so small and nothing can be hidden in the house, there is no where for the killer or the guests to hide. They eventually realize that the killer must be among them because, after scouring the island several times, they found no hint of anyone else staying on the island. All of the guests are invited for a relaxing vaction where they think they can hide from their guilt and pretend nothing happened, but instead of living in a dream they are forced to live a nightmare.and then there were none

 

In the Odyssey, Odysseus travels to several islands with his crew before he is stranded on the Isle of Odigia. The Isle of Odigia is isolated from the outside world and there are no means of escape because it is the private island of the goddess, Calypso. While on the island, Odysseus develops a depression because he cannot see any of his family back home. Although he was better taken care of on this island by Calypso than on any of the others, he despises it the most because he feels he is so close to home but cannot make it to the mainland. Many years before he is trapped here, he travels to several islands, including the Island of the Cyclops and the Island of the Lotus Eaters. The Island of the Cyclops seems pretty and welcoming when you first arrive on shore, but it turns out to be anything but welcoming. Odysseus and some of his men decide to take a look around and wait in the home of one of the Cyclopes. When he returns he kills and eats several of the man and traps the rest inside. Because Odysseus failed to recognize the danger after immediately coming to the island, he was only able to escape with a few of the men he came with. After this they travel to the Island of the Lotus Eaters. It is much less violent, but it does stop their travels for a time. When they men go to explore the island, the local invite them to eat some of the fruit of the Lotus flowers. The men do this thinking the food of the island to be exotic, and it puts them in a sort of trance. They forget the reason they came to the island and lose all motivation to leave the island. The men were living in a dream like state while on the island and couldn’t face reality until they were forcibly dragged onto the boat.

odyssey_map

 

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Easter Island’s Statues

The statues of Easter Island are definitely the most easily recognizable thing about the island to most people. These stone monoliths have transfixed many scientists ever since they were first encountered by Europeans thousands of years ago. What they were used for isn’t known for certain, but it’s theorized they were primarily used for religious traditions. It’s possible that they represented important figures in the island’s history or ancestors of the Rapa Nui. We do know that they were essential to the island’s culture, and whatever ceremonies they were used for were intensely important to the Rapa Nui.

If these were so important, then why aren’t they practiced now? That is most likely because, for a long time, the island was in complete anarchy. Disarray was the norm, and many of the statues were knocked down. Why were they knocked down? If these represented ancestors, then it might’ve been viewed as a threat to rival groups. If your ancestor’s statue was knocked down, then they couldn’t protect your kin group and you would be weaker against other kin groups. It could’ve also just been a byproduct of all the fighting. With that much chaos, it’s no surprise that some things were destroyed; and without a writing system, nothing of the past culture was written down.

These statues, for the longest time, were thought to be solely of heads. This was strange enough, but now we know that the statues were actually buried with their heads sticking out. These statues have bodies as well. This makes the statues even bigger than originally thought when just the heads were measured.

While most of the moai are on stone platforms called ahus, some were abandoned along the way because they were either unfinished, unneeded or the transport was interrupted for whatever reason. These statues dot the entire island, some completely submerged in the Earth and others on their side, destroyed at the bottom of the statue quarry.

Statues like this aren’t unique to Easter Island. They’re found all over Polynesia, specifically in the Marquesas, Austral Islands, and Tahiti. It’s possible that this was one of many large-scale Polynesian religious practices. Perhaps a specific group that migrated out of Southeast Asia developed this technique and took it with them as they explored these places. Perhaps one group developed this technique and later groups adopted them.

It’s theorized that the original Rapa Nui did not develop the moai and the ahu. It was the second group, the Long-ears, that did this. They brought the custom with them and forced the Rapa Nui to build these statues and platforms. After the Long-ears were mostly gone, the rest of the islanders continued to build statues. It’s not exactly known why that is, but it could be a sense of obligation as, by that point, they had probably been building these statues for many decades.

The exact number of statues isn’t actually known, but it’s estimated to be around 800 to 1,000. One giant moai is 65 feet tall and weighs 270 tons. It was unfinished because the builder realized it couldn’t be moved by humans. There are over 360 ahu shrines on the island.

Moai on an ahu platform.

The Inner Quarry, where the statues were sculpted.

A few unfinished statues.

 

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Magic in Iceland!

Are fantasies and realities like oil and vinegar; they can be together but never fully mixed? Or are they more like sweet honey in warm tea? I vote for the latter option and so do the Icelanders. What’s life without a little magic?

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What I enjoyed most learning about Iceland was the folklore of the island. More than half of Icelanders believe in the existence of elves. While about 5% of the population claim they have had an encounter with these magical beings. They apparently live in gardens and on rocky terrain. Usually, they are quiet and out of the way but they are known to cause trouble if bothered. Two bulldozers and a television camera malfunctioned repeatedly and inexplicably when they tried to plow over an elven habitat.

The traditional Icelandic folklore has underlying morals to ensure that humans and nature will stay in harmony. Iceland is one of the few islands that coexist with their environment and the presence of humans did not disturb the balance of nature. Their survival heavily depends on the environment. All of its energy is eco-friendly and is either hydroelectric or geothermal which provides for a virtually pollution-free environment.

icelandic_elves

Now that I broke you in with the elf talk, would you believe me if I told you that time travel happens in Iceland? No? Yea, me neither. But due to the island’s location, they have 23 hours a day of sunlight in the summer. Do you ever have fun in the summer but then the moon ruins it and you wish that you could rewind time and do it all over again? Well go to Iceland and you can! Let’s throw out the science part and call it magic, shall we? Summer isn’t the only fun time of the year. In the winter the Aurora Borealis can be seen (northern lights).

Dramatic Auroras In Iceland

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