Blue Lagoon Spa – Reykjavik, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most visited attractions in Iceland, and certainly always one of my favourite things to do when visiting the country. The spa is located in a lava field in Grindavik on the Reykjanes Peninsula, southwestern Iceland. Although it’s location looks like a setting from another planet, it’s surprisingly easy to reach. Just a 20 minute drive from Keflavik airport, and a 40 minute drive from Reykjavik.

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Driving on Iceland’s smooth roads is an utter joy as the traffic is always extremely light. We find it always makes sense to plan a visit, either on your way into town, or on your way back to the airport. This time, having come to Reykjavik to see Yoko Ono switch on the Imagine Peace Tower (see here), we squeezed in a visit en route back to the airport.

The warm water is a distinct milky blue colour due to its rich content of minerals such as silica and sulphur, which have been proven to help certain skin disorders, including psoriasis. In fact, the Blue Lagoon operates a research and development centre and clinic to help find cures for skin ailments using the mineral-rich water – which in the bathing areas – averages 37–39 °C. The separate clinic has 15 spacious double rooms and a private lagoon.

The lagoon is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal plant and is renewed every two days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

Pittsburgh, PA.,: A very Hilly City

Being from Winnipeg, one of the flattest cities in the world, hilly cities have always intrigued me. I always thought San Francisco was the U.S. city with the most hills, but I discovered that Pittsburgh is even hillier than the California city.

The city of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, the United States, is located over an unruly terrain of hills, hollows, valleys and three intersecting rivers. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, when Pittsburgh was growing as a coal and steel town, factory workers built houses in the hills rising above the flat riverbanks that were lined with factories. In order to commute to work, city officials and residents built staircases along the hillsides, originally of wood and later with concrete that ran up and down throughout the city.

Revered American journalist Ernie Pyle famously wrote about the city in 1937:

Pittsburgh is undoubtedly the cockeyedest city in the United States. Physically, it is absolutely irrational. It must have been laid out by a mountain goat… I’ve flown over it, and driven all around it, and studied maps of it, and I hardly know one end of Pittsburgh from the other… There’s just one balm — people who live here can’t find their way around, either.

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Downtown

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The steps

Many of the city’s neighborhoods are steeply sloped with two-lane roads. More than a quarter of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods make reference to “hills,” “heights,” or other similar indicators by name.

The city has some 712 sets of outdoor pedestrian stairs with 44,645 treads and 24,090 vertical feet including hundreds of paper streets composed entirely of stairs and many other steep streets with stairs for sidewalks. Many provide vistas of the Pittsburgh area while attracting hikers and fitness walkers.

Population (2013)
 • City305,841
 • RankUS: 62nd
 • Density5,540/sq mi (2,140/km2)
 • Urban1,733,853 (US: 27th)
 • Metro2,360,867 (US: 22nd)
 • CSA2,659,937 (US: 20th)
 • GMP$131.3 billion (23rd)
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Rock Island Football Pitch

The Henningsvær Idrettslag Stadion in the small fishing village of Henningsvær, located on two small islands off Lofoten, in Norway, can hardly be called a stadium; it has got no stands—just a couple of meters of asphalt poured around the field—and is used only for amateur football. But its location is majestic.

The stadium is located on a rocky islet surrounded by stunning views consisting of dramatic mountains and jagged peaks, open sea and sheltered bays. The football pitch was laid by leveling the solid bedrock of the southernmost part of the Hellandsøya island, resulting in a very rough landscape, decorated by overwhelming number of racks for drying cod. Around the perimeter of the field is a strip of asphalt that serves both as the crowd stand and as car parking. The stadium’s tiny capacity seems sufficient since the village of Henningsvær has only about 500 inhabitants.

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The stadium itself has an artificial turf that is mostly used by members of the amateur club Henningsvær IL to train local kids. It has floodlights for evening games.

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Photo credit: stadiumdb.com

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Fish drying racks surrounding the stadium.

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Grand Beach Manitoba

Grand Beach is a freshwater beach located within the Rural Municipality of St. Clements on the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. It is located on the northern edge of the town of Grand Marais, Manitoba. Grand Beach is on the historic La Vérendrye Trail .

Grand Beach is regarded by many people as one of the best inland beaches in North America.

Lake Winnipeg is a shallow lake. At Grand Beach a person can walk out 200 meters no problem. There are also many sand bars that rise above the surface.

Monstrous Sinkhole Appears in Chile

An enormous sinkhole mysteriously appeared overnight near in a mining operation in Chile and authorities are uncertain what could have caused the massive chasm to form. The ominous-looking pit, which measures a staggering 150 feet in diameter and boasts a depth of 299 feet, reportedly opened up this past Saturday near the town of Tierra Amarilla. The specific location of the sinkhole is in an area of Chile’s Atacama Desert where the Lundin Mining Corporation operates an underground copper extraction facility. Upon discovering the huge hole, the company promptly shut down operations and alerted the authorities to the jaw-dropping chasm which, as seen in the jaw-dropping video above, dwarfs the nearby cars and buildings.

Experts from Chile’s National Service of Geology and Mining subsequently descended upon the scene to investigate the sinkhole, which was fortunately found to be stable. Fortunately, the Lundin Mining Corporation said in a statement, “there has been no impact to personnel, equipment or infrastructure” at the facility. It also stressed that the spot is situated a fair distance away from “any populated area or public service,” so neither residents nor the community of Tierra Amarilla were impacted by the odd event. That said, work at the mine has been paused for now while authorities attempt to figure out what could have caused the gaping chasm to form, which they concede is currently a mystery.

In pictures: Hot weather sweeps across UK

Photographs from the day when high temperatures are forecast across the UK, with London set to be one of the hottest places in the world.

The sun rises in Mevagissey Harbour in Cornwall
The Sun rises in Mevagissey Harbour, in Cornwall, on the day UK temperatures could hit 41C.
Fishermen in the early morning light
Nearby, fishermen are out to land an early catch.
People preparing to enter the water in Penzance, Cornwall
In Penzance, Cornwall, swimmers took to the water just after sunrise.
A home in Berkshire with it's front window covered
A homeowner covers the front windows to try to keep out the sunshine.
Cracked footpath
A country path in Dunsden, Oxfordshire, is dry and cracked because of the lack of rain in the recent hot spell.
Bolivian squirrel monkey
A newborn Bolivian squirrel monkey keeps cool at Chessington Zoo, in Surrey.
Horticulture student Muhammed Ismail Moosa waters the plants in the Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew
At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in south-west London, horticulture student Muhammed Ismail Moosa waters the plants in the Palm House.
Paddle boarders in Bristol
Paddleboarders make the most of the cooler morning, in Bristol.
A police horse is given water from a bucket
Police horse Zorro drinks water from a bucket on Whitehall, in central London.
Mother and daughter beside a pond
Joanne Dunwell and her eight-month-old daughter stay cool in the ponds in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.
A member of the Queen's Guard receives water to drink
A soldier of the Queen’s Guard is given drinking water outside Buckingham Palace, in central London.
Woman's feet in a river
A woman keeps cool by dipping her feet in the River Thames near Chertsey, in Surrey.
Women on a punt on the River Cam
Visitors to Cambridge take to the River Cam.
Mother and daughter outside their front door
Jasmine Bowers with her daughter, who is eating a lollipop outside their home in north Belfast.
Assistant horticulturist Katie Martyr at a weather station
Assistant horticulturist Katie Martyr checks the readings for the previous 24 hours on Monday morning at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, which previously recorded the UK’s highest temperature of 38.7C (101F ) in July 2019.
Beekeepers at work
Elsewhere at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, beekeepers check on the beehives. They add extra water pots and place cardboard on top of the hives to help mitigate the impact of extreme heat.
People swim in the tidal pool during hot weather at Perranporth Beach in Cornwall
People swim in the tidal pool at Perranporth Beach in Cornwall.
A person standing under a water sprinkler outside Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London
A woman keeps cool beside a water sprinkler outside Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London.
People in a paddling pool in a park
People sit in a children’s paddling pool which was filled by a council parks vehicle in central London.
People walk in the sun in Greenwich Park
A man walks in the sun in Greenwich Park on what is already the hottest day of the year across the UK.

BBC

Alert: The Most Northern Settlement in The World

Located just over eight hundred kilometers away from the North Pole, the community of Alert, on the northeastern tip of Ellesmere Island, in Nunavut, Canada, is the most northerly permanent settlement in the world. The nearest populated place is another 540 kilometers south, in Greenland, while the nearest Canadian city is over two thousand kilometers away. The place is so close to the North Pole that it can’t connect with communication satellites because their orbit lies below the horizon.

For four months, Alert exist in total darkness. For another four months, the sun never leaves the sky, but rising no more than 30 degrees above the horizon at noon. The land remains frozen and snow covered for almost ten months of the year. Winters are harsh and cold with temperatures regularly dropping thirty degrees below zero. Peak summer temperatures are just a couple of degrees above freezing.

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At any time in this godforsaken place, you’ll find several dozen people living. Thankfully, Alert is not their permanent home; they are merely here on work. These cold and miserable people, nicknamed “The Frozen Chosen”, include members of the Canadian Armed Forces —which maintains a signals intelligence intercept facility called CFS Alert— and scientific personnel working at the two research facilities here —the Environment Canada weather station and a Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) atmosphere monitoring observatory.

In July 2019, during a global heat wave Alert recorded the highest ever temperature—an unprecedented 21 degrees Celsius, about 14 degrees higher than normal.

The community of Alert is named after HMS Alert, a British ship which set up camp near Alert in the winters of 1875–76. The ship’s captain, George Nares, and his crew were the first recorded people to reach the northern end of Ellesmere Island.

The weather station was established here in 1950. The military station came eight years later. During the Cold War, Alert was strategically important because it was the only point in North America that was closest to the northwestern area of the Soviet Union. In fact, Alert is closer to Moscow (2,500 miles or 4,000 km) than it is to Ottawa (2,580 miles or 4,150 km). Alert’s proximity to the Soviet Union allowed the US-Canada-UK-Australia-New Zealand intelligence sharing alliance, also known as the Five Eyes, to eavesdrop on the Russian communication network. The station soon became a key asset in the global ECHELON network.

At its peak, CFS Alert had upwards of 215 personnel posted at any one time. But after budget cuts in the 1990s, CFS Alert was downsized to approximately 74 personnel, but during summers, its population can rise to over hundred.

A Sun newspaper article dated November 14, 2004, provides readers with a glimpse of life at Alert:

The soldiers, a lot of them volunteers, serve six month postings — divided by a three week vacation. Today, the food is as good as it ever was.  TV’s in various rooms show four channels of live television and another four of movies, played from the stations stock of 4,500 video and DVDs. Listening to the base’s CHAR-FM 105.9 trivia shows are another popular pastime. Much of the station is devoted to recreation, with two gyms, a darkroom, a bowling alley and a theatre. Evenings are filled with activities — multi-player computer games, woodworking, bingo, euchre and trivia. Most personnel volunteer to come here. Like a crew inside a submarine, the isolation and uniqueness of Alert pull people together and drive others apart — earning them all the 50-year-old nickname of  ‘The Frozen Chosen.”.

The only way to transport anything here is by air. Every year, the RCAF makes about 225 Hercules flights to Alert to bring in around two million litres of fuel and 300 tonnes of cargo. In addition to the weekly flights, supplies are shuttled in twice a year in massive operations involving dozens of flights to and from the nearest deep-water port, Thule, Greenland. The problem is, much of the time Canada’s Hercules C-130 aircraft aren’t flying. The resupply flights are routinely delayed 24 hours or cancelled altogether when planes are grounded by mechanical problems or diverted elsewhere by military priority.

Military physicians note most people gain weight after arriving. Those who aren’t able to deal with the remoteness are weeded out before they touch down on the gravel and snow runway. “It’s great to be here, but you must keep yourself busy all the time,” says  Station Warrant Officer Serge Oullet in 2004. “We try to get people to socialize with each other in off hours.”

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United States Ambassador Jacobson in front of CSB Alert welcome sign.

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Danish sled dogs in Alert, Nunavut.

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Canadian Rangers training camp near CSB Alert, Nunavuk.

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Snow transport in Alert, Nunavut.

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A memorial commemorating the men who died in a 1950 plane crash in Alert.

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The graves of the crew who died in the 1950 crash remains buried at Alert.

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The wreckage of an airplane. There were actually three crashes on Alert. The photographer doesn’t mention to which crash this wreckage belongs to.

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Ice crystals.

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Frost flowers.

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Sun rise at 2am.

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Satellite photo of Alert. Photo credit: Google Maps

At any given time there are roughly 60-80 personnel at the base. This includes military and contractors.

C-17 resupply aircraft landing at Alert.

Some signals intelligence spy equipment.

Mr. Yves Gauthier guides Master Corporal Marty Stride and Corporal Graeme Ross (CFS LEITRIM) through the maintenance program on one of the High Arctic Data Communication Systems Line of Sight Systems (HADCS LOS) Sites. (lt (N) clayton erickson, joint task force north, dnd)

The World’s Smallest Mountain And Mountain Range

That little bump ahead, just beyond the fork in the road, is the world’s smallest registered mountain. Located in Australia’s low-lying Terrick Terrick Range, Mount Wycheproof stands 148 meters above sea level, which is pretty decent for a small mountain. However, it rises only 43 meters above the surrounding plain, and because the ground rises gradually to the summit, it’s hard to say where the mountain begins.

The mountain is located on the town of Wycheproof, which in turn is located on the hill’s south western slopes. The town was officially established in 1875, although the settlement dates back to 1846. The town’s name is derived from the Aboriginal language, ‘witchi-poorp’, which means ‘grass on a hill’, a reference to Mountt Wycheproof just east of the highway.

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Mount Wycheproofite, the world’s smallest mountain. Photo credit: Whroo70/Panoramio

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Perhaps a better candidate for the title of the world’s smallest mountain are the eroded remains of a volcanic cone in the flat plains of the Sacramento Valley in Sutter County, northern California. But because of its multiple peaks, the Sutter Buttes are referred to as the world’s smallest mountain range instead.

Rising 610 meters above the surrounding agricultural plains, the Sutter Buttes were once an active volcano formed 1.6 million to 1.4 million years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch. The central core of the Buttes is characterized by lava domes that forms when piles of viscous lava erupts onto the surface that gets higher and higher with each successive layer.

Surrounding the cone is an apron of fragmented material created by occasional eruptions of the lava domes. This ‘debris apron’ extends roughly 16 to 18 kilometers in a circle from the center. Between the core and the debris apron, lies a “moat” that was formed by erosion of older, exposed sedimentary rocks that underlie the volcanic rocks.

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A satellite image of Sutter Buttes.

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Interesting Planet

Hyperion, the world’s tallest living tree.Hyperion is the name of a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in California that was measured at 115.92 m (380.3 ft), which ranks it as the world’s tallest known living tree.

Comet Leonard in the frigid Canadian night. Spectacular photo!

Jølster, Norway!

A gentle reminder.

Humpback whale salute In Monterey Bay, California.

Rainbow 🌈 as seen from a plane 

Solar Eclipse from Space…

A highland storm over Loch Etive, Scotland

Snowy owl 🤍🦉

Dog-sledding under the Northern lights in Norway.

Frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia

The Wave is a sandstone rock formation located in Arizona, United States, near its northern border with Utah. The formation is situated on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness of the Colorado Plateau.

Granada, Spain

Magical sunset.

A lighthouse in Michigan, before and after major ice storm.

Rainy Day in Paris, France 🇫🇷🌧

River of Mist over the Grand Canyon 

A rare weather phenomenon that affects the area only about once a decade, filled the Grand Canyon in the U.S. with a dense, white fog at the end of November. The phenomenon, known as “temperature inversion,” happens when the temperature profile of the atmosphere is inverted from its usual state, and cooler air is trapped at the earth’s surface by warmer air above.

Typically, the temperature of air in the atmosphere falls the higher up in altitude you go. This is because most of the suns energy is converted into heat at the ground, which in turn warms the air at the surface. The warm air rises in the atmosphere, where it expands and cools. When temperature inversion occurs, the temperature of air actually increases with height. The warm air above cooler air acts like a lid, trapping the cooler air and fog at the surface and preventing it from rising.

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Temperature inversions happen once or twice a year, typically in the winter months. However, these inversions are partial and cover only few parts of the Grand Canyon. The most recent inversion happens only once every 10 years, because the fog filled up the entire canyon and it happened on a cloudless day.

AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Andy Mussoline explained the factors that contributed to the event.

“First, there was higher-than-normal moisture in the canyon,” he said. “There was 0.75 of an inch of liquid precipitation that fell between Nov. 20 and Nov. 24 at the Grand Canyon National Park Airport [both snow and rain]. Normal precipitation during that time is only 0.19 of an inch, which converts to nearly 400 percent of normal precipitation within about a week of the event.”

“Additionally, the average high temperature for this time of year is about 48 degrees Fahrenheit, which means there would be less evaporation of that precipitation than there would be in the summer months. This allowed more moisture to stay in the air inside the canyon.”

“A high pressure system settled into the region late last week and allowed for clear skies and calm winds, two important weather conditions that allow the air near the ground to cool rapidly,” Mussoline said. “The rapid cooling of the ground allowed a temperature inversion to form.”

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The canyon from space

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