You want to quarantine safely, here is the perfect place.

Sea Fort in the Middle of The Gulf of Mexico

Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It is the largest brick masonry structure in the Americas, and is composed of over 16 million bricks. Among United States forts, only Fort Monroe in Virginia and Fort Adams in Rhode Island are larger. The fort is located on Garden Key in the lower Florida Keys within the Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles (110 km) west of the island of Key West. The Dry Tortugas are part of Monroe County, Florida, United States.

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The fort was built in 1861 and is located 90 miles west of Key West.  It’s now a national park.

It was built to maintain an American presence in the Gulf and to scare off pirates.  During the Civil War it was mainly a prison.  But it looks to me like it would be one great place to set up some tents, crack open the beer and let the festivities begin.

 

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Gloomy Place Names

There are places stuck in perpetual despair, but only by name. A new Instagram account called Sad Topographies by Australian artist Damien Rudd is dedicated to showcasing these places.

“I initially came across a place in Australia … called Mount Hopeless. The name kind of caught me off guard and I decided to come back later and research it,” Damien Rudd told CBC.  “I actually found that there were many more places that had surprisingly depressing names. That kind of got me started on the project.”

 

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Many of these depressing place names are connected to the dark history of early colonialism, and the mishaps of explorers and settlers. Communities are hesitant to change the names of these places because of their historical context.

“I think once you become accustomed to a name, you don’t really hear it like an outsider would,” he says. “There’s a certain type of history that gets lost when you change names.”

Rudd finds these places by typing sad words into Google Maps.

 

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Starvation Heights, an unincorporated community in Jackson County, Oregon, was named before 1883 for its poor and infertile soil, a granite-like mix which supported only scrub vegetation.

 

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Killer Lake, Addington Highlands, Canada

 

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Let’s stay happy out there.

The Spanish Cities of North Africa

Unbeknownst to me there are two cities in North Africa that belong to Spain. I discovered this a few days ago. It is European colonization that dates back to the fifteen hundreds. Ceuta and Melilla.

Ceuta is an 18.5-square-kilometre (7.1 sq mi) Spanish autonomous city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a western border with Morocco. Separated from the Iberian peninsula by the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ceuta, along with the Spanish exclave Melilla, is one of two permanently inhabited Spanish territories in mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995 when the city’s Statute of Autonomy was passed.

Ceuta, like Melilla, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. As of 2011, it has a population of 82,376. Its population consists of Christians, Muslims (chiefly Arabic and Berber speakers), and small minorities of Sephardic Jews and ethnic Sindhi Hindus. Spanish is the official language.

Ceuta

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Ceuta’s location has made it an important commercial trade and military way-point for many cultures, beginning with the Carthaginians in the 5th century BC, who called the city Abyla; initially, this was also its name in Greek and Latin.  Together with Gibraltar on the European side, it formed one of the famous “Pillars of Hercules”. Later, it was renamed for a formation of seven surrounding smaller mountains, collectively referred to as Septem Fratres (‘[The] Seven Brothers’) by Pomponius Mela, which lent their name to a Roman fortification known as Castellum ad Septem Fratres.

 

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It changed hands again approximately 400 years later, when Vandal tribes ousted the Romans. After being controlled by the Visigoths, it then became an outpost of the Byzantine Empire. Ceuta was an important Christian center since the fourth century (as recent discovered ruins of a Roman basilica show), and consequently is the only place in the Maghreb where the Roman heritage has survived continuously until modern times.

In the 7th century the Umayyads tried to conquer the region but were unsuccessful. Byzantine governor, Julian (described as King of the Ghomara) who was a vassal of the Visigothic kings of Iberia changed his allegiance after the king Roderic raped his daughter, and exhorted the Muslims to invade the Iberian Peninsula. Under the leadership of the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Muslims used Ceuta as a staging ground for an assault on Visigothic Iberian Peninsula. After Julian’s death, the Berbers took direct control of the city, which the indigenous Berber tribes resented. They destroyed Ceuta during the Kharijite rebellion led by Maysara al-Matghari in 740.

In 1415, during the Battle of Ceuta, the city was captured by the Portuguese during the reign of John I of Portugal. The Benemerine sultan besieged the city in 1418 but was defeated. Phillip II (King of Spain 1556–1598) ascended the Portuguese throne in 1580 and Spanish kings of Portugal governed Ceuta for 60 years (Iberian Union). During this time, Ceuta attracted many residents of Spanish origin. Ceuta became the only city of the Portuguese Empire that sided with Spain when Portugal regained its independence in 1640, and war broke out between the two countries.

On 1 January 1668 by the Treaty of Lisbon, King Afonso VI of Portugal recognized the formal allegiance of Ceuta to Spain and formally ceded Ceuta to King Carlos II of Spain. However, the original Portuguese flag and coat of arms of Ceuta remained unchanged, and the modern-day Ceuta flag features the configuration of the Portuguese shield. The flag has the same background as that of the flag of the city of Lisbon. The city was besieged by Moroccan forces under Moulay Ismail from 1694 to 1727.

In July 1936, General Francisco Franco took command of the Spanish Army of Africa and rebelled against the Spanish republican government; his military uprising led to the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939. Franco transported troops to mainland Spain in an airlift using transport aircraft supplied by Germany and Italy. Ceuta became one of the first casualties of the uprising: General Franco’s rebel nationalist forces repressed the citizens of Ceuta, while at the same time the city came under fire from the air and sea forces of the official republican government.

When Spain recognized the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956, Ceuta and the other plazas de soberanía remained under Spanish rule. Spain considered them integral parts of the Spanish state, but Morocco has disputed this point.

 

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The official currency of Ceuta is the euro. It is part of a special low tax zone in Spain. Ceuta is one of two Spanish port cities on the northern shore of Africa, along with Melilla. They are historically military strongholds, free ports, oil ports, and also fishing ports. Today the economy of the city depends heavily on its port (now in expansion) and its industrial and retail centres. Ceuta Heliport is now used to connect the city to mainland Spain by air.

 

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Melilla

Melilla is a Spanish autonomous city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco with an area of 12.3 square kilometres (4.7 sq mi). Melilla, along with Ceuta, is one of two permanently inhabited Spanish cities in mainland Africa. It was part of Málaga province until 14 March 1995 when the city’s Statute of Autonomy was passed.

Melilla, like Ceuta, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. As of 2011, it had a population of 78,476 made up of ethnic Spaniards, ethnic Riffian Berbers, and a small number of Sephardic Jews and Sindhi Hindus. Both Spanish and Riffian-Berber are the two most widely spoken languages, with Spanish as the only official language.

Melilla is officially claimed by Morocco, which considers it “occupied territory”.

 

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The current Berber name of Melilla is Mřič or Mlilt which means the “white one”. Melilla was an ancient Berber village and a Phoenician and later Punic trade establishment under the name of Rusadir.  Rusaddir was supposed to have once been the seat of a bishop, but there is no record of any bishop of the supposed see, which is not included in the Catholic Church’s list of titular sees. As centuries passed, it went through Vandal, Byzantine and Hispano-Visigothic hands. The political history is similar to that of towns in the region of the Moroccan Rif and southern Spain. Local rule passed through Amazigh, Phoenician, Punic, Roman, Umayyad, Idrisid, Almoravid, Almohad, Marinid, and then Wattasid rulers. During the Middle Ages it was the Berber city of Mlila. It was part of the Kingdom of Fez when the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon requested Juan Alfonso Pérez de Guzmán, 3rd Duke of Medina Sidonia, to take the city.

In the Conquest of Melilla, the duke sent Pedro Estopiñán, who conquered the city virtually without a fight in 1497, a few years after Castile had taken control of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, the last remnant of Al-Andalus, in 1492. Melilla was immediately threatened with reconquest and was besieged during 1694–1696 and 1774–1775. One Spanish officer reflected, “an hour in Melilla, from the point of view of merit, was worth more than thirty years of service to Spain.”

The current limits of the Spanish territory around the fortress were fixed by treaties with Morocco in 1859, 1860, 1861, and 1894. In the late 19th century, as Spanish influence expanded, Melilla became the only authorized center of trade on the Rif coast between Tetuan and the Algerian frontier. The value of trade increased, goat skins, eggs and beeswax being the principal exports, and cotton goods, tea, sugar, and candles being the chief imports.

 

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The government of Morocco has requested from Spain the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, of Perejil Island, and of some other small territories. The Spanish position is that both Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of the Spanish state, and have been since the 15th century. Morocco denies these claims and maintains that the Spanish presence on or near its coast is a remnant of the colonial past which should be ended. The United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories does not include these Spanish territories.

The principal industry is fishing. Cross-border commerce (legal or smuggled) and Spanish and European grants and wages are the other income sources.

Melilla is regularly connected to the Iberian peninsula by air and sea traffic and is also economically connected to Morocco: most of its fruits and vegetables are imported across the border. Moroccans in the city’s hinterland are attracted to it: 36,000 Moroccans cross the border daily to work, shop, or trade goods. The port of Melilla offers several daily connections to Almeria and Málaga. Melilla Airport offers daily flights to Almería, Málaga and Madrid. Spanish operator Air Europa uses nearby Nador International Airport for their connections to mainland Spain.

Many people traveling between Europe and Morocco use the ferry links to Melilla, both for passengers and for freight. Because of this, the port and related companies form an important economic driver for the city.

 

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The Melilla border fence aims to stop illegal immigration into Spain.

 

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Spanish territories of North Africa

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A Gigantic Jagged Piece of Rock Towering out of the Tasman Sea

 

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Ball’s Pyramid is an erosional remnant of a shield volcano and caldera that formed about 6.4 million years ago. It lies 20 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Lord Howe Island in the Pacific Ocean. It is 562 metres (1,844 ft) high, while measuring only 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) in length and 300 metres (980 ft) across, making it the tallest volcanic stack in the world. Ball’s Pyramid is part of the Lord Howe Island Marine Park in Australia.

 

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Like Lord Howe Island and the Lord Howe seamount chain, Ball’s Pyramid is based on the Lord Howe Rise, part of the submerged continent of Zealandia.

Ball’s Pyramid has a few satellite islets. Observatory Rock and Wheatsheaf Islet lie about 800 metres (2,600 ft) west-northwest and west-southwest respectively, of the western extremity of Ball’s Pyramid. Southeast Rock is a pinnacle located about 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) southeast of Ball’s Pyramid.

Ball’s Pyramid is positioned in the centre of a submarine shelf. The shelf is 20 kilometres (12 mi) in length and averages 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) in width and lies under an average depth of 50 metres (160 ft) of water. It is separated by a 500 metres (1,600 ft) deep submarine canyon from another shelf on which Lord Howe Island is located. The cliffs of the stack continue under the water surface to the level of the shelf.

 

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Ball’s Pyramid lies approximately 500 kilometres off the Australian mainland.

 

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The pyramid at 1,844 feet tall, is higher than the CN Tower which is 1,815 feet high.

 

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Climbing

In 1964 a Sydney team, which included adventurer Dick Smith and other members of the Scouting movement, attempted to climb to the summit of the pyramid. However, they were forced to turn back on the fifth day as they ran short of food and water.

The first successful climb to the summit was made on 14 February 1965 by a team of climbers from the Sydney Rock Climbing Club, consisting of Bryden Allen, John Davis, Jack Pettigrew and David Witham.

In 1979, Smith returned to the pyramid, together with climbers John Worrall and Hugh Ward. They successfully reached the summit and unfurled a flag of New South Wales provided to them by Premier Neville Wran, declaring the island Australian territory (a formality which it seems had not previously been done).

Climbing was banned in 1982 under amendments to the Lord Howe Island Act, and in 1986, all access to the island was banned by the Lord Howe Island Board. In 1990, the policy was relaxed to allow some climbing under strict conditions, which in recent years has required an application to the relevant state minister.
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How Coronavirus Emptied The World’s Streets

As millions of people around the world lock themselves indoors in order to prevent transmission of the dreaded coronavirus, the world outside looks eerily abandoned. The absence of humans and smoke belching vehicles is having a profound effect on the environment, not seen, perhaps, since the Industrial Age began. The atmosphere has become cleaner with significant drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution. The normally polluted waters of the canals of Venice have become so clear that one can see the bottom. In Sassari, the second-largest town of Sardinia, wild boars are roaming the streets, and in Rome’s many fountains ducks are taking advantage of the lack of tourists. Aside from these occasional visitors, public spaces across the world have become terribly devoid of life.

A scene from Wuhan, the epicenter of Covid-19.

Fontana di Trevi, Rome.

Prague.

Venice

Moscow underground.

 

Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin. Photo:

The Brandenburg Gate in berlin. Photo: nope_just_fish/Reddit

Poland. Photo: EPA-EFE / GREGORY Michałowska

Poland. Photo: EPA-EFE / GREGORY Michałowska

Moscow.

Times Square, New York

Piccadilly Circus, London, on 21 March 2020. Photo: fridericvs/Reddit

Brooklyn Bridge

Rome, Piazza di Spagna.

Quiet streets in the Lujiazui financial district in Pudong, Shanghai. Photo: REUTERS/Aly Song

The Eiffel Tower is closed for an indefinite time.

Pigeons thrives in the Plaza de Armas in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo: Aizar Raldes / AFP

Empty Fell street in San Francisco, 21 March 2020. Photo: brodil/Reddit

Marine Drive, one of the busiest streets of Mumbai is completely deserted on 22 March 2020, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 14-hour country-wide lockdown. Photo: silent_christ/Reddit

World’s Best Beaches

From National Geographic.

Beaches are a great thing.  Sun, surf and bikinis.

James Bond Island

Khao Phing Kan or Ko Khao Phing Kan is an island in Thailand, in Phang Nga Bay northeast of Phuket. The islands are limestone karst towers and are a part of Ao Phang Nga National Park.

About 40 metres (130 ft) from the shores of Khao Phing Kan lies a 20-metre (66 ft) tall islet called Ko Ta Po or Ko Tapu. Since 1974, when they were featured in the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun, Khao Phing Kan and Ko Ta Pu have been popularly called James Bond Island.

The Man with the Golden Gun is a 1974 spy film and the ninth in the James Bond series produced by Eon Productions, and the second to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. A loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, the film has Bond sent after the Solex Agitator, a device that can harness the power of the sun, while facing the assassin Francisco Scaramanga, the “Man with the Golden Gun”. The action culminates in a duel between them that settles the fate of the Solex.

The production team chose Thailand as a primary location, following a suggestion of production designer Peter Murton after he saw pictures of the Phuket bay in a magazine.