Photo Essay – Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Paradise Bay was one of the last stops on the G Adventures tour I took to Antarctica in January. It is home to the Chilean González Videla Antarctic Base, which we visited as well as having some of the best photography I saw in all of Antarctica. I had a list of shots I wanted to get while I was in Antarctica and I was coming up empty on many of them before we arrived in Paradise Bay. There I was able to cross most of them from my wish list. It was absolutely the best location we had for viewing sea ice. I feel the need to note that the blue colors you see in many of the images was not manipulated. The blues were literally that deep in color.

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UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province
UNESCO World Heritage Site #179: Cultural Landscape of Bali Province

From the World Heritage inscription:

Cultural Landscape of Bali: the Subak System as a Manifestation of the Tri Hita Karana Philosophyforms acultural landscape of five rice terraces and their water temples that cover 19,500 hectares. The temples are the focus of a cooperative water management system of canals and weirs, known as subak, that dates back to the 9th century. Included in the landscape is the 18th-century Royal Temple of Pura Taman Ayun, the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the island. The subak reflects the philosophical concept of Tri Hita Karana, which brings together the realms of the spirit, the human world and nature. This philosophy was born of the cultural exchange between Bali and India over the past 2000 years and has shaped the landscape of Bali. The subak system of democratic and egalitarian farming practices has enabled the Balinese to become the most prolific rice growers in the archipelago despite the challenge of supporting a dense population.

I visited Bali in 2008 during my trip to Indonesia. It was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage site list in July 2012.

That Bali should be a World Heritage site is without question in my mind. What I don’t quite understand is what exactly is considered part of the heritage site and what isn’t. It seems clear that the rice terraces are included, but I’m not positive if it includes some of the larger temples.

Regardless, Bali is a very unique place in the world and should have been added to the list much earlier.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #178: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon
UNESCO World Heritage Site #178: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon

From the World Heritage inscription:

Rock Islands Southern Lagoon covers 100,200-hectare and numbers 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. Many of them display unique mushroom-like shapes in turquoise lagoons surrounded by coral reefs. The aesthetic beauty of the site is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least 13 shark species. The site harbors the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere, isolated bodies of seawater separated from the ocean by land barriers. They are among the islands’ distinctive features and sustain high endemism of populations which continue to yield new species discoveries.

I visited the rock islands of Palau back in 2007. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list on July of 2012.

There are few places that were more deserving of World Heritage status than the rock islands of Palau. Despite being one fo the smallest countries in the world, the rock islands feature some of the most unique landscapes on the planet. It is home to my #1 ranked dive spot in the world and my #1 ranked travel experience (swimming with jellyfish).

Not shabby for a country with under 20,000 people!

My only real question is why this wasn’t listed as a World Heritage site earlier.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

SGang Gwaay

UNESCO World Heritage Site #177: SGang Gwaay
SGang Gwaay: My 177th UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for SGang Gwaay:

At the village of SGang Gwaay llnagaay (Nan Sdins) the remains of large cedar long houses, together with a number of carved mortuary and memorial poles, illustrate the art and way of life of the Haida. The site commemorates the living culture of the Haida, based on fishing and hunting, their relationship with the land and sea, and offers a visual key to their oral traditions. The village was occupied until shortly after 1880. What survives is unique in the world, a 19th century Haida village where the ruins of houses and memorial or mortuary poles illustrate the power and artistry of Haida society.

SGang Gwaay (pronounced Skung Gwhy) is easily one of the most difficult World Heritage sites I have ever visited. Getting there requires a trip to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and then a 4-day zodiac trip to get to the island and back.

SGang Gwaay is one of three abandoned Haida villages which are protected by Parks Canada and the Haida Watchmen program. The others include Skedans and Tanu.

While SGang Gwaay is the best preserved of the villages, there is still remarkably little left from when the village was abandoned in the late 19th Century. As is Haida tradition, the poles are being left to return to the earth. As such, every year there is less and less which is visible. The only efforts which are being taken in SGang Gwaay in terms of preservation are removing moss and plant growth from the poles, keeping the area around the poles clear and propping up some of them. Beyond that, nothing is being done to stop the decay of the wood.

In other villages such as Tanu, there is almost nothing left. Other than some moss covered logs on the ground which happen to be parallel, it would be hard to guess there was ever a human settlement there. Many of the poles in the other villages (which are not part of the UNESCO site) have been completely taken over by the root system of other trees.

The remaining poles in SGang Gwaay are all mortuary poles, wich served as tombs for high ranking Haidas. A box was literally put atop the pole where the corpse of a person was put. It is believed that this way they are close to the heavens. Other poles, such as house poles and memorial poles, have been taken down and placed in museums.

Because of the Haida policy of letting the poles and longhouses revert back to the Earth, there will probably be little to nothing left of SGang Gwaay in 20 years. The other villages have almost disappeared and what little remains will probably vanish even sooner. If you want to see this last remnant of original native Northwest Pacific village culture, you had better act quick.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Canada.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 8:39 pm

8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Haida Gwaii

Map of Haida GwaiiI’ve arrived in the islands of Haida Gwaii in the Canadian Pacific Northwest. It is an area which doesn’t get a lot of visitors and few people are familiar with. It is a shame, because it is one of the most special places in North America.

1) Haida Gwaii exists

If you’ve looked at a map of Canada or North America, you’ve probably seen it even if you didn’t know what it was. It is a triangular group of islands about 120km off the coast of the British Columbia mainland. If you think of the panhandle of Alaska as a handle of a dagger, Haida Gwaii would be the blade (and if you look at it on a map, it sort of looks like a knife blade!). The island group consists of two main islands (Moresby and Graham islands) and over 150 smaller islands. To get here you can fly from Vancouver or take a ferry from Prince Rupert, BC. Continue reading “8 Facts You Might Not Have Known About Haida Gwaii”