Monthly Archives: July 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station

Posted by on July 15, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station

UNESCO World Heritage Site #181: Varberg Radio Station

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Varberg Radio Station at Grimeton in southern Sweden (built 1922–24) is an exceptionally well-preserved monument to early wireless transatlantic communication. It consists of the transmitter equipment, including the aerial system of six 127-m high steel towers. Although no longer in regular use, the equipment has been maintained in operating condition. The 109.9-ha site comprises buildings housing the original Alexanderson transmitter, including the towers with their antennae, short-wave transmitters with their antennae, and a residential area with staff housing. The architect Carl Åkerblad designed the main buildings in the neoclassical style and the structural engineer Henrik Kreüger was responsible for the antenna towers, the tallest built structures in Sweden at that time. The site is an outstanding example of the development of telecommunications and is the only surviving example of a major transmitting station based on pre-electronic technology.

As is the case with almost every industrial world heritage site I’ve visited, I found the Varberg Radio Station seemed sort of questionable before I arrived and positively interesting by the time I left.

The radio station is the oldest, operating long wave radio station in the world. It was originally built to communicate with stations in the US, primarily in Long Island, New York. Its sister stations have long since ceased operation, but the equipment at Varberg is still operational. They still even fire up the radio once a year to send messages, which is a big thrill for radio enthusiasts.

If you drive between Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden, it is worth stopping by for a half hour to take a tour of the facility and learn something about the early days of radio.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

How Traveling Changed My View of Possessions

Posted by on July 15, 2012

Then

Then

Despite 5 years of traveling around the world I think I am still fundamentally the same person I was before I started traveling. I’m kind of a smart ass and a bit cantankerous. There hasn’t been any sort of spiritual epiphany which has lead to a brand new Gary.

That being said, my attitude towards some things have changed. In particular, my attitude towards stuff.

Before I started traveling, you could say I lived a good life. I had a nice house on a lake outside of Minneapolis. It was 3,000 ft² (278 m²) and had all the stuff that a 20-30 something bachelor would want: I had a bitchin 106″ giant projection screen TV and a 175 gallon fish tank. I purchased the house with the idea in the back of my mind that I’d probably be getting married in a few years. That, however, never happened. (more…)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

Posted by on July 14, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

UNESCO World Heritage Site #180: Carvings in Tanum (Sweden)

From the World Heritage inscription:

The range of motifs, techniques and compositions on the Tanum rock carvings provide exceptional evidence of many aspects of life in the European Bronze Age. The continuity of settlement and consistency in land use in the Tanum area, as illustrated by the rock art, the archaeological remains, and the features of the modern landscape in the Tanum region combine to make this a remarkable example of continuity over eight millennia of human history.

Northern Bohuslän is a land of granite bedrock, parts of which were scraped clean as the ice cap slowly moved northwards, leaving gently curved rock faces exposed, many of them bearing deep scratches made by rocks caught in the receding ice. These were the ‘canvases’ selected by the Bronze Age artists, all of them just above the shoreline of the period that began in 1500 BC, i.e. 25-29 m above today’s sea level.

This rock art is unique by comparison with that in rock-art areas in other parts of Scandinavia, Europe, and the world in its outstanding artistic qualities and its varied and vivid scenic compositions of Bronze Age man. The often lively scenes and complex compositions of elaborate motifs illustrate everyday life, warfare, cult, and religion. Some of the panels were obviously planned in advance.

Archeology sites are often some of the most difficult world heritage sites to visit because there usually isn’t much to see. My previous visits to Ban Chiang in Thailand and the Sangiran Early Man Site in Indonesia left me very underwhelmed. Absent taking part in a dig (which you can’t do) there isn’t much to experience, regardless how important the sites might be. I didn’t even know what I should take a photo of at those locations.

What is nice about Tanum is that the rock carvings are easily accessible. There are several carvings which are easy walking distance from the road. Also, many of the primary sites have the carvings highlighted with a iron based paint to make them stand out in the daylight.

In addition to the rock carvings, there is a nice museum and visitor’s center as well as an historic village that approximates what bronze age life in Scandinavia was like.

Tanum is located about 90 minutes north of Gothenburg just minutes off the E6 highway.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Photo Essay – Paradise Bay, Antarctica

Posted by on July 14, 2012

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

Posted by on July 12, 2012

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. 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.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #178: Rock Islands Southern Lagoon (Palau)

Posted by on July 11, 2012

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 harbours 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.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #177: SGang Gwaay

Posted by on July 10, 2012

UNESCO World Heritage Site #177: SGang Gwaay

UNESCO World Heritage Site #177: SGang Gwaay

From the World Heritage inscription:

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 into 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 is removing moss and plant growth from the poles, keeping the area around the poles clear and propping some of them up. 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 corpose 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 my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.