Monthly Archives: July 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area

Posted by on July 30, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area

UNESCO World Heritage Site #253: Pitons Management Area

From the World Heritage inscription:

Dominating the mountainous landscape of St Lucia are the Pitons, two steep-sided volcanic spires rising side by side from the sea. Gros Piton (770 m) is 3 km in diameter at its base, and Petit Piton (743 m) is 1 km in diameter and linked to the former by the Piton Mitan ridge.

The Pitons are part of a volcanic complex, known to geologists as the Soufriere Volcanic Centre which is the remnant of one (or more) huge collapsed stratovolcano. The volcanic complex overlies a tectonic plate subduction (underthrusting) zone which stretches 700 km along Lesser Antilles, forming a volcanic arc.

The Pitons are the eroded cores of two lava domes formed on the flanks of the stratovolcano. Today they tower above a caldera-like formation, produced by a gigantic gravity slide or structural collapse which formed the Qualibou Depression, 7 km in diameter. Near the centre of the depression are the Sulphur Springs, an active, high temperature geothermal field with sulphurous fumaroles and hot springs. The Pitons occur with a variety of other volcanic features including cumulo-domes, explosion craters, pyroclastic deposits (pumice and ash) and lava flows. Collectively, these fully illustrate the volcanic history of an andesitic composite volcano associated with crustal plate subduction.

The Marine Management Area is a coastal strip 11 km long and about 1 km wide. It comprises a steeply sloping continental shelf with fringing and patch reefs, boulders and sandy plains. The coral reefs, which cover almost 60% of the marine area, are healthy and diverse. A survey to a depth of 20 m revealed 168 species of finfish, 60 species of cnidaria, including corals, molluscs, sponges, echinoderms, arthropods and annelid worms. Hawksbill turtles are seen inshore, and whale sharks and pilot whales offshore.

The Pitons might very well be the most awe inspiring view in the entire Caribbean. The peaks are so important to the identity of St. Lucia that they appear on the national flag, the most popular beer in the country is named after it, and it appears on almost every souvenir you can buy on the island.

It is situated above the town of Soufrière in the south-west corner of the island. It is probably the most popular attraction on the island and there are many day tours which visit the area. It is also a popular destination for people visiting for the day on a cruise.

UNESCO World Heritage Site #252: Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Posted by on July 29, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #252: Morne Trois Pitons National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #252: Morne Trois Pitons National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

Morne Trois Pitons is located 13 km east of the town of Roseau in the highlands of south-central Dominica and it is the basaltic spike-like remains of a former volcano rising to approximately 1,300 m, within 8 km of the sea.

The landscape is characterized by volcanic piles with precipitous slopes, and deeply incised valleys (glacis slopes). There is also a fumarole known as Valley of Desolation (or Grand Soufriere), with fumaroles, hot springs, mud pots, sulphur vents and the Boiling Lake, which is the world’s second largest of its kind. The valley is a large amphitheatre surrounded by mountains and consisting of at least three separate craters where steam vents, small ponds, and hot springs bubble up through the ground. Boiling Lake is surrounded by cliffs and is almost always covered by clouds of steam. The Valley of Desolation drains into the Pointe Mulatre River, which flows into the Atlantic.

Other outstanding features in the area include the Emerald Pool, fed by the Middleham Falls; Stinking Hole, a lava tube in the middle of the forest; and the Boeri and Freshwater lakes. The Freshwater Lake is the largest and second deepest of Dominica’s four freshwater lakes. The Boeri Lake is the second largest in Dominica, and is located in the crater of an extinct volcano. Both lakes are separated from each other by Morne Macaque (1,221 m) and vary in depth with the season. Both are thought to have originated some 25,000-30,000 years ago. The park also encompasses almost all the headwaters of the streams and rivers in the southern half of the island.

Morne Trois Pitons National Park is the jewel of an island which itself might be the jewel of the Caribbean.

Dominica is a wild island that is still volcanically active. There are few beaches on the island, but the lack of beaches are made up for by 365 rivers, many mountains, the world second largest boiling lake and stunning lush scenery. Many parts of the part are only accessible by hiking. Some spots, like the boiling lake, require a full days hike to get there and back.

The waterfall in the photo is Upper Trafalgar falls which is right next to Lower Trafalgar falls. Despite being right next to each other, the falls from rivers with completely different sources.

Dominica is the least visited country in the Western Hemisphere because the airport cannot handle large airplanes, but that shouldn’t deter you from visiting. It is unlike any other island in the Caribbean.

Behind the Lens – Jellyfish Lake in Palau

Posted by on July 25, 2013

jellyfish lake palau

One of the most incredible things I’ve ever done is gone swimming with jellyfish in Palau.

Palau is a small island country of approximately 20,000 people in the Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines and north of Indonesia. It is also home to, what I believe, is the greatest diving in the world.

The most unique feature of Palau however, doesn’t require any SCUBA gear to experience: the jellyfish lake.
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UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

Posted by on July 18, 2013

UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site #251: Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is of historical, cultural and architectural significance, a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and supervised its construction and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. In some of its architectural features, notably the Citadel, are expressed elements of different stages of fortress design; ?it is an embodiment of European imperialism, and the emergence of a distinctive Caribbean culture. It is indicative of the competition for power and wealth at a crucial stage in world history, and it provides a medium by and through which the geology, ecology and history of the Caribbean can be understood. As managed by a competent local organization on behalf of the people of a young nation, the majority of whose citizens are descended from former slaves, it is a symbol of a colonized African people and of the integrity of Caribbean culture, and as such it can be an inspiration to other young nations in a post-colonial era.

Known as Liamuiga (Fertile Island) to the native Amerindians, Saint Kitts was the first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English (in 1623) and the French (1625), who shared it between 1627 and 1713, when it came under sole English control through the Treaty of Utrecht. Known as the ‘Mother Island’, it provided the model and springboard for English and French colonization in the Caribbean. African slaves were brought in from the earliest years of European settlement, and it was on Saint Kitts and the other early colonies that the plantation system, based on sugar production and slavery, had its roots.

Because of its reconstructed and very formidable defenses, Saint Kitts became known as the ‘Gibraltar of the Caribbean’. It successfully drove off an attack by the French Navy in 1806. From that time onwards the British Navy was able to ensure the security of its island colonies in the Caribbean. The fortress was abandoned as a result of British defense cuts in 1853. The wooden buildings were auctioned and dismantled and masonry buildings were plundered for their cut stone; natural vegetation progressively took over.

The Brimstone Hill Fortress is the only world heritage site in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. The island of St. Kitt’s (aka St. Christopher) was the home of the first English and first French colony in the Caribbean. Few original wooden buildings in the Caribbean remain. The stone structures of fortresses and some warehouses are all that remain of the former colonial past.

The fortress is far and away the best preserved historical site I’ve seen in the Lesser Antille, with only St. Eustatius coming close (and they should probably be a world heritage site also).

If you visit St. Kitts, the fortress will undoubtedly be on any tour you take as it is the touristic and historic highlight of the island.

If you are visiting from a hotel or resort, look into taking an organized day trip instead of renting a car. Gas on the island is very expensive and there is a $25 temporary drivers license that they charge on top of any car rental, which makes anything less than $75/day for a car impossible. You can easily book a day trip for half that amount that will visit the fortress.

Behind the Lens – The Milky Way over La Palma, Canary Islands

Posted by on July 18, 2013

astrophotography la palma canary islands

I am not an expert in Astrophotography. Nonetheless, I had the chance to try my hand at it when I was on the island of La Palma back in 2011.

La Palma, along with Mauna Kea in Hawaii, is one of the most important locations for professional astronomy in the world. It is the location of the world’s largest single mirror telescope as well as many other high end devices. The reason why La Palma is such a great place to do astronomy is because the top of the mountain there is almost always above the clouds which means there a large number of nights each year where you can see the heavens.

I had the opportunity while I was on La Palma to go out one night and shoot the stars with my camera with a local amateur astronomer. I jumped at the chance. (more…)