Sunday, September 23, 2012

My extended ship family

On each voyage willing faculty & staff are given students who have asked to be placed with extended families.  These "families" then attempt to get together periodically to meet, talk, play games-- usually the meeting time is dinner.  Here is my "extended fam":  Mary (U Mich), Annie (Sweetbriar), Ian (U. San Diego) and Alexandria (Mich St.).  We have met on a couple of occasions and thus far, played one game of "oh hell".
Mary, Annie, Ian and Alexandria

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Romesy, England

On my last day in Southampton I met up with my friends Lindsay and wife Lisa Parsons who live in the old and quaint town of Romsey, about a half hour drive west of Southampton. Whereas Southampton and Portsmouth, two port towns were bombed during WWII Romsey escaped that part of the war.

Lindsay and Lisa

Montbatten  buried in the Romsey Abbey

Romsey Abbey

Romsey Abbey dates back to the 10th century.

A most delightful day was spent with Lindsay and Lisa, from just sitting adjacent to Romsey's main square with a cup of coffee, to going to their agricultural day.

Wonderful day in Romsey

Creative coffee

Reflection of another old Romsey church

Friday, September 14, 2012

A day in London

London is a great city in which to walk, or to take a double-decker bus.  So much history to take in, or just to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of London life.
Fun way to travel around the city, especially if you can snag the front row seat up top
What' going to London and not taking a pic of Big Ben and Parliament

Be sure not to eat until you get to the Market at Convent Garden

More eats at Convent Garden market

Crowds (plus bird) at Trafalgar Sq. enjoying ParaOlympic festivities

Ya gotta take in a show or two while in London

Old map and book stores are great in London        

Longitude: telling time at sea

One of my favorite places to visit when in London is Greenwich, home of the prime meridian.  Until the late 18th century mariners really did not know their positions while at sea.  Using sextants they were able to determine their latitude by measuring the angle at noon when the sun was at its highest, but knowing longitude required knowing the time back home.  Clocks certainly had developed centuries ago but to maintain a clock's accuracy at sea was a different matter.  In 1707 the British, and Admiral Shovall, experienced a marine disaster near the Scilly Isles when several of their ships ran aground killing over a 1000 sailors.

A few years after this disaster the British Parliament passed a law stating it would give the first person who developed a mechanism to tell time (position) at sea to a given accuracy a reward of 20,000 pounds (about a million dollars in today's monetary units).  Well, John Harrison,  a clock maker, spent the rest of his life to develop such an instrument, a chronometer.  It encountered great resistance from the Board that had been created to make the judgement and it took him 4 tries to build it.  All of his chronometers are on display at the Greenwich observatory.
Harrison's "H4" chronometer, the one that won him the prize
The next issue became one of where the "prime meridian" would be located as by the mid 19th century several countries, including the U.S., France, and England, based the meridian calculation in their respective countries.  In 1884 an International Meridian Conference was convened in Washington, DC and it was agreed that 0 degree meridian of longitude would be situated along that meridian that went through the observatory located in Greenwich.  
Straddling the prime meridian: part of me is in the eastern hemisphere while the other part of me is in the western hemisphere

Field Lab: National Oceanography Centre

For each class faculty plan and implement a field lab which constitute 20% of a student's grade.  For my ocean geography class I planned a tour and briefing a the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), in Southampton.  NOC was located only about a mile+ from where our ship was docked.

One of NOC's smaller research vessels

 The day of our visit happened to be an open house day for prospective students.  This had both good and bad points-- unfortunately, we were not given the individual attention or "hands on" aspects that I had hoped.  But, on the plus side we sat in on some briefings that gave the students a nice overview of what marine science studies were all about, with oceanography, marine biology, marine geology and geophysics being the key components.

We were shown a lab with tanks where various experiments were on-going

One of the professors giving an overview of the marine biology and oceanography parts of the program

Exhibits in the labs

Images of Westport, County Mayo Ireland

 Westport House, built in 1650 by the Browne family, had its heritage traced to Grace O'Malley, pirate queen of Connaught.  In the mid 1950s the house and grounds came close to being sold (and likely torn down) but the younger generation of the family decided to save it.  Since then the house has been open to tourists and family have expanded the grounds to commercialism by creating parks.

The grounds of the Westport House

Westport House

Westport House dining room

Kids' room

Cute restaurant, near the entrance to the Westport House

My hotel in Westport, formally a ware house

On the Westport House estate

Westport House estate

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I found our swan's cousins

While walking around the gorgeous Westport House I came across this scene:

Croagh Patrick

This sacred mountain, only 5 miles from Westport- County Mayo, in Irish means (Saint) Patrick stack and locally is known as the Reek.  It is only 2500 feet in elevation.

St. Patrick supposedly fasted for 40 days on top of the mountain in the 5th century.  On the last Sunday of July ("Reek Sunday") each year there is a pilgrimage of people from all over the world who climb the mountain, some in bare feet, others on their knees.  In 2006, for example, over 15,000 people climbed the mountain on that Sunday.

Ronan and I planned to climb it, but unfortunately on that Saturday afternoon we had a bit of rain that would have made the hike somewhat unpleasant.  I did take a few pictures of the mountain while I was in Westport from different vantage points.

Croagh Patrick seen from Westport
Croagh Patrick viewed from the grounds of Westport House

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Irish Potato Famine

From 1845-52 Ireland was ravaged by the potato blight-- over 1 million people died and 2 million people (together about 25% of the total population) emigrated to North America and Australia.  Clearly the country was devastated and this tragic time of its history has had a continuing impact on Ireland, even today.  While traveling in the northwest part of Ireland I passed by that part of the country hardest hit.  There are two national memorials to this part of its history:
Memorial to those who died during the Irish Potato famine.  This memorial has a dedication written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is a memorial to those who died on board the ships taking the Irish emigrants overseas...the "coffin ships"

Kylemore Abbey

On my first day in Ireland (Friday 31 Aug) my friend Ronan Long met me and after spending an hour at an EU fishery workshop (quite interesting) and having lunch at his university with a geographer colleague of his off we went heading north to his home in Westport.

Along the way we stopped in the Connemara National Park to visit the Kylemore Abbey:

Kylemore Abbey

The Abbey was first constructed as a castle by Mitchell Henry in 1867.  When, in 1874, he and his wife Margaret traveled to Egypt for vacation she fell ill and died from dysentery.  He then built a gothic church on the grounds as a memorial chapel for her.

Gothic church
Henry died in 1910 and his ashes were brought back to the Church and laid next to his wife. The castle and church were sold to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester in 1903.  In 1920 the property was purchased by Nuns of the Order of St. Benedict who had fled from Ypres, Flanders in 1914 during WWI-- they turned the property into an international boarding school for girls.  The school graduated its last students in 2010 and the abbey, church and immense gardens are now a tourist site.  The nuns still remain on the property where they continue their daily prayer and run the farm and make handcrafted products.