Paradise Flooded: Fiji Closes To Tourists

fiji floodsTropical storms have battered Fiji in recent days, causing flash floods that have stranded tourists, forced mass evacuations and caused upwards of three deaths. Now, the Pacific island nation braces itself as a tropical cyclone approaches the main island of Viti Levu with forecasted gusts of 68 miles per hour and the certainty of even more damage. Already, the government has declared a state of emergency. Sometimes, you just can’t catch a break.

Apart from causing widespread destruction, floods in the main tourist towns of Suva and Nadi have also wreaked havoc on Fiji’s tourism industry. Thousands of visitors were forced to remain in their hotels with limited resources until the waters receded and the air embargo was lifted on Monday. They now face chaos at the Nadi International Airport trying to secure flights back home. Australian and New Zealand news sources describe frantic scenes straight from a natural disaster flick.

The photo gallery below offers a glimpse at the current scene on the ground.

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James Cameron completes solo dive of the Mariana Trench

James Cameron completes dive of the Mariana TrenchA couple of weeks ago we told you about James Cameron’s plans to dive the Mariana Trench, a massive canyon in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that marks the deepest point on our planet. This past weekend Cameron saw those plans come to fruition when he crawled inside his specially built submersible – dubbed the DeepSea Challenger – and piloted the vehicle nearly seven miles beneath the surface. Once there, he not only set a record for the deepest solo dive in history, but he also became the first person to catch a real glimpse of the murkiest depths of the ocean floor.

Cameron’s journey began with a two-and-a-half hour descent into the Challenger Deep, a cold, sunless abyss that has only been visited by man on one previous occasion. His original plan was to spend six hours exploring those depths but several malfunctions to the sub caused him to cut short his visit. First a mechanical arm designed to collect samples from the ocean floor refused to work and later, the starboard thrusters on the vehicle failed as well. With those engines out, Cameron couldn’t maneuver properly, which prompted him to return to the surface about three hours ahead of schedule. His ascent took approximately 70 minutes to complete.

The bottom of the Mariana Trench was previously only visited by ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard back in 1960. When they made that historic dive over 52 years ago they didn’t have the sophisticated equipment that Cameron carried with him on his expedition. In fact, Walsh and Piccard didn’t even have lights that could penetrate those depths and as a result, Cameron is the first person to actually see the bottom of the trench with any clarity. He described that place as desolate and isolated, and even compared it to the surface of the moon. He also says that he found only very small organisms living at those incredible depths.

Even while wearing his explorer’s cap Cameron can’t get away from his filmmaking roots. The entire voyage was filmed in high definition 3D and the footage will be used in an upcoming documentary on sea exploration. The director expects to collect more video for the film on future dives as well, and has already indicated that a second dive could take place in a matter of days or weeks. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they have to show us.

Find out more about expedition at DeepSeaChallenge.com.

[Photo credit: Mark Thiessen, National Geographic]


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Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California

Glass Beach, Fort BraggA little over a year ago, when I flew out to Tahoe to learn how to ski, I didn’t expect to wind up traveling north on Highway 1 looking for a Glass Beach. My ski weekend evolved easily and quickly into an extended stay in Northern California wherein I rented a car to both drive and sometimes sleep in as I explored the Bay Area and beyond. On a whim, I decided to spend my birthday at Vichy Springs in Ukiah. The alluring springs took me north but I took the long route, the route that parallels the Pacific Ocean. My plan was to get as far north as Fort Bragg for the sole purpose of setting my eyes on Glass Beach and then to loop back down to Ukiah. Glass Beach was once a dump, but once-sharp pieces of broken glass have now dulled and polished naturally, creating a multi-colored beach like no other. I never got to Fort Bragg. I pulled over on the side of the serene highway for a nap and woke up with barely enough time to make it to Ukiah before midnight. C’est la vie. One day I’ll visit Glass Beach. If you’d like to get there yourself, learn more about the special beach by reading this story from UnfinishedMan.com.

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James Cameron to dive the Mariana Trench

The deepsea submersible used by James CameronLegendary director James Cameron is no stranger to big adventures. After all he is the man responsible for bringing such Hollywood hits as Titanic and Avatar to the silver screen. Last week Cameron announced plans for a big adventure of his own, saying he now plans to dive to the lowest point on the planet, which is found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Located in the Pacific Ocean, the mysterious trench stretches 1580 miles in length and plunges nearly seven miles below the Earth’s surface. Using specially designed equipment, Cameron plans to spend about six hours at the Challenger Deep, the absolute lowest point inside the trench. While there he’ll collect samples for use in research in marine biology, microbiology, geology, and a host of other scientific fields.

Cameron has partnered with National Geographic and Rolex for this expedition, which he calls “DeepSea Challenge.” The filmmaker plans to shoot the entire experience with 3D HD cameras for use in a future documentary on the voyage, which will be made in a submersible that has been specifically built to withstand the incredible pressures that exist inside the trench. That vehicle was built by Cameron and his team and has already been tested to a depth of five miles.The bottom of the Mariana Trench has only been visited by humans on one previous occasion. In January of 1960 ocean explorers Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard made their way to those incredible depths where they were surprised to find a number of lifeforms thriving.

There is no specific date set for Cameron’s dive, but he is currently in Guam making last minute preparations. Follow the entire adventure on the DeepSea Challenge website.

[Photo courtesy National Geographic]


How to row across the ocean


How to row across the ocean


Over the weekend, the New York Times memorialized adventurer John Fairfax in the most awe-inspiring obituary ever written. In it, we learned that Mr. Fairfax had run away to the Amazon jungle at 13, then later worked as a pirate’s apprentice out of Panama. But the main narrative of Mr. Fairfax’s life was that he had rowed across not one, but two oceans: the Atlantic in 1969 and the Pacific in 1972. In fact, he was “the first lone oarsman in recorded history to traverse any ocean.”

While ocean rowing sounds like a near impossible feat, there are still dozens of adventurers in pursuit of this challenge. Earlier this month, Gadling profiled the Pacific Rowing Race, which is set to take place in 2014 following a course from Monterey Bay, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. No doubt, the Ocean Rowing Society, the organization charged with the adjudication of all ocean rowing records and on whose steering committee John Fairfax was a member, will be on hand as rowers set out on their quest.

The Ocean Rowing Society devised a set of guidelines for ocean rowers in a meeting in 2000. The guidelines cover acceptable crossings for the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, definitions of assisted and unassisted rows, and minimum compulsory safety measures and equipment for undertaking an ocean row:

  • It is noted that Christopher Columbus’ route from Spain to the Bahamas is the traditional Atlantic crossing route (“Departures from Cape Verde will be recognized as an Atlantic Ocean crossing with the words “shortened crossing” added to official listings.”)
  • Auto-steering is optional.
  • Wind generators may be used.
  • Solar panels should be used for generating all electrical power on board the row boat.
  • Canopies are not allowed.
  • Ocean rowing is a drug-free sport.

Head over to the Ocean Rowing Society website to learn more.

Image Flickr/TrueFalseFilmFestival