Caribbean Tsunami test hopes to save lives

Caribbean Tsunami test
It was planned long before the earthquake-turned-tsunami event in Japan to test the readiness of 33 Caribbean countries in the region’s first full-scale tsunami warning exercise. On Wednesday, March 23, a fictitious earthquake of 7.6 magnitude occurred off the coast of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Bulletins were issued by the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Island and by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Ewa Beach, Hawaii for the rest of the area and the test was underway.

The Caribbean tsunami test, named Caribe Wave 11 did not involve communities but aimed to test the effectiveness of alert, monitoring and warning systems among all the emergency management organizations throughout the region. The test was designed to determine whether Caribbean countries are ready to respond in the event of a dangerous tsunami. Results will be reported in April.

“The earthquake and tsunami that have devastated Japan have shown how essential alert systems are,” said Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director general.

The countries that attended the tsunami alert exercise are: Aruba, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France (Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Guyane), Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands (Bonaire, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Curacao and Sint Marteen), Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom (Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos), and the United States.

Over the past 500 years, there have been 75 tsunamis in the Caribbean, which is about 10 percent of the world total during that period, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Tsunamis caused by earthquakes, landslides or volcanoes have caused 3,5000 deaths in the region since the mid-1800s

Flickr photo by Axion23

The Joy of the Unexpected: Embracing the Mislaid Travel Plan

travel planLying atop the powdery sands of a brochure-worthy beach soaking up the restorative Caribbean sun; or lying inside the claustrophobic tube of an MRI scanner while being plunged into darkness when the provincial Indian hospital loses power. One is the stereotypical dream vacation, the other just a bad dream. But guess which is the experience you are never going to forget?

I once spent a perfectly delightful fortnight in Belize with my wife. We went snorkeling off the world’s second largest reef, explored jungles and ruins, ate delicious freshly prepared meals, and, of course, lied out by the warm, gently lapping surf of the Caribbean Sea. It was essentially the kind of getaway one would hope for: relaxing, recharging, and a true escape. However, when we returned home, it was not like friends and family were lining up to view slideshows of sunsets and toucans or hear stories about sunbathing.

And then there was my trip to India, where I slipped on mud (at least I told myself it was mud) and smashed my knee on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi, landing myself in that aforementioned, electricity-averse hospital. And where a cheap space heater short-circuited and partially burned down the wall of my equally cheap hotel room. Or where the taxi I was riding in sideswiped a bus and the cabbie jumped out to argue with the bus driver, abandoning me in the car that happened to be stopped across railway tracks, which I only discovered when a crowd of onlookers pushed the car out of the way of a rapidly approaching train. Or when, on the night of Tibetan New Year in Dharamsla, I stumbled into a drunken street fight and a shower of broken glass as someone was pushed through a store window.
Clearly, these are not events you choose to include when planning your travel itinerary. Nor could my trip to India be in any way described as relaxing. But I guarantee that friends did not fake interest when I would relate my stories. And not only will I not forget my time in India anytime soon, I eagerly await my return trip to the country.

I am certainly capable of enjoying a lazy beach vacation as readily as anybody. But as someone whose time spent traveling is a scandalously low percentage of my life, I more often than not seek out the “difficult” destinations. When travel is challenging and unpredictable I am far more likely to collect the experiences and encounters that will fuel a lifetime of fond recollection and travel nostalgia. Being shaken out of the pedestrian routine of everyday life is what makes foreign travel so rewarding.

So, the next time you find yourself caught out in a thunderstorm, or lost in a foreign county, or forced to navigate a city during a transit strike, remember that it still beats being stuck back home in a cubicle and will provide stories and memories that will far outlast the length of your trip.

Video: Rappelling: how NOT to do it

Rappelling, by definition, is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope. What it is not is the out of control and upside down (fascinatingly slow) descent down a rock face using a rope. I don’t have a lot of rappelling experience under my belt, but as a general fan of the outdoors, I have enough experience with the activity to watch this video and wonder how, exactly, this kind of accident happens to begin with.

An upcoming caving/rappelling trip to Belize got me searching YouTube for videos. When this came up, I’ll admit, I had to watch it a few times.

Have you been rappelling? Have you had an accident doing it? Do you have any tips for avoiding accidents? Tell us. Tell us everything you know in the comments.

Cruise lines wage boycott on Belize

cruise lines boycott belizeThe cruise port of Belize, known for some of the best scuba diving, an eclectic array of foods and wine, snorkeling or just knowing you have seen the Western hemisphere’s longest barrier reef, is in trouble. Not because of environmental issues, severe tropical weather or other problems common to Caribbean ports of call. Belize is suffering from a lack of cruise passengers, a wound-like boycott some say is self-inflicted.

Recently, some major cruise lines have canceled calls to Belize because of a dispute with tender operators over price. It seems Belize tender operators, the people that run the little boats back and forth between the big cruise ships that are too large to dock shore-side, want more than the cruise lines are willing to pay.

“According to reports, the parties are working toward a resolution” said cruise expert Stewart Chiron CEO of adding “but Belize was changed for two Carnival ships last week which were rerouted to Grand Cayman and Costa Maya and three ships will be diverted this week.”

Tender operators want between $6.54 and $8.54 per passenger to take them from the cruise ships to shore and back. Cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, want to pay about $5.00 per passenger. But the dispute is not only about price.

“Carnival wants larger capacity tender boats, 150 passenger minimum, to accommodate their larger ships. Smaller tender boats are creating large back logs and delays getting passengers to/ from the ships” added Chiron, noting “Belize has many beautiful coral reefs that are being protected and require cruise ships to anchor farther out.”

Eventually, the Belize government may have to choose between making it possible for cruise ships to dock shoreside or lose them altogether.

Flickr photo by anoldent

5 tips for people who really don’t want to go on a cruise

don't want to go on a cruiseMaybe hiking, biking, backpacking or pretty much any other minimizing endeavor is more what you have in mind for traveling but someone is dragging you along on a cruise. There’s just no way you’re getting out of it. Is there hope for you? Yes. A little. Not much. But some.

Pace yourself- Food will always be available 24 hours a day on board. You might not be used to that with your triathlon training and all so do some stomach stretching exercises prior to boarding. You will need the extra room. Stop pouting that there are no granola bars or energy drinks. There are. On cruises they are called “shots” and you find them at the bars. You’ll enjoy the walk to get them and recent studies suggest those extra steps will help prevent diabetes.

No barfing- You are concerned about the possibility of becoming sea sick because the little path on your normal mountain hike doesn’t really move around much. Think of it like that and yeah, you probably will be. Prepare for shooting the rapids in Colorado with somebody who doesn’t know what they’re doing and you’ll be fine. It could be worse. You could have been invited along for a taping of Paris Hilton’s new reality show.

Know where you are going- Take time before the cruise to check out a travel guide on the places you will visit. Duh. Just because you don’t have any say in where the ship goes doesn’t mean you can’t meet fun and find interesting people. You probably won’t find any of them on the ship but maybe when you go ashore.

Careful with spending- The food is included in the price of your cruise but that’s about it. Beverages, both alcoholic and sodas are not included. Want a sip of water? You’ll pay $23.54 for that. This is why people smuggle booze on the ship. They do have beds so leave your sleeping bag at home with your tent. Bring your flashlight though, cruise passenger are fascinated by shiny things.

Relax. That may seem like a silly tip but you would be surprised how many people try to pack so much into every day that they need a vacation after they get back from their cruise to recuperate. Know this as a fact: There are way too many things to do and you can not possibly do them all. To be more accurate, there are too many things to do that you will think are stupid so bring a telescope and memorize the sky. Maybe you can find a 14th sign of the zodiac.

Flickr photo by Robbie Howell