A relentless sun bakes down upon the desert sands near the Uzbekistan city of Mo’ynaq, sending shimmering waves of heat and swirling dust clouds floating skywards. As the scarce few travelers who have traversed this most barren and isolated of landscapes will tell you, it’s probably the last place on earth you’d expect to find a flotilla of abandoned ships. Except this isn’t a mirage – you’ve reached the Graveyard Ships of Mo’ynaq, a surreal collection of rusting fishing vessels in Uzbekistan, stranded nearly 100 miles from the nearest shoreline.
How on earth did this strange sight come to pass? The story starts back in the 1980s, when Mo’ynaq was a thriving fishing village situated on an inland lake connected to the Aral Sea. As the USSR diverted the water for use in irrigating massive cotton fields, the lake dried up, leaving Mo’ynaq’s boats high and dry (and the villagers with no way to make a living). The strange collection of boats left behind is both a ghostly beautiful scene and a chilling reminder of the damage too-easily wreaked by careless use of water.
Check out a gallery of photos from the graveyard below to take a closer look.
As I mentioned in the “surfer almost swallowed by whale” craze posted back in November, when not blogging for Gadling I will double as a sailor, diver, and whale naturalist on a fleet of sailing catamarans in Hawaii.
March is traditionally the peak of whale season in the Hawaiian islands, and throughout the winter months of December through April the shallow waters off of Maui are home to the largest population of humpback whales found anywhere in the Pacific. During this time, tens of thousands of tourists make their own sort of migration to experience a close encounter with the world’s most acrobatic cetaceans.
For many, a trip to Maui for whale watching can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If such a trip doesn’t happen to be on your travel itinerary for this year, however, you can still vicariously experience the thrill of an entire season of Maui whale watches by keeping up with Kohola Katie, a Maui-based blog devoted entirely to breaches, spy-hops, pectoral slaps, moms with calves, male escorts, and, of course, up-close muggings.
With over two months officially remaining in the 2012 Maui whale season, there are sure to be many more encounters just like the one exhibited above.
That’s right. Not content with having some of the best castles in Europe, the Spaniards like constructing living towers up to ten people high. Called a castell, the tradition originated in the region of Catalonia in the 18th century.
A bunch of strong, big castellars make up the pinya (base) and support their teammates as they create level upon level with progressively fewer (and lighter) people. Once a level is complete, the people who make up the next one climb up the backs of the others and take their place. Then the top person, called an enxaneta (rider) climbs all the way to the very top and, supported by only two people, raises a hand with four fingers up to symbolize the Catalan flag. The enxaneta and the very top levels are often made up of children to lighten the load on the bottom levels. Then the castell disassembles itself from the top down by each level climbing back to the ground. Only when everyone is safely back on the ground is the castell considered a success.
It’s an unusual tradition and now the castellars are applying to get their art on UNESCO’s list of “intangible world heritage”. The list includes examples of rare cultural practices that are relatively unknown and unpracticed outside a certain region. Check out the website for more bizarre and amazing practices around the world.
I’ve never been on a cruise. That said, I’m sure they are quite nice – and plenty of travelers speak highly of them. But I have to admit, the video above is not doing much to convince me to get on a cruise any time soon. Apparently back in 2008, a P&O Cruises ship out of New Zealand got caught in some nasty weather about 400 miles from shore. Even this massive cruise ship, carrying over 1700 passengers, was no match for the 20 foot swells and 60 mile-per-hour winds that came with the storm.
The scary video above, recently revealed from the ship’s CCTV cameras, documents the scene as a heap of lounge furniture and a few unlucky passengers get thrown around like bathtub toys. It was likely a terrifying moment, that thankfully, most of us will never experience.
Before you cancel that sea voyage in terror, consider this: 99.9% of cruises will never have anything like this happen to them. The P&O was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Experiencing the annual red crab migration on Christmas Island is an amazing sight. This remote landmass, named for the day it was discovered in 1643, is an Australian territory that’s considered “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.” Sparsely populated, Christmas Island is ringed by the most hauntingly beautiful limestone cliffs, and shaped something like a tiered wedding cake. Each year, Christmas Island’s beaches are filled with an annual migration of millions of the local red crabs.
While there are fourteen species of land crabs living on the island, the sheer numbers of the animals during migration season (estimated to be as many 100-120 million crabs) is something visitors will never forget. In addition, each adult female crab gives birth to an estimated 100,000 babies!
From October through December, adult crabs make their way from the interior forests to the beaches to spawn. It is a slow-moving stampede. While the crabs are not aggressive, seeing a moving wave like a gigantic seafood smorgasbord is a little terrifying. Some of the animals are 50 or 60 years old, and they are very large (nearly 5 inches long). The males are larger, and the females have daintier claws. The colors of the crabs vary: some are orange and coral-red, with a rare purple animal now and then. They eat almost anything, including grass, fresh or rotting leaves, and even dung!
The annual crab migration has a significant effect on the activities of Christmas Island residents. Signs that announce “Crabs cross here” are posted across the island. Crabs on the golf course create special rules during the migration, and shouts of “holy crab!” are heard often. They surround houses, get into the laundry and enter schools. Residents have even developed special crab-related expressions in honor of this strange event. Saying that someone “has a face like a smashed crab” is not a compliment, and “He’s off like a bucket of red crabs in the hot sea” is something better understood after experiencing the event.
While some locals do eat the red crabs, (they are edible and delicious) crab dinners are frowned upon by local government. Each year up to two million of the red crabs fail to complete their marathon journey because of hungry residents, squashing by cars, dehydration (it’s a long walk from the forest) and even cannibalism (watching them eat each other is terrifying!). The smell of dead crabs creates a pungent and unappetizing.
Jimmy Buffett once penned a song about this peculiar island: “How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? How’d you like to spend the holiday away across the sea? How’d you like to spend Christmas on Christmas Island? How’d you like to hang a stocking on a great big coconut tree?” Buffett neglected to mention one very important detail: this Christmas “paradise” is swarming with millions of red crustaceans. Talk about false advertising!
** Images courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons Project **