Photo Of The Day: Crossing The Frozen Songhua River In China

With daytime getting longer and longer each day, spring is soon approaching. But winter doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere anytime soon – especially in places like this one, featured in this photo by Flickr user Bernard Siao taken in Harbin, a city in northeastern China.

The frozen Songhua River freezes hard in the winter and people commonly cross it on foot, but as you can see in this photo, there’s another option to dart across the frozen river on a horse-drawn carriage. Harbin is a city of interesting and unique history. Originally founded by Russia and inhabited by Jewish immigrants, it also hosts the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which goes on throughout January.

If you have some great photos just sitting there, fragmenting on your hard drive, share them with us on Instagram or in our Gadling Flickr Pool and they can be featured as our “Photo of the Day.”

[Photo Credit: Flickr User Bernard-SD]

A photo tour of Russia’s aging wooden churches

Ever seen an unknown sight on a postcard and had a sudden urge to visit? Professional photographer Richard Davies knows the feeling well. Davies, who specializes in architectural photography, discovered a postcard series of unique fairy-tale style wooden churches located in Northern Russia and decided he simply had to visit. The result is Wooden Churches, a series of beautiful photographs of these forgotten landmarks.

The wooden church architecture of Russia is unlike anything on earth. Largely built during the 18th and 19th Centuries, these iconic structures have weathered a storm of changes ever since, ranging from harsh winters to the churches’ abandonment during the years of Soviet Communism. Many of the structures today remain in a state of tragic disrepair, damaged by vandals, neglect and the constant barrage of the weather.

Davies’ photo collection perfectly captures the beauty and neglect of these amazing structures. The barren Russian landscapes, the sense of decay and the intricate architecture will make viewers feel like they’ve stumbled upon the remains of a fantasy civilization. It’s a great way to raise awareness for preserving these amazing landmarks before they crumble to dust.


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Go Reindeer sledding in Russia this winter

Forget dog-sledding. For the ultimate winter endurance test, try reindeer sledding in Eastern Russia with Russia Discovery’s 9-night excursion into the “Pole of Cold” in Yakutia.

The tour is not for the faint of heart or those who want to be pampered. In fact, Urban Daddy calls it “the most physically demanding holiday celebration outside the Polar Bear Club”. Listed as a requirement for the tour is physical fitness and “physical and psychological resistance to the cold.” How cold? Pretty darn cold. The average temperature in January is -40C.

if you think you can brave the freezing temps, you’ll start your tour with a day in Yakutsk where you can visit the Institute of Permafrost before setting out on a 19 hour drive to Yuchugey, a settlement of reindeer herders. By day three, you’ll be practicing your hand at reindeer sledding; on day four you’ll spend 5-6 hours crossing the frozen terrain by sled and then sleeping outdoors in a 4X4 tent. Another day of sledding (in total, the sledding covers 35 miles over two days) is followed by a 20 hour drive back to Yakutsk. On day eight you can visit a husky farm and compare dog-sledding to reindeer sledding before returning to Moscow.

The tour isn’t cheap at €3560 per person, but included in the cost are all meals and accommodations, rental of all the furry outer wear required to keep you from dying of hypothermia, and the chance to feel like Santa as you glide over a snowy landscape pulled by a team of real live reindeer.

Bowermaster’s Antarctica — Sharp Peak

Standing at the foot of Sharp Peak, a 4,000-foot-tall snow-covered granite peak rising straight up from the sea, beneath a 360-degree indigo sky, today just might be the most beautiful I have ever seen in Antarctica. Though even as I write that, I knowingly admit it’s impossible to compare days, especially here, since I’ve witnessed so many beautiful ones here over the past twenty years.

But this one was a beauty with a Capital B. Sitting off Prospect Point I am surrounded by THE most spectacular wilderness on the planet. Running about in a Zodiac on a glass-calm black sea, snowcapped mountain ranges circle me marked every few miles by substantial towering glacier tongues. Thick new snow is piled up on the hills and six-foot-thick fast ice (frozen sea) extends from the continent. Dozens of penguins and seals swim and fish, then slide up onto the ice for a rest. Flat-topped tabular icebergs bigger than small apartment buildings – crystal blue and surreal white – sit grounded in the bay or frozen into the fast ice. The sun is high and air temperatures reach to nearly forty … (earlier in the day I heard it was -10 F in Minneapolis!). Aaaaah, Antarctica!

Last year we tried climbing Sharp Peak, but were forced to quit before we started due to too-soft snow and crevasses masked by flat, grey skies. On that day the bay was chock full of floating ice of all sizes; this year most of the winter ice has already been blown out. Though we wouldn’t have had much luck climbing it peak today either, due not to slushy snow, just way too much of it.
It is particularly hard on a day like this, surrounded by ice that is hundreds of years old and mountains covered by new-fallen snow, that one day much of this whiteness lining the Antarctic Peninsula could be gone. Though the air temperatures along the Peninsula have risen during the past fifty years by nine degrees Fahrenheit, the biggest increase on the planet, it is still easy for critics of climate change and its impacts to use this exact vista to suggest that no amount of warming, no matter who or what is responsible, will ever make a difference to this place.

But despite appearances, evidence is all around: All along the Peninsula average temperatures of air and surface water are way up. Eighty-seven percent of all of the continent’s glaciers are flowing faster then ever and have receded. Each year the frozen continent is losing enough ice mass to cause the world’s oceans to rise about .05 inches, adding about 40 trillion gallons of fresh water to the world’s ocean, equivalent to the amount of water used by all U.S. residents every three months. Estimates for sea level rise are on the order of eighteen to twenty feet over the next couple millennium, but we’re not sure if it all may arrive in the same one hundred years. Ice shelves the sizes of small states along the Peninsula are fracturing at alarming rates.

The best analogy I can make for what is happening down south will be familiar to anyone who lives in a cold weather, ice-and-snow climate. Serious scientists in Antarctica talk about a “critical point,” when the combination of warm temperatures, precipitation and loss of ice cover will encourage Antarctica to melt very, very quickly. Think of your own backyard on a warm day at the end of a long winter; your yard, your stoop has been covered in snow and ice for several months and then on early spring day, after a momentous day of rain and warm temperatures, the last remnants of winter disappear … just like that.

The very same could happen here, which is the worry. Though I will admit to understanding why, on a day like today surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of ice and snow, there are still some out there who doubt the globe is warming precipitously. I am not one of them.

Click HERE for more dispatches from Antarctica!

Thinking Cold Thoughts for 2007

Britain’s Meteorological Office announced that 2007 will be a record year for heat, and we will have that wonderful El Nino “weather phenomenon” to thank. So, in an effort to think cool thoughts, I’m passing on this picture from January 2005 of an ice storm’s effects.

This freezer-burned landscape was found along Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Apparently, the spray from the lake turned to ice, and subsequently ruined the day of the poor folks who parked by the water.