Greenland is the 12th largest country in the world, yet its entire population would just barely be able to fill Michigan Stadium to half of its capacity. Virtually all pictures taken on the enormous island encapsulate this sparsely populated, remote nature, such as this one taken by Mads & Trine on Flickr. Greenland is a place with towns so small they have almost no signs, as residents already know where everything is. This photo was taken in Sisimiut, a town with a quaint population of just over 5,000 where the local school turns into a hostel for the summer. Located just north of the Arctic Circle, it’s an ideal place to catch the Northern Lights.
A fresh coating of snow can’t stop this child from enjoying a day on the beach in Gangneung, South Korea. Flickr user BaboMike describes the very surreal setting in which he captured today’s Photo of the Day:
Not the usual day at the beach. Fresh snow coupled with a beautiful day [makes for] a very unusual day out. No swimming or bikinis here. This kid was just throwing snow at his sister. Can’t blame him really.
[Photo Credit: Flickr user BaboMike]
Let’s play a quick word association game. I say “Bay of Pigs,” you tell me what comes to mind.
When I think of the Bay of Pigs, I think of crystal clear water stretching out as far as the eye can see. I think of black sand beaches and snorkel rentals. I think of a beautifully restored 1929 Ford Model T convertible, driven by a young man in a woven straw hat.
When my boyfriend and I traveled to Cuba last summer, we had few plans apart from exploring the cobblestoned streets of Havana. But after a few days in the capital, we felt the urge to escape. I wanted more culture and history; my boyfriend wanted nature and the beach.
We compromised with a trip to the Bahia de Cochinos on the southern coast of Cuba, better known to Americans as the Bay of Pigs. Guidebooks promised great snorkeling and scuba diving; I was more intrigued by the bay’s storied past.
The Bay of Pigs leapt to notoriety after an unsuccessful American CIA mission to invade Cuba in April 1961. Upon landing, the U.S.-trained troops were handily defeated by Fidel Castro’s forces in a matter of days. It was a turning point in the Cold War, proving the fallibility of the United States while reinforcing the strength of the Castro’s Communist regime.
Today, it’s hard to imagine the Bay of Pigs embroiled in anything but epic mosquito swarms. The bay holds the swampy Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata to the west, the black sand Playa Larga in the center and the rocky Playa Giron to the east. We arrived via taxi from nearby Cienfuegos and stayed at the Casa Enrique Rivas Fente in Playa Larga, one of a handful of privately owned casas particulares that dot the sandy strip. The rooms were basic but clean, and meal offerings included fresh grilled lobster and squid. Since we arrived on a Saturday night, we were welcomed by a private chanteur, who played Cuban music for a troupe of Ukrainian salsa dancers staying at the casa next door.
Between mojitos, we asked our host for the best way to explore the peninsula. We had in mind bicycles, or perhaps a CUC$2 motorbike ride from stop to stop. Instead, our host recommended a taxi service run by her son. “This is the best way,” she assured us, a hint of mischief in her eye. We balked at the CUC$35 fee, but given the remote nature of the guesthouse and region, we had little choice.
The next morning, we arose to breakfast and the sight of a perfectly preserved 1929 Ford Model T convertible parked in the driveway. This would be our ride for the day, our host informed us. Budget concerns aside, it was difficult to protest.
We hit the road, bound for the Cueva de los Peces, an inland freshwater swimming hole formed from a flooded cave. The water is refreshing but deep, stretching 230 feet into the ground. Nearby is a stand where you can rent scuba and snorkeling gear, and across the road is a rocky bluff looking out onto pristine white-sand snorkeling ground. Beach chairs are available for hire, but the real draw is the water, with its clear visibility, bright coral and sprightly tropical fish. Our driver staked out a spot by the snorkel stand and traded car tips with his friends while we enjoyed the sea.
After working up an appetite from the ocean air, we continued to Punta de Perdiz, a popular spot on Playa Giron with an on-site restaurant and cabanas. A serving of arroz con pollo and a Cristal beer hit the spot. The cabanas at Punta de Perdiz were slightly more conducive to lounging and reading, so we alternated baking in the sun with more dips in the water.
At one point, I staked out a spot on a bluff and looked out onto the sea. I tried to imagine undercover sea craft entering the bay and helicopters dropping paratroopers into the jungle. I thought about America’s contentious relationship with Cuba, about the outdated judgments many still hold toward Cuba and about our trip thus far. There’s a widespread belief that once foreigners are freely able to visit and invest in Cuba, the island will become a wasteland of gringo tourists and McDonald’s. With travel restrictions continuing to loosen, it will require a serious commitment to sustainable tourism and development to ensure that Cuba can benefit from increased development, without losing what makes it so special.
A few hours later, we hopped into the Model T and headed back to reality, impressions of the bay forever changed.
[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]
For 50 years, the underwater Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys has been an important center for oceanic exploration. Today, it is the last remaining undersea research station in the world. But funding for the program is about to be cut and unless a new source is found, Aquarius will soon be shut down.
To bring attention to this issue, One World One Ocean and MacGillivray Freeman Films are teaming up for Mission Aquarius, a six-day underwater expedition and media campaign headed up by Dr. Sylvia Earle, an oceanic research pioneer and National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence. By documenting the expedition, these parties hope to bring attention to the accomplishments of the Aquarius Reef Base, as well as highlight the importance of oceanic research and the challenges facing the world’s oceans.
“We know more about the moon than we do about our ocean, which sustains all life on this planet,” Earle said in a release. “Only by making undersea exploration and research an international priority can we learn what we need to know about the ocean to protect it and protect ourselves.”
Mission Aquarius, which runs from July 16 to 21, will provide a fascinating glimpse at life 60 feet under the sea. Individuals will be able to dive into real-time footage on Ustream.TV, explore related content on One World One Ocean‘s website and sign an online petition to signal their support for continued program funding.
Look out! It’s a long way down in today’s photo, brought to us by Flickr user Buck Forester. Similar to the shot Alex selected this past Friday, today’s photo was also taken along the gorgeous beaches of Kauai in Hawaii, just from an entirely different perspective. Instead of walking along this rugged island’s eye-popping shoreline, Buck takes us to another view high above the waves below, providing this colorful, vertigo-inducing look at the view from the top.