Thursday, December 1, 2011

Year 1 Top 5: First Place: Iceland

Year 1 Top 5: First Place: Iceland
Originally Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reason I choose it to be in the top five:
"Iceland possesses a spooky and otherworldly quality. It's awe inspiring majesty can be described as nothing less than the great Viking vision of Valhalla."


Skáleyjar á Breiðafirði, photo by Salvor Gissurardóttir, june 2006 coastline on the road from the landing place to the farm.

As I gathered these pictures of Iceland, I was truly blown away by the beauty of this place. Of all the countries and places I have covered so far I think this batch of pictures is the best.

Iceland is a small country. It only has 300,000 people, most of Viking descent. The island is cold, but not as cold as other places of the same latitude, why, if not for the Atlantic Gulf stream it would be frozen and barren.

Several animals have become distinct after hundreds of years of isolation in Iceland. There is a specific type of horse, sheep and dog unique to Iceland due to isolation.

Iceland is very volcanic. The center of the country is harsher than the coast and is colder and drier. Iceland is somewhat isolated but enjoys an extremely high standard of living. Icelander's on average are some of the longest lived (3rd overall and 1st in the world for men) and wealthiest people on the planet.

Flatey Thorp, 27 August 2004(2004-08-27)         Photo: Kolbrún Ragna

Hvammsfjördur in Iceland 2005

Breiðafjörður, Iceland By: Reykholt 13:21, 25 May 2004 (UTC)

Snaefellsnes Snaefellsjökull Summit. 29 May 2003 --Jutta234

 Church in Hellnar village with Snaefellsjökull volcano, Iceland. Chmee2/Valtameri


An Icelandic horse near Krýsuvík. Andreas Tille

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Icelandic Sheep, Photo: Thomas Quine 26 July 2007(2007-07-26). Photo

An Icelandic sheepdog, Photo: Arni Einarsson.

Sudureyri, Iceland, June 2008. Photo: Brad Weber.

Isafjordur (Ísafjörður) January 2006 Photograph: Aron Ingi Ólason

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Víti, the geothermal lake at the Askja caldera, Iceland. August 1, 2010. Photo: Boaworm

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Askja caldera 1991. Photo: Wolfgang Beyer.

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Reykjavik, Iceland. View from the top of Perlan showing the spire of Hallgrímskirkja. 13 July 2011(2011-07-13), Srikanth Jandhyala.

Drangajökull glacier in the Westfjords region in Iceland. August 2000. Photo: AgainErick

If you need a wide open space, Þórisjökull (Thorisjokull) is the place for you. 3-18-2007 Photo: Bromr

Kjölur, the central highland desert of Iceland. Photo: Algkalv. 18 July 2009(2009-07-18) Ph\

Cliff near Latrabjarg, Iceland. June 2008. Photo: Progresschrome

Westfjords, June 2008 Photo: Brad Weber.

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Bridge over Jökulsá á Breiðamerkursandi at Jökulsárlón, Iceland. 26 July 2009(2009-07-26). Photo: superbass

Ice block at beach near Jökulsárlón, Iceland.  11 February 2003(2003-02-11).P Photo: Andreas Tille

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Eyjafjallajökull glacier, taken from the Iceland Ring Road, during a trip on 29 August 2009. Photo: Remy Osman.

The mighty, beautiful and infamous E15 or Eyjafjallajökull. Photo: Boaworm 27 March 2010.

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Thermalgebiet in Hveravellir. 1 July 1988 Photo: Christian Bickel.

Norðfjörður Photo: ericoides August 2008(2008-08). Photo

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Year 1 Top 5: Second Place: Russia

Year 1 Top 5: Second Place: Russia
Originally Posted: Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reason I choose it to be in the top five:
"I was surprised at just how bleak much of the landscape in Russia is but more surprised at how much it intrigued me. Russia is the vastest place on earth and contains an astounding amount of natural resources and natural beauty."


After a week off from posting (call it a holiday) I am filing this one on Russia!

The topic of Russia is vast. The history, archaeology and geography each could be a blog. Russia is easily the largest country in the world by land area. It is the 9th largest in population behind Nigeria and ahead of Japan. Much of the land is harsh--but it is beautiful. The capital and largest city is Moscow (Москва). Saint Petersburg (Санкт-Петербург) Novosibirsk (Новосибирск), Yekaterinburg (Екатеринбург) and Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) round out the top 5 cities in Russia.Within Russia is 1/4th of the worlds fresh water, 100,000 rivers and the worlds largest timber reserves. Also, Russia has the second most total renewable water resources after Brasil.

Russia is a powerhouse in intellectual fields such as mathematics, science and strategy games (like chess). Russians are also a growing power in the music production field (which I am involved in). Some notable people from these fields include Grigori Perelman, Yakov Eliashberg, Nikolai Efimov, Albert Shiryaev and Garry Kasparov.

At different points in history, Russia has been considered a 'super-power'. Now, few would say it is. However, this could (and I think will) change soon. If the West continues its mindless direction, the future is Asia's and Russia is included in this. Russia is rich in oil and natural gas, a sure sign of strength. Rail transportation in Russia is dominated by Russian Railways, a monopoly which employs 950,000 people. The economy continues to improve for Russians.

Russia's physical geography is immense. Within Russia are many mountain ranges, lakes, rivers, deserts and tundra, taiga and almost every type of landscape. The land can be bleak but this makes it interesting. Cities are found all across Russia. From the northern most natural border with the artic to the eastern most natural border with the vast bering sea. Many parts of Russia get as cold as anywhere on the planet. The continental climate of much of Siberia means it also can get hot, sometimes, 99 degrees. I am definatly going to write more on Russia in the future.
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Osyotr river (Осётр река) 

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All Religions Temple. A building and cultural center build by the local artist Ildar Xanov. Photo and description: Maarten

Peterhof, St. Petersburg

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Outskirts of Serpeevka village. Cleyabinsk region, Russia. Окрестности деревни Серпеевка. Челябинская область, Россия. Photo: Скампецкий

Megalith near village Kazanovka in Republic Khakassia, Russian Federation. Photo by Anatoly Terentiev, 13 September 2000.
Khakassia view. Photo by Philipp Poddubitsky, 14 October 2000.

Megalith near village Safronov in Republic Khakasiya, Russian Federation. Photo by Anatoly Terentiev, 13 September 2000.

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Kezenoy Am (Кезеной Ам), 29 July 2009. Photo: Agidel

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Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky at night.
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Altai, Lake Kutsherla in Altay Mountains, Russia 2001. Photo: Stefan Kühn.

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Taiga Forest near Lake Baikal, Russia, 2008. Photo: Christophe Meneboeuf.

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Ignateva cave entry 2009 (Вход в Игнатьевскую пещеру) Photo: Sultan Brukhanov.

Ripe Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), February 2006 common to the Urals. Photo: Philipum.

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Ob River (Река Обь) Photo: Игоревич

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Lake Uvs (Убса) Photo: Jan Sysel.

^^Look how desolate the above picure is! Just earth and water, nothing else. It is stark, vast and a contradiction of inviting and uninviting. On the one hand, I would like to be there and see this place, on the other hand, I wouldn't want to be there forever.

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Yakutsk, 2007. Photo: "synchroswimr"/Stacy

*Caleb's Sidenote: Doesn't this picture look like it could have been taken in the 60's, 70's or 80's (it is dated 2007) ? I think Russia is fasinating, but it seems VERY depressing in some parts.

Lone Maiden Formation, Lena River.

Circum-Baikal Railway, southwestern tip of Lake Baikal.

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Nagayevo Bay near Magadan, Russia (Бухта Нагаева, вид с Магадана) 2006. Photo: Obersachse

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Forest-tundra landscape example (Norilsk, Russia environment) Образец заповедной  (2006-06-26) Photo: Grain

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The cliffs Brat ("Brother") and Sestra ("Sister") in the environs of Nakhodka, 2006. Photo: adfoto

Year 1 Top 5: Third Place: Sonoran Desert

Year 1 Top 5: Third Place: Sonoran Desert
Originally Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reason I choose it to be in the top five:
"This is the second most read article on this blog to date (it is the most read 'real post'. The most read is a post with a printable blank map of the world) and where do you start with such a haunting yet stunning place? The Sonoran Desert is proof that sometimes the harshest places are the most beautiful."


There are some special places on earth that people have connected with on a deeper level than other places. Israel, Greece, Japan, The British Islands, India, Peru, all have rich cultural and mystical aspects, with landscapes which inspire and have set the scene for history--more so than other places. Another place like this is the Sonoran Desert of North America.

North America has several Desertes. The largest is the Great Basin. The Chihahuan desert is the second largest, the Mojave the smallest. The Sonoran, is probably the most famous. The Sonoran desert is also home to the most famous and iconic desert plant in the world--the saguaro cactus. And believe it or not, this cactus, is native to only this desert. No where else on earth naturally has saguaro cactus.

The Sonoran desert is a land of rich diversity. Along with the iconic saguaro cactus, few plants are as iconic as the creosote bush (Larrea tridentata). Ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear, mesquite and palo verde are also important plants. When I was in Palm Srings, Coachella area a year or two ago, which is in the Mojave desert, I saw tons of 'jumping cholla'. Though I am sure footed, I was a victim of this cactus. I really liked them though--even if they do seem to jump out and stick you. Surprisingly there are 30 native species of fish in the Sonoran desert. In geologic time, the Sonoran desert is recent (see my post on Geography Changes for how geography isn't constant-in fact far from it).

This desert has fewer natural disasters than many other areas. Flash floods, lightning storms and days of extreme heat are a few of the risks. One interesting phenomenon, which have been in the news lately are the somewhat rare Haboobs. The Phoenix Haboobs of 2011 were a reminder of strange weather phenomenons not commonly known. The Phoenix Haboob of 2011 was national headlines and several more have already happened this year.

Now that the summer is going to begin slowly lifting its terror off of the southwest, I can actually bear to highlight this region.

Scene in Saguaro National Park.

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, USA.

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Two arches in organ pipe cactus national monument. Taken Christmas Day 2000 by Pretzelpaws with a Casio QV-3000EX camera, 2004-10-27 Photo:  Pretzelpaws.

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Hohokam Pima National Monument, Arizona, Jan 17, 2008. Photo: BruceandLetty .
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I love old photographs!
Saguaro National Park, East Unit, Southern Arizona - ca. 1935, USGS
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"This is an image of the Sonoran Desert approx. 30 miles west of Maricopa, AZ. (Near 33.081359, -112.431507)" Caption and photo by: Highqueue. January 2007(2007-01)..

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Organ Pipe & antler, OPNM, 21 July 2007. Photo: PDTillman.

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Taken at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. December 2006 Photo: Santryl
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180° Panorama on Playa Santispac of Bahía Concepción, Baja California Sur. Several islands are visible in the bay: (left to right) Isla San Ramon, Isla Blanca, and Isla Coyote. On the right is Playa Concepcion with its associated developments visible. Photo by Gregg M. Erickson. 17 December 2009(2009-12-17)"...

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View of Tiburon Island across Infiernillo channel. Stephen Marlett, 2007.

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Photo of street in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, taken November 2005 by Stan Shebs

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Baja California Desert in the Cataviña region, south of Ensenada, Mexico. Saguaro cactus. May 2003.

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 Chaparrales de Sonora, México 2004.

Cottonwood tree along Santa Cruz River on Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. Photo by Matthew A. Lynn.

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Sunset in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico. Atardecer en el Desierto de Sonora, Mexico. Tomas Castelazo.

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Hotels in Puerto Peñasco Gabrieel13

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Photos from Cerro de Trincheras in Sonora, Mexico 10 January 2010(2010-01-10), Photo: Matt Peeples.

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The silhouette of a large saguaro stands at sunset in Saguaro National Park on the east side of Tucson, Arizona, 2010. Photo: Saguaro Pictures.

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Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Taken atop an unnamed hill in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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Glendale, AZ during the Glendale Glitters 2004. Taken by user Evette.File:Scottsdale waterfront.jpg
View of the Scottsdale Waterfront on a clear December day. Photo taken from the new pedestrian bridge connecting the Marshall Way shops with the Fifth Avenue arts district. 31 December 2008, Joseph Plotz.
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Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA. Photo by Hugh Mason.

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Imperial Sand Dunes, Glamis, CA. Taken 8/8/03 by Pretzelpaws with a Canon 10D camera and cropped using the Gimp. 26 January 2005. Photo: Pretzelpaws.

Hastéecöla peaks near Kino Bay, Stevemarlett. 2007.
*Beautiful Picture!