Franklin, you crazy son of a bitch…

September 23, 2014

Wooden boats.  Frostbite.  Dysentery.  Not knowing where you’re going while being 100% cold all the time.  7:00pm.  My place.  BYO-1,700 litres of whisky.

Arctic explorers from the 16th to 20th century… were ridiculous.  I’m not sure if you’ve been following the news lately, but an incredibly old mystery has been partially solved; One of the ships from the Franklin Expedition of 1845 was found in the Queen Maud Gulf, near King William Island.  Coincidently, I just moved to the city (to put it mildly) of Iqaluit, which is on the southern tip of Baffin Island.  So, the discovery of a ship of a doomed expedition from 170 years ago, now essentially in my backyard, got my rusty braingears slightly cranked over.

Needless to say, I’ve been reading up on all the (super cool only) arctic expeditions of the past.  Now, I’ve been pretty enthralled my explorers of old, and I have a couple books… But this doesn’t make me any sort of expert… nor have I read said books yet, because let’s face it, I suck at reading.  Not because I’m illiterate, but it’s more related to my short attention span,  which is why I stick to magazine articles instead… By the time my mind wanders, I’m done reading!  Huzzah!  Win-win.  However, lately I’ve been picking up these before-mentioned books, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m reading a little more each time.

Side sonar of one of Franklin's lost ships.  I hate to admit, but the fact that's it's "side sonar" confused the hell of out of me for ages, as I couldn't convince myself that this was a side view of the ship.... Because it isn't.

Side sonar of one of Franklin’s lost ships. I hate to admit, but the fact that’s it’s “side sonar” confused the hell of out of me for ages, as I couldn’t convince myself that this was a side view of the ship…. Because it isn’t.

Currently, I’m reading a book called Fatal Journey, which even though I’m only 30 pages in, I wouldn’t recommend so far.  I started reading it to learn of Henry Hudson’s final journey to find the northwest passage (which ended in mutiny and was left to fend for himself in the Bay that bears his name… technically this isn’t a spoiler), which they basically covered already, and the rest of the book appears to chat about why they took the journey, which doesn’t involve as much tragic-ness and mayhem as I would’ve liked.  But I’ll keep reading it, because I’m committed like that.

However, the mention of so many other explorers that were solely looking for the Northwest Passage, got me going.  I mean come on, I live on Frobisher Bay for crap’s sake… Martin Frobisher being one of the first explorers paddling after the passage in the 1500s.  He didn’t find it (after three tries).  What he DID find was a shatload of “gold”, which he flled his boat up with and brought back to England…. Only to find it was the fooliest of minerals…. pyrite*.  Fell for one of nature’s oldest tricks in the book.  I’m pretty sure if I did that with any of my jobs, my career would be over.

*Pyrite being “fool’s gold”.  Utterly worthless and found absolutely everywhere… Super pretty, though.

Henry Hudson being the next super man to head off in a northwesterly direction in 1609.  He attempted a couple times, I believe, and utterly ended up in James Bay (just below Hudson’s Bay), where his crew said “forget you”, and dropped him and 8 others off in a rowboat, and then headed back to England in 1611.  Needless to say, people were suspicious of the whole story that the “survivors” of the expedition weaved together.

Then there was the most famous and newsworthy explorer of them all… Sir John Franklin.  Why he was more newsworthy than all the others, I’ll never know.  I figure any explorer who’s willing to tackle the relentless hardships of the arctic, deserves equal recognition.  Also, Hudson’s journey had mutiny and murder, so why not?!  Regardless, Franklin’s expedition involved two ships, forever destined to explore together: the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, who set sail in May of 1845.  Long story short, they were technically on the right track to finding their way through the NW Passage, however their ships were frozen in at Queen Maud Bay, which is just off the northern coast of present day Nunavut.  The crew wintered for two years, where the ships never sailed again and eventually, all were lost to the winter cold.

The HMS Terror... A giant boat of a.... boat.  Ship?  She (or the HMS Erebus, they're not sure) was discovered in the Queen Maud Gulf under only 11 meters of water.  I can see why she bottomed out.

The HMS Terror… A giant boat of a…. boat. Ship? She (or the HMS Erebus, they’re not sure) was discovered in the Queen Maud Gulf under only 11 meters of water. I can see why she bottomed out.

While all of this is super fascinating to me, I kept asking myself, “After all this searching for the Northwest passage, who actually “discovered” and sailed it?”.  Enter Roald Amundsen.  A name I can honestly say I’ve never heard of… Know why?  Probably because unlike all previous explorers, he survived.

The Gjoa.... Much, much smaller than Franklin's ships.  Methinks Amundsen was a smart, smart man.

The Gjoa…. Much, much smaller than Franklin’s ships. Methinks Amundsen was a smart, smart man.

Granted, he traveled the Passage in 1903-1906, which you think would’ve been slightly more advanced, technologically, but really it sounds like it was just a different approach that determined the outcome.  For instance, Franklin (and others) embarked on his adventure with over 126 men on quite the large ship… Heavy, awkward, and full of… dudes.  Amundsen, a Polish explorer, had only a fishing trawler that he had just recently purchased, named Gjoa, with a total of….. 6 men.  Supposedly, one of the biggest reasons the Gjoa made it was due to the fact that the boat was small and light enough, that it could pass through the many shallow passages through the North.

So, this post turned out to be much much longer than I thought, so I’m going to end it there.  There’s a little history, and just overall awesomeness…


Caustic Soda…. I might be the last to know.

December 8, 2012

… But oh well, I’m always glad to stumble upon a podcast of awesome.

So Caustic Soda is a fantastic podcast, mostly concerned about the most random, yet oddly relatable topics you can think of. It’s quite morbid, which is basically a required personality trait for my family, so I’m quite naturally drawn to it.

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Like I mentioned, I’m pretty behind on the episodes, but just finished listening to the Music episode, which touches base with music used in the U.S. military as an experimental form of torture, which actually makes ridiculous sense. One of the songs mentioned was “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, and when it was mentioned I couldn’t remember how the song went at all. Later on that day, had a tune in my head I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was, until my girlfriend said “Why are you singing We Didn’t Start the Fire?”… Human brains, I tells ya!! Crazy shit….

Anyways, I digress. There’s often a solid guest host on the show, in this case Canadian comedian Sean Cullen. If you’re looking for solid Sean Cullen, CBC’s The Debaters, specifically Pie vs. Cake is a good place to start (Season 4, I think). Regardless, the podcast was a good find, and chock full of fun facts. The website is just as awesome, with extra material that is just too damned visual for a podcast.

Check it out and enjoy!

Caustic Soda Podcast


Titanic II – Guaranteed to Make It!

May 2, 2012

Well some rich son-of-a-bitch stole my idea…. The Australian billionaire, Clive Palmer, is looking to make more history and build an exact replica of the Titanic.

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Now where ARE those lifeboats?

Now I’m thinking this is an awesome idea, the man is a genuis, I’d buy a ticket.  Alright, genuis is a strong word…. The man is rich, and I’m surprised no one has done this earlier.  With all the news of big lovable modern cruiseships these days (due to their untimely incidents, naturally), you can’t help but Google them and see what they’re all about… and what they’re all about, is effing huge.  I mean, they’re huge!  Why the shit would you go spend money to be on a boat, when the them of the boat is to be on land (i.e. movie theatres, market squares, etc).  It just doesn’t make sense, then again I’ve never been on a cruise, so I’m somewhat bias.

What I like about the idea of the Titanic is that it’s a step backwards, in a sense.  A new cruise is ship is going to be built that is not going to be anywhere near the largest ship on the ocean, nor is it going to be the fastest.  It’s not going to have any room for the fanciness of the Allure of the Seas.  It’s to be an exact replica of a historic monument.

Obviously, there are going to be some modern additions… Lifeboats, for one.  I was just reading about the lifeboats on the Allure of the Seas and how ridiculous they are (in a good way).  I also hope they don’t segregate passengers this time around, because by George I won’t be able to afford a first class ticket. You know who I think had it rough back then?  Second class…. According to James Cameron, 1st class were quite posh, has everything.  Third class, partying it up in the basement and basically have the run of the place.  Second class?  Just sitting around I guess… no mention.  Then again I haven’t seen the movie in a long time…. OR in 3D!

Regardles, Titanic II is going to be a smash hit (is that an 80s term?  I feel like it’s outdated), and I for one would definitely buy a ticket (but bringing my own lifejacket).

Anyways, sidenote, apologies for not putting up anything interesting (as in, anything at all).  I really have been sucking at this lately, but I’m oh-so struggling to keep doing it!

Keep tabs, I swear!


Breaking News Video Awesome…!

August 26, 2010

So, I just found my new favourite website.

Which, now that I look at it a little more closely, I think I’ve been to it before.  Anyways, it’s called the Breaking News Video Network (BNVN), and it’s a site chock full of videos showing severe weather phenomena, as well as natural disasters and other atmospheric…. phenomena.  I don’t like to use the same word twice in a sentence.

This site combines my two favourite loves… severe weather, and watching it.  It’s fantastic stuff.  Lightning storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and now I’m watching floods.  Not so much extreme flooding, but just videos of cars driving through flooded streets.  I don’t know what it is about it, but I could watch it for hours.  Before geology, I always wanted to get into meteorology, but I figured it usually ended up with telling a weatherman what to say, or just overall sitting behind a desk and not getting to see much weather, except during your drive to and from said desk.  Also the program involved a lot of physics.  After that first year class, no thanks.  But now it’s related to everything I talk about, who knew!?

If you weren’t clever enough to find the two links in the above writing, here it is in plain sight below.

Breaking News Video Network


More Icelandic Boom Boom!!

April 15, 2010

I’m telling you, Iceland’s gonna go ooooffff!

The same volcano in Iceland, which for some reason doesn’t have a name, which erupted last month, is at it again!  It’s located in the Eyjafjallajoekull area, so we’ll just call it that… but not out loud, because that’s just ridiculous.

Unlike the last eruption, this one actually occurred under glacial ice, raising water levels in rivers by several metres before the eruption even began.  No casualties whatsoever, however quite a few villages had to be evacuated.

This isn't Iceland, but pretty cool, yeah?

But while this eruption is wreaking havoc for parts of Iceland, the stories in the news are concentrated elsewhere.  Again, unlike the last eruption, this one released tons and tons of volcanic ash into the air, and prevailing winds are smackin’ Europe in the face!!  Long story short, don’t get on that plane, yo!  Flights anywhere to and from most of Europe, are grounded because of all the ash flying about.

Why does this mess things up?  Well when most people think of ash, they think of the stuff left in firepits basically… wood ash.  Volcanic ash is a little different.  Think of it as smashing a window down to a dust, because that’s what volcanic ash is…. glass.

Getting fine glass sucked up into an engine just isn’t a good thing.  Haven’t you ever seen Dante’s Peak?!  Actually, however lame that movie is, scientifically it’s probably more accurate than any other volcano movie.  Except for no geologist looks like Pierce Brosnan…. except for me, I’m fucking dashing.

So for your enjoyment, here are pictures of me in geology action!:

Here I am getting ready to unload some samples...

Here I am questioning my career choices...


Guess what? MORE holes into the abyss…

April 3, 2010

… And no, I’m not talking about your mom.

Discovered by two smart people at the University of Arizona, two black holes that are not only ‘supermassive’, but also theorized to be the most primitive black holes discovered so far.

Black hole..... just a young'in.

How do they know this?  Well supposedly, in the beginning, there was no dust… literally.  Seeing as the universe had barely been created, cosmic ‘dust’ has not yet been created to float around the universe, therefore could never be accreted into the classic dusty disk that is commonly seen swirling around the common black hole that we’re used to seeing so far.

Think of it like Saturn.  You know, the planet with the rings.  Now Saturn’s gravity is so great, that it attracted all dust and rock into it’s orbit, creating it’s rings.  Now, if Saturn was created just after the creating of the universe, it wouldn’t have any rings because there would be nothing around to be sucked into it’s orbit… this is obviously hypothetical because technically nothing would be around to created Saturn either.

Anyways, when NASA was looking for black holes (or not looking for them, I dunno), they were looking for classic signatures involving quasars with accretion disks (rings of dust) to be associated with them.  So when they were surprised to find these two without any of those classic signatures, then I’m sure you can figure out the rest… because I just mentioned it.  Above.  You didn’t read it, did you?  Shhiiiitt…

Feel free to comment though if you’re not following, that’s what this blog is for!


Thunder Bay gone viral…

February 11, 2010

… As in, viral video, not zombie viral.

While this has absolutely nothing to do with science at all, a music video has cropped up on YouTube purely about Thunder Bay (my hometown), and it’s basically been all over CBC Radio around here (that’s how awesome this place is).  It’s actually decently good, and pretty much describes this place to a tee.  Check it out…

While I’m not a huge fan of rap, I’m diggin it…