Looking for Wildlife

Like everyone, lock-down is beginning to wear on me. And even though the corona virus is more likely to result in complications and death for those 60+ and the infirm, media reports have shown that these can also strike the young and healthy. So, deciding to go back to our work and social settings is a bit like playing Russian Roulette, isn’t it? The whole experience is quite surreal. The world around us appears as it was, but it’s not.

Despite a still growing number of Covid-19 cases in Maine, the governor is starting to open things up, slowly. Recently, I’ve been out with the camera looking for some good places to photograph, though trips to the mountains and back country will have to wait. The object is to find out what hangs out where, then return later (typically at twilight periods) and take up a hidden position and wait.


NOAA’s 2019 Arctic Report Card

Courtesy: Greenland Travel
Ilulissat, Greenland, September 9, 2014 (Courtesy: Greenland Travel)

Unattributed photo

When most of us hear of polar warming it’s often about sea-level rise. True enough. However, Arctic warming is more problematic than Antarctica warming in terms of geopolitical conflict as China, Russia, Canada, and the U.S. vie for control of the newly opening waters. This is just one way in which climate change contributes to national conflicts.

Common to both Polar Regions, climate change also threatens wildlife–polar bears could be headed for extinction because the ice flows they depend on for catching seals and fish are disappearing. Penguins are at risk due to changes in their food supplies. These changes, along with rising sea-level, threaten the coastal villages of northern peoples.

We hear that the Polar Regions are warming at a faster rate than the equatorial and temperate regions. Why might this be? According to NASA’s Patrick Taylor, the seasonality of the polar warming is largely a result of energy in the atmosphere that is being transported to the poles through large weather systems. He said, “The total warming at the poles is due to changes in clouds, water vapor, surface reflection of sunlight and atmospheric temperature. But there is greater warming in the winter than in the summer and that is caused by energy transport.”

As the tundra starts to defrost and the oceans warm, methane (having about 25 times the greenhouse effect as carbon dioxide) is released. The summer of 2019 saw a ring of tundra files around the Arctic Circle land masses, further releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Though we cannot say with scientific certainty, we might already have reached a tipping point, meaning that even if our fossil emissions were reduced to zero by 2050, the then levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere along with the continued release of carbon dioxide and methane from wildfires, warming tundra and oceans, and volcanoes would continue to heat the planet. See what’s happening to Greenland’s ice.

You can read the entire 2019 Arctic Report Card here.


Another Short Bike Ride

South Portland from the Maine State Pier

back on the bike a couple of days ago. There was little or nothing in the way of tanker or freighter traffic. Nor was there much in the way of street traffic, much to the delight of myself and other cyclists. Very unfortunately though, no cafes to duck into, either.

Cycling Up the Eastern Promenade

So far this spring the weather hasn’t met my minimum  requirements too often for cycling (wind <25 mph, no rain, and temp 50º F +). However, two days ago I did have an opportunity to begin some hill training. Here’s a shot from the Promenade looking across Casco Bay with Fort Gorgeous; and Little Diamond (left), Peaks (center), and House (right) Islands in the background.

JPL’s Deep Space Network (Hold the Baloney)

After reading my Earth Day 2020 post you might be wondering how on “Earth” NASA keeps track of all the probes way out there in space. We all know that boats, cars, and airplanes all need constant course corrections. So, how is this done? It all happens at Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California where I had the opportunity to visit in 1986. In fact, I was there just as the very first close-up images of Halley’s Comet taken by the deep space probe, Giotto, were being displayed on the internal monitors. How neat was that! These would later be cleaned up before sending them out to the media.

Later, our guide met us and showed us around the facility’s technical equipment, including the mission control room, as you can see in the link. Looking much like an air traffic control radar room, here the controllers monitor the probes, not with radar but with radio communications. Just as with all the manned spaceflight missions, there are three antenna stations located at Goldstone, Southern California; Madrid Spain; and Canberra, Australia. Together, these enable constant communication with the probes as the Earth rotates.

Communication is a bit tricky since commands have to be issued well ahead of time, depending on how far out the probe is. Commands also have to be timed within micro (or Nano?) seconds so any course corrections don’t send the probe off the adjusted course. This has to be done by computers since they are much better than humans at dealing with microseconds or less. There is, however, a digital atomic clock (based on the radioactive decay rate of Cesium) on the wall for human reference. It has an accuracy of +/- 1 second every 3 billion years, so you don’t have to reset it too often.

During this time of growing distrust of science and more acceptance of superstition and unsubstantiated beliefs, Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit might help you discern what’s possibly real.

Earth Day 2020

Iconic Earth
Iconic Earth (NASA: Via Apollo 17

There was time when we believed that we were the center of the universe and that we should have dominion over the Earth. But then Copernicus came along who asserted that the Sun is indeed the center of our solar system, the Moon being the only body that revolved around the Earth. I’m sure you know that this resulted in a bit of an uproar. As for the dominion idea, our use of resources and over-hunting and factory farming of animals has led to climate change and the current sixth extinction. You can see how climate change has played out at Glacier National Park in the following photos.

It wasn’t so long ago that Carl Sagan and climate scientists started sounding the alarm that we were going down a dangerous path. Subsequent climate data has revealed that those early projections vastly underestimated what was happening, since we now know that climate change is not a linear but an exponential process. That is, it happens faster and faster over time.

Via Voyager 1

The now famous photograph of Earth as a pale blue dot was taken on February 14, 1990 by the deep space probe, Voyager 1, from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). The more recent

Via Cassini

photograph was taken by the deep space probe, Cassini. Though more striking with Saturn in the foreground, it also shows how Earth is but a spec in the cosmos. As Sagan said in his book: Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. (Carl Sagan, The Pale Blue Dot, 1994)

People often say we have to save the Earth. Not so! The Earth will go on just fine without us. The issue is preserving the current biosphere that supports us and the other higher vertebrates. There will always be life on the planet so long as there’s liquid water. Here is my fictionalized account of our worst scenario. Let’s do better!

Happy Earth Day!

More Reruns

Here are a few more past photos from all around. Taken during a trip from Danielson, CT to Rochester, NY, we encountered pop-up thunderstorms near Syracuse, NY where we diverted to Griffiss Airport (a former SAC B-52 field, we really had to step on the brakes to stop in time on that 12,000 foot runway!)  to wait the storms out before completing our trip. Another single-engine plane flying to Philadelphia decided diverting was a good idea also. Fortunately, like most airports, this one had excellent vending machine snacks!

A friend of mine and I hiked up Avalanche Pass a few years ago (yes, you can see all the trees knocked over from prior slides–yikes!), starting at 6 AM at

Southwest bound on Avalanche Lake

-8º F. Cool!! It was an 11 mile round trip, only stopping for lunch on the lake (no boat necessary).   We couldn’t keep our mittens off for too long while eating lunch (though by then my thermometer read +8º F–a full 16º increase. On the way back we ran into a young guy who had been overnight backpacking. He said he loved cold weather camping, except for getting out of the bag in the morning to get dressed–I guess so!

Fog always makes for great shots and who could resist the red hull of this

Fogged Sailboat

sailboat. I don’t have much to say about this, it just looked picturesque.


I went to a fair on Maine’s mid-coast where I found some very strange looking people. Actually, these are two of my friends, so don’t laugh.

Speaking of strange, Halloween brings out some weird

The nether judge

things in Maine’s nether world. As I mentioned in my photo book, a friend of mine was found guilty in the judge’s court of eating a baloney sandwich–on white bread no less! You can see him


disappearing into the netherworld to serve out his sentence.

People love waterfalls. Fast shutter or slow shutter, given the right light, they all look great. As you can see, sometimes I’ve ventured into the Adirondacks when the weather was, well, nice. Here my friend Dave is shooting with a tripod and likely getting a better photograph than me.

And, of course, I can’t leave out my August arrival at 40°F into Kuujjuaq for an expedition to the tundra. A friend of mine and I flew nearly three hours from Montreal to Kuujjuaq, Quebec. As you can see, on these northern flights cargo gets first class seating. One nice thing, there’s no weight restriction or extra fees on either carry-on or stowed baggage. Just pack it in, baby. Most of people’s gear was winter clothing, and a variety of shopping items.  Ours was photography and camping supplies. First Air and Air Inuit are both owned by the Inuit people.

There are no roads out of Northern Quebec so flying is the only means of

Raptor 864 on the Ramp at Kuujjuaq

travel (no requirement for license plates on your vehicle. If you hit and run, they’ll find you easily enough). There is  barge service to bring vehicles, fuel oil, construction, and other heavy cargo, but there is only a three month window where the barges can get into the Koksoak River. Given all the rocks in the river, barges can only be towed in towards high tide, then they have to wait for the next high tide to depart. Needless to say, UPS/ground is not available here.

After spending two days photographing in Kuujjuaq we caught our bush plane, a turbine driven, single-engine de Havilland Otter on floats for a one hour ride up to Lake Diana on the tundra. Bye, bye trees (tundra is where trees don’t grow, the tree-line of the north, so to speak). Very cool!

Portland Today

After getting up at 5 AM to get to the 6 AM senior roundup at the market, it was good to actually go out the door for a second time in one day. Wow! It was still a bit on the crisp side at 50°F, but I took the bike into the Old Port area (Once the shelter in place restrictions are lifted I’ll start traveling to the various environmental vistas around Maine.). The streets, of course, are still pretty empty, making cycling safer. I took a photo on one of the piers. Unfortunately, I set the camera’s ISO to automatic. Most of the time this works fine at 1/125 @ f/8, but today I was set at 1/60 and the ISO couldn’t go low enough to compensate. The clouds blew out as a result (looks kind of interesting though).

I still have a long way to go to reach last year’s conditioning. My goal is to enter Casco Bay Cycling Club’s century ride in September. I do intense aerobic work on these city rides, but I need the anaerobic, endurance workouts. But these will have to wait for the club’s group rides to restart.

If you’re a cyclist training for an event, let me know what you’re doing for training.