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The cave so huge it has its own weather system

 Explorers discover a lost world with thick cloud and fogs trapped inside

Adventurers have stumbled across a cave so enormous that it has its own weather system, complete with wispy clouds and lingering fog inside vast caverns.

A team of expert cavers and photographers have been exploring the vast cave system in the
Chongquing province of China and have taken the first-ever photographs of the natural wonder.

They were amazed to discover the entrance to the hidden Er Wang Dong cave system and were stunned when they managed to climb inside to see a space so large that it can contain a cloud.

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The view from a small window in the wall of the vast Niubizi Tian Keng in the Er Wang Dong cave systemThe view from a small window in the wall of the vast Niubizi Tian Keng in the Er Wang Dong cave system, where clouds form inside the huge spaces. Three tiny explorers can be seen negotiating the heavily vegetated floor
An intrepid cave explorer ascends a rope hanging from the Niubizi Tian Keng. This photograph is one of the first-ever images taken of one of a cave so large it has its own weather systemAn intrepid cave explorer ascends a rope hanging from the Niubizi Tian Keng. This photograph is one of the first-ever images taken of one of a cave so large it has its own weather system

Photographer and caver Robbie Shone, from Manchester, was part of a team of 15 explorers on a month-long expedition that discovered the hidden system.

‘A few of the caves had previously been used by nitrate miners, at the areas close to the entrance, but had never been properly explored before,’ he said.

‘All the major passageways were deep underground and had never seen light before.

 

Exploring Chinese caves so big that they have own weather

Explorer Duncan Collis (pictured) climbs a thin rope up to a small ledge Explorer Duncan Collis (pictured) climbs a thin rope up to a small ledge overlooking the vast floor surface of Niubizi Tian Keng in the Er Wang Dong cave system. A team of expert cavers have been exploring the caves in the Chongquing province of China
the tranquil rural village of Ranjiagou falls nearby the hidden natural wonder
A caver stands on the central ridge overlooking the cathedral-like Cloud Ladder Hall, towering up into the fog

The tranquil rural village of Ranjiagou falls nearby the hidden natural wonder is pictured left, while an intrepid caver stands on the central ridge overlooking the cathedral-like Cloud Ladder Hall, where fog conceals the roof hundreds of metres above (right)

American speleologist Erin Lynch struggles to pull her way across a raging torrent of white water, which is the main river in Quankou DongAmerican speleologist Erin Lynch struggles to pull her way across a raging torrent of white water, which is the main river in Quankou Dong. One of the explorers said they had to be aware of high water levels inside the caves, especially when it rained heavily on the surface

‘It is always very special, knowing that you are the first to step foot into a cave or somewhere where nobody had previously seen, not knowing what you might find and discover.

‘Where else on Earth can still hold secrets and mysteries of discovery? That’s what I love so much about exploring.

Mr Shones was particularly excited about the cave network’s interior weather system.

The spectacular beddings in the roof of QuankouThe spectacular beddings in the roof of Quankou. Photographer and caver Robbie Shone, from Manchester, was part of a team of 15 explorers on a month-long expedition who stumbled across the natural wonder
The underground camp in Sang Wang Dong is cosy and warm, according to the caversThe underground camp in Sang Wang Dong is cosy and warm, according to the cavers. Hot food and drink recharge weary and tired explorers who sleep in either suspended hammocks or on roll mats on the floor, before venturing out into the vast surroundings
American speleologist Erin Lynch peers down over her shoulder into a giant void of cloudAmerican speleologist Erin Lynch peers down over her shoulder into a giant void of cloud.The floor is over 240m below and although it cant be seen due to the thick cloud that lingers around her, the echo that reverberates several seconds later reminds her of the volume of empty space and her lofty location

‘I had never seen anything quite like the inside cloud ladder before,’ he said.

‘Thick cloud and fogs hangs in the upper half of the cave, where it gets trapped and unable to escape through the small passage in the roof, 250m above the ground.

‘It reminded me of being in an abandoned slate quarrying North Wales in bad weather.

The cave system discovered is not the only one with clouds inside, as humidity rises inside the caverns into colder air to form clouds inside the giant, enclosed spaces.

Large stalagmites at the foot of a giant ascending ramp to another level of developmentLarge stalagmites at the foot of a giant ascending ramp to another level of development in San Wang Dong create a spectacle mid-way through a section of cave called Crusty Duvets
A giant calcite stalactite boss, dwarfs team member Matt Ryan as he looks up at the giant geological featureA giant calcite stalactite boss, dwarfs team member Matt Ryan as he looks up at the giant geological feature

The network, includes ‘Cloud Ladder Hall’ which itself  measures around 51,000 metres squared, while there are rivers and vegetation on the floor of some of its huge caverns.

‘Most caves are either accessed by large walking entrance, some require a long deep swim, other may be very vertical in nature where you need ropes to abseil down the walls deep into the caves.

‘We had to be aware of high water levels inside the caves, especially when it rained heavily on the surface.

‘The drainage catchment to these caves is massive and soon the caves can be extremely dangerous and impassable,’ he added.

One team member said it reminded him of being in an abandoned slate quarrying North Wales in bad weatherDuncan Collis and Erin Lynch walk through a section of cave in San Wang Dong called The Sea of Tranquility. Here remains of old Nitrate mining cover the floor in forms of harths – pits and unwanted spoil. One team member said it reminded him of being in an abandoned slate quarrying North Wales in bad weather
An explorer scales the rope up a vertical section of cave known as a pit in Xinu AtticAn explorer scales the rope up a vertical section of cave known as a pit in Xinu Attic
Crystal clear pools and slow moving streams make it easier to explore Quankou DongsCrystal clear pools and slow moving streams make it easier to explore Quankou Dongs main river passage in the huge network of caves that have not welcomed visitors in years

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2441450/Er-Wang-Dong-cave-China-huge-weather-system.html#ixzz2h3Co3jJZ

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The Lake That Petrifies Life

mg21929360.100-1_1200ACCORDING to Dante, the Styx is not just a river but a vast, deathly swamp filling the entire fifth circle of hell. Perhaps the staff of New Scientist will see it when our time comes but, until then, Lake Natron in northern Tanzania does a pretty good job of illustrating Dante’s vision.

Unless you are an alkaline tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica) – an extremophile fish adapted to the harsh conditions – it is not the best place to live. Temperatures in the lake can reach 60 °C, and its alkalinity is between pH 9 and pH 10.5.

The lake takes its name from natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified.

Photographer Nick Brandt, who has a long association with east Africa – he directed the video for Michael Jackson’s Earth Song there in 1995 – took a detour from his usual work when he discovered perfectly preserved birds and bats on the shoreline. “I could not help but photograph them,” he says. “No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.”

When salt islands form in the lake, lesser flamingos take the opportunity to nest – but it is a risky business, as this calcified bird (top) illustrates. The animals are all arranged in poses by the photographer. Above, on the right we have a sea eagle and on the left a dove, in what is surely the most horrific depiction of the “bird of peace” since Picasso’s Guernica.

Brandt’s new collection of photos featuring animals in east Africa, Across the Ravaged Land, is published by Abrams Books.

This article appeared in print under the headline “The lake that petrifies” via New Scientist

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Honeybees and Wasps: Up Close

The photos of native bees and wasps taken at the U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab are used for scientific purposes, but they are created with an eye for artistry.

“I tell the interns and techs that when they are taking these pictures, they are artists,” lab chief Sam Droege said via email. “We have powwows over the pictures after they are taken to discuss lighting, positioning, and the perennial problems of bad bee hair and dirty specimens.”

Droege’s team at the lab develops survey techniques, runs statistics, and creates monitoring programs to determine whether bee populations are declining. “There are likely species of bee much more threatened than honeybees. For most species we really don’t have any idea what the population status is, but for the relatively well studied bumblebees, we know that some species have crashed to the degree that we can no longer find them and may now be extinct,” Droege said.

The photos they take of bee specimens, as well as the plants and insects with which the bees interact, are used in identification guides and posters, presentations, and printed material. Their photographic techniques, based on those developed by the Army’s Institute of Public Health, require a camera with a large sensor area and a macro lens. They take multiple shots and stitch them together to make one photograph that’s entirely in focus.

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Chrysidid Wasp, Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Utah
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Halictus ligatus, female, Morris Arboretum, Philadelphia
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Xylocopa mordax, female, Dominican Republic, March 2012
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Augochloropsis metallica, female, Laurel, Md.
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

According to Droege, there are approximately 4,000 bee species north of Mexico. About 400 of them have not even been given a name yet—a fact, Droege said, that puts the study of bees about 100 years behind that of more commonly studied vertebrates like birds. Droege collects some of the specimens himself, but the majority come from national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. He posts the photos on Flickr for the sake of convenience and makes them available in the public domain.

When he started posting them, Droege said he had no idea that there would be so much interest in the photos outside of those who study them for a living or the occasional hobbyist. He suspects that giving online audiences an up-close view of the bees allows them to see the same beauty that scientists observe through their microscopes.

“Would one appreciate things like horses, cows, and the beasts of the African veld if they were the size of ants? Probably not,” Droege said. “But now everyone gets it. There is equal beauty and fantastical detail and color in these insects (many of which I literally just walk outside my house or lab and pick up) equal to those of what we bug heads call the charismatic megafauna [such as cheetahs or pandas]. Now we can finally demonstrate there is an equally charismatic microfauna, and you don’t have to go to Madagascar to find it.”

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Bembix americana, Female, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Leptochilus acolhuus, Key Biscayne National Park, Fla.
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Augochlora regina, female, Dominican Republic, March 2012
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Augochlorella aurata, female, Boonesboro, Md. It’s one of the most common bees in eastern North America.
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Lasioglossum puteulanum, male, Oahu, Hawaii, March 2012
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

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Ceratina dupla, female, Kings County, N.Y.
USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab

Article:  Jordan Teicher via  Slate

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1931 Histomap: The Entire History of the World in One Chart

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Click on Image to Zoom

This “Histomap,” created by John B. Sparks, was first printed by Rand McNally in 1931.

This giant, ambitious chart fit neatly with a trend in nonfiction book publishing of the 1920s and 1930s: the “outline,” in which large subjects (the history of the world! every school of philosophy! all of modern physics!) were distilled into a form comprehensible to the most uneducated layman. Continue reading

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Havana Bone Yard

Colon Cemetery in Havana, Cuba is the site of the celebrated ‘boneyard’. A single grave in the cemetery cost $10 in rent for five years. At the end of the five years, if the remains were not claimed, the bones were thrown into the boneyard  by the cemetery authorities.1009529_10151563511167076_945071548_o

In the 1890s, American soldiers often removed skulls and bones and drove through the streets of Havana displaying them. Their commander, General Brooke ordered the practice to stop and gave instructions for the pit to be covered over. Two cards, here, show American soldiers stood on the thirty foot deep pile holding up bones in the shape of the skull and crossbones. Photographs were taken and sold commercially as souvenir postcards to send home to their loved ones.

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Article via Creating Pictures in my Mind blog

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