Giant Squid, Once A Myth, Today A Reality

The giant squid (genus: Architeuthis) is a deep-ocean dwelling squid in the family Architeuthidae, represented by as many as eight species. Giant squid can grow to a tremendous size (see Deep-sea gigantism): recent estimates put the maximum size at 13 metres (43 ft) for females and 10 metres (33 ft) for males from caudal fin to the tip of the two long tentacles (second only to the colossal squid at an estimated 14 metres (46 ft), one of the largest living organisms). The mantle is about 2 metres (6.6 ft) long (more for females, less for males), and the length of the squid excluding its tentacles is about 5 metres (16 ft). There have been claims of specimens measuring 20 metres (66 ft) or more, but no giant squid of such size has been scientifically documented.

The first photographs of a live giant squid in its natural habitat were taken on September 30, 2004, by Tsunemi Kubodera (National Science Museum of Japan) and Kyoichi Mori (Ogasawara Whale Watching Association). Their teams had worked together for nearly two years to accomplish this. They used a five-ton fishing boat and only two crew members. The images were created on their third trip to a known sperm whale hunting ground 970 kilometres (600 mi) south of Tokyo, where they had dropped a 900-metre (3,000 ft) line baited with squid and shrimp. The line also held a camera and a flash. After over 20 tries that day, an 8-metre (26 ft) giant squid attacked the lure and snagged its tentacle. The camera took over 500 photos before the squid managed to break free after four hours. The squid's 5.5-metre (18 ft) tentacle remained attached to the lure. Later DNA tests confirmed the animal as a giant squid.

In Melbourne museum 

The existence of the ‘colossal squid’ has been suspected for many decades, since arms from the creature have occasionally been recovered from the stomachs of sperm whales. But it wasn’t until an actual specimen was caught near Antarctica (picture above) that the reality of this new type of squid was brought home to scientists.

The specimen is larger than any previously seen giant squid, and it is only a young one, just two-thirds grown.

This squid has one of the largest beaks known of any squid, and seems to have more muscles attached to its tentacles. It also has unique swivelling hooks on the clubs at the ends of its tentacles. All of these things make it a very deadly predator.

It seems there are sea monsters after all!
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Ol Doinyo Lengai, Volcano

Ol Doinyo Lengai is an active volcano located in the north of Tanzania and is part of the volcanic system of the East African Rift. It is located in the eastern Rift Valley, or Gregory Rift, south of both Lake Natron and Kenya. It is unique among active volcanoes in that it produces natrocarbonatite lava, a unique occurrence of volcanic carbonatite. Further, the temperature of its lava as it emerges is only around 510 °C (950 °F). A few older extinct carbonatite volcanoes are located nearby, including Homa Mountain.

"Ol Doinyo Lengai" means "The Mountain of God" in the Maasai language of the native people. The record of eruptions on the mountain dates to 1883, and flows were also recorded between 1904 and 1910 and again between 1913 and 1915. A major eruption took place in June 1917, which resulted in volcanic ash being deposited about 48 kilometres away.

A similar eruption took place for several months in 1926 and between July and December 1940, resulting in the ash being deposited as far as Loliondo, which is 100 kilometres away. Several minor eruptions of lava were observed in 1954, 1955, 1958 the early 1960s.
When Ol Doinyo Lengai erupted on August 14, 1966, two geologists — J. B. Dawson and G. C. Clark — who visited the crater a week later, reported seeing “a thick column of black ash” that rose for approximately three thousand feet above the volcano and drifted away northwards towards Lake Natron. When the two climbed the cone-shaped vent, they reported seeing a continuous discharge of gas and whitish-grey ash and dust from the centre of the pit.

Volcanic activity in the mountain caused daily earth tremors in Kenya and Tanzania beginning on July 12, 2007. The latest to hit parts of Nairobi city was recorded on July 18, 2007 at 8.30pm (Kenyan Time). The strongest tremor measured 6.0 on the Richter scale. Geologists suspected that the sudden increase of tremors was indicative of the movement of magma through the Ol Doinyo Lengai. The volcano finally erupted on September 4, 2007, sending a plume of ash and steam at least 18 kilometers downwind and covering the north and west flanks in fresh lava flows. The eruption has continued intermittently into 2008, as of the end of February it was reported that the eruption appeared to be gathering strength, with a major outburst taking place on March 5. During April periods of inactivity have been followed by eruptions on April 8 and 17. Eruptive activity continued until late August 2008. A visit to the summit in September 2008 discovered that lava emission had resumed from two vents in the floor of the new crater. Visits to the crater in March/April 2009 showed that even this activity appears to have ceased.

 Plume from Ol Doinyo Lengai

 Ol Doinyo Lengai after explosion

Ol Doinyo Lengai crater

Whereas most lavas are rich in silicate minerals, the lava of Ol Doinyo Lengai is a carbonatite. It is rich in the rare sodium and potassium carbonates, nyerereite and gregoryite. Due to this unusual composition, the lava erupts at relatively low temperatures of approximately 500-600 degrees Celsius. This temperature is so low that the molten lava appears black in sunlight, rather than having the red glow common to most lavas. It is also much more fluid than silicate lavas, often less viscous than water. The sodium and potassium carbonate minerals of the lavas formed by Ol Doinyo Lengai are unstable at the Earth's surface and susceptible to rapid weathering, quickly turning from black to grey in color. The resulting volcanic landscape is different from any other in the world.
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Cave of the Crystals or Giant Crystal Cave

Cave of the Crystals or Giant Crystal Cave (Spanish: Cueva de los Cristales) is a cave connected to the Naica Mine 300 metres (980 ft) below the surface in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. The main chamber contains giant selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. The cave's largest crystal found to date is 11 m (36 ft) in length, 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and 55 tons in weight. The cave is extremely hot with air temperatures reaching up to 58 °C (136 °F) with 90 to 99 percent humidity. The cave is relatively unexplored due to these factors. Without proper protection people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time.
A group of scientists known as the Naica Project have been heavily involved in researching these caverns.
This cave is just great for Superman's Fortress of Solitude. :)
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Kakapo, World’s Largest Parrot

 Scientists in New Zealand have rescued the world’s largest parrot from the brink of extinction. The population of the flightless kakapo has surpassed 100 birds for the first time in decades.
The ground-nesting kakapo, which weighs up to 9lb, was once widespread in the forests of New Zealand. But Maoris hunted it for its meat and bright green plumage, and European settlers brought cats, dogs, rats and ferrets into a formerly predator-free environment. A docile bird, the kakapo was prone to freeze on the spot when frightened.

The Kakapo (Māori: kākāpō, meaning night parrot), Strigops habroptila (Gray, 1845), also called owl parrot, is a species of large, flightless nocturnal parrot endemic to New Zealand. It has finely blotched yellow-green plumage, a distinct facial disc of sensory, vibrissa-like feathers, a large grey beak, short legs, large feet, and wings and a tail of relatively short length. A certain combination of traits makes it unique among its kind—it is the world's only flightless parrot, the heaviest parrot, nocturnal, herbivorous, visibly sexually dimorphic in body size, has a low basal metabolic rate, no male parental care, and is the only parrot to have a polygynous lek breeding system. It is also possibly one of the world's longest-living birds. Its anatomy typifies the tendency of bird evolution on oceanic islands, with few predators and abundant food: a generally robust physique, with accretion of thermodynamic efficiency at the expense of flight abilities, reduced wing muscles, and a diminished keel on the sternum.

Sirocco is one of 129 Kakapo left in the world
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The Swamp

A swamp is a wetland with some flooding of large areas of land by shallow bodies of water. A swamp generally has a large number of hammocks, or dry-land protrusions, covered by aquatic vegetation, or vegetation that tolerates periodical inundation. The two main types of swamp are "true" or swamp forests and "transitional" or shrub swamps. The water of a swamp may be fresh water, brackish water or seawater.
In North America, swamps are usually regarded as including a large amount of woody vegetation, but elsewhere this may not necessarily apply, such as in African swamps dominated by papyrus. By contrast, a marsh in North America is a wetland without woody vegetation, or elsewhere, a wetland without woody vegetation which is shallower and has less open water surface than a swamp. A mire (or quagmire) is a low-lying wetland of deep, soft soil or mud that sinks underfoot with large algae covering the water's surface.
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Dangerous K2 Mountain

K2 (also known as Savage Mountain, Mountaineer's Mountain, Mount Godwin-Austen, Balti: Chogori and Sarikoli: Mount Qogir) is the second-highest mountain on Earth, after Mount Everest. With a peak elevation of 8,611 m (28,251 feet), K2 is part of the Karakoram Range, and is located on the border between Baltistan, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang, China. It is more hazardous to reach K2 from the Chinese side; thus, it is mostly climbed from the Pakistani side.

K2 is known as the Savage Mountain due to the difficulty of ascent and the second-highest fatality rate among the "eight thousanders" for those who climb it. For every four people who have reached the summit, one has died trying. Unlike Annapurna, the mountain with the highest fatality rate, K2 has never been climbed in winter.
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