Thursday, 16 May 2019

Kalahari Desert in Africa

Kalahari Desert Location
The Kalahari Desert stretching more than 360,000 square miles across South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana. The annual rainfall is a bit high between 5 to 10 inches. The Kalahari Desert is part of Kalahari Basin, (930,000 square-kilometer), includes Okavango River Delta and other wetlands areas.

Kalahari Desert Facts

The Kalahari Desert is something very attractive name to inspire you most. Probably we don’t know why. The desert name instills a sense of dismay while at the same time. This emanates an uncanny attraction. You may have different thoughts in the strictest sense of the word. The Kalahari Desert gently undulating, sand-covered plain, and bedrock are exposed in the low kopjes (vertical-walled hills), that rarely but conspicuously rise above the general surface.

Apart from kopjes, three surfaces characterize virtually all the Kalahari: sand sheets, longitudinal dunes, and vleis. The major part of Kalahari Basin encompasses all of Botswana and more than half of Namibia. The sand dunes, stretching west to the Namib Desert, is the largest continuous expanse of sand on earth. The western side of Kalahari Desert is consisting of long chains of dunes, measure at least 1 mile in length, several hundred feet in width, and 20 to 200 feet in height. The Southern part of Kalahari Desert has water surface in small and widely scattered waterholes. Almost, entire rainwater falls disappear immediately into the deep sand.

The desert soils mainly based on reddish color sand, and are low in organic material. Soils in the Kalahari Desert are largely based on sand, are reddish in color, and are low in organic material. Chemically, they are comparatively alkaline, and dry soils tend to be highly calcareous or saline, and normally they are toxic to most vegetation. Around, 5,000 Kalahari people speak Taa Language with the most vowels and consonants. However, in Tswana language, The Kalahari means ‘large thirst’.  Ancient dry riverbeds which are called ‘omuramba’—traverse the central northern reaches of the Kalahari and offer standing pools of water during the rainy season.

The Kalahari Desert is 6th biggest desert by area in the world and second biggest in Africa after the Sahara Desert. Geologist says the Kalahari Desert was once thriving with full of life with numerous lakes exist here. But these days, large salt pans remain i.e., Makgadikgadi Pan, the remains of the once huge Lake Makgadikgadi. Another big pan is the Nxan pan. The most popular game, named “Mario Kart” features a track named Kalimari Desert.

This track was inspired by the Kalahari Desert. Because of its sparsely populated expanse, the Kalahari is served by infrequent roads and tracks. Furthermore, Kalahari Desert is home to one of the biggest diamond mines in the world. The diamonds were unearthed almost thirty years ago in the Gaghoo Mine first opened in 2014. Hence after three years of construction completed the project. This mine extracts diamond ore using a GO25 Kimberlite Pipe and has a production capacity of 720,000t a year.

People of Kalahari

The Kalahari Desert is inhabited mainly by Bantu speakers and Khoisan-speaking San, with a little number of Europeans, entered in the 19th century as travelers, missionaries, ivory hunters, and traders. It is believed that nomadic hunter (San People) lived at the Kalahari Desert for over 20,000 years. They are the oldest continuous residents of Southern Africa. 

Many San people were killed during various wars when European settlers arrived here. Their life was disturbed by large scale killing of wild animals which they earlier hunted and grazing of wild edible plants by cattle. Interestingly, more than a hundred thousand of San people still live along the fringes of the Kalahari.

Some precious diamonds, deposits of nickel, copper, and coal have been unearthed here. The major livestock grazing is thought to be the largest threat to the Kalahari ecosystem. The ongoing change to plant communities and increased erosion remains relatively limited.                                 

The weather of Kalahari Desert

The sand dunes mainly covered with an abundance of vegetation i.e. grass tussocks, shrubs, and deciduous trees infrequent precipitation and wild swings in temperature. In the summer season, it is scorching hot to touch 45 degrees Celsius, and in winter, temperature drop to -15 degrees Celsius. Also, in winters the climate is extremely dry: humidity is very low, and no rain falls for six to eight months.

Further, the moisture-bearing air is derived from the Indian Ocean, and precipitation is greatest in the northeast and declines toward the southwest. Rainfall, however, is extremely variable. Most of the rain comes as summer thunderstorms, with great variation from place to place and from year to year.

The wetter open woodlands made with acacia famous as camelthorn tree. These camelthorns are a crucial part of the desert ecosystem, manufacturing nutrients that boost other plants to grow around its base and providing shade for animals. The Kalahari Desert had an intricate climatic history more than millions of years ago, in line with major global changes. 

The last 250,000 years have been reconstructed from numerous data sources, and offer evidence of both former extensive lakes and periods drier than now. As time goes, Kalahari Desert has expanded to include parts of western Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Angola.

Flora and Fauna

Around 500 species of vegetation thrive during the rainy season. The water quality is better than a normal desert. The water helps in to flourish the plant life in many parts. The Hoodia cactus, and other edible plants - used by both humans and animals include creeping tsamma melons, gemsbok cucumbers, and wild cucumbers. 

Other trees that grow in the Kalahari Desert include shepherd's tree, blackthorn, and silver cluster-leaf. In the drier area, has vegetation and wildlife are much sparser, but Hoodia cactus - used for thousands of years by the San people to ease hunger and thirst during long hunting trips - still maintains a foothold there.

Kalahari Desert Wildlife

The animals which are adapted to difficult weather are meerkats, gemsbok, social weavers, Kalahari lion and different species of birds. The desert is home to many big cats including lions, cheetahs or leopards. The endemic wildlife species have great ability to adapt the severe conditions and to survive many days without water.

The Kalahari wildlife obtains water from plants. Several other reptiles also live here, including Cape cobras, puff adders, rock monitor, kudu in denser brush, steenbok, duiker, and gnu (wildebeest). Also, on the northern side of Kalahari provide considerable support to the population of giraffes, elephants, zebras, buffalo, roan, sable, tsessebe, impala, wild hunting dogs, and foxes.

Also, other large and medium-sized mammals, i.e., jackals, hyenas, warthogs, baboons, badgers, anteaters, ant bears, hare, and porcupines; and numerous small rodents, several types of snakes and lizards, and a wealth of birdlife. Moreover, several other birds and mammals use the desert, but most are migratory, venturing into the Kalahari only when sufficient water is available. 

 Source: 1, 2, 3, 4 

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Mt Tongariro, New Zealand

The Tongariro National Park is the home to Mount Tongariro, which is a compound volcano in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of the North Island of New Zealand. It is located 20 KM to the southwest of Lake Taupo, the three active volcanoes that dominate the landscape of the central North Island. Mount Tongariro consists of four massifs made of andesite: Tongariro, Kakaramea, Pihanga, and Ruapehu.
The andesitic eruptions formed Tongariro, a steep stratovolcano, reaching a height of 6,490 ft. Tongariro is composed of layers of both lava and tephra and first erupted 275,000 years ago. With its ruggedly diverse landscape, from volcanic peaks to lush native bush and rivers, the Tongariro National Park World Heritage Site is a natural wonder that beams quintessential New Zealand.
Tongariro is part of the Tongariro volcanic center, which consists of at least 12 cones. Ngauruhoe, while often regarded as a separate mountain, is geologically a cone of Tongariro. It is also the most active vent, having erupted more than 70 times since 1839, and the last episode in 1973 to 1975. Also, activity has also been recorded at other vents in modern history. Also, Te Māri Craters erupted in 2012, for the first time since 1897. Red Crater last erupted ash in 1926 and contains active fumaroles. There are a lot of explosion craters on the massif; water has filled some of these to form the Blue Lake and the Emerald Lakes.
The high altitude and harsh alpine climate between March and October cause snowfall in the winter and rain can freeze, causing verglas; in contrast in the mid to late summer, the mountains can be bare apart from remnant patches of snow in south-facing gullies. Unlike nearby Mt. Ruapehu, no glaciers exist on Tongariro today.
However, geomorphological evidence in the form of moraines and cirques indicates the former presence of mountain glaciers. Moreover, the dating of moraines on western Tongariro show that valley glaciers were present at more than a few times during the last glacial cycle. Before it melting away at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum approximately 18,000 years ago.
Mount Tongariro is the New Zealand's first national park and one of the earliest in the world. The park also includes the peaks of Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu, both of which lie to the southwest of Tongariro. The national park is a dual World Heritage Site for its outstanding natural and intangible cultural values. The popular hiking route called Tongariro Alpine Crossing passes between Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. Mount Tongariro and its surroundings are also one of the several locations which Peter Jackson chose to shoot The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
Mt Tongariro had what was initially believed to be a hydrothermal eruption after a month of increased activity. The eruption occurred at the Te Māri Craters, which had been dormant since 1897. The eruption occurred in a new vent below the Upper Te Māri crater, and sent blocks as large as 1 metre in size up to 2 kilometers from the vent.

An ash cloud 6.1 kilometers high deposited ash into the surrounding area, especially to the east of the volcano. The ash cloud travelled 250 kilometers in four hours. NIWA reported the ash cloud contained about 10,000 cubic meters of ash, and that the ash cloud was 25 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide 39 minutes after the eruption. Ash and the smell of sulphur were reported in Napier and Hastings. The smell of sulphur was also reported in Wellington, Nelson and Blenheim.
State Highway 1 to the east and State Highway 46 to the north of the mountain each received up to 5 centimeters of ash cover, and were closed until the following morning due to ash and low visibility. A layer of ash 10 to 15 millimeters thick settled on farmland 5 to 10 km east of Mount Tongariro. Particle sizes were between 2 and 3 millimeters.
The airspace within a 12 km radius of the mountain was closed after the eruption. New Zealand canceled some flights in and out due to the risk of volcanic ash clogging the engines on their aircraft serving those airports. Mount Tongariro erupted again, ejecting an ash cloud 4000 meters into the air. Many flights in the region were canceled and in the subsequent morning. Geologists had no warning before the eruption, saying it wasn't linked to warnings the week before of elevated activity at nearby Mount Ruapehu.

Also Read: Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake is a Fascinating Glacial Encounter
Source: Wikipedia

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland

Smoo Cave is a large combined sea cave and freshwater cave in Durness in Sutherland, Highland, Scotland. The cave was formed within Early Ordovician Dolostones of the Durness Limestone Group. Smoo Cave boundary formed between the light grey Sangomore Formation and dark grey, leopard Rock formation. The cave is unique that the first chamber has been formed by the action of the sea, whereas the inner chambers are freshwater passages, formed from rainwater dissolving the carbonate dolostones. The peaty waters of the Allt Smoo flow off the moors, tranquil until they vanish into the darkness of a gaping sinkhole. The Smoo cave estimated receives 40,000 visitors annually. 

The Smoo cave has formed a combination of erosion from the sea and an inland underground stream which has formed the innermost chambers. There are many superstitions associated with Smoo Cave, and for many centuries it was believed to be the residence of the Devil. This made it a convenient place for the local laird's henchman to dump the bodies of anyone who fell afoul of what passed for local justice at the time.

It is a dramatic location set into limestone cliffs, quite large 200 feet long, 130 feet wide, and 50 feet high at the entrance. Eroded pillars of rock which once supported these long-vanished earlier versions of Smoo Cave still remain. Moreover, the first chamber of the cave is more than 60m long and 40m wide. A wooden walkway leads from here into the second (scream provoking) chamber.

The cave boasts one of the largest entrances to any sea cave in Britain at 50 ft high and is floodlit inside. Smoo is a sea cave, but some part is karst formed inside limestones and dolomites. The karst features of Smoo cave are typical with impermeable and insoluble rocks surrounding it. Waters flowing on impermeable rock disappear in swallow holes as soon as they reach the border to the limestone. Then drain underground and reappear in karst springs and caves. Hence, a river is to be found inside, water from a burn which disappeared only a few meters away.

Legend has believed that the cave is a gateway to the Otherworld – or into the faery realm – and that it's guarded by spirits. Smoo Cave has seen a lot of activity over the course of human history, much of it is unpleasant. If you are daring enough then the ideal way to experience Smoo Cave would probably be alone at night, by the light of an oil lamp or flaming torch, and with an overactive imagination! CP

Friday, 19 April 2019

Huka Falls, New Zealand

Huka Falls Facts
Huka Falls is set of waterfalls on the Waikato River (New Zealand longest River) which feed Lake Taupo in New Zealand. In this beautiful place, one can see the natural phenomenon of hydropower often approaches 22,000 liters of water per se barreling over an 11-meter high waterfall. The flow rate is regulated by Mercury NZ Ltd., through the Taupo Control Gates. Further, flow rates can increase depending on power demands, which in turn can alter the height of the Huka Falls from 7 to 9.5 m. The volume of water flowing at the top of the falls is a set of small waterfalls dropping over about 8 meters. The final stage of the falls is over a 6-meter drop, raised to an effective 11m fall by the depth of the water.
The falls are a popular tourist attraction, being close to Taupo. The Waikato River upstream moves gracefully north from Lake Taupō between banks 100 meters apart. Then it enters a shallow ravine of hard volcanic rock. The canyon is carved into Lake Floor sediments laid down 26,500 years ago when the Oruanui eruption of Taupo Volcano took place. The effect is nature's large-scale equivalent of a fire hose feeding into a very fine nozzle. 
A pedestrian bridge at the top of the Huka Falls puts you in the best position to get up close and observe the potent display of water blasting. Also, if you want to like to see the real power and fury of the falls up close try a jet boat or cruise ride up to the crystal-blue pool. Anyone visiting here gets amazed with the beauty of Huka Falls. They are having the feelings of seeing one of the “natural wonders of the world.” The crystal clear water of Huka Falls combined the vibrant white and blue of the cascading falls and the surrounding terrain create a picture-perfect landscape for avid photographers.

Spa Park Walk
Along the Huka Falls, one can hike the Spa Park, an easy one-hour scenic walk that starts where the river is still tranquil and wide. During hike and passing through exotic and native forests, the track emerges alongside the river and the roar of the falls grows louder at each turn.
Also near the falls, many great vantage points are available where you can relish their full glory and capture selfies and photographs. This unbelievable sight is the most-visited natural attraction in New Zealand. It is extremely hard to tear your gaze away from the endless, mesmerizing torrent. Since you are in the Taupo area, so, a two-hour trail that will wind you through scenic surroundings until you arrive at the Aratiatia Dam, another awesome attraction worth visiting.
History of Huka Falls
The word “Huka” is a Maori term which means “foam”? It’s quite appropriate that these set of falls are referred to as “Foam Falls” given the amount that is created every second the water flows over the edge. Huka Falls was created because of the narrowing of the Waikato River creating a powerful surge as the water scrambles to get through the narrow gap. Source: CP

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Painted Desert Arizona

The Painted Desert is a badlands in the Four Corners area running from near the southeast into Petrified Forest National Park and east of Grand Canyon National Park.  But it is easily accessed in the north side of Petrified Forest National Park. The brilliant and varied colors include more common red rock and shades of lavender. It took millions of years for nature to form this natural canvas of unbelievable design that some describe it as a multi-colored layered cake.
The Painted Desert was named by an expedition under Francisco Vázquez de Coronado on his 1540 quest to find the Seven Cities of Cibola.  Hence, passing through the wonderland of colors, they named the area El Desierto Pintado “The Painted Desert”. The Petrified Forest and Painted Desert is a living history book. The majestic colors, hues, and shades paint a tapestry of time. Visualize that once this was a tropical forest! Dinosaurs walked here.
The most part of Painted Desert is protected as Petrified Forest National Wilderness Area. Nonetheless, the area is easy and longer hikes into the colored hills. The magical Painted Desert continues north into the Navajo Nation, where off-road travel is allowed by permit. Wind and rain, the sedimentary composition of the rocks and the lack of protective vegetative, all subsidize to the rapid erosion of the Chinle Formation.
The Painted Desert is composed of stratified layers easily erodible siltstone, mudstone, and shale of the Triassic Chinle Formation. The fine-grained rock layers comprise plentiful iron and manganese compounds that offer the pigments for the various colors of the region. Thin resistant lacustrine limestone layers and volcanic flows cap the mesas. Further, several layers of silicic volcanic ash occur in the Chinle and provide the silica for the petrified logs of the area. The erosion of these layers has resulted in the formation of the badlands topography of the region.
In the southern portions of the desert, the remains of a Triassic period coniferous forest have fossilized over millions of years. Wind, water and soil erosion continue to change the face of the landscape by shifting sediment and exposing layers of the Chinle Formation. An assortment of fossilized prehistoric plants and animals are found in the region, as well as dinosaur tracks and the evidence of early human habitation.
Painted Desert Weather?
The Painted Desert has a cold desert climate with hot, dry summers and cold, though virtually snow-free winters. The annual precipitation is the lowest in northern Arizona. In several places is lower even than Phoenix. Most area of Painted Desert is accessible only by foot or unpaved road through major highways and paved roads.
Where is the Painted Desert?
The towns of Cameron and Tuba City are two major settlements roughly from Cameron - Tuba City southeast to past Holbrook and the Petrified Forest National Park. The Painted Desert is about 190 km long by about 97 km wide, making it roughly 19,425 km2 in area. Nowadays, the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest are well-protected lands? Which provides a rich history of various ancient peoples, a breathtaking assortment of views, and a picture of life as only the dinosaurs knew it. Source: CP

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