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I learned about a new place today.  Have you heard of Hurghada?

It's a beach city on the Red Sea with a population of 248,000 people.  The photos on Wikipedia make me want to do a Mary Poppins and jump into them!  36 miles of beachs, coral reefs... the sun shines 3,800 hours a year... "one of the highest results in the world" and it is warm there in our winter... may have to go back and look at these photos in January!
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Have you ever heard of Punta Arenas? The name means "Sandy Point." It's in Chile, at the bottom of South America, near Tierra del Fuego. There's a inland waterway - the Strait of Magellan - you can sail through to get to the other coast, so you don't have to brave the nasty waters between the tip and Antarctica, and in the middle is a city of 150,000 people! There is a large percentage of residents with Spanish or Croat ancestry.

Here's the Google Map,+chile&sll=-28.207609,-53.569336&sspn=13.898988,19.753418&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Punta+Arenas,+Chile&ll=-53.159947,-70.905762&spn=9.482212,19.753418&z=6

There a great panoramic photo in Wikipedia that shows the red roofs:

It is a frequent staging point for expeditions to Antarctica, which is less than 1,500 miles away.

Punta Arenas has a semi-arid, ocean-moderated climate. The seasonal temperature averages lows in July near −1 °C (30.2 °F) and highs in January of 14 °C (57 °F). Among Chileans the city is also known for its strong winds (up to 130 km/hour). In the summer city officials put up ropes in the downtown area to assist with unique wind currents created by the buildings. Since 1986, Punta Arenas has been the first significantly populated city in the world to be directly affected by the hole in the ozone layer, exposing its residents to potentially damaging levels of ultraviolet radiation.

There is some talk on the tourist sites about lots of penguins!
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Continuing in my series of posting about new places I learn about...

I learned a new bit of geography and crosswordese this afternoon. The NY Times crossword clue was "Westernmost Aleutian." I knew the Aleutian Islands fan out to the West from the southern coast of Alaska, but I didn't know the names of any of them. The island furthest out, and therefore the westernmost piece of American territory, is called Attu.


They have their own homepage

Here's a satellite view of Attu Station where 20 people used to hang out. You can clearly see the two landing strips and the buildings and roads near the coast.,+AK&sll=42.372716,-71.08564&sspn=0.010589,0.014505&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Attu+Island,+Aleutians+West,+Alaska&t=h&ll=52.831966,173.168821&spn=0.034639,0.058022&z=14

There was a big bloody WWII battle there against the Japanese. That got it onto the National Register of Historic Places.

There's a peace memorial built by the Japanese.

They're a great place to see an interesting variety of Asian birds.

The weather is awful - there are only 8-10 clear days a year. The rest of the time it is raining and/or foggy.

There was a LORAN station there until two months ago. "On Aug. 1, 2010, the United States Coast Guard loran station on Attu permanently ceased operation. On Aug. 27 the station was decommissioned and the Coast Guard personnel left, leaving the island with no resident population."
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One of my student workers is graduating and going off to work in Timbuktu with the "One Laptop per Child" project. It's not just a mythical term for "way the heck out there" but a real city in Africa! With a population of almost 32,000 people.

It's in Mali, in Western Africa. The city is located on the southern edge of the Sahara, about 15 km from the Niger River, and is connected to it by a series of canals. It has three "mud" mosques, and one of the first universities in the world. In 1990, it was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger due to the threat of desert sands. A program was set up to preserve the site and, in 2005, it was taken off the list of endangered sites. However, new constructions are threatening the ancient mosques, a UNESCO Committee warn.

See more photos:
bex77: (Default)
In an odd confluence of references, I learned about the Aral Sea today. It used to be the world's 4th largest lake, and it is about to disappear.

This follows one of the odd rules in my life...if I learn a new word or hear about a new place, I will see it again very soon in other places.

This morning it was the answer to a NYT crossword puzzle clue (59 Down - "Asia's shrunken ____ Sea"), and then this afternoon there's an article in the Boston Globe about the U.N. Secretary General visiting there yesterday. He called it "one of the planet’s most shocking environmental disasters." The photo of the stranded ships is freaky.

Wikipedia has great "before" and "after" satellite photos. It describes a Soviet project in the 60's to divert water from the rivers that fed it for irrigation canals to boost cotton farming.

Google maps shows it in detail if you use their satellite feature. It's on the border of Kazakhstan (Aktobe and Kyzylorda provinces) in the north and Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, in the south.

I wonder where else it will show up in the next few days...
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One of the theater peeps is headed to Gabon this week to test scary virus-buggers like ebola. Yet another country that I don't know much about. Yes, it's in Africa.

So I looked it up on Google maps. Just type in Gabon. It's on the Atlantic on the West Coast, between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon on the north, and Congo around the other sides, near the top of the bend.

Wikipedia says the Gabonese Republic was a French Colony until 1960, now a multi-party democracy and "one of the most prosperous countries in the region." 1.5 million people. It's 85% rainforest. They are into conservation with a 13 national parks that give it 11% park land, one of the highest proportions in the world. The economy rests on export of natural resources such as offshore oil, manganese, iron and wood. Most Gabonese are of Bantu origin, but there are at least 40 ethnic groups, including the Fang. 80% speak French. 32% speak Fang. The majority are Christian, predominantly Roman Catholic. There doesn't seem to be a "reason you might have heard of it" for Gabon, but maybe you know one.
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Big earthquake news coming out of Chile, followed by tsunami warnings all over the Pacific.  
The first place the big wave struck was Robinson Crusoe Island, about 500 miles off the
Chilean coast.  Never heard of that island before, so I went digging.

Google maps has some lovely satellite shots.

Here's a great photo:

Wikipedia has a short entry.

It's a gorgeous, mountainous area. 

It's not a country, but part of Chile, politically speaking. 

Population 633.  They fish and sell spiny lobsters.  They get scuba tourists.

It was the inspiration for the book by Daniel Dafoe about the marooned sailor, which was based on a true story of a sailor who got left there in 1704.
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One of my co-workers took off for The Gambia today to give language workshops for the Peace Corps for a week.  I regret to say that I didn't know anything about that country, other than it's in Africa.  So I looked it up on Google maps.  Just type in The Gambia.   It's this really nifty "finger" of a place, poking in off the Atlantic on the West Coast, surrounded by Senegal, along the Gambia River.  

So I clicked over to Wikipedia.  Smallest country in Africa, it was a British Colony until 1965, now a relatively stable multi-party democracy. 1.7 million people.  Fishing, farming, tourism.  90% Sunni Muslim, 10% Christian.  There are several tribes, with the Mandinka the largest.  If you have heard of it, it may be because Alex Haley traced his ancestry to the area and wrote a book called "Roots." 


Oct. 23rd, 2005 08:26 pm
bex77: (Default)
Continuing with the magnificent Kate Orman's suggestion that
when you hear the name of country in the news that you don't
know much about, you should look it up and post 5 facts about
it, tonight's entry is about Suriname, pronounced SUR-EH-NOM.
Sounds like someplace in Southeast Asia, but SURPRISE! It is
in South America!

According to the CIA's excellent almanac of country facts:

Learn more Read more... )


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