G'day folks,

When it comes to warrior kings, few tick as many boxes as Richard I of England who died in 1199.

Even now, as though still defending the realm, he sits astride his horse outside the Houses of Parliament in London, sword raised aloft, defiant, muscular, formidable.

This was the king for whom a nobleman of folklore gave up his title and lands to become the outlaw Robin Hood, living in a forest, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor as he defended the interests and legacy of his beloved monarch who was away fighting in the Crusades.

And yet . . . in the whole of his reign from 1189 this iconic English king spent no more than a total of six months in the country. If he was not off fighting in the Crusades, he was in France defending his castles and other extensive interests there. 

Neither of his parents were English and there is some doubt that Richard, born in 1157, ever learned to speak the language of his subjects.

There is certainly no doubt about his courage, though. He liked a good scrap and relished his role as leader of the Third Crusade (1188-92) against the Saracens under Saladin, the Muslim leader of Egypt and Syria. Richard’s avowed aim was to capture Jerusalem and restore Christianity to the Holy Land.

Some historians believe, though, that the king was really more interested in grabbing the gold and vast treasure on offer there.

For it has been claimed that in truth Richard was greedy, violent and ruthless. Historian William Stubbs described him as “a bad son, a bad husband, a selfish ruler and a vicious man.”

His cruel streak came to the fore in 1191 when his forces attacked and took control of the city of Acre in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. More than 2,700 prisoners were taken and Richard ordered that they should all be put to death. He sat and watched from a balcony as the executions took place.

The Crusade was unsuccessful and when it came to an end Richard’s thoughts turned towards home.

But he had a problem. Having insulted and alienated many of his French and German Christian allies in the Crusade, none were willing to help him return and he was reduced to trying to make it in disguise.

He was caught and imprisoned by the Emperor of Germany who demanded a colossal ransom of 150,000 marks – truly a king’s ransom.

Richard’s mother, Queen Eleanor, led the taxation drive and fund-raising effort to have her son freed, campaigning across the empire on behalf of “Good King Richard”.

But a month after arriving “home” in England, the seemingly ungrateful Lionheart left for France, never to return.

It seems it was his greed that led to his early death at the age of 41. A French nobleman whose land was under Richard’s control refused to hand over a hoard of gold that had been unearthed by a peasant.

The king promptly laid siege to the man’s castle and was fatally wounded by a crossbow in the fighting. He was buried in France.

Clancy's comment: An Engish king buried in France. Who'd have ever imagined that?

I'm ...








G'day folks,

On March 11, 2011 a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan. The earthquake caused a tsunami that caused great damage to some of the northern provinces of Japan. 

Fukushima province was among one of the worst hit. A nuclear power plant located in Fukushima was severely damaged by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was and still is the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. There have not been many major nuclear reactor meltdowns since nuclear power was introduced as a mass-energy source. We do know however that even with protective equipment, side effects can occur.

 Clean up crews that were sent in to deal with the Fukushima disaster are starting to develop cancer years after their exposure. Studying the areas that are affected by nuclear disaster is considerably difficult because of the high levels of radiation that are present in the areas immediately surrounding the nuclear reactors.

The piles and piles of garbage bags you see in front of you contain contaminated soil from the disaster site. They are stacked on top of each other to save space.

 A photographer named Arkadiusz Podniesinski decided to brave the elements (literally) and capture what the site of the nuclear disaster looks like 9 years later. He has also visited many other abandoned places and documented his journeys. The results of journey are absolutely incredible and are must see.

Check out pictures of the Fukushima exclusion zone below … cars abandoned, classrooms left, supermarkets abandoned.


Clancy's comment: Wow. It was a big earthquake and tsunami, but man has a lot to answer for.

I'm ...







G'day folks,

Here, you will find huge spherical rocks in the middle of the prairie.  

Dotting the pristine prairie hills of Southern Alberta, these large and exceptionally spherical red rocks make it feel as though you’re standing on Mars. Some of the fiery-hued boulders are over 8 feet across (2.5 meters), putting them among the largest sandstone concretions in the world.

 This geological oddity can be a little tricky to get to, just enough off the beaten path to keep the area remarkably quiet, only adding to the otherworldly feel. Red Rock Coulee is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) southwest of the city of Medicine Hat, and although it’s not really on your way to anywhere, this detour or day trip is an interesting sight.

You can climb the large rocks and marvel at the mystery of their formation. One of the spheres is split clean in half, showing off its strange shape. The concretions have eroded out of the soft bedrock that blankets the area, and turned red from iron oxide. If you’re in luck you can study the unique quartz crystals you can find in the area, while taking in the beautiful sunrise or sunset over the colorful badlands landscape. 

Clancy's comment: Weird, eh? That's nature.

I'm ...








 - JAPAN -

G'day folks,

Stretching for 22 miles, the world's longest tree-lined avenue dates back to the early 17th-century. 

Despite not being a single continuous road, the Cedar Avenue of Nikkō is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest tree-lined avenue in the world. It’s also the only cultural property designated by the Japanese government as both a Special Historic Site and a Special Natural Monument.

After the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, the grand Nikkō Tōshōgū shrine was established to entomb his remains. Samurai lords from across the country traveled to Nikkō to visit his grave and pay respect to the great shogun, and the road from Edo (today’s Tokyo) to Nikkō was rapidly renovated. Matsudaira Masatsuna, a samurai lord who served Ieyasu in his youth, began planting cryptomeria trees imported from Kii Province to honor his former master, continueing to plant them for over 20 years until his death. By 1648, about 15,000 trees had been planted along the Cedar Avenue.


After Masatsuna’s death, the trees were handed over to the governor of Nikkō, who tended them with the utmost care. Despite numerous discussions of lumbering, the Cedar Avenue was protected and preserved by both the government and the public. Even today, nearly 400 years after the first planting, about 12,500 trees have survived despite the road still being active.

Because of vehicle exhaust emissions and development in the area, an average of more than 100 trees die every year, putting Cedar Avenue in danger of disappearing in less than 100 years at the current pace. To protect this historic site, Tochigi Prefecture established an “ownership program”: those who wish can purchase one of the trees for 10 million yen (approx. 95,000 USD), which funds conservation of the trees. Currently, 412 people own 553 of the cryptomeria trees along the Cedar Avenue of Nikkō.

Clancy's comment: Extraordinary! What a fabulous avenue.

I'm ...







- JAPAN - 


G'day folks,

This massive, beautifully-lit underground quarry leaves visitors in awe.  

Ōya stone is an igneous green tuff renowned for its warm texture and flexibility, famously used by Frank Lloyd Wright to build the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. It was the same material used to create the Venus of Gyoza and is a specialty of Utsunomiya City, quarried in its namesake town of Ōya.

The earliest usage of Ōya stone dates back to the 6th-century when it was used to build burial mounds and sarcophagi for local lords. The mass quarrying of Ōya stone was initiated during the mid to late Edo period, around the 17th-18th-centuries. 

From 1919 to 1986, Ōya stone was quarried underground, resulting in a massive hollow space known today as the Subterranean Cave. Large enough to contain an entire baseball field, it’s quite an impressive, awe-inspiring sight. Today, this location is often used as a filming location and for concerts, weddings, and traditional Noh plays.

It’s quite cold in the Subterranean Cave, which is generally about 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) on average. During World War II, the underground quarry was used as a weapon factory and then as a government storage facility for rice after the war.

In 1979, the Oya History Museum was established and the subterranean quarry finally opened to the public. The old quarry is beautifully lit in many colors, giving the so-called “underground temple” a surreal, quasi-sci-fi look from time to time. Aboveground, the museum also explains the history and geology of the area while exhibiting a variety of mining tools.

Nearby, there is a temple called Ōya-ji which is home to several Ōya stone sculptures allegedly created by the legendary monk Kūkai in 810 CE. There is also a public park about a 10-minute walk away from the temple where the Heiwa Kannon statue stands. It’s an 88-foot-tall stone sculpture of Guan Yin dedicated to those who died in the Pacific War.

Clancy's comment: What an amazing history.

I'm ...







G'day folks,

This ancient rock shelter features cave art and is one of the most culturally important sites in the country.  

The exact age of the painting in this cave is unknown, but it’s estimated that the artwork is well over a thousand years old. 

According to creation stories from Aboriginal Australians, Bunjil is a principle legendary hero, the creator who provides for all and remains a protector of the natural world, his people, and their beliefs. 

It’s believed Bunjil created the land, water, plants, and animals. It’s also a belief that Bunjil established the laws and religion of the region.


When Bunjul finished his creation works, it’s said he transformed into an eagle and flew into the sky where he lives today. 

The rock painting inside the cave depicts Bunjil and two helpers. Bunjil appears in many Aboriginal Australian creation stories. The Bunjil Shelter sits within the Gariwerd, a cultural landscape that supports people both physically and spiritually.

Clancy's comment: I must get to see this. It's only two hours from my home. 

I'm ...