G'day folks,

Puffin enthusiasts flock to Europe's largest seabird cliff, which over one million birds call home. 

Látrabjarg, Iceland’s westernmost point, is also the largest seabird cliff in Europe. Over one million birds pepper the wind-battered crags, protected from predators while perched within the rocks that jut out from their towering domain.

The puffins, of course, are typically the star attraction. The adorable orange-beaked creatures are fairly comfortable around the humans who brave the fierce winds that tear through the air. You’ll typically find them peeping out from the grass that coats the top parts of the cliffs.

 Látrabjarg is a key site for seabird conservation. In addition to the puffins, you’ll find other seabirds like guillemots, razorbills, and northern gannets clustered throughout the rocks. At times, the area houses approximately 40 percent of the world’s razorbill population.

 The cliffs also boast splendid hiking and photography opportunities for those who can stand the wind. The nearly nine miles of over 1,000-foot-tall cliffs offer a chance to walk Iceland’s most western perimeter. Be sure to stop for a bit to take in the views of the Atlantic Ocean, which merges uninterrupted with the distant horizon.

If you do decide to walk along the cliffs, make sure you stay behind the white line that’s painted near the edge. It’s there to keep you from accidentally falling and plummeting into the churning waters far below.


 Clancy's comment: A top spot for wildlife photographers like me.

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G'day folks,

This volcanically volatile island town is home to an abandoned series of tunnels left by the Japanese during WWII. 

Home to two active volcanoes and some of the most abundant earthquake activity in the world, the township of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea does not seem to be the ideal place for a massive military encampment. But thanks to a strategically significant harbor, the Japanese built one anyway during World War II, leaving behind over 500 miles of tunnels snaking beneath the island when they were routed.    

Japanese forces overtook the town of Rabaul in 1942 as WWII was in its final years, and quickly established a massive military complex serving their navy, air force, and, infantry. At its height, the Rabaul base and its surrounding encampment served over 97,000 soldiers and thousands more accompanying personnel.

Due to the island’s remote location, the main threat to the base was bombardment from the air, which was frequent and often devastating. To counteract this, hundreds of miles of tunnels were built beneath the town where a number of fully functioning facilities were installed. The tunnels were dug by laborers who were captured in Malaysia, China, and Singapore and transported to Rabaul. Many of these laborers died from disease, starvation, poor treatment, and overwork. The Japanese also used local Tolai labor from surrounding villages and prisoners of war.


The hospital, barracks, storehouses, and command centers were moved into the underground labyrinth with some of the chambers built as large as four stories tall. Some of the tunnels were hewn right from the existing rock, and some were crude structures supported by palm beams, while others still were fully built out concrete bunkers. All in all, the system became one of the longest and most elaborate in the world. 

When the Japanese were driven from the island at the end of the war, the base and its copious tunnels were simply left behind. Today, most of the contents of the base have been cleared out but dangerous ammunition and other remnants can still be found in the depths of the tunnels. A volcanic eruption in 1994 nearly buried the entire city beneath volcanic ash and most of the populace were forced to evacuate, but the area is slowly recovering and the tunnels beneath the island are slowly being rediscovered.

Clancy's comment: Many Australians would have died here. Lest we forget ...

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BA 64



G'day folks,

The oldest steel ship in Iceland has been beached for years and is now a rusting ruin. 

Launched the same year that the Titanic met its final fate, the whaling ship that came to be known as Garðar BA 64 was a hulking hybrid of a ship, having both a powerful steam engine in addition to traditional sails.

Originally known as the Globe IV, the large ship was completed in Norway in 1912 as a state-of-the-art-at-the-time whaling vessel. The hull was specially reinforced to break through the icy Southern seas in which it operated and the powerful engine kept the boat sailing even in calm waters. During its active lifetime it was sold around to a number of different countries before finding an Icelandic owner after World War II. Once whaling restrictions became more widespread, Garðar BA 64 (a name it finally received in 1963) was used for fishing herring in the waters off of Iceland. 

 After decades in faithful service to its bevy of owners, Garðar BA 64 was finally deemed unsafe for service in 1981 and as opposed to being scuttled, the old ship was run aground in Skápadalur Valley where it remains to this day, falling apart bit by bit. It is now a popular site for photographers and anyone looking for a lovely mix of Icelandic scenery and industrial ruin.
Clancy's comment: An old warrior laid to rest.









G'day folks,

 This breathtaking national park is one of the best places to see the weird and wonderful giant anteater in the wild. 

The wonderfully unique giant anteater is an endangered species that is disappearing from many regions of Brazil. But there are still wild areas where this strange species clings on to survival and can be seen easily. One of the best places in the country to observe these bizarre beasts is in the magnificent Serra da Canastra National Park in the state of Minas Gerais.

Serra Da Canastra has been a national park since 1972 and comprises an area of 72,000 acres of Cerrado savanna, hills, and forest, through which the São Francisco river flows. Highly biodiverse, over 350 species of animal live in the park and many rare and endangered plant species such as orchids are found here too. Still the real highlight of the park is undoubtedly its large mammal species, and especially the giant anteater.

This large creature may be seen very easily as it ambles on its knuckles through the long grass in search of its prey using its strange elongated snout to detect nearby anthills to raid. When visiting the park, you’re likely to see an anteater feed using its sharp claws to break open an anthill and its extraordinary long tongue to extract the insects. If you are really lucky, you may even see a mother anteater with her baby clinging to her back.


Other endangered species may also be observed here, such as the pampas deer, maned wolf, puma, pampas cat, rhea ostrich, giant armadillo, and the critically endangered Brazilian merganser duck. But these are much harder and more time-consuming to find than the anteater, and will typically make seasonal movements to less accessible areas of the reserve. (If you want to stand a good chance of seeing these creatures it’s best to plan the timing of your visit in advance with the animals’ seasonal behavior patterns in mind.)

Serra Da Canastra is also an area of astounding landscapes with many trails to explore. A particularly famous natural landmark is the Casca D’Anta waterfall, which is over 610 feet tall and a renowned site of tranquility and enchanting natural beauty. The park is also home to many curious prehistoric rock formations that form eerie shapes. They are best seen at the Curral de Pedras and Garagem de Pedras sites.

Clancy's comment: Obviously a great place for wildlife photographers. 

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G'day folks,

This historic estate on the east shore of Lake Tahoe was home to an eccentric millionaire (and his pet elephant, Mingo). 

If you’ve spent any time at Lake Tahoe, you may have noticed the California side is far more developed than the unspoiled eastern shoreline in Nevada. Few visitors realize this is thanks to a peculiar and reclusive millionaire who built his summer residence on the lake in 1936, and in doing so, unwittingly conserved much of the beautiful land along the east shore.

The millionaire in question is George Whittell Jr., who was born into one of the wealthiest families in San Francisco at the time and inherited a gilded-age fortune. He was worth the equivalent of billions today by the time he purchased 40,000 acres and nearly all of Lake Tahoe’s eastern shoreline. There, he built the Thunderbird Lodge, a storybook estate on the waterfront with sweeping views of the lake and mountains, where he spent the rest of his summers indulging in Great Gatsby-style high-society.

Whittell, who was also known as “the Captain,” had a Tudor Revival-style stone mansion built as his residence, designed by the prominent Nevada architect Frederic DeLongchamps. The grounds also feature a decadent card house, caretaker’s cottage, butler’s house, and a boathouse for Whittell’s prized speedboat, the Thunderbird, which is connected to the main house by an underground tunnel replete with a dungeon and opium den.


Perhaps most unusual of all is the large stone elephant barn built for Mingo, Whittell’s pet Sumatran elephant. Whittell loved animals and collected various exotic breeds that lived at Thunderbird Lodge. Aside from Mingo, he favorited an African lion named Bill who used to accompany him everywhere, including rides around the lake in his convertible. Though he famously hosted luminaries like baseball legend Ty Cobb and fellow millionaire recluse Howard Hughes for debaucherous all-night card games, more often than not he preferred to be alone with his exotic pets.

Whittell had originally planned to develop the Lake Tahoe property into a high-end resort and casino, but found he liked having no neighbors and opted for seclusion instead. Thus, he kept the land to himself for decades to come, and it remains largely untouched to this day. Despite all the stories of his flamboyant lifestyle, Whittell’s most lasting legacy is his accidental one: as a nature conservationist.

After the Captain’s death in 1969, the bulk of the pristine land was purchased by the State of Nevada and the U.S. Forest Service and became the Lake Tahoe—Nevada State Park. The same sale ensured that recreational opportunities could exist for years to come along the lake in Nevada. In California, the area remains privately owned. 

The Thunderbird Lodge, however, remained private property. The estate is now owned by the nonprofit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society, which maintains it as a house museum where visitors can experience this intriguing chapter of Lake Tahoe’s history.

Clancy's comment: Mm ... how the other half live, eh?

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G'day folks,

This crocodile-infested East Timor reservoir is also home to a spectacular half-sunken forest. 

The East Timor lake known as Ira Lalaro is a gorgeous oasis surrounded by flat grassland on the northern shore and by swamps on the southern shore, but be careful not to get so enchanted that you get eaten by one of the lake’s copious crocodiles.  

The lake is a self-contained body of water that sits in a depression in the land. The northern shore offers great views of the lake with the mountains and lush forest in the background and the grassland is littered with water buffaloes wallowing in their swimming holes. Bucolic as this might be, it’s the swamps on the southern shore that set this lake apart from the others. The landscape provides vistas of half-drowned trees that reach back like a haunting bayou. 


While the lake and its surrounds are teeming with all manner of life swimming among the underwater trunks it is the massive population of Estuarine crocodiles that distinguish the lake. It is thought that over 300 of the beasts are packed into the relatively small area. One of the reasons that the animals have nearly taken over the natural landmark is that the native tribe consider the crocs to be sacred totem animals that are not to be hunted.

Swamps and crocs are usually associated with the American Southeast but this lake gives the traditional bayou a run for its money. The strangely lovely landscapes of Lake Ira Lalaro may be alluring but they also pack quite the bite. 

Clancy's comment: This would be worth a visit ... with caution of course.

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G'day folks,

Welcome to the tallest bronze seated statue of the Buddha in Japan. 

Located in Aomori, at the Seiryuji (Blue-Green Dragon) Temple is a colossal likeness of Dainichi Nyorai completed in 1984. This particular Buddha, known primarily as Vairocana in the sanskrit, is the principal deity of the esoteric Shingon sect of Buddhism. This particular Daibutsu is the tallest seated bronze statue of the Buddha in Japan, taller even than the famous Daibutsu of Nara.


Shingon Temples hold light ceremonies during the Bon Festival, in mid-August, to help those in a liminal state between life and death successfully transmigrate. Often, during this time, parents of a recently departed child will pray for the pacification of their own souls, and for that of the child’s. The Seiryuji Temple is no different in this respect, holding grand light ceremonies for the entirety of the Bon Festival.

Clancy's comment: Trust me. This is big, but I have seen bigger statues in SE Asia.

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13 April 2022 - SEIKAN TUNNEL - JAPAN



 - JAPAN -

G'day folks,

This is the world's longest tunnel with an undersea section.  

As early as 1946, Japan began looking at ways to build a fixed connection between the main island of Honshu and the nation’s second largest island to the north, Hokkaido. After decades of surveying and construction, the Seikan Tunnel was finally completed in 1988, becoming the world’s longest tunnel with an undersea segment.

Before the existence of the tunnel, ferries provided transport between the two islands. After the Tōya Maru Typhoon of 1954, which sank five ferries and killed 1,430 passengers, a more concerted investigation began into the feasibility of a tunnel that would run beneath the seabed to connect the two islands.

Work on the tunnel began in 1971. Building the tunnel, which was designed with a cross-section capable of carrying Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet train) network, was a massive undertaking. During the whole construction process, 34 workers died because of cave-ins, flooding, and other accidents.

Work began with the pilot tunnel, which had a diameter of 16.35 feet. Excavation began at both ends, eventually meeting in the middle in January 1983.


Work on the entrance to the main tunnel began in August 1982. Workers then drilled and blasted their way through the seabed, using almost 3,300 tons of explosives. The submarine section was completed in March 1985. Two undersea stations were built, one on the coast of each island, to serve as escape points in the event of an emergency.

The Seikan Tunnel was opened in March 1988, at a total cost of around US$7 billion (almost 12 times the original budget). It runs for a total length of 33.46 miles, 14.5 miles of which are under the seabed, at a depth of 790 feet below sea level. That makes it the longest tunnel in the world with an undersea section (at 23.5 miles, the Channel Tunnel is the longest underwater tunnel in the world, but Seikan is longer overall, and deeper). The Seikan Tunnel was the world’s longest railway tunnel until the opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland in December 2016.


Today, about 50 freight trains and 30 Shinkansen bullet trains pass through the tunnel every day, carrying more than two million tons of cargo each year. But freight trains and high-speed bullet trains are not the best of traveling companions, especially in the tunnel.

The Hayabusa Shinkansen series, a Japanese bullet train with a top speed of 199 miles per hour, has to slow down to 87 miles per hour in the tunnel to avoid disrupting the freight trains. At full speed, the wind pressure created when the two trains cross paths could cause the freight trains to spill their loads. Ways to manage this situation, and to raise the speed limit, are still being investigated.

Clancy's comment: I love train travel in Japan. 

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