Virtual Trip… Siberia

At around 13 million square kilometers (5.1 million square miles), Siberia takes up three-quarters of all Russian territory and almost ten percent of Earth’s land surface. England is 130,395 sq km (53,820 sq miles). However, when it comes to population density, Siberia is one of the least populated areas on Earth, with between 7 and 8 inhabitants per square miles.

Image by Olga Martynova, Pixabay

Siberia is associated with harshly cold temperatures, but the weather isn’t cold year-round. During Siberian winters, the temperature can reach lows of –70°C (–94°F). However, summers are warm across Siberia, with some parts of Western Siberia reaching highs of 35°C (95°F). This weather is due to the continental climate of the area, characterised by cold winters and warm summers.



Large snowflakes are an ordinary occurrence in Siberia. In the Siberian city of Bratsk, snowflakes measuring 12 inches (30.5 cm) in diameter were recorded in 1971. Other parts of Siberia experience a type of snowfall called “diamond dust”: snow made of very thin, needle-shaped icicles.
Some Siberians can estimate the temperature based on the squeaking sound made when snow is stepped on. The sound, which is caused by snow particles squashing together and breaking, is more audible in lower temperatures.

Snowflake guide crystals/class/class-old.htm

The People

The entire population of Siberia—about 33 million people—is equal to only three times the population of the Moscow metropolitan area (England about 56million). Most of the residents are Russians, followed by Ukrainians, Tatars, Germans, Jews, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Kazakhs and other nationalities from the former Soviet Union.

Siberian Tartars wikipedia

Early humans lived in Siberia as far back as 125,000 years ago. In 2010, archaeologists discovered a human bone belonging to a hybrid of a Denisovan and Neanderthal in the Altai mountains of Siberia. Siberian lands have long been home to indigenous groups, including the Nivkhi, the Evenki, and the Buryat.

Siberia Is Home to the Deepest Lake on Earth

Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world. It contains over 20% of the world’s fresh surface water. It is also the deepest lake in the world, with a depth of 5,387 feet (1,642 meters).
Mountains completely surround the lake, and more than 330 rivers feed water into it. Due to its size, it is often referred to as the Baikal Sea.
The entire lake freezes over each winter, with ice as thick as 6.5 feet (2 meters) in some places. In the summer, storms form waves that can reach 14.8 feet (4.5 meters) high.

Photo Pixabay

Over 70% of Russian Oil And Gas Comes From Siberia

The majority of Russian crude oil and natural gas comes from Western Siberia, where natural reserves spread over more than 2 million square kilometers. Russia is one of the world’s largest natural gas exporters because of its Siberian territories.

Siberia is Home to The World’s Longest Railway Line.

The Trans-Siberian Railway Network, which connects Moscow and Vladivostok, is 5,771 miles (9,288.2 kilometers) in length. The journey lasts 6 nights and 7 days, with 10-20 minute stops at each station. The railway is famous for the breathtaking views along the route, which crosses eight time zones and includes Lake Baikal, birch and pine forests, and the Ural mountains.
The midpoint of the railway line is a station called Tayshet (Тайшет), a town of 33,000 people. Tayshet is historically significant for being the center of administration for two major Gulag labor camps (Ozerlag and Angarstroy), as well as the starting point for the Baikal-Amur Mainline, a railway that runs parallel to the Trans-Siberian line.

Next stop….here’s a clue…

The original matryoshka set by Zvyozdochkin and Malyutin, 1892

Virtual Trip… Over the Top

Ice Caps

Polar ice caps are dome-shaped sheets of ice found near the North and South Poles. They form because high-latitude polar regions receive less heat from the Sun than other areas on Earth. The polar ice caps contain the majority of Earth’s supply of freshwater, scientists estimate that 70% of Earth’s freshwater supply remains in an ice sheet at the South Pole.

Global Warming

As average temperatures at the poles have risen in recent years due to changes in the environment. The polar ice caps have started to melt and break apart. NASA satellite photographs show that the polar ice caps are shrinking 9° every 10 years.

The changing environment at the poles affects native people, animals, and plants. Animals such as seals, polar bears, and whales may be forced to change their natural migration patterns and people who live in coastal villages may have to abandon their homes as sea levels rise. The effects of the melting polar ice caps may one day be felt well beyond the poles. As the polar ice caps shrink, sea levels begin to rise, creating serious problems for coastal areas around the globe. Fortunately, we can do our part to slow down and prevent the environmental changes causing the polar ice melt. Scientists blame the use of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and gasoline, for the production of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and lead to higher average temperatures. Scientists call this phenomenon “global warming.”

What can we do to prevent global warming? Conserve energy! Some communities have begun to use renewable resources, such as solar energy (from the Sun) and wind power. Doing our part, though, can be as simple as turning off a light switch when you leave a room!
This image shows ice in the Beaufort Sea, which is just north of Alaska. (Credit: Elisabeth Calvert, Hidden Ocean 2005 Expedition: NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration)

Unlike Antarctica, there’s no land at the North Pole. Instead it’s all ice that’s floating on top of the Arctic Ocean. Over the past four decades, scientists have seen a steep decline in both the amount and thickness of Arctic sea ice during the summer and winter months. There is no territorial claim to the North Pole but it is governed by the Arctic Council

Using a compass won’t necessarily take you due north if you’re traveling to the North Pole. That’s because there’s a difference between the geographic North Pole and the geomagnetic North Pole, which is what compasses and that handy GPS app on your phone use. Geomagnetic poles change over time, so what was geomagnetic north 10 years ago isn’t the same as it is now. In other words, trekking from Greenland to the North Pole isn’t the best idea if you’re relying solely on a compass.

The North Pole

And there’s more…

Virtual Trip… Canada

The Athabasca Falls is part of Jasper National Park, Alberta, that became a national park in 1930, and it is said to be the most powerful waterfall in the Rocky Mountain area in Canada. It drops a distance of 24 metres (80 feet) and reaches 18 metres (60 feet) in width. The geology is primarily of quartzite, very hard rock, and limestone also exists in some parts

Scenic Jasper, MA photo
The Force be with you Jasper. MA photo

The story of the Fundy Basin begins about 200 million years ago in the early Jurassic, when all the earth’s land was part of a supercontinent called Pangaea. At that time this area was situated near the equator and had a warm tropical climate and vegetation was lush. As continental drift reshaped the world, rift valleys formed, including the Cobequid-Chedabucto fault system.

The rifts which formed during continental separation filled with sediment which became sedimentary rock. Many fossils have been found along the Fundy shoreline including oldest dinosaur fossil in Canada found at Burntcoat Head. Very early reptiles have been discovered in Carboniferous tree trunks at Joggins. Wasson Bluff has a rich trove of Jurassic fossils.

Joggins Fossil Cliffs in Nova Scotia Canada
wikimedia commons

The North West Passage

History of Exploration
Several European kings commissioned dozens of their explorers to find the fabled Passage throughout the past five hundred years. John Cabot, Jacques Cartier, Martin Frobisher, John Davis, and Henry Hudson amongst others, searched for the route. Europeans wanted a shortcut of their own to East Asia, where they could trade for spices unavailable in Europe. They tried this by searching for what then came to be called the Northwest Passage, a sea route through North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and East Asia beyond. The Northwest Passage, in its traditional sense, was never found. However, in the early twentieth century, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen successfully sailed through the Canadian Arctic, proving that a Northwest Passage does exist.

Amundsen and his crew were the first to cross the Northwest Passage entirely by sea in 1906. Although the crossing was an important “first,” it had little economic value because the journey took three years in a small fishing boat and used waters that were too shallow for commercial shipping.

Amundsen, sailed north of Baffin Island and through Parry Sound. Despite his discovery, the path was blocked by sea ice during the first period of the search and is only viable today as a route for larger, commercial vessels because of the warming climate’s impact on seasonal sea ice.

The first single-season trip through the passage was by Henry Larsen and crew in 1944. Again, the route taken was not deep enough for commercial shipping.

Gjoa (Amundsen’s Ship)
(courtesy Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)
At Nome, Alaska, in 1906 after the completion of the Northwest Passage.

In 1957, three United States Coast Guard Cutters – Storis, Bramble, and SPAR – became the first ships to cross the Northwest Passage along a deep draft route. They covered the 4,500 miles of semi-charted water in 64 days. The first ship capable of carrying significant cargo to traverse the Passage was the SS Manhattan, a specially reinforced supertanker, in 1969. It was accompanied by the John A. MacDonald, a Canadian icebreaker. This trip was taken to test the Northwest Passage as an alternative to building the Alaska Pipeline. At that time, it was determined that the Northwest Passage was not economical, and the Alaska Pipeline was built.

Canadian flag.



Aurora Borealis Wikimedia commons

Virtual Trip… New Zealand… Christchurch

New Zealand

The people of Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury plain are no strangers to seismic events but at 12.51pm on February 22, 2011, Christchurch was struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. It was deadly, killing 185 people and seriously injuring 164 others. It also caused major and lasting damage across the city. Maureen and I had left Christchurch a couple of days before.

February 20th 2011 Christchurch NZ Gothic Revival Cathedral (me kneeling) before the earthquake…

The Christchurch Cathedral was designed by the prolific English architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, one of the most successful Gothic Revival exponents of the Victorian Era. Benjamin Mountfort who lived in the church’s spire during its construction also collaborated in the project, and monitored the construction process. The cathedral’s cornerstone was laid in December 1864, while its foundations were completed in 1865.

It took 10 years for Christchurch’s first appointed Anglican bishop, Henry John Chitty Harper, to get the construction under way. Money soon ran out, building resumed in 1873, and was officially concluded after the addition of the chancel and transepts in 1904. The final cost at the time totalled to £65,572… over eight million pounds in 2020.

… and after.

Christchurch Transitional Cathedral

The building was designed by Japanese born architect Shigeru Ban as a temporary replacement for the city’s ruined Anglican cathedral. With an expected lifespan of around 50 years, it will serve the community until a more permanent cathedral can be constructed.

The building features a triangular profile constructed from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes. These surround a coloured glass window made from tessellating triangles, decorated with images from the original cathedral’s rose window.

The building features a triangular profile constructed from 98 equally sized cardboard tubes. These surround a coloured glass window made from tessellating triangles, decorated with images from the original cathedral’s rose window.

Moeraki boulders located on the Koekohe Beach between Moeraki and Hampden.

The boulders were formed by the cementation of Paleocene (66 to 65 million years ago),mudstone in the Moeraki Formation. The main body of boulders started forming in the marine mud. The larger boulders are estimated to have taken 4 to 5.5 million years to grow, while 10 to 50m of marine mud accumulated on the seafloor above them.

There are currently over 50 boulders on the beach, the largest weighing around 7 tons. Waves continue to erode the mudstone of the area, made up of local bedrock and landslides, which means that embedded boulders are often exposed, resulting in “new” boulders.

We were at Otago about 200 miles further south down the coast and felt the 2011 tremor after visiting the Royal Albatross Centre.

Back to north island and the Hundert Wasser Public Toilets in Johnson Park, Kawakaka.

The main tourist attraction in Kawakawa is the colourful public toilet designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser who had a house nearby. In 1998 with the help of the community he transformed the town’s public toilets into a work of art using discarded materials.


The Hakka.