Adventure

The Journey

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

A long journey across the unknown to a place not yet visited creates in my mind a vision. Cities. People. Faces. Lines. Waiting. Sitting. Smells. All of these mental possessions are just images until the journey is begun and those anticipated images become life. Before I ever traveled to Asia I found joy in travel. Our family-two week summer vacation was my happiest time and the planning for each vacation filled my imagination. I would lie awake each night, reading. The blankets would be pulled over my head and I used a flashlight to illuminate my reading material. Once my father announced the destination for the coming summer I would spend hours researching and dreaming of our destination. I spent years researching and dreaming of my first trip to Asia.

The first stop was Delhi. The final destination was Kathmandu in Nepal where I would meet up with a climbing team for an attempt on Makalu. The entire adventure was three years in the planning and three years of exhaustive physical training. I intended to wander the streets of Delhi and then view the Taj Mahal before traveling overland to Kathmandu. I met travelers who informed me the trip to Kathmandu was arduous, long, hard, and uncomfortable with nothing to see. I was informed it was easier to fly. It was an arduous, long, hard, and uncomfortable trip. There was very little to see, the landscape redundant, but I would not have missed it. Well, I could have done without the packed buses with the ear shattering music blasting whenever the bus was moving, but then to fly is to miss Varanasi.

Varanasi is one of the oldest cities in the world and one of seven cites sacred to Hinduism. It was a city by the 7 th century BC and is mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. It is here that the great river Ganges makes its immense bend to the east. It is here where millions of pilgrims come each year. And it is here where millions are taken to the Ghat and then mourned. I had never seen such sorrow and sadness. We in the West deal with death from a distance, often without emotion. On that day, waiting overnight for another bus, in Varanasi I came to understand the true meaning of mortality and impermanence. I rode the rest of the way on my journey in sober reflection. I learned one of life's great lessons in Varanasi- nothing lasts forever. And sometimes that is a good thing. I was glad to get off the bus in Kathmandu. Makalu did not cooperate and none of our team made the summit.

Ah, but the journey continues and the scent of pending adventure is always in the air. Spring is not far now. Summer is on the horizon. Adventures, big or small, are there for each of us. This is the year. The time to plan is now. All too soon, the journey will end. Cheers.

Visit http://www.numbum.net or call NumBum Adventurers at 406-777-2228

Answers To Quiz Of The Month

Right Answers to Quiz on wetlands

This month on one has given all right answers. j_deshpande@yahoo.com has given 9 right answers

Right Answer to Quiz on wetlands

1.57% of mangroves in India are found in the
  • East coast
  • West coast
  • Andaman & Nicobar Islands

  • 2.Agriculture and aqua culture have destroyed more than 80% of mangroves in
  • Orissa
  • W.Bengal
  • Maharashtra

  • 3.Wetlands of international importance are called
  • International estuaries
  • Heritage sites
  • Ramsar sites

  • 4.India has a total of----------------Ramsar sites
  • 19
  • 26
  • 5

  • 5.The mangroves of Bhittarkanika are famous for
  • rare migratory water birds
  • nesting sites for endangered Olive Ridley turtles
  • prawn cultivation

  • 6.A larva called " cavaborus" abounds in this lake and eliminates bacteria in the water, thus contributing to exceptional purity of water. The larvae are found in this Ramsar site
  • Bhoj wetland in M.P
  • Deepor Beel in Assam
  • Sastamkotta lake in Kerala

  • 7.One of the most important mangrove forests in the world which is both a Ramsar site and a World Heritage site is,
  • Sunderbans
  • Keoladeo National Park
  • Both the above

  • 8.The most important factor which will decide the fate of mangroves is,
  • Local enforcement protecting mangroves
  • Prevention of clogging by crude oil & other pollutants
  • Worldwide reduction in consumer demand for pond raised shrimps

  • 9.Useful functions performed by wetlands are,
  • Many wading birds and water fowl like ergets, herons and ibises nest in wetlands.
  • They act as natural filters and help remove a whole range of pollutants from water such as viruses from sewage works or heavy metals from industrial plants.
  • Both the above

  • 10.Gulf of Mannar is a major habitat for the endangered
  • dolphin
  • whale shark
  • dugong


  • Common Birds of India

    Night Heron.( Nytcticorax nycticorax )

    - Ragoo Rao

    A walk along the shores of a lake or pond, specially in the late evening, one might find a paddy bird sized bird, a little stouter and more dejected looking expression, with ashy grey upper body and white under parts with glistening black shoulders and crest. This is the Night Heron.

    Both sexes look alike and they have attractive white flowing plumes from their head. They are more active and vocal in the evenings and night. The lake side will be filled with their raucous and harsh Kwaaak....kwaaak.. calls.

    These birds are found all over the country especially around lakes and marshy areas where they hunt for small crustaceans and frogs. Sometimes they enter the paddy fields also specially if there are no humans around. They have the typical heron like gait and they stand still with puffed up crops stalking for any crustacean or small frog to feed on. The moment a prey is sighted they dash out and seize it with yellowish stout bills, and immediately take the dejected looking stance.

    Like all herons these birds also colonize favourite roosting spots, on large leafy trees quite far from their regular lakes or ponds.

    Nesting is communal and the same trees are selected year after year by the same colony. Nesting season is anywhere between early summer to end of September in the northern part of the country. The southern birds are found nesting around the cooler months from early December to February. The nest is a mass of twigs lined with down feathers and usually has a clutch of 3 to 5 pale green eggs. Both sexes share all the domestic chores.

    The young are very ugly and very voracious and raucous. The parents have a tough time feeding them and the young chicks are found quarreling with each other for tit-bits, brought by their parents. Once they shed their chick feathers and don their natural colour, they look so magnificent and fresh.

    The flight of these birds is a sight to see, graceful deliberate wing beats which almost appear to be in slow motion. Silhouetted against the darkening sky they are a photographer's delight.

    Did You Know ?

    Swampy Heritage

    -Shivani Thakur

    The Sunderbans or Sunderban islands formed on the delta of two great Indian rivers, the Brahmputra and the Ganges have been declared as the World Heritage Site. These forests mainly consist of mangrove trees. All over the world mangrove trees are found at the deltas of many great rivers. But the mangrove forests of India deserve a special mention, as they are the largest to be found any where in the world. The mangrove forests, swamps ad forest islands cover an area approximately of 1330.10 sq kms.

    The Sunderbans get their name from sundari trees once found in abundance in this area. In April and May the flaming red leaves of genwa trees edge the emerald island. The crab like red flowers of the kankara and yellow blooms of khalsi form a dazzling display. The sunderbans are also the abode of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The tigers have adapted extremely well to the saline and aqua environs and are good swimmers too. The other species of animals found are chital deer, rhesus monkey and much variety of fish, red fiddler crabs and hermit crabs. The sunderbans are also home to king cobra, rock python and water monitor. The endangered river terrapin, batagur baska is found on Mechua beach while the famous barking deer is found in Haliday Island . The Sajnakhali sanctuary is famous for its rich avian population with species ranging from kingfisher, white bellied sea eagle and lapwings to sandpipers.

    Mangrove forests are most species rich eco-systems but are now threatened. They protect the coasts from storms and floods. Their roots stabilize the banks thus preventing soil erosion. But now scientists believe that changes occurring are due to combined impact of global warming and unplanned human intervention. The rise in sea levels due to global warming could result in submergence of the sunderbans. The forests form a natural embankment against the vagaries of the sea. The global warming is largely due to human emissions of greenhouse gases from a growing fossil fuel economy. According to Prof.Sugato Hazra, department of Oceanography, Jadavpur University sea surface temperature is increasing at .019 degree centigrade per year. Indications like salination of estuaries and the soil, loss of bio diversity are all indicative of a stressed ecosystem. The effects of climate change are also visible in the plant and animal kingdom. Dr.Abhijit Mitra at department of Marine Science, Kolkata University has found that 29 species of marine origin have entered sunderbans indicating that salinity has increased a lot.

    The Tsunami of Dec 2004 struck many countries in South East Asia . Many villages on the coasts were saved due to these forests or suffered only partial damage. Their loss would result in more tsunamis and storms affecting not only the human population but also the loss of a rich and abundant ecosystem.

    ( Map not to scale- courtesy WWF-India Newsletter dated March 2001)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    “There are 54 islands which are not there even on the map of India . They are almost washed away every time the sea rises. We have a mini tsunami every week. My focus has been over education on the islands. I believe education is the future of India . In Sunderbans it has been all uphill. The kids are in the hands of a mafia. They carry alcohol every night to the ship and get Rs.50 for a night's work. And this little amount is what stands between survival and starvation for them. So for them to come to school, I have to give them 50 rupees. I intend to start 15 schools with computer workshops with English as one of the subjects for the most deprived children. Each school needs some 50,000 dollars. I raise the money through royalties from my books, through generous readers, through well wishers of people as far away as Italy , Spain . And of course, Kolkata.”

    -Dominique Lapierre in The Hindu dated 23 Feb 2006

    General

    Photo film does the comeback

    By - S.Ananthanarayanan

    Photographers of wildlife will feel good that the next improvement in the quality of pictures may come thanks to living things – bacteria. This is in the form of film based onlight-sensitive bacteria helping photo-film regain the place it once had till digital photography took the lead.

    In the early days of digital photography, it was still believed that despite convenience and easy processing of the digital picture, in quality and speed the photo film was superior. But rapid improvement of digital photography has proved this wrong and the digital camera now matches the chemical film camera in every respect.

    The Chemical film

    This was based on crystals of silver iodide, or similar substances, suspended in celluloid film. The silver-iodine combination is tenuous and even photons of light can break the bond, to leave metallic silver behind. When light fell on a film, a ‘latent' image, of metallic silver deposit was left where the light was strong. The parts of the film where light had not fallen were washed away in ‘developing and fixing' and the opacity that remained where the light had fallen was the ‘negative'.

    In colour photography, there are three kinds of photo-materials, each sensitive to red, green or blue light. With the three kinds spread over layers, all shades of colours could be captured, according to the numbers of the different photo-materials affected.

    The limit to how sharp the images could be was defined by how small the crystals of the photo-material could be. The best films, with the finest crystals, had agrain size between 8 and 11 microns (a micron is a thousandth of a millimeter). We can readily see that detail finer than about the grain size could not be captured.

    Digital photography

    In the place of photo-sensitive crystals, usually randomly distributed, the digital camera screen uses an array of photo-sensitive electronic elements. The output from each element, during an exposure, is a record of the intensity of light falling on that element. An electronic circuit can then record the output of all the elements in the array and this list of numbers becomes the ‘image'. For display, the numbers are converted to optical output from light emitting elements in a display screen. Or the numbers could be passed to a printer, or even to expose a photographic film.

    We can imagine that electronic imaging and display elements would be cumbersome and were not likely to match the delicacy possible with crystals. It is the marvel of advances in micro circuitry that ‘pixels' or sensitive elements in unit area of a digital screen, have grown so much that the equivalent of a grain size of nearly 5 microns has become possible. Photographers who use both photo-film and digital photography now find little to choose between the two in quality of output. And digital photography has obvious advantages of ease of handling and manipulation.

    Enter biological film

    Christopher Voigt and colleagues, at the California Institute of Technology have created a light sensitive mat consisting of a genetically modified version of the bacterium e-coli. The scientists first used a strain of the bacterium that contains a gene called lacZ, which makes it capable of producing a black pigment. The bacterium was then made light sensing by adding a gene from a light sensitive organism called cyanobacterium, using methods of genetic engineering.

    The components of the bacterium were so aligned that the photoreceptor interfered with the expression of lacZ and prevented the black pigment from being produced. A lawn of these bacteria grown on a base of wax could then hold an image of a light pattern, by keeping illuminated portions light, while the dark portions turned black!

    The e-coli bacterium is about 2 microns long and less than a micron across. This enables much finer sensitivity to detail and the effectivepixels count is about 10 times better than good digital photographs. When thebiofilm becomes commercially available it may bring back the older kind of photography with sharper detail and better contrast!

    [the writer can be contacted at simplescience@gmail.com]

    News and Views

    News & Views

    News………….

     In addition to the usual features in our e-zine, please do not miss out the following additional information on our website.

  • A new article “ Human Elephant Conflict-an Environmental Tragedy” by Ankur Chaturvedi has been uploaded in our Club Chapters page. This page has evolved to host studies and in depth articles on issues whose relevance, we feel, goes beyond our monthly write-ups. Read this article at the following link. There is also a well researched “ Road Map for Conservation in Uttaranchal” by A.J.T JohnSingh which is worth going through.

    http://www.indianwildlifeclub.com/ResearchPapers/Conservation-Uttaranchal.pdf

     


  •  

    We have so far hosted fifty quiz programs on various topics. We thank all the members who have been attempting these on a regular basis. We also felt it is time to take a break!

    So this month we have a poll on the steps one is taking to protect the environment. Please click on the various options only if you are actually practicing them. We will analyse and publish the results to see where we, members IndianWildlifeClub, stand in protecting the environment.

    ……..And Views

    “ Nothing is more fascinating for your health than Nature. A new study, published in theBritish Medical Journal , found that contact with nature can improve an individual's health and well –being.

    According to researchers, use of wildlife in some therapies is reported to improve quality of life, and smaller animals, like squirrels, owls and raccoons, have been used successfully in therapies for children with emotional and behavioural problems.

    People who take part in conservation projects report subjective health benefits, ascribed to being outdoors and to feeling part of a greater system. Such projects can help overcome social isolation, develop skills, and improve employment prospects, as well as provide the benefits associated with exercise. Researchers said although initial research has been promising, a health impact assessment of wildlife projects is required to determine their objective therapeutic value.

    Partnerships between healthcare providers and nature organizations could create new policies that recognize the interdependence between healthy people and healthy ecosystems.

    -ANI

  • Poem

    Roots

    By - Saraswati Kavula

    ROOTS

    Once I was a tree

    Now I am a man

    Ignoring my past

    I cut the feet

    That rooted me

    To my mother -

    As I fall to ground

    Perhaps I will know

    The tree I cut

    As a selfish man

    Was me myself

    In a selfless past!

    ( Photographs by Susan Sharma)




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