Category Archives: Our Amazing World

Natural history, wonders of nature, that sort of stuff.

Mont Blanc

Mountain Climber Finds Treasure Trove of Gems in The Alps

An unnamed French mountaineer climbing Mont Blanc in the Alps came across a buried metal box. Inside was a stash of rubies, emeralds and sapphires estimated to be worth over $330,000. The hiker turned the treasure over to French authorities, who will attempt to find the owners or heirs.

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc, French Alps
photo by SNappa2006 on Flickr

Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc is the site of several airplane crashes. One occurred in 1950, another in 1966. The gemstone trove is believed to have been part of the wreckage of the 1950 wreck. Other items including papers and letters have been found in the area over the years.

Mont Blanc

photo from wikimedia

Some of the gemstones were wrapped and labeled “Made in India.” An Air India plane crashed in the area in 1950. The gems were likely part of the ill-fated plane’s cargo, but French authorities say it is still too early to tell.

Source: Wall St. Journal/India

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc reflected in mountain lake                                               photo by by Bruno Monginoux


Antarctica Without the IceThe British Antarctic Survey has produced the sharpest image yet of Antarctica’s rugged topography. And as you can clearly see, without its mile-thick layer of ice, the polar continent would be an incredibly mountainous terrain, indeed. In conjunction with NASA’s IceBridge mission, the BAS compiled this map by drawing upon millions of new measurements of the continent’s surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography.

The British Antarctic Survey has produced the sharpest image yet of Antarctica’s rugged topography. As you can clearly see, without its mile-thick layer of ice, the polar continent would be an incredibly mountainous terrain.

In conjunction with NASA’s IceBridge mission, the BAS compiled this map of Antarctica under the ice by drawing upon millions of new measurements of the continent’s surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography.


Antarctica Without the Ice – visualization by NASA ICEsat

Check out the whole article, photos and video stream here at io9

 Check out some highly rated new books about Antarctica and exploration here:



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Dwarf Island Fox

Dwarf Island Foxes Saved From Extinction

The dwarf island fox, denizen of the Channel Islands off California’s coast, have bounced back from the brink of extinction in record time. The adorable pups were nearly eliminated by golden eagle imports to the islands. Their numbers were down to barely 100 foxes by 1999. Now, thanks to relocation of the golden eagles and concentrated breeding efforts by conservationists, the foxes number about 2500.


Dwarf Island Fox

Dwarf Island Fox
photo by Loren Javier

The foxes came to the Channel Islands between 6000 and 10,000 years ago as normal gray foxes. Over time, they evolved into smaller dwarf foxes due to restricted resources and space on the islands. This is one of the best examples of the phenomenon of island dwarfism in the animal kingdom. The tiny foxes evolved into six subspecies and thrived on their separate islands. At the height of their population, before 1940, it is estimated there were tens of thousands of the dwarf foxes on the islands.


Dwarf Island Fox

Dwarf Island Fox
photo by donjd2

Beginning in the 1940s, DDT insecticide killed off all the native bald eagles on the islands. This left an unfilled niche, quickly taken over by predatory golden eagles. Normally the golden eagles would have been chased from the islands by the bald eagles. The millions of pounds of DDT discharged into the ocean by chemical companies between the 1940s and the 1970s had contaminated the fish that were the primary food of the bald eagles. The golden eagles fed mainly on sheep and feral pigs introduced to the islands in the 1850s. They also snacked on dwarf foxes, quickly cutting the fox population to around 100 by 1999.


Channel Islands

View of Channel Islands – National Park
photo by Ian Shive/Aurora

The Nature Conservancy and the Park Service own about 76 percent of Santa Cruz Island, once home to the Chumash Indians. By the time fox recovery efforts began in 1999, the dwarf foxes lived on only three of the six islands. About 85 island foxes lived on Santa Cruz Island, and about 15 lived on San Miguel and Santa Rosa Islands.  They were listed as an endangered species in 2004.


In 2006, captive-breeding programs for the foxes began on Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. The feral pig and sheep populations, which had stripped the islands of vegetation cover for the foxes, were removed. Bald eagles were reintroduced to the islands, where they fed mainly on their preferred marine diets and left the foxes alone. Forty-four golden eagles were relocated to the mainland.


Dwarf Island Fox

Dwarf Island Fox

Free once again to live and breed without fear of being eaten by eagles, the island dwarf fox population rebounded with record speed. In less than a decade, they are ready to come off the endangered list according to biologists. Currently approximately 1300 foxes live on Santa Cruz Island, 500 on San Miguel and 600 on Santa Rosa. Equally promising is their survival rate of nearly 90 percent yearly.


The San Miguel and Santa Cruz subspecies populations are large enough and healthy enough that they are no longer endangered. Santa Rosa should be at that point in a few more years. The main concern for scientists at this point is whether the breeding population is too small to fight disease. Genetic diversity is required to give enough variation in the gene pool for genetic health. This “population bottleneck” can negatively affect a species’ ability to cope with diseases and environmental change.


Dwarf Island Fox

Dwarf Island Fox

The NPS and Nature Conservancy will continue to monitor the fox populations for signs of disease, parasites and pathogens. If it becomes apparent this has occurred, scientists may breed together different subspecies of the island dwarf foxes to try to improve genetic health.


Best Advice I’ve Seen In a While

Highly Recommended Reading…

5 Small Steps That Changed My Life in 2012

by Kimberlee on The Peaceful Mom

5 Small Steps That Changed My Life In 2012-One of my favorite things to do in January is to take a look at the previous year to evaluate what worked well and what areas I need to improve. As I reflected on this past year, I realized that there were five small changes that I made which truly improved my life, so I thought I would share them with you.

The Peaceful Mom

Maybe these particular steps won’t help you, but the idea is that by making small changes consistently over time, you can improve the quality of your life. This time next year, you will be able to look back and see how far you’ve come


posted with permission of the author



There are no words to express my sorrow and horror at the events in Newtown, CT Friday.  A friend of mine perhaps said it best, so I repost her words. I trust she will understand.

Goddess Danu, Mother of All, help me to be of help.

Use me to comfort the comfortless; give me Your grace.

Make me peaceful and soothing, for I, too, am a

Mother. So Mote it Be.



12/4/12 NASA Earth as Art Photos available as FREE PDF Download

Totally downloaded this awesomeness. You should, too, before they change their minds.


Earth as Art PDF Download

News Releases

Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington
Nov. 30, 2012
 RELEASE : 12-410
 New “Earth as Art” Book Illustrates Beauty of Satellite Views

WASHINGTON — A stunning array of images of our home planet, taken by Earth-observing science satellites, are featured in a new NASA publication. The book, “Earth as Art,” is available in hardcover, electronically, and as a free iPad application.

The 158-page book celebrates the aesthetic beauty of Earth in the patterns, shapes, colors and textures of the land, oceans, ice and atmosphere. Images include snow-capped mountain peaks in the Himalayas, Arizona’s Painted Desert, the Mississippi River Delta spreading into the Gulf of Mexico, a Saharan dune sea in Algeria, and Byrd Glacier in Antarctica.

“Earth as Art” features images from the Landsat 5 and 7, Terra, Aqua, and Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellites. All are among a fleet of U.S. environmental satellites used for scientific research and applied purposes. Instruments on these satellites measure light outside of the visible range. The images produced from these data reveal features and patterns not always visible to the naked eye. The Terra, Aqua, and EO-1 satellites are managed by NASA. Landsat satellites are managed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The iPad version of “Earth as Art” allows users to zoom into the book’s 75 satellite images and access additional information on selected features and the satellites used. The app can be downloaded by visiting:

“Earth as Art” is available for purchase from the U.S. Government Printing Office online at:

A free ebook version of “Earth as Art” in PDF format may be downloaded by visiting:

For more information about NASA’s science program, visit:

earth as art

Earth as Art free PDF Download – Bombetoka Bay, Madagascar


Amazingly Cool Stuffs 12/2/2012

Earth Science Picture of the Day is one of my favorite sites on the Web for great pix of nature, space, sky, and people on the planet. I highly recommend bookmarking it.

NASA also has amazing pictures of the day, along with all the latest NASA news.

Worldwide Aerosols

Portrait of worldwide aerosols by NASA’s Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS). Image credit – William Putnam at NASA/Goddard

Portrait of Global Aerosols

High-resolution global atmospheric modeling run on the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., provides a unique tool to study the role of weather in Earth’s climate system. The Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5) is capable of simulating worldwide weather at resolutions of 10 to 3.5 kilometers (km).

This portrait of global aerosols was produced by a GEOS-5 simulation at a 10-kilometer resolution. Dust (red) is lifted from the surface, sea salt (blue) swirls inside cyclones, smoke (green) rises from fires, and sulfate particles (white) stream from volcanoes and fossil fuel emissions.

Image credit: William Putman, NASA/Goddard. Text courtesy NASA Image of the Day.