Thursday, August 30, 2007
In the past month out here on the west coast of North America, we've had the Perseid Meteor Shower (which was pretty great even the day after the peak). We had a total lunar eclipse earlier this week, which probably prompted the early conflagration of The Man, at Burning Man.
Now we have another reason to get up in the middle of the night. A Jesus-Era Comet (Keiss) might shower us with her frozen debris early Saturday September 1st. The peak of the Aurigid Meteor Shower is supposed to be at 4:36 AM Saturday.
There has been a lot of talk about this shower among scientists. It seems that some are saying it may be a very rare meteor storm (think hyperspace in Star Wars) or a dud. (Think of Geraldo Rivera's "Mystery of Al Capone's Vault").
Monday, August 27, 2007
Tonight, or really tomorrow morning, there will be a total lunar eclipse in the western US, including Hawaii, Alaska and the west coast of Mexico and Canada. This one will be pretty impressive. Here on the west coast of the US, the totality will last from 2:52AM to 4:22AM Tuesday.
Lunar eclipse 101- A lunar eclipse is caused by the shadow of the earth roaming over the surface of the moon. Basically a backwards solar eclipse where the earth blocks the sun rather than the moon. Usually the moon becomes a dark orange color. Unlike a solar eclipse, it's completely safe to look at with the naked eye. With a telescope or strong binoculars, you can easily make out mountains and craters of the moon as the shadow of the earth moves across the surface
So set those alarm clocks. For more info, Nasa has the whole deal.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
For those of us who are still stumped when trying to identify some of the planets & constellations, Google and the Hubble Space Telescope have come to straighten us out.
Google Earth has added a new feature called Sky that allows you to browse the night sky in a kind of inside out version of itself. It lists all the major stars and constellations and shows many other features such as planets and galaxies.
To see it, download and install the latest version of Google Earth. Then, click on the little black and orange icon in the top menu bar. Check out this video for info on how to browse the galaxies and see the paths of planet's orbits.
Monday, August 20, 2007
A WWII airman's body was found near the Mendel Glacier in Kings Canyon National Park.
The body was found by Peter Stekel on Wednesday while investigating the mountain for a planned book about a crash in the area in 1942.
Another airman was found there by an ice climber in 2005.
There's not much info yet about this man but the first body was eventually identified as Leo Mustonen from Brainerd Minnesota. It seems that this man must be one of the other 3 from the crash.
- Lt. William Gamber - Pilot - Fayette, Ohio
- John Mortensen - Cadet - Moscow Idaho
- Ernest Munn - Cadet - St. Clairesville, Ohio
The Fresno Bee is carrying the story here.
The story takes place very near where I spent a glorious night on the John Muir Trail in June. The location can be seen in the Google Earth shot above the glacier.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
From the AP via SFGate
"(08-14) 16:40 PDT Yosemite National Park, Calif. (AP) --
Officials announced Tuesday they found the body of an 80-year-old woman who was missing for more than two weeks in a remote wilderness area southwest of Tuolumne Meadows.
Friends reported Ottorina Bonaventura, of Schererville, Ind., missing on July 30 when she didn't return from a day hike in the high alpine region surrounding Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Bonaventura was an experienced hiker, but had a history of memory loss, park officials said.
A ranger on a routine patrol found Bonaventura's body around 5 p.m. Monday in a vegetated area beside a dry creek bed near Echo Creek, a region just three miles from the camp by air but unreachable via established trails, said park spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman.
Searchers had passed through the area in the last two weeks but found no trace of her, Freeman said. Bonaventura was wearing canvas shoes and shorts and had no backpack or water bottle.
"It's just such a huge rugged area, and searching is very very difficult out there," Freeman said. "The most important thing when you're lost is to stay still, stop moving and put yourself in a position where you can be seen."
Search and rescue teams from counties throughout California, as well as tracking dogs and volunteers from the National Park Service and the park concessionaire participated in the search, Freeman said.
The Mariposa County coroner's office is still determining the cause of the death, but the National Parks Service does not believe there was foul play, Freeman said."
Monday, August 13, 2007
Jim over at SFist impresses us again. He got a great picture of the tip of San Francisco's Sutro Tower with one of the little Perseids plummeting toward it.
SFist: SFist Photo: A San Francisco Shooting Star
We were out at a fantastically delicious pig roast up in Napa this weekend. We saw several of the little buggers in the skies and some big ones too that caused many oohs and ahhs. We clearly weren't in any kind of shape to take a such good picture though.
You can still see the Perseid Meteor Shower over the next several evenings. Check out the previous post for viewing info.
And This Is Where We Keep The Shark Brains...
Originally uploaded by uncleboatshoes
Biggest Room contributor Xtine sends us this San Jose Mercury News report about Salmon Sharks washing up on Central California beaches. Pacific salmon fishermen are probably rejoicing that these salmon eating sharks are heading for shore. Too bad it's because of some kind of brain wasting disease that makes them crazy for the beach.
These sharks, along with California Sea Lions, compete with us for that $22.50 a pound wild local King Salmon.
Wild, locally caught King Salmon is our favorite food group around here at The Biggest Room.
Now if we could just train the Sea Lions to eat the Salmon Sharks.
Friday, August 10, 2007
For those of us who will be away from the coast & city lights this weekend, there will be a good view off the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Check it out on either Saturday or Sunday nights:
- Get away from city lights.
- Head outside after 9PM.
- Lay down with a view toward the northeast horizon.
- Enjoy a beverage or something.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Originally uploaded by fredsharples
The Natural Resources Defense Council released their annuaPublish Postl report on beach water quality this week. The tests measure fecal matter and various bacteria in the water taken at ankle deep water in the mornings. Most Northern California beaches are pretty darn clean, like this one on the San Mateo coast. However Venice Beach just up the road in Half Moon Bay was too poopy 53% of the time. That's not from kids swimming without diapers. It's from seagulls!
Bolinas Beach, our team favorite had too much bacteria 13% of the time. San Francisco's Ocean Beach was all over the place at 7% to 50% depending on what part of the beach you're on. Oddly enough the beach in front of the sewer plant at Sloat scored a low 10%.
Outside of rural Marin County, Santa Cruz is probably the cleanest place to be in the water with Cowell's being too poopy only 2% of the time.
The takeaway is that we don't worry too much about getting into the water except right after a big storm when all kinds of other stuff in the water makes it gross to swim in anyway. Just think of all the crap in the storm drains on the city streets emptying into the ocean. That's what happens and it's way grosser than bird poop.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Jim over at our favorite San Francisco blog SFist got a great shot of a dolphin swimming off of San Francisco's Lands End Coastal Trail last weekend. Dolphins are actually relatively common off of Ocean Beach and around the Golden Gate. We see them regularly playing around the surf with us when we're out surfing. It's unusual to get a good shot of them though.
Fishermen are having trouble competing with a newcomer to the eastern Pacific. The 100 pound, 6 foot long creatures have moved into California coastal waters and are devouring Hake, otherwise known as fish sticks.
The squid (Dosidicus gigas) first showed up in California around 2002 and have been reproducing successfully. It looks like they're here to stay. Scientists are saying that they've expanded their habitat due to the lack of tuna between Peru and Mexico.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Panther Eating an Entire Berry Pie
Originally uploaded by fredsharples Vermilion Valley Resort was my favorite place on the John Muir Trail this summer. It's about the half-way point at 100 miles. So you're pretty hungry when you arrive. Panther here (doing the PCT) is eating an entire berry pie a la mode after consuming a huge plate of ribs with mash potatoes and corn.
I have some fond memories of meeting the PCT through-hikers I met there.
There are more photos about my visit here
The San Francisco Chronicle does a great little story about the place..
Backpackers get civilized at Sierra watering hole
Bolinas Lagoon, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, and Duxbury Point
Photo Originally uploaded by john w
I've noticed the lagoon has become much shallower since 1982 when I first visited. It used to be deep enough for small ships but now it's mostly a mud flat at low tide. Bolinas is an English bastardization of 'ballenas' which is 'whales' in Spanish. I've read various stories that say that whales used to swim into the lagoon. Any local fisherman or surfer will tell you that this would be pretty much impossible these days.
Studies are showing that the silt that is filling the lagoon appears to be coming from the ocean and not clear cutting, developers, surfers, yuppies or whatever. So now what?
Now the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary may get involved to come up with a 'Master Plan' to try to get all the folks up there to agree on what to do about it. The choice is
- Leave it alone
- Dredge out pretty much the whole thing
- Dredge a few parts and see what happens.
The Marin Independent Journal has the story for now..
Marin Independent Journal - New hope for Bolinas Lagoon:
Tom Stienstra at the San Francisco Chronicle is writing an insightful 8 part series about backpacking across the Sierras from Horseshoe Meadow west to Mineral King.
Some of this path crosses the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail but it's a remote part of the Sierras that few people see.
SIERRA CROSSING / First in an eight-part series by Tom Stienstra
My trip was interesting in that I went a month earlier than most people do. Also I went alone. Along the way I dealt with bears, an earthquake, snow and mosquitos. During the 3 week trip I cumulatively climbed 47,000 ft. nearly 1.5 times as high as Mt. Everest.
Here's a trail journal where you can see how the trip went.
Here's a Flickr page where I posted all of my photos.
Here is a video of the bear that I saw in Yosemite Park
Here is a video of the evil marmot at Guitar Lake
Here is my entire gear list online via Google Spreadsheets.
Also, here is my rough itinerary online via Google Calendar.
I have a large selection of John Muir Trail related links related to my planning the trip.
From the SFGate via AP
Park officials have stopped combing the backcountry for an 80-year-old Indiana woman with a history of memory loss who has been missing for more than a week in a remote area.
Yosemite spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman said authorities are still investigating the disappearance of Ottorrina Bonaventura, of Schererville, Ind., but the remaining crews that had been searching the area were pulled out Monday.
Bonaventura was last seen July 30 when she was hiking with friends and decided to leave the group and head back to her tent at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, a seven-mile hike from the nearest trailhead. The only food she was thought to be carrying was a few peaches.
"Because this woman was carrying so little on her body, there's just not a lot of physical evidence to connect her to the trail or where she was," Freeman said.
Bonaventura is described as 5 feet tall, with dyed blond hair and brown eyes. She was wearing canvas shoes and shorts and had no backpack or water bottle. Although she is an experienced backpacker, rangers fear she might have become confused while hiking alone.
Freeman said Bonaventura headed back to camp after remembering that she'd left food out in an area where bears and other wildlife are common. The food was not there when her friends returned, Freeman said, possibly indicating she made it back before disappearing.
More than 150 searchers scoured the high alpine region full of exposed granite peaks and domes.
"It's a rugged, rugged area," Freeman said. "It is the backcountry. It has inherent risks."
She said investigators are still attempting to retrace her steps and conduct interviews with others who were in the area, but "there still is no indication that there is any foul play."