Happy International Tiger Day! We’re Celebrating With Pretty Tigers and Tiger’s Eye

It’s International Tiger Day! The fifth annual, in fact – July 29th was designated as a day to bring attention to tiger conservation by the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit back in 2010. Tigers are in serious need of help: we’ve lost 97% or more of our wild tigers in the last century. There may be as few as 3,000 left in the wild. They’re in the worst shape of any of the big cats. Which is sad, because tigers are awesome!

I mean, just look at the beautiful Sumatran tigers at Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium: [Read more…]

Dear FSM, I Am a Skeptic Living in a House of Woo

Just so you know, I do love the new roomies, and the house is awesome, and most of the people I’ve met have been quite interesting. There are even many science-oriented ones! But there is also so much woo, I am not even kidding. I mean, we’re living atop a shaman, what could you expect?

Image is Buzz Lightyear with his hand on Woody's shoulder and the other hand reaching out as if showing the world. Woody looks appalled. Caption says, "Woo. Woo everywhere."

It’s quite awkward, being the resident skeptic. [Read more…]

Help Me Compile a List of United States Lava Tubes!

Bruce asked me for any good lava tubes in the lower 48. I know of a few off the top of my head, but when I did the Google, no list of lava tubes came up that I could find. This is insupportable, as we used to say in French class! We need a list of lava tubes open to visitors, stat.

I’ll begin with the ones I know, and you, my darlings, can chime in with the ones you know, and by the end of this, we shall have a nice, relatively complete list we can then publish here and at Rosetta Stones so that people can find it. We can include Alaska, Hawaii, and US Territories as well, why not! If you’ve been, and have got photos and a brief description of your adventure that you wouldn’t mind sending me to publish, you can email me at dhunterauthor at gmail.

Adventures with Lava Tubes in the Continental United States [Read more…]

Awesome A’A Lava Videos for Your Viewing Pleasure

It appears you lot love lava lots! So, as per Bruce’s request, I brought you some more. Here is a fabulous a’a lava flow from Kilauea. Listen closely – you can hear a sound like a hundred champagne glasses breaking. Those are the clinkers, cooled bits of lava tumbling from atop the flow.

There’s an excellent write-up of basalt lava flows here that will explain the whole clinker-thing. Read that, then come back for some more fun with clinkery a’a flows. [Read more…]

Mount Baker’s Magnificent Flower Fields, with Cryptopod

I’ve got many pretties for ye today, my darlings. I figured we’d return to our other volcano today, and enjoy all the pretty flowers, because what else could be better on a Saturday? Not much!

Mount Baker’s wildflower season peaked early this year, due to our unusual heat. Almost all the snow was gone, and the spring streams were dry. It didn’t matter to the monkeyflowers, though. They were in vigorous bloom, on the rocks, along the streams, and practically in the streams as well.

Image shows a huge bush of pink Lewis' Monkeyflower leaning over the rocky banks of a stream.

Lewis’ Monkeyflower

We encountered Lewis’ Monkeyflower all over the place, pinking up the local gray andesite, but my camera was not doing pink that day, so unfortunately I haven’t got many artistic shots of them. However, the Seep or Common Monkeyflowers were also in full bloom, and were even more happy growing in the streams, and my camera was doing yellow, so that worked out.

Image shows a triangular rock lifting above the water. Yellow seep monkeyflower is clinging to the wet bits of the rock just above the waterline.

Seep Monkeyflower adorning the base of a rock in the stream.

I love how vibrant that is against the dark water, the gray rocks, and the swirls of algae.

And it wasn’t just the rocks that were being all mountain-lake delightful: enormous fallen logs that look just a bit like rocks themselves also played host to flowers, and looked fabulous.

Image shows swirls of algae at the top left. In the center, an oblong gray log topped with wild grasses rises out of the water. Seep monkeyflowers are draped over the right side of the rock.

Monkeyflowers dangling off a lovely large log.

There were enormous banks of purple daisies.

Image shows a lot of tall purple daisies. There are two orange butterflies on them.

A vibrant bank of purple daisies.

You can see a few of the ubiquitous orange butterflies hanging about on the daisies. You’ll see that much closer soonish, because there were many butterflies, and they were all absolutely mad for those daisies.

The fireweed was just starting to come into its own, and it starred in many pretty scenes. Here it is with some pretty white daisies.

Image shows a blooming fireweed with two white daisies.

Fireweed with daisies.

Have you ever looked at the blooms in a fireweed stem up close? They’re really delicate and beautiful.

Image shows the delicate purple blossoms of fireweed, which are composed of four petals and many drooping stamens.

Fireweed flowers up close.

There’s even a cryptopod in that one, if you look closely enough!

And now, because you’ve all been very patient, I shall give thee flowers with volcanic scenery. Here is fireweed with a beautiful mountain tarn.

Image shows a bit of the Bagley Lake trail, with a stem of fireweed in the foreground. In the distance, the cirque is visible with a blue-green tarn within.

View of the tarn and cirque with fireweed in the foreground.

And here are some of Mount Baker’s plentiful andesite columns and lovely fireweed.

Image shows several fireweed blooms to the right. Gray andesite columns peek through walls of trees across the valley.

Volcanic columns peeking through the greenery.

Believe it or not, these are just a small sampling of all the flower photos I took. You can find many more over at Flickr if you’re not done enjoying the blossoms. I loved our trip to Mount St. Helens a lot, but when it comes to blooming things and pretty insects, Mount Baker has her beat this year. Superb!

Bodacious Botany: Trefoil Fans

We haven’t done pure botany for a while, have we? We found some vibrant specimens of the plant world growing happily in the Muddy River Gorge when we were visiting the south side of Mount St. Helens. Lots of plants seem to be rather thrilled with the lahar that scraped all the old-growth stuff away, opening up lots of opportunity for fine young things.

Image shows two leafy plants. They each have three leaves with ruffly edges.

Mystery Botany I

These were growing in shady areas along the trail. They’re pretty huge, actually, even though they’re not super-tall. [Read more…]

The Awesome Power of Lava: Watch Metal Burn!

Remember when we poked some gentle fun at Hollywood and ‘splained that most lava flows are so slow that you can outwalk them? I wish I’d known about this video back then, because it shows how even pahoehoe flows – you know, that thin, runny stuff – are often so ridiculously slow that an elderly sloth could escape their wrath. But it’s not like they’re not powerful! In this video, you’ll see how powerful lava is. I especially loved the tree roots asploding. Pay close attention to the chain link fence as it burns – this stuff is so hot it sets metal afire! Also parking lots, tires, and, buildings. And the lavafalls – spectacular!

It’s interesting watching folks save the power poles. We humans are pretty clever, figuring out how to live with erupting volcanoes and all.

I’m declaring this week Volcano Week at Rosetta Stones. B and I just got back from back-to-back trips to Mounts Baker and St. Helens, and we’ve got lots of pretty pictures for you! Check back often for all the new goodies. We’ve even got some home-grown pahoehoe! And you’ll see what that orchard may look like two thousand years after those poor engulfed trees have wasted away.


Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XV: Wherein Water Proves God is an Asshole

One thing reading Christianist textbooks does is teaches you to be cynical. No claim, no matter how innocuous, no matter how heart-warming, can be taken for granted. Observe:

Earth Science Fourth Edition’s chapter on groundwater begins with a charming little story about PlayPumps, which are merry-go-rounds attached to water pumps. It sounds like a difference-making idea: African village kids get some nice playtime, women don’t have to work so hard to get water, and advertisements on the water towers help pay for the pumps. It’s a great idea! Except, they don’t work too great. You need a good source of clean groundwater to begin with, kids would have to “play” three hours more per day than the standard 24 available, and the ads actually don’t make enough money to pay for the upkeep.

All of these problems were manifest two years before this book was published, by the way. Yet not a single problem is mentioned in the text. [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Delicate Beauties

Yep, we’re having a Mystery Flora post on a Monday. Seattle suffered another heatwave over the weekend, my uterus is gleefully torturing me, and I’m very much looking forward to more unconsciousness. Therefore, we are doing something fun and easy that doesn’t require Dana to expend precious brain energy.

Besides, you’ll love these fetching little things. They’re so delicate! A barely-there filigree against the gray volcanic ash on the Cowlitz River banks. [Read more…]