Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Royal Geographical Society Gap Year Scholarship Celebration Day

I know it's a cliché, but hasn't this year flown by? This time last year I was chilling (rather literally) in Alaska, full of expectation and anticipation for the many months of solitary travel ahead. Walking the Golden Gate Bridge was only a dream; I could only imagine ascending the CN Tower. And yet, it feels like yesterday that I was avoiding grizzlies and savouring moose burgers.

Yesterday, I was honoured to attend the 'Royal Geographical Society Gap Year Scholarship Celebration Day' and caught up with so many of my fellow scholars. It was a day packed to the brim with recollections and reminiscing, with each scholar allocated ten minutes to present his or her individual experience, and I was transfixed at the sheer diversity of narratives that emerged. From sitting and listening intently to the tales of hope and courage, I was genuinely inspired.

Travelling broadens the mind, as the saying goes, but I think it also deepens it. After all, a few months of solitary travel makes you engage with your own mind. It questions your own principals and beliefs. It stirs emotions and brings back memories. It forces you to connect with your own soul, and there's no doubt that my American experience did that for me; in fact it still does.

Yesterday, Gap Year Scholars and I celebrated what has probably been the best twelve months of our lives, but that doesn't signal the end. The legacy lives on. There's not a day that I don't think about America, and that's the most brilliant aspect of all. It's been almost ten months since I returned, and yet part of me is still there, wandering the blocks, hiking the mountains, surveying the beauty. My soul is still cruising the highways on the Greyhound; it's still mingling around hostel kitchens.

I've said it so many times before, and I will say it again. Never have I felt more privileged to be existing on such a fantastic planet.

Friday, 30 August 2013

One Year Ago...

It is exactly a year since the biggest adventure of my life began. Although it only seems like a couple of months ago, on August 30th 2012 I have fond memories of weaving my way through protocol and procedure at the airport, and of course bidding a farewell to my parents, as I headed to Alaska.

The Scholarship Trip uplifted me, and has motivated me for the years ahead, and I am very much looking forward to starting my University degree in less than a month. Starting from today, Geography with Dan will feature a small 'Dan Looks Back' feature where I will be reviewing what I did in America on that specific day, one year ago.

Monday, 19 August 2013

BRAND NEW SERIES: 'Kos- Programme 3

In the final episode of Daniel's latest series, join him as he explores the beaches that surround this idyllic island, and takes a swim across a bay to partake in an ancient tradition.

Monday, 12 August 2013

BRAND NEW SERIES: 'Kos'- Programme 2

Join Daniel in his BRAND NEW SERIES as he explores the idyllic island of Kos. This week, he goes mountain climbing and walks on volcano craters to discover its ancient geological history.

Monday, 5 August 2013

BRAND NEW SERIES- 'Kos'- with Daniel Evans

Daniel returns to the screen in a BRAND NEW SERIES tonight. In this, the first episode, join him as he explores 'Kos' in the heart of the Mediterranean.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Dan's New Series- OUT IN AUGUST!

Daniel's BRAND NEW online documentary series on 'Kos' will be released next month on his YouTube channel, TvGeog and you will also be able to watch it right here on Geography with Dan.

The three-part series will start on Monday 5th August, with the second and third instalment being released on the 12th and 19th respectively.

The series comes as Geography with Dan hits 50,000 views and there will be some exciting developments to come next month to mark this special occasion.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


Daniel returns to the screens in August in a Brand New Series about one of the Greek Islands, Kos. It's a series which sees him mountain climbing, and trekking over volcanoes, plus discovering the beaches and settlements.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

A Message to all 'Bandana' listeners

It is with deep regret to inform you all that there will not be any more editions of Bandana. Over the last couple of weeks, my own personal life has experienced a few changes, and I have not been able to devote the usual hours to the show. There have also been a couple of transmission errors which are beyond my control.

I have had a lot of fun broadcasting for you on Sunday Evenings, and have been overwhelmed at the international nature of the response. This show wouldn't have been such a success without the support you gave me, and I thank you all for listening and sharing it amongst your friends.

This isn't the end of my broadcasting, though. In August, a brand new online documentary series will be released here on Geography with Dan, and I hope to make a return to radio in the foreseeable future. You can listen to all of the shows by clicking on this link
Until then, may I wish you all the best, and thanks once again.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Filming for BRAND NEW 'THREE PART' SERIES- next week in Kos, Greece.

Daniel will be leaving the country for the first time since his American Trip tomorrow morning. He's heading to Kos, Greece to shoot for his brand new three-part series, launching later in the year.

Daniel is also very busy currently, presenting a series on Bristol for a production company, Immix Media. (Pictured Above)


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013


To listen to the latest programme, broadcast on Sunday 12th May, please click on the link to Dan's Radio Page

Monday, 29 April 2013

Keep Calm and Explore with Dan- PART 5- London

In the concluding episode of the series, Dan explores London, and discovers even a capital city has time and space for natural beauty.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

BANDANA- 28th April 2013

Daniel presented his weekly Sunday night radio show, Bandana, between 7 and 10 this Sunday evening! To listen again, click the link below...

Saturday, 27 April 2013


My thanks to everyone who continually supports the 'Geography with Dan' blogsite. Tonight, overall views have just topped 40,000!

Please do keep checking back as the site is regularly updated and if you have an idea for the blog, please contact me: daniel.evans994@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, 22 April 2013

Keep Calm and Explore with Dan- PART 4- Southampton

This week, join Dan as he visits Southampton, and discovers the natural beauty of the city.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Monday, 15 April 2013


In this, the third programme in the series, Dan travels to Oxford, and explores the natural beauty in the city. From flooded meadows, to wild deer, he explains that even if you live in a city, it's never too late to Keep Calm and Explore.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

BANDANA: 14th April 2013

Missed Dan's Radio Show? Dan is on 'Bandana' every Sunday evening from 7pm till 10pm! Here's this week's show!


Friday, 12 April 2013

Geographical Association Annual Conference: 2013- Derby- 'Quality' Geography, What Does it Look Like? By David Gardner

In these times of meeting targets and achieving objectives, I often feel that the essence of 'quality' is lost, or perhaps, overshadowed. I had just emerged from Dr Rita Gardner's extremely motivational speech regarding Geography as this all encompassing, relevant and applicable subject. (You can read a summary of it in the next post below). I was transfixed at her passion, yet realised that inside the classroom, so often that's not the case. So frequently have I heard teachers comment about the looming presence of school inspections, and how it inadvertently disrupts learning. To put it short, students are not reaping the delights that come with such a subject and are forever being handed internal assessments. Where's the quality in that?

So often the quality of a lesson relies on the quality of the teacher, as David Gardner outlined in this conference lecture. The teacher must have "clear vision" with a "character and purpose" and they should install high expectations in each of their students. They should continually ask themselves: "What are trying to achieve?" and "How do we organise learning?" I agree, to a degree, but have always found that a student who manages their own learning will so often do well in the future. They have the initiative to ask questions to supplement their studies. They have the eagerness; the zeal for Geography.

David Gardner continued to shine the spotlight on those aspects which don't offer quality. Teaching 'just to cover the content' being one of them. I, myself, have found that teachers regularly complain that there is seldom any time to explore around a topic and instead, students have to skid across the surface of a subject, and hop to the next one. As Rita Gardner put it, there needs to be more quantitative skills introduced into the lessons, like map work; students should be active learners. How often is it that a class is expected to rely on a textbook? Yes, Waugh might offer an integrated approach, but that isn't necessarily the approach to 'quality' learning.

Archibald Geikie once wrote a book called The Teaching of Geography and although there's no one correct method, he made one of the most crucial points. The irreplaceable ingredient is "personal zest". Every student has to have the zest for learning about the planet he or she belongs to. They have to relish the excitement that the subject offers; they have to savour every last droplet of excitement that Geography inevitably provides. If not, well, it turns into a laborious few hours at the desk. And by today's standards of Geography teaching, no wonder they chew gum and text away. David Gardner strongly believes that students should enter a classroom with a sense of anticipation. He believes the learning should be compelling.

So how do you make learning compelling? Well, I think it comes back to what Rita Gardner was saying in the previous lecture; you have to engage through their own terms. You could have the most wise and academic of learning objectives, but if they don't bubble the adrenaline, they're next to pointless. It's very often the case that teachers find themselves under the pressure of meeting targets. But maybe they should instead focus on the very core of the issue: the question of quality. If a student doesn't exit the classroom feeling inspired, can you honestly say that you've achieved your targets?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Geographical Association Annual Conference: 2013- Derby- Geography's Impacts on the Wider World by Dr. Rita Gardner

Let me put down on record, this was one of the best lectures I have ever had the pleasure of seeing. The enthusiasm that was injected into the audience through mere words was sensational. Flames of inspiration were burning, and a motivational warmth diffused through the hall. It was simply brilliant.

Dr Rita Gardner's enthusiasm for Geography isn't a result of being the Director of the Royal Geographical Society, but it's how she landed the position in the first place. Her lecture at this conference delved into the wider aspects of Geography; she explained just why it is essential for all leagues of contemporary society. From Geo spatial technology such as GPS and GIS, to the issues all around us, she made it exceedingly clear that Geography serves not just the classroom, but also the workplace and the wider society.

It was Bill Clinton who said "Geographic information is critical.." to promote the economy. That still rings true today, perhaps even more so. Insurance companies use geographical information to base their quotes. (Living right next to the Broads, I have personal experience of this!)

Unfortunately, despite the need for Geography in our society, and although we feed off it like aphids sip sap, there is this notion that Geography jobs are not plentiful. However, Rita strongly countered this argument with the latest survey by Hista, who has placed Geography graduates as the second lowest when it comes to graduate unemployment. So there are jobs out there; some of which use Geography but aren't necessarily called a 'Geography job'.

I think it's the diversity of skills that Geography offers that makes it so applicable. Having said this, Rita pointed out that quantitative skills are perhaps modern society's weakness. Map-reading has been substituted for Google or SatNav. Contour lines are redundant after an oppressive launch of these Smart Phones that can tell one the local area's gradient, the local amenities, the local this and the local that. (They might even be serving tea soon.) There's no doubt about the weakness in some of the vital skills, but at least there are strong forces defending the subject. Lord Patten, for instance, who is the Chairman of the BBC, who once said delightfully: "I believe passionately in the importance of Geography."

Rita went onto talking about the role of the Royal Geographical Society and how she and her team are forever trying to promote Geography, especially to the younger audience. One of her most pertinent points came here. That it is important to engage them through their terms, not ours. If they prefer to learn Geography through an App, or maybe through the latest Top 40, then so be it. I thought this was a moment of genius, especially because I, for one, have been trying to promote Geography for many years now.

I asked a question at the end: should it be a necessity to inspire Geography to young people by using other young people. I have been trying to inspire hundreds, perhaps thousands, over the last few years. I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. Apparently, I am. "Young people are our future," Rita spoke. And you could tell she was speaking from the heart. What a lovely lady.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Geographical Association Annual Conference: 2013- Derby- Presidential Lecture from Bob Digby

For the next two weeks, Geography with Dan will be focusing on just a handful of the extremely enriching lectures I enjoyed last weekend in Derby, at the annual G.A. conference. What better way to begin than the Presidential Lecture given by present President, Bob Digby?

Bob isn't a sportsman as such, but he has a burning passion for sporting events, in particular the Olympics and the lecture he gave this year at the conference really exhibited that love. From the very opening sentence, he shuttled a hundred or so of us in the audience back to last summer's grand display of sportsmanship and positive competitiveness; a memorable summer that Rio can aspire to in 2016. But Bob's essential question rang throughout the presentation: was it just a summer to remember?

London's Olympics has been dubbed the 'Sustainable Games' and has, in some way, imprinted a legacy over the words: Great Britain. In some ways, Great Britain has never been so great; so inspirational. London's diversity has become augmented, it has sent out a motivational message that sport is an ingredient to a positive well being, and the games themselves were one of the 'sustainable' games on record. Of course, the word 'sustainable' lingers out there in a cloud of ambiguity.

So very often progress and achievement can only be measured by firstly observing what was in place before, and Bob gave a very informative briefing on East London. He drew on the fact that the London Olympic Park planners had taken inspiration from previous games, referring to the concept of 'Green Games' that we adopted from Sydney. It's clear that one of the pivotal Olympic environmental principals was this notion of 'remediation' and Bob punctuated what almost had been a non-stop celebration, by turning to Athens. The Athens' Olympic Legacy is one of negativeness; the park has been labelled a "wasteland", but where on the league does it sit with Beijing? Beijing created the arresting site of the 'Bird's Nest' stadium which has seen very little action apart from tourism since 2008. (Of course, if you're not an avid reader in Olympic Legacy or regularly take trips to Beijing, you probably wouldn't have known that!)

It's significant- perhaps more significant than ever after Athens and Beijing- that the London Legacy perpetuates. Already afoot are plans to transform every venue into a public leisure venue. The Copper Box will be turned into a public leisure facility, the Velodrome will be converted to a BMX/Mountain Biking track and the Aquatic Centre will be revised to become community swimming baths. (Those who have the inclination, I have no doubts that Tom Daley's locker will be an on-site exhibit with hourly tours and one of his towels will be there hanging behind a glass cabinet in the foyer!) And the Olympic Stadium? Well, it's diary isn't exactly bare. Already, the turf and track has been reserved for the World Athletic Championships and Live Nation. Whether the 2015 Premiership Matches, World Rugby and 20/20 Cricket will secure the stadium, is a controversial and much-heated debate.

Bob ventured far beyond the success and legacy of the amenities, and touched upon the re branding of East London. 2800 more social housing units have been built, and economic opportunity will continue to thrive largely thanks to a multiplier effect. The question remains: will East London be the new Silicon Valley? With 3000 jobs and Facebook moving in, it's almost certain that the stereotypical image of East London will be cast aside and replaced by a fresh one of innovation.

Sydney's Olympics is one that Bob remembers very well. But has it been deemed an all round success? (I know I have readers from this pocket of the planet, so I should speak carefully here!) If there were any shortenings, it would be the political secrecy that transpired from the games. It has been pointed out that the economics of the event overshadowed the social issues. It scored 5/10 overall, which is something to chew over I think. There are obviously parameters that weren't considered when scoring the success, and of course, it is very difficult to quantify something which itself is qualitative. Bob calculated a score of 8.4/10 for London 2012, which inspired an audience with a sense of achievement in Derby at the conference, and I think I speak on their behalf too when I say I have never been more proud to be living in England, and to be studying in London later this year.

Finally, Bob issued what could be an extremely interesting discussion point. The Olympics undoubtedly installed a sense of national pride back into the country and it simultaneously hosted a games which has furthered globalisation. But 'national pride' and 'globalisation' conflict with one another. Whichever side of the pitch you stand on that one, (pun very much intended there) I think we are altogether united in agreeing that London 2012 wasn't just a Summer to remember. It has sparked a wave of opportunities both socially and economically and will forever be known as the Legacy Games.

Monday, 8 April 2013


In this, the second programme in his latest series, Daniel Evans explores the natural beauty of Cambridge.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

BANDANA- 7th April 2013

If you missed Daniel's weekly Sunday evening show, here's a link to it!

Geographical Association Conference: 2013

Over the last couple of days, it's been truly a geographer's heaven. I've been enveloped in most probably the highest concentration of Geography the U.K experiences, and it only takes place on one weekend of a year. I'm referring to the annual Geographical Association Conference, hosted this year at Derby University. I spent a couple of days mingling with the likes of Dr Rita Gardner CBE (Director of the Royal Geographical Society) and Bob Digby (President of the Geographical Association.) It was an honour to experience a lecture by Terry Callaghan (Distinguished Research Professor and Nobel Peace Prize winner.) I learnt a great deal about the work that is currently taking place in and around the country, and indeed farther afield, and over the next two weeks, on Geography With Dan, I plan to share some of my findings with you. Keep returning over the next couple of weeks!

Monday, 1 April 2013

BRAND NEW SERIES- Keep Calm and Explore with Dan

In this, a brand new series, Dan explores the pockets of natural beauty in some of the country's most busiest cities, proving it's never too late to keep calm and explore.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

EASTER SPECIAL: A Trip to Easter Island

Geography with Dan once featured an article about Christmas Island; it gave my blog a certain festive feel during the season. And so, I continue the tradition this weekend, with a spotlight on its sister, 'Easter Island'.

As one more piece of chocolate slowly melts away and slides down the gullet, you're flicking through the holiday catalogues in search for a perfect summer location, but it's unlikely you'll find even a mention of Easter Island. After all, it's been described as "one of the most isolated places in the world". 2600 miles east of Polynesia, and 2300 miles west of Chile, it's a mere freckle in the Pacific, and only 63 square miles in area itself. It's geological history, it being a volcanic outcrop, makes it one of the remote pockets  on the planet.

Remote, yes, but not uninhabited. Settlers arrived around 400 AD, and colonists grew to about 7000. "They parcelled the island into small territories and ultimately turned on one another in the drawn-out paroxysms of societal and environmental collapse" as my National Geographic reports from March 1993. And yet, although they charred their mark upon the landscape, the island shaped their souls.
Make a visit today, and a fraction of this quintessential primitive lifestyle is still observable. Local knowledge and community culture has only enhanced as a result of the isolation from both occident and orient societies, and what's more, Easter Island evokes great speculation due to the impressiveness of its archaeological sites.

But why 'Easter' Island? Does it hold religious significance? Well, no. As you peel the foil off another egg on this Easter Sunday, consider that the Europeans founded this small island on this day in 1722. Recently, a wave of modernisation has taken place. A surge of amenities that have brought 640 hotels  and 530 motor vehicles. Telephones have been introduced as well as the fax machine. Having said this, the present day community of 2800 live in a concentrated region, in Honga Roa on the South West Coast. Since 1965, in particular, a large transformation has been introduced, induced somewhat by a young school-teacher's open letter of protest to the Chilean government about living conditions on the island. The protest led to the end of military rule, giving Easter Island the civil status it perhaps needed. Two years later, an air service made a base on the island and the tourist industry started to grow.

One of the sights many fly thousands of miles to espy upon are the 'Moai'. Artisans carved the Moai centuries ago from volcanic rock at a quarry  a mile away, using stone tools. These figures range between 4 and 33 feet and weigh up to 80 tons; they embellish the island's primal atmosphere, and give the island a sense of human resilience and ingenuity. Others suggest the contrary and some advise that Easter Island is a "cautionary parable"; a society destroying itself by wrecking it's environment.

Pulitzer Prize Winner,  Jared Diamond, presents this island as "the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by over-exploiting its own resources and a worst-case scenario for what may lie ahead of us in our own future." She goes on to say that the "Moai accelerated its self destruction" calling them "power displays where people competed by building the biggest statues."

"Modern day islanders confront a fresh challenge: exploiting their cultural legacy without wrecking it."

In my own opinion, and I can't possibly speak from experience, but from understanding nonetheless, the lives of the islanders, both past and present, is a testament that there is still strength, despite the confines of the island. They sustain an ingenuity to exploit natural resources,  realising circumstances may indeed change. They are unique, in a way. For once, here's an island where inhabitants know who they are, where they live, and what their role is in society. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

KEEP CALM AND EXPLORE WITH DAN- Brand New Series for 2013

Next week will see the launch of Daniel's Brand New Series- Keep Calm and Explore with Dan. It takes Dan all around the country, to various cities, but instead of espying the buildings, he makes his way around the quiet, peaceful pockets of natural beauty.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saturday, 23 March 2013


Last week, the Saturday Supplement took a plunge into the depths of our world's oceans, and with the sad news this week that George Lowe (who was at the aid of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing in conquering Everest, in 1953) died on Wednesday, it's fitting to remind ourselves not just of the captivating diversity of the planet, but specifically the incalculable buckets of energy humans have expended on braving the skin piercing winds and battling the razor sharp fingers of this great mass of rock.

Hillary and Tenzing defied the oppressive elements of the Himalayas in 1953, and made marks atop an unexploited pocket of the world, only a couple of days after Queen Elizabeth II was crowned, but it was an achievement many had attempted in the past, and an accolade that many would pursue in the future. The National Geographic documents in great detail the expeditions over the last century; I am lucky to find many in my collection.

Perhaps this may seem an oddity, but I will begin with an article from January 1961 which wasn't necessarily a year for numb fingertips or Prussian blue noses, but a pinnacle year for Dag Hammarskjold, a security general at the UN. Instead of clambering the peaks, he took a flight around the area and observed with great reverence, the sheer challenge that Hillary and Tenzing faced. "They were an oddly matched pair but combined qualities to bring them to that summit." So very often, the success of these feats relies on the relationship shared between the undertakers; I have no doubt Hillary and Tenzing shared a burning passion for peril and a thirst for exploration. Dag, I think, expresses this himself. "To someone who has learnt to love the mountains and see in mountaineering one of the most satisfactory ways we can test our ability against nature, it is somewhat shameful to approach the Himalayas by plane."

Both Hillary et al. and Dag surveyed the beauty that the summit of Mt. Everest upholds, and yet I suspect Hillary's team savoured more satisfaction from the accomplishment. Climbing Everest has never been easy, and it never will be, so what drives those towards the venture? In August 1963, in the National Geographic, Barry Bishop of Maryland made the acquisition, but not without incident, and bed-bound in hospital for several weeks, he observed that "desire and determination" led him to fulfil his dream. "I'd have crawled on hands and knees."

'Big Jim' Whittaker, in the October 1963 edition- incidentally, the Society's 75th Anniversary Issue- comments that "man is at his best when reaching for something beyond his grasp." Climbing has always been celebrated internationally, and psychologically, it can uplift someone to a summit of euphoria. That seems to be the case for those who attained the apex of Mount Everest, and yet each mountaineer has their own unique feelings. Barry Bishop, upon reaching the zenith, wrote: "All inhibitions stripped away, we cry like babies. With joy for having scaled the mightiest of mountains; with relief that the long torture of the climb has ended." He goes on to make a very poignant point. "In the quiet of the hospital, I ponder the lessons we have learnt. Everest is a harsh and hostile immensity. Whoever challenges it declares war. He must mount his assault with the skill and ruthlessness of a military operation. And when the battle ends, the mountain remains unvanquished. There are no victors, only survivors."

Barry's feelings seem composed, but then he is making them from under the comparable luxury of the hospital bedsheets. In 1981, Reinhold Messner attempted to climb the highest mountain on Earth, completely solitary. From the pinnacle, his thoughts may seem less concrete but then he was probably unstable physically, such is the effect inspired by this altitude. "I still don't know how I managed to achieve the summit. I only know that I couldn't have gone any longer. I was at my limit."

Although George Lowe will be remembered for his notable efforts in the '53 climb, he also assisted a mission in 1983 with a team of 13 or so experienced mountaineers. The July 1984 article draws on the buttress that is named after him, following his scouring of it. It's over 3000 feet and the caption captures, I think, the essence of what a true mountaineer is all about. "George Lowe: one of our strongest climbers strikes a non-chalent pose with nothing beneath him but air."

This week we will mourn the loss of the last of the 1953 team, but Lowe's zeal for brushing so close to danger will live on, and it's this spirit that will support future mountaineers as they edge ever closer to any summit. From a National Geographic in September 1997, I shall draw a conclusion. "Climbers keep coming, not because Everest is the point of exploration, but because it is the path- the ultimate route for an inner journey that leads, they hope, to self discovery. Everest rarely delivers such big personal change. It's like they say," notes photographer Beidleman, "wherever you go, there you are."

Saturday, 16 March 2013

SATURDAY SUPPLEMENT: 'Mining' our oceans- but is it really ours?

I am tapping these keys whilst cruising the M25, having just returned from an open day at the Royal Holloway, University of London; an institution of excellence in which I will be immersed within from September. I will have the pleasure of becoming engrossed under a duvet of innovation, wrapped in a sandwich of cutting edge geographical exploration, absorbed into a warm and friendly society with a shared zeal for learning. In short, pure bliss.

This afternoon, if nothing else, has reaffirmed my passion for discovery and in particular, my ardour for Geography. Even if Earth has been poked and prodded, scrutinised and sampled, modelled and mapped, I know that there are aspects of this planet that we know very little about. Arguably, man knows more about the surface of the Moon than we do about our own sea floor, though interestingly enough, both have sparked interest in the mining industries.

In the news this week, a "new and controversial frontier in mining is opening up" as a British firm- UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin- is set to exploit the ocean floor. Ironically, such a plummet to the depths of our world as we know it, is perhaps a zenith of a triumph, as a survey has revealed that parts of the Pacific sea floor are residence to a huge number of valuable metals. Specifically, (maybe for those with an urge for a spot of deep sea diving) the area concerned here lies south of Hawaii, along the western coast of Mexico; an area twice the size of Wales and 4000m deep. However, litigiously, vacuuming these minerals could result in incalculable damage to marine ecosystems. Any mining activity could generate plumes of sediment that could quite literally choke the aquatic life that feed by ingesting water and filtering out vital nutrients.

In an age where everything has a value, from a Shark's tooth to a Rhino's horn, from the tangible to the 'idea', it's easy to see why UK Sea Bed Resources has secured a license to explore the possibilities of mineral extraction. Shadowing the underwater acts though will be those who fear the risk to marine integrity; arguably a recent league of concern.

I delved back to a National Geographic article from November 1961, where in report is an ocean-bound investigation, 20 miles off San Diego. As it quite proudly states, "they went not to seek oil, but to probe the secrets of our planet's heart and past." In a project known at the time as Mohole, the initial plan was to drill a Mohole through the Earth's crust, and yet nowhere in the article is the slightest hint at the environmental impacts involved. No word or phrase makes even a passing consideration to how the drill- a tool just to settle a few curiosities- might be influencing underwater fauna and floral species. But I then shuttle forwards just a mere twenty years, to December 1981, and the mood is shifted. The Mohole project from the 1960s was incidentally aborted because of soaring costs, a fact the National Geographic have very little trouble reporting twenty years later. But whilst the drilling was taking place, fascinatingly, Hess was drilling through the boundaries of knowledge to make a landmark discovery of sea floor spreading, which he later addressed in a very notable paper called 'An Essay in Geopoetry'. Six years later, in 1968, the Glomar Challenger vessel was negotiating a deep sea drilling project, and sampling deeper than ever before. It was found that water ejects from hydrothermal vents and is rich in minerals, a fact that later on would become a fountain of hope for the mining industries.

Here in this 1981 article, readers are taken to the Red Sea where an oozing mud over 60 degrees C contains a bounty of elements, namely Silver, Lead, Zinc, Copper and Iron worth potentially billions of dollars. "Exploitation has been held back by legal and technical factors," it states. "Inability of the world's nations to agree on a Law of the Sea treaty has delayed the start of deep sea mining for more than 10 years," which is an interesting point to make. Similarly, this week, as the UK Seabed Resources applies to sweep up Manganese like a broom brushes dust, this has been noted as a "controversial frontier" and quite possibly Lockheed Martin will face rigid opposition. After all, it wouldn't be the first time. My 1981 report continues.

"Lockheed has developed a working prototype for Ocean Minerals company...the bottom-travelling miner collects, washes, and crushes nodules, then pumps the slurry past a flotation block that keeps cables and hoses off the bottom. The biggest impediment to full-scale mining is the unclear status of international law to settle the questions- who has to right to mine the ocean, and for whose benefit?" Even if the "stakes are huge", "the chances of polluting the seas, possibly causing irreversible damage to their life forms and the shores they wash, grow with every offshore discovery". The elements found in plentiful supply might have a high price-tag, but does it really compete with the value of nature?

This will forever be a contentious issue, and I'm sure that until collaboration is sought, delays are inevitable. After all, I turn to an article from March 1998: "No one really knows how to manage an ocean," it claims. "Or even part of one."  

Thursday, 14 March 2013


Daniel will be back on the screens next month in a BRAND NEW SERIES!
More details coming soon!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

BANDANA- 10th March 2013

If you missed Daniel's weekly Sunday night radio show, you can listen to it again, by clicking the link below

Saturday, 9 March 2013

SATURDAY SUPPLEMENT: Climate Change- but when will 'we' change?

There's an opulent odour of sweet chocolate truffles and the aromatic fragrance of bath bombs emanating from British households this weekend; it's wafting out the letterboxes as the nation's postmen relieve their vans of a burdened load of gift wrap and 'Me to You' teddies. It must be Mother's Day this Sunday.

I wonder how many of us will celebrate the unparallelled supremacy of arguably the greatest Mum of all: Mother Nature? After all, it's the matchless Mother Nature that offers such a diverse array of flora and fauna for us to savour. It's Mother Nature that makes this planet the vibrant yet intriguing place it is and it's because of her dynamism, that we continue to discover new fascinating gems of information every day.
It's therefore a shame that, whilst we offer ribbons and bows to our own mothers, we aren't really giving much of a gift to Mother Nature. Only this week, in the news, the glaciers of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago will undergo a dramatic retreat this century if warming projections hold true. According to the Geophysical Research Letters journal, "the region's ice fields could lose perhaps as much as a fifth of their volume." Since 2003, as a result of a warming world, ice has been "thinning at a rapid rate...at about 70 billion tonnes and is accelerating."

So we return to the heated debate of global warming; pun very much intended here. In my own opinion, and from someone who witnessed first-hand the calamitous effects of a warming planet in Alaska, I ask not what we can do to slow the warming, but just how concerned are we about it. I ask this only because after much delving into my vast collection of National Geographic magazines that this feature regularly returns to, I spot a recurring pattern; decades of disregard, an abandonment of ambition and action, and generally careless negligence on behalf of the world's governments. To back up that latter statement, all I have to do is type one word. Kyoto.

Admittedly, the degree of success we have had to combat any Global Warming, is heavily influenced by the technology available and granted, in the seventies, computers weren't as sophisticated, data loggers weren't as accurate and importantly humans had to do commit to working out their own interpretations rather than to rely on a programme. In the November 1976 issue, scientists were even asking: "Is the world, as a whole, cooling off...or are we instead warming the atmosphere of our planet irreversibly with our industry, automobiles, and land-clearing practises?" With such an indeterminate statement, it's perhaps acceptable that the public couldn't commit to vigorous action; we didn't even know which direction the mercury was moving in our global thermometer. As the article goes on later to say, "Man still does not really know what controls and changes his climate, his daily weather, his seasonal comfort, his year by year livelihood, and the crucial boundary conditions of life." Despite the uncertainty, the article points out that "The question of climate change is no longer just curiosity. We simply cannot afford to arrive unprepared at the doorstep of climate catastrophe."

But we did, didn't we? Turning to an article I've dug from the May 1998 edition, over twenty years later, the first question posed is "How and why does our climate change?" By 1998, the controversy between a warming or cooling planet was perhaps settled, though the editor adds "the debate will rage as long as the evidence is in any way equivocal." For instance, data from satellites and radiosonde balloons indicated a cooling in the lower atmosphere, but warming near Earth's surface, so once again just like in 1976, it's nearly impossible for any united action.

While scientists explore deep into the complexity, the public is left in the dark, and recently it has been more of a case of "Is it too late?" The October 2007 is optimistic in this respect; a stand-first reads: "Global Warming presents the greatest test humans have yet faced. New technologies and new habits offer some promise, but only if we move quickly and decisively."  This glimmer of hope is shadowed somewhat by a gloom of pessimism that casts like a cloud over the body of the text: "No matter what we do now, the warming will increase some. That is, we can't stop global warming. Our task is less inspiring: to contain the damage, to keep things from going out of control."

The challenge to tackle Climate Change is all but inspiring, and it will mean a committed and active effort by all for any progress to take place. As I draw my last National Geographic from the shelf, from September last year, I am aware that, even this week, plans have been unveiled to introduce Global Warming awareness within computer games. Whilst  I have reservations, at least we have accepted the fact that technology can be used for our advantage. But simultaneously, there has to be a 'want' to do it; a genuine will on the behalf of humanity. 
As the article from September 2012 concludes "We need to face up that reality. We don't have to just stand there and take it." And a warming planet is the last gift Mother Nature wants tomorrow!

Thursday, 7 March 2013


A travelling teenager with a passion for geography is hanging up his walking boots to embark on a written adventure about an exploratory trip of a lifetime.
Daniel Evans left his home in Filby to embark on a four-month trip through Alaska, America and Canada at the end of last year after winning a gap year scholarship with the Royal Geographical Society.
And after touching back down on Norfolk soil, the 19-year-old, who has a passion for travel writing and has documented his love of the planet in his online blog, is now penning a book about his adventures.
The former Flegg High School student said: “I’ve always enjoyed travel writing, but on my American trip I only really used my blog to publish my work. I hope that this book will set the foundations for potentially more books, as I embark upon future trips.”
Daniel was among thousands of students who applied for a scholarship. Keen to live the American dream, while exploring some of the world’s most stunning landscapes, Daniel used his £4,000 to jet off to Alaska, the USA’s west coast and Canada. He spent most of his time in Alaska, where he studied the effects of global warming on permafrost, and spent time with some of the world’s leading professors on field trips and excursions.
He said:“The other project I worked on was a pioneering investigation into trying to calculate how much methane is bubbling from our world’s lakes. It meant very cold work out on frozen lakes but the investigation has just featured in the National Geographic and to have worked on a project, which has made it to those glossy pages, is incredibly enriching.”
He is now preparing for his next adventure – studying physical geography at the University of London.


Sunday, 3 March 2013

SATURDAY SUPPLEMENT: Our wars with the jaws

I have to make a confession; I've never watched Jaws, though that's not to say that I wouldn't recognise the memorable two-tone theme. For years, whether it be from personal experience, or from watching teeth-nibbling terrors like Jaws, man has had a negative empathy with Sharks. Even the name is enough to spark ripples on some people's composure. But trepidations aside, we as both a sophisticated and sympathising species have perhaps become too beastly ourselves. This week, the most accurate assessment of commercial fishing suggests 100 million sharks are being killed each year and despite the fact that establishing an accurate rate is difficult, the rate of exploitation is far too high. In 2010 alone, it is predicted that between 63 and 273 million sharks were slaughtered around the world, and this rate hasn't varied substantially in the last 13 years. In some waters, there's more chance of netting marooned treasure than a fin, and now fishing fleets are simply changing location.

When I peeled back a few decades of National Geographic to catch some glimpse of how sharks have been portrayed throughout history, I was astounded to see that the efforts to protect endangered species have most often than not, been rather small-scale and unavailing. In the February 1968 edition, for instance, the core body of the article focuses on just how useful sharks are in the world markets, rather than to raise much needed awareness. Shark livers, I learned, contain quantities of Vitamin A. Until the 1950s, sharks would be slaughtered just for the contents of this one single organ, and it hailed high income for both Japanese and Californian fishermen. From the middle of the 20th century onwards, we learned how to make the vital Vitamin A in large quantities and there is now little demand for shark liver. However, this doesn't stop them from being on the receiving edge of a bullet.

In August 1981, six years after Jaws snapped onto our screens, Australian diver Rodney Fox gave the National Geographic his thoughts on sharks after a serious attack he suffered in 1963. 462 stitches are threaded across the scar; a visual memory of a dive that didn't work out as planned. However, despite his injury "he decries those who kill 'great whites' solely for jaws" as they "bring as much as $1000." Earlier on in the article, Japan was criticised for a poor attempt at protecting sharks. "Despite Japan's leadership in aquaculture and marine conservation, the Japanese public seems unaware of the need to protect sharks." Perhaps the public requires more information and awareness; after all, how can you protect something if you don't know what's threatened? The article closed on a sombre note: "Because we like to swim and dive in an environment unnatural for our species, is it right for us to kill off tens of thousands of harmless residents to ensure our peace of mind?" The Israel Nature Reserve Authority set up a conservation facility off the south coast of the Sinai Peninsula. "We may come to appreciate and understand sharks. As we become more familiar with sharks, the move to protect them may spread."

11 years passed after that '81 article was published, and yet the scene was one of much similarity, if anything more dire. National Geographic from December 1992, took an angle at Whale Sharks; a species in fast decline, and regularly harpooned from small fishing boats. There's a rather arrogant comment from Tokiharu Abe, a Japanese scientist, who said "Japanese fishermen don't like to kill". The truth is, they much prefer to kill sharks than go out of business. From reading, I sensed no immediate efforts to protect the Whale Shark; most reserves were and still are too small to keep up with the number of sharks lost everyday. A thread of hope hangs off the last line of the article: "Shark populations dwindle around the world from overfishing for their fins, fear and vilification are giving way to a more farsighted active concern."

It's only until I reach for the April 2000 National Geographic article on the issue, that I sense some urgency; some sense of impending doom; some switch in consensus. "When Jaws was written, it was genuinely considered that they were anthropophagous- they ate people. Now we know that almost every attack is an accident." Sharks, more often than not, mistake humans for their natural prey. Back in 1975, "it was OK to demonise an animal. Besides, sharks appeared to be infinite in number. No longer." I would have to protest at the sheer length of time it's taken for that to be realised, but at least it has. Scientists estimated the population of some species "dropped by 80%." After much research, two separate issues were highlighted. As well as the fact that sharks are regularly slaughtered for small, yet valuable organs, they're not reproducing at a rate sufficient to maintain a stable population.

The 2000 article tried to seek out a world population count. "We don't even know how many there are around Australia. Not very many though," came the answer. With very little left of some of the most threatened species, the article goes on to state "there has been no public outcry to Save the Sharks." Is our fear for shark perhaps too large? Maybe here's a species we just don't want to protect? Yet, the article concludes with oh so familiar cry of hope: "For them to be driven to extinction by man, a relative newcomer, would be more than an ecological tragedy, it would be a moral travesty."

This week's report calculates about 100 million sharks are caught every year; a figure that has come some way since 2007. I turn the pages of my last shark-infested article, from the March 2007 edition. "73 million sharks die annually for fins" is the rather precise estimate given just 5 years ago, 27 million less than today's figure. Indeed, the issue is, if anything, worsening. "The Oceanic Whitetip- one of the most abundant sharks just three decades ago- is critically endangered." 

Ironically, just like every article I read in research for this week's supplement, I conclude my own article with a sense of hope, though perhaps that's what's been the problem all along. Perhaps mere hope is simply not enough? What is needed now is fast and conscious effort from all countries, not to protect sharks as such, but to inspire economic development. For once a country is developed, it can rely less on the primary fishing industry, and then, at last, can the shark swim without fear.  I do believe that the old saying: "it's scared of you more than you're scared of it" has never been more true.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Saturday, 23 February 2013

SATURDAY SUPPLEMENT: We can't ignore the thaw!

In the midst of a seemingly perpetual numbing winter, I applaud the efforts from scientists this week to try and introduce some toasty news into our lives. I'm referring to the news about a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C; if only the decimal place could be removed, and maybe localised to my village, I'd be a happy geographer! Unfortunately, the news they bring, however warming, is far from comforting. Indeed, the subsequent thawing processes that will inevitably take place will be disastrous for a large area of Siberia.

Ironically, when I type 'cold' into my online thesaurus, the first synonym is 'Siberian' and yet a report featured in the journal Science warns that in the instance of mass-scale thawing, up to a trillion tonnes of 'greenhouse gases' Carbon Dioxide and Methane will be released, only to induce future warming and thawing by a process known as Positive Feedback. (In my experience, it's a complicated process and rarely brings positive prospects.) It's difficult, nevertheless, to support the possibility of mass thawing with a predicted temperature increase, partly because there are a hundred of factors which collide with these parameters. Research into Siberian Caves, however, has shone light -if only torch light- onto a historic warming event. Moreover, by analysing the stalactites and stalagmites, researchers have pieced together about 500,000 years of permafrost history and records of another warm period show that a 1.5 degrees C increase is sufficient to "present substantial thawing."

Permafrost currently covers 24% of land in the Northern Hemisphere, but this figure could plummet significantly in the future if thawing takes place, though to many researchers, it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'. Natural gas facilities in the Siberian region, including power lines, roads, railways and buildings are at great risk as a result, and no doubt Siberia will be facing future "economic implications".
It's amazing to delve into Siberia's construction history and the ways that Permafrost has been regarded, especially in the last fifty years. I turned back the clocks and dug into my collection of National Geographic and managed to track down an article into this very issue from March 1967. I have to admit it was refreshing to read some of the benefits that 'thawing' has for Siberia; in 1967, the thaw provided "a growing season to raise cabbages, potatoes, cucumber and tomatoes. They never get red, but they are tomatoes!" Siberia always was, and still is, one of the most austere landmasses on this very planet, and I'm not surprised that the population has utilised a seasonal thaw to their agricultural advantage. However, this week's projected global temperature rise could inspire a non-temporal melt- it could happen at anytime of the year- and peak thaw could be detrimental to the the area in a macro scale.

Construction, even back in 1967, was conscious of permafrost degradation; "when we put up a new building now, we put it on poles," the Mayor at the time reported to the National Geographic. Later on in the article, Vladimir Dynin, construction director of the Yakutsk Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic, explained more of the process. "We use steam jets to thaw the permafrost and then, when the soil is mushy, we sink a [reinforced concrete] pile down 23 feet. When the soil refreezes, the pile becomes part of the frozen ground. The buildings to be supported by piles will be set six to eight feet above the ground, as if they were on stilts. The cold air will circulate under them and prevent their heat from melting the permafrost." (That annoys me, as permafrost does not melt, it thaws.) The elaborate and environmentally conscious techniques of the sixties haven't changed, but there's no doubt that building atop of perennially frozen ground will pose significant threats to its integrity. In the March 1990 edition of the National Geographic, Siberia is once again under the spotlight. "Development is hampered by...permafrost" it reports, though I would argue that development also threatens permafrost, and can therefore threaten future development. It seems slightly odd to say 'development prevents development' but in terms of Siberia, it's debatably true. "More and more Soviets decry the destruction of the fragile tundra, which can take a century to recover," the article goes on to state.

It's not as if Siberia hasn't felt the effects of permafrost thaw already. As the 1990 report goes on to add, "the BAM [Baykal-Amur Mainline Railroad] didn't have time to do their job right...The track was laid, the completion reports were written...And then track bed sank in the ice melt. Rails twisted, tunnel walls collapsed. Repairs and detours threw the BAM five years behind schedule."

This week's forecasted temperature rise is one contemporary issue; another is permafrost degradation. Siberia will have to think extremely carefully now. Sustainable Development will be a difficult process and will meet multitudinous obstacles. Suddenly, all of my tedious issues with British Winter are put into perspective.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Ivan Palfrey Cup

Tonight, I had the honour of being invited to be the after-dinner speaker at the North Walsham Rotary Club. Over the last month, I have made several visits to Rotary Clubs, not just in Norfolk, but in Cambridgeshire and last Friday, in Leeds and I never fail to be amazed at just how warm hearted the Rotarians are. Possibly in a mark of tradition, each club is composed of people from all leagues of life, which adds a certain spice to dinner conversation and ensures the experience for me, as a guest, is an enriching one.

I am humbled to have received the Ivan Palfrey Cup tonight, especially because Ivan demonstrated an incalculable extent of service to his local community. Ivan was a surveyor by profession, a model of Rotary values, and a quite remarkable man of very wide cultural and sporting interests. In his seventies, I am informed he continued his passions for skiing, sailing and riding his Harley Davison. Ivan was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Norwich ski slope.

Dave Robertson, Club Secretary and Town Mayor for North Walsham, presented the award this evening for my "services to the college student community and the wider Geographical community. Ivan may have pursued his interests with a passion that sometimes ignored convention, but so, undoubtedly, have you." The cup will be on display in the Trophy Cabinet at Paston Sixth Form College for the remainder of the year.

Below, the Club President, John Watts, presents the award. (Photo courtesy of Mr Daniel Doyle.)

Sunday, 17 February 2013

BANDANA- 17th February 2013

If you missed Dan's live radio show, that takes place every Sunday Evening from 7:00pm till 10:00pm, here's how to catch up.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


As Kathy Sawyer wrote in her article standfirst (National Geographic: February 2001) appropriately named: A Mars Never Dreamed Of , "the more scientists see of Mars, the more mystified- and astonished- they are about the powerful forces that shape its terrain." This week, an enlightening snippet of extra-terrestial information has been exposed to Earth. Nasa's 'Curiosity Mars'- once again, an apt name- has drilled, collected and is at present ingesting the 'grey powder' to be later sent to two on-board labs. The collected sample will undergo a rich and thorough series of complex chemical scrutinisation, and the results should indicate whether life ever was (or is) present on the Red Planet. 

I say, "should indicate" but then I know that this hasn't been the first time this thought-provoking paradigm shift has been explored. This afternoon, I have dug deep through my National Geographic archives, and have supplemented my lunch with some fourty-year old articles, and enriched the hours with ploughing through more than four decades of overwhelming astronomical achievements. In the 1960s, a decade overshadowed possibly by Neil Armstrong's landing on the Moon, Mariner IV made an equally successful flypass around the Red Planet. The article I have before me now, from December 1967, is on first perusal, quite ambitious. After all, it estimates only a decade is needed before "we could be ready for interplanetary travel", and yet at the time of going to print, nothing of Earthly design had entered Martian territory. I have some reservations about whether "Exploration of the Earth's land surface is almost ended" as Carl Sagan believes, but the author concludes: "Mars moves through our skies in its stately dance, distant and enigmatic, a world awaiting exploration."

Six years after suggesting man could walk around on Mars with "comparative ease" to Earth- its gravitational pull is lower- assistant editor for the National Geographic writes that "Mars is a far more complicated body than we had thought." Mariner IX had found that about 50% of the planet was volcanic, ultraviolet spectrometry revealed a puzzling yet geologically fascinating profile, and there seemed to be an appearance of a riverbed.

The Mariner operations had been successful in terms of their original intention, but gathered data and fresh information were inspiring more questions; perplexing queries that only a landing on Mars could answer. And so, on July 20th and September 3rd 1976, Viking 1 and 2 touched down respectfully. As the National Geographic from January 1977 delves into some considerable detail, the mission was productive. The arms of Viking 2 could expose Martian soil, temperature sensors could transmit data back to Earth and seismometers kept a sensitive record of any Martian tremors. By the end of the year, 99% of all the detailed knowledge about Mars had been learned, and biologists chewed the caps of their pens as to how life could exist. Could small creatures "eat the permafrost" or the dust grains that carried water molecules? One scientist working on the Viking operation imagined much larger creatures, admitting "I almost expected to see camels". In defence, the images Viking collected, could have just as easily been taken in the Sahara or the Mojave.

Mars exploration seemed to take a pause, or perhaps even a twenty year sabbatical, but as reported in an article from August 1998, Dan Goldin from NASA believed the next voyage to Mars should be "faster, better and cheaper." In 1998, Sojourner departed its mother ship Pathfinder and landed successfully to carry out yet more examination. It was "cheaper" (about a fourteenth cheaper than Viking) but only travelled 110 yards, and still no concrete statement on the possibility of life. What had been achieved were 16 APXS readings, which can ascertain the elemental chemistry or rocks and soils. The National Geographic provided readers with 3D glasses, to aid an espying of 3D Mars. (I seem to have an extra pair in my edition.)

Sojourner was continuing Martian scrutiny after a quiet couple of decades in the late 1990s, and President Bush proposed to send manned missions to the planet by 2019. (That's six years away, and I'm not sure we're ready.) I can remember going on TV in 2003 and on Xchange with me was a scientist who brought in a model of a Mars Rover; another robotic mechanism which would take to space in 2004, but never survived the landing and the possibility of sending a manned mission out looked more doubtful as a consequence. Less than a decade ago, however, in July 2005, the National Geographic reported on yet two more successful explorations of Mars; both Spirit and Opportunity landed in 2004 and found "direct and convincing evidence that water sloshed across Mars over 3 billion years ago." The probes also detected Goethite, a sure sign of water. Four years later, as the Phoenix mission took place, it's more of a case of not 'if' life existed, but 'when'. "Mars was a habitable world at some point early in its history. We don't know exactly when...Future missions will have to figure that out."

Five years later, as I am writing, Mars Curiosity is ingesting material which should bring us closer to determining the environmental conditions which could have supported microbial life many billions of years ago. From Viking and Pathfinder to Spirit and Opportunity, and now Curiosity, the names we pin upon the most successful of Space Missions capture our hope and wanderlust for Mars. "Space exploration is in the finest human tradition; many feel that it is a pre-requisite for our continued survival as a species" as Carl Sagan wrote. That sentence- that philosophy- was published over fourty years ago. We have drilled and dug, sieved and sampled, pondered and proposed so many theories of Life on Mars. Questions have yet to be answered. We shall never, I don't expect, name a ship "Success" because man will forever be drawing the question mark. The story of Mars has no fixed conclusion; at present, we haven't even found the beginning. We haven't even taken the book down from the shelf.

Monday, 11 February 2013


Daniel launched his new Sunday Night Radio Show 'Bandana' this evening! Listen again by clicking the link below.

BANDANA- 13th February 2013

Saturday, 9 February 2013

SATURDAY SUPPLEMENT: So how did these Dinosaurs really die?

News comes from Glasgow University this week that scientists have estimated the most accurate date yet regarding the extinction of the dinosaurs; some 66,038,000 years ago, give or take 11,000 years which might not appear that precise in the flesh, but then there are still some unanswered questions.

The date comes to us, the general public, after an intense debate regarding not exactly when the species died, but how. It's been suggested, furthermore, that a comet or asteroid crash-landed off the Yucaton Coast of Mexico and the crater produced was so large, (180km), that they've even named it: Chicxulub.

It seems that there's also a large crater in our understanding of this heated debate, and after ploughing through a couple of issues of the National Geographic from my collection, there's no wonder why. As the March 2003 issue states rightly, "the ultimate dinosaur behaviour was the act of going extinct. And the mystery of that event has hardly been solved." That was published exactly a decade ago, and despite developments this week, I don't think we've solved the puzzle yet. (I think we've only just took it out the box.)

In March 2003, there is a notion that the dinosaurs weren't necessarily the victim to an instantaneous outer-space collision such as a comet or asteroid, but to an extensively varied and accumulating range of "triggers", suggesting that any "big impact may have been the final blow". The article does lean towards the 'pathogen theory' remarking that at the end of the Cretaceous period, as "lands that were formerly separated by water were now connected...new species arrived, perhaps carrying deadly microbes". So was the greatest dying out spectacle of Earth induced by pathogens or by a deadly extra-terrestial blast? Both ideas have been seriously considered, and only ten years divide these schools of thoughts.

This week's report hints at a crater formation triggering the sudden decline of this empire, but this is no fresh theory. In the January 1993 National Geographic the article explains how "some scientists believed that a huge impact crater" (this time in Canada, not Mexico) "called Manicouagan explained the extinction". And still, even twenty years ago, this theory was argued. "Radiometric dating indicates the Manicouagan crater was formed several million years before the mass dying". "Some scientists argue that the extinction was probably the result of gradual climate change." (Is there anything that isn't blamed on climate change?)

Within twenty years, ideas have been floated, but nothing concrete has been set. Twenty years ago, hints at a Canadian Crater were passed off as chronologically inaccurate and in favour, the culprits were a number of differing climatic conditions. In 2003, this theory has flourished detailing possible micro-bacterial triggers. Yet, this week, ten years later, we've took the U Turn, and we're back to drawing crater holes and analysing asteroid geology. It's fantastic news that the most accurate date for extinction has been set. That will do for the gravestone. But what about the Coroner's report? Will we ever know what exactly killed the dinosaurs?

Daniel's Official Welcome Back Ceremony- 8th February 2013

This evening, I got the honour to be officially welcomed back, and delivered a speech to those who have supported me through the years. Here are my closing remarks:

Saturday, 2 February 2013


I've never been one to smother my sandwiches with honey, or any other flavoured spread for that matter, but I get a kind of 'buzz' when it comes to this nation's bee populations. (Pun very much intended!) Once upon a time, you wouldn't catch me within a hundred yards of one- possibly as a result of getting stung many years ago by a wasp in the eye- but having lived for a decade without a repeat interference, I have bee-come quite fond of them. (OK, enough with the literary fun.)

This week, the BBC released a report which detailed how the European Commission is advising member states to restrict the use of certain pesticides that are possibly harmful to bees. Earlier this month, the European Food Safety Authority unleashed findings into just how toxic the chemicals are to the insect, and the results conclusively reveal that the residue from spray has been found in pollen and nectar, especially on Oil Seed Rape and Sunflowers. "Swift, decisive action" will now be taken and it is hoped that a national set of regulations will come into place from the 1st July this year. Already, though, some UK retailers have started to withdraw some chemicals from sale, despite manufacturers such as 'Bayer CropScience' stressing the sprays can be safe if applied effectively.

But this is no new story, as I found out, when I read an article from the February 1980 National Geographic Magazine. I quote from this article, released to the public domain more than thirty years ago, that "Pesticides annually destroy or damage more than 400,000 colonies [of bees]...and some bee experts worry about a future pollination crisis". Three decades later and it is more of a population crisis than anything; the U.K especially has witnessed a bee decline and this week it has been suggested that a contributory factor 'could' be the usage of pesticides.

The article I have before me now, from 1980, almost categorically names pesticides as the culprit to so many bee deaths. Brian Ferguson, from California, tells the National Geographic Magazine that his "bees gathered pesticide-laden pollen, returned to the colony, and died." The report states that the sprays annually claim 10% of the nation's bee, so you can understand why I'm a little surprised why it has taken thirty-three years for the E.U to draft up these new regulations. There is no doubt that pesticides are essential; as my 1980 report says "the world must use pesticides to maintain high crop yields and affordable food. At the moment, there is simply no other way to farm on the scale required." Since 1980, the world population has increased by some 2 and a half billion people; surely, pesticides are required more than ever before to ensure sustainable food supply.

This week's BBC News article regards an issue that is hardly a breaking headline. Thirty years ago, the very issue on the integrity of the bee population was raised. My 1980 article here leaves readers with a rather optimistic comment: "It won't be like this forever; in fifty years, if we use our heads, our understanding will be greater and we'll be able to act more intelligently." 60% of that time has since elapsed, and still the issue is under proposal. Do I feel more sympathetic towards bees now? Possibly. Will I start using honey in my breakfast? Certainly not.