By Angelina Cecchetto on 28th November 2013
Shark Angel Julie Andersen (sharkangels.org) performs an impromptu underwater dance with a curious oceanic white tip shark – stunning video by Built By Wildman.
By Angelina Cecchetto on 7th October 2013
When my friend Frank Dias did some online research to find inspiration to design his own tattoo he was far from imagining that this would lead him to Alaska and film his own documentary “Into the Wilderness”. I interviewed Frank in order to share his amazingly lucky adventure into the wild!
It all started when Frank was doing some research online to try and find some interesting ideas to design his own tattoo. With Chris Nolan’s “Dark Knight” Batman film in mind Frank was looking for designs or images around the theme of swarm of bats. His research soon led him to a Nissan special edition “Dark Knight” car. At the bottom of the advert page, there was a message stating “How much of a thrill seeker are you? Take our test” Frank clicked on it and the “Juke Built to Thrill” competition page opened up with an online test to take that Frank passed quickly. He then went through to the next step, which was to describe his most adventurous thrill of a lifetime. Deeply inspired by the story of Christopher McCandless which was both related by the book “Into the Wild” written by Jon Krakauer and the movie directed by Sean Penn, Frank mentioned that his thrill would be to go to Alaska to follow in the footsteps of Christopher’s hike into the wild to get to bus 142 and to question what adventure truly meant for him.
One month later Frank received an email that he was about to delete but thankfully the header read “You have been shortlisted for the “Juke Built to Thrill” competition”. He then went on to meet the production people in the London headquarters and was selected with 4 other people out of a pool of 12000 participants and ended up being the lucky winner of the competition! Very excited and also very well prepared Frank took off to Alaska to hike the trail that Christopher McCandless had walked in 1992.
How many people where you and at which time of year did you film the documentary?
What is the underlying aim of “Into the Wilderness”?
- It is to question what adventure means for me, but also to try and understand Christopher’s motivation, inspirations and realisations and to pay my respect to a young adventurer who sadly died – to visit another human being last resting place.
What challenges did you encounter on the way?
- The hike was rough but the two main challenges were crossing the River Teklanika and the hundreds and hundreds of mosquitos! The River crossing was quite an adventurous step for me which I’ve never done before. There were dangers involved in that. In 2010 a young Swiss woman died trying to cross it. Thankfully thanks to Kevin and René’s experience everything went well. The other challenge I didn’t expect was the omnipresence of hundreds of mosquitos following us everywhere. Thankfully again, René and Kevin had brought us some protective anti-mosquito suits.
What special equipment did you have with you apart from the mosquito suits?
- Extra pairs of shoes, water filtering device and waterproof gear and bags.
How long did it take you to walk to the bus, your final destination and what did you feel when you saw the bus?
- It took us two days to walk to the bus and when I got there I felt quite emotional. It was quite an emotionally powerful moment to see the bus and everything in it left as it was when Christopher had lived there.
What learning did you take back with you from this experience:
- It made me have a greater appreciation of enjoying each moment whilst you can. Always go with the perspective that you can have an adventure anywhere as you never know what life is going to bring you. I also came to agreeing with Chris that happiness is only real when shared – which is what Chris came to the conclusion of after his many days in isolation.
Do you think there is a message that we could take from Christopher’s experiences and decisions?
- Yes, doing your own rite of passage – when you challenge yourself to become an adult and to find out who you truly are. In our modern society the rite of passage has evolved to a point that it has practically disappeared and with it a basic element of ourselves has been dissolved over time. Also, when going out on an adventure, be prepared, use common sense and stay alive, you’ll want to share your story with others!
Maybe as his own rite of passage, in 1990 Christopher McCandless decided to leave civilization. In April 1992 he ventured into the Alaskan wilderness to find peace and solitude and to be at one with his great passion for the wilderness. He may have had questions that he needed time and space to find answers for. He stayed in Alaska 112 days and was mainly living of berries and hunting and whilst out there he came to the realisation that true happiness is only real when shared. He realised that the most amazing adventures and the most beautiful experiences are only really so when you can share them with someone, so he decided to go back to civilization and his family. However, on the way back River Teklanika had greatly swollen up due to thaw and had turned into a deep, fast and very strong river which he nonetheless tried to cross and nearly drowned in the process, he finally gave up the idea and went back to what he called his “magic bus”; the bus that he had found in that great immensity of the Alaskan wilderness and which offered him shelter for the days he lived there. Whilst gathering his food, Christopher may have ingested something that ended up poisoning his body, (you can read the latest theory on this in the New Yorker). Realizing Nature’s might and adverse side, he continued writing in his diary until he eventually rolled up in his sleeping bag and passed away.
Filmed and directed by Mungo, Into the Wilderness is a beautiful documentary retracing the footsteps and the poignant story of a young adventurer who escaped civilization to realize that happiness was only truly meaningful when shared. Mungo’s photography pays tribute to the uncompromising and raw Alaskan landscape beauty.
The film will be released in thirty selected cinemas throughout the UK, from the 14th October to the 30th November as part of a set of short films for the Adventure Film Festival. So if like me you love adventure, nature and inspiring stories, do go and watch Frank’s film and the others!
For those of you who would like a taster, here is the trailer:
By Angelina Cecchetto on 5th October 2013
Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, reactions!
By Angelina Cecchetto on 20th September 2013
On the morning of the 8th of September Meg Ziegelbauer, 12, woke up at 3.30 am to head to Lake Monona, Wisconsin to be part of a crew of seven Rescue Divers assisting the 2500 Ironman competitors who had to swim 2.4 miles in the lake. The challenge of lake Monona swim, beyond the water temperature which on average revolves around 70°F/21°C, is that part of the race is against current. The seven rescue divers were divided into two boats and followed the swimmers progression. Overall the swim went rather well with only about 10 out of 2500 participants having to be rescued for exhaustion. To qualify for the final stages of the Ironman, the competitors have 2 hours 20 minutes to swim 2.4 miles/3.8 kms with a fair bit of the way against current.
Meg who started diving at 8 years of age, was part of the crew to rescue the Ironman swimmers. Non recue divers may wonder how it is possible for a 12 year old girl to rescue Ironmen competitors. To that, experienced rescue divers would reply that a water rescue involves techniques and equipment which allow a smaller person to rescue a bigger one, and thankfully so I would say!
This being said, as a dive Instructor myself I must pay a huge tribute to Meg’s courage and attitude which are frankly amazing. At 8 years old, Meg started diving in local queries with her dad, Greg Ziegelbauer who has been a diver and who has rescued people for years as a professional firefighter. Whilst quite a fair amount of adults are scared or reluctant to dive even in clear, warm tropical waters, Meg aged 8 went down to poor visibility and cold lakes and queries waters! This is not a small achievement.
I interviewed Meg about what she thought of the Ironman rescue experience and what were her future plans:
What did it feel to participate to the Ironman experience?
- It was kind of cool, quite interesting!
Would you do it again?
- Yes definitely, I would like to do it next year and the year after, every year if I can.
Do you remember the first time you started diving?
- Yes, I was kind of scared of the deep end and really cold as it was in April but in the end I really loved it! My dad started diving for firefighting and got me into it.
How many dives do you have?
What are you plans for the future as far as diving is concerned?
- I want to become a Dive Master, then an Instructor and then I would like to become a Navy Seal* as women have just been admitted to become Navy Seals. If I can’t get to do that, I would like to become a Marine Biologist.
*For the record, to become a female Navy Seal, you have to do between 50 to 90 push-ups and sit-ups in two minutes. 10 to 18 pull-ups and run a mile and a half in 10 minutes. Swim 500 yards/460m in 12 minutes, sidestroke.
What is your motivation?
- I like diving, and helping people.
To conclude I would only say one word: admirable!
By Angelina Cecchetto on 27th August 2013
Watch the amazing video below of the violent birth of a new star 1400 light-years from Earth!
On the night of the 20th to the 21st of August of this month the birth of a new star was captured in the high desert of Chile thanks to the new giant radio telescope array called the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array or “ALMA”
Thanks to the high-resolution imaging capability of ALMA, astronomers were able to capture the somehow violent birth of the new star located in the constellation Vela, 1400 light-years away from planet Earth. In the creation process astronomers spotted 2 main streams of matter being spewed out or “exploding” one might say at a speed of a million kilometers (620,000 miles) an hour!
The result of this explosion of matter, dust and gas being a cradle of vivid and brightly glowing matter surrounding the new baby star! Truly amazing!
By Angelina Cecchetto on 13th August 2013
Two divers named Shawn Stamback and Francis Antigua got the fright of their lives when they nearly got snatched away by two enormous humpback whales who suddenly surfaced out of the water to feast on a school of anchovies. This happened a few weeks ago off the coast of central California. The two dive buddies who were surrounded by a school of anchovies never thought that two enormous humpback whales would simultaneously jump out of the water by their side! They both instantaneously thought the other had been swallowed by the whales.
In areas known to be populated or popular with whales, boaters are advised to stay at least a hundred yards/meters away from whales and this explains pretty clearly why. This is certainly a dive experience they will both remember for quite a while, not to say for ever.
Lesson to learn for us divers: when you dive near a big school of anchovies (or any school of praying fish, I would even say) watch your surroundings and keep an eye underwater until you get back on board!
Happy and safe diving to all!
By Angelina Cecchetto on 17th April 2013
There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.
Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.
The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.
The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch. In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.
According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.
I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.
Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.
Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:
By Angelina Cecchetto on 7th April 2013
The straight answer to this question is yes, petitions do work!
Successful petitions put pressure on corporations, governments and other local authorities.
How? By helping information circulate in an unbiased way, petitions keep people informed of what is going on and help spread the word on particular aspects of information that may not be covered by the mainstream medias. The great thing about petitions and particularly about online petitioning or e-petitioning is that it makes it very easy for people to do something about a cause they may have at heart to defend and to force groups or institutions who may not want to hear to actually listen to people’s opinion.
How does the petition process work exactly? To create an e-petition it’s very simple; you can go on different online petition websites such as www.avaaz.org , www.care2.com , www.change.org and many others. Should you want to find a petition site in your country, you just need to search for the petition in your own language in Google and you find many in your own language or related to your country. Before creating a petition, make sure that there is not one already existing which defends the same cause.
Some people think that signing e-petitions will not make any difference in the great scheme of things, well, they are simply wrong and I am going to give you some examples showing that in a couple of clicks and less than a minute people can make a positive difference in society. Of course, I am not talking about “all heroic happy-ending” unrealistic scenarios like “petitions-will-save-the-world” type of scenarios, I am saying that thanks to e-petitions, people can easily gather as a powerful group of individuals whose voices and opinions cannot be ignored by institutions.
In the UK for instance, when an e-petition reaches 100 000 signatures, the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee receives a notification from the Leader of the House of Commons (Parliament) about the petition which is then taken into consideration and discussed during the weekly hearing of MPs representations. MP’s have to make the case for the e-petition consideration.
Here are a few examples of successful outcomes thanks to e-petitions:
In December last year, thanks to a WWF “I Will If You Will” campaign for Earth Hour 2012 which gathered the voices of 120,000 Russians and presented it to the government, the Russian Parliament voted a long-awaited law to protect the country’s seas from oil pollution.
On March 8th 2013 the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who heard people’s outcry and petitions voted unanimously to reject the US Navy’s request to maintain military testing, sonar and bomb deployments throughout Southern California, Hawaii, Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. Many dolphins and whales have been killed already but should the CCC have approved the maintenance of the Navy’s project, millions of cetaceans would have been killed in the next 5 years so this is a prime example of how efficient petitioning helped towards life preservation of numerable cetaceans.
In his very comprehensive article “Slacktivism: Why Snopes got it Wrong About Internet Petitions” Randy Paynter gives a few good examples of how petitions can make a positive difference like the striking story of independent journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee who were imprisoned in North Korea, charged with grave crimes against the state, and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. As Randy Paynter relates, “Their friends and family created petitions on “Care2” to raise awareness and call on North Korea to free the women. Close to 90,000 people signed these petitions, helping to keep the story in the national spotlight for months and eventually former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea and negotiated Laura and Euna’s release”.
I personally sign about 2 to 3 petitions a day on average because this is a great way to help causes and raise awareness about things that are happening in the world and that people may not know about, because people don’t necessarily have the time to get informed or simply because some issues receive very low mainstream media coverage. So, if like me, you care about justice and want to get involved, then, think about petitioning as a first easy step to make a positive difference!
To conclude, I will cite Margaret Mead’s famous words:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I will finish with a petition working towards Nature and Ocean Conservation which mainly pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food which would help reducing the dramatic impact of plastic on nature and a whole array of animals and especially aquatic life:
By Angelina Cecchetto on 14th February 2013
We have all heard about William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet tragedy. Although there is no accurate record of the exact date when it was written it is alleged that it has been written in the mid 1590’s. We are now in 2013, so about 420 years have passed since Romeo and Juliet died in the name of their forbidden and impossible love.
One would think that over 400 years after, things would have changed drastically and many things must have changed however I have been the incredulous witness of what I would call the “New Shakespearean’s diaries”. The story can be perceived as totally hilarious or totally pathetic depending on perspective.
I have been living and working for a couple of months in a very small island resort-hotel in the middle of the Indian Ocean, in the south of the Maldives. On the island there are about 160 members of staff working in different departments of the hotel. The majority of the staff working for the hotel is either from Sri Lanka or Bangladesh and either work at the service in the restaurant or as cleaners, cooking staff or gardeners. There is a small front office management team from Sri Lanka and a small team of Europeans working in the dive center, the spa or as travel reps. The hotel customers are mainly Europeans and Chinese.
Despite the fact that European staff can enjoy quite a certain degree of freedom compared to the rest of the non-European staff, people are not free to do many things. To my great surprise I found out that certain member of European staff could not go out or have any sort of relation with Maldivian staff. This is not officially written in anybody’s contract of employment prior to arrival but is discovered once on the island. This is where I became aware of the new Shakespearean’s diaries. One of the young female European staff who has been working on the island as a manager started seeing a member of one of the boats crews. Unfortunately for them she is European (I will call her Juliet1) and he is Bangladeshi (I will call him Romeo1). Despite the fact that they are both responsible for their actions and willing to be together, they cannot. One day Romeo1 and his whole team were dismissed and sent back to their island. Now his presence on the island is not allowed. Juliet1 is not allowed to leave the island at night to go and see him. A few days ago he came to pick his Juliet up with a small fisherman boat at night only to be able to spend a few hours with her. Many would think this as ultimately romantic I guess. Two lovers lost in a fisherman’s boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I guess it would make a great story line for a Bollywood movie.
Last year the marine biologist of the hotel a young Italian woman had a relationship with the Maldivian barman. He got dismissed from his functions in the hotel and declared “persona non grata” on the island as well. The things they invented to see each other were unbelievably funny for some and sad for others. I was told that one day Romeo2, we will call him, came to pick up his Juliet2 but the island security team refused the authorization for his boat to moor (just to moor) on the pier to prevent them to see each other so, against all expectations, she jump fully dressed in the lagoon and swam up to the outer reef were the boat was waiting for permission to moor. The current staff on the island finds this anecdote hilariously funny. I guess it can be seen as funny however I also find it very disturbing somehow, considering we live in 21st century. I guess William Shakespeare would be right at home here even over 400 years after his time.
Many things I really cannot understand. Maybe someone can tell me in the name of what law, rule or what work contract are two people who like or love each other forbidden to see each other?
What law, rule or contract can justify that someone or a group of people limits or deprives someone else’s from their freedom? And who is doing anything about this? I guess no body is so it’s down to each individual to stand up for their right and defend their freedom the best they can because if they don’t do it themselves no one else will to do it for them.
Happy St Valentine’s Day to all.
First of all I would like to welcome you all to Life of the Worlds and thank you for your visit and your contribution.
As some of you know may know I am very passionate about Nature and its defense, photography but also about travelling, adventure to name but a few and this is one of the primary reasons that lead me to create this web space.
The idea is to share information and open discussions about a broad variety of topics ranging from life, society matters, photography, travel, animal rights to environment issues and nature conservation. The bottom line is to share life experiences and make people react and think about today’s society. The ultimate aim is to raise awareness on today society issues and create a frame of reflection which will hopefully have a positive impact on life.
I would like to say special thanks to Martin for all his help and support with this blog and for making this space possible.
I hope to see you all be part of the discussions!