Sunday, June 25, 2017

Borobudur


Borobudur, or Barabudur (Indonesian: Candi Borobudur) is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia, as well as the world's largest Buddhist temple, and also one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world. The temple consists of nine stacked platforms, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. The central dome is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues, each seated inside a perforated stupa.

Built in the 9th century during the reign of the Sailendra Dynasty, the temple was designed in Javanese Buddhist architecture, which blends the Indonesian indigenous cult of ancestor worship and the Buddhist concept of attaining Nirvana. The temple also demonstrates the influences of Gupta art that reflects India's influence on the region, yet there are enough indigenous scenes and elements incorporated to make Borobudur uniquely Indonesian. The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through three levels symbolic of Buddhist cosmology: Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). The monument guides pilgrims through an extensive system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the walls and the balustrades. Borobudur has the largest and most complete ensemble of Buddhist reliefs in the world.

Evidence suggests Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and abandoned following the 14th-century decline of Hindu kingdoms in Java and the Javanese conversion to Islam. Worldwide knowledge of its existence was sparked in 1814 by Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, then the British ruler of Java, who was advised of its location by native Indonesians. Borobudur has since been preserved through several restorations. The largest restoration project was undertaken between 1975 and 1982 by the Indonesian government and UNESCO, following which the monument was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Borobudur is still used for pilgrimage; once a year, Buddhists in Indonesia celebrate Vesak at the monument, and Borobudur is Indonesia's single most visited tourist attraction. (from Wikipedia)

Some photographs from my visit to Borobudur are below:









For more information on Borobudur please do visit the following links:

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/java/borobudur

http://www.pbs.org/treasuresoftheworld/borobudur/boro_main.html

https://www.makemytrip.com/blog/borobudur-java-holiday


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sikkim Flora | Yumthang and Yume Samdong Valley in June



At the start of the monsoon in early June and after the crowds have gone the valley between Yumthang and Yume Samdong  in North Sikkim presents a floral spectacle which is not seen by many. Here are some photographs of the flora of the valley.










Thursday, June 8, 2017

Mallory and Irvine | 8th June 1924


The view of Everest from the Kharta glacier on the 1921 expedition
On 8th June 1924, two men left  Camp VI (26,700 feet)  to make an attempt on the summit of Everest. 

Camp VI  was the highest camp of the British 1924 Everest expedition.

On the same morning, another British climber, Noel Odell, was making his way up from Camp IV to Camp VI. Odell was a geologist and he was collecting fossils from the slopes of Mount Everest. Odell recalls that it was not the perfect morning to climb Everest. " Rolling banks of mist" were sweeping  across the mountain and covering the north face. Neither the face nor the summit ridge could be seen by Odell. There was also a sharp wind which was making climbing very difficult.

Suddenly at 12.50 pm the mist cleared and Odell spotted high above on the ridge, a black dot climbing a rock step, which Odell at that point identified as the Second Step. Soon after Odell saw another black dot following the first black dot. But before Odell could be sure that the second black dot had joined the first,  the mist rolled in and blanketed the mountain and this fantastic vision was lost forever.

The two dots that Odell saw were George Mallory and Andrew Irvine "going strongly for the summit of Everest". 

Mallory and Irvine were never seen again.

But even today, ninety three years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, the legend of Mallory is still alive. Books are being written about Mallory, expeditions are being planned to find Andrew Irvine and his camera because Everest experts believe that the camera will unlock the secret of Mallory's last climb.

In this post we take a look at some photographs and other memorabilia from the Everest expeditions of 1921, 1922 and 1924.


The 1921 expedition team - Mallory sitting first left


Mallory and Irvine boarding S. S. California on their way to India in 1924 



Irvine working on oxygen cylinders  on the1924 expedition



Members of the 1924 expedition - Standing from left Irvine, Mallory, Norton, Odell, Macdonald. In front: Shebbeare, Bruce, Somervell, Beetham. Members not in the photo : Noel, Hingston, Hazard.
Norton and Somervell with their sherpas before the summit attempt

Route map of Norton and Somervell's attempt
Norton set an altitude record  in 1924 without oxygen reaching 8570 metres which remained unchallenged until Messner and Habeler climbed Everest in 1978 without oxygen



Last photo of Mallory and Irvine leaving for Camp VI 1924


The list of provisions for the summit climb found on Mallory's body  - he planned to be on 2 cylinders of oxygen. Please note the rations on the left!


The 8 pm in the note to Noel should be 8 am


Mallory had no compass on his last climb



Map showing position of Odell and the last sighting of Mallory and Irvine





                                  "..... some day you will hear a different story..." George Mallory

All photographs reproduced above are copyright of Royal Geographical Society, John Noel Photographic Collection and their respective owners. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Nikon | Three News Lenses Introduced

Nikon announced the introduction of three new lenses - two for full frame Nikons and one very attractive lens for DX bodies.

Nikon AF-P 10-20mm F4.5 -5.6  ED VR
This lens promises to be a winner for DX users - it is light only 230 g in weight, reasonably priced   $309 and has VR as well.  It would be the ideal wide angle zoom for DX shooters who want to travel light and yet have the convenience of a wide zoom. Its competition would be the Nikon 12-24 F4DX and the 10-24 F3.5-4.5. This lens would be slower than both the other two DX wide angle zooms  and also lose 4mm on the top end. However, you get a lighter lens with a significant reduction in cost. One waits to see what the optical performance  would be like but looking at Nikon's latest offerings this promises to be very good. Neither of the two earlier Nikon DX wide angle zooms had vibration reduction.

Nikon AFS Fisheye 8-15 F3.5-4.5 ED
This a wide angle fisheye zoom for full frame Nikon DSLRs. If you do a  lot of photography in cramped interiors and need a fish eye perspective then this could be a choice. However the obvious deterrent is the price $1250. This is a gold ring lens so expect the same build quality and weather sealing as the other gold ring lenses in the Nikon stable. The lens also focuses to 0.5 inches making it very suitable for close up work.

Nikon AFS 28 F1.4 E ED
This lens complements F1.4 series of wide angle  primes the 24 F1.4 and the 35 f1.4. If you have any of these two lenses then adding the 28 f1.4 would not be a prudent choice. The lens has been built on the  Nikon 28 F1.4 AFD which was one of the legendary lenses in the film days. Priced at $1999 this is also a gold ring lenses and eminently suitable for low light work, interiors etc delivering gorgeous bokeh at the f1.4 aperture. Nikon's prime lenses are built to extremely high quality and one expects the same performance from this lens. The lens is on the heavier side 645 grams for a prime lens.

These lenses can be pre ordered  and should be in the shops by late June 2017

For more information on all these three lenses do visit the Nikon site  http://www.nikonusa.com/en/nikon-products/marketing/updates/camera-lenses/index.page

Monday, May 29, 2017

Everest | The First Ascent May 29th 1953

Tenzing and Hillary at Tengboche monastery after the ascent 
Today is sixty four years since the first ascent of Everest.

On 29th May 1953 at 11.30 am, a Sherpa and a New Zealander became the first men to stand on top of the highest peak on this planet.  However the intervening years has seen a sea change as far as Everest is concerned. The mountain, enshrined in controversy, has now become a playground for guided expeditions, with clients paying between twenty five to sixty thousand dollars or more to stand on the highest point on earth. The South Col route climbed in 1953 is now disdainfully referred to as the “yak trail”. The dangerous icefall below the Western Cwm is maintained by a team of sherpas right through the season led by a senior “Icefall Doctor.” 

In order to make it possible for inexperienced clients to summit Everest, the entire mountain has fixed rope from bottom to top. This year 2017 the first ascent of the mountain was made by a team of  sherpas from different expeditions who fixed  the rope right to the summit and they were followed by the guided clients. A tragic death on the mountain this year was Ueli Steck who fell off the Nuptse wall while on an acclimatisation climb.

However, this post recounts through photographs,  the 1953 climb, the historic ascent of the first two men to summit Everest and the team of climbers and sherpas who supported them through this endeavour.

Bourdillon and Evans on their return from the South Summit on May 26th 1953

Nawang Gombu crossing the icefall ladders - Gombu later became the first man to climb Everest twice

The map of the Khumbu icefall and the route followed by the 1953 expedition

From left: John Hunt, Ed Hillary, Tenzing, Ang Nyima,  Alfred Gregory and George Lowe after the ascent

The code which was later used in the telegram to send the news before the Queen's coronation

The telegram sent by John Hunt after the ascent

Hunt, Hillary and Tenzing in London

The full expedition team with the sherpas
Tenzing and his mother at Thyanboche monastery after the climb


The signed colour supplement of The Times
All photographs in this post are copyright the ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY and the respective owners.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Everest 2017 | Hillary Step Destroyed by Nepal Earthquake



Many of you must have read the news on social media and press reports that the ionic Hillary Step just below the summit of Everest on the south side is no more. Tim Mosedale while climbing Everest a few days ago reported this on his Facebook page and mentioned that this would probably be the result of the 2015 earthquake which rocked Nepal including the Everest region.

Jamie McGuinness of Project Himalaya posted a photograph of the step taken by him in 2008 and a comparison of the two photographs below clearly indicates the changes to the topography of the  Step.



The question remains that will be changes to the Step make it easier or more difficult to climb the last bit to Everest?

But let us go back to the climb of 1953 when Ed Hillary free climbed the Step for the first time and it was only then he was sure that the two of  them (Hillary and Tenzing) would make it to the top.

In the video interview below given by Hillary many years after the successful climb he recounts the climb of the Step on that memorable day May 29th 1953.


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