Tabur East, 19 July 2016

Bukit Tabur, also known as the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge, is located just north of Kuala Lumpur. With a length of more than 16 km,  this quartz “dyke” is the  longest of its kind in the world. The razor-sharp ridge is clearly visible on Google Earth.

Quartz ridge

It is a popular destination for hikers, but some parts are steep and require climbing, you must not have fear of heights.  At Tabur West  quite a few (sometimes fatal) accidents have happened, so recently it has been decided that you have to apply for a permit first. As a result Tabur East has become more popular and during weekends it can be crowded. I have climbed Tabur West several times, last in 2009, but Tabur East only once, in 2002. Here is the report I wrote then..:-)

When Edwin asked me if I would like to join him and a few friends to Tabur East, I eagerly accpeted his invitation. And what a wonderful hike it was! We went on a weekday and met only one other couple during our hike.

Here is again the Quartz ridge, with both my 2009 hike to Tabur West and the recent hike to Tabur East. Click on the image for a larger view.

Quartz ridge_trails

First I had breakfast in Deen’s Nasi Kandar , where I met Edwin, Paul, CYTan and Kendary. From there we drove to Jalan Melawati where we parked our car and met Peter, Elaine and Rina. Before we started of course a group picture had to be made. From left to right, standing: Peter, Elaine,me, Paul, CYTan and Rina. In front Kendary and Edwin. Peter is a regular hiker of Tabur East and acted as our guide.

2016-07-20 00.26.01

From the car we first followed the water pipes to the actual trail head. There a sign probably told us that we were not allowed to enter…:-).

2016-07-0212016-07-023

From there a steep climb took us to the ridge. Fortunately the many exposed tree roots made it easier and here and there fixed ropes were helpful too.  Some pictures (click to enlarge)

A short video of the climb

When you reach the ridge, the view is spectacular and really worth the strenuous climb. On the north side you look down on the Klang gate reservoir, on the south side there is the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur.

2016-07-19 09.18.53

2016-07-19 09.59.13

On the ridge going is easier, but you have to walk carefully. Nice quartz crystals everywhere.

To reach the top of Tabur East, a final steep climb is needed. Because the rock is so hard and full of hand- and footholds, it is not scary, if you have no fear of heights.

Arrived on the top, it is time to relax and take pictures.

I always try to have my picture taken in a position that looks spectacular, while still very safe. This one is a good example..:-)  The group picture is also not bad.

`

We continued a bit further, going down slightly until we reached a steep cliff from where we could see the next quartz hill, Tabur Extreme. No access from here. But a nice place for dramatic pictures. Rina climbed down first until the edge of the cliff, followed by Edwin and the rest. Adrenaline-filled fun.

Of course then they had to climb up again. Carefully. Watch Rina, a real daredevil…:-)

Generally going down a steep slope is more difficult than climbing up, because you can not easily see the suitable footholds. Here it was not too difficult because of the many footholds plus helpful ropes.

We took another route back, the least agreeable part of the hike, because it was a bit slippery here and there. The reward was that in our descent we crossed a durian and rambutan farm. Rina turned out to be an expert tree climber and collected lots of rambutans. The durians were delicious too.

Walking back to the car, I had a last view of Tabur East.

2016-07-045

It was a very nice hike, not in the least because of the pleasant company

Taiping, my 2nd hometown

The last time I visited Taiping was during CNY 2016 , before my trip to the Netherlands. As I was missing what I jokingly call my 2nd home town, I went back last week, staying with my friends George and Jenny. We started from KL on the first day of Ramadan, not much traffic and the Tapah R&R was almost deserted.

We had lunch in the Taiping Old Railway Station, Assam Laksa and Cendol, delicious.

The Old Railway Station is located next to the modern one and is now part of the Taiping Heritage. Quite nice, don’t know who is responsible for its “renovation”, but a few eateries are operating there now, and there is a small Heritage Gallery.

One “historical” mistake struck me, the signboard says that this old station dates back to 1885. But that is not true. Yes, the first railway in Malaya was built in 1885, from Port Weld (Kuala Sepetang) to Taiping, but the Taiping station was where now King Edwards School is!  Only about a decade later,the “old” station was relocated to where it is now.

We had a look at the gallery and met the young, dynamic, manager, Soo Mei Chong, who with her sister, recently started a cafe, the January Cafe,  next to the gallery. Both gallery and cafe worth a visit.

After our lunch we passed the Rest House, another one of Taiping’s “firsts” and for many years already in a deplorable condition. Recently this eyesore had been protected by a decorative fence, illustrating the many “firsts” of Taiping (the Rest House actually being one of them..lol).

I was quite shocked to see the present condition of the fence and immediately published this picture on the Whatsapp of the Taiping Heritage Society, with a caption: Taiping Warisan?

2016-06-07 14.30.43

We had also a look at what was originally Anuar Isa’s  First Galleria, a failed project, now taken over by the MPT town council. I could enter, although it was not yet open to the public. The friendly Malay staff could not tell me much about the MPT plans. Here a few pictures of posters. Look at the prices for the planned “Hop on Hop off” bus. Another failed project in the making?

A few weeks ago the Taiping Heritage Society , had organised an event to plant new flowers around the “Peace park” in the Taiping Lake Gardens. In the afternoon George and I went there to see how it looked now. A few of the newly planted flowers had  perished already. A very Malaysian problem, how to maintain a project…

Actually the Taiping Lake Gardens could become a no 1 tourist attraction of Malaysia! BUT maintenance is needed. Instead of spending money (cronyism? ) for ugly warning signs, some of the existing landmarks could have been repaired. In the past the pillars were connected with planks, supporting colorful vegetation. And the “monument” was originally supported by Japanese Sanyo, with a digital clock, powered by solar cells on top of the structure. Sanyo was taken over by Panasonic and the monument is now a sad and sorry sight.

I had dinner  that night with my friend May, nice Indian food in Siang Malam. She told me that  a shop opposite Taiping General Hospital served a good curry mee, so the next morning George and I had our breakfast there. She was right, very nice food, a pity that the shop will close end of this year. As I forgot to take a picture of the shop, I had to use Streetview in Google Maps…:-)

What to do after breakfast? I suggested to make a short trip to Batu Kurau, north of Taiping. It is nice countryside with padi fields, limestone caves, small kampungs. Years ago I had discovered a quaint barbershop near Anak Kurau, built against a cliff. I had a haircut there for a few Ringgit and during later Taiping trips I had gone back a few times. I had left my GPS at home, so we got lost a bit and had to ask directions for “a barbershop built against a cliff”. Surprisingly everybody immediately know what we were talking about!

But the shop was closed, probably because of Ramadan. Nearby the shop there is a small cafe, also closed and a cave with nice stalactites. The footpath along the stream was new, but it ended after  a few hundred meters. Fascinating to see how the trees struggle for survival. The road continues for a few km and ends at a resort (also closed).

The resort is located next to a small stream with crystal clear water. There could well be a waterfall further upstream.

2016-06-08 12.23.31

After driving back to Taiping, we had lunch at Duncan’s Cafe. Duncan Raj is a THS-member and has recently opened this cafe as part of a boutique hotel, Maxwell Inn. I hope he will succeed as the location on Jalan Taming Sari, is a bit far outside the town center.

The THS has an active Whatsapp, where I uploaded the picture to the left, after we arrived. Not much later a few more guests came in, also THS-members…:-)  They were planning to have lunch in another shop nearby, when they received the picture, so they came over to meet me. Taiping really feels like my 2nd hometown!

2016-06-08 13.22.54

2016-06-08 13.58.55

In the afternoon I (re)visited the Kota Long Jaafar in Bukit Gantang, with George, Suet and her husband Peter. Suet is a member of THS and very interested in the history of Taiping. She is a friend of George and we had met the night before in Siang Malam.

It turned out that we are both fans of Isabella Bird! This intrepid English traveler has been traveling from Taiping to Kuala Kangsar, February 1880. She had to wait in Long Jaafar’s fort until the elephants arrived who would carry her to Kuala Kangsar. Read her letter XX and enjoy. Actually she made a mistake in that letter, the KOta is not in Matang but in Gantang…:-)

Not much is left of the fort, except graves with tombstones. When I first “discovered” it, in 2014, it was  ruined. Surprisingly (?), this time, it looked much better. No idea who was responsible for the renovation.

One more  example to show how small the Taiping world is…:-) Amril is another THS member, very knowledgeable about Taiping’s history and actually a descendant of Long Jaafar. I had asked him to join us to the Kota Long Jaafar, but he was busy. After our visit we wanted to have a drink, but this is a Malay region, most shops are closed. We tried our luck at Changkat Jering, where we had a look at the busy Pasar Ramadan and finally found a mamak stall that was open.

2016-06-08 17.17.06

Having our drinks there, I got a Whatsapp message from……… Amril! He had a stall at the Pasar and had seen us passing. On our way back to the car, we met him and had a chat. Looking forward to meet him after Hari Raya.

It was only a short visit, the next day I had to go back home already. After George and I had breakfast at the Casual Market, his favourite joint, we visited Taiping’s Central Market. I have been in Taping so many times, but never explored this heritage site. Fascinating, dating back to 1884 (Old Market, on the far end in the picture below) and 1885 (New Market, in the foreground). In between Siang Malam, now another popular joint, but originally meant to provide the market workers with drinks and food.

There are plans to relocate the markets to a new location and transform the old markets into something similar to KL Central Market, a tourist attraction. Heaven forbid…

Taiping markets

To the left the New Market, right picture shows the Old Market

2016-06-09 09.56.34

2016-06-09 09.51.43

Fascinating architecture. I hope THS will fight to preserve these Taiping.landmarks!

Originally I was planning to drive back to PJ after my market visit. I was aware that an Australian War Veteran music band was going to perform in the New Club, but I thought it was during the evening. Actually it was a lunch concert so I decided to attend the concert.

That gave me an opportunity to bring Yeap, the president of THS in contact with Soo Mei Chong,  the manager of the January Cafe in the Old Railway Station…:-). She looks so petite between the two giants :-)! We had nice coffee there..

On our way to the New Club, we passed the Rest House, and, lo and behold, the torn banner had been repaired! Miracles do happen…:-)

2016-06-09 11.05.42

2016-06-09 11.10.26

In the New Club a big crowd was waiting for the concert. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) veteran band was on a short tour of Malaysia, giving concerts in Taiping, Ipoh and Batu Gajah. I would have liked to attend the Batu Gajah concert in God’s Little Acre. Every year on the 2nd Saturday in June a memorial is held at this cemetery to commemorate the victims of the Malayan Emergency, quite a few of them were Australians. But I was not free that Saturday, and this concert was a pleasant alternative.

The RAN Veteran Band

RAN Veteran Band

They played well. Two more pictures. The left one shows that the players may be veterans, but they know how to use modern technology! The trombone player is using a tablet for the musical scores, instead of printed sheet music….:-)

The right picture shows two happy French horn players. Paul Baker, to the right, played as a guest in the band. He is the composer of the Taiping Suite

2016-06-09 11.53.182016-06-012

Here is a short video of the concert.

Taiping, my 2nd hometown…:-). Looking forward to come back soon

Ayer Hitam, finally!

Numerous times I had heard and/or read about the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve in Puchong. With a waterfall, maybe even more than one….

But I had also heard that this forest reserve was a research project of the UPM university and officially out of bounds. As I am a good citizen, I was reluctant to trespass…:)

Last week I joined a so-called hashwalk, for the first time in my life. I will blog about it later. After the walk there was an open-air beer party where I met Master Ho, 76 year old and still going strong.  When he was 15(!) years old, he started a hiking group Pathfinders55, which still exists today. We came to talk about Ayer Hitam and I accepted his invitation to join him for a hike there.

Here is the location of the Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve. Surrounded by urban development, it is surprisingly large. Our hike is marked in green.

Large map

Here is part of the Reserve in more detail (click to enlarge). Our hike was about 10 km and took more than four hours. The grey line comes from Google Earth and probably marks an”allowed” trail. On our hike we did not meet any enforcement officials, maybe because it was weekend

map2

Master Ho had sent me a whatsapp where to meet:

Date: Sunday 22/5/2016
Meet time at the the purple(or pink you may call it) colour single storey
corner shop opposite the coconut stall
Start time: 9.30am

I was surprised that there was quite a big crowd that Sunday morning. The pink/purple house was easy to find and Master Ho was waiting for us. We took a group photo and started our hike. Clear trail, climbing up, then down, crossing a stream, then up again.

After about one hour we reached the waterfall. Many people there, enjoying a bath and relaxing. No rubbish! I understood that the local community is taking care about the place.

2016-05-22 10.50.27

2016-05-22 10.54.09

Here is a video of the waterfall

What next? We could take the same way back, but we also could have a look at the Blue Lagoon. Easy decision of course…:-)  So we continued our hike, passing another nice waterfall (no people, access difficult) and an orang asli settlement. Nobody living there now, probably only when fruits (durians?) are harvested. Romantic setting.

Here is a video of another river crossing. Master Ho and I decided to get our feet wet. Of course I was hoping that at least one of my friends would fall…

Here is Peter, taking a bath in the BLue Lagoon

The second Blue Lagoon is even more attractive, with a small waterfall at its end.

2016-05-023

A pity that these lagoons are out of bounds, but understandable. Fortunately they are located deep inside the Reserve. It took us about two more hours to hike back to the pink house. Here are a few pictures to show the beauty of nature.

All the time we were in the jungle, but just before the end, we came out in the open and noticed this rock face with bright flags on top. Maybe because the day before it was Wesak?

2016-05-22 14.21.34

A very rewarding hike!

Kanching revisited

In  my last blog I described how Aric and I were recently robbed when we were visiting the Kanching waterfalls. No physical hurt, only material loss. But I was wondering if this bad experience would negatively affect my appreciation for Kanching.

Ten days later I could check this…:-). Talking with my Kiara friends about Kanching, several of them confessed that they had never been there and that they were interested in a visit. So we organised a trip.

To be honest, I had been thinking what to do if I would meet the guy again, so I was happy to go with a group of friends, just in case…:-) But of course we did not meet any suspicious person this time.

It was a very nice hike. Here are a few pictures:

I had promised to bring my stove so we could make coffee.

2016-05-19 12.00.10

2016-05-19 12.03.11-1

The big surprise for me was that Suat had baked a (belated) birthday cake for me. With a real candle. A delicious concoction with many ingredients, including rum. Yummie.

2016-05-19 18.01.07

I explained to my friends how the robbery had happened and we decided to reenact it, with Peter as the thief and me as the victim. A happy victim, according to Suat… :-). Kind of closure…:-)

2016-05-19 18.01.55

2016-05-19 13.58.20

I checked  my Kanching geocache and found it to be in mint condition. Then it was time to go down and have lunch. The descent from the top fall is very steep, when the thief ran away, he can not have taken this route. Probably he took the trail upstream, hiding there and waiting until we had gone down.

Here are a few  pictures of our descent from tier 7 beside the cascade (tier 6).

And a video

Suat, for whom it was a first visit, liked Kanching, but was shocked about the rubbish we found everywhere, left behind by inconsiderate visitors. At one place it looked as if a party of (Malay?) youngsters had been interrupted by the arrival of the religious police. We found several full beer(!) cans, some clothes(?), and also a few plastic rubbish bags.

Being good citizens we used these bags to do some cleaning on our way back to the entrance. As you can see, it was no problem to fill the bags.

To end this nice outing, I treated my friends to lunch in T.K. Chong, near my condo.

2016-05-19 13.03.03-1

2016-05-19 14.24.38

I am sure now that I will visit Kanching again, without bad feelings.

Robbed at Kanching!

At the Kanching waterfalls you always have to watch out for the  monkeys who are looking for food, but also can grab your belongings.

Snatch thief

And at the entrance there is a clear sign warning for snatch thieves.

So we are always wary, keeping an eye on our belongings, checking if monkeys or other people are hanging around our stuff.

However we were not prepared for somebody following us secretly and hiding in the jungle

When Aric and I visited Kanching two weeks ago, we were ROBBED ! Here is our story.

After being back in Malaysia for a few weeks and having recovered from my jetlag, I felt the usual urge to visit a waterfall. Kanching waterfalls! Easy half-day trip. Aric wanted to test an app for his iPhone, that can take long-exposure pictures. Suitable for waterfalls, as it can create the “cotton-wool” effect.

We went on a Monday, only a few visitors at the lower tiers, nobody at the upper ones. Here are a few pictures.

Actually we met one guy on our way to the top fall.  An Indian, in his thirties, dark complexion, small moustache, didn’t look like a hiker. After we passed him, we watched him and saw that he was going down. And that fooled us! 

When we arrived at the top fall, Aric installed his iPhone on a tripod, while I took a short video of this 7th tier, just above the tall cascade (tier 6).

Here is the top fall, twice. The left picture is a “normal” one, the right one is taken by the app, using an exposure time of 4 seconds.

2016-05-014

2016-05-024

During the preparations and the taking of pictures, we were only a few meters away from our backpacks. However, Aric wanted to take a last picture with both of us in the water, using his remote control.

That was the moment the thief had been waiting for. Apparently he had secretly followed us, hiding in the bushes. From the corner of his eye, Aric saw him grabbing our two backpacks. Of course he shouted, the guy ran away, nothing we could do.

I lost my GPS and my watch, fortunately my wallet and phone where in my pants, he had no time to search those. But Aric lost his wallet and his camera.

When we told the rangers in the office about it, they said it happened more often. And when I was collecting info for this blog on the Internet, I found this review of Kanching on Tripadvisor, written 19-1-2015 :

Beware at the top, two of us left our bags only meters away in what we 
thought was a safe place, within a minute or two of getting in the water 
they were gone, along with our phones, wallets, slr camera. 
We think we were followed or someone was watching from the jungle. 
Enjoy but be aware.

I have already added a warning to the Kanching page on WoM.

 

Amsterdam Architecture

When I am back in the Netherlands, my friend Inez and I always try to organise an outing. Last year for example, we visited Rotterdam and Dordrecht.This time we decided to stay in Amsterdam,  and visit some new and/or interesting architecture. It was a beautiful sunny spring day.

Our first destination was the new Westermoskee, the largest mosque of the Netherlands, with a floor surface of 800 m² and a capacity of 1700 people. The plan to build this mosque dates back to 1997, there have been numerous problems, now it is almost complete, the unofficial opening took place on 1-4-2016.

I was impressed by the architecture, based on the Hagia  Sophia in Istanbul, but in a very “Dutch”, brick-based style. It blends very well in the surrounding residential area.

Personally I am really proud of my multicultural hometown, that it has been possible to build this Islamic icon in a “Western/Christian” environment.  The opposite might not be easy these days..:-(. Here is a report by Al Jazeera about the mosque.

From the mosque it was not far to a former tram depot, built in 1902, and recently transformed in a cultural center with a cinema, library etc. Also many food outlets. It has been renamed De Hallen .

After lunch we went to the Western harbours. where we had a look at the REM island . In 1964 commercial radio and TV was not yet allowed in the Netherlands. A group of businessmen found a solution: broadcast from an artificial island, just outside the Dutch territorial waters!

Unfortunately for them, the experiment lasted only a few months, because the Dutch parliament quickly passed a law, extending the territorial waters…:-). The navy raided the place and confiscated the equipment.

The platform remained for many years where it was, off the coast at Noordwijk, but a few years ago it has been moved to the Western harbour where it now has a second life as a restaurant!

The harbour view from the upper deck is of course impressive. Windy too..:-)

Our next stop was the Spaarndammerbuurt. Here one of the jewels of the Amsterdam School of architecture can be found. This expressionist style of architecture peaked in the first quarter of the 20st century.

Het Schip (the Ship) is a creation of architect Michel de Klerk, built between 1914 and 1921.

Google Earth has a 3D option and in the left picture you see the Ship in 3D. In the right picture the iconic (although useless) tower of this housing estate for workers!

het schip

2016-04-11 14.41.53-1

The rounded forms are characteristic for the Amsterdamse School. The former postoffice now houses a small museum.

Last destination for the day was the new development of the IJdock. At the west side of the Central Station, an artificial island has been constructed, as can be seen in the two images below. Left the situation in 2006 ,  right an image from 2015.

ijdock2ijdock1

Post-modern architecture in optima forma…:-)

That was enough for a day trip. The next day I visited another highlight of the Amsterdam School, the social housing complex De Dageraad, built by Michel de Klerk and Piet Kramer in 1920. Here an aerial view.

dageraad-001

Here are a few pictures of the Berlage Scholengemeenschap, built in 1924 by Arend Jan Westerman.

And here a collection of pictures of the Dageraad complex.

The Amsterdam School style is easy to recognise, many buildings can be found in Amsterdam, maybe something for another blog…:-)

North-Holland, March 2016

This year I was back in the Netherlands about one month earlier than usual. Here is a view from the train on my way to my sister in North-Holland, a few weeks later there will be plenty of flower fields here.

Now only an occasional field with crocuses (left) and daffodils (right). No tulips yet

I spent the Easter weekend in Valkkoog, where my sister and her husband are living. A small village with a vibrant social life. There was a traditional egg hunt for the kids and in the church a brunch was served. A few of their neighbours are rearing sheep as a hobby, and this was the time that the ewes were yeaning  (hm, I had to look up “ewe” and “yean” in a dictionary)

About our visit of the Kranenburgh Museum in Bergen I have already reported in my post Museums, museums, museums. We also visited a very different kind of museum, Tulpenland , about the history of the tulip. A quaint collection of items related to the tulip. A path through a forest brings you to the various exhibits.

Ever heard about the Tulip Mania ?  It was a short period in the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) during which prices for tulip bulbs exploded dramatically and then suddenly collapsed. In the Tulpenland garden some Amsterdam merchant houses have been rebuilt on a miniature scale, with information about this “tulpengekte” (tulip madness) where the price of one bulb could be equal to a house…:-)

The Netherlands is one of the largest exporters of tulips in the world. Look at the numbers in the picture below (year is not given). Two billion tulip bulbs and a slightly smaller number of tulip flowers, with Germany as the largest buyer.

It happened to be the opening day of Tulpenland for the 2016 season, we received a complimentary pot with tulips! Pity I could not take them back to Malaysia..:-(

There is a saying: God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands and that seems particularly true for the province of North-Holland! Compare the two maps below. Left a map from 1740, right a recent Google Earth screenshot.

The polders that already existed in 1740 are colored green, with the dykes in red. They are outlined in green in the GE image. Later land reclamation projects are outlined in brown. The first big reclamation project was the Zijpe (1597), the Wieringermeer was only reclaimed in 1930, at the same time as the Afsluitdijk was built, basically transforming a “dangerous” sea (Zuiderzee) into a “quiet” lake (IJsselmeer)

noord-holland_combi

As you can see in the map to the left, there was a sea both east and west of North-Holland! The east side was protected by the Westtfriese Zeedijk, the west side by sand dunes. Nevertheless numerous floods occurred, and one of them, the St. Elizabeth’s flood (1421) breached the dunes near Petten, destroying the village and killing many people. Attempts to create new dunes there were only partly successful, in the following centuries the sea was slowly advancing and the land receding. In the image to the right this weak spot is indicated in red.

Here is a map published in 1600, showing the Zijpe polder, just drained in 1597. The letters mark the land parcels in the new polder, to be distributed to the various stakeholders. Notice that the map has been oriented almost east-west

Zijpe_map

A detail of this map shows the (rebuilt) village of Petten and part of the weak spot in the coastal defense. There is still a small forest there , the Honsbosch. The lower part shows  the present situation, with the old coastline indicated. The coastline has receded a lot, the old Petten has been swallowed by the sea, a new Petten has been built.

Old and new 1

One more comparison, with a later map, dated ~ 1730. In the meantime more floods had occurred, for example the 1717 Christmas flood. Comparing with the 1600 map, the Lay polder has been drained. The coast line has receded again. The forest is no more.

compariso2

In the  Google Earth image  you see basically the Hondsbosche Sea Dyk, made of basalt and concrete, built around 1880. A final solution? In a way, yes, recent floods,like the disastrous 1953 flood, have not affected this sea dyke near Petten. But of course the Netherlands have to prepare for global warming and a resulting rise of seawater levels!

So, what to do? One solution would be to increase the height of this sea dyke again, as has been done in the past a few rimes already. Here is an (Internet) image of the sea dykes, couple of years ago. At the back is the actual Hondsbosch sea dyke, in front the Pettemer one. Forget about the details, just notice that the Pettemer one (different authorities!)  has been raised a bit higher than the Hondsbosch one..:-) And notice how much the low-lying farms to the left depend on the strength of these dykes!

HondsbosscheEnPettemerZeewering

A few years ago it has been decided to try a more audacious solution, instead of raising the dykes, fight back against the sea and create new dunes in front of the existing dyke!

In the last two years about 35 million (!) cubic meters of sand have been dredged from the sea and deposited in front of the existing sea dykes, creating a new “dune-scape”. The result is clearly visible from Google Earth…:-)

GE

The Netherlands at its best..:-) There is an interesting visitor center in Petten: Informatiecentrum Kust, Zand tegen Zee (in Dutch). From there you can climb the newly created Lookout Dune.

It was cold and windy during our visit. PLenty of kite surfers and horse riders.

2016-03-27 14.22.29

North-Holland is a fascinating province. Must spend more time there during my next visit..:-)

Our Solar system, an update

My last blog about the Rosetta, Dawn and New Horizon missions was posted in July last year. Before I give an update, let’s first have a look at our Sun. Here is a recent graph of the number of sunspots. Cycle 24 has reached a maximum in April 2014 and is coming to an end.

cycle_24

As you will notice, cycle 24 has a double peak, in itself not unusual, but this time the second peak is higher than the first one. The maximum of cycle 24 is much smaller than that of cycle 23, and the prediction for cycle 25 is that it will be similar to cycle 24 or even smaller.

Here is a graph of the sunspot cycles, recorded until now. It looks like we have passed the Modern Maximum and are going to a minimum. Are we heading to a new “Little Ice Age“?  As I wrote in an earlier post, this is a sensitive issue, and I will not comment on it..:-). Be very wary when you search the Internet for info  about a relation between solar activity and global warming. Always check the credentials of the report. You might try this site: Skeptical Science

Sunspot_Numbers

Here is a dramatic image of our Sun, taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Magnetic field lines are superimposed.

3238931400000578-3493882-image-a-019

Rosetta

Rosetta is still orbiting comet 67P, which has passed its perihelion and is now on its way out into deep space. Here is the position of Rosetta and the comet, end of last year, the comet has passed already the orbit of Mars. No signals of the comet lander Philae have been received anymore, but Rosetta itself is still active.

Rosetta

Here is a recent image of 67P, taken on 27 March, when Rosetta was 329 km away from the comet nucleus. The Sun is behind the comet, with a spectacular result.

cometon27march2016navcam

The scientists are planning to let Rosetta make a controlled landing on 67P in September 2016, which will be the end of the mission. You can find the latest news on Rosetta’s blog

Dawn

Dawn is still in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres. Slowly getting closer, resulting in more detailed pictures. You may remember the excitement about the bright white spots. Now we know that they are located in the center of a crater, which has been given a name: Occator. More (smaller) white spots have been found

Occator_PIA19889

Here is the most recent picture (in false color), taken 30-3-2016 from an altitude of 385 km. . Spectacular. Scientists now think that the white spots are formed by highly reflective material, possibly ice or salt.

Occator

Actually Dawn is taking pictures of the whole surface of Ceres. Scientists have been busy giving names to the various features..:-)

Ceres mapping

For more information about Dawn, read this detailed blog So.Much.Ceres, published a few weeks ago

New Horizons

On 14 July 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft passed Pluto at an altitude of 12.500 km above its surface. It took as many pictures during the fly-by (of only a few minutes!) as possible and it still has not finished transmitting all the data to Earth!

Here is one of the images, released a few days ago. It shows numerous “haloed” craters. The false-color image gives the composition: purple is methane ice, blue is water ice. Why the crater rims and walls consist of methane ice has not yet been explained.

Craters on PLuto

New Horizons is now on its way to the Kuiper Belt, where it is supposed to flyby one of the Kuiper Belt objects, 2014 MU69 , on 1-1-2019.  Here are the present locations of the New Horizons spacecraft and 2014 MU69

New_horizon

Planet 9

We have reached the outskirts of our Solar System. Pluto, once the 9th planet, has been demoted and is now considered a dwarf planet belonging to the Kuiper belt. Recently more dwarf planets have been discovered in the region beyond Neptune,  Eris ( in 2005) , Haumea (in 2004) and Makemake (in 2005)  Like Pluto they have quite elliptical  orbits and periods in the range of a few hundred years. Pluto for example has a period of  248 year and its distance to the Sun varies between 30 and 49 AU, where 1 AU (the average distance between Earth and Sun) = 150 million km. The orbits of these dwarf planets have been strongly influenced by big neighbour Neptune.

In 2003 dwarf planet Sedna was discovered with an estimated period of 11.400 year and a distance to the sun varying between 76 and 936 (!) AU. Here is the orbit of Sedna. Pluto’s orbit is purple.

Sedna

What could have caused such an extremely elliptical orbit? It can not have been gravitational disturbance by Neptune, because it never comes close to Neptune (distance of Neptune to the Sun is 30 AU).

In the last decade more of these “strange” objects have been discovered. For example in 2012  2012 VP113, estimated period 4200 year, distance to the Sun between 80 and 438 AU, also very elliptical.  Here the orbits of six of them are given.

TNO

Could these orbits be gravitationally disturbed by an UNKNOWN planet in the outer reaches of the Solar system?

On 20 January 2016 astronomers Brown and Batygin published an article in the Astronomical Journal: Evidence for a distant giant planet in the Solar System (abstract). Using computer models, they find that a planet with a mass about 10 times the mass of Earth, a period of 10.000-20.000 year, and a distance to the Sun varying between 200 and 1200 AU, could explain the orbits. Tentatively this planet is named Planet Nine .

Here is a sketch with the position of this Planet Nine.

Planet_Nine_-_black_background

Of course this is a hypothesis until now. Other explanations are possible. Next step is to try and find Planet Nine. That will not be easy, even for the most powerful telescopes. And where to look for it?

Here is a picture of the two authors, both astronomers from Caltech. By the way, Brown (left) is  the guy who discovered Eris, which started the demotion process for Pluto!

Brown & Batygin

They have started a website The Search for Planet Nine and just submitted a (highly technical) paper in which they discuss where to search for this planet.

If Planet Nine is ever found, I will not be surprised if they get a Nobel Prize for their research.

Museums, museums, museums

During my recent stay in the Netherlands I have visited an unusually large number of museums…:-). I have reported already about the two patrician canal mansions and the Royal Palace. Here are four more, in chronological order.

During the usual visit to my sister, she suggested that we could visit the Kranenburgh Museum in Bergen. Bergen is a village in the province of North-Holland, in the first part of the 20th century it was an “artist colony”.The expressionist Bergen School of painting had its origin here and the museum contains many works of art from that period.

But that’s not why we went there. In December 2015 a special exhibition was opened, prepared by guest curator Joost Zwagerman, and titled “Silence out loud”  Various aspects of silence in art. I found the exhibition very impressive, really evoking silence. 

Joost Zwagerman, a Dutch writer and columnist has been working two years on this project. And he has not seen the final result, because he took his own life, a few months before the opening of the exhibition. Sad.

A few days later I visited an exhibition about Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in the Singer museum in Laren. Laren is another Dutch art colony and the Singer museum has many works of art from the “Haagse School“.

Kirchner was a German expressionist painter and one of the founders of the artist group Die Brücke. I like his work, it is always a pleasure to come across his paintings in a museum and in this exhibition they had collected many of his works of art.

Born in 1880, he volunteered for military service in 1914, but was discharged soon after a mental breakdown. Having health problems, he moved to Davos in Switzerland and stayed there the rest of his life. One of his friends there was the Dutch painter Jan Wiegers, one of the founders of the artist collective De Ploeg. See below…:-). With the rise of Nazism his art was considered “entartet” (degenerate) and many of his paintings were destroyed. Worried that Hitler might invade Switzerland, he killed himself in 1938.

My next museum visit was to the Groninger museum. Here in December 2015 an exhibition opened about David Bowie. I am a fan of this fascinating artist. When his album Ziggie Stardust was published in 1972, I was beginning to discover the “alternative” pop music. I would have liked to see this exhibition, but it was planned to close early March, before I came back to the Netherlands.

Then, on 10 January 2016, he died, just after publishing the album Blackstar, with the macabre song Lazarus . The number of visitors surged and the museum decided to prolong the exhibition until the beginning of April, extending the opening times. You had to book a time slot!  I visited the exhibition on 31 March, and it was an impressive multimedia experience. Photography and sound recording not allowed, understandable. Secretly I took one picture, just for the record…:-)

My time slot started at 4pm, I arrived early, so I decided in the meantime to have a look at the permanent collection of…. De Ploeg, mentioned above…;-)! That was a good idea. Interesting to compare the two expressionist schools, their differences and similarities. In Laren one painting by Jan Wiegers, here two paintings by Kirchner.

The last museum visit was actually rather accidental…:-). I was going to meet after many years a former colleague from my school, and she suggested that we could have coffee in the museum cafe of the Allard Pierson museum in the center of Amsterdam. This is the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam. But when we were there, we noticed that there was a temporary exhibition, called the DWDD Pop-Up Museum 2DWDD is a popular Dutch television talkshow, which I avoid to watch because I am allergic to the ADHD host…:-).

He has quite a few regular guests in his show and the Pop-Up Museum is a project where these guests are asked to select a museum of their choice, visit the depot (where usually most of a museum collection is kept) , choose some works of art and create a room for the exhibition. Actually an interesting idea. The first edition of this project was a success, this is the second one, open until 22 May 2016.There are nine rooms, here a selection. In the captions you see the name of the guest and the museum they have selected.

Altogether seven museums in one month. Not bad..:-)

Royal Palace, Amsterdam

The Dam Square in Amsterdam can be considered the center of the town. It is dominated by the Royal Palace. Here is a Google Earth image.

Dam Square

This monumental building has not always been a palace. It was built in the seventeenth century as the Town Hall of Amsterdam and functioned as such for 150 years. For a long time it was the largest administrative building in Europe and considered by many the Eight Wonder of the World.

In 1808 Louis Napoleon, brother of the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, became King of Holland and converted the Town Hall into a Palace. Not for long, in 1813, after the fall of Napoleon, the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established and the former town hall became a Palace of the Royal House of Orange. Nowadays it is a ceremonial palace, still in use for the inauguration of a new monarch and other official functions.

Left a painting of the Town Hall as it was in 1673, right the present situation.

Berckheyde_-_Het_stadhuis_op_de_Dam_te_Amsterdam_(1673)2016-04-13 16.56.50-1

When not in use, part of the palace is open to the public. Here is a map of the main floor.

Map

The impressive Burgerzaal (Citizens Hall) was the center of the Town Hall, freely accessible for the citizens of Amsterdam. Galleries lead to the various administrative offices

2016-04-13 15.49.01

 

 

 

 

 

Ceilings and upper parts of the walls are decorated by paintings of famous Dutch Golden Age artists

It is not easy to see details of the paintings, because they are very high up the walls. Many of them show historical scenes, related to the fight for independence of the Dutch Republic. Here are two images, taken from the Internet. Left The Conspiracy of the Batavians under Claudius Civilis (1559-1562) by Govert Flinck and right Brinio Raised on a Shield (1661) by Jan Lievens. Click on the link and then on “details” for more information about these paintings.

Claudius CivilisBrinio

It is interesting to note that Rembrandt, the most famous painter of his time, is not represented! Actually he created a painting about the same topic of Claudius Civilis as Govert Flinck and for a few months it was exhibited in the town hall. Then, for reasons unclear, it was returned to Rembrandt, who cut down the huge canvas (5×5 meter) to more manageable proportions . It is now in the Nationalmuseum of Stockholm and considered one of his masterpieces…:-)

Here are two more paintings. Amsterdam,  the leading city of the Dutch Republic, saw itself as the successor to the Roman Republic.  Its “burgomasters” (mayors) liked to identify themselves with the Roman consuls. Left, Fabritius and Pyrrhus (1656) by Ferdinand Bol, shows the consul Fabritius resisting the bribery attempts of  King Pyrrhus. Right, in The incorruptible Consul Marcus Curius Dentatus (1656) by Govert Flinck, the consul holds up a turnip, waving away the gold and other gifts, offered to bribe him.  Again: click on the links and then on “details” for more info.

On the map above, the original function of the various rooms is indicated. When the town hall was transformed into a palace, these rooms became bedrooms, dining rooms, ballrooms etc. They were furnished in Empire style. Even now some of the rooms are used as guestrooms for heads of state and other VVIP persons during official functions.

The admission price for the Palace includes a headset. Explanations are given by a former mayor of Amsterdam. Very informative!

Two contrasting pictures to end this blog. In the left picture you can see the Dam Square and the balcony, from which traditionally the new monarch is presented to the people. This balcony is not original, it has been added in 1808 by Louis Napoleon. The picture to the right is the only part of the ground floor that you can visit. It is the Tribunal, just below the room with the balcony, where death sentences were pronounced. After the verdict the criminal was taken up to the first floor, where a temporary scaffolding was constructed and the execution (by hanging) took place. The executions were public, visible to the people on the Dam square.

2016-04-014

2016-04-015

When you visit Amsterdam, you should spend a few hours in this monumental building! And when you can not visit Amsterdam in the real, you can make a virtual tour, using the Google Cultural Institute !  Just amazing, what would we be without Google…:-)