A Little Bit of the Civil War in New York

The New York Historical Society has some new guards. Or maybe they are old guards?

Of course, they were there to protect the President, Abraham Lincoln.

Okay, and maybe chat with some kids.

Frederick Douglass was there too.

Just a little teaser from the road, thanks to modern technology.

Join CPRC at our 2014 Annual Spring Meeting – April 27-28

CPRC logoThe following is a cross-posting from the Chesapeake-Potomac Regional Chapter of SETAC. Get more information here.

2014 CPRC Annual Spring Meeting

The CPRC-SETAC Annual Spring Meeting will be held Monday April 28th, 2014 at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center in Grasonville, MD

 Registration

Registration is $65 for non-members (includes 2014 CPRC-SETAC membership), $50 for professional members and $25 for students.  The fee includes the optional “Day On The Bay” Sunday April 27th to take advantage of all that CBEC and Chesapeake Bay have to offer.  The fee also includes all of the catered food and drink (breakfast, breaks, lunch and happy hour!) during the meeting day on Monday April 28th.

To register, please fill out the 2014 Meeting Registration Form  and email to treasurer.cprc.setac@gmail.com.  Payments can be submitted via PayPal (no PayPal account is required) by following this link.

 Day On The Bay!

On April 27th, we will have a lot of fun helping the environment! CPRC along with MatrixNeworld, CBEC, and Restore the Earth Foundation organized a Coastal Wetland Restoration project where volunteers will plant nearly 600 plants over a 2,000 square foot area to restore a coastal wetland and help prevent further shoreline erosion. See attached flyer for more details.  Please take a look at the attached flyer for more details and RSVP sending an email to vice.president.cprc.setac@gmail.com.

Area hotels (pdf with map)

Best Western Kent Narrows Inn in Gasonville, MD has agreed to hold a block of rooms at the rate of $79/night for Sunday April 27th and Monday April 28th.  To get the block rate, call (410-827-6767) and tell them you are with CPRC.  They are holding only 11 rooms and the rooms will be released for general booking on March 27th.  Please contact vice.president.cprc.setac@gmail.com with any issues or difficulties.

Area restaurants (pdf with map)

 Carpooling 

Please email cprc.setac@gmail.com with 1) your name, 2) phone number, 3) address, and 4) route taken to meeting or if you need a ride.  We’ll hook you up!

Contact

If you have any questions about the meeting, feel free to contact CPRC-SETAC at cprc.setac@gmail.com.

This website, Science Traveler, is a proud sponsor of CPRC and SETAC. I’ll also be presenting at the CPRC meeting – my topic: Remembering the Big Picture – Communicating Local Science to a Global Audience. [With scenes from Argentina as my backdrop]

Come join us for a day on the bay. Make that two days on the bay!

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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Robert E Lee Surrenders to Ulysses S Grant – April 9, 1865

On April 9th 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee officially surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. So began the end of the Civil War. They met at the house of Wilmer McLean in a village called Appomattox Court House. The trials of four years of war etched the faces of both Generals as their weary troops struggled between thankfulness that the war was ending and patriotism for the causes they felt were still attainable.

Appomattox Court House

In the days before the surrender, Grant and Lee had exchanged a series of messages through the front lines. Both men were cautious, avoiding commitments that they could not keep. Not surprisingly, Lee was hesitant to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to the Union forces. But he was a realist. After the defeat at Petersburg, Lee had on April 2nd warned Confederate President Jefferson Davis that Richmond could no longer be protected. As Davis and the Confederate government fled southward, Lee knew that his armies could no longer hold off the inevitable. The South would fall in defeat.

Robert E Lee Surrenders to Ulysses S Grant

The terms of the surrender were simple. All Confederate forces were to be disbanded and allowed to return to their homes, “not to be disturbed by the United States authorities so long as they observe their paroles.” While “arms, artillery, and public property” were to be confiscated, officers were allowed to keep their side-arms (swords and pistols), private horses and baggage.

As General Lee mounted his horse to ride away from the McLean house, “General Grant now stepped down from the porch, and, moving toward him, saluted him by raising his hat. He was followed in this act of courtesy by all our officers present; Lee raised his hat respectfully, and rode off to break the sad news to the brave fellows whom he had so long commanded.”

The war would rapidly come to an end. But just as rapidly, President Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated. While the fighting was over, the struggle for freedom and equality would go on for decades, even a century, beyond this fateful day.

David J. Kent is an avid Lincolnophile and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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Book Review – Lincoln’s Other White House by Elizabeth Smith Brownstein

Lincolns Other White HouseAbraham Lincoln lived in the White House from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Or did he? In fact, he spent most of the summer months of 1862 through 1864 – about a quarter of his presidency – living in the Soldier’s Home. Author Elizabeth Smith Brownstein gives us a fascinating, as well as delightful, look at Lincoln’s Other White House.

The book unfolds in two parts. The first part groups three chapters into a sort of preamble as Lincoln’s “long journey to the Soldier’s Home.” Here we find the history of the airy cottage originally belonging to the Riggs banking family but now transformed into a home for aging veterans. We also get a sense for why Lincoln was eager to escape to the home, both from the pressures of constant office seekers and from the diseases and smells permeating the capitol during the steamy summer months.

The second part is split into 15 chapters exploring a variety of issues and people Lincoln dealt with as the war raged outside his doors. Not all of the action takes place at the Soldier’s Home, but the home life is delicately interwoven throughout the stories. Brownstein brings us into the complexities of the Lincoln marriage, his interactions with various cabinet members and Generals, and the importance of his time at the Soldier’s Home during the development of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Along with discussions of Lincoln’s views on freedom and his interest in the tools of war are more unique insights. We see some of the poems on slavery that rose from the pens of such icons as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Herman Melville, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Walt Whitman. An occasional poet himself, no doubt Lincoln appreciated their ways with words. We also get a sense of Lincoln’s favorite storytellers, including the inimitable characters Petroleum V. Nasby, Artemus Ward, and Orpheus C. Kerr (a play on “office seeker”).

Brownstein’s writing is crisp and light. She covers a lot of territory as she hops in and out of key events and interrelationships during Lincoln’s time at the Soldier’s Home. I found it to be a delightful book indeed, and I highly recommend it to readers.

[Note: I read this book after Elizabeth Brownstein noticed that I had reviewed Matthew Pinsker's book on the soldier's home. I recommend both books as they provide different perspectives on Lincoln and the importance of his time there.]

David J. Kent is an avid Lincolnophile and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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If You Liked Nikola Tesla Off-Broadway, You’ll Love Jackie and Marilyn

Jackie and MarilynLast year at this time I had the privilege of meeting with the Director, Writer, and Cast of the Off-Broadway play, TESLA, about Nikola Tesla, the topic of my book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. The play was fantastic, playing to sold-out audiences for its entire run. Tesla Director, Sanja Bestic, and Writer, Sheri Graubert, have teamed up again for a new play that will open in New York on April 18th. You won’t want to miss Jackie and Marilyn.

Jackie and Marilyn

We all know the story of John F. Kennedy, his beautiful yet stoic wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, and the fabulous movie starlet, Marilyn Monroe. Or do we? The award winning Bestic and award winning Graubert bring to the Lion Theatre a new story of one of the most famous love triangles of all time, in the way it may have happened. The tragic ending to a charismatic president revealed hidden romances with two women who “represent the divided female psyche, lost love, beauty, fashion, quintessential style, the changes of marriage and relationships and more.” Jackie and Marilyn, the play, “is a fictional imagining of what might have gone on behind closed doors,” and is sure to bring out the most entertaining qualities of both Jackie Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe.

The leads are played by Aaron Mathias (JFK), Lorraine Farris (Jackie), and Lella Satie (Marilyn), all accomplished actors with stellar credits in television, film, and stage. Opening night of Jackie and Marilyn is April 18th, and will run at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row through May 3rd. Tickets are on sale now through Telecharge and the Lion Theatre box office.

Sanja Bestic and Sheri Graubert

Sanja Bestic and Sheri Graubert

Based on their amazing production of Tesla last year, I expect another smashing success from Sanja and Sheri with Jackie and Marilyn. I highly encourage everyone to check out the details on Facebook and make plans to come to New York City for the show.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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Nikola Tesla and Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. For decades it has been a favored place honeymooners, sightseers, and anyone interested in the immense beauty of nature. It was even the inspiration for a Three Stooges skit. And it’s where Nikola Tesla became famous.

Tesla at Niagara Falls

In his autobiography, Tesla reminisces about the first time he heard of Niagara Falls. It was in the Normal School during his youth. Here “there were a few mechanical models which interested me and turned my attention to water turbines.” After hearing a description of the great Niagara Falls, Tesla “pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by the Falls.” He proclaimed to his uncle that one day he would “go to America and carry out this scheme.”

Niagara Falls

Tesla now had that opportunity. After their successful collaboration at the Chicago World’s Fair, George Westinghouse set his sights on using the Tesla system to harness Niagara Falls for electricity generation. Up to this point the only use of the falls had been to build small canals to provide hydropower for mills and a tannery. But many saw the opportunity of channeling the awesome power of the falls to generate electricity. A former Edison board member, Edward Dean Adams, was picked to lead the newly formed Cataract Construction Company and determine the best way to obtain and then distribute electricity from the falls. Despite Thomas Edison’s assertions that he could transmit electricity as far as Buffalo, direct current systems were limited to running the machinery of local mills and lighting up some of the local village streets. The limitations of direct current were far too restrictive for any significant distribution.

Tesla’s alternating current system was just the answer the Cataract Construction Company was looking for, although they did not know that in the beginning. Adams first headed off to Europe where others were working to exploit alternating current for lighting and power generation. Eventually the Cataract Construction Company offered a contest of sorts, with cash prizes totaling $20,000 for the best plan for harnessing the falls. With more than a few parties claiming the rights to various parts of the alternating current system, there was backstabbing and counter claims and more than a little industrial theft of ideas. But in the end it was Tesla’s patents that won the day. The Westinghouse Company was chosen to provide the powerhouse and alternating current system, while the General Electric Company was awarded construction of the transmission lines.

Courtesy of NMAH Smithsonian Institution

Westinghouse, relying on a dozen Tesla patents, completed the powerhouse in 1895. Its enormous polyphase generator could produce an unprecedented 15,000 horsepower. Within the next year General Electric completed the transmission and distribution system and sufficient electricity to power industries “through the Falls and Buffalo areas.” Westinghouse went on to add another seven generating units, raising the power output to 50,000 horsepower. Tesla’s patented alternating current system was to change the lives of all Americans as the Niagara project showed investors that alternating current could transmit power over long distances.

Nikola Tesla went on to win the “war of the currents” against Thomas Edison, in large part because of his success with Westinghouse in Chicago and Niagara Falls. He dreamed of harnessing the power of nature to provide inexpensive, sustainable, electricity to everyone. How much power? Check out these two very brief videos, first from above, then down in the mist.

Tesla was on his way. He even got two statues, not just one, for his accomplishments at Niagara. And then disaster struck. More on that later.
[The above is adapted from Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. I'll explore more of Tesla's adventures in renewable energy in my new e-book scheduled for release in June 2014.]

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In Patagonia, Don’t Miss The Cave of the Hands…or the Camels!

Yes, I said camels. More on that in a minute. As I’ve been documenting, Ru and I joined my friend Pablo and his two daughters Juli and Mica touring, trekking, and tripping down the eastern side of the Andes mountains of Patagonia, southern Argentina. One of our stops was the Cueva de las Manos…the Cave of the Hands.

Cueva de las Manos

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cueva de las Manos is in such a remote location that it’s often missed by most casual tourists. Since driving all the way around to the main access road would take us over 150 kilometers out of our way, we decided to hike to it. After spending a night in a comfy log cabin, the five of us drove 17-km along a winding gravel road, along which we saw guanacos (WAN-a-coes), which look like short-haired llamas but, like the llamas, vicunas, and alpacas are actually closely related to camels.

Guanaco

We also saw choiques (CHOY-kas), which are ostrich-like birds that people up north may have heard called rheas. I’ll have more on these and other Patagonian wildlife (including condors) in a future post.

Choique (Rhea)

Eventually we arrived at the end of the road, but not the end of the trail, for where we were parked was on the opposite side of the valley from where we needed to be. So we hiked down this valley; that’s the cave peaking out from the other side.

Cueva de las Manos

And a little closer…

Cueva de las Manos

Once on the other side we could see the valley we crossed. To give you perspective, the greenery in the center are full-size trees nestled along the Pinturas River. I admit we dallied in the wonderful shade they provided from the mid-day sun as we crossed a footbridge over the river.

Pinturas River valley

By the way, our car is at the top of that ridge on the right. But let’s not think about the return trip just yet. Let’s go see the cave.

Cueva de las Manos

Okay, the cave itself is not so impressive. It’s about 10 meters high, 15 meters wide, and about 24 meters deep. It’s what is outside the cave that stirs the imagination. To get an idea of the layout, take a look at the photo below, which shows the valley and the cave system on the right wall.

Cueva de las Manos

The main cave is the hole to the right about mid-way where the slope meets the cliff. However, following along what looks like a cut as you move left in the photo traces over 4000 years of history. And what you see is…hands.

Cueva de las Manos

The hands are everywhere. At least three waves of indigenous peoples lived in this area, from about 9,000 years ago to as far as 13,000 years ago. The peoples were semi-nomadic, chasing their main food sources, the aforementioned guanocos and choiques, back and forth across the otherwise barren scrubland. To mark their ownership of the cave and environs they painted their hands onto the rock walls.

Cueva de las Manos

Painted is a bit of a misnomer. They actually stenciled negative images by holding their hands against the rock and blowing through a hollow reed a mixture of natural mineral pigments. The different colors were made by blending different base components – iron oxides (for red and purple), kaolin (for white), natrojarosite (for yellow), and manganese oxide (for black). Some unknown binder was added to get it to stick to the rock. Given that the hands are still visible after many thousands of years, one has to wonder whether the inhabitants had permanently painted mouths.

Cueva de las Manos

While most of the artwork depicts the artists’ hand (notice that most are the left hand, suggesting that they, like us, were predominantly right handed), as the photo above shows, they also painted guanacos. Needless to say they didn’t hold a guanaco up to the wall and do stencils, so these animals are directly painted as positive images (though I admit, a bit stylistically). For the occasional choique footprint, again they could hold up the three-toed appendage (presumably without the 90-lb bird still attached) and blow pigments to create a stencil.

Cueva de las Manos

As I noted above, there were at least three waves of peoples who inhabited the caves over time. Initially you see only the masses of left hand stencils, but as you walk along the rock cut you see a gradual shift in the style and patterns of the artwork. More and more hunting scenes are visible, and near the far end you start to see stick-figure people, geometric shapes, and zigzag patterns.

Cueva de las Manos was a wonderful experience. The guide gave the tour in Spanish, but luckily Pablo and Juli took turns translating the highlights so we didn’t miss much (something to keep in mind if you travel down there without speaking the language). While the site is very remote, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Now, only one more trek left today. All we have to do is hike back down into the valley, then back up the other side. See those white specks at the top of the ridge (just right of center)? That’s our car. I’m glad I brought a hiking stick.

Cueva de las Manos

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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The Latest in Lincoln Scholarship at the Abraham Lincoln Institute Symposium

Abraham LincolnPut two hundred Abraham Lincoln scholars and followers in a room and what do you get? On March 22, 2014 you get the 17th Abraham Lincoln Institute Annual Symposium highlighting the latest in Lincoln scholarship. The day-long symposium featured five speakers discussing their latest books, and the audience included some of the biggest names in the field.

Current ALI President Allen Guelzo served as emcee for the program, while the equally eminent Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame introduced the first speaker, Rich Lowry. This was the second time this week I had seen Lowry as he was the featured speaker on Tuesday night at our monthly Lincoln Group of DC dinner. He gave a spirited and informative look at “The Lincolnian Ethic and the American Dream.”

Lincoln Symposium 3-22-14

After a short break, former ALI President Fred J. Martin spoke about the long, and often in doubt, march to Lincoln’s reelection in 1864. Martin noted that Lincoln, while uncertain of his reelection chances during a long and unpopular war, had a clear understanding of the nation’s geography, issues, and political dynamics. He knew how important it was to hold the elections even as the nation fought to keep itself together.

But that was just the beginning. After lunch we were treated to more excellent presentations by a series of great speakers: John David Smith enlightened us on emancipation and the U.S. Colored Troops; John Fabian Witt explained the significance of Lincoln’s Code of war; and Joshua Zeitz led us into the world of “Lincoln’s Boys,” the title of his new book about Lincoln’s presidential secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. Following the presentations was an opportunity for the audience to pose additional questions for the panelists. Overall, this was an amazing event and the organizers should be congratulated on their efforts in putting together the program. More information can be found on the ALI website, including an archive of videos from past symposiums.

Lincoln Symposium 3-22-14

On a personal note, the symposium was a special occasion for me for several reasons. First, it was the first annual ALI symposium I have been able to attend. Normally it is held at Archives II, which is up in College Park, Maryland, but this year it was held in Archives I, the main Archives building right here in downtown Washington DC. Second, because it gave me the chance to introduce myself to Michael Burlingame, one of the most respect researchers in current Lincoln scholarship. Third, because in the nearly full 290-seat auditorium were some of the most erudite Lincoln experts in the country, including Jonathan W. White, Joan E. Cashin, Douglas L. Wilson, Michelle Krowl, and many others. Being in the presence of such Lincoln knowledge was both intimidating and exhilarating.

Also nicely represented at the symposium were members of the Lincoln Group of DC. Our own Rodney Ross provided a nice introduction to John Fabian Witt, current LGDC President Karen Needles asked some stimulating questions, and my lunch with Richard Margolies and John Elliff led to some fascinating discussions. In my brief conversation with Michael Burlingame I mentioned that the LGDC was beginning to expand our outreach and education activities and would be happy for any insights he may be able to provide. I’m looking forward to interacting with him and other Lincoln experts as I take on this important role for the group.

As an added bonus I had a rolling conversation throughout the day with George Kirschbaum, a retired history professor with an avid interest in both Abraham Lincoln and my other favorite historical personage – Nikola Tesla. [He even bought one of my books] While getting his address to send the Tesla book I realized that Elizabeth Brownstein was sitting right behind me. Elizabeth and I had been discussing her book, Lincoln’s Other White House, at the LGDC meeting earlier in the week. Luckily for me I had my copy with me (I had started reading it on the train into DC that morning), so she graciously agreed to sign and write the most amazing inscription in it.

All in all, a very good day. A very good day indeed.

David J. Kent is an avid Lincolnophile and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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Up Close and Personal with the Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

You’ve probably seen photographs of the Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the most photogenic glaciers in the world, the Perito Moreno is a site to behold. And behold we did. It was one of the final scenic stops on our trip to Patagonia in southern Argentina, and it was worth the wait. I took hundreds of photographs, so picking the few that I use below was difficult. There will be more in the future, but let’s at least get in some of the highlights. Driving along the Peninsula Magallanes, we rounded a turn and, as a group, in unison, all exclaimed, “Wow!,” as we saw this:

Perito Moreno first look

Unlike many of the glaciers we had already encountered on the trip, this one is both massive and dramatically intrudes onto the lakes. If you look closely at the photo above, near the shore in the middle right, you’ll see a boat. That boat is roughly the length of the boats that take you into the mist at Niagara Falls. Luckily there was no mist (as it would have been ice cubes), for we were about to go on that boat right up close to the south face of the glacier. The north face, which I’ll get to later in this piece, is just off the right side of the above photo. Staying on this side for now, this is what the south face looks like up close.

Perito Moreno south face

To give you some perspective, those mountains in the background are between 2100 and 3000 meters high (6900 to 9800 feet). The face of the glacier runs about 50-55 meters above the waterline (165-180 feet), but remember that most of an iceberg is below water? Well, the total depth of the ice is actually more like 150 meters (nearly 500 feet). To get a really intimate look we decided to nudge up closer:

Perito Moreno glacier

Imagine that much ice hovering over your head. Here’s another close up shot:

Perito Moreno glacier

You can see how uneven and ragged the surface is of the glacier. Even more amazing, you can hear it. There is constant groaning and popping and cracking from all over the glacier. Every so often a chunk falls off into the water. And by chunk I mean anything ranging from small (the size of your chair) to medium (your car) to large (your house).

Okay, enough of the south face. Let’s get back onshore and drive around the point to the front and north faces of the Perito Moreno glacier. Look back at the first photo in this post; we’re going off to the right, around that little point of land in the middle. This is the first view you’ll have when you arrive:

Perito Moreno glacier

See that little gray rock outcropping in the middle back of the ice field (not the mountain in the background, the little jagged rocks with ice surrounding it). That point is 14 kilometers (almost 9 miles) from the front face of the glacier (which is in the foreground, partially hidden by trees). Here’s an overhead shot (complements of Wiki Commons) to give you an idea of how massive it is as the glacier fans out toward the shore.

Perito Moreno glacier - from Wiki Commons

The front face in my photo is the tiny edge that touches the land on the right side of the Wiki photo. The lower face is the south face that I showed you above from the boat. But let’s go around to the north face (top right in the Wiki photo).

Perito Moreno glacier - front and north faces

In the photo above you can see where the front face (left) meets the north face (right). By this time (mid-February) the front of the glacier had separated from the land (see the exciting video below). The icebergs in the water are from pieces of the glacier that have calved (broken off), a process that occurs sporadically but constantly as the glacier creeps towards us from the distant mountains. And just to remind you of the size, that shoreline in the right background? It’s about 2.5 kilometers away (1.5 miles).

Okay, one more photo – a close up of the north face:

Perito Moreno glacier

Since the name of this site is Science Traveler it’s virtually imperative that I mention the state of the glaciers in Argentina. The Perito Moreno glacier is one of 48 glaciers in the South Patagonia ice field (with many more in other ice field further north). Of those 48 glaciers, Perito Moreno is one of only three that is actually growing. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why this one is growing while 94% of the glaciers are shrinking, but any ice growth in an otherwise warming planet is good news [or not, since it's likely the growth is due to changing weather patterns as a result of man-made climate change].

Another cool science bit for this glacier is the periodic rupturing it undergoes. Because of the unique flow pattern and geography of the region, the Perito Moreno glacier tends to push up against the shores of the Peninsula Magallanes (right in the Wiki photo). Usually the glacier melts back a bit during the summer (which was when I was there). But roughly every 4 to 5 years it creates an imbalance that results in a spectacular display. As the glacier blocks off the flow between the two arms of the lake, it raises the water level of the Brazo Rico as much as 30 meters (100 feet). The pressure caused by the weight of the water starts to strain the section of the glacier that has dammed it in. Eventually the ice is worn away enough to create an ice bridge. Slowly the combined stresses of forward moving glacier, downward water pressure, and seasonal melting cause big chunks (the house size) to fall out of the bridge. Until the whole thing collapses in a huge splash.

The last rupture in January of 2013, but the most magnificent rupture occurred in 2004 where, over the course of nine months, the ice dam formed, eroded, and eventually shattered. The video below documents the process.

I’ve provided only a handful of the many fantastic photos I took at the Perito Moreno glacier. I hope you got at least a small sense of the wonder of the location. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget. For more photos and stories of our trip to Argentina click here and scroll down.

David J. Kent is an avid traveler and the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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Is Nikola Tesla’s Vision of Wireless Electricity Finally Happening?

Nikola TeslaMore than a hundred years ago, Nikola Tesla invented wireless communication and power generation. He was a man far ahead of his time. Now it looks like the modern world maybe be catching up to his vision. Wireless electricity may be here.

A Boston-based company by the name of WiTricity has come up with a way of transmitting electricity without wires. As the company’s Chief Technology Officer reports to CNN, “we’re not actually putting electricity in the air. What we’re doing is putting a magnetic field in the air.” They do this by building a “source resonator,” which essentially is a coil of wire that generates a magnetic field when power is attached. Bringing a second coil in close proximity will generate an electrical charge.

Sound familiar? According to Arron Hirst:

The technology appears to based upon the original findings of Nikola Tesla. In a patent filed at the U.S Patent and Trademark Office on February 19, 1900, entitled “Apparatus for Transmission of Electrical Energy,” Tesla describes a similar system for delivering electricity from one static point, to another.

Tesla-PSJul1956

Tesla, after advancing wireless communication technology in Colorado Springs, began work on Long Island at Wardenclyffe. His ultimate goal was not only to provide international wireless communication (radio) but develop his system of wireless electrical power transmission. The technology itself seems simple by today’s standards, but it was groundbreaking when Tesla first envisioned the idea. WiTricity has already used the technology “to power laptops, cell-phones, and TVs by attaching resonator coils to batteries.” They are also working on a way to recharge electric cars. On their website they note the potential of wireless power:

Cell phones, game controllers, laptop computers, mobile robots, even electric vehicles capable of re-charging themselves without ever being plugged in. Flat screen TV’s and digital picture frames that hang on the wall—without requiring a wire and plug for power. Industrial systems and medical devices made more reliable by eliminating trouble prone wiring and replaceable batteries.

So perhaps after all these years Nikola Tesla’s technology will finally be coming to fruition. Hopefully WiTricity’s advances will recognize Tesla’s amazing contributions to the field. For more on how wireless power works (including your electric toothbrush), check out this very readable article. And for a fun read, check out author Thomas Waite’s use of Tesla’s wireless idea in his novel, Terminal Velocity.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies exclusively at Barnes and Noble bookstores.

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