Friday, 28 February 2014

Looking Out

Alan has provided a wonderfully evocative photograph for this week's Sepia Saturday prompt which was taken on Mount Løvstakken in Norway.  Perhaps our trio are looking out for Henrik Ibsen to come walk into view. The photograph could certainly be a scene from one of his plays. I have a confession to make. I speed read and missed the musical trio reference because I read Röntgen, and thought German physicist.  Read Beyer and thought Friedrich one of the founders of the pharmaceutical giant. This indeed would have been a disparate trio to walk in the Norwegian mountains so no wonder my first thought was wow, who knew.  Well nobody did as I discovered when I reread the intro and it is the reason for my scientific take on the theme.  Having said that a telescope is definitely the star of the show but in this case a giant one.
The Westinghouse |Electrical and Manufacturing crew in South Philadelphia assemble in the rig that would later attach to the 200" mirror of the Palomar telescope.  Construction sites of companies all over the USA in the 1930s were all making different parts for the telescope.  Our story starts in 1928 when George Ellery Hale got a large Rockefeller grant to build an observatory and he started his search for an appropriate place to site it, having had to eliminate his original idea of the Los Angeles area due to light pollution.  That fact is rather appropriate because I found this photo on the Palomar Skies blog created by the then Public Affairs Coordinator who left Palomar to work for the International Dark Skies Association, he hoped that someone else would continue his Palomar blog.  Unfortunately it looks as nobody has but it remains a wonderful resource.

But lets get back to Hale who found his ideal position for the telescope in the early 1930s on the 5,600 feet of Palomar Mountain and proceeded to buy 160 acres from local ranchers and the US Forestry Service.  His next next problem was to get a 200" mirror. General Electric failed to make one out of fused quartz so that was $600,000 down the drain. He turned to Corning Glass who decide  Pyrex would be less prone to expand and contract than ordinary glass. At the second attempt they are successful. 

The project moves on in 1936 with construction of the dome
(Caltech Astronomy)
which also involves road building, cottages for personnel and camps for the workers. The next problem is to move the mirror blank across country and the crowds come out to watch the "Great Eye" travel by train in 1936 from New York to Pasadena.  The trip takes 16 days travelling at a speed of 25 mph and on arrival Caltech start to grind and polish the mirror, an immense task which is interrupted by World War 2 when production is stopped and the disk is stored and protected by timber for three years.  As Caltch explain "to make the final mirror, almost 10,000 pounds of glass are polished away, including the top two inches which contain "scar tissue" left over from the casting and annealing process". 

Now finished the mirror has to move from Pasadena to Palomar, enter the Belyea Truck Company, who were famous for driving a ship across a desert and saying there was no cargo they could not move.
In November 1947 the 40 ton cargo rested on 3 diesel tractors pushing it up the mountain.  The 25 mile trip is completed in 32 hours and engineers install the mirror but the image is not ideal so another two years are spent polishing and aligning and adjusting. In July 1948, although still not fully operational the telescope is dedicated and named after Hale who had died in 1938 his vision outliving him.  The story goes that in the last few days of his life Hale looked up into the sky and said  “It is a beautiful day. The sun is shining, and they are working on Palomar.”
Hale "The Journey to Palomar" University of Chicago
 Another famous name, Edwin Hubble took the first photograph with the "Big Eye" in January 1949 and the telescope became fully operational and remained the largest in the world until 1993.  Today it is still used for research and visitors are welcome to visit the public area or take a conducted tour.
Caltech's observatory on Palomar Mountain | Photo: Kevin L. Moore/Flickr/Creative Commons License


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Its A Gas

One of the largest offshore gas fields in the UK ( South Morecambe's 32 sq miles) was discovered in 1974 and a decision was made to develop it to help winter demand for gas.   The first natural gas was piped inshore here in Barrow through 36 inch pipes in 1985.
Of course my attention was grabbed by the yellow gas flare pipes with yellow buttercups in the foreground but lets walk further on and the Gas Terminal comes into view
Photographs were taken in May which is when the gorse always looks its most startling yellow.  The Gas Terminal was built in the site of the old Rooscote coal fired power station but the soil here on the shoreline was found to be succeptable to liquefaction.   It will come as no surprise to know that that is because it was sandy (alluvial and glacial).  An unusual foundation  pile design was created to be able to overcome earthquake risks. Not that this is especially common occurrence as we are not on any fault lines ( the Irish Sea had minor tremor in August (3.3)) but the structure has to withstand the possibility of a 1 in 500 or 1 in 1000 years event.

The cycle path and Cumbria Coastal Way from Rampside to Barrow passes briefly below and between the terminal and the shoreline.
But for those of us that like a bit of industrial photography there is the small matter of a high fence to dissuade.
 The cycle path leads eventually to Cavendish Dock and the Gas Terminal can be seen over Roosecote Sands in the distance to the right of the fishing shelter.  The chimney to the left is the electricity station, and as I have a love of puns you could say this is a powerful view.  Is that a groan I can hear?

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at G here.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Lads

Australian men in suits and oversized hats is this week's Sepia Saturday prompt here.  I know I have an elusive postcard somewhere of men in hats and suits, but failing to find it I flipped through the Gardner family album and found this:
I hoped there would be a photographers name on the back when I took it out of its pocket but alas no. Were these men brother, cousins or friends?  We will never know but the photographic studio must have had a shortage of chairs as you can see when I crop the photo and the strange carpet out of the frame:-

Leaning, kneeling and the lone sitter. Sheet music and two flutes, one held and one on the table but is the man at the back smoking a pipe or holding a short flute?  I've seen a similar photograph to this before but despite an entertaining search on the internet nothing appeared, they look an amusing trio and if living today might just be getting together to go for a night out on the town. I would guess the photo is from the 1860s but may be later, the bowler hat became more popular as the 19th century progressed. The suit was de rigueur and like hats the Victorian man was never seen without one.  My father, who always wore a three piece suit even in retirement (although it did latterly alter to a sports jacket) recounted his father in law( my grandfather) saying a gentleman should never removed his jacket no matter the temperature.
Charles Henry Gardner (1874-1958)
And here is my grandfather living up to that maxim although in casual knickerbockers and straw hat.  This is the only photograph I have of him as a relatively young man.   I think he liked winged collard shirts as he continued to wear them and they appear in the few photographs I have of him.  The album I took the first photo from was his, it is one of three each separately held today by his grandchildren.  They were always kept by my grandmothers in the bottom of a huge chest of drawers where she used to collect all the family material together, and occasionally get them out and entertain her many grandchildren with a flick through the pages, although the photographs I liked best as a child she kept in a old tin box.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Fourth Plinth

The fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar Square was supposed to hold an equestrian statue but lack of funding meant that it lay empty of 150 years.   In 1999 the marvellous idea of  using it for contemporary art was started and different pieces have appeared on it over the years.  On the 25 July 2013 the latest occupant was unveiled -  Hahn/Cock by the German artist Katharina Fritsch. This vivid ultramarine bird would brighten up any day and stands out against the surrounding buildings of grey Portland Stone.  I like the whimsy of the installation being in a city square and nowhere near a farmyard.   I also think that Fritsch is having a little joke in that the cockerel is a French national symbol, and here it is popping up in Trafalgar Square whose name and statue of Lord Nelson commemorates the British naval battle against the French in the Napoleonic Wars. 
The forth plinth is always a lure for the photographer and it is a must to check the camera shot.
"All right, Mr DeMille I'm ready for my close up"
Here is a different occupant of the Fourth Plinth (left of the fountain) who has gone with the naval theme of the square.
This is "Nelson's Ship in a Bottle" by Yinka Shonibare which lived on the plinth from May 2010-2012.  A perfect replica of HMS Victory, apart from the sails of Indonesian batik.   This material was originally mass produced by Dutch traders and sold in West Africa and today it is associated with African dress.  As a black British artist Shonibare is mixing the traditional ship in a bottle with batik sails to comment and meditate on colonialism, industrialisation and emigration.  It certainly struck a chord with the British public because when it was rumoured that on its removal from the plinth it was going to be sold to Korea money was raised to keep it in England and today it is installed outside the National Maritime Museum.  This is a happy coincidence because I'm staying nearby there next month when I hope to get a better photograph.  I struggled with both the sun and the hight to get much of the intricate details in this one.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at F here

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Embankment Embellishments

On the Victoria Embankment in London I managed to extricate  my camera from my bag as these two passed, union jack hats embellishing their summer outfit, and of course that Barcelona football shirt. Is he a fan of the club or Lionel Messi (considered as one of the great players of all time) winner of FIFA World Player and Ballon d'Or.
 They were passing by the cast iron sphinx benches, originally installed in the 1870s to mark the opening of Cleopatra's Needle Obelisk and designed by Lewis and George Vulliamy, the latter who also designed the famous sturgeon lamposts which line the embankment, however I was distracted by colour
and the embellishment on one of the roadside lampposts.  I don't know if these were later riffs on Vulliamy's theme or originals. 
The newest sculpture on the embankment is a monument to "the few" of the Battle of Britain of 1940 it pictures the aircrew scrambling for aircraft take off.  Unveiled in 2005 for the 65th anniversary it also lists the 2,936 airmen and ground crew who took part in the defence of Britain from invasion.  Outnumbered 4 to 1 the odds were stacked against them but their courage and sacrifice meant that Hitler changed his invasion plan.

Time to turn from the riverside and head off 
through one of the gardens off the Thames Embankment. It was the embellishment of the sunflowers which attracted my attention and those tree/palm things.  The statue is to Henry Bartle Prere (colonial administrator) who in the film Zulu Dawn was played by the actor John Mills.  

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Drigg Dawdle

The name Drigg is probably Old Norse, drag or draga meaning 'watercourse down a valley', the village lies north of the River Irt as it makes its way from Wasdale Water to the Irish Sea .  On some old maps it gets called Dregg but that is probably the result of someone writing down the sound, the Cumberland dialect has a propensity for making two vowels sounds for one vowel. The parish of Drigg's population number has not changed much since 1688 when it was 560 even with the coming of the railways.
On the left are the old railway buildings now the 'Spindle Crafts' tea room and crafts shop. Straight ahead is the Victoria Hotel pub.  So much choice in a small area for a drink.  If we had been at the end of a walk the choice would have been the tea room but as it was the middle of the day
we choice the Victoria to slake our thirst with Jennings beer.
The gate by the pub leads to the railway station which originally opened in 1849 when the rolling stock was a step away, rather than a large step up as today, hence the portable steps for those who require them.
Any sign of a train?  This is a request stop only, a raised raised from the platform and the train will stop, although the drivers are always alert to passenger.  When a family with children took them from outside the pub just to watch the train coming we joined them so there was quite a crowd on the platform and the train
stopped.  I hope the driver was not too disappointed because nobody was boarding.  In its brief stop I managed to get part of the mural on the side (only a few of the local trains have these). It is advertising the National Railway Museum in York with a picture of the Mallard, holder of the world speed record for a Steam Train.  So much prettier than the sprinter train it appears on.
 As it turned out this was the perfectly themed headgear for this particular hot sunny day.
The signal man's duty over he comes down the steps, I'm going to take you over the crossing, through the gate and down the lane.
Passing the lazy bull, happily on the other side of the fence
And past the site of what was the Royal Ordnance Factory in World War Two, which  produced TNT.  Today it is a Low Level Waste Repository for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority while they wonder what to do with it, there is a few million years to decide.
Through the path's new gate with is wonderfully rounded sandstone weight to ensure it closes after walkers pass through
Eventually reaching the beach which on this day seemed to be popular with sea fishermen, as this remote corner has been for centuries, and noted in times past for its fisheries and mussel beds. We stopped by the sand dunes to have lunch before walking further up the coast to Seascale where we would take the train back home passing, but not stopping, at Drigg.

An  entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at D here