Posts Tagged ‘United States’

A Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure

Monday, July 12th, 2010
A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

It’s practically the American rite of passage. At some point in our lives, we are compelled to visit the Grand Canyon—and for good reason. There is no place on the planet as stunningly beautiful or shockingly vast. With more than five million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon has achieved American icon status. This is a stark difference to the 44,173 visitors in 1919, when the Grand Canyon was first declared a National Park.

While most people visit the Canyon for hiking, photography, and family vacations, it was originally home to many Native American tribes including the Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo (also known as the Diné). The oldest artifacts found date back more than 12,000 years, and are well preserved due to the hot and dry climate. It would be easy to think that with all of our technology we would know everything about the Grand Canyon, but the reality is that modern archeologists and other scientists have only surveyed 3% of the Canyon and surrounding parkland, leaving this part of the United States still full of mysteries.

What is your favorite family memory of the Grand Canyon?

Geysers on Earth… and Other Far Away Places

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
A  geyser erupts against a background of snow. Photograph by JR Douglass, National Park Service

A geyser erupts against a background of snow. Photo: JR Douglass, National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park is known around the world for its amazing geysers. Although geysers can also be found in Russia, Chile, New Zealand and Iceland,  Yellowstone is special because it has the largest concentration of geysers on the planet. With between 300-500 active geysers, as well as the renowned Old Faithful, Yellowstone is home to half of the world’s geysers. It’s a fairly rare phenomenon here on Earth.

But did you know there are geysers in our solar system too?

A geyser is a spring characterized by temporary releases of steam and water, which are ejected turbulently. Geysers on Earth eject water, but on some moons in our outer solar system, geysers release carbon dioxide or nitrogen. Space geysers are also easier to see because of low ambient pressure and  because their eruptions don’t include liquid, but rather dust and ice that are carried by the gas.Neptune’s moon Triton emits nitrogen from its geysers. When the nitrogen is released, it can eject the material almost 5 miles high and be carried by winds for almost 90 miles. Water vapor jets have also been observed on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus. Closer to home are the carbon dioxide geysers near the south polar ice cap of Mars.

But it is nice to know you don’t have to go that far to see a geyser. And that’s one of the many beautiful things about Old Faithful.

Have you seen geysers in other places besides Yellowstone? Share Below.

Watch Old Faithful perform surrounded by snow on our Winter Wildlife in Yellowstone tour.

 

Notable Daredevil Stunts at Niagara Falls

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Annie Edson Taylor, aka "Queen of the Mist", was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survive.

First and foremost, do not try any of these ridiculous stunts. It’s illegal – it could cost you up to a $10,000 fine and banishment from Canada – and you would likely get hurt very, very badly.

That being said, here is our brief list of ridiculously silly and dangerous daredevil attempts at Niagara Falls. For the full list of absurdity from the mid-1800s to 1951, click here.

  1. 1. The first tightroper to cross Niagara River was “The Great Blondin.” Jean François Gravelet-Blondinwas a 31-year-old professional European circus performer. At the first of his many tightrope walks over the river, Gravelet made a spectacle on June 30, 1859, by pausing dramatically with his balancing pole and then did a sudden back somersault on the rope. He later crossed the river on his rope while riding a bicycle, walking blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow, and even cooked an omelet in the center. He lived a long and happy life, passing away in England at the age of 73.
  2. Some swimmers made the attempt to go over the falls, with tragically mixed results. Captain Matthew Webb had already conquered swimming the English Channel when he made his attempt on July 2, 1883. He failed, and his body was recovered four days later down river in Lewiston, New York. Three years later, a policeman from Boston named William Kendall made it—with the help of a very effective life preserver.
  3. The last tightrope performances at the Falls were by 21-year-old James Hardy in July of 1896. His performances were the last permitted at the site.
  4. The first person to ever make the attempt in a barrel was actually a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Taylor. She climbed into an air-tight wooden barrel with her cat on October 24, 1901. The air pressure inside was compressed to 30 p.s.i. with a bicycle pump, and when she emerged, she was simply bruised and battered – and expected fame and fortune. She instead died in poverty. The cat was fine.
  5. Bobby Leach attempted the drop in a steel barrel in 1911, but ended up breaking both kneecaps and his jaw. Yet, he still survived. Years later he traveled to New Zealand, where he slipped on an orange peel and died from complications due to gangrene.

People still request to make attempts to cross Niagara River and the Falls even today. In November of 1996, the Niagara Parks Commission denied a request for a proposed skywalk by Jay Cochrane. Commission Chairman Gary Burroughs announced, “The net effect of this type of event is to encourage less qualified individuals to perform stunts or feats that put not only themselves at risk, but also those who may be involved in their rescue.”

Were these people brave, insane, or plain old stupid? Share your thoughts below.

To see how daring (or stupid) these people were, you must see Niagara Falls for yourself on The Great Lakes: A Voyage through North America’s Inland Sea. Save $700 per person off your cabin price for Categories E-AA. Also, save $2,000 per person off your cabin price on Categories VS and PHS.

The Hualapai Nation and the Grand Canyon

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon  Photograph by Steven King

Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon. Photo: Steven King

Have you ever tried to describe how big the Grand Canyon is to someone who has never seen it? It can’t be put into words how far, how deep or just the amazing colors that burst from the rocks at sunset. Now imagine being able to walk across the canyon and look down as if you were a bird.

The Hualapai (pronounced lə-pī‘) Nation of Arizona thought of that, and then decided to make it a reality. They created a Grand Canyon Skywalk, a U-shaped walkway that extends over the canyon with a clear glass bottom that allows visitors to view it from a different perspective. The walkway spans 70 feet over the Grand Canyon’s rim and sits 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. By the time it was completed in March of 2007, the walkway had received lots of positive press and is considered one of the best day trips from Las Vegas, Nevada. It has attracted over one million people from six continents and more than 50 countries.

You may have heard of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, but how much do you know about the Hualapai Nation? Hualapai means “people of the tall pine” and their ancestral land stretches about 100 miles along the pine-filled southern edge of the Grand Canyon and along the Colorado River. The elevation of the land varies widely—starting at 1,500 feet at the Colorado River and then escalating as high 7,300 feet at its highest point of Aubrey Cliffs, located on the eastern end of the reservation. Physical evidence of the group being in the area dates back to 600 A.D.

Today, there are approximately 1,400 Hualapai people, and the area has gone through revitalization, mostly because of the tourism efforts of the tribe. River-rafting, traditional and modern tribal arts, and hunting expeditions have all helped support the local economy. The results include 200 new homes, an improved community water supply and sewage system, and additional street lights—all valuable to create a solid infrastructure for the future.

How would you describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never been there?  

You’ve never been to the Grand Canyon? Then check out our Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure and go see it for yourself!  Save $100 per child on this family tour.

Smithsonian Institution: Our Top Five Picks

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
The Smithsonian Castle

The Smithsonian Castle

There are millions of objects in our collection, so picking only five isn’t really fair. But each of us has our own personal favorite that might be off the beaten path. That’s why we have Celebrate Smithsonian, the tour that takes you behind-the-scenes to see objects you might not have noticed.

  1. Let’s face it, Americans love their television. From 1971 to 1979, “All in the Family” was one of the most popular and influential TV shows in the United States. It addressed blatant bigotry and self-righteousnes in our culture, while actually finding the humor in its absurdity. Archie Bunker, played by Carroll O’Connor, spouted his opinions while sitting in his chair — which is now on display at the National Museum of American History.
  2. Military history fans and aviation nuts love the Curtiss P-40E. Also known as the Warhawk, Tomahawk, or Kittyhawk, this plane was incredibly versatile during World War II. But the Smithsonian has an even deeper connection to this plane. It was flown by the former Deputy Director of the National Air and Space Museum, Donald S. Lopez, who passed away in March 2008. Before it was hoisted to the ceiling trusses for permanent display, Mr. Lopez sat in the cockpit and posed in front of the airplane in the exact same position as a photo taken of him in China.  ”It was wonderful,” Lopez said about that day. “I am proud to have a P-40 here. It felt good to sit in the cockpit – I’d have no trouble flying it today.”
  3. For the kid in all of us, our next pick comes from the National Museum of the American Indian. As an incredible mix of tradition and modern life, Kiowa artist Teri Greeves decided to take her Converse sneakers and beaded them into a work of art. They are now on display on the third floor in the Our Lives gallery.
  4. We have all made a mistake, an oops, or maybe even a “whoopsie daisy”. Well, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had their turn during the week of May 6- 13, 1918 when one sheet of one hundred stamps with an inverted image of a blue airplane escaped detection. After a series of purchases, the sheet has been broken into individual stamps, creating the legendary “Inverted Jenny” stamps. It’s now the most requested object to see at the National Postal Museum.
  5. For the true music fan, it doesn’t matter if it’s a harpsichord from the 1700s or Prince’s guitar. All of it is fascinating. The National Museum of American History’s music and musical instrument collection ranges from Dizzy Gillespie’s B-flat Trumpet to the Servais Cello, created by Antonio Stradivari (b. 1644). There are even early sound recordings of Elvis in this collection.

What’s your favorite object in the Smithsonian collection? Share Below.

Celebrate Smithsonian with us this October and explore the Smithsonian Institution’s  Museum Support Center made famous in Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol!