Category / Nature
Although modern techniques often bring sugar and salt to our tables, these two simple treats for the palate are still harvested and processed in traditional, if not ancient methods the world over. Over 160 million tons of sugar is produced annually in well over 100 countries, most of it processed from cane in tropical countries. The world uses 240 million tons of salt every year in everything from food to industrial applications. Gathered here are images of the toils that result in two of our favorite flavors.
Before 1995, the small Caribbean island of Montserrat was a relatively quiet tourist destination -- a British Overseas Territory with a population of 11,000. Then, the Soufriere Hills volcano came to life after remaining quiet since the 17th century. Thousands lived in the direct path of ensuing mudflows and pyroclastic flows -- cascades of hot gas and rock. The capital city of Plymouth and 20 other settlements were completely destroyed. Dozens lost their lives initially, and thousands were evacuated as eruptions continued off and on for years afterward. More than 7,000 residents moved away, and tourist dollars vanished. While the volcano is still active, it has been relatively quiet since early 2010, and nearly half of the island remains a designated exclusion zone.
Robotic probes launched by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and others are gathering information all across the solar system. We currently have spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Saturn, and two operational rovers on Mars. Several others are on their way to smaller bodies, and a few are heading out of the solar system entirely. Although the Space Shuttle no longer flies, astronauts are still at work aboard the International Space Station, performing experiments and sending back amazing photos. With all these eyes in the sky, I'd like to take another opportunity to put together a recent photo album of our solar system -- a set of family portraits, of sorts -- as seen by our astronauts and mechanical emissaries. This time, we have a great shot of comet Pan-STARRS between the Earth and Sun, some very sharp images from Mars rover Curiosity, a preview image of Comet ISON, potentially the "comet of the century", when it approaches in November, intriguing glimpses of Saturn and its moons, and, of course, lovely images of our home, planet Earth.
Salt, an essential element for all animal life, is abundant here on Earth, but it still requires extraction from stone deposits or salty waters. The process of mining that salt can produce beautiful landscapes, including deep, stable caverns, multicolored pools of water, and geometric carvings. Some of these locations have even become tourist destinations, serving as concert halls, museums, and health spas touting the benefits of halotherapy. Collected here are images of salt mines across the world, above and below ground.
While the official first day of spring was three weeks ago, many in the northern hemisphere are only just starting to experience warmer weather. People, plants, and animals are beginning to emerge from their winter modes to step outside, bloom, and otherwise welcome the sunshine. These photos show glimpses of the new season from around the world, as we shake off the winter and greet the spring.
Reuters photographer, Dylan Martinez, recently spent a few days in the once-busy fishing port of Whitby. Now just 200 people are employed in fishing; the fleet is down to only a few boats. Things aren't looking good for Locker - one of the last remaining trawler men in the area. A combination of crippling fishing quotas, climate change and overfishing has all but crushed the local fishing industry. Global warming has expanded fish habitats northward, causing fish stocks to sometimes disappear for weeks on end. Boats return from sea with largely empty nets, and the atmosphere, dour. Often schools of fish then reappear unpredictably, resulting in bumper catches and jubilation - then E.U. quotas take effect and force fishermen to dump excess catch in the sea to avoid hefty E.U. fines. This scenario is echoed in other historic fishing areas across the globe, including New England.
The shoreline -- of the sea, lakes, and rivers -- is a dynamic interface of civilization and the natural world. It exerts a powerful draw on us. That transition space holds beauty and carries risk, the zone where we at once embrace and battle the environment in which we exist. The shoreline provides food, recreation, breeding grounds, commerce, peace, and even primal fear. Two thirds of the world's largest cities lie in low-elevation coastal areas, vulnerable to sea rise even as population trends show us increasingly dwelling in urban areas. Gathered here are images exploring our attraction to the water's edge.
Here in the northern hemisphere spring is but a rumor. Record snowfalls have taxed budgets and patience, and slowed transit from planes to pedestrians. Not that some aren't enjoying the abundance, as winter sports play out on beautiful frozen blankets of snow. Gathered here are images of people struggling with and enjoying their wintery blasts.
In the Republic of Sakha, in northeast Russia, Reuters photographer Maxim Shemetov spent two weeks outside, documenting the punishingly cold winter weather. The coldest-ever temperatures in the northern hemisphere have been recorded in the Oymyakon Valley, known as the northern "Pole of Cold," where, according to the United Kingdom Met Office, a temperature of -67.8 degrees Celsius (-90 degrees Fahrenheit) was registered in 1933. Collected here are a few images from the frigid Siberian territory, where the average high temperature for this month was -40 degrees (same in both F and C).
Much of the US Northeast from New York to Maine spent the last few days digging out after blizzard conditions and record-setting snowfalls left hundreds of thousands temporarily without power in winter temperatures. The storm surge during high tides at the height of the storm caused beach erosion and flooded coastal towns with ice-filled waters and rocks washed in from the sea.