View of the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls from Luna Island.


Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


Niagara Falls as seen from the observation deck at Prospect Point. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Niagara Falls as seen from the observation deck at Prospect Point. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Niagara Falls is one of the most beautiful places in the world I have ever seen.

Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that sprawl the international border between the United States and Canada. It is located between the international twin cities of Niagara Falls, in the state of New York, United States, and Niagara Falls, in the province of Ontario, Canada. These falls form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge where Lake Erie drains into Lake Ontario.

The international boundary line separating the United States and Canada was originally drawn through Horseshoe Falls in 1819 has long been in dispute due to natural erosion and construction.

Panoramic View of Niagara Falls (Source:

Panoramic View of Niagara Falls (Source:

From the largest to the smallest, the three waterfalls are:

On the Canadian side:
the Horseshoe Falls (also known as the Canadian Falls) on the right between Goat Island and Table Rock.

On the American side:
The American Falls on the far left between Prospect Point and Luna Island, and the Bridal Veil Falls mid left between Luna Island and Goat Island.

On board the Maid of the Mist. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the background. (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)

On board the Maid of the Mist. The American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the background. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

The breathtaking bluish-green colour of the Niagara River is caused by

  1. refraction of sunlight and reflection of the blue sky
  2. dissolved minerals picked up primarily from the limestone bed
  3. from the shale and sandstone under the limestone cap at the falls
  4. microscopic plants such as algae and plankton in the water.

Around 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute.

At Luna Island located between American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)

At Luna Island located between American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

Though these three falls are not exceptionally high, they are very wide. The American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls have a crest line of 1,100 feet (335 meters) and a height of 176 feet (54 meters).

Crest of the Bridal Veil Falls as seen from Luna Island. (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)

Crest of the Bridal Veil Falls as seen from Luna Island. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

Crest of the Bridal Veil Falls as seen from Luna Island. (Photo - T.V. Antony Raj)

Crest of the Bridal Veil Falls as seen from Luna Island. (Photo – T.V. Antony Raj)

More than six million cubic feet (168,000 cubic meters) of water fall over the crest line every minute in high flow, and almost four million cubic feet (110,000 cubic meters) on average. The summer daytime flow at the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls is 75,000 gal/Sec (285,000 Liters/Sec).

About eight million tourists visit the American side and about 20 million tourists visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls every year.

On August 2, 2012, our son Subas Raj took me and my wife to Niagara Falls, in the state of New York. We were there for three days. We enjoyed the magnificent views of the three falls.

Here is a short video of the breathtaking view of the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls from Luna Island.



Since 1925, every evening beginning at dusk, the Niagara Falls are lit in the colours of the rainbow, financed and operated by The Niagara Falls Illumination Board. Also, year after year, the Niagara Parks Commission, an agency of government of Ontario which maintains the Ontario shoreline of the Niagara River, hosts Canada’s longest-running fireworks series in Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls in the province of Ontario, Canada.

The unmatched beauty of the Niagara Falls at night illuminated by strobe lights from the Canadian side, and the spectacular fireworks display before an unforgettable backdrop captivated us. I captured this video “Niagara Falls by Night – Illuminations & Fireworks” using my Canon Powershot camera from Prospect Point in Niagara Falls, New York. I regret that I did not have a high-end camera with high-resolution to capture the unmatched beauty of the Niagara Falls at night.



Ever wondered what the falls on the American side would look like when dry?

Dry Niagara - This photo shows the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Niagara Falls during the preservation work carried out in 1969 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Dry Niagara – This photo shows the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Niagara Falls during the preservation work carried out in 1969 (Photo: Wikipedia)

The above photo shows the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in Niagara Falls during the preservation work carried out in 1969.






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It’s Snake Boat Race Day!



Oh thithi thara thithey, thithey thaka they they tho…

Oh thithi thara, thithey thaka they they tho…

Oh thithi thara thithey, thithey thaka they they thom…

When I woke up this morning I was extremely energised. Although I am born and brought up in Kerala, I have never gone to watch the glorious Nehru Cup snake boat race ever. I was very excited, even though I had no clue how the race was going to be or if it would be worth at all. At that moment I was more charged to use my DSLR camera which I was going to use after almost a year. Since iPhones I have been so lazy to use any other than the phone camera; instagraming pictures all the time.

The journey had begun. One hour to go till we reached the site of the event. We were four of us but none had any idea about what was going to happen there. The thrill of the whole experience lied in the ambiguity of it. Even so the entire time I was extremely skeptical to use the camera since I had lost all practice of using it. To top it all as soon as we got there it started to rain; with it washed away all my hopes of trying to click any pictures, but we thought we shall still give it a shot. And once we reached there it was so crazily crowded, noisy and slushy; I had somewhere given up hope of watching the race. There was no way in hell we would have made it inside. Just then we found a pole and got a little adventurous. Each of us took turns to climb on it to get at least one glimpse of the event. I got a little greedy, I asked one of my friend’s to hold the umbrella for me while I stood on the pole and took at least one picture of the event.


So I did manage to get one, however unprofessional looking and blurred it was. I was happy at that moment and thought that at least I had proof of being there.

We started to head back thinking we won’t get any closer so no point staying. That’s when we saw a little door, where only tourists could enter. We went through there, to finally realise we were adjacent to the finish line.


We squished, squashed, tugged through the crowd and somehow managed to get a little closer to the water.


It was an amazing sight even though I was mashed between three sweaty, tacky and alcohol breath locals.


The entire place looked spectacular. There was a thrill in the air that was so contagious. The crowd cheering, the speeches overwhelming, the boats were just getting lined up; all set to race.




I was standing on my toes to get a glimpse of the entire spectacle, trying to capture the moment each time.




The men looked geared up and packed with energy.

But the roar from the crowd grew louder when a boat rowed by all women made an appearance.
The crowd was everywhere. There were houseboats lined up in front, some watching comfortably from their personal yachts, some swimming in water, some camouflaged on top of the trees.
The boats now started to move towards the starting point; the race was about to begin any minute.
The umpires were scattered everywhere, with their eyes concentrated on the boats passing by.
The fire force taking its position. Ready for the boats to set the scene ablaze with excitement.
There were cops lazing around on boats waiting in anticipation.
The divers sitting tight, anxious and alert.
While I was waiting at the edge taking pictures of the now impatient crowd and the calm waters which in no time would be flooded with boats racing for honor and life.
Just then, my friend screamed from a distance that the race has begun. It was all haphazard henceforth. The boats were being rowed so quickly, I barely got a glance.
We hurried back as soon as boat number# 16 touched the finish line, as we were in no condition to go through a stampede on our way out of the place. The walk back to the car was peaceful, yet enlivening after watching one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful event. I don’t know if I will ever come back to watch it, but it definitely is a one time experience every person should live.
Re-posted from LIVE. LOVE. LAUGH


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Sawm Ramadan


Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


May this Ramadan bring you the utmost in peace now and during prosperity. May light triumph over darkness.


Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان‎ Ramaḍān), the ninth month of the Islāmic calendar, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Though not mentioned in the Quran, but summarized in the famous hadith of Gabriel are the Five Pillars of Islam (arkān-al-Islām أركان الإسلام; also arkān ad-dīn أركان الدين “pillars of the religion”) which are the foundation of Muslim life – five basic acts in Islam, considered obligatory by believers. They are:

  1. Shahadah (belief or confession of faith – Muslim life)
  2. Salat (worship in the form of prayer)
  3. Sawm Ramadan (self purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan)
  4. Zakat (alms or charitable giving or concern for the needy)
  5. Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime)

Annually, Muslims, worldwide, observe self purification by fasting during the month of Ramadan which lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

The word Ramadan derived from the Arabic root ramiḍa or ar-ramaḍ, means “scorching heat” or “dryness.” It is “obligatory” for adult Muslims to fast, except those who are ill, diabetic, traveling, pregnant, breastfeeding, or during menstrual bleeding.

The Quran states:

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (He desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks. [Quran 2:185]

Wall Street Bull

Wall Street Bull (Photo: V.A. Subas Raj)

Bowling Green is a small public park in Lower Manhattan at the foot of Broadway next to the site of the original Dutch fort of New Amsterdam. Built in 1733, originally including a bowling green, it is the oldest public park in New York City surrounded by its original 18th century fence. At its northern end is the Charging Bull sculpture, which is sometimes called the Wall Street Bull or the Bowling Green Bull.

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green - 1

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green  (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Dhuhr (Noon) prayer in Bowling Green (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj)

Last year, while my wife and I were in New York, we saw a faithful Muslim in the Bowling Green at 1:23 pm unmindful of the blaring noise surrounding him, perseveringly reciting the Dhuhr (Noon) prayer. We were spellbound by his faith in God and his steadfast adherence to his religious duties.



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The Saint and the Simpleton (Dennis Aubrey)


Posted by Dennis Aubrey on May 29, 2013


There are so many wonderful stories and legends associated with the churches we photograph in France, but none is more pleasing than that of Saint Menulphe and his friend, the Simpleton of Mailly-sur-Rose, a town in the Allier.

Statue of Saint Menoux, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Statue of Saint Menoux, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Menulphe was the son of an Irish king and very devout. He traveled to England, Brittany and France and was recognized for his sanctity. When the Pope heard of this and asked him to come to Rome, Menulphe walked the route in poverty, a mendicant with no possessions. On his return, he stopped in Mailly-sur-Rose, exhausted with his journey. During that time, Menulphe took pity on an innocent named Blaise who was the scapegoat for local children. One day he intervened as the young urchins threw stones at Blaise. He chided the boys and took the young man under his protection. Blaise was described as a simpleton, one who could barely speak, and never left Menulphe’s side. He couldn’t pronounce his protector’s name and “Menulfe” became “Menoux”.

When Menoux died, Blaise thought that the holy man was asleep. He spent his days and nights at the grave, conversing with his friend. One day visitors to the cemetery saw that the coffin had been dug up and that there was a hole in the side. They discovered Blaise laying on his stomach, with his head in the hole, talking to someone. The local people were scandalized but the curé said, “Poor Blaise, he is a better and more faithful friend than we are. Perhaps he is the least crazy of all.”

The Curé placed Menoux’s remains in a sandstone sarcophagus and had an opening cut into one side. Blaise spent the rest of his life conversing with his friend, and miraculously, the troubles of his mind faded to the point that he was able to serve mass. At the time of his death, Blaise had the reputation of being a simple, faithful man, as sensible as anyone.

La Débredinoire, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

La Débredinoire, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

Thereafter, in memory of the miraculous healing of Blaise, parents led the bredins, the simple-minded, before the tomb of Menoux and placed their heads carefully into the sarcophagus – the débredinoire – hoping for the same healing that Blaise experienced. Eventually the site received such a number of pilgrims that the Benedictines built an abbey on the site under the direction of the Abbess Adalgasie and placed the sarcophagus with Menoux’s relics in the choir. They also changed the name of the village from Mailly-sur-Rose to Saint Menoux. The fairs held by the abbesses attracted vendors and buyers which led to the expansion of the village.

The church gives an idea of the importance of this abbey and the monastics who resided there. It was built in the classic Cluny style in the early part of the twelfth century. The nave has three tall, narrow bays with ogive arches covered with groin vaults.

Nave facing west, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Nave facing west, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

The side aisles are, as usual, visually stunning. We see the long, uninterrupted flow to the ambulatory in the distance.

South side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

South side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The north side aisle, however, has a unique feature. Just to the west of the transept arch is a rather clumsily executed structure that contains a stairway leading to a defensive tower on the exterior. Poking up through the roof, that tower looks almost like a minaret.

North side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

North side aisle, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The raised apse is perhaps the finest element of the church. The choir has two elegant high bays topped with clerestory windows while the chancel features a seven bay hemicycle with an arcade of windows leading to the oven vault.

Apse, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Apse, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

The débredinoire of Saint Menoux is found centered behind the altar in the chancel. These reliquaries have been placed between the pillars of the central hemicycle arch and the tomb can be seen just behind.

Reliquaries, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

Reliquaries, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: PJ McKey)

The oldest part of the church, built in the eleventh century, is the narthex on the west end of the church. This antechamber has beautiful arcades supporting a short barrel vault. Some of the pillars are topped with capitals, but it is clear that the restoration was not complete. Fragments of some of the original statuary are rather casually displayed in the arcades.

Narthex, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Narthex, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Today, the abbey is gone – only the church remains after the destruction of the French Revolution. The town of Saint Menoux is quiet and peaceful for its 1,009 residents. The church is not well tended; there are rat droppings and cobwebs throughout. Dust cakes the benches and the chairs, but pilgrims still frequent the Église Saint Menoux in order to use the débredinoire for relief from feeble-mindedness or headaches.

Lest we think that credulous in the Middle Ages were alone in these workings, look at this passage in “The Invisible Architecture” by George Prat (2000).

“For more than forty years I made fun of the débredinoire which I considered an example of public credulity … My surprise was great to see that the débredinoire works and is not a gimmick. Thedébredinoire is placed at the geometric center of the apse …. and is located at the junction point of thetelluric current and four streams of water. … When one realizes that this is a machine from another age and can be activated by an ‘acupuncture point’ located nearby, we are amazed at the electrical energy released … The débredinoire is actually an instrument of care-giving; when used correctly, the equivalent a high intensity shock is given to the user. This is certainly very effective in the case of some nervous breakdowns.” People will always find a reason to believe if the need is great enough.

Demon Capital, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Demon Capital, Église Saint Menoux, Saint Menoux (Allier). (Photo: Dennis Aubrey)

Our daughter Sarah suffers from debilitating migraines and PJ placed her own head in the sarcophagus in hopes of helping. I guess it doesn’t hurt to try! But you must be careful not to touch the tomb while inserting your head. You run the risk of absorbing the feeble-mindedness and headaches of all who preceded you!

If you are interested in seeing some other churches in this region, follow this link.

Location: 46.585211° 3.156842°


Re-posted from VIA LUCIS


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Niagara Falls by Night – Illuminations & Fireworks


Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj


Oh wow! Why doesn’t this have more views? Some of the best footage I’ve seen of the falls…hopelesspirate


I captured this video “Niagara Falls by Night – Illuminations & Fireworks” on August 3, 2012, using my Canon Powershot camera from Prospect Point in Niagara Falls, New York. I regret that I did not have a high-end camera with high-resolution to capture the unmatched beauty of the Niagara Falls at night, illuminated by strobe lights from the Canadian side.

Niagara Falls Illumination

Illumination of the Falls financed and operated by The Niagara Falls Illumination Board since 1925 begins every evening at dusk until 10 pm January through April, and until midnight the rest of the year. In recent years the only occasion the Falls were in darkness was for a few evenings in August 2003 when the lights were turned off to support recovery efforts during a major North American black-out.

The Falls are lit in red, blue, amber, purple, orange and green. The Niagara Falls Illumination Board provides special colour illuminations for many registered charities marking significant dates in support of their cause for 15 minutes at 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm, subject to availability of time. Falls on both countries are illuminated.

2013 Falls Illumination Schedule
January 1 – January 31 5 PM – Midnight
February 1 – February 28 6:30 PM – 10 PM
March 1 – March 9 Mon – Thurs 7 PM – 10 PM
March 10 – March 31 Mon – Thurs 8:30 PM – 10 PM
April 1 – April 30 Mon – Thurs 8:30 PM – 11 PM
* Fridays to Sundays in March and April “off time” is midnight
May 1 – August 15 9 PM – Midnight
August 16 – September 30 8:30 PM – Midnight
October 1 – November 1 7 PM – Midnight
November 2 – December 30 5 PM – Midnight
December 31 5 PM – 1 AM

The above illumination times are approximate and subject to change according to light conditions.

The history of the illumination of Niagara Falls is interesting. I have reproduced here the history I read in the website of Ontario’s Niagara Parks:

History of the Illumination of Niagara Falls

Lighting the Falls, to allow visitors to enjoy the beauty of the mighty Niagara even at night, was first attempted more than 150 years ago. In 1860, a spectacular
illumination of the Falls celebrated a visit by the Prince of Wales. About 200 coloured and white calcium, volcanic and torpedo lights were placed along the banks above and below the American Falls, on the road down the bank of the Canadian side of the gorge and behind the water of the Horseshoe Falls. The lights were called Bengal lights and were the kind used at sea to signal for help or give warning.

The lights were ignited along with rockets, spinning wheels and other fireworks, creating an effect that the London Times called “grand, magical and brilliant beyond all power of words to portray” the likes of which the Prince would “probably never see again.”

Illumination of the Falls using electricity first occurred in January 1879, during a visit by the Marquis of Lorne, Governor-General of Canada and his wife Princess Louise. The lights had an illumination power of 32,000 candles, just a fraction of the intensity used today.

A 36-horsepower generating station in Prospect Park, Niagara Falls, New York, operated in July 1879 with 16 open arc lamps each projecting 2,000 candlepower. The Niagara Falls New York Gazette reported “On the evening of the Fourth, the Park was crowded with visitors and citizens and a very satisfactory exhibition of the new light was given.” The lights were used for only one season.

In May 1892, Frank LeBlond, one of the owners of the Maid of the Mist, purchased a 4,000 candlepower light and placed it on the Canadian dock of the Maid of the Mist to light the American Falls. He placed gelatin plates in front of the lights to provide a variety of colours. Then in 1895, Captain John Brinker built the Great Gorge Railroad and announced that it would provide night excursions three times weekly during the summer season, complete with lights to illuminate the Whirlpool. The Gazette reported “Forty arc lamps of 2,000 candlepower each will be placed in the gorge along a distance of 250 feet. Lights will be clustered and so many in such a short distance will make the gorge as light as day. Each arc light will be filled with three globes, white, red and blue, and will work automatically, alternating colours. A huge searchlight will also operate from the cars.”

Large crowds were drawn to the Falls in 1901 for special lighting that was set up as part of the Pan American Exposition being held in Buffalo.

In 1907, W. D’Arcy Ryan of the General Electric Company designed lighting that provided far more power than ever before. Thirty-six projectors illuminated the Falls with a combined candlepower of 1,115,000,000. The display ran for several weeks.

For more than a decade after that, different attempts were made to raise financing to install permanent lighting. Some efforts were prevented by the First World War, but in 1925, a group of interested businessmen finally created the Niagara Falls Illumination Board, to finance, operate and maintain a new, permanent illumination system. Today’s contributing members are the City of Niagara Falls, New York, the City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Ontario Power Generation and The Niagara Parks Commission.

The Board’s first installation in 1925 was twenty-four carbon searchlights each 26 inches in diameter, emitting a total of 1,320,000,000 candlepower. The Falls have been illuminated most nights since that time ~ except during World War II when the lights were turned off to conserve power and during subsequent years when generating facilities could not keep pace with electrical requirements of the construction boom. It was not until January 1950 that the Illumination Board was able to guarantee enough power to operate the lights on a regular basis.

In 1997 and 1998, new fixtures replaced the outdated lamps and fixtures at the Illumination Tower, doubling the intensity of the lights on the Falls without doubling the hydro bills. Currently a total of twenty-one xenon lights, each with a 76-cm (30 in) diameter, are used to illuminate the Falls in a rainbow of colours. Eighteen are located at the Illumination Tower, beside the Queen Victoria Place and three are located below street level in the gorge opposite the American Falls. Each of the xenon spotlights produces more than 390 million peak beam and has a brilliance of 250 million candlepower.

Niagara Falls Fireworks

Year after year, the Niagara Parks Commission hosts Canada’s longest-running fireworks series in Queen Victoria Park. Year 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Canada’s longest running fireworks Illuminations series and it begins on May 24, 2013. So, if you plan to pay a visit to Niagara Falls do not miss the absolutely free spectacular fireworks display at night before an unforgettable backdrop from now on until September 1, 2013, every Friday, Sunday and holidays at 10 pm.

Best vantage points for viewing the Fireworks: Prospect Point in New York, the Rainbow Bridge that connects US and Canada and Oakes Garden Theatre & Queen Victoria Park in Canada.



“The Beast” in President Barack Obama’s Fleet Broke Down

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj


President Obama's limousine. Photograph- Handout/GPO via Getty Iimages

President Obama’s limousine. Photograph- Handout/GPO via Getty Iimages

One of the limousines in US President Barack Obama’s fleet broke down at the start of his visit to Israel.

Some Israeli media reported that the car was inadvertently filled with diesel fuel and not gasoline after a confusion over whether the vehicle ran on diesel or gasoline. However, Edwin Donovan, a secret service spokesperson said: “One of our protective vehicles experienced mechanical problems in Israel.” He added that the Secret Service did not yet know what the problem was and since breakdown happened before the president arrived in Israel his itinerary was not affected because of it. POTUS drove away in a different vehicle, he said. “That’s why we bring different multiple vehicles.”

When Obama travels, the US Secret Service flies many presidential vehicles around the country and across the world, using US Air Force transport planes that fly ahead of Air Force One.

According to Israel’s Channel 10, the US Secret Service is flying another vehicle in from Jordan.

Obama uses various bulletproof vehicles. One of them known as “The Beast” built by GM is a heavily remodelled Cadillac. The specifications of the car are kept secret, but there have been reports it has its own oxygen supply, carries hi-tech communications scrambling equipment and has special reinforced tyres and wheels.

In this graphic from The Daily Mail, it appears the vehicle indeed runs on diesel.


“The Beast” (Image: The Daily Mail)

This is not the first time that Obama’s entourage had car trouble abroad. In 2011, a presidential limousine, which was a backup car and (not “The Beast”) got stuck on a bump as it left the US embassy in Ireland.

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Video Ad: It’s Smarter to Travel in Groups


Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

I came across this video titled “it’s smarter to travel in groups” on YouTube.

The three short animated commercials produced for Flemish Public Transport Company De Lijn (Vlaamse Vervoersmaatschappij De Lijn) usually known as De Lijn (literally: The Line) exposes the insecurities that exist while traveling alone.

Van Hool bus of the Flemish public transport authority De Lijn in Mechelen, on the train station square.

Van Hool bus of the Flemish public transport authority De Lijn in Mechelen, on the train station square.

This transport company of the Flemish government in Belgium founded in 1991 runs about 3,650 buses and 359 trams. It transports more than 500 million passengers per year with a population of approximately 6.5 million.

De Lijn plays an integral part to reduce heavily congested traffic, together with the NMBS (Belgium’s rail provider).

Socialist politician Steve Socialist politician Steve implemented a policy allowing registered senior citizens aged above 65 residing in Flanders, to ride anywhere in Flanders for free. Incentives also exist for youth aged under 25.



December 20, 1803: The Day Louisiana Was Bought for a Song

Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj 

“Let the Land rejoice, for you have bought Louisiana for a Song.” Gen. Horatio Gates to President Thomas Jefferson, July 18, 1803

Never did the united states grab so much for so little.” – Henry Adams

French Tricolor Flag - 1803

French Tricolor Flag – 1803

US Flag of 15 stars - 1803

US Flag of 15 stars – 1803

Vente de la Louisiane” or “Sale of Louisiana” also known as “The Louisiana Purchase” considered the greatest real estate deal in history took place on December 20, 1803.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 (marked in green).

Louisiana has a long rich history. Native Americans settled there first, and then it became the mainspring of an empire, and finally it got incorporated into the United States. Various cultures: Native American, French, Spanish, the Caribbean, African, and the English influenced Louisiana, evolving it into a region of exuberant and intrinsic blend of ethnicity.

In 1528, a Spanish expedition led by Panfilo de Narváez  were the first European to visit Louisiana. They located the mouth of the Mississippi River.

When the first Europeans set foot in this region many native groups inhabited there such as: Acolapissa, Adai, Appalousa, Atakapa, Avoyel, Bayougoula, Caddo, Chawasha, Chitimacha, Choctaw, Houma, Koroa, Nakasa, Natchitoches, Natchez, Okelousa, Ouachita, Quinipissa-Mougoulacha, Taensa, Tangipahoa, Tunica, Washa, Yagenechito, Yatasi.

In 1542, another Spanish expedition led by Hernando de Soto ventured into the north and west of the region where they encountered the Caddo and Tunica groups. In 1543, they followed the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico. As they drifted along the river, hostile tribes besieged them. The natives followed their boats in large canoes. Continually shooting arrows they killed 11 Spaniards and wounded many more.

Gradually, Europeans lost interest in Louisiana until the late 17th century, when sovereign, religious and commercial aims surfaced once again. The French established their first settlements, on the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast, and claimed a vast region of North America. France then set out to establish a commercial empire and a nation under the French rule that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada.

In 1682, the French explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle named the region Louisiana to honor France’s King Louis XIV. In 1699, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, a French military officer from Canada establised the first permanent settlement, Fort Maurepas, at what is now Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Bilox.

The French explored the Mississippi River valley and established scattered settlements in the region. By the middle of the 18th century, France controlled more of the modern United States than any other European power. The French colony of Louisiana originally claimed all the land on both sides of the Mississippi River and north to French territory in Canada.

The following present-day states were part of the then vast tract of Louisiana: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

In 1719, two ships, the Duc du Maine and the Aurore, arrived in New Orléans, carrying the first African slaves to Louisiana. From 1718 to 1750, transportation of thousands of Africans to Louisiana from the Senegambian coast, the west African region of the interior of modern Benin, and from the coast of modern Angola took place. The  influx of slaves from Africa strongly shaped the Louisiana Creole culture.

Having suffered damaging defeats in the Seven Years’ War against the British, the French wanted to prevent losing its Louisiana territory and the city of New Orléans to them. So in 1762, King Louis XV of France ceded the French American territory west of the Mississippi River to his cousin, King Carlos II of Spain by the Treaty of Paris of 1763. However, in 1763, France transferred nearly all of its remaining North American holdings to Great Britain.

Napoleon in his study

Napoléon Bonaparte

At the end of the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte after grabbing the French throne looked westward to enlarge his empire. In 1800, the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso between Spain and France gave the son-in-law of King of Spain power over Tuscany in trade for returning the Louisiana Territory to French control.

Thomas Jefferson Painted by Rembrandt Peale, 1800

Thomas Jefferson (Painted by Rembrandt Peale, 1800).

After about two years, the United States government discovered the re-transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France. At this time, the Mississippi River had become the chief trading route for goods shipped between the states it bordered. President Thomas Jefferson sought to acquire New Orléans because of its vital geographic position at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The acquisition would ensure its right to sail its vessels down the Mississippi River through Spanish territory, and unload goods at New Orléans for shipment to the Atlantic coast and Europe.

In 1801, President Jefferson sent Robert Livingston to France to negotiate the sale of New Orléans; but Napoleon refused to sell the city.

In early 1803, the French commander Vicomte de Rochambeau lost a fierce battle in Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). This battle consumed much-needed resources and also cut off the French connection to the ports on the southern coast of North America.

Napoleon realized that France did not have a strong enough navy to maintain control of its lands far away from home separated by the Atlantic ocean. Napoleon’s sole aim was to consolidate his resources to conquer England. To raise funds for the troops and materials to wage an effective war against England, he decided to sell the French territories in North America.

Again in early 1803, President Jefferson sent James Monroe to France to negotiate the sale. However, in April 1803, just days before Monroe arrived in Paris Napoleon offered to sell to the United States not only New Orléans but all of Louisiana.

The Louisiana territory encompassed all or part of the 15 present U.S. States and two Canadian provinces. The Marquis de Barbé-Marbois, Napoleon’s minister of the treasury negotiated the terms of the Louisiana Purchase with Livingston and Monroe.

The land purchased contained all of present-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; parts of Minnesota that were west of the Mississippi River; most of North Dakota; most of South Dakota; northeastern New Mexico; northern Texas; the portions of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orléans; and small portions of land that would eventually become part of the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Louisiana Purchase Historical Document

Louisiana Purchase Historical Document

The United States of America purchased Louisiana for 50 million francs ($11,250,000) plus cancellation of the claims of its own citizens against France worth 18 million francs ($3,750,000), for a total sum of 15 million dollars - less than 3 cents per acre.

Upon concluding the purchase Robert Livingston, U.S. Minister to France, said of the transfer:

We have lived long, but this is the noblest work of our whole lives … From this day the United States will take their place among the powers of the first rank … The instruments which we have just signed will cause no tears to be shed; they prepare ages of happiness for innumerable generations of human creatures.



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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

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Luray Caverns in Virginia, a World of Stalactite and Stalagmite Ornamentations

Myself By T.V. Antony Raj .


The Appalachian Mountain Range

About 600 million years ago during the pre-Cambrian era, the continental drift of the Americas from the continents of Europe and Africa occurred. A broad, shallow depression formed from Alabama to Newfoundland. An ancient sea flooded the present Appalachian Mountains area. At first, waterborne sediments accumulated in layers on the ocean floor followed by limestone sediments composed of fossilized marine animals and shells. Eventually, the weight of the sediments compressed the two layers to form metamorphic rock.

Eons ago North America and Africa collided due to the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates. This fractured the sea floor and caused the older underlying layer of metamorphic rock to tilt and slide over the younger layer, creating the towering Appalachian mountain range.

The term Appalachian refers to a number of territories linked to the mountain range. Most typically, it denotes the entire mountain range with its surrounding hills along with the dissected plateau region. Even so, the term commonly applies more restrictively to refer regions in the central and southerly Appalachian Mountains. It often includes areas in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

The Shenandoah Valley

The Shenandoah Valley, lies in Virginia and West Virginia in the United States, bounded to the north by the Potomac River, to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, and to the south by the James River.

The Valley has a number of geological and historically significant limestone caves. Crystal Caverns, Endless Caverns, Grand Caverns (designated a National Natural Landmark in 1973 Madison’s Cave, visited by George Washington; mapped and published by Thomas Jefferson Dixie Caverns.), Luray Caverns (designated a National Natural Landmark in 1974 Shenandoah Caverns.), Massanutten Caverns, and Skyline Caverns being the main ones.

Most caverns in the Shenandoah Valley took millions of years to form as water trickled through tiny cracks in the stone, dissolving the lime, and enlarging the cracks. The cracks became crevices, then channels, and eventually tunnels.

Discovery of the Luray Caverns

The Luray Caverns originally called Luray Cave (Coordinates: 38°39′51″N 78°27′16″W) located in the western part of Luray, the county seat of Page County, Virginia, evolved after the formation of limestone of the Shenandoah Valley due to the ancient inland sea. Violent earthquakes created faults that hastened the formation of the caverns.

The discovery of the Luray caverns dates back to 1878. Known from pioneer times there existed on the far side of the hill east of the village of Luray, a cave. One day, a member of the Ruffner family, the first settlers of the valley, went out hunting and failed to return home. After searching the region for nearly a week, they found the missing man’s gun and powder-horn at the mouth of this cave. Eventually, they rescued the famished hunter from the cave, later known as the “Ruffner Cave.”

Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell

Benton Stebbins

Benton Stebbins

William Campbell

William Campbell

Many years later, Benton Stebbins, a wandering school teacher and photographer, drifted into Luray. Having some understanding of geology, he presumed the possibility of caverns of considerable extent existing close to the vintage Ruffner Cave. Stebbins confided his assumption to Andrew Campbell, the village tinsmith. Campbell, a capable woodsman, roamed the country accumulating hoard of information while his wife wondered what the family would have for dinner.

It so began the discovery of Luray Caverns.

Andrew Campbell, his brother William Campbell and Benton Stebbins started their cave-hunting. The caverns a mile east of the town beneath the summit of the highest hill called the Cave Hill, 927 feet (283 meters) above sea level, with its pits and sinkholes also known as karst draining into underground cavities, common throughout the region, had long been an object of interest to its locals. The three men wandered about checking sinkholes for prospective openings.

Eventually, on the morning of August 13, 1878, they turned their attention to a sinkhole about fifteen or twenty feet across and twelve feet deep, overgrown with briars and bushes, in a wheat field on the north slope of Cave Hill. They started poking around and one of them noticed cold air rushing out of a hole about four inches in diameter.

The men worked hard to clear out the rubbish. They dug deeper. After five hours, they made an opening large enough for a man to crawl through it.

Using a rope, Andrew Campbell descended into the dark abyss. He descended until he found a firm foothold in the dark and let go of the rope. He lit a candle and looked about him on the unexpected splendors of the chamber to which he had gained entrance.

After some time the men above began to wonder what happened to Andrew. So, his brother William descended into the abyss in search of him.

The brothers went on exploring until stopped by water so clear they hardly realized it was there. Stalactite and stalagmite ornamentations abounded everywhere in the labyrinthine passages and chambers. They discovered the largest series of caverns in the East – an appalling world of stalactites and stalagmite ornamentations that abounded everywhere in the labyrinthine passages and chambers. The brothers agreed to keep quiet about their discovery. When they came up to the surface, they told Stebbins and some loafers that had gathered around to see what was going on, that there was nothing inside. However, when the brothers were alone with Stebbins, they told him the truth about the underground cavern. Later they returned to explore the caverns more extensively.

Sam Buracker of Luray owned the land under which the caverns lay at the time the trio discovered the caverns. On account of uncollected debts and subsequent bankruptcy, a court ordered auction of all his property on September 14, 1878.

The three never-do-wells had no money – not a man among them could raise twenty-five dollars. So they divulged their discovery to another person who was well to do and persuaded him to back them up.

Andrew Campbell, his brother William Campbell and Benton Stebbins surprised the village folk by bidding the land then worth eight or ten dollars an acre for more than twice the expected amount. They paid $507.75. Their friends taunted them for purchasing the land at more than double the price. Unable to face the ridicule, they prematurely revealed their reason for buying the land.

Page-Courier published a note on the sudden increase in the property value of “Cave Hill.” The heirs of the bankrupt property of Sam Buracker filed a lawsuit against the trio. Two years later the Supreme Court of Virginia nullified the purchase, citing that the buyers kept the location of the cavern a secret that led to the non-realization of the true value of the land until after purchase. The seventeen acres of land handed over to William T. Biedler, son-in-law of the original owner Samuel Buraker fetched forty thousand dollars instead of three hundred dollars when put on sale a second time.

Benton Stebbins drifted around from pillar to post, and died in a neighboring town a public charge.

Clifton Johnson, a rambler, in his book “Highways and Byways from the St. Lawrence to Virginia” published by The Macmillan Company, New York, in September, 1913, states that he met Andrew Campbell. Clifton says that Campbell was evidently confident that he knew the caverns much more thoroughly than those then in charge. I quote here Clifton Johnson talking about Andrew Campell:

“They’ll tell you there’s practically no life in the cavern,” he said, “but I’ve seen tracks of coons, ‘possums and bears in there — thousands of ‘em; and I’ve seen places where animals have stayed, most likely to get away from the cold above ground in winter. Rats and mice live in there. I’ve set traps for ‘em, but they were too slick for me. A very little fly, and a spider, both almost microscopic, are found in the caverns, and I’ve come across bats hangin’ upside down. Where the animals come in, or where the air comes in, no one can tell, but it’s plain that the en­trance we found ain’t the only one.




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