January 19 - Reaching the Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility

Posted on January 19, 2020

There have been races to the North Pole and to the South Pole - Oops! In each case, I meant "Poles," plural - because there is a magnetic North Pole and a geographic North Pole, and a magnetic and geographic South Pole.

The North Poles (plural) are located in the Arctic (along with polar bears, seals, puffins, ptarmigans, and caribou), and the South Poles are located in the Antarctic (along with penguins and seals).

But what-oh-what is the Antarctic "pole of inaccessibility"?

That is the spot in Antarctica farthest from any ocean. 

In 1958, the Soviet Union built a science research station at the pole of inaccessibility, as it was then defined. Later, better measurements of Antarctica defined the pole of inaccessibility as being different spots, but they are fairly close to the Soviet station. Since December 28, 1958, the station was vacated with the intent that scientists might make short visits in the future.

Research station 1965;
note that there is a statue
of Lenin at the top of the tower.

Indeed, Soviet and American expeditions reached the station in 1964,1965, 1966, and 1967. There was a big gap between that last visit and....

These two photos of snow kiting
aren't from Antarctic expeditions...
....And this date in 2007, when a British team reached the defunct station on skis, using specially-designed foil kites. (Have you heard of snow kiting? It's a thing!) This was the first time that the Antarctic pole of inaccessibility was reached without powered vehicles!

When the team arrived at the Soviet station, they discovered that it was almost entirely buried by snow. The top of the building had featured a bust of Vladimir Lenin facing Moscow - and only that bust and a bit of roof was visible to mark the spot where the station had been! 

The buried building and visible bust have been designated a Historic Site, and a plaque has been erected there. And it's a great spot for a photo op, apparently!

By the way, the Arctic doesn't have a pole of inaccessibility, because it's an ocean (with fingers of Eurasian and North American continents reaching into the Arctic region, of course). Sometimes the ocean is frozen over - but it's still an ocean, not a continent.

But I was surprised to learn that each continent has a pole of inaccessibility! Here are two:

Above, Australia's pole of inaccessibility.
Below, Africa's pole of inaccessibility.

And, remember, there are people who live at or near some poles of inaccessibility. You don't have to be a hardy polar explorer to reach them!

January 18 - National Use Your Gift Card Day

Posted on January 18, 2020

(Third Saturday of January)

In the olden days, some of our favorite-most gifts as we got older were just-plain-old money. Whether a monetary gift was a bag of silver dollars or golden Sacagawea coins, an envelope thick with dollar bills, or a check made out in our names, we loved getting money for our birthdays or Christmas or [fill in the blank], because it meant plenty of choices.

But nowadays gift cards are more commonly given than other sorts of monetary gifts. Are they the right choice?

For sure, gift cards are very useful and usually extremely thoughtful. But they can have problems:

(1) Missteps. Sometimes people give gift cards that aren't super useful, after all. Like someone in Southern California sending a gift card for Store X or Restaurant Y to a faraway relative - without checking to see if there are any Xs or Ys near that relative! Or a student giving her teacher a gift card for Starbucks Coffee - but that teacher doesn't drink coffee. (Not that tragic, because there ARE other beverages as well as baked goods at Starbucks, but imagine that teacher getting three or four Starbucks cards every year!)

(2) Lazy gift card receivers. Quite a few people find it difficult to remember to redeem their gift cards. They open a birthday card, feel a flash of gratitude as they spot a gift card, and call the aunt or grandpa or whoever with sincere thanks - but then never get around to using the card.

This doesn't seem like it should be a problem to those of us who promptly and efficiently use gift cards, but 20 to 30 percent of people surveyed say that either they generally have a problem remembering to use gift cards or have received at least one gift card that they never used. 

In the case of a physical gift card, did you leave it at home? Lose it? Do you have an entire drawer of unused gift cards?

For a digital gift card of some sort, did you forget it exists? Couldn't remember where it's stored, on what device?

The third Saturday of January has been set aside to be a reminder to these folks to use their gift cards! 

January 17 - National Day in Minorca

Posted on January 17, 2020

Two islands off the coast of Spain have names that hint at their respective sizes: Majorca and Minorca.

Even though Minorca (aka Menorca) belongs to Spain, and therefore is not a separate nation, January 17 is considered to be its national day! 

Minorca celebrates its national day with a parade
and of course with good food!

This holiday goes back to the time just after the Moors' rule over Spain ended. Christian Spaniards fought to reconquer Majorca, and when they won, in 1231, Minorca became an independent Islamic state. But on this date in 1287, Alfonso III reconquered the island.

Minorca is known for its megalithic stone monuments from prehistoric times. (Megalithic means "large prehistoric stones," so I just said "large prehistoric stones stone monuments from prehistoric times." LOL)

Minorca is also known for its beaches, wildflowers, and one of Europe's most important wetland areas, which is a refuge for many migratory birds.