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19 January 2009 @ 12:02 am
I finally got to see the famed Monterey Bay aquarium. It's actually much smaller than I thought it would be, but it still lives up to its fame. It's just awesome. I would have loved it if it were a little quieter, but at the same time it's great to see so many kids being so excited about things. Do they have adult-only library-like-silence days out there? :-)

Sea Nettle

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11 January 2009 @ 12:05 pm
All of us who've watched the Road Runner Show seem to love the Coyote. My case of trying get a decent photograph of the Coyote has been like playing the part of the Coyote and the Coyote being in the Road-runner's shoes. I didn't quite go through all the pain and trouble Mr. Wile E. Coyote endured, but the result's been the same: a few half-baked shots and multi-second views. Not good. On this trip to Yosemite, I wasn't expecting any wildlife sightings because of all the snow and ice, but I was in for a surprise when I noticed a mammal running across the icy meadow. I quickly took a lot of snaps from the distance with awfully bad camera settings without realizing my stupidity. And as I looked in disgust at the awful images I had made, the Coyote came up and sat three feet from the us and looked into the car. I quickly changed the settings to what they should be and the Coyote turned out to be not so Wile E. after all for he sat patiently and roamed around in the meadows as if he was modeling for me and the rest of the Yosemite visitors who lined up to snap up his photographs. Just an amazing, amazing experience. Thank you!

The Coyote moves in for the kill... :-)

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11 January 2009 @ 11:26 am
I finally got to go to see Yosemite in winter. Armed with tire chains and rigorous watching of youtube videos on how to put on chains, driving in icy conditions and all, I set out to cold, cold Yosemite. The roads were all clean thanks to the tireless efforts of the people who work to plough and salt these mountain roads. I've never seen Yosemite so desolate and so empty. It's a great time to enjoy the beauty in peace and the quiet that the place actually deserves. Hiking around is tricky as well with snow and ice, a slip and fall is just a footstep away all the time. And hiking for miles on in popular trails with nearly no other hikers was a great way to enjoy the scenic beauty that every part of Yosemite seems to be. Here are the landscape pictures I made on this trip to Yosemite.

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09 January 2009 @ 07:54 pm
2009 started with a trip to Point Reyes. It's an awesome place and I've had some good luck with wildlife sightings there. It was no different on new year's day - the elephant seals were back. There were a bunch of harbor seals in the water. The elks, the harriers and the coyotes showed up as well.

A starfish on the beach

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04 January 2009 @ 06:41 pm
Happy new year everyone.

Like I've done for the last several years, this year began with me spending the day in the wilderness! It was time to catch up with the Elephant Seals at Drakes Bay in Point Reyes. This male put on a nice show and I spent hours watching and shooting him as he rolled, rocked and moved around on the sandy beach. More on the trip later, with more pictures perhaps (as soon as my website comes back up from its unscheduled downtime - a problem others are facing with the service provider as well)

"Oh look... here comes another year!" :-)

07 December 2008 @ 06:13 pm
Yana is the name given to a bunch of limestone outcrops in the rainforests of the Western Ghats. In the sea of green, these dark rocks stand out. With spires and crevices, these rocks look as if they belonged in fairy tales.

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28 November 2008 @ 01:51 am
The two short weeks in India had to be sliced up into work, work-related travel and real travel. I only got to spend a couple of days in the wilderness, but it was an awesome feeling to be back in the jungle.

Typical view of the Western Ghats

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26 October 2008 @ 10:41 am
So, yesterday afternoon when I was walking along the Charleston Slough, looking for birds to photograph, I noticed a cloud patch on a pond. Now, it was a very clear day and I was surprised that there was a cloud in the sky blocking the sun when I noticed the "cloud" was moving - causing a lot of commotion among the gulls in one of the ponds. I aimed my camera at the gulls because I thought I could make some interesting pictures with sunlight and shadows - but then I noticed the shadow getting bigger and moving faster - like in the Tom and Jerry cartoons when a large object is falling from the sky! A little spooked, I looked into the sun to see a gigantic airship moving quietly. Wow! An airship! It was actually a real rigid airship - a Zeppelin! I never realized they still flew these things and for once a man-made thing took priority over the birds in the pond and I aimed my camera at the Zeppelin and took a photograph. And I had no clue that this was a historic event - because this was the first Zeppelin flying in the US in 71 years! More news on the flight here: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_10819919

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30 September 2008 @ 08:18 pm
I must have taken hundreds of photographs of the same thing in Yosemite - the mysterious looking Half Dome - but I've never been tired of looking at it. I doubt if I will ever be. So, this was actually the first time I was there when a ranger was presenting the history of Yosemite at Glacier point. Among the crowd was an old man, who said that he was a little kid the last time he had been to Yosemite and they had a firefall rolling down the granite from Glacier Point. I'm sure it was spectacular, but all things spectacular cannot be good for the the place itself and it was banned before my lifetime. Here are more pictures of the same thing (for me they look different each time) :)

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29 September 2008 @ 10:35 pm
I was at Yosemite last weekend. It is always fun to hike around in Yosemite and all you have to do is walk away a few hundred feet from the road and you're surrounded by beautiful wilderness, with giant trees and a quiet, mysterious forest.

A Red Squirrel.

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24 September 2008 @ 09:17 pm
Last weekend I went to Point Reyes for a short hike. I love the cool ocean wind, but it was extremely windy this time. And for the third time, I did a quarter Tomales point hike - that is turn around after about one-fourth the distance. One of these days, I will do the full trail and hopefully get to see the elusive mountain lion which is supposed to hang around in those parts. Anyway, here are some photographs from the trip for now.

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30 August 2008 @ 10:31 pm
Yosemite was the last national park on the summer vacation trip list. That also means this is going to be the last major post (or at least the public ones) about the vacation. The trip was like a dream, with so many grand landscapes and so much beautiful wildlife. I can never get tired of going to Yosemite and if I was a little closer, I'd probably be there every weekend.

I had hoped to see a bear each time I visited Yosemite in the past, but each time I returned without seeing them. Although the initial plan was to have two days in Yosemite, change of plan during the trip meant that I'd have just the afternoon in Yosemite. No chance of bear then. Not much chance of any wildlife then, I thought. And just to prove me wrong, the animals showed up. And just by the roadside too... :-)

The sun is all set to signal the end of day... the end of the trip.

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30 August 2008 @ 06:15 pm
I never thought I'd do it, but I did go to one of the hottest places on earth at the hottest time of the year. Death Valley is infamous for its high 120F (>50C) temperatures during the peak of summer and it certainly didn't cool down for visitors. Death Valley visitor centers have a huge temperature guages hanging over their doorways and that day it read 115F (46C). Thanks to air conditioning, driving through Death Valley without dying is possible. The moment you step out of the car into the sun, it feels like as if you are in a gigantic oven. And with the blowing hot wind sucks out all moisture the body has to offer. They say the heat can kill in thirty minutes out there. Maybe that is true, but five minutes out in the sun is enough torture.

A "killer" poodle sits guard in a truck passing by the Shoshone village (outskirts of Death Valley)

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26 August 2008 @ 07:49 pm
I had heard about the presence of free horses on the Eastern border of Death Valley but the two visits I made earlier during the year yielded no sightings. After the long trip through Utah, Arizona and then Nevada, coming into California and to Death Valley was almost like coming home. I wasn't expecting to see anything but fabulous sunset in Death Valley that day and I had just ignored charging my camera battery and had not realized there was no space left on my flash cards for any more photographs.

As we drove along the highway, I notice movement in a bush by the roadside and as I slowed down and pulled over I noticed a mustang! And then another one showed up on the other side and then a few more! I pulled out my camera from its lazy slumber and began to focus and all I see is a big red battery sign! While I continued to kick myself for the blunder, I had enough sense (just that little bit that I seem to have... sometimes) to put the battery to charge. Every second was like a minute and every minute was like the lifetime of earth. The horses moved about, eating, looking at us, communicating amongst themselves and doing all of it in the most beautiful light there could ever be.

We drove up the road to see if there were other herds but turned back after a mile and came back to the herd we had seen. After about fifteen minutes, the stallion of the herd started moving towards the Nevada side and walked away calmly into the distance. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the herd moved and I pulled out my battery from the charger and my camera came to life - just about. I had space for about twenty photographs and I knew I had to be less trigger happy than I usually am.

Like they say, All is well when...

A Stallion in the making! For now, he's one of the cutest things roaming the emptiness of Death Valley!

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24 August 2008 @ 03:17 pm
Here are the final photographs from Arizona and Grand Canyon. Fascinating place that.

The clouds hide a sun on a fine day at the Grand Canyon

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24 August 2008 @ 10:27 am
Like I said in my previous post, the the south rim of the Grand Canyon is more crowded. The reason could be easier accessibility and good facilities year round, but the reason could also be that the views are much grander! The magnitude of this place is just unimaginable until you see it for yourself. I was there midweek and it was still very crowded, with people and cars everywhere, and after you've seen the place, you know why the millions go there each year to see one of the greatest sights the natural world has to offer - welcome to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The vista from "Desert View"

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23 August 2008 @ 11:30 pm
Apparently, only 10% of the visitors to the Grand Canyon go to the North Rim and that was a huge incentive for me to go to there given that I like places which aren't crowded. The North Rim is much higher than the South Rim and there's no accessibility in winter when snow forces the roads (and the facilities) to be closed. And as I found out there North Rim is more forested, has rich(er) wildlife and quite different from the south rim, which is more of a desert. I did go to the south rim as well and I'm glad I did. The south rim will come up next, for now here are some images from the North Rim of the greatest canyon in the world.

View from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

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21 August 2008 @ 09:22 pm
When driving from Bryce canyon national park to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a detour to Page in Arizona takes you to one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world - the Antelope canyon. We had lost our way and it was almost time for the sun to set when we reached the upper antelope canyon. Antelope canyon is inside a Native American reservation and only registered guides can take you there and it requires them to drive through the deep sands of the Antelope wash to get to the canyon. When we arrived at the canyon, most of the good light had long gone and all I could do was admire the beauty of the canyon and take some documentation photographs.

A walk inside the Antelope Canyon

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20 August 2008 @ 12:19 pm
Here's the last post from the Bryce Canyon. The morning at Bryce was a fantastic show of colors and natural history. Bryce was only an 'if there is time' in the trip plan and somehow there was time and I'm so glad I could make it there. I hadn't imagined Bryce to have so much wildlife and with so many lifers, it was a great experience to be there.

Aqua Canyon in Bryce National Park

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19 August 2008 @ 05:45 pm
The sunset and sunrise are much anticipated events at Bryce and large crowds gather at the viewpoints early to get the best spots. I can just say that you've got to see it for yourself!

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18 August 2008 @ 08:42 pm
The native inhabitants of the Bryce Canyon - the Paiute people - believed the hoodoos were once people, but then turned into stone by the Coyote! If you've been to Bryce you'll realize why they believed so.

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18 August 2008 @ 12:16 am
10 days. Four states. 7 national parks. Just amazing.

Here's how my (road) trip looked like: Sequoia/King's Canyon National Park -> Zion National Park -> Bryce Canyon National Park -> Grand Canyon (north rim) -> Antelope Canyon -> Grand Canyon (south rim) -> Death Valley -> Yosemite -> Monterey Bay. The grand tour with mountains, trees, desert, canyons, rivers, plateaus and the sea!

I now have the crazy, crazy task of looking at 36GB of photographs from the trip. :-(

American Bison in Utah

04 August 2008 @ 09:30 pm

The highest waterfall in North America California.

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19 July 2008 @ 01:43 am
Reading deponti's post about Thattekad made me go back to my archives and revisit that fascinating place. Thattekad is south India's top birding destination and doesn't usually have elephants in attendance, but during my February 2006 trip, there were a herd (or two) of elephants in the park. From the safety of a building inside the forest, we watched these magnificent creatures in the river...

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12 July 2008 @ 01:04 am
I'm quickly ticking away the squirrel species found in California. On the July 4th weekend trip, I found two more species that I could photograph. Here are the Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel and the White-tailed Antelope Squirrel.

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel - on a fallen tree

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07 July 2008 @ 11:15 pm
This is Mono Lake. One of the oldest lakes in America and certainly the most beautifully colored water body I've seen. The Mono lake we see today is supposed to be a remnant of a much older, bigger water body that was many times larger than the 69 square miles it is today. At an altitude of 7000 feet above sea level, with the Sierra-Nevada in sight, this is an absolutely gorgeous water body.

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07 July 2008 @ 06:33 pm
The Ancient Bristlecone pine forest in the Inyo National forest of eastern California is home to some of the world's oldest trees. Until recently, it had the oldest known tree in the world when an older tree was discovered in remote Sweden. These trees are not giants like the Sequoias, but having lived on earth for more than four thousand years, they are very, very special.

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06 July 2008 @ 09:57 pm
When driving past the eastern Sierra-Nevada on the beautiful highway 395, we came across a grassland at the base of a mountain. "Wildlife viewing area" a board said and when we pulled over and looked towards the mountain, the beautiful sight an elk herd greeted us. There must have been hundreds in that herd, roaming the fenced grassland, shielded from the busy highway. The setting resembled that of the vast herbivore herds roaming the grasslands of East Africa...

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06 July 2008 @ 11:28 am
General Sherman, the giant Sequoia, is often said to be the largest tree in the world. It is not the tallest, or widest or the heaviest though and perhaps not even the largest by some other definitions. The tallest living tree is supposed to be a coastal redwood named hypernion. The Aspen grove in Utah, called Pando, has had a root system that's been alive for 80,000 years and is collectively five times heavier than General Sherman. The largest diameter belongs to a tree in Mexico. And the largest circumference for a tree belongs to a a Boabab in South Africa - the Sunland Boabab - which has a pub inside that seats fifty. So, General Sherman is the largest single-trunk tree by volume that still lives. And it lives in the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park in California with a bunch of other giants. Regardless of the classifications, the giant trees are all impressive and we are lucky to have them living with us.

Walking in the home of these giants, looking up towards the sky can get rather dizzy. At first, the feeling is as if we were magically transformed into a world of fantasy which only exists in a fairytale. An amazing place.

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01 July 2008 @ 08:59 pm
I had fun shooting birds at Rivendell. I got three lifers (first sightings) - Western Tanager, Band-tailed Pigeon and Black-headed Grosbeak!

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30 June 2008 @ 11:23 pm
I have so many photographs of a variety of birds from Rivendell, but Steller's Jays need their own post. First, they are the most visible inhabitants of the place and second, they put on the best show for photographs.

Steller's Jay

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29 June 2008 @ 07:47 pm
It's been a couple of months already since I last interacted with pets of any kind, so it was wonderful meeting the four lovely cats at Rivendell.

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29 June 2008 @ 12:03 am
The place is as magical as it sounds!

The Mokelumne river that flows in the Rivendell of the Sierra-Nevada has been flowing the same path for thousands of years and along the way it has carved out some fascinating rock sculptures.

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18 May 2008 @ 02:37 pm
I headed out north yesterday and I was expecting the place to be slightly cooler than the south bay. Just how cool I couldn't have guessed. When I arrived at Point Reyes, the summer clothing I was in looked like a bad bad mistake. It was all foggy and windy and very cold - at least for my tropical skin. :) Anyway, I managed to sneak in a few photographs...

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22 April 2008 @ 01:35 pm
Here are some photographs from Yosemite taken during the last weekend.

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21 April 2008 @ 01:11 pm
On the path to Bridalveil falls in Yosemite, I came across a Y-shaped tree with a rather unique shadow formation which made it look like an Ent from Fangorn forest or at least like a human face.

Let me know if you think otherwise... :)

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21 April 2008 @ 02:22 am
What's the difference between the photograph below and the thousands I've shot before? If someone asked me where this photograph was taken then I would say, "Yosemite National Park in California at a place called Tunnel View which is on Highway 41." -- I could be more verbose but imagine all that being replaced by just giving out the latitude and longitude of the place where the photograph was taken. All I'd have to do then is find it on a map.

Geographic information can be embedded into photographs and that is known as geocoding. It is popular with photo sharing sites like Flickr which allow photographs to be dragged onto a map to be geo-tagged. However, if you happen to have one of the modern digital cameras like the Nikon D300, then you can take photographs with geographic information in them at the time of shooting. For example, the image above has this information embedded:
    Latitude: N 37° 42' 55.98"
    Longitude: W 119° 40' 37.068"
    Altitude: 1329 meters

I'm not sure if any cameras have built-in GPS units today, but I think we're soon going to have matchbox-sized cameras with just that. For now, it's a fairly expensive and a cumbersome way of doing things. First, you'll need a camera which supports GPS input and there aren't too many of those in the Digital SLR world. Then you'll need a GPS unit and a few special connecting cables...

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28 March 2008 @ 08:45 pm
I was going through my archives and I saw some interesting photographs that I had not processed before! I think I might have said something like that before as well. Strangely, some photographs I don't process immediately after a trip seem to look beautiful after such a long time. Here are two of such photographs...

Indian Wild Dogs on a kill. Warning: GoryCollapse )

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23 March 2008 @ 11:17 pm
This morning, I was out in the hills looking for some birds and I came across two White-tailed Kites in the early stages of their courtship ritual. The male (I think), first flew around in large circles beating its wings rapidly -- this is apparently called "butterfly-flapping" and then the female (I think) made an appearance in the other kite's airspace. They seemed to be chasing each other around but our attention was now on the turkeys below so we missed out some part of the ritual, but I'm glad I got focus on of kites just when one of the birds came out of the grasslands with a vole(?) and started moving around. The female(?) then rapidly flew towards the male and in mid-air the female took the vole from the male... an awesome sight. And captured on film flash memory.

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Interesting information: This Kite was called the American Black-Shouldered Kite before they changed the name to "White-tailed Kite." In India we have a kite which looks very very similar and was originally called "Black-winged Kite" and they now changed the common name of the Indian species to "Black-shouldered Kite" -- common names? :)

18 March 2008 @ 09:41 pm
While I was busy photographing the bald eagles last week, I also had some luck with a few other birds which I haven't had a chance to photograph before... fun!

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17 March 2008 @ 11:01 pm

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15 March 2008 @ 11:39 pm
I went to the hills close to my apartment this afternoon and there were these two eagles of some sort.

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10 March 2008 @ 03:22 pm
The California Condor is one of the rarest species of bird and there are just about 300 of them living (wild + captivity). They almost went extinct, but twenty-two remaining birds were captured and in captivity their numbers increased. They are now slowly being reintroduced to the wild and there are three places in the world to see them (in the wild): Grand Canyon, Pinnacles National monument near the San Francisco bay area and Baja California. The conservation of the Condors is the most expensive project undertaken to save an American bird species and I'm glad they did that. The beauty of this massive bird moving across the skies with ease is totally worth the strenuous hike up to the high peaks of Pinnacles.

Look at the wikipedia entry for beautiful pictures and history of this bird:

I did the Bear-Gulch trail and this is what the national park service has to say about it:

High Peaks–Bear Gulch Loop
6.7 mile loop, 4 to 5 hours
elevation gain: 1,425 feet

Add camera gear, tripod, clear skies and hot weather, strong winds and it becomes madness.

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01 March 2008 @ 07:46 pm
While the Racetrack on the Northern part of Death Valley is mysterious with difficult accessibility, the southern and central part of the national park is what most people who visit the park see. If you look up at Flickr or do an image search, you'll probably end up with a million of identically composed photographs you're about to see... Anyway, here's what I saw. :)

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26 February 2008 @ 12:55 pm
One of the targets on the second trip to Death Valley was to find wildlife. Death Valley has many famous inhabitants and the Chuckwalla is one of them. It is a lizard in the Iguana family and does a bunch of crazy things. It hibernates during the cold winters and when threatened, it slips into rock crevices and pumps itself up so that it cannot be pulled out. While walking along in the Titus canyon, I was keeping my eye out in the hope of seeing one of these and there it was, basking in the midday sun. It was about twenty feet high and surprisingly, there was a fairly easy bunch of rocks around which I could climb to get eye-level to the lizard. I didn't want to scare him (her?) away into the rocks, so I took my time in trying to get close to it. It was wary of me and was all set to run away, but after minutes of seeing me, it decided I wasn't a threat and put on a good show.

Pictures behind the cut, don't click if snakes and lizards make you queasy. :)

4 photographs of the ChuckwallaCollapse )

23 February 2008 @ 09:36 pm
A Playa is "a dry lakebed, generally the shore of, or a remnant of, an endorheic lake." There are a lot of Playas around the world and the largest of them are thousands of square kilometers huge. The Racetrack Playa in the Death Valley national park is the most famous of them for its mysterious moving rocks. Various hypotheses on how the rocks move have come forward but the all of still them remain just that - a hypothesis and no one really knows who or what moves them. Maybe there's still so much to learn for Science... And apparently, after so many years since its discovery no one has seen the stones move or even filmed it.

Tracks on the ground and in the sky (Notice the trail left by a US airforce jet in the sky)

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Here's more information:
23 February 2008 @ 02:21 pm
It may be one of the hottest, driest places on the planet, but there are some places in the park which have water for a most of the year and even through the year. This is Darwin falls...

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19 February 2008 @ 12:05 am
I just got back from one of those awesome places on Earth! "Middle of nowhere" would be a pretty accurate description.

That is me at daybreak on a Playa - the flattest of all natural surfaces.

More later...