CLOSE
Original image

Strange Geographies: The Fjords of New Zealand

Original image

For most people, the word "fjord" conjures up thoughts of Scandinavia and the majestic, frozen North. But New Zealand, unbeknownst to many, can boast some of the world's best fjords -- hemmed by towering cliffs, fantastically deep and stretching like long, crooked fingers from the Tasman Sea into some of New Zealand's most lush and remote scenery. They are to be found, appropriately enough, within an enormous and mostly unpopulated wilderness known as Fjordland. The easiest of the fjords to visit is Milford Sound, and I was fortunate to be able to take a two-day boat trip down the length of it a while back. This is what I found.

Pictured above is Mitre Peak, which towers nearly a mile above the surface of the water. The water in the glacier-carved fjord itself is some 1600 feet deep. The veritcal scale of everything in Milford is mind-boggling.

Milford Sound is also the wettest place in New Zealand, making it one of the wettest places in the world -- it gets nearly 268 inches of rain every year. That doesn't stop tourists from visiting, though, because big rains put on a spectacular show, creating hundreds of waterfalls along the 15km length of the sound, which crash from the peaks a half-mile or more to the water below.

We picked an unseasonably dry couple of days to visit the fjords (wouldn't you know it) but regardless of the drought-like conditions, there were still a few amazing waterfalls to be seen. The captain maneuvered our boat nearly underneath this one, at which point everyone rushed to the bow and got completely soaked.

fiord waterfall

IMG_5864.JPG

The peaks along the length of the sound are so high that they kind of make their own weather. Three-quarters of a mile up: clouds. For scale, see if you can pick out the huge, two-story boat at the bottom-right of the cliffs. (They're that big.)

IMG_3106.JPG

When Captain Cook sailed past the entrance to the fjords back in the 18th century, he decided not to explore them because, thanks to their extremely narrow-looking entrances, he doubted they led to anything substantial or remarkable. (That's how another of New Zealand's fjords, Doubtful Sound, got its name.) As you can see, the cliffs overlap so completely as the sound twists its way to and from the ocean that it's difficult to see more than a kilometer or two down its length.

IMG_3125.JPG

One unforgettable treat was kayaking on the Sound at dusk, skirting along the edges of the mighty cliffs and checking out all the seals and seabirds that make their homes near the water. Fed by rainfall but also by glaciers, the water was numbingly cold; luckily, this time I didn't do what I normally do in kayaks, which is flip over.

milford kayakers

We spent the night on the boat, and woke up at the mouth of the fjord, where it joins the Tasman Sea. It was a delicate, still morning, and we were blessed with a rosy dawn, a rare thing in this land of year-round rain.

windows

IMG_5834.JPG

Looking toward Australia as we headed back:

kayaks

Mitre Peak in the morning. I tell ya, looking at this rock never got old.

milford sound

My only regret is that we weren't able to walk the nearby Milford Track -- a multi-day backpacking adventure that's one of the world's great hikes -- but if any of our readers have, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

To order prints or get high-resolution downloads of the photos in this essay, click here.

More 'Strange Geographies'...

The Mojave Desert's Airplane Graveyard
*
Salvation Mountain
*
The Aborted Suburb of Rotonda Sands, Florida
*
Village Life in Vanuatu
*
Almost the Outback

Or you can see all of them here.

Original image
arrow
pretty pictures
7 Throwback Photos of 1980s NYC Subway Graffiti
Original image

In May 1989, after a 15-year-long campaign of slowly eradicating New York City’s subway graffiti train-by-train, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially declared the city’s subways graffiti-free. There’s still subway graffiti in New York City today, but now it's confined to rail yards far away from the stations and tunnels. By the time the trains make it back onto the tracks, they’ve been cleaned of any markings.

There was a time, though, when graffiti artists had near-free rein to use the city’s subway trains as their canvases, as much as the transportation agency tried to stop them. A new book of photography, From the Platform 2: More NYC Subway Graffiti, 1983–1989, is an ode to that period.

A photo taken at night shows a subway train tagged

Its authors, Paul and Kenny Cavalieri, are two brothers from the Bronx who began taking photos of subway trains in 1983, during the heyday of New York City's graffiti art era. They themselves were also graffiti artists who went by the names Cav and Key, respectively. (Above is an example of Cav's work from 1988, and below is an example of Key's.) Their book is a visual tribute to their youth, New York's graffiti culture, and their fellow artists.

For anyone who rides the New York City subway today, the images paint a whole different picture of the system. Let yourself be transported back to the '80s in some of these photos: 

A subway car bears tags by
Some of Kenny (Key) Cavalieri's work, circa 1987.

Graffiti on a subway car reads

Blue letters tagged on the exterior of a subway car read “Comet.”

Pink and blue lettering reads “Bio” on the outside of a subway car.

A subway car reads “Pove” in green letters.

The book includes short commentaries and essays from other artists of the period remembering their experiences painting trains. It's a follow-up to Paul Cavalieri’s original 2011 collection From the Platform: Subway Graffiti, 1983-1989. He’s also the author of Under the Bridge: The East 238th Street Graffiti Hall Of Fame, a history of four decades of graffiti in the Bronx.

From the Platform 2 is $30 on Amazon.

[h/t The Guardian]

All images courtesy Paul and Kenny Cavalieri // Schiffer Publishing

Original image
Karol Pałka, Kama Jania
arrow
Design
7 Weird, Beautiful Tents We'd Love to Take Camping
Original image
Bolt Half, Kama Jania, Finland, 2015. Waterproof plastic, aluminum, PVC, Mylar.
Karol Pałka, Kama Jania

When you go camping, you’re usually looking for much more than aesthetics from your tent. You want it to be easy to set up and sturdily weatherproof. Mostly, you want it to be super portable. But some tents are truly beautiful. A recently published book called Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move by Rebecca Roke (Phaidon, $25) highlights the best designs in portable architecture, tents included. Here are seven super-cool (if not entirely pragmatic) tents featured in the book.

1. BOLT HALF

Created as part of a 2015 thesis project by industrial designer Kama Jania, the Bolt Half tent (above) gives you peace of mind in a thunderstorm. It has a custom-designed locking frame with copper wiring that discharges electrical currents to the ground if the tent is struck by lightning. It’s waterproof, fits one to two people, and weighs just 2 pounds.

2. UMBRELLA HOUSE

A white structure made of umbrellas sits in a park with a single white umbrella opened in front of it.
Umbrella House, Kengo Kuma, Italy, 2008. Umbrellas, waterproof zippers, timber base.
Yoshie Nishikawa

In 2008, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma turned white umbrellas into a temporary sun or rain shelter. Kuma added zippers to connect the umbrellas, but used the trusses already built into the umbrella to support the structure. It’s a moveable pavilion meant to turn the individual protection provided by an umbrella into a group shelter.

3. HABITENT

A shiny silver tent is topped with a sweatshirt-style hood.
Habitent, Lucy Orta, UK, 1992. Aluminum-coated polyamide, polar fleece, telescopic aluminum poles, whistle, lantern, compass.
Pierre Leguillon

Mobitecture calls this one-person tent from British artist Lucy Orta a piece “somewhere between art, architecture, and social protest.” The Habitent takes a waterproof poncho, created from aluminum material similar to what’s used in emergency space blankets, and turns it into a home for the wearer.

4. THE WEDGE

A blue tent illuminated from the inside sits on the edge of a rocky beach.
The Wedge, Heimplanet, Germany, 2013. Inflatable thermoplastic urethane, high tensile polyester fabric.
Stefan Leitner

This two-man tent from the German outfitter Heimplanet is designed to minimize the time you have to spend setting up your tent. Its interconnected inflatable poles fill up with the same pump. It goes up fast, and when you’re done, you can deflate the tent and fold it back up into your pack. It is not, however, cheap: You can buy it for $600.

5. GLASTONBURY SOLAR CONCEPT TENT

A rendering shows a rounded tent with solar panels on it set up in a grassy field.
Glastonbury Solar Concept Tent, Kaleidoscope and Orange, UK, 2009. Photovoltaic fabric, solar threads, Plexiglas, plastic.
Kaleidoscope Design

Designed for the Glastonbury music festival in the UK, this tent is woven with photovoltaic threads and covered with adjustable solar panels so that it can store up power to charge festival-goers’s devices overnight. (It was designed for the cell phone provider Orange.) At night, the panels emit light to make the tent glow. It’s just a concept design, but we very much wish it was real.

6. THE CATERPILLAR

A giant inflatable arch structure sits inside a park.
Caterpillar, Lambert Kamps, The Netherlands, 2007. PVC, steel cables.
Lambert Kamps

This tent designed by Dutch artist Lambert Kamps isn’t for camping—it’s for movies. The inflatable theater can be set up in parks to house up to 30 moviegoers, with a large film screen at the end of the tube. It’s made of PVC foil and designed to remain cool and dry even in wet summer weather.

7. KAMPER KART

A brown canvas camper pops up from inside a store shopping cart.
Camper Kart, Kevin Cyr, USA, 2009. Steel shopping cart, chipboard, nylon, canvas.
Kevin Cyr

If you think tiny houses are small, check out the Kamper Kart, which takes an ordinary shopping cart and turns it into a petite mobile home. Designed by Maine-based artist Kevin Cyr, it folds and unfolds to turn a cart full of wood and canvas into a home. A crank raises the roof of the structure, and the retractable bed extends into the sleeping position.

A yellow book cover reads “Mobitecture: Architecture on the Move.”
Phaidon

You can get the book for $16 on Amazon.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios