Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ancient Maya

Temple V

     The Maya civilization started in Central America, on the Yucatan Peninsula, around 400 c.e.  They were eminent craftsmen; many elaborate scenes were painted on pottery.  The Mayas also held war as an important factor in their everyday life.  They attacked neighboring tribes and captured men, women, and children to sacrifice on their temples.  They fought with bows and arrows, and sharpened stones bound to a piece of wood for spears.  The temples were built like pyramids, with stairs to climb up to the top. It also had a flat surface at the summit, so they could perform sacred ceremonies there.  The pyramids were usually 200 feet tall, and they built all this without any metal tools, or horses or mules to drag the material up to the building site.

Ancient head

     Tikal was one of the most important Mayan cities.  It had more temples in it than any other Maya settlement.  The largest temple rises 400 feet.  The Mayans had built multiple temples on top of each other whenever the temple began to crumble, so there are many temples buried underground.  Some temples were meant for climbing, and some for worshipping, but no one was allowed up the worship temples.  Some of the off-limit temples were rigged with booby traps.  There were also spectacular faces, almost 6 feet high, carved out of the temples.  There were stone slabs with elaborate scenes or pictures of gods and rulers decorating the front as well.

View from the Temple of the Jaguar

     Worshipping gods was an important aspect in everyday Maya life.   They had to appease the gods, or the gods would send rain and floods to punish the people.  The Maya gods supposedly dwelled in the upperworld, and could be depicted in many forms, whether human or animal.  The supreme god, Itzamnaaj, was the creator of writing, learning, and the human race.  When in human form, he was an old, toothless man with a big nose.  Unlike other gods, Itzamnaaj was compassionate.  His wife, Ix Chel, was the goddess of nature, but could be terrible and cruel.  The other gods were the children of Itzamnaaj and Ix Chel.  The Maya kings wanted to please the gods with their own blood, and often experienced visions of the gods when they spilled enough blood.  They also had a more sinister method of appeasing the gods.  After their soldiers had taken captives from a nearby city-state, the Maya priests would escort them to the top of the temple, where their fate awaited them.  Then the priests would hold the victim over a stone slab.  While priests chanted hymns, the terrified victim had his heart cut out for offering to the gods.  The mutated body was then kicked down the side of the temple. The Maya may have been powerful, but they were also bloodthirsty.  

In the Maya passageway
       In the late 13th century the Maya began to desert their cities because of lack of food.  Earthquakes and tidal waves may have helped too.  Tikal did not escape these  natural phenomenons.  The Maya villagers took over the Maya’s holy temples.  Wanderers stalked the royal palace’s corridors, until time  and the jungle cut off Tikal completely.  The Maya world was beginning to crumble from attacks from the Aztecs, an even fiercer tribe than the Mayas.  By the time Columbus arrived, around 1400, the Maya were living in small, unimportant villages.

Maya ruins

     When we visited the ancient Maya city of Tikal, we hiked all over the ancient ruins.  Some of the ruins still had heads carved out of the stone, and they were covered with moss and growth.  Most of the temples were roped off, but we could climb some of them, including the largest temple, temple IV, and the view was superb! Over the tangled mass of green jungle, we could see the other taller Maya ruins, protruding from the jungle.  We visited many small towns, cast down in ruin and also smaller temples for the less important ceremonies.  I climbed temples where Mayas had tossed sacrifices down.  We came back home tired, but it was totally worth it.  The Mayas did some pretty amazing things, and they are still astounding us with their puzzles to this day.

Goin' down

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jamaica, West Indies

    The first people to settle Jamaica were the Tainos,in c.e. 700 , who came from somewhere around the Amazon.  They used boats to get to Jamaica, and they planted and harvested many casava,yams, beans, and spices.  They didn’t write, but they were good potters, carpenters, and carvers.  In 1494, Columbus discovered Jamaica and claimed it for Spain.  The Spanish made the Tainos work as slaves, but eventually the diseases brought by the Spaniards killed them all.They had to get slaves from Africa to use them for labor after the Tainos died.

    In 1655, he English took over Jamaica, although small groups of Spaniards and runaway slaves kept up a guerrilla warfare.By 1662 there were 4,000 colonists on Jamaica.  They began to make profits from selling cocoa, coffee, and sugarcane plantations.  In the 1700s, the British sponsored buccaneers to pillage and plunder England’s rivals.  The buccaneers became a powerful and ruthless force feared even by the English.The Jamaican governer tried to stop them, but the pirates settled in Port Royal, where they multiplied quickly.  A massive earthquake toppled Port Royal in 1692, and more than 2,000 people died.  The rest fled inland.

  The English slave traders became wealthy from selling slaves.  The slaves were imported from Africa, and those who survived the 6-12 month passage were oiled to look healthy.  Escaped slaves formed a band and were called Maroons.  The English tried to annihilate them in 1729, but the Maroons held the upper hand until they signed a peace treaty that promised them 1,500 acres if they returned all runaway slaves.  By 1700 there were 40,000 slaves in Jamaica, and by 1800 there were 300,000 of them.  Many were worked to death, but sometimes they saved enough mony to buy their freedom.  Many slaves tried to revolt and escape but none of the revolts were successful, and many were whipped and hanged.  One Jamaican governer expressed such brutality to slaves that he was stripped of his office, and slaves had more rights than before. 

    On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent.
Jamaica’s new flag had 3 colors.  Black ( for the people ), green ( for the land ), and gold ( for the sun ).


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Morton's Salt Works - Great Inagua

Salt being loaded by conveyor belt from the salt pan

    When we visited Great Inagua in the Bahamas, we toured Morton’s Salt Works, which is the third largest salt work in the world.  They harvest the salt by pushing sea water into shallow salt pans with an Archimedes screw.

Saltwater being pushed into the canals.

Then, when it dries up and becomes salt, trucks take it away to be cleaned, and then it is put in immense salt piles until it is loaded onto a freighter by a conveyer belt.  This whole process takes about  7 months.

Waiting for a freighter

  Pink flamingoes also live here, and they eat the pink brine shrimp that live in the salt pans.  Since the flamingoes eat them, they turn pink as well.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park

     When we arrived at the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which is in the Bahamas, I knew we were going to have a great time by looking at the crystal clear water and the tropical looking island.  We got the dinghy ready and started over the sand bank to  Powerful Beach.  On the beach was a skeleton of a Sperm Whale, which had, sadly, been killed by a horrible plastic bag.         

    The current through the anchorage was very strong, but my mom and I could swim during slack tide.  We swam over one of the reefs but the current became too strong because we were swimming after slack tide.  My dad had to motor over in the dinghy to retrieve us.  We decided that when we swam in deeper water, we would swim together.     
    On the first day, I saw an eagle ray.  It was about 4 feet long, had white spots over its body, and had a snout-like face.  Over the days, we would see many of these beautiful creatures. 

    One day we decided to take a hike to BooBoo Hill. It got its name because of a schooner that sank off of its coast. Tragically, it was lost, along with all of the sailors and not one of them was found for a burial.  The legend tells that the lost souls sing hymns on top of BooBoo hill at the bloom of the full moon.

    In the park, there are these adorable little black, white and yellow birds, called Bananaquits.  All of these birds are about the size of a sparrow, with black beaks.  They love sugar and will hop onto your hand if you hold it out.  They are just one of the many creatures in the park.      

    There are many different things to do here, such as walking trails,  swimming, and looking at wildlife.  The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park should be kept the way it is,  without too much pollution and people.  It is indeed a treasured and special paradise.   



Monday, November 28, 2011

The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island

We sailed into Roanoke Island and visited the colony site.  Since we were here, the photos are from our stay on Roanoke.

This is what I learned about the lost colony:

Sir Richard Grenville, the cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh, tried and failed to reach America in 1578.  In 1583, he tried again and made it as far as Newfoundland, but one of his ships sank and his supplies were ruined, so he was forced to go home, but on the way back to England his ship capsized and he was drowned.

Blacksmith shop

After the death of his cousin, Sir Walter Raleigh became interested in colonizing America in 1583.  When his two ships reached America, Sir Walter thought he had landed on the mainland, but in fact it was on a tiny island.  There they met friendly Native Americans and after a time returned to England with two Native Americans, Manteo and Wanchese.  Later, they were returned home.

Dressed for battle.

When the Englishmen return, they sail to Roanoke and start a colony made up of 116 colonists, in 1585.  There they meet friendly Native Americans, but there were stories about the English burning the village of Aquascogoc, and soon the they were enemies.  Since the colonists could no longer trade with the Native Americans, John White, a famous artist and also the Governor of Roanoke, decided to sail back to England to gather supplies for the hungry colonists.

Elizabeth II - the ship that brought the colonists.

When John White finally returned to the colony almost 3 years later, he found the colony abandoned and all the colonists had disappeared.  He never knew what became of them, but he found the word "Croatan" carved in a fence post.  White thought that meant the colonists had moved to the island of Croatan, but on the way there, a storm whipped up and he was forced to return to England.  Today, the most probable explanation is that they were killed by the Native Americans, and the survivors joined different tribes.  Although this is likely, we will probably never know what became of the lost colony of Roanoke Island.    

Dory of the Elizabeth II

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Liberty Ships of World War ll

Approaching liberty ships
As we came into Chesapeake Bay, VA, we passed under the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel Bridge and behind some old, scuttled, liberty ships.  We would be anchoring for the first time after three overnight passages from Rhode Island.

The liberty ships were built because the Germans in World War ll were sinking all the ally ships that were trying to get to Britain to bring supplies.  President Roosevelt started the liberty ship campaign to solve the problem.  He opened up forty-nine new seaports, and began immediate construction on hundreds of liberty ships.  The liberty ships were built out of ferro concrete and had  metal rebar supporting it. The object was simple: build ships faster than the Germans could sink them.  By 1943, three liberty ships were completed each day. 

Rebar showing through

After the war, in 1970, liberty ships were still being used, even though they were only supposed to last 5 years.  Now the liberty ships are used for a breakwater for boats to anchor behind.  It seems fitting for the sea to be their final resting place.

Bit rusty, I think

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Visit To Cape Cod

     When we were invited by our Grandma and Poppy to visit Cape Cod in September, we got very excited.  We packed up our car for the two hour trip and when we finally got to the cottage they had rented, my brother Cooper and I decided to have a look around.  Since the sand the cottage was built on was sloped, the cottage was on the sand on one side and stilts held up the other side.
     There was a path of sand that led to the gravely road, and when you walked across it there was another path that led to the beach.  We checked out the beach, and the water was very cold!  I had brought along my surfboard, but I never rode it because the waves were very high, but I did skim board a lot.
     The whole of the week we stayed was as enjoyable as possible.  All around the house there was cool, soft sand, and we played in it every day.  The dunes were also very good for running on.  We also noticed that grasshoppers were common.  The people who owned the cottages had two dogs, Clover and a chocolate lab.  Since the water was cold, we usually did not go far out, but we did play and jump in the waves.  It was so cold we saw seals in the water all the time.
     Before the end of the week, our uncle, Tommy came to visit us.  The first day he was there, we spotted whales from the porch.  We saw their spouts and backs, and, occasionally, a tail.  When we had to go back to our boat, I almost wanted to stay there a little longer.  We had a great time there and saw many interesting things and places, but I loved the whales the best.