Snow white is here

This winter is turning out to be quite a remarkable departure from the past 3 winters I've experienced here in the UK. Last year's winter was pretty tame with there being, from what recall, only very light snow fall a few days out of the entire winter. Contrast that with the past two days of nearly continuous snow fall giving everything around a white covering. According to the news reports, it has been the worst, most widespread snowfall in the UK in 18 years! Also, apparently this is all consistent with global warming.

Anyway, I like that there's a bit of snow. The pretty white topping takes a bit out of the gloomy UK winters...

View out of the room.

And here dwelleth 300,000 invisible beings

Most Maldivians are by now familiar with the drama unfolding in Makunudhoo. It has been on the news a lot and has been blogged about a lot but photos haven't been very forthcoming - well, except for a blurred image on Haveeru Daily and a photo stolen from my Flickr stream published on Miadhu News. So here are some images of the historic Makunudhoo School where Man and Jinn live side by side and study side by side, though not always in harmony as has been revealed. The school may replace the island's currently most famous landmark: the residential ruins of the infamous Bodufenvalhugey Seedhee (known for various supposed supernatural feats such as "walking on water" between islands, "helping" the infertile conceive etc) including its "teleportation well".

And yes, in case you wonder, it is ridiculous to believe this is a battle between invisible Jinn and humans, especially when there are good explanations.

Enjoy... stand awed.

Lunar eclipse photos

Here are some snaps of the moon during this morning's total lunar eclipse. The images are nothing special (and of pretty low quality) but given that I had no equipment other than an outdated digital camera this was the best I could have done.

Back from Makunudhoo

They say time flies when you are having fun but I reckon time flies even faster when you are bored shitless - like when I've been since arriving back from Makunudhoo two weeks ago...

I had a terrific time in HDh. Makunudhoo, exploring the island itself and the neighbouring three uninhabited islands, all of which lie within the same 17 mile long reef. Makunudhoo is amongst a natural geographical atoll called "Maa Makunudhoo Atoll" which sits situated all by itself in the North of the Maldives, displaced slightly to the West from the typical Maldivian North-South stretch of atolls (see map).

Makunudhoo is famous for being the home to President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom when he was sentenced to banishment during President Nasir's rule. The owners of the house he stayed in then, infact, now proudly hang pictures of him on their walls! The island also played host to the infamous Bodufenvalhugey Seedhee who gained country wide fame for his supposed supernatural feats and healing powers - abilities which led to the "Seedhee" title. He is (still) well-respected by the elderly for feats as "walking on water" across the seas, instantaneous travel, healing the sick, "helping" the infertile conceive etc. His long abandoned house in Makunudhoo now lie in ruins.

The sea, the reef and the lagoon of the atoll were nothing short of being deliciously exquisite and as a Maldivian who'd been away from these beauties for a number of months, I was simply overwhelmed! I hadn't seen starfishes, jellyfishes, different kinds of rays, turtles, dolphins, eels, sea cucumbers and multicoloured fishes and numerous weird sea creatures for ages and it was a thrilling experience to see them again while snorkelling in the reef and/or while strolling along the beach. Most notable was the presence of turtles in and around the atoll. We even sighted turtles cruising in the shallow waters near the beach. I also got to travel to the west-most piece of land in the Maldives - which is one of the uninhabited islands in the Maa Makunudhoo atoll. Exploring along its beaches and lagoon made it clear that the island was slightly different from the typical rest I'd seen (but then again, I haven't seen much of Maldives!).

I was pretty sad to hear that the island people still do catch turtles, which are a protected specie in the Maldives for fear of extinction, for food and that too on a regular basis. I'm not a particularly big supporter of the animal protection schemes but these animals, if they do disappear, are something I would miss indeed. There were other sea animals that had depleted significantly as well - including sea cucumbers and "raakani" (English name?) - which were aplenty in the atoll when I visited the place 10 years so ago!

I've uploaded some of the photos from the trip to Flickr. Check 'em out!

UPDATE (18/08/2007): Azeem has uploaded a lot more beautiful pictures from the trip to his Flickr gallery as well.

West-most piece of land in the Maldives
The west-most piece of land in the Maldives!

Beautiful butterfly at home: growth in photos!

Last week, my mum found a caterpillar ravaging her young lemon tree. It had, like most caterpillars, camouflaged itself and blended in so smoothly that it managed to live unspotted right under her nose for days before the damage to the plant was too apparent to be missed. The caterpillar had eaten much of the leaves and shoots in a span of just 2-3 days and so my mum considered the fellow to be more active than any of the other caterpillars that we occasionally find on the plants at home. But that wasn't what caught my curiosity when she called me over to show it - the caterpillar was different from any that I had seen anywhere in Male'! This caterpillar was larger (~1cm across and ~3cm in length) and really sinister looking.

I decided to put the caterpillar under observation, afterall a caterpillar is just the larva stage of a butterfly and should go through the various stages over a few days to become a full grown adult butterfly. Over the course of almost 2 weeks, I watched as it first continued to consume leaves all day and then go into stasis for the pupa stage and remain apparently lifeless for several days, before (quite suddenly and unseen to me) the pupa metamorphosized into a beautiful large adult butterfly. The fellow had red spots/blotches on the hindwings, few white streaks on the forewings and was black everywhere else and sported wings with a wingspan of ~10-14cm.

The butterfly was of a specie I had not seen here in Male' previously, though its existence does necessitate that a butterfly laid eggs on the plant recently - quite unlike the way of the sudden-uncaused-creation ("gudhurathee ufedhun") of caterpillar larvae that some of our visitors and neighbours claim(ed)! I still am not sure what these butterflies are called but from all the web searches and butterfly indexes that I've gone through since, I am pretty sure this butterfly belongs to the Swallowtail Papilionidae family in the Papilionoidea class of butterflies. The most similar looking butterfly that I could find was the Common Rose butterflies which bear striking similarities. It might also be related to the Citrus Swallowtail specie too since the larva was found on a citrus tree plant and the caterpillars look very similar but the adult butterfly looks different while the Crimson Rose family has adult butterflies that look very similar but different caterpillars. This is, ofcourse, all just speculation simply based on my (very) crude and limited phenotypic observations and I could be wayyyy off mark...

Here are some pictures I snapped in keeping up with the development of this beautiful insect. The latter three stages (of the total four) of a butterfly have been captured to my best ability: the larva, the pupa and finally, the adult. Enjoy!





Soon after metamorphosis: the "tails" of the wings breaking off

Adult black butterfly with red spots, white streaks...

Adult/Imago close up - see the neat proboscis!?

The pupa shell that was left behind

Bogu jahaafa...

I was about to brush my teeth yesterday while spending the day at the home of a Maldivian family here in the UK when I saw this gentle "notice" on the wall. I was so amused by it that I just stared at it till the message bore into my retina - toothpaste on the brush and raised to my teeth...

Have a laugh!

"Bogu jahaafa komme faharaku faahaanaa thashi saafu kuran hadhaan kuraathi"

Visit to the Manchester Museum

Museums are among my favourite places. Never do they fail to instil a sense of wonder and belittlement in me... especially the sections on pre-historic life and cosmology. I spent the day at the Manchester Museum yesterday, ogling and gawking at all those things on display.

I adored the dinosaur on display - a Tyrannosaurus rex named Stan. It is a cast replica from the original and consists of 199 bones that have been discovered. Standing at about 20ft tall and 35ft long, the thing is just gigantic. I only come up to its knees! I was introduced to dinosaurs when I was very young via a book on dinosaurs. It came with special glasses for viewing the special 3D renditions of dinosaurs, including a T Rex. Yet, none of the books, pictures or even movies prepare one for the massively awe-inspiring sight of a real-life fossil reconstruction of the beast!

Anyway, here are some snaps from the museum visit.

Gautama Buddha

Egyptian mummies

Mummified remains of Asru, a chantress at the Temple of Amun in Karnak.

A fossilized ammonite - Ammonites are an extinct group of marine animals that lived 400 - 65 million years ago.

Fossil evidence of fern-like plant (from around 600 million years ago)

Australopithecus Afarensis (3.9 - 2.9 million years ago) - The hominid ancestor that gave rise to modern Homo species including humans!

Early homo sapiens (400,000 - 10,000 years ago)

Guess what this is? It has hands, no legs, a huge tail and a great big head.

Fossil remains of a dinosaur-like sea creature (205 - 146 million years ago)

Sea scorpians and jawless fish from the Silurian age (439 - 409 million years ago)

A reptile from the Triassic period (250 million years ago)

Stan, the Tyrannosaurus Rex (dated to 65 million years ago)

More of Stan...

A few of the beetles on display - With about 350,000 different species of beetles around, they are dubbed nature's favourite!