MEGALODON: An ancient shark of mega proportions

VIJAY SHAH and SUNNY ATWAL

Every year around six people are killed by sharks and dozens more injured, often seriously. Feared for their aggression, speed, size and taste for human flesh, the shark has been the stuff of legends for thousands of years and more recently, have been the subject of Hollywood blockbusters. Forty years ago, cinemagoers queued up for popcorn, ready to be terrified by the protagonist of the Jaws films, a bloodthirsty great white who snacked on sunseekers visiting the beach of sleepy little Amity Island. 

On the 10th of August, 2018, a new movie resurrecting the familiar ‘shark-meets-human, shark-eats-human’ narrative and starring action hero Jason Statham and Chinese actor Bingbing Li, introduced us to a shark that very much made the dreaded great white immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws series, look like a piddling fairground goldfish in comparison. Swim forward the Megalodon, full name Carcharocles megalodon, but you can call it ‘Meg’.

 

Megalodon was the streamlined bone-crunching stuff of water-borne nightmares. From around 23 to two million years ago, these colossal fish were the apex predators of their day, dominating the world’s temperate and tropical seas, and were capable of literally biting whales and dolphins in half. Flipper’s arch nemesis on steroids.

Scientists believed that the Meg could reach a maximum of 18 metres (59 feet) in length from heavily-armed snout to the tip of its tail. The largest great white shark observed in our time was 6.1 metres (20 feet), half the size of the largest estimated Megalodon adults. Meg’s huge proportions meant it was at the top of the food chain millions of years ago, and it proved its role as ruler of the seas by chomping its way through other large underwater creatures such as prehistoric whales, giant sea turtles and seals. It may have also dined on other sharks as well. A human would have been a service station sandwich in comparison. It has been estimated that an adult Meg would have needed to eat a tonne of flesh a day just to stay alive.

No-one was around back then to have met Meg (and survived to tell the tale), but many believe the shark was a more robust and muscular version of today’s great whites, but with teeth five or six times bigger. Thousands of the Meg’s fossil teeth have been found nowadays measuring up to 180 mm (7.1 inches) diagonally. Meg, just like modern-day cousins, would have had hundreds of these saw-like teeth in its jaws, lined up in rows, which combined with the brute force of its mouth, meant the shark always won every fight it got into. Meg must have been a treat at the dentist’s too when it was asked to say ‘Aaah!’ for its checkup. Its jaw dimensions were 2.7 by 3.4 metres wide, meaning Meg could swallow two adult humans side by side, and still have room for dessert. In fact, Meg has been said to have been the most powerful predator that has ever existed, and had the dinosaurs got around at the same time,  the shark would have owned T-Rex and company like a bunch of soggy dinosaur-shaped breaded turkey pieces.

 

Megalodon’s modus operandi for getting dinner on the table involved attacking prey side on, using its strong jaws to literally sink its teeth into the prey’s heart and lungs, inflicting maximum fatal damage to vital organs. Medium-sized prey would usually rammed with great force, causing severe trauma, with the Meg then chomping through bone and flesh, as evidenced from bite marks etched into the bones of whales found by marine archaeologists. Larger whales were a particular target for when Meg decided to go full hangry meets sadistic. The shark was said to have immobilised such whales by severing their fins from their bodies or by simply ripping them apart. Once the whale was suitably disabled, the Meg would then sit down for supper.

Environmental changes, mainly in prey availability and sea temperatures, as well as increased competition from newer species of sharks, contributed to the eventual demise of the Meg. Some people have claimed that the super shark still persists to this day, hanging out in deep seas and trenches, with several YouTube videos claiming to show sightings of the prehistoric monster. However most scientists are in agreement that the Megalodon is definitely history, pointing out that due its preference for warmer seas, a surviving Meg would have been a very obvious one. That said though, other species of fish, such as its cousin the megamouth shark and also the coelacanth fish, were long considered to be extinct, but have managed to survive undetected for millions of years until recently. In 1918, an Australian naturalist, David Stead, wrote of an incident where a group of experienced and fearless fishermen in his country were terrorised by a white-coloured shark of between 35-90 metres in length which attacked their boats, trashed their fishing equipment and stole their catches. Despite spending many years on the high seas, the fishermen’s encounter with this mystery shark left them scared to continue working. While extremely unlikely, perhaps there could well be an undiscovered group of bloodthirsty Megs out there, far from human eyes, eating whale sushi undisturbed.

SOURCES:

“Megalodon” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalodon

“Megalodon: the truth about the largest shark that ever lived” – Josh Davis, Natural History Museum (6 August 2018) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/megalodon–the-truth-about-the-largest-shark-that-ever-lived.html

“10 Killer Megalodon Shark Facts” – FossilEra https://www.fossilera.com/pages/megalodon

“Megalodon Sightings: Is the Megalodon Shark Still Alive?” – cryptid, Exemplore (19 August 2018) https://exemplore.com/cryptids/Is-the-Megalodon-Shark-Still-Alive

IMAGE CREDITS:

“File:VMNH megalodon.jpg” – Karen Carr via LeGenD, Wikimedia Commons (12 May 2010) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VMNH_megalodon.jpg

“File:Carcharodon megalodon SI.jpg” – Mary Parrish, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History via Materialscientist, Wikipedia (8 March 2017) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carcharodon_megalodon_SI.jpg

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FAIRLOP WATERS: Local conservationists protest lorry road plans for Ilford nature reserve

Hainault – VIJAY SHAH via AARON WALAWALKAR and Ilford Recorder

Redbridge environmental campaigners are protesting against plans to construct a ‘haul road’ for heavy-duty lorries near the scenic Fairlop Waters nature reserve in Ilford, Essex, in the UK, according to a report published by their local newspaper, the Ilford Recorder.

They fear the constant stream of large and noisy trucks carrying gravel on the new route will destroy the peace and feel of the Fairlop Waters Nature Park, which lies in the Hainault area, close to the A12 road and is Redbridge’s largest nature reserve and leisure spot. The park is home to species of rare birds like the long-eared owl and indigenous trees, which the campaigners say will be affected by the new road.

 

The borough council had authorised a map, seen by the protesters and the Recorder newspaper, which appears to show a 13-metre wide road snaking through the south-western reach of Fairlop park, a reserve protected by national law. The road would be used by lorries carrying minerals for construction and was being planned by the council since early 2016, it was reported.

Leading the protest is wildlife group Fairlop Birders. The group’s spokesperson, Chris Gannaway, told the Ilford Recorder: “This is a terrible state of affairs when one group of council officers take the trouble to develop and go through the Local Nature Reserve registering process with Natural England, while the planners allow developers Brett Tarmac to run roughshod over what is now a mature wildlife site.”

Redbridge’s local government have been accused of hiding the true extent of the plans for the road and operating with a lack of scrutiny regarding the future building of the slip route. The council’s planning committee are known to have given conditional planning permission to the road’s builders, Brett Tarmac Limited, as part of plans to extend Fairlop Quarry, in Hainault Road, on the 5th of June this year. Representatives of the council countered by saying the Brett Tarmac application was made through normal rules included site notices, advertisements in the local press, letters to Fairlop’s neighbours, public consultation and a planning committee meeting.

“Before development can proceed, we will be working closely with our partners and environmental agencies to ensure that the relevant planning conditions relating to biodiversity and vehicle movement are discharged.”, a council representative told the Recorder. Brett Tarmac also claimed that they also undertook responsible environmental surveys and public permission seeking before setting about plans for the new road.

SOURCES:

Ilford Recorder, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/IlfordRecorder/

“‘This is deplorable’: Wildlife campaigners condemn plans for haulage road near Fairlop Waters nature reserve” – Aaron Walawalkar, Ilford Recorder/Archant (3 August 2018) http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/news/politics/wildlife-fairlop-waters-protest-haulage-road-1-5637593

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:Long Eared Owl (9438319240).jpg” – Ian Kirk via tm, Wikimedia Commons (4 August 2013) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Long_Eared_Owl_(9438319240).jpg

MOTHER NATURE: Nature photo blog marks 5th anniversary

Croydon – VIJAY SHAH with ALEX SMITHSON

Mother Nature, the nature and photographic diary blog of Croydon-based blogging enthusiast Alex Smithson, has marked five years of being online this past week.

Alex has been a long term friend and supporter of HEM News Agency for the past four years, from when it was called the Half-Eaten Mind Blog. Based in the suburban town of Croydon, just south of London, Alex first started working on Mother Nature (under its former simpler title, ‘Photography – Nature’) on the 6th of June, 2013 when he uploaded a number of photography projects taken with a Samsung ST200F camera he carried around with him.

 

Alex began to use the new blog to explore his passions of gaming, technology and nature photography and show his imagery to a steadily growing audience.

Five years on, Mother Nature has gone from strength to strength, chronicling Alex’s pictorial journey around his hometown, his commencement of an A-Level photography course at a local college and even him getting to grips with the graphic design software, GIMP.

While the design and look of Alex’s blog has shifted much over the years, he still uses Mother Nature as a creative venue for his photos of colourful flowers and wildlife. For Alex, photography is a stimulating vocation that has motivated him in the hard work of maintaining his website and keeping the interest flowing.

In addition to his photography and writing work, Alex Smithson has also taken on the mantle of mental health advocate, publicising various issues and neurological conditions,  such as autism, mental health stigma and the impact of social media on youngsters’ minds. The blogger had lent his support to various mental health charities like Depression Alliance, the Samaritans, Mind and others. His advocacy for mental health and neuro-diversity has already won him praise from actor Oli Regan, who collaborated with Alex on one of his articles. Alex plans to further his campaigning for mental health issues through the medium of photography as part of his blog’s fifth anniversary celebrations.

Mother Nature

SOURCES:

“Celebrating 5 Years of Mother Nature!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (6 June 2018) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/celebrating-5-years-of-mother-nature/

“Mental Health Organisations” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/mental-health-organisations/

IMAGE CREDIT:

Alex Smithson/Mother Nature.

CHURCH OF THE APES: Scientists think chimps may have religious beliefs

London – VIJAY SHAH via ANDREW GRIFFIN and The Independent

Scientists are studying footage shot by the Chimbo Foundation and PanAf of strange behaviour by a group of African chimpanzees, which they may think indicate the chimps are performing rituals, which may indicate belief in a religion, according to Britain’s The Independent newspaper, and first reported last year (2016).

The footage shows chimps in a forest clearing in an unnamed part of West Africa, carrying stones and arranging them in little ‘cairns’. Mainly though, the chimps, including a mother carrying her baby, are seen hurling rocks against the bases of certain wide-bottomed trees, while screeching loudly. Other apes have been seen throwing smaller rocks into holes in the trees, creating deposits of material. It is surmised that this unusual behaviour, which has only so far been among this West African band of chimps, could be the beginnings of ritual behaviour. The participation of the mother and younger apes means the stone-throwing is highly unlikely to be mating behaviour, and the throwing does not also point to territorial marking.

 

Scientists studying the apes say their strange activities can give an insight into early human rituals and religious beliefs. Ancient humans constructed cairns and other rock formations as part of nature worship, one of the most famous and advanced examples being the UK’s Stonehenge monument. Chimps and other great apes have already shown the kind of intelligence associated with humans, for example in using sticks as tools to extract grubs and ants. Yet the stone-throwing in West Africa does not fulfill a functional purpose, such as finding food.

The researchers, whose institution was not mentioned in the Independent report, but described in the video above as being from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, wrote in their report abstracts on the chimp rituals: “This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,”

“The ritualized (sic) behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites”

Interestingly, the scientists also found in their research that people in West Africa who follow traditional religions also enact similar rituals involving the construction of cairns at sacred trees.

In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.

Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.

Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Mysterious chimpanzee behaviour could be ‘sacred rituals’ and show that chimps believe in god” – Andrew Griffin, The Independent (4 March 2016) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/mysterious-chimpanzee-behaviour-could-be-sacred-rituals-and-show-that-chimps-believe-in-god-a6911301.html

VIDEO CREDIT:

“This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees” – Hjalmar Kuehl and team/Scientific Reports/MPI-EVA/PanAf/Chimbo Foundation/GeoBeats News, YouTube (1 March 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQOThqq2pk

 

A MEAL FOR EIGHT (LEGS): How spiders catch their food

Our planet is home to around 35,000-50,000 species of spider (the estimates vary), the vast majority of which spin webs made out of silk generated inside the spider’s body. As any arachnid expert will tell you, spiders weave their silky masterpieces primarily as a means of obtaining food. With strands stronger than the equivalent thickness of steel, spider webs are covered with sticky substances that ensnare their prey, trapping flies and even birds and snakes, ready for the web’s resident to deliver its venomous coup de grâce.

When an insect flying about and minding its own business collides with a web, which is often designed to be invisible until it is too late, the impact creates vibrations that alert the spider. Spiders have extra sensitive hairs on their legs, which are attuned to pick up the slightest movement coming from the web’s fabric.

However, arachnologists have not yet figured out how exactly the spider interprets the movement signals when its equivalent of a pizza delivery happens. In 2016, a team of scientists from the American state of Oregon decided to try and solve this puzzle by creating a web of their own.

Using nylon from parachutes, the team built a web that replicated a traditional ‘spoke’ layout, popularly associated with spiders. The strands of yarn were arranged radially and were held taut by a specially constructed machine with an aluminium frame, alongside an attachment resembling a spider placed centrally, as can be seen with garden spiders and orb weavers.

 

 

The vibrations caused by insects were reproduced with the help of a subwoofer-type speaker, and the spiral of the web was emulated with elastic cords. Ross Hatton, a member of the research team at Oregon State University, told GrandesMedios.com, the source of this story, of how realistic they made the web experiment, explaining that they used two different types of nylon rope, just as spiders use two different types of silk.

The artificial spider in the middle was calibrated to pick up vibrations from the speaker, even the slightest ones. As Hatton explained: “We started with the hypothesis that if you moved one of the radial lines slightly, the arachnid perceived that one moved more than the others,

“We also speculated, that the spider would go towards the line that undergoes a variation in its movement”

In other words, Hatton and his team expected the spider in real life to gravitate towards the line of silk from which the most movement was travelling from. However the result of the experiment was quite different from the team’s original hypothesis.

Far from being a simple case of only a single strand of the web notifying that it caught dinner, the team discovered that the cobweb gave off a complex pattern of vibrations, with some sections of the web being more sensitive than others. According to Hatton, at different frequencies of sound from the speaker, different web strands and layouts did not vibrate at all. Different parts and strands of the web vibrated only at certain frequencies and remained unresponsive at others.

These different frequencies of vibration are believed to help the spider identify what type of prey had crashed into its web, and perhaps also help it distinguish between live prey and inedible objects such as leaf fragments and debris. The study, which redrew the way people thought about how arachnids predate, was presented at the American Physical Society conference recently.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Tecnología GM, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TecnologiaGM

“Cómo perciben las arañas a las víctimas que caen en su red” – GrandesMedios.com/Grandes Medios (6 April 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/asi-detectan-las-aranas-a-sus-victimas/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Spider and web” – Dwight Sipler, Flickr (23 September 2009) https://www.flickr.com/photos/62528187@N00/3948508109/in/photolist-71V8U2-9ReV6c-aqKQGv-dpdK7M-5roAqX-5roEwn-5roBTv-DV9Eq-mYCVp-6Hu2Eb-5tj1DG-9oBvU-jG4wh-8JZa3e-a9A2a9-8WDwtQ-afhCqA-8yN4WL-5vSbKd-e2eBjU-aj8tGX-6QTWyn-4VgnTS-4Vc9mt-9aCUoX-4WYuxd-6bSLvd-51ycz-4rhGUq-31bfxS-316GzT-316xNt-316yCg-31b8K7-31b9dh-31b4TG-316z6p-316wva-31bbq9-31bdXs-31b3iw-31b64m-316EZD-31b7tU-316xwZ-31b8nG-31bdvo-31bcvw-316y1V-31baXE-316w2a

UK HOLIDAYS: Natural sights most popular for holidaymakers in 2017

London – VIJAY SHAH and SWNS digital

 

A recent poll on holidays and days out choices among British tourists has found that trips to the country’s peaks are the most popular. The scenic Lake District area of north England topped the choices at number one attraction people most want to visit, overtaking the Peak District in the county of Derbyshire and Wales’ highest mountain, Snowdon.

While mountains were the most popular options for communing with nature, the poll participants also voted for seaside locations like piers and beaches, as well as museums. The results were drawn from a list of fifty leading U.K. attractions devised by transport firm National Express. A thousand people were surveyed for the poll.

National Express’ managing director, Chris Hardy, said: “They say the best things in life are free and we hope our list inspires people to get out and explore somewhere new – without breaking the bank.

“It’s great to see that Brits appreciate the natural sights that the UK has to offer, and the sheer volume of beauty spots on this list goes to show that you’re never far from something stunning to see on a day out.”

Despite being the epicentre of British tourism for both national and international visitors, London made a poor showing in the results, with only one of the capital’s prime attractions, the Natural History Museum, making the top ten locations for days out. The museum only made it to ninth place. Twenty-three other museums across the country also featured, including smaller, region-specific museums such as the Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington Spa, central England. A few cathedrals also made the list.

SOURCE/IMAGE CREDIT:

“Natural Views and Scenery Dominate in List of UK’s Favourite Days Out” – SWNS digital/72Point (23 April 2017) http://www.swnsdigital.com/2017/04/natural-views-and-scenery-dominate-in-list-of-uks-favourite-days-out/

PHOTO MOMENT: Canadian elf coin

 

A 25-dollar pure silver coloured coin issued by Canada in 2016. The coin, part of a popular and recent tradition of countries issuing coinage with full-colour scenery and even holographic elements, shows a mythological ‘woodland elf’ on the reverse. The elf, dressed in green hat and suit, is busy at work building a wooden birdhouse amidst typical northern Canadian forest scenery. The obverse features a unique profile portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

The coin was recently launched by the Royal Canadian Mint, based on a design by local artist Jesse Koreck, and is being sold at face value in Canada and the United States.

 

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Numismatics, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/numismatics_rr
“2016 $25 Woodland Elf Silver Coin for $25” – CoinNews.net via NUMISMATICS (14 October 2016) http://www.rightrelevance.com/search/articles/hero?article=c1d0c3c908112d8b82a9fe698eabfed619d40934&query=numismatics&taccount=numismatics_rr

UPS: Petition calls for the banning of animal trophy shipments

gb

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH

A petition launched five months ago on the website change.org by people angry that delivery parcel service UPS are shipping the remains of wild animals by hunters as trophies is receiving renewed attention and larger ground among supporters, the Half-Eaten Mind exclusively reports. The petition, created by Briton Paul Tully from Durham, calls on UPS, one of the world’s largest shippers, to cease providing services for people to send back ‘trophies’ from animal safaris in locations such as Africa.

The trading in such animal trophies has come to the fore following the slaughtering of a protected Zimbabwean lion named Cecil earlier this year by a dentist from Minnesota, USA. The hunter, Walter Palmer, became public enemy number one, and his dental practice in Bloomington was the target of protests.

The petition, which has so far reached 2,417 of the required 10,000 signatures and has gained more than 7,500 supporters on change.org, demands that UPS and David Abney, its chief executive officer “immediately ban the shipment of hunting trophies of endangered and threatened species”.

Paul Tully has lent his support to fellow protestors from the United States who have already rallied against UPS’ policy on importing hunters’ trophies, but he claims in a statement on the petition that UPS has so far ignored pleas to end its role in this controversial trade.

Tully also urged UPS to “urgently reassess (their) current unethical and immoral stance” and their “injustice to wildlife”. He also urged the company to take a stand and to not give into alleged pressure from the hunting lobby.

Several U.S. and international airlines had already banned the carrying of animal parts from hunting expeditions on their flights, including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, the U.K’s British Airways and the UAE’s Emirates SkyCargo cargo service.

According to U.K paper The Express, UPS and fellow delivery firm FedEx has so far refused to stop shipping of trophies from big game hunts. A previous petition against UPS attracted 200,000 signatures, causing the firm to hold a public relations meeting. The company’s head of PR, Steve Gaut agreed to view protesters’ concerns but later said that the policy of freely accepting business from hunters would continue, citing that trophies made up less then 1 per cent of UPS’ business.

A spokesman for UPS told VICE that it “is strongly against the trafficking or trade of endangered species” but “accepts for shipment taxidermy items that are legally obtained and appropriately documented”.

Anti-hunting protestors and environmental groups claim that over 26,000 wild hunting trophies were shipped around the world between 2010 and 2014, ranging from eggs to pelts.

SOURCES:
Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
“Londoners” – Wind Smoke, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/windsmoke_uk/lists/londoners
Julie Stevenson, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/JulieMcKie
“Ban the Shipment of Hunting Trophies” – Paul Tully, change.org/Change.org, Inc. https://www.change.org/p/united-parcel-service-david-abney-ban-the-shipment-of-hunting-trophies?recruiter=68965565&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive&rp_sharecordion_checklist=control
 “Customers boycott UPS and FedEx after firms REFUSE to stop shipping big game hunt trophies” – Scott Campbell, Express – News – Nature/Northern and Shell Media Publications (28 August 2015) http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/601325/UPS-FedEx-big-game-hunting-trophies-petition-Cecil-lion-animal-Walter-Palmer
IMAGE CREDITS:
Getty Images via Zemanta.

MY JOURNEY THROUGH A LENS: New photography book by Alex Smithson

Alex Smithson, the blogger behind news, photography and music blog Mother Nature has now celebrated nearly a month since the successful launch of his latest published photography project, a book entitled “My Journey Through A Lens”. It is the third such book created by the Croydon College photography student, a firm supporter of the Half-Eaten Mind, and follows the success of his earlier works “My Journey Through Photography” and “A Year in Photography”.

Alex’s third book of his amazing nature and scenery photography had been many months in the making, combining both pictures and articles published on the Mother Nature site, as well as external projects Alex worked on in his free time and also as part of his photography and art course at Croydon College, a further education institute located just south of the UK capital, London.

By March 2015, Alex was already putting the final touches to My Journey Through A Lens, a book chronicling his career as a budding photographer and graphic designer. Like any author, Alex spent much time ironing out spelling and grammar mistakes as he sought to make his third book just ripe for the picking and reading, as well as tackling the inevitable umm and aahs of getting a suitable set of photographs prepared. He also spent considerable time designing the front and back covers of My Journey. He at first went for a simple and minimalistic, yet visually powerful format in design, with his favourite nature photo taking pride of place. Alex prepared two such designs, one featuring plants silhouetted in a sunset sky and the other depicting exploding fireworks taken over the New Year period of 2014-2015. Alex however decided to fire up his graphic design skills for the final choice of cover concept, dispensing with the photography altogether. Alex’s final design is a proud homage to his proficiency with the open source graphical software GIMP. Reflecting a recent re-haul of Mother Nature, Alex chose to adopt the blog’s new colour scheme for the final front and back covers, opting for bold squares of blue and bright orange bordering a white square with the book’s title in bold black capitals. The new cubed logo of Mother Nature, with its slogan ‘Life at the touch of a button’ neatly tucked into one side, also makes an appearance.

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By March 2015, Alex had crossed the 400-page barrier and was excited at getting the book up-and-running, offering it for free download via cloud service Dropbox. Not only would My Journey showcase Alex’s photography, but also case studies he wrote on key personalities in British history, such as the once prime minister Winston Churchill and notoriously oft married monarch Henry VIII, and musical tributes to Madonna, a favourite singer of Alex and to Ben Haenow, a fellow Croydon resident, who had won the final of UK musical talent show The X Factor in 2014.

By the beginning of this month (July 2015) and after nine months of groundwork and editing, My Journey was ready to hit the virtual bookshelves. In a blog article on Mother Nature, Alex narrates how he was ‘extremely pleased’ to be finally launching the book on July the 4th, American Independence Day. He had originally planned to launch his third book in May, but demands from college studies and exam revision for his GCSE finals put paid to that, forcing Alex to reschedule. By then, the young blogger had now included six historical case studies for educational purposes, detailing historical icons from the 1500s onwards, as well as additional information of Alex’s learning experiences as a fresh-faced A-Level student on his career journey to becoming a professional shutterbug.

On the 4th July, as our cousins across the Pond exploded fireworks, waved the red, white and blue, and generally made merry, My Journey Through A Lens was officially launched at 6:00 pm London time and made available completely free of charge on Alex’s website along with his previous editions. To celebrate the special occasion, Alex published an elated blogpost sharing the good news with subscribers and visitors. In this book, Alex celebrates historical icons such as Henry VIII, Queen Victoria, Guy Fawkes, Mary Queen of Scots, Winston Churchill and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the assassinated US President. Alex also paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, former South African president, humanitarian icon and victor against government-sponsored racism and hatred, who tragically passed away from illness last year. Alex also penned tributes to Croydon lad Ben Haenow, along with musical legend Madonna, the Italian-American ‘Queen of Pop’ whose top slot career in the charts has been going strong since the 1980s and had recently released songs and albums, including ‘Rebel Heart’, ‘Living for Love’, ‘Ghosttown’ and ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’.

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Alex certainly has not run out of steam with his sideline hobby of creating and marketing his work as a ‘indie author’ and aspiring professional photographer. On the day of his third book’s release, Alex also hinted that he will be working on a fourth title, although he has not yet revealed any further details at this early stage. While his third instalment will be made available as an e-book, Alex also teamed up with book printers DoxDirect to release a limited run of physical copies of My Journey, which he tweeted.

Alex dedicated his third book to some very special people in his life who have supported and influenced him along the way. The dedications, which appear on the back cover, include a tribute to Ajay Mody. Living in Mumbai, Mody was a passionate member of the WordPress community under the nickname ‘Ajaytao’. Like Alex, he also photographed the natural and bustling side of his hometown, India’s cultural and commercial capital, and was a keen blogger. He sadly passed away on the 10th August 2014, after a cardiac arrest and declining health. Tributes were also paid to actor and presenter Lynda Bellingham, the UK’s much beloved ‘OXO Mum’ who died in October of that year from colon cancer and to cricketer Philip Hughes who passed away after being struck by a ball during play on the 27th November 2014.

Alex also pens a dedication to this blog’s writer, a close friend and supporter, who in Alex’s own words, has “guided me along the way since I began my blogging journey”.

If you would like to obtain a copy of My Journey Through A Lens, or any of Alex Smithson’s previous titles, please visit https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/  and scroll down to the ‘Free Books’ section on the blog’s sidebar on your screen’s right, directly underneath the social media and contact buttons. You will see the title pages of the books and clicking on them will take you direct to the download site.

SOURCES:
“My Journey Through a Lens | Out Soon!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (29 March 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-soon/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Independence Day!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (3 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-independence-day/
“My Journey Through a Lens: Out Now!!!” – Alex Smithson, Mother Nature (4 July 2015) https://asterisk15.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/my-journey-through-a-lens-out-now/
IMAGE CREDITS:
Alex Smithson.

 

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Hold that pose!!

 

“Hold that pose!”

“That’s the trouble about being a squirrel photographer….all my subjects seem a bit nuts!”

 

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Two red squirrels frolic about in the snow, while one realises her dream of being an ace photographer. The pages of Squirrel Vogue and National Geographic await.

This photo comes from the wildlife and travel collection of Zoraida Palacios, who describes herself as a defender and protector of animals. She is also an art lover with a degree in administration. The tweet was created by Britannia PR, known fully as Britannia Communications Partnership Digital Communications Agency. This public relations agency was ranked number one in a list of 500 agencies in March 2015 on Klout, Peer Index, Kred and Social Authority. Their Twitter account often shares amazing example of scenic and natural photography, as well as images from around the British Isles. They are based in London.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Britannia PR, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Britanniacomms
IMAGE CREDIT:
Zoraida Palacios, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ZoraidaPalacios