Saturday, October 14, 2023

Images and ink (52)

: Lake at Gokyo Ri, Khumbu District, image by courtesy of Alpine Light & Structure.

Ink: From Ella Maillart, The Land of the Sherpas (1951).

Some bamboo poles indicated the miraculous sin-remitting spring. We quenched our thirst and Topgi filled his gourd with sacred water to take home with him. Only a lake of clear, calm waters can reflect an immutable peak or the infinite heaven, both symbols of perfection. For initiates the lake stands for the world of thought, the mind, which can only apprehend the absolute when it has become clear and calm. Here the fevered mind of Siva, who had drunk the poison of the world, mastered itself at last by concentrating every thought on the peace of this ineffable lake, goal and crown of that inner pilgrimage which alone is the true one.

Friday, October 13, 2023

Images and ink (51)


Image: The proprietor at Sonam Lodge, Khumbu District, image by courtesy of Alpine Light & Structure. 

Ink: From Ella Maillart, The Land of the Sherpas (1951).

The hardy Sherpas scarcely feel the cold - any more than did the grandparents of our own mountaineers who lived in conditions so primitive that they would appal us. In the highest villages of Switzerland there are still many houses more wretched than those I saw in Nepal. I visited at least fifteen houses in all as I dealt out medicines to people suffering from abscesses, coughs, malaria and dysentery. The size of the rooms varied according to the substance of the owner, but the plan remained the same. My feeling of well-being was probably due to the happy proportions of an interior which exactly fulfils the needs of its inhabitants - as the round yurt does those of the Mongol - and had nothing to do with their degree of cleanliness! Comparison with the rich houses of the Tyrol, the Engadine or the Bemese Oberland would be pointless, but if one recalls the highest villages in the Trentino, the Valais, the Maurienne or the Vanoise, where life is reduced to the bare necessities, it becomes apparent that few mountain people are as well off as these Sherpas. When, a year later in London, I showed my film of Nepal, the colonel of a Gurkha regiment came up to me after the lecture. He spoke of the war in Asia and of the astonishing dignity of Gurkha soldiers in Japanese prisons. "Now I understand," he said. "They had behind them, as a part of their spiritual fibre, this perfect background. Compared with the poorer inhabitants of the overpopulated south, they are real aristocrats."

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Mt Fuji, Meizan of aerological science

Microplastics detected for the first time in mountaintop clouds

Researchers from Waseda and other Japanese universities have found fine particles of plastic – microplastics – in clouds, reports the Guardian. This study may be the first to have sampled clouds for this form of environmental pollution.

Using “string-type passive cloud collectors”, the scientists sniffed the air from the tops of Mt Fuji (3,778 metres) and Mt Ōyama (1,252 metres) in the nearby Tanzawa range, both mountains that figure prominently in Japan’s most famous mountain book. Samples were also collected at Tarōbō (1,302 metres), on Mt Fuji’s lower slopes.

The researchers then looked at wind trajectories to work out where the plastic particles came from. As you’d expect, the summit of Mt Fuji attracts a superior range of pollutants. This may be because the winds that blow over Ōyama and Tarōbō come mainly from China, while the top of Mt Fuji also receives airborne tribute from Southeast Asia.

The aerologists follow in a lengthy tradition. They collected their high-altitude samples at the Mount Fuji Research Station. This comprises the buildings of the old weather station, which a non-profit organisation repurposed for summer-only scientific observations in 2007. 

But the weather station itself could trace its origins back to the winter of 1895, when Nonaka Itaru and his wife Chiyoko held out for more than two months in a small hut, making weather observations at the very highest point of Mt Fuji.

In those days, of course, the clouds were entirely free of fine particles of plastic.


Yize Wang, Hiroshi Okochi, Yuto Tani, Hiroshi Hayami, Yukiya Minami, Naoya Katsumi, Masaki Takeuchi, Atsuyuki Sorimachi, Yusuke Fujii, Mizuo Kajino, Kouji Adachi, Yasuhiro Ishihara, Yoko Iwamoto and Yasuhiro Niida, “Airborne hydrophilic microplastics in cloud water at high altitudes and their role in cloud formation”, Environmental Chemistry Letters, August 2023.