Narwhal massacre in Greenland

The Danish press has reported on a narwhal massacre in Greenland recently, where 42 narwhals have been killed, for their tusks and a limited amount of flesh. The rest of the whale were left to rot on the shore.

The remains of the whales were discovered by a boatful of tourists on August 17th.

The discovery has raised much fear of Greenland’s image as a place of sustainable hunting, where the whole animal is used.

There are more pictures and coverage in Danish at Sermitsiaq.gl.

Voga alla Veneta

Today I’ve had my baptism at Voga alla Veneta. I went with Enzo, who has a small garden near the Camping San Nicolò where I stay, to the Circolo Canottieri Diadoro to try to row a bit with him. I had about half an hour on the water with Enzo, before his next appointment showed up.

The boat was a Mascareta, which is a fairly small boat made for two oarsmen. Here are a few pictures of Enzo getting the boat ready, fitting the forcole and finding the right oars.

Voga alla Veneta is like kayaking a full body exercise. You have to stand in the right way in the boat, feet in the correct position, oar turned the right way relative to the water, and then push with your arms while moving your upper body forwards a bit and shifting your balance from the back foot to the front foot. At the same time, during the push, you have to turn your wrists in the right way at the right time, so you extricate the blade from the water, allowing you to the return body and blade to the starting position, without having the oar drop from the forcola.

Dropping the oar from the forcola is a common problem for beginners, and I had my problems too, though not as bad as I had feared.  The forcola only supports the oar fully in the push phase, and in the return phase you have to be very careful not to have it fall out.

Both forcole can be seen on this photo, when Angela was getting into the boat after me.

In a Mascareta the more skilled rower is always in the back, steering and controlling. The front rower only has to keep a constant, regular forward stroke, while the back rower does all the interesting stuff. This is also the explation of the difference between the two forcole. The right forcola has more points of support because it is used for much more, while the left forcola is only for forward strokes and breaking.

Standing up in the boat was very awkward in the beginning, but as I started to concentrate on getting my forward stroke right and not dropping the oar, it became a secondary issue, and it wasn’t really difficult. The important thing is not to move your feet unnessarily. As long as both rowers keep their feet in the same position, there will be no sudden shifts of balance.

Unfortunately, I have no photos of myself in the boat – or maybe I should say fortunately :-) – but here are a few pictures I took of Angela and Enzo as they set out for their afternoon vogata.

Anniversary

Today is my two years anniversary with sea kayaking. I did my first sea kayaking course at Kajakhotellet in Copenhagen, Denmark, on August 19th and 20th, 2006.

Since then I have paddled almost 2500 km, circumnavigated the Mediterranean island of Sardinia and started a kayaking business in Venice, Italy.

Most recent photo of myself in a kayak
This is the most recent photo I have of myself paddling. It was taken by Claus Philipsen on August 16, 2008, in the Bocca di Porto di San Nicolò in Venice, that is, the entrance to the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.

Terra di San Marco

I’m back in Venice now, in the camping getting the last things ready before a group of Danes arrives on Sunday for a week of magic Venetian paddling.

I was lucky enough to find myself a vacant window seat on the right side of the plane. The airport of Venice is built on the edge of the the lagoon, and the approach is almost always from the south, so the right side of the plane has a fantastic view of the lagoon and Venice itself, while the left side has a less spectacular view of the Po valley.

Photos taken with a mobile phone through an airplane window aren’t the greatest, but I had no other camera on me and the hostess wouldn’t let me open the window :-)

The “gronde” of the southern lagoon, an area I still haven’t explored in kayak.

Venice with the Giudecca island and the minor islands south of the city.

Venice with its modern (1930s) additions of the Tronchetto island and the Barrier, officially named “Ponte della Libertà”.

The Barrier and the uninhabited San Secondo island.

Murano and San Michele, with a bit of Venice on the right and the abandoned Campalto island in front.

The northern lagoon near the airport. The “Tessera Canal” in front with Isola di Tessera and Murano to the far right, and Carbonera island in the centre-left. Carbonera used to house a gun battery, but it is now abandoned like so many other “marginal” lagoon islands.

The barene at the airport runways, with the violet flowers in bloom. The airport is built on a part of the lagoon, which used to be like this.

Berlusconi covers up Truth – literally

When Berlusconi became prime minister recently, he chose a new backdrop for press conferences. His choice fell on a 18th century painting by the Venetian artist Gianbattista Tiepolo called “Truth unveiled by Time”. It is an allegory showing Time, in the form of an old bearded man, undressing Truth, a beautiful young lady, while Lie is forced away by the vision of Truth unveiled.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose that painting to say that the truth about his innocence in the myriad of criminal proceedings he has been involved in, will inevitably be revealed in time.

Unfortunately, the bare breast of Truth had a tendency to pop up just beside Berlusconi’s head in press photos, so even though Berlusconi has made a fortune on television with hordes of scantily clad teenage girls in almost all programmes, this wasn’t quite the image he wanted. After all, he’s an honest man (by his own word), with two marriages and just a handful of affairs on record, and he has never spend a single day in prison.

As a consequence, somebody in Berlusconi’s PR corpse decided to have the painting modified, to cover the breast. The result can be seen on the photo below (shamelessly borrowed from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica).

The original painting, kept safe from Berlusconi’s groping hands in a museum, is here, with the relevant part enlarged (again borrowed from La Repubblica):

The modification of a treasured Italian work of art, even if only on a copy, has caused an uproar in Italy, but then, it is only a very minor gaffe by Berlusconi standard. Now, if he would only claim that Truth is really the communist daughter of a nazi concentration camp guard, that would be more his style.

The story is all around, in La Repubblica, on the BBC and many others.