Posts Tagged ‘bonaire’

Sometimes, Adventure is Near Home

September 9th, 2010 at 3:25 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

There are times when you don’t have to get on a plane, or even into a vehicle, to find adventure. Sometimes you can experience it from the comfort of your own home.

For us, that’s the case today as a lightning strike set a large fuel storage tank on fire at the BOPEC facility on the northern part of Bonaire. The incident happened yesterday, and if anything the fire is larger than before. Official news has been difficult to come by. The word on the street is that our island is completely out of fire extinguishing chemicals at this point, but the fire has been contained to one tank and will be allowed to burn itself out. From our house, 9.5 miles as the crow flies from the fire, it is stunningly visible and huge. We hope that reports are right and that there’s no chance of other tanks catching fire from this one.

In case you were curious, BOPEC is the Bonaire Petroleum Corporation, owned by PDVSA, the Venezuelan oil company. The BOPEC facility is used as a storage and transshipment facility for Venezuelan crude. BOPEC is not a local source for fuel, which is a fortunate thing in this situation.

Fire at the BOPEC facility on Bonaire, from my roof, 9.5 miles away

Fire at the BOPEC facility on Bonaire, from my roof, 9.5 miles away

More live eyewitness reports and some amazing night time photos can be found on BonaireTalk.


Viewing The Ocean From Afar

May 14th, 2010 at 12:06 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

About 10 years ago, working with my college friend Dan Senie, we installed the world’s first permanently mounted WebCam in a reef system. We called it the Bonaire ReefCam, and there was a Bonaire ReefCam of some sort in operation (even two at one point) until the Fall of 2008, when Tropical Storm Omar severely damaged the Bonaire Pier ReefCam.

Over the last decade the various WebCams I have installed on Bonaire have allowed millions of people to experience Bonaire above and below water from afar via the Bonaire WebCams web site. But top-side WebCams apparently only go so far – people have really missed watching marine life under the water’s surface, and have made sure to let me know that fact.

Well, now that I’ve been home for a long enough stint (9 weeks), I have had a chance to install a brand new replacement Bonaire ReefCam. This one too shares the name of its predecessor – the Bonaire Pier ReefCam, since it is located under a pier. I installed it two days ago and it’s been working great ever since. The images you can see on the Bonaire WebCams site update internally every minute, and every 1-4 minutes for viewers (frequency depends on your membership level at the site).

Jake on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam right after it was installed

Jake seen on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam right after it was installed

Because I was installing the camera very close to land and in shallow water (it’s only 2-3 feet under water), I was able to design a very simple underwater camera system, which involved a high quality NTSC bullet camera, a couple of pieces of PVC pipe (one big, one small), clear resin, a UV filter, and about 60 feet of heavy garden hose to run the thin cable through and provide good environmental protection. Once the camera was potted, I attached it to a small two-by-four wood chunk, and then used cable and tie wraps to attach it to one of the pier pilings. I worked very hard to avoid damaging any of the orange cup corals on the piling during my installation efforts, and ran the cable and tie wraps between the small coral heads.

The Bonaire Pier ReefCam with school of silversides

The Bonaire Pier ReefCam with school of silversides

Once I verified the orientation was good, I used underwater epoxy to cement the camera and wood to the piling. This morning I went back for a quick snorkel inspection and I was pleased to find that the epoxy had set very well – I wasn’t sure it would because it was very soupy when I applied it (and the small bit of surge at the time didn’t help) – I ended up wearing a fair bit of the epoxy during the application attempt.

Close-up of the Bonaire Pier ReefCam - not pretty but very functional

Close-up of the Bonaire Pier ReefCam - not pretty at the moment but very functional

The end result is not particularly attractive at the moment, but marine growth should cover up most of the epoxy and wood in the coming months.  As long as the lens is kept clean, it will work just fine.

Below are a few more photos related to the new Bonaire Pier ReefCam, and you can find larger versions of all of the photos in this post on my Flickr pages.

The pier at Eden Beach on which the Bonaire Pier ReefCam is mounted. It is on the second piling from the left, under where these people are sitting. The garden hose protected cable goes under the pier into the gray box on the Eden Beach sign, and from there, the signal goes into a small server room where it is digitized and uploaded every minute.

The pier at Eden Beach on which the Bonaire Pier ReefCam is mounted. It is on the second piling from the left, under where these people are sitting. The garden hose protected cable goes under the pier into the gray box on the Eden Beach sign, and from there, the signal goes into a small server room where it is digitized and uploaded every minute.

Silversides on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

Silversides on the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

A happy parrotfish poses with the Bonaire Pier ReefCam

A happy parrotfish poses with the Bonaire Pier ReefCam


From Bonaire to the Antarctic by Way of Aruba

February 5th, 2010 at 10:30 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Today was day 1 of our five week journey to visit the Antarctic region. As we live on the small Caribbean island of Bonaire, a mere 12 degrees or so north of the equator, we’re actually already a lot closer to the Antarctic than perhaps any of the other people we will be meeting in Santiago for our group trip. But being closer does not mean it’s any easier to get to southern South America.

After researching our options, which including the possibility of flying four or five hours all the way up to the U.S. only to fly all the way back south, or the option of having a 15 hour connection in Guayaquil, Ecuador or Quito, Ecuador, we found that we could fly relatively painlessly from neighboring Aruba (only 80 miles west of Bonaire) to Santiago, Chile. From a travel time and hassle perspective, never mind price, this ended up being the best option.

The Traveling Richters at the Bonaire airport with 8 pieces of luggage and four carry-ons

The Traveling Richters at the Bonaire airport with 8 pieces of luggage and four carry-ons

What we didn’t count on was the challenge of getting all four of us and our luggage to Aruba from Bonaire. The problem is that the only planes that fly between islands are all relatively small and that means they too have luggage restrictions. After researching those options last month we finally settled on Tiara Air, which offers a roundtrip flight several times a week between Bonaire and Aruba, non-stop between the islands. We were able to arrange a deal where we purchased two additional seats (for a total of six) to ensure that we would not have to pay additional luggage fees, and a guarantee that all of our luggage would make it on the flight. The only downside was that we could only fly today, and could not change tomorrow’s flight from Aruba to Santiago, so we had to schedule an overnight in Aruba.

Our Tiara Air flight from Bonaire to Aruba - a Short 360-100 aircraft

Our Tiara Air flight from Bonaire to Aruba - a Short 360-100 aircraft

Tiara Air came through for us today, and we greatly appreciate it. The Short 360-100 aircraft they use for the flight is comfortable enough, although a bit tight for people with long legs, and the flight was quite smooth and short (45 minutes).

Aerial view of Kralendijk, Bonaire with a cruise ship in port

Aerial view of Kralendijk, Bonaire with a cruise ship in port

We arrive in Aruba at aircraft pad 13, where a bus takes us to the terminal

We arrive in Aruba at aircraft pad 13, where a bus takes us to the terminal

Once we arrived in Aruba, we grabbed our luggage, headed to our hotel in nearby Oranjestad, checked in and then went out in search for lunch. We found our meal right next door to our hotel at a place called “Cafe The Plaza”. The food quality and service was reasonable, but nothing really exciting.

After that we went out to find a pair of closed toed waterproof slip-ons for Bas, as he had outgrown his old set of Crocs. It took more than a half dozen beach-oriented stores to find a pair of Croc knock offs that fit him and were not in an offensive color (e.g. pink). He ended up with blue ones, as that was the only color available in his size.

As we wandered about in search of the shoes, we started noticing an over-abundance of jewelry stores. By my estimation, in the half hour of wandering we did to find the shoes and return to our hotel, we saw at least 15 jewelry stores. We were completely dumbfounded at how it might be possible for all of them to survive with such competition. I guess there’s a lot of loose money floating around here from somewhere.

Getting back to our room Linda discovered that both of the pairs of polarized Oakley sunglasses she had purchased in Chicago last summer were missing from her luggage, and while she believes this was a nefarious deed, we found nothing else missing. So, we ran out to a nearby sunglass shop and bought her some replacement glasses. She’ll need them when looking at ice, snow, and icebergs in about a week.

Linda buys two new sets of polarized sunglasses to replace the ones she can't find in the luggage

Linda buys two new sets of polarized sunglasses to replace the ones she can't find in the luggage

We capped off the evening with a couple of rousing games of Five Crowns, and dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant (which employed only South Americans and Filipinos) by the name of Sushi-ya. Nice meal!

Dinner at Sushi-ya - we had the 'Sashimi de-luxe'

Dinner at Sushi-ya - we had the 'Sashimi de-luxe'

All the selected photos from the day (which includes those above and a number more) have been uploaded to my Flickr page.

I will mention that I probably will not be writing as detailed daily commentaries as this one once we’re further south due to time and bandwidth restrictions, and that will also, in turn, limit the number of photos I can share. So please don’t expect huge daily missives from us, but if you get aone occasionally, enjoy!

The next post will probably be late on Sunday after we’ve arrived in Santiago and spent the day out and about.


GPS Tracking – Bonaire to Aruba

February 5th, 2010 at 9:50 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

In order to make it easier to follow our current journey, I will be post our GPS tracking information as a separate post from any commentary or pictures.

Here is our first GPS track – flying from Bonaire to Aruba and spending the rest of the day in Oranjestad, the capital of Aruba. And since we tracked via GPS while in flight, I have included an altitude chart too. Remember, you can zoom in on the map and also click the red light bulb icons to see more details about those particular waypoints.



Fortress of Louisbourg

October 14th, 2008 at 10:25 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Today was a bit less eventful for us than yesterday. No moose or whale sightings, although we did see an old fashioned musket fired.

We departed mid-morning from Baddeck for the village of Louisbourg, on the east coast of Cape Breton. We tried to stop at a fossil museum in Sydney Mines (a small town in Cape Breton), but as with a growing number of attractions on Cape Breton, it had closed recently for the winter.

We arrived at the Point of View Suites in Louisbourg around 10am, and were a bit surprised to find it was also an RV park. But in fact, there was a large building on a small cliff at the back of the property, overlooking the harbor of Louisbourg, and in that building was our suite. The managers of the property actually upgraded us from one large suite into two connecting smaller suites so that we could each (kids and adults) have our own space. That was something we really appreciated. One reason they were probably so generous was that the property is closing down in a few days for the winter season (when tourism is pretty much dead in most of Cape Breton). In any case, the rooms are spacious, and the kitchens appear well provisioned. But bring your own shampoo and soap, as what they provide is good for only one or two showers.

After dropping off our bags in our room we headed up to the Fortress of Louisbourg. The Fortress, run by the Canada Parks Service, is a recreation of a part of the fortress that was once located on the same grounds during the early and middle part of the 1700s, owned and controlled by the French (except for a three year period where the British ran it). The Fortress of Louisbourg was twice besieged and attacked by the British, and both times the French surrendered after about six weeks, due in part to running out of supplies because of British blockades, and also because the British brought many times more soldiers than there were inhabitants of the fortress. Surrender was an easier out than dying from starvation or being shot. After the second capture, the British pretty much destroyed Louisbourg, and it took a government project in the 1960s to attempt to rebuild aboutt 20% of the buildings that had once stood on the fortress grounds, and make the Fortress of Louisbourg a historic attraction.

Most of the people at the fortress are in period costume, playing the part of a person from circa 1744, but were kind enough to explain differences between that time and the present when asked. We learned an incredible amount about the daily lives of merchants, nobility, servants, and soldiers during the times of the Fortress. We also learned that we would not liked to have lived there during that time as the people endured what we would consider enormous hardships – ranging from very bad winters and poor health care to extremely difficult working conditions, among others.

We also enjoyed an 18th century lunch of soup, cod, and carrots, including a single, versatile eating utensil – a spoon with a curved tip on the handle which could be used to cut and pierce ones food. It was all very tasty.

We had gone to the Fortress of Louisbourg with minimal expectations, and left overwhelmed with new knowledge and information, and thirsting for more. And that’s taking into account that only a fraction of the various buildings were open and staffed because it’s low season here (and the fortress closes down on Saturday for the winter season too – just like everything else). During the summer months, the Fortress of Louisbourg is a hive of nearly non-stop activities, and it’s estimated that it would take at least 18 hours to see and do everything there is to do (not including spending time talking with the in-period docent/actors).

If you have any interest at all in history as well as how people lived and survived in the 18th century, then the Fortress of Louisbourg is a must.

Our dinner was at the Lobster Kettle, one of the only two restaurants still open for the season in the village of Louisbourg. Linda and Krystyana had a fabulous snow crab dinner special while Bas and I enjoyed haddock and halibut – both quite good, and amazingly Bas enjoyed the fish. So far, on this trip, Bas has learned to like lobster and fish. We’re working on him for scallops, but he seems to have set his mind against them for the moment. In any event, we enjoyed our meal at the Lobster Kettle – both in terms of food quality and service – large difference from last night’s meal at the Lobster Galley in St. Ann’s Bay.

Tomorrow we leave Louisbourg for Pictou, where we will take a ferry to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. We’ll be spending a couple of nights there, and hope to visit Avonlea and the museum of Anne of Green Gables, among other things.

For followers of our writings who are also familiar with our home island of Bonaire in the Southern Caribbean, we discovered after dinner tonight that Tropical Storm Omar had formed near the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) in the last day or so, and strong weather conditions have created very large swells and waves on the normally calm west side of Bonaire, damaging numerous piers and soaking some waterfront properties.

There are links here and here on BonaireTalk with more information.

Please note that most of the reports on BonaireTalk are independent observer reports or passed on from those on islands and that there is also a lot of speculation based on water drenched visuals. As we know from the past with large surge actions, until the surge subsides (sometime tomorrow afternoon hopefully), it will not be clear how much damage has actually occurred, and it won’t be clear for days how long any such damage will take to repair.

If you love Bonaire like we do, keep the island in your mind and think positive thoughts. For those concerned about our animals, we understand they are doing fine, albeit a bit shook up by the wind and rain.

To all of our friends and extended family on the island, we hope you are well and safe and dry.


Bonaire’s Only Snake Species – Leptotyphlops albifrons

July 31st, 2008 at 12:37 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

It’s fun when one doesn’t even have to leave one’s house to find adventure. Last night Bas spotted a very small critter on the floor in the hallway to our bedrooms. At first blush it appeared to be a millipede, but with magnification we discovered that in fact it was Bonaire’s extremely elusive Silver Snake, the only species of snake known to exist natively on the island. We captured the snake on a piece of paper and found a plastic Hefty plate to put him on to keep him from getting loose (and to provide good contrast) while I took photos.

Bonaire Silver Snake next to a pen cap

As you can see from the above photo, the snake is tiny – we put a regular pen cap near him to show the relative size. The Silver Snake (Latin name is “Leptotyphlops albifrons”) apparently can get up to 10 centimeters (four inches) in length, although we estimate this one at about 2/3rd that stretched out.

Bonaire Silver Snake Close Up

Above is a close-up with macro lens. You can make out the snake’s eyes. After the photo shoot, we released him into the front yard for his (or her) safety.

The book “Nos Bestianan / Our Animals – Curacao | Bonaire | Aruba” by Dr. Bart A. de Boer says these tiny snakes are very hard to find. We’d agree with that as this is the first one we’ve ever seen in our 11 years on Bonaire. They only hunt for a brief time at dusk (which is when we found this one), and are otherwise hunting under rocks. They apparently eat very small insects, including ants, termites, and insect larvae.

Anyhow, a very cool experience – a lot more fun and less hazardous than the scorpions we find with regularity (the scorpions sting with the same pain as a bee sting, annoying but not otherwise dangerous).