Sunday, April 10, 2011

A bit of the big city

kw: travel, sightseeing, photographs

(You'll need to click on all these pix to see them at a nice viewing size.)

My wife and I have wanted to have a day away for some time, so we joined a bus trip to Manhattan yesterday. I'd have posted these images last evening, but events conspired to get us home quite a bit later than we expected.

The bus dropped us all off near Times Square. Most people had come for a show or to shop (I don't understand paying $40 to go to NYC to shop). The two of us went first to the Empire State building. We walked there, which takes less than a half hour from Times Square. We were lucky, the crowds were light Saturday morning, so we were at the 86th floor observatory within an hour of arriving.

This is one of a number of nadir-to-horizon panoramas I took. Most were three-image groups that I stitched using the panorama stitcher in Windows Live Albums. This one is the best-aligned, and shows the Chrysler Building and its surroundings. You can be sure I had the camera strap firmly locked around my wrist as I held the camera out through the grid to take these!

We spent an hour at this level, then paid the extra $15 to go to the glassed-in observatory at the 102nd floor. The smudgy glass impairs the view, which is not that different from the view below. It is also a very small space; they only allow about thirty people in there at a time. I did get a better view of Central Park than I'd had before. This is one of those "OK, now I did that, there is no need to repeat the experience."

Before leaving the building, we had a bite in the Europa Cafe, which is very pleasant, and the sandwiches were excellent. It is on the South side of the building at street level.

We took the subway to the 81st Street station and spent the rest of our day at the American Museum of Natural History. I love NH museums. The entry lobby, on the second floor off Central Park West, features this stupendous dinosaur group. I didn't take quite enough photos to get a clean panorama to the height of the tall Camarasaurus's head. This is a stitch of nine images.

If you look closely, you can see a smaller Camarasaurus to the lower right, and an Allosaur (I don't know which species) to the left. The rearing sauropod is supposedly defending the youngster. This is quite a different view from the way sauropods were depicted when I was a child. They were once thought to be lumbering bags of meat without brains enough to do more than watch stupidly as carnosaurs ate them up, when they weren't keeping half-submerged in the swamps. Now they are known to have had the strength to rear up, and to trot along at respectable speeds.

We quickly made our way through the museum to the back rooms where the geological exhibits are kept. I am a mineral junkie. I'll probably post some mineral photos later. I took closeups of many large groups of crystal druses for wallpaper images.

But one treasure I simply have to show is this trilobite accompanied by a trace fossil. To a paleontologist, trace fossils, or fossils of the marks made by animals walking, are at least as valuable as skeletal or shell fossils, because they show something about animal behavior. In this case, the trilobite was walking along when it must have been overwhelmed by a mudslide, which smothered it in place at the end of its trackway.

In their day, trilobites filled the niche now filled by crabs and their relatives the lobsters and isopods. Did you know that the little pillbugs you find in your garden are isopods, related not to ants or millipedes but to lobsters? Oceanic isopods look a lot like big pillbugs, and just a little like their ancient relatives the trilobites.

We left the museum with just enough time to catch a subway back to Times Square; we actually didn't take the transferring train, but walked the last mile from Columbus Circle in plenty of time to catch the bus home. Upon our return, we found friends in the parking lot who were having trouble starting their car. Another friend had already tried, and failed, to jump start their car. They are not presently members of AAA, but I called AAA and was told I could still have someone come to start the car because we were with them. AAA insures us, whatever car we are in. However, that necessitated our staying with them, so we had a nice visit with them, which got us home an hour later than we expected. It turned out their battery was on its last legs, so they bought a battery on the spot, from the AAA guy, and were good to go.

We went straight to bed, and I also took a long nap this afternoon, so here I am, late Sunday evening writing about our Saturday. Glad to be home.

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