Today I Learned : that there is a memorial in the middle of Sahara Desert

When we are talking about Sahara Desert, what things will spring up from your minds? Hot, rocks, sands, sands, and sands. That’s it. How about a memorial? Nah, it can’t be. Apparently, there is a memorial built in this desert. Named UTA Flight 722 Memorial, it was built to commemorate all 170 victims of plane crash in 1989. The flight from Republic of Congo to Paris crashed down in Niger after a bomb attack by Libyan terrorists.

UTA Flight 772 Memorial

UTA Flight 772 Memorial

In 2007, a group of victims’ families and local people decided to build a memorial on the crash site. Since it’s location is too remote, heavy machinery could not be transported to the site, so most constructions were done by hands. Materials used to erect the memorial are mainly rocks and debris from the plane. The whole construction spanned for two months, from May to June 2007.

A plaque honouring the victim is affixed to the plane's wing

A plaque honouring the victim is affixed to the plane’s wing

Full construction stories of this memorial can be found here.

Today I Learned : why native Americans are called Indians

Have you ever wondered, why ancestors of American are called Indians? Do they share the same history with people from the country of India, located far away across Pacific Ocean?

Hi, I am Indian.

Hi, I am Indian.

It all started in 1492, when an Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus began his voyage to East Indies (India). Travelling west from Spain, hoping to find new trading route to East Indies, Christopher Columbus’ voyage across the ocean lasted for five whole weeks. When he finally saw land, he met the native people of the land and called them Indians as he thought he had reached India. What he did know that time that the land was actually a new continent, which would later be called America.

Voyages of Christopher Columbus

Voyages of Christopher Columbus

Today I Learned : that my hometown is one of the most unique place on Earth

I was standing alone in the middle of basketball court, directly under bright sun. I took a look at my watch, it is almost 12 noon. As the second hand approached number 12, signifying that it is 12 o’clock, my shadow began to vanish. Then all the shadow of objects around me also started to disappear. Okay, stop. Don’t worry, this article is not about horror post.

There is actually a place on earth where the things mentioned above can happens. It can happens at places located directly under equator line for twice a year. During these times, Earth align itself so that the sun rises exactly in the east, follows the equator for 12 hours, and sets exactly in the west. When it is exactly midday, the sun will be right on top of the equator line, and no object will cast a shadow. And lucky me, my hometown, Pontianak,  is actually one of those unique places on Earth.

Pontianak's famous landmark, Equator Monument

Pontianak’s famous landmark, Equator Monument

Pontianak is the capital city of West Kalimantan province in Indonesia. Located almost precisely on the equator, Pontianak is dubbed Kota Khatulistiwa (Equator CIty). The city enjoys bright and sunny day all year long thanks to its location. The economy of the city is boosted by the presence of Kapuas River, longest river in Indonesia. Its main business activity is trading.

Kapuas River

Kapuas River at dusk

Today I Learned : that hoe and shovel won’t create MRT tunnel

Stadium MRT Station

Stadium MRT Station

Beep, as I tap my ez-link card to the entrance gate of MRT station. Like almost all others underground MRT station, as soon as I get past the entrance gate, I can find escalators going downward. The escalator can go down two to five storey below ground level. It reaches the bottom-most level where the trains lie inside the tunnel, waiting for boarding and alighting passengers. This tunnel is the backbone of the MRT system, connecting one station to another and providing passage for the train to travel. Have you ever wondered, how is this long winding tunnel being built? Is it done using machine? If yes, what machine is it?

Tunnel Boring Machine, aka "mole"

Tunnel Boring Machine, aka “mole

Let me introduce to you, the machine behind almost all the modern tunnel construction: Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). TBM diameter can be as high as 19 meter with more than 100 meter total length. It is a massive machine. The machine consist of three main parts: the rotating cutter head, a thrust system, and trailing support system. The cutter head dig through the soil by cutting smaller rocks and crushing bigger harder rocks. This cutter head is pushed towards the soil by the thrust system located behind it. While the cutter head is being pushed forward, curved concrete panels are installed to form the “rings” that serves as the tunnel wall. The last section of the TBM, trailing support system, houses all the amenities for the workers, such as office, kitchen, and toilet. The trailing support system also holds conveyor belt which transports material from TBM to outside the tunnel.

Curved concrete panel lining up nicely forming the "rings"

Curved concrete panel lining up nicely forming the “rings”

For tunnel construction, usually two TBMs are deployed. One will be located at the starting point of the tunnel, while other is placed at the end point of the tunnel. This arrangement is to speed up the construction time and prevent complete halt to tunnel construction in case when one of the TBM breaks down. The tunnel will be completed when two TBMs meet head to head.

Today I Learned : that Singapore is not all about malls and skyscrapers

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Tranquil lake inside Kent Ridge Park

Consists of several parks in the southern part of the island, Southern Ridges stretch from Kent Ridge Park to Mount Faber. The trails feature canopy walk, horticultural park, green houses, forest walk and Henderson Wave bridge. Some part of the trails go through the untouched forest with surrounding tall trees providing enough shades from the sun ray and releasing refreshing air for the body. Hidden amidst the busy lifestyle of the city, this place where people can meet and feel the nature should be celebrated and conserved.

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Horticultural Park surrounded by the greeneries