Saturday, 3 November 2012

Movie Time: Iceland

I'm slowly learning with video that you can never shoot too much; I flew out to Iceland with 24GB of storage but failed to fill more than eight, and even then most of that was still pictures. 

I do have a few excuses, the weight saving decision to leave the tripod at home and the really strong winds meant I was not about to let go of the camera perched precariously to get some nice action shots. Really though I just did not think things through, its often the little linking shots that are missing, too much staring at the marco of the jaw dropping scenery not looking for the detail.

From this display of poor planning I have just about managed to salvage a semi coherent story out of the ashes; hopefully it gives a flavour of what the trip was like.


Being critical I feel I now need to move away from the "lots of pretty views to music" style of video and start to tell a story. Unfortunately this will involve me taking and the camera and I'm not sure I want to inflict that on you all yet. Stay tuned.....

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Porsmork: Iceland

I had decided I deserved a day off; yesterday had been a hellish slog on the bike through wind and torrential rail to arrive bedraggled and saturated in Selfoss. Here things only marginally improved as I found despite my best efforts I had to bail out the tent after putting it up such was the amount of water falling out the sky.

The following day dawned fine and rather than slog back to Rejkavick I decided to grab a bus the other way and visit Porsmork Nature Reserve. The coach trips which run to the reserve from the capital every day, pass through Selfoss early in the morning and it is easy just to hop on mid trip, at least in low season rainy September. The first thirty or so km eastwards along the ring road is not particularly special, a flat green farmland stretching into the distance, but as you approach the Eyjafjallaokull icecap the land begins to rise up and a long westward facing rampart stares out across the plains. 

Here meltwater from the icecap cascades over the black cliffs to in a series of spectacular and much photographed waterfalls. Seljandfoss adorns many a magazine page and leaflet produced by the Icelandic Tourist Board; even in todays drizzle under leaden skies it's a spectacular site, falling seventy meters into a shallow plunge pool free from the steeply undercut cliff. Walking round the back of the falls into the blizzard of spray is quite an experience.


Here we must change buses, the fact that you are going somewhere a little special dawns as soon as you see your new vehicle, the big off road tyres and high ground clearance suggest that the terrain over the next few miles might be a little challenging. The road to Porsmork barely quallifies as such, being little more than a track picking the best line through the ever changing flood dalta of the River Krossa. The route can change from day to day and often needs to be bulldozed following spring thaws which can move thousands of tonnes of gravel around the delta.

The myriad of gossemer thin waterfalls running off the icecap to our right build into a series of fast flowing gravelly streams and rivers which the bus cautiously fords one after the other. We briefly stop to see the stark remains of what was once one of the most beautiful glacial lakes in Iceland; a pool of water cradled in the arms of the terminal and lateral remains of the Gigjokull Glacier, which usually sported a number of miniature icebergs.

This all changed with the eruption of the Eyjafjöll volcano in 2010 (that one that payed havoc with air travel in Europe). The meltwater from the eruption pouring off the plateau overwelmewd the terminal moraine washing it away over a length of 300m and draining the lake for good in a flood of awesome proportions.


There was a lake here two years ago.

Just before we enter Porsmork proper it becomes apparent that the rivers we have waded through so far have only been an aperitif for what is to come now. Here the Krossa river comes bursting out of the canyons of Porsmork fast and deep; this crossing our cheerful guide informs us " has swallowed more cars than any other in Iceland".

The coach driver gets out to have a good look at the riverbanks, judging the ingress and egress points and the general mood of the river today. Then he hops back in straightens the bus and off we go, slowly bouncing and crawling across the river, unsure that at any moment our bus may decide it would rather be a boat and sail off downstream. Nothing so exciting happens today however as the bus climbs out of the river shrugs itself off from this last challenge. 



With those treacherous waters behind the last bastion of Porsmork's defences defences has been brached and the coach drops me off at Husadalur a plesent valley base with guest cabins, campsite, and cafe selling drinks, snacks, and even wifi!  With limited time to explore before having to catch the bus back to Selfoss a quick climb to the summit of Valahnuku on the ridge which splits the two valleys of the nature reserve is the obvious choice.

The trail leads through a narrow col on the ridge that splits Husadalur from Langidalur in the parallel Krossa valley. It's sheltered enough for trees and shrubs to grow here in a riot of plant life which is notably absent from most of Iceland. Langidalur is the end point for the Laugavegur Trail probably the countries most celebrated trek, a four day hike between Landmannalaugar and Posmork through a spectacular sucession of wild volcanic landscapes.
  


From the base at Langidalur where mountain huts stare out of a spectacular black river delta scored with slivers of silver water the trail turns begining to climb and with each step the scale and majesty of the landscape increases. The peaks are raw and geologically young, towers of dark brown-black soil and rock to which dark green moss and grass struggle to cling.

It's only about 250 meters of accent but the summit is such a prominent point that the view is quite spectacular. The vast mountain wilderness to the north, the view west to the coast, and the towering icecap lost in cloud to the south all streach out into the distance. Despite the wind, which is biting and chill the panorama just holds me spellbound exploring the horizons, and standing staring into the jumble of peaks reaching into the interior.


The upper reaches of the Krossa and Hvanna Rivers

Looking down stream towards and the "road" in With the towering ice-capped flanks of the Eyjafjöll volcano on the left.



All too soon it's time to leave, the last bus out of the reserve departs soon after four and having left my tent and bag back in Selfoss I'm not too keen on spending an un-intended night out. Looking down from the summit the coach arrives in the valley crawling slowly along the back sand and gravel of the river delta, a tiny toy which resonates the scale of the landscape.

Posmork is a bleak beautiful place, to me it feels like a young Scotland but on a slightly bigger scale. The few hours I've spent here today has just illustrated the vast amount of wilderness there is in Iceland; visiting Porsmork I've just taken a peak behind the curtain of whats out there to explore.  I've already promised myself I will come back and complete the Laugavegur Trail and take a first real bite out of wild Iceland.

Looking inland along the line of the Laugavegur Trail

Spot the bus

Monday, 1 October 2012

Cycling In Iceland

Arrow straight the ribbon of tarmac rolls out to a vanishing point flowing over green gently undulating farmland, in the middle distance a line of green hills; further the horizon is broken by a line of mountains with ice fields clinging to their upper slopes. Far down the road a car appears to crawl towards me, seeming to make little progress against the panorama; tiny below the blue sky.

In such idilic conditions it's easy to sell cycle touring, the open road, big skies, leisurely km of smooth tarmac disappearing beneath the wheels of the bike as you feel the ebb and flow of the landscape. On the bike the view changes slowly, morphing as you move through it, giving time to enjoy the subtle changes in angle as different aspects of the land are brought into focus or profile; not the blink and you miss it snapshots you get from the car.

Then there is the feeling that your earning every experience; that feeling at the end of the day that those miles have come as a result of your own efforts makes the experience of travel all the more rewarding. The journey becomes an event, each mile a distinct memory part of the experience. 

For a country as spectacular as Iceland the bike seamed the obvious choice to explore the south west of the land of ice and fire. It would also be my first proper shot at cycle touring apart from an abortive attempt in Austria about ten years ago when we broke ourselves on Day 1 and let the train take the strain from then on.



The beauty comes with a bite though, the days which can best be described as a challenge; Iceland can throw down wind and rain with the best of them, and on a bike you really don't have anywhere to hide. Heading out in September I knew I was taking a bit of a risk on the conditions and I didn't escape. One particularly miserable stretch between Pingvellir and Geysir sticks in the mind; fog bound, up hill and into the teeth of the wind whistling off the interior (strong enough to stop me freewheeling down hill!). 

With rain driven by the gusting wind into every patch of unprotected skin, the ride becomes a mental game of counting down the miles, driving the body forward with the motivation of a hot cup of tea at some ill defined time in the future. Counting down the yellow marker flags which line the road every 50m to tease and taunt you as you slog into the headwind, the word saturated does not come close.

The roads themselves are a joy to ride on and in a novel experience for those used to riding in the UK not a chore to share with motorised vehicles. Apart from sections of Highway 1 the 800 mile  "Ringroad" they are quite and flowing; drivers almost always give you plenty of room when passing usually in some form of modified  4x4 with a roaring engine and monster off road tyres. In the south west all the major routes and by that I mean up to ten cars an hour are smooth tarmac with none of the cracks and potholes which can make cycling in the UK so much fun. 


I have it on good authority this view is spectacular...

I had hired a bike and trailer out here instead of trying to fly my bike out; this was half a mistake as it meant going back to 26" wheels, and having got used to the easy rolling of 29" tyres just highlighted how much more efficient my 29er is on anything but the most technical terrain. To be honest the bike I rented, a mountain bike with front suspension was overkill for this tour as I stayed on tarmac for the duration and therefore just carried around unnecessary weight. For future trips and a crossing the interior where roads are just packed gravel I will certainly bring my big wheels out there to eat up the miles

One of the things I was really keen to try this tour was a trailer for all my kit. Cycle touring used to involve messing around with a pannier system on the back wheel, or if you really have packing efficiancy issues on the front wheel as well. I've cycled with panniers before and found them to really weigh down the rear of the bike, cock up the centre of gravity making handling uncertain, be awkward to balance, and usually be too small. 

Almost through day one, heading towards Pingvellir

Trailers seem a much better idea especially as you can now pick up models designed for pretty rough off road use where in my opinion, panniers really fall down. Beast of burden or BoB trailers sit behind the back wheels attached to a modified hub and can pretty much go anywhere you would take the bike, the more expensive models even equipped with a suspension fork. 

The result of this setup is that weight is kept lower giving the bike a more natural centre of gravity and hence normal handling. The trailer came with a massive dry bag which  swallowed all my kit, even the monstrous Quasar ETC I was force to bring as my tent. I flew out with just over 25kg which all had to be towed around with me; being able to put all this weight off the bike behind the back wheel really minimised the feeling of carrying a lot of weight.


Not getting lost is also quite easy in Iceland, as there are not many roads to get lost on! I used a1:300,000 road map with couple of 1:50,000 for the more popular areas. The maps themselves are poor by UK standards (the Ordnance Survey spoil us) and you would need to be careful and know your nav if going off road. Places are well signed but there are no intermediate distance markers which is a grind if you want to know what you've covered. I did take out a cycle computer but could not get it to work properly on the bike.

So basically I'm hooked, cycle touring is physical yet relaxing; each day becoming little adventure. The flexibility of stopping when and where you spot a view or something interesting, or enjoying the rush of wind as you roll downhill. It's the simple joy of carrying your life around for a few days of setting up camp and resting with a brew and a book at the end of a day. A trailer is going on the kit wish list, and the Western Isles into my sights for spring.


You know how I said everything was well signed!

A bit more info...

Kit and logistics

Tent: I had thought long and hard about this, I own two tents a small light one man Vango TBS100 and a two man Tera Nova Quasar ETC. The Vango was the obvious choice for weight and space but it's old, and the fly has seen better days, it's also its one pole design and although strong is not going to stand up to a real battering. The Quasar is practically indestructible, pitched correctly it will stay standing long after most tents have given up the ghost; the ETC porch also offers the space to cook and keep kit dry in Iceland's changeble weather; but its heavy and bulky, with two people not and issue with one. I'm glad I took it but it was a ball-ache to lug around.

Bag: Switched to the four season down bag last minute, glad I did it got cold at night. Keep it in its own dry bag and protect it with your life.

Stove: Primus Omnifuel TI, light, and powerful especially if you just bring it set up for gas. Fuel canisters are easy to pick up in Rekjavick and you can often get half used canisters free at campsites.

Food: Supermarkets in main towns only, N1 petrol stations act as grocery stores where you can pick up all the basics. They also have microwaves and sandwich toasters for you to use to cook a mid ride lunch (this is amazing!!!).

Campsites: Where I was in the south west of Iceland usually good; hot showers, covered/indoor seating areas, the bigger ones have internet access. Cheap too - £5 ish

Geothermal baths: End of day bliss, even the ones that stank of brimstone (sulphur) Excellent, excellent, excellent

A video is now up of my travels http://mountaingoatjon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/im-slowly-learning-with-video-that-you.html

Camping at Pingvellir

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A Land of Fire and Ice: Iceland First Impressions

Iceland is a unique landscape, primeval; a glimpse into the early days of our planet when the globe was ruled by fire and water. Although raw, barren, and at times bleak the landscape of Iceland is dynamic and alive like few places on earth. Rising from the cold waters of the proto-Atlantic Ocean a mere 16 to 18 million years ago the land is still alive with the fires of creation, vast fields of lava, towering volcanic icecaps, bubbling hot-springs and great glacial rivers carving down from the interior.

A landscape so new, feels angular and stark compared to home, the fields of dark black lava riven with deep fissures covers huge swathes of land. Little can live in this environment, no plants or trees can find root as a fertile soil has yet to emerge requiring coming eons of weathering and organic decay. Instead the lava is coated with a blanket of green moss the first stages of life, simple and hardy.

A highland lava field.


More lava!

From these barren plateau, to the green river valleys, and the towering highlands of dark basalt the landscape unfolds slowly from the saddle of a bike. On my cycle tour I had originally wanted to cross the interior by the F35, generally regarded as the easier of the two main gravel roads over the highlands (because you don't have to ford any rivers!) before returning by the ring road to Reykjavik. However the purchase of a house earlier this year left me with neither the time nor the resources to mount such a trip. The fall back option was to tour the south west corner of the island which contains many of Iceland's tourist showpieces and would allow me a slightly more gentle introduction to cycle touring.

Iceland is still being born, situated above the Mid Atlantic Ridge volcanoes pour forth brand new land at regular intervals, the most spectacular being the appearance of the island of Surtsey from the depths of the Atlantic in the mid 70's. Signs of the tremendous heat just below the surface is evidenced by the clouds of steam which billow up from the hillsides tendrils of white against the green and black of the earth. With the engine house of the Earth so close at hand Icelanders have harnessed this geothermal warmth against the chill of the ice which forms this lands other creative force.


The latent heat of creation


Geothermal pools at Geysir

With such and abundance of geothermal energy, almost every small settlement I visited had a hot tub or pool fed by waters from deep within the earths crust. The experience of swimming in water which possibly only hours earlier was deep within the surface of the planet is a strange experience but perfect for relaxing and allowing the muscles to recover at the end of a long day in the saddle; hidden within the interior a myriad of hot pools dot the landscape offering respite to the traveller. Icelanders have taken geothermal energy much further, Reykjavik the capital pipes the hot waters beneath the roads and pavements ensuring they stay ice free in the bitter chill of the Icelandic winter.

Iceland, it's people and it's landscape are also a product of the atmosphere, close to the Arctic Circle and in the middle of a great ocean it's at the mercy of huge weather systems and a kaliderscope that even makes the UK look dull and conventional. During my six days on the bike I enjoyed clear blue skies and warm sunshine, torrential rain, fog, mist, and a wind which roared down off the interior and almost stopped my bike when cycling downhill! Coupled to this the strange distortion of time which comes of living so close to the Arctic Circle and the realm of the midnight sun, bitterly cold winters, and brief stormy summers and it's easy to see have the Icelanders have developed a deep bond with their landscape and a hardiness and resourcefulness like few nations.


Sedjelfoss

Meandering glacial rivers in Posrmork National Park

Ice or more truthfully water, is the force which had carved and sculpted the land risen by fire. Iceland is covered by icecaps which cap the summits of her volcanoes, the largest of these the Vatnajokull is the size of the English county of Yorkshire. From the glaciers and icecaps flow long meandering rivers which meander back and forth across wide river plans of black volcanic sand and gravel carrying these fragments down into the fertile plains in the south  west around Selfoss where they form Iceland's best and richest farmland. Waters falling from the the icecaps also make this a land of waterfalls; hills which rise almost vertically out the plateau forming a rampart over which water cascades in a myriad of different falls from the thin tendril of Seldjandfoss, to the white wall of Skogafoss, and the roaring chasm of Gullfoss.

I spent six days scratching the surface of this land, looking through the prism of it's weather. My overriding impression is one of space, big skies which open out above you, horizons dotted with the shadows of distant mountains. I only really caught glimpses of the spectacular interior,  the last true wilderness in Europe; a road winding away to a distant high white icecap, plenty of reasons to return.

Skogafoss (Wiki Commons image)

Monday, 10 September 2012

Land of Ice and Fire

 Waterfalls

 The open road

 Where is everyone?

 Beast of Burden

 Towards Pingvellir

 Pingvellir National Park





 Yuck!

 Gullfoss

 Gulfoss


 Woosh!

 Farmstead

 Endless miles

 Porsmork

Porsmork

 What a bus route!

Rhino Mountain

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Off to Iceland with a bike, camera, and a notebook but no computer....Back soon.

In Praise of the Easy Way

Last week I made an amazing discovery; fear does not need to be a part of mountaineering. This road to Damascus like revelation was catalysed by the fact that my normal climbing partner has gone AWOL to Thailand on honeymoon.

When Dom and I climb together I always end up expanding the upper limit of my comfort zone rather more than I had intended. As someone who could win a gold medal for enthusiasm he frequently sandbags his partners into some form of harrowing experience; how else do I explain the appearance in my log book of the Orion Face surrounded by a mass of steady grade threes?

So with Dom no doubt trying to convince his good wife Katherine that what she REALLY wants to do on honeymoon is explore Thailand's climbing scene I made my way to Switzerland to meet a mutual friend of ours Andy whom I know has a deep empathy for my situation having been on the receiving end of a number of sandbaggings himself.

The view from near the top of the Hohass lift

To celebrate the fact we don't have to do anything hard we decide to spend the week emulating our forefathers from the nineteenth century and collect a few 4000m peaks by the classic "Grand Courses" of there early ascents. 

There are limits to this historical emulation, we will not be resorting to hiring guides, cutting steps, clothing ourselves in tweed, or heaven forbid walking in to the climbs as begets the style of the Victorian mountaineer. Had Wymper had access to the Hohass cable car I'm, sure he would have made use of it in any attempt to climb the Weissmies, the mountain we have set todays sights on.

The free cable cars currently running in Saas Grund meant we had popped up the previous evening to have a look at the route and trace the inevitable motorway or snow trench that leads up the mountain by it's most popular route the north west flank onto the south west ridge. Its a reasonable nice looking line, across the glacier before climbing onto the shoulder of the mountain and following the ridge to the summit.

The normal route crosses the glacier before climbing onto the shoulder and then following the skyline to the summit. The track is just about visible.

Climbers in amongst the avalanche debris, we steered clear of this keeping low till well past it then climbing the edge of the glacier.

Having caught the first bin out the valley were on the glacier in about ten minutes weaving our way in and out of the crevasses which this late in the season are relatively easy to see and avoid. We take a big round the fans of avalanche debris recently fallen from the seracs which tower above the start of the route and sneak up the side of the glacier and on to the shoulder. This passage is easy but with a nice dab of exposure as you cross the steep face to the base of the shoulder with the slope dropping steeply away towards ice cliffs on your right.

Hers a short steep ice step provides a few minutes of interest and active deployment of the axe in anger. In fresh conditions the step would prove a bit tricky at PD but the passage of hundreds of boots has smashed a pretty good staircase through it. Now all it manages to do is create an obvious bottleneck which we fortunately avoid having powered past everyone else on the climb up from the glacier.

The path between the shoulder and the glacier, BIG drop to the left!

High on the final summit ridge

Above this the route runs up to join the south west ridge and is a nice non threatening snow walk. The trail leads away ahead of us flowing easily over the terrain weaving about to trace the easiest line; occasionally blobs of colour in little groups of two and three brake the monotony of white as groups of climbers plod towards the great white cone ahead and above.

I'm feeling really strong and acclimatised having been above 3500m the last four days running and we make really good time to the summit arriving a little after 2.5hr from leaving the lift. The top is really exposed to the wind and bitterly cold; todays weather is a little more mixed than earlier in the week when we had cold but quite still conditions on the summit of the Allinhorn. Amazingly considering the huge number of groups (20+) we passed during the climb we have the summit almost to ourselves just a one other couple arrive almost at the same time as us up the SSE ridge. 

For me one of the main joys of mountaineering are the summit moments; standing high above your surroundings and taking in a truly spectacular view on the world. From here the panorama is pretty spectacular even if the brilliant blue sky of earlier in the week is now flecked with high white cloud. Towards Italy a cloud inversion fills the valley hiding everything from view. In spite of the view we don't linger long in the bitter wind, turning for home back the way we came.

Ninety minutes later I'm sat on the sun terrace of the Hohass restaurant beer in hand and soup and pretzl ready to go as we watch a steady stream of climbers move down the mountain to join us, yep I can get used to this

The very top of the SSE ridge

Job half done, now for the beer.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

One Small Step...


"I think we're going to the moon because it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges, it's in the nature of his deep inner soul. We're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream." 

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

I wrote this blog over a year ago trying to explain why I'm convinced landing on the moon was our greatest achievement as a species. Although it does not reference Apollo 11 directly  I still feel it sums up why Armstrong's "small step" the culmination of the work of 100,000+ men and women, marked a time when mankind was truly audacious in its outlook, and dared to dream the impossible.

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It’s 1967 and three men sit reclined on their backs squeezed in to a tiny cabin; a cone three meters high by four meters wide crammed with dials and switches. They are perched on top of the most complex and powerful machine mankind has ever created, the Saturn V Moon rocket. Below them are thousands of tonnes of kerosene, liquid oxygen, and liquid hydrogen. Their nearest fellow humans are 1.5 miles away inside concrete blockhouses and behind steel blast walls,  the men's destination is a little further away however, 250,000 miles further; the crew of Apollo 8 are about to hitch a ride to the moon.


Apollo 8 is rolled out of the vehicle assembly building


The Saturn V is an amazing machine, a true wonder of the world, a demonstration of both high technology and pure brute power. It’s very easy to play the numbers game with this monster but I can’t resist; 110m tall and weighing over 3000 tonnes, at launch the five F1 engines burned 15 tonnes or 12,700 litres of fuel a second delivering 7,600,000 pounds of thrust. The turbopumps which delivered the fuel to the combustion chamber had the same horsepower as six diesel train engines (55,000 horsepower).


The F1 engines of the first stage


The Saturn V is the icon but it is is the Apollo programme itself that I find particularly inspiring. I know it was a deeply political programme driven by the need to beat the USSR at the height of the Cold War. I know the cost of $170 billion dollars in today's money was questionable with many arguing the money could have been better spent. In my opinion it was worth it, as a species we have an insatiable desire to push our limits right across the field of human creativity from maths to music, to explore and expand every corner of what we are. With the Apollo program we stopped walking as a species and began to run.

I find the energy and speed of the programme fascinating, the Saturn V had flown unmanned twice before the Apollo 8 mission but on the second flight (Apollo 6) serious problems had arisen with the rocket. Yet on the very next flight they made the decision to launch the rocket with a crew; but not only that, to launch the rocket manned and send it to orbit round the Moon. 

Jettisoning a stage separator high above the Earth

Some may see the audacity of this decision as arrogant but I disagree, the arrogance had been taken out of the program forever following the death of three crew in the Apollo 1 fire. I  see in this decision the confidence that comes from the total commitment of the tens of thousands involved, the care to get everything right every time. The kind of commitment that comes when the task is truly inspirational.

For me the crux of the program was not even the moon landing itself but a few minutes when Apollo 8 was in orbit around the moon. To orbit the moon the spacecraft would have to traverse it's dark side. The Earth disappeared below the lunar horizon, and the radio went dead, the men of Apollo 8 became more isolated than anyone else in history completely cut off from home, the first humans to see with there own eyes the dark site of the moon.


One of the Earthrise photos taken by the crew of Apolo 8. The photo should actually be rotated anticlockwise by 90 degrees as that was the orientation seen from the spacecraft.

Nobody had really realized the significance of what would happen next, the event overlooked by the technical minutia of the mission. Slowly a small disk of blue and white began to rise over the barren dull grey surface of the moon shining brilliantly with reflected sunlight amid the absolute blackness of space. The crew of Apollo 8 saw the Earth rise over the horizon of another world.


The Earth was small, tiny, you could cover it with your thumb. The mission plan sort of went out the window, with the crew glued to the small windows of the capsule. This image, small and grainy is my favourite photograph it effects me like nothing else I have ever seen. It’s primeval, I well up with emotion every time I see it (I can feel a tear in my eye just thinking about it now). It is quite simply the most beautiful thing I will ever see; it sums up everything we have achieved since our ancestors dragged themselves onto dry land from the seas. It also highlights all we have, our planet beautiful, fragile, and delicate. It's no wonder the image is often credited with kick starting environmental awareness.


This is newsreel footage of the launch of Apollo 4 the first use of the Saturn V. The TV booth 3.5 miles from the launch site partly collapsed such was the power of the rocket.

In my opinion the Apollo programme is our greatest achievement as a species. It’s about more than the three men who made each flight, it’s about the hundreds of support staff on Earth, the tens of thousand, perhaps hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, and designers who believed a dream. Most of all it’s about us as a species reaching for the very edge of the envelope.


There are many things I would love to have see have seen, times and events in history that I would love to have experienced. To see Earthrise, to have stood in awe as a Saturn V roared into the sky would have been life changing experiences. Feeling the energy, the excitement, the power and the beauty, but most of all to see us as a species reaching for the impossible. Be inspired by what we can do if we set our minds to it.

The whole Earth photograph taken by the crew of Apollo 17