On my recent trip I had two interesting encounters with the customs service, firstly in the USA and then Australia.
Firstly the USA. While it’s not unusual for border protection in the USA to seem to act strangely I think they out did themselves this time. For the first time I was entering the USA via ship and at a territory (US Virgin Islands). This necessitated a face to face meeting with a customs agent on the ship. Nothing overly unusual there but I needed to bring a paper copy of my ESTA and fill out a I94-W form. I had thought the the ESTA had consigned the I94-W to history but it appears not if you are traveling by ship. Also it seems that the customs service doesn’t do mobile data as you need to appear with a paper copy of your ESTA. No idea how they determine that it’s legit but maybe that’s why they need the I94-W too.
Now in theory I’m in the USA and the ship continues its journey to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. You would think that customs in US Virgin Islands was sufficient but it would appear not as now we go through the passport check and the usual photograph and finger print fun and games. At least we do until we’re running late and then it reverts to a simple flash of the passport. Not sure how this is securing the borders, if they thought the finger print and photo was necessary for some but not all foreigners.
Next up Australia. I’ve just returned to Australia via Perth Airport. I have an e-passport so I can use the SmartGate and it looked like it might be quicker, queues for both the kiosks and the agents. Anyway I queued for the kiosk. On inserting my passport it asks if I’ve been to Africa, Caribbean, Central or South America. Well I’ve been to them all on this trip so what next? Well now it presents a list of countries and regions asking if I’ve been to any. Clearly a Yellow Fever test. I scan the list while the system nags me about answering the question. I spot an Argentine province I’ve visited so answer yes. SmartGate tells me I need to seek out the information desk. On obvious sign where that is so I head to the agent line before all the people arriving from Bali or Dubai descend on it. Get to the agent and present my form, passport and immunisation booklet, which he ignores. Only question asked was whether my travel to Brazil (country most time spent in) was business or pleasure. I’m now waved through and the next person wants to know about the food I’m carrying. Clearly they happy with my answer as they notate my card and I proceed to collect the checked bag. Now onto the next queue where I think the positive answer to both the “have I been to Africa, Caribbean, Central or South America” question and the one about “have I been in a wilderness area” would get some further questions. Apparently not as I’ve waved through to the exit unlike the 3 people in front of me. Got to wonder why those questions are there if no action (or even questions) is taken.
Just had a great cruise down the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Panama followed by a transit of the Panama Canal (including spending a night on Gatun lake and a visit to Barro Colorado island). Lots of photographs were taken but only one uploaded as the satellite based Internet service on the ship was unreliable and when it worked slow. While I couldn’t always see a mobile phone signal (and turned airplane mode on to save battery life) it would have probably been a whole lot better than satellite. I could understand why satellite would be problematic in Svalbard but Panama is a mystery.
Finally decided to get a StartCom certificate for my web site, just for WordPress really, and the iPad app now happily connects so I’ll be able to upgrade by blog while I’m travelling with just the iPad.
I usually use Picpress to create photo books but they don’t provide a way to share a preview of the book online so I’ve created one for the Land of the Ice Bears cruise using Blurb. It has the added bonus of creating an iPad version but I lose the lie flat binding. Anyway I’ve created the book and now just need to wait for my physical copy to arrive to see how it really turned out. Meanwhile I continue going through the images to create a book for Greenland.
Blurb also provide some code to access the preview so I’ve embedded that here to see how that works 🙂
Just came back from a spectacular cruise with Lindblad and National Geographic Expeditions around Svalbard (the island group north of Norway with the closest permanent settlement to the North Pole).
While a documentary series like the BBC’s Frozen Planet can give you some sense of the beauty and fragility of these places there is nothing like actually being there, feeling the chill wind, the sound of glaciers calving, the smell of bird cliffs, etc. It also provides an opportunity to witness some magnificent sights such as a polar bear drama we witnessed.
In the distance we spotted an old male polar bear lying on the ice. As we drew close we discovered that he had company. Initially we thought that the female bear and cub close to him were waiting by a seal breathing hole but no they were lying there watching the male bear (although strictly speaking Mum was watching the male bear and the cub was watching Mum). The male was lying on what appeared to be a pillow of snow but that too proved to be incorrect as suddenly he pulled a baby beluga whale from the snow. When he did the great reveal and started eating it she challenged him but he saw her off (and her confused/frightened cub). Walking in the far distance were two more bears who nearly instantly changed direction and started to come in our direction. First a young female came to challenge, perhaps indicating how hungry she was and then a young male. Both were scared away by the old, scared male but they all then set up camp not far from him (and us in the ship) to watch for another opportunity. I have no idea how it ended as we moved away while the old male was still eating with his audience of 4 other bears.
Last full day in Longyearbyen before the NGE cruise begins and of course it’s raining. Not that is a problem as Basecamp has a nice cosy loft area where I can sit with my iPad and listen to the rain. Somewhat glad that I didn’t do a cruise today to one of the Russian settlements as it probably won’t be a whole lot of fun.
Of course the weather changed again and while it’s still brisk the low cloud and rain have passed so it’s back to “pleasant” and wandering around town weather. Went down to the harbour and noticed the signs warning of aggressive Arctic Terns. Sounded a lot like Adelaide’s aggressive Magpies. I saw some at a safe distance so I escaped without a welcome from them. There was a Greenpeace ship in the harbour, no idea why as I’m blissfully news free (well mostly, still trying to keep up with the TdF via twitter 🙂
One last restaurant to try tonight, the one at the Radisson (I’m passing on the pizza joint, although it’s probably excellent).
Discovered why some people (including me here in Longyearbyen) are getting my old web site rather than the new one. It seems that the Internode name servers haven’t updated. Looking closer it seems that Internode is using one to do the transfer and it’s being denied as it’s not one of the actual slaves. Fixed that but it seems that there is a race condition too. Had to update the SOA three times and get my server to send notifys to the Internode server to get it to a state where the rest of the data is up to date. Now need to wait for caches to refresh. Maybe tomorrow…
Well I made it here and it’s warmer than I expected, a balmy 6C! The intermittent drizzle is a bit annoying but it didn’t stop me from walking up to the western edge of town and back taking photos. Being ultra careful with the D3s after the disaster in the Baltic but it was hard to keep it dry and take photos, especially given I had left its rain jacket in the room. It would be good to be able to add some iPhone photos but that requires the app which hates my self signed cert 🙁
I thought that I would be able to use the WordPress app to write stuff in my blog while I am overseas and not lugging around a laptop but it seems that it doesn’t like self signed certificates. I can be sure though as the diagnostic isn’t particularly informative. It’s not clear which signing authority would be acceptable either.
Using Safari works though, assuming this post makes it 🙂 so all is not lost.
OK I’ve finally bitten the bullet and changed the A and AAAA records and http://www.mrp.net should now use the new web server built using RapidWeaver. Still some work to be done to complete the rebuild (more photos to add, blog entries to fix) but hopefully it’s usable and I’ll fix the broken links as I discover them. It still leaves the mail system to migrate but at least there’s been obvious progress now 🙂