Blackbeard’s Castle

Photography Prints

 Blackbeard’s Castle St. Thomas

Any visit to St. Thomas would not be complete without a visit to Blackbeard’s Castle.

The sight of Blackbeard with his full black beard was enough to make most of his victims surrender without a fight.

He  was the most notorious pirate in the history of seafaring. If his prisoners gave up peacefully, he would usually take their valuables, navigational instruments, weapons, and rum before allowing them to sail away. If they resisted, he would often maroon the crews and burn their ship.

He began his pirating sometime after 1713 as a crewman aboard a Jamaican sloop commanded by the pirate Benjamin Hornigold. In 1716 Hornigold appointed Teach to command a captured vessel. By mid-1717 the two, sailing in concert, were among the most feared pirates of their day.

Blackbeard’s lawless career lasted only a few years, popular belief has him as a native  of England where he was known as Edward Teach, however, his fearsome reputation lives on today.

Blackbeard was eventually tracked down to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by the Royal Navy and killed in a brief but bloody battle on November 22, 1718, his head was then displayed on the bow of the ship as proof that he had been killed.

The castle sits high above the harbor at Charlotte Amalie, and can be reached by climbing a 99 step path.

The pictured tower which over looks a large outdoor pool has a stairway inside enabling one to climb to the top and enjoy a view of St. Thomas.

After visiting  the gift shops and museum, the afternoon can be spent enjoying the grounds which feature life-like statues of some of the most notorious pirates of the time.

Be sure to wear your swimsuit as the pool can be a refreshing break before heading back to your cruise ship.

 The author has been a writer/ photographer for over 20 years, specializing in nature, landscapes and studying native cultures. Besides visiting most of the United States, he has traveled to such places as Egypt, the Canary Islands, much of the Caribbean. He has studied  the Mayan Cultures in Central America and the Australian Aboriginal way of life.Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in many different parts of the world!

He has published several books about the various cultures he has observed.

For more information and a link to his hardcover and Ebooks, and contact information: please check his website, www.journeysthrulife.com.

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What is hateful to thyself do not do to another. This is the whole Law, the rest is Commentary. –Hillel




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Cold humor

Probably one of the funniest things I have ever done happened when I was about 21.

It was the middle of January in a small town called Sunman. Indiana. There were a group of us that were really good friends and we normally had a party or dance every weekend.

This particular week-end a friend of mine decided to have a party, it just so happened that his house was next to a large parking lot on which stood the town water tower.

In those days there were a lot of homes that had inadequate water supplies  and men delivered water to them in tank trucks that held about 1000 gallons.
There was a hose connected to the water tower and all the driver had to do was drive under the hose ,drop in a quarter , and his 1000 gallon tank would fill with water.

As it was the middle of January, the temperature was well below zero, and after enjoying the liquid refreshments being served at our party it became necessary to relieve ourselves, so a couple of my friends and myself proceeded outside to the parking lot.

As we stood there in the cold dark star filled night,it became obvious what had to be done!

Some one had parked their car directly under the hose leading from the water tower, the temptation was just too geat, someone had to do it!

Looking around and not seeing anyone, I proceeded to drop a quarter in the coin box.
The results were unbelievable, we never realized how much water was in a thousand gallons! The car immediately became covered with over 6 inches of ice!
 
The car was frozen to the ground,we couldn’t help but laugh but also knew that the owner might not see any humor in the situation, so we went back inside and never told anyone, eventually the owner went to go home and discovered his frozen up car.
 
He was pretty upset and came back in the house and demanded to know who had done the dastardly deed, of course we weren’t talking. I think he knew who had done it, but everyone was laughing so hard that he really couldn’t do anything. We did feel sorry for him as it took several hours to dig his car out.





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Laurel River Corroboree

After arriving in Cairns  late in the evening, we were leaving early the next morning  on the first leg of our journey to the little town of Laurel located near the Laurel River ,our purpose for going was to attend a Corroboree,an Aboriginal  Songfest. 

This was a five day add on to the trip as the original expedition was to begin the following week with my going to Alice Springs and Uluru, with 8 other participants.
 
 A hearty breakfast in the hotel restaurant was enjoyed by all as the time was spent getting to know one another. We boarded the 24 passenger  bus for the trip into the York Peninsula . Eucalyptus, gum trees and kangaroos made up most of the scenery as we slowly wound our way through the bush to our destination.

After more miles of dirt roads than I care to remember we arrived dusty, dirty,and thirsty  in Laurel . I was expecting something a little larger, the town consisted of maybe a dozen houses,a small post office, the Laurel Hotel, which was a small metal building that might house 10 people, hostel style. The hotel consisted of a pub and something they called a restaurant, in reality the restaurant was a few picnic tables and a charcoal grill. The front of the hotel featured the only tree in town, a large Mango tree.

Laurel, a town of about 60 people, sits in the middle of the York Peninsula and is inaccessible for up to  four months every year during the rainy season. The only way in or out is by a single engine airplane that lands on a dirt runway , which undoubtedly turns to mud in the rainy season. The modern era arrived in the 1980’s when electricity was finally brought to the town, ending many years of the town’s electrical needs being supplied via a  gas generator.

As dinnertime approached, the smell of charcoal filled the air, while making our way to the restaurant, our meal was being cooked by our bus driver and guide. The grille was packed with  steak ,chicken ,and the Aussie favorite,shrimp on the barbie!

After stuffing ourselves with all the delicacies, the next order of business was to check out the local pub, it being rather small and rustic was not unlike a bar anywhere else in the world. My initial thought was to have a beer in a quiet corner and retire for the evening. Boy was I mistaken,the place was packed, it seems as though everyone came for miles around! Not only were there Australians enjoying a drink , but also Aborigines, and it seems people from the four corners of the globe!

Several Fosters later, it was time mosey back to the camp ground, it being an open field , it wasn’t hard to find my swag, (a canvas sleeping bag)  and settle in for the night under the Southern Cross, not a bad way to end my first day in the Land of OZ.

A  quick shower in the outdoor luge and it would be off to the land of nod! I soon discovered that there had to be a better time to shower as several people had beaten me to the showers and the water was ice cold, oh well, I will shower in the morning, wrong again, another crowded shower and more cold water!

 I decided it was time to get serious about this shower thing, so the next morning I would arise at 3 AM , shower, and retire back to my swag to finish my nights rest.

Daybreak came with the singing of Kookaburra birds, just like in jungle movies. What better way to open the day after sleeping under the stars in our genuine Australian swags!

 A  breakfast of sausage, eggs, pancakes and all the trimmings cooked over an open fire awaited us ,then  it was  off to  a long and hard  rock climb and our first view of Aboriginal Rock Art at Giant Horse Gallery . These paintings that were either painted on with reeds or blown on with a straw were thousands of years old and  made with Iron Oxide, very impressive!

As an added treat, the opportunity was presented  us to observe  Didgeridoo player Marcell Riguett  , he was the first white man to be granted permission to play here , this was my first opportunity to actually observe the Didgeridoo being played, it was interesting in that the musician actually breathes in through his nose and out through his mouth at the same time.

On the way back to Laurel, the driver dropped us off to see  Split Rock where we were able to observe more rock art, as we were relatively close to Laurel we hiked back , having to cross Laurel River in the process, it being only a small stream this was no problem , It was then that I observed my first view of Aussie openness,as many people were skinny dipping in the river! 

The campground had become rather crowded , as the Corroboree was beginning, native tribes from all over Queensland were converging for this important event. It was quickly turning into what seemed like  a spiritual track meet!

One hardly had time to observe everything, as there were  boomerang throwing contests, many ancient tribal dances featuring the customs and costumes of the different Aboriginal tribes, displays of rock art,native food, and talks on the many aboriginal teachings.There will come a time when this songfest will be no longer, as the Aborigines are losing their native customs, many times the contests are won by a Caucasian.

One of the most disturbing events happened when another photographer and I ventured down to the river  and saw several children playing in the water,amongst several hundred hypodermic needles and beer bottles. Alcoholism and drug abuse is a major problem among the Aborigines, as they have lost their purpose in life. They have lived in the outback for thousands of years and know of no other life. No matter how much the government helps them for the most part, they are unable to adapt.

Being an Aborigine is a way of life or religion, more than a race, anyone can adapt the ways of the aborigine and get assistance from the government. The true Aborigine is Caucasian, when some of them took their shirt off, their chest was white, they are dark because they have lived in the sun for thousands of years.

One of the highlights was meeting Ted Mitchell, one of the last Trackers, the story was told that a child had gotten lost in the bush, after searching with helicopters, dogs and many search teams, Ted was called in to help with the search, within a half an hour he came back with the child in his arms.

The Aborigines believe that when we visit a place we leave an image, and a person trained to see that image can follow some one regardless of the terrain or how long they have been gone.
 
Their teachings show many examples of such happenings , as well as casting spells on someone thousands of miles away, with the victim being affected by it even though he has no knowledge of the spell being cast.

The Aborigine who has been taught the Dream time is very intuitive and extremely aware of his surroundings, Crocodile Dundee was all Hollywood, but not very far off on this perspective.

Regretfully, our time to head back to civilization had come , so the next morning we boarded the bus back to Cairns.

Gary has published a book featuring the life and times of the Australian Aborigine.

 

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The Ring, an out back adventure

The Ring

We all have unexplained events our life, one of the most interesting events that has occurred to me is the saga of the ring. I made contact with and went to see a physic who had worked with Shirley Maclaine. I had been considering going to Australia and was uncertain as to whether it was something I should do.

During the reading it was discussed that when I got to Ayres Rock, which neither of us knew existed, I would find a pit at the top big enough for a human with three 3 ft. circles on one side of it.

It was also disclosed that I needed a basket containing earth products, and a Tiger Eye Ring that should only be worn on days or months with a five in them because I was moving from a five vibration to a seven and I needed the ring on the five days for protection.

This was on a Wednesday night, on Friday evening, while sitting in my living room; I noticed a basket of stones and arrowheads sitting on my bookcase.

The basket came from grandpa, when he moved out of his apartment; I had put it in the back of my truck, and instructed the kids to give it to my brother Paul. When I got home the basket had been left in the truck, so I put it on the bookcase.

I took the basket containing earth things down and spread the arrowheads out on the floor in no particular fashion, and went to bed.

The next day I had planned on going to Cincinnati to find the ring, after having breakfast Sat. morning, I sat down in my chair and fell asleep. While sleeping, I dreamt of a pawnshop in Louisville, Ky. and the Tiger Eye ring.

When I woke up, I looked at the arrowheads and they were pointed towards Louisville. I didn’t think much of the idea of going to Louisville as it was a 2 hour drive,  Cincinnati being only an hour away seemed more logical.
 
I drove about a mile from home, it just didn’t feel right, so I turned around and drove to Louisville.

I just followed my nose and wound up in downtown Louisville, driving around a corner, there was the pawnshop I saw in my dream. I went inside and there was the Tiger Eye ring, I bought it and started home. I put the ring on my little finger, left hand, whereby my finger started to sweat, while the rest of my hand stayed cool.

I went back to the psychic the next week and found that the ring had been owned by a fundamentalist minister who had pawned it when he ran into financial trouble.

I really liked the ring and wanted to wear it every day, but on days that were not five days, it would fall off my finger. Realizing this, I couldn’t wait for May, because it was a five month.

I wore the ring in Australia on the 5 days, when the trip was nearly over, and I was flying to Sidney, while walking thru the airport in Cairns, I put the ring in my passport wallet and folded the wallet over. When I boarded the plane and sat down, I checked for the ring and it was gone! I checked every where on the plane , the ring had disappeared. The wallet had not been out of my pocket and there is no way it could have fallen out.

My time with the ring had passed, I had moved to a time when I no longer needed it, however it had happened, the ring had found a new owner.

For a more detailed version of my stay in Australia, I have published a book featuring my adventures.


 

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Ubirr

July 7th , This was to be our last day in the outback of Australia, I was beginning to feel as though I didn’t want to go back to the states, this felt like home to me.
Our final stop of the day before traveling to the Alligator River Campground to camp for the night was to be at Jabiru, a new uranium mining town in Kakadu National Park.

The Australian government is trying to correct some of the mistakes that we Americans created in dealing with our American Indians, having ruled that when any minerals are found on Aboriginal Land, the wealth is shared with the native peoples. The city of Jabiru is one such instance of this policy being put into effect. It is a very modern city with beautiful parks and lakes.

After dining at one of the many outdoor restaurants, we were looking forward with great anticipation of having the afternoon off and spend it swimming in a large lake nearby. It would have been a welcome relief after spending 6 grueling days traveling the Outback of Australia, sleeping in Swags (canvas sleeping bags) stretched out on the ground.

It was about this time that Mark, our driver suggested that if we wanted to see one more Aboriginal Site, he would be willing to drive us.

Many things began racing through my mind, we had visited many ancient sites in the last week and I really didn’t want to see any more, the swimming sounded really refreshing, but what the heck, I could go swimming in Batesville next week if I wanted, this was my last day in The Land of Oz, I wanted to enjoy it to the max. I knew deep down that this was going to be a very special afternoon, Being in the Outback for almost a month, I was unaware of the date, July 7th, as I found out later it would be a highlight in my search for truth.

Besides that , everyone knows that all the rivers in Australia are filled with crocodiles and after swimming in those uranium infested waters I would probably glow like a porch light all night.

With that, nine of us boarded the bus for a bumpy dusty 40 miles of dirt road that lay ahead. Sitting near the back of the bus I had plenty of time to contemplate what lay ahead and what it would all mean to me. As we bounced along the dusty road occasionally crossing crocodile infested creeks and rivers it seemed as though I was going back in time, to a time long forgotten, a time remembered only in the Aboriginal Dreamtime. I was a little awed at what was going on around me, I could sense and see the other people on the bus, but it was as though I wasn’t really a part of their reality and they perhaps weren’t part of mine.

As the dust from the road filtered into the bus and a red layer settled on everyone and everything. At times when passing another vehicle, yes there were others out here; it became so dusty in the bus that we could barely see the driver. At these times it seemed as though we were passing into another dimension.

It was at this time that I felt as if I was actually alone with no one else sharing my experience. I could actually feeling my body becoming lighter and lighter, at the same time becoming less aware of the surroundings around me, while at the same time becoming aware of the sacred lands we were passing through, the warning not to enter without permission of the tribal elders.

My thoughts were interrupted by a sudden jerk and a screeching of brakes, the bus was coming to a stop; we had reached our destination, Ubirr Rock, the home of Lightning Man, a very powerful figure from the Aboriginal Dreamtime.

Namarrgon is a fascinating, lanky, horseshoe-shaped character painted on the rock. His colors are fairly simple; he was probably painted with some sort of makeshift paintbrush, possibly a crushed stick dipped in some iron-based paint most likely made from the crushed ochre rock. He is mostly white with the exception of some reds on the right side of his thunder. We could not tell, however, if the red coloration was rock bleed or intentional coloring. This piece of rock art was painted by Nayombolmi (Barramundi Charlie).

LIGHTNING DREAMING:

Namarrgon, commonly known as the “lightning man,” is responsible for the violent electrical storms which occur on the Arnhem plateau. According to Aboriginal Dreamtime explanation of this work, Namarrgon and his family came from the sea and traveled Australia for many years. He uses the stone axes that are mounted on his head, elbows and knees to split the dark clouds and strike the ground, creating lightning and thunder. In addition to his axes, he also has a band wrapped around his body. This band belongs to thunder and works side by side with the axes to shake the earth and the heaven

NAMARRGON’S FAMILY:

Barrinj, his wife, is also mother to the grasshoppers.

His children are the bright orange and blue grasshoppers, Petasida Ephiphigera. They come out early in the storm or wet season to look for their father.

DREAMTIME:

The Dreamtime is the period of creation in Aboriginal culture. It is the beginning of knowledge and it is when the laws which guide Aboriginal life today were created. The natural elements, the landscape, the plants, and the animals were also created by the first ancestors. It is the basis of Aboriginal religion and culture.

Dreaming is the term used for an Aboriginal group’s beliefs. Different groups have different animals that figure prominently in the stories and serve to explain their beliefs. One area of land might have “Long Necked Turtle Dreaming” while another section belongs to “Caterpillar Dreaming.” The area around Nourlangie Rock is “Lightning Dreaming.”

Mabuyu is located at Ubirr Rock. A trail winds up, around, and through giant boulders that are decorated with Aboriginal rock art. Some of the paintings at Ubirr are believed to have been painted by the first people of the Dreamtime or creation era and the Mimis, Others, such as Mabuyu, are more recent. The red spindly figure juggles his possessions: spears, a fan, and a dilly bag. Next to him are the Long Necked Turtles, the Dreamtime symbol of the local Aboriginal people.

THE STORY:

According to local lore, Mabuyu was a fisherman. One day, he caught a lot of fish, but some other Aborigines cut his line and stole the fish from Mabuyu. Mabuyu found out who the thieves were and went to their cave. He rolled a rock in front of the opening, trapping them in the cave. The men who stole the fish and their wives died because they could not escape from the cave. This story is used in Aboriginal lore to demonstrate morality and the consequences of stealing

SYMBOLS:

spear in his right hand

dillybag for collecting food (over right shoulder)

Two barbed spears in his left hand.

goosewing fan for fanning a fire (in left hand).

pubic tassel signifies that he is a male.

MIMI PAINTINGS IN AREA:

A Mimi painting is above Mabuyu. Mimis are shy spirits who live in caves and paint pictures where no Aborigine could reach. They pull the rocks down to paint on them and then lift them back up when they are finished. The Mimis were the ones who taught the other Aborigines how to paint, and even though they no longer exist as a people, they remain as spirits

As the bus came to a stop, I anxiously made my way to Ubirr Rock, completely oblivious to my surroundings. In my reality no one else existed, only me and the sacred land. I began walking down a trail that was so familiar to me, even though in this life I had never been to this world. I stopped for a moment to view the rock art, the most ancient in Australia, believed to be at least 20,000 years
old.

As I walk up the trail leading to Nourlangie Rock, an enormous boulder rising from the dry earth becomes visible. Our first lesson of the day will come from this rock we see before us. To those uneducated in Aboriginal culture, the rock does not appear to be anything particularly special, however, its importance in Aboriginal culture, from the perspective of the Aboriginals, the rock is not just any ordinary rock, and rather it is a sacred site depicting their history and culture. The rock, named Dove Rock, or Feather Rock, represents the story of a man named Namanjolg

THE STORY:

The story of Namanjolg is one of incest. It is said that Namanjolg and his sister had sex and later eloped. Ashamed of what they did, Namanjolg’s sister told their family. Upon hearing of their sin, Namanjolg’s family sought him out to punish him. When they found him, he was on top of what is now known as Feather Rock, dancing around a fire. A member of his family then pushed him into the fire. Namanjolg, covered in ash, dove into a nearby billabong and became a crocodile. Namanjolg’s sister took a feather from his headdress and placed it at the site to remind others of the Aboriginal laws regarding incest which she had broken with her brother. Namanjolg’s sister later becomes the Rainbow Serpent, Ngalyod, the subject of many Aboriginal stories from the Dreaming lore.

 

That rock now contains her eternal spirit which is why the native aborigines come here to tune into these sacred powers.

COMMUNICATION:

As with many other Aboriginal stories or rock art sites, the site of Feather Rock serves to educate and remind people of Aboriginal laws:

Namanjolg teaches that incest is wrong

The Corroborree teaches the importance of ceremonial law

Mabuya teaches not to steal

Namanjolg is a perfect example of how Aboriginal people use rock art to inform and instruct. When laws are broken, there are always consequences. The Aboriginal people never developed a written language and spoken languages between different Aboriginal clans vary greatly. They see the rock art as the most effective and universal form of communication between groups. It is also the most effective way to instruct successive generations on their law, culture, and history.

At this point I left the main trail and began walking around the back of the rock and began climbing the 100 ft. vertical wall, at the time carrying 40 lbs. of camera gear on my back.

As I began my ascent my reality began to change, I was no longer as American photographer visiting Australia, I was transformed into a native carefully climbing a vertical wall, placing each hand and foot in a strategic place, never pausing, but slowly climbing upward as I had done many times before. Always finding a tree, root or rock ledge enabling me to continue my climb, never pausing but slowly climbing upward in my search for truth.

Reaching the top of this sacred Shrine in the middle of some of the most isolated land in the world I began to feel overwhelming love and peace and a sense of being home, I had returned to The Land of Oz.

 

I felt my consciousness leave my body and rise high above the earth, looking down I could sense two realities, I had a sense of being high above the earth and looking down upon my lifeless body lying on the rocky cliff, I could observe a bird walking on my right arm, at the same time I was the lifeless body on the cliff, feeling and sensing that same bird walking across my arm.

As I lay on this sacred monument my mind began to pass through the veil of time, into a place from whence all things are seen, back in time, back to a previous millennium, back to the birth of Australia. .

As the land rose from the sea, the mountains began to form high above the plains, the Rainbow Serpent began to transform the land into a new world called Australius. I suddenly re-entered my body and came back to the present reality, slightly dazed about what had just taken place.

Upon my return to the bus, Mark, our Aborigine driver informed me that I had been on sacred ground, where no one is allowed without permission. There is a $5000 fine for that. He then looked at me , winked and said” But you had permission!”

Upon returning I self published a book on the life and ways of the Aborigines.

 

 

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