Australia Bans Climbing Uluru

Authorities at Uluru National Park have announced that tourists will no longer be allowed to climb up to the top of Australia’s most famous landmark. The ban will take effect at the beginning of 2019.  Officials say that  Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock,  is not an entertainment park, like Disneyland.

About 250 000 people visit the large red monolith in central Australia every year. However, only about  16% want to climb the rock.

Although Australia’s government  wants to keep the site open for hikers to climb, the decision was made out of respect to the native Australians who consider Uluru as a sacred place. In 1985 the government returned it back to the aboriginal people of the region. For a long time , local residents have asked visitors not to climb the rock out of respect.

National park authorities are worried that hiking to the top of 1,100 ft high rock will damage the UNESCO World Heritage SiteTour operators are now in search of other ways to show the monolith to its visitors, including camel rides around it.

Uluru National Park  is open all year round, but climbing is only allowed on certain days because of strong winds and other weather conditions. Climbing the rock is not always safe. In the last 70 years , 35 people have died in climbing accidents.

Not all locals, however, are in favour of the ban. Some say that hiking should only be allowed  with  a guide  and on special pathways.

Uluru
Uluru – Image: Thomas Schoch

Words

  • Aboriginal people = people who have lived in Australia from the earliest times on
  • although = while
  • announce = to say officially
  • authorities = an official organisation that controls or is in charge of something
  • ban = order that stops something from being done
  • consider = think that…; look at something as …
  • damage = cause harm to something
  • entertainment park = area where you can go to in order to have fun, ride on roller coasters etc..
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • guide = person who shows you around a place
  • hiker = someone who walks long distances in the mountains
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • including = also
  • landmark = something that is easy to see , even from far away
  • local = a person who lives in the area
  • monolith = a large tall block of stone
  • native Australians = the people who have been in Australia before Europeans came
  • official = a person in an organisation who is in charge of something
  • pathway = track that is made for walking
  • resident = a person who lives in a place
  • sacred = holy , religious
  • take effect = put into effect, become a law
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site = place that has been selected by the United Nations  because it is very valuable ; it should be protected by all countries

Singapore Bans Additional Cars

The government of Singapore has announced that it will ban further cars from its streets and roads starting in February 2018 . Authorities in the island state want to avoid the country from being clogged up in traffic as space is running out.

Singapore has already limited the number of new vehicles that are allowed to drive every year. It has also increased registration fees and import taxes on private vehicles. In Singapore it is four times more expensive to own a car in than elsewhere.

Singapore, which is even smaller than New York, is the most densely populated country in the world. 12 % of the land is taken up by roads. Since 2000, the population has risen by 40% to 5.6 million. Currently, there are 600 000 private cars  in operation.

Citizens need a permit to own a car. They can get them at regular auctions that are held in the country.  Fees for a ten-year permit cost  at least $30,000 .

In addition to banning the registration of new cars, the government is spending 28 billion dollars  on public transport projects in the next five years. It is expanding its rail network  and has added new bus lines. 

Traffic in Singapore
Traffic in Singapore – Image: Jacklee

Words

  • announce = to say officially, in public
  • auction = here: event where people who offer the most money can buy permits
  • authorities = people or organisations that are in charge of certain things in daily life
  • avoid = stop something from happening
  • ban = forbid
  • billion = a thousand million
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • clog up = to become blocked
  • currently = at the moment
  • densely populated = many people live on a small area of land
  • elsewhere = in other countries
  • expand = to make bigger
  • fee = the money you pay for  a service
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to become bigger or more
  • limit = to stop from becoming  more and more
  • permit = document that allows you to do or have something
  • public transport = busses, trains, subways etc.. that everyone can use
  • registration fee = the money you pay for officially owning a car
  • run out = to become less and less
  • vehicle = machine or engine that is used to take people from one place to another, such as a car, bus or truck

 

Google Maps Navigates Through Solar System

In addition to finding any place on Earth,  Google Maps now lets you navigate through space too.  It has recently added two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres, as well as some of the moons of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter  to its service.

Users can now explore the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon . You can see lakes and rivers of methane beneath its clouds . About half a million images  come from the Cassini mission ,which  explored Saturn and its moons for  15 years before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere.

Other highlights include close-ups of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus , where water was discovered beneath the surface. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede are also included in Google Map’s new version. A total of 16 planets and moons can now be explored by users.

Exploring space  works like any place on Earth would.  Just choose a planet or moon and zoom around. Google Map offers the most important physical features of each celestial body as well as corresponding names.

Google Maps started out as a service that let users navigate land . In the past, years the world’s oceans have been added to the map service and in 2014 Google added images of our moon and Mars. Since 2017 users can take a tour of the International Space Station. Most of the material comes from various explorations carried out by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Artist's drawing of how Titan's surface may look like
Artist’s drawing of how Titan’s surface may look like

 

Words

  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • celestial = about the sky or heaven
  • close-up = film or picture in which the camera is very close to an object
  • corresponding names = names that are connected to the objects in the map
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • dwarf planet = object in space that is too large for a moon and too small to be planet
  • explore = to travel around a place in order to find out more about it
  • offer = give to the user
  • in addition = also
  • include = to contain; have in it
  • methane = gas that you cannot see or smell; it can be burned to give heat
  • navigate = to find your way around from one place to another
  • physical features = the landscape with mountains, rivers etc..
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = here: something that the company lets users do
  • surface = top part of a planet
  • various = many different
  • zoom = to move very quickly

 

New Airport Opens on Remote St. Helena

The first commercial flight landed on the British island of St. Helena a few days ago.  It was the first passenger flight ever to land on the remote island, located  in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. St. Helena’s authorities hope that the new air service from Johannesburg, South Africa  will help boost tourism on the island.

Up to now only a boat service every three weeks connected the island with the African continent. It took a ship about 6 days to travel from  South Africa. The small island relies heavily on British aid to survive. St. Helena’s tourism officials say that the new air link will bring 30,000 visitors to the island every year, compared to only 4,000 last year.

The airport cost  almost £ 300 m  and has been widely criticised  as being the most useless airport in the world. Only smaller airplanes can fly to the island because strong winds to not allow large jet planes to take off and land.

Saint Helena is mostly known as the island to which French emperor Napoleon was banned  and died after he had suffered a defeat at WaterlooThe British overseas territory is only 122 square kilometres large and lies 2000 km off the coast  of Africa. It has a population of 4,200 .

Development on the island has been slow. It got its first mobile phone service in 2015 and the first luxury hotel on the island  is opening soon. Wildlife and nature  on and around the island is why tourists find there way to St. Helena.  A Marine Protected Area was established there last year.

 

The New airport on St. Helena
The new airport on St. Helena – Image: Paul Tyson

Words

  • aid = financial help; money
  • air link = flights to and from a place
  • air service = company that arranges flights
  • authorities = the people who rule a place
  • ban = here: to bring someone to a faraway place so that he/she cannot escape
  • boost = improve; make better
  • coast = where land meets the sea
  • commercial = with passengers on board who pay for the flight
  • development = to increase business, trade and growth in a region
  • emperor = man who rules a group of countries
  • establish = create
  • heavily = very much; strongly
  • luxury hotel = very expensive hotel
  • Marine Protected Area = place in the ocean where animals and plants are protected
  • official = a person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • population = the number of people who live in an area
  • rely = depend on; need
  • remote = very far away
  • suffer a defeat = here: lose a battle in a war
  • survive = to continue to exist
  • useless = not needed
  • wildlife = animals and plants that grow under natural conditions
  • widely = very much

 

Where Did Easter Island Inhabitants Really Come From?

Easter Island , or Rapa Nui as the natives call themselves , belongs to the remotest  places on earth.  The Chilean island, famous for its carved statues,  is located in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean.

For decades, scientists have been wondering how the natives got to the island before the first Europeans came in 1722. Most experts think that the first settlers came to Easter Island  at around 1200 A.D. , probably on small boats  crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean. 

Other anthropologists have been trying to find out if the natives have any connections to early South Americans, three thousand kilometres away. Latest research now claims that the Easter Islanders were, in fact, more isolated than previously thought.

Scientists have been examining the skeletons and  bones of five people that go back hundreds of years. However, they have found no evidence that suggests they have might have ancestors in South America.

The first theory of South American ancestry came up when Thor Heyerdahl saw  sweet potatoes when he arrived there in the 1950s. He also found people using fishing tools that South Americans also used.  Scientists at that time thought the people of the Easter Islands may have sailed to South America and back again some time before the Europeans came.

 

Famous statues on Easter Island
Famous statues on Easter Island – Image: Horacio_Fernandez

Words

  • ancestor = a member of your family who lived a long time ago
  • anthropologist = a person who studies people , their cultures and where they come from
  • carved = to cut an object with a knife
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • Chilean = from Chile
  • crisscross = to travel many times back and forth without a certain pattern ; zigzag
  • decade = ten years
  • evidence = facts that clearly show that something is true or exists
  • examine = to look very closely at an object
  • however = but
  • isolated = here: to be alone and far away from others
  • located = can be found
  • native = a person who was born in a country or place
  • previously = earlier
  • remote  = very far away from civilisation
  • research = the study of a subject  in order to find out new facts
  • sail =  the wind brings you somewhere on a boat
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settler = a person who goes to live in a place where not many people have lived before
  • sweet potato = a vegetable that looks like a red potato ,is yellow inside and tastes sweet

 

Thailand Bans Smoking on Beaches

The government of Thailand has announced that smoking on tourist beaches will not be allowed any more. Those who do not obey the new law must pay a fine of up to $3850 or risk going to prison for a year.

The ban will affect 20 tourist beaches.  Authorities in Thailand have been coping with the problem of cigarette butts being thrown away and polluting the country’s wonderful beaches.

Tourism officials say, however, that there will be places further inland where tourists  will be allowed to smoke.

The ban was proclaimed  after authorities collected over 140,000 cigarette butts  on a 2.5 km long stretch of beach on Phuket Island – 30% of all the total waste found near the coast.

Tourism makes up about 10% of the Thailand’s income. About 35 million people visit the country’s beaches every year.

Phuket Beach
Phuket Beach

Words

  • affect = here: where the new law is put into effect
  • announce = to say in public
  • authorities = organisation or government department that has the power to make decisions
  • ban = law that forbids something
  • cigarette butt = part of a cigarette that remains when someone has finished smoking
  • cope = deal with
  • income = the money a country gets for services and products
  • inland = farther away from the beaches
  • obey = follow, respect
  • official = person who is in a high position
  • pollute = to make dirty
  • prison = building where you keep people as a punishment because they have done something wrong
  • proclaim = to say officially that something exists
  • stretch = area of land
  • waste = unwanted materials that are left over

Diesel Cars Cause Thousands of Premature Deaths in Europe

According to a new report, diesel cars have caused  thousands of premature deaths in Europe in the past few years. These deaths could have been avoided if countries had met anti-pollution standards. The recently published paper comes almost two years after the Volkswagen scandal, in which the German car maker was caught cheating  on emission tests.

Europe is a continent with  about a hundred million diesel-driven vehicles, almost twice as many as  in all the other countries of the world  combined. Years ago governments and car makers encouraged consumers to buy diesel cars because they were cheaper, used less fuel and produced less carbon dioxide. Many governments also offered tax reductions if people bought diesel cars. What has not been known until now is that diesel cars produce more nitrogen oxides, which may cause lung diseases.

Italy, Germany and France were the countries that recorded the most premature deaths from diesel-polluted vehicles. Especially diesel trucks that drive in densely populated areas contribute to the high level of pollution.

The Volkswagen scandal also shown that emission tests are not accurate and that in some cases diesel vehicles emit up to 4 times more substances than they do when tested in a lab.

Since the scandal broke , governments in Europe and elsewhere have been trying to get people to buy more  petrol-driven cars. They have become more efficient than diesel vehicles and the difference in prices are not not as high any more.

diesel-powered car
Diesel powered car – Image by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • accurate = detailed; exact
  • anti-pollution standards = laws that are made to keep pollution levels in a country low
  • avoid = stop ; not happen
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animal or people breathe out or when carbon is burned in the air
  • cheat = here: to trick people and not tell them the truth
  • combined = together
  • contribute = to help make something happen
  • densely populated = when many people live in a small area
  • efficient = if something works well
  • emission test = testing how much gas or dirty substances are sent into the air
  • emit = send into the atmosphere
  • encourage = to say that people should do something
  • especially = above all
  • fuel = liquid used to produce energy and make a car drive
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • nitrogen oxide = combination of nitrogen and oxygen
  • paper = report
  • petrol-driven = run with normal petrol, not diesel
  • premature = something that happens before the natural time
  • record = write down information
  • substance = material
  • tax reduction = to pay less tax than you normally would
  • vehicle = machine with an engine that is used to transport people or products

 

 

Gotthard Base Tunnel Becomes World’s Longest Railway Tunnel

The world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base Tunnel, was opened after many years of construction. Trains can travel at speeds of up to 250 km an hour through the 57 km long tunnel. It took 17 years to complete and cost $12 billion. The engineering milestone will bring southern Germany and northern Italy closer together.

The new Gotthard Base Tunnel is also the world’s deepest tunnel, located 2300 metres below Swiss mountain peaks. A total of 2600 workers involved in building the tunnel had to excavate more than 28 million tonnes of rock.

Gottardino shuttle trains will be running between the two endpoints of the tunnel and make a stop at Sedrun, a mountain station in the middle. 65 passenger  and 240 freight trains are expected to travel through the tunnel every day. The Gotthard Base Tunnel  will reduce the time it takes trains to pass through the Alps. A journey from Zurich to Milan, for example,  will be reduced by an hour.

The new tunnel is part of a larger European transportation project that includes two other tunnels in the Alps. Ultimately, the EU plans a high-speed rail connection between its two major harbours, Rotterdam and Genoa.

During the course of history  the Alps have been a natural barrier to travel. In the past traders and merchants had to use mountain passes to travel from north to south. The first Gotthard rail tunnel opened in 1882, but as time went on it could not handle the growing traffic.

In the 1990s, Swiss citizens approved of a government plan to build a new tunnel. How hard such a construction feat would be soon became obvious . In places where there was hard rock boring was extremely slow. Workers could only advance only about half a metre every day.

The new tunnel is expected to reduce road traffic crossing the Alps as more and more lorries and cargo companies will put their freight on Swiss trains.

Gotthard Base Tunnel
Inside the Gotthard Base Tunnel – Image : Hannes Ortlieb

Words

  • advance = move forward
  • approve = to agree with something or to say yes to a plan
  • barrier = a mountain, lake or any other natural object that stops people from going somewhere
  • boring = to make a hole in the mountain by using a special machine
  • cargo = goods carried by a train, ship, lorry, plane etc..
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • course of history = as time went on
  • complete = finish
  • connection = joining or linking two places
  • construction = building
  • engineering = the building of roads, railways bridges etc..
  • excavate = remove earth
  • feat = something very difficult to do
  • freight = goods that are transported from one place to another
  • handle = deal with
  • harbour = place where ships load and load goods
  • high-speed = very fast
  • include = something as part of something else
  • involved = here: worked at the tunnel site
  • journey = trip
  • located = where something lies
  • lorry = truck ; large car that carries goods
  • major = very big and important
  • merchant = person who bought and sold things in the past
  • milestone = an important development in history
  • obvious = easy for everyone to see
  • peak = the top part of a mountain
  • reduce = lower
  • shuttle = train that travels regularly between two places
  • speed = how fast something is
  • Swiss = from Switzerland
  • ultimately = here: when the whole project is finished

Heathrow Airport Celebrates 70th Anniversary

London’s Heathrow Airport is celebrating its 70th anniversary.  The airport opened commercial services in 1946. Today over 70 million people pass through Heathrow Airport every year. It services 180 destinations  in 90 countries. Over 93% of all passengers are international travellers. In 2015, Heathrow was the world’s sixth largest airport.

Heathrow,originally named London airport, lies 14 miles (22 km) west of central London . Construction of a military airport began in 1944. By the time it was finished the war had ended and Heathrow was turned over to civil authorities. The first  passenger plane flew to Buenos Aires. In its first year of operation, 60000 passengers travelled through Heathrow Airport.

As time went on Heathrow grew and grew. In the last 10 years the airport has invested billions of dollars  in modernising facilities for travellers.

Last year Terminal 1 was closed to make way for a modernised Terminal 2, which was reopened in 2014. Currently, the airport has two runways but there are plans for the construction of a third runway for Europe’s busiest airport.

 

terminal 5 at Heathrow airport - image:
Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport – image: Citizen59

Words

  • anniversary = day on which an important event happened years ago
  • celebrate = to show that a day in history is important by doing something special  on it
  • civil authorities = organisation that belongs to the public, not the military
  • commercial service =  here: people pay money for travelling to and from other places
  • construction = building something
  • currently = at the moment
  • destination = place to travel to
  • facility = place or building that you use for something special
  • invest = here: to spend money to make it better
  • operation = here: in use
  • originally = at first
  • reopen = open again after being closed for some time
  • runway = long flat piece of ground on which planes take off and land
  • service = to provide something that people need