Salt of the Earth

Elaborate salt formations are seen in the Dead Sea near Ein Bogek, Israel, on Nov. 9. The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea is one of 28 finalists in the online campaign to determine the new seven wonders of the natural world. The list includes other geographical splendors such as Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Venezuela’s Angel Falls.


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Coming Face to Face with the Animal Kingdom

In the search to find this year’s European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the German Society of Wildlife Photographers has compiled a collection of the most spellbinding moments caught on camera in the natural world.

A hummingbird stares into the eyes of a snake. A hunting kingfisher dives into a school of fish. A lonely hyena is silhoetted against a watering hole reflecting the dawn sky. These are just some of this year’s captivating moments caught on camera by the finalists in the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

This year’s top prize went to German-born photographer Britta Jaschinski for her image of a startled cheetah against the bleak, ash-grey backdrop of the aftermath of a bush fire in Ndutu, Tanzania. Normally, a bush fire like that would be a blessing for a cheetah because it would make it easier for him to hunt for confused and frightened potential prey.

“But this cheetah looks unsettled, strange and lost — almost ghostly,” says Jaschinksi. “I took the photo and then watched as he disappeared into the scorched surroundings.”

Judges awared prizes in nine further categories including birds, mammals, plants and funghi, landscapes, underwater and man and nature. British photographer Paul Hobson received first prize in the man and nature category for his photo of a bird nesting in a set of traffic lights.

The German Society of Wildlife Photographers awarded the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for the tenth time this week.

Ghostly Cheetah: This is the photo that won Britta Jaschinski the title “European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010”. The picture was taken in Tanzania.

A Mute swan (Cygnus color) floats over a school of chub (Squalius cephalus). This image won Swiss photographer Michel Roggo second prize in the birds category. The picture was taken in January 2010 in the Rhine in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Puffins in the snow: This photo by Werner Bollmann made it into the final round in the the bird category.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). This photo won French photographers David Allemand and Christophe Sidamon-Pesson the Public Choice Award.

Hyena at sunrise. Grégoire Bouguereau watched a herd of hyenas for days at this water hole in the Serengeti National Park before getting this picture early one morning. It won him second place in the mammals category.

Red deer between cranes: This photo taken by Polish photographer Marek Kosinski at Milicz Fishponds in western Poland reached the finalist stage of the mammal category.

A rodent devours a frog: Sven Zacek received a special mention in the mammals category for his photo “Dinner on the Steamy River.”

A snail in a sunbeam. This photo won Csaba Gönye of Hungary first place in the other animals category.

A starfish in the surf. Spanish photographer Asier Castro de la Fuente aptly called his photo “The Comet”.

Hummingbird and snake: “Eye to Eye.” Bence Máté’s photo was shortlisted in the other animals category.

Seaweed in the sand: this photo won Gabi Reichert first prize in the plants and fungi category.

Veliki Prstvaci waterfalls. Maurizio Biancarelli took this early morning atmospheric photo of the Upper Lakes in Plitvice, Croatia.

Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Swiss photographer Olivier Seydoux named his photo “The End,” refering to the increasing threat to the polar regions from climate change.

A kingfisher hunting underwater. Manfred Delpho captured an amazing split second with his camera. This photo made it onto the short list in the marine life category.

Life in the City Center: British photographer Paul Hobson won first prize in the man and nature category with his picture of a mistle thrush nesting in a traffic light.

An imprint of a young spotted woodpecker which flew into a window. The feathers can be clearly seen on the impression left behind on the freshly cleaned glass. Josef Vorholt’s picture came second in the man and nature category.

A  polar bear at the zoo: Andrea Ballhause called her picture “Ich bin dann mal weg” – “I’m off then.”

“Wood Visions.” A photo by the Finnish photographer Tommy Vikars.

Icebound: Imprisoned between ice and snow. This striking image won Polish photographer Michal Budzynski the Fritz Pölking Junior Award 2010.

A floating olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea): The animals are very curious and like to probe any objects that resemble food — even the photographer’s equipment. Unfortunately, they also swallow large amounts of plastic waste which can often be fatal for the animals. This image won Solvin Zankl the Fritz Pölking Award 2010.

A young olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) seen from below. The German photographer Solvin Zankl observed the animals for a long time on the coast of Costa Rica.


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Photos Show Beauty Lurking Under the Microscope

Far from your typical photography competition, Nikon Small World reveals the hidden beauty of tiny things. The annual shortlist zooms in on the complexities of life under a powerful lens. This year’s collection includes close-up shots of a mosquito heart, a wasp nest and even soy sauce.

The rules of the game are simple: Any adult with a light microscope and a camera can send in microscopic photographs. That is the basis of the Small World Competition, a long-running event on the scientific calendar, organized by the camera-maker Nikon.

The entrants’ work often resembles science-fiction artwork more than the plants, objects or creatures lying on the microscope slide. This year’s crop of winners reveals a quirky beauty usually hidden from the naked eye.

Among the subjects under scrutiny by the winners are a wasps’ nest, cancer cells and even soy sauce, as photographed by a Chinese scientist.

Mosquito’s Heart

The top prize this year was taken by a close-up shot of a mosquito’s heart, glowing in radiant blues and greens. It was taken by Jonas King, of the biological sciences department of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.

For fans of microscopic photography, two Berlin-based exhibitions currently represent the artistic-scientific niche: They can be seen at the Photography Museum and the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation until early January 2011.

Dr. John Hart of Colorado University won 20th place with this shot of crystallized, melted acetanilide and sulfur.

In 19th place comes a close-up shot of a rat retina taken by Cameron Johnson of the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

In 18th place is this shot by Gerd Guenther of Düsseldorf. The lunaresque image is in fact a film of soap, enlarged 150 times.

In 17th place: Charles Krebs from Washington focused on a wasp’s compound eye and antenna base.

In 16th place comes a pollen-coated flower stigma, taken by Dr. Robert Markus of the Hungarian Academy of Science.

In 15th place comes this geometric shot of divaricatic acid from lichen, the work of Dr. Ralf Wagner from Düsseldorf.

In 14th place is this image of spiral vessels from a banana plant stem, snapped by Dr. Stephen Lowry from the University of Ulster.

In 13th place is this close-up of live mushroom coral taken by James Nicholson of the Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility, South Carolina.

In 12th place: This shot was taken by Gregory Rouse from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. He photographed a juvenile bivalve mollusc using a technique which helps capture objects lacking in contrast, without using artificial dyes.

In 11th place is this shot of cancer cells taken by Dr. Paul D. Andrews of the University of Dundee in Scotland.

In 10th place is crystallized soy sauce, taken by Yanping Wang of the Beijing Planetarium.

In 9th place is Dr. Duane Harland’s close-up of a flea.

In 8th place is Honorio Cocera-La Parra’s shot of the mineral cacoxenite. He works for the University of Valencia.

In 7th place is this photo of an endothelial cell (from the interior of blood vessels), taken by Yongli Shan at the University of Texas.

In 6th place are the mosaic-like patterns hidden inside live red seaweed, as photographed by Dr. John Huisman of Murdoch University in Western Australia.

In 5th place is this shot of the seed of the bird of paradise plant, taken by Viktor Sykora from the Charles University, Prague.

In 4th place comes Riccardo Taiariol from Italy with his shot of a wasps’ nest, looking more like cobwebs.

In 3rd place is the Canadian zebra fish taken by Oliver Braubach of Dalhousie University in Canada.

In 2nd place is a magnified head of a five-day-old zebra fish, taken by Dr. Hideo Otsuna from the University of Utah Medical Center.

And the top prize went to this photo of a mosquito heart, magnified 100x, by Jonas King of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Nazi Degenerate Art Rediscovered in Berlin

Buried in a Bombed-Out Cellar

The works were thought to have been lost forever. Eleven sculptures, all of them shunned by the Nazis for being un-German, have been found during subway construction work in the heart of Berlin. But how did they get there?

Digging new subway lines in Europe is no easy task. It’s not the excavating itself that is so problematic; modern machinery can bore through the earth with surprising speed these days. Rather, in places that have been inhabited for centuries, if not millennia, no one really knows what one will find. The delays for archeological research can be significant.

In Berlin, that hasn’t often been a problem. Aside from significant numbers of unexploded bombs dropped on the city during World War II and a few long-forgotten building foundations, construction tends to be relatively straightforward. The city, after all, spent the vast majority of its 770 year history as a regional backwater.

This autumn, however, an extension to Berlin’s U-5 subway line means the city can gloat over a world-class delay of its own. Workers in the initial phases of building a subway stop in front of the Berlin city hall stumbled across remains of the city’s original city hall, built in 1290. Archeologists were ecstatic.


The works were thought to have been lost forever. During construction work on a new subway line through the heart of Berlin, archeologists discovered 11 sculptures that were once part of the Nazis’ Degenerate Art exhibition, pieces that the regime found too “un-German.” This piece, “The Dancer” by Marg Moll from 1930, was among them. The face and arm have been polished to show its original condition.

The pieces are thought to have been in an apartment in a building on Königstrasse (King Street) when it was bombed in the late summer of 1944. All the works show fire damage. This piece is called “A Likeness of the Actress Anni Mewes” by Edwin Scharff.

Just how the pieces got to the Königstrasse building remain unclear. Historians think they may have been purchased by a tenant in the building named Erhard Oewerdieck, a government official who was honored after World War II for helping Jews escape the Holocaust. The taller piece in the foreground has not yet been identified. Behind it stands a piece by Gustaf Heinrich Wolff. The smaller sculpture on the right is “Female Bust,” by Naum Slutzky.

Degenerate Art was the term the Nazis applied to most early 20th century art that was considered to be too “Jewish” or “un-German.” Many of the works thus branded were included in a travelling exhibition in 1937. The pieces were displayed in cramped, poorly lit rooms and were surrounded by insulting graffiti.

“Pregnant Woman” (1918) by Emy Roeders. While the pieces have been largely cleaned up, most have been left unpolished to indicate the damage done by the fire that destroyed the building on Königstrasse where they were found. “One can see the fate they have lived through and the dignity which they still have,” said archeologist Wemhoff on Monday.

All of the newly discovered sculptures can be seen in the New Museum as of Tuesday. Here, a piece which has not yet been identified.

“Head,” made in 1925 by Otto Freundlich. The lower part of the face was intact when it was found, but some fragments have since been replaced.

“Standing Girl” by Otto Braun. Many of the works of art on the Nazis’ list of degenerate art have never been found.


On Monday, however, Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit announced a new series of finds that has generated even greater enthusiasm. In digs carried out throughout this year, archeologists have unearthed 11 sculptures thought to have been lost forever — valuable works of art that disappeared during World War II after having been included on the Nazis’ list of degenerate art. Most of them have now been identified and have been put on display in Berlin’s Neues Museum.

‘A Minor Miracle’

“We hadn’t expected this confrontation with this period of time, with these samples of degenerate art — it is a minor miracle,” Wowereit said at a press conference on Monday. “It is unique.”

The finds were made among the ruins of Königstrasse (King Street), a formerly bustling street in the heart of prewar Berlin. Allied bombs decimated the quarter, however, and much of the rubble was simply buried after the war to make room for reconstruction. Much of the archeological work currently under way consists of sifting through the rubble that remains in the intact cellars of the structures that once lined the street.

In early January, workers discovered a small bronze bust in the shovel of a front loader that was cleaning out one of those cellars.

“We thought it was a one-off,” said Matthias Wemhoff, director of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin and a member of the archeology team looking into the finds. “It wasn’t immediately clear that it was linked to degenerate art.”

Soon, however, more artworks were discovered — all sculptures, all from early 20th century artists and all bearing clear indications of having been fire-damaged. Only at the end of September did it become clear that all of the art pieces — by such artists as Otto Freundlich, Naom Slutzky and Marg Moll, among others — were on the list of artworks branded as undesirable by the Nazis. All were thought to have been lost forever.

Simply Destroyed

The list of works shunned by the Nazis for being “Jewish” or “un-German” is long, and encompasses primarily early 20th century modern art including pieces by such luminaries as Emil Nolde, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso and many others. Some 20,000 such works were confiscated by the party and those that weren’t sold for hard currency or stolen by cynical party officials were simply destroyed. In 1937, a travelling exhibition of such “degenerate art,” as it was called, made its way through Germany.

Many of the works now discovered in Berlin were part of that travelling show. Historians working on identifying the provenance of the pieces now unearthed have found documents indicating that some of them were returned to the Nazi Propaganda Ministry in 1941. After that, though, the paper trail goes cold.

Wemhoff believes that the works may have been purchased by a resident of Königstrasse 50, beneath which the finds were made, to save them from destruction. Initial speculation has centered around Erhard Oewerdieck, a government official who was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel for helping Jews escape the Holocaust during World War II. He rented several office rooms on the fourth floor of the building in 1941. He is also considered to the be only one in the building by then — all of the Jewish tenants had been evicted and many deported by then — to have had the wherewithal to collect the works.

Other Works?

Archeologists said on Monday that any pieces of art he might have kept in his offices would have ended up in a pile of rubble following the bombing run which destroyed the building in the late summer of 1944. City officials have initiated contact with Oewerdieck’s family in an effort to learn if he did in fact seek to protect some degenerate artworks from destruction.

They are also interested in learning what other works he might have held. Archeologists have found some bits of wood and other indications that more destructible pieces might also have been present. “It is possible that there were wood sculptures or even oil paintings,” said Wemhoff.

But if there were, they would have been completely incinerated.


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Swan Lake

Hamburg’s “Alster swans,” named after the city’s most famous lake, where they live, are known across the country. Each year, they are removed from the lake before the winter cold arrives and taken to another, warmer body of water where they reside as the Alster freezes over. On Monday, “Swan father” Olaf Niess and his colleagues collected the birds and took them to their winter quarters in boats that have been lined with straw for the trip. The swans have been present at the lake since the 11th century; and the job of “Swan father,” which dates back to 1674, is the city’s oldest known job. The swans are considered to be a Hamburg emblem.


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