Located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii, the National Park of American Samoa is the most remote unit of the National Park System and the U.S. National Park south of the Equator. The Park spreads across three islands, 9,500 acres of tropical rainforest, and 4,000 acres of ocean, including coral reefs. While remote, the islands of American Samoa, true to the meaning of the word Samoa (Islands of Sacred Earth), are welcoming and offer beautiful landscapes and centuries of culture and history.
Seasoned backpacker and adventurer Yang Lu earned the grand prize in the 2015 Share the Experience photo contest with this image of a sunburst captured at sunrise in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Yang has made the outdoors part of his daily life and finds deep connection to the land through his lens.
“My photography is not just for recreation, it is to inspire people to explore these areas." -- Yang Lu
Photo by Yang Lu (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many of the gulf coast's historic sites were damaged by flood waters, high winds, and debris. Fort Jackson, a National Historic Landmark only 40 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River, sustained significant damage due to the storm surge which flooded much of the site. Conservators from the National Park Service were dispatched by ESF #11 – NCH to stabilize the masonry walls and structure, assess the damage done to the site, and suggest actions to stabilize and repair the building for the future.
In addition to extensive damage to the historic buildings of New Orleans, cultural landscapes, such as cemeteries, were also damaged. High winds uprooted trees which disturbed graves and headstones. ESF #11 – NCH sent in personnel to assess the area and to ensure that reburial of remains occurred in a respectful manner, as well as making sure that historic headstones were repaired and remounted. Volunteers also established protective measures to prevent further damage from the elements and other ongoing cleanup activities.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS), technology has been used by emergency responders to help facilitate response activities. Responders digitally represent locations and link corresponding data, allowing them to communicate vital information in a visual manner. After Hurricane Katrina, responders fanned out through some of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans to collect data on damaged structures.
This information was transferred into a GIS map, presenting a complete picture of the damaged areas of the city, and allowing recommendations to be made on the preservation of damaged historic structures.
High winds and flooding can damage much more than historic structures and natural environments. Museum collections, archival documents, and family heirlooms can all fall victim to the ravages of nature. Photographs, papers, hard drives and museum collections were all damaged after Hurricane Katrina, but due to the expertise and knowledge of responders, many of the damaged items and objects were able to be salvaged and saved.
In the aftermath of an emergency or disaster, it is not uncommon for large amounts of machinery, debris, or populations to be moved around. Many people may have to be relocated to temporary housing sites, while debris that litters urban streets may have to be removed to more remote locations to allow responders access into city centers. Archeologists are used to investigate and to ensure that no archeological remains, artifacts, or resources will be disturbed, damaged or destroyed within designated sites that are also used as temporary housing, site locations or staging areas as part of the response.
Coastal wetlands and waterways, as well as coral reefs, perform an invaluable service of protecting coastal communities and towns by absorbing storm surge and rain runoff that might otherwise cause large scale flooding. After such massive storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis many of these natural areas are damaged and their ability to protect inland communities from future storms is diminished. Studies conducted to assess the health of these natural environments help determine the extent of the damage and suggest steps to aid in the recovery of the natural ecosystem and environment.