Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Conference in Jeju - Part Deux

Not long after we arrived in Jeju, our professors decided that the conference seminars were not that important and we would instead go sightseeing around the island. I did get an inkling that it was a foregone conclusion before we even left Seoul, but to ponder such matters is not very useful. Jeju is one of the highlights of Korea and well worth the short flight from Seoul.

First up on the agenda was horse riding. I once rode a horse at Wirrina Cove in Australia, which was a rather mediocre affair. Our horse riding in Jeju started off in the same way, but then the horse-guy came up and slapped our horse's rumps with a stick. The instant reaction was for the horse to increase speed, not quite to a gallup, but to a 'heightened state of urgency'.

It was a little bit scary and a little bit difficult to walk afterwards.

Because horses are herbivores, their eyes are spaced widely on their head. This helps them spot approaching predators more easily, but at the expense of being able to see straight ahead. If you think about lions and tigers on the other hand, they have their eyes positioned straight forwards, which helps them chase a target.

I've always thought of horses as rather gracious animals. These ones were funny though. An ajumma came out with a box of carrots and all of the horses instantly came wandering up like little kids looking for candy.
I learned from a documentary once that horses communicate extensively with body language. Which, incidentally, is something they have in common with sharks.

Then we arrived by coach bus at this idyllic looking beach. It's on the south coast of the island somewhere, but I can't remember the name. There are quite a few nice beaches around the island.

Here's Professor Moon's lab from Daejeon. Behind them is a wind farm. I like the idea of wind energy, but apparently one of their drawbacks is that they chop up bats who fly through them at night.

Echolocation can only give you so much information.

Tide pools usually contain an interesting array of life. Being sheltered from the drag of the waves helps small communities of life establish themselves. This tide pool only had a couple of snails in it, probably because investigative children had plucked everything else out already. If you tried to raise anemones or other pool life in a salty aquarium, you'd have problems though. That's because tide pools are constantly cleaned and refreshed with new food every time the tide comes in.

And speaking of nourishment, this is what we had for lunch that day. It's abalone porridge or jeonbok juk. Wikipedia just told me that the colour is green because it's cooked with the abalone's digestive organs.

Well, it tasted better than it looks.

Next on the conference agenda was a ride in a jet boat. I believe the purpose was to get first hand knowledge of wave function dynamics on an extensively hydrated surface. Which, I might add, is abstractly related to our studies in molecular biology.

It was a lot faster than expected, reaching speeds of probably 70 km/hr. The driver did a few roundabout spins in the water to make sure we were all sufficiently drenched. That made my studies on wave dynamics particularly difficult.

The jet boat ride is on the south side of the island and lasts for about twenty minutes. Also available is a ride in a small submersible which can take you under the water.

The final destination was Sangumburi, which is a volcanic crater that exploded upon eruption many eons ago. The remaining geological feature is like a miniature Wilpena Pound, and only takes about 30 minutes to make it to the top. The cliffs on the far side drop directly into the ocean.

Our professor was once a student at Berkeley, where he was also the number 2 tennis player. He's smiling in this photo because he appreciates geological artefacts that have weathered the storms of a millenia.

And here's me with Seung-Mo and Sang-Min from Daejeon. Sang-Min in particular has the worst command of the English language, but we get along like a house on fire. In Korean, he often says "Lee ootgyoyo", which means "Lee is funny."

Here's the view from the top. The mound in the far distance is a parasitic cone that originated from Mount Halla. There are around 360 of them scattered across the island.

Us four guys had to share the same room in the boarding house that we stayed at, which was roughly 3 X 3 metres square. On the first day Sang-Min happily announced to us "I snore every night."

And here are the biotech ladies of the future. Biotechnology has its pros and cons, but in the far distant future humans will probably colonise Mars. And that would be greatly accelerated with biotechnology if we want to sustain a population there. In the photo above are possibly the early pioneers of the field.

How's that for a thought?

And this is me and Mi-Ok at the top of the crater. Mi-Ok is the kind of person who will talk to you cheerfully even if you spend the whole day frowning at her.

Remember Se-Kyung taking a photo of herself in the last blog post? Well I managed to see her preparing herself for another one, so I snuck in at the last minute. Her reaction upon review was well worth the effort.

And on the end of the last night, we all had some drinks at a local bar. In the photo above is our professor defeating Seung-Mo in an arm wrestle. Although our professor is quite strong, theoretically in Korean culture no one would really try and beat him anyway.

So that's all for this post. Jeju is quite different to the rest of Korea and something to think about if you've been on the mainland for too long. And if you can go there on a business trip or a conference, all the more power to you.

See you soon!

1 comment:

Xweing said...

LOL, liked that part about the bat flying thru the windmill. :P