This week's advice from our man in the Foreign Office
Serbia and Montenegro: "There has been some reduction in tension in the border areas with Bosnia and Croatia; however, tension could increase again at short notice and visitors are advised to avoid these border areas. All visitors should register with the British Embassy in Belgrade (011 645 055) on arrival."
Tanzania: "If approached by policemen asking for money for alleged offences, insist on identification before going to a police station to make any payments. Report all incidents to the British High Commission."
Papua New Guinea:
"Incidents of rioting, looting and shooting occur without warning in major towns. There is also a serious risk of armed attacks and sexual assault."
Foreign Office travel advice is available on 0171-270 4129; on BBC- 2 Ceefax, page 564 onwards; and on the Internet at http://www.fco.gov.uk/
Bargain of the week
For the next four weeks, Estonian Air (01293 534735) has a half- price spouse fare between Gatwick and Tallinn, reducing the cost per person to pounds 214.
Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico
In Goldeneye, James Bond takes us sightseeing in St Petersburg by battle tank. Then suddenly we are plunged into Puerto Rico. The world's largest radio dish is being used for nefarious purposes and Bond does his best to sabotage it. The storyline is engagingly zany but the location is real, right down to the structures from which Bond dangles.
The port of Arecibo is 40 miles west of the capital, San Juan, along Puerto Rico's north coast. Arecibo Observatory is eight miles inland, in a round sinkhole in the limestone landscape. Some 30 years ago scientists from Cornell strung out, in this natural hollow, a bowl-shaped radio mesh four times wider than the famous Jodrell Bank Mark 1 telescope. The panelling on which the Goldeneye villain goes splat was added 10 years later.
Unlike the Jodrell telescope, Arecibo doesn't swivel. The Earth's spin sweeps its view around the sky. The dish focuses cosmic radio waves to antennae on a rotating girder slung high above the dish. This structure, and the cable car and catwalk used to reach it, make Bond's playground.
In real life, Arecibo Observatory looks even grander. The awful thing about the catwalk is seeing right through the aluminium slats at your feet, to the surface 4,000ft below. An old photo shows me up there, refusing to look down.
It was 1969 and I was there with a team doing a 150-minute overview of astrophysics for the BBC. We started with a helicopter track over the tropical vegetation until the radio telescope appeared magnificently. A pulsar theme composed by Johnny Dankworth accompanied the shot.
Arecibo led the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Frank Drake, the observatory's director for many years, masterminded the quest. He calculated that alien beings might also have an extraterrestrial Arecibo. Drake provoked a transatlantic row when he transmitted earthly greetings from Arecibo towards Hercules in 1974. Martin Ryle of Cambridge considered it a rash and presumptuous act. How did Drake know they were good guys out there? The Americans thought Ryle had seen too many movies.
Arecibo Observatory has 40,000 visitors pa. It will open a Visitor and Educational Facility in Oct 1996
Nigel CalderReuse content