Happy World Arbor Day 2020

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Curtain Fig Tree

In #worldaborday at #spacewhale we want to celebrate the positively bewildering variety of plant species on Earth 🌎.

The tree you see is the famous #curtainfigtree or giant curtain-shaped fig tree, a specimen of more than 500 years in #farnorthqueensland #australia where we took the photo in December 2019. It is one of the largest trees in Australia with about 50 meters high and about 30 meters in diameter of its cup, it is an authentic natural spectacle.

The Strangling Fig tree is also named for its growth pattern by wrapping an original tree that uses as scaffolding to look for light and often results in the death of the host, a common technique of growth in the highly competitive tropical area where thousands of plant silvers compete to grab as much sunlight as possible.

Plants and trees are a part of the planet’s lungs, being able to absorb amounts of CO2 and producing oxygen for free so that all animal species can breathe.

It was not always so and before the colonization of photosynthetic plants the Earth’s original atmosphere was rich in methane, ammonia, water vapour and noble gas neon, but lacked available oxygen. When the Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago of a hot mixture of gases and solids, it had almost no atmosphere.

The surface was a sea of lava. While the Earth cooled an atmosphere formed mainly of gases from volcanic sulfide activity of hydrogen, methane, and between 10 and 200 times more carbon dioxide than today’s atmosphere.

2.7 billion years ago, blue green microscopic organisms called cyanobacteria flourished in the Earth’s oceans.

Thus began the production of gaseous oxygen by hijacking carbon dioxide as well as water and sunlight, the process is undoubtedly one of the most perfect biological systems in the universe photosynthesis.

As cyanobacteria created more free oxygen, the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere reached 1 of the current level, which is 21 allowing the continuous colonization of the planet by plants and trees and turning the sky blue. #worldarborday

What is the alluring Bakhoor?

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Bakhoor or Bukhoor (بخور‎ [bɑˈxuːɾ, bʊ-] is a wood-chip-based Middle Eastern incense which has been submerged in perfumed oil and mixed with other natural ingredients such as resin, sandalwood essential oils among others. These scented chips are mostly from the heavily oil-laden Oudh wood of the Aquilaria family of tropical trees and are burned in charcoal or in incense burners to perfume the rich fragrance produced in form of thick smoke. The chips have also been used in many cultures as media for wood carvings.

1st grade agarwood sometimes used in Bakhoor.
1st grade agarwood sometimes used in Bakhoor.

The powerful scent of Bakhoor is complex and pleasing, with few or no similar natural analogues. In the perfume state of the Oudh oil, the scent is mainly distinguished by a combination of “oriental-woody” and “very soft fruity-floral” notes. The incense smoke is characterised by a “sweet-balsamic” note and “shades of vanilla and musk” and amber (not to be confused with the Sperm Whale’s secretion ambergris). We will be writing a whole blog post on Ambergris in the next few months.

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John Singer Sargent’s Masterpiece Fumée d’Ambre Gris, like Bakhoor Ambergris, was sometimes burnt by very wealthy individuals in very special nearly mystical or religious occasions using a Mabkhara.

Bakhoors and Oudh oils have gained great cultural and religious significance in ancient civilisations around the world, being described as a fragrant product as early as 1400 BCE in one of the world’s oldest written texts — the Sanskrit Vedas from India.

The word Oud in English comes from Oudh in Arabic that actually means “wood”. Other names for this most wondrous raw material are agar-wood, aloeswood, eaglewood, or gharuwood, gaharu, jinko, oud, or oodh aguru. The fragrant dark resinous wood is also used in high-end perfumes. It is a pathological secretion formed in the heartwood of Aqulilaria trees when they become infected with a type of mould (Phialophora parasitica). As with other resin-producing plants such as the Benzoin resin from the Styrax benzoin bush or the Frankincense of the Boswellia sacra, the oil is the tree’s mechanism of fighting the infection. Prior to infection, the heartwood is odourless, relatively light and pale coloured; however, as the infection progresses, the tree produces the dark aromatic resin, sometimes called aloes (not to be confused with the succulent aloes such as Aloe Vera) or agar (also not to be confused with the edible, algae-derived agar).

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Aquilari tree infected by Phialophora parasitica. By Blaise Droz, CC BY-SA 3..0

In response to the fungal attack, which results in a very dense, dark, resin-embedded heartwood. Some very expensive chips of Oudh are sometimes referred to as “sink” as they are so heavily loaded with resin that they will sink in water. The resin-embedded wood is valued in Indian-North Eastern culture for its distinctive fragrance and thus is used for incense and perfumes. Its name is believed to have first and foremost Sanskrit origin, formed from ‘Aguru’. The aromatic qualities of agarwood are influenced by the species, geographic location, its branch, trunk and root origin, length of time since infection, and methods of harvesting and processing.

One of the main reasons for the relative rarity and high cost of agarwood is the depletion of the wild resource. Since 1995, Aquilaria malaccensis, the primary source, has been listed in Appendix II (potentially threatened species) by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In 2004, all Aquilaria species were listed in Appendix II; however, a number of countries have outstanding reservations regarding that listing.

First-grade agarwood is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world with prices for superior pure material as high as US$100,000/kg, although in practice adulteration of the wood and oil is common. The current global market for agarwood is estimated to be in the range of US$8 – 10 billion and is growing rapidly.

Fortunately “cultivated” sustainable Oudh is now the norm, after being artificially inoculated with the fungus the Aquilaria trees will start producing the resin between 4 a 7 years of age. All our Oudh products are exclusively sourced from sustainable producers in South East Asia and we have full tracing information about its origin.

Where does Bakhoor actually come from?

Although most Bakhoor comes from the Arabian Peninsula from countries such as Oman, historically the perfect passage for the south-east Asian Oudh timber used to produce the sough-after chips, Oudh wood has been used for centuries in many cultures and religions around the world.

Already in the Hebrew Bible, “trees of lign aloes” are mentioned in The Book of Numbers 24:6[8] and a perfume compounded of aloeswood, myrrh, and cassia is described in Psalms 45.

Dioscorides in his book Materia Medica (65 CE) described several medical qualities of agarwood (Áγαλλοχου) and mentioned its use as an incense. As early as the third century CE in ancient Viet Nam, the chronicle Nan zhou yi wu zhi (Strange things from the South) written by Wa Zhen of the Eastern Wu Dynasty mentioned agarwood .

During the sixth century CE in Japan, in the recordings of the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan) the second oldest book of classical Japanese history, mention is made of a large piece of fragrant wood identified as agarwood. The source for this piece of wood is claimed to be from Pursat, Cambodia (based on the smell of the wood). The famous piece of wood still remains in Japan today and is showcased less than 10 times per century at the Nara National Museum.

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Antique agarwood rosary with inlaid gold, late Qing dynasty, China. Adilnor Collection, Sweden. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 License.

Nowadays in most cases, the fragrance-laden Bakhoor incense is used during special occasions in the West though but are of nearly daily use in the Arabian Peninsula countries where many families will still cook the chips using ancient heirloom family recipes. Generally in the Arabian culture, it is a traditional gesture to pass Bukhoor among the invited guests as it was viewed to be a hospitality gesture. Additionally, the guests would feel the warm welcome in that homestead through the fragrance produced. In the Arabian culture, the Bakhoor is burned in traditional incense burner known as Mabkhara. This name varies depending on the place of origin. However, in our modern-day, the product is mostly burned in electric incense burners as they are termed to be faster and safer to use. Other people prefer using charcoal since it’s traditional has a natural scent and it burns Bakhoor better. In countries such as Yemen, Bakhoor is mostly used as natural ingredients and for every individual who burns, Bakhoor has a secret ingredient which distinguishes them from others.

How do you burn Bakhoor?

There are two ways in which Bakhoor can be burned, through traditional charcoal burning (Mabkhara) or through modern electric burners with a thermostat. Let’s talk about how to burn Bakhoor using vegetable charcoal discs:

  1. Place a charcoal disc in the incense burner or Mabkhara.
  2. Apply a flame using a lighter of your choice on the charcoal disc until sparks can be viewed transversing the coal.
  3. The charcoal disc will form a grey like soot which will tend to look like ash over at the top of the coal which indicates that the coal is hot and ready.
  4. Place the Bakhoor chips on top of the charcoal disc using small metal tongs or a teaspoon.

After years burning Bakhoor here at SpaceWhale® & Company we prefer a more environmentally friendly way with little or no smoke using the modern thermostat burners which will actually never burn the chips but evaporate the oils within over hours and hours. This type of burners is ideal if you would like to have the Bakhoor scenting your space all day long in a smokeless way where the traditional Mabkhara burners are more suited for certain special occasions where the spaces are well ventilated and the smoke becomes an intrinsic part of the exercise after all the word perfume comes from the Greek “Pro-Fumo” meaning from the smoke.

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A modern middle eastern Mabkhara. By കാക്കര – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.

As passionate Perfumistas we are constantly sourcing oils, resins and chips from the highest possible quality. Prices of some of these materials are astronomical but if you would like to start being enchanted by the mystical world of Bakhoors we have put a section of products at very reasonable prices. Once you are an advance user talk to us to provide you with more exclusive materials. Happy burning!

Find our current Bakhoor Stock here!

Celebrating the upcoming NASA and SpaceX Memorable Demo-2 mission

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On May the 27th 2020 from Kennedy Space Center, at the mythical SpaceX’s Launch Complex 39A the first astronaut aboard a private spacecraft will launch from the US. The launch is the first crewed mission in NASA’s Commercial Crew program where they won’t be paying the 85 million dollars per seat ride (2018’s price) that the 60’s Russian Soyuz rocket costs but just a fraction of that on the roomier and sleeker 2020’s Crew Dragon capsule of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Celebrating the upcoming NASA and SpaceX Memorable Demo-2 mission 5
NASA astronauts training on the new SpaceX’s Dragon Crew capsule. Credits: SpaceX

The Craft is designed to stay on orbit for up to 110 days. SpaceX is returning human spaceflight to the United States with one of the most advanced systems ever built, and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a turning point for the future in space exploration and future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

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SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Credits: SpaceX

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two NASA astronauts to fly onboard the Dragon spacecraft as part of the Demo-2 mission to and from the International Space Station, which will return human spaceflight to the United States since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011.

Celebrating the upcoming NASA and SpaceX Memorable Demo-2 mission 7

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts aboard, on the company’s second demonstration flight and first crewed flight to the International Space Station.
Credits: SpaceX

We are also incredibly excited that NASA has decided to “bring the worm back” for this mission!

NASA Meatball logo
NASA Meatball logo

The original NASA insignia is one of the most powerful symbols in the world. A bold red chevron wing piercing a blue sphere, representing a planet, with white stars, and an orbiting spacecraft. Today, we know it as affectionately as “the meatball.”

NASA Worm logo
NASA Worm logo

However, with 1970’s technology, it was a difficult icon to reproduce, print, and many people considered it a complicated metaphor.

Enter a cleaner, sleeker design born of the Federal Design Improvement Program and officially introduced in 1975. It featured a simple, red unique type style of the word NASA. The world knew it as “the worm.” Created by the firm of Danne & Blackburn, the logo was honoured by design and font geeks worldwide for its simplistic, yet innovative design.

Unlike any other organisation NASA was able to thrive with multiple graphic designs. There was a place for both the meatball and the worm. However, in 1992, the 1970s brand was retired in favour of the original late 1950s graphic.

Demo-2 is the final major milestone for SpaceX’s human spaceflight system to be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the International Space Station. Once Demo-2 is complete, and the SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification, NASA astronauts Victor GloverMike HopkinsShannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi have been assigned to fly on Dragon’s first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) targeted for later this year. 

It is no secret that here at SpaceWhale®️&Company we are massive space buffs. To celebrate such a historical mission we are having our biggest giveaway yet. Check our Social Media pages to know more about it as we release further information during the coming days…

Click here for more information about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Click here to view or download the groundbreaking original 1976 NASA Graphics Standards Manual.

Click here to know more about SpaceX

“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place.”

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Don't You Forget About Me

Dear Friends, as on Monday, March the 9th there are thousands of confirmed cases of coronavirus globally. After China, Italy, Iran, and here in Spain are the main hotspots for the disease.

Well, the time has come for us to take the difficult but responsible decision of closing our doors. We aim to re-assess the situation over the coming weeks. As the 5 enduring characters in John Hughes‘ 1985 Generation X cult classic “The Breakfast Club” we are all different but let’s find common ground to respect each other in these incredibly challenging times.

Luckily, some of the best-selling SpaceWhale ™ & Company products are available on our web store that will operate as usual and continue to serve our customers. However, our service may be affected by the steps put in place and measures taken by other organisations, governments or health agencies.

We will post any significant service changes to our website and email and to our mailing list subscribers. Our delivery partners have also taken their own steps appropriate to their business and the available guidance.

We will miss all our wonderful clients and meeting new people however we will be focusing our energy on putting more SpaceWhale ™ & Company products in our web store to ensure it is also easier for all of you to stay at home too!

Stay healthy, be kind and look after each other. 

 

#stayathome #quedateencasa #letsstayhome #yomequedoencasa #breakfastclub

Wanderlust has gripped the Spacewhale!

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Winter is coming and it´s time we left the print studio to head back out into the world to take more photos. 

With Spacewhale now open for its first season in Frigiliana – we can say that it has been an amazing experience and we are so thankful to the community and visitors for your support! 

But now its time for us to pack our bags and spend time travelling and shooting more imagery ready for Spacewhale to re-open its doors in March 2020!

With Nature Photography you can never be sure how things will turn out! However we are super positive and looking forward to the opportunity to find some great shots along the way!

As we won’t be able to fulfil orders our webstore will additionally be closed until March 2020 when we return to the studio. 

We hope with some more beautiful nature prints for Spacewhale walls! 

As always we are super excited to have the opportunity to make some more International contacts and some great finds to fill the shelves at Spacewhale in 2020! 

Always on the hunt for beautiful things that are different, unique, and artisan!

This weekend 26th and 27th October will be our last call for online orders if you have been waiting to grab a beautiful Spacewhale print! 

Whilst we are travelling we will still aim to publish our newsletter and update our social media If you have not done so yet subscribe to our Newsletter below and we will keep you up to date of our travels!​

Or Follow us on Instagram @spacewhaleco or Facebook