Sunday, July 31, 2011


The Learning Curve

When we visited Cockatoo Island there was a very interesting exhibition there. It was all about the remarkable inventions of Henry Hoke, Australia's most forgotten inventor. It is an exhibition full of strange things, like the barbed-wire watering can, the excuse generator, chain saws (using different sizes of dog chain), red and green oil for port and starboard lights, short and long weights, and dozens of other unlikely things. I really liked this one. It is Hoke's Learning Curve and, as you can see, I am definitely further up the learning curve than Scruffy. Actually, Dad says that Henry's family name gives away the joke about the exhibition. It is great fun and if it ever comes to a city near you, make time to visit it and have a good laugh. You can see more about the exhibition at

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Under Sail in Sydney

Here we are on "James Craig" setting out for our sailing adventure. The sails are being set and Scruffy and I are on the wheel. There are crew up in the rigging, but they are hard to see. The water inside the harbour is nice and calm. That changed rather dramatically as we cleared Sydney Heads, and the passengers changed from a happy mob of sightseers to a green-tinged group desperately hanging on to anything in reach while the crew spent hours turning the old square-rigger around and getting back into calm water. There's nothing like a 5 metre swell and strong winds to test people for sea-sickness. Actually, us small bears thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We never get sea-sick and we learned a lot about ropes and sails and just how tough it was back in the days when big sailing ships were the main means of transport.

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Friday, July 29, 2011


Lighthouse on the Breakwall

Here is the old lighthouse at Wollongong. This one was built in 1871 , on the end of the southern breakwater of Wollongong harbour. It is actually one of a pair built at the same time. The twin is at Warden Head near Ulladulla. Both of them are made of iron plates and both have suffered badly from corrosion over the years. This one at Wollongong was even listed for demolition in the 1970s, but the people of Wollongong had it restored in in 1979. The main lighthouse at Wollongong now is the one on Flagstaff Point, built in 1937, that I posted a picture of on July 1.
Wollongong is the only place on the east coast of Australia that has 2 lighthouses. Mum and I now have only 6 more lighthouses that we can visit and we will have been to every lighthouse from Adelaide to Brisbane. There are a couple that we can't get to because they are on islands that have no access, or on tracks that are too rough and steep for the Oldies to manage. Yes, I love lighthouses, particularly ones like this that are in pretty harbours and are easy to get to. This one even has big concrete blocks in the breakwater that are just right for small bears to sit on and soak up the view, safely above the reach of crabs.

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Monday, July 25, 2011


A Curious Critter

I saw this strange-looking critter at Mogo Zoo. He is a Brazilian Tapir. Tapirs are being bred in zoos because they come from the rainforests of South America and the forests are being cleared at a terrifying rate. Tapirs are good swimmers and when they are scared they head for the water. Tapirs eat grass, fruit and nuts but they have to be careful of jaguars and people. This guy and his friends at Mogo have a big pond to swim in, but when I was there they were all just lying around soaking up sun. I like tapirs because they look like a pig that tried to be an elephant; just look at that nose. Dad says that they are one of the animals that prove God has a sense of humour, but I reckon Dad is too. By the way, can you see the bear in the shade?

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011


A Historic Beach

The long beach in the top photo is called 7-mile beach, and back in 1933 it was the site of a very historic event. On Jan 11, my hero Charles Kingsford-Smith and his crew took off from here on the first commercial flight across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. The beach was used because Smithy's aircraft, the Fokker F.VII/3m "Southern Cross" was heavily overloaded with fuel and mail and needed a very long take-off run. The beach has miles of hard sand at low tide, so it was perfect. Because the flight started at 2.30 am, flares were lit to show Smithy the best runway, and hundreds of cars whose drivers came to see the take-off turned their headlights on to help. The town where we took the pictures is Gerroa. It is built mostly on a hill overlooking the beach. Just off the highway at the top of the hill is a memorial celebrating the event. It has a 3/4 size concrete plan of the "Southern Cross", with a concrete pillar and brass plaque with information on it. Scruffy and I know a lot about Smithy and the "Southern Cross". In fact, we have seen the aircraft in its special hangar near Brisbane airport (you can see the photos if you use the search box; search Southern Cross). Milkshake and Blu are still learning things, so we got Dad to lift us up onto the pillar where we could see the beach and the read the plaque, and Scruff and I told them all about the most famous aviator and aircraft in the world.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011


Bears In The Tower

You have probably heard about the Princes in the Tower, well here are Scruffy and I playing Bears in the Tower. The tower is the Martello tower in Fort Denison in Sydney harbour. This tower is the only Martello tower in Australia and the last one built in the British Empire. It has a small lighthouse on top of it and used to have cannons inside it. You can take a guided tour with a park ranger, but aren't allowed inside it on your own. Well, that's a challenge to adventurous small bears, so Scruff and I set out to see if we could see what was in there. The tower is made out of sandstone blocks and they have enough hand and foot holds for small critters. For once Scruff climbed faster than I did and reached the window opening first. You can see him giving me a hand up the last bit of the climb. Guess what? The window was closed and the lights were out inside so we couldn't see anything in there. The view across the harbour was very good though. We were just getting ready to climb back down when Dad found us and lifted us down; sometimes he comes in handy. The big difference between us and the princes is that we were trying to get into a tower and the poor little princes couldn't get out of the one they were in.

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My Pygmy Pals

Last Monday we decided to go for a drive down to Mogo Zoo. Mogo is an old gold mining town just south of Bateman's Bay on the south coast. It is only a 2-hour drive from home. The town is full of interesting shops, including one of the best craft shops Mum and I have found so far. The best thing there is the zoo. It is a small zoo that specializes in breeding endangered species of animals. They have most of the usual stuff like tigers and giraffes, but they also have a breeding pride of white lions and families of rare monkeys. These little guys are my favourites. They are pygmy marmosets and their natural habitat is the tropical forests of South America. The family of marmosets at Mogo have had lots of babies that have been sent to other zoos, so although the forests are being destroyed in lots of places the marmosets will survive. They are very curious little guys and always come to the front of their cage to chatter away at me when I sit near the cage window. Actually, their cage is quite big for such small critters and it has heaters in it to keep the temperature in there more tropical. Monday was a very cold day and the marmosets were at lot warmer than us visitors. Do visit Mogo Zoo if you are traveling in southern New South Wales. You will see lots of cute critters and help save them from extinction.

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Monday, July 11, 2011


The Queen's Bears

The "Queen Mary 2" has millions of dollars of artwork in it. Some of the most spectacular is in large bas-relief murals in the main corridors. One corridor has a series of large panels, one panel for each continent. Each panel has scenes showing the people, industries, plants and animals of the continent it represents. Naturally, Mum likes the African one best because it has a lot of Egyptian stuff on it. My favourite is the North American one because in one corner there is a large bear. Not quite life-sized, but still very large compared to this small bear. I tried for some days to get up close to this bit of the panel so that I could check out the differences in shape between the American Grizzly and the Aussie Bart, but it was much too high. However, one night there was a formal dinner and the passengers had a chance to get their photos taken while they were all dolled-up. One of the photographers left a small ladder leaning up against the panel, so while the Oldies were getting their photo taken I took the opportunity to climb up and check out the bruin. For some strange reason passing passengers thought that this was funny and lots of them took photos of me and the bear. Sometimes I don't understand people.

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Does the Horizon Ever Catch Up??

One of my favourite things to do on a cruise is to find a sunny spot, out of the wind and watch the ship's wake stretching out behind us to the horizon. You can see how good the sailor on the helm is by seeing how straight the wake is. Learners leave a wake that is all wiggles. Actually, this very straight wake is that of the "Queen Mary 2" crossing the Great Australian Bight. The ship is being steered by an auto-pilot, a combination of computer and GPS, so it had better be straight. You can often see seabirds flying low above the wake, catching the fish that got too close to the propellers, got stunned (or hacked) and float to the surface in the wake. Mostly I see terns and gannets, but once I saw a magnificent albatross. When there is no land in sight you can see the curve of the horizon and no matter how long you look, the horizon is always the same distance away from the ship.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Lathing Away

When Cockatoo Island dockyard closed in the early 1990s, most of the machinery and instruments were sold and removed. Some of the really big machinery that ordinary industry didn't want are still there. This huge lathe is slowly rusting away in one of the big workshops. How big is it? Well, it could handle the complete propeller shaft from a battleship. You can get an idea of the size by comparing it to the size of the small bears in the inset image. Scruffy and I are about 17cm from head to tail (not that either of us have much in the way of a tail) and, as you can see, that is not much bigger than the length of one of the bolts that are lying there, and smaller than the diameter of the wheel in the foreground. I would love to have seen this huge machine in action. Maybe someday it will find a new home.

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Who Has Right-of-way?

We met this rather argumentative fellow at Green Cape lighthouse. There is a footpath from the carpark to the lighthouse and you are not supposed to walk off the path because it causes erosion of the sand dunes. Well, this wallaby had other ideas. He was resting in the bushes at the edge of the path and he didn't like people and small bears getting too close to him. Wallabies and kangaroos can be dangerous if they don't like you. They grab you with their front paws and kick you with their legs. Those legs pack a real whallop and have big, sharp claws on their toes. Some people have had their tummies ripped open by cranky kangas. So we were very careful going past this guy. You can see him watching us carefully, and I can assure you that we were watching him just as closely. We went slowly, on the far side of the path near the fence, thinking calm thoughts. The wallaby grunted and growled at us a few times but let us pass. When we walked back from the lighthouse, he had gone. I guess the extra people that arrived while we were there were just too much for him and he went off to find a quieter place to rest.

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Friday, July 01, 2011


Cook Was Here

Way back in 1770 my hero, Captain Cook, was cruising around just offshore of this lighthouse. The lighthouse is the Wollongong Head light, one of the two Wollongong lights. It is the first new lighthouse built in the 20th century in New South Wales, being built in 1936. It was put on Flagstaff Point to guide ships into Wollongong and Port Kembla. Wollongong harbour also has a lighthouse which operated from 1871 to 1974. Neither of the lighthouses were there when Cook passed by in his exploration of the coast in 1770. Near the lighthouse there is a metal plaque in the shape of the set of sails on the mainmast of the "Endeavour". It shows the track of the Endeavour as it tacked back and forth looking for a way to make a safe landing. Of course, Cook did not land but moved further north and landed at Botany Bay. I really like finding out about our history, particularly about my hero.

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I Got A Ticket To Ride

Here I am at the ticket window of the Puffing Billy station at Belgrave. The ticket man was a bit confused and uncertain about how to issue the tickets for us. The Oldies were no problem, but he had never had to issue a ticket for a small bear before then. Anyhow, that was sorted out and we walked onto the platform where the train was waiting. I really like this train. Narrow-gauge engines like this are smaller than the big main line steamers so they look much cuter. They still make the same great hissing and puffing noises and the drivers are always happy to let small bears check out the drivers cab. You can see that the station is in a forest area, and most of the trip is through different types of wet and dry eucalypt forest. A great day trip from Melbourne, just make sure that the ticket man knows how to charge you.

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