Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Forests in the Making

This is a part of Canberra which was burned out by the firestorm of 18 January 2003. It used to be a pine forest, but now it is being turned into lots of small forests in what is called the National Arboretum Canberra. The plan is for 100 forests of rare and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. Besides being a nice place to visit, it will help save rare trees and generate seed banks for other arboretums (OK, arboreta if you must be pedantic). It may not look like much at present because all the trees are small, but in years to come it will be a beautiful place, especially in autumn when the deciduous trees have coloured leaves. Click on the photo to make it bigger and you will see some of the plantings and the Visitors Centre. Some of the things you can see, even before the trees grow, are a great collection of Bonsai and Penjing, and a lot of sculptures. Now as far as small bears are concerned sculptures are no good if you can't climb on them. Well, the one in the bottom photo is a beauty. It is a wedge-tailed eagle and its nest, made from old tools and bits of old farm machinery. Unlike some sculptures around Canberra, it actually looks like what it is supposed to be and it is also a great place for small bears to climb.

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Not Right Somehow

I saw this strange thing in the supermarket last week. Somehow it seems wrong, and not like any of the John West adds that I see on TV. I thought that us bears had to catch fish by wading into cold water and grabbing them with our mouths. No chance of Mum ever letting me try that. But here was a big bear catching fish with a rod and line just like people do (I was going to say just like Dad does, but he is the world's worst fisherman and hasn't actually caught anything but seaweed and old junk while I have been with him). And look at the size of that fish; it would never fit in my mouth. And it is labelled too. Do all fish have labels on them so that they only get caught by fishermen working for the right brands (maybe that's why Dad is so unlucky)? Frankly, I don't believe bears that catch fish this way.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Duntroon's Historic Dairy

On Saturday we went for a walk to the historic Duntroon Dairy. This is one of the oldest buildings in Canberra, dating back to the early 1830s. It provided dairy products to the early settlers on the Limestone Plains, where Canberra would be built, starting some 80 years later. Over the years a lot of other structures were built on the site; houses, feed pens, milking sheds, even a tennis court. The last people to live here left in the 1960s and the site slowly decayed. The other buildings were demolished and all that is left now are the concrete floors and foundations. The old dairy was restored around 2004 and is on the Register of the National Trust. The building is locked except on special occasions, so I couldn't see the most interesting thing about it. The dairy is built from the stone cut from the hill to make the platform it is on and the walls are around 60 cm thick. There is also a deep well inside the building, built of unmortared bricks. Water seeps into the well and keeps the dairy cool and humid, just right for storing milk, butter and cheese in the days before fridges. I really would like to have seen the place in the days when it was in full operation.

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Astronomy Nights

Last week was busy. We had two late nights of astronomy; Thursday was the monthly meeting of Canberra Astronomical Society (CAS) and Friday was a joint CAS/Stromlo public night. CAS provides lots of telescopes and astronomers and Mt Stromlo Observatory provides the site and AV gear. The Scope Cafe is kept busy doing coffee and fodder. We always help on public nights. This year there have been huge crowds attending, between 500 and 800 on most nights, over 1100 one night. The lawns between the cafe and the ruins of the 74" telescope (destroyed in the firestorm of 18 Jan 2003) are absolutely packed with people looking at the Moon, planets, nebulae and star clusters. The top picture shows some of the telescopes being set up during twilight, before the crowds arrive. The Oldies have special jobs. Mum is head of the "sheepdogs", CAS members who escort visitors safely between the cafe and the telescopes. Dad gives non-stop talks about the Universe and there is usually standing room only during his talks. Mind you, I think the old guy is being a bit clever. He is inside in the warmth while the CAS guys are out in the freezing Canberra nights. What do I do? I watch out for kangaroos on the roads and sit in the car and count people.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Singapore Ships & Shores

Here are some photos taken from the balcony of our hotel room in SingyPaw. The thing that impressed me was the huge number of ships of all sorts and sizes that were anchored offshore in what is called the Singapore Roads. That name sounds strange to me; I expect roads to be full of cars, not ships. Anyhow, all along the south coast of Singapore, as far as you can see, there are ships. If you look carefully at the bottom photo (click on it to make it bigger) you can see right across the roads to one of the islands of Indonesia! The area that the photos show is actually land created by dredging the old harbour. When we were there last year work was almost complete on the last sections of 101 hectares of gardens, called "Gardens By The Bay". This is something that I have to see when we are next in SingyPaw, because there are some things that are very interesting and different. At the left of the bottom photo you can see something that looks like a giant glass armadillo. It is in fact one of a pair of huge cooled conservatories. One conservatory is called the Flower Dome and holds plants from mild, dry climates and the other one, the Cloud Forest, has plants from high, cool areas of the world. The tall red constructions are called Supertrees. They have exotic plants growing on them, but they also light up at night in a spectacular light and music show. Actually, some of them are also the air intakes and exhausts from the conservatories' air-con systems. Lots of things to keep a small bear busy on our next visit.

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Monday, May 13, 2013


Singapore Skypark

Probably the most impressive building in SingyPaw is the Marina Bay Sands hotel, which Dad calls the "cricket stumps" building. Across the top of the three towers is a fantastic thing called the Skypark. This is an area of big swimming pools and gardens. Unfortunately, you can't get into the main park unless you are staying in the hotel. Fortunately, you can go up to the public observation deck at what looks like the bow of the boat-shaped Skypark. Mum and I always take Dad up to high observation areas because he is not really comfortable with heights. Anyhow, the view of Singapore from the deck is spectacular. You can see that it is much higher than the Singapore Flyer, and that is the biggest Ferris Wheel in the world. I would like to try my parachute from there, but the deck is surrounded by high glass walls and anyway the Oldies wouldn't let me jump.


Friday, May 03, 2013


Cruise Bits

Every minute of cruising is fun, and here are a couple more of things that I liked about "Voyager of the Seas". Eating. Well, you could eat non-stop if you had limitless tummy space, but small bears are rather limited in that department so Scruffy and I had to be very choosey about what we ordered. Of course, we always order dessert first because life is uncertain. Desserts on Voyager are incredibly good. The Oldies (and us bears) thought dessert was the highlight of most meals, although I think it was a bit mean of the Oldies to use us to get extras. In our stateroom there was a sign that really tickled my fancy. It means "Don't hang clothes on the fire sprinkler". I guess some passengers are silly enough to hang stuff there to dry, which is just what they wouldn't do if the coat hanger busted the sprinkler glass. I get a good giggle from some signs.

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High Over Hobart

Sometimes a cruise will let you get to places that you have tried but always failed to reach. Mt Wellington near Hobart in Tasmania is one such place. Mum had seven tries before this to get to the top, but the road had been closed by fog, cloud, rain, snow, landslides, high wind and maybe even alien invasion. She thought she would never get there. But one of the day tours that "Voyager of the Seas" offers in Hobart includes Mt Wellington, and it was a clear and reasonably calm day while we were there. She finally made it to the top. The mountain is 1,271 m high and from the top you get spectacular views of Hobart and the Derwent estuary. We could easily see Voyager at the dock, it really is a huge ship. The drive up Mt Wellington is really interesting, you pass through lowland rainforest, then open eucalyptus woodland, then low scrub and finally a bare, rocky summit. Do make the effort to get to the top if you are in Hobart, hopefully you won't need as many tries as Mum did.

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