Saturday, June 28, 2014
Nature's Rock Art
On the side of Uluru that you don't see from the "sunset" car park there are lots of strange shapes in the surface of the rock. Some are fairly shallow and some are caves. Almost all of them have special meanings to the Anangu people. Some of them are so special that you can't walk near them and shouldn't even photograph. Here are a few. I really like the large one that looks a bit like a frog. What causes these breakouts in the rock surface is just the large changes in temperature that the surface rock goes through. The expansion and contraction of the surface rock causes cracks. Dew and occasional rain seeping into the crack causes faster cracking and eventually plates of surface rock fall off. This exposes the softer rock inside and water and wind erosion cuts the rippled shapes and caves. In these photos you can also see the grey areas where water has washed the dusty red surface away. The real colour of the rock in Uluru is grey. The red surface is caused by oxidation of the iron compounds in it. When plates of rock fall off you can see other reddish-grey colours in the "artwork" nature has created.
Labels: Central Australia, Uluru
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
A New Friend and an Opportunity
Every year, about this time, Australia has a Red Nose Day. Proceeds of sales of red noses of all sizes (to fit people, cars, buildings, etc), pens, lapel badges and cuddly critters go to help research into SIDS. This is a terrible disease that kills otherwise healthy small infants almost instantaneously. Nobody knows what causes it, let alone how to cure it, so funds from Red Nose Day are very important; get out there, buy something, and wear or display it with pride. This little guy was sitting among the SIDS stuff at Woollies. He was begging to be taken home and loved, so what could Mum do? His name is Nosetradamus and he is giving predictions about the World Cup. He is just as accurate as his almost-namesake, i.e. not at all. So far his only accurate prediction is that there will be a winner and an almost-winner. In the same shopping mall, I found an exciting thing. Build-a-Bear is opening soon in Canberra (well, in Belconnen actually, but that's part of Canberra no matter what the locals think). I can hardly wait for this. Every time that the Oldies take me into a B-a-B shop I come out with interesting stuff. Hmmmm.... Maybe they offer work experience to small bears. I will check and get my name onto the list, pronto.
Labels: animals, Canberra, family
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Dinner at The Rock, Under the Stars
One of the things that you should do when you visit Uluru is to take one of the outback dinner tours. We did the "Sounds of Silence" one. This first takes you out to a dune where you have a good view of sunset on Uluru while being served champagne and nibbles. My less-than-couth Dad saluted the Rock in true Aussie style. After sunset you move down to a flat area at the base of the dune for dinner. This gives you a chance to try "bush tucker". If you are not game to try kangaroo, camel, emu or crocodile and sauces and condiments made from native plants, there is plenty of "ordinary" food as well. Some people didn't use the tour bus, they arrived from Yulara by camel. There was also a couple of cute but unwelcome guests, local dingoes who were hoping for scraps. It is not a good idea to feed dingoes. They become real pests around camping and picnic areas and in some parts of Australia where people have been feeding them they have caused serious injuries and some deaths when people didn't feed them quickly. Don't Feed Dingoes! During dinner some of the local people entertained with traditional dances. The highlight for the Oldies came after dinner was finished. The lamps were turned off and a "star talker" pointed out some of the interesting things in the sky. Being astronomers, the Oldies didn't learn much from him. However, they were blown away by the sky ablaze with stars. Central Australian skies are brilliant to the naked eye, even if they are too unstable for large telescopes. With binoculars and small telescopes they are truly mind-blowing. This dinner under the stars is one more for your bucket list.
Labels: astronomy, Central Australia, Uluru
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
A Great Weekend
Last weekend was a 3-day one in all of the states of Australia except Western Australia. We call it the Queen's Birthday weekend, even though it is not exactly the Queen's birth date. I love long weekends because the Oldies always find time to do more interesting things than they can manage on ordinary weekends. Mostly we stay around Canberra because the roads are full of people driving fast and crazy. This weekend was even better because the weather was much warmer than it usually is at the start of winter. Saturday night we finally got the chance to learn how to drive Mum's new telescope. Actually, it was delivered 3 years ago and we have been waiting for a clear night with no other commitments to slowly learn the operating system. I have to say that the 'scope is a little beauty. It fits into our car easily, takes only a few minutes to set up and another 15 to calibrate, then it automatically finds whatever you ask for. Dad is particularly impressed. He spent his working life using huge telescopes and now we have a small one that finds things just like the big ones do. I can see a lot of cold nights outside under the stars coming up. On Sunday we drove up to Bredbo because the Christmas Barn has just opened for the year. This is a magic place for small bears. It is full of Nativity and Santa stuff. Speaking of Santa, the Bredbo clone was still snoozing in the Sun, just where I saw him last year. Hopefully he is sneakily reporting to his boss and Santa thinks of the same thing that I am thinking would go well towards completing my vehicle collection.
Labels: astronomy, Canberra, Christmas, Santa
Saturday, June 07, 2014
To Climb or Not To Climb?
Lots of people have been injured or killed climbing Uluru. It doesn't look like a hard climb, but it is very steep in places and when the rock is wet, or there are strong winds blowing, it is very slippery and dangerous. Although there is one walking track marked out on the rock visitors are discouraged from using it in any but the very best conditions. Also, the Rock is a very special sacred spot to the traditional owners and they would much prefer that visitors didn't climb it. Conditions were perfect when we stopped in the car park at the start of the track and I was tempted to make the climb. It didn't look too hard from the gateway, so I decided to do it. However, it soon became obvious that short legged small bears have a basic problem. After 20 minutes I had only managed to get to the top of the small scarp near the bottom of the Rock. At that rate of progress, I figured it would take 13 hours and 7 minutes to get to the top. That would mean missing dinner and being out after dark with the dingoes so I rejoined the Oldies and we had a great time driving round the Rock and investigating its spectacular scenery. Everybody should see Uluru.
Labels: Central Australia, climbing, Uluru
The New Zealand sounds are truly spectacular, especially when seen from the deck of a cruise liner. "Sounds" are what New Zealanders (Kiwis) call fiords. No matter what you call them, they are deep, narrow valleys that the sea has flooded. Huge ships, like the "Voyager of the Seas", have no problems sailing through the narrow bits and it makes for excitement for the passengers when it looks like the ship just couldn't possibly fit. The morning we went through the sounds it was very cold and there were low clouds. In places it looked like we were sailing through a spooky tunnel. There are lots of waterfalls on the walls; the sounds are in one of the highest rainfall areas on the planet. If you look carefully in some places you can see fur seals on the rocks. If you haven't done it yet, put cruising the NZ sounds on your Bucket List.
Labels: boats, cruising, New Zealand