29 October 2005

Taronga Zoo

I began the Overseas Trained Teacher Program with Teach NSW (the public schools) on Friday. This will be seventeen days overall of workshops, classroom observation, and some teaching. Also on Thursday, I had my first private school interview, which I believe went well. The commute is about an hour-fifteen, by train and bus, so it isn't the most convenient location, but I'll see what happens in the next few weeks with other possible interviews as well as the workshop.
The pictures this week are from the Taronga Zoo, which stands on the north shore of the harbour. It is built on an incline, and has many great points to see the harbour, as you can see in the first picture. You get to the zoo by ferry, and ride a cable car to the top. The cars are enclosed, so South Carolinian school children would not be about to spit out of them. Cancel the field trip. Sorry.

Our first picture is Heather with a giraffe, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background. We watched a public giraffe feeding, although we didn't pay a buck to feed it ourselves. These giraffes really like carrots, and have really long tongues. Rather entertaining, and more than a little gross.

The second picture is a wallaby, not a small kangaroo. I didn't see it do anything that you don't see in the picture. Moving on.

Ah, the koalas. You will notice in the first koala pic the baby on the mother's back. Mama didn't seem too worried about getting leaves for the baby, though.

This second koala pic is of a very shy, smaller koala. It stayed at the top of the tree, while the others all came to the lower branches for their feeding.

The last picture is a Tasmanian devil. Every picture I have seen of them in brochures, etc has been frightening. They always have their fangs bared, and look like they are about tear you up. So I was rather disappointed to catch this one during his siesta. Not very scary at all.

We also saw gorillas, including a huge silverback, a seal feeding, and of course, the reptile house. It was a very nice zoo, especially with the bonus glimpses of the harbour you would catch frequently. That wraps up the captive animals. Next week, I'll share pictures of the wild animals that we have encountered.

21 October 2005

Sydney Aquarium

I decided to divide the animal show. Part one will be from the Sydney Aquarium. And it's gonna be long, so maybe you should go grade some papers first, Mary.

First is a PLATYPUS. There were three of them swimming around the tank, along with a couple turtles and lizards. They are smaller than I thought: less than half a meter (foot and a half, yanks) including their tail. They dive for the bottom and root around for stuff to eat hidden in the sand. They close their eyes while underwater, and their ears and nostrils clamp shut, too. They are very strange creatures. Some of you may have heard that when explorers first came here, they caught one, stuffed it, and sent it back to England. The scientists there were convinced it was a hoax. I understand why; they look like someone went to the discount bin of leftovers and grabbed spare animal parts.

The SALTWATER CROCODILE. Maybe it is just me, but I always equated crocs and alligators. Not that I thought they were the same animal, but I thought they were the same size, and had the same disposition, etc. Wrong! Now some crocs are smaller, but a large saltie can reach six meters (nineteen feet--I am really enjoying the metric system. I wish the US had switched over like all my elementary and middle school science teachers promised). And they aren't shy, either. You see people doing stunts around alligators. Tightrope walking over them, running through a mud puddle with a few of them, feeding them meat out of their hands. No one does stuff like that with a croc. Wikipedia begins the entry on saltwater crocodiles by saying they are "the largest of all living reptiles, and is often said to be the most dangerous to humans." Wikipedia also mentions that the largest found was nearly nine meters (29 feet). Measure that off somewhere and try to picture it. This picture was taken from a viewpoint above the open tank. If you can't read the sign in the picture, it says, "Do Not Enter. If the fall does not kill you, the crocodile will." I've read about more croc attacks since we have been here than sharks. They'll stalk you. Two quick stories. There were three boys up north who got caught in a storm, and their boat capsized. Two got safely up a tree in time to watch a croc eat the third. It then waited under the tree for them to fall out. Three days later they were finally rescued. Their first words to the rescuers who had braved the croc infested waters to save them: "Are you insane?!?" Second story: a group was having a picnic on the shore. They knew crocs were around the area, but they had never seen one attack anybody, so it was OK, right? Most were swimming. A lady was standing on the bank, watching the swimmers, when a large croc leaped out of the water, grabbed her, and fell back in the water. No one had even seen it coming. I have a few more stories I have read in the paper, but it is time to move on. I can sum most of them up like this: If you must take a boat up a croc-infested river, why would you choose a small canoe or rowboat?

The SHARKS. This picture was taken inside an underwater tunnel. The background is pretty dark, and I look like a ghost, but we weren't working with the best lighting conditions. Anyway, there were five or six different species of sharks in this tank, along with rays, including the GIANT RAY also pictured, a good
three meters across (I'll leave the conversion to you). What you see in the picture is what it did the entire time we were there. It just hung out on top of the tunnel. Maybe that's why we couldn't get good lighting. Back to the sharks. There were small Port Jacksons, black tips, and white tips. The ones posing with me are nurse sharks. They are larger, about three to four meters, and they have snaggle-looking teeth, and their bodies looked pretty torn up, but they are all show. Harmless. There was a separate tank with a tunnel that held seals. Watching them swim is like watching a bird fly. They are so fast and smooth.

The aquarium is definitely taking advantage of the NEMO phenomenon. As you approach the reef exhibit, you begin seeing signs saying "This way for Nemo!" or "Can you find Nemo and his friends?" As you can see from the pictures, I could find Nemo and his friend. I also found his black and white friend, but that is another picture. If you visit Sydney, and decide to check out the aquarium for yourself, prepare to hear a racket of squeaky voices all saying "Nemo! Nemo! Nemo!" And be prepared to delete a photo or two when a kid sticks his hand in your nicely framed picture in an attempt to pet Nemo.

Well, that's it for this week. Next week I'll share pictures from our trip to Taronga Zoo.

14 October 2005

SC in the AU news

Just wanted the South Carolinians know that your fine state made the news down here. MX is a free daily paper handed out at around the city here, and this article was in Thursday's edition in a side bar titled "What in the Weird".

Spitters Take Aim From Chairlift
Visitors to the South Carolina State Fair had to do a bit of ducking and weaving yesterday, after 80 school children were caught spitting from the chairlift. Spitting from rides had always been a problem, a spokesman for Richland County Sheriff's Department said.

Eighty?!? For you Dutch Forkers, anybody we know?

12 October 2005


This week's pictures are from our bush walk in the Blue Mountains. We had a great time. In about four hours of walking, covering two connecting trails, we walked along cliff tops, in the depths of the canyon, hopped rocks in a stream, and hiked through a rainforest. It was quite a variety. Hope you enjoy.

In the first picture, I am standing in front of the canyon, which was very different than I expected. Other than the sheer walls of the canyon, it is all green.

Heather being scared. She says this reminds her of when her family went to the Grand Canyon, and she held blades of grass for security. That is a cute story and all, until last week she mentioned she was FOURTEEN! I have heard that a picture exists documenting this scene, and I would love to see it, if a Bowles would dig it up and send a copy of it to me.

Heather out on the trail, standing over a river, which six meters (twenty feet for you Yanks) behind her becomes…

Bridal Veil waterfall. This was taken from a lookout point a few minutes further up the trail.

Ant mound. Watch your toes!

04 October 2005

Harbour pictures

Here are a few pictures of the Harbour that Heather and I have taken here. In the next weeks, I'll send some more pictures of different things we have seen or done here.

1) Harbour Bridge and bird-This was taken from the Circular Quay ferry docks.

2) Sydney Opera House-Taken from the ferry going to Taronga Zoo.

3) Harbour Bridge and Opera House-There is an excellent view of the Harbour from a point right outside of the Botanic Gardens. Lots of other interesting things in the Gardens-more on that next week.

4) Harbour Bridge, Opera House, and Heather-Same place as previous picture. Great place to go and watch the sunset.

5) Harbour Bridge, Opera House up close-look at the bumps on top of the bridge, directly under the flags. Those bumps are people on the Sydney Harbour Bridge Walk.

We really enjoy going down to the Harbour and the Botanic Gardens. Other than the sights, there are great restaurants, interesting animals, and beautiful flowers and plants. There seems to always be an exhibit or show in the Gardens to catch. It is very easy to forget that this is all in the middle of a city. There is no street noise, only birds and crashing waves. Overall, this is probably our favorite place to go in the city.

More to come next week. Hope you enjoy the pictures.