26 May 2006

Sorry Day

Today is Sorry Day in Australia. It's an unusually named holiday for a very serious issue. Today is a day of recognition of what is called the Stolen Generation. This was the systematic removal of Aboriginal--and mostly mixed descent Aboriginal-European--children from their families to be raised by "superior" white families. This was done up until 1972. In 1995 a formal inquiry began to look into this part of Australia's history, and in 1998, Sorry Day was first observed. It is not a national holiday, and many people, both pro and con, have an issue with it. But the idea behind Sorry Day is that it is a step towards reconciliation of past offenses.

The Great Barrier Reef: The Rest of the Story

Let's wrap up this trip to the Great
Barrier Reef. The first picture was taken at a tourist shop right before we boarded the ship. Heather made me do it. That's all I have to say about that.
The second picture is me as the captain. This isn't on our cruise ship, but on our stroll down the river after the croc farm. Note the captain's hat. I actually steered the boat, too.
The last picture is a longer story. It all began when I almost killed a lizard at the Cairns Rainforest Dome. I tried to
open a gate but it only opened a few inches before it jammed. I yanked on it a few more times, but same result. That's when I noticed the two foot lizard with his head stuck in the gate. Heather stuck around to keep anyone else from trying the gate while I went for help. An employee came back and tried to free the lizard, but he was jammed in too tight. She left again to get reinforcements in the form of another employee and bolt cutters. They clipped the part of the gate holding the
lizard and he appeared to be fine once free. They also mentioned it was the second time it had happened that week. I'm wondering why they haven't covered the gate with mesh or something. Anyway, we had missed the start of the koala pictures while all this was going on, so I asked one of the rescuers if that was still going on. She said the pictures were taken in the gift shop. Then she asked if we had a voucher--$13. We said no, thanks. Both of us said to each other, "didn't we just save their lizard's life? And we can't get a koala picture comped?" So we improvised and took this picture instead--for free.

21 May 2006

The Great Barrier Reef: The Water

Sorry for the delay for these pictures--it's been a while since I had to get a roll of film developed. Without further ado:
Coral-This is one of the more
colorful pictures we took. The water filters out all of the colors, starting with red then moving through the spectrum--remember ROY G BIV? All the great postcard coral pictures you see are taken with a flash and usually at night.
Parrotfish-Named because it is
colorful and has a beak like a parrot. They bite off bits of coral, eating little organisms lliving on it. Parrotfish are responsible for a cup and an half of sand per day from chewed up coral.
Clownfish-Nemo! Nemo! These
little fish are funny because they aren't afraid of anything. You swim down to them and they'll get right in your face, daring you to mess with them or their anemone.
Starfish and clam-The blue
starfish shows up well because blue is the last color filtered out by the water. The clam on the left is rather small. We saw others that were five feet across.
Diver-That's me.
We had a picture of an octopus I was disappointed to see not come out. We only saw its head (the rest was down a hole in a boulder), but it was the size of a soccer ball. He was red, but turned white as you approached him. The marine biologist on the cruise said they do that to appear unappetizing so you don't eat him.
Hope you've enjoyed these underwater photos. The snorkeling was for me the hightlight of the trip. One more entry to go on the cruise, but you shouldn't have to wait as long for the next one.

20 May 2006

The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon

Well, it's done. Things got interesting last night when I was getting ready. I double checked my route I have been running to get a pace time for the race and discovered that what I thought was a six mile circuit was really only five. Meaning that the past few weeks when I thought I was running twelve miles, I was really only covering ten. Meaning it's the night before the race and I'm still three miles short. And meaning instead of running 8 min/mi (or 7:30 last Sunday), I'd really topped out at about
9 min/mi. My adjusted goals were 1:55 for the race and 5:30/k. So here's the damage:
1K 5:48
2K 4:57 Good view of the Opera House from under the Harbour Bridge.
3K 5:33 I missed the marker for 4K, so 3K and 4K are averaged. Happened again at 13K/14K--same place in the course. There is a big climb at the beginning of 3K and I think that's why I missed it. Also made 3K (and 13K) the toughest in the course.
4K 5:32
5K 5:00
6K 5:18
7K 5:17
8K 5:02
9K 5:11
10K 5:14
11K 4:40
12K 5:26
13K 5:20
14K 5:20
15K 5:03 Hips start hurting.
16K 5:31 This is the farthest my training ever took me. Everything beyond here is uncharted territory.
17K 5:28
5:18 Feet start hurting.
19K 5:36
20K 5:18
21K 5:06
TOTAL 1:50:57
AVE 5:17/K (8:28/mi)

All in all, I was pleased. I took another 30 seconds off my mile time under race conditions while covering an extra three miles. And I felt good when I finished.

11 May 2006

The Great Barrier Reef: The Animals

Our tour today covers some of the animals we encountered on our trip to Queensland. The first picture is of a red footed booby that took a break one night on our ship. Other than the beak, he looked like a duck until he spread his wings--very long and narrow.
We had a short return to Cairns
on Friday before heading back out, so Heather and I took a tour of a crocodile farm just outside of town. The next picture is of an 800kg monster saltwater crocodile at the farm. He was one of their breeders but is currently living out his retirement in a private pen enjoying free chicken dinners every day. He was about five or six metres long and they estimated about eighty five years old. The second croc photo is some of the youngsters in what the tour guide called the "handbag area". These are two to
three years old. We learned that they are raised in these pens, grouped by age, until they are four, at which time their hides are "harvested". Four is the limit because they start getting territorial at that point. It isn't cost effective to keep them individually and if you leave them in groups, they'll tear each other up--women like their expensive Hermes handbags defect-free. Read a Sydney Morning Herald article here for more info and a picture of the final product.
While walking across Hitchinbrook Island,
we saw this goanna making itself at home on someone's resort boardwalk. It doesn't look all that big in the picture, but it's about a metre and a half long. Claws like an eagle, too--click the pic and get a look at them. Pretty amazing what you can see while hiking across a GBR island.
We had some time before our flight out on Monday, so we paid a visit to the Cairns Rainforest Dome. It had many rainforest animals roaming free for you to see and perhaps interact with.
Pictured is a frogmouth, but Heather kept calling it the "little grumpy bird". They also had several cockatoos, one of which climbed from my arm up to my shoulder where he proceeded to chew on my hat. What can I say--animals like me. We also saw koalas, a croc (neither of which were roaming free like the other
animals--"darn" and "whew!" respectively), kookaburras, pademelons [which are like rainforest wallabies (which are like small kangaroos)], pythons, frogs and turtles. The croc's name is Goliath, and he is one of only two crocs to leave the previously mentioned crocodile farm alive. Big time bonus points to anyone who can identify the other one. There are a few other adventures worth mentioning at the Dome, but I'm saving them for another entry.

07 May 2006

The Raconteurs

If you haven't heard the news yet, The Raconteurs new album will be released in just over a week. Who are The Raconteurs, you ask? They are the "super group" (but don't let them hear you say that) formed by Jack White of The White Stripes, Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler, both from The Greenhornes. Listen to streams of "Steady, As She Goes" (and watch the video) and "Store Bought Bones" on their website. The site is worth a look alone--it looks and navigates like an old DOS program. For those of you using iTunes, you can download a free acoustic version of "Steady" through Monday. (For those of you not using iTunes--what are you waiting for?) And when you listen to "Steady", either acoustic from iTunes or full from the website, I suggest headphones--there are some great stereo Beatle-esque vocal harmonies you'll miss otherwise.
By the way, what the rest of the world knows as The Raconteurs will be known as The Saboteurs here in Australia. There is a band in Queensland already called The Raconteurs who wouldn't sell the naming rights, or rather demanded too much money and didn't get it. So all CDs, promotional materials, tours, etc will read "The Saboteurs." Even the website, otherwise identical, has been renamed. Collector's items?

The Great Barrier Reef: The Land

We have returned from our Captain Cook Cruises Ultimate Reef Cruise and are settling back in to life at work. I've decided to break the cruise down for you into what will likely end up as a four part mini-series. Today we cover The Land.
We made several stops at small islands during the week. We saw Green Island, Cooktown, Lizard Island, Ribbon Reef No. 5, Hedley Reef, Hitchinbrook Island and of course Cairns, our port. This first picture is Cook's Look on Lizard Island. It is 1200 metres up, and we hiked to the
top Wednesday morning. The second picture is of me at the peak. This site is called Cook's Look because Captain Cook's ship was stuck in the reef and he couldn't find his way out. He climbed to this peak to get a view of the reef and figure a course that would allow him to get out without wrecking his ship. He actually climbed it twice because when he climbed it early in the morning, the sun was at his face and he couldn't see the coral. When he went back in the afternoon, the sun was at his back and
the reef was easily visible.
We also took a second hike on Lizard Island, but not back up Cook's Look. On Wednesday afternoon, we walked across the island to a lagoon on the other side. The water was waist deep and crystal clear as far out as you wanted to go. That walk took us along an airstrip. There is a very exclusive private resort (three night spa package: $2700) on the island that the VIPs are flying in for. Another part of the walk took us past these mangroves. Cook's look is
in the background.
We saw more mangroves back in Cairns on Friday on a tour of a crocodile farm (more on that coming), as well as the mountains pictured fourth. As you can see, the river was smooth as, leading some tourists to ski on it from time to time, we were told by the guides. These tourists are apparently unaware of the crocs lurking just under the surface.
All in all, we saw some fantastic views on the trip. Heather said she enjoyed the walks more than the snorkeling. While I personally wouldn't go that far, it was amazing. At Cook's Look, you had trouble distinguishing the water from the sky on the horizon. We saw and climbed mountains. We walked across wild islands virtually untouched by man. If you want to "get away from it all" the islands of the Great Barrier Reef would be an excellent choice.