Jan 28, 2010

Tasmania Part 5: Tessellated Pavement

Despite being in Hawaii (and leaving it tomorrow morning... but that's a story for another post), I'll try to wrap up Tasmania.

So on the same day as Port Arthur we hit one of the big geologic landmarks of Tassie, the Tessellated Pavement of Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula.

Don't have much time to speak on it much. You can check out the wikipedia site about here for a bit more info.

Jan 26, 2010

Back to the Old Frontier

Well my time in the Southern Hemisphere draws to end (though I'm certain I'll be back!)...

Had a lovely evening/dinner with the Clan oh R. A special thank you to sister R if she is reading for spending the WHOLE day preparing and cooking said dinner!

I've seen many cool things here in Tassie, and it is certainly a very cool part of Australia worth visiting if you are looking into coming to this end of the world...

Speaking of Australia, HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY!!! Sadly we didn't spend it (minus again the aforementioned dinned) doing anything fun. Just packing and cleaning.

Tomorrow we hop halfway back to the Great White North. Making a quick 2ish day stop over in Hawaii. From there we push onto Vancouver and the Olympics. GO CANADA!

Even more exciting than the Olympics, is I'll be hanging with Bond the whole time... So who knows what crazy creative stuff will ensue! Though it might have to do with Traum, ART Evolved, Delta Patrol, and/or educational material... just to hint at a few ;P

There are a few more Tasmania posts coming I promise. I've just been at the mercy of my panoramaing speed (as I'm unhealthily addicted to panorama shots these days).

So we'll catch you once I'm back Northern Hemisphere again.

Jan 22, 2010

Tasmania Part 4: Best Alarm Clock Ever

A bit of a departure in my Tasmania series of posts. This one is short, and covers events of about an hour and a bit ago (I'd have done it sooner, but had to drive Papa R into work and wake up Lady R). So enjoy it. This is likely you're only live from Tasmania post ;)

The final verdict on the potentially bad news we were waiting on came in yesterday. While not a happy ending, it has certainly turned out to be a lot "better" than most of the possible alternatives. So everyone has relaxed quite a bit now that the wait is over (it was a lot worse just not knowing) and are in way better spirits these last 24 hours.

As though nature were in on celebration, the household received a rather welcome wake up call (well okay, maybe welcome by just me).

I awoke (a mere 10 minutes before my alarm clock was going to go off!) to the laughing chorus of several Kookaburras. Running to my window I was greeted by a whole family sitting on the telephone wires directly in front of the house.

As their highly energetic and territorial birds they didn't hold still for long, and proceeded to fly down the street.

I was able to pursue them a couple of blocks, and catch two of them in a rather low tree (that they let me approach them in... I'd had another similar situation butt they flew away from me the instant I showed up). So I finally got a really nice Kookaburra shot in Tasmania!
That's this post. I did warn you it'd be short. More to come soon. I just have to panorama the photos (which is getting to be quite the daunting task... I have SO many panoramas in need of stitching!).
So stay tuned...

Jan 19, 2010

Tasmania Part 3: Port Arthur Penal Colony

So I was kind of a bad boy the other day...

I stole a loaf of bread. What? I was hungry, and who was going to miss it really?!?

Turns out the Aussies did! So much so that I kind ended up in custody...

I have to say the Australians are pretty strict on crime. Even after pleading my case to the judges they threw the book at me (literally and figuratively).

They shipped me all the way to Port Arthur...

Which despite its picturesque appearance is not a nice place to stay. For your see Port Arthur is a penal colony.

I now have this humble cell to call home. Sure it might look quaint, but there are a LOT of rules I have to adhere to if I want to avoid a flogging or solitaire.

In fact so many rules, I need to review them right now. Excuse me for a second.

I spend 22 hours of the day in here...

1 hour in the exercise yard here...

and one bloody hour a day in Church, getting a religious rehabilitation! As if that is going to work!!!


Okay so all of the above didn't actually happen... to me at least. However this was the story of many of Tasmania's (and Australia as whole's) first European immigrants coming here (including some of Lady R's distant relatives)

Australia started off its life in the Commonwealth as British Empire's far away banishment prison. In the 1800's Britain was having massive problems with its rich vs. poor gap due to the industrial revolution. An easy way to relieve the societal pressure of a large unemployed impoverished population was to send them elsewhere to work and be productive. Thus Australia was formed, the only convict colony of its type in the world.

One of my first big field trips in Tasmania was to goto the Port Arthur historic site, where I got see and learn about this history in a bit more in detail.

Port Arthur was Australia's second prison (Sydney's being the first), and was among the largest to be established. It started operation in the 1840's and ceased operations in 1877.

Despite starting as a prison, Port Arthur during this time eventually took on many different capacities as the convicts began to wear down and/or age through their forced labour over the decades of the penal system's existence. This included serving as a mental asylum, a convict medical facility for the gravely injured, and retirement facilities for elderly convicts.

I have to say I was rather impressed with the site from a historic point of view. Despite being ravaged by bush fires and demolition in the early 1900's, the majority of Port Arthur is in good enough shape you can get an idea of what it must of been like.

The signs and staff were very informative, and you can learn much of what life here must have been like. There were a few gaps, but that is too be understood given the magnitude of the place.

All the buildings your seeing in these photos were built by convicts. They didn't just assemble the buildings, but extracted the materials needed to build them and processed them into the form needed. So every brick, plank of wood, and roof shingle was made by a convict, put in place by a convict and then used by a convict.
Thus it is hardly surprising that when the British finally abandoned the penal system and offered amnesty to all the convict in Australia, that the majority opted to remain down under rather then return to Britain. As they'd built the country of Australia all themselves.

The Port Arthur site had guided tours all throughout the day, but the site is also set up for self guided tours. As I was the only tourist in our group, the rest all being locals, we opted for guiding ourselves around the site. I probably won't have picked up much more for a tour guide, as my 3 companions all knew the history quite well due to their skooling.

Admission also included a complimentary boat tour of the surrounding islands of Carnarvon bay. Many of these were used for various purposes by the prison.
The most eerie of which was the Isle of the Dead. This island was were the most hardened criminals and lunatics were buried when they died. All in unmarked and unrecorded graves. Current Archaeological efforts to catalogue all buried there have only scratched the surface from what we were told.

There was an option to pay extra to tour the island, but my locals said it really wasn't worth it. Which based on the small size of the island I can see.

One of the most interesting sites was Port Arthur's Church. All the remains are its outer stone shell. The rest of the building either fell down in a powerful wind storm in 1876 or burned away in a massive bushfire in 1884.
It had a history to match what you might think a convict church should be. Any number of horror movies could be set here.
There were many mishaps and deaths directly tied to the construction of this building. While digging the trenches for the foundation a number of convicts turned on one their work team and killed him with their tools. In another incident while tiling the roof one inmate pushed a rival off to his death...
Some of the tour guides will claim that the church was never consecrated due to this blood shed before it was blessed (read about my compliants with the ghost tour guide in a moment!), but if you read the signs it was not blessed so that convicts of all denominations could feel free to worship here.
The other key structure was the Separate Prison. This was where high offense convicts or those who committed multiple misdemeanours were sent. The complex is the ultimate solitary confinement prison.
Prisoners were kept in isolation from each other, and forbid from speaking to anyone by staff. The whole complex was designed for guards to hear and monitor convicts activities. Even the in built chapel was set up to isolate prisoners from their surroundings. Each was given a small stand in box from which they could only see straight ahead towards the preacher.

The age, state, and function of all of Port Arthur give it a slightly creepy and haunted feel...
Which funny enough many claim Port Arthur is indeed haunted. This isn't surprising given all the suffering and dramas that went down here.
So at the end of our day we booked into one of the Ghost tours at Port Arthur.

It turns out they split the site into two separate tours, and so we only saw the "church side" buildings and heard their stories. This included the supposed most haunted building the Parsonage (here). However upon research the Penitentary side tour is much better thought of.
I had been looking forward to the ghost tour all day, but it turned out to be very disappointing. This was entirely due to our tour guide, who frankly was utter rubbish! I'm not a believer in ghosts, but I DO really enjoy ghost stories. So long as their is some substance or history involved.
Our tour guide was a total believer, and her whole tour delivery was founded on her belief in the supernatural instantly rubbing off on you. If it didn't rub off on you, as it so happened didn't with me or my crew, it was a pretty crappy framing for a tour,
Also every one of her stories seemed to come from another ghost tour and the encounters of fellow visitors such as ourselves. Which during the tour led me immediately to the question why were they having ghost tours if the only ghosts being seen were on the tours?!?

My locals were even less impressed, having been on the tours before. I had been told better stories by them during the day in the same places, than by our guide at night. Additionally Lady R bought the official ghost book from the gift shop, and it had wonderful HISTORIC stories that actually related to the site, and not just random "generic" ghost stories set at Port Arthur.
I couldn't tell if our guide had simply made her stories up, or if they were actual events she spun (through her overwhelming belief in the supernatural) into ghostly encounters. I say this as both me and Lady R tiggered her to go off the deep end during the tour (funnily I seem to have this effect anywhere I go. If something odd is going to happen, I'll be involved. Poor Lady R only usually gets to witness this, not join in... till that night!)
Thus the pic of me lying on the cement in the middle of the night. I was trying to take a picture on of one of the buildings using time exposure while we skipped out part of the tour... my pictural results are the last shot on the post.
Shortly into introducing us to the church, the guide literally freaked out at me, thinking I was a ghost. You see, once on a tour she had seen a shadowy figure with a big hat like mine, and in the shadows of the dark I looked just like him... Following my logic on her being a crackpot. If I had the same shadowy appearance as another shadowy figure in the same light, clearly these are two people we're talking about. However because one of them ran away when she spotted it, clearly it was a ghost. Why would a mortal man run off into the dark?
This desire to see the supernatural in every slight odd event came up again.

Checking out the Parsonage from above, Lady R had a panic attack and had to leave the building. Now the explanation is simple. We had noted during our visit in the day, that two of the rooms in the building were being heated (it was a hot day outside already at 27 degrees). Lady R hadn't liked it as a result back then.
Trying to cram 30 tourists into this tiny super heated room, all of whom have their camera flashes going off ad nauseum (oh yeah and she didn't instruct people to be considerate with their flash photography... like I said she was a rubbish guide!) was too much for Lady R, and so we opted out of that part of the tour.
Frankly I don't blame her. The flashes all going off in such a confined area, under extremely dark conditions was almost too much for me (I have great night vision, but sudden bright lights like that cause me extreme pain)... Add the jam of people and the incredible heat I didn't blame her for wanting out.
Then enter our guide. I wanted to bitch slap the old crow for what she said next. "Oh my dear, it is not uncommon for people to have such a powerful supernatural experience in that room!" Those were her exact words... Despite explaining to her the huge number of people with their bright flashes and the absurd temperature caused a natural panic attack, the guide lectured us for a couple minutes on how panic like that could only be caused by a spirit or presence blah blah. She would go the rest of the tour speaking of Lady R as a spiritually attuned person... which she has never complained of to me. Which you know I think I'd pick up on. "Craig, I see more dead people!"
Our guide was a BEEPing loon, and frankly ruined what was an otherwise a self delivering ghost tour (especially if you read the Port Arthur ghost story book from the gift shop!!!). If I ever end up living down here I'll have to take up tour guiding again.
Anyways Lady R and her friend S both went back to the visitor centre, while me and husband S carried on with the laughable tour.
At least seeing the buildings in the dark was quite fun, and I had fun visualizing the various horror movies you could film on site. We also saw some Wallabies and a Bandicoot in the dark, which was awesome!

I still recommend the ghost tour, but pick up the ghost book earlier in the day and glance over it before going. Then you can just soak up the atmosphere and the spirit of the tour (pun not intended ;P) while ignoring incompetent guides if you get one.

At least one of my exposure pics captured the chill factor of the night. Just too bad my tour did not.

Jan 16, 2010

Tasmania Part 2: Mount Field (Part B)

The Clan oh R has been hit by some pretty heavy news this weekend, so my blog posts may not be as fun as I'd been planning. I don't have the time for them. However I can give you a slide show of my journeys.

So time to finish up on my trip to Mount Field. To start off with, here is where Mount Field national park is located. As the name implies the park is set up around Mount Field which is part of the Wellington Mountain range. The park includes a nice visitor centre at the entrance, and from there you drive up the Mount with trails and walkways through all the environments of the area.

As you'll see this includes Alpine, Rainforests, and Temperate forest. You've already seen some of the temperate forest in the first post.

Here's the rest of Mount Field national park...

Here is the Alpine

The very top of the easily accessible Alpine area

Last of the Alpine

Halfway down the mountain you get a pass into a nice bit of rainforest. Among them some of the tallest trees in Tasmania. You'll note the Lady and Papa R at the bottom for scale (though these tall tree Panoramas never seem to work very well).

This is a specimen of Eucalyptus regnans the tallest flowering plant in the world. I got to see quite a few of them here (and later on in another park).

Last of the forest up the Mountain.

Then just out behind the visitor centre about a km was Russell falls.

Which held its own against NZ's many many waterfalls (though after being down here so long, sadly waterfalls have lost a little bit of their edge with me... but I still do love them!)

This ended up being one of my favourite forest shots ever, and so I end with it (it was taken about 3 minutes from the falls).
So more Tasmania to come. Not quite sure when. I'm putting these up as fast as I can Panorama my photos. The only issue with having acquired panorama software is I take all my photos for it :) Also it depends on how the Family R situation plays out.

Jan 12, 2010

Tasmania Part 1: Mount Field (Part A)

Time for a long overdue Tasmania post.

First for any who have wondered (and a few of you have), Tasmania is the southern most state of Australia. A self contained isolated island. As it has been cut off for a very long time it is unique to the mainland and has many unique plants, animals, and environments. Also as it is closer to the Antarctic, and being a much smaller landmass completely surrounded by water, it is a lot cooler and wet then stereotypical Australia (which is really the Northwest of the continent, where next to no one lives).

I'm going to end the fun facts about Tasmania for this post. Each post I do, I'll include a few more fun facts. At least you should have a general idea of where I am.

These posts aren't in chronological order, as I wasn't organized in how I've tackled my photos. My regular readers know I have a slight addiction to taking panorama photos, and as of such I have to go through and process them. With my new camera's bigger pic size this takes longer. The results are stunning, but of course at this time cost.

So we cover the first part of my second big field trip into Tassie, up on Mount Field. As this is just part A of Mount Field, I'll leave the local geography to next post. Bonus points to anyone who looks it up on their own.

I'll let the photos tell the story on their own.

So expect more Tasmania in the coming days.