Environment & Weather

The Grade Three Bloggers wrote a post about the packages I sent them. What started as a simple comment grew and so a post was needed. To see their original post, click the link below...

A Special Surprise Arrives!

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”

Mark Van Doren

When I retired from teaching I at first thought my times of assisting the education of others was coming to an end yet, as can happen in life, it was the time of new beginnings. Through blogging I found I could still be involved in the learning of others and, having always wanted to share with others, I found I could still share resources as I had with children in my classes. The packages I sent were some of the learning “treasures” I still collect in the hope of sharing.

“Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

Will Durant - The Great Gadfly, Time magazine, 8 October 1965

I shared the above quote because I have found similar to Will Durant, although sixty years ago I was only one year old. It seems the more we learn, the more we realise how much there is still to know.

As I read through the cards, I discovered new information about some of the animals; in fact some of the animals were unknown to me before I read the cards. I realised I still have large gaps of knowledge waiting to be filled. Learning is a lifelong journey just waiting for us to explore.

Unlike Mrs. Renton, I find snakes interesting and have seen a number of poisonous species while out hiking. Red-bellied black snakes, tiger snakes, eastern brown snakes and death adders are native to my area. I have a healthy respect for these snakes and tend to keep my distance although I once had to chase a young black snake out of a school playground. Black snakes are the shyest of these snakes and prefer to slither away rather than attack.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

What’s happening for the rest of my year?

You already know I film and produce DVDs and CDs for schools and community groups in my area. I have an adult choir and a dancing school production edit under way at this time and will soon film a school play (Dec. 8) and Kindergarten Graduation (Dec. 11) in two schools. With our year soon to end, I thought that might be the end of projects for the year but I had a phone call and have been asked to again be a photographer and videographer for a BioBlitz on December 4 and 5.

What’s a BioBlitz?

Scientists and interested amateurs, including school students, take part in animal and plant surveys in a given area. It’s a method of checking the environmental/ecological health of an area. This time it will be in Bournda National Park to the north of my town. It will be the second I have been able to record.

I arrive with cameras ready before dawn each day hoping to capture a sunrise at least once. The Friday doesn’t end until about 8 p.m. and the Saturday ends around 4 p.m. It’s a chance to learn more about my area. It seems there’s so much yet to see.

I know I will be adding photos and video clips to my collection and sharing them with the BioBlitz team. I hope to add a blog post about the experience by the beginning of 2016. I wonder if I will be able to photograph some interesting animals again this time?

Here are a few images from the 2014 BioBlitz in an area known as Panboola

Sunset  in Panboola

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

frogs

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

lizards

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

scorpions

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The little guy below is a marsupial mouse, species antechinus.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Birds of Prey

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

What people thought about being involved in the BioBlitz.

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To see Global Grade 3's original post, click the link below

A Closer Look at MAPS!

Hello Global Grade 3,

I'll start by repeating the wonderful quote from Henry Miller at the beginning of you post...

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself. 

~Henry Miller

I saw your post entitled "The Power of Observation and Wonder" and found it very interesting to read. I was going to write a reply because, as the previous Global Grade 3 class knows, I am interested in many things including stones but I have been very busy filming and making DVDs for schools. However, your "A Closer Look at MAPS!" post again caught my attention so I thought I'd write a short post about maps.

I have seen many types of maps including the types you have studied. Perhaps my favourite modern maps are the types I used as a Scout. I would say, "Give me a good map and a compass and I can usually find my way around."

I have scanned an old topographical map I used in the 1970s. It was measured in miles and feet but we were changing over to kilometres and metres around then. Have a look at the map. Click on it to see it larger...

This is a scanned section of Central Mapping Authority of N.S.W. topographical map printed in 1970. I do not hold copyright over this image.

This is a scanned section of Central Mapping Authority of N.S.W. topographical map printed in 1970. I do not hold copyright over this image.

The map has a great deal of information. I can see red lines showing roads. Some roads are shown as white with red dashes to show they are dirt roads. There are thick black lines with small, double dashes along them to show a railway line. Blues lines show rivers and creeks. We can easily see Blackheath is a town but there are large areas without streets and those areas interest me as I have explored those areas.

Can you see the brown wriggly lines on the map?

The brown lines are contour lines. They show heights. Each line shows a height of 50 feet more or less than the next. Some of the lines have numbers such as 3200.  The 3200 tells me at that place the land is 3200 feet above sea level. Looking at the numbers and the lines can tell me if I will be going up or down when hiking. Let's look closer at a section of the map...

This is a scanned section of Central Mapping Authority of N.S.W. topographical map printed in 1970. I do not hold copyright over this image.

This is a scanned section of Central Mapping Authority of N.S.W. topographical map printed in 1970. I do not hold copyright over this image.

I have added the red numbers to help students find specific points.

See the black, single dashed lines?

They are walking tracks I have followed. I have walked down from number 1 to 3 and up from 3 to 2.

1 - The beginning of the track is about 3250 feet above sea level.

2 - The end of the dirt road is about 3200 feet above sea level

3 - Beachamp Falls is about 2650 feet above sea level.

The map shows me if I walk down from 1 to 3, I will drop 600 feet. If I then walk up to 2, I will go up 550 feet. Because the brown lines are close together, I know the track will be steep in places.

Do you notice one section is named Grand Canyon?

It's not even close to the size of the Grand Canyon in U.S.A. but it is steep sided.

Let's look at some photos I had taken around 1980 in the Grand Canyon and at Beauchamp Falls.

Starting down the steep track from 1.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

We pass through a small tunnel and behind waterfalls.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Deep down in the Grand Canyon.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Until we reach Beauchamp Falls at 3.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

And now for two photos for your "The Power of Observation and Wonder" post. The photos show rocks that caught my eye but were left in place. They were in a national park so we are not allowed to take them. They were also far too big to carry.

The first shows a large sandstone rock.

Can you see the black mark?

It is the remains of a tree trunk buried under sand millions of years ago but now exposed after a rock fall. It is a fossil record of the tree.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The second shows an even larger sandstone rock.

Do you notice the ripples on it?

Millions of years ago sand was rippled by flowing water. A thin layer of mud covered the ripples and in time left a fossil record of water running over sand.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

What is even more amazing is this sandstone was sand under the sea millions of years ago but it is now lying 2650 feet above sea level. These rocks of sandstone certainly caught my eye and the eyes of the children I had taken there as we thought of their long history.

When we then walk the 550 feet in height (but much longer along  track) back up to 2, this is what we see when looking north.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

...and now your interesting questions...

How long does it take to study a place and then make the map?

For early map makers, they might have to walk, ride or travel by ship in order to make maps so it could take a long time to make a map.

Back in August 1768, Captain James Cook set sail from England. He was taking scientists to Tahiti to observe Venus crossing the Sun. Once the scentists had finished their observations, Cook's orders were to sail south to find Terra Australis Incognita, the unknown southern land, some people thought must exist.

In September, 1769 he reached New Zealand and set about mapping its islands.

In April 1770, he reached a land he named New South Wales. It was really the east coast of Australia. He sailed north along the coast mapping as he went. Cook and his ship didn't return to England until 12th July, 1771. It had taken him and his crew three years to make the journey and return with the maps he had made.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Today, with satellites, GPS and Google Earth, we can map the world from our own homes.

How many different kinds of maps are there?

Interesting question and makes me wonder what a map might be. We know most types but is a plan for a house a map? Is a design for a new machine a map? They also show where things are.

Are there maps about SPACE?

Now this is complicated. In your post , you noticed the maps you saw were two dimensional flat maps. In order to find a place on a map, you needed to know how far up or down and side to side a place is.

To accurately map space, we would need a three dimensional map and it would have to be huge because space is huge. Using computer models, there are space maps. Here is a link to a 3D space map animation representing 400,000 galaxies. Remember our Sun is just one star amongst possibly hundreds of billions in just one of those galaxies.

Amazing Universe Fly-Through

How do pilots use maps?

Have a look at this aviator's map. It's how a pilot might plot a course using information on their computer.

SkyVector Areonautical Maps

Of course, pilots in early days didn't have computers. They would look down to the ground and possibly follow roads or railways to their destination or they might use a compass so an old fashioned paper might might have helped.

Do we have maps for EVERYTHING?

WOW! Maps of everything? Even on our own Earth there are places no one has ever been so, for example, there are no accurate maps for some of the deepest places in our oceans. What about other planets, stars, galaxies? We may not have maps for everything but we do have maps of very many things but there is still so much more waiting for someone like you to map.

What jobs need maps?

Cartographers (map makers), pilots, sailors, explorers, delivery drivers, police, ambulance, fire fighters, tow truck drivers...   There would be so many jobs where we might need maps at some time.

How old is the OLDEST map?

A link if you want to see old maps....   Early World Maps

Look at these three maps...

These maps were sourced through Wikimedia Commons where they are listed as in the public domain.

These maps were sourced through Wikimedia Commons where they are listed as in the public domain.

The first shows the world as known by the Greeks perhaps 3000 years ago. It shows the Mediterranean Sea.

The 500 BC map from around 2500 years ago shows the Red Sea and the opening into the Atlantic Ocean.

By 150 AD Europe, parts of Africa, and Asia has appeared on the maps. Notice Terra Incognita at the bottom right of the map. It's what Captain Cook was sent to find or show wasn't there.

How many countries are there in the world?

Interesting... The United Nations has 193 countries as members. My blog has had visits from 193 countries and I have seen 196 listed as the number of independent countries in the world. Here is a link for you...

The Number of Countries in the World

Do maps ever change? (This one brought up some VERY interesting conversations around Bombay, Calgary, Nunavut and the NEW islands that VOLCANOES create!!!)

Maps have to change when what has been mapped changes.

Yes, volcanoes can create new islands.

1996 Hawaii Lava flow 01

You know about the big island of Hawaii. Did you know deep under the ocean around 30 kilometres south of The Big Ilsand there is a new volcano rising around 10,000 feet from the ocean floor with only about 3100 feet before it reaches the surface? If in the future it does break the surface, Hawaii will have a new Island.

The islands of Hawaii were formed in this way and will eventually erode into the ocean as many have already done over millions of years. Look at the Google Earth image below. The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle at the bottom. Look carefully and you can seen now submerged volcanoes moving off to the left  as you go north. They may once have been islands as is Hawaii.

Volcanic hotspots

When we have changes in the level of the sea, land also changes. In times of ice ages, sea levels can be much lower and expose more land. When the first people came to Australia around 30,000 years ago, they were able to walk from New Guinea into Australia and cross to Tasmania by land. Now you would need boats.

The opposite happens when sea levels rise. Some islands in our oceans are now underwater but were once above. It worries island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Another country I find interesting is the Netherlands (Holland). Over generations, they have taken back land from the sea using dykes and sea walls. In the news recently there have been stories of islands being built by the Chinese government in the South China Sea.

And in your own part of the world, when new suburbs, roads, streets, airports, railways, etc are built, maps need to change.

Do maps ever change? They have to if they need to be accurate.

I'll end with a quote, not from some famous philosopher or writer but from a character in the movie, "Superman", released in 1978...

“Some people can read War and Peace and come away thinking it’s a simple adventure story. Others can read the ingredients on a chewing gum wrapper and unlock the secrets of the universe.” – Lex Luthor

Both your quote at the beginning and this at the end tell me the key to learning is to keep our minds and senses open to all around us for, if we do, we will begin to see our world and those beyond as containing mysterious, awesome and magnificent opportunites just waiting to be discovered.

OH DEAR!

At the beginning I said I'd write a short post about maps. I do get carried away when I see something as interesting as your posts. 🙂

2 Comments

To visit the original blog, click on Rocky River Goes Global

This is the 199th post on this blog. Rocky River, check out post number 201...

Post 201: About  Bilbies and 200 posts

Hello Rocky River, here is the second part of a post I promised. This time we will look at life in a small, isolated school serving sheep and cattle stations, School of the Air, cattle stations in the Outback and life on a large sheep station.

Schools of the Air

By Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic Unit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Queensland Premier's Department, State Public Relations Bureau, Photographic Unit [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 1960

Because of the isolated locations of some children on sheep and cattle properties or in communities too small for a school around Australia, a number of schools were set up to allow children to use two way radio. The first radio broadcasts dated back to 1951 and were sent out from the Royal Flying Doctors Service in Alice Springs. From 2003 till 2009, short wave radio was used but schools of the air are now turnng to internet technology giving students better access to information and the world.

In earlier years, radio became a contact to the world for isolated people. They used radios which were pedal powered. Someone would pedal to make electricity from a generator in order to power their radio.

 

Sourced through Wikimedia Commons - This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired. According to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC), ACC Information Sheet G023v16 (Duration of copyright) (Feb 2012).

Sourced through Wikimedia Commons - This image is of Australian origin and is now in the public domain because its term of copyright has expired. According to the Australian Copyright Council (ACC), ACC Information Sheet G023v16 (Duration of copyright) (Feb 2012).

With modern technology, you would find it much easier to use solar energy for electricity.

There are now a number of locations for Schools of the Air around Australia. According to Wikipedia, the schools of the air are in the towns of...

 School of the Air Locations

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Within my state of New South Wales, the most isolated school is listed as Tibooburra School of the Air. The school is based in the town of Tibooburra. The school where I first had a permanent teaching position wasn't a school of the air although some high school students in my area used correspondence school where lessons were sent by mail. My school, Marra Creek Public School, was the sixth most isolated school in my state and the first not to be located in a town.

Marra Creek Public School

This was the first school were I was a permanent teacher and it was considered the sixth most isolated school in New South Wales. The five more isolated, while further from the state capital of Sydney, were in towns. Marra Creek Public School was 100km (62mi) from the nearest town. The children lived on sheep and cattle stations around the school and could travel from up to 50km (31mi) to school each day. Because the outback refers to isolated and remote areas, it could be considered an outback school. If you click on the school website link above, you will see they list themselves as an outback school.

This section of the blog post looks at my time in this outback school in the early 1980s.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

When I first arrived at the school, the above photo shows what I found. You can see it had tanks to catch rain falling on the roof if it rained and a toilet block near the school building. We had a flagpole and a tall TV antenna but we could only receive one TV channel if the weather conditions were good.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The playground was mostly dirt but there was some ground covering plants. You couldn't go barefoot because there were often nasty wooden thorns called catheads. They would always have one spike pointing up.

Phone winding

We had a phone where, if you wanted to make a phone call, you would pick up the handset and listen to make certain no one else was using it. You would then put the handset down, wind a handle, then pick the handset up to see if the operator had answered. You could then ask for a number.

We didn't have mobile phones, push button numbers, emails, CDs, DVDs, Bluray or the internet back then but, for 6 weeks each year, we were able to use a borrowed Apple II computer. The computer had only about 12 programs so I wrote some extras for the class to use. Luckily for the children, I had used computers while a university student in the 1970s.

It was back in 1982 I purchased my first personal video camera. They were new on the market and expensive. When I used it, some people thought I might be from a television station. Using it, I produced my first school video clip. Now converted from VHS video tape to digital, below is a section of that first video clip. The youngest children, 5 years old, in the video would now be about 37 years old. I have never before shared this video clip with others since I was in that school so this is a special share for you to see outback children at work and play in the 1980s..

You Tube has removed some copyrighted music I used back then. I try to make certain video clips I now make only have music I am allowed to use.

During my two years at the school, numbers ranged from 12 to 20 students aged from 5 to 13 all in the one small classroom. I was the only teacher and was known as the Teacher In Charge (not a principal).

With a new classroom and my old classroom now the library, a teacher house and access to the internet, the school would be very different compared to when I taught there but it is still about 100km from the nearest town and so is still an outback, isolated school.

Sheep Stations

While teaching at Marra Creek Public School, I lived "next door" to the school about 20km (12mi) distant by road. I stayed in a house on a sheep station known as Lemon Grove. While I has there, the property grew to about 400 square kilometres (100,000 acres) although at the time the video clip below was made, the property was half that size. A neighbouring property had been bought by the end of 1982.

Below is a video clip I again made in 1982. It features Lemon Grove stud (sheep breeding property) and its annual field day. The field day allowed Lemon Grove and neighbouring properties to sell their sheep. It was also a social event for the area.

For any outback property, reliable water supplies can be a problem. Many properties have to pump water from natural underground sources such as the Great Artesian Basin found under about one quarter of Australia although water from the Basin came come to the surface by itself  (see the grey shaded area on the map below).

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

On many farms, and sheep and cattle stations, you will see windmills. The windmills use wind power to pump water up from underground. Lemon Grove had a windmill near the main houses.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Each year, the sheep on Lemon Grove would be brought in for shearing in the shearing shed.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Shearers take the sheep and shear off the fleece in one piece.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Once done, the shearer takes the next sheep while others collect the fleece and take it to a table where bits of plants or dirt can be removed. A woolclasser then checks the quality of the fleece. They check how fine the wool is. Merino wool from these sheep is amongst the finest wool in the world.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Once classed, the fleece is put into a press with the same quality wool. When full, the press forces the wool together into bales. Bales can then be placed on trucks and sent off for sale.

Sunsets at Lemon Grove could sometimes be amazing, especially when storm clouds were gathering.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Sometimes, the miracle of rain comes to the dry land and within two weeks, the land can turn green with plant growth.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

If you look very carefully in the middle of this photo, you can see an emu running away from where I was standing. Like ostriches, they can't fly. They rely on running to escape danger.

It is a male. How do I know? Look even more carefully and you can see chicks following the emu. For emus, once the female has laid the eggs she leaves. It's the males that care for the eggs and developing chicks.

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

CATTLE STATIONS

Cattle stations mixed with sheep stations are found near Marra Creek School but, as you move into northern and more western Australia, sheep give way to cattle. Australia's largest cattle station is known as Anna Creek Station.

Anna Creek Station is roughly 24,000 square kilometres (6,000,000 acres or 9,400 sq mi) or about the size of the U.S.A. state of New Hampshire. It is in the state of South Australia. The largest cattle ranch in the U.S. is, I think, King Ranch in Texas.  At 3,340 square kilometres (825,000 acres or 1289 sq mi) you would need a little over 7 King Ranch to make up Anna Creek Station.

In areas where rainfall is low, stations need to be very large to allow enough land for cattle to feed. In the photo below, taken by Robert Kerton of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the Northern Territory, you can see how arid cattle station land can be.

This image is a CSIRO Science Image taken by Robert Kerton. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSIRO_ScienceImage_1672_Cattle_in_dry_landscape.jpg

This image is a CSIRO Science Image taken by Robert Kerton. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons. This photo was taken in the Northern Territory in NOvember, 1989. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CSIRO_ScienceImage_1672_Cattle_in_dry_landscape.jpg

Anna Creek Station in South Australia is roughly 24,000 square kilometres (6,000,000 acres or 9,400 sq mi) and, as at 2012, it had 17,000 cattle. That means each animal has about 1.4 square kilometres (353 acres or about half a sq mi). Smaller stations where more feed and water is available would have higher numbers of cattle for the land available.

Australia is a huge country, although smaller than U.S.A.'s 50 states yet most of it is arid or semi-arid (desert or near desert). Most Australians live around the coastal areas, paricularly in the east of Australia.

Sheep and Cattle Where I Live

My home is along Australia's east coast about half way between Sydney and Melbourne. It is in the Bega Valley Shire, an area known for Bega Cheese and its beautful coastline is popular with tourists. My family has been in this area since the 1840s. They were, and my cousin still is, dairy farmers. As well as dairy, we have beef cattle and sheep in my area. A few properties also have alpacas, none of these animals being native to Australia.

Below is a photo taken on the old family farm...

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

You can see it is much greener and hillier than central Australia. Farms are much smaller than the sheep and cattle stations of the Outback.

...and since I mentioned our coastline, here is a photo I have taken of the coastline as can be seen from my town.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 

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Mrs. Todd and her Roadrunners are looking at Outback Australia. This is a post about an Outback journey I organised for parents and children from a school back in 1985. It's hard to believe those students would now be about 40 years old.

In this post, some video clips I had taken back in 1985 as my group travelled to Uluru and back have been shared. They have been converted from VHS tapes to digital and are being shared for the first time. 

The Australian Outback

I don't know exactly where The Outback is said to start but I've always understood it to be the more isolated, arid (desert-like) areas across the centre of Australia. Most Australians live in coastal areas although there are larger communities in some Outback areas including traditional land owners, miners and graziers (cattle ranchers).

Let's look at a satellite photo of Australia Wikimedia lists as NASA sourced and in the public domain...

This image was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where  it has bee sourced from NASA and is listed in the public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australia_satellite_plane.jpg

This image was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it has bee sourced from NASA and is listed in the public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Australia_satellite_plane.jpg

If you look at this photo you can see green areas are mostly coastal whereas from the west (left on the photo) to most of the way east you see reds, browns and even white. The white areas, especially the very white areas are not snow. They tend to be salt lakes and high salt areas only filling with water when there are very heavy rains in Queensland. Once the water reachers the lakes, it has nowhere to go as the lakes lie below sea level. The water evaporates and leaves the salt behind.

Let's look at the journey my group took back in 1985. I was the tour organiser and minibus driver on our two week, 7000+km (4350+mi) journey into The Outback and back .

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

We started out in Sydney, the capital of the state on New South Wales and headed west then turned north to spend our first night in an isolated school I had worked in in the early 80s.

The school, Marra Creek Public School, is about 670km (415mi) from Sydney and lies 100km (62mi) from the nearest town of Nyngan. It served children from local sheep and cattle properties. I stayed at a neighbouring shearer's house about 20km (13mi) from the school.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Was the school in The Outback? It was isolated, used water from tanks, had a phone where you had to talk to an operator to be connected, and only sometimes could pick up one television station if the conditions were good. I sometimes had to chase emus and kangaroos or even wild pigs out of the playground.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

A video clip of emus in an animal sanctuary close to my home.

 

And some kangaroos from the same sanctuary.

 

When I first started there we had been in drought and the water tanks were low, temperatures at times reached 47C (116F). With rains, the clay pans turned green with grass and roads became muddy. We didn't have snow days but we did have mud days when half of the students couldn't make it along the dirt roads. We didn't build mud men. Snow seems to work better and is cleaner.

Heading across country, we visited the town of Bourke most would consider an outback town. It lies along the Darling River, a river sometimes drying out if rains don't fall in Queensland and can also flood when heavy rainfall comes. On our trip, rainfall in the outback had been unusually good but still low compared to coastal.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Not too far north of Bourke, we crossed into the state of Queensland. You can see in the photo below just how flat and semi-arid (almost desert) much of inland Australia can be.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Heading north, we were heading towards the town of Longreach. The landscape had dried out.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Stopping for the night, we were entertained by brolgas, the only cranes native to Australia. While at Marra Creek Public School, I had watched brolgas "dancing" their mating dance as they made jumps into the air.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The video clip below isn't one of mine but shows the dance of the brolgas.

Just north of Longreach, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. This means we were now in the tropical region of the world.

Near Longreach we saw an echidna on the side of the road. Echidnas and the platypus are the only living mammals that lay eggs but, as they are mammals, the mothers can give milk to their young. Echidnas are also found around my town and have sometimes visited my garden in search of ants.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Below is a video of an echidna taken at an animal sanctuary near my home.

Our next major settlement was Mount Isa (pictured below), a mining town in western Queensland, an area known as the Gulf Country. Lead, silver, copper and zinc are mined in the Mount Isa area.

You can easily see the red of the soil, a soil colour so common in The Outback.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

From Mt. Isa, we head west to the border with Northern Territory. The photo below was taken standing in the state of Northern Territory and looking into Queensland.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 Reaching the Stuart Highway, a highway running from Adelaide, the capital of the state of South Australia, in the south to Darwin, Northern Territory's capital, in the north. We took a left turn as we had reached as far north as we were going on this journey.

Passing through the town of Tennant Creek,  our next major attraction was Karlu Karlu (known also as the Devil's Marbles) 105km (65mi) south of Tennant Creek. Here are some photos taken at Karlu Karlu.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

That's not me pretending to hold up the rock.

The video clip below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time.

Karlu Karlu is a sacred site to the Alyawarre (Aboriginal) whose country includes the site. It's also sacred to the Kaytetye, Warumungu and Warlpiri people. There are a number of traditional Dreaming stories for the Karlu Karlu area but only a few are able to be shared with uninitiated people such as us.

From Karlu Karlu, we continues south towards Alice Springs. As we travelled, we again crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, this time heading out of the tropics. Someone with a sense of humour had painted words on the road (not us).

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Alice Springs is the largest town in Central Australia and the third largest in Northern Territory. Central Australia is only a name for the area and is not a state. To the local people, the Arrernte, the Alice Springs area is known as Mparntwe.

On our visit, we managed to see a rare rainbow over Alice Springs.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Alice Springs lies within the MacDonnell Ranges. There are so many beautiful places to visit in this arid area. Here are just two...

Standley Chasm

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The video clip of Standley Chasm below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time.

 

Simpsons Gap (it was late in the day)

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The video clip of Simpsons Gap below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time.

The video clip of black-footed rock wallabies below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time. The rock wallabies were our companions as we explored Simpsons Gap.

After leaving Alice Springs, we took time for a camel ride. Camels aren't native to Australia but were brought here by Afghan camel herders in the 1800s. Before roads and railways, all supplies had to be brought in by camel trains. When road and rail arrived, many camels were released into the wild. Australia now is the country with the largest number of wild camels in the world and at times exports camels back to the Middle East.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The video clip of camel riding below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time.

We were heading to Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Along the arid way, we saw Mount Conner standing high above the desert.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Tourists to Central Australia shouldn't miss a chance to see  Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Here are some photos I had taken.

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) up close

You can get an idea of its size by looking at the people climbing it.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

And a view from almost the top of Uluru

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Since my visit 30 years ago, visitors have become much more aware of the importance of Uluru to the local people. While they don't stop visitors climbing the rock, many visitors now choose not to climb in respect for the beliefs of the local people.

The video clip of an Uluru sunset below was taken on the 1985 trip and has been converted to digital and shared for the first time. It is running at 20x normal speed.

Around the base of Uluru, there are many sacred sites we are asked to respect. Some are sacred men's sites and some sacred women's sites.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

However, there are sites visitors can see. Here is a photo taken at one such site, Mutitjula (Maggie Springs). You can see some of the rock paintings.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

From Uluru, it is possible to see the distant Kata Tjuta rising from the desert plain.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Back in our mini-bus, we head along the dirt road to Kata Tjuta.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

On leaving Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we rejoined the Stuart Highway and again headed  south crossing the state border into South Australia.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Our next stop would be Coober Pedy, famous for its opal mined in the area. Because of the high temperatures on summer days, some homes in Coober Pedy have been built underground.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Heading further sour, we started to see salt lakes near the road. As they are low than the distant sea, water entering can't flow our. The water evaporates and leaves the salt behind. You can see a late afternoon photo of a salt lake.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

There were many kilometres of flat roads as we continued south.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

On reaching Port Augusta in South Australia, we headed east and back to Sydney. We had travelled over 7000+km (4350+mi) in our journey through The Outback.

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The photos appearing on this post were taken by me on 35mm slide film in 1985. They have been scanned at 3600dpi.

Declan and Connor wrote a descriptive piece about the Australian Desert. This post will share some photos of Australia's arid centre.

Back in 1985, I organised a trip for some families from my school through Australia's centre. Our journey in the minibus I drove covered over 6500km. Below shows the journey we took from Sydney to the north, through central Australia and back to Sydney.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The photo below shows the border country to the west of Mt Isa on the map. Some parts of Australia are very flat with few trees.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Occasionally, hills can break the dry scenery.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

We stopped to explore Karlu Karlu (also known as Devil's Marbles)...

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

You can see from this photo including two of our group just how large the rocks are. The rocks aren't balancing. They have been eroded over time with the base of the upper rock slowly wearing away from the base rock. Eventually enough rock will erode away and the upper rock will fall.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 The large town closest to Australia's centre is Alice Springs, also known as "The Alice". The site is known as Mparntwe to the traditional owners of the land, the Arrernte people. On our visit, we were able to see a rare rainbow across the town's surrounding MacDonnell Ranges.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Travelling south from Alice Springs, we turned west to reach Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) standing high above the ground in this low desert country.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

You can see the size of Uluru in the next photo. Uluru is sacred to the traditional owners who would never climb the rock but they don't stop visitors who wish to climb but prefer people to respect their beliefs. Visitors have to take care to follow the trail because the climb can be dangerous.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Many areas around Uluru have traditonal art work painted on the rock. Some areas have a low fence with warning signs asking visitors not to enter as the sites are scared men or women areas where only traditonal people should enter. The photo below was taken in an area visitors could enter.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

About 30 km (more by road) to the west of Uluru is Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas).

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Like Uluru, these rock formations are huge and tower above the surrounding land.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

As we left Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we joined the main road south and passed through more flat country.

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Eventually we reached the opal mining town of Coober Pedy.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

To escape the high summer temperatures, some of the town's people have built homes into the low hills.

This photo was sourced through WIkimedia Commons. The information below shows the original author.

This photo was sourced through WIkimedia Commons. The information below shows the original author.

Heading south from Coober Pedy, we pass salt lakes...

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

...before heading east from Port Augusta back into the state of New South Wales and on to Sydney. Australia is a very large country but much of it is arid (desert) or semi-arid (almost desert).

To see Mrs. Yollis and Class's post...

Winter Began Today

Hello Mrs. Yollis and class,

I have had a very busy time over the last couple months but the New Year brings a time when my filming work slows and blogging speeds up so I will hopefully be visiting blogs more often.

Seeing your post reminds me how different our seasons can be. We are having warm to hot and humid days with storms about. Tourist numbers are now at a peak in our town as visitors come to enjoy our region and the beaches. Children are excited because, at the time of writing this comment, Christmas Day is less than 24 hours away and starts for us 19 hours before you. A white Christmas for us would more likely be the hot sunlight reflecting off breaking waves.

What really caught my attention was the following line…

The earth's axis always tips about 23 1/2 degrees from a line perpendicular to its path.

It brought four questions to mind.

1. What do they mean by tilt?

2. Are all of the planets in our Solar System tilted the same?

3. What would the seasons be like if there was no tilt?

4. Why do the planets have the tilts they have?

1. What do they mean by tilt?

The planets rotate on their axis. Seems hard to understand? Maybe you have seen a basketball player start a ball spinning on their fingertip. For this to work, the player must have their fingertip at an axis point. Here’s a short animation I prepared…

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Now, if the player was to walk in a circle around you while spinning the ball, you would be the sun and the ball would be a planet. Imagine if the player could still walk in the circle (orbit) while spinning the ball on his finger at a tilt of 23.4 degrees*.

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This is what is happening to the Earth as it orbits the sun. It is tilted at 23.4 degrees to the circle made (ecliptic).

* The player couldn’t really do this because gravity would make the ball fall.

2. Are all of the planets in our Solar System tilted the same?

After a little Wikipedia research, I thought I would prepare a graphic for you to show the planetary tilts.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

You might notice all of the planets have different tilts but some have some very interesting tilts.

Mercury has hardly any tilt at all and Jupiter only a small tilt.

Uranus seems to almost be on its side.

Venus seems to be upside down.

3. What would the seasons be like if there was no tilt?

Our seasons only happen because we are tilted as we orbit the sun. In June, the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun and has summer while the southern hemisphere has winter. In December, the opposite happens and the southern hemisphere has its summer.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

When we have a solstice (longest or shortest day), we are most tilted toward the sun (summer solstice) or most tilted away (winter solstice). The tilt hasn’t changed. We are just in different parts of our orbit. The equinoxes (day/night the same) occur in March and September when our tilt doesn’t bring either hemisphere closer.

Imagine, without any tilt as Earth orbited the sun, we wouldn’t have any seasons.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

In the graphic, the Earth is not tilted in orbit. The equator is always towards the sun and the poles furthest away. The further we go north or south of the equator, the cooler it would become. Daylight and night would always be the same length throughout the year although days would be shorter the further north or south of the equator you were. Weather would be different to what we have now. I wonder if you can think of weather we only have in certain seasons?

4. Why do the planets have the tilts they have?

We don’t really know why the planets are tilted as they are but it is possible early collisions with other pre-planets while our planets were being built may have set them at a tilt. In another post on this blog, I mentioned an early collision happened between two pre-planets. The resulting collision formed our Earth and much of the thrown off material became our moon. In this collision, the Earth may have become tilted as it orbited the sun.

We have a pretty amazing planet with so much to explore and learn. I am grateful we have a tilted planet so we can experience the changing seasons.

For the original Battalion Bloggers post, click below and scroll down to their October 18 reply in answer to an early comment...

Battalion Bloggers

Hello Battalion Bloggers,

After posting the previous comment for you, I realised I hadn't commented on a reply you left for me on your blog in October. I intend keeping it shorter as I am running out of time and will filming about four hours after posting this. Because I wanted to share some photos, I needed to create another post. Two for one class in a day is probably a record.

Does Australia celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Australia. Rather than free settlers, the first Europeans sent to Australia were convicts and guards from England. They arrived in 1788. Bringing northern hemisphere ideas to the southern hemisphere and not having farmers meant early attempts at crops failed. People were at first starving as rations were short. A spring planting in England might be March but planting in March here is autumn (fall). One of my ancestors arrived as a convict aboard the second fleet in 1789. Life was starting to get easier but I don’t think the convicts felt like giving thanks for being so far from home.

Do you know if Ayers Rock HAS iron in it? We would LOVE to know!

Ayers Rock is sandstone but the redness is iron oxide (rust). The area around Uluru is often known as The Red Centre. You can see the contrasting colours of red soil and blue sky in some of my photos.

Kata Tjuta

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

The lace monitor is even taller than Mrs. Renton is!

You'll find information about monitor lizards in today's earlier post for you at...

More On Australia, The Outback and Its Animals

We wondered if the kangaroos on the golf course were playing golf.

The kangaroos on the golf course aren’t interested in golf unless a ball hits them but birds have been known to swoop down and take balls. The kangaroos like the green grass and lying in the sun.

Do you have pictures of Sapphire?

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

It makes us wonder if you have ever been bitten by a snake.

I have seen many poisonous snakes including a couple on the playground of two of my schools. They were both red-bellied black snakes and would rather escape than try to bite someone.

I did once stand on the tail of a brown snake hiding under a branch. I saw it move and stepped back to let it escape. They can be aggressive but the branch it was under prevented it from seeing me. I have also seen another aggressive snake, the tiger snake, on a track in front of me so I walked around it. When hiking, I wear heavy steel capped boots and try to walk where I can see the ground as an extra precaution. Walking in thick, long grass in warmer months isn't a good idea.

I find snakes better left alone in the wild but I have held some pythons in animal parks over the years. They are cool to the touch and very interesting. Many people are surprised they aren’t slimy.

Red-bellied Black Snake

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 

We wondered if “fortnight” was a week, or overnight.

Fortnight is a word still used in Australia and yes it is fourteen nights or two weeks. Many people in the world speak English but there are differences. Much of our Australian English is like England’s English but there are also some similarities with North American English.

3 Comments

In the comments of their poster entitled “Welcome to Grade THREE!”, the Battalion Bloggers asked some questions. Posts lead to questions and questions to a search for answers. Below is the next part of our shared learning journey as I attempt to find answers and learn more along the way.

For their original post…

Welcome to Grade THREE!

For the related preceding post on this blog...

The Outback and Other Information

Hello Battalion Bloggers,

I know you're having are busy in school at this time and I have been very busy with DVD/CD work for schools and community groups so it seems it can take us some time to reply to each other but our contacts are always interesting.

I thought I would share some ideas I had when thinking about the questions and curiosities in your comment. I know some ideas I share can be a little hard to understand at times but this is what can make learning interesting as we try to discover meaning. To answer you, I always have to research more information, try to understand what I find and then try to explain what I find in in a way you can more easily understand. Our posts and comments means our learning journeys cross for a time. Here's what resulted...

We are glad that the perentie and lace monitors are only slightly venomous and that they are shy and will run away when they see people. Can the perentie and lace monitor venom kill a person if they bite them?

In the original post, I mentioned the monitors are thought to be slightly venemous but I haven't heard of any deaths from monitor bites in Australia. Some of the effects of a monitor bite from lace monitors or Komodos might be (according to Wikipedia's Komodo reference) rapid swelling, localized disruption of blood clotting, and shooting pains, with some symptoms lasting for several hours. The large Komodo has been known to attack and kill animals such as goats and there are reports of human deaths. As with all animals, we should be careful with the biting end and leave wild animals alone.

Perentie

This graphic has been sourced through Wikimedia Commons and is listed as in the public domain.

This graphic has been sourced through Wikimedia Commons and is listed as in the public domain.

Lace Monitor

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

We wonder why the komodo dragon is only found in Indonesia now and not in Australia anymore?

Komodo Dragon

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

Different species of monitor lizards are found in many countries. According to Wikipedia, they are found "through Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, to China, down Southeast Asia to Indonesia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Australia and islands of the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea. A large concentration of monitor lizards occurs on Tioman Island in the Malaysian state of Pahang." What this suggests is there are many species of monitor lizards. The Komodo, perentie and lace monitors are just three.

HOW could they get to Indonesia when they once roamed Australia?

In my post, I mentioned fossils of Komodo dragons were found in Australia so they had once been here. If you look at the Komodo Dragon Evolutionary History link, it mentions recent fossil finds in Australia suggest it's possible Komodo dragons evolved in Australia and spread to Indonesia when sea levels were much lower during the last glacial period (around 12,000 to 110,000 years back). With the end of the glacial age, they were cut off from Australia by rising waters.  Perhaps a changing environment wasn't suitable for them here in Australia so they died out leaving the Komodo only in Indonesia. We would need more information to be certain but, at this time, an accepted belief is the monitors evolved in Asia perhaps 40 million years back and then spread.

We also have evidence of much a much larger monitor lizard in Australia known as Megalania (Megalania prisca or Varanus priscus). It is thought to have died out 30,000 to 40,000 years back so it's possible the earliest indigenous Australians had seen them. Most recent estimates say they might have grown to 4.5m (15 feet) and weighed up to 331kg (730lb). With the largest wild Komodo measuring 3.13 m (10.3 ft) long and weighing 166 kg (366 lb), the megalania would have been huge. I wouldn't go hiking in our national parks if they were still around.

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

We wonder if they lived in both places but then they died out in Australia.

I liked your suggestion and suspect there was a time when they were found in both places. Somewhere back in time monitors must have had a common ancestor. The different species evolved when populations were cut off from others. Adapting to the local conditions, in time they developed differences to other populations. When there is enough change so one population is unlikely to breed with another*, they are said to be a new species. Look at the monitor lizard below. It is a varanus salvatorii (Salvatori's monitor) from New Guinea.

Do you notice all of the monitor lizards on this post have similarities? They are all part of the genus varanus (monitor lizards).

Do you see they also all have differences? The differences suggest different species.

Salvatori's Monitor Lizard

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

The photo was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it was listed as in the public domain.

New Guinea's Salvadori's Monitor Lizard

* There are examples where animals of different species can interbreed (have babies together) so long as the animals are of the same genus.

horse (equus ferus) + donkey (equus tigris)= mule   

(equus is the genus and ferus/tigris are the species names)

male tiger (panthera tigris) + lioness (panthera leo) = tigon

male lion (panthera leo) + female tiger (panthera tigris) = liger

(panthera is the genus and tigris/leo are the species names)

Why would they die out?

As mentioned above. the Komodo dragons may have died out in Australia because of climate change. As an example, when the first people came to Australia perhaps fifty to sixty thousand years ago, Australia was much wetter with forests and lakes. In time, changes in climate led to Australia drying out leaving desert where once there was forest. There might have been other reasons why they became extinct in Australia but, without evidence, we're only guessing.

Spike is SO cute! We think that the picture of the echidna digging his claws into the grown and curling into a ball to protect himself was SO cute! Do echidnas get frightened easily?

Echidna

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

When I discovered an echidna in my garden, it was probing the soils with its snout in search of food. It didn't take much notice of me and I suspect their eyesight isn't too strong. When I came too close, it dug its claws into the ground and showed its spines. I don't think they are too easily frightened but, just like you, they are careful if danger is near.
Once they feel danger has gone, they go back to their hunt for food.

We wonder if they do much damage to gardens like voles can do?

If I hadn't seen the echidna in my garden, I don't think I would have known it had been there as they leave little trace. It's possible others have been in my garden but I have only ever seen one. I have seen many in the wild. I saw the above echidna waddling its way across a local park. Even though I was close, it either didn't see me or wasn't frightened.

We wonder what they like to eat … besides ants!

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

In the wild, the echidnas mostly eat ants and termites. The above photo shows a local termite mound around 1m high although I have seen some termite mounds much higher in other parts of Australia. When hiking, I sometimes see termite mounds where I can tell echidnas have been using their strong claws to dig. Once opened, the echidna can use its long, sticky tongue to catch ants or termites.

My favourite local animal sanctuary, Potoroo Palace , has three echidna. It isn't possible to gather enough ants or termites for them so the keepers mix a special recipe to feed their echidna. The mix includes minced meat, olive oil, raw egg, glucose powder, baby porridge, processed bran, vitamin E powder and calcium powder. In the video below, you will see Spike enjoying a meal as the keeper shares information with tourists.

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We wonder how small an echidna’s egg would be. We STILL think it’s SO cool that they are egg-laying MAMMALS like platypuses!

Echidna eggs are only about 2cm across. The females produce only one small egg about two weeks after mating. It's egg is placed in a backward facing pouch where it hatches about 10 days later. The baby echidna (known as a puggle) stays in the pouch for about two to three months before it's ejected from the pouch. It's spines start to develop in the pouch. Can you imagine a mother with a spiky baby in it's pouch? Perhaps when the puggle gets too spiky, mum thinks it's time for baby to leave the pouch.

How BIG do echidnas grow … we wonder if our Grade Six teacher would be a GOOD referent for measuring an echidna!

Long-beaked echidna can be 45cm to 100cm in length and weigh around 4kg to 9kg. The short-beaked echidna in my area  can be around 30cm to 45cm in length and weigh 2 to 7 kg.

We really enjoyed seeing all the pictures of your fieldtrip to the Outback! It looks like hardly anybody lives there. It would probably be a hard place to live because it looks like there aren’t any stores around to get food or water. It looks SO hot too!

 Summer temperatures in Australia can reach over 40C in summer. There has been a few examples measured up to around 50C. My first full time school wasn't in a desert area but was in a semi-arid (not quite desert) area. I recorded a maximum temperature in the shade of around 45C for two weeks running. As the sun goes down, the temperatures in Australian deserts can normally drop down to around 3C to 6C and there have been recordings of temperatures as low as -7C in Alice Springs in winter.

We loved Ayer’s Rock and the Devil’s Marbles at Karlu Karlu. We wonder how those rocks got stacked like that. They look like they could fall off at any moment! We wonder how long they’ve been stacked like that...

Karlu Karlu

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In the top photo, you can see Karlu Karlu has many such granite rocks but they haven't been stacked. The second photo gives you an idea of how large they can be. The man in the photo is standing on and leaning against the same rock. Erosion by rain and wind has been at work wearing away the rock at what looks like the base of the upper section. The upper section will eventually break off and fall. Maybe it already has. The photo was taken 28 years back but the erosion is a slow process.

… and also how old Ayer’s Rock is! It just looks like a place where tons of poisonous snakes and spiders would live.

Uluru is known as a monolith (single stone) and is sandstone. The sandstone was thought to have been deposited perhaps 550 million years ago. There are snakes and spiders around Uluru but I think the snake is the woma python. Being a python, it isn't poisonous. There are poisonous species of snakes in my area near the coast. They are the red-bellied black snake, brown snake, tiger snake, and death adder. I have seen the first three in the wild but, as yet, haven't seen a death adder.

Do armadillos live in the outback?

Armadillos aren't native to Australia.

How long and how tall is Ayer’s Rock?

It is really much larger than what you can see in the photos. Most of it is below the surface. If you were to go for a walk around the base of the Uluru you see in the photo, it would be a walk of a little over 9km (~6 miles). The second photo gives you an idea of how high it is. You can see people have climbed to what looks like the top although the real highest point on Uluru is 348m above the base and is to the left and not quite in the photo.

Uluru  (Ayers Rock)

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Uluru Climb

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 We LOVED all your pictures of the outback. We loved how you told us that people would build their houses underground to stay cooler. How would they get to their houses?

Coober Pedy

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Coober Pedy's underground homes can be basic but I have been inside one I would consider more luxurious. It included a swimming pool with a walled part built out of the home. Like most homes, it had a front door, rooms, furniture and electricity. While there are no windows in walls, there are vents in the ceilings for light and air.

What would happen if a rainstorm came … would those houses get flooded?

Being in an arid area of Australia, its average yearly rainfall is only about 156mm (about 6") so flooding isn't too much of a problem. The homes also tend to be built into hills and not low where water might be a problem.

Do the houses leak when there is a rainstorm?

Low rainfall means having leaks would be a rare but I guess they would have big problems if climate change brought much higher rainfall. People find being underground is more comfortable where summer temperatures have reached as much as 47C although the average summer temperature is 30-32C. The big attraction for living in Coober Pedy is the opal. Opal is mined and made into jewellery.

Wouldn’t it be hard to dig into the ground to build a house?

Many in Coober Pedy are miners. They can use digging machines to dig mines in search of opals or to dig homes. Early settlers probably used a pick to dig their homes. Imagine, you don't need bricks or timber if you want a new room, you just need a place to dump what you dig. If you're lucky, you might even find opal when digging your house.

I thought I had a photo of a home interior but I haven't as yet located it amongst thousands of old photos so below is a photo I found through Wikimedia Commons.

This photo was sourced through WIkimedia Commons. The information below shows the original author.

This photo was sourced through WIkimedia Commons. The information below shows the original author.

Description: Coober Pedy, South Australia - underground house display.        Date: 26 August 2003     Author: Nachoman-au

Couldn’t it cave in?

The home I visited looked very solid. Experienced miners would know the danger of cave-ins if they weren't careful. You would probably find the town has rules on how dugout homes should be built. I suppose a serious earthquake might cause problems but serious earthquakes are rare in Australia.

We wonder, if they go out, how do they find their houses again, if they are underground. Do they mark an x on the roof?

Like you finding your home, they know where their homes are in town so they wouldn't need to mark their homes. They might simply remember it's on the north side of the third hill from the local shop.

We wonder what kinds of animals live in the outback.

That is a big topic so let's look at the area around Uluru. Go to the Wikipedia reference on Uluru and scroll down for some details.

There are known to have been 46 mammal species found around although there are currently only 27 including bats. There are also birds, reptiles, insects and frogs. Frogs in the desert? There are four known species of frogs found around the base of Uluru where you also find waterholes. There can also be introduced animals such as mice, camels, dogs, foxes, cats and rabbits.

emus

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camels

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Hello Heather and Keira,

Firstly, let me apologise for taking two weeks to reply to your question. It has been a very busy time working on a project for a choir but I now have two weeks before the next project starts so it's time to catch up.

I now have another post for you but it may be challenging to understand some of its content. I have found the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. Checking ideas and information for you and others when I write a post can often challenge my understanding but its by challenging ourselves to understand we can learn.

 

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Back on the "How did Earth begin?" post I tried to answer your challenge. Like all good enquiring minds, one idea can lead to another so, in the comments section, you added...

 In one of the paragraphs, we noticed that you talked about possible life on Mars. Keira thinks that over time, the sun will come too close to Earth, and Earth might shatter. That might be a possibility. There is one problem though. Martians could have died, but Mars didn’t shatter. Do you think that WE are Martians CHANGED into human?

Our minds can be a very powerful weapon against ignorance when we have curiosity and a will to find answers. This is particularly important for science as it tries to find the answers to questions. As lovers of science, your curiosity can lead you in all sorts of directions. I know mine does as I try to find answers. Let's look at a simple answer...

Do you think that WE are Martians CHANGED into human?

It's possible.

Too quick an answer?

Let's put it this way, I'm not comfortable completely ruling out many ideas. It is possible first life on Earth came from Mars but I don't think it's likely.

Here's some mind blowing maths for you. Just say you shuffled a deck of playing cards and put four down on the table...

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

When you put down the first card, the chances of it being a 7 of Diamonds is 1 in 52 because there is only one 7 of Diamonds in a deck of 52 cards. To then put down a 3 of Clubs, the chances are 1 in 51 because there were 51 cards left.  For the King of Spades, it's one in 50 and, for the 10 of hearts, 1 in 49. So what is the chance of dealing just those four cards in that order from any normal deck of cards...

The chance of dealing those exact cards in that order is only 1 in 6,497,400 ... (52 x 51 x 50 x 49 = 6,497,400). It's not very likely we would get those exact four cards in that order if we shuffled and dealt four cards again but it is possible. Of course, a magician or a card trickster could cheat to get the results over and over but then the cards aren't random.

This type of maths looks at probability, i.e. chances of something happening. If we only have one card and it's the King of Clubs, the chances of dealing a King of Clubs is one in one or 100%. The chances of dealing a 7 of Diamonds is zero in one or 0% because we don't have that card. Can't maths be amazing?

For really mind blowing maths, go to the end of this post where I work out the chances of dealing out all 52 cards in an exact order, at least if I have the maths correct.

Where Did Life On Earth Come From?

I know of two main ideas for the origin of life according to science.

1. The Primordial Soup

This idea suggests billions of years ago, chemicals became concentrated (thicker) in pools of water (the primordial soup). By chance, these chemicals were able to form amino acids (the basis of life including us). In time, they combined to make more complex compounds and eventually life. This process is known as abiogenesis.

The chances of life in this way would be seen as very unlikely but, if this process is correct, it did happen. Look again at the card example in "The REALLY Mind Blowing Maths" at the end of this post. The order of cards I dealt was very unlikely but it did happen.

2. Panspermia

Some theorists suggest life might have evolved elsewhere and was brought to Earth on meteorites (Panspermia). This might be better suited to the idea life on Earth started on Mars. If life had started on Mars, a meteor strike might have thrown Mars rock into space and it may have made it to Earth but, then again, life on Earth and Mars might have come from anywhere in space. Remember, if it was life, it would have been very simple, possibly single cells, not animals like us.

No, if you watch the video clip to the end, I don't believe aliens are experimenting with us. It is possible but very unlikely. 🙂

What does Ross think?

The first idea can explain how life itself could have started, whether here or somewhere else in the universe. The second suggests how life might have made it to many places in the universe. Think of it, life might have started in many places in the universe and been spread to the stars, or at least their planets.

Did Mars Once Have Oceans and Rivers?

One of the important resources for life as we know it is liquid water. There is evidence rivers, lakes and oceans once flowed on Mars but liquid water hasn't been seen on Mars. Much of the water was probably lost to space long ago. There is plenty of evidence water as ice is found at the Martian poles and growing evidence it is to be found in the rocks and soils so life may well exist there waiting to be discovered but don't expect anything like animals running around. It's very unlikely intelligent life ever existed on Mars but is likely life did and/or does exist.

You have questioning minds so I suspect you're wondering, what happened to the Martian oceans and rivers?

Here is a video looking at the way Mars may have lost much of its atmosphere...

You may have understood the idea energy from the sun (the solar wind) caused Mars to lose most of its atmosphere so you might wonder why this didn't happen here on Earth.

Why did Earth keep its thick atmosphere while Mars lost much of its atmosphere?

Let's first look at the photo I prepared for you. It's made by placing a magnet under a piece of paper then sprinkling iron sand over the paper.

 

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The lines you can see in the sand help us see the magnetic field of the magnet. You can see the lines run from one end to the other of the magnet. The Earth also has a magnetic field because of its rotating iron core in its centre. The iron core helps create a much stronger magnetic field than on Mars. It protects us from much of the solar wind. Think it of a little like an umbrella in the rain.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Earth's umbrella (magnetic field) is stronger than that of Mars so we get better protection. Below is a NASA diagram showing the magnetic field of Earth. If Earth's centre cooled and slowed reducing our magnetic field or solar wind became stronger, Earth would also eventually lose much of its atmosphere.

This NASA graphic was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public daomain.

This NASA graphic was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain.

 Keira thinks that over time, the sun will come too close to Earth, and Earth might shatter. That might be a possibility. There is one problem though. Martians could have died, but Mars didn’t shatter.

 Watch this video clip...

In this model of Earth's future, the Earth would eventually be pulled towards the sun and, in a sense, "shatter". Its matter would turn to plasma, a major part of the sun. I have shown Mars didn't lose much of its atmosphere because it shattered, it was lost because it didn't have a strong enough magnetic field to protect it in the way Earth is protected.

I found another video but it is harder for you to understand. It was made by a college student as an assignment looking at the life of the sun. At the stage where our sun becomes a red giant life would no longer be possible on Earth but we are looking billions of years into the future. In this model, it's not so much that the sun comes closer, it grows larger.

What will really happen in the Earth's future? Trying to find answers to what, how and why is the reason science is so interesting. We can observe, gather data, carry out experiments, discuss our ideas with others... When we have enough evidence, we can make an hypothesis (the next step up from an idea). If others find evidence supporting our hypothesis, it can take the next step and become a theory. Theories are the strongest ideas because they have much evidence to support them.

What's my idea about Earth's future? Perhaps when the sun starts threatening life on Earth, someone will press the reset button and the sun will return to a safer stage but that's even less likely than dealing the cards in the exact order below five times in a row. 🙂

The REALLY Mind Blowing Maths

Okay, the card maths at the beginning of this post seems mind blowing but it gave me an idea. If I was to deal out all 52 cards from a shuffled deck...

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

then shuffled the cards and asked you to deal them out in that same exact order, what would the chances be of dealing all 52 cards out one at a time in exact order without cheating or using magician tricks? Here would be the calculation...

Chance of dealing all 52 cards in an exact order = 52 x 51 x 50 x 49 x 48 x 47 x 46 x 45 x 44 x 43 x 42 x 41 x 40 x 39 x 38 x 37 x 36 x 35 x 34 x 33 x 32 x 31 x 30 x 29 x 28 x 27 x 26 x 25 x 24 x 23 x 22 x 21 x 20 x 19 x 18 x 17 x 16 x 15 x 14 x 13 x 12 x 11 x 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1

and what answer did I get?

The chances are one in ~80,658,200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,

000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

In maths, the tilda (~) is used to mean approximately (about).

The chances of dealing all 52 cards in an exact order is so small most would think it's impossible but I had done it the first time and, by chance, you might be able to do it but it isn't very likely.   🙂

On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, I was invited to go along on a whale watching trip with people from Potoroo Palace (an animal sanctuary and source for many of my animal photos) on a Go Whale Watching tour. To see the details of what was seen, click the link below...

Whale Watching from Merimbula

This post is additional to the observational post and aims to give more information on humpback whales and their migration along the coast near my home.

Humpback Whales

(Information sources: Wikipedia...   Humpback Whale  and an Australian Government pdf fact sheet Eastern Humpback Whales )

 

This graphic was sourced through Wikimedia Commons and is listed as in the public domain in the US.

This graphic was sourced through Wikimedia Commons and is listed as in the public domain in the US.

The link below is a recording of humpback whale song. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain.

 Humpbackwhale2

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are members of the balaenopteridae family of cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises), i.e. they are not toothed whales. They have a baleen made of a similar material to your fingernails. Their baleen is used to filter out food when they take in large amounts of water when feeding. They feed on krill (like small shrimp/prawns) or small school fish.

One surprising behaviour I have seen in nature programs is the way humpbacks work together to encircle schools of small fish using bubbles they blow. Making the circle of bubbles slowly smaller, they eventually lung up through the school of fish with mouth open taking in thousands of fish in one gulp. The water drains through the baleen leaving the fish trapped.

Migration

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The green shaded areas are approximate breeding areas for humpback whales.

Humpback whale populations are found in the North Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and Southern Oceans. The Southern Ocean humpbacks are the whales we find migrating along Australia's coast so I will write about those passing my area annually.

During the summer months, humpbacks feed mostly on krill in Antarctic waters. Although the timing can vary, most head north from June to August and south again from September to November. In northern waters, they don't tend to feed but this is where they mate and females give birth to their calves. The September to November migration gives a good chance to see mothers and calves heading south for summer. The calves take milk and build up fat reserves along the way.

In the photo below taken on October 16, a mother and calf seemed to be at play. The mother's pectoral fin and fluke are to the left and the calf's pectoral fin is at the right.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

 

How Will I Know If It's a Humpback?

Humpback whales can be identified by the features you see when they surface. Below are some photos I have taken to help you...

blow

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

flukes

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diving

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pectoral fin

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surfacing

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 Below is a short video clip made from a series of still photos. It shows a whale blowing and diving.

Whaling in Australia

Whaling had once been a big industry in parts of Australia, including Eden near my home. Whaling along the east coast stopped in 1963. All Australian whaling was banned by 1979. Since then the numbers of humpback whales migrating along our coast has been growing.

Located in Eden, the Eden Killer Whale Museum has many displays dealing with local whaling history...

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

...but perhaps my favourite display is the skeleton of Old Tom, an orca or killer whale (Orcinus orca). Unlike humpbacks, orca are toothed whales. They can feed on fish, sea lions, seals, walruses and even other whales such as the humpback.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Why is Old Tom so special? Old Tom was said to have had a special relationship with whalers in the past. Old Tom was thought to be the leader of an orca pod. The pod would herd balleen whales into Twofold Bay and help the whalers kill the whales. The orcas would then be rewarded by the whalers with the tongue and lips of the balleen whales. It was said at times Old Tom would hold a rope from a whaling boat to tow it out to the balleen whales. On September 17, 1930, Old Tom was found dead in Twofold Bay. His age was unclear but he could have been up to 80 years old*.

Eden remembers its past with the annual Eden Whale Festival attracting locals and tourists to the parade and festival area where rides, displays and entertainment are available.

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

This year (2013) the Eden Whale Festival parade is scheduled for November 2.

* Thanks goes to Jody White, Collection Manager for the Eden Killer Whale Museum, for the updated information on the age of Old Tom. Early 1970s age dating for Old Tom is thought to have been unreliable in placing Old Tom's age at 35.

2 Comments

3/4B, 4T and 3SF visited the Penrith University of Western Sydney Observatory and share their experience in a blog post. They also asked questions and I loved the challenge of trying to answer them. To see their post…

Bloggers of the Week: Our Excursion to the Observatory

To see Part 1 of this comment...

Observing Space, there’s so much of it out there – Part 1

Hello 3/4B, 4T and 3SF,

Here are some possible answers to the second set of questions.

1. How many more years until we have to pack up and move to another planet, because the sun died?

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Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Firstly, let's look at how our Earth is thought to have come to be. Heather and Keira from California had challenged me to explain how the Earth had begun. Here is a link to the post I wrote for them if you are interested.

How Did the Earth Begin?

... and here is a link to a Wikipedia post looking at history of the Earth. It is about  Earth from its formation to now.

History of the Earth

Okay, we have an idea how our Earth began but how might it end? As our planet's birth was linked to the formation of our sun, the sun is also involved in its suspected end.

Back in 1987, I was able to look into the night sky and see a "new" star. A star astronomers named SN 1987A had gone supernova. It is about 168,000 light years* from Earth and could not normally be seen without a powerful telescope. It is again too dim to be seen without a telescope. Had it been our star, our planet would have been destroyed.

Then what about our Sun? How old is it? What might happen to it? When might it happen?

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA%27s_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819-02.jpg

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA%27s_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819-02.jpg

Our Sun is thought to be about 4.6 billion (4,600,000,000) years old. I had to do a little research about the Sun to find out what might happen. I found interesting information suggesting our Sun is becoming brighter by about 10% every billion years and it's surface is slowly becoming hotter. As it gets older and burns more of its hydrogen fuel it will grow in size to eventually become a red giant. By this time Earth, if it still exists, will not be able to support life.

The video clip below shows what might well happen when our to end of world. Duration: 3:04 minutes.

It replaces the original linked video clip now blocked from viewing in Australia due to copyright issues.

This is not my video clip.

Should we worry?

It is thought it could take about 5 billion (5,000,000,000) years before our Sun is a red giant and perhaps 1 billion (1,000,000,000) years before the Sun's rising temperature means all water will evaporate away from Earth. A billion years is a very long time. However humans develop in that time, we can only hope they have solved the problems. For a time until the sun gets too big or hot this might mean people moving to Mars but to go to other stars people might have to spend a very long time in space. By the time people reach other stars, they could be the great, great, great, great,... great, great, great, grandchildren of those who left Earth.

But I've seen movies where they move through gates or hyperspace at faster than the speed of light and arrive quickly...

The movies love finding ways to arrive quickly. Who knows what science might discover in a billion years. For now, the idea of travelling close to the speed of light is beyond us. Whatever the future brings, I have faith humans will find a solution if there's one to be found. I know NASA engineers are looking at ways it might be one day possible to warp space and make travel to the stars real. 🙂

168,000 light years* - as explained in Part 1, a light year is the distance light travels in a vacuum in one Earth year. While I saw the supernova as a bright star in 1987, the light had started on its way 168,000 years ago. When we look at stars, we are looking back in history. Even light from our own sun started its journey about 8.3 minutes before we see it.

2. Did you know that there are many different galaxies in space?

Yes. Too quick an answer? 🙂 I'll share some NASA galaxy photos using links.

The two galaxies shown here are in the early stage of an interaction that will eventually lead to them merging in millions of years. The two galaxies are about 450 million (450,000,000) light years from us. If you look carefully you can see other galaxies in the distant background.

UGC 9618, Chandra + Hubble

By Smithsonian Institution [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This second photo shows galaxy M33. It is about 3 million (3,000,000) light years from Earth. The really bright stars are young, very large stars. Yes, stars are still being made in our universe from the remains of other stars.

Galaxy M33 Chandra X-ray Observatory

By Smithsonian Institution from United States [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

The third photo shows galaxy Centaurus A. If you can see what looks like a line of white light coming from its centre, that's the result of Centaurus A having a supermassive black hole at its centre.

Centaurus A Chandra

By NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al (http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2008/cena/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Galaxies are not all one size. Dwarf galaxies might only have as few as 10 million (10,000,000) stars whereas giant galaxies might have up to 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000) stars. There are estimates the might be up to 170 billion (170,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe . There may be very many more but they are so distant their light still hasn't reached us, they're not yet observable. That's a lot of galaxies.

I like looking at big numbers so let's look at big numbers. I have said their might be 170 billion (170,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe. I also said galaxies could have from 10 million to 100 trillion stars. Let's say the average galaxy has 1 billion (1,000,000,000) stars.

How many stars might their be in the observable universe?

170,000,000,000 galaxies x 1,000,000,000 average stars = 170,000,000,000,000,000,000 (I make that 170 quintillion stars.)

In Part 1 of these answers to your questions I mentioned it has been said there are more stars in the universe than all of the grains of sand on every beach on Earth. Would one of you start counting so we can check? 🙂

Below is a You Tube video clip from NS showing galaxy M31 known as the Andromeda Galaxy. It is the nearest large spiral galaxy to our own. Our galaxy, The Milky Way, is also a spiral galaxy. Duration: 3:06 minutes

This is not my video.

3. Did you know that Pluto has 2 more moons?

Yes, but I found there seems to be more discoveries when I was researching. In order of distance from Pluto they are Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra. It is possible more small "moons" might be found. Click to read Moons of Pluto on Wikipedia.

In this photo taken by NASA in 2005, the two dots listed as candidate satellites
Pluto system 2005 discovery images

When Pluto was discovered in 1930, its brightness suggested it was much larger than it was found to be but that was because it is icy. Charon was discovered in 1978. I always found its name was a great choice. In ancient Greek mythology, Pluto was the god of the underworld where people went when they died. To reach there, you had to cross the River Styx. This could only happen if you had a coin to pay the boatman, Charon. It was common for ancient Greeks to bury their dead with a coin so they could pay Charon. This is why I thought the name is a good choice. Pluto and Charon are together in ancient Greek mythology.

One unusual piece of information I read was about Pluto and Charon. Moons orbit around their planet as does our moon but Pluto doesn't seem to be the centre of Charon's orbit. The centre of orbit is somewhere in between but closer to Pluto. What a strange place Pluto would be.

While searching online, I found an animated file showing a computer generated rotating image of Pluto you might like to see. It's based on NASA images of the surface of Pluto. This an embedded NASA file in the public domain.

Pluto animiert 200px
By Aineias, NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)  derivative work: Aineias, Ilmari Karonen (Pluto_hubble_photomap.jpg via Pluto_animiert.gif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Did you know that Neptune's ring is made out of ice particles?

Below is my favourite image of Neptune. NASA released this image into the public domain. Neptune's atmosphere seems to be mostly hydrogen and helium. "The interior of Neptune, like that of Uranus, is primarily composed of ices and rock." (Wikipedia). Remember, ices aren't necessarily only water. Have you heard of dry ice we can buy here on Earth? It isn't water. It's icy carbon dioxide. For Neptune, the ices are thought to be mostly water, ammonia and methane. The core of the planet is said to be rocky.

Neptune

By . (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA00046) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The next NASA image was taken by the Voyager 2 and shows the rings on Neptune.

Neptune rings PIA02224

By Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech (http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA02224) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The rings are thought to probably contain large amounts of micro-dust as well as ice.

 

5. Did you know that it takes 1 month for the moon to orbit around the earth?

Wikipedia reference for the different types of months and years: Month

This embedded graphic shows the phases of the Moon seen as it orbits the Earth. Do you notice we only see one side? The other side is often called the dark side. It also comes into sunlight but, since it faces away from Earth, we don't see it.

File:Lunar libration with phase Oct 2007 450px.gif

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Tomruen. This applies worldwide.

This is an interesting question even if it sounds simple. Rather than say "yes" or "no", I might ask what type of month?

I know the months we talk about run from January to December. February has 28 days or 29 in a leap year. The others have either 30 or 31 days. The average number of days in a month is about 30.4 days. If you mean one of our Gregorian Calendar months we use, the answer is not quite a month.

When compared to the position of stars, the Moon takes about 27.3 days to orbit the Earth but Earth is also moving through space so the time between two full moon is about 29.5 days.

Did you know there was something known as a lunar calendar?

The calendar we use is a solar calendar. It's based on the time it takes for the Earth to complete one orbit around the Sun. Lunar calendars are different because they are based on cycles of the Moon.

Many cultures have had lunar calendars.  One of the important examples is the Islamic Calendar. A year has either 354 or 355 days where as the Gregorian Calendar has 365 or 366 days based on a solar year. If you have Muslim friends, you might know the first day of their new year is a different day on our calendar each year. This happens because their lunar year is 11 days shorter.

The Gregorian solar year has an average of about 30.4 days per month giving us about 365 days a solar year.

The Islamic lunar year has an average of about 29.5 days per month giving us about 354 days a lunar year.

Can you see the solar calendar gives us about the time it takes for the Earth to complete an orbit of the Sun while the approximate number of days in a lunar month is how long it takes the Moon to go from one full moon to the next?

The embedded diagram below shows how the phases of the Moon come about while the Moon orbits Earth.

Moon phases en

By Orion 8 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Did you know that (it takes) a year for the earth to orbit around the sun?

Our Gregorian solar calendar is based on how long it takes the Earth to complete one orbit of the Sun, that is it takes about 365.25 days for Earth to orbit the Sun. We call that a year of 365 days with a leap year helping us catch up on the extra bits by having an extra day.

UpdatedPlanets2006

By Adam850 at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

What would a year be on other planets and dwarf planets?

Here are the other planets and known dwarf planets in our Solar System with how long their years would be in our Earth years (Ey).

Mercury ....................... 0.24 Ey (88 days)

Venus ........................... 0.62 Ey (226 days)

Earth ............................ 1.0

Mars ............................. 1.88 Ey

Ceres (dwarf) ............... 4.6 Ey

Jupiter .......................... 11.86 Ey

Saturn ........................... 29.46 Ey

Uranus .......................... 84.01 Ey

Neptune ....................... 164.8 Ey

Pluto (dwarf) ................ 248.09 Ey

Haumea (dwarf) .......... 282.76 Ey

Makemake (dwarf) ...... 309.88 Ey

Eris (dwarf) ................... about 557 Ey

A little extra...

In July last year a class asked some questions about space. I didn't add and pictures to the post but you might like to see their questions and my answers...

Wonderings About Space

* * * * * * * * * *

And one final You Tube video clip answers,

"What Is Space?"

Duration: 55:43 minutes

This is not my video clip.

3/4B, 4T and 3SF visited the Penrith University of Western Sydney Observatory and share their experience in a blog post. They also asked questions and I loved the challenge of trying to answer them. To see their post...

Bloggers of the Week: Our Excursion to the Observatory

To see Part 2 of this extended comment post...

Observing Space Part 2

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes. This is not a real star photo but one I created.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes. This is not a real star photo but one I created.

When we look out at night, staring into space, we come to realise space is big, very BIG. I have heard it said if we were to count all of the grains of sand on all of the world's beaches there would still be more than that number of stars in our universe. This helps us realise there is so much more to know than we can possibly see.

At the end of last year, I prepared a short video clip about a small community known as Earth. It was for a class looking at ways of making a difference globally. It shows we can start by looking at ourselves and as we expand our view we move out into the universe.

Schools and students have permission to use this video clip for non-commercial, educational purposes.

As there is quite a lot to cover, this comment has been broken into 2 parts, each dealing with 6 questions on the class blog.

Hello 3/4B, 4T and 3SF,

I was fascinated by your post entitled “Bloggers of the week: Our excursion to the Observatory”.  I have very many interests in many subjects but the sciences are particular favourites. While I was a primary school teacher before retiring, I held a degree in science. Seeing your questions, I knew I had to try to give answers to as many as possible.

Let’s start with one you have answered…

1. How do solar eclipses happen?

“Solar eclipses happen when the Moon crosses over the sun and shines a shadow over a part of the earth.” I have prepared a diagram you can use if you wish...

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

If you look at the diagram, it shows the shadow of the Moon cast on the Earth. In the centre of the shadow there is a very dark area know as the umbra. The umbra is the area of total eclipse. The lighter shadow area is the penumbra or area of partial eclipse. The faint lines I have added help show why we have darker and lighter areas.

WARNING: You all know you should never look directly at the sun. The light entering your eyes can cause blindness if you stare at the sun. Only when there is a total eclipse is it safe to look but only until the sun is about to reappear. You cannot even look at the Bailey's Beads or Diamond Ring effect as this is still direct sunlight.

One of the most amazing parts of viewing a solar eclipse is when the sun starts to reappear. The Moon's surface isn't smooth. There are craters, mountains and valleys. Light first appears through gaps. Light appears in what is known as Bailey's Beads. When only one bead is left we have what is known as the Diamond Ring Effect. Here is another diagram I drew to show what the Diamond Ring Effect can look like.

 

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes. This not a photo but a created graphic.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes. This not a photo but a created graphic.

Did you also know there are lunar eclipses?

In a lunar eclipse, the Earth passes between the Moon and our sun. You can find out more with the link.

The video clip below comes from You Tube. It shows the 2012 total solar eclipse filmed in Northern Queensland. Once the eclipse is total, the camera person swaps filters and you can see the total eclipse more clearly. Keep watching and you will see the "diamond ring". Duration: 4:35 minutes

2. Can you bungy jump on the Moon?

I loved this question. There might be some tourism potential there.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

I see it’s been suggested you can’t because there is nothing to land on but I think it would be possible. You may have read gravity on the Moon is only about one sixth that of Earth. That would mean someone weighing about 36kg on Earth’s surface would weigh only about 6kg on the Moon. Of course, there is very little atmosphere on the Moon and solar radiation would be a big problem so a space suit would be necessary and that would add weight. Okay, we have gravity and weight to make us fall. What next?

Bungy jumps on Earth are usually over water from a bridge. If the cord breaks, you get wet. On the Moon, the only suspected water would be in craters where direct sunlight doesn’t hit but it would be ice so there is no liquid water. A broken cord would mean hitting the ground. You might be much lighter but it would still hurt but what a thrill to be the first.

Height is not a problem. There are craters, peaks and valleys on the Moon so in the future some enterprising tour company might be able to set up a bungee site. Look at the below photo from NASA released into the public domain…

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_crater_Daedalus.jpg

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lunar_crater_Daedalus.jpg

Now here’s a thought in a different direction. When astronauts have gone on “space walks” tethered only to their spaceship by a cord, are they bungy jumping or going space skiing?

While no one has been able to bungy jump on the Moon, back in 1971 Alan Shepard (Apollo 14 astronaut) hit two golf balls on the Moon. Duration: 1:35 minutes

This is not my video clip.

3. What is the biggest gas planet?

Wikipedia reference: Gas Giant

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Again I see an answer has been given. I agree. Jupiter is the largest gas planet in the Solar System. Planets larger than around 10 times Earth's mass are said to be giants.

There are four in our Solar System: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. To be a gas giant, they have to be mostly gaseous.

Jupiter and Saturn are mostly hydrogen and helium. Each of these are gas giants.

Uranus and Neptune could be called ice giants. They are thought to have a hydrogen atmosphere but icy cores of water, methane and ammonia.

Did you know stars are gas giants? Huge masses of mostly hydrogen is found in newer stars. If a gas giant is big enough, a nuclear reaction known as fusion can start and a star is born. It's estimated a gas giant about 13 times the size of Jupiter might be big enough to start fusion. Imagine if Jupiter had been big enough. Our sky would have our bright sun and a less bright star known as Jupiter.

Jupiter is the biggest gas planet but our sun is the biggest gas object in our Solar System. Astronomers tell us compared to the largest stars in our universe, our sun is really small. There's a lot of gas out there. 🙂

This You Tube video clip shares some information about the four gas giants in our Solar System. Duration: 8:19 minutes

This You Tube clip is not my work.

4a. What is the smallest planet in our Solar System?

Another answer has been given, Pluto. I will give an answer but to do this I will answer a question out of order. Above is 4a and below is 4b.

4b. Why isn't Pluto considered a planet anymore?

Wikipedia reference: Pluto

In my book library, I have some old science books. One set of five was published in 1919 and the other was a book published in 1930. In 1919, science spoke of the eight planets in our Solar System. In order from our sun, they were Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Mercury, closest to the sun, was the smallest planet.

Some astronomers noticed something unusual in the orbit of Neptune. They suspected there was another planet. The 1930 science book mentioned the possibility of a ninth planet. It was in that year the discovery of Pluto was announced. It became the ninth planet and was listed as the smallest.

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pluto_System.jpg

This is a NASA photo released into the public domain. It was sourced through Wikimedia Commons.
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pluto_System.jpg

So why isn't it a planet now?

Pluto is now known a a dwarf planet. It is only one five hundredth Earth's mass. Think of it this way. If Earth's mass was one hundred $1 coins, just one $1 coin would be the mass of five Plutos.

We didn't really know how small Pluto was until the late 1970s. Since then Charon has been discovered as a moon of Pluto, followed by two more moons named Nix and Hydra in 2005. Other large objects almost the size of Pluto had also been found. Astronomers believed there are many large objects (watch the video clip below). They realised it was probably only a matter of time before an object larger than Pluto was found. This happened with the discovery of Eris in 2005. Astronomers decided there had to be a way of saying whether objects were planets. This was done in 2006.

From Wikipedia, here is what a mass needs to be if it is to be called a planet...

  1. is in orbit around the Sun,

  2. is nearly round in shape, and

  3. has "cleared the neighbourhood" around its orbit.

Wikipedia reference: IAU Definitiion of Planets

Pluto passed 1 and 2 but failed 3 and so is now known as a dwarf planet. Mercury is again the smallest planet in our Solar System.

Since then, other dwarf planets have been identified. They are Eris, Ceres, Haumea, and Makemake. The closest dwarf planet to Earth is Ceres. Ceres is in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. When it was identified as a dwarf planet, it became our closest.

In the video clip below, "Why Pluto is Not a Planet", it's explained why Pluto is now known as a dwarf planet. Duration: 4:54 minutes

This is not my video clip.

5. What is a light year?

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes.

A suggested answer was, "A  light year is the speed of light when light travels."

Let's look at this.

Some people make the mistake of thinking of a light year as time or speed. It isn't. A light year is a distance. It is the distance light travels through a vacuum (no air) in an Earth year. The suggested answer wasn't correct because it suggests a light year is a speed.

How far is a light year?

In just one second, light in a vacuum can travel almost 300,000km. Do you think a police officer would be able to catch speeding light?

According to Wikipedia, a light year is a distance of a little under 10 trillion kilometres.

1 light-year = 9,460,730,472,580,800 metres

1 light-year = 9,460,730,472,580.8 kilometres

If your family car was able to travel into space for one light year distance at an average speed of 100kph, it would take you around 95 trillion years. Can you imagine how much the fuel would cost and how many times you would ask your parents when you will arrive? 🙂

Our sun is about 149,600,000 km from us. Your family car would take around one and a half million years to reach it if your car travelled at 100kph but light only takes around 8.3 minutes.

With next closest star to us being about 4.37 light years distant, I think you might start to understand why travelling to planets around another star is way beyond what we can do.

BUT WAIT... I found this video clip on You Tube while looking for other information. A NASA engineer was interviewed this year about the idea of warp space. It's said we can't travel at the speed of light for reasons I won't explain here but the engineer was talking about warping (expand and contract/grow and shrink) space. If this is one day possible, travelling to the next nearest star to our Sun might be possible in weeks or months but this is a long way off if it's possible.

This is not my video clip.