Rocks and Minerals

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To see Global Grade 3's original post click on this title Rock Museum.

Hello Grade 3,

Well, you have been studying something of great interest to me, although previous classes know many things interest me. Rocks, minerals and fossils can be fascinating. I thought I might share some photos of a few of my collection.

Hardness

Did you know geologists grade rocks for hardness on a scale known as the Moh Scale? It's a scale running from the softest at 1 to the hardest at 10. Here are photos of the hardness levels from my collection.

Moh 1 - Talc

Talc is a very soft rock. You can easily scratch with your fingernail. It's the stone used to make talcum powder. This is a very small sample from my collection and is only about 1cm across.

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.

Moh 2 - Gypsum

A little harder than talc but it can still be scratch using your fingernail. I have plainer samples of gypsum but like this rose gypsum.

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.

Moh 3 - Calcite

Calcite can be scratched using a copper coin. I liked this closeup photo of calcite crystals.

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.

Moh 4 - Fluorite

These fluorite crystals can be easily scratched using a knife.

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.

Moh 5 - Apatite

Apatite can be scratched using a knife.

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.

Moh 6 - Orthoclase

Can be scratched by a steel knife.

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

Moh 7 - Quartz

Scratches glass.

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

Moh 8 - Topaz

Like the diamond, this topaz is lower quality and, by its shape and look, was found in a river or stream. Topaz can scratch quartz. Good quality topaz is used in jewellery.

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

Moh 9 - Corundum

Corundum scratches topaz. While I shared a rough topaz, I thought I would show you a small cut corundum gemstone.

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

Moh 10 - Diamond

This is a real diamond from my collection but it isn't worth very much because it is not gem quality. It is industrial quality because of its impurities. Diamond can scratch all samples in a lower moh scale.

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.

 ABOUT FOSSILS

Back in 2012, I shared some of my fossils with an earlier Global Grade 3. If you want to see what I shared, here is the link below.

My Fossils for Global Grade 3

To see Global Grade 3's post, click the link blow...

Investigating Fossils

Life can be full of wonder and discovery if we only keep our minds and senses open to the world around us.

Some Fossils In My Collection

Hi there!

I didn't think I would be preparing another extended comment for you so soon but you wrote a post about one of my favourite topics, fossils. I thought I would write a post so I could share photos of some fossils in my collection and links to other posts written on this blog.

At the end of this post, I have added links to some other posts I have written about fossils and dinosaurs.

Some of my favourite fossils I collected.

Being able to find your own fossils makes a specimen more special because you could be the first person to have seen it.

The sample below was collected from a dolomite quarry. You can still see the remains of the original shell but the soft parts of the animal have been replaced by dolomite. This shell belonged to an animal living perhaps 30,000 years ago.

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

The next dolomite stone was found when I was walking along a beach. You can see it has been rounded by wave action and rubbing against other rocks. In it are the remains of small shellfish. I can stlll find small shells similar to these on beaches today.

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

Below is part of a fossilised tree trunk I found when looking over a rockfall. I only have this section but I always wondered if the entire tree was somewhere in the tonnes of rock in the rockfall. According to my geological map, this fossil may have been a living tree perhaps 200 million years ago.

I don't know when the rockfall happened but I had also been to the same place before part of the cliff above gave way.

WARNING: unstable areas can be very dangerous. I only examined the edges of the rockfall and kept well away from the cliff area.

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

In the next fossil we see a leaf in the middle and a piece of a branch below it. As it was found in the same rockfall as the fossilised tree trunk above, it may have come from the same tree.

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

And some favourites I purchased...

Fossiled ammonite shell. Ammonites lived in the ocean from about 400 million to 65 million years ago.

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

This ammonite fossil shell has been cut in half and polished to show the chambers inside the shell.

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

Dinosaur coprolite from U.S.A. Did you know it can be possible for scientists to find what animals had eaten from coprolite samples? This was from a herbivore dinosaur. It may only be a coprolite but it is my only real dinosaur fossil.

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

Trilobite - Species of trilobites roamed the oceans from about 500 to 250 million years ago.

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

I've included the photo below but it isn't a fossil. It is a piece of wood from a New Zealand kauri tree found in a swamp. Because of the quality of the timber and the lack of oxygen in the swamp, it had been preserved but you can see the writing printed on the timber telling us it has been carbon dated to 44500 years. Imagine, it's over 40000 years old but looks as though it has been cut from a modern tree. Kauri trees are still found in New Zealand forests today.

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

Below is a photo of a kauri tree I had taken in 1986. It is known as Tane Mahuta. It's thought to be between 1250 and 2500 years old but is still alive. It's the largest kauri tree known to be standing in New Zealand. In the Maori language, Tane Mahuta means "Lord of the Forest".

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

Some of the most interesting dinosaur fossils found are those of dinosaur eggs. Look at the photo below. It shows dinosaur eggs in a nest so we know at least some dinosaurs had nesting grounds for their eggs. Can you imagine seeing a heard of nesting dinosaurs caring for their eggs?

This image was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain. It was taken in China's Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology.

This image was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain. It was taken in China's Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology.

And now for something a little different.

Below is a photo of a toy dinosaur egg.

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

When placed in water and left, the egg starts to open and the toy dinosaur can be seen hatching. It grows (swells) in the water.  It can take up to one week so I might have to top up the water. According to the information sheet, the dinosaur in this egg is named Matilda and is a Diamantinasaurus matildae. The diamantinasaurus is an Australian dinosaur. Fossils were found in the Australian state of Queensland.

I don't know whether to try it or not because I like the secret inside being a secret.

Would you hatch it if you had one?

It's only through fossils and other remains we can start to discover animals and plants from the past. As examples, some are simply washed out of the ground in storms, some uncovered in mining, and some are seen after rockfalls. Back in 1984, I visited Naracoorte's Victoria Fossil Cave in South Australia. Animals had wandered into the cave, become lost and died. Paleontologists had been digging and found, amongst other animals, the remains of an extinct kangaroo species as well as diprotodon (a little like a huge wombat). Here is a photo of the dig site back in 1984..

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

I checked Wikipedia to see what they have since discovered and found Wikimedia Commons has a wonderful public domain photo taken in the cave in 2006. It shows thylacoleo skeleton. This was an extinct carnivorous marsupial. Being a marsupial, the females would have had pouches for their young.

his image was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain. It was taken in China's Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology.

his image was sourced through WIkimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain. It was taken in China's Kunming Natural History Museum of Zoology.

And now for a little gift I posted to you today...

I have just finished collecting cards from a new series named "Ancient Animals". I thought you might like one of the sets for your class. It has 81 cards on different types of animals from the past. It does come with a special magnifying glass with a UV light to show secret information on some of the cards. I had to put the UV magnifying glass in a small box to keep it safer. Both were posted on October 16. If all goes well and both parcels reach you, I wonder how long they will take and whether the book or magnifying glass arrives first?

Ancient Animals

 

AND NOW FOR THE LINKS TO EARLIER POSTS ON THIS BLOG I PROMISED

It was back in 2012 I wrote a post about fossils for the Global Grade 3. They would probably be Grade 6 now. Here is a link...

My Fossils for Global Grade 3

I've included links to posts I wrote after a visit the the National Dinosaur Museum in Canberra, Australia's capital city.

What the Dino Saw

What the Dino Saw Next

 All of the knowledge in the world is of no use unless it's used to help, and is shared with, others.

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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.

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

We pass through a small tunnel and behind waterfalls.

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

Deep down in the Grand Canyon.

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

Until we reach Beauchamp Falls at 3.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset

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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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And a view from almost the top of Uluru

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

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

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

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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.

Click here to see the Blogging Hawks blog.

Hello Blogging Hawks,

Did you find the title interesting? In a comment, I mentioned I would be buying a diamond for my collection of rocks and minerals. That sounds exciting but I have to say I could only afford and industrial quality diamond as I don't have a huge budget. Well, I bought one.

What is an industrial quality diamond?

You might know diamonds are very hard. They can be completely clear or have different colours depending on impurities. As well as white (or clear), I have seen pink, champagne (yellow) and blue diamonds. Good quality diamonds can be cut to make jewels but most diamonds found are not suitable for cutting because they can be flawed and have too many impurities. Industrial quality diamonds can be used to make strong cutting tools such as diamond drills and saws or even diamond cutters for cutting glass. My diamond is definitely in the industrial quality group.

Can you pick the diamond in my collection?

Look at the picture below. It shows photos of 9 stones in my collection. Can you pick the diamond? Once you have decided, click the link below the picture to see if you chose correctly. You can also learn what all are and a little about each.

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Click here when you have chosen.

Gold.

We all know gold is valuable. Here are some gold photos from my collection.

Gold in quartz found in a mine at Hill End, Australia

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 Gold Nugget (0.127oz) New Zealand

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Panned Gold "Dust", Australia and New Zealand

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Gold coin (0.1oz)

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How is gold made?

In this section, when I type an element I will add its Table of Elements code in brackets... Hydrogen (H) A short way of writing hydrogen in H. You will find some elements don't seem to use letters from their names. Their codes come from their Latin names... Copper (Cu) Latin: cuprum, Silver (Ag) Latin: argentum, Tin (Sn) Latin: sternum, Antimony (Sb) Latin: stibium, Gold (Au) Latin: aurum, Lead (Pb) Latin: plumbum

We all know gold is rare and valuable on Earth but do you know how gold came to be? It's a hot subject, a very hot subject. Did you know new elements (the things that make up us and the whole planet), are made in suns? It's happening right now in our sun.

Hydrogen (H) is being fused (joined) with hydrogen under high temperature and pressure in the core (centre) of suns (nuclear fusion). They fuse to become helium (He). Once the hydrogen runs out, the stars stop fusion (joining) hydrogen. For small stars, they can start to cool and shrink. Larger stars might start fusing helium and even larger elements.

Hydrogen (H) - Helium (He) - Carbon (C) - Oxygen (O) - Neon (Ne) - Silicon (Si) - Iron (Fe)

It's thought that much heavier elements might have been made in supernova reactions in stars (supernova nucleosynthesis). A star that goes supernova becomes very bright. It can be from a very big star collapsing (falling in on itself) and releasing a huge amount of energy or it can be from a smaller, cooler star suddenly exploding back into life (fusion). It's in these supernovae it's thought elements such as gold come into existence and can be thrown out into space.

Isn't our universe amazing? What makes us up, the chemicals in our body, started out in stars.

I can remember seeing one supernova appearing 1987 (SN 1987A). It was about around 168,000 light years away. That means while I saw it in the skies in 1987, it had really gone supernova about 168,000 years ago but the light in our night sky only appeared in 1987.

 

Is All Gold Really Gold?

In the pictures below, you can see samples of iron pyrite crystals in my collection. Pyrite looks like gold but isn't. It isn't worth much but I like the samples more than real gold because I like crystals. What do you think?

How can you tell the difference? Pyrite is much lighter than gold and, being a crystal, can be shattered if hit by a hammer. Gold is the most malleable element. This means it can easily be hammered and shaped without cracking. Gold can be flattened into very thin sheets but I think I will keep my small pieces as they were found.

Iron Pyrites (Fool's Gold) on Calcite

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Iron Pyrite Crystal

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4 Comments

To see the Blogging Hawks original post...

Wonders Lead to Discovery

Hello Blogging Hawks,

I know the previous class has tipped you off I am likely to visit your blog and, despite being very busy making DVDs/CDs and helping my local schools, I just had to drop in a comment about your latest post. I wonder if you all suspected I would interested in this post? I know previous classes learned of my interest in many things and geology as one in particular.

What a brilliant activity! I will have to try your experiment myself and see what results I can find.

The questions you started with are fascinating in themselves.

How are they formed? I know you discovered chemicals can invade spaces and, if the conditions are right, allow crystals to grow. what a natural wonder!

How long does it take? I think you also realised how long depends on the conditions. They can take millions of years or you can make them in a day. Did you notice no two of your geodes were exactly the same?

Where do you find them? Over the years, I have come across crystals protruding from the ground and clusters on rocks. It seems a game of chance if you're in a spot known for crystals or geodes. When we do a search on the internet, we realise geodes can be found in many places around the world. Here is a Wikipedia link on geodes...

Geodes

Can you really dye them? When I was your age, I wondered the same question. Like in your picture, I had seen beautiful colours in geode slices but soon learned they weren't always natural.

Crystals can, of course, be naturally coloured. We know diamonds can be clear, blue, yellow, brown, green, purple orange or even pink depending on small defects or impurities*. Quartz can also be clear, purple (amethyst), yellow (citrine) and other colours. I don't have any dyed geodes in my collection as I prefer natural colouring.

*Here's a little information I found. Blue diamonds are blue because they have boron impurities. Boron is part of borax.

Below you can see photos of some crystals in my collection.

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

Quartz from Northern Territory, Australia

 

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Smoky Quartz

 

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Citrine Quartz from Brazil

 

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Iron Pyrite (Fool's Gold) from Australia's Northern Territory

Mr. B is certainly fabulous to bring in such an interesting experiment. I also liked the option to create a crystal snowflake. They may not look like a geode but each is special as, just like snowflakes and us, no two are exactly alike. That's what has interested me about geodes, each is unique even if they look almost exactly the same.

Look at the pictures below. Each is of a Brazilian geode in my collection. One has been cut in half while the other is complete. I decided long ago never to cut open the complete geode so what's inside remains a mystery. It could be incredibly beautiful but I treasure the intact geode. I wonder if any of you could resist cutting it open?

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Looking at your reflections...

Adam - You have shown what science experiments are often about. We take steps and wait to see
the results.

Shaye - I like your simile, "looks like a tiny city the way it sparkles". Good use of descriptive writing makes writing stories or explaining science easier to understand for readers and interesting.

Faith - You packed quite a bit of information into your comment. Adding "in my opinion" is a very good phrase. It tells readers the idea is yours and suggests others might have other ideas. You also introduced an idea, i.e. removing the yolks and albumin (white) from eggs to make them hollow. Did you know there are collections of bird eggs often found in museums, universities and even private collections? Collectors normally make small holes at either ends of an egg and blow out the contents. Can you imagine doing this for an ostrich egg?

Haya - Aquamarine may not be my birthstone but I do like the idea of making blue crystals. I like your suggestion it might be possible to make your name in crystals. I know it will work because you only need something for the crystals to grow on. Raindrops and snowflakes are the same, they need something to form on. In the sky, it might simply be dust.
On checking, it seems my birthstone is either topaz or citrine. I have citrine quartz in my collection. Here is a close-up photo of citrine quartz crystals

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Marcus - You have shown your knowledge of stones. Obsidian, volcanic glass, can be very dark and forms when lava, high in silica, cools quickly so minimal crystals form. I have seen natural obsidian in the crater of a volcano in New Zealand and have some in my collection (bought, not taken from the volcano as it isn't permitted). Below is a photo I took about 40 years ago on the edge of a crater in Mt. Tarawera, New Zealand.

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Like you, I also like the reflection of light on crystal surfaces. What else is borax used for? Here is a Wikipedia link.

Borax

Liam - How interesting. You used green dye but your crystals seemed blackish. How could this be? Sometimes dyes can concentrate (get stronger) as the mix dries out or perhaps the crystals on your star were growing on something dark. I love mysteries. They encourage us to suppose what might have happened. Some of our great discoveries have come about when experiments didn't turn out as expected.

Riley - You have given a very good explanation of the process you used to make crystals. I also liked your suggestion the crystals looked life-like. Crystals grow as do we so it seems a little like life. Imagine if we were able to use time-lapse photography (pictures taken at regular times apart) to photograph the growth of your crystals then showed the photos one after the other as in a movie. We would see the crystals forming and growing.

Alvin - I liked your "wonder". The chemical reaction works quicker when in hot water. You can see this with sugar dissolving in water. If two of you each placed a spoon of sugar in containers of water where one had hot water and the other cold, I suspect you would find the sugar is dissolved more quickly in the hot water. What do you think?

Anita - I liked your use of "Step 1" and "Step 2" in your comment. Science, particularly chemistry, uses steps to carry out experiments. It looks like a cooking recipe. Follow the steps and you should bake a cake. Follow your class experiment and you should get crystals.
Why use borax? Borax dissolves easily in water and has water in its formula. Let's look at the chemistry involved...
Borax is sodium tetraborate decahydrate but I think it's easy to remember borax. The longer name tells us the chemical contains the elements sodium, four parts boron, and oxygen as well as 10 parts water. It's written like this...

borax

Na is sodium, B is boron and tetra tells us 4 parts, O is oxygen and there is also 10 parts water. It is a type of salt and can be found in crystal form. Below is a public domain photo of borax crystal I found through Wikimedia Commons. You can see borax can form crystals.

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Aramgutang at the English Wikipedia project.

This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Aramgutang at the English Wikipedia project.

Carter - I like your explanation of the steps needed in order to carry out your class geode experiment. One of the keys to scientific research is recording information. Experimenters have to not only record what happens in an experiment, they have to record how an experiment was done. This is so other scientists can repeat an experiment to check the results.

Marah - I like your description of the appearance of your crystals. My imagination was sparked by the thought of a million cazillion crystals sparkling in the light. I know I enjoy the sparkle as light bounces off the facets (faces) of the crystals. I also liked your thought on what might happen if the borax wasn't completely dissolved. Science is full of "what if" questions and experiments to discover the answers.

Colby - How did the borax mix in with the dye? How and why do crystals grow on a pipe cleaner? What a great questions. It's good to be able to follow experiments but to wonder why things happen is real scientific thinking. Questioning why then finding answers is the sign of a mind full of curiosity.

William - I like your "wonder" thinking when you wondered if the crystals would continue to grow if you returned your geode to the mixture. I suspect, providing the chemicals aren't all used, the crystals would continue growing. Imagine filling and egg and making a solid crystal geode. Your idea made me wonder what might happen if, after the crystals have grown in the first borax/dye mix, the eggs were placed in a different dye colour/borax mix? Would you get two coloured crystals? Would the new mix dissolve the old crystals? Would the first crystals change colour? These questions could be a completely new experiment.

Sofie - Because of the photo, I can see your crystal star so I agree it is really cool. I also read your birthstone is sapphire. The area of Australia I live in is known as the Sapphire Coast. It's known for the colours of the sea and sky in summer. Below is a photo taken from a trail in my town.

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Did you know there is something known as the Moh Scale? It's used to describe how hard minerals are. At the very top at level 10 hardness is the diamond. Sapphire comes in at 9 so it is amongst the hardest.

MOH SCALE

Robert - It can happen in experiments. What was expected to happen doesn't exactly work out as planned but this has led to some good results. Perhaps you have used post-it sticky notes? They work so well because they can be stuck on, removed and replaced. Did you know the glue used was an unexpected result of an experiment? A scientist was trying to develop a very strong glue. The results of one experiment was the glue now used on post-it notes. He realised it was sticky enough to hold but could be removed and reused. I find science fascinating, especially when it finds something unexpectedly good.

Olivia - A couple people have written about their fake geodes. I find the "fake" idea interesting. If we were to accidentally spill chemicals on the ground and they seeped through the soil, found a space, and started to grow as crystals, would they be fake or real? People didn't try to make them but they could happen. Real geodes are ones made in nature but your geodes were made in class. Real or fake, aren't they amazing?

Thomas - I wonder if geodes can change? I liked your question. You now know natural geodes take much longer to form than the ones you made in class. Forming crystals can take a great deal of time and need the right conditions. Think of this unusual crystal idea. Diamonds can only be formed when deep underground under pressure and heat for a very long time. They are made of carbon. Can they change? Did you know they tend to only come near the surface when brought up by volcanic eruption? Being made of carbon, do you think some would burn up in the magma? Imagine burning diamonds.

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This is not a diamond. It's a glass replica. I can't afford to add a real diamond to my collection. 🙂

Thomas's thought may have been correct. If someone accidentally bumped the borax/dye mix when crystals started forming, the crystals might not form correctly. Also, using too little borax might mean crystals don't form correctly because there isn't enough of the chemicals. I like mysteries in science. It can be fun trying to find the answers.

Mani - Now there's an interesting idea, would the process work with laundry powder?
I looked up information about borates in laundry powder and found they have a number of effects to help in the cleaning process but no information about using borate detergent to make crystals. I think it might depend on how much borax was in the detergent. There might not be enough to have good crystal growth or possibly even the detergent might stop growth. That would need another experiment to find answers.

Saadia - It can be cool to experiment but I think the coolest part would be seeing how all of the geodes and stars looked at the end. Imagine having many crystal stars hanging in the sunlight. Light would be reflecting off them in so many directions.

Luisa - I also think your parents would be proud of what you have made. I know I would want to try the experiment again but remember to always have adult help when working with chemicals. When I have some time, I'm going to have to try to make geodes and stars just like your class. I wonder how they might look?

Prayers - I'm glad your class mentioned making either geodes or stars. I might have though of geodes but not stars. I wonder what other shapes I could make? Would I be able to join the shapes to make crystal patterns?
I also liked your question as to whether you could make crystals without the borax. You can also try using salt or sugar. Dissolve salt or sugar in warm water and allow the water to evaporate off in the sun. Small crystals would form but I think you would find your borax crystals are larger.

Aleah - Your curiosity asked you questions I also found interesting. Would the eggshell inside be white or would the dye have changed the shell to colour? I suspect there might have been some change of colour but that's a guess. I would also guess they feel like real crystals because they are real crystals you just happened to grow.

Bryan - I wonder how the borax turns to crystals? What a great "wonder". Chemistry, the way chemicals can work together, is very interesting. The borax dissolves easily in water and then crystalises out again. How?

HOW CRYSTALS FORM

Without dye, the borax would form white crystals. Look at the picture posted for Anita and you will see what natural borax crystals look like.

Oliver - I like your description of the snowflakes being uncanny. Uncanny means 'unnaturally strange 'but we know crystals form naturally. I also find them uncanny because their sometimes beauty seems unnatural.  Examining crystals and other stones under a magnifying glass or microscope can unlock some amazing images. I don't have a microscope but I did take some close up photos of some of my small crystals in one of my geodes. The first photo shows the geode and the other three are close up photos.

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There are so many wonders in our world and so many I have yet to discover. All we need do is keep our minds and eyes wide open to the possibilities and our curiosity keen to know answers. Every day can be a learning experience just as reading your post and preparing this extended comment has been for me.

 

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Crystal Art

While working on a CD for a choir, I had the television on in the background. I stopped work to look at one segment of the show because it was showing how to paint with crystals. I missed all the details but was able to search the internet and here is what I found...

You will need an adult to help you and...

epsom salt

hot water

food colouring

containers for your mixtures

spoon for stirring

paintbrush

art paper

What you do. Remember, you will need to have an adult help because of the hot water...

1. Mix equal amounts of epsom salt and hot water in a container, adding five to seven drops of food colouring or using no colouring for clear crystals.

2. Use the paintbrush to paint the solution onto the paper but move quickly as crystals start forming as the solution cools.

3. Repeat using different colours.

4. Wait for the crystals to form and paper to dry. It could take two to three hours.

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Searching the internet, I found collections of images of crystal paintings...

Crystal Art Images

Click to go back to "What the Dino Saw"

The displays shown on this blog post were photographed/filmed in April, 2014. Displays may change over time.

Things to remember:

We don't really know what colours dinosaurs were. Fossils don't show colour. The colours you see are guesses.

We don't know what sounds the dinosaurs made. Like colour, the sounds are also guesses.

Scientists can make guesses about how dinosaurs looked by looking at fossils.

You have survived going through the dinosaur's mouth so let's see what's next in the Canberra's National Dinosaur Museum. Have you heard the song "Never Smile at a Crocodile". The smiling skull you see when you enter is a deinosuchus. Below it you can see a crocodile skull. Deinosuchus is related to an alligator and is not a dinosaur but it was very big.

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Deinosuchus

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Now meet your first inside dinosaur. It is a raptor like the velociraptor but bigger.

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Utahraptor

Some of the dinosaurs in the museum can move. Click on the video below to see the moving utahraptor...

 

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As we walk inside, there is a discovery area for hands on investigation at the left and a shop on the right but our journey is up the stairs to see the dinosaurs. Look up as you climb the stairs and you will see flying reptiles. They are not dinosaurs but soared through the sky when dinosaurs were around.

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Click on the video below to see one of the flying reptiles move.

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Now you're on the top floor, there are many dinosaurs and other creatures to see. Here are a few...

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

Stegosaurus

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

Carnotaurus 

Click on the video below to see the carnotaurus move...

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

Spinosaurus 

Click on the video below to see the spinosaurus move...

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Iguanodon

Click on the video below to see the iguanodon move...

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Tyrannosaurus Rex

Click on the video below to see the tyrannosaurus rex move...

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Now, a question for you. Look at the picture of a spinosaurus below. Underneath the spinosaurus are photos of four replica dinosaur teeth. Can you guess which replica tooth belongs to the spinosaurus?

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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.

Once you have decided which tooth belongs to a spinosaur, click the link to show the answer...

I've made my guess.

The photos and videos were taken in April, 2014. The displays may have had changes if you visit Canberra's National Dinosaur Museum.

Hello everyone,

I know you are interested in dinosaurs and wanted to learn something about them. Let's start with a visit to Canberra's National Dinosaur Museum. When you arrive, you can see dinosaurs waiting to greet you.

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

Let's meet some of the dinosaurs waiting outside the museum. If you want to learn more about one of them, you can click on their names under the photo and it will take you to an information page about the dinosaur.

Let's start with an old favourite...

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

Tyrannosaurus Rex

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You may know the tyrannosaurus rex was a carnivore. It ate meat but do you know the meat eating dinosaur below?

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

Spinosaurus

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Not all meat eating dinosaurs were as big as these. Did you know there were smaller dinosaurs who would hunt together? Velociraptors might only be 60cm high and 1.6m long but the Utahraptor was bigger. Let's meet a Utahraptor.

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

Utahraptor

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Not all dinosaurs were meat eaters.

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

Brachiosaurus

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

Parasaurolophus

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

Stegosaurus

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

Triceratops

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There were also reptiles that could fly. While not dinosaurs, they soared through the skies...

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

Pteranodon

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Now let me show you around the inside of the National Dinosaur Museum. Click on the photo below to go to the next post and see inside the museum...

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

Things to remember:

We don't really know what colours dinosaurs were. Fossils don't show colour. The colours you see are guesses.

We don't know what sounds the dinosaurs made. Like colour, the sounds are also guesses.

Scientists can make guesses about how dinosaurs looked by looking at fossils.

 

 

To see the 2013 post where Keira left her comment and questions...

What Stone Is That?- A Follow Up Post for Keira

This photo was supplied by Mrs. Yollis and class.

This photo was supplied by Mrs. Yollis and class.

Hello Keira,

In one of your comments you mentioned you had a plethora of questions. A superabundance of questions is the sign of an inquiring mind. It seems as though your questions have turned from astronomy to geology. As before, your words will appear in bold blue text.

Since the day I found the rock that you mentioned in the post at a camping site, I have treasured it. Recently, I went camping at the same exact site, and I found many more rocks that seem to have some kind of beautiful mineral inside of it. In fact, I collected a rock that is made out of all gem. I am a little disappointed that in comments, you cannot post pictures with the text. If I could, I would take a picture of all the rocks I collected so you could see them for yourself.

You have discovered the reason this blog was formed. I also found comments on blogs generally couldn’t include photos, videos or sound and were limited to only one link. A blog allows it all providing we know about being safe online.

When I stumble upon an interesting rock, I tend to have the instinct to pick it up. I know that you probably have that same instinct too, because you are like a walking encyclopedia, always gathering up new information. I said this because I wanted to know if you have either found or bought any new rocks yet. I also want to know which one you most likely do to collect rocks: Do you buy them from rock sellers more often, or do you collect them on your own outside more?

While I have collected rocks in the field, I am unable to travel as much as I once had so these days I am more often to buy samples if I find them interesting. I have recently added some interesting stones. See if you find these samples interesting…

The first photo shows flourite (calcium flourine) crystals. The green mat they're on have 1cm squares so you can see their size. Each crystal has 8 facets (faces), i.e. they are octahedral crystals. They have not been cut. A collector was selling some of his samples at a local country show.

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

In my area, different towns have markets on weekends. When visiting one, I found a man was selling geodes from Queensland. While I already had some, I was fascinated by this sample because it looks as though two fused together when they were formed perhaps 200 million years ago.

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

Here is one from my collection that has been broken open. They aren't as impressive as my Brazilian geodes but I like the Australian samples because they are from home.

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

I have yet a few more questions to ask you. Have you ever found a rock from a volcano? I think it would be most likely that you have because, in one of your posts, you said that you had seen a few volcanoes erupt. If, a couple months later, you had gone down to examine the area near the volcano, and you found a interesting rock, I think you would have kept it and put it in your collection. I know that if I found one, I would definitely keep it.

When collecting any stones, we must be aware whether or not we are in national parks where we are not permitted to collect stones and rocks. There are places where you can collect stones, including igneous (volcanic) rocks. When I can, I have collected stones but I have also bought many.

My favourite item from a volcanic area in New Zealand was collected by me (with permission). It was collected near a fumarole where the sulphur (U.S. spelling: sulfur) crystals were forming. Because sulphur crystals break down and lose their shine if exposed to water or moist air, the below sample has been kept in a perspex box since I found it over 30 years ago. The crystals still shine as you can see.

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

I have already written a number of posts on volcanoes. Below are links to some of the first posts written for this blog back in 2012...

Volcanoes Post 1

Scree and Obsidian

Aa and Pahoehoe from Hawaii

Pumice and New Zealand Iron Sands

Geological Hot Spots

New Zealand

Final Volcano Post

Another question is have you ever been in a cave where jewels were growing naturally? I asked that question because I heard on a science show that people can explore caves with jewels in them. I doubt that you have ever been in one, but I can not know for sure until you tell me the answer. If you have been in one, what kind of minerals did you see?

A cave of jewels… what a wonderful thought reminding me of the first time I saw the 7 dwarfs working in the jewel mine in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” when I was about your age. I dreamed of finding such a mine back then but I know finding a mine with gem quality stones is hard enough without expecting more than one type of gem. A diamond mine would be nice. 🙂

Below is an item in my collection measuring 5cm diameter across the top. Unfortunately, it is only a glass replica.

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

I have been in gold mines, coal mines and a couple other mines but the closest to a jewel mine would have been an opal mine. There are mines all over the world where jewels are found, some very unsafe for the miners. I only enter mines welcoming visitors on guided tours.

Perhaps Australia’s most famous jewel mine is the Argyle Diamond Mine in Western Australia. It is an open cut mine where they dig down making valleys not dig tunnels.  Here is a link to their website.

Argyle Diamond Mine

You might know diamonds can be different colours other than clear. Argyle’s most famous colour is pink. Click on the link below to see some of the colours in Argyle diamonds…

Argyle Pink Diamonds

This is the last question I have before the last question I want to ask you. I want to ask you if you have ever mined any type of mineral. If so, what did you mine?

When out hunting for stones, I often have my geologists hammer with me. The pointy end is use to chip into rocks and the flat end to break rocks. You could say I have used this in mining in a small way. The picture is below…

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

I have also panned for gold in old gold fields and hunted for rocks, crystals and fossils in many locations.

Gold

Some of this sample has been panned by me. Much was bought.

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

I bought this sample of gold in quartz from a place called Hill End where there was an active gold mine. I have been in a mine in the area but not the active mine.

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

A gold nugget from New Zealand, it is about 1.5cm across.

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

Fossils

The two fossils below were found by me at a rock fall site many years ago. The first shows a fossilised leaf and the second is part of a fossilised tree trunk.

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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.

 In this sample I picked up, you can see shells in the stone. Rather than fossils, they are still real shells embedded in stone.

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

I picked up the following shell embedded in rock from an open cut mine.

Shell 30,000 years old

Finally, I want to ask you if you have ever cut a rock open and discovered gems inside?

A gem is a stone used in jewellery so it can be anything from quartz to diamonds, emeralds and rubies. I have found quartz and amethyst in rocks as well as in rivers where they have been washed. Some of my stones are of gem quality but I have never found anything really valuable.

This quartz crystal sample might be of gem quality in part if it was cut but I like it as it is.

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

As you said in your post, you do not have a diamond cutter, but have you ever used one? If so, was it hard to cut the stone open?

I have seen them used but I haven’t used one. It’s a skill to be able to cut a stone well. I have stones I collected so I could use them if I had access to a diamond saw. They are known as chert and are reasonably easy to cut and polish but aren’t worth much. My samples have colour bands through them so they might look good cut, shaped and polished into cabachons.

Diamonds are not made into cabachons nor are other gems such as emerald and rubies. They are faceted. This means they are cut and polished to have faces. Turquoise, agate and opal are examples of stone often made into cabachons. Look at the images of assorted cabachons below.

CABACHON SAMPLES

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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.

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.

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

A diamond saw is used on most stones, diamond being the hardest stone we can find. It uses a special saw blade embedded with diamonds. Before you think this is a waste of diamonds, most diamonds found are not of gem quality. They are industrial quality. I have seen websites selling these low quality diamonds for as little as $120 to $180 per kilogram.

If you have never cut a stone open, would you ever like to cut one of your stones open?

While I would like to be able to cut my own stones, time to do so and the money to buy the equipment means this isn’t possible. I have broken open some samples to look inside but mostly I keep them as I found them. One of the problems with being interested in so many things is finding the time to do them all but it is fun doing what I can.

Keira also had questions on a geology post. Here are some possible answers...

Curious Keira Asked About Geology

1 Comment

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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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).

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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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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