Tag Archives: Ayer’s Rock

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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 reaches 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 .

 

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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 where I had worked 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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Mt. Isa, we head west to the border with Northern Territory. The photo below was taken standing in the state of Northern Territory 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 because we had reached as far north as we were going on this journey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standley Chasm

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

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

 

Simpsons Gap (it was late in the day)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset

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

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset

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

Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) up close

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

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

And a view from almost the top of Uluru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occasionally, hills can break the dry scenery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eventually we reached the opal mining town of Coober Pedy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For their original post…

Welcome to Grade THREE!

For the related preceding post on this blog...

The Outback and Other Information

Hello Battalion Bloggers,

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

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

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

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

Perentie

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

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

Lace Monitor

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

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

Komodo Dragon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salvatori's Monitor Lizard

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

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

New Guinea's Salvadori's Monitor Lizard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why would they die out?

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

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

Echidna

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

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

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

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

We wonder what they like to eat … besides ants!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karlu Karlu

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

Uluru Climb

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

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

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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In the comments of their poster entitled "Welcome to Grade THREE!", the Battalion Bloggers asked some questions. For their original post...

Welcome to Grade THREE!

Monitor Lizards

Perentie Lizards

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.

The Perentie tend to live in central Australia across to Western Australia but are not native to my area. Their patterning is very attractive but I have only seen them in zoos and not in the wild. They are one of the monitor lizards.

 Lace Monitors

 The photo below shows a local lace monitor (goanna) I photographed while hiking. It was about 1.5m long and was seen eating an animal killed on the road. I have seen them a number of times.

Lace monitors are our second largest monitor lizards after the perentie. The perentie and lace monitor are thought to be slightly venomous but they are generally shy and run away if surprised. I have read fossils have been found in Australia showing komodo dragons, the largest of the monitors once also roamed Australia but are now only found in Indonesia.

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Kangaroo, Koalas and Echidnas

I have seen kangaroos (and wallabies), koalas and echidnas in zoos and in the wild a number of times. There has been an echidna in my garden and kangaroos on the sports oval across the road. While wild koalas aren't common in my area, my local animal sanctuary has had them. Potoroo Palace has a female named Sapphire who was born in their sanctuary. I have known her since birth.

All of the video clips shown below were filmed by me at Potoroo Palace.

Kangaroo

The most common kangaroo in my area is the eastern grey kangaroo. The males can be up to around 2m tall and are common in my area. The pictured male was as tall as me. He watched me as I took his photo them he hopped away. They are only dangerous if they feel trapped.

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Here is one of my short video clips showing eastern grey kangaroos.

Koala

The photo shows Sapphire when she was younger but had left her mother's pouch.

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The first of my video clips shows one of the first times Sapphire looked out from her mother's pouch after about 26 weeks inside the pouch.

The second clip shows Sapphire with her mother, Suzie. Too big, Sapphire stayed out of the pouch but with her mother.

With the loss of Blinky (father) and Suzie (mother), Sapphire is now the only koala at Potoroo Palace. I am certain the staff will be hoping for a suitable mate for her to continue their koala breeding.

Echidna

 I have seen echidna when hiking, in a park in my town and even in my own backyard. Their eyesight isn't good and they can't bite. If threatened, they dig their strong claws into the ground, hold on, and show only their spines.

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This is what they look like when they dig in.

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 Below is a video clip of Potoroo Palace's Spike.

The Outback.

There was an old saying, "Out back of Bourke". Others have talked about the outback starting at the dingo fence or  beyond the  "black stump", or a number of other areas but, mostly, outback refers to isolated inland areas of Australia. Unlike Canada, much of Australia is arid or semi-arid (deserts or near deserts) where rainfall is low and the soil is often reddish from iron oxides (rust). I'll share some photos, a number just scanned into the computer from old 35mm film slides, so you'll be the first to see them since many were taken back in 1985.

In 1981 and 1982 I was the Teacher in Charge of a one teacher school. It was very isolated and ranked number 6 in our state. Town was 100km away. The school was there for children from sheep and cattle stations. I lived 20km distant in a shearer's quarters on a 100,000 acre sheep station. We did have a computer on loan for about six weeks each year but the internet was still many years away for schools.

Below is a picture from 1982. Does it look isolated?

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1985 - A Trip to Uluru (Ayers Rock)

By 1985, I was a teacher in an 850 student school in western Sydney. In 1983, I had organised a trip for some families to New Zealand but, for 1985, organised a trip through the centre of Australia. I was the 20 seater bus driver for most of the trip of over 7000km. Our first night was spent in the schoolroom of my old school pictured above. From there, we took dirt roads and a main highway until we reached Bourke. From there, we could have said we were in the outback.

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Here are some photos from back then...

This is the Darling River in the town of Bourke. The Darling River is part of an inland water system stretching from Queensland through New South Wales (N.S.W.), Victoria and out to sea in South Australia(S.A.). In times of severe drought it can run dry or overflow in flood during big rain.

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Heading north from Bourke along the Mitchell Highway, we stopped at the state border between N.S.W. and Queensland. The countryside was very flat but green as we had some rain the week before our trip.

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 We came to the mining town of Mt. Isa in Queensland. Mt. Isa is in the tropical but dry north of Australia. The red colouring of the soil is caused by iron oxide (rust) in the soil. Lead, silver, copper and zinc is mined there.

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From Mt. Isa, we headed west and crossed into the Northern Territory, heading about half way across N.T.. before heading south to the Red Centre (the middle of Australia). One of our stops was at Karlu Karlu (Devil's Marbles) where there are many large rocks seemingly balanced on their ends. They are important in traditional Aboriginal beliefs.

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Along the way, we crossed from the tropics back into the sub-tropics. A sign marked the line of the Tropic of Capricorn but I liked what someone had painted on the road. (The man in the photo was one of the dads and you can see we had some rain.)

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Finally, we arrived in Alice Springs, the town close to the middle of Australia if not really then in our minds. Again, as you can see in the photo, we were travelling in a wet period. The Todd River passes through Alice Springs but flowing water is rarely seen so, when they hold the Henley-on-Todd Regatta, it's more a running race holding something looking like a sailing boat. If the river is flowing with water, they have to cancel their boat races. 🙂

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The MacDonnell Ranges are the mountains around Alice Springs. There are many gorges and beautiful rock formations to visit. Below is a photo of Standley Chasm. The people in the photo will give you an idea of the size of the chasm.

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Heading south out of Alice Springs, we stopped at the Henbury Meteorite Craters. The twelve craters were formed when a meteorite broke into pieces before hitting the ground it's estimated about 4,700 years back.

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Finally, we came to our main aim for our tour, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Like Karlu Karlu, the sites have special significance to the local Aboriginal people who are the caretakers of the land. The first photo shows Uluru at sunset. It is the visible part of a huge monolith (single stone). The second photo shows the position where it's possible for visitors to climb the rock. The Aboriginal people wouldn't climb to the top of Uluru because of its cultural importance but they allow visitors if they choose to do so.

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As you walk or drive around the base of Uluru, there are many places with simple barriers and signs asking people to respect special places for Aboriginal people. There are sacred places for Aborginal men and women they ask visitors not to enter. The photo below shows some Aboriginal artwork on Uluru in a place where visitors can visit.

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Approximately west of Uluru is Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). You can see them in the distance in the first photo taken from Uluru and part of them up close in the second and third.

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Heading south from Uluru, we crossed into South Australia (S.A.).

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...and eventually reached the opal mining town of Coober Pedy where many people have built their homes underground to protect them from summer heat. The area is dotted with opal mines.

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We started to see salt lakes. Water flowing all the way from Queensland during high rainfall, has nowhere to go when reaching the lakes. As the water evaporates, salt is left behind. The next photo, taken from our bus, shows a salt lake in the distance.

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Upon reaching the town of Port Augusta, we headed north-east through the Flinders Ranges.

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We crossed the border into N.S.W. and travelled 1200km to reach home.

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