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This is the 199th post on this blog. Rocky River, check out post number 201...
Hello Rocky River, here is the second part of a post I promised. This time we will look at life in a small, isolated school serving sheep and cattle stations, School of the Air, cattle stations in the Outback and life on a large sheep station.
Schools of the Air
Because of the isolated locations of some children on sheep and cattle properties or in communities too small for a school around Australia, a number of schools were set up to allow children to use two way radio. The first radio broadcasts dated back to 1951 and were sent out from the Royal Flying Doctors Service in Alice Springs. From 2003 till 2009, short wave radio was used but schools of the air are now turnng to internet technology giving students better access to information and the world.
In earlier years, radio became a contact to the world for isolated people. They used radios which were pedal powered. Someone would pedal to make electricity from a generator in order to power their radio.
With modern technology, you would find it much easier to use solar energy for electricity.
There are now a number of locations for Schools of the Air around Australia. According to Wikipedia, the schools of the air are in the towns of...
Mount Isa, Queensland
Charters Towers, Queensland
Charleville School of Distance Education, Queensland
Katherine, Northern Territory
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Broken Hill, New South Wales
Tibooburra, New South Wales
Port Hedland, Western Australia
Port Augusta, South Australia
Kimberley, Western Australia
Carnarvon, Western Australia
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
Meekatharra, Western Australia
School of the Air Locations
Within my state of New South Wales, the most isolated school is listed as Tibooburra School of the Air. The school is based in the town of Tibooburra. The school where I first had a permanent teaching position wasn't a school of the air although some high school students in my area used correspondence school where lessons were sent by mail. My school, Marra Creek Public School, was the sixth most isolated school in my state and the first not to be located in a town.
Marra Creek Public School
This was the first school were I was a permanent teacher and it was considered the sixth most isolated school in New South Wales. The five more isolated, while further from the state capital of Sydney, were in towns. Marra Creek Public School was 100km (62mi) from the nearest town. The children lived on sheep and cattle stations around the school and could travel from up to 50km (31mi) to school each day. Because the outback refers to isolated and remote areas, it could be considered an outback school. If you click on the school website link above, you will see they list themselves as an outback school.
This section of the blog post looks at my time in this outback school in the early 1980s.
When I first arrived at the school, the above photo shows what I found. You can see it had tanks to catch rain falling on the roof if it rained and a toilet block near the school building. We had a flagpole and a tall TV antenna but we could only receive one TV channel if the weather conditions were good.
The playground was mostly dirt but there was some ground covering plants. You couldn't go barefoot because there were often nasty wooden thorns called catheads. They would always have one spike pointing up.
We had a phone where, if you wanted to make a phone call, you would pick up the handset and listen to make certain no one else was using it. You would then put the handset down, wind a handle, then pick the handset up to see if the operator had answered. You could then ask for a number.
We didn't have mobile phones, push button numbers, emails, CDs, DVDs, Bluray or the internet back then but, for 6 weeks each year, we were able to use a borrowed Apple II computer. The computer had only about 12 programs so I wrote some extras for the class to use. Luckily for the children, I had used computers while a university student in the 1970s.
It was back in 1982 I purchased my first personal video camera. They were new on the market and expensive. When I used it, some people thought I might be from a television station. Using it, I produced my first school video clip. Now converted from VHS video tape to digital, below is a section of that first video clip. The youngest children, 5 years old, in the video would now be about 37 years old. I have never before shared this video clip with others since I was in that school so this is a special share for you to see outback children at work and play in the 1980s..
You Tube has removed some copyrighted music I used back then. I try to make certain video clips I now make only have music I am allowed to use.
During my two years at the school, numbers ranged from 12 to 20 students aged from 5 to 13 all in the one small classroom. I was the only teacher and was known as the Teacher In Charge (not a principal).
With a new classroom and my old classroom now the library, a teacher house and access to the internet, the school would be very different compared to when I taught there but it is still about 100km from the nearest town and so is still an outback, isolated school.
While teaching at Marra Creek Public School, I lived "next door" to the school about 20km (12mi) distant by road. I stayed in a house on a sheep station known as Lemon Grove. While I has there, the property grew to about 400 square kilometres (100,000 acres) although at the time the video clip below was made, the property was half that size. A neighbouring property had been bought by the end of 1982.
Below is a video clip I again made in 1982. It features Lemon Grove stud (sheep breeding property) and its annual field day. The field day allowed Lemon Grove and neighbouring properties to sell their sheep. It was also a social event for the area.
For any outback property, reliable water supplies can be a problem. Many properties have to pump water from natural underground sources such as the Great Artesian Basin found under about one quarter of Australia although water from the Basin came come to the surface by itself (see the grey shaded area on the map below).
On many farms, and sheep and cattle stations, you will see windmills. The windmills use wind power to pump water up from underground. Lemon Grove had a windmill near the main houses.
Each year, the sheep on Lemon Grove would be brought in for shearing in the shearing shed.
Shearers take the sheep and shear off the fleece in one piece.
Once done, the shearer takes the next sheep while others collect the fleece and take it to a table where bits of plants or dirt can be removed. A woolclasser then checks the quality of the fleece. They check how fine the wool is. Merino wool from these sheep is amongst the finest wool in the world.
Once classed, the fleece is put into a press with the same quality wool. When full, the press forces the wool together into bales. Bales can then be placed on trucks and sent off for sale.
Sunsets at Lemon Grove could sometimes be amazing, especially when storm clouds were gathering.
Sometimes, the miracle of rain comes to the dry land and within two weeks, the land can turn green with plant growth.
If you look very carefully in the middle of this photo, you can see an emu running away from where I was standing. Like ostriches, they can't fly. They rely on running to escape danger.
It is a male. How do I know? Look even more carefully and you can see chicks following the emu. For emus, once the female has laid the eggs she leaves. It's the males that care for the eggs and developing chicks.
Cattle stations mixed with sheep stations are found near Marra Creek School but, as you move into northern and more western Australia, sheep give way to cattle. Australia's largest cattle station is known as Anna Creek Station.
Anna Creek Station is roughly 24,000 square kilometres (6,000,000 acres or 9,400 sq mi) or about the size of the U.S.A. state of New Hampshire. It is in the state of South Australia. The largest cattle ranch in the U.S. is, I think, King Ranch in Texas. At 3,340 square kilometres (825,000 acres or 1289 sq mi) you would need a little over 7 King Ranch to make up Anna Creek Station.
In areas where rainfall is low, stations need to be very large to allow enough land for cattle to feed. In the photo below, taken by Robert Kerton of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in the Northern Territory, you can see how arid cattle station land can be.
Anna Creek Station in South Australia is roughly 24,000 square kilometres (6,000,000 acres or 9,400 sq mi) and, as at 2012, it had 17,000 cattle. That means each animal has about 1.4 square kilometres (353 acres or about half a sq mi). Smaller stations where more feed and water is available would have higher numbers of cattle for the land available.
Australia is a huge country, although smaller than U.S.A.'s 50 states yet most of it is arid or semi-arid (desert or near desert). Most Australians live around the coastal areas, paricularly in the east of Australia.
Sheep and Cattle Where I Live
My home is along Australia's east coast about half way between Sydney and Melbourne. It is in the Bega Valley Shire, an area known for Bega Cheese and its beautful coastline is popular with tourists. My family has been in this area since the 1840s. They were, and my cousin still is, dairy farmers. As well as dairy, we have beef cattle and sheep in my area. A few properties also have alpacas, none of these animals being native to Australia.
Below is a photo taken on the old family farm...
You can see it is much greener and hillier than central Australia. Farms are much smaller than the sheep and cattle stations of the Outback.
...and since I mentioned our coastline, here is a photo I have taken of the coastline as can be seen from my town.
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...
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heading north, we were heading towards the town of Longreach. The landscape had dried out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Alice Springs lies within the MacDonnell Ranges. There are so many beautiful places to visit in this arid area. Here are just two...
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)
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.
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.
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
Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) at sunset
Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) up close
You can get an idea of its size by looking at the people climbing it.
And a view from almost the top of Uluru
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.
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.
From Uluru, it is possible to see the distant Kata Tjuta rising from the desert plain.
Back in our mini-bus, we headed along the dirt road to Kata Tjuta.
On leaving Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we rejoined the Stuart Highway and again headed south crossing the state border into South Australia.
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.
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.
There were many kilometres of flat roads as we continued south.
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.
Daniel had some wonders about emus. A simple answer wouldn't have allowed me to share the information I had…
Hi Ross! I liked how you wrote each of us a comment. Thank you for sending us the animal cards because we got more wonders. What did the emus evolve from and what is the tallest bird? I wonder how the real name of the emu is pronounced. How can you tell the difference between a male emu and a female emu? If you didn’t send us the cards, I wouldn’t know that emus swim! Which continent is Polynesia on? We are so lucky that we blog with you, Ross!
Daniel, what wonderful wonders!
As can sometimes happen, a comment can lead to a post so let's see if I can answer your questions. I like challenges. 🙂
Let's work backwards through your questions.
1. Which continent is Polynesia on?
Polynesia isn't a continent. It is a collection of over 1000 islands in the Pacific Ocean. It includes Hawaii in the north, Rapa Nui (Easter Island) in the east, Tonga in the west and New Zealand in the south-west. The traditional people of the islands are known as Polynesian. Having heard the Maoris of New Zealand speaking their language, I have also visited Hawaii. Despite the two sets of islands being so far apart, I was able to recognise words similar to each area. Polynesians share similarities in culture and language.
As well as Polynesia, there are two other major Pacific island groups, Micronesia and Melanesia. Melanesia includes New Guinea to the north of Australia. Australia isn't part of these groups as it is both the world's largest island and smallest continent. The many cultures of the traditional people of Australia are very different to Micronesians, Melanesians and Polynesians.
A Maori in traditional clothing.
2. What is the tallest bird?
The heaviest and tallest living birds are ostriches, native to Africa. They can weigh over 156kg and the males can be as tall as 2.8m. Next on the list are southern cassowaries found in northern Australia. Emus come along in 3rd place. The northern cassowary found in New Guinea comes in fourth. I have seen emus in the wild. I have only seen cassowaries and ostriches in zoos. Here is a Wikipedia link…
When the Maoris first arrived in New Zealand (aka Aotearoa), they found a very large flightless native bird known as the moa. Look at the photo below of a reconstruction of the moa based on evidence from bones and fossils...
I photographed this moa in New Zealand's Auckland Museum. There were nine species of moas, this being one of the largest two. They could reach about 3.6m in height and weigh about 230kg.With the emus reaching up to only about 2m, the largest moas would have towered over them.
But these weren’t the largest known birds to have ever lived. Does a bird thought to be more than 3m tall and weighing around 400kg sound big? Here a link to an extinct giant bird… Elephant Bird
3.How can you tell the difference between male and female emus?
The most important answer to this question is the birds can but let's see what I can find to help us. By looking at the photo above, I can't tell the difference between the male and female emus. They look very alike but it seems they can sound different. Males can grunt a little like a pig and, if they're caring for chicks, can whistle to their chicks whereas females make a more booming sound.
When I look at emus, I try to imagine them featherless with teeth in their beaks. When I do this, I imagine something like a dinosaur. Look at the photo of a dinosaur skeleton I photographed when at a museum in London. It has a long tail and clawed upper arms whereas emus have a short tail and stumpy wings we don't notice because of their feathers but there are similarities such as in their feet and the way they moved. I suspect the dinosaur was a fast runner and I know emus can run at up to 50 kilometres per hour as I have been driving a car and slowed to see how fast nearby emus were running.
Of course, looking something alike doesn't mean they are alike. There can be similarities between very different animals simply because they need to do similar things so let's look at some ideas on the evolution of birds.
4. Where did emus evolve from?
The Evolution of Birds
For a long time people thought all of the dinosaurs died out with the great extinction caused by a large meteorite hitting Earth but we now believe this wasn’t completely so. We know the large dinosaurs couldn't survive the changes in the Earth but early mammals survived because they were small and fur covered. Fossils have shown this but what about the small dinosaurs?
I have seen information on two main types of dinosaurs...
No, I didn't take the dinosaur photo when I was young. In 1989, I visited a dinosaur display. 🙂
the sauropods (lizard-footed) including the largest dinosaurs (one is pictured above)… Sauropods
and the ornithopods (bird-footed)... Ornithopods
By their names, you might think we would be looking at ornithopods but it’s the sauropods I find most interesting, as it seems these dinosaurs include the ancestors of birds.
A type of sauropod dinosaur are the therapods (beast-footed)... Therapods
Could some dinosaurs fly?
Look at the photos I had taken when a "DInosaurs of China" collection visited Sydney in 1983...
This high quality fossil from China shows a winged reptile and the photo below shows a reconstruction of how they may have looked. These fliers weren't dinosaurs although many think of them as being dinosaurs. They were not the ancestors of birds.
We had no evidence dinosaurs had feathers until a very fine fossil was found in 1861, an archaeopteryx (are-key-op-ter-ix). Look closely at the photo below and you will see the fossil below is so fine you can see feathers yet it appears to have claws on its wings. This was not the fossil of a flying reptile. If the feathers hadn't been present, it would most likely to have been thought to be a small sauropod dinosaur. After the fossil was discovered, we could see a link between the dinosaurs and birds.
In the photo below, you will see how the archaeopteryx might have looked. Fossils don't preserve colour so the colours are only guesses but sometimes ancient feathers have been discovered in amber and can show colour. Because feathers trapped in amber are rare, scientists can't test them without destroying them to find out more but they have been found to be very old feathers.
Since the discovery of the archaeopteryx, more examples of fossils appearing to have feathers have been found...
Scroll down the link and you will see a diagram known as a cladogram. The diagram shows a clade. Clades show an ancestor and all of its descendants sort of like a family tree humans use to show their family. Notice the ancient ancestor starts with therapods and leads to birds?
All dinosaurs didn’t become extinct, some evolved into the birds we see today.
Do any modern birds have claws?
I once wondered if any modern birds had clawed wings and the answer was no until I read about the hoatzin of South America. The hoatzin is also known as the "stinkbird" which gives us the idea it is a little smelly.
What interested me was its chicks. The chicks have two claws on each wing to help them climb around the trees where they live but they are true birds and not left over from the dinosaur days. The young lose the claws as they become adults. Below is a photo of a hoatzin chick I found on Wikimedia Commons where it is listed as in the public domain.
The Evolution of the Emu
Science tends to classify birds into orders and into further groups within orders. For the emu, it is grouped with other ratites, or flightless birds including the ostrich, cassowary and New Zealand's moa and kiwi. In the link below, you will see another cladogram, this time of birds. The ratites come off very early on and are separate from all other birds so you could say they are closer to the first birds to have evolved.
One last photo, this time a close up look at the emu's legs...
Emus are modern birds and not dinosaurs but, when I watch them walk, I can imagine them being dinosaurs striding or running across the land perhaps being chased by a carnivorous dinosaur. What do you think?
Class 4B is learning about the world's oceans and has started their studies by recalling information about Australia. Due to restrictions in links in the comments section of their blog, I have written this quick post to share links to some of the relevant posts. Below is a link to their blog post...
I found your post about Australia interesting. A number of times I have written posts about Australia, its geography and its animals. I thought I would share some links if you are interested.
You will see a number of photos on the posts have the following message under them...
"Schools and students have permission to use this graphic for non-commercial, educational purposes."
This means I have given you permission to use the photos for school use so you are able to use the photos with the message in projects or presentations. Here are the links...
There are also posts on humpback whales migrating from the Southern Ocean...
We have so many interesting things to learn about in our world. Being and island continent, the sea is an important feature of our geography. We have contact with three of the worlds oceans, Pacific, Indian, and Southern, as well as the Tasman Sea, Timor Sea, Coral Sea and Arafura Sea.
I think you are going to discover interesting information in your studies of the world around us. 🙂
Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia
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.
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.
Occasionally, hills can break the dry scenery.
We stopped to explore Karlu Karlu (also known as Devil's Marbles)...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
About 30 km (more by road) to the west of Uluru is Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas).
Like Uluru, these rock formations are huge and tower above the surrounding land.
As we left Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we joined the main road south and passed through more flat country.
Eventually we reached the opal mining town of Coober Pedy.
To escape the high summer temperatures, some of the town's people have built homes into the low hills.
Heading south from Coober Pedy, we pass salt lakes...
...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...
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.
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...
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?
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
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.
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…
For the related preceding post on this blog...
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.
We wonder why the komodo dragon is only found in Indonesia now and not in Australia anymore?
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.
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.
* 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?
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!
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.
Schools and students have permission to use this video clip for non-commercial, educational purposes.
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...
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.
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'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.
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.
A student was learning about Australia and shared some facts and questions. Enjoying reading what was shared, I thought I would provide some information. To see the original Google document...
Looking at the Facts
Here is a summary of information based on your Google document. If you scroll down to "About Australia" on this post, you can read some of the information used to find answers and facts.
There are six Australian states.
The first known Europeans came to Australia arrived in 1606 although the Chinese may have come in the 1400s. People from Indonesia and may have arrived much earlier and the Aboriginal people first came here as much as 60,000 years ago.
Western Australia is our largest state.
There were many language groups in Aboriginal Australia, each with their own cultures. They didn't have tribes like Native Americans.
Australia is the largest island and smallest continent. It is the only continent to be one nation.
Australia has a number of states and territories.
Australia borders the Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans.
Australia is an island and not landlocked. Landlocked means no access to the sea.
Australia'c capital city is Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Each state and territory has its own state/territory capital.
- What are these “parts” called? - The main part of Australia has six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania)and two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory).
- Why are they so big? - Our states are large because of the arid and semi-arid areas, a much smaller population than the U.S.A. and finding most people live along or near the coast.
- How did they name them? - Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia were given their names because of their location. Victoria and Queensland were named in honour of Queen Victoria. Tasmania gained its name from the first European explorer to reach it Abel Tasman. New South Wales was named by Captain Cook. It's said the coast reminded him of parts of Wales in the United Kingdom.
- Who decided to split this country? - The country wasn't really split. Areas gained their names as new colonies were established.
- Who did this? - Each state had a governor representing the king or queen and a government. In a way, each state had been its own country and could set laws.
- How did this happen? - With all the states agreeing after many meetings of state leaders, Australian became a commonwealth and nation in 1901.
- Is it because a historical feature that slowly split them? - The historical feature was colonisation. With large distance between colones, it was better for each colony to control its own area while officially being governed by the king or queen through a governor.
- Was it because of a war? - Australia became a nation by agreement and not war. The English crown also approved Australia becoming a nation.
- When did this happen? - The first British colony was founded in 1788 in an area of Sydney near the now famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. The second colony was established was Van Diemans Land (later Tasmania).
- Why did it happen? - When there was only one colony, the east of Australia and New Zealand were all in the colony of New South Wales. As new colonies were formed, new borders were drawn up and New Zealand separated from New South Wales. Federation in 1901 came about because the states decided they should all be part of one nation.
- When was this discovered? - The borders in Australia were made using rivers or latitude and longitude readings. The changes all came about over time so there was no great discovery.
Read on to see more information on Australia plus links to other blogs.
Here is a map of Australia I have drawn...
The main part of Australia has six states (Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania)and two territories (Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory). It also has jurisdiction over Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island and the Ashmore and Cartier Islands in the Indian Ocean and the Heard and McDonald Islands in the Southern Ocean.
The map also shows the capital cities of each state or territory. Canberra is our national capital.
Australia is said to be the world's smallest continent and the world's largest island. Any land mass larger is a continent and any small an island. It's the only continent that is one country. Much of it is arid to semi-arid (desert to very dry areas). You can see on the map cities tend to be near the coast or the wetter eastern coast.
Another student was interested in the "outback" and wanted to know if I'd been there. If you're interested, click the link below and you will see information about a 1985 trip through the Australia's centre.
The Australian flag has three major features on a blue background. In the top left hand corner, there is the Union Jack as in the Union Flag of the United Kingdom. The large, seven pointed star under the Union Jack is known as the Commonwealth Star. Six points are for the six states and the seventh is for Australian territories. The five stars at the right represent the Southern Cross (Crux to astronomers). It's always in our sky.
The First Australians
Firstly, it's thought the first Aboriginal people came to Australia from Asia up to 60,000 years ago. At that time the world was cooler and sea levels lower because a polar ice. The islands of Indonesia would have seemed closer because the low sea levels meant coasts were further out. It was possible to walk across dry land from New Guinea to Australia and from the state of Victoria to Tasmania.
Much of Australia was forested with lakes. There is evidence, particularly around the dried lake bed known as Lake Mungo, of thriving people living along its shores. As climate warmed, the land links to New Guinea and Tasmania were covered with water as they are today. Australia's centre started to dry. Forests and lakes disappeared and the Aboriginal people adapted their habits to live in the arid and semi-arid conditions.
This photo is of Aboriginal art on Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Rather than one tribe, there were many language groups. The Aboriginal people didn't really have tribal groups as the Native Americans have. My area of Australia is Yuin land. There were many language groups and different beliefs across Australia. Each were rich in culture and belief. Click on this link to see the Aboriginal Australia map.
To find out more about Aboriginal Australia, here is a link to a post I wrote for a class looking at Australia's original people...
This is one side of Australia's dollar note showing Aboriginal designs. It has now been replaced by a coin.
Chinese and European "Discovery"
I've always thought it a little strange when people speak of who discovered Australia. Surely that claim could only go to the first Aboriginal people coming to Australia fifty to sixty thousand years back. Who else "discovered"Australia?
There is apparently some evidence Chinese explorers as early as the 1400s. Between 1405 and 1453, a Chinese admiral sailed a huge fleet of junks south to Timor and so could well have visited Australia.
Here are some of the first known Europeans to make it to Australia were...
1606 William Jansz on the "Duyfken" saw the coastline of northern Australia
1616 Dirk Hartog on the "Eendracht" landed on Western Australia's coast
1642-1643 Abel Tasman reaches Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania)
You might have noticed the names are Dutch. The western area of Australia became known as "Hollandia Nova" (New Holland).
The first known Englishman known to have reached Australia was WIlliam Dampier in 1688. He also only reached the west coast of Australia. It wasn't until 1770 before the first European sailed along Australia's east coast.
Captain James Cook's 1769/1770 Voyage
Below is a photo of the H.M.B. Endeavour taken at Twofold Bay, in 2012. It is a replica of James Cook's H.M.S. Endeavour and visited Twofold Bay near my home. If you look at the background, little would have changed since Cook's voyage nearly 250 years ago.
To read more about this replica ship, click on HMB Endeavour at Eden.
In 1769, Captain James Cook set sail from England on the "Endeavour". His task was to take scientists to see the transit of Venus from Tahiti in the Pacific Ocean. His other task was to solve a mystery. Many had thought there must be an undiscovered continent south to balance the world's countries up north. Some maps named it Terra Australis (Southern Land). Cook was given the task of once and for all time showing no such land exists.
After heading south from Tahiti, he came to New Zealand in 1769. He mapped the islands before heading west. He first sighted Australia in 1770 at a place named Point Hicks a few hundred kilometres to the south of my home. He made maps of the land as he sailed north, naming it New South Wales.
New South Wales and a British Colony
At this point in Australia's history, the history of the United States overlaps ours. I'm certain you know the importance of the year 1776 for the U.S.A.. When England lost its American colony, they were looking for another place. English prisons were overloaded with convicts and couldn't be sent to America. It was decided to send a small fleet of ships to the land described in Cook's voyage.
On January 26, 1788, the English flag was raised in the new colony of New South Wales. At this point, New Zealand was also part of New South Wales.
1825 - the border with New Holland had moved to where the Western Australia border now lies. Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania in 1856) became a separate colony.
1829 - New Holland becomes known as the Swan River Colony and Western Australia in 1832.
1840 - New Zealand is no longer part of New South Wales, and the colony of South Australia is formed although it isn't until 1860 when South Australia has the borders we see now.
1851 - The colony of Victoria is formed.
1859 - Queensland is formed as a colony.
1901 - The Commonwealth of Australia is formed by the member states and Australia becomes a nation and not a collection of colonies.
1911 - Federal Capital Territory (Australian Capital Territory in 1938) and Northern Territory are formed.
Each of Australia's states started out as a British colony with their own government, money and banks. With federation in 1901, the states had agreed to join as a commonwealth. There wasn't a war between our states. Our political system is based on that of the United Kingdom. We have a Prime Minister rather than a president and Queen Elizabeth II is recognised as our head of state with a governor-general her representative here in Australia.
Until 1984, Australians sang "God Save the Queen" at official events, the same national anthem as in the United Kingdom. In 1984, "Advance Australia Fair" became our official national anthem. Click on the title below to hear a choir of about 100 sing our national anthem.
Our states are large because of the arid and semi-arid areas, a much smaller population than the U.S.A. and finding most people live along or near the coast. The largest U.S. state by land is Alaska at 1,481,347 square kilometres. With Western Australia being 2,526,786 square kilometres and Queensland being 1,723,936 square kilometres. Alaska would only be the third largest if it were part of Australia.
The area of United States is about 1.3 times larger than Australia yet the U.S. population is nearly 14 times larger than Australia. We have much more space but few people live in much of Australia because of its harsh climate.
To see more links to Australian information as well as video clips of Australian animals, click the link below...
In the comments of their poster entitled "Welcome to Grade THREE!", the Battalion Bloggers asked some questions. For their original post...
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is one of my short video clips showing eastern grey kangaroos.
The photo shows Sapphire when she was younger but had left her mother's pouch.
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.
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.
This is what they look like when they dig in.
Below is a video clip of Potoroo Palace's Spike.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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. 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heading south from Uluru, we crossed into South Australia (S.A.).
...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.
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.
Upon reaching the town of Port Augusta, we headed north-east through the Flinders Ranges.
We crossed the border into N.S.W. and travelled 1200km to reach home.
To see the posts leading to this one...
Follow up posts for K/1/2/3
After a wonderful Skype experience with K/1/2/3 where we are shared and learned together, they responded to our session and the additional information I shared in follow-up posts for them. My reply to their response looked at my lifelong learning journey where any day can be a learning adventure with something new or changed. I decided to share another experience while they began their summer vacation. On July 4, I spent the afternoon at our local Panboola Wetland Sanctuary. I thought they might like to be the first to share some of the photos taken.
Panboola is only around 8 kilometres from my home. It's popular with birdwatchers, bicycle riders, hikers, photographers and people wanting to spend some time out in the open. Escaping from my keyboard and with camera in hand I spent a winter's afternoon walking 6 or 7 kilometres of trails. From the map below you can see the areas I visited.
Panboola was set up to preserve our wetland area for future generations. The below sign recognises the part played by the traditional owners of the land. The second photo helped me learn more about the people whose contact with the land goes back to the Dreaming. Another post on this blog was made to share some Dreaming stories. The Dreaming stories are not from the people of my area but can help you understand some of the rich cultures of the original Australians. Click on DREAMING STORIES to see and hear if you are interested.
Tips Billabong greets you as you enter the reserve from the northern end. Form a lookout on a rise you can see black swans and other birds. A billabong is formed when a river changes course. Part of the old river course is cut off and remains as a pond.
Much of the marsh area is covered by reeds. At this time of the year they are brown but spring makes them a sea of green. I love the patterns you can capture with a camera. The second photo shows the old reed heads and contrast beautifully with the blue sky behind.
The cool winter afternoon with only a gentle breeze gave me chances to capture reflections in the ponds.
The salt marsh areas provide a good contrast of red against the blue sky. White fronted chats (birds) can be seen flitting across the marshes in search of insects but they can be hard to photograph.
On the far side of the reserve there is access to Pambula River. On the day, it was gently flowing. I was the only one there and found no footprints in the sand.
I did find places where the smoothly flowing water made for perfect reflections off the surface.
With the day growing late and shadows growing longer, I started heading back along the cycle and walk way to the exit.
The sun was now very low in the sky.
Eastern grey kangaroos were out feeding on the grass in the late afternoon.
Swamp hens searched for their food in the late light.
...and the family I last chatted with had disappeared down to the reserve exit with me following slowly behind with a camera still in hand.
Recognising the Original People of This Land
Official school events in my region normally start with an Acknowledgement of Country. It recognises the original owners of the land. Click the link below to hear one of my recordings.
This audio recording should not be used without my written permission.
The Australian Aboriginal Flag
The Australian Aboriginal Flag was designed by artist Harold Thomas and first flown at Victoria Square in Adelaide, South Australia, on National Aborigines Day, 12 July 1971.
Torres Strait Islander Flag
The Torres Strait Islander flag was designed by the late Bernard Namok as a symbol of unity and identity for Torres Strait Islanders.
In 1995, both of these flags became official flags of Australia.
Source of information: INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN FLAGS
In order to share some of the stories from the many peoples of Australia, below are a series of embedded You Tube videos sharing Dreaming stories. Where I can, I have added personal photos or drawings relating to the stories if students want to use them. At the end of this post you will find a video looking at indigenous tourism in Australia (52:26min).
1. About Dreaming Stories (7:32 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
This is a draft video for the Australian Museum for their Dreaming Stories. The performers are Gumaroy Newman, Eric Arthur Tamwoy and Norm Barsah. Video by Fintonn Mahony, Lisa Duff, Bronwyn Turnbull and Gina Thomson.
2. Aboriginal Dreaming story of Waatji Pulyeri (the Blue Wren or superb fairywren) (5:33 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
These small wrens often visit my garden searching for insects. The drawing is of a male. Females and juveniles are plain brown.
3. The Rainbow Serpent (11:23 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
Rainbow lorikeets are native to my area and regularly visit my garden.
4. Mirram The Kangaroo and Warreen The Wombat (4:32 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
A species of kangaroo common to my area is the eastern grey kangaroo.
Although mainly nocturnal, I found this wombat out during the day.
4. Girawu The Goanna (4:00 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
One of our local goannas.
5. Biladurang The Platypus (2:58 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
The platypus, a monotreme (egg laying) mammal, can be elusive. I have caught glimpses of them in mountain streams but don't have a photograph.
6. Tiddalick The Frog (2:43 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
7. Wayambeh The Turtle (2:43 min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.
Snapper turtle at a local animal sanctuary.
The Aboriginal People of Australia
Many people think there was one Aboriginal (native Australian) culture and one language but, before the coming of European colonists, there were many, many of those cultures now lost. One of the best sites I have seen comes from the Yolngu people of Ramingining in the northern part of Central Arnhem Land in Australia’s Northern Territory.
For one of their creation stories, click the link Twelve Canoes and wait for the site to load. The picture below will appear. Once loaded, click on the picture indicated by the arrow to see a creation story.
This graphic should not be copied.
I think you will find many interesting things on this site as well as one of their creation stories.
Indigenous Tourism in Australia Today (52:26min)
This embedded You Tube clip is not my video.