Saturday, January 29, 2011, 11:07 PMFor the last 43 years there has never been a family of these birds Corcorax melanorhamphos commonly known as White-winged Choughs that have lived here.
Last year much to my delight a family came and took up residence near our home. High in a Eucalypt tree growing by our driveway they built a nest made of mud & reared two offspring. It took me a while to discover the nest was there and being attended to by the whole family of some 6 individuals. I would see them all flying from various places to the same spot high up in the branches thus giving away the nest location.
In recent weeks this activity once again was taking place and so in inspecting the nest I could make out young bird shapes once more. Just recently passing Storms dumped 35mm of rain which was most welcome for the garden. Then the afternoon after this rain when driving out to a dentist appointment I noticed an obviously young black baby bird sitting by a tree trunk. It dawned on me a little later it was more than likely a little White-winged Chough that must have fallen out of the nest with that rain. I thought of turning back but remembered being late once to a dentist appointment for which I was none to popular so continued on.
It was not until just near dark that I was able to have a look for the youngster but could not find any sign of it or any of the family. The next morning however "the family" were fussing around in the front garden....These birds show a great deal of bravado & will let one come very close without showing the slightest bit of concern. Mostly they are too busy tossing aside the straw mulch & going about the business of searching for food to be bothered with any intrusion by a human. A closer inspection revealed the little one sitting in amongst the plants & being catered to by the adults.
Here two of the adults can be seen with one flying up into a tree revealing the white of the wings
On a sadder note when going to look at the nest I found what remained of it along with the remains of another "chick" if that is the word under the tree. It seemed the heavy fall of rain had weakened the mud nest causing it to fall to the ground. This chick now in the garden was most fortunate to have stumbled away as where they had fallen was right on a pathway used by what we call meat ants...They are large & will attack anything that happens to get in their way. Now all that remained of this individual was the stripped bare skeleton from the frantic actions of the ants.
My Field Guide information revealed : Corcorax melanorhamphos 45cm (this one being an adult determined by the orange/red eye). Juveniles have a black eye whilst the Immature have some of the red colour beginning to show. The habitat is dry woodlands of the South East of Aus. Voice is descending whistles, harsh gratings. Found mostly in parties...No mention of diet
The problem at hand for me was to how to keep this young Chough safe now it was without the safety of a lofty nest and on the ground, left to stumble around following the group it was obviously not going to last long and would either fall prey to a fox at night or an eagle by day. For some help on the matter I decided to make a visit to Marg Cochrane the bird lady of Junee as I call her. As luck would have it Marg was home as often the case she is not being somewhere in Aus bird watching. Her Apartment was cosy with lots of books and bird figurines,bird photos and bird cards as one would expect. Marg soon had her hands on the right book and could tell me the Chough diet consisted of insects,their larvae and at times other baby birds in the nest. She was most intrigued by the antics & posturing I explained that the adult Choughs exhibited toward the young one when approaching and feeding it saying she had never observed their behaviour in this way.
We thought the best thing to do was put a mesh cage over this fledgling still to small to be out of the nest....For the time being at least & as the "family" are so devoted perhaps they would soon learn to feed it through our safe house.
I am pleased to say after 3 days all is going well with the family feeding the little one very nicely through the mesh. I take the cage away for a time in the morning and late afternoon so they can interact. The adults roost in a nearby Eucalypt right at the very top most branches and side by side touching one another
Two Adults approach the fledgling whos head can just be seen lower left
They begin a display of posturing with beaks open whilst vocalising and wings outstretched swaying the wings up and down
It seems to me this display is to encourage the youngster to follow them.
A video taken of the Display by this party to the fledgling can be viewed following this link to YouTube
[ add comment ] ( 31 views ) | permalink | ( 3 / 1050 )
Saturday, March 27, 2010, 11:09 PMIn a recent news item on National Radio it was said the population of wild brumbies in the Snowy Mountains now exceeds 7,000 so thier removal from the National Parks is being undertaken with some urgency.
The environmental damage caused by these horses to the fragile ecosystems including streams is now becoming to great to bear.
One such threatened species of the streams is the Corroboree Frog, it is known very few now exist in the "High Country" its only habitat. Trapping of the brumbies in pre-fabricated yards where salt is placed to entice them in has already commenced. It seems that a part of Australias long history with these wild horses and the romantic attachment we have for them as a nation is about to or possibly come to an end.
Now, even the Environmental Groups are calling for the Aus Gov and National Parks to remove all horses from the Aus Alps even if it means the re-introduction of helicopter shootings.
In making this statement of our romantic attachment I refer to the poem by Banjo Patterson who immortalized the men and the horses of the mountains with The Man from Snowy River...More about Banjo later with some historical information.
During the 1830's a series of open plains and timbered ranges were discovered at 1600m to provide fine grazing after the Explorers Hume & Hovell blazed a trail through this Northern end of the Snowy Mountains in 1823.
A Stockman by the name of Murray from Canberra is believed to be the the first to take cattle into the Long Plain towards the latter end of the 1830's. The names of Gibson from near Goulburn and another man named Palmer who came from Queanbeyan were believed to follow soon after...Both were thought to have grazed cattle in this High Country (as it is known) before the year 1834.
However in that year they perhaps over-stayed to late into the Winter month of July as a snow storm hit lasting several weeks and most of the animals perished... Long Plain open areas between the tree lined ridges act as frost sinks so not even the hardiest of Alpine trees will grow there. The area is also subject to strong cold winds during the Winter.
It is believed then during the 1840's horses were abandoned by men caught in a snow drift, a few survivors became the first wild horses of the high country.
Others followed and a man by the name of Campbell took 7,000 sheep and 150 head of cattle to Long Plain cared for by 6 stockmen. They stayed right through to Summer with horses contained in a 100 acre paddock. If any got out they were not worried as they had plenty, thus more numbers were added to those running wild.
It was mostly big graziers from Quenbeyan that ventured into this mountainous area and "squatterd" there whey they saw fit. They did not want to live there all year round as they had thier other main land holdings. Instead they established base camps and temporary living acomodation in the way of huts for the few months grazing before Winter set in.
Campbells later owned what was called The Coolamine Run where today the better constructed homestead has become a great tourist attraction along with the Blue Water Holes stream. Horse riding today is once again high on the agenda for holiday makers to Long Plain.
One reason for these early stockmen to take a lot of horses into the snow country at 1600 m is that 40 or so horses can be driven into the snow ahead of the cattle to make a track for them ...Why ! Horses can bend thier front legs where as cattle cannot thus the horses were used to virtually bulldoze a trail for the cattle to follow.
Graham Elphick a nearby farming friend of mine had for sometime wanted to get back up to Tumut and meet up again with Harry Hill who is quite an identity of that town and Historian of the mountains. I accompanied Graham on a pleasant Summers day to meet up with Harry who would come with us on a trip up to Long Plain.
Our first stop was going up Talbingo Mnt at a place where the road is confined to a narrow ridge with steep valleys falling away on both sides. Harry had claimed to Graham that during WW2 the Military established trenches at this point as it was feared if the Japanese invaded New South Wales from the south coast, this would be an ideal place to halt thier advance.
Both Graham and myself had never heard of WW2 trenches on Talbingo Mtn so we were both keen to see what was there if anything. Here Harry points out to Graham on the map where we must go to find the site as the climb was too much for him and he would remain with the vehicle.
What we found after ascending a steep knoll was not what I expected. Most of what was there seems to have fallen in (or was filled in) with just one end remaining open. Here we found what we took to be a telephone wire which was the thickest wire I have ever seen that disapeared away through the bushland.
With driving on Harry could tell us of different sites where ilicite grog houses once stood and where graves exist hidden and overgrown in the bushland. Here to where stock yards once used to be that were used to overnight stock that had come in from the far away western plains... In times of Drought sheep and lots of them were brought back into the mountains by stockmen who knew the way to get up to the top.
Harry explained that for a time there were as many cattle rustlers as there were stockmen with the district being host to a great number of vagabonds of the colony. With no police for 100 kilometres some settlers who had headed into these mountains were so worried by the situation they moved on to Victoria.
We finally made it and turned off the Snowy Mountains Hwy onto the dusty road that meanders away into Long Plain.
Harry stopped us after a time to go for a walk over to what remained of an old gold sluce. Near here in 1859 two brothers David and Joseph Pollock discovered alluvial gold in the river at Kiandra. The ensuing Rush only lasted 18 mnths as the Winters were too cold with the precious metal not being all that plentiful. Some prospectors even sailed south from Sydney to Twofold Bay where they trekked over the mountains to get there. At the end of the rush as many as two hundred Chinese returning inland purchased small lots of land along the fertile banks of the river at Tumut to grow vegetables. Seasonal gold panning however continued on for quite some years.
For a long time no one knew what this strange pipe fitting was seen in this photo. Harry had with him some copied photos found at Tumbarumba showing a similar fitting used there in gold mining operations.
Someone felt compelled enough at one time to set up this very clever way of channeling water through these pipes in order to wash out the gold.
Driving on we kept an eye out hoping to see any wild brumbies that could be seen on occasions which was always an exciting event. At every turn or rise of the road we looked expectantly but there were none to be seen. We were well in on the way to the Coolamine Homestead when away in the distance came the shapes we knew to be horses feeding along the flats by a stream...To far to even think about a photo.
We topped a rise catching a glimpse of a small group fast disapearing into a nearby tree line...One remained, possibly the stallion for a final look at us giving me enough time for one photo before it too turned for the safety of the trees.
By lunchtime we had made a Hut named Coinbil so went inside and sat down at the spartan table there as Harry talked over old times here and reflected when a tree fell down through the middle of this hut. He and a band of dedicated others then set about to rebuild... A lot of these old time mountain Huts have had to be repaired due to old age, disaster or re-built after bushfires burnt them down.
With "Young Harry" who is well into his mid eighties still holding court we drove into Blue Water Holes as it is known. Here an underground stream wells up sustaining a permanent flow down Cave Creek. Being a limestone area there are of course caves which have been used down through the centuries by Aboriginal custodians of this land. To the pioneers it provided a permanent source of water and to some extent even the wild brumbies went there to lick for salt residues.
Some one once said "Time is a thief!" and so it is, and we had to "make a mile" for home. I'm just now not sure where it was but about 2/3rds of the way back along the 25 k road to the Snowy Mtns Hwy I caught the glimpse of some wild horses out to the East and not far away as we were heading South. A nearby hill had cut off any further view so I called for Graham who was driving to stop. With camera in hand I made my way up to this hill crest thinking what I would see when looking over would be a faint cloud of dust hanging in the air where the brumbies had been.
The breeze was from the South so blowing right to left with me facing the horses to the East. They had not seen , heard or got a smell of our presence. Sometimes "Lady Luck" comes along and this occasion was one of them. I took photos at will becoming bold enough to rise up so as not to have a blurred foreground of the hill top in front of me.
Harry said that I was very lucky and if I came back a 100 times for better photos I might not get any better.
Easter Saturday April 3
I had spoken to Harry during the week and he informed me he would be at the Coolamine Homestead on Saturday on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service who had asked him if he could go there to cook "Damper" which is a bread in a campfire oven and scones for the visiting public. I thought this too good an opportunity to pass so informing Graham who was only too willing to go we got away early to arrive mid morning.
The Stock Yards at the homestead "have seen better days" as the saying goes. It is said George Palmer erected stockyards here abouts in that year of the big snow dump 1834. To begin with a slab and bark Hut was built and conditions within it were wretched when snow or sleet arrived unexpectedly which was often the case in this country. After a succession of owners leading up to 1882 it was then Campbell who aquired "Coolamine" and set about the development of the Homestead area.
This old wagon which sadly has not been housed in a shed was used to bring in provisions two to three times a year from Tumut
In approaching the main Homestead building Graham said "He is here I can hear him".
We stuck our heads in by the door post and there was Harry with lots of Damper the (Pioneer bread) and scones on a table talking to Shane an Aboriginal National Parks Officer from Tumut. Harry looked good ! He is in good shape for a man of his age, a little stooped over perhaps maybe because of his height as he is a tall man. He had the billy on the open fire place with fresh hot tea ready so in no time at all Graham and I had a mug of tea in one hand with some Damber in the other. You know, the damper tasted so good that we had to stop ourselves from over indulging ....God that fresh damper with butter and jam was good !
Here Shane is seen demonstrating plaiting of string to rope from the bark of the Stringy Bark Tree as done by the Aboriginal People
All to quickly the time passed until that "thief" came again so we had to "make tracks" for home. Having said our good byes and driving back out we thought we might try to find the grave of Yorky.
York was his name but he was known as Yorky ....He arrived in Aus Harry believes in 1880 which was after the Gold Rush years but he found his way to Long Plain with a mate by the name of Chaves who had built a house at the Yarrangobilly Caves area futher back down the mountains.
Yorky died at Long Plain while gold prospecting and was buried there just within the timber line at a place Harry had told us about. A rock marked the location so we went and looked and found a rock by a log which was what Harry said but another man had told us there was a little wooden cross there. We of course first looked for this wooden cross but as Graham said when we could not find one that it could easily have been lost to the big fie of 2003 that burnt out much of this mountain area. Yorkys grave eluded us for now but we will be back
Now in conclusion that story of the famous Aus Poet Banjo Patterson. As mentioned earlier his poem of The Man from Snow River immortalized the men and horses of the High Country.
At one time a man by the name of Cec Piper who was a stockman lived at Tumut, his Father was Israel Piper and he was the Manager of a property there at the time that Banjo Patterson owned land near the township of Yass. At the Yass Show in 1918 Israel Piper saw Banjo and went up to him asking "Banjo who is the man from Snowy River in your poem ?" Banjo was said to have replied "It is whoever you think it is"
Down through the years ever since there have been many claims made by people as to who they thought that person was....If you come from the town of Corryong of today you will believe it was Jack Riley ?
On the way out from this day in the mountains we were to see in the distance a group of horses...In studying them with binoculars I could see there were two foals. This may well have been the group I had photographed on the earlier visit.
After the horse are trapped a Contractor to the NPWS sells the ones worth any money, the others go to slaughter to become Pet Food.
I am going to keep in touch with the NPWS and if this group is trapped I am going to look into buying the foals and thier Mothers. In a phone conversation with NPWS since they informed me of the horses trapped so far thirty have been purchased by the Victorian Wild Brumby Association.
See this link re : Horse Management Plan then see PDF download
http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/pests ... mtplan.htm
[ add comment ] ( 17 views ) | permalink | ( 2.9 / 1663 )
Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 09:10 PMThis was not the first guilt free tour for our group of six, we began last year on a similar trip with a visit to the far west New South Wales city of Broken Hill, only then this feeling for a name had not yet emerged.
Being six adults in a Toyota Kluger wagon meant two had seats at the back designed more for children than grown ups with longer legs. Behind the last seats was only a narrow storage space for all of our luggage. This required we had to travel lightly taking only 1 small case for all requirements over our one week of being away.
Our departure Tuesday 3rd March was a welcome relief in the weather for earlier weeks had seen the thermometer soar to highs of 40 plus. It had been a worry to journey into the interior with hot weather but the morning was cool with overcast cloud and a forecast for the week to remain cool ....How lucky could we be
Gene our tour guide director had meticously planned each days travel with time and motion which meant our first day would be just over 700 kilometers arriving before nightfall at our first scheduled stop in South Australia. This journey would be to Adelaide taking in the Murray River and in particular the outfall of this river into the Southern Ocean.
With four on board we arrived to pick up Elizabeth and Robert being on time. Elizabeth came down the path to greet us wearing a look of concern, immediatly we took this to be bad news...Only a few days earlier one of the oldest residents of our community had passed away just one week short of his 101st birthday. We had thought Robert wanted to stay home to attend his funeral. The Motels and Hotel in Adelaide had been booked so what would we do, however it was only that Elizabeth was having problems packing their last few items.
So when their one case did fit with just a little spill over bag in the front someone commented for her not to worry as this was a guilt free tour, thus this name was born
We travelled West from Wagga Wagga on the Sturt Hwy past where at one time I had lived as a youngster and rode a bike along the then dusty road to a Primary School long since gone. All that remained was a concrete step beside the roadway. I had visited our former home at this place one time and found it to be a sad experience so gave it only a fleeting thought at our passing.
The Main St of Lockhart as seen here was the first town we were to pass through.
After travelling overseas I am continually now confronted at just how empty the inland of Australia seems of people and is. Here we were driving through a town on a weekday morning with hardly a person to be seen in the Main St. Like most countries now there is the continous drain of the young to the Cities driven even more with a succession of bad seasons economically for the man on the land in our south east part of Australia.
We swept on out onto the beginning of the plains passing through Urana where once again we were greeted with an empty and deserted looking township. The maps will show you Lake Urana not far from town where the road will pass by its shoreline. I have a vague recollection of having seen some water in it a long time back but cannot remember when. It seems to resemble in many ways a meteor crater with a pushed up edge but with a flat bottom.
The change in vegetation seems subtle but suddenly you realize the big trees are gone and so are the scenes of passing animals to be replaced by smaller vegetation of a drier climate as the landscape broadens to being entirely flat.
This is broken from time to time with the passing of a large truck or the occasional car. The next town would be Jerilderie where it was decided it would be time for a latte coffee stop for the girls. With some thought and discussion we thought yes there was a coffee shop there.
Entering Jerilderie from the North one passes under an array of overhead cameras that will take a photograph of every truck that passes underneath. These monitoring platforms dot the roadways and are put up to measure the speed of big trucks between one location to another as well required rest breaks have been taken by those drivers.
Members of the infamous Kelly Gang look down from the wall of the Bakery coffee shop. Ned Kelly and his gang of Outlaws rode into Jerilderie in February of the year 1879 and pulled off quite a remarkable robbery. Going first to the Police Station they locked the police in their own cells and donning the uniforms went about rounding up all the residents of the town and holding them at gunpoint in the Royal Mail Hotel. Ned and Joe Byrne then robbed the bank of 2,000 pounds.
Heading West from here the road swings to the South and back toward the river country. Along this stretch of Hwy are located some of the most famous names in breeding Merino sheep and one passes the entrance to these properties that are held in high esteem by discerning breeders from all over the land.
For the young men & women who are called Jackaroos and Jillaroos that work on these vast sheep properties the old Hotel at Conargo a little further down the road is a favourite meeting place with time off work. It goes with out saying if you are one of these young people you just simply must have a vehicle bumper bar sticker saying : I have been to the Conargo Hotel.
Moulamein was to be our lunch stop so to save some time we turned off short of going into Deniliquin and headed West through Pretty Pine (just a dot on the map) with the aid of a local road worker to assure us we were on the right road as sign posting left something to be desired. Moulamein is situated on the Edwards River and at one time in the early pioneer era before the country was opened up to road and rail would have been an important destination for bales of wool. Then Paddle Steamers plied the rivers taking the precious fibre on its long journey back to Mother England for manufacturing.
The town is built right up to the banks of the river where the Main St leads to the old wharf where the paddle steamers moored for loading. Not knowing where we could get lunch in town we continued on past a take-away food cafe thinking that might be it. By the river bank stood a Hotel with a notice board saying lunch until 2.30pm but in trying to go in we were met with locked doors. A woman appeared out of a small grocery shop over the road and called out that the Hotel was closed until 3pm and we would have to go to the take-away place for lunch. While having our salad rolls seated at the table near the front door I noticed two Aboriginal girls through the front window coming across the street towards the shop. As I was seated close to where they would come in I waited to greet them with a smile but both entered with eyes cast down and would not look up. They went by into the video hire section then returned past us again in a minute or two eyes still cast down. Later back out in the steet when our group were inspecting the flowers of a tree by the footpath they came past once more. I said hello and one looked up returning a smile....Which just goes to show a smile goes a long way.
Having walked to the rebuilt wharf it seemed to me the old Gum trees on the opposite bank seemed more worthy of a photo as they surely stood tall and strong in those earlier times.
We had to keep moving so with a seat rotation with those at the back we set off again to this time cross the river Murray at Tooleybuc and on into Victoria. Jenny wanted a photograph taken on the bridge there as a friend of hers came from that town. By the time we did arrive fuel was low and a petrol station we could not see which made us wonder if one was there at all. Part of the reason Elizabeth had trouble packing was she had business mail to attend to on the journey which was now completed so with an armful of mail to post we found the Post Office right by the bridge we were to cross over.
I think nearly all of the bridges over the rivers that had Paddle Steamers had a cut-out section that can be raised like you see here simply with weights and pulleys to let these barges (that's what they were) pass through. Whilst the rivers are wide out here they are not very deep in most places.
Not far over the river we found petrol at the Piangil General Store where a solitary bowser stood out front and had to be unlocked after a lengthy wait by the woman who seemed to be the only person running the business. Not far from here was the Mallee Hwy or the B12 that would take us due West on the last leg of the days journey to Pinnaroo just over the border into South Australia
The word Mallee is Aboriginal and refers to a variety and type of Eucalyptus that grow up to a height of 9 M in a multi stem form from a swollen woody base. This north western district of Victoria is called the Mallee which is quite an expansive semi-arid region. Having only a short Winter but long Summer Aboriginies only moved out into the Mallee from the rivers when there was water. It is not uncommon these days to see Salt Pans like the one above when driving the B12, which are a legacy left over from farming practices of these fragile soils. I was reminded as the kilometers rolled by that it is said one can become lost easily in Mallee which I believe as it all looks the same and covers the ground in such an extensive way with the multi stem growth it would be difficult to travel through in any one given direction.
Time slipped away with the passing of the mallee until we suddenly came apon the border check to enter South Australia which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. We passed scrutiny and continued on then to arrive at Pinnaroo the small town of our first nights destination which was at the only Motel in town. We had covered some 760 kilometers for the day and it was at a time when many big long haul trucks were also preparing for their days end by the roadside being near the road houses where drivers go to shower and dine.
Interesting this Motel was the first one I am led to believe in Australia to become fully automated for anyone to book themselves into a room during after hrs when the front desk is closed. In studying the facility on the front wall it appears the required information can by entered by a touchpad which accepts credit card payment for a room key.
The next morning greeted us with a clear sky after some light overnight rain. I took this hurried photo of the Information Heritage Centre when leaving the Hot Bake shop where we had breakfast. We were to travel North from here to pick up the Murray river again at Waikerie, seeing some of that stretch of the river before making a deadline of arriving at Murray Bridge to take a Dinner cruise on the river at 6.30pm.
As our planned route would take us near to a place Meribah I had asked Gene it we could detour there to see it....This meant to drive ll kilometers out and then back which was not far considering the distances we were travelling. Our intended distance for this day was 440 k, so not being far luckily would allow more time for sightseeing.
My Grandfather had named this property "Meribah" and so I have always wondered why. It was not uncommon in earlier times for people to retain the name of where they came from when moving to another part of the country. With this in mind and knowing part of our family history indicating at one time some of our encestors had lived in South Australia it could mean there was a connection.
The woman who managed the Motel had said however, that Meribah and never progressed very far after being surveyed in 1906 because of the lack of water. My Grandfather had come here from the southern State of Victoria with two brothers who settled on nearby hills from but with his farm by the Houlaghans Creek. Meribah I think is not the most obvious way to spell this word so I have also wondered if there was a connection to the Meribah of the Bible. This reference can be found in Exodus 17:7 and was called the place Massah and Meribah because it was here the Israelites quarrelled over being thirsty complaining to Moses who then struck the rock of Horeb for the water to come out of it for the people to drink.
It may simply mean that the place in South Australia was so named because of the lack of water and here by the three brothers for the same reason and there is no connection ?
It would be rather interesting though I had thought to find the old cemetary to see if there was a grave perhaps of an ancestor.
I think the first impression of all of us was "Wow" apon arriving at the Main St of Meribah to be greeted by lovely old stone buildings. We did a turn left by the Meribah Hall, then a right past the Lutheran Church to stop at the Lutheran Sunday School building seen here to explore some more on foot.
I made my way back to the Church thinking there may have been an old Cemetery behind but there was not much to my disapointment, however it seems the Church is still in use today so that is pleasing !. We walked on round a corner from the Sunday School building toward the Main St where I rang a bell at one of the few houses there ....No one answered but at the next house luck prevailed with a tall greying woman answering the door with whom I could explain my presence there and why. She told me the old Cemetery was just out of the village and that her children had found it. This was not the news I had hoped for as it meant the Cemetery had been lost to the rigors of time so that little if anything remained. We went for a drive to find it but nothing became obvious as to its location so we had to say good bye to Meribah passing down the Main St to resume our travels to Waikerie on the Murray.
Waikerie by contrast to the towns we had passed through before seemed vibrant and alive with lots of people and motion. Such I think is the life that goes with the water of the Murray river to those who live by its banks and surrounds.
This punt for taking vehicles over the Murray River was the first we would encounter ....On the left of this photograph can be seen a post with signs attached. There are two white horizontal markers there which indicate flood levels of the past... One of which is for the year 1956 being is remembered as one of the most widespread big floods of the inland south east area of Aus ever seen. I was only 5 yrs old then but remember well the vast extent of water at Wagga Wagga, so it is remarkable that such a high level prevailed here with the relatively flat levels.
Not far downstream from Waikerie is Lock No 2 to be found on this river , Gene was keen to see how they worked so we paid it a visit. It was a far cry from the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River I had seen last year and those of the Rhine, but none the less it was a Lock . We made our way down past Blanchetown site of Lock No 1 and an important location on the Murray considering : If Government makes the decision to let the sea in to flood Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert it is said the sea water will extend up the river to this Lock. The road passed close by the shores later of Swan Reach where there seemed to be a large lake and true to name the surface of these waters against the afternoon Sun were large numbers of the Black Swan with young and other water fowl.
Coming to a roadside viewing bay we stopped to stretch our legs looking down over a deep flood plain below where over thousands of years the Murray river had meandered about cutting deep into the land. It was here with a strong wind blowing up the cliff face with the river directly below Elizabeth and Jenny decided to venture closer to the edge against the prevailing wind. This became to much for Jenny and she broke away but Elizabeth held her ground seeming to wish with arms held out to lift off in flight as birds do from cliff tops.
Not much further along is a very popular viewing area called The Big Bend where we arrived at the right time to witness the passing of a Paddle Steamer. Pamela at this point had made it very clear no one was to repeat the earlier performance of the girls. The view here is to the North West hence the washed out sky
Adjoining view to the South and direction of our journey to Murray Bridge where we would stay the night.
We were delighted the Capt Proud Paddle Steamer at Murray Bridge was taking our group alone on our Dinner Cruise. This vessel began its life being propeller driven but after a fire was converted to being paddle driven...The differential from a Semi-Trailer Prime Mover was installed with brakes and all to become the drive train for the Paddles powered by the diesel engine.
We were on time and now cruising with our Captain Alby Kaehne at the wheel who loved being out on the river at this time of day. Gene and I watched birds circling to come in and roost in the trees along the riverbanks as Alby explained the Murray is the fifth largest river in the World with only a 1" or 25mm fall over the distance of 1 mile. Thus the water flows slowly and more goes out the mouth of the Mississipi in the U.S.A. in one day than for a whole year of the Murray. The river was no longer flowing and for the first time in History a granite reef near the wharf is now only 2' from the surface. Alby said the situation was grim with water needed and soon.
Some preferred the interior with a cool drink and soft music
I preferred however a passing Sun shower of rain on the outer deck to look at the Vision Splendid held by those who dwell along these shores
Little Corella is the name of these birds that like to stick together quite often in large numbers that are both colourful and noisy.
I think all 6 of us chose the Seafood Dinner which was wonderful to enjoy the days ending on board a Paddle Steamer of the Murray.
Day three dawned with light rain falling as we made off to cover what I deemed to be the most interesting leg of your journey in going to see the Lakes we have heard so much about where the Mouth of the Murray goes into the sea. This leg as Gene had planned it was 224k to where we would end being the Oaks Plaza Hotel of Glenelg in Adelaide.
Again we had to cross the river by punt to our South at Wellington which was a pretty little place with lots of Pelicans. We had a schedule to make the river mouth for a lunchtime cruise departing from Hindmarsh Island.
It was with some anticipation I looked forward to being at Lake Alexandrina so named by Charles Sturt the Explorer who arrived to make camp by the lake on Feb 9th 1830. Alexandrina was the then heir to the throne. Sturt had for a long time believed our inland rivers emptied into an inland sea and so on the 3rd of September 1829 he and his Party left Sydney on an Expedition of Discovery down the Murrumbidgee river to see if it emptied into the Murray river which in turn went to this inland sea in the South Coast of the Colony. By the time Sturt arrived at Lake Alexandrina he and his men were about spent from the long ordeal. He wrote at the time of thier arrival of tranquil waters, whose surface was unruffled save by the thousands of wildfowl that rose before them, and made a noise of a multitude of clapping hands, in thier clumsy efforts to rise from the waters. The task for Sturt was to now find the channel to the sea. On the 11th of Feb they had a tiring day hauling the boat over mud shoals, often up to thier knees in it. Sturt realized that the task was too much to expect of his men, already weak from exhaustion and lack of food....It is worth noting Sturt made comment of the thousands of wildfowl present not one allowed them to get within shot. Sturt, Maclaey and Fraser left camp at 3am on the bright and starlit night of the 12th, whilst Harris was to strike camp at 8 o' clock in readiness for thier return. They all had kept silent company as the beacon fires of the vigilant and aggressive Aborigines burned from a nearby tongue of land.
As day broke Sturt had completed a journey of seven miles and came at last to a low beach and within sight of the surf. He then led his men along the shore of what he was to name Encounter Bay to the channel entrance, which was less than a quarter of a mile wide and was defended by a double line of breakers and a hazardously strong current. "Thus were our fears of the impracticapibility and inutility of the channel of communication between the lake and the sea confirmed," he wrote
The food was getting very scarce, and to delay would endanger all thier lives. There was no point in going overland to St Vincents Gulf. If they had to return by the Murray and meet Harris's party at the depot before reaching starvation level they should leave at once.
In his official dispatch to the Colonial Secretary, Alexander MacLaey, addressed from the banks of the Murrumbidgee and dated the 20th April 1830, Sturt wrote "our journey homeward was one remarkable for its labour, in conclusion therefore it remains for me to add that we reached the depot on 23rd March". This remarkable understatement conceals the privations of what, until fairly recently, was the longest boat journey undertaken in modern times....Given more weight when today one can look on Google Earth in which the way the rivers of the plains country meander about in loops making the distance so much longer.
The road travelled beside at what was one time the edge of the water along the northen side of this lake but it was a long way out beyond well established grasses, only a narrow sliver of water could be seen under darkening rainclouds. On the western side of Lake Alexandrina is Milang where it seemed fitting to take this photo of the jetty there to show just how low the water is.
I had to look no further than off the end of this jetty to see just how low the water level is, as before me a large European Carp seen in the lower right hand corner of this photo was trying to swim along with half of its back showing.
Storm clouds are gathering in more ways than one over this and the other Lake of the Murrays mouth Lake Albert. These waters instead of being equal in level to the sea water on the outside of the barrage walls holding the sea, are now one metre and more below sea level due to thier drying up. This water is becoming more salty near the walls than the sea. Unless a return this year to good Seasons with plenty of rain occuring to begin flushing out these lakes scientists and experts alike are saying to Government the soils here will be permanently damaged. If another Drought year persists for south east of Aus they are indicating to the Government the best option is to let the sea in and flood these lakes.
It seems to me the only reason the Government is not doing this is Adelaide and a large part of South Aus source thier fresh water from higher up in the Murray. So for now to continue sitting on thier hands without making a decision on the matter is the best option. When one remembers the fall is 1" over 1 mile if the sea is let in, even a low level would travel a long way upstream overtaking this fresh water supply.
The history of the barrages holding back the sea only began in the 1940's when a group of influencial farmers then persuaded the Government to put them in as they wanted irrigation if the lakes could be kept fresh to produce more wool and crops which were a major enterprise for South Aus.
Goolwa was a busy town with lots of people and cars driven be people like us who did not know where they were going. Our destination here was the booking office for the cruise out to the mouth of the Murray and along the passage in front of the barrage walls. Not far from this busling tourist destination around a sweeping bend was the first of the sea walls being on the river itself so marking the end really of this river. In the background here is the bridge to Hindmarsh Island over the river, it is to here and the other end of the island we must go to board the cruise vessel.
The building of this bridge created a great deal of controversy at the time when women of the local Aboriginal Ngarridjeri people halted construction. They had sent a letter to the then Prime Minister Bob Hawke claiming Hindmarsh Island was a place of womens secret business, and therefore should not be connected to the mainland....Court battles raged for some time with both sides claiming victory. Eventually the bridge was built. The exposed sand in the foreground seen here with the stone retaining wall beyond then the dark marks on the piers mark where the normal water level should be.
In almost a 180% turn from viewing the above bridge from this viewing site on Hindmarsh Island can be seen that major but not by far the biggest barrage at the Murrays ending.
In boarding the Coorong cruise vessel it seemed strange to me after all this time to be in that pretty foaming clear sea water with the familiar salty smell....I could'nt but help to like it as the light rain showers continued.
The mouth of the Murray can be seen beyond what is a sand dredge operating costing millions of dollars to keep it opened. The East shoreline is on the left West on the right being much flatter
Our cruise included a drop off point with a walk of several minutes back along the East Bank to the opening with the sea.
Nearing our destination some more rain fell so most of our compliment of passengers turned back including Jenny, Pam and Gene. Thankfully Robert and Elizabeth pressed on and gave me someone of our group to photograph at what can only be described as a beautiful and awe inspiring place. Beyond Elizabeth seen here at the right are fishermen on the West Bank.
The tremendous importance of Sturts discovery here is self evident, and although he fully appreciated its potential and geographical location, certain problems still existed, such as that which he had already experienced at the mouth of the Murray and which our hindsight now presupposes. On Sturts advice these had to be investigated further, and the immediate sequel to the journey was the despatch of another young explorer to relate the recent discoveries to what was already known. His name was Colet Barker , a captain in the 39th Regiment and a man of exceptional promise as an explorer.
On the 17th April Barker with John Kent, his servant Mills and party of soldiers looked down on Lake Alexandrina and the sweep of Encounter Bay from a higher point of a peninsula on the West Bank. They could see the narrow channels and barrage that had checked Sturts advance, and lack of food forcing him to retreat. Having appreciated the situation of the lake and the channel, they descended to the plain and struck out towards the inlet from which Barker wanted to take further bearings. In order to do this he considered it necessary to cross the water at this point to the sandhills on the easternmost point on the other side. He was the only strong swimmer in the group, and, despite his companions protests, he decided that he should cross the inlet alone. Sturt had already noted the exceptionally strong current at this spot, but nevertheless Barker stripped off, and when Kent had securely fastened the compass around his forehead he dived in. With some difficulty he reached the East Bank shore in a time that was recorded precisely as nine minutes, fifty-eight seconds. Climbing up over the first sand dune Colet Barker dropped from view and was never seen again.
Barkers party waited long but in vain not knowing until much later he had been speared to death by warriors of the Ngarridjeri. They then threw his body into the ocean to be carried away by the tide.
Robert crosses the sandhills to get a better look at the ocean where today the outlet is further East than in the time of Sturt and the unfortunate Barker.
Revelation 20:13 Tell us on Judgement Day the sea will give up its dead
Our cruise took us on and along past the barrages holding back the sea that possessed in part wireless remote operation of the gates in case of an emergency so at least one part could be opened and closed by a command from someone far away. We at times could see over these walls to the emptiness beyond
On our return shortly after of the barrages which total 9 in all along the outside sea channel a low flying plane was noticed, then a procession of vehicles could be seen moving along the narrow roadway of the barrage top....The crew of our cruise said this was most unusual and suggested it looked like a visit by Government Officials. Later the next day in Adelaide we were to read in the Papers that Malcolm Turnbull the Leader of the Opposition Party had made an inspection of the lower Coorong Lakes and re-affirmed his Party's stand that these lakes should not be flooded with the sea.
We returned from our cruise passing a small pile of rock that marked where a light beacon shone long ago on a point inside the then opening to the sea.
It seemed in reflection to me of this visit man has sought to manipulate the forces of Nature which are at work here and it is proving to be of a high cost.
Docking from our tour as light rain continued we fell into our Kluger
wagon to speed away with the intention of making the city of Adelaide and our Hotel by the seaside to end the day. Minutes later we passed by a monument of stones on a ridge top. I knew what it was and thought without saying anything I would visit the site at some time in the future. I knew the plaque read it was about that location it was believed Charles Sturt first sighted the sea.
The journey onward to the city of Adelaide climbed up and away into the hills where we met the main highway and the more hurried pace of travel. Entering the suburbs of Adelaide everything about Sturt and the plight of the Murray River evaporated. I did not remember much about the passing of the City until we arrived at our Hotel by the sea at Glenelg which brought me back to reality.
The next day when visiting the inner city area I could not seem to find what I wanted to showcase Adelaide
I missed Superman by seconds nothing seemed to come my way
As in all cities certain sights of the differences we humans are made of reveal themselves but it was not what I was looking for.
I set about entertaining myself taking blurred photos...It is amazing now how many people turn around to look when that tell tale sound is heard. Elizabeth had by now become used to my antics and proved to be a good subject while walking.
The next morning the dawn came with colour as we left Adelaide to begin our journey home which seemed a long way off. Travelling North out of the city the Hwy turned East through rolling hills until we came to a high plateau overlooking the vast plain country.
Our destination for the days end was Swan Hill on the Murray...It was a pretty town built along high banks of the river where a Punt operated on the river to ferry vehicles over. Sadly no photos I have as my sound cards were full.
The next day we drove along the Murray River once again passing many irrigation areas with large tracts of land producing Almonds & Pistachio nuts to Citrus until we eventually came to the Paddle Steamer tourist town of Echuca but there were so many cars and people there in a small town not capable of handling such attention we simply drove on as parking proved just too difficult.
Arriving at Yarrawonga a mecca for boating enthusiasts and fishing it was not quite so bad and we were able to find a park much more to our liking close to where lunch would prevail.
From here we left the River Murray and struck out to the North and the final leg to home.
We had driven a total of 2,680 k and consumed 314 lts of petrol crossing the Murray River 13 times making 4 Ferry Crossings. Lockhart the first town we passed through looked exactly the same as that first day we passed by. We however, were much more changed and enlightened to the plight of this vast area of New South Wales where the rains must be plentiful in order to fulfill this Sunburnt county making the rivers Darling and Murray to run so far to the sea.
[ 5 comments ] ( 25 views ) | permalink | ( 2.9 / 1672 )
Tuesday, December 30, 2008, 06:36 AMThis Story begins in the year 1894 when a young man who was just 19 years of age sailed on board a ship into the New South Wales port of Wollongong. His name was George Ah Yeck and for whatever the reason this young Chinese national had made his mind up to "jump ship" (meaning to run away). We can assume then that George was a crew member & had decided to leave and begin a new life in Australia.
Little did he know in doing so he would never again return to his home Country of China. George was believed to have been born in the old City of Canton in the year 1875 and it is understood he was married before coming to Australia but his wife never came here.
They had a son who has had three sons of his own all of whom live in China today with perhaps some close family relatives in Shanghai.
George only lived for a short time in Wollongong and then left to move inland where he arrived to stay at Junee. This is where he set up a market garden. He would in the ensuing years become a well known figure selling his produce around town from his single axle horse drawn covered wagon.
The present day township of Junee sprang up around The Great Southern Railway that was built in 1877 from Sydney ending at Bomen just to the North of the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga. It ended there because at that time there was no bridge to cross the river, and there would not be for several more years until a bridge was shipped out from London. When a railway branch line was put in at the present day site of Junee leading to the West shortly after, a future was assured for a this town which began being known as The Junction. The name Junee an Aboriginal word meaning "speak to me" was to come later. A grand railway station & refreshment rooms were built, but it must have been a strange sight to the travellers of this time to stop at Junee and walk from the station to see just a few scant buildings that represented the town.
A natural water course through the town offered a low lying area that was of fertile silt which soon became adopted by Chinese market gardeners. They sank a well there at one place to establish a more reliable water supply and at one time later during the 1930's up to three Chinese including George Ah Yeck were growing vegetables.
The old Chinese market garden area can be found today where the Junee Wetlands exist off John Potts Drive which can also be viewed on Google Earth looking at the end of Crawley St.
Camera 29 John Potts Drive can be panned right to see an overview
Today horses & farm animals graze on the salt rich grass along the stretch of flats once lovingly tilled by the men from the Far East.
This pond being the larger of the two that exist by the Wetlands boardwalk is where the old Chinese Well was located.
Australia has had a long association with China when men came here from that country for the Gold Rush years of the 1860-70's. Many would stay after the gold ran out to contribute a great deal to the development of this country with little if any recognition.
Places like Beechworth one of the Gold Rush locations in northern Victoria can boast of a colourful Chinese history, whilst on the other hand a place called Young in southern New South Wales showed a very different side of what life could mean for the Chinese when racial prejudice got out of hand on the goldfields.
Some Chinese were here in the Junee district during the 1860's as mention is made of a hut-keeper with 3 Chinese shepherds. This information comes to us from the writings of James Pratt appearing in the Junee Southern Cross Newspaper in 1903.
During this early period of grazing sheep as no fences existed, shepherds were employed by a man named De Salis to look after the 10,000 sheep he ran on a vast tract of land at Junee. In places where there was water along the creeks, often huts were built for the shepherds to live where they had sheep yards in which to contain the sheep for any animal husbandry practises. James Pratt makes mention of one such place on the Houlaghans Ck saying : "The White used to instruct the Chinese in English every night, so that after a time they could read and write. However the white & one Chinese slipped off the books while there and are buried side by side on the land" Simply meaning the White and one Chinese died.
During the year of 1937 now at the age of 61 George Ah Yeck packed up all his worldly possessions & left Junee in the dark of night moving to Bethungra a small village to the North East along the railway line. This was a result of the Council deciding to charge him for water he used on his gardens. George having decided the cost of this water was to high so it was preferable to leave.
I went to see Old Keith Duck now 90 years of age who remembers George well. He is seen here drawing a map of the Chinese gardens recounting with a broad smile this time in Georges life when "He did a moonlight flit !" as Keith put it to move to Bethungra... This expression is used for a person who moves location suddenly without telling anyone usually at night to escape having to pay an outstanding debt.
We don't know if George had a debt or just wanted to move.
Keith remembers George as a spritely man who was always on the move even in a quick way when walking and would gallop his horse with covered wagon down Broadway one of Junee's main thorough fares. Keith said George even fed his horse tomatoes and can remember the horse being red with tomato juice right up to its eyes from feeding on them in a bucket.
One of his favourite memories comes from his Mother who said when he was a baby she left baby Keith in a pram outside the family Butcher Shop and George came along and much to her alarm picked Keith right up out of his pram to give him some kisses. He also remembers as a youngster that at times when his Mother did not have enough money to pay for the vegetables George would write what she owed him in pencil on the paling fence of thier house. After the days work selling his produce George would be seen heading back out to Bethungra after dark with a lantern on that would be swinging beneath his wagon.
Once again George located his gardens along fertile creek flats near to the Highway at the northen end of the village but this time wih the added benefit of water flowing. Having relocated to Bethungra which is halfway between Junee & Cootamundra, George began to sell his vegetables into that town as well.
In 1974 George celebrated his 100th birthday a year to soon, when documents were found later it was discovered he was only 99... One intrigueing aspect of Georges life in Australia was that he was never naturalized, so one wonders why it was he was never deported.
The following year after a bout of pneumonia he went into the Mercy Hospital in Cootamundra. The Wagga Wagga newspaper The Daily Advertiser ran a story on June 24 1981 about George who was described as being the most senior resident of Cootamundra celebrating his 106th Birthday which he did in style & spirit which belied his many years.
George Ah Yeck who lived in Australia for 88 years was to die in the care of the Nurses with whom he shared lots of laughs with a little over one year later when he passed away on the 28th of June 1982 aged 107.
He is buried at the Bethungra Cemetary and his grave can be found there today located away in a corner.
The little galvanised building that was Georges home at Bethungra is still there today much as it was & reveals very much a simple home life. A few scant reminders can be seen along with a motorised rotary hoe that must have made Georges work much easier in those later years.
Some years after Georges death the asphalt roadway to Cootamundra beside his market garden area collapsed. Some who were present to re-construct the roadway say there was a huge cavernous hole under the road. Not all that far inside the fence from this hole was the well that George used...I have the thought that perhaps someone may have dug a tunnel from that well across under the roadway to get some of the creek water diverted into that well.
This puts a smile on my face and reminds me of the expression used here in Australia
"If you dig a hole deep enough it will come out in China !"
Many thank's go to the people who helped in the research for this Story
Yvonne. Keith. Russel. John. David. Ian. Leo (Manki). Eileen.
For further reference this link will take the reader to part of the Golden Threads project.
The Chinese in Regional New South Wales 1850-1950 a book by Janis Wilton
[ 6 comments ] ( 45 views ) | permalink | ( 3 / 1311 )
Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 05:05 AMThe harvest for 2008 is now over for the Wagga Wagga district but continues in other areas of the south east farmland areas. I managed to take some video in the same field as the other GPS Cropping depicting the sowing, but due to the nature of harvesting did not manage to film at the exact same location as I would have liked. The clip in this video taken from within the harvester cabin is on the same run but short of the other site....Other parts of this video were filmed in an adjacent field.
At the time the monitor in the harvester was showing a yield of 1 tonne to the Hectare which is one quarter of what is normal. The wheat weight was good with a high protein level of 17% & despite the dry finishing conditions from lack of rain, the screenings (meaning small grains) was less than 3%. So, all in all the farmers were happy with this despite of course the very low yield.
In essence all this means another roll of the dice will take place again next year and already farmers here are putting this year behind them & looking forward to the next as farmers do.
The Video can be viewed at : http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=oq9tKmppl
Note : This address has resulted in a mal formed url so enter myozspot at the top of the page to source video clip Last Roll of the Dice.
[ 8 comments ] ( 54 views ) | permalink | ( 2.9 / 1226 )