Monday, July 7, 2008, 08:02 AMThis has been a term which has come up a lot so far this year in these times of uncertain seasonal rains. A term used by both farmers themselves & the media alike to describe yet another year finding us in southern Australia in a much drier than normal Winter.
The Autumn time of year when Summer North West cloud bands are bringing down moisture from the tropics has faded away with the lower temperatures. Now for the Winter cold fronts from the Southern Ocean should be sweeping across the lower continent bringing life giving rain events lasting several days at a time.
Such was the cycle as I have seen over the last 30 yrs until the mostly dry hot Summer returned & like clock work all was repeated until the 7 to 10 year Walker Circulation ( El Nino ) returned. Then 1 year of Drought took place before this cycle passed repeating all as before.
This Entry was intended to be one of Adventures again in the theatre of travel like visiting the Fortress in Quebec City in Canada but this will have to wait as much has happened at home & seems of more importance right now.
Recently we have seen flooding in the U.S. State of Iowa reaching biblical proportions, 12 of the 22 Provinces in China being flooded & here in Australia heavy rains caused havoc along the East coast. More importantly for those living in the inland of south east Aus the rain still remains spasmodic at best & brief in nature. Almost daily we hear something more of what the adversity of Global Warming is going to do to Aus rainfall. Reports are handed to the Gov on how to deal with these changes from various scientific organisations or individuals regarded as experts in thier fields.
One damning in these last few days from the C.S.I.R.O tells of how our largest inland river system the Murray-Darling is on the verge of dieing.One Newspaper headline going so far as to say this is our National Shame. It was said unless something is done by Oct it will be too late to save much of the soils from permanent damage to rising salts in the lower lakes of the Coonong where the water meets the sea. Inflows to this two fold river system are at an all time record low & dam levels in the mountains remain precariously low.
Farming practices has seen 60% of river water flows used by irrigation...So what can be done one wonders when the Prime Minister says he is not God & can't make it rain.
Today is the 1st of November & it seems the Government has given up trying to save the Murray-Darling River System. The latest statement from the Bureau of Meteorology's National Climate Centre reports the drought in south-eastern Aus continues to break records, while northern Aus recieves above average rainfall. The Bureau's Head of Climate Analysis, Dr David Jones, said the lack of rain over a number of years continues to be at, or near, record levels over many parts of southeastern Aus. Dr Jones said there are few signs that the drought in south eastern Aus is letting up. "It's been eight years since we last recorded widespread, above average rainfall across inland eastern Aus, including most of the Murray-Darling Basin. That was in the year 2000. "Since the drought began, Victoria alone has missed out on nearly two years worth of normal rainfall. "Whilst similar periods of drought occurred in the middle of last century, this has also been the hottest drought on record, adding to the impact". Dr Jones said.
Despite the Government spending huge sums of money to buy back farms with water allocations & water allocations alone for returning to the rivers there has been no rain & therefore simply no water to return. It now seems inevitable that the lower lakes at the mouth of the Darling River being Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert will be flooded with sea water in the new year as the only option left remaining.
New South Wales is expected to produce an average crop for this year, however much of this production will be in the northern part of the State as south of Cootamundra to the South West is drought effected area.
This link below will provide a video insight to planting Winter cereals in May of this year. All that remains now is to perhaps take another video at the same place during December being harvest to know how this particular crop finished for 2008.
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Friday, March 14, 2008, 05:43 AMThe coastal weather at Juneau over the two weeks of our stay had been misty rain with some nice days. We were told you just never know what is going to happen & that was exactly how it went. The day temperatures were pleasant though & nights good for sleeping once one got used to the lack of darkness.
Some things came as a surprise though for Summer weather like fog & hearing for the first time ships fog horns which I thought was a great experience !
On one occasion at 4 in the morning I woke to the steady humm of what I took to be a ships engines...Indeed it was by the blaze of lights coming along. I quickly put on my shoes & whizzed out still in my pjyamas. One could liken the light at this time of night to being moonlit so it was not difficult to find my way closer to the shore for a photo. I made it just in time as two cruise ships were steaming by quietly on thier way to Juneau where at any one time up to four or more can visit in a day.
One nice benefit of weather like this was to take walks along the shore line to see what wonders one could find at low tide.
I was always under the impression you could pick up starfish, well not so as these ones were tough leathery & stuck fast to the rocks. Sometimes in groups with the seemingly touching gesture of arms around one another
Large army ponchos are not only good for keeping you & your camera dry but also for making out like a rock to get a photo of critters by the water.
It was easy to imagine Bears were lurking in what seemed to us a surreal world in the Woods...We were assured none were there so that may have accounted for so much Bears Bread fungi being evident ?
It was very much like an Enchanted Wood from a Harry Potter movie as Bald Eagles would soar between the trees screeching a sound seeming very ancient. On windy days with rain they could be found sheltering back in the woods where it would be surprisingly calm down below the canopy of the tall trees. As much as I tried they proved too elusive to get near for a photograph. One major problem being it was not so easy to walk as the cover of ferns were about waist high & blocked ones view of where to put your feet amid the fallen debri of which there was plenty. There were Deer but none were seen save thier tracks one morning in a patch of sand.
Just across the water though it was a different story on an Island that holds one of the highest populations of Bears in the World where life for a Deer no doubt would hold a totally different meaning.
Pam & Gene related to us the story of when a Deer Hunter from Juneau decided to go to this Island to hunt. Having shot a deer he was packing it out over his shoulders to the shoreline where his boat was moored... There are no roads in this part of the world so you either go by boat or plane. This hunter then became the hunted when he was attacked from behind by a bear intent on having that venison for itself. This left the poor man almost scalped in the mauling that ensued & bleeding from some 80 punctures wounds from being bitten. Pam (who is a fully trained Nurse) & Gene heard his two-way radio message for help & were first on the scene to administer First Aid. Later a rescue helicopter would come to air-lift him out to Juneau where he would recover & still lives today.
When a nice day arrived it was too good to pass up for an outing, as the sea was calm & the morning skies clearing to sunshine, Gene suggested we take a run in the boat to the picturesque Native fishing Village of Hoonah about 1.5 hrs away.
The day was becoming more glorious by the hour so as to reveal that picture postcard scenery that Alaska is famous for, not long into our journey in the waters passing by some Islands we encountered a pod of Killer Whales
We had stopped & were drifting to view them when the Male of this pod surfaced, turned straight towards us & slowly dived in line with our position. Gene at once said "Stay away from the edge of the boat these whales are very good at plucking seals off rocks !"
Looking about me I had the same thoughts as the man on that fishing trawler in the movie "Jaws" ....This boat was not big enough !
Genes brother Tim had told us the story of once when he was a kid fishing off Retreat Point in a little skiff with a friend, when a male of a Killer Whale Pod circled thier boat with its eye out of the water looking at them. They banged the bottom of that boat with whatever they could to frighten it off !.
This performance was not to be repeated for us as this Killer Whale did not appear again for some time & then only at a distance once again with the pod.
The backdrop for Hoonah was of high peaks where the greeness was in places broken to bare earth where landslips had taken place & where Forestry had in its own way tatooed the land.
Fishing provides many a living in Alaska & Hoonah has had a long association with this having a Cannery established there in an era now long past....Today that Cannery is a Museum & a very good one too!.
This fishing boat is seen making its way to the harbour which today has a lesser fishing operaton but can boast a wonderful new Marina, to whom some I think see as a best kept secret getaway.
It was here on the pier at the old Cannery Museum we met a real life movie star !
Wow I was so impressed & it just goes to show one must have a camera on you & at the ready at all times.
After having a wonderful lunch of what else but fish & chips with salad we had to make the dash for home while the weather held.
It was changing with the sky to the West darkening somewhat which meant it would not be so pleasant out here later in the afternoon.
Nearing home & moving in closer for shelter from rising seas along a shoreline we happened apon Humpback Whales doing what is termed "bubble feeding"....In this action a group of these whales will dive down & then proceed up in a circle movement releasing air in the form of bubbles to make a bubbles wall within which Herring will be concentrated.
Herring are the prefered diet of these Humpbacks Whales to put on fat which will see them through on the long journey they will later take to Hawaii. Having made this circle of bubbles the whales then arrive at the surface with mouths open to take in as many herring as possible ...In looking more closely at some of my photos a few lucky herring can be seen falling back down in the water spill from the rise of these gaping mouths.
Gene & I were to later study the maritime map of this site & whilst these photos show the whales to be very close to shore the waters here were in fact some 800 feet or 242.4 Metres deep.
All good whale days come to an end & so did ours just in time with the arrival of more rainy weather but I don't think the whales minded one little bit.
For whale watching at Juneau Alaska see the website below for Harv & Marv & be sure to tell Jay I sent you....He is also a great authority on the bird life & anything that moves !
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Friday, February 1, 2008, 10:07 PMThe pathology test was very good indeed, the resection was very good indeed so right now Dr Teo feels there is not an immediated need for radiation. He feels we should only use radiation when forced as it will not be kind.
The Proton Beam treatment is being investigated further.
If we do not go in that direction we monitor every 3 months with MRI.
I'm all for that !
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Monday, January 28, 2008, 02:17 PMBy day two of our Rocky Mountaineer Train Tour we had if not spoken to, got to know who was in our carriage. So it was on day 2 not long after the train pulled out of Kamloops on the journey to Jasper I first noticed there appeared a stranger on the train. I could see him sitting at the rear of our carriage. He was not dressed like a tourist he was dressed more in a "normal" sort of way, he was an elderly gentleman who appeared of a friendly disposition as his face showing over the seat headrests held a welcoming smile.
We had the day earlier boarded our train in Vancouver British Columbia Canada to begin this adventure into the Rocky Mountains. We traveled out from the city along the edge of the rich flood plain of the Fraser River where for thousands of years flood deposits enriched this soil now many 100's of Metres deep into a picturesque scene of Dairies & Berry Farms. This scenery had changed quickly into one of lush growth derived of increased rainfall from a coastal region striking a mountainous area.
Polished Staff set about their business of making the journey as comfortable as possible with all sorts of lovely treats. Nada was no exception in catering to everyones needs.
The train had in a short while hugged the river side as it became apparent we were entering a narrowing valley. This valley became ever narrower with towering snow capped peaks that would come into view over the passing treeline. Our speed had slowed as the climb began to take its toll on the power of the diesel engines, we had then passed by the narrowest point of the valley where a tremendous volume of water tumbles through.
The early explorer Fraser in passing down this river to the sea at this point made the comment "No man should ever have to pass by this way" such was the difficulty negotiating the terrain. Not long after we passed into a new area of the Rocky Mountains as it became apparent the vegetation was fast disappearing.
The mountains then took on a look of a rugged arid area & one of the train staff in a running commentary announced we were in one of the most arid areas in all of Canada.
We had passed by the remains of old Ghost Towns where one could only ponder at why folk would ever want to live there. This place though held its own beauty in colours quite different. It was an area where we had encountered long long trains going down on the other side of the river & where the road was so close to the train in places that one could see at a few metres distant wide eyed children at the window of the cars.
Our on board Commentator had pointed out to keep an eye out to the surrounding hillsides as the train neared Kamloops for the wild Mountain Sheep, so I had gone to a viewing area which are located at the end of each carriage. Here one can stand in the open air to take photos not hindered by reflections from inside the carriage windows.
If the engine driver blew the whistle it was sure that something was on the line, so one gets ready keeping eyes peeled up the hillsides. If your lucky not only will you see the sheep but get a photo as the window of opportunity to do so can be brief. Then as quickly as the area had appeared for the sheep it was past & all to soon the train had rolled on crossing over the river into Kamloops our first night stopover.
With the train now rolling towards Jasper I decided to say hello to the stranger on the train, as his smiles had indicated he was a friendly man & we began to exchange pleasantries. I had explained we were travelling around the World but had began this journey a few weekes earlier in Juneau Alaska having gone there to our niece's wedding. At once his eyes lit up as he explained a long time ago he had worked as a miner at what was known as the Tulsequah Chief mine up the Taku River inside the Canadian border with Alaska being not all that far from Juneau. He added with a broad smile that this was in 1950 & in those days The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau was a real saloon & not just a tourist attraction like it is today. My eyes then lit up I'm sure as I related how after the wedding rehearsal Gene my Brother In Law at Juneau had organised for 10 of us to be flown out to the family home by Ward Air... The pilot in doing so had taken us for a joy flight up the Taku River to the Twin Glaciers but could not get over the top as the weather had closed in.
John Stewart now 82 years of age knew well the plane we had gone in being a 10 seat Otter float plane. I explained however this one sported a Turbo Prop engine instead of the older bigger heavy radial engine that he would have known....The turbo prop engine being only a fraction of the weight gained a bigger payload with a lot more power. We had flown over the Taku River Lodge where so long ago John & his fellow miners went for R&R to put glacier ice in their drinks as he explained "It did not melt".
John said in those times gold mining was tough & living conditions were rough for the 250 miners at the campsite on the confluence of the Taku & Tulsequah Rivers which was to become the Cominco Gold Mine. John looked away in saying for the time he was there 3 men had completely disapeared without trace. On Sundays it was a common practise to go for a walk & on different occasions these men simply went for a walk & were never seen again. It was not known if they were taken by bears, or fell into the rivers to be swept away. John turned to look at me again saying there was a thing known as "cabin fever" it could effect the minds of some people confined in a small area for a long time.
My thoughts turned to a time when Joe Whiting father of long time residents of Juneau Gene & Tim Whiting came there with two other friends from the Lower 48 with just a few dollars in their pockets & a desire in their hearts for Adventure.
Work at the time being scarce Joe had decided to turn his hand to being a Fur Trapper & took over a cabin on the Taku River by the Twin Glacier lake. These were times even before when John came to mine. Times when Joe found wolf tracks in the snow & followed them hoping for a shot. The wolves came apon a small herd of Mountain Sheep & there an old Billy had turned to make a last stand to give the herd time to get away. The wolves made short time of him & pulled him down, Joe found his half eaten body buried in the snow.
Joe at one time had a bear break into the cabin through one window to smash & tear everything to shreds inside looking for food before departing out another window.
I remembered reading a story of how a trapper who would go out twice a week for several days at a time around the trap line returned home on one occasion to find his wife standing at the window staring out into the darkness long after the Sun had gone down. He realized it was time for her to return home. I knew then what John was talking about. I asked John did he ever come across Joe Whiting but he could not remember him as the years it seemed had dimmed his memory of the many in that passing parade.
In recent years the long closed mine that John Stewart worked in has seen Interests wanting it to be re-opened. The websites listed here will give an insight to how things have changed in todays world.
Within this website an abbreviated video of Our Land is Our Future featured on YouTube will show the reader the Taku River & Tulsequah Chief Mine
It was raining by the time we arrived at Blue River to a scheduled stop for a few minutes. The Store I believe is the oldest still operating in Canada & I took a picture of it for no other reason than a woman was there wearing blue clothing & driving a blue car.
For the reader who does not know there is a difference I thought it appropriate now to put in a photo of where Glacier water the (milky colour) is seen meeting the clear water of a mountain stream.
With the semi-desert area before Kamloops now left far behind on this leg to Jasper the scenery after Blue River was one of a heavily wooded mountainous area. The train would clitter clatter by open patches of ponded grass areas within the trees that revealed in the shallow waters to the descerning eye Moose or Deer tracks in the water. It is as some of the travel brochures dictate : You might not see them but they do see you, being of course all to often from the safety of the woods, I did however see on one occasion a deer standing in a shaft of sunlight in the middle of a small mountain stream & at once recognised a beautiful photo....At the time I was in the Diner carriage.
I did get this waterfall however right beside the train line & was later to hear the squeal of approval from a woman who wanted to see a bear with one passing by at eye level in a cutting.
After several forays away with the camera I had returned to talk with John who wrote down his email address on a piece of cardboard which I have still but am unable to make head nor tail. He was only going as far as Jasper to meet up with one of his 3 Daughters. When we pulled into the Station there it was with a touch of sadness that I knew I would see him no more & as our bus pulled away I thought looking out a back window I saw him for a moment walking up a footway with Alison & he was gone.
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Saturday, January 12, 2008, 05:58 PMAfter the last Air Show at Temora I had decided I wanted to experience what it must be like to fly in a warbird such as those seen from another Era.
I had wondered what it was like for the pilots of fighter aircraft such as the Spitfire to endure the rigors of aerobatic flying in war.
Luckily Alex von Mengersen is offering such an experience from Hangar 213 at Wagga Wagga Airport. The unitiated to this kind of flying in an ex Military aircraft can take just a joyflight or go on with full aerobatic manouvers in the Nanchang CJ-6A warbird with Alex obliging to any recipe one might wish to have.
Not only did I want to have this experience but I felt our 2 Sons would like to do this as well so when David flew in on a commercial flight from Sydney recently I had organised a little surprise for him at Hangar 213.
Enter here now : www.waggawarbirds.com.au
My flight with Alex left me in a state of eurphoria from the Adrenalin Rush for several hours afterwards. I for one cannot get back quickly enough for more. The look on Davids face said it all but then again unlike me he did put a hand to the joy stick.
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