Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Fury of the Sunstorm

Music: “Thunderbolt” by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist. http://www.lars-leonhard.de/

Watch it in full-screen.

Eruptive events on the sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the sun’s lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays — a phenomenon known as coronal rain.

Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.

The footage in this video was collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to 6 minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.

This video is public domain and can be downloaded at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?11168

Images of Colonial Tasmania

We’re especially pleased to share this stunning collection of images from around Tasmania, all of which hearken back to our British colonial past. It was not that long ago– only a handful of decades.  You can visit buildings today that have been in constant use since those early days.

 

Huts of Mount Wellington

Around the 1880s, a “craze” for building recreational huts on Mount Wellington first started. The Mountain had always been a dominating backdrop to the city and it greatly influenced people’s thoughts and imaginations. Hobart had a strong sense of identity and independence in the days before necessity compelled Tasmania to join the Federation. As the city had become very well established by this time, people’s thoughts naturally turned to leisure, and what better area to use for recreation than the mountain on their back doorstep?

Wellington Hut - image sourced via The Romance of Mount Wellington by John and Maria Grist.jpg

Wellington Hut – image sourced via historical photo collection of John and Maria Grist

Accordingly, small groups of friends, coworkers, or members of syndicates walked up the Mountain in the weekends carrying all kinds of tools and equipment, and vied with each other to find the most attractive, secluded sites, and to build the most elaborate structures they could, in which to spend their leisure hours.

Typically, a mountain hut would consist of a levelled site by a small stream, a chimney built of local stone, and a wooden structure embellished by extraordinarily elaborate intertwined dogwood branchwork. Many of the hut syndicates prided themselves on their fine cuisine and their love of culture and gentle company. Interiors were furnished with all of the comforts of home; one of the huts reputedly even contained a piano!

Clematis Hut - image sourced via The Romance of Mount Wellington by John and Maria Grist

Clematis Hut – image sourced via historical photo collection of John and Maria Grist

Very little is left of most hut sites today; an experienced eye and the instincts of a sleuth are needed to discover the remains – a rock platform here, a pile of mossy rocks there – which mark the only evidence of this most interesting and romantic pastime. Since these structures were almost always built of timber, they were nearly all destroyed by the fires which ravaged the Mountain in 1912.

However, the sites are still picturesque. Sometimes a visitor might have the excitement of discovering a well preserved chimney or other unusual remains. In October 2012, we were delighted to rediscover the remains of Clematis Hut, which had been lost for around a hundred years. The chimney remains and levelled recreation area in the front are nestled by the side of a secluded stream and surrounded by huge man ferns. Even the original foot track into the site, visible in many contemporary postcards, still exists today as a reminder of the pre-war Tasmanian people who spent their free time in creativity, hard work,innovation, imagination, and hospitality.

Falls Hut - image sourced via The Romance of Mount Wellington by John and Maria Grist.jpg

Falls Hut – image sourced via historical photo collection of John and Maria Grist

Packrafting the Franklin and Climbing Frenchman’s Cap

Courtesy Wild Oates Productions:

Mark discovered the joys of packrafting in 2009 and having previously kayaked the Franklin River and walked Frenchmans Cap thought that combining the two trips would make a classic Tassie packrafting circuit with the best of both worlds – a short and relatively easy trip on the Franklin and not having to walk both in and then back out of Frenchmans. Mark, Jen and Todd enjoyed perfect conditions as they completed the trip over the Hobart Show long weekend in 2011.

Packrafting the Franklin River and Walking out via Frenchman’s Cap from Wild Oates Productions on Vimeo.

This is a movie of Todd, Jen and Mark paddling down the Franklin River for two days to the Irenabyss and then walking out over Frenchman’s Cap in South West Tasmania for another two. An awesome piece of Tasmania!

We had one epic swim in Descension Gorge but apart from that a fantastic time! The walk out is beautiful although it is an 1100m ascent out of the river to the top of Frenchman’s.

TG #6

In this springtime issue, we look at new ideas in tourism and landscape appreciation. There’s consistent attention to Tassie’s economical trends, and we’d like to contribute to the conversation by highlighting some interesting directions in the tourism industry.

Dr. Peter Manchester promotes to the concept of “geotourism”- travel associated with interesting geological features. We were delighted to meet Dr. Manchester, the author of a geological travel guide to Tasmania, and to have the opportunity to share his views on this promising area of Tasmania’s tourism industry.

We then travel to a pinnacle of rock on Tasmania’s east coast, one of the dolerite spires of the Tasman Peninsula, to join a visiting Canadian climber on a harrowing ascent of the Moai.

Overseas, the most famous of all extreme geotourism destinations must be the High Himalaya.

Dave Ohlson, of Ursus Films, has spent several years studying and visiting K2, the world’s second highest and perhaps the most challenging mountain in the world. Dave’s film has been lauded in several mountain film festivals, and the film trailer we’ve posted is a nice quick introduction to this incredible mountain.

To round it off, we’ll have a look at “Rootourism”, an Australian project to familiarize tourists with the kangaroos and wallabies of our island continent. We’ll meet the Long-nosed Potoroo, one of Tassie’s small marsupials.

Enjoy!

Until next time.

— The Editor

Ursus Films- K2: Siren of the Himalayas

Shot in Pakistan in the summer of 2009, K2: SIREN OF THE HIMALAYAS follows world-class alpinists Fabrizio Zangrilli and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner with veteran climbers Jake Meyer and Chris Szymiec in a breathtaking glimpse into the world of high altitude mountaineering.

Director Dave Ohlson joins this group’s attempt to summit K2 on the 100-year anniversary of the Duke of Abruzzi’s landmark K2 expedition in 1909. The documentary examines the history and geography of the Karakoram mountains while contemplating the risks, rewards and personal nature of exploration in an age when there are few blank spots left on the map.

K2: Siren of the Himalayas (Official 2013 Trailer) from Ursus Films on Vimeo.


Introducing- The Long-nosed Potoroo

General information

The long-nosed potoroo, Potorous tridactylus apicalis (‘three-toed potoroo’) is the most widespread of the small marsupials known as the potoroos.

Kangaroos are marsupials and belong to the Family Macropodidae (i.e. big feet) that is grouped with the Potoroidae (potoroos, bettongs, rat-kangaroos) and Hypsiprymnodontidae (musky rat-kangaroo) in the Super-Family, Macropodoidea. This comprises around 50 species in Australia and a dozen or more in New Guinea. Some of the smaller species, such as Yellow-footed Rock-Wallabies, Burrowing Bettongs, accompanied Pig-footed and Golden Bandicoots, Bilbies and possibly Hairy-nosed Wombats into extinction with the advent of pastoralism. However, the largest species remain in much of their original range with the grey kangaroos expanding inland as grazing habitat increased and coastal habitat was lost in clearance for agriculture. The defining feature of the kangaroo family is that they are the largest vertebrates to hop (both currently and from what we know from palaeontology

The Bettongs, Potoroos and Musky Rat-Kangaroo are collectively known as the Rat-kangaroos. In fact, they form two families, the Potoroidae, which includes all the potoroos and bettongs, and, the Hypsiprimnodontidae, whose sole living representative is the Musky Rat-kangaroo. They are observationally distinguished from the kangaroos and wallabies by their diminutive body size but the largest species, the Rufous Bettong, eclipses the smallest Rock-wallabies, the Monjon and Narbelek. In general, they retain more ‘primitive’ ancestral characteristics with a partly prehensile tail to entrap grasses and sticks for nesting and a simpler stomach (and consequently richer diet). The forelimbs and hindlimbs are more similar in size than the gross differences in the kangaroos and wallabies, and so bounding as well as hopping is a mode of progress. Perhaps possum-kangaroo is more accurate but the first European observers were more familiar with rats than possums.

Cradle Mountain is a good place to spot these animals

 

The Potoroos are in the critical weight range (<5.5 kg) that have suffered range contraction and extinction following the introduction of European farming practices and invasive species like foxes and cats. One species, the Broad-faced Potoroo (Potorous platyops) from the southern coasts of Western and South Australia quickly became extinct and was last collected from the wild in 1875. Gilbert’s Potoroo also from Western Australia was thought to have suffered the same fate but was rediscovered in 1994. Equally surprising was the late discovery of a new species, the Long-footed Potoroo, in Victoria in 1967. The only widespread species, first described to Europeans from Botany Bay in 1789, is the Long-nosed Potoroo which is found in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

Best place to see

Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania

Range of the Long-nosed Poteroo- Geographic distribution of the Long-nosed Potoroo represented by coverage of 1:250,000 map sheets of Australia (see www.ga.gov.au for Australian maps). From http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet59.htm

Range of the Long-nosed Poteroo- Geographic distribution of the Long-nosed Potoroo represented by coverage of 1:250,000 map sheets of Australia (see www.ga.gov.au for Australian maps). From http://www.rootourism.com/fsheet59.htm

Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the National Park which is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The vegetation is a diverse mix of cool temperate rainforest, alpine heathland, button-grass and stands of Antarctic Beech and Pines. The Park is one of the most popular natural areas in Tasmania and so is well-supplied with facilities, walking tracks and accommodation. It is about 1.5 hour drive from Devonport and 2.5 h drive from Launceston. The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is open daily from 0800 to 1700 h and provides information on the Park’s attractions and accommodation. The Park is note for its marsupial carnivore fauna of Eastern and Spotted-tailed Quolls and the Tasmanian Devil.

 

Dove Lake is easily accessible and a good spot for rootourismIdentification

Males to 1.6 kg (average 1.2 kg) and females to 1.4 kg (average 1.0 kg). The overall back colour is a grizzled dark grey-brown. The grizzled appearance arises from the longer hairs having grey bases with a broad white band and a black tip.  The underfur is dense and blue-grey with a grey or rufous tip.  The common name is derived from the long narrow face which is grey and the ‘extended’ nose. The black naked skin of the nose tip (nares) extends backwards along the muzzle in a narrow band for about 1 cm. The ears are short and rounded ears with dark brown backs.  The chin, chest and abdomen are white to grey-white arising from dual-tone hairs with a blue-grey base and a white tip.  The hands and feet are grey or brown-grey.  The tail is relatively naked from a grey base through a brown body to a black tip. The presence of a white tail tip is a function of latitude – very rare in southern Queensland, but common in Tasmania (almost 80% have a white tail tip). The claws of the fore-feet are very long and slender.


Featured image by Peripitus via Wikimedia

This fact sheet was provided by RooTourism at www.rootourism.com. Thanks!

Geotourism: Energised Tourism for Tasmania

Few realise that below Tasmania’s vegetation, soils and weathered rocks, are some of Australia’s best kept secrets – a unique geology that was observed by the eminent Professor Arthur Holmes to be – “a place that is second only to Scotland in geological diversity in the world”.

The island’s landscape is significantly different to the rest of Australia due to its geological origins. By birth and nature it is more closely related to its “sister” continent of Antarctica than the “northern island” of the mainland. Rugged mountains dramatically create the complex coastline, and hundreds of glacial lakes and tarns are products of the island’s special geological history.

Although the island is small in area, the island is densely filled with a diverse geology that is exceptionally well exposed for the casual observer travelling the rugged terrain and long coastline.

Unique roadside geological experiences can be had during comfortable car travel on the good Tasmanian roads system – this is a “seed” for a geotourism experience.

 Thus relatively new type of travel experience has grow in popularity overseas, because people are becoming more inquisitive and adventurous. These tourists are simultaneously protecting and improving the very places being explored.

Geotourism is a form of natural area tourism that specifically focuses on geology and landscape. It promotes tourism to geological sites, conservation of geodiversity, and an understanding of Earth Sciences through an appreciation and learning. Tasmania is perfectly situated to be the best location in Australia to offer such experiences.

 Top 10 unique geological characteristics of Tasmania:

  1. Tasmania has rocks representative of every geological period.

  2. It has a huge igneous dolerite sheet, one of only three places in the world (the others are in South Africa and Antarctica)

  3. The rock dolerite gives the the mountains a spectacular rugged appearance- and help make Tasmanian the nation’s most mountainous state.

  4. A diverse coastline with formations and character unlike any other region of Australia.

  5. A landscape formed from past ice age glaciation effects, which are uniquely different from the rest of Australia.

  6. Spectacular beaches and dunes, having little human activity, allowing the monitoring and impact of global warming.

  7. The deformed metamorphic rocks of King Island, the oldest exposed rocks in Eastern Australia.

  8. Proportionately, Tasmania contains more limestone karst areas than any other state in Australia.

  9. Extensive peat bog soils in Western Tasmania are internationally significant- these organic soils are especially rare in the Southern Hemisphere

  10. Hectare for hectare, Tasmania contains the most extensive mineral resources of any state in Australia.

 Today’s traveller  is seeking experiences that are authentic, and provide renewal or positive change. In December 2004, a roadside geological trail, called Created from Chaos, was launched to highlight thirteen of the Tasmanian North Western coast’s unique geological features. The concept was initiated by Peter Manchester and supported by the Rotary Club of Devonport South Inc. and local businesses.

The self guided trail is concentrated along sixty kilometres of scenic shoreline between Devonport’s Mersey Bluff and Wynyard’s Table Cape. People are instructed by a photo-illustrated map pamphlet, and when sites are reached, an instructional plaque gives important details and interpretation of the site’s geology. You can find these pamphlets at visitor information centres on the region.

The sites are: 1. Devonport Bluff 2. Don Heads. 3. Braddon’s lookout 4. Goat Island 5. Three Sisters Nature reserve 6. Penguin silver mine 7. Sulphur Creek Point. 8. Sulphur Creek Boat ramp 9. Burnie’s basalt columns 10. Doctor’s rocks 11. Pencil Pine Point 12. Fossil Bluff 13. Table Cape

In May 2010, the release of the book Created from Chaos – a geological trail of 100 sites in Tasmania, outlines in detail sites that can be easily accessed from roads and short walking tracks.

Some of the geo sites are well known attractions, such as the Cataract Gorge, Launceston, The Nut at Stanley, Cradle Mountain, Mt Wellington in Hobart, and the Mole Creek Caves.

Other significant, lesser-known sites described in the book include: the Trowutta Arch, Alum Cliffs at Mole Creek, the Liawenee colonnades, Granite Point at Bridport, the Volcanic Necks at Apsley, and the Silver Spray Mine Tunnel.

Ideally, significant geo sites need to touched and appreciated in situ, but some places, despite their remoteness, can be seen in some detail at a distance. By visiting lookouts and using binoculars, it’s possible to visit  such places as the Lake Edgar Fault Scarp, Frenchman’s Cap, Cape Grim, Promise – Thouin Bay tombolo.

For tourists to view at least twenty different and unique geological coastal features, along twenty-five km on a ninety minute excursion, would have been unheard of a few years ago. Now, because of new eco-custom built boats, the geo-savvys citizens can view and record, coastal landforms and with sea life, that were once only seen by commercial fishermen. Such trips have opened up the opportunities to see the unique Tasmanian coastal geological features, all under the guise of geotourism.

The travel habits of sustainability-minded and eco-tourists are guided by a high awareness of the world around them. People appreciate sights that are globally unique: they are looking for experiences that are not homogenized.

Our island has an opportunity to show the world how special it is geologically.

Climbing The Moai

Rock climbing can be one of the most exhilarating of all adventures,  but the process requires several administrative steps: selecting the vertical cliff, drooling over photographs, planning the logistics doing the routes.

Our enthusiasm mounted early as we made plans to climb one of Tasmania’s unique and beautiful rock towers protruding from the sea. Our climbing team heading to the Tasman Peninsula was made up of two Canadian and two Australian climbers We aimed to climb it in a “clean” style: we  would use removable fall protection equipment such as metal “nuts” and spring-loaded “cams”, while causing minimal damage to the rock. The most famous of Tasmania’s coastal spires is Cape Huay’s Totem Pole, but there are countless other rock towers with such names as the Candlestick, the Pole Dancer and the Moai.

The Moai is located at Fortescue Bay, a twenty kilometre drive from Port Arthur and a ninety minute hike on the Waterfall Valley track. There are three different established technical rock climbing routes on the Moai: Sacred Site (Australian Grade 18), Burning Spear (Grade 22) and Ancient Astronaut (Grade 24). Sacred Site is the classic route and consequently the most climbed.

We read about the route before heading out along the trail. Sacred Site begins with easy climbing to a ledge  above a dolerite slab. The next 20 metres consist of jamming your hands and fingers into narrow cracks and gingerly moving feet up a dihedral to another stance. The route continues up thin cracks via a thought-provoking flake. At this point, the sense of exposure is heightened, as the climb gets increasingly vertical and frothing waves crash below. It is then a mere five metres to the small square summit.

The approach to the climb consisted of a ninety minute bush walk along the east coast of the Tasman Peninsula  during a humid, cloudy day. From Fortescue Bay, we soldiered along first to Canoe Bay, then to Bivouac Bay. The trail followed the Pacific Ocean coast line closely , climbing over tiny hills and ducking under the welcome shade of the gum trees. We were on the lookout for the rock cairns marking the climber’s trail/wallaby track. When we found it, we followed it to the cliff’s edge.

Standing high above the Moai, we smiled widely at the prospect of climbing the beautiful grey tower. With two quick abseils, we descended the 70 metre cliff. At the bottom, a massive black dolerite shelf connected the stunning Moai to the coastal shore. The goal was to climb the 35 metre route named Sacred Site, on the north side of the tower.

Once arriving at the base we unloaded our backpacks, organised our equipment: ropes, carabiners, spring-loaded camming devices, slings, harnesses, helmets, sunscreen, water and bottles. We racked up and began climbing up Sacred Site. As the visitors- us two Canadians would be the first pair to climb. Although the rock was solid, the tower seemed to sway. But it was an illusion created by the waves crashing below, with water rising and dropping.

The buffeting winds did not help us cling to the rock, yet the climbing itself was fluid and fun. The vertical cracks in the stone held our spring-loaded camming devices securely, offering us a measure of protection if we fell. The triangular metal nuts slotted tightly in the bottle-neck shaped features of the rock, and to reduce the friction of the rope trailing its way up the rock beneath me, we used several nylon slings to help position the rope in a straight line.

I reached the “thought-provoking” flake- it provoked thoughts of gravity. At this point, high above the ocean, I encountered an old rusted piton, a metal spike which previous climbers had hammered in as a secure anchor, eons ago.

My partner yelled up to me : “Don’t trust the piton!”, and I gingerly climbed above the flake.

With only five metres to the blocky summit, the backs of my fingers and hands were rubbed raw from the abrasive dolerite. I kept climbing, aware of the  sense of gravity and the crashing of the waves, and reached the summit.

As I sat up on the top of the tower and belayed up my partner, a tourist boat sped past by. A pod of twenty dolphins were jumping, flopping and surfing the waves around it. I controlled the rope attached to my partner as she began to climb up the route.   When she made it to the ledge below the rusted piton, she was sweating from the exertion and the sun’s heat. “Have a rest…”, I cajoled. After five minutes she began continuing up the Moai again, this time with a few louder grunts– but no falls. Soon enough, she reached the summit ledge and secured herself into the belay anchors.

We looked out over the Tasman Sea and along the speckey coastal cliffs. The experience of the technical ascent of this  free standing tower made the view of the Pacific just a wee bit crisper.

It was an easy abseil back to the base for a a well-deserved lunch of dried fruit and a drink of water. As we ate lunch, we watched the Australian pair make their way up the Moai. They hooted with glee as they got to the summit and performed the obligatory summit photo shoot.

We still had to retrace our steps, which involved scrambling up loose rocky gullies and tying into the rope again to climb two pitches up the cliffs above the Moai. We then walked the hour and a half back to Fortescue Bay. The day’s expedition had begun at 9 AM and finished by 5 PM.  We all agreed that it was much better than any day at the office. The hike totalled twelve km on a well-maintained coastal track.

Of all that Tasmania  offered us on our travels, we felt the summit of the majestic Moai was the most impressive. The stunning vistas of the sea, the grey dolerite rock and the surrounding Australian bush made for a stunning day in the wilderness. The team was successful in its attempt to use clean protection for its climb and to “leave no trace”.  And, finally, the last stage in the climbers’ process is reliving the adventure through sharing stories and pictures with others such as you.


Editor’s note- James and his companions were in for a longer day than they expected. Their climb took place on the same day as the Dunalley-Tasman bushfires in early 2013, and they would be trapped on the Tasman Peninsula late into the night awaiting an evacuation by boat.