Monthly Archives: April 2018

TG #49

TG #49 : 1958 Aerial Mapping + Australian Pelicans + H20 in Freefall + Shutterbug kunanyi


Yes, it has been a while, and it has been an eventful time since our last issue. A daughter has arrived, and consequently it seems that the entire summer sped by faster than could be imagined.

In this issue, we fly back to the 1950s and over Tasmania with stereographic cameras and learn about the cartography behind our topographic maps. You may be familiar with the contour lines and neat hand-writing on our state maps, but it is quite the revelation to see the actual process. The machinery and skill sets have changed beyond imagining. When “Modern Mapping” was filmed, Sputnik had been circling Earth for only a few months, and today we have the ability to flip between satellite maps with a few flicks of a thumb.

We’ll also read one of Sarah Lloyd’s excellent ecology pieces from the Disjunct Naturalists site, in which the glorious pelican is introduced. We have excellent images alongside provided by Dr. Eric Woehlor and Birdlife Australia….these are majestic birds and always worthy of our appreciation.

A bit of surreal whimsy will amuse you for five minutes with perhaps the most impressive bubble you’ll ever see – this one floating in free-fall on the International Space Station. Enjoy!

We also travel into Hobart’s backyard with regular contributor Roy Vieth from Shutterbug Walkabouts and enjoy several views of kunanyi/Mt Wellington. For a mountain that is so familiar in its presence, it has an unlimited number of secret vistas to reveal.

And it appears that the next issue will mark a milestone of sorts – fifty issues, and more than two hundred articles and resources posted online for you. I hope you enjoy exploring TG as much as I do.



All the best,

The Editor

Modern Mapping – A 1958 Film Documentary

Tasmanian Magazine Number 3 (1958)

Courtesy LINC Tasmania / Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office

This episode explores

  1. Tasmanian map making and aerial survey photography using ex-service aircraft the Lockheed Hudson
  2. Peter MacCallum Clinic Launceston (includes Therapy Radiographer Isabell Bull and Pam Barton)
  3. Pett Falls Museum run by Peter Mercer.

A Tasmanian Film Unit Production

Please be advised that this footage may contain words and descriptions that may be culturally sensitive, which reflect the attitude of the period in which the film was produced, and which may be considered inappropriate today.

Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office: Film – Tasmanian Magazine Number 3 (1958) – 16BWRP 16mm black and white release print 6m 45s (sound) – (Reference: AB869/1/2698

Introducing the Australian Pelican: a bird of superlatives

What seems amazing about Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is not that they fly far from water, but that such bulky birds can fly at all. Like other birds, however, they are superbly adapted to their lifestyle with some fascinating internal structures and interesting strategies for weight reduction.

Birds’ bones, unlike the bones of mammals that are filled with marrow, must be light enough for flight. They are pneumatic (i.e. filled with air) and the lifestyle of the bird – how much it flies or dives – determines the degree of pneumatisation. Pelicans, therefore, are not nearly as heavy as they appear. Their skeleton is more pneumatic than that of other birds and weighs a mere 10% of their total body weight of around 5 kg. Relative to their size, pelicans are among the lightest birds. The Australian pelican, although not the largest of the eight pelican species that occur worldwide, boasts the longest bill.

Australian pelicans have huge wingspans of 2.4 metres. To conserve energy they sometimes glide low over water, taking advantage of the ‘ground effect’ whereby extra lift is provided by air funnelled between wings and water. They are unable to sustain long periods of flapping flight, but can stay airborne for 24 hours, riding the thermals and reaching stunning heights of 3000 meters. From such elevations they can keep a lookout for productive waterways and suitable places to breed.

There are several breeding colonies on the Bass Strait Islands but they are miniscule compared with the massive ones that occur periodically on some of the ephemeral lakes and wetlands on the Australian mainland. In June 2000, for instance, 7500 Australian pelicans were counted at the Mandora Marsh in Western Australia, a wetland that may flood only once a decade. For breeding to be successful pelicans must be assured of an undisturbed site that is rich enough to provide food for their growing chicks for at least three months. Unfortunately, the Bass Strait Island colonies are so close to the Tasmanian mainland that they are prone to disturbance from unwelcome visitors.

Pelicans sit high in the water. Their buoyancy is achieved by a special layer resembling bubble wrap that lies under the thin skin of most of their body. Because they float so high, they generally feed in shallow water and often in cooperation with other pelicans. Gatherings of nearly 2000 birds have been observed herding fish, concentrating shoals into a small area before scooping them up with their massive pouches. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat fish, crustaceans, ducklings or gulls and even the occasional small dog!

Pelicans have yet another strategy for weight reduction: if disturbance requires a rapid getaway, they can completely disgorge their stomachs which shrink to walnut size. Then they slowly flap their wings and with their totipalmate feet (i.e. with all four toes connected by webs) treading in unison on the surface of the water, they laboriously take off, before once again achieving mastery of the air.


Images provided by Dr. Eric Woehlor

Article courtesy of:

Further reading:
Parks Tasmania (.pdf)
– Halse, S.A., Pearson, G.B., Hassell, C., Collins, P., Scanlon, M.D. Minton, C.D.T. (2005) Mandora Marsh, north-western Australia, an arid zone wetland maintaining continental populations of waterbirds. In Emu Vol. 105 No 2. CSIRO Publishing on behalf of RAOU.
– Milewski, A.V. (2006) ‘Give dues to our world-record bin-bird’. In Wingspan Vol. 16 No.2 June 2006, Birds Australia (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union), Melbourne.

Liquid Surrealism – Water in Zero Gravity

This is about as visually surreal as science gets, and about as bizarre as astronautics could possibly be.

Yet again, thank you NASA for all of your strange and wonderful discoveries.

Shutterbug kunanyi – Images of Mount Wellington