Thursday, 27 November 2008

Solar Power for Alice Springs

It is a small step, but it looks as if it will happen.

Alice Springs is to have a modest sized solar power station. The NT government has dressed it up as providing 1800 MW hours of energy per year, but in reality that is but 5MW per day, and not the instant rating more commonly seen when one speaks of a power station, eg 200MW for a conventional power station.

It is very modest..........but a significant step.

The local energy authority has been quite reluctant to move towards alternative or green power, so this seems a positive move.

Full details here: [more spin from Government]

For a city in the centre of Australia with a low rainfall and plenty of sunshine, solar power does seem a natural. Worley Parsons a large engineering company has proposed building a series of large solar thermal power stations for mining projects in remote areas. It is a well thought through concept, and the first one is planned for 2009/2010.

By the way, a solar photovoltaic system is currently being installed on the CrownePlaza Hotel in Alice Springs, and will provide about 85% of all power for the hotel.

Let the sun shine on the Alice!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Updated Options for Women

Many women enjoy the option to enhance their attributes, naturally or cosmetically. Some use enhancements offered by lingerie. To the male observer, some of these actions create positive interest, others negative.

There has been a considerable numbers of words written about women who wear the burka, hijab or whatever local name is used. Some are complimentary, many are not. Most observers see it as shapeless. But maybe not.

Wearing the burka often comes to personal choice, unless you live in a country where women may not have that choice. I have no comment on that.

But there are a few cartoonists who think the subject does offer reasonable options in offering an alternate view.

The following cartoon appeared in some Australian papers recently. Many commentators believe there is a revolution occurring among women in those areas, even while wearing continuing to wear the burka!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

More Poinciana Colour

I think this year has been an excellent one for the poinciana tree flowering display. This photo was at the entrance to the Botanical Gardens, and so beautifully framed by two beauty leaf trees [ which are actually on the opposite side of the road].

Just spectacular!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Battle of the Sounds - Frog Style

With due acknowledgment to the cartoonist.............except that it has been sooooooo quiet lately around our house. There is little rian this month so far, and the frogs are quiet!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Magnificent Orchid

This orchid flowers about every 6-8 weeks most of the year, and the flower spray lasts usually 2-3 weeks.

It is just magnificent! This was taken about 2 weeks after it first reached full flower this flowering.

I guess I must be tending it in a right and proper manner!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Poincianas are Fantastic

It is November. Hot and humid, not much rain, and the poincianas are in flower. Verdant, red and fabulous.......mostly. They have an absolutely fantastic appearance for about a month whilst they are in flower.

Their colourful display is truly awesome. This specimen is in a local suburban street.

Darwin also has a few specimens of the rare orange form. Maybe not as in your face colourful, but still beautiful on large trees. This one even has some purple bougainvillea!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Watch Out for Plovers

Plovers are common around Darwin, especially on open grass areas, including ovals and parklands.

They can be very territorial and often object to the presence of people. The usual trick is to dive bomb you, pulling aside at the last moment, often brushing your clothing or arm, or to come close to the head. Not as openly aggresive as magpies, but they can be confronting.

Today the tide is OUT..........BIG TIME!
We have an 8 metre tidal range around spring tides close to the time when the sun is directly overhead, here around the end of October. We were taking a few photos of the empty tidal flats, on grassland near the cliff top when there was a a plover flew past very close, then another and another........and then it was noticed. Another plover on the ground.....sitting eggs.
Her mate was not impressed. The sequence of photos tells the story!
He went whoosh.....while
Mother to be sat quietly for a while....
Then got upset
and there were 3 eggs!

Now she has become very stroppy!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

NEW Victoria River Bridge

On the road November and yes, an airconditioned car is delightful on long trips in 40C weather. A quick 1200kms round trip to collect grass plants, and take some photos.

It can be very wet in the Northern Territory. And the rivers can rise to very great heights.

This bridge on the right is relatively new, but still has managed to be submerged for many weeks in several of the last few rainy seasons, including nearly 6 weeks last wet season from late January 2008. The river appears very benign now, in November, at the end of the Dry Season, with a few long waterholes, and little, if any, flow, except maybe after a big storm nearby. But come January and February and that water hole is part of a torrent that can be 3-6 metres above the existing bridge. For weeks at a time!

This is National Highway 1, the main circular road around Australia, and this section provides the main link between northern Australia and Perth. Not having a road connection for many weeks is a bit of a disaster.

The project will build the new bridge, about 10m above the present one, and redevelop a large section of the road, on either side, above flood heights. As you can imagine, the river spreads out almost across the entire Victoria River gorge when in full flood. The new road sections need to be mostly above that datum level.

Early days yet, but the new bridge is making good progress.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Rain and Thunder

Rain.........that is the wet stuff that comes out of the sky isn't it?

Has not been too much here lately. After a great start in mid October, it stopped raining. That is over three weeks ago!

Hot dry and then hot and dry some more. But tonight it sounds promising.........real thunder nearby.

Maybe we will get some decent rain overnight. Inland, a few places had a big storm around dusk tonight, with Batchelor [ 100km S] receiving over 30mm in about 30 minutes.

The thunder is tantalising close and, as usual, our "fierce" Ridgeback dog has decided that coming into the laundry inside the house is a good option. She loathes thunder and firecrackers [ the noisy bunger types], and is very happy to retire gracefully on a mat.
On the thunder and lightning scene, Darwin is one of the top locations world wide for lightning strikes [ and related thunder]. Neck and neck with some parts of Java, Indonesia for top spot. You can get some fantastic sky shows and spectacular photos are relatively common, both by amateurs and professional photographers.

It sounds promising.......and the weather radar sort of indicates we may have rain. You beauty!

For some fantastic storm photos, including quite a few in Darwin by Ern Mainka - go to

photo credits - No they are NOT mine. Top one - Joe Holmes. Typical of the view across Darwin Harbour in a good storm!

Lower one - unknown, but publicly available x Flickr.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Darwin Houses

This hot period of the year really brings out the best in people - NOT. They complain about the hot weather, humidity and burning sun, and generally get VERY short tempered. The month of the falling mango!

The usual action DEMANDED by the recently arrived family [read southern, temperate, pale skinned wife and kids] is to air condition EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY, ALL DAY!! That is expensive, and probably unnecessary. Do not get me wrong......I do have an airconditioned office [so do most people] and we opted to have the bedrooms airconditioned, many years ago. A good nights sleep, in lowered humidity, at around 25C [usually close to outside air temperature overnight] makes for a happy chappy the next day. As it does for school kids, uni students and most others.

And on those awful nights of 28C minimum, with still air, at 65 - 75% relative humidity it does ensure a decent nights sleep.

BUT......the trend is to aircondition the whole house all the time. BUT......before we examine the current house designs and issues, lets first go back 50 years or more.

The Burnett House

Designed around the late 1930s and built before and after World War 2 in Darwin these elevated houses focussed on flow through ventilation, with plenty of louvres and walls that often allowed airflow over the top internally [ ie went nearly, but not quite to the ceiling], a house orientation to allow prevailing breezes to flow through the house, and some even had ventilation in the roof space. Built with low thermal mass materials they were considered easy to live in. More details here -;place_id=16285

Commonwealth Housing 1950s - 1970s

A range of fantastic and simple designs, in predominantly elevated or split level houses built by the Federal Government to house public servants. They took many of the features of the Burnett houses, and developed them further.
Many were simple linear designs with living at one end, and 2-4, mostly three, bedrooms in a row adjoining the living room / kitchen, with a single bathroom and toilet. Low thermal mass building materials to allow easy heat up - cool down, with again a predominant east - west orientation, allowing a breeze through the louvres which were along the side of the house. They had generous roof overhangs for shading and direction of the rain away from walls and windows.
I must admit though that there were quite a few ocassions when the rain blew hard and did blow in on the floor...but that was easy to mop up. And surprise surprise.....from about the mid 1960s they had SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEMS on all houses. Think about that ......a giant act of faith by someone who recommended they be installed on all new houses, in around 1965!

Our family lived in one [a different model to that above, but see the solar hot water unit on the roof] and although we did insulate the roof space and aircondition the bedrooms, the rest was not airconditioned and was comfortable. Even the bedrooms were open windowed during the day.

Oh, I forgot.........all had large, 56 inch overhead ceiling fans in bedrooms and the living room, but not the bathroom and toilet [ THAT was rectified in our present home - and it is great!].

Car parking and outdoor entertaining was downstairs, and the house lot was mostly in the 800 - 1100 square metre range, with 850 - 1000 most common.

Then came Cyclone Tracy.....................a category 4/5 beast and many many homes just blew away. To be truthful though, designing to withstand that level of cyclonic force is difficult, VERY difficult.

The housing changed after that. More to follow - but this is a good read too -
David Bridgman. Royal Australian Institute of Architects, 2003. $38.50.