Friday, 30 January 2009

Coolest Capital City Today [well, nearly]

Quite a change for Darwin.......almost the coldest Australian State capital city today, with Brisbane just a part degree C tad cooler.

Rubbish you say.........Darwin is a hot place! It is, but all the southern cities are in what has been described as the heat of the century, with many places recording temperatures above 45C, Adelaide a maximum the other day of 45.7C, the same in Melbourne today, and still more days to come of very hot weather. Most of this week has been very hot, with temperatures on every day above 40C, across all of southern Australia. Even Hobart in cool Tasmania has had hot weather. This period has broken high temperature records going back about a hundred years or so.

Darwin has had relatively cool and mild days of around 29 -30C with monsoonal showers, and occasional sunny periods, with a modest west to north west strong breeze........typical monsoonal weather, and nights around 23-24C. Nights have been the killer in southern cities this week with minimum temperatures in some places of 33C......that is a hot night, and usually breeze less.

The hot weather in the south has caused havoc with electricity supplies [and of course air conditioners], train lines have buckled, asphalt on the road is melting, and those poor people cannot cope.

Poor things.........come to the tropics and see how you like the build up period in October and November. Wimps!

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The New Residence

It has been raining consistently in our region now for over two months. And keeping dry in wet weather is always a priority.

So when the opportunity came to acquire an all weather dog house, the purchase was made. No fans or air conditioners, but a truly tropical dog house with one open end and open weave shade cloth on the a special edge flap to keep the rain off the sarlon shade cloth. Just a flow through ventilation system. The canvas is very waterproof.

Dear dog was at first somewhat mystified at this strange contraption, but a short period on the chain adjacent to the new residence and in she went. It is actually just a waterproof canvas cover, bolted to the existing sarlon shade cloth dog bed, a bed she already used a lot anyway.

I am not convinced that with the windy storms we get here that it will actually be a dry bed, but is better than getting a decent drenching!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Gas to Go

Darwin is slowly but surely becoming an export gas hub. Seriously large export gas, and a few export oil projects are now either completed or being planned for Darwin.

Currently operating is the Conoco Phillips plant which exports gas to Japan. Coming soon - well, in a year or two, but planned to commence construction next year [2010] is the Inpex plant that will process gas being piped about 800kms. As well, a newish project in the Bonaparte Gulf is almost finished. This will supply gas to Darwin for electricity generation.

The vessels used for export are huge gas supertankers. Awesome. The following photos were taken this week, luckily, as the flight left Darwin, it was full tide and the ship was steaming down the harbour. Darwin city above the wing.

Enjoy the photos!

Monday, 26 January 2009

It's Australia Day

Happy Australia Day to all Australians.

And, Happy Republic Day - for all Indians too.

And to complete the trifecta - Gong Xie Fatt Choy [ Happy New Year - it is also Chinese New Year!]

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Speedy Forklift

One thought these stories were the preserve of the NT News, but no, it seems NZ has its share too. Enjoy the story, and laugh.

A mistake on the part of New Zealand police has seen a forklift booked for speeding at 119km/h on a highway.

According to Invercargill-based Lindsay Carrying, the company received a notice asking it to identify the driver of a vehicle which was supposedly clocked speeding on the State Highway 1 at Waikane, near Invergargill.

The assistant manager checked the vehicle fleet against the registration number, as one does, matching it with a Toyota forklift.

The forklift has a top speed of 19km/h, and never strays far from the depot.

According to the police, the speeding notice was a mistake and should be disregarded. That was easy......but it is not always that easy to convince the police it was not what they say it was!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Crocodiles Nearly Always Feature Here - But the Shark Did It This Time

The local newspaper is a bit of a rag. Definitely not the upmarket big city dailies characterised by " The Australian", "Sydney Morning herald" or "the Age", or even droll Adelaide with "The Advertiser".

However, the NT News seems to make a mark with regular headlines about crocodiles, drunks in the street, rampaging buffaloes, and similar esotoric notable and noble mind developing themes.

On January 12 it may have scored a notable double in the newspaper headlines - "man stalked by croc but bitten by shark". Yes, the past few days have seen a number of shark attacks along the east coast, and a number of people have been hurt, with one teenage girl very savagely mauled. But just to spice it up for local consumption we have to have a crocodile involved.

A few days ago someone caught a small [ 1.2m] crocodile near an infamous Territory watering hole........the Noonamah pub. Not particularly notable at this time of year when small crocodiles can walk big distances overland. But to have a local, while on holiday interstate, get bitten by a shark ......well it's a double whammy. Especially after the guy had been fishing on a river's edge near a large croc. That is a bit of a no-no here; you are dicing with death when crocodiles lurk in most rivers.

Watch this space - the NT News front page - a crocodile will be back soon! Will not be upstaged by a shark! is the article.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Frogs and Crocodiles Suffer Too

Increasing amounts of oestrogen are getting into the environment. Mostly via effluent, and effluent reuse. Some also through the food chain, with man [ and women] at the top. A lot via use of the contraceptive pill, both inadvertently, and by disposal via the sewer.

We are probably not doing ourselves a lot of good, overall.

But when oestrogen effects are the subject of an article in the mainstream press, then maybe it is time to be more mindful of the issue.

It is a thoughtful and thought provoking article.,25197,24891709-7583,00.html

and definitely worth reading.

We are lucky, living in a relatively smaller city. But for cities where their sewer is the next cities drinking water, what a mess!

Friday, 9 January 2009

New Marine Parks in the Pacific Ocean - Has President Bush been Converted?

The actions of the US Government and of its current President have often been at odds with conservation and related issues. The whole eight years of his presidency have seen numerous significant fights and brawls over conservation related problems from oil drilling areas to water. This recent move is a definite back flip.......but it is in the middle of the Pacific in a little populated area, and probably of absolutely no concern to almost all of the citizens of the USA. is to be a major, major marine park, of world class size. Nearly as big as Texas they say.

President George W. Bush on Tuesday January 6 will create three new marine monuments in the Pacific Ocean to protect the deepest place on Earth, some of the last pristine corals and sanctuaries for vanishing marine species. Definitely better late, than never!

The three monuments — in the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific, the Rose Atoll off American Samoa and remote islands in the central Pacific — cover 195,280 square miles, the largest protected area of ocean.

Conservationists and the White House declared a new era for protection of unique and endangered places in the ocean, opportunities of scientific discovery and an important effort to protect some of the last places where the ocean still looks like the abundant world of centuries or even thousands of years past.

The Marianas Marine National Monument will protect the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth — deeper than Mount Everest is high and explored for the first time only in 1960. The three monuments also protect corals and the ecosystems that include large migratory, resting and feeding sea birds, and endangered animals such as sea turtles.

"To me and the president and first lady, one of the things that really affected us in learning from the scientists is these locations are truly among the last pristine areas in marine environments on Earth," White House Council on Environmental Quality chairman James Connaughton told reporters Monday. "This is a huge day for marine conservation." "The president has given the world a Texas -sized gift," said Diane Regas , manager of the ocean program at the Environmental Defense Fund .

Joshua S. Reichert of the Pew Environment Group said it had taken more than a century to start to protect unique places in the ocean in the way that America has protected its treasured places as natural parks on land.

In 2006, Bush also protected 139,793 square miles in the Papahanaumokuakea Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument . In all, Bush has protected more of the oceans than anyone else in the world, Reichert said. The Marianas Marine National Monument will include the Mariana Trench and a string of volcanoes and thermal vents that create a harsh but thriving ecosystem. The area is also home to 300 species of stony corals and some of the highest fish abundance and diversity in the Mariana Islands, Connaughton said.

The Pacific Remote Islands National Monument will include coral reefs surrounding Kingman Reef , Palmyra Atoll, Howland, Baker and Jarvis islands and Johnston Atoll and Wake Island , home to nesting sea birds and migratory shore birds, corals with hundreds of fish species and endangered turtles.
Rose Atoll Marine National Monument , a remote area off American Samoa , is a "tiny but spectacular" coral reef area also known for rare birds, including petrels, and reef sharks and parrot fish. Humpback and pilot whales and porpoises are frequently found there as well, Connaughton said.

Commercial fishing and recreational fishing will be forbidden within 50 miles of the islands.

Connaughton said scientists gave strong support for going well beyond the three-mile zone, but "much less foundation for going beyond 50." Recreational fishing permits will be considered on a limited basis. The Mariana Trench area will protect the deep ocean, but not the fish in the waters above the rim of the underwater canyon. The protection also means no mining for deep-sea minerals. Studies showed that minerals are not likely in the conservation areas, Connaughton said.

The agreements will protect research and indigenous practices. The military will continue to operate in the monuments.

Scientists say the world's oceans are under assault from overfishing, fertilizer runoff that leaves dead zones, and both warming and acidification as a result of carbon dioxide releases from fossil fuel burning.

Connaughton said there's a bipartisan consensus in favor of better ocean conservation. The bigger agenda will include efforts to end overfishing by 2010, restore money for ocean research and re-examine energy and minerals development and navigation so that conservation isn't thwarted.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of the Ocean Futures Society and son of famed sea explorer Jacques Cousteau, said in a commentary in The Modesto Bee in October, which also was sent to the White House to support the idea of new monuments, that while 72 percent of the Earth is covered by water, "much of its vitality today is threatened." "Ninety percent of the world's large predatory fish are now gone, while pollution and habitat destruction have touched virtually every major body of water," he wrote. "But we are at the frontier of a clear understanding of how to stop the damage as we restore and protect these vital areas and resources, and we have before us the opportunity to protect a truly unique marine ecosystem."

The USA should receive world wide accolades for this declaration.

More marine parks are needed around the world, although Australia has a few. They are nearly always controversial, as most impact on a few entrenched parts of both industry and even recreational users of the area. has been clearly shown that large protected marine areas act as a nursery for many marine creatures and these often move out into adjacent non protected areas, particularly more mobile species - fish, sharks, rays etc.

Hopefully this new area will be protected from illegal fishing, now a significant problem across all of the Pacific Ocean, along with its associated marine imperialism, often emanating from Asia, and directed at the small Pacific island nations.

It might just send a message that the marine areas of the pacific need more protection.

Photos and facts from Pew
Information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on ocean acidification and global warming

Sunday, 4 January 2009

An Awesome Monsoon

The current monsoon burst has been quite special.

While not delivering monstrous amounts of rain in Darwin, the areas about 400kms S have received some big daily falls - 200mm or thereabouts in a few places. That is a serious amount of rain! The north Kimberley has also had a few days with similar amounts, and there are many flooded roads and rivers.

The map photo is not as heavy as last nights cloud cover.......possibly showing a few signs of moving on east. But with the monsoonal cloud almost covering all of Queensland and a big chunk of the NT and NW WA, rain has been widespread.

You can see multiple storms and rain along the Indian Ocean coast of WA. But the monsoonal cloud is moving east, and maybe weather will ease slightly over the next few days.

The size and scope of the monsoon cloud band is stunning. It covers maybe 30 % of Australia, including all of Cape York, and was even larger 24 hours ago.

This link takes you to the current image :

Friday, 2 January 2009

Bromeliads - Beautiful, but at times DEADLY

I am sure you all know the pineapple. Even the expression - "the rough end of a pineapple" and where one may place it, may be familiar. Pineapples are the fruit of a bromeliad. And yes, there are both rough and smooth pineapples - nominally referring to their leaves. Many other bromeliads also have spines, few others have edible fruit.

Many other bromeliads have exquisitely beautiful flowers and / or marked leaves. They can be grown in many parts of the world, but are probably seen at their best in the tropics or subtropics. The range available in Hawaii is very broad, Florida has a wide variety available, as is the range seen in Thailand, and some other parts of Asia. Even tropical Australia has an extensive range available. They are hardy, and tolerant of both overwatering and drought, but thrive best generally in modestly irrigated conditions. But there are some even found in near desert, semi arid conditions.

Spectacular in flower, these specimens are in the front garden in pots. But, once flowered, the plant usually dies, spawning a vegetative pup from the base.

They can be deadly.......some have spines and a few have awfully serrated stiff spiny leaf edges.......definitely to be avoided.

I know they can be a problem, as I developed septicaemia from a broken spine in the finger going septic and infecting the tendon sheath, with an operation to clean it all up and a further five days in hospital . Finished up with a seriously damaged hand that took about a year to repair and enable use of the fingers again. So, take care with them. Avoid the spines!

Would massed plantings along a fence deter intruders? Maybe not, but it sure would give them a hard time of it. admire the plants. The range is enormous. A quick look on Google images will show a wide range of multi coloured leaves and flowers. And they really take minimal time to manage.