Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Arctic lego

Aaron bought "us" some of the newly released Arctic lego for our 9th wedding anniversary present. This afternoon we opened the first box and made the ice breaker and various accessories including a helicopter, a snowplough, a skidoo, a dogsled with 4 huskies and a laboratory with a scientist -  complete with computer, microscope, hand lens, and sample jar. We had some help from a 4 year old lego expert - our friend Thomas.

Thomas, Aaron and Barbara (Thomas's mum) building the lego


A great way to spend a damp and cold, wintery afternoon. Tomorrow we'll build the plane.. (after Aaron has finished his uni work).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

School Holidays

I have finished my first semester, so now I have two weeks break before the next semester starts. Things were moving at a glacial pace the first month of school then the pace picked up quite rapidly during the last few weeks. I have several assignments that are due when I start back and an exam. So while I am on holidays, it doesn't feel like it with so much hanging over my head when I start back up again.

I did take a couple of days off and headed up to Rotorua to do some mountain biking. It had been raining quite a bit a the first day and I was nearly swallowed up by a bog that was much deeper than it looked. The second day I decided to head up to the coast and have a look around as I had not been there before.

Kaituna Falls
On the way I stopped at Kaituna Falls. Evidently it is a fairly popular waterfall to raft over. I didn't see anyone doing while I was there - must be more of summer thing. it doesn't look like it in the photo but it is supposed to be a 6m fall.

Entrance to the harbour at Whakatane

Ohope Beach
Time to head home so of course the rain stops and the sun comes out. It was very cold though. The shady sides of the trails were covered in ice. I managed to stay upright the whole time; not sure how though.

Of course this is my last day...

The Desert Road was closed due to snow, so I had to go around the west side of the volcanoes. Makes the trip a bit longer but gave me a chance to look at some land for sale near Ohakune. We have been toying with the idea of buying some land and building a cabin up near the volcanoes for a while.

Road closed
 This one didn't look to bad and  it was even protected by a herd of vicious alpacas.

Alpaca attack!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The magic of Mungo

One of the main draw cards of holding the Australasian Quaternary Association conference in Mildura was the chance to visit the Willandra Lakes and in particular the World Heritage Area of Lake Mungo. The trip was very special as we were accompanied by several elders representing the traditional owners of the land and the scientists that have been uncovering the discoveries of the area and as a result we were allowed to go to areas that are out of bounds for the tourists. As a result we ended up with over 100 people and a large convoy of vehicles.
The convoy

We started with a special smoking ceremony at the visitor centre and meeting place. We then headed to Joulni – the area where the burials of Mungo man and woman were uncovered by the erosion of the sand dunes by wind and rain. These were found by Jim Bowler and have been dated to around 40,000 years. We then headed to an ongoing archaeological  excavation by Nikki Stern’s group. They are very carefully excavating some hearths to see what the aboriginals were eating – a mixture of fish and small vertebrates. The sedimentological context of all these archaeological sites have also been studied to provide the age and the environmental conditions. We also visited the footprints that were discovered in 2005.
The smoking ceremony

Joulni - the location of the first stake is where Mungo Man was uncovered
The ongoing archaeological dig, excavating some hearths to find out what aboriginals ate 20,000 years ago

The site of the footprints from 20,000 years ago, now covered to protect it from erosion

I visited Mungo about 10 years ago, and it was very different this time as it was a lot more lush and green - although the lakes are still dry! It was great to see all the new work going on in the area, expanding the original story and making more sense of the aboriginal occupation of the area when the lakes were full or fluctuating.

It is quite a beautiful and fascinating place - I highly recommend a visit. It is clearly a very special place for Australians and I am sure it will increase in its importance with the new archaeological finds and paleo-climatological studies. 
Some of the residuals of the lunette over looking "lake" Mungo

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Quaternary conference in Mildura, Australia

I arrived in Melbourne very early in the morning. Unfortunately I hadn’t slept very much on the flight. A few of us were picked up by one of the buses and were driven up to Mildura with a few stops along the way to look at historical and geological features... we were roughly following the Burke and Wills route. After a lot of flat, straight roads, past lots of fields and eucalypts, and salty lakes we arrived in the heaving metropolis of Mildura.... 
The Burke and Wills Route

Dead trees due to the high salinity of the lakes

The Sealake salt company - harvesting salt and gypsum from the lakes

Mildura is the result of large scale irrigation scheme set up by the Chaffey Brothers siphoning water from the river Murray. This allows fruit to be grown, specifically oranges and grapes - the latter to make sultanas, raisins and currants out of. I went for a wander along the river and around town before the conference started.
The river Murray

Rio Vista - the Chaffey house, now the art gallery

The next few days we had a whole range of talks covering topics of archaeology, dunes, lakes, changing climate, management, Antarctica, and much more. 

The conference dinner was held on a paddle boat on the Murray River that runs past Mildura. 
One of the many paddle boats on the Murray River

Half way through the week we went on a little field trip in the afternoon to Kings Billabong and Psyche Bend – named after a paddle steamer, but why was the paddle steamer named Psyche? This was a billabong that they pumped river water into using a large steam engine, to store it for irrigation. However, it has created a super saline and acidic wet land (pH of 3).

Kings Billabong - one of the many wetlands along the Murray River

Psyche Bend - with lots of dead trees killed by the corrosive and saline waters

The old pumps that used to pump water from the Murray River into Psyche Bend lagoon