Sunday, December 27, 2009

On Top of Old Tassie

David and I spent a quiet Christmas at home, and then headed out to Mt. Field National Park for boxing day. This is the most visited park in Tasmania, partially due to its proximity to Hobart (about 70 km), and partially due to its stunning and easily-accessible scenery. A flat, easy and lovely 2 km walk will get you to Russell Falls and, at night, a large colony of tree-dwelling glow worms. This inland rainforest is also home to some of the tallest hardwood trees in the world…300+ year-old swamp gums towering 250+ feet above the creek beds.


Those willing to drive 15 km up a winding gravel road are treated to the easiest possible trip into Tasmania’s alpine. Yesterday we hiked around a series of high, glacial lakes called tarns, enjoying the sun and the unique plant life. Back to work tomorrow, unfortunately.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Signal Station

Last weekend we stayed close to home, largely so that I could stay close to indoor plumbing.  I have eaten street food in countries all over the world and never gotten sick, but what happens when I come to Australia?  Food poisoning.  We’re talking six solid hours of vomiting and liquid diarrhea…I have never been so sick in my life.  We have no clue what the culprit was (David was fine, thankfully), but the whole experience left my body suspicious of food for days to come.

On Sunday I was feeling good enough for a hike, so we headed up to the Signal Station on Mt. Nelson (another hump, but not so grandly talked-up that it deserves to be humbled).  You get a great view of Hobart, the Derwent River and its outlet to the sea from Mt. Nelson, and the peak was used to communicate with boats at sea in a variety of ways throughout the 1800s.  For me the most fascinating was the sephamore, which is a tall pole with a series of arms that could be mounted a different angles.  Each arrangement was linked to a number that was subsequently linked to a phrase in a giant book of phrases.  Things like “shall we put on some tea?” and “there is a flu going around”.  Every boat that was any boat would have had one of these books, as did all of the similar signal stations.  It must have been a simultaneously sad and happy day when Mt. Nelson got its first telephone.

Signal Station

Sephamore in Action


Last Message

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hump Wellington

It was cloudy when David and I first arrived in Hobart, but folks kept enthusiastically telling us about Mount Wellington, assuming that we’d be awed by its presence looming over the city once the skies cleared.  On the first blue day we spotted a rocky outcrop in the distance and agreed that it simply couldn’t be MOUNT Wellington, but a passerby set us straight – that was, indeed, the pride of Hobart.  We tried to subdue our laughter until she was out of earshot.  Here it is (from Wikipedia) in all of its…er…glory:

hump wellington

Granted, it felt a little more mountainous when we were climbing up it last weekend.  Somewhere close to here I vowed never to denigrate it with the name HUMP Wellington again:

dp going up

I guess I had my fingers crossed behind my back, since I have continued to call it Hump Wellington ever since.  It did, however, offer up our first (of four so far) echidna sighting.  This is all that was left by the time David grabbed his camera:

echidna bum

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You Shall Not Pass

Tasmania, formerly known as Van Dieman’s Land, started its modern history as a British penal colony.  Some of the very worst offenders were sent to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula, which is attached to the rest of the island by a very narrow strip of land called Eaglehawk neck.  During the penal heyday (1830-1860) this strip of land was guarded by fences, soldiers and vicious dogs, tied just out of reach of one another.  We drove down the peninsula yesterday to take a look around, but didn’t visit Port Arthur itself, since admission is relatively expensive – we’ll save it as something to do when the parents come to visit.  We did, however, stop at Eaglehawk Neck where I got these interesting pictures.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Deck the Halls…

…with rugs of horror. While in Tasmania I am working at the Menzies Research Institute. Until this week everyone associated with the MRI was distributed amongst several different centers around Hobart, but the institute has now started to amalgamate in a large, new, and not-quite-complete building. Our group, one of the first to move, arrived on Wednesday. Most of my co-workers had been in the building once or twice before, and everyone warned me (the newbie) about this:


The camera in my iPhone doesn’t do it justice. The walls are a dayglo chartreuse and the carpets look like a multicoloured ECG gone haywire. Furthermore, every group of desks has a cluster of cables that disappears into the ceilings. Resistance is futile.


My desk is perfectly grey and functional, and slightly curious because it shares a wall with the uber secure cancer registry. Therefore I can make faces at the girl who sits across from me (and vice versa) but we cannot have an actual conversation. Rather like being in a fish bowl, I imagine. Note the space-ship-like windows. The whole operation looks like a Borg ship from the outside as well.