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Mt Bryan with a massive cloud front looming

The forecast this weekend was pretty much the same as our last walk. Clearing showers etc. So we prepped for the same type of weather. Two layers of clothing plus our wet weather gear.  So far so good when we arrived. It was cold but the sun was shining. The wind however seemed a little stronger than the forecast of 12 km per hour.  Felt a tad more like 20+. We set off from Dust Hole Creek road heading West along Dare’s Hill Summit road.  We were nice and early this day, after our last walk mishap, we wanted plenty of day light this time. Oh and I have a new friend. A Gamin hand held GPS. I very nearly bought an EPIRB as well, but thought that was being a bit over dramatic.

IMG_0198Although the sun was shining, the wind felt like it was coming straight off the Antarctic, and the cloud front looming large over the mountain did look ominous of things to come.  No sooner had we set a good pace that we stopped for a look at the old Mt Byran school house, which is now a hut for weary travellers. Pretty well equipped, I must add. Cosy rooms with open fire places and a wood stove in the kitchen, and from the look of some of the empty bottles, some had enjoyed themselves there recently.

IMG_0207Not far from here is the house where Sir Hubert Wilkins was born and spent his early years, as well as going to the school we were just in.  Anyone know who he is?  Worth a read I suggest. The most famous unknown South Australian.

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Atop of the Mountain

Another few kms on good roads saw us at the base of Mount Bryan. The wind had not yet abated as we had hoped upon reaching the leeward side. In fact it seemed to be worse. The cold air rushing down the steep slope to meet us head on. The track was narrow but good, and although we appeared to miss a trail marker, we ended up in the right place half way up at a fence.  The map said we were in the right place, but there was no steps over the fence.  Anyway, trudging on up the steeper section of Bryan didn’t seem too challenging, except for the ever present wind.   We found a bit of respite just before the peak, where we had a short break.

The summit is quite broad and had a nice little stone chair to survey “the realm before you”! But no time to waste, especially in “gale” force winds.  The trail follows the fence off the summit, and once again it is not well marked, so keep your wits about you and your map handy.

IMG_0236Pretty easy going from here heading down Bryan.  Just the bitter wind, and rain annoying us to no end, just like that last dinner guest who refuses to leave.  My trusty Gamin kept us on course though, in the thick fog with visibility down to 10 metres or so.  The landscape soon opened up to gentle slopes and broad valleys just as the weather improved. Probably because we were off the mountain and out of the clouds.  The last few kms of day one were on dirt roads heading into Hallett, and very pleasant walking.

IMG_0257Day two started out very wet, very cold, and generally miserable. The rain looked like it had set in for the day, so we opted for a slightly shorter walk, stopping just short of the Brown Hill ranges.

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Cold, wet and miserable

The Hallett Railway Station, which has been converted to a cottage was well maintained. In fact all of the huts we have encountered have been more than adequate for a stay.  We have however, opted for more comfortable lodgings with comfortable beds and hot showers so far. Burra has become our home away from home over the last half dozen walks. Gonna miss the Black Sheep and the Burra pub, but we must press on to new pastures.

Not a lot to see in the rain and the fog today and the landscape is quite benign, so pictures are few.  It did clear up towards the end of this walk. Just in time for us to finish up and head back through the Barossa to pick up some supplies at Kalleske Wines in Greenock. Not enough time though, to drop into  MSV (Murray Street Vineyards) to say hello. Last time we spent quite a few hours there. Some really nice Shiraz, I have to say.

Anyway see what pictures I did take below. Ciao for now.

In Short :

First Day

The Walk :Cnr of Dust Hole Creek rd and Dare’s Hill Summit rd to the Old Hallett Railway station.

Distance : 20 kms

Duration : 4 hours

Pace : 5 km per hour

Terrain : Gentle slopes on roads and tracks. Oh yes and a fricken big mountain.

Best Bit : (and the worst) Mount Bryan of course!

Second Day

The Walk : Old Hallett Railway station to Parker road near Booborowie.

Distance : 18.4 kms

Duration : 3 hours 18 minutes

Pace : 5.6 km per hour

Terrain : Mostly roads and a couple of fields. Pretty flat with easy slopes.

Best Bit : Great view of the windmills at the end of the walk

The rest in Pictures

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Looks fine, but bitterly cold.

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Looking out amongst the clouds

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Hallett Railway Station

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How unlucky can a lizard get. No one travels on this road,

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In a world full of uncertainty, one good decision can be the difference between success and failure.IMG_4887

It is approaching midday, as we once again step into the world of the Heysen Trail. The chilled mist caresses our faces with icy fingers.  The sun briefly warms our souls as it streams through a longed for patch of blue.  The morning coolness, still hanging in the air, treats us without kindness or reserve, but a freshness that leaves you in no doubt that you are indeed, alive. The landscape, brimming green from the recent rains, and the grey skies threatening more this day. Today however, the weather will smile upon us this afternoon, with breaking clouds revealing the vast Aussie blue and the life giving sun. Mount Bryan, still a way off in the distance, looms large, intimidating with it’s sheer presence, silently, but pervasively, dominating our view. Shrouded with stormy clouds every bit the “evil” movie type mountain.

IMG_4885Our walk today though, takes us from Dust Hole Creek Road, to Dust Hole Creek road, and no, we are not walking in circles, but almost. An arc with radius of about 4 kms taking us through the proposed Caroona Creek Conservation Park. 20 odd kms will bring us in direct view of Mount Bryan, with the arduous climb up the mountain to be attempted the following day.

The morning is cold. just the way we like it. Walking at pace gets us warm very quickly, so sub 16°C is just fine by us.  Our walk did not start out well though. We IMG_4900had calculated this stretch at 21kms, but our kindly local driver did not feel confident travelling on the somewhat challenging Dusthole Creek road. So he dropped us on the trail, some 4.5 kms away from our start point.  The distance now became 26+kms. More about this later. Oh yes, all of the photo’s are thanks to Grant. Seems I left my camera at home with an array of other things like the map etc.

We re-traced our steps over the 4.5 kms from the last walk.  Beautiful green rolling hills with great vistas.  We made good time, knowing full well we would have to be quite assertive with our walk today, given the extra distance. Little did we realize how important that would end up being.

IMG_4918We wound our way through scrub and over gentle hill tracks. Quite a few Euros and stumbled across a herd of wild goats. Pity it is frowned upon to carry a gun these days. Fresh goat for dinner would have gone down a treat. Came across a fantastic little gorge in the middle of nowhere. Large smoothed rocks sitting between clear cool pools begging us to strip down and go for a dip.   This part of the trail treks through the proposed Caroona Conservation Park. Smooth creeks beds carve through the hard dry rocky landscape.

picture178The landscape soon changed to a flat plain with dirt roads and tracks. We made good time and soon turned west toward the sun on the final leg of the trek. The sun had just disappeared from view, as we entered the Tourille Gorge. The gorge wound it’s way through steep cliffs and hills in what seemed like an endless journey, in the creek, out of the creek, and into the creek again, with the trail markers getting a harder and harder to find amongst the scrub. The trail is very rough and overgrown in this section, and the area is very inaccessible.

IMG_4915-001The sun had well and truly disappeared behind the hills, it was getting difficult to see. We kept thinking we will emerge any minute now from the gorge and onto the road, but it just never came. It was getting quite dark now, and a near mishap tripping on a protruding branch was a decent indicator how quickly situations can turn.

It must have been about 6pm (on the shortest day of the year), with visibility diminishing by the second, when we realized we had totally lost sight of the trail markers. We did a quick recon either side of the creek to find a marker, but to no avail. We pulled out the map, and with the aide of Grant’s torch, we established the fact that we had no fucking idea where we were!  Now, the thought came to mind that I may have to spend the night in the open, and  probably have to cuddle up to Grant to keep warm!  All of a sudden I became highly motivated to find our way out!

IMG_4921So it was time to take action and change tack.  The things we did know for sure was, that we were still heading west, which was correct,  and the hill on our left was very heavy with scrub.  What remained was either going back, which in the darkness would still be problematic, or going up the right side of the gorge. As well as being the easiest route, it would, we hoped, give us a few more minutes of fading light to gauge our line of sight.  Scrambling up the hill in near darkness was interesting, but we focused and kept on task, keeping the faint glow from the sunset in our sights.

IMG_4910Near the top of the hill we ran into a fence] (literally) and peering intently into the darkness, we made out the light colour of a dirt road.  Yes! We had found civilization! Or that’s what it felt like anyway.  No sooner had we started down the road when we came across a trail marker, too our great surprise and relief.  We knew the road was less than a “K” from the car on the map, so off we strode now in complete darkness, with only star light to show the way.

After about 20 minutes I was thinking this was not right. Had we missed the turn off in the darkness?  Had we emerged at the road way passed our car? I could not be sure of anything at this point.  We trudged on though, with Grant succumbing to darkness and turning on his torch which we were saving till the very last minute of visibility.  We finally came to a T junction and turning left we realized this was the actual road on the map. We had been walking on what looked like only a track on the map and in less than ten minutes we finally arrived at Grant’s car. It was now 6:45. We were tired, cold and getting a little hungry, but very relieved to not be spending the night in the open. The thought of having to cuddle up to Grant in the cold was too much to even contemplate.

IMG_4931Travelling now in the comfort of heated seats, we were only half an hour away from the Burra and our booked restaurant, although we would be a little late, we felt ok.  Our day of drama’s however, were not quite over just yet. Grant heard an intermittent noise in the back, but he just ignored it and drove on.  My skeptical, questioning mind quickly assessed that this was a problem. You see, Grant is very organized and thorough, especially securing luggage etc. I knew it was something not right with the car, so we pulled over.  Sure enough we had a flat tyre.  It was now well after 7pm, and on a dark and lonely road. We changed the tyre with Grant swearing and cursing all the while. Something about “what else could go wrong”.

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The Black Sheep

The evening got better when we finally arrived at the La Pecora Nera (Black Sheep) in Burra, and although we arrived forty five minutes late, Claire was very accommodating allowing us to still order dinner. Needless to say, we decided to cancel the next days walk, instead we spent the evening with a few more drinks in at the Burra pub watching the footy. We capped off the night in front of an open fire in our Paxton Square cottage, before settling in to a soft warm bed.

So the answer to the original question is…. too many to mention, however on this day. Five, but thank goodness for that one right decision.

IMG_4922In Short :

Walk : Southern Dusthole Creek road crossing to the northern Dusthole Creek road crossing, although we actually walked from just before Black Jack’s shelter.

Distance : 25.5 kms (but we walked 31)

Duration : 6.75 hours

Pace : 5.4 km/hr

Terrain : Rolling hills through scrub and scattered rocks. The paths and tracks are mostly good, but some sections are not well marked. The Gorge is easily traversable, but tiring having to watch your footing on the loose stones. The trail markers are very easily missed especially the one that takes you out of the gorge.

Best Part : The “oasis” we found in the middle of nowhere, and of course the pasta and the bottle of red at the Black Sheep.

 

 

IMG_0048Burra. Copper country. Once saviour of the state. Digging ore from the ground, getting a very good rate. Burra creek flowing through, but comical though, because “Burra” means creek as it happens it’s so.  So Creek creek in our modern tongue. Lack of creativity perhaps, or a satirical joke being sprung.

Believe it or not, when copper was mined, Burra had more people than Brisbane and Perth both combined. Who woulda thought?  History abounds, in this sleepy little town. Cornish and Scottish heritage, and the mines in the ground.

Our 14k hike from the Paxton of Square,  by the creek in town in the fresh country air.  The first of two days, and the first for the season.  A big test for our legs. Fit and lean, or tired and beaten.

IMG_0040The town with it’s flavour, distracts just a little.  Perusing  the old, with pack walls and odd kibble.  Missed the turn off we did and realising our state, returned to the path with quickening gait.  After getting somewhat lost a few times in last year, we are a little more disciplined and less cavalier.

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Product placement? Where’s my cheque?

Once out of the town, the road wandered through, the fields of short grass, and up the steep hill. The first day a warm up, without such great challenge. Taking it easy this day, so as not to inflict damage. The quest that we face on the following day. A bit longer stroll , a “mere” 24 k.

Now, in the past , two cars did we take. One for the end and one for the start. But after my mishap with my less than “off roady”. This time we used, Ken.  The one and the only.  He went with us to the end, where we left Grant’s car, then took us off to the start point, at Paxton Square. Travelling up in one car, was the best from my view, except Grant had to bear the ramblings I spew.

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“Ken of Burra”

Ken “of Burra”, knows the area quite well, and got us right up to date.  There was nothing he wouldn’t tell. Local goss, and the farms, and the wildlife too.  He promised a wombat, but all we got was kangaroo.  Our first end point was Tiliqua Reserve.  Where a a young Uni student was there to observe.  Conducting research on the Pigmy (with a) Blue Tongue.   This chicky was living in the middle of grass, and dung.  Good luck to her and her study, I do say.  Didn’t realise we had Pigmy Blue Tongues, here in this way.

IMG_0093The Morse cottage in Burra we stayed for the night, popping into the Commercial, later, for a bite. The Black Sheep unfortunately, was fully booked, but maybe next time, we’ll get in early, and a fine meal will be cooked.  It comes recommended from many I know. Looking forward to the pasta and maybe a nice red, from bordeaux.   The open fire at Morse of which Grant, (the pyromaniac) loved to poke, throwing on more wood, as the fire he stoked.

IMG_0072Second day we were up nice and early, and after a well cooked breakfast, we were off hurly burly.  Met Ken at White Hill Rd, near the end of the day’s walk. In the middle of nowhere beneath circling hawks. Dust Hole Creek Road is in a state of decay, with pot holes like canyons and the verge fading away.  It is traversable by most, perhaps in the dry, but I would not recommend it without a 4 wheel drive. Some of the creek crossings we edged close to the brink.  Grant’s all wheel drive is a bare minimum I think.

IMG_0146Ken promised a Wombat we would see on this walk. Is he right on the money? Or is it all just his talk.  A Wombat photo will add nicely to my lot, of Aussie close quarters, animal shots.  We saw rabbits and Roo’s, and a few Kites hunting too.  But try as we did over hill and in dale, my elusive quest for Wombat did fail. So Ken if you read this, we’ll see you again, and I’ll be wanting my Wombat from you on the trail.

IMG_0105My inlaw, Michael, who is well ahead on this trail, warned me of the heart breaking hills, on which we could  fail. Up and down we went, hill after hill.  Although knowing it prior, did not help us at all!

IMG_0133-001Grazing country this is, with very few trees. Grant thought of  bald heads, closely shaved if you please.  But my mind wanders off, to a sight better, I suggest, to nothing less, than a woman’s full breast.  A much better sweet vision on a 24k walk, than old men’s heads, lacking of locks!  The sun was quite warm, with a coolness of air, making for perfect weather, for walking I swear.

IMG_0136The smooth bald terrain soon turned into scrub, and after resting at Black Jack’s, we set off, on the last leg. Passing red creeks and flora, and homesteads long gone. Mount Bryan looming large, while we currently push on.  Emerging round a bend, down the valley below,  was the beauty of Grant’s car, shining  in the sun’s glow.  Tired legs and sore feet, as we unclip our gear, flip open the eski, for a well deserved beer.   So our first walk for Forteen, has been done in two days, seeing off Burra’s bald hills, over 37 k’s.

In Short :

Day One :

Distance : 15.1 kms

Duration : 3 hours 1 min

Pace : 5.0 kph

Day Two :

Distance : 21.9 kms

Duration : 4 hours 10 mins

Pace : 5.3 kph

Terrain : Rolling hills through grazing land, and good dirt roads. Hills are not huge but are many with one section, hill after hill after hill.

Best Part :  Meeting the legend, Ken of Burra.  Heading into more interesting countryside with natural bush, creeks and Mount Bryan in distance. Also seeing some Kites circling for dinner. Not quite close enough to get a good photo, and yet to identify it, Black, Square tailed, or Whistling Kite. Any suggestions? (see photo below).

The rest in pictures.

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Which Kite is this?

Which Kite is this?

 

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Another Heysen victim?

 

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I made my very own climate hockey stick.

I am an aspiring climate scientist, and as such I thought I might learn from the most famous climate scientist in the world.  Michael Mann. Professor Mann’s methodology seemed pretty straight forward. Take tree ring data as a proxy for temperatures over thousands of years and add the measured temperatures on to the end. Simple!

It just so happens some very nice people here in Australia did a tree ring temperature reconstruction that I could use.  Awesome!

Some Huon Pine trees from Mount Read in Tasmania were used for the tree ring data. Mount Read also has a weather recording station so the data should match up pretty well.

So here it is, but it looks a little different from Professor Mann’s graph. Did I do something wrong?

 

 

Tasmanian Temperature Reconstruction

/Sarc off

 

Please note:  All data is real (except for the years 1992 to 1996. No data available, so just joined the “dots”). Months used were November to April. “The warm months”.

Tasmanian Temperature Reconstruction, 1600BC to 1991 AD.  Cook E.R., D’Arrigo R.D., Buckley B.M., and Peterson M.J.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s003820050006#page-2

ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/treering/reconstructions/tasmania/tasmania_recon.txt

Temperature data Mount Read 1997 to 2011 – Bom

http://www.bom.gov.au/jsp/ncc/cdio/weatherData/av?p_nccObsCode=36&p_display_type=dataFile&p_startYear=&p_c=&p_stn_num=097085

JTF62

Kirbati is going to drown! Or maybe not.

Kiribati, just like many other small islands, is frequently used to illustrate the “devastation” that sea level rise is causing (or will cause) from climate change. The only problem is that the data doesn’t support the rhetoric.

I’ve  been tracking Kiribati sea level for a while now, but this time when updating my data, I thought I would check  all stations available from Bom and from PSMSL for Kiribati. I down loaded the mean sea level data from 5 separate stations with good overlap stretching back to 1949. Using the most consistent data, I have adjusted each data set for differing locations using 1804 station as my base, and using the average difference on the overlaps to recalculate a long record.

Here are the five original data sets from Kiribati

Kiribati Sea Level 5 stations 1949 to 2013

 

The trends of each tide gauge is interesting too. Some going up, some going down, and the longest two of the five, are as flat as the Hay Plain.

Kiribati Sea Level 5 stations 1949 to 2013 with trend

Once the other stations are normalised to the 1804 station, we get a better picture of what has happened over the entire record.  Although there are many variables in comparing different locations, this at least gives a decent indication of what is going on over a longer time frame.

Kiribati Sea Level 5 stations 1949 to 2013 normalised to 1804

So here it is. A composite reconstruction from the various tide gauges around the Kiribati Island group with the indicated trend.

Kiribati Sea Level 5 stations 1949 to 2013 final with trend

So we get a positive trend over this period, and yes, the ocean level has risen, but not by very much. Less than 1mm per year (0.8mm). This is a much reduced rate compared to what I calculated a year ago (1.52mm).  So the long term rate has reduced dramatically, and will continue to fall if the current 12 year negative trend continues. It will be interesting to watch as a possible El Nino develops this year.  They tend to produce very low sea levels around the west Pacific Islands.

 

kiribati sea level 2001 to 2014 10 mm neg trend v2

Of course no one really knows where it will head next, however one thing is for sure, there is absolutely no correlation to atmospheric carbon dioxide, and particularly the human contribution.

JTF62

To all you pessimists and gloom and doomers.

Hans Rosling Dont Panic with title

Hans Rosling presents.

JTf62

Time to make the cost of Energy an election issue.

South Australians pay the most for Electricity in Australia and is amongst the dearest in the world.  This does not have to be and we can do something about it. We have a state election coming up here in South Australia, and this should be the major election issue.

Brief History

1946.  ETSA established by premier Tom Playford by nationalising the Adelaide Electric Supply Company (AESC) in 1946. AES was a private company based in London. See Wikipedia

Energy prices continue a steady decline post war to mid 1990’s and among the cheapest in the world at that time.

Electricity history S.A. collage

1993. Sagasco sold to Boral. The State Bank collapse ensured many government owned institutions would go.

1994.  Australian Federal Government recommends deregulation and privatisation of the energy market.

elictricity prices history excerpt

1998. South Australia joins the National Electricity Market (NEM)

1999. ETSA sold to Hong Kong Electric Holdings.

2000. Torrens Island Power station sold to Texas Utilities (TXU). Electranet lease sold to consortium of Qld, Hong Kong and other businesses.

2001. Renewable target (20%) agreed to by Federal and State governments.

2003. Wind farms start being built in S.A. Do they do any good? Read this if you think so.

2004. Australian governments signed the Australian Energy Market Agreement,  which set out the reform agenda for national governance arrangements, electricity transmission, user participation and gas market developments.

2005. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is established and eventually takes over the responsibilities of the state based energy regulators.

2007. AGL buys Torrens Island power station

 2008. Solar feed in tariffs introduced in S.A.

2009. AEMO commenced operations.  Revenue comes from generators, retailers, and others  in the energy sector. AEMO’s budgeted net revenue for 2011–12 is $161.9M. Costs  are ultimately passed onto consumers, of course.

2011. Wind Farms now produce more than 20% of S.A.’s electricity and a report on household electricity shows how prices have sky-rocketed. Almost the dearest in the developed world.

electricity price rises Aus 81 to 2011

2012. Electricity prices in other countries.

electricity prices around the world 2012

Which sectors get what from your bill:

AER electricity $ breakdown

Sample of who gets your hard earned cash is going:

S.A. Power Networks profit 2011/12 = $306 million.

AGL Profit 2012/2013 = $598.3 million (national)

Origin Profit 2012/13 = $760 million (national)

Tru Energy Profit 2011 = 1031.3 million (EBITDAF)

Some of the impacts of high energy costs:

More people dying. A new study by the Adelaide University showed more cold related deaths in South Australia than in Sweden. Sweden?  Really!  Probably nothing to do with people cutting back on expensive energy, would it.

Over 10,000 businesses closed in 12 months. 12% higher than during the GFC with more to come. (Eg. Holdens) due to their lack of viability (costs versus income). Electricity being one of the major cost factors.

25,000 jobs lost in S.A. in the last 12 months.

Electricity defaults increased to 10,000 homes in South Australia in the 2012/13 financial year.

Homelessness increases 8% in 5 years in Australia. As of 2011 there are over 100,000 homeless people in Australia.

How about just the fact that we  have less money to spend in our local economy.

Add to the list in comments. Love to see more.  I am sending this info to all the Politicians I can.

Ultimately I would rather see electricity re-nationalised and remain so, as a basic human need.  As water should be also for that matter. (It is currently being considered for sale as well). But even if this is un-realistic at this stage, our governments can help to reduce the cost. They have got the power to change the status quo if they choose too. Please help them make that decision. Write your local member now.

JTF62

The Bom and NOAA appear to only forecast either flat or positive conditions. Ie. heading towards El Nino. Only very rarely do they forecast negative values, and I have never seen them forecast a La Nina. Those  climate models seem to have such a “positive” attitude, it continues to come out in their forecasts!

Have they ever forecast a La Nina?

JTF62

Temp gauge F

How the temperature gauge would have looked on 12th Jan 1939

“Adelaide to set a new high temperature record.” There has been a lot of talk lately in  Australia about temperature records of the hot kind.  Here in Adelaide we were supposed to surpass the “all time” highest day time temperature, which is listed as 46.1° C, set on the 12th Jan  1939.

The other day, one of my more senior customers was chatting to me about this (he brought it up btw), and said he remembered that day, as he was sitting a Uni exam at the time. He remembers the media on the following day stating it had reached 117° F.

Now, the official record from Bom says the highest recorded daytime temperature for Adelaide is  46.1°C (114.98°F) as stated above, however the Adelaide Advertiser news paper for the day after the 12th  shows the maximum temperature as being 117.7° F  for the 12th of Jan 1939 (see below), which translates to 47.6°C.  1.5°C above the currently listed record.

Synoptic chart 13th Jan 1939

So it seems my very astute customer’s memory was quite correct. Thanks  Lyall. Not bad memory for 75 years ago.

My next question is though, why is the reported temperature from 1939 so different from the current Bom official record?

Seems, the Bom likes to alter the official records from the past, in many locations including  Adelaide, and they all appear to be lower than the original raw data.  The collection of weather  data was collected meticulously at the West Tce Bureau of Meteorology site from the 1800s right up to the late 1900s.

So, when is a record not a record? When you have the power to change the past it would appear.  

             

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell1984 

JTF62

Fixing Kids Vision in China

IMG_2720Have you ever been to a rural province in China? Have you ever helped 3,000 kids to see, and have you ever met up with 33 international volunteers whom you have never before met to do the above?  Well, I can now say that I have.

IMG_2660Yulin is a rural city in the mid north of China. Mostly dry and sandy. The local soil is Loess, hundred+ metres thick, blown in from Mongolia centuries before, apparently, covering the entire region.  Half a million people live in this remote city in China with well over a million more in the surrounding counties.  Agriculture has been the staple in this region, however in more recent years coal and oil has brought prosperity to many, with accompanying development. Health professionals, like Optometrists or Ophthalmologists, are few and far between though, let alone spectacle shops.  Combine this with a negative cultural attitude regarding wearing specs, and the obvious visual needs, and this sets the stage for a lot of work to be done.  It is the view of many in this area that anyone wearing specs must be “defective”, so kids don’t like to wear them and parents only see their kids being dis-advantaged if they are seen to be wearing them.

IMG_2457OneSight is a charity supported by Luxottica and it’s employees to bring vision care and vision correction to those who cannot afford specs, or just do not have access to Optometrists .  Having supported OneSight for many years now, I was given the opportunity to participate in this international clinic to China. Even given that I have skills to contribute to vision care anywhere in the world, I still feel very privileged to have been chosen for the clinic team.

36 people from 10 different countries along with local volunteers and in partnership with REAP (Regional Education Action Program), examined the eyes of 3,600 students and teachers from 26 odd schools, producing onsite 3,000 pairs of spec’s. Some to be worn by students for the first time.   The reaction was at times, one of great surprise and sometimes even shock.

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Hotel in the middle of nowhere.

But before we got there, we had to endure 26 hours in 4 planes and 5 airports, before we arrived at Yulin Airport, ready for another 2 hours on a bus to a hotel in the middle of nowhere. Well, not nowhere, but nowhere near anything else except the massive oil refinery.  The reason it’s there is because there is no other decent accommodation for visiting business people and VIP’s.  There reason why we were there is because it is the closest accommodation to our first school.

The first drop was easy. I needed a crow bar to get the second lid open!

The first drop was easy. I needed a crow bar to get the second lid open!

The days were filled with pretesting eyes, dilating pupils and checking their intra ocular pressures, and of course testing their vision and fitting them up for specs. Except those who ended up not needing too much correction, then we gave them “cool” (“coo” in Mandarin) sunglasses. We checked the kids eyes in this school as well as many who were bussed in from other schools in the province.

No real idea what the hell this was. A pumpkin filled with ?????

No real idea what the hell this was. A pumpkin filled with ?????

The food of which many of us were a bit wary, was to my taste, absolutely fantastic! Albeit unconventional, with pretty much the same food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, I have to admit that my internals hadn’t been this good for about 10 years!  Good fresh, unprocessed, fibrous food. Beans, rice, noodles, tofu, that mashed potato stuff with the green in it, and various other unknown and indescribable food stuffs. Many of which I was not game to ask what it was. Everything went down, and nothing came back up, so all good. The same can not be said for the locally brewed alcohol. Wine and spirits, I can say they do not do well. Just as well the beer was ok, and later on we found some JW scotch at a (believe or not) 711 in Yulin.

It's just a "weed".

It’s just a “weed”.

Interesting sights along the roads we saw. Oil refinery, wind farms, solar farms, all next to each other, and a “billion” or so coal trucks. Oh and then there was the small fields of hemp growing adjacent the road.  Not sure if it is legal here but no one seems to be concerned about it.  Saw some “weed” growing on the footpath about 50 metres from the hotel. Very interesting, and I did not take the suggestion at the time to pocket a sample.

Working with a bunch of people from all over the world with similar skills and the same passion for helping people to see, is a quite extra-ordinary feeling.  Different cultures, different languages, and different personalities, would normally be a recipe for conflict and division, but here in mid north China, I see nothing but care, commitment for the job at hand, and a bit of fun thrown in to keep things enjoyable. Makes for an amazing experience.

IMG_2663Then there was shopping. Oh my. The locals of which some I am sure had never seen a European person before, were very surprised and entertained by our appearance and by our definite lack of language skills, in particular when I attempted to actually pronounce something in Mandarin.  Many of the shop keepers even got photo’s with us. We were like rock stars! Every where we went we attracted a crowd with many getting a sneaky phone pic, and occasionally some of the more brave locals asked for a photo with us. So cool. We felt very special in China. Funny, that when I was finally back in Sydney airport, I felt a little ordinary. Just one more Caucasian in a land of many.

IMG_2232NOTE : REAP (Rural Education Action Program) is a part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences which conducts social policy experiments to improve educational outcomes. This project, of which we are a part, is designed to measure the impact of proper vision on school outcomes.  55% of the students in the study have imperfect vision. Only 20% of those students currently have glasses. Some of which are not correctly prescribed.  The control group will receive their prescribed specs about 1 semester after the rest of the students.

For further reading : Onesight Yulin blog, and if you want to get involved in helping people see, go to  OneSight for Australia, or OneSight for the rest of the world.

JTF62

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