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Fremantle and a sunset

sunny 83 °F

I wandered down to Fremantle, about half an hour by car south of my Arbnb in Innaloo. On the way I stopped at a beach to sample the Western Australia beach lifestyle. Perth shares a lot of climatic and geographic features with Southern California and likewise folks are pretty actively involved in outdoor beach activities. Here are a few beach shots.

Some young folks taking lifeguard rescue training.


A triathalon training club hard at work


Of course, some surfing


and sailing


Setting aside the temptation to swim 5 miles, I proceeded to Fremantle to have brunch.


Very tasty - corn fritters with poached eggs guacamole and greens!

Fremantle is an old trading town that had a boom during the Australian Gold Rush. As a result of its decline, a lot of the old buildings were preserved through neglect but have been beautifully restored in recent years. Here's a streetscape; several other streets look equally good.


There is also a thriving art scene and lots of galleries, some in restored freight warehouses.


After much wandering on a very warm day, a frosty beverage was called for. This brings up another feature of Perth - it is an expensive city. Food is pretty costly (though tipping is not usual, which helps) - this pint cost me about $10 US. It was a pretty good IPA, not a hop monster, hand drawn so it was not over carbonated, but, unfortunately, a bit too cold for my taste. However, by sitting very quietly and drinking very slowly, I manged to choke it down :) .


To end the day I headed north along the coast. As sunset approached, I decided I needed to find a beach to see my first Indian Ocean sunset. Fortunately, I ran across Tom Simpson beach more or less at random and hustled out to the beach. I made it with maybe 2 minutes to spare, and got some pretty nice images. Here are a couple.


Wandered a bit farther up the coast and had a nice bite to eat at an outdoor table at Burns Beach. Nice way to end the day.

Posted by tdeits 04:19 Archived in Australia Tagged food sunset beach perth fremantle Comments (1)

Roaming the outback and back

sunny 78 °F

Well, I don't know if it's officially the Outback, but I did head north out of Perth for a day of visiting the countryside. The first random thing I did was head off on a side road from the main highway lured by a sign for the Western Australia Gravity University Research Center. Of course, my first thought was of a bunch of scientists standing around with an apple going "yup, it does fall down even though we are on the wrong side of the world-how does that work?" Alas, I had foolishly neglected the Iron Law of Public Places and after about a 20 mile drive I found that the Center was closed on Mondays.

The good news was that I was in some pretty undisturbed country by the time I got there


so I took the opportunity to roam around. It appeared to be the height of wildflower season if you looked closely! There were dozens of kinds of wildflowers, some quite spectacular


but the great majority were quite small and hidden, but still beautiful. Reminded me of California desert wildflowers in that way.



There were also a variety of unusual plants that made it clear I wasn't in Kansas any more.


Up the road, in contrast, is the Australian wheat belt.


I pressed on, enjoying the view and happening upon the occasional oddity like this -


My goal was Nambung National Park, home of the Pinnacles formation. And it was worth the trip


There are thousands of these things all sticking out of the desert - how they were formed is still unclear.


There were pinnacles of all shapes and sizes. Here's a small one - a 'minnicle'?


And, of course, the really small ones are nanicles....


Another really cool feature of the area is a highly saline lake, Lake Thetis, which is the home of some stromatolites.


These are mats of bacteria that develop through a combination of accretion and expansion caused by gasses welling up from below. The coolest things about stromatolites is that this life form can be found in the fossil record over 3.5 billion years ago - currently the earliest record of life on Earth. So the picture above would look pretty much the same billions of years ago! (Except for the sky color - oxygen levels were likely lower so the sky and water wouldn't look so blue - the photographers of 3.5 billion years ago would have had to use paleo-Photoshop to get this nice blue color.)

Hit the beach for the usual spectacular sunset and headed home


Posted by tdeits 14:55 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset outback pinnacles wildflowers Comments (0)


semi-overcast 76 °F

Today my plan is to visit the Western Australia Museum and Art Gallery. I took the train downtown; took about 20 minutes. First stop, downtown Perth. It's a clean, modern city with a lot of arcades, malls and plazas.


A very walkable community with public transit, both underground and surface rail, very accessible.

The Museum was, frankly, a bit of a disappointment. It suffered from Dead Zoo syndrome.


There was a pretty good exhibition on the evolution of animal life; one item I particularly liked was this fossil of a coelecanth.


To their credit, there is a sign that says they have embarked on a $346 million project to create an entirely new museum by 2020.

Despite some rather old fashioned features, there was a quite extensive and fairly unblinking gallery describing the history of European/aboriginal relations. Sadly, relations oscillated between half-hearted attempts to establish rights for aboriginals and increasingly Draconian measures to control them, segregate them and ultimately attempt to extinguish their culture. Lots of resonances with the experiences of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples unfortunately. It took me several hours to take the whole thing in and give it some thought.

After that fairly heavy dose of history, I roamed across to the Art Gallery of Western Australia across the plaza. There I discovered a blatant violation of the Iron Law of Museum Closings - they are closed on Tuesday !!??!!


This was such a stunning development that all I could do was randomly wander for a few hours to end the day. Here's an example of the classic Perth hotel/bar. There are many similar ones all over Perth and Fremantle.


I also ran across this interesting bit of street art which I call "Evolution of the bloke."


Finally, I headed up to King's Park above the city around twilight. There is a beautiful garden of Australian plants, many of which were in full bloom. A bit too dark to get good pictures, unfortunately. I did run across this tree - an Australian version of the baobab tree of Madagascar called the boab.


I did some brief research on this tree. Signs in the park suggest that it is a species that was isolated from the Madagascar baobab when the supercontinent Godwana broke up about 100 million years ago. This appears to be inconsistent with the very close genetic relationship between the boab and the baobob. The strongest current theory is that humans brought the boab to Australia during their migrations 50-60 thousand years ago. This is also consistent with some recent genetic studies that suggest there was a human genetic contribution to the indigenous population from Indian Ocean populations about this time. There is also evidence that the yams eaten in the South Pacific have a genetic contribution from South American yams, suggesting the possibility of yet another ancient cross-ocean interaction among early peoples. I think that is super cool.

I got an extra bonus when trying to get a photo of the baobab -


A pair of rainbow lorikeets were nesting in the tree and one kindly showed up for a photo before bedding down for the night.

Once again, sunset arrived in style and another day comes to an end.


Posted by tdeits 03:13 Archived in Australia Tagged trees birds sunset history downtown perth aboriginal Comments (0)

Adventures on Rottnest Island

sunny 80 °F

Today my AirBnb host Susanne and I headed off for Rottnest Island, a popular tourist destination about 20 miles off the coast near Perth.

More about the history of the island later. We took Rottnest Fast Ferries and rented bikes from them as well. After a smooth 45 minute ride we arrived at the island. We headed down the road.


The coastline is quite nice, with rolling hills and lots of small bays. It was pretty breezy as well.


Here's Susanne and me (the lopsided one)


The island was called Rottnest by the Dutch but it isn't inhabited by rats, but rather by a cool little critter, the quogga

Here's one


and here are two - they are very used to people (and being fed, I bet) and these guys were hanging out by a picnic table; obviously highly intelligent animals - Yogi Bear class!


We also ran across an osprey nest on a rock just offshore and later saw the osprey on the wing.


Our goal was Green Island, a wildlife sanctuary with an offshore island to provide a bit of shelter.


We had brought snorkel gear and although the water was in the 'you'll get used to it' category, we had a very pleasant swim. Underwater it was mostly seagrass and some nice sized fish. Quite pretty, but I decided not to pack my gopro this trip. I figured I would miss it maybe once or twice and this is definitely one of those times. Just one of those tough calls to try and keep the luggage under control.

After a swim we warmed up on the beach - unfortunately we spent a bit too much time so we were at some risk of missing the last ferry off the island. We started heading back and I suggested we take a shortcut across the island. Miracle of miracles, it actually turned out to be an excellent guess and we made it back with a bit of time to spare. Off on the boat back to Perth and another mighty fine day.


Posted by tdeits 04:20 Archived in Australia Tagged beach australia island snorkel perth rottnest quogga Comments (0)

More Perth

and Science!

sunny 79 °F

I took another day to explore Perth. I had two goals; one to visit the Perth Art Gallery and the other to visit Scitech, Perth's hands-on science museum. Science first, naturally!

Scitech is a very nice facility, probably a bit larger than Impression 5 in Lansing, but then it serves a metro region of about 1.25 million folks. Here are a couple of shots of some of the activties


The air cannon target shows the air vortex from the cannon pretty clearly and the hive is fun to watch. The tube to the outside is full of bees coming and going; I watched for a while and I don't think I ever saw a bee change her plans and reverse direction. They also bump heads with oncoming bees almost every time; I'm guessing it's a recognition thing.

I thought this was quite a cool activity. It uses a projector and some clever software to create a live contour map of the material in the table below.

They have a new exhibit coming called Innovation Central


so naturally I chatted with some of the staff about this exhibit, which it turns out will be an exhibition of innovative items. I learned a new word as well; Chindōguz, which is Japanese for completely useless inventions designed to solve real-world problems. They will be a major facet of the new exhibit. We also had a chance to talk about our Innovation 5 project and agreed that keeping kids engaged as they age out of traditional science museum activities is a worldwide challenge.

There was one exhibit that puzzled me - not the exhibit, just the credit


So I had to find out what a 'Men's shed' was. It turns out to be a community of Australian maker spaces which (with government funding !) are for blokes only!

On to the Art Gallery of Western Australia. (since it's no longer Tuesday). A pretty interesting collection very much focused on the art of Western Australia. There are some pretty iconic Australian images such as this


and frankly, some real drek, like this


There is a fairly limited selection of early work by indigenous artists, but they are better represented in later eras and some of them are pretty pointed criticisms


This is a reference to the tragic history of Rottsnest Island that we visited just the day before. Prior to becoming a tourist destination, Rottsnest was used to incarcerate indigenous peoples, often on the flimsiest excuses, and keep them indefinitely. It was a terrible chapter in Perth's history and clearly not forgotten by some today. Indeed, the issue appears to be live today; here is a protest sign I found stuck by the side of the sidewalk when I was strolling around Perth


I wandered back to my place with a lot to think about.

Posted by tdeits 07:18 Archived in Australia Tagged art museums science innovation makerspaces rottsnest Comments (0)

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