ADVENTURES IN AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 2006
In August my wife, our son, and I spent two weeks in Australia, where my wife presented a paper at a geochemistry conference in Melbourne. We went a week early so we could do more sightseeing. We went on a three-day tour of the Great Ocean Road and the Grampians National Park, where we saw kangaroos, koalas, emus, and beautiful rock formations. While my wife was at her conference, I took our son to many museums where I learned more about the geology, biology, history, cultures, and art of Australia. After several days of museums my son asked ÒArenÕt you interested in anything non-intellectual?Ó So I took him swimming at an indoor pool since it was winter in the southern hemisphere! Here are some of the things I learned and adventures we had. I put 16 great photos on my website at https://cf2.whittier.edu/chill/aus2006.
GONDWANA AND MARSUPIALS
About 180 million years ago all of the continents were together in supercontinent called Pangaea. There is evidence that they had come together and split apart twice before, based on continuities in rock formations around the world. Pangaea split into Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south, then about 150 million years ago South America, Africa, and Madagascar separated from Australia-Antarctica. By the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, Australia was split from Antarctica.
When the continents were together, it allowed some animals to travel to more than one continent. When the continents were apart, it allowed hundreds of species of animals, insects, and plants to evolve in Australia that exist nowhere else in the world. The most famous ones, kangaroos and koalas, are marsupials. These are animals which are born at a very early stage of embryonic development and crawl into their motherÕs pouch where they suckle until they are full term. Opossums, which are marsupials, are also found in the Americas! Other unusual Australian animals are the platypus, which looks like an otter with a duck bill and webbed feet, and the echidna, which is an anteater with quills like a porcupine. They are both mammals, but they lay eggs, the only living mammals that do. After their young hatch, they nurse like other mammals.
Farmers consider kangaroos a nuisance, claiming that they eat seven times as much as sheep and sometimes break into pens to take food.
ABORIGINES AND CONVICTS
The Aborigines came to Australia about 50 thousand years ago. At that time there was an ice age and the ocean levels were low enough that people could walk to Australia from South Asia. DNA studies suggest that there was more than one migration, so some could have come by boat as well. They spoke about 200 languages with 500 dialects.
Europeans thought that there was a southern continent comparable in size to Europe and Asia, and there were fables about gold. Dutch sailors landed in Australia several times in the 1600s, but finding no gold they did not bother to colonize. When Capt. James Cook found Australia in 1770 he claimed it for England. He made a second voyage all over the South Pacific finding islands but no supercontinent. He made a third voyage looking for a northwest passage to HudsonÕs Bay in North America, but finding none he returned to Hawaii where he was killed in a conflict over a stolen boat.
In 1788 the English sent a ship with 730 convicts to Botany Bay. After the United States became independent, prisoners could no longer be sent as indentured servants there. Settlers also came to Australia, and the convicts were assigned to settlers to do manual labor on the plantations. They were sentenced for 7 years, 14 years, or life, depending on their crimes. Most were petty thieves from the slums of England and Ireland. The Irish were Catholic, and later faced prejudice from the Protestant Anglicans.
As more settlers came, there was initially more demand for convicts as laborers. But there arose conflicts between the settlers and the emancipated convicts who had served their time and wanted land for themselves and their children. The English government sent a commissioner to interview prisoners and settlers, and he reported that transporting prisoners was not an effective deterrent to crime. It also cost money for the government and settlers to house and feed them. In 1868 the last ship of convicts arrived, bringing the total to about 165,000.
The settlers took land from the Aborigines, whom they viewed with negative racial stereotypes. When the Aborigines resisted, their weapons were no match and many were killed. European diseases also took their toll, with the result that the Aborigine population was decimated in a few decades. Reserves were created, and children were taken and put in schools, similar to what happened to Native Americans in the United States.
GOLD RUSH AND IMMIGRATION POLICIES
By 1845 wool was the most important export. In 1851 gold was discovered near Melbourne, and the gold rush doubled the non-native population. Many Chinese men came for the gold rush, which resulted in prejudice against them and immigration policies favoring a ÒWhite AustraliaÓ similar to anti-Chinese policies about the same time in the United States. When the six states of Australia became a federation in 1901, a Dictation Test became required for entry. The immigration officer would select a European language for the test, and even applicants who knew one European language might be tested in another to exclude them.
After World War II, the Australian government felt that Australia needed a bigger population to defend itself. War refugees were accepted from Eastern Europe, and immigration agreements were made with other European countries. The Dictation Test was abolished in 1958, restrictions on non-Europeans were eased in 1966, and non-discrimination policies were adopted in 1975. Now the government endorses a policy of multiculturalism, and Aborigines have tried to revive aspects of their culture. I was surprised at the diversity of people on the streets of Melbourne and among students at the University of Melbourne.
Now Australia has about 21 million people with a land area about the size of the United States (which has about 300 million people). Most Australians live along the coast since the central area is dessert. Southwestern Australia has some of the oldest exposed rocks in the world.
AIRPLANE AND TRAMS
We left Los Angeles about midnight Saturday night August 19 and arrived in Melbourne Monday morning, losing a day crossing the international dateline. The 15-hour flight on Qantas was pleasant. I read most of a paperback book! I exchanged the Euros and British Pounds left from my trip to Europe in July for Australian dollars, which were worth about 80 US cents each. Due to the exchange rate, I thought that prices would be cheaper in Australia than in the US, but they were higher! I got additional Australian money from an ATM, a free map and brochures from the tourist office in the airport, and bought a SIMM card for my daughterÕs European cellphone so we could call her, my mother, and my father-in-law to let them know we had arrived safely.
We checked into a youth hostel in downtown Melbourne where I had reserved a private room for two nights. The room had a bunk bed with a single bed on top and a double bed on the bottom with little space around it so it was rather crowded for three! We walked around to explore the area, had lunch, then located the Melbourne Convention Center where the conference was to be held the next week, and also the hotel that we had reserved to use during the conference.
We went to the train station and bought weekly passes for the trams, buses, and trains. The trams are streetcars which run on tracks and have trolleys that run along overhead wires. Melbourne has one of the largest tram systems in the world. We went for a ride on Tram 19 to see more of the city, and passed many shops with Chinese and Vietnamese signs. We return to downtown and went to the top of the Rialto Tower for a 360 degree view of the city and a video about sights in Melbourne. We went back to the youth hostel to rest, and fell asleep at 5 PM! I try to stay up until my normal bedtime at midnight when I travel in order to adjust to jetlag, but we were just too tired.
The next morning we took a tram out to the Melbourne Zoo, and spent the day there since my son likes animals. We had a free spaghetti dinner at the youth hostel, read our email, and were able to stay awake until 9:30 PM.
GRASS TREES AND GOLF BALLS
Wednesday morning we were picked up at 7:30 AM for Macka & Dave's Great Ocean Road and Grampians National Park Tour. It turned out that we were the only ones on the tour besides the driver, so we could spread out on the 22-passenger bus, take as much time at each stop as we wanted, and make additional stops! We rode south to Geeloong then on to the coast where we stopped at Bells Beach, famous for surfing. Although it was winter and chilly, there were a few surfers wearing wetsuits. We made an unscheduled stop at Point Addis because my guidebook LetÕs Go Australia had said there was a Koori (Aborigine) culture hike. It went through the woods to an ocean lookout with a few signs indicating how various animals and plants had been used by the Koori. They had set fires to control which plants grew in various areas of their annual circuit of hunting and gathering. I saw grass trees which had thick stubby trunks with grass-like leaves sticking out the top, which reminded me of the tubeworms discovered near ocean vents!
At the next stop we saw kangaroos lounging on a golf course! A fence had been erected around the course to keep tourists from annoying the kangaroos and being hit by golf balls. We then stopped at Split Point Lighthouse, which had been built to warn ships of rocks along the coast; there were 387 shipwrecks along the Great Ocean Road. At Spencer Creek we walked on a road by a campground where a dozen koalas were individually eating leaves up in the trees. We also saw many king parrots, which ate birdseed from our hands. There was larger tour group there on a one-day tour, and their leader had brought some birdseed.
SHEEP AND THE TWELVE APOSTLES
From Cape Patton Lookout we saw flat jagged rocks which had beautiful colors of ocean and foam. At Skeenes Creek we saw a whale out in the ocean. After lunch at Apollo Bay, the road went north into the Otway mountains, and we took a hike in the rainforest at MaitÕs Rest. There were beautiful ferns and mosses on trees with many shades of green. On our way back to the coast we passed farms with many sheep, beef cattle, and dairy cows. I was surprised to see sheep and beef cattle in the same pastures since there had been battles between sheepherders and cattle ranchers in the past in the U.S.
In the late afternoon we reached the highlight of the tour, the Twelve Apostles. These are free standing rock formations in the ocean which are made of layers of mud and sea shells that have been compressed into sedimentary rock. When the sea level changes, the waves erode the softer rocks leaving headlands of harder rock that curve out into the ocean. Further erosion creates caves and then tunnels through the headlands. Eventually the bridges over the tunnels collapse, leaving tall columns of rock. When the waves finally erode the base of the column, the whole thing collapses into the sea. One of the Twelve Apostles collapsed last month!
You canÕt see all of rock columns from one location, so we also went to Loch Ard Gorge, where we hiked down to the beach and saw caves on the bottom and cliffs from below. We spent the night at a youth hostel in Port Campbell, where our tour guide fixed dinner for us in the kitchen for use by the guests. In the morning we went back to see the Twelve Apostles again the morning light. We also saw London Bridge, a rock formation in which there had been bridges over two tunnels, but one of the bridges had collapsed in 1990. I assume that it was named London Bridge after the childrenÕs song ÒLondon Bridge is falling down.Ó We also went to lookouts for the Bay of Islands which has more rock columns that are shorter.
EMUS AND VOLCANOES
We stopped to taste cheese and buy wine at Cheese World in Warrnambool, then stopped at LoganÕs Beach Whale Nursery where whales often give birth, but there were no whales to see that day. We went to Tower Hill and saw several emus (which are similar to ostriches) as we hiked halfway around the center dome of the wide volcanic crater. Normally the dome is surrounded by a lake, but half of it was dry due to a drought the past two years.
LetÕs Go had mentioned a Volcano Discovery Center in Penshurst, so we stopped there and our tour guide called on his cellphone to ask that it be opened for us. I learned that there are three types of volcanoes. Scoria volcanoes shoot frothy lava into the air which forms a tall cone. Lava volcanoes ooze runny lava which forms broad mounds. Maar volcanoes erupt underwater, and the explosive steam creates fine fragments of rock called tuff. The surrounding low ring of tuff creates a wide crater. Most volcanoes occur at plate boundaries where the continents collide, but a few occur at hotspots in the middle of a plate. The Hawaiian Islands are due to the Pacific plate moving over a hotspot. The volcanoes west of Melbourne are also from a hotspot. A volunteer at the Discovery Center took us to the crater of Mount Rouse where we saw different kinds of layers of rock in the rim. Along the road we saw several kangaroos.
ANCESTOR SPIRITS AND A WATERFALL
We drove to the Grampians National Park and spent the night in a building owned by the tour guide which had rooms with bunkbeds to sleep 20 people on his tours. It was cold so I started a fire in the woodstove while he barbequed dinner. In the morning we went to the Brambuk National Park and Cultural Center. The visitor center building had exhibits on geology and nature, and the nearby cultural center told about local Aborigine culture. The staff was in the process of moving the exhibits to a new building, but we were able to see an audiovisual presentation about Gariwerd creation stories; Gariwerd is the Aborigine name for Grampians. During the Dreamtime, the earth was created by the ancestor spirit Bunjil who became an Eagle. The Bram-bram-bult brothers were guardians of tribal law who punished wrongdoers. Tchingal was a giant Emu; he chased Wa, the crow, who had disturbed him while he was sitting on his giant egg. As he tried to attack Wa, he created the gorges in the mountains.
We drove through the Park past a hillside in which the rocks looked like Elephant Hide to Boroka Lookout for a view of the valley below. We also hiked to the Balconies where we were on a scary precipice that reminded me of being on the rim of the Grand Canyon. At MacKenzie Falls we hiked a thousand feet down to the base of the falls. On the way back I saw two women trying to push a baby carriage up the ramps and steps of the trail!
CASINO AND AMUSEMENT PARK
We had lunch at Halls Gap, then rode for three hours back to Melbourne. We checked into the Travelodge Southbank hotel where we had a room with three beds, a private bathroom, and a kitchenette. It was more comfortable than at the youth hostel, but for twice the price! We walked along the Southbank of the Yarra River, across from the Flinders Street train station downtown, past expensive sidewalk restaurants and the Crown Entertainment Complex which spans two blocks and has a casino, cinema, and more restaurants. We ate dinner at the Kings Buffet in the casino.
In the morning we took a tram to the Queen Victoria Market. It has huge buildings with fresh meat, fish, produce, clothing, and other things for sale. One of the shops next to the market had Aborigine art where I found a couple of t-shirts to wear at school. Each session of my Introductory Psychology class I wear a different item of foreign clothing and tell a story about another culture.
We took a tram south to the beach at St. Kilda so my son could go on the amusement rides at Luna Park. We tried walking along the beach as well, but the wind was cold. We took the tram back at sunset and walked along Southbank at night, when there was a beautiful view of the Melbourne skyline across the river. I tried to stay awake, hoping that I might go clubbing, but the dancing didnÕt start until 11:30 and I was still falling asleep at 10 PM.
PHRENOLOGY AND JELLY FISH
The next day we took a tram to the Old Melbourne Gaol (Jail). The prison was built by convict labor in 1841, then greatly expanded when the Gold Rush brought more people and more crime. The prison was patterned after PennsylvaniaÕs Eastern Penitentiary and LondonÕs Pentonville, where the philosophy was that prisoners needed time alone to think about their crime and become penitent before God. Prisoners were in separate cells for 23 hours a day and not allowed to speak to each other. During the one hour of exercise each day, they were in separate spaces in a pie-shaped exercise yard. Eventually it was realized how psychologically harmful this system was, and the prison was closed in 1924. Some people were imprisoned simply for vagrancy (being unemployed and homeless) which included a few children.
The prison gallows were used to hang 136 serious offenders, including Ned Kelly who gained legendary status like famous outlaws in the U.S. Death masks were made of those executed, which means that a plaster cast was made of their head, as part of the study of phrenology. This was the belief that bumps on the skull reflected bumps on the brain which represented personality traits. That has since been discredited; bumps on the skull do not correspond to bumps on the brain since the brain is floating in fluid, and bumps on the brain are not related to personality traits. Several death masks are on display in the prison along with stories about some prisoners.
We went to the Melbourne Aquarium, where we saw seahorses, turtles, shark eggs, jelly fish, manta rays, sharks, and other fish. We also took a Glass Bottom Boat tour, in which we were in a small boat above the tanks in the Aquarium, while the guide told us about the sharks and the rays. My wife then went to the convention center for the opening reception of her conference, while my son and I went on a harbor tour. It went past Docklands, where old warehouses have been replaced by apartments and restaurants, and saw modern cranes for loading container ships. As we walked back to the hotel we saw the Sunday Art Fair by the Art Exhibition Center, and discovered a mall with restaurants. When my wife got back, we went to the mall to eat at OÕBrienÕs Irish restaurant.
After doing laundry using a coin-operated washer and dryer in the hotel, my son and I went to the Immigration Museum while my wife presented a paper at her conference. The museum told about the immigration policies and people who came during each decade. It also had replicas of the passenger cabins from ships of different eras. After looking for the right book on the history of Australia in a couple of bookstores (which I finally found at Amazon.com), we went to the Parliament Building for the state of Victoria. Both the federal and state governments have parliamentary systems like England, with two chambers, a prime minister, and allegiance to the Queen of England. Nearby was St. PatrickÕs Cathedral, which is Catholic, and has nice stained glass windows. We took the City Circle Tram, which is a free tram encircling the downtown area, back to the hotel. My wife joined us for dinner at a Greek restaurant and a stroll through Chinatown.
The next day my wife went to an early session at the conference, and we met her there so she could go with us to the Melbourne Museum. It has very informative exhibits on Australian animals, insects, marine biology, human anatomy, evolution, forests, geology, computers, and Melbourne history. It also has the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Center where I saw a basket-weave eel trap with a flared opening and a tube which can be closed at the other end. After spending all afternoon there we went to the adjacent IMAX theater where we saw an updated film about Jane Goodall and the Chimpanzees. That night we had dinner at an Indian restaurant across from the Flinders Street Station.
The following morning my son and I took a tram to the Old Treasury Building which had an exhibit on the history of Melbourne. In the basement were vaults that used to hold gold but now have videos on the impact of the Gold Rush. We went to the State Library where there was free email and a wonderful exhibit on books called Mirror to the World. It used manuscripts and books to illustrate the role of books in conveying the history of ideas, stimulating the imagination, exploring the world, and illustrating nature and art.
On our way to the National Gallery of Victoria, my son asked if we would see any headless statues, since we had previously seen heads of statues in one museum and bodies in another on other trips. Sure enough there was a Roman statue that was headless in a small exhibit of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art! Surprisingly there was an exhibit of Pre-Columbian art from Mexico, as well as a nice exhibit of Chinese landscapes depicting mountains similar to the ones I had seen in Guilin, China. Across the river at the Ian Potter Center there was a very nice exhibit of Aborigine art.
We listened to the Evensong service at St. PaulÕs Anglican Church because it had a choir singing the service. It also had a beautiful organ that was played before and after the service. We then took the tram west to Docklands to see an exhibit of Leonardo da VinciÕs machines, which had been constructed following the blueprints in his manuscripts. That was the day that my son asked me if I was interested in anything that was non-intellectual. I started to say music, dancing, swimming, and socializing...but then realized that my colleagues and I analyze and thereby intellectualize those things as well!
BATHS AND WITCHES
My wife met us at the da Vinci exhibit and we went back to the Rialto Tower to see the view at night. It was free then in celebration of Melbourne Day, the cityÕs birthday. We had dinner again at the Kings Buffet in the Crown Casino since it offered many choices.
The next day I promised my son that we would go to only one museum. We took the tram down to St. Kilda and explored the Jewish History Museum. It had a very useful timeline of Jewish history, as well as exhibits on Jewish holidays and the history of Jews in Australia. Many Jews had been accepted as refugees before and after World War II. We took the tram back downtown and found a store that sold video games, but learned that most use the European PAL television system instead of the NTSC system in the US.
For a non-intellectual activity we took the tram up to Brunswick and went swimming at the Brunswick Baths YMCA. On the way back we stopped at the University of Melbourne. As part of their weeklong celebration of diversity they had folk dances in front of the student union at lunch which we watched. I searched the school newspaper, bulletin boards, brochures, and flyers for events, and found that there was a musical play that evening and bought tickets for it. I also found the psychology department building and went to the office to pick up information about their degree programs.
We took the tram back downtown to Fitzroy Gardens. Melbourne has many wonderful parks, called Gardens, all over the city. In this park was CookÕs Cottage, which had been built by James CookÕs family in England although he never lived there. The cottage had been disassembled and shipped to Australia, but now the English town wants it back! Inside the cottage were artifacts depicting life two hundred years ago and a map of CookÕs three voyages to the South Pacific. Behind the cottage was an herb garden. Also in the park was a Conservatory (greenhouse) with beautiful flowers, and a model of an English Tudor Village with houses about two feet high.
My wife was having dinner with others at the conference, so my son and I ate sandwiches from a 7-11 convenience store near the hotel, then took the tram back to the University to watch the play. It was the Witches of Eastwick and it was delightful. I especially enjoyed three big dance numbers.
SOCKS AND SMELLBOURNE
The last day in Melbourne my wife joined us to go back to the Queen Victoria Market. She wanted to buy some more socks with koalas on them and I bought some calendars with views of the Great Ocean Road. We took a tram around to the Southern Cross station and caught a commuter train down to Spotswood to visit the Scienceworks Museum. My son had been asking about lightning, and the museum had a show that used a generator to create lightning flashes! It also had a planetarium with a show about the planets which talked about the redefining of Pluto as a dwarf planet that was in the news then. Other exhibits were Mathamazing about math and physics, House Secrets about the science of appliances in the home, and Sports Works about fitness and skills. Behind the museum was the old Spotswood Pumping Station which had been used to pump sewage to a treatment plant which Ògot rid of the stench of nineteenth century Smellbourne.Ó
We had dinner at the food court in the Southbank mall, and went to bed early in order to catch our flight back to Los Angeles the next morning. Due to crossing the international dateline, our 14-hour flight arrived in Los Angeles three hours before it left Melbourne! My body was really confused with jetlag but I was able to stay awake until 11 PM and took some Melatonin to keep from waking up during the night. Melatonin is what your brain releases to put you to sleep and is most likely the safest sleep aid. I needed to get up early the next day to begin mentoring new students for fall semester!