Nature

Wagga Wagga dawn Wagga Wagga dawn

This foggy, frosty early-morning scene belies tragedy hidden in clear view.

March 5 2012, will be remembered as the night almost 9000 residents of Wagga Wagga were forced from their homes by the worst flood since 1853 — nearly 160 years ago.

Fortunately the city’s levee held and two months later its citizens’ lives have basically returned to normal.

However, the surrounding districts have hundreds of kilometres of fences swaddled in dead grasses and branches as a result of the recent floods. The slowly rotting debris has to be removed to save the fences from rusting and a small corps of volunteers is working to help the local farmers.

It is a daunting task. A strong team of four on a good day might manage to knock the debris off less than a kilometre of fencing.

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Digging through my photographic files to find comparison shots of Lake Dulverton before the 2011 winter rains I found these two that show the heavy waterweed growth that is now totally submerged.

They also revealed two potential new sports for the Olympic Games — the 100m dash on water, and syncronised ducking, below.

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It has been a while, but finally I’m on the road again.

For seven long months I was forced to hover near Hobart for various medical appointments, operations, and followups. I won’t bore you with the details (some of which I’ve talked about elsewhere in the Ghostgum Chronicles), but suffice to say I did not enjoy the bleak views I was often saddled with — inner-city streetscapes and rundown caravan parks in particular.

There were brief respites here and there visiting with old friends living in the country, but often the views were blocked by curtains of rain as Tasmania succumbed to one of its wettest winters in history.

So, imagine my joy when I finally left Hobart and headed north to catch the ferry to the mainland in a few days time.

I made it to Oatlands, a longtime favourite free camping spot, and reversed into my chosen campsite to give me uninterrupted views of Lake Dulverton which, thanks to the same winter rains that kept me cold and depressed, was enjoying its highest water levels since the early 1900s.

From my ‘office’ windows I could see the ongoing variety show being offered by a new generation of coots, being silly. There was also the stately parade of a family of swans, and an old friend, the comical and basically ugly musk duck.

The high water levels also attracted the fishermen; with the best catch, a 1.5kg rainbow trout, going to a young guy from Launceston who’d spent hours drifting across the lake in his kayak.

Then came sunset, a glowing tribute to nature, and a fitting sequel to the first day on the road for my next adventure.

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The white quartz flank of New Harbour Point juts through the wild breakers stretching hundreds of metres out to sea.

A setting sun gilds its reflective canvas, throwing it into cheerful contrast with the grey hulk of De Witt Island and the bleak swells queuing up for their death dance on Hidden Beach.

For nine days the sun has hibernated deep in cloud cover and now its sweeps across the storm-washed beach and out to sea over the frothing wavecrests which have welded together in a turmoil of foam.

On the beach the noise is numbing, not unlike the roar of a steam locomotive at full bore — going nowhere.

That was the opening paragraph of the Tasmanian chapter of my book: Australia the Beautiful — Wilderness [Weldon, Ure Smith].

For the remaining two weeks of my journey through the bottom fringe of the Southwest National Park, the weather was a little kinder.

Click the link below for a small portfolio which hopefully gives a taste of the wild diversity and beauty of this, one of Australia’s last wildernesses. Allan Moult

Explore the South West Wilderness portfolio.

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What happens when a musk duck, above, accidentally surfaces directly underneath a laid-back Pacific black duck?

A big chaotic splash …

… and an ongoing bitch and moan from said duck.

Pacific Black Duck

Just another bird story from Lake Dulverton, a favourite camping spot at Oatlands.

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Here’s one of my early test shots taken with my new Nikon Coolpix S8000, my replacement “always with me” camera.

It is not much bigger than my ubiquitous iPhone, but it does come with a 10x optical zoom, a nice wide angle view, and macro-mode to .5cm.

It has proved a bit quirky to use but I guess practice will help.

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