Ain’t we got fun?

It’s east coast low time again, folks – 3 weeks after the last one (reported here). Ballina, well-known for having the highest rainfalls in the immediate region,  had 151 mL in the last 24 hours – phooey, I say. We beat that, and the previous record here (3 weeks ago) of 125 mL (5 inches) in 24 hours – this morning there was 184 mL (over 7 inches) in the gauge for the last 24 hours!

Wind gusts in Ballina officially went up to 91 km/hour (57 miles/hour), but something stronger than that ripped off the roof of the Pelican restaurant by the river. It was quite windy in the valley, and Andrew did get some water in his studio – not from a dirt bank collapsing like last time, but just sheer overflow from the gutters not carried away fast enough and water rising from ground level. A tall sally wattle split in two and has fallen over the driveway.

Other places on the coast got it much worse than we did – being an hour inland helps. They are still waiting for their electricity and water to be restored, or to be rescued off their roofs. It took up to 5 days to restore electricity last time. If you live on property and have an electric pump to supply yourself with water from a tank (like us), you will be unable to have a shower or flush the loo. Luckily we kept our electricity supply and just had to sleep as best we could through the noise of the storm.

Today is sunny, so the clean-up begins. Just another east coast low in Lismore.

Update: The Daily Examiner has a range of photos and an article on the Ballina situation. The Marine Rescue folks recorded winds in Ballina of 80 knots (148 km/hour or 92 miles an hour for us landlubbers).


I was looking through some old photos and came across these two, from my days as a curatorial assistant at the South Australian Museum. There’d been a call from the public about a “funny fish” washed up.

Sunfish on South Australian beach, mid-1970s

A sunfish on a South Australian beach

Sunfish corpse 1 copy

It’s a sunfish, one of four species of Mola in Australian waters, ‘mola’ being Latin for ‘millstone’. They are ocean-going, eat mainly jellyfish (and probably, alas, plastic bags) and are sometimes seen ‘sun-bathing’ (hence the name) on the sea surface. Some of them are really big, the heaviest known bony fish in the world. Nobody really knows much about their behaviour, so the sun-bathing could be a sign of a sick fish rather than of topping up a tan or storing heat energy.

To my chagrin, I can’t find any details about where or when or even who the other museum staffer was. The beach would have been somewhere near Adelaide, as I vaguely recall the drive to find it didn’t take very long. Adelaide is on a shallow gulf, so this one was hardly ocean-going. I did write an article about it, though:

Window, J. Sunfish in South Australia. The South Australian Naturalist 1978, 53(2): 29–31

I don’t even have a copy of the article, so the photos will have to stand by themselves. Pretty neat, huh?

[Update: The Museum of New Zealand posts about sunfish here.]

Two weeks in Tassie (part 2)

Part 1 is here.

Friday 14/12/12

Time to leave Lonny and go back to Hobart. Instead of just taking the usual three hours to zoom down the Midland Highway, we decided to spend the whole day investigating places that took our fancy.

We first stopped at Campbell Town. I really wasn’t expecting the paddocks on either side of the highway to be so dry – it’s very like South Australia and Victoria. Hobart has Australia’s second driest average annual rainfall (for a capital city) after Adelaide. Big westerly winds off the Southern Ocean bring rain, but it all falls on the mountains and the eastern side of the island is in a rain shadow.

Many (probably most) of the old bridges in Tassie are convict-built. Convicts were used as slave labour on such projects, and also as farm-hands and serving families.

Red Bridge, Campbell Town, built by convicts in 1822

Red Bridge, Campbell Town, built by convicts in 1833; photo by Angela Coco

Continue reading

Launceston architecture

I love walking among old beautiful buildings. That’s one of the reasons I loved many towns and cities in England, and Charleston and Savannah in the USA, so much. And now there’s a place in Australia I can do the same.

Tasmanian cities and towns are full of stone buildings built in the 1800s – in most towns, they haven’t been replaced by hideous modern stuff. Below are some of the buildings in Launceston. You can take several self-guided walks using a brochure from the information centre. We had only a day and a bit to meander around Launceston, and these are some of the images Angela and I took.


Interior, Launceston main post office; photo by Angela Coco


Chalmers Church (not used as a church at present), built in 1859, originally the Free Church of Scotland, then Presbyterian, deconsecrated in 1981

Continue reading