The 12 Apostles of Victoria, Australia

The gloriousness of the 12 Apostles is not to be missed, despite the fact that there are not really 12, and obviously they aren’t apostles. Still, this is one of those must-see spots in Australia.

The 12 Apostles are a group of limestone stacks off the southern coast of Victoria, Australia. Reached by the Great Ocean Road (a marvel in its own right), the Apostles are slowly eroding away from wind and water. Despite the name, there really were only 9 stacks, but only about 8 remain. I say “about 8” because several of the rest are tenuously perched, and huge storms could lead to collapse on an unpredictable time frame. The last big collapse was in July of 2005 when a 160-foot tall stack suddenly fell and broke up.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Given the slow rate of erosion, you don’t have to worry about racing there before they are all gone. In fact,  the processes that are eroding the existing Apostles are eating away at the more massive limestone cliffs. So come back in a 100 (or 1000) years and you see more Apostles emerging.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Not far from the 12 Apostles is Loch Ard Gorge with its own amazing limestone architecture, a hint of which can be seen in the slide show above. The “Loch Ard” was the name of a clipper ship that ran aground in 1878. Of the 54 crew aboard, only two survived. Nineteen year old Tom Pearce, a ship’s apprentice, struggled ashore, then rescued 19-year-old Eva Carmichael. Alas, their potential fairy tale story ends there, as both returned to Europe separately. Not to be stymied by reality, when the nearby archway collapsed in June 2009, the two separated limestone pillars were officially named Tom and Eva to commemorate the shipwreck. After all, the story helps the tourist trade, right.

All kidding aside, the trip along the Great Ocean Road was indeed great. The coastline is amazing, as was the temperate rain forest we also saw along the way (more on that later).

More posts on Australia and New Zealand coming soon. The trip took us from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef to Lord of the Rings New Zealand to Uluru. So much more to show.

David J. Kent is a science traveler. He is also the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page. Share with your friends using the buttons below.

The Fascinating Koalas of Australia

Koala’s are marsupials. I knew that much. But on my recent trip to Australia I learned a lot more about koalas. And they are even more fascinating than I knew.

Koala in Australia

Like all marsupials, which includes other Australian natives such as kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats, plus opposums (the one species in North America), koalas give birth to embryonic stage young that must crawl into a pouch for further development. While considered primitive to mammalian full gestation development, it turns out the whole “live in a pouch” concept reduces the dangers of extended pregnancies.

Part of that danger is food. Koalas feed almost exclusively on the leaves of eucalyptus trees. That is something else I learned – there are anywhere from 200 to 700 species of eucalyptus trees depending on if you are a lumper or a splitter taxonomist. Of those, koalas prefer about 30 species for eating, relying on those with the highest protein content and low proportions of fiber and lignin. Eucalyptus leaves generally have high water content so koalas rarely need to drink. [But see this video that shows how climate change is drying out the leaves and forcing more koalas to seek supplementary water intake.]

A diet of eucalyptus presents some nutritional challenges for koalas. The essential oil from eucalyptus leaves has a natural disinfectant quality, which is why it is often used in insect repellents and antimicrobial products. They can be toxic in large quantities. Koalas have developed a tolerance but still try to avoid the most obnoxious species, which luckily they are able to determine by smell. Most eucalyptus are evergreens, so they make a poor source of energy. This means that koalas retain the food in their digestive systems for up to 100 hours and have about half the metabolic rate of a typical mammal. To conserve energy they move little and slowly. They also sleep around 20 hours a day, spending the remaining four waking hours eating.

Koala in Australia

Two other physical adaptations of koala were fascinating. Since they spend most of their day in trees feeding and sleeping, their forepaws have two opposable digits, essentially, two thumbs. These and sharp claws allow it to securely climb and hang on to the bark of trees. They also have a cartilaginous pad at the end of the spine that fits nicely into the fork of a tree, where you’ll often see koalas comfortably perched.

I saw koalas both in a wildlife park type setting near Sydney (where I had breakfast with one) and in the wilds along the coast south of Melbourne. All koalas are a single species, though because the Victoria (aka, near Melbourne) koalas tend to be much bigger than Queensland (near Cairns) koalas, some scientists consider them to be subspecies. In either case they are one of Australia’s most iconic animals. And truly fascinating.

More to come on koalas and kangaroos and wombats and kookaburras as I sort through over 3500 photos.

David J. Kent is and avid traveler. His most recent book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page. Share with your friends using the buttons below.

[Daily Post]

First Views of Australia

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I’m off Science traveling in Australia and New Zealand. Besides a tour inside the venue, here is a look at the famed Sydney Opera House from a harbor cruise.

And at night.

Of course, I had to have breakfast with a koala. Say hi to Molly. I also hopped around with kangaroos, howled with dingoes, and hightailed with emus.

Sydney gave me my 46th aquarium and Cairns gave me my 47th.

Then it was a sail out to the Great Barrier Reef and some snorkeling with the fishes and corals. I also hiked in the Blue Mountains.

I even made a new friend. This is Wuru.

So much more to show you. I’ve moved on to New Zealand and its amazing mountain scenery. More photos soon.

Science Traveling Australia and New Zealand

I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand, and soon I will achieve that goal. My upcoming trip will take a few weeks and cover a lot of terrain.

Keep in mind that Australia is roughly the size of the United States, so the distance from Sydney (#1 on the map above) to Cairns (#2) is equivalent to the distance from Florida to Montreal. Uluru, aka Ayer’s Rock, (#5) is about where Denver would be. Sydney to Queenstown, New Zealand (#3) would be about the distance from Washington DC to Caracas, Venezuela. Bottom line – each flight is a long way.

First stop is Sydney, so the famous bridge, the even more famous Opera House, and (of course) an aquarium. Plus cruising around the harbor, Bondi, and a tour of the Blue Mountains. From there it’s off to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park and more. I’m looking forward to seeing kangaroos, koalas, and kiwis.

The kiwi part will definitely happen after a multistep loop from Cairns through Auckland to Queenstown, New Zealand. We’ll see the wonders of Milford Sound and do a safari through Wakatipu while checking out the areas where the Lord of the Rings movie series was filmed.

But wait, there’s more. From Queenstown it’s back to Melbourne, Australia to check out another aquarium and drive south and west on the coast to see the 12 Apostles (of which there are only seven). Then back to Melbourne for a flight up to Uluru in the center of the country. I’ll need to drive the rental car on the left side of the road. Luckily I’ve done that in Scotland and Ireland so, well, fingers crossed.

From Uluru it’s back to Sydney to catch a long flight back home.

I’ll be updating on the trip whenever possible and will definitely have a ton of photos when I return. This will be my second big trip this year; the first was South Korea and Beijing in the spring. At that time the rumbling of missiles kept tensions high, and just this past week there was a series of earthquakes in New Zealand. Apparently there is a tectonic plate margin running right through the middle of the country.

Well, that’s what science traveling is all about, right.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page. Share with your friends using the buttons below.

[Daily Post]