Going to America! Yay!

How long till we go: 35 Hours ( 2 days if count flying out).

Yay! Soon me, Louisa, and my mum Amanda are going to America! I can’t wait! I am hoping to see some cowboys/cowgirls at the Ranch! I also can’t wait to go to the Grand Canyon! Me and my mum have been planning this for a long time, since last year a few days before Christmas and then I said yes to go! Its only me and my mum going. While my dad Peter and my brother who you probably already know Oliver are staying at home. I also can’t wait to go to American Girl and …. doll shop ( I really don’t like dolls ). I also can’t wait for Disneyland (someone gave me a book and pen and torch Mickey mouse style). I want a Moana Costume and other Moana stuff and also movies! (I am singing Moana, “How far I’ll go”). I can’t wait for the plane idk why. Bye!!! We will post again I hope at the airport or at there!  by Louisa Wyatt

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Maybe I’ll buy this doll and her accessories?!

 

The lure of landscapes

Just six days until Louisa and I board a plane to Los Angeles and then to Phoenix, Arizona. I am attending a conference in Phoenix before Louisa and I grab a hire car and road trip to Sedona, Arizona; the South Rim of the Grand Canyon; Laughlin, Nevada; and finally to Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Just as Ollie and I took a mother-and-son trip to England, Denmark and the Netherlands in 2013 when he was 8-years-old, Louisa and I are doing a mother-and-daughter trip now she is 8.

We are planning to hire an electric bike in Phoenix for a sunset tour of the skyline and go horseback riding at the Canyon Creek Dude Ranch. Later we’ll be staying in a little Nevada casino town on the Colorado River. And then we have three days at Disneyland.

But I am most looking forward to driving out from Phoenix, the “Valley of the Sun”, to the majestic landscapes of:

Sedona

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Sedona, Arizona

and the Grand Canyon.

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South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona

I love a big landscape, whether majestic Mackenzie Country on the South Island of New Zealand, which I visited two years ago today;

Mackenzie Country

Mackenzie Country, Canterbury, New Zealand

or the rolling dunes of the Southern (green) Kalahari Desert in north west South Africa, which we visited 3 years ago;

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Tswalu, Southern Kalahari, South Africa

or the dramatic escarpments and valleys of the western Blue Mountains, which we visited in January this year.

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Wolgan Valley, Blue Mountains, Australia

I love a big landscape! I love thinking about how they came into being; what ancient forces carved and shaped them; what they were like before we — humans — came; and what they will be like when we are gone. I love learning about the wildlife, the legends, and histories of the earliest inhabitants and later settlers of these landscapes.

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1832 Settlers’ Homestead in Wolgan Valley dwarfed by the surrounding escarpments

Louisa and I will share our photos and the things we learn as we travel. Please stay tuned!

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A road trip but with a much happier ending! Disneyland!

 

“Letters to Lindy”: The individual in collective memory (a review)

I was 11 years old and living in Sydney on 17 August 1980 when a dingo took 9-week-old baby, Azaria Chamberlain, from a tent in which she was sleeping during her family’s camping trip to Uluru. I was 13 in October 1982 when Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton was found guilty of murdering her daughter and sentenced to life in prison. I was 16 in February 1986 when new evidence came to light supporting Lindy’s long held claim that a dingo took her baby and she was released from prison. And I was 19 in September 1988 when her conviction was quashed and she was declared innocent. For a case that spanned my teenage years, I retain surprisingly few specific, personal memories of learning about or watching these events unfold (apart from the odious dingo jokes that became the school playground’s reporting). But like many other Australians, I feel I know all about the case. Such is the power of collective memory.

Social memory researchers, such as myself, track the ways in which we remember together within our social groups and networks. People share memories and beliefs in conversations, online, letters and through other means such that over time our individual memories are transformed into “shared renderings”. Combined with broader forces such as media reporting, “official” accounts, scholarly commentary and memorials, our shared remembering and forgetting helps to shape collective memories of larger groups and even nations. These private and public conversations and negotiations about what to think and how to feel about important national events can influence not just those who were there and experienced it but also those who were never there and only heard about it.

In her compelling stage play “Letters to Lindy”, award-winning playwright Alana Valentine argues that “There are three things that have divided this nation right down the center. Conscription, Whitlam and Lindy Chamberlain.” The dramatic dismissal of the Whitlam Government, which happened in 1975 when I was 6, played out in the national arena and had long lasting political, societal and personal impacts. We expect collective memories of such events to form and weave their way through individual memories. But the death of Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru started, at least, as a personal tragedy and not necessarily one we’d expect almost every Australian to know about and have an opinion on. “Letters to Lindy” returns to centre stage the person at the heart of our collective memories of the death of Azaria and shows us her savage persecution.

The play draws on a selection of over 20,000 letters that Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton received while on trial or in prison as well as transcripts of legal proceedings and extensive interviews between the playwright and Lindy. Lindy saved and carefully catalogued each and every letter, which Alana Valentine argues served Lindy as a “resting place for Azaria”. But they serve also as a fascinating archive of an evolving collective memory: of what Australians (and others) knew, believed and felt about Lindy and her case.

Now stored in the National Library Of Australia, the letters range from vicious denunciations of Lindy’s guilt to expressions of pity and offers of comfort to jokes and tales that lifted her spirits during years of incarceration. “Letters to Lindy” uses actors to give voice to these letter writers who felt part of this event and her story. The play skilfully juxtaposes the collective point/s of view of Australia and Australians (albeit shifting over time as the case unfolded) with the dignified, often disbelieving and sometimes despairing point of view of Lindy.

The play opens in the present day with Lindy (performed by Jeanette Cronin) cataloguing the still arriving letters. She then takes us back in time and through the disappearance of Azaria, subsequent searches, investigations, inquests, trials, incarceration, appeals and finally to her release and exoneration. We hear from the letter writers: some shouting, others singing, some kind, others threatening. We also hear from Lindy who tells us her side of the story.

At one point in the play, as one “everyman” asserts Lindy’s guilt, another challenges “how do you know, you weren’t there!” And here is the gap between what we feel we all know or remember as a group or collective and what one individual, Lindy, actually experienced, knows first hand and cannot help but recall in painful detail.

The play is at its most powerful when it presents facts we all “remember” about the case and shows them again through Lindy’s eyes. For instance, we might think we know about the bloodsoaked baby jumpsuit found in the desert and interpreted as evidence of foul play. But soon we see it as Lindy sees it: as the shockingly tiny jumpsuit that held her beloved, lost daughter. Likewise, we might think we know about Lindy’s sons, Aidan and Reagan (who were just 7 and 4 when Azaria died) and the conjecture about their roles in her death. But soon we feel as Lindy feels: a mother’s sense of helplessness and rage when from behind bars she cannot help her little boy Reagan who is injured and bullied and needs her most.

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In “Letters to Lindy”, Alana Valentine offers a deeply moving, confronting and long overdue conversation between Lindy and the Australian collective and our memories. It is interesting and important to consider why this particular case – of a child lost, of a miscarriage of justice – made such a mark on us then and why it continues to resonate in memory now.

However, “Letters to Lindy” is a plea to remember that the tragedy was individual and belongs mostly to Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and her family. As Lindy said: “a real case, with a real child and real family behind all the court cases and media attention”.

“Letters to Lindy” is being performed at Sydney’s Seymour Centre from 2 to 10 September 2016.

Note. Many thanks to Professor Katherine Biber for inviting me to see the play and for her insightful feedback on an earlier version of this review!

Meeting dolphins!

When we visited South Africa last year, one of Oliver and Louisa’s favourite experiences was meeting monkeys. At World of Birds Sanctuary and Monkey Park in Hout Bay, on the Cape Penninsula, they met sweet little Squirrel Monkeys. They loved being face to face with these gorgeous and cheeky little monkeys.

 

Given how much Oliver and Louisa both love animals, they were really looking forward to our last major activity of this Hawaiin trip: swimming with dolphins. And it didn’t disappoint!

After some online research, I booked one hour Dolphin Adventures for Peter, Oliver and Louisa with Dolphin Quest in Waikiki. According to the website, a Dolphin Adventure involves:

Age: 5 and older (each child 5-9 must be accompanied by a paying adult)

Price: $310 per person (plus tax)

Duration: 1 hour (35 minutes with dolphins)

Spend quality time with your new dolphin friends in this premium Dolphin Adventure that features maximum togetherness and fun. You’ll love this intimate dolphin swim full of your favorite dolphin touch, feed, play and training activities.

    • Come on in! The water’s fine for an unforgettably fun peak life experience meeting and mingling with our incredible dolphins in their ocean lagoon environment
    • You’ll have dolphins at your fingertips as trainers introduce you to our dolphins in shallow water ‘get to know you’ sessions
    • Dive in and go for a swim – with dolphins alongside and underwater below you. Pull on your snorkel mask for fantastic underwater views!
    • Get to know our dolphins’ individual personalities, unique behaviors and splashy playfulness
    • No two Dolphin Adventure are exactly alike – our expert trainers and dolphins will personalize your up-close dolphin rendezvous
    • You will interact with dolphins in a small, intimate group of no more than 6 people and your trainer
    • Take home your big smile moments in picture perfect photos of you and your dolphin pals, available for purchase

After donning life jackets, Peter, Oliver and Louisa joined their trainer who started with some important facts about dolphins, what they eat, how they communicate and how to train them. They learned that the dolphins at Dolphin Quest were born in captivity and have close connections with their trainers, who certainly seemed extremely attached to and caring of the dolphins.

 

Then they jumped into the water to meet the dolphins and have some fun. The photos below speak for themselves!

 

Oliver said that his two favourite things from this trip have been: surfing and the dolphins. Louisa said: horseriding and the dolphins. So our Dolphin Adventure certainly was worth the time and money and a perfect end to our Hawaiian adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An ode to O’ahu’s North Shore and Turtle Bay

Yesterday, day nine of our Hawaiian holiday, we arrived in Waikiki after five and a half wonderful days at Turtle Bay Resort on O’ahu’s beautiful North Shore. The North Shore is famous for its surfing beaches and laid back “country meets seaside town” sensibility.

In the winter months, the North Shore attracts a huge surfing crowd drawn by its big waves and major surfing competitions. But as the year moves towards the northern summer, the waves are more manageable for beginners.

 

Turtle Bay Resort sits on a point between Turtle Bay and Kuilima Cove surrounded by farmland, ranches and the beaches of the North Shore. It is the only resort on The North Shore, so is quite secluded compared to, for instance, the resorts of Waikiki. There are some places you visit that suit you perfectly, and Turtle Bay Resort was perfect for us. We loved everything about it. It was not too crowded, quite laid back, offered the exact kinds of activities we wanted, and had comfortable modern rooms and facilities.

Beaches

In Kuilima Cove, on the eastern side of the resort, there is a small sandy beach and gentle bay, divided from the ocean by a reef. Here we taught Louisa and Oliver how to body surf, Peter and Oliver snorkelled and looked for the turtles that give the bay and resort their name, and the kids played happily in the sand. This side of the resort is quite protected from the strong trade winds that often barrell down the western side of the resort, so the beach — a public beach — offers a peaceful and somewhat warmer spot.

On the western side of the resort, we sat near the pool looking out over Turtle Bay and watched surfers take on the break. Closer to shore we again spotted turtles lazily swimming about.

 

Surfing

Surfing is a huge focus of the North Shore and people often stand on shore right along the coast watching surfers master the waves. A good ride elicits cheers and clapping, even for beginnings. So when Oliver decided to try surfing in Turtle Bay he was in the best spot. He had a two hour private lesson on both Monday and Tuesday with the Hans Hedemann Surfing School in the resort. After about 15 minutes of quick instruction on land on Monday, he was into the waves with his instructor. When he caught his first wave people on shore cheered and clapped and he pumped his fist into the air. By the end of his first lesson he could pretty reliably catch a wave and stand up. By the end of the second day he was upright so much more that he got a decent sunburn on the back of his legs! Oliver loved the lessons and loved surfing. On the North Shore, kids 14 years and under must have private lessons for safety reasons. They cost about $150 for two hours (including a cool free surfy t-shirt at the end). Oliver improved so quickly that it seemed a good investment in his fun!

 

Horseriding

While Oliver was surfing, Louisa was enjoying her favourite pastime: horseriding. Turtle Bay Resort boasts extensive stables and a range of riding experiences for beginners through to experts. Louisa was younger than the cut off for trail riding (7 years old), so at first she was only offered short 15 minute pony rides on a lead. At home, however, she has weekly riding lessons and is well beyond being walked on a lead. Luckily, the Manager of The Stables, Alicia, kindly allowed me to negotiate a longer, one hour Deluxe Pony Experience that involved helping around The Stables (feeding the horses, turning them out, brushing and washing them, feeding them) as well as riding. We paid $130 an hour for Louisa to do this for an hour each on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (compared to $30 for the 15 minute standard Pony Experience). She had a wonderful time with her horses Beetle, Jasper and Goldie as well as the miniature horses, Lilly and Misty. I was grateful that Turtle Bay staff were so willing to accommodate our particular requests and make our stay that much better!

 

Poolside

When we weren’t surfing or riding or lounging about we were enjoying activities poolside. Turtle Bay has four pools: a large heated resort pool, a pool with a water slide, a kids pool and a spa pool. As you can see from the photos, they all had spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. At night there was music and often a cultural show.

 

Nearby

In five days we only scratched the surface of activities at Turtle Bay. Peter and Oliver played a round of soccer golf, which used a soccer ball and modified tees. I visited the Resort Spa for some pampering. And Louisa and I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center. We will post about that visit separately. On the drive from Turtle Bay to our final hotel in Waikiki, we stopped into the Dole Pineapple Plantation, home to the world’s largest maze. Those who followed our previous adventures may remember that in Cape Town, South Africa, we visited the world’s 3rd largest maze; so just the 2nd largest to go. It took Peter and Louisa about 40 minutes to conquer the maze, while Oliver and I sat in the shade and ate pineapple! Louisa’s reward was some pineapple icecream. Again, we only scratched the surface of things to see and do around the North Shore, which will have to wait until our next visit.

 

Today is our last day in Waikiki. Before we fly home tomorrow we will tell you about our visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center and swimming with dolphins. We also can’t leave before telling you how happy we were in Turtle Bay. We plan to come back!

 

Meeting Pele, goddess of volcanoes

One of the most dramatic spirits of the Hawaiian pantheon … Pele, goddess of volcanoes … capable of sudden fury and great violence (Herbert K. Kane)

On Friday, day three of our Hawaiian adventure, we drove north from Waikoloa on Hawai’i Island’s west coast to the base of the Kohala Mountains. Turning east, we climbed 2500 feet up and across the mountain ridges into a lush landscape, especially compared to the black volcanic fields near Waikoloa. As we drove towards the east coast we had beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, with many inlets bringing water into gullies of giant ferns and waterfalls.

At the coast we turned south towards Hilo, Hawai’i Island’s major centre of business and government. We didn’t stop for photos because it was misty and rainy up in the mountains and we needed to concentrate on staying on the correct side of the road (opposite to Australia, so surprisingly effortful) and navigating.

 

From Hilo we turned south west towards the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, and the world’s most active volcano, Kīlauea, both within the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Although Manua Loa is the most massive mountain on Earth, taller than Mount Everest (from ocean floor to summit it stands 17,000 metres, more than 8,000 metres taller than Mount Everest), people mostly come to see the steaming and roaring Kīlaueau Caldera and the lava flows of its East Rift Zone.

 

The National Park is a huge, living, drive through museum. In the National Park brochure we received, we read:

Volcanoes are monuments to Earth’s origins, evidence that primordial forces are still at work.

You can drive around the caldera on Crater Rim Drive (at least until a section where the road has been closed due to dangerous volcanic activity) and you can drive down through the outpourings in the East Rift Zone on Chain of Craters Drive. We arrived around 5pm after 3 hours of driving from the east coast and first stopped at the Visitor Centre. Here we found helpful suggestions for three main things to see and do over a couple of hours: (1) “breathe the sacred breath of Pele” from steam vents, (2) view Kīlauea’s erupting summit from the lookout at the Thomas Jaggar Museum, and (3) “explore a cave where a river of lava flowed 550 years ago”.

 
First to the lava vents! Just off Crater Rim Drive we saw plumes of steam rising from cracks that have opened in the ground, venting from the volcano far below. As you can see from Oliver’s red face in the photo below the steam was very hot and wet. If it was Pele’s breath, according to Louisa, she smells sweet like pancakes. Oliver and Louisa threw coins into the vents. Their pennies joined many coins and other offerings, supposedly to appease Pele and quieten her fiery rumbles.
 
Next we drove to the Thomas Jagger Museum, which overlooks the Kīlauea Caldera. We could see a plume of volcanic gas rising from the caldera, apparently from molten rock in a lava lake on the summit (which we could not see). We also could hear rumbles from the volcano. Similar to, but deeper and louder than thunder.
 
A caldera is:

… a large, usually circular depression at the summit of a volcano formed when magma is withdrawn or erupted from a shallow underground magma reservoir. The removal of large volumes of magma may result in loss of structural support for the overlying rock, thereby leading to collapse of the ground and formation of a large depression. Calderas are different from craters, which are smaller, circular depressions created primarily by explosive excavation of rock during eruptions. (From http://volcano-pictures.info/glossary/caldera.html)

The Thomas Jagger Museum is excellent and well worth a long visit. It provides lots of information about the science of volcanoes and the science of studying them. Kīlauea’s current eruption started in 1983 — over 30 years ago — and has been shaping the surrounding landscape in major ways ever since (as well as long before)!
Next we visited the Thurston Lava Tube, named for Lorrin Thurston who helped Dr Thomas Jagger (more on him below) to establish the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and preserve this important and unique environment. To reach the Lava Tube first we hiked through rainforest around the rim of the Kīlauea Iki Crater. It was foggy over the rim so we couldn’t see the bottom clearly except to know it was a long way down. Then we walked into a valley of giant ferns until we reached the mouth of the Lava Tube. Over 500 years ago a subterranean river of lava ran through here. When it drained away it left this amazing tunnel that looks like a man made railway tunnel. But it was carved by molten rock and left as a walk in museum exhibit to the forces of nature!
 
 
Finally in gathering darkness and increasing rain we returned to the lookout next to the Museum. The glow of the lava lake within the caldera lit the sky an eerie orange colour. It was an impressive sight! Perhaps the inspiration for the fires of Mordor? Here’s a link to a 24/7 webcam of the Kīlauea Caldera so you can see what we saw (unfortunately without the impressive rumbling).

Although the drive to meet Pele and return was long and exhausting (and somewhat terrifying on the way back to our resort in the dark, on unfamiliar roads, in torrential rain and on the wrong side of the road), it was a trip worth making. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park looked like a place where dinosaurs and other ancient creatures might be at home. A fierce, primordial landscape. Although forbidding, Kīlauea actually is one of the most studied and best understood volcanoes on the planet. Scientists have been studying Kīlauea at least since 1921 when Dr Thomas Jaggar, a Professor of Geology at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (on the spot we visited) and pioneered many of the techniques of volcanology.

We loved exploring how these volcanoes had shaped the birth of the Hawaiian Islands as well as the birth of an entirely new science necessary to understand the secrets of Pele and her fiery ways!

Our next stop: The fabled North Shore of O’ahu!

 

 

A big (Hawaiian) island of contrasts

Last Wednesday, 8 April, we flew into Honolulu from Sydney, then on to Hawai’i Island, the largest and youngest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Oliver and Louisa were thrilled to learn that we arrived about five hours before we left Sydney, as though we had travelled back in time in some kind of time machine (no, we just crossed the international dateline and gained a day).

Kona Airport, on the west coast of Hawai’i Island, is a very small open air airport, with a series of modest thatched huts serving as gates, security, shops etc; very much in the tropical theme we expected. But when we collected our rental car and drove north from the airport towards our hotel we were struck by a truly alien landscape. We expected blue waters and palm trees. Occasionally we could see those in the distance along the west coast as we travelled north to Waikoloa Beach Resort. But mostly we could just see black lava flow fields undulating and stretching away from the roadside. We could see giant cracks as well as holes and caves where the ground had buckled and risen.

 

Soon we turned off the blackened highway into Waikoloa Beach Resort, an oasis of green built around the sandy beach of ‘Anaeho’omalu Bay. I had chosen the Hilton Waikoloa Village Resort as our first stop. The resort was built in 1986 and is showing its age a little. But it is amazing the way that the 62 acre ocean-front property has been carved from the black of a 150 year old lava field. Below you can see a photo from the resort’s website of the early days of construction. And then you can see photos we took of the stark lines between the verdant green of man-made resort, black volcanic rocks and then ocean. It certainly made for a dramatic landscape!

 

It was a beautiful location with lots of fun things for Oliver and Louisa to do, such as swimming in pools …

 

… snorkelling in the man-made lagoon with turtles …

 
… meeting Australian parrots (“g’day mate”, the bird said to Louisa; “g’day mate” Louisa said to the bird, both pleased to share being six years old and from Australia) …
 
… and having lunch while watching dolphins at play right behind us (we’re swimming with dolphins on the last day of our trip, next Friday).
 
Then as dark fell, we were treated to the most glorious sunsets.
 
On Thursday we drove for 3.5 hours to the other side of Hawai’i Island and encountered a completely different face of this beautiful island: lush, green rainforests stretching from the east coast inland and then up along the craters of huge volcanoes.
 
I’ll write more about our visit to the World Heritage listed Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in my next post. Although our visit to The Big Island was very short, we saw enough to know that this is a majestic and dynamic landscape. As we read in a brochure from the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum (in the National Park), the ever changing landscape:
… shows the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution in the Hawaiian Island-Emperor Seamount chain. These processes first thrust a bare land from the sea and then clothed it with complex, unique ecosystems and a distinct human culture.
Unlike Australia, Hawai’i Island is small enough that you can drive around its circumference in a day and coast to coast in two or three hours (compared to maybe two or three weeks coast to coast in Australia). So it’s comparatively easy to see many different ecosystems: rainforest, ranch lands, alpine heights, sandy beaches, and black, barren desert.

 

Our next stop is Oah’u. But first, I’ll tell you about our day trip to the rumbling, steaming goddess, Pele!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By wind, water or wing to Hawaii

In less than 24 hours, Peter, Oliver, Louisa and I will board our plane for Hawaii and 10 days exploring what some people argue are the world’s most remote inhabited islands. This notion of remoteness is interesting because it doesn’t seem to me to be that far from here to there. Flying time from Sydney to Honolulu (the capital of Hawaii on the island of Oahu) is about 10.5 hours. So door to door we’re looking at just over 18 hours, including a 30 minute taxi ride from our home in Sydney, 3 hour check-in at the airport, 10.5 hour flight to Honolulu, 3 hour lay over in Honolulu, 45 minute flight to Kona and finally a 30 minute drive to our hotel. Long, yes, but not nearly so long as my 32 hour door-to-door marathon returning from New York last year. The distance to Hawaii seems quite attractive! Even Oliver said today that it didn’t seem too bad, which surprised me since he was a bit traumatised by our long flights to and from Europe in 2013.

Hawaii relative to Sydney and mainland USA (from http://www.michellehenry.fr/pollution.htm)

Hawaii relative to Sydney and mainland USA (from http://www.michellehenry.fr/pollution.htm)

What will Hawaii look like?

David Quammen, in my favourite science book The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, aims to explain Earth’s biological richness (and, importantly, its catastrophic loss of richness) by exploring the particular and often peculiar patterns of species distribution on islands: this is the island biogeography of the title. He discusses old versus young islands, big versus small islands, and continental versus oceanic islands.

The Hawaiian Islands is a relatively large archipelago, with islands ranging in age from an estimated 65 million years old to less than 1/2 a million years old; so some are relatively old and others are relatively young, at least in geological time!

Importantly, Hawaii is made up of oceanic islands. Quammen writes:

An oceanic island is one that never has been and never will be connected to a mainland. It comes into existence as a rising welt off the deep ocean floor, elevated into daylight by some geological process — most commonly, volcanic eruption (Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, Random House, 1996, page 53).

I saw evidence of volcanic and other (long ago as well as current) landscape defining forces a few weeks ago on another set of islands: New Zealand. On the South Island of New Zealand I visited majestic Mackenzie Country where I saw huge valleys, rich plains, braided rivers and glacial lakes, all carved by retreating glaciers over the past 250,000 years. And I visited Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, which continues to grow each year as the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates collide along New Zealand’s western coastline, buckling and lifting along the Southern Alps mountain range. These landscapes are breathtaking.

Mackenzie Country, South Island, New Zealand

Mackenzie Country, South Island, New Zealand

Aoraki/Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand

Aoraki/Mount Cook, South Island, New Zealand

Hawaii is similar to New Zealand in that both have been shaped by the movement of tectonic plates, fault lines in the Earth, and especially volcanic activity. We plan to visit Hawaii’s dormant and active volcanoes on The Big Island in our first few days.

Again like New Zealand, Hawaii also has been subject to the rise and fall of oceans over millennia, acting as a lifeboat for its fabulous and often unique flora and fauna (more on this in a moment). But Hawaii is different to New Zealand in that it has never been connected to a mainland, as noted above. New Zealand used to be part of Gondwana, the ancient supercontinent that also included Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India, Madagascar and South America before it started to break apart about 120 million years ago. New Zealand parted ways with Australia and Antarctica about 80 million years ago (separated by the Tasman Sea) and began to sink, leaving a scattering of islands that acted as a “Moa’s ark” for New Zealand’s birds and reptiles (you can read more about the geology of New Zealand and this notion of a Moa’s ark here).

In contrast, Hawaii always has been, and remains, isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Hawaii’s isolation — remoteness — has consequences for what we will see there.

What will we find in Hawaii?

On safari in Africa last year we saw lions, cheetahs, giraffes, rhinos, baboons and so many other amazing mammals and other animals. In comparison, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii have almost no large mammals native to each country.

At least in the case of Hawaii this is because every plant, animal or other creature (or at least its ancestor) could only reach the islands by wind, water or wing. Far too far for a large animal to swim from the closest mainland! Returning to David Quammen, he writes:

… every oceanic island comes up from below, like a gasping whale. It starts its terrestrial existence, therefore, completely devoid of territorial forms of life. This is the most fundamental distinction between the oceanic and continental categories. Every terrestrial animal on an oceanic island, and every plant, is descended from an animal or plant that arrived there by cross-water dispersal after the island was formed (Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, Random House, 1996, page 53).

Because everything that got there had to get there from somewhere else, dispersed across vast ocean distances by wind, water or wing, Hawaii has a quite different “roster” of animals, birds, plants and insects compared to other countries. Hawaiian writer and blogger, Dennis Hollier calls Hawaii “genetically remote”. He writes:

Hawaii’s isolation has made it the world capital of endemism. For its size, Hawaii has the highest percentage of species that exist nowhere else on Earth (from http://dennishollier.com/2014/01/14/hawaii-the-most-isolated-archipelago/).

In fact, 80% of the species found on Hawaii are found nowhere else in the world. Of course, humans have introduced a variety of non-native species as well as accelerated the loss of many native species. Nevertheless, I imagine that Hawaii will be a different world for us, both in terms of its landscape and wildlife. Writing of this biological richness, Quammen concludes:

Charles Darwin never saw the Hawaiian Islands. If he had, the Galápagos might have paled by comparison (Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction, Random House, 1996, page 53)

We are looking forward to our “voyage” to Hawaii tomorrow and the exotic world that awaits us. We will share our discoveries with you in the coming days.

Aloha!

Charles Darwin in the Natural History Museum, London

Charles Darwin in the Natural History Museum, London

 

Hawaii bound!

When I was a child my brothers and sister and I watched endless re-runs of the Brady Bunch. Apart from the episode where Marcia gets hit in the nose by a football or the episode where Davy Jones from the Monkees turns up, my next favourite episode was “Hawaii bound”, the episode where the whole family accompanies dad, Mike, to Hawaii on a business trip (because it’s pretty likely that his company is going to pay airfares and accommodation for a wife, six kids, and Alice the housekeeper; yeah, right!)brady bunch

Over the Easter holidays, Peter, Oliver, Louisa and I plan to follow in the footsteps of Mike, Carol, Greg, Marcia, Peter et al. and fly off to Hawaii for 10 days. Peter will be on his way to a conference in California. So we are helping him break the journey. He’ll fly on at the end of our holiday and I will bring the kids home … alone!

alice

Hawaii! So excited!

 

 

 

 

We are flying into Honolulu, the state capital of Hawaii, which is on the island of Oahu. The Hawaiian archipelago includes hundreds of islands spread across approximately 2,500 kms, but there are eight main islands. We’ll be visiting two of them: Oahu and Hawaii (the Big Island). We fly from Sydney to Honolulu then immediately fly from Honolulu to the Big Island. We’ll be staying there for a few days to explore its many extinct, dormant, and active volcanoes! Then we return to Oahu and stay at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Here Louisa will be able to ride horses and Oliver will be able to visit the beach to their hearts’ content. Finally, we move to downtown Waikiki for a few days of sightseeing and shopping.

The Hawaiian archipelago

The Hawaiian archipelago

I’m excited to see the geology and diversity of flora and fauna. Hawaii features heavily in one of my favourite books: The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction by David Quammen. dodoBecause it is so isolated from other major land masses and because it arose steaming from under the ocean (formed in the distant past and still being formed by volcanic activity), Hawaii boasts many species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world (it also, unfortunately, has lost many species to extinction).

Louisa is excited to find out what kinds of animals live on Hawaii. I suspect they will be quite different to what she saw in Africa. Oliver is looking forward to the beach and Peter is looking forward to some relaxation!

So we will post what we learn about Hawaii as we prepare for our trip and we look forward to reading your suggestions about places to visit and things to do. Please post them in the comments below.

Aloha oukou!

lei

 

Packing suggestions for a South African family safari

When we were preparing and packing for our trip to South Africa I looked online for suggestions of what and how much to pack for us, two adults and two kids.

Our trip included:

  • 2 x 12-14 hour flights to South Africa and back
  • 2 nights in a hotel near Johannesburg (Maropeng) and day trips to the Cradle of Humankind and a Cheetah Research Centre
  • 1 night and 2 days on the luxury Blue Train, including a dinner requiring formal wear
  •  5 nights in Cape Town with day trips around Cape Town, to Table Mountain, and the Cape Peninsula
  • 4 nights on safari at Tswalu Kalahari with early morning and afternoon/evening game drives

The weather was predicted to be mid to high twenties (Celsius) during the day and colder in the mornings, evenings and overnight. It certainly was cooler in Cape Town than in both Johannesburg/Maropeng and Tswalu. It was especially hot during the day at Tswalu. But it was quite cold on our early morning game drives.

On many safaris, including ours, you are restricted in the amount of luggage you can take and you need to pack in soft sided bags (not wheely bags). For Tswalu we were restricted to 12 kg each of checked luggage and 6 kg each of hand luggage. So just 18 kg each. I also read online advice about colours and fabrics for safari clothes (not black, not navy, not white, not red!).

Also of relevance, in Cape Town (at the Cape Grace Hotel) we could send dirty laundry to the cleaners and have it charged to our room; at Tswalu our laundry was free. Several safari lodges include free laundry, so it is worth checking.

For families planning a safari, here’s how we packed and what we packed for this trip. Perhaps it will help you.

Luggage

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North Face Large Base Camp Duffel Bag 90 L

For checked luggage, we used two North Face Large Base Camp duffel bags (90 L each), packing 1 adult and 1 kid’s clothes per bag.  We also took a Samsonite suit bag, packing our “good clothes” for the Blue Train’s formal dinner, as well as overflow items.

For carry on luggage, my husband and I each carried a Crumpler Backpack (The Dry Red No 5, 20 L) for camera gear, electronic devices, stuff for the plane, wallets etc. And our two kids each carried a small backpack for a few books, toys, colouring pencils etc

Crumpler Dry Red No 5 Backpack

Crumpler Dry Red No 5 Backpack

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Herschel Packable Duffel Bag

In addition, we packed a light weight Herschel Packable Duffel Bag (30 L). This cunning bag folds up into a small package and then unfolds into a good-sized bag. We used this on the Blue Train to separate out items from our large duffel bags we wanted in our cabins (the rest of our luggage was stored in a luggage carriage). We also used it to carry home souvenirs we needed to declare to Customs.

Finally, I packed an empty Crumpler iPad bag in my luggage to use on day trips as my hand bag.    hand bag

When fully packed before leaving, our luggage weighed about 62 kg, 10 kg less than our weight limit. And we were well under our 48 kg checked luggage and 24 kg carry on luggage limits. This is partly because our kids’ back packs weighed very little. I recommend limiting toys and other items from home since kids will pick up souvenirs and other items on their travels. So start light!

Packing Lists

For both adults and kids we used a rule of thumb of 4-5 days of clothing, planning to do laundry when we reached Cape Town and then at Tswalu. We ended up doing a large load when we arrived in Cape Town and another small load just before we left for Tswalu. Then we did another large load our first day at Tswalu and small daily extras (because it was included in the cost of our room).

Here’s what we packed for our kids …

  • 1 pair of sneakers (Louisa, 5) or 1 pair of walking shoes (Oliver, 9); sneakers were fine for the game drives we went on, which involved minimal bush walking
  • 1 pair of pool side shoes (sandals for Louisa, Crocs for Oliver)
  • 1 pair of “good” shoes for our formal dinner and nice outings (silver flats for Louisa, fancy sneakers for Oliver)
  • A rain jacket (which we didn’t in fact use — no rain on our trip — but still worth packing).
  • A warm fleece jacket/jumper for planes, cooler mornings, early game drives
  • 2 short-sleeved t-shirts each, 2 long-sleeved t-shirts each, plus an extra long-sleeved t-shirt to wear on the plane; we found nice merino long-sleeved shirts for Oliver at Pumpkin Patch and nice long and short-sleeved easy care shirts for both at Kathmandu
  • For Oliver’s pants, 2 pairs of Kathmandu light weight pants (with zip off legs converting them to shorts), a pair of shorts, a pair of swimming “boardies”. We also took a pair of track suit pants but he didn’t use them
  • For Louisa’s pants, 2 long leggings (1 heavier weight, 1 light weight), 2 3/4 leggings (we only needed 1 pair), a pair of shorts
  • 4 pairs of underpants plus 1 extra for the plane; 2 singlets each; 4 pairs of socks plus 1 extra for the plane
  • A pair of pyjamas
  • Swimmers and goggles
  • A broad-brimmed hat each and a cap each
  • Toiletries (especially sunscreen for game drives) and a selection of medicine (we used panadol, neurofen, cortisol cream for various ailments while away)
  • For the formal dinner and other nice outings, for Oliver we took a pair of navy Chinos, collared shirt and blazer. For those in Sydney, I found the pants and shirt on sale at Birkinhead Point Factory Outlet Centre. For Louisa we took two sleeveless dresses from Pumpkin Patch (because she and I liked different ones!) and a light long-sleeved cardigan

Most of Oliver’s clothes were in neutral colours: grey, green, blue. Most of Louisa’s clothes were in purple, lilac, green. We didn’t especially look for “safari” clothes so everything could be worn again back in Sydney.

My husband and I followed the same pattern:

  • 1 pair of sneakers (for me) or 1 pair of walking shoes (for Peter)
  • 1 pair of pool side shoes (sandals for me, casual shoes for Oliver)
  • 1 pair of “good” shoes for our formal dinner and nice outings (silver wedges for me, leather shoes for Peter)
  • A rain jacket; we both took Kathmandu packable rain jackets, which fold up into a small zipped pocket
  • A warm fleece jacket for planes, cooler mornings, early game drives; we found these on sale at Kathmandu
  • I took 2 long-sleeved merino t-shirts and a vest for the plane and early morning drives. I also took 3-4 light kaftan tops layered over singlets for everyday wear
  • Peter took 2 short-sleeved shirts and 2 long-sleeved shirts like the kids, plus an extra shirt for the plane. Again, Kathmandu was a good source for easy care shirts
  • For pants, I took 2 pairs of 3/4 pants, 1 pair of long cotton pants, and 1 pair of light weight jeans
  • Peter took 2 pairs of Kathmandu light weight pants with zip off legs, an extra pair of shorts (which he didn’t use), and a pair of jeans
  • We took a similar number of pairs of underwear and socks as the kids
  • Pyjamas
  • Swimmers
  • A broad-brimmed hat or cap each
  • Toiletries, medicine
  • For the formal dinner and other nice outings, I took a pair of navy slacks, two fancier tops, and a soft jacket. I didn’t need the second top. Peter took a nice pair of pants, formal shirt, jacket and tie
  • I also took two extra warmer layers, but I didn’t really need them. I dressed in them on a few cold mornings but changed after breakfast. They were too warm. There was only one morning at Tswalu that I might have worn them but didn’t. So I could have left these at home

Most of my clothes were navy, grey and cream; colours I often wear. Dark colours such as black or navy are not recommended in summer in Africa because they attract the heat or flies, but I had no problem with them in spring. Peter’s clothes were like Oliver’s: grey, green, blue. Again, we didn’t want to buy special “safari” wear looking clothes, which we might not get use out of back in the city.

We easily had enough clothes as well as met our luggage limits. In addition to the items above we took chargers and cables for our electronic devices (including a plug for Africa and a power board), a large Canon 5D Camera plus lenses for good quality animal shots, a small point-and-shoot camera, and a small video camera for the kids to use.

I was tempted to buy into the whole safari look, but mostly we took and packed our normal clothes with just a few additions: Oliver and Peter’s pants with zip off legs, which they will reuse for Scouts; our rain jackets; our new fleece jackets; and some extra easy care shirts.

At Tswalu, a number of the other guests were wearing safari kit from top to toe, but many were in the midst of a series of safari stays spanning many weeks. For just 5 days, our selection of clothes worked well (with just a few items we should have left at home). The most important thing is to pack light if you can and use laundry facilities at your accommodation.

I hope this list helps in planning your African adventure. Please add any other suggestions in the comments below.

Cheerio Amanda