Category Archives: Australia

“Re-inventing the Museum”

The Street Museum app overlaps historical scenes onto real life street views. Any reader of the AAM’s Museum Magazine recognises this project as one of the Museum of London’s outreach programs designed to move the museum collection out of the “box” of the museum building and into the lives of Londoners and international visitors; and more importantly, non-going museum audiences. StreetMuseum is celebrating 500,000 downloads.

The driving force behind this brain child, Antony Robbins, is in town this week for the digital GLAM event: Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums. 

Tonight’s lecture was really just the kick off for tomorrow’s symposium, held at the University of Melbourne’s star attraction, the Melbourne School of Design.

Wilson’s Promitory

imageTo the east of Melbourne lies “the Prom”, one of the first National Parks in Victoria, reserved in 1898. Kangaroos, wombats, wallabies, emus and rosellas freely wander through an incredible array of habitats from coastal heathlands to fern-strewn rainforests. Melbournianites have only to travel two hours out of the CBD to visit the best of the continent’s south. Nearly half of all the birds in Victoria are found here, including the most rare. It’s Victoria’s Garden of Eden and people revere it as such. The guide book cautions: “The Gunnai and the Boonerwrung people have always held the Prom in great awe, and treated it with uncommon respect. We should tread lightly here.”

In just seven hours we covered the “first tier” of tourism at the Park, and enjoyed a 12 km hike.

Stop 1: Tidal River, Normandy Bay

Traveling through the park, you are driving on the 1942 road; first built to access the Prom’s southern beaches and train commandos in secret. You arrive to the base buildings now used as a visitor centre and continue on to the beach at Norman Bay. This beach is known as one of Victoria’s most beautiful, and a good source of shell fish and fishing grounds. In one of the last Ice Ages, the sea level was nearly 150m below today’s levels, and Wilson’s Prom and Tasmania were linked by a land bridge. Over time, wind swept sand from the exposed ocean bottom built up and formed the plateau through which Tidal River now flows. Today, some of the plants on the Prom are only also found in Tassie.


Granite rocks at Squeaky Beach

Stop 2: Squeaky Beach

Here on Squeaky Beach, 380 million year old granite formations break down and form the beach. If you get the friction just right you can hear the squeak of pure quartz crystals rubbing against each other. Tidal River and Squeaky beach actually represent a divide between white sandy (quartz) beaches to the east and yellow shelly (calcareous) beaches to the west. You can also notice a brown tinge to the water, a tannin leached from the nearby swamp paperbarks. Fish use the calm waters to lay eggs and wombats, possums, gliders and bats live like kings among the coastal scrub and messmate forests (a type of stringy bark).

Stop 3: Hike from Darby Saddle to Tongue Point

imageI will now call this “the hike with views that get better and better”. This walk starts at Darby Saddle, a previous watering hole for early 1900 visitors, meanders up to Spark’s lookout. A park ranger for many years, I imagine this was one of his favourite spots, lending an amazing view of the rocky islands and Tongue Point. One more “up” to Lookout Rocks and then you descend to a coastal heathland. Wombat lairs line the seldom used trail (for Prom standards) and looking back on the Prom gives  a rare view of the coastline. After dead-ending at a tiny rock protrusion, I continued back to the main trail, but went a little further to visit Fairy Cove. This tiny beach had a late afternoon visitor, which made the return climb back up to Darby Saddle (300m straight up) worth the trip.


It’s rare treat to see a wombat so out in the open.

Stop 4: Sunset over Bonsai Mangroves


Emu tracks in the damp mud of low tide.

An easy 2km walk bring you in close counter with wallabies in messmate forests, opening out on to Miller’s landing. Here, lies the southernmost mangroves in the world. Tracks are easy to spot in the soft sand and mud and it’s supposedly a good place for bird watching. When we arrived the beach seemed deserted, but the sunset was a pleasant end to the day.


Sunset over the southernmost mangroves in the world.


100 year plan

I got this email today:

Hey there! Neal’s cooking food and a clay pot in the fire pit and I’m remembering when you first started building it with a pick axe. Thinking of you, hope things are going great. Everyone here still asks how you’re doing-Betty says hi!

It’s important to me that I have built something people use. It was a team effort to get it finished, but it’s a great feeling to be remembered as a part of the beginning.

Sustainable use of fire pit: firing ceramic art while making dinner .

Shared Services at the University of Melbourne 

Right as I started in June, the University of Melbourne initiated it’s Shared Services Implementation Plan in my division, University Services.  I was brought on to the “Smoother start ups for research projects” initiative as a subject matter expert – which is a bit of a farce since I’m clearly not an expert at the University’s business (yet). But at the time, I was walking around trying to streamline our team’s local record keeping and no one else wanted the job of representing the International Grants team. There are, however, a few skills acquired along the way that make me useful for a project of this scope. Here’s me doing first take of my 5 second sound bite for the promo video:


Nailed it.

Little Creatures Brewery

Little Creatures just opened up a brewery location in Geelong. With the recent push for a cruise pier in Geelong’s harbor, their renovated warehouse isn’t just a brewery, it’s a destination.




Hiking on Great Ocean Road

Darwin Croc Adventures

Croc 2In the 1970’s, Australia’s saltwater crocodiles were culled to a population of approximately 60,000. Today they are estimated at 200,000. There used to be “safe” watering holes in Darwin. Now, Northern Territory state-issued CrocWISE pamphlets warn that EVERY body of water should be approached with caution.

Darwin is in its wet season at this time of year. The Adelaide River is flooded. There is water everywhere. I had been on high alert for days; warily peering into every muddy puddle, under every mangrove tree, and scanning the beaches for log-shaped living dinosaurs. Even after we returned to the safety of Victoria, the unexpected sound of wind-stirred leaves by my toes set my heart racing. 

I found it hard to imagine how people live with these lurking neighbors, so I did some pretty thorough investigating.

The evolutionary branch that spawned crocodiles began over 200 million years ago. They survived through the species-ending destruction of 65 million years ago and stopped evolving right there. Mother Nature deemed them perfect survivalists. During a bad dry season crocodiles can dig into the mud and easily hibernate for 12 months without a meal. The ability to slow their heart rate to 1-2 beats per minute and run on the heat of the sun makes them virtually indestructible in hot environments.

A croc’s only enemies are man and each other. Mostly each other since they became a protected species in 1974. Almost every large croc in the wild has lived long enough to loose a limb, usually from territory-expanding younger croc. 

Croc1When this guy came out of his hiding spot on the bank, the tour guide pointed out that this wasn’t his territory and he must be lying in wait to attack. He came over for a feed off our tour boat. We all moved back a bit when he started to loose interest in the meat on the stick and started eyeing up the much-bigger pieces of meat in the boat.

At Crocosaurus Cove, in the heart of Darwin, you can dive with a croc in the Cage of Death. We did it. There was a lot of liability paperwork.

photo 4



Hot Australia

I feel like I discovered the real Australia this week: Trying to live in a city in 105 degrees – the trams are death traps, the beaches are full, the ice cold ocean feels like it breaths new life, and at the end of the day, after you finished your mad city traffic commute, a cold one tastes like a kiss from an angel.

I tried to stay out of the city. But when I couldn’t, I went to the beach.

Lunch and a dip at St. Kilda Esplanade, Melbourne.


View from lunch.


View from Brighton Beach, Melbourne cityscape in the background.

Snorkeling at Brighton Beach, Melbourne (first snorkel since Grand Turk, I might add). We saw 3 different types of pufferfish, two types of starfish and an electric ray. Fish of the day:

Porcupinefish 800px-Diodon_nicthemerus

Porcupine fish.

Also good:


Common purple sea star


Electric ray



This seastar a pest shipped in from the North Pacific by ships ballast.



















Riding the waves, Ocean Grove, Bellarine Peninsula…except it was calm as the Bay.


Rule of travel: hang with the locals. They know the spots. It’s 106 degrees F and we have a practically isolated beach.


Murray River Inspired Art

Darter bird on the Murray River
Mildura, New South Wales


You Yangs mini hike

20131230-173743.jpgBetween Geelong and Melbourne rise a group of granite peaks called the You Yangs, called after the traditional name Wurdi Youang or Ude Youang meaning “big mountain in the middle of a plain.”

In 1802, Flinders climbed this mountain to survey the Bay – which I did not know until I saw the sign below, posted at the top of a path with many, many stairs that went a long way up – 1.7k up a 147m grade or 1mi up a 482ft grade – just a lovely stroll.


In between heaving breaths, I managed to notice a few interesting things along the trails. There are many different types of gum leaves, ants work hard, this tree has spines:


There was plenty to observe because every single plant was foreign to me. The scenery was lovely, and the bay and Melbourne were visible along the horizon with yellow grass running all the way to the beaches.


Oh, AND, I got really excited because there was a huge sign that said “Geoglyph” and I thought I was going to get a travel “win” by seeing all three geoglyph locations in the world. Turned out it was a 2006 art project honoring the traditional land owners byAustralian artist Andrew Rogers. I watched several passer-byers start a conversation with their kids about why it was there. Heh, what do you know? Celebrating landscape through art.