Whitsundays 2nd entry
After last posting I had a nagging feeling of familiarity that finally blossomed into illumination. Oceanic flight from LAX, Whitsunday Islands…I wonder just how long it will be before Desmond tries to recruit one of us to start entering code every 108 minutes. LOST! And wow does this term adequately describe my first Whitsunday post. The good news is we have since been found. We are all hydrated, waking at 4:30am instead of 3am and feeling somewhat comfortable on our island. We do, however, still have some problems to resolve. The kids are generally doing all right but a few things are slightly amiss.
The 11 year old is a tad cranky- that face of angst that looks like she is dealing with a gas pain is there too often for my liking. She misses her friends. There are needs they fulfill that are not being met by the likes of us. We have been herding them- our usual surviving methodology- and that just doesn't work for her, and rightly so. They all, especially her, need some private time and attention. In tune to it… but what to do about it? Mmmm.
The 10 year old is being pushed to her limits of adventure on some days. Hiking in the bush searching for sleeping fruit bats after a talk about local wildlife including the death adler, spotted python and green tree snake was not her cup of tea. A later review of the pictures showed frame after frame of her swallowed horror. I am all for pushing her limits for growth but need to make sure all this adventure offers opportunity for growth, not harm to her psyche. Just how far and where to push is the puzzle with this one.
The 8 year old is skipping, but probably because she has somewhat attached herself to me, which serves to further annoy the 10 and 11 year olds. They respond with disdain, which makes her feel bad and cling to me more…the recursive nature of relating….loved that lesson in counseling school. The key to breaking the repetitive cycle is getting all involved on the resolution... and therein lies the biggest challenge- mobilizing everyone to have that same desire on the same day.
What is mine to help them work through… and what is theirs to find their way through is an interesting question. Giving someone the answer creates dependency; sitting with them through the pain and fright of finding their own answer is the calling. Still, they are children. It is not cut and dry…there is an artistic line to draw…AND… let us not forget the VERY large dose of realism to acknowledge here. Their pain is ultimately my pain… and in my dreadfully human condition I can only take so much before I swiftly rob them of their opportunity for growth and swoop in and put a fix in place to end my own suffering.
Some things we have done to shift from sloth, rapacity, and avarice and move to productive living, with respect to our present surroundings:
We got to the bottom of where our lost day went
As I stated in prior correspondence, losing a day was shocking to us. In my feeble mind I thought we would just start at GMT and keep advancing in meridians and time zones and naturally cross a place where it was midnight in that time zone and the date would naturally change. Joe was not encumbered with any such illusions; it just wasn't on his radar. When it finally did come on, he and his ultra scientific mind stared up into space, went vacant for few seconds then returned to notify me that we actually maximized our jet lag in going the direction we did because blah, blah, yagazoozi, hossenpepper….. which is what it sounded like to me because he quickly exhausted the depths of my ability to grasp what he was saying.
A small amount of research quickly revealed there is plenty of confusion to be had if you really want to understand the illusion and accounting for time. Sidereal time, solar time, apparent solar time, mean solar time, astronomical day, Julian day, the civil day. I threw in the towel when they started throwing around things like fictitious mean sun because I happen to love the sun. Lucky for me, international time and date lines for dummies provides just enough information to ease the pain of my ignorance. Following is a much-abbreviated (your welcome) version of this whole construct.
If all clocks were actually set by the sun a clock on Long Island, correctly showing time for its location, would be slightly ahead of a clock in Newark, N.J. The Newark clock would be slightly ahead of a clock in Trenton, N.J., which, in turn, would be ahead of a clock in Philadelphia. Newsflash: it actually went down this way for a while. This caused thousands of marital arguments over dinner on the table and every teenager had an excuse to miss their curfew until 1884 when a system of time was adopted by the deh, deh, deh..International Meridian Conference (echo). These brainiacs divided the Earth's surface into time zones that encompass meridians...one of which in each zone is tied to the sun. INTERESTING is that before the 1884 nerd convention, this system was already actually in place courtesy of the railroads! I think I just gave a lot of Republicans something to boast about.
While time is based on the natural event of the sun crossing one of the meridians clumped into a zone, the date line is not tied to anything natural at all- it is totally arbitrary. Her majesty's secret dorks tried to tie some logic to it and figured 12 hours/180° from Greenwich could be a good spot. The fact that the 180° meridians run mostly through the open Pacific must have sealed the deal. The date Line does make a zigzag to prevent wreaking havoc on people who already have burden of having to insert bones through their nose.
Once enlightened I had to actually go back and edit my last post as I wrote 148° west, but we are actually 148° east as have crossed the 180° mark and are thus counting back down from 180° to 0°. I really thought we would keep working our way to 360° but come to think of it, that would not have cemented Greenwich as the middle; it would have merely been 0° and 360°- start and end points. This would never do to satisfy the British desire to be at the center of the universe.
We worked with the kids to facilitate research project topics
It's not a shocker that the kids are drawn to the flora and fauna here and their projects all have threads of zoological intrigue. Consequently, we helped the kids schedule an interview with what they call the landscape manager here. He is really an ecosystem manager- the poor guy is totally being discounted on his business card. He was extremely animated in a very cool Aussie accent explaining the harsh environment on the island and all the things he does to keep things in balance in the short and long term. By the way, our school has a really cool landscape manager too…I see a pattern of awesomeness emerging.
He spoke about Cane toads and how they have taken over. This is a fact one cannot appreciate until you see how large these things are…please consult the Whitsunday photo section after I have it updated for some shock and awe. Descriptors like warty and prominent corneal crests all add to their lowly place in life as unwanted. Ranger Rick however, respectful as he is, acknowledged that they were not, as Alonis would say, uninvited. They were introduced to Australia to deal with a problem and a poof, sh*t, Jurassic Park there is a problem. It's not their fault. Even still, Rick and his son go on toad gathering adventures at night and freeze them- which he figures is the most humane way to return them to the earth as mulch where they won't drive other indigenous species extinct. Walt Disney would be proud. The Cane toads have both poisonous egg sacs and poisonous cauliflowerish things on their heads so very few predators. For those of you who are Floridians, you will recognize these as similar traits to their much smaller cousins- the Bufo toad. Laying 150,000 eggs at a time with each having a very real potential of growing to adulthood has created quite a scene here. You can hear them at night trying to take over the world. Rick's record in a night is a capture of 700. By the way, the guy's name is not Rick, it is Doug, which would be really funny given his career to spell Dug.
We went on an "in search of" hike for Flying Foxes
We got the skinny from Rick/Dug on a ton of things, but the holy grail was the daytime hiding spot of our nocturnal beloved flying foxes. The brush and rocks in the equator sun did make the trek a bit unnerving because it was perfect sunbathing conditions for reptiles. Lizards darted out from under the rocks and gave a millisecond of terror- the time it takes for discernment. Twice we almost turned back, but in the end we prevailed and found the 700+ bats hanging upside down flapping their cloaks to keep cool. Our entry into their lair caused quite a ruckus judging by their calls and squirms so we tried to be respectful and do some quick observations and pictures then leave. Do check out the photos under the Whitsundays folder- these creatures are magnificent. They are the almost the exact replica of Chihuahua and if you take their photo then flip it 180 degrees you will want to cuddle them. Add a cloak and hang them upside down however and they are the closest likeness to Nosferatu that you will ever see.
We got up close and personal with the Great Barrier Reef
The weather broke (normal breathing resumed) and we finally made our way to the inner and outer reefs. The stinger suits are like wet suits made of bathing suit material complete with mits and hoods and dancer-type foot straps. The locals hate them but we found them actually very comforting- protects from the sun and stings. Destination inner reef was had by a short boat ride to the other side of the island. We navigated through striated rocky crags that stuck up out of the turquoise sea to be delivered onto a coral bone-filled beach complete with an emergency canister including cell phone, vinegar, water bottle. Upon approach the beach looked like a small-dog stock pile of bones….perhaps booty of the flying chihuahuas. The kids gained comfort with their gear quickly. Giant clams, tons of fish…but the coral itself takes the prize with an intensity in size, shape and color- a real undersea art opening.
The next day we accessed the outer reef by taking a sea plane off the island then ditched it mid sea and jumped onto a boat to reach a prime snorkel spot. The kids couldn't decide if the maneuver was more James Bond or Indiana Jones. Honestly, while underway on the plane I was imagining a well ending wreck. Seaplanes give you the feeling that in case of failure you will just glide back down and re-land on the sea so there was no fear, just an exercise in potential social experimentation. My daydream took me to pegging each of the 10 total on board in a plane wreck role. In retrospect I realize this whole stream of wandering is evidence of too many corporate training exercises. I did go so far to conclude there is an abundance of fish so we would not have to decide whose buttocks to slice into first as nourishment.
The perspective from the air of our island hideaway snapped its loveliness into full view. Half hour later, the aerial of the greatness of the barrier reef was awe-inspiring. In-flight is the only way you can see the patterns the coral makes as it grows atop an immense undersea mountain range. It looks like an ornate piece of Indian fabric or the craziness you get in your eyes after closing them too tight on a sunny day.
Second entry from the Whitsunday Islands
Still longitude 148° East