Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pictures from the field

Here is a small collection of pictures from the field. You will notice a focus on arthropods. But there are no more python pictures.

Moth sex

Fun with the fisheye and a tree fern

I like this picture because there are signs of herbivory and predation.

Tim took this cool shot of a walking stick

This is beetle reminds me of a fancy paint job on the gas tank of a West Coast Chopper.

This ant was about 2.5 cm long. Big and scary at first, but was pretty docile.

The view from the ridge as I drove back to town after work

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Flying the World Championship Site

Somehow I figured out a way to fly and help Lora out with her work. I flew from Tasmania the day Lora finished up at her Border Ranges field site. The plan was for us to spend a few days together tasting wine and sitting on a beach. Here's a picture of Lora at a wine tasting bar. We learned quite a bit about Australian wines especially about blends.

We then took a drive from the winery and found this scene of a series of ancient volcanic plugs. You have to pardon the slant of the picture due to the fact it was balanced on top of our car.

After our drive I noticed the wind had slackened a bit and so we raced down to the beach and I had a 30 min evening soar. The spot was unique in that after you launched from the point dune you could soar over to two condo buildings and soar them. The really funny thing was that you flew very close to them and I was able to talk with vacationers on their balconies... not to mention looking in their rooms.
Since the site was so beautiful and the forecast for the next day was perfect for flying, we decided to spend it back at Point Cartwright. Here are a few more pictures of the site . It's located a 100kms north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. We met a few local pilots who were very friendly. The picture below is one I took looking back at launch and the point.

I flew for a total of 3 hours that day. It was AWESOME! One of the coolest things was when an Australian fighter jet, an F-111, flew by only about 250 meters in front of and level with me. I was too blown away to realize that I might quite literally be blown away from it's rotor. All went well though luckily.

A picture of a local pilot flying from launch.
Ok so after a few days together I dropped Lora off at the airport and my plan was to go flying for a few more days and then drive the car up to the northern sites(1700kms away). So I met up with a Gold Coast pilot, Mark, and we drove 600kms south, in the opposite direction. We were heading to our first flying competition. This competition is a team based distance comp where each team is made up of three novice pilots, one intermediate, and one advanced pilot. The theory is that the advanced pilot will help launch the novice pilots into a thermal cycle and then launch himself. Then all five pilots will use the thermals to fly as far as they can for the day. The novice pilots distances each get multiplied by 3, the intermediate by 2, and no multiplier for the advanced. The winning team after three days gets bragging rights for the year. The comp is called the State of Origin after a rugby game between the states here.

Here's a pic of Ralf and Mark at launch. This flying site, near Manilla, Australia, was just used for the World Championships last month so it's really plush. It has four launches in each direction all covered with astroturf for easy no snag launches.

A pic of a few of the 100+ pilots in front of launch. The way it works is you launch into a thermal of rising warm air and use it to gain height. You then glide away searching for another thermal to regain height. then repeat and fly 100's of kms. The current world record is over 400kms.

Below you can see a few pilots circling in a thermal to gain height. Look in the brightest part of the pic. (You can enlarge any of the pics just by clicking on them.)
Well how did we do you may be asking yourself. Mark and myself were the only members to fly away from the hill. I flew my first cross country flight of 12 kms!!! I was so excited and now am hooked to this part of the sport. Just to prove it wasn't a fluke I then flew two flights of 6 kms. Here's a pic looking along the ridge back at the launch site.It's directly below the largest cloud very close to the lowest part of the ridge. This was the first time I had to judge a landing site away from where I launched from. I learned a ton including when to launch. I think all three days I launched a little too early in the day. Usually I would hit an inversion layer at around 1200 meters and proceed to get bumped around until I had scared myself silly. Then I would head out alone searching for another thermal. Sometimes I would find one and sometimes not.
All in all it was a great experience. Our team was in the middle of the pack in terms of rankings. I placed 33rd out of a little over 90 pilots.
To all of my flying friends...when are you coming over here? I've flown 10 different sites all over Oz. We own two cars. Let's go flying!

Have I mentioned recently that I have the best wife in the WORLD?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pythons love me.

Pythons are everywhere. One day after hiking in to my field site it started to rain. Since I am use to working in the tropics, I of course had no warm clothes or rain protection. So I thought "Maybe it won't rain too hard" Then it started to pour. So I thought "This is probably short lived, I'll just wait it out. After all I hiked all the way in here." It was really cold so I made a little thatch covering and sat on the ground huddled under my make-shift shelter. After about 20 mins I looked over and saw a python 1 meter away. Since they are not poisonous I wasn't too scared, but then it decided to move. It wasn't very protected from the rain and he/she was looking for a better spot. All I thought was "Please don't come over here". It started to, but then found a large palm frond to curl under. It was entertaining to watch it curl itself up. This one was only about 2 meters long. Well the python and I hung out for about 2 hours, until I realized it wasn't going to stop raining and crawled out and ran all the way out. Yeah, I was freezing. I now carry an emergency poncho and a long sleeve. Anyways, I finished up the day having coffee with the 80 yr old dutch friends I made at the campground (the trailhead). Above is a picture of a different python I saw hiking in another time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Back from Border Ranges

Okay, I know it has been awhile since our last post. I have been working in the field (Border Ranges National Park, NSW) for two weeks without internet access. I was staying in the small town of Kyogle (pictured) where everything is open from 9-5 Mon-Fri and 9-12 on Sat. Needless to say I was in the field during business hours, and you can begin to know how exciting it was there afterwork. Yeah I watch a lot of TV in my motel room.

The forest was beautiful. I had a 1 hr hike in and out to my plots.

Tim helped me out for the first couple of days to get things going. Then he went back to Tassie for school and work commitments.

On the hike in there is this one vine that makes a perfect swing, it is just up the creek a little ways from the waterfall behind us in the picture.

Well, I have more to share and more pictures from the field so keep a look out for them.