February 28, 2018

Norway's tunnel to the future

Norway's tunnel vision a world first

IT'S taken 144 years to do it, but Norway is finally starting work next year on the world's first tunnel for ocean-going ships, and which was first sketched on drawing boards back in 1874.

The engineering wonder will be blasted through the mountainous Stad Peninsula that juts 20km into the ocean between the Norwegian Sea to the north, and the North Sea to the south. Coupled with fierce winds for over a third of the year, it means that where the two oceans meet off the Peninsula's furthest extremity, is Scandinavia's most treacherous point for violent storms, mountainous waves – and shipwrecks.

Now after 144 years of proposals and arguments the Norwegian Government has earmarked 2.7 billion Krone (AU$500,000,000+) for this revolutionary ship's tunnel. At 1.7km long, 45m high and 36m wide, it will be able to accommodate cargo and passenger vessels up to 16,000 tonnes, including the fjordland cruise ships of Norway's popular Hurtigruten Group, saving them venturing through that perilous Stadhavet Sea.

Some 3-million cubic metres of solid rock will be blasted out during the near-five years it will take to build the tunnel, which will even have an observation deck at one end for sightseers to watch dozens of ships entering and leaving the tunnel daily.

And while it will be a world's first for ocean-going shipping when it opens in 2023, tunnels for canal and river vessels are nothing new… the first was dug for a canal to go through a mountain in France as far back as 1679.

[] COMPUTER image of an entrance to Norway's planned world-first tunnel for ocean-going cargo and passenger ships. (Norwegian Coastal Administration)

[] ARTIST'S impression of a vessel in Norway's world-first tunnel through a mountain for ocean-going ships. (Norwegian Coastal Administration)

February 18, 2018

Tasmania: Breathtaking Bruny Island by Boat

By John Maddocks

Toby can't believe it. This nine-year-old rollercoaster and Wet'N'Wild aficionado is dumbstruck as our fast, custom-built open boat roars out of Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. Toby's eyes widen as the boat engages the 2-3 metre waves, skipping over the surface of the Tasman Sea and occasionally landing with a thump that sends spray over the thirty passengers. And the look on my grandson's face tells me that the exhilaration we're experiencing easily eclipses that of any theme park ride.  

Getting to Adventure Bay is easy. Our day trip with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys starts at 8am in Hobart. On the way down to the Bruny Island ferry, our bus driver/guide Nick gives us plenty of information about the towns we pass through and the history of this part of southern Tasmania. After 45 minutes, we reach the small town of Kettering, where we board the vehicle ferry.

Bruny Island is approximately the size of Singapore. The difference is that Bruny Island has fewer than a thousand residents rather than five million. Bruny is beautiful and remote, without the five-star resorts and big hotels found elsewhere. On the way to Adventure Bay we stop at a lookout giving a wonderful view of the Neck, an isthmus joining North and South Bruny. Fifteen minutes later we are eating freshly baked muffins for morning tea in Pennicott's new beachside café.

The staff at Pennicott are quite open about the conditions before we set off, telling us that there is a decent swell running for our trip down the coast to the Southern Ocean. The tidal swell has apparently been increased by the recent 'super blue blood' full moon, and it's well known that the Southern Ocean can be wild at any time.

The choppy conditions don't stop us from cruising beside the majestic sea cliffs, which are among Australia's highest. The cliffs are made of Jurassic dolerite, an extremely hard and distinctive rock. Two albatrosses follow the boat and a dolphin leaps out of the water nearby. We stop for some minutes on the southern side of a massive rock formation known as 'the monument', which stands alone some metres offshore.

As we go further down the wild and enchanting coast, we see many more birds, including an 'improbability' of shearwaters (I learn that an improbability is the name for a group of these birds). Around 50 shearwaters rise from the ocean's surface in front of us, creating quite a display.

We reach the turning point at some rocks known as the Friars, where there are thousands of fur seals. The Friars are known as a 'haul-out' place for seals, where they spend time on land for reproduction and rest. It's a stunning sight to see so many seals gathered in the one area, and all the cameras on board are clicking away frantically.

We have reached the Southern Ocean and the next stop is Antarctica. So we head back up the coast, using the heavy swell to propel us towards Adventure Bay. It's an exciting trip, with plenty of sea spray as our boat surfs the waves.

When we return it's time for a leisurely lunch at the beachside café. The ocean journey has made us hungry. Toby hoes into some fish and chips, while I enjoy homemade pumpkin soup and a salmon and salad roll.

On the way back to Hobart, I reflect on the wilderness cruise experience. I now understand why it has won so many awards, including 'Australia's best tourist attraction' three times. To my mind, this cruise stands out because it's accessible to all ages. And it's fantastic fun.

The writer travelled courtesy of Pennicott Wilderness Journeys

Travel Facts:

Getting there: Drive to Adventure Bay on Bruny Island yourself or take the full day tour from Hobart. The full day tour leaves at 8am and returns at 5.30pm. Ferry crossings, morning tea, lunch and the 3-hour wilderness cruise are included.

Cost: Full Day tour – Adult $225, child 3-16 $165, child under 3 free.

Three-hour cruise only – Adult $135, Child 3-16 $85, child under 3 free.

More Information: https://www.pennicottjourneys.com.au/

Contact: (03) 6234 4270

Email: info@pennicottjourneys.com.au      

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au


1. The fast, open boats are ideal for viewing the coastline. (John Maddocks)

2. Amazing rock formations feature on Bruny Island. (John Maddocks)

3. The rock cliffs of Bruny Island are some of the highest in Australia, (John Maddocks)

4. The monument is a standout on the Bruny Island coast. (Pennicott Wilderness Journeys)

5. Seeing fur seals up close is a feature of this wilderness cruise. (Pennicott Wilderness Journeys)

6. Powerful custom-built boats provide great access to the rugged coastline. (Pennicott Wilderness Journeys)

February 16, 2018

Arnhem Land: Daymanu and the Malarra painting



by Eva Podsiadlowski

There is a popular misconception that Indigenous Australians had no contact with the outside world before European settlement. Yet, Indigenous Australians along the tropical northern coast had extensive interactions with fishermen from Makassar in the southern Celebes (the present-day Indonesian province of Sulawesi), who visited the northern Australian coastline of Arnhem Land and the Kimberley throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Makassan fishermen came in search of trepang (sea cucumber or bêche-de-mer). The processed trepang is prized in Chinese cooking for its texture and flavour-enhancing qualities and is used in Chinese medicine. The Makassan trepangers, after collecting and processing trepang in Australia, returned to Makassar to sell the product to Chinese traders. The Makassans negotiated fishing rights, employed Aborigines to help them fish for trepang and traded in Indonesian pottery, glass, fishhooks, coins and clay pipes; remnants of which have been found along the coast.

Makassan Prau

Aborigines, in turn, returned with the trepangers to visit Makassar. Recent linguistic studies show that some Australian Aboriginal languages contain Makassan words. Aboriginal rock and bark paintings record the visit of the Makassans and their perahu or fleets of wooden sailing vessels. Another legacy of the Makassan trepangers is the tamarind trees (Tamarindus indicus) they planted from seeds that now grow wild along parts of the coast of northern Australia.

The Warramiri people, who are based at the Gäwa Community on Elcho Island, are the main clan historically associated with the Makassan people of Sulawesi. They have many Makassan ceremonies, traditions and even language at Elcho today. They say that the name “Gäwa” was given by the Makassans from their port of Gowa, southern Sulawesi.

On Coral Expeditions recent inaugural Indigenous Culture & Art Expedition, visiting remote and unique islands across the top of Australia (departing Darwin on November 23, 2017), guests were treated to the expertise of guest lecturers including artist Brian Robinson presenting workshops and lectures on Torres Strait Island art and Samantha Martin on native bush tucker of the North-East coast.

Against a backdrop of a remote and striking landscape, guests were warmly welcomed by children and teachers from the Gawa Christian School on Elcho Island. With the help of interpretation from resident Guest Lecturer, Ian Morris, Gawa Traditional Owner and school patron Daymanu (Makassan name for leader) shared stories and a selection of his paintings with our group.

Lore contained within paintings and songs is part of a moment in a larger story making up a songline which is a map of the country based on the travels of the Dreaming ancestors. Daymanu shared the lore of Malarra, a Manta Ray the size of a whale which is especially significant to the Warramiri.

The small coloured triangle patterns seen in the painting come from Malarra’s wings as he rides the ocean, an action sung by Warrimiri as ‘wirritjun’. These little clouds start rising off the sea and become larger as the season progresses during the Midawarr, or calm at the end of the wet, and in Wulma-murryunamirri, the calm of the first build-up thunders. Warramiri people emulate the wings of Malarra with paddles they use to traverse the ocean called marrwala. These stories keep the history of the Warramiri people and describe the natural progression of the seasons and behaviour of the animals. These stories may be the same ones that Indigenous peoples shared with those Makassan traders long ago.

Source: Coral Expeditions Discover News #41

February 04, 2018

The Ghan: a historic train journey more than a century in the making

Steam locomotive approaches Alice Springs on the Old Ghan railway

Roderick Eime

It was nearly 90 years ago when the first 'Ghan' railway service set out from Adelaide bound for Alice Springs. The construction of a complete line all the way to Darwin was one of the earliest dreams of the fledgeling colony of South Australia soon after its establishment by free settlers in 1836.

Bruford Wyoming. Population: 1


David Ellis

IT'S got a population of 1, has a State-erected sign leading into town to prove it, and officially it's the smallest town in America – yet it's got a general store that can deal with crowds reaching a thousand or more a day.

This seeming conundrum is Buford that sits 2,400m high (8000 feet) in the mountains between Laramie and Cheyenne in Wyoming, and which in the late 1800s and early 1900s was rail-company-owned with a population of over 2000 during building of America's first Transcontinental Railway.

But when no new rail work was required the town slowly died, and in 1992 it's only resident bought what was left – a convenience store and gas station, circa-1905 schoolhouse, a 1900's cabin and later era 3-bedroom home, a parking lot, and a bank of Post Office boxes for "locals" scattered through the surrounding  mountains.

Twenty years later in 2012 that owner put the whole town to auction again, two Vietnamese businessmen this time bidding a successful $900,000 against other hopefuls from an amazing 46 countries who all had one thing in mind: they wanted to own their own town.

The Vietnamese duo spruced up the general store, started importing Vietnamese coffee, and not only created a highly successful coffee-stop for Interstate 80 drivers, but actually re-named the town PhinDeli Town Buford after their coffee's brand.

Today neither owner lives there, their 1-man trading post being run on their behalf and selling coffee, snack and convenience items, and fuel to some 1000 motorists a day in summer, and a hundred or so a day in the cooler (read freezing) climes of winter.

For information about wonderfully picturesque Wyoming and its many other must-visit attractions: www.travelwyoming.com


[] BUFORD is officially America's smallest town with a population of just 1 – yet a thousand visitors a day can stop-by here. (ABCNews)

[] THE Trading Post is the only business in town, and was spruced-up by its new owners who paid $900,000 for the whole of the town in 2012. (Flickr)

Brisbane's grand old ladies restored with style and attitude

Brisbane's Osbourne Hotel and Spicers Balfour are both steeped in history but these days as Helen Flanagan discovered, everything old might be new again yet totally different.

If only walls could talk. Designed for hotelier Charles Osbourne by Brisbane architect James Furnival and opened in 1864, The Osbourne Hotel in Fortitude Valley, had some interesting shingles: The Dead Rat, The Rat & Parrot and Fringe Bar with infamous characters to boot, from the Painters and Dockers unionists in the 1970s to Bjelke-Petersen, pollies and punters.

There is a famous story of the day about a man who was shot dead in the public bar in 1974. In the resulting coroner's inquest, some Painters and Dockers union members who were at the hotel at the time were called to testify. Predictably they had seen and heard nothing unusual. One man testified he was fishing a fly out of his beer at the time of the shooting, while another claimed that he was returning from the toilet and was struggling with his zipper. A third said he was watching the first bloke try and get the "bloody" fly.

The Fitzgibbons family bought The Osbourne Hotel in 1980 from Castlemaine Perkins, for good reason. It was Brian Fitzgibbons' favourite watering hole during the war, when he worked in the naval stores at Teneriffe.

In a news-making move, the family even rolled out the red carpet to the kerbside for patrons and had girls in red bikinis serving drinks on roller-skates. The Telegraph was aghast. "Wasn't the Osbourne of old a sort of place where you were ready to duck a roundhouse right? Dead right. The pub was a place where your record as a GPS old boy didn't carry much weight."

Today, with serious nods to the original, the Fitzgibbons family has restored the grand old lady. It has been completely stripped back to her original colourings, and fittings, the leafy beer garden and bistro are back, a glass roof has been added and the capacity has been upped from 400 to 800 patrons.

The hotel serves an extensive range of craft, local and international beers, with 94 magnificent taps hosted throughout the venue. Two bespoke copper bulkheads, each home to 31 taps, are a major feature of The Outside.

Since 1936 four generations of the Fitzgibbons family have defined the world of hospitality. It is understandably in their DNA.

Gastro-pub aside, it's time for the Grand Dame of places to stay, Spicers Balfour owned by Graham and Jude Turner in New Farm's Brunswick Street.

The original building at number 37, fringed with frangipanis, was built in 1910 as a family dwelling, converted into lodgings for ex-serviceman after World War II and later backpackers' accommodation. London-born businesswoman Beverley Trivett purchased the property, delved into the history, decided a charming business hotel was de rigueur and eventually joined the Turners to resurrect and restore the building.

The interior reveals a contemporary European design which is eclectic, quirky and elegant. Each of the nine guest suites has an individual charm and is an indulgent haven.

Number 17 Balfour Street, a Georgian Revival building was built in 1921 by Ada May Richards. Distinctive features of the two-storey stucco block include a pair of Doric columns flanking the entry portico and doorway entrances on both levels.

The flats were built at the start of the building boom to cater to the growing demand for rental accommodation. New owners wanted residences with a range of modern conveniences and were close to public transport and the city as tenants embraced the concept of modernity. Many blocks of flats were built on residential estates which were subdivided because of rising living costs.

Today the SIMLA building is the companion to number 37, the main house with its check-in facilities, rooftop bar, Story Bridge and city views, a guest lounge with library, function room and restaurant the Balfour Kitchen, is a oh-so-private sleeping and entertaining sanctuary. At the end of a busy day, it's just a stroll to what the French describe as 'pieds-à-terre', literally, a foot on the ground, a residence or apartment for occasional use.

Limited to eight guest suites with a bedroom, sitting room, entrance hall and spacious bathroom, the interior design melds early 20s vintage pieces with a splash of contemporary style. Check out the leadlight windows, the black and white tile-pattern flooring - so very Art Deco, as is the curvy kitchen cabinetry. The floral linen curtains dress the French doors beautifully and the bathroom has a stand-alone tub. What's not to love about Spicers Balfour?

Need more info:

Spicers Balfour Hotel - Balfour St New Farm

The Osbourne Hotel, Cnr Ann & Constance St Fortitude Valley. www.osbournehotel.com.au  

Words: Helen Flanagan.

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

Images: As supplied

1,2,3,4,5,6. Spicers Balfour Hotel

7,8. Osbourne Hotel

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