Friday, June 5, 2009

Orpheus Island - Australia

I just wanted to share a few pictures from our day on Orpheus Island. I didn't have my underwater camera housing, so everything is topside.

This was one of the days I was really looking forward to. It was the day that I could share a whole new world with my students - the underwater world. If you know me, you know I love scuba diving...the jury was out on snorkeling. I did enjoy our time in the water yesterday, but I think I will stick with diving.

The kids did an amazing job as scientists collecting all of their fish behavior and reef condition data. Is was fun watching them trying to keep track of one specific fish while counting the number of times it bit coral.

I learned that it's very hard to laugh with a snorkel in your mouth.  Mrs. McGuire and I were buddies and she got VERY excited about some of the fish we saw.

Hanging out at the beach during sunset and finally getting to see some of the gorgeous Southern Hemisphere sky was another highlight of our trip to Orpheus Island.

Today we left the island and returned to HQ Aquarium where we were able to analyze our data.  It was great to see all the information our group collected in tables and charts.  This experience really gave students an opportunity to put their math and science skills to work.  (We even did some graphing with bug bites and coral cuts!)  I think there may be a few future marine biologists in the group.
I echo Mrs. McGuire - I really hope all of these students realize what an amazing opportunity this has been.  Looking back over the photos we've taken, I can't believe all of the absolutely amazing things we have done over the last 12 days - it's incredible.  We will be sad to leave Australia behind, but we are anxious to get back home to our families.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

We Have Humidity!

Up until yesterday, I had never said, “I love the humidity!”  We have truly enjoyed our warm, humid weather here in Northern Australia.  After leaving the center we headed north to Cairns and made a stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm.  We were treated to an amazing show and dinner.  Along with the giant crocs, another one of the night’s highlights was the up-close visit with a koala.

We did have some rain this morning, but we were on the coach headed to the banana farm, so we managed to stay dry.  And we were treated to several more rainbows…something else that has been as common as the rain. 

Before hopping on the “banana bus,” we enjoyed some tea and lamingtons on the front porch of our hosts.  On our way to the banana fields we stopped by a gorgeous waterfall.  For me, the biggest surprise about the banana trees were the large, plastic bags covering the bunches of bananas.  The bags protect the bananas from the sun and pests.  They are different colors based on their stage of ripening. 

We finally arrived at the packing building and the kids enjoyed playing in the water as the bananas were being washed.  As you can imagine, there was a “small” amount of water that made its way out of the trough.

Back on the coach we headed south from Cairns to Townsville.  It was exciting to meet the staff members at Reef HQ who will be working with us over the next few days.  We got a quick tour of the aquarium and then headed over to the dive shop for a snorkel lesson.  All of the kids did an amazing job and are ready for the Great Barrier Reef. 

We will be learning more about this amazing ecosystem tomorrow and will venture out to the waters around Orpheus Island on Thursday where we will take part in a research project in conjunction with James Cook University.  I am very excited to be sharing a passion of mine, the underwater world, with my students.  Everyone is looking forward to the reef.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Australian Sunrise

Phenomenal, amazing, gorgeous, beautiful, spiritual, inspiring…

I’m not sure there are really any words to describe this morning’s experience at Uluru.  We had been disappointed the night before due to the fact there was no sunset on the rock.  Everyone was holding out hope for this morning and we weren’t disappointed.

The morning of course started out like all of our mornings - cloudy and overcast…even had a little drizzle.  (Drizzle – something else that rarely happens in Australia.)  Just as we were getting ready to leave Uluru, the sun peaked through the clouds.  I think the photos speak for themselves.  It was a morning we will remember forever.

Lemonade in the Outback

Turning lemons into lemonade…an expression I have heard a number of times on our trip. We've encountered several instances where we’ve had to make a few modifications to our daily itinerary or purchase necessary supplies. Saturday was an instance when most people would have thrown in the towel, but our travel manager Amanda did an amazing job of saving the day.

On average, the Outback around Alice Springs averages 10 rainy days a year and we managed to visit on one of those days! Our motor coach wasn’t going to make it down the roads due to the rainfall, so they arranged for a four-wheel drive coach to come and take us to the Ooamainni Camp.

We had the good fortune of taking the “back” roads which provided us with an amazing adventure.

Seeing the Outback from this perspective was a real treat. The contrast between the deep, red soil and the green of the vegetation was beautiful. We had a great time slip-sliding our way to the station/camp.

Had we actually encountered the “typical” weather of the Outback, we wouldn’t have had this unique opportunity to venture through the back roads that most people never see.