I’m happiest covered in mud

I have a bit of a moment to reflect on the events of yesterday. We spent the day with Tony and Jai of kookaburra tours. Jai is a traditional land owner-translation aboriginal of the lizard tribe. I feel bad as I can’t remember his people’s name. So he has contact and permission from tribal members to show us white folk about their ways. This was probably the most stimulating adventure of our trip.

Jai took us to Mungalla about 60 miles north of Townsville. This is a rich valley bordered by rain forest mountains, and the coral sea. Traditional land owners here tell us of the history of the carpet snake tribe, which only had about 150 miles of land in their nation, but didn’t
want or need more because the land was so rich. Here at Mungalla today, they raise Brahman cattle…and I was blown away by their husbandry techniques. They import bull semen from the states from some of the finest stock and use eggs extracted from their brahman cows, but then implant the fertilized eggs into retired dairy cows. How incredible is that?!? It’s a genius technique that provides the calf with a first class milked and the nutrients it needs for a good start yet keeps the genetic lines pure. I was totally blown away by this. It utilizes dairy cows a few more years in their lives and gets first rate stock out of it. Good stuff. Good stuff.

Part of the reason Mungalla was started was so that the traditional land owners, who have become complacent in the welfare system, could once again learn to utilize the land and become productive citizens again, while still paying homage to their forefathers.

At Mungalla we were taught how to throw boomerangs..(I hope my video turns out). We didn’t kill anyone but we came darn near close. One person had Teheran bejeezus scared out of them. From there we were taken to the original homestead sight where James Cassidy, an Irish immigrant built his beautiful estate and housed hundreds of aboriginals to keep them safe from the mass killings and assimilation attempts of the white settlers. To this day many aboriginals use the last name Cassidy to pay homage to him. Our visit ended with a heart breaking look at how circuses in the states would kidnap aboriginals and exploit them. I left heavy hearted and ashamed of my cultural past. Especially when I learned their first stop in the states was Baltimore.

After purchasing some art, which will look great in our red room, we were off to an Italian lunch. We all groaned as we were convinced that this would be our 5th night of lasagna, but we were pleasantly surprised. We had tapas served to us from traditional land owners learning the hospitality trade. It was yummy! And more importantly it was not Lasagna! Hotel Noola, you win on so many levels! (side note: did you know that northern Australia has a huge Italian influence and had a mafia that lurked about called the dark hand?)

We couldn’t rest much following lunch so we were tossed back in the van and on to Kennedy beach where we met with another one of big Jake’s kinsmen…Gary Cassidy. Gary took us on an awesome mangrove tour where I was able to get hip deep in the mud in search of crabs and mudskippers. We were covered in mud, I even had to be pulled out once, and we were absolutely in heaven. (I should have video)

We needed to clean off so we ran intro the most beautiful surf you could imagine. I loved this. First after a week of slogging around and being mentally and physically engaged it was good just to have the spiritual moment of just being. It was joyous. The water was cool, and clear, and filled every pore of our beings. I was truly happy.

On the way home we listened to Jai give us a lesson on the yiigiiyiigii or the didgereedoo to us white folk. apparently, it isn’t an Aussie instrument. It came to the aussies from the island people, and during the time of “black birding”, the slavery trade here, it was picked up by the tribals. It is forbidden for women to play the didgereedo as the tribals believe that it will play havoc on our reproductive system. If you want to be pregnant, you will be barren, if you don’t want to be pregnant you will get pregnant…given that we don’t want to go that route, I respected their wishes and didn’t try, but the concept is very much the same as the tuba so I suspect I would do better than our men who tried.

Back at reef hq, I presented my research with my group, and we rocked. Two more nights to sleep on the floor…I can’t wait to back at the holiday inn and I can’t wait to see Travis again, and meet up with Katie Grenchik, so we can explore the world on our own. Today we will be observing the education facilities, and assessing the messaging here at the aquarium. Not totally psyched for it but maybe I can bring back some unique interpretive ideas for the zoo. No worries!

My experience down under

This is my 7th day in Aussieland. I have travelled to magnetic island, where I encountered wallabies, koalas, death adders, kookaburras, cockatoos, lorrikeets, magpies, curlews, giant orb weaver spiders, brown tree snakes, spotted pythons, and a whole lot of creepy crawlies.

Bungalow Bay was lovely…a bit touristy but the owner,Tony, was absolutely a hoot and a half. He lead us on more mountain hikes than any normal man his age could do and colored our world the Aussie way. Maggie is a beautiful Island and I really enjoyed the conservation work we did on the island.

We have spent three nights so far on the floor of Reef HQ sucking the knowledge out of our hosts of the great barrier reef marine park agency, the government organization that monitors and conserves the reef. For the most part the people are unbelievable. Lots of amazing research taking place with sharks, corals, barrimundi, and climate change. There is lots of opportunity for partnership here so I am completely psyched about that.

I just returned from a two day live aboard trip on board the research vessel Kalinda. She floats. That is about the most kind thing I could say. I slept in a berth that was 4 cots squished together on each side with a small aisle in between. Let’s just say I spooned with two others. The berth was just next to the engine room, was full of mildew, wreaked of diesel fuel, and we listened to the bilge run all night. The plus was, since we were at the bottom of the boat we didn’t feel the toss nearly as much as the rest of the boat. My dive buddy had initial problems with buoyancy, so it was a miserable dive and we cut it short. I bailed on the three subsequent dives for fear of my life. The report came back that he had a faulty BCD so I felt like I would trust him on the next dive. He asked to go to the anchor even though we were in very deep water with low vis and we discussed the rules, no getting too far ahead of me, always check to see if the depth is OK, always check back…at 50 feet I was experiencing bad mask squeeze and I needed a moment to fiddle…I signaled and flailed and signaled and my buddy disappeared. I darted after to 60 feet, and couldn’t find him. Now I needed to ascend…but I had to dive my computer, alone, in the dark, and oh, I was overweighted…so every 10 feet, I would stop, and I would start to sink back….not fun! I took about 4 minutes to surface where my buddy was way on the other side of the cove. We met back up. We went down on the bommies and saw a few decent fish, nothing to write home about. I missed my reef assessment that I was supposed to do and then I made my decision to stop diving. I said I didn’t want the surface swim (which is slightly true). And stood watch. Where I did see a manta from the surface…kind of cool…

Today, we went up the coast and spent the day in the mangroves with the aborigines. Absolutely amazing. The topography here is very different lots of green lots of cattle and lots of sugar cane. I am very, very tired, and quite filthy. Tonight, I present my reef conservation with my group. I hope we get it together. I miss everyone! G’day!

She’s back!

Howdy everyone…I made it home safe from Mongolia!  I will be posting photos soon on the gallery page.  Had tons of fun, had lots of adventures and learned more than I could ever have imagined.  I can’t wait to finish my two online classes and head to Africa hopefully for next years class.  Mad props to everyone who helped me on my way to following the next step in my dream.

Polar Bear Plunge

Taking the Plunge

What lead me to jump into the freezing Chesapeake Bay

The Maryland State Police Polar Bear Plunge has been taking place in the Chesapeake Bay for the past 13 years. It benefits the Special Olympics of Maryland and I have almost always watched it on TV and said to myself, “Wow, those people are either brave, crazy or stupid.” As I watched thousands of people dash into the icy cold waters…and run nearly naked back up on the beach to get dressed.

(Read More to see the rest, including the picture!)

Continue reading