29th Nov 2005
Wet and cold in Canberra
Tuesday, 29th November, 2005
It rained all night, Stuart and I are due to meet up with Genevieve Wright of the Alps National Park Service this morning, somewhere out towards the Brindabellas … at the junction of Coppins Crossing and what sound like Uriah Heap Road.
After dropping the kids at school we headed out that way under grey skies and threatening rain. It was mildly encouraging to be able to see the tops of the hills as we drove towards them. Gen arrived on time, driving a large 4WD pick-up; blonde, bubbly and as it turned out 4 months pregnant with twins so slightly less agile than she felt she ought to be.
We set off for Piccadilly Circus; the meeting point of five dirt tracks about an hour out of Canberra and heard a little bit about the background to the project and the bushfires of 2003 as we went.
By the time we reached Piccadilly, the mist had come down and it had started to settle in to rain. There we met Mike Doherty, from CSIRO, on contract to the Parks Service to re-survey the various sites. The trigger for the work was a fortuitously detailed survey of the various reserves and Parks in the Australian Alps back in 1999. In setting up the quadrats a fixed metal stake was driven into the ground and a record of the plant communities present taken, almost as an afterthought, a photograph was taken looking down the slope from the upper mid point, as much as anything to assist the relocation of the plot. When the fires went through the various parts of the alps it was found that all 168 plots had been burned through and from that the idea came to retake and augment the photographic cover with a number of other record shots to record the recovery of the habitat after the fires.
We pressed on up the tracks to the high point in the Brindabellas and by this time it was absolutely p*ssing with rain and visibility was down to twenty yards. We donned what gear we had and waded out through the low wet scrub towards the sample site.
I took a few shots of the process; Gen huddled under an umbrella making field notes, Mike laying out his tape measures and taking his repeat images and Stuart and I standing around, getting wet, occasionally holding a tape measure or the umbrella.
We were soaked by the end of this first plot. Plot 2 took over half an hour to find … and strangely the location notes made no reference to the proximity of a very large wombat burrow – this seems to typify that the notes are being made by botanists and the fact that there is a considerable excavation which we had all passed at one stage or another and about 12 feet from there, hidden in bracken, is the stake, passed without record. Once it was found, the work was completed fairly quickly and by which time also, we were all soaked and getting cold.
Back to the vehicle for lunch, a chance to drain if not dry our clothing and regain some body temperature. Fieldwork in Australia … its not all its cracked up to be !!
There was no sign of a shift in the weather and the roar of the wind through the dead stems of the eucalyptus got louder and louder, the visibility remained poor and the rain continued to fall.
We did one more plot, an exposed rocky outcrop, achieved fairly quickly and then that was that. Fieldwork suspended for the day. Gen drove us back down to the car and we went our separate ways.
Back at the house by 4 and showered to thaw out and made valiant attempts to dry out the gear. My camera had got so wet that the electronic auto-focus has given up and I finished up taking pics with my panoramic, film camera (wonderful, evocative landscapes of the burnt stems looming out of the mist) and so that got soaked as well.
We took Stuart and Di out to their local restaurant this evening, called Rocksalt. Situated right in the heart of the local shopping precinct in a very unpromising location we had a great evening, with a variety of dishes explored; chicken tenderloins, steak and a flourless chocolate cake were my choices. Lachlan and Duncan sat rooted to their spots throughout but joined in for the pudding course.
Back at about 10.