Sunday, November 30, 2008

Controversial Opera House Architect Dies

Joern Utzon - the architect of the Sydney Opera House - has died in Copenhagen at the age of 90, following a heart attack.

In 1957, Utzon won a competition for the design of Australia's best known landmark. The design was so ambitious and challenging that at the time no one new whether it could actually be built. This eventually led to a falling out between Utzon and the NSW government resulting in Utzon's resignation from the project on 28 February 1966. Despite this event, the building was completed in 1973, though not to Utzon's original specifications. On 28 June, 2007, the Sydney Opera House was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Launch of Australia's 1st Satellite

41 years ago today, Australia's first satellite was launched from the Woomera rocket range in South Australia. Incidentally, Woomera is an aboriginal invention that assists with the throwing of spears. WRESAT was a project fully designed and constructed by the Weapons Research Establishment and launched within 11 months of its initiation. The satellite which weighed over 50Kg and was 2m in length carried scientific instruments for upper atmospheric research. The launch vehicle consisted of three stages with the first stage being a Redstone rocket - a direct descendent of the German V-2.

You can watch a video from the National Film & Sound Archive of the WRESAT launch.

Following launch the first stage of the rocket fell back to earth in the Simpson Desert. The remnants of this stage were recovered by volunteers in April 1990. It is believe the second stage would have come down somewhere in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

WRESAT successfully entered an elliptical polar orbit and continued to operate for two weeks. As the satellite's closest approach to earth was a mere 198 km, its orbit degraded rapidly, re-entering the atmosphere on 10 January 1968 and burning up.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Dog On The Tuckerbox

76 years ago today (28th November, 1932) The Dog On The Tuckerbox Monument was unveiled by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. Located at Snake Gully 5 miles (8.5kms) north of Gundagai NSW along the Hume Hwy. The monument is a tribute to our pioneers. The legend of the Dog On The Tuckerbox was inspired by two early Australian poems and the popular 1937 song by Jack O'Hagan.View Larger Map

Happy 60th Anniversary Holden

Tomorrow marks the 60th anniversary of the production of the first Holden car in Australia. On the 29 November, 1948, the first FX Holden (or 48-215 as it was known then) rolled off the production line at the company's Fishermans Bend plant in Melbourne. The car had a 2.15 litre, 6-cylinder engine and three speed manual gearbox. Over 120,000 of the FX model were manufactured and Holden went on to become an Australian motoring icon. The photograph shows the then Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. J. B. Chifley at the release.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rev. Robert Evans - Star Hunter

Like our Sun, the stars we see in the evening sky are burning balls of gas. Eventually, every star will exhaust its fuel and die. The manner in which a star will end its life depends on a number of factors, but it is the exploding stars (or supernovae) that are most spectacular. When a star becomes a supernova the result is a very bright illumination for a period of weeks or even months following the event. Stars that were so distant they could not be discerned with even the most powerful of Earth-based telescopes suddenly appear when they become supernova.

In the 1980s this was an area of interest for astronomer who wanted to understand what happened to stars that exploded in this manner. Their primary interest was in finding a supernova and studying its light characteristics in the weeks following the explosion. This is where two Australian amateur astronomers - Gregg Thompson and Rev. Robert Evans - played their part using nothing more than a 10-inch telescope, hand drawn sketches of star-fields and the dark skies of rural Australia.

Between 1981 and 2007, Rev. Robert Evans (a Uniting Church Minister), was credited with discovering 41 supernovae through visual observation. Professional astronomers would photograph areas of the night sky with their large telescopes and compare the images over time for the appearance of a supernova. Robert Evans on the other hand would visually examine various galaxies, thought to be potential candidates for supernova, and compare them night after night, cross-checking them against the star maps prepared by Gregg Thompson.

His first discovery was Supernova SN 1981A in the galaxy NGC 1532 in late February 1981, while holidaying on the north coast of New South Wales. He went on to discover another 40 supernovae visually, another five on photographic film, as well as the Comet Evans Drinkwater. To this day he is credited with discovering more supernovae visually than anyone else.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

30th Anniversary of the End of Commercial Whaling

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the end of commercial whaling in Australian waters. Having commenced in the late 18th Century, commercial whaling ceased with the closure of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, in Western Australia in November, 1978.

Beware the Drop Bear

Australia is well known for its beautiful, unique and sometimes deadly wildlife. Animals such as kangaroos and emus are "mostly harmless", but other creatures such as the Great White Shark, Tasmanian Devil and the infamous Drop Bear are posing an increasing threat to Australia's visitors.
Drop Bears are a larger, carnivorous, relative of the koala. Like their cousins their habitat is eucalypt trees and their primary form of attack is to drop from the higher branches on to their unsuspecting prey below. It is believed that the Drop Bear evolved from Phascolarctos stirtoni. Scientists have been unable to determine how the Drop Bear times its fall so accurately, so as to land on its victim with pin-point accuracy. The collision typically leaves the prey unconscious and the Drop Bear relatively unscathed. The Drop Bear will then use its sharp claws and fang like teeth to rip the carcass to shreds. Drop Bear cubs will frequently follow their mother after she has incapacitated her victim.
Drop Bears are found throughout Australia but are predominantly situated in eucalypt forests some distance away from the urban centres. They are most active from early Spring to late Autumn.
In 2009 the Commonwealth Government plans to start its "Beware the Drop Bear" campaign, designed to educate tourists on the dangers of Drop Bears in the Australian bush. Since 1990, there have been 27 recorded Drop Bear fatalities - mostly foreign visitors.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Australia's 1st Woman Drover

Edna Jessop earned her place as an Australian legend by becoming the country’s first woman drover. Born on the 10th October 1926 at Thargominda, Queensland, to Harry and Ruby Zigenbine, Edna’s father involved her with droving from an early age.
The practice of droving involves moving large numbers of livestock over long distances for the purposes of searching for feed and water, delivery to a new owner or taking the cattle to market. Today – with the domination of rail and road transport – it is difficult to appreciate the challenges involved in moving a thousand head of cattle over thousands of kilometres.
In Baz Luhrmann’s latest screen epic – AustraliaHugh Jackman’s character Drover – portrays these difficulties as he helps drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of rugged terrain.
In 1950, at just 23 years of age, this is exactly the challenge that faced Edna Jessop. After her father fell ill following a horse fall, she took charge of the job of driving 1,500 bullock from the Kimberleys to Dajarra - just south of Mount Isa - via the infamous Murranji track. This accomplishment led her to both national and international fame and renown.

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In 1960 Edna moved to Mt Isa to educate her son Jack and worked there in the sales yards and local council for the next 30 years. Looking back on her life, Edna was quoted as saying, “I have had a fairly hard life and things were tough sometimes. But the freedom of the bush and the countless nights under the stars, miles from cities, walking with mobs, seeing all the wonderful places and antics of animals and the peace and quite have made it all worthwhile and I would not change it for quids. Gone is the life forever and I wish some of the kids of today could have the chance have experienced the life I knew as a kid”. Source: Sammon, Jack-
Edna died at the age of 80 years in Mt Isa on 15th September 2007.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What is the Five O'Clock Wave?

According to the local people of the New South Wales town of Wagga Wagga, at precisely 5 o'clock each day, a giant wave washes down the Murrumbidgee River. This follows the release of water from the Blowering and Burrinjuck Dams. Depending on water levels at the time, the speed and power of the wave has been known to allow surfers to ride it all the way to the nearby town of Narrandera, some 100Km away.
In 1918, on a brief visit to Australia, the famous comedic actor, Charlie Chaplin, visited the small town with the express purpose of seeing this most incredible phenomena. Unfortunately, due to the drought conditions that were the plight of much of the country at the time, he left disappointed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome to Five O'Clock Wave

It started as an idea conceived over dinner. How about we create a web site that show cases the most amazing and unusual aspects of Australian culture. We could examine the diverse and unique elements of Australia's natural history. We could celebrate the lesser known achievements of Australian's past and present. We could bring Australia's stories - fact and fiction - to the world.

Well, after a long gestation period, our idea has finally become a reality. At we plan to bring you all this and more including weekly feature articles and video clips.

Sit back and enjoy learning about what makes Australia such an incredible place.