Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Australian Locust Plague


Australian farmers have a lot to contend with. There is drought for years on end, inevitably followed by unseasonal rain and flooding. They also have a variety of pests to deal with including rabbits, wild goats and pigs and foxes. But did you know that locusts too are a major threat to Australian agriculture?

The Australian Locust Plague Commission is tasked with monitoring locust swarms – especially of the Australian Plague Locust (pictured) - and forecasting their impact on Australian farmers. This year it is expected that there will be locust hatchings in late December and given this summer’s wet conditions, adults could be ready to swarm in late January 2011.

Although insecticide is the traditional method of control, Jason Fowler of Broome in Western Australia has taken to frying the critters and serving them up as a delicacy. Meanwhile, farmers in Victoria have found that their Christmas turkeys like nothing better than to munch on plague locusts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Fleet Decimated

Rolex Sydney Hobart Jazz

This morning sees the yacht fleet in this year’s Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race decimated with 16 boats retiring. The race is living up to its reputation as one of the world’s most challenging for sailors, as the crews battled stormy seas and winds of up to 50 knots last night.

Wild Oats XI is currently the leader for line honours being 156 nautical miles from the finish. Investec LOYAL, Lahana and Secret Men’s Business 3.5 are all challenging the race leader with Investec LOYAL only 20 nautical miles behind.

It is expected the winner will cross the finish line in Hobart early tomorrow morning.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Crews Prepare for 2010 Rolex Sydney Hobart


Boxing Day in Australia has become synonymous with the Rolex Sydney Hobart yacht race. This year 87 crews have prepared to tackle the 628 nautical mile course.

The race has gained a reputation as being one of world’s most treacherous yacht races after 6 sailors lost their lives in stormy seas during the 1998 Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Meteorologists have warned crews to prepare for fierce winds and rough seas during this year’s race with a 20-30 knot southerly expected off Wollongong tonight. In these conditions skippers will aim to just make it across the finish line rather than break any race records.

The race starts in Sydney at 13:00 today. You can follow the progress of the yachts using the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia’s Yacht Tracker web site.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Santa’s Visitor Application

We apologise for the late notice but this has just come through from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. This year they are issuing Santa a restricted working visa from midnight to 4:00AM on 25-December-2010.


To assist Santa during his visit to Australia, please complete the attached form and e-mail to before midnight on Christmas Eve.

We would like to thank you for your assistance and we wish everyone the best for the festive season and a very happy new year.

Australian Roads


Did you know that Australia’s road network is the 9th largest in the world? Today’s fact for Fun Fact Wednesday is that Australia’s roads span 940,000 Km1. Less than half of this distance is paved roadway.

Sadly, in 2009 there were 1,490 fatalities on Australian roads. 250 road deaths occurred between 1-Dec-2009 and 31-Jan-2010.

During the holiday season please drive safely and if you are travelling long distances, remember to Stop. Revive. Survive.

1. Source: CIA World Fact Book

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Australia’s Tallest Building


Today, Fun Fact Wednesday is about Australia’s tallest building which is Q1 located on Queensland’s Gold Coast. The structure is 323 metres (1,060 feet) high and is currently the world’s tallest residential building.

Completed in November 2005, it has 78 floors and is topped by a 98 metre spire that weighs 87 tonnes. There are 1,331 steps from the top to the bottom so it is recommended you take the elevator which can cover the distance in 42.7 seconds.

The top most floors host an observation deck and bar known as QDeck which is a popular Gold Coast holiday attraction. It is open to the public and provides views from Brisbane to Byron Bay, which are some 80 Km away.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Australian Snake Bites

TaipanAmongst Australia’s incredibly diverse and unique wildlife are some of the world’s most venomous and dangerous snakes. Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday is about snake bites in Australia.

It is estimated that several thousand people are bitten by snakes in Australia each year. There are approximately 300 cases requiring treatment with antivenom and around 2-3 bites which are fatal1.

The most venomous snake is the Fierce Snake (or Inland Taipan) but the deadliest snake is the Eastern Brown which is responsible for the largest number of deaths.

In reality, the risk of snake bite is actually very low and if someone is unfortunate enough to be bitten, the recommended treatment is as follows:

  1. Seek medical assistance;
  2. Calm and reassure the patient;
  3. Apply a pressure bandage to the wound.

1. Source: Australian Venom Research Unit

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Farewell Mr Squiggle

Mr Squiggle

On Monday, Australian cartoonist Norman Hetherington OAM, passed away. He is best know as the creator of the Australian children’s television character Mr Squiggle.

Mr Squiggle first aired on the ABC in 1959. He lived on the moon and would fly in his rocket each episode to visit Miss Gina, Miss Pat or Miss Jane and other friends including Blackboard, Snail and Steam Shovel. Using his pencil nose, Mr Squiggle would create an upside down picture from squiggles sent in from children around the country. In reality he was a marionette puppet operated by Norman Hetherington from above.

The ABC is running a tribute to Norman Hetherington over the next week that you can watch on iView.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Last Flight of Australia’s F-111s


After 37 years of service, the Royal Australian Air Force is retiring its fleet of F-111 aircraft today. This long-range, supersonic, strike fighter is operated by No.1 Squadron and No.6 Squadron out of the Amberley RAAF Base in Queensland.

Although being replaced by the F/A-18 Super Hornet from McDonnell Douglas and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter from Lockheed Martin, their retirement has been shadowed by controversy. Many believe that the upgraded F-111 is still best suited to Australia’s defence needs, despite the age of its design.

The final flights of the aircraft are low-level flyovers of Brisbane and the Gold Coast today.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oprah’s Australian Itinerary

By vargas2040, Cropped by OsamaK [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In her farewell season, the US queen of chat – Oprah Winfrey – is heading to Australia and she’s bringing 300 fans with her. The details of the visit are a closely guarded secret other than that two shows will be taped at the Sydney “Oprah” House on Tuesday, 14-December-2010.

With Australia being such a large place it is hard to guess which parts of this amazing country Oprah will showcase to the world. After a bit of research, here is our speculation on Oprah’s itinerary for her upcoming Australian visit.

Tue 7-Dec Fans arrive in Sydney to explore the city and visit Taronga Zoo.
Wed 8-Dec Oprah arrives in Cairns and heads to Hamilton Is. to explore the Whitsunday Islands.
Thu 9-Dec Fly to Alice Springs and travel to Uluru.
Fri 10-Dec Explore Uluru. Fly from Alice Springs to Melbourne.
Sat 11-Dec Shopping in Melbourne. Visit Great Ocean Road & Wilsons Promontory.
Sun 12-Dec Fly to Adelaide. Visit wine making regions.
Mon 13-Dec Fly to Byron Bay then on to Sydney.
Tue 14-Dec Taping of the 2nd & 3rd shows at Oprah House.
Wed 15-Dec Explore Hunter Valley, Blue Mountains.

View Oprah's Itinerary in a larger map

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Australia’s Biggest Wave


Australia’s biggest wave was measured off the coast of Tasmania on 16 September 2010 at 18.4 metres. Not one for you avid surfers to tackle. This was a measure of the absolute wave height from trough to crest. As records of wave heights in Australia only go back 10 years or so, historically there have probably been larger wave events.

The information for today’s Fun Fact Wednesday was sourced from the Bureau of Meteorology who provide regular forecasts of wave heights for Bass Strait. Their reports typically refer to Significant Wave Height which is an average wave height as opposed to the absolute height of any particular one wave.

The Queensland Government also performs monitoring of wave heights for several locations off the coast, from Cairns to Tweed River.

Happy surfing!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Australia’s Hottest Day


Australia has a reputation for being a warm and sunny country but when does warm become – as Australian’s like to say – “stinkin’ bloody hot”? Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday looks at the hottest daily temperature recorded in Australia.

According to records kept by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Australia’s hottest day was on 2 January 1960 at Oodnadatta Airport when the temperature reached 50.7 degrees Celsius. This year’s temperatures have been milder with the hottest day so far occurring on 1 January 2010 at Onslow in Western Australia where the maximum temperature hit 49.2 degrees Celsius.

If you are out in the Australian sun remember the UV Index can be hazardous so don’t forget to “slip, slop, slap”.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The World’s Longest Fence


Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday is about Australia’s Dingo Fence – the world’s longest fence - stretching 5,614km. Its construction commenced in the 1880s and the fence runs from South East Queensland to west of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.

The purpose of the fence is to stop dingoes from harming the herds of sheep in fertile areas of south eastern Australia. It is 1.8m high and extends 30cm below ground.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Qantas 90th Anniversary


90 years ago on the 16 November 1920, Australia’s national airline QANTAS was formed by Lieutenant Wilmot Hudson Fysh and Lieutenant Paul McGinness. Both had fought at Gallipoli before transferring to the Australian Flying Corps. On their return to Australia, they were commissioned to build airstrips for the Great Air Race. This is when they realised the benefits air travel could offer to cover Australia’s vast distances.

QANTAS originally stood for the Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service and commenced operations in Longreach, Queensland in 1921. Initially Qantas offered joy rides and an air taxi service, but shortly after commenced regular passenger flights from Charleville to Cloncurry.

qantas booking

Although Qantas has a reputation for being one of the world’s safest airlines, it did lose aircraft flown on behalf of the military in WWII. Its first international flight was from Darwin to Singapore in 1935 and its first jet aircraft was a Boeing 707-138 which it put into operation in 1959. In 90 years Qantas has expanded the reach of Australian aviation, now travelling to 18 domestic destinations and 21 international destinations. It also runs flightseeing flights to the Antarctic.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Australian Water Use


Australia is a dry country with its sweeping deserts and rugged outback - receiving on average, only 500mm of rainfall annually.

Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday will look at how water is consumed in Australia.

Every five years the Australian Bureau of Statistics prepares Australia’s Water Accounts which detail our uses of water and its consumption.

The last accounts, prepared in 2004-05 showed some interesting facts:

  1. Australia’s total water use equalled 80,000 gigalitres1;
  2. Of the total water used, over 75% was returned to the environment with 18,767 gigalitres being consumed;
  3. Major consumers of this 18,767 gigalitres were Agriculture (65%) and Households (11%);
  4. This household water consumption equates to 285 litres per person per day. US household water consumption by comparison equates to 262 litres per person per day.

1. 1 gigalitre = 500 Olympic swimming pools

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sculpture by the Sea


Sculpture by the Sea is an art exhibition of outdoor sculpture, held at Bondi Beach, Sydney and Cottesloe Beach, Perth, each year. The Bondi exhibition is currently running until 14 November 2010, while the Cottesloe exhibition will commence next year on the 4 March 2011. It is a free event that is very popular with the weekend crowd so be sure to go early or take in the art works with the evening sunset.

Started by David Handley in 1997, with a budget of only $11,000, the first Sculpture by the Sea managed to attracted 25,000 people. Today it is expected that over $1 million of art will be sold at the Bondi exhibition alone.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Australian Gambling


Australia is a nation of gamblers and it is said that Australian’s will bet on anything, even two flies crawling up a wall. Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday looks at how much Australian’s gamble each year.

Yesterday, the 2010 Melbourne Cup saw over $150 million wagered by Australian’s across the country. In 2005 it is estimated that Australians bet a total of $15 billion, but only $2.1 billion of this was on racing. Our favourite form of gambling is the poker/gaming machine through which we pumped over $8 billion. The was followed by casinos where Australians bet a total of $2.6 billion throughout the year1.

1. Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Gambling Services 2004-05

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Americain wins 2010 Melbourne Cup

Melbourne_Cup_TrophyIn a surprise finish, French horse Americain, ridden by Gerald Mosse has won the 2010 Melbourne Cup. Americain beat Maluckyday (2nd) and favourite So You Think (3rd) on a wet track in Melbourne.

So You Think - trained by Bart Cummings - led for much of the race while his other horse Precedence came in 11th. The Gai Waterhouse trained Descarado failed to finish the race.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bart Cummings

Bart Cummings

In keeping with this week’s Melbourne Cup theme, today we are reviewing the achievements of James Bartholomew (“Bart”) Cummings. Born 14 November 1927 in Adelaide, Bart Cummings started work at his father’s stables soon after leaving school. He established his own stables at Flemington in 1968 and then in Randwick, Sydney in 1975.

He is considered one of Australia’s most successful horse trainers, having won the Melbourne Cup twelve times to date, with the horse “Think Big” winning twice in 1974 and 1975. In 1988 he became the first trainer to achieve prize winnings of more that $6 million.

He was honoured with the Order of Australia (AM) in 1982 for services to racing and carried the torch in the 2000 Olympics. Bart Cummings also appears on a stamp in 2007 as part of Australia Post’s Australian Legends series.

There were doubts that Bart Cummings would be present for this year’s Melbourne Cup in which he is running two horses – “So You Think” and “Precedence” - following hospitalisation for a serious illness. After being released on Sunday it appears he will be attending and the Victoria Racing Club has promised to take care of him on a day that is going to reach a maximum of 17 degrees.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

150th Melbourne Cup

Melbourne Cup Small

This Tuesday will see the 150th Melbourne Cup run at the Flemington race track at 3:00PM. One of world’s premier thoroughbred horse racing events, the Melbourne Cup is always held on the first Tuesday in November. The race is run over 3200 metres and this year is offering prize money of $3.3 million for the winner.

Melbourne Cup Fashion SmallKnown as “the race that stops a nation” a recent survey suggests that the Melbourne Cup costs Australia over $1 billion in lost productivity as Australians take 3 hour lunch breaks to gamble and celebrate. Collectively, Australian’s wager more that $60 million on this one race. It is also a day where fashion plays and important role with both men and women dressing up and with the hat being an essential element of the woman’s attire for race day. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The UV Index

Have you heard of the UV Index? Today’s Fun Fact Wednesday will look at what the UV Index means and what precautions you need to take when in the Australian Sun.

The UV Index is a measure of the amount of Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation from the Sun reaching the Earth’s surface. UV radiation is responsible for sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. A UV Index of 6 to 11 or more is considered to be of high to extreme risk. The chart below shows that for much of the year in Australia, the UV Index is in this range. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology produces a UV Index Forecast which predicts the UV Index nationwide. On days where the UV Index is above 3 remember to Slip, Slop, Slap. Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen and slap on a hat.

The chart below shows the average weekly UV Index for Sydney over the last 7 years and for the most recent year1. It is interesting to note that the UV Index was consistently higher over the last year than the 7 year average.

UV Index

1. Source: Australian Radiation Protection And Nuclear Safety Agency

Monday, October 25, 2010

Parkes Radio Telescope

The New South Wales town of Parkes is home to the Parkes Radio Telescope. ParkesThis radio telescope was built by the CSIRO in 1961 and is still used to conduct astronomical observations to this day.  It is 64 metres in size and its location was chosen specifically to help shield it from radio interference that could disturb its observations. The dish has also played an important role in tracking and communications for the Apollo, Voyager and Galileo space missions.

An account of the role Parkes played in the Apollo 11 moon landing has been recounted in the humorous Australian film – The Dish released in 2000. Get it out now on DVD to learn more about Parkes and its radio telescope, or visit Parkes and its Visitors Centre, which is open every day except Christmas and Boxing Day.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Australian Shark Attacks


Today we are starting Fun Fact Wednesday. Each Wednesday we will post an interesting fact about the Australian way of life. Today’s fact is about shark attacks in Australia1.

Between 1999 and 2009 there have been 99 recorded shark attacks in Australia. Of these, 13 (13%) were fatal. Over the same period there were 700 shark attacks world wide with 51 (7%) of these being fatal. So it appears the chances of being fatally attacked by a shark in Australia is twice that of the rest of the world.

So now for the good news. Although there were 20 shark attacks in Australia in 2009, none of these were fatal. We can only assume that Australian’s are becoming less tasty.

1. Source: International Shark Attack File

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Peter Norman

Peter Norman

As the achievements of Australian athletes at the XIX Commonwealth Games in Delhi fade, we are reminded of the accomplishments of another great Australian athlete – Peter Norman.

Peter won silver in the 200m at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. His achievement has become all the more memorable due to the support he displayed for fellow U.S. athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith who gave the black power salute from the podium. Considered an iconic moment in the US civil rights movement, the story has been retold by Peter’s nephew Matt Norman in his 2008 film Salute. The film documents his uncle’s role in the event and the subsequent treatment of Norman by the Australian Olympic Committee and the media.

Peter Norman died in Melbourne on 3 October 2006. Both John Carlos and Tommie Smith were pallbearers at his funeral.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Australia’s First Catholic Saint

On 17 October 2010, the canonisation of Mary MacKillop will be officially recognised by Pope Benedict XVI, making her Australia’s first Catholic Saint.

Mary MacKillop was born in Fitzroy, Melbourne on 15 January 1842. She co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart with Rev Julian Tenison Woods, both of whom are recognised for advancing Catholic education throughout Australia.

Mary died on 8 August 1909 and was buried in the Gore Hill Cemetery on the Pacific Highway, Sydney. On 27 January 1914 her remains were relocated to a Memorial Chapel in Mount Street, North Sydney.

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On 19 January 1995, Mary MacKillop was beatified, following the recognition that her intercession was responsible for the recovery of a woman with leukaemia in 1961. On 19 December 2009 a second miracle was recognised with the cure of another woman – Kathleen Evans – of lung cancer.

Following canonisation, Mary MacKillop will be known as Saint Mary of the Cross.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dame Joan Sutherland

Today we mourn the loss of Dame Joan Sutherland who died on 10 October 2010 at her home in Switzerland at 83 years of age.

Born in Sydney on 7 November 1926, Dame Joan did not start a serious study of Opera until she was eighteen, while working in a secretarial job. After some success in Australia she chose to pursue an operatic career overseas. Her reputation grew following a string of performances in 1959 and 1960, but it was not until she sang Alcina in Venice she was nick named La Stupenda (“The Stunning One”).

Part of her musical and recording success can be attributed to the collaboration with husband, renowned Australian conductor and pianist Richard Bonynge who helped tailor Dame Joan’s repertoire. He also suggested her partnership with Luciano Pavatotti.

Although she refused to sing in later life, Dame Joan was still happy to hum the odd aria or concerto to herself while at home.

The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith, NSW was named in her honour and hosts several musical and theatrical events throughout the year.

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