Archive for August, 2015

Cape Otway Lighthouse

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

Cape Otway Lighthouse

The Cape Otway Light Station might not be the most significant lighthouse in Australia, but its up there.  Cape Otway is the southernmost tip of eastern Australia, forming the northern boundary of the Bass Straight, a relatively narrow sea channel between Tasmania and mainland Australia that becomes even narrow between the cape and King Island. After several sailing vessels managed to get all the way from England to Australia, only to wreck along the rocky and windy southern shore of Victoria, the British government began building lighthouses.   The one at Cape Otway was built between 1846 and 1848.

Masonry

Most of the walls, including the steps, are of masonry construction, with the carefully curved and fitted exterior stones cut nearby.

Platform Support

The topmost part of the lighthouse, along with the mechanisms, was provided in pre-fab form from England.  A large cast iron funnel, with a stack on top, provides the support for the rotating light mechanism on the level above.

Iron Eye

A metal rod (no, I don’t know what it is for) is contained within the cast iron tube, connecting the mechanism at the top of the lightstation with the cast iron eye set in the floor, beneath the winding staircase.

Cast iron steps

The steps leading up to the working level of the light house are made from cast iron, as are the railings, posts, the platform underneath the light mechanism, and apparently, the domed roof of the station.

Fresnel Lens

A rotating Fresnel lens, which was originally powered by a weight-enabled clockwork mechanism that had to be rewound by the keepers every day, was eventually electrified.

Ladder

A wooden ladder leads from the cast iron grating immediately underneath the rotating lens mechanism, enabling the keepers to maintain the interior of the dome and the lighting mechanism. Like the ladder in a library, this ladder can be repositioned around the interior of the lightstation dome, hooking onto cast iron bars above the lens unit.

Elizabeth on the observation platform

The exterior of the light station has a platform, completely surrounding the station, made from cast iron.

Exterior catwalk

A secondary, and much more precarious platform, also made from cast iron, was used to maintain the exterior of the lighthouse, and presumably, to wash the salt spray off the windows.

New Lighthouse

The Cape Otway Lightstation was Australia’s longest serving lighthouse when it was finally deactivated in 1994, after almost a century and a half of service. The replacement is a surprisingly small construction, visible above from the lighthouse platform.

Ashes to Ashes

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

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Death is of course, a natural outcome of life, but the death of an entire species is more than sad, it is tragic and unrecoverable. In a few short years, the damage brought about by the rapid incursion of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer has had a devastating impact on the flatlands along the low end of our property, as Coshocton County joins the rest of Ohio, mourning  the apparent loss of yet another prominent tree species.

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Although not one of our property’s more prominent tree species, the swampy area across our northern face is dominated by small and bushy Alder trees, and dozens of tall Ash trees that grew up after farming ceased, some time in the mid 20th century.   Seemingly healthy just two years ago, signs of significant woodpecker activity were apparent last summer, suggesting an unusual insect infestation. In January, it was easy to see how pockmarked many of the ash trees had become, from the woodpeckers trying to extract the fat juicy larvae, and the worms boring back out of the tree to mate and infect the neighboring Ashes.

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The exterior of an infected ash tree fails to make clear the degree to which the borers crisscross the living wood layers immediately underneath the bark.  The effect is the same as girdling the tree, cutting off the flow of sap and nutrients to the tree’s canopy, which usually dies within a few years

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Although they appeared fully leafed out last year, the ash trees lining our township road now appear mostly dead, with only a few scraggly outbreaks of leafs in the crowns, and an almost poodlelike outbreak of leaves around the trunk and lower limbs, as the trees desperately try to spread a few leaves in the summer sun. The smaller ash trees in the interior, feet wet in vernal pools, have already died (camera right, above).  Only a couple of the ash trees seem to have a full canopy this summer (camera center shows an ash tree in front in lighter green, with a darker green hickory behind it, flanked by dead and dying ash).  

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A quadrant of 18 inch diameter trees along the creek bank, apparently the mother trees that seeded our part of the valley, still looked healthy last January, but are now showing signs of woodpecker damage, and branches in the canopy are failing. It seems only a matter of a few short years before these lovely giants fade, too. 

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The stark appearance of a leafless and dead tree jumps out of a forest of green trees. Even in the winter, there’s something different in the appearance of a dead and decaying tree, in comparison to one that is only taking a few months rest.  While 1-3% of forest trees die every year, the victim of disease, wind, and competition, in a short 13 years, millions of Americans ash trees have fallen to this latest scourge. The highways and country lanes of Franklin, Knox, and Licking counties between us and Columbus are punctuated by long lines of dead and struggling ash trees, and the roadsides in our neighborhood are beginning to show the inevitable results of a tree species that is helpless against a beetle that evolved on some other part of the planet.

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Several of the ashes near the dying trees are showing no obvious signs of distress, but their near mortality seems inevitable.  Farther uphill, and a few hundred yards away from the flat area with the dying trees, several small stands of very tall ash seem to be thriving within a dense stand of maple and oak.  Some research indicates that EABs prefer trees in the open.  Heroic chemical action can sometimes save single trees in the city, but there are just too many trees to spray in a rural setting. Our choices are to harvest our trees, which are the classic wood used for baseball bats, or to leave them as woodpecker havens. In some ways, this latest tree die off parallels what happened 40-50 years ago, when Dutch Elm Disease spread across Ohio, destroying millions of beautiful fan shaped shade trees. When my parents’ bought the Hollow in the early 70s, there were many elm trees, dead, but still standing. A new generation of elm trees grew up from seed and sapling, with many of them reaching over 40 feet tall.  As many of the medium and small elms dotting the base of our pond’s dam began dying over the previous several years, I hadn’t recognized yet what was happening. It wasn’t until our largest, and most classically shaped elm (below) began losing its leaves that I understood that our region was being revisited by another round of elm disease, which is now taking advantage of the regrowth in our elm population.  This has killed a number of trees in the areas where we spend most of our time. 

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Taking are required classes in forestry has been a great learning experience for me and Elizabeth, but we’ve also lost some of our blissful ignorance.  A growing variety of insects and diseases are threatening other species in Ohio.  In the 1970s, lovely white dogwoods covered our hillsides in the springtime, but now, I can almost count our dogwood trees on my fingers. While changes in the overall canopy, and a reduction in open space have reduced our dogwood habitat, its hard not to believe that Dogwood Anthracnose hasn’t played a role.   While it is still relatively rare, Oak Wilt would potentially be a huge impact on one of our most common and our most economically valuable trees.  I don’t find the walnut trees to be especially pretty to look at, but they have lovely and valuable wood, and most falls provide us with a large crop of inconvenient but tasty nuts.  Thousand Cankers Disease is not yet impacting Ohio walnuts, but the state foresters are on the lookout for it.  The Asian Long-Horned Beetle hasn’t made inroads into Ohio, yet, but could potentially destroy the hundreds of sugar and red maples on our property.  There doesn’t seem to be any specific disease impacting black cherries, which are a surprisingly short-lived tree, but there seem to be an exceptional number of our larger cherries that are sustaining heavy woodpecker damage, which indicates fatal levels of insect infestation, which probably also means fungus.

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