Split Point Lighthouse

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Split Point Lighthouse

Located in a dramatic location along the rugged southern coast of Victoria, Australia, the Split Point Lighthouse has provided continuous lifesaving service since it was first lit in 1891. Like the Cape Otway Lighthouse, this light house was mostly built from a kit, shipped from England.  One of several lighthouses punctuating the 244 kilometer Great Ocean Road, it was likely easier and less expensive to build than the other light house we visited, because the shell is composed of poured concrete, instead of laboriously cut and fitted stone.

Cast iron steps

All of the steps in the 112’ high lighthouse are made from a pair of identical iron castings, bolted together, and bolted to the cement interior wall.

Split Point Lighthouse

Other than the difference in wall and lower stair construction, the two lighthouses are very similar in configuration, topping the walls with an iron dome consisting of an exterior platform and interior operator’s area at the same level, providing a great view of the rocky coast.  In both lighthouses, an exterior catwalk one level higher facilitates dome maintenance and window cleaning, and a cast iron grid floor at the same level on the inside provides access to the lighting unit.

 View west from lighthouse platform

Originally lit by a fussy and messy bank of oil lamps, the working light station now uses a high tech LED unit (visible in the center of the photo below).  The Chance Brothers Fresnel Lens is a marvel of late Victorian engineering.  Composed of multiple segments of high-refraction flint glass securely mounted into an iron frame, Fresnel lenses were common in lighthouses, because their design was several orders of magnitude thinner and lighter than what would have been possible with a single piece of glass.

Fresnel lens, light, and red filters

Both of the lighthouses we visited had mechanically rotating light units, but the Split Point station had an additional visual element provided by red filters on both sides of the window.  When viewed by boat from the water directly in front of the lighthouse, the light appears white, but when viewed at more oblique angles, the light becomes red, helping mariners determine their position in the Bass Straight relative to the lighthouse. 

Split Point Lighthouse

The addition of the colored filters on the exterior window baths the interior of the light unit, and the iron floor, in red light, so make for a much more interesting photographic opportunity.

Chance Brothers

Taronga Zoo

Sunday, September 15th, 2013


Wild animals don’t seem very comfortable in captivity, so Elizabeth and I are not big fans of zoos.  But we made an exception for Sydney’s highly-regarded Taronga Zoo, hoping to get a better look at some of Australia’s unusual animals that we hadn’t had a chance to see yet. We’d had some close encounters with koalas at Binna Burra, with their strangely graceless and unbelievably loud territorial calls, and a brief nocturnal glimpse. They sleep 18 hours a day, and do precious little when awake.  So we were looking forward to getting a closer look at some at the zoo. They could have been stuffed, for all we could tell.


Familiar with kangaroos, we didn’t appreciate the great variety and size of macropods, hopping marsupials with extremely large rear feet.  Surrounded by dozens of unphotographable pademelons ,  the roo’s smallest cousin, during evening flashlight walks, we were disappointed not to get a good look at one at the zoo.


We did get some good looks at a couple of different kinds of ‘roos, though. They were only slightly more alert than the koalas.


The two most characteristic features of Australia’s mammals are the fact that they are all nocturnal, rarely appearing in the daytime, but coming out in droves at night, and that they are all incredibly weird.  There must be a portal between Oz and Narnia.  The echidna , with its spiky exterior, functions in the same ecological niche as the North American porcupine (which to be fair, doesn’t have any more personality than a koala).


One disappointment was not seeing a platypus. We knew that they are nocturnal, relatively shy, and hang out in places where we are unlikely to go, like swamps.  The Sydney zoo goes to heroic effort to turn day into night, maintaining hundreds, if not thousands, of marsupials, spiders, reptiles, and birds in a sort of perpetual jet lag. A lavish indoor outdoor platypus pen had an attractive outdoor pool, filled with large blue crayfish, none of them being snacked upon by a platypus. The indoor half of the exhibit intended for the duck bills was closed, with only the ass end of a wombat for consolation.


Daytime in Oz belongs to the birds, which were well represented at the Sydney zoo.  We walked through a series of aviaries where we could have close encounters with emus.

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosellas

Australian King Parrot

and the Australian King Parrot. 


The Kookaburra is an Australian kingfisher that turns out to be much less shy than its North American cousins, and especially less shy than the English variety (which apparently refuses to mate if too many photographers are in the vicinity. The kookabbura, with a jungle cry beloved of amusement parks around the world, was not in a cage, but was flying free.  Maybe the fed the thing, but we had the impression he just liked being there. 

Snow Leopard

As covered in the previous blog entry, we also had a long visit with the Tasmanian devils.  The purpose of going to Taronga was to see the indigenous fauna, but once we finished with that, we still had a couple of hours to kill, so we went on a tour of the bears and big cats.  The snow tiger was pretty impressive, even without any snow.


I’ve seen lion king, but somehow, I’ve managed to live my entire life without fully appreciating the meerkat.  These little guys have a very efficient system, always leaving one very alert fellow on guard, while the rest of the meerkats do whatever it is that they do. We stayed for awhile watching the changing of the guard.


After a late lunch, and some time with the elephants and giraffes, we decided to head back for the Sydney ferr.

Subversive Adult Disneyland

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Exterior of MONA

Imagine if Tony Stark had one of the world’s largest private art collections, it was housed in the Batcave, and you were allowed to visit and even play with it some of it. It seems understatement to describe Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) as “the subversive adult Disneyland”.

Mona Roma

Financed by his success as a professional gambler, the eccentric David Walsh created a world-class museum up the Derwent from Tasmania’s largest city.  Clearly a personal vision, without the hindrance of boards or directors, the stunning, quirky, and  unusual pieces are housed within a beautiful and imaginative underground facility serviced by a his high-speed boat, the Mona Roma.

When My Heart Stops Beating

Elizabeth and I took the glass elevator down to the lower floor, and next to a bar serving beer made by Walsh’s co-located brewery, we were issued our iPods.  Instead of labels on the artworks, visitors use the iPods to read the descriptions of the art, which are often accompanied by personal notes from Walsh, along with other background information. Some of the iPod entries have topically related musical tracks.

Surreal Ping Pong

When first confronted with a huge trampoline, surrounded by brass temple bells, or a three-dimensional ping pong table, it isn’t immediately clear that you are actually supposed to interact with, even play with, many of the exhibits. Filled with paintings, statues, collages, and multi-media works, Elizabeth and I spent 6 hours in the place, and didn’t truly see everything.

On Perspective and Motion - Part II 2006

Many of the artworks are huge, taking up entire walls in a space that is the size, but certainly not the aesthetic, of a small convention center.  Screens are everywhere, some playing what could be easily understood as a movie or video, others defying easy categorization.

Vivian Girls

One room contained multiple pages from an extravagant 15,000 page work entitled The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.  I’d never heard of creator Henry Darger, but it turns out that ‘out is the new in’.  Our iPods offered three different musical tracks inspired by Darger’s Vivian Girls, pictured above in their least shocking form (yes, that’s blood smeared on the right most revolutionary).

The Holy Virgin Mary 1996

Famously dissed by Rudy Giuliani, and fully at home in a museum dedicated to the roasting of sacred cows, the only MONA work I was actually familiar with was Chris Ofili’s 1996 The Holy Virgin Mary.  Perhaps elephant dung is an artistic accent that should be considered an acquired taste.

David Walsh's Head

An exceptionally unusual feature of the MONA is a set of windows between the floor of the owner’s apartment and the ceiling of one of the galleries. After Elizabeth noticed a big shaggy dog in the apartment, I managed to catch someone, apparently Walsh, sitting in a chair.


A visit to the MONA isn’t necessarily over once you’ve left the museum.  If you enter your email address on the iPad, you can later login to the museum’s web site, and use a 3D mapping function to replay your trip chronologically or geographically. The web site allows you to view photos, descriptions, and commentary on the works you visited during the trip, and the ones you missed.

Untitled (White Library) 2004-6

Fat Car 2006


Berlin Buddha

Tasmanian Rainbow

Thursday, September 5th, 2013


Sailboat under Rainbow

Elizabeth and I took the high speed shuttle boat from the Hobart wharf up the Derwent to the fascinating new Museum of Old and New Art.   It was a reasonably warm late winter day, so I stood on deck to enjoy the sun and see if there were some interesting pictures, and I soon noticed an impending collision between a small sail boat and a large rainbow.

Marine Construction

I thought I did an OK job of positioning the boat under the rainbow, but then I was surprised that the rainbow kept moving in the same position on shore, parallel to our high speed boat. Next we passed a funny little work barge being pushed by a small Coast Guard boat, and I grabbed a series of shots when the rainbow went over the top.

Eternal Ocean

Next up was the 180m bulk carrier Eternal Ocean, apparently docked at the Zinc Works.

Hobart Zinc Works

My favorite shot was when the rainbow rolled over the top of the the Hobart Zinc Works.  I really liked the juxtaposition of the force of nature against industrial man.

 Military Vehicle in Shipyard

The Incat Shipworks came up next.  The funny looking gray boat is the HSV-2 Swift, a high-speed wave piercing catamaran owned by the US military.  Normally based in Norfolk, VA, it had come back to its maker for a refit.


Ten minutes after taking the first rainbow image, we pulled into the private dock in front of the private art museum, and the colors finally started to fade. 

Extra credit question: Was that the same rainbow for the entire trip, was it a series of rainbows, or was it an infinite sheet of spectrational mist, neatly segmented by our field of view, an infinite number of times?

Zombie Apocalypse

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Its hard to put my finger on it, but there just seems to be something innately disconcerting about zombies, especially when you are far, far from home, and there’s an entire army of the things.


Elizabeth and I chose today for our first visit to Hobart, Tasmania.  It turned out to be the day that the Australian Zombie Awareness Society picked for the annual Hobart Zombie March, starting at 1pm in Saturday’s crowded Salmanca market.


Hordes of creepy looking, pale, and bloody beings, on foot, in chair, and in baby stroller, lurched and rolled through.  For the most part, the crowd seemed to love the show, but one four year old girl may have nightmares for quite awhile.   I’ve got lots more photos in my Hobart Zombie March gallery…if you dare look.