The man who lived in a log
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
1M ago
Victorian Tom Tregellas fulfilled that dream – only he had to wait until he was an adult. What’s more, his magical creatures were real. An iron founder and labourer by trade, Tom was a self-taught naturalist. He spent every weekend he could exploring the bush surrounding Melbourne, especially in the Dandenong Ranges. In 1918, while birdwatching in Sherbrooke Forest, near Kallista, Tom stumbled upon a giant cylindrical hollow log, 5 x 2.5m, which he wasted no time turning into the ultimate live-in bird hide. According to Esther Hardware in her biography, Tom Tregellas: Pioneer Naturalist, “With ..read more
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The Varroa mite is here to stay
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
1M ago
It’s tiny, about the size of a sesame seed, and it feeds on a bee’s fatty tissues. An infected bee would be similar to a human carrying a parasite sized between a bagel and a frisbee. A Varroa-infested bee has a reduced ability to fly, pollinate crops and carry food. When enough of its bees are infested, a hive dies. The first Varroa mites of consequence in Australia (previous minor infestations were eradicated) were found in New South Wales, near Newcastle, in June 2022. They have since been detected south near the Victorian border, and north around Coffs Harbour. The official policy has chan ..read more
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Settling squabbles over Australia’s deepest caves
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
3M ago
I’ll never forget my Year 7 camp to Bungonia Caves (now Bungonia National Park) – a wild gorge pockmarked with more than 190 limestone caves near Goulburn in southern New South Wales. Despite my teachers insisting, “You should face your phobias head on!”, it didn’t work. I still have nightmares of being stuck in a squeeze half-filled with water, gasping for air. I also remember from that trip the guide being miffed that Odyssey Cave, one of Bungonia’s, had recently lost its title of ‘deepest cave in mainland Australia’. Explorers of a South Australian cave had dug out a few metres of theirs “s ..read more
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What is an ocean avalanche?
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
3M ago
In 1929, an ‘avalanche’ shifted more than twice the volume of Mt Everest – but nobody saw it! Why? Because it was entirely underwater. When there’s no snow involved, scientists call such an event a “turbidity current flow”.  Back in 1929, an earthquake triggered one of these massive underwater flows at the Grand Banks, in Newfoundland in eastern Canada. The bottom of the ocean there was quite flat and hardly sloped at all – just one-quarter of a degree. Even so, this slope was enough to allow the sediment already sitting on the ocean floor to slide downhill at nearly 70km/h.  By the ..read more
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Gravity hills can be explained by spirit levels, not spiritual forces
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
5M ago
On a recent family trip to the fabled Hanging Rock in Newham, Victoria, the Yowie clan took an unplanned detour to Woodend. Emily, my 11-year-old daughter, found “something on the internet” about a nearby “gravity-defying” section of road “where things roll uphill”. Yes, you read correctly: roll uphill. “If you put the car in neutral and take the handbrake off, the car rolls uphill,” she exclaimed, reading from the website. And so began an hour-long search for the offending (and not signposted) stretch of road along Straws Lane. We only realised we were at the right spot when we noticed a car ..read more
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The spectacle of Sydney’s ‘Flying Pieman’
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
6M ago
Given this column has previously delved into the spurious world of flying saucers and so‑called flying rabbits, why not a flying pieman? But Australia’s “flying pieman” didn’t mysteriously fly through the sky, he walked fast, very fast…while carrying hot pies on a pole. William Francis King began his adult life as a failure – in his parents’ eyes, at least. Born in London in 1807, William was the eldest son of a British Treasury paymaster. Mum and Dad hoped he’d become a man of the church, but young William showed little interest in theology. As punishment, his father promptly banished him, ag ..read more
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Neanderthal DNA kills superbugs
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
7M ago
Superbugs are bacteria nasty enough to kill people. Worse, they are almost totally resistant to most antibiotics. In 2019 superbugs killed at least 1.3 million people – that’s more than 2 per cent of the 55 million people who died from all causes in that year. Unfortunately, most of today’s antibiotics were developed decades ago, so bacteria have had lots of time to develop resistance to them. But what about Neanderthals? About 500,000 years ago, our evolutionary pathway split – one leading to modern humans, and the other leading to the Neanderthals.  Neanderthals were about the same heig ..read more
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Ouch, my heart: the Mareeba rock wallaby
Australian Geographic Blog
by Elizabeth Ginis
9M ago
There’s a psychological phenomenon known as ‘cute aggression’, which describes that overwhelming feeling you get when faced with something so impossibly sweet, you want to squeeze it so hard, it pops. Anyone else getting a bit of that right now? Meet the adorable Mareeba rock wallaby (Petrogale mareeba), seen here in its juvenile, so-fluffy-I-wanna-die form. Found in just one place in the world — the picturesque town of Mareeba in north-eastern Queensland — this rare species of rock wallaby lives up to its name, keeping to the rocky mountaintops that protect it from heat, rain and predato ..read more
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Hydrosaurus lizards look like old-timey dinosaurs
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
9M ago
Okay, they still look like this, because toy companies (mostly) don’t care about the existence of feathered dinosaurs… but I digress. This wonderful reptile might look like something straight out of a ‘90s dinosaur diorama, but there’s nothing extinct about it. In fact, Hydrosaurus lizards are perfectly suited to life in Southeast Asian jungles and mangroves – and they’ll walk on water to prove it. When threatened, Hydrosaurus lizards will get up on their hind legs and scoot across the surface of water, similar to how the basilisk, or “Jesus Christ lizard”, does it. There are five known specie ..read more
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Blade trees: the uniquely Australian bush enigma
Australian Geographic Blog
by Candice Marshall
9M ago
The rusting shears are stuck so deep in the trees that it’s clear they’ve been there for a long time. But just how long? And why? According to bush folklore, they were wedged into tree trunks either by disgruntled shearers as a protest during the shearing strikes of the 1890s, or as a pragmatic farewell by shearers as they marched off to fight in World War I; perhaps it was both. As with many outback legends, however, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.  “The story we hear most often is that shearers stuck them in the trees as they headed off to join the war effort, hoping to return ..read more
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