Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Weird Objects

And this is a shawl knitted from spun dog hair

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Prison and Where I am.

No, That is not one and the same!! Anonymous commented on my last blog asking where I was. Life has been very busy. As program director for 22 students I find myself rather busy keeping them entertained and safe (see my blog if you have any questions or are hankering to see some pictures of my lovely young adult "children". ) So the answer to the question is that I'm still in Fremantle as busy as can be and hoping to find a spare moment to catch up on my personal blogging one of these days. (It will have to be soon, because I'll be leaving for home in a little over a week!)

Today, for example I graded papers until my brain turned to mush and then I was incapable of doing anything except eating leftover chocolate cake from our last birthday celebration and goodbye dinner! Tomorrow I have to get a grip and get some exercise, but in the mean time I thought I'd load some pictures from Mom's and my second visit to the Fremantle prison.

October 20, 2006

On our first visit to the Fremantle prison we had been told if we wanted to do a second tour we could take "The Great Escapes" tour for just 5$ more. I guess they were desperate for our money, because they extended the offer over the period of a week, so sure enough a week later we were rested and ready for another trek up to and through the prison and since I still hadn't seen the Catalpa exhibit (for which our flat is named) I was determined to go in and read about the escape from prison by the daring Fenian rebels.

I won't post a lot about the trip, but it was quite interesting to hear about Western Australia's most famous criminal Moondyne Joe(Whose real name was Johns). Wikipedia explains Joe's first offense as follows:

On 15 November 1848, Johns and an associate named John Williams were arrested near Chepstow for "... illegally entering the premises of Mr Richard Price, Esquire, of Pentwyn Clydach... and from there taking three loaves of bread, one piece of bacon, several cheeses, a kettle and a quantity of salt". Arraigned at the Brecon Assizes on charges of burglary and stealing, the pair pleaded not guilty. On 23 March they were tried at the Lent Assizes before Sir William Erle. Newspaper reports of the trial suggest that the pair gave an unexpectedly spirited defence, but Johns was abrasive and "contravened the conventions of court procedure". The men were convicted and sentenced to ten years' penal servitude. Edgar (1990) observes that in several other cases brought before the same judge that day, guilty pleas to very similar charges resulted in sentences ranging from three weeks to three months.

Joe actually got a Ticket of leave after arriving in Fremantle and settled in the Avon valley. Later he was imprisoned for horse stealing and entered into a repeated career of escaping and being re-imprisoned (Each time his sentence was extended longer and longer and each escape found him hiding out in the Darling mountains near Perth.) They even built a specific cell for him with studs all over the floors and walls to keep him from escaping (although it was usually from the yard that he effected his escapes and not from his cell.)

Anyway - this visit allowed us to see the refurbished building without its scaffolding :

This is a visiting pen - the room to the right is for "Non Contact" prisoners and thus has two viewing slits, while the room to the right has only one slit for prisoners who get to be in the same room with their visitors.

There are several places not on the regular tour that we got to visit including this room occupied by a forger who did beautiful pictures on the wall from memory and covered them over when he wasn't working on them so no one would know he was doing them.

We also visited a different chapel from the main one on the regular tour.

I was fascinated by the imagery of prison and so will mostly just offer up a few photos like this connecting yard.

On the tour we were also educated on the different kinds of "pie holes"and orifices for passing cigarettes to prisoners. I was taken with the numbering of the rooms in this area of the prison. We were told that there were no rooms with the number 6, because it was too much like a hangman's noose.

There were some lovely, lyrical images to be found in the yard.

This image of the walls and a dandelion shows how brittle the walls actually are. Inmates were able to break through the crumbly material fairly easily.

Here are a couple more photos from the tour:

One section that I had never seen before was the women's quarters. This yard could not have been very pleasant for the few women who were imprisoned there.

We also got to hear about the Postcard bandit, Berenden Abbott, who used to commit crimes and then send a postcard of pictures of himself to taunt the authorities with their inability to capture him.

Finally I also got to spend some time in the exhibit about the Catalpa escape.

Irish revolutionaries (Fenians) who were imprisoned as political prisoners in Australia were rescued by a group of men who hired a US ship and came to Australia ostensibly as a whaling ship. The convicts were smuggled aboard and when the British wanted to fire upon the escape ship the Captain dared them to fire on the American flag. A prior incident made this a very risky thing to do, so the rebels were able to sail away uncaptured on the whaling ship Catalpa.

There were many interesting exhibits, images from the diaries a few items from the Catalpa and I was glad we had gone.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Creatures of the Night

October 18, 2006

I'm almost a month behind in the blog and since there is only one Yank down under here now I'm writing under a fictitious precept but about a time when there were still two of us here. (grin).

One of the more interesting things that my Mom and I did while she was still here was a visit to Dryandra Woodland park to see some of the nocturnal marsupials.

I had originally hoped to drive through historic York, but we got lost (big surprise) and ended up getting a late start, so eventually we had to turn around in order to get ot the park in time for our appointment to see the night animals.

We did stop along the way to look at flora and fauna along the side of the road and found some particularly nice wild flowers at a little rest stop half way to the park.

As you can see the woods have a different quality than those in the south, still pleasant but the area feels more sparsely populated and dryer.

These are not lush spreads of flowers and yet they are quite abundant and varied in form.

We arrived at the park a little over an hour before our appointed time and feared we would not find the entrance to the animal sanctuary so we drove around the park a bit.

The above picture does not capture the peculiar quality of the woods the way the picture (below) on the web site does.

Unfortunately all the driving around meant we lost the sun and did not have time to draw as I had planned. Instead we wolfed down a sandwich amidst multitudes of flies and after a quick duck into the brush then headed for the sanctuary.

I took a few quick pictures in the bush while I searched desperately for a numbat famous for being one of the few diurnal marsupials that stayed awake and fed during daylight hours. Alas no numbat and very little light to take pictures by.

Dryandra Woodland Park is named for a peculiarly Australian plant form, the Dryandra, that grows in abundance in this area of Western Australia.

It is related to the South African Protea and is a strange alien-like plant form with unusual pointy leaves and antennaed flowers. (sort of).

This is an interior part of the continent and thus does not have the gorgeous beaches and humid air. Instead there is a dryer climate that serves as a home to the ants and termites and the animals that feed upon them.

The CALM (Conservation and Land Management office) website comments, "Although the numbat is probably Dryandra's best known inhabitant, woylies, tammar wallabies, brushtail possums, tawny frogmouths, kangaroos and wallabies are regularly seen by visitors to Dryandra. More than 100 species of birds live in the area, including the mound-building malleefowl."

Of course we did not see the numbat, but the Barna Mia sancturay has a big fence inside of which they keep members of endangered species to protect them from predators while attempting to breed these animals in the wild in order to release them back in to their natural habitat. They feed these animals at night so that visitors can see them (but keep the percentage of feed down so that the animals msintain their foraging habits and will be able to survive in the wild.)

The guide...

first does an educational program which tells of how and why they bait the non-native with poison-laced meat. The posion is derived from local plants which are posionous to European species , but to which the Australian animals have long become immune through constant contact. Then we go out in the dark and congregate around red lights to watch for the animals. Of course there was not enough light to take photos but that did not stop me and here is some of what we saw:

Mostly we saw woylies and bilbies. Here (from the Barna Mia website) is a bilby.

We also saw lots of boodies, and...

more exciting this rufous hare-wallaby.

Altogether we saw five different rare species and went home absolutely thrilled with the experience (even though
an inconsiderate British man insisted on talking through much of the waiting and thus risked scaring the animals away!)

We drove home in the dark contented and aware of the small animals we saw but could not identify on the side of the road.
(I guess we need to go back for a second course!)