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off and away to a land down under!

December 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm
By Marlena Hartman-Filson, '13

Minnesota winter, we need to have a talk. Yes, a "talk" talk. I need to take a break. A little time off. But really, it's not that I don't love you.

Minnesota, it isn't you; it's me.

I should be honest with you; I'm going to start seeing someone else. This special someone has sandy beaches. It has giant sea turtles and emu and wallaby and platypuses (platypi?) and echidna and dugong. Its Santa wears a snorkel, a mask and fins. 

Minnesota, I'm intrigued. I'm going over for a visit, but don't worry; I'll come back and love you even more than ever.

And so, on New Year's Day, begins my ten-week-long adventure in Australia. Along with 25ish other Carls, I'm going on a Carleton program to study coastal marine biology on and around the Great Barrier Reef.

When I applied for this program, I could sum up everything I knew about Australia in these three pictures:

steve irwin

heath ledger


But, as it turns out, Australia is actually a pretty big, complicated country. It so happens that it consists of a whole lot more than the (late) Crocodile Hunter, the (late) Heath Ledger, and the (abundant) kangaroos. I've been making my way through some required readings on the Australian people, Australian geology and biology, and Australian history: Tim Flannery's "The Future Eaters: An Ecological History of the Australasian Lands and People", Robert Hughes's "The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding", Bill Bryson's "In a Sunburned Country", Richard Broome's "Aboriginal Australian: A History from 1788", and others. These have been quite interesting, but I can hardly wait to go over there and check it out for myself.

When we get there, we intrepid Carls will making our way to nearly a dozen sites. Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island, Lamington Plateau, Carnarvon Gorge, Gladstone, Heron Island, Sydney, Wollombi, and Queenscliff - we'll be all over the place. But one thing I'm beginning to understand is that Australia is really darn big. Ten weeks is barely enough to brush the southeastern corner of the continent. In other words, we'll be hanging around the border of the purple and green regions:


And so, as your humble servant, I'll be documenting my travels on this blog. I'll have spotty internet access, but I hope to be able to entertain you with a few good stories and some pictures of things other than Steve, Heath and the kangaroos (though I might have to cave to temptation and post a few kangaroo pictures).

I'll leave you for now with some food for thought:

  • The average world population density is 117 people per square mile, that of the United States 76 and that of Macao is 69,000. Australia's is only 6.
  • In 1954, Bob Hawke was immortalized by the Guinness Book of Records for sculling (translate: pounding) 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds. Bob later became the Prime Minister of Australia.
  • Prime Minister Harold Holt went for a swim at Cheviot Beach, near Portsea on 17th December 1967, and was never seen again. The event has been referred to as 'the swim that needed no towel'. Most Australians don't know about this or appear to find it particularly unnerving.
  • The box jellyfish is considered the world's most venomous marine creature. The box jellyfish has killed more people in Australia than stonefish, sharks and crocodiles combined.
  • Lung fish - Queensland is home to lung fish, a living fossil from the Triassic period 350 million years ago.
  • Because Sydney and Melbourne kept bickering over which city should be the capital of Australia, it was decided that neither of them would be capital and instead, a new capital would be built in the middle of them both. And now we have Canberra.
  • Australia was founded by Convicts. Its homicide rate is 1.8 per 100,000 population. The United States was founded by religious zealots. It's homicide rate is 6.3 per 100,000. Almost 400% greater than Australia.
  • For each person in Australia there are two sheep and over 16 rabbits, the latter introduced in 1859 by one enterprising man who brought 24 wild rabbits from England in an effort to remind him of home.
  • Paper yabber = letter, Aussie salute = swatting away flies with your hand, rug up = dress warmly, Tall Poppies = successful people, Gumsucker = someone who lives in the state of Victoria, brumby = a wild horse, Aussie Rules = still haven't quite figured that one out, but I'll get back to you.




  • January 2 2012 at 3:47 pm

    dean 'lena you write the best blog in town Most Australians don't know about this or appear to find it particularly unnerving. <3 ur biggest fangirl simone

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