Thursday, February 26, 2009

Smoke gets in my eyes

Trying not to think about smoke and fires, but it's been a smoky week ... until this morning, which is clear, brilliant, dewy and still. Walking back from school, listening to the little ipod shuffle, Lynn Miles singing how she's over someone, Bruce Springsteen climbing Jacob's Ladder, Jeff Buckley's gorgeous Hallelujah and some assorted 70s classics (they're everywhere here in Aus!). Then I see the smoke drifting over the hill. Distracting. We know it's not over, we had another big fire just to the south of us on Monday. Matthew, the principal of FCPS, had to evacuate his home on Monday. This one was started by a municipal mower (slasher) which sparked as it was driving along the side of a road cutting grass... not sure why they sent out equipment on a total fire ban day, but they did. As one of our neighbours said, "all you have to do on these hot days is hold up a match and bush a few metres away will ignite". We have been advised to not bring our kids to school tomorrow, Friday, if at all possible, as temperatures are slated to soar up into the high 30s with strong winds.

This is what happened locally:,21985,25102754-5018723,00.html

In an effort to tear you away from the fire stuff, which is what we needed to do, here's what we did last weekend. We headed off to the coast south of here on Friday late afternoon, for a wonderful action-packed weekend sponsored by the South Gippsland Teachers Exchange group. Activities included a visit to a koala sanctuary on Philip Island, an 8 km walk along the stunning Bass coast, an evening barbeque on the inlet where the Wiebe Roberts gang won a cricket set by getting the most points (! no we're not competitive!) on the morning's beach artifacts quiz (and by the way, cricket is fun), surfing lessons on Sunday morning (Gabe and Kai were up on their boards within a few minutes of getting into the water, after we'd received excellent teaching), and a visit to a dinosaur dig on the coast on our way home. We stayed in Inverloch with Marg Callanan, a teacher who spent a year in Winnipeg in 2007.

For anyone interested, resarchers have discovered fossils and dinosaur pieces along this coast that have broken new ground in the dinosaur world. Monash University and the Victoria Museum jointly sponsor this dig, supported by many local Inverloch volunteers who chip away at a site that is only available during low tide in daylight hours. They were more than gracious as they showed us several amazing artifacts, including the smallest set of mammal teeth (jaw) ever discovered, and now called Ausktribosphenos nyktos (the Inverloch Cretaceous mammal), the oldest placental mammal, which has changed how researchers are thinking about dinosaurs.. warm or cold blooded?

The web site for this dig is found at I certainly had zero interest in dinosaurs as a child, but am finding them more and more fascinating. So far the team has concentrated on the dig along the shoreline, but they have also identfied a dinosaur footprint (2, in fact, with their 3 toed, webbed foot print) turned into stone. They imagine there are more, but being under water for 12 hours at a time keeps them hidden for now. 100 million years ago, this area was the bed of a vast river that flowed in the great rift valley between Australia and Antarctica, when Australia was still part of Gondwana.

We were exhausted when we returned home, but hey, it was worth it! The ITF (Int'l Teachers Federation) is sponsoring several of these weekends, and we look forward to seeing much of the State of Victoria this way. The little Saab cruises along, and I'm starting to think of a name for "her"... SHEILA anyone? Have to pass it by the gang here first...


Ed Wiebe said...


I think that Sheila is the ideal name for the car. Though perhaps the Australians would roll their eyes.

Rob Wiebe said...

Happy to hear you can relax a bit and start enjoying your stay, Brig.

Also, it's been great having your perspective on the situation there. Thanks for the updates.