Search This Blog

26 March 2011

Postalo Vleeptron / reissue for no particular reason: 1066 1835 1910 1986 Earth flybys / the Promise: It will be back in 2061

 Click image to enlarge.

To Robert, who is camping in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia with his Geiger counter:
* * *

We camped in the MacDonnell Ranges for a week, took the Ghan [train] from Adelaide to Alice Springs. Does that count? 
We weren't surveying for radiation. We were there to see Comet Halley, the Southern hemisphere had the best seats on the planet for the '86 flyby. You needed a desert with documented photometric nights, and unlike South Africa, Australia was not seething with violent insurrection.

In the bar car on the Ghan, when the other passengers realized we were Yanks, one sat at the little piano and everyone sang "Waltzing Matilda" 400 times for us.

At our campground, one day we saw a party of Australians, one with a video camera filming another adult man running through the campground wearing only a giant diaper. We inquired.

They were astonished that we'd never heard of Lindy Chamberlain and her baby. Turns out the Chamberlains had camped in our campground the night before the dingo etc. They were making a homemade video documentary of the famous incident.

As for Comet Halley, after a few grouse nights (that's what the TV weather called it; I thought they were saying it was good bird-shooting weather), the skies cleared, and the comet was startlingly obvious. It was creepy. A naked-eye comet makes you think the sky is broken or damaged.

At a nighttime get-together at a nearby race track, the Alice Springs Astronomy Club had their big portable telescopes set up. It was my first glimpse of the remarkable Southern Skies. Most of the Astronomy Club members were actually Yanks, NSA spooks employed at the Golf Ball Factory (Pine Gap).

A Caucasian lawyer who represented Aboriginals around Alice Springs said the Aboriginals were not at all happy about Comet Halley. They thought it was a nasty old man throwing rocks down at the Earth, and they wanted it to go away promptly.

I very much miss Red Centre beer. Our cans had a commemorative comet over Uluru [Ayer's Rock] on it.


Massachusetts USA

1 comment:

patfromch said...

I have a god son in Alice Springs and know the city quite well. Been there a few times, will go again. Christmas time in Alice is absolutely brilliant ! The beer is excellent (xxxx or Forecks as the Aussies call it) and if you had enough of it the locals will eventually talk about the Chamberlain case. I heard 2 stories while being a bit buzzed, forgot the first one but legend (hearsay, blabla, pub talk) has it that it was indeed a dingo which was trained by one of the local (Park) Rangers. The animal behaved very badly and was cause for much embarrasement to the Ranger. Drunken legand campfire pub blabla has it that the dingo indeed killed the baby and managed to bring it to its master (or he found it). Legennd also has it that he was so shocked and scared that he managed to bury the body is under cement in a newly constructed building, very likely Santa Teresa (outside Alice) Pub blabla implied that he was not alone in getting rid of the body. If this ever turns out to be true this might cause trouble, especially if it WAS Santa Teresa. Of course this is unfounded urban legend BS but a nice story when you had a few.

Speaking of comets. Gene Shoemaker, comet hunter and discoverer of Shoemaker-Levi 9 was kiled in a car crash outside Alice. This highway is straight and very, very lonely, how he managed to have an accident there is beyond me. In his honor the Natural History Museum of Alice set up a commemoratory plaque which can be found on the ground florr, left from the stairs opposite the Cambrian Explosion samples. Video on request.