Thursday, 16 April 2009

The tree inside...

Here's a bit about a man becoming his own carbon sink:

I'm not sure what to make of this, but if you look closely at the shots on the monitor in the fillum you can see a fly appearing to crawl over the flesh. I want to know whether the fly was on the monitor or the opened chest.

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Sunday, 12 April 2009

Old trees...

There was an article in The Age the other day -11th April-about an old mulberry tree in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern which was grown from a cutting taken from a tree George Bernard Shaw planted Malvern UK in 1936. The cutting has prospered but the original was blown down in a storm. There are now intentions of replacing the original with a cutting from the cutting.

In the way these things do, it reminded me of a feast I had as a child in a mulberry tree, the oldest exotic tree in South Australia, a mulberry tree planted in 1836 at Reeves Point near Kingscote on Kangaroo Island. This tree is now approaching its 175th anniversary and is still fruiting. That particular day the neighbour's sons, my brother and I spent several hours eating mulberries. We ate so many our mouths were purple it seems now for days. None of us ate too many, it's not possible to eat too many mulberries. Fruit was expensive in the late 50s, so a free feed was that, and very welcome. (Crayfish were expensive too, my father used to buy them from the fishermen for ten bob, big ones, the size they no longer grow.) There's a nice picture of the Kangaroo Island tree on Google Earth.

This Yorke Peninsula mulberry tree is also connected to me, although I have nevereaten fruit from it.
This tree would probably predate the Shaw tree mentioned above. The ruin behind the tree is my paternal grandfather's house, built of stone found on the land, plugged together with sand and cement. My family occupied the land in 1912 and left after the banks terminated their mortgage in the early 1930s. The house, and my great grandmother's neighbouring house were built by my grandfather and his brother. The trees are now neglected.
Lichen, dry at the time of my visit, encrusts the bark on the south side of the tree.

The tree is in a small patch of ground which hasn't been ploughed since the land was built on, hence it is grassy, with weedy species like wild oats. The large object behind is a piece of an old water tank.
This tree is still fruiting too. The picture was taken in the spring of 2007. It appears from the date it was very late at night, an indication of bad photographic process more likely: I didn't turn off the date/time stamp. I took a few cuttings from the tree to try and strike them, but it was too late in the spring. This year I will be back in the same are and will take some more.

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Thursday, 2 April 2009

Black Saturday

In yesterday's blog I mentioned Mountain ash (E. regnans), the tallest tree ever grown, and how the Back Friday 1939 trees were already pushing 80 metres. The above, from where it came I have no recollection now but I think it was from our morning daily paper The Age, is a man blacking out at the base of tree after the great bushfires passed through that country during the weeks after the 7th February 2009 fires-now known as Black Saturday in keeping with a very long tradition that goes back to 1851 when Black Thursday -February 6th-when a bush fire burnt an estimated 5 million hectares, 12 million acres or about 19000 sq. miles.

Wikipedia says of that day: "The year preceeding the fires was exceptionally hot and dry and this trend continued into the summer of 1851. On Black Thursday, a northerly wind set in early and the temperature in Melbourne was reported to have peaked at 47.2 degrees C (117 degrees F) at 11:00am. This is the hottest temperature ever recorded in the city—although it has never been an official record, as the Bureau of Meteorology had not been established at the time.[2] The north wind was so strong that thick black smoke reached northern Tasmania, creating a murky mist, resembling a combination of smoke and fog.[3] A ship 20 miles (32km) out to sea came under burning ember attack and was covered in cinders and dust. In the evening, a cool change brought with it cooler conditions and light rain." Below is an image from the firezone, square miles of sticks and ash, a blue haze.
This description is almost exactly of what happened on 7th February 2009. Except we had had 3 or 4 days the previous week where the temperature was in the 40s, which had dried everything out. When Eucalypts are stressed by drought or lack of water they adopt a somewhat deciduous life style dropping leaves, bark and limbs, and falling over as their roots strees past breaking. (This happened to a tree in the front yard of the apartment where I was staying that Saturday and we had to remove it from the road. The day was like standing next to a very hot forge). The air temperature was over 46C and the the flash point of eucalyptus oil is about 50C. The hills were an alarmingly beautiful tinge of blue, in other words the air was full of volatiles. When the flash came the place went up. THESE FIRES ARE HOT: 1200C. They were moving in places at up to 100km an hour. From my doorstep nothing much seemed to be happening, a bit of smoke to the north and to the east, unlike other days other years when the place was bathed in smoke for weeks.

This man is looking at the effect of a bushfire on the aluminium bits in his car. His rims have melted and flowed away. What would happen to an engine block in the same circumstances? Firetrucks these days don't have much aluminium, after the Linton fires of 2 December 1998 where two trucks were trapped and the aluminium cabin burnt, killing five firemen.

Someone I heard talking on the wireless during the fires said they had seen a small car -mainly plastic and aluminium alloys-almost melt in front of them, and on the news on tv one night I saw a four wheel drive with part of the bumper bar melted off.

These pictures were found mainly on the Guardian, The Age, and ePosVriende's blog. There is a lot of material and images on this disaster on the net. And we are having a Royal Commission into the fires, so there will be a lot more.

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A scene from an episode of NCIS, one of my favourite tv shows. I think it is in series 4. The black car at the foot of the is on its way to a stake out at a nearby warehouse somewhere in Virginia. A reasonably tight shot, but the sunshine in thr bg is not the only problem with this shot. Virginia it ain't: NCIS is shot in California. Smack bang in the middle of the screen is what we on this side of the world call a gum tree.

Here is Agent Ziva aiming at the warehouse, just before the team launch their assault.

This is not the first gum tree I have seen in the movies either. NCIS has a few, and I will go back and look for them. Any film shot in Australia is going to contain lots of them, but I think the it was either The Big Red One or The Thin Red Line where the denouement of the film, set in Europe, takes place beside a tree lined ditch, and every one of those trees is a gum tree.

The tree in the NCIS shot is E. leucoxylon, Blue Gum.

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Britain's tallest tree

BBC news item I found today about a 60metre tree being Britain's tallest found so far. The clip shows how tall trees are measured. Ignore the ad for the Philippines that may come on first. The man mentions some redwoods which are also contenders. Which means imported trees.

To our Australian ears 60 metres isn't bad as a tree, but remember some of the mountain ash (E. regnans) that seeded after Black Friday 1939 are already pushing 80 metres. The trees of that cohort that survived Black Saturday (Feb. 7th 2009) will make it well past that height. Redwoods have attained thier heights over a couple millenia in climates of 2500mm of rainfall a year. These mountain ash were seeded in the early to mid 20th century.

This statement of course gets us into the tallest tree competition that agitates many-myself inluded-and that brings me to Bob Beale's book "If Trees could Speak: stories of Australia's greatest trees" ISBN9781741142761. Beale mentions three 1926 generation ash trees he and Brett Mifsud measured at 85 metres. he also mentions an 1872 report by Inspector of State Forests William Ferguson, who measured a fallen tree that straddled a tributary of the Watts river from the roots to the extreme end at 435 feet, the tree was 18 feet in diameter at 5 feet and the end break was 3 feet in diameter. Ferguson estimated the original heith of the tree at 500 feet (152 m).

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