10 December 2007

Please stay lost

On second thoughts, eat the grass. Keep moving, walk down the scrubby gully into the overgrown creek, and if you should hear an aircraft approaching, hide under some bark and avoid being spotted. Please. At least stay out of sight long enough for the searchers to get out of their vehicles and do some searching.

This is a photo of the helicopter I didn't get a ride in yesterday. We were to search an inaccessible section of King River between Pineapple Flat and Lake William Hovell, and there was some talk of winching in search teams. Now that would have been cool. But instead the lost guy got the free winch and heli ride, and we turned around and drove home. Again.

Story in the Oz.

7 November 2007

Walk Report: Northern Prom

Yesterday I returned home after a great walk in the northern section of the Prom over the Melbourne Cup four-day long weekend, with Cam and Michelle. I brought back some photos, and some suggestions for anyone planning a visit.

Wilsons Promontory is of course Victoria's best known and most visited national park. I caught the overnight hiking bug there on a three-day loop in 2002, and have been back for several trips in the southern section since. But I'd never previously walked in the less visited northern section, a declared wilderness zone. Water sources there are less reliable, and track maintenance is limited to what walkers contribute with their feet.

Get the topo map. The track is pretty much as marked, except at Three Mile Point where it goes over the saddle rather than around the headland.

Much of the track looks like this:

Follow the footpad and the marking tape. Be prepared to retrace your steps a little when you realise that you've been following a wombat track or other errant walkers - it's worth going back to find the real track. Fallen trees (especially after the wild storm this weekend) will send you in the wrong direction. When in doubt continue a little to see if it becomes more clear, but don't throw your pack through the hedge to create a new track. Contrary to hearsay from other hikers we met, there is a footpad all the way and it can be found, frequently by feel and some experimentation. Our party of three meant that we could explore two forks with one person staying at the last known point on the track.

Go anticlockwise if the campsites are available in that order, so that you make the metre-deep crossings of Chinaman Creek on the last day. Leave some dry socks in the car.

I can't offer much advice regarding water as the storm provided plenty on our trip. Lower Barry Creek looked like an aqueduct when we passed through, yet it's not even shown as a water source on the map. But when we arrived at Five Mile before the storm, Cam had to push a fair way up in the scrub opposite the campsite before he found a good trickle to fill from. The water had plenty of tannins but seemed clean and I drank it untreated without problem.

If you can book two nights at Tin Mine Cove, it's a beautiful sheltered beach with opportunities for off-track exploration to Mt Singapore. A couple of mozzie coils might come in handy.

This was a really enjoyable, quite challenging walk, and if you like a bit of navigation and the feeling of remoteness then it's a great place to go - especially with a pair of superstars like Cam and Michelle.

More photos

11 September 2007

Germany, Sweden, USA

Yay! More pretty pictures from Germany, Sweden and USA.

2 September 2007

Alice und Michael

Print-quality photos and a slideshow are now online.

20 August 2007

A big train set

This post is about my first of impressions of Germany. Well technically I've been here before when I was five, but I'm not counting that.

You know how in flight simulators there's always at least one hot-air balloon floating around somewhere near the camera viewpoint? I always assumed that was because it makes the scene look cool; but now I'm not so sure. My first morning here, and I've already seen at least three.

You know how model train layouts always look too clean, tidy and well-planned to be real? I always assumed those were just the inevitable unrealities of the model train world; but now I'm not so sure. I've felt all day like I'm in a Märklin brochure, or a Lego town.

There's more I'd like to say, but the 8hr timezone shift is making me go cross-eyed while trying to type, so I'll just leave you with some photos. Suffice to say, very happy to be here and feeling very well looked after.

14 August 2007

Strip that Willow

Yes, that's a full set in our tiny appartment - five couples, counting Sal and me. When asked to run a bushdance for some Aussie flavour at Alice and Michael's wedding in Germany, we thought it only proper to stage a practice run. Our dhal-night friends, being the good sports and get-up-and-into-it movers that they are, kindly obliged us; Sal did a great job of instructing and calling, and a good time was had by all. I was too busy stripping (the willow), polkaing with both heel and toe, waving at Bondi and, um, drongoing to get many good shots, but you get the idea.

21 July 2007

Checkpoint 3

One day the checkpoint came to me! And then Merv turned up! You can just make him out in the photo.

28 May 2007

Very little thick or prickly vegetation

Next time I see those words in the description of a rogaine, I think I'll wear my gaiters all the same. Here's a "before and after" shot of my socks, and the thorn that I found still buried in the back of my knee 24hrs after the event. But don't get me wrong, we had plenty of fun on the course.

17 May 2007

A day in preparation

What should one do after spending a day preparing for a dinner party? Why, spend another day making a movie about it of course!

Watch the movie

7 May 2007

Stay put. Do not eat the grass.

Just before Easter I got my first BSAR callout since signing up about a year ago. It turned out to be a great dry-run - we did everything except actually searching. The timeline went something like this: (times are very rough)
  • 4pm: SMS from BSAR alerting of the possible search. Commence packing gear/food.
  • 9pm: Call from VRA, the search is on. I'm all set.
  • 4am: Sal drops me at the police bus in Brunswick.
  • 8am: We arrive on site, divide into teams of three.
  • 9am: Search briefing; our team gets a spur that looks much nicer than the various scrubby gullies assigned to the other teams.
  • 10am: 4WD drops us at the start of our walk in farmland near the creek.
  • 10:10: Call received - search subject has been found in good condition.
So did we contribute to the search? Well, yes - it's a numbers game. The more search area you can cover, the more likely the subject is to be found. My chances of ever being in a search party that finds the subject are vanishingly small, and that's fine - it's still an interesting and worthwhile activity.

Anyway the main point of this post is to offer some advice on what to do if you become lost in the bush, especially if someone knows you're out there:
  1. Stay put.
  2. Do not eat grass.
William must have mentioned on his return that he'd had a nibble of some watercress while wandering around, and a bright spark at The Age took this as license to report that his survival was made possible only by eating grass. Yeah good one. This is true in much the same way that the searchers survived only by eating M&Ms.

The energy (if any) gained by eating watercress was not nearly sufficient to make up for the energy he spent walking around unwittingly dodging the police. It's unclear just how many times they must have crossed paths on the day before we were called out. A search operates by eliminating areas in order of likelihood. William was found by a vehicle that was passing along a track that had already been eliminated early in the search.

Of course everyone was very happy to see him found and in such good shape, and nobody begrudges that he might have made the search team's job easier.

By the way, if for some reason you are lost and you have no reason to believe that anyone will come looking for you any time soon, then you will have to get yourself out. Don't panic, your chances are probably really good unless you happen to be standing in the snow/rain/creek in your jeans and T-shirt. Make a plan to walk towards an object that is shaped like a line, like the road or the ocean. But nobody reading this blog would ever put themselves in that situation.

More reports on the search.

15 April 2007

Shiny happy brass

Click the image and look closely at the full-size version for a while.

I made this image of the bell of a tuba while we were waiting for Michael's band to do their thing at the Australian Nationals, they came a very commendable 3rd in B-grade as it turns out. (And if I understand the tallies correctly, an extra 2 points in the march could have made them equal-first!)

Anyway I just like the bell's layers of reflections of itself, and the band lined up on the right. How many Bens are there in the image?

And a couple more from the day:

Chuck's blog

Chuck's blog Lounge of the Lab Lemming is excellent, I wish I'd known earlier that he had one. My blog won't be nearly as intelligent or well-written, so I recommend you go read his instead.

My congratulations to Mr and Mrs Lemming - I can't wait to meet the new arrival, and I'm very jealous that Sal picked the right weekend to be in Canberra. I look forward to more photos, and to Chuck's musings on parenthood.

This blog

This is my blog. It's called benwilliamson so that I can remember the URL. This blog is for my benefit, but you're welcome to read it too.