Sunday, October 22, 2017


Months ago, a former longtime  Townsville  Bulletin  employee  , Doug Kingston , announced  he  intended  to  start up , at his own expense, an online challenge to the paper  to  provide Townsville with   balanced  and  fair   reports  on  major  local issues .   Clearly , this was an indication of  dissatisfaction with the paper   for  which  he  had been  closely  involved . 

Ever   since Kingston announced his intention to challenge the Bulletin no other local media  organisation  appears  to  have  religiously followed  up   the  subject , which you would expect , another  insight into the obvious shortcomings in  news gathering in  the  balmy  tropics .

Tired of waiting for  the media to get its act together , this blog asked   a basic  reporter type question of  Kingston  :  what  is the  latest on your proposal? It  appears a  second  player also  keen  to  challenge   has  entered  the  scene and   they are   likely  to  join   forces .   The  Bulletin is vulnerable on many  fronts as  there is obvious growing  discontent  with  the paper , especially over its handling of the highly contentious  proposed   Adani   Carmichael   coalmine  and  its  fulsome support for the Townsville  City Council mayor , the council's    proposal  to give  Adani  $18.5 million  for  a FIFO  airport. 

It was recently announced that  the Bulletin editor, Ben English , who had only been  in Townsville for 18 months, was  leaving and going to  another Murdoch paper on the Gold Coast . As no replacement   editor  was   named , it was seen as  bad  PR , a  snub  for  Townsville .
A constant critic of the Murdoch Townsville Bulletin , of course, has  been another  ex Bulletin reporter, Malcolm  Weatherup , who successfully  brought a  defamation  case  against   the  media  empire .

Whether or not the  company   complied with the court order  and  coughed up  $100,000  plus to  Weatherup  is  not yet  known - because other media  groups in Townsville  again  have   not  followed up  this news  story . Local journo  takes on media mogul  and wins surely demands  close  attention .  

 Why, one  must  ask , haven't the scribes  done  the  obvious  and asked questions  . Are they  timid, lacking in news sense ,  scared of the Murdoch empire? Or could it be due to the fact that in the case of Channel 7 , one of the  national presenters  , Koch,  and wife,  supply  syndicated  finance  news  for the Townsville Bulletin .  In the case of  a  commercial radio station  , a presenter , Pricey , has  a  regular column  in  the  Bulletin .
Weatherup in  full flight 

Each week , Malcolm  Weatherup  produces   the  well read  onliner  The Magpie , which  in recent  weeks has  included strong criticism  from  readers  about  the Bulletin, the Townsville City Council , Adani  , the last rites  performed on  the  paper  by  one  on  October 8 at 11.14 am...  
The Undertaker says:

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of journalism in Townsville. Actually the profession died a couple of years ago when “The North’s Own Paper” rolled over and put advertising revenue ahead of quality journalism. I remember a time when advertisers got only one thing for their money – space to spread their message.
On numerous occasions big advertisers tried to use their ad spend to hush up embarrassments such as drink driving charges and court appearances. Back then they were politely shown the door and the story was published big and bold. But, following a dramatic fall in circulation, advertisers became more important than journalism. It started slowly at first, with advertising messages disguised as stories.

 After scores of quality journalists lost their jobs to protect profit margins, investigative journalism became a thing of the past, replaced by the publication of media releases. If those media releases happen to come from a big advertiser, no questions are asked for fear of losing revenue.

I suspect that scratch-my-back deals are now the norm – agree to a substantial advertising spend and you get to tell only your side of the story. The Townsville Airport passenger levy and the continuing Adani public relations exercise are obvious examples.

 Then there is the cosy relationship in which the Townsville Bulletin is a preferred supplier to Townsville City Council. How much advertising spend is involved here and what does the council and the mayor get in return, apart from ad space? Those who are hoping a change of editor will mean a return to quality journalism will be disappointed, because cash is now king.

 Any new editor who upsets an advertiser won’t be around for long. As has been suggested by others in this blog in recent weeks, the Townsville Bulletin has abandoned its role as watchdog for the community and is now a lapdog. It appears that if you spend enough money you can now get away with anything. Sad.
Weatherup's  October  21   edition of the  The  Magpie  kicked off  with the pungent heading  : The Ratepayers  Revolt  But The Voice Of The North Gets Laryngitis . The opening  paragraph  pointed out that  ratepayer's were so furious  about the Townsville City Council's   $18.5million  gift to  Adani  that  an online  protest petition ,  calling on  council to rescind the action at its  next  meeting  and make available all   documents related to the   deal  be made public for scrutiny,  had been  ticking  over   faster  than the calorie counter  of    Gina Rinehart, now more than 44,000.   Poets ,  obvious scholars   and   rude  chaps , apart from Malcolm,  contributed  items  to  the  lively ongoing  edition .
UPCOMING : What is wrong with  the Townsville  Bulletin?

Saturday, October 21, 2017


There is growing concern that a  disease  of  poultry- avian paralysis - is possibly spreading on Magnetic Island , oft  described as Townsville's  jewel in the crown.  Another outbreak of  a  similar disease  in  Lorikeets is  also  worrying .

There have been reports that  adult Bush Stone  Curlews  in growing numbers    are having difficulty standing,  falling  over   and   dying.   If  avian  paralysis  then  it is  worrying  for  the  island's birdlife  in  general.

In the case of Lorikeets , instances of  encephalomyelitis , known as clenched foot syndrome , have   been  noticed by  wildlife carers. As the name implies the afflicted  birds  have tight,  bunched up  claws.

This  disturbing  situation comes  after threats  to the   Koala  population, the  subject of   a  recent  report  by  The Guardian Australia .

Magnetic Island boasts  the  largest  number of   free roaming Koalas in the North , yet they are  succumbing to  a variety of  ailments, dog attacks , recently  the  shortage of   food  and  water  due  to  the  long  dry  spell .

The  island's  wildlife organisation  , MIFCO,   run by a small band of   residents , received a   call from a  concerned  person who  had  seen  a Koala on a road .  On investigation by MIFCO , it was  found to  be a Koala, a baby on its back , licking water  off  the road   from a  slight  shower.
Last week a  distressed  female Koala, above ,   was  found , its  eyes   full  of green ants , the fur  about its face looking as if it had been charred by fire,  possibly  even  exposed  to  acid.  The Koala  had  been  seen  high up  a  tree the day before , frequently brushed a paw across its  face .

The following day , obviously in trouble, the Koala  was  on the ground .The  frequent "waving " of its paw the  previous day obviously due to  attempting to wipe the green ants  away  from its  face .

 Wrapped in a towel , it was    brought to  the blog , its eyes mere slits, still with green ants attached . When Koalas  are run  down  green ants  attack  them .  After  the  ants were  removed   , Linda  Wootten of  MIFCO , run  off her  feet   answering calls , retrieving a wide variety of wildlife , looking after many of them in her own residence,  was  contacted . She  took it home, where it later died before  the  Koala Hospital  could  have a  look at  her .  Recently the Koala Hospital  had  seven Koalas in its care , two recovering from dog attack , one with green  ant eye  injury .

Eucalypt  leaves were being brought in from Townsville  by the  Sealink ferry service to  feed   Koalas , the  island  unable  to  do  so .   

Ms  Wootten   explained  that  during  dry periods on  the island, with   little water available,  leaves did not  contain much moisture. Old  male   Koalas , prone to kidney   problems, were  unable to  flush  their   kidneys.

 Recently, in response to a telephone call , she retrieved  an Echidna in trouble , its  feet and the tip of its snout red . Instead of being  curled up  into the usual defensive  spikey ball, it was  half open .  Placed  in a  pen   with a container of water , the anteater eventually  waddled over  and  lay in the  water for two hours , after  which  time  the  redness  had  gone  from its  feet  and snout .  It then   proceeded  to  scratch a hole in  the  portable pen- indicating it was revived and  ready to  go  bush . 

Stray dogs have been seem roaming about  houses  in Nelly Bay in recent days ; a cat was   seen sunning itself in  a nearby shopping centre  and  it is not  clear if the island now has a  pound  keeper as  the  Townsville City Council gave the  long  running   catcher  the  chop .
It  has been obvious  for a long time that that the wildlife  carer  set  up  on  Magnetic  is inadequate , in need of an overhaul, greater coordination and better  facilities . There is a  heavy load  placed  on   MIFCO  members . There needs to be  a greater  involvement  by  the  state  government   which  has  National Parks and Wildlife  Department   staff  and facilities  on   the island .  You  have MIFCO having  to  even  organise  the  burial  of  a large   dead  turtle   on  a beach .
Apart  from  the threat  of possible  avian  paralysis, a  major  problem on the island is the  paralysis  of   the  government  and  the   Townsville  City  Council   to come to grips  with  the wildlife  situation.   Telstra  is also part of the problem  as  part of  the  island  has  a   lousy , infuriating    phone and computer  service , which not  only  affects  Ms  Wootten's rescue operations  but   other   residents  transacting   their  businesses .  


Perched way up  there on the western side of Cape York Peninsula  is the remote town of Aurukun , 100kilometres south of Weipa ,  where this   friendly  , wandering  bovine  welcome  was  snapped .  The sunsets also make a  big impression .  Striking  Indigenous  art  from  this area is currently on  display  in the  Cairns  Regional  Art  Gallery .

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Award winning  political reporter Argus Tuft  asks if Bob  Katter senior  has lost  the  plot or  needs  an   autocue .
CANBERRA : Whenever the Queensland  Marlboro Man imitator  and egg tosser,  Bob Katter  , rises in the House of Representatives  at Question Time  it  becomes  something of  a  giggle , as  this  shot  clearly illustrates .

Why? Because ,  reading from  a  wad of notes, he   rambles on  and on  before  , at times , actually  asking a  question . Hansard   shows that  after one puzzling  peroration, a   Turnbull minister   said  it   was surprising that  after having been  in parliament for  so long , Katter  did not  know how to  ask  a  question . A titter  went through the  pollies .

During this week's sitting of parliament, the Speaker, Tony Smith , started to grimace when Katter  rose , topped by  what surely can't be hair -   a Davy Crockett  cap made  from  an  albino  skunk?-and  began  rambling on .

It got to a  stage  where  the Speaker  told  Katter to sit  down, that he had  more than 45  seconds to ask his question . But when Katter went on and protested , the Speaker   insisted , said  he would not  stand  him  passing aspersions  at  the  impartiality  of  the  chair . 
Katter , looking  glum, sat down . Strange that the Queensland media apparently  did not report that Katter had  been  told to sit down and  shut up.   Katter  was a  minister in the Bjelke-Petersen  Queensland   government   and  like  Joh  feeds   the   media pullets  up   north   a  lot  of cracked corn  nowadays .
It seems  Katter and  Deputy  PM ,  Kiwi Kid  Barnaby Joyce , soon to be  busier than a  frog in a  sock  chased  by  a  hungry python   at  a by-election   if  the High Court  finds against him , have   mutual  admiration for each other .  Waving his  arms about ,  Barnaby recently  said he  had  fond memories of  good old   days  with   Katter . As usual, the  good old days in question  were  hard  to  work  out .

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


There is a honky tonk  song   about  the  green door and  the   intriguing secret goings on   behind . Before  the recent annual sailing carnival on Magnetic Island ,  which attracts  yachties  from far and wide, the Townsville  City Council with  Territory Enterprise involvement ,  suddenly  placed  a whole wall  of  coloured  panels promoting  the  wonders of  the island and  Queensland  on  the  terminal  promenade . Cynics  said  it  was  to  cover up  what is known  by annoyed residents   as  "the hole, " an  eyesore  which  has existed for   at  least a   decade . The hole is just across the way  from  the apartment blocks   dubbed   " Alcatraz ", the infamous American   penitentiary ; having two dubiously  named  places  cheek by  jowl  does  not  project  a  desirable image . 

For years  residents  have  been  asking  the Queensland government , the city council to take action over  the hole , even confiscate  the crater ,  without  success ;  converting the space into  additional  car  parking  has been  suggested from   time  to  time  ,  an  increasing problem  at  the  terminal .  

The   council's  panorama  of  multi coloured  panels  conveniently covered  the said  hole and  any  visiting  out of  town   media during the yacht races   would   have had difficulty  noticing the   cavity , the  rusty barricades , Heath Robinson  pump , litter , rusting  reo  sticking  out of the  concrete , cans , odd  bits of  building  material  scattered about , right next  to  the  ferry terminal . 

 If the council  did  in fact  install  the panels  mainly to  hide  the  eyesore , then who paid for  them  ? The hole is owned by  a company  wanting  $3million  for the site  .  Some  local  reporter  is   free  to ask  these  obvious  questions  along  with  others  like  what  is the future for the  flappers , who  came up with the  idea,  the  cost ,  for  starters.   
 In the case of  the multi coloured  Magnetic  Island  screens , the  windy  weather  has blown away the cover,  revealed  the  out of view secrets behind.  Rusty  barricades,  cracked  concrete   footings.  
Unsightly pee green !!!  looking  pool on   right.
NEWS TIP FOR TOWNSVILLE  REPORTERS : Fantasea  Cruising   Magnetic , the vehicular ferry , is going to jack up the fares  from  November .  Might  pay to get the  full story - why , how much , full  schedule, including  that  for  fuel tankers, seeing Magnetic Islanders are  slugged at the bowser ;  impact on  building  materials, etc... A quaint  initial  PR  puff   piece tends to   trip  the light  fantastic  by  stating  the company's   focus  is  to  "exceed  the needs of  our  customers." 


Tuesday, October 17, 2017


In December 2014, Darwin agronomist  Rob Wesley-Smith   posed with a large Milkwood tree  in the  CBD , which he had  succeeded  in having placed  on the Heritage list . At the time of  Cyclone Tracy  in 1974   he was  in a block of flats nearby  which had  the roof torn off and  badly damaged .When he emerged   from  the building   he removed a sheet of  tin imbedded  in the  tree, and walked about the city taking photos , now in the archives, cutting his foot in the process , going to hospital to be stitched up .

 He had  fought to have the tree listed as one of significance  during the reconstruction of the  city .  At the time this photograph was taken , he was  concerned to find  that a  fig tree  was  growing  up against  the Milkwood, bearing a  Heritage plaque,  threatening  to choke it . The empty  block on which it stands was  being used  by  contractors building  a  26 storey hotel across the road .  
This is  the latest photograph of the Milkwood -apparently dead . Wes   says he would not be surprised if the tree  had been deliberately poisoned .  It showed  civic  authorities  were  lacking in  their  care of   Darwin's heritage. He  is also disappointed at the local media's  apparent  failure to  cover this  story and investigate , despite  being   informed .  


Captured by Abra , a recent storm sweeping into  Cairns , North Queensland , followed    days  later  by  a  Pelican  in  mauve haze .
Meanwhile , on Magnetic Island, after welcome overnight  rain , two Curlew  chicks  at the  front of the  Little Darwin den peep out  from protective  mother , below , to see  if it  is okay to come out  for breakfast .  
Finding the coast clear, the chicks emerge  for  a feed , following foraging   and clucking  mother . 

Monday, October 16, 2017


A birthday party for a boy soon to turn  15   , camping out  with   friends who came over  from Townsville  by  ferry ,  at   Radical Bay , above ,   Magnetic Island , North  Queensland , turned into  an  unexpected  musical event . A  surprise piece of gear  at the   prepared   camp site  was  a  battered   upright piano , which  attracted  much  attention.
One of the  girls in the party played  the  Harry Potter  theme  . Others  picked away at the   keys , the  piano  having been on the island for  many years, at  one stage  thought to  have resided  at  the old dump . 
Naturally, the  piano  provided an ideal setting  for  a  group  photo , a musician searching  for the  lost  chord  sitting  on  top .

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Another  S(h)ipping  Reporter  exclusive
Captain Cook  is not amused by  this  latest Townsville  stunt ; man facing camera appears to be performing  an  old  sailors  hornpipe  jig, popular  in  1770.  

Furious , famous explorer  Captain  James Cook  has instructed lawyers to sue the jodhpurs  off a number of prominent  Townsville  organisations for changing the name of  Magnetic Island  to Cowboys Island .
"I have the naming rights to  Magnetic Island , because I named it in the first  place ," he thundered  , from the poop deck . " Actually, I  dubbed it Magnetical Isle , but  some  dumb colonial   had  the nerve to  change it   to   Magnetic , without   seeking  approval  from  me , the  legal  title holder ."
Red with rage , Captain Cook   said he would like to keel haul all those  who recently changed  the name  to Cowboys Island  and   came  to the  island  on a Sealink ferry and   flounced  about the  terminal  like  drunken  Morris dancers ,  waving  flags and  giggling ,  then   fled back to  the  mainland .
"I have  instructed   a local hotshot lawyer, Cameron Horatio  Nelson , to  nail a writ to the  mast of  the   Townsville  City Council  chambers , its mayor and councillors  eager , prancing  players in  this  outrage ,"  the captain said . 

The Admiralty Court  writ, he explained, would prevent  any councillors  from  making further overseas jaunts  to  India , Singapore, China , Disney Land , Wally World . Other parties  to be included in  the legal action  include Townsville Enterprise , Sealink , the   Cowboys Leagues  Club , the Townsville  Bulletin .

Captain Cook said he is prepared to take the case to  the powerful  Privy Council in the Old Dart  if  the  Red Brick Dunny  and  the overworked  High Court of  Australia   did not rule in his  favour .

In the meantime ,  he would issue another   writ  preventing Prince Harry from ever coming to Townsville, blockade the  Townsville   ferry terminal with  100 ship of the line , flog members  of   Townsville  Enterprise  and then  place them in stocks along The Strand to be  pelted   by the public with tomatoes and  rotten mangoes  , make  soccer  the  main   code  in  Queensland and ban rugby league !!!
 "I did not  endure the  dangers of  sailing along the Great Barrier Reef , without a depth sounder , GPS  and  radar  , to have  my  island , now  annoyingly   abbreviated to Maggie , which sounds like a milk maid suffering from cow pox  ,  turned into a crazy name, Cowboys  Island !"he roared.    

Captain Cook was  scathing  in his comments about the Townsville Bulletin  and its part in  the renaming of Magnetic Island . The paper, he said, spitting on the deck ,  was not worth  the penny it dared charge . In the good old days of penny press in London  editors  could be  dragged off to the  London Tower , hung , drawn and quartered , and left out to be picked over by   ravens .  This kind of treatment , he told me, presiding over a barbecue in Hawaii, would obviously improve  media  coverage and  democracy   in  North Queensland .


As part of the promotion for  Rugby League  World Cup  matches in  North Queensland , the Cairns lagoon  fish are  sporting  team  jumpers, Scotland and  Ireland  plainly visible .  On October 29 Scotland versus Tonga and Ireland will play Italy  at Barlow Park . Samoa will take on Scotland in November . Other matches are scheduled for Townsville ... Fiji  and  USA, followed by a double header , USA and Italy,  Fiji and Wales .  ( Abra photograph and report ).

Saturday, October 14, 2017


After  a  pretence of  rain-2mm-  two tiny Curlews  hatched  at  the  front of  the  Little Darwin  den  and  were moved out  of  the  open  into  a  cooler spot   ,  the nearby  area  recently the   subject  of   crazed  landscaping  which turned it into  a  repository  for  driftwood , chunks of granite  and  a   beaut   future   holiday  camp  for  termites , an ideal  scratch  patch  for  daily raids  by orange footed  scrub  turkeys . 
While  the recent  flowering   of  Rain Orchids  caused predictions  of  wet  stuff  within four days, what  the  harsh heavens  provided  was hardly precipitation  of  any  value , a  fine mist of  short duration . 
Then the  Queen of the Jungle, one of those  who raised the Rain Orchids  furphy , rang and said to hurry down again with the camera   because another   orchid , above, which looked like  something  from the Little Shop of Horrors ,  had flowered   for the  first time   in 20 years ,  another portent   of rain  in  the  near future...two lousy mms.

Meanwhile, the Curlew chick which hatched recently at the back of the Little Darwin den , though small , above,  is still  alive . Hissing and  other  noises   late at night have resulted  in  having to leap from  bed with a torch to investigate , chasing possums ,  searching  for  the  dreaded  Murder Owls , cats  ; during daylight,  a watch has to be kept for  Crows, Currawongs  and Kookaburras .
Twice during last night , about 3.30-ish, there  were   loud  explosions  , sounding like  gunshots , then  much louder.  Being Magnetic Island , surrounded  by  water , the  mainland  media  will  probably  not  pick up  this event. An island resident  said she thought it was   fireworks  --- at 3.30am  on the sabbath, what would  the  vicar  say?  
The  disruption of much needed beauty  sleep  and  the  wood duck  local  media   makes  one   irritable , bug-eyed, given to  expressing hearty expletives.  While working on this post, hissing was heard at the front  of the residence and on investigation  a Kookaburra  was  spotted  and  chased away.  

Friday, October 13, 2017


Top: Caves  with   fine   black sand . Above : The Two Sisters , the third  one reduced  to a small  rock visible  at  low  tide. From Kiwi correspondents.


Abra  special series 


Topped by the coat of arms, the Australian flag flying limply  , possibly upside  down indicating  a  vessel or  town in deep  distress ,  this impressive Townsville  building from the boomtime  early days , on the city's so called Civic Pride  Trail, has been  wrapped in  black plastic  a  la  Christo  and  the local media  has  not  noticed .  This strange situation was , naturally, noticed by  our  floating,  eagle eyed  S(h)ipping  Reporter  who  was present in Sydney when  Christo wrapped up  part of  the  foreshore   at Little Bay in  one million square feet  of  erosion control fabric  . It stretched for  2.5kilometres , was 46-244 metres  wide  and 26 metres high.  

Our cranky S(h)ipping Reporter  makes the seemingly  preposterous  claim that the  Townsville building  has been wrapped in black as  a  protest  against  the outrageous  Adani Carmichael  mine. But who knows-the media have not even   noticed  the  black wrapped   building  and  therefore  have  not  asked   any  questions , a  common state of  affairs . Question  asking  is  a vital part  of   journalism .  
Recently our S(h)ipping  Reporter revealed a prominent hotel, the Chifley Plaza, in the CBD, was changing its name  without  any mention in the media . Our nautical scooper  has  provided his latest snap  at the entrance to  the Chifley Plaza, the  name  removed . Watch  this space  reporters.  Why do people  keep on saying  Townsville needs a real newspaper and  the media scene generally needs a  real shake ?  Answers  to these questions very soon .

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


There was shock , sadness and   tears    when  a  package  posted from   Germany  unexpectedly arrived  on  Magnetic Island , North Queensland, from  a relative , a  cousin ,  who  had  died a  week  before . It  included cuttings from German  magazines and  newspapers about wide ranging subjects: individuals , artists, places  within  Germany and  overseas . 
 Australia-its wildlife, politics   and the  Great Barrier Reef  were  covered  .  The sender  , who  had never visited  Australia ,  had regularly contacted her  relative on the island once  a week by phone and discussed  many topics , especially German  and   Australian   politics ,  threats  to  the  Great  Barrier  Reef , the reef   and  climate change  a  subject of  intense   interest  in  Europe . 
 Upon receipt of the package , the recipient , not knowing it  was  coming ,  realising  it  was  from her  female  cousin  who had  only recently died ,  became  emotional  and  could not bring herself  to open  and  peruse the contents   for  a  long  time .   
When eventually opened , out  cascaded  numerous  cuttings and   some magazines, reviving  fond memories,  especially  one  displaying  famous  German  treats-marzipan, nougat and  truffles . Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull  featured in an  article  which  showed him sitting with Aborigines  in the Northern Territory. There were clippings   about   the Great Barrier Reef  along with one  about  sharks  in Australian waters ,  Wilsons Promontory National  Park  in Victoria . 


S(h)ipping  Reporter   Continues   to   Scoop   waterfront  allergic  Townsville   Media  

In  just one day's sculling  about  the busy  Townsville waterfront  the usually  thirsty  S(h)ipping  Reporter ,  the only one  north  of  Nunawading , came across a  mess of  nautical  activity unnoticed by the local scribes .  One was  the above unidentified  floating object   seen  near the   Townsville  shipping channel  by  the  skipper of the Sealink  ferry on  an afternoon  Townsville   to  Magnetic Island  run .
At first, many passengers   thought the boat  had changed course because of a whale sighting . It  was  , however, an  upturned  navigation buoy , left  in that state .  
On  the  same  trip  another   line of  fishing  dories, above , being towed,   provided another  photo opportunity, different to the Townsville Bulletin regularly sending a photographer down to The Strand to  get a shot of  young  girls , usually backpackers,  to  go with a filler   about the weather.   Who cares if  Rupert Murdoch said  P3  girls were  a   thing of  the  past, his wise words have obviously  not  reached  his  Townsville  paper where they can appear on pages one , three , five  and  so on , making it look  like a mushy  Bananaland  Ralph .   
Tied up near the ferry terminal in Townsville was  the Sunbird   getting a  bit of a touch up  inside and  out .  Just  across  the  way  there  was  some kind of  activity at  the spot where the  police launch Brett Irwin  is  usually   moored, sporting various  fake  owls  and a bird  of  prey or  two  to frighten off recidivist messy real birds. Presumably  the police launch  has not  sunk , but then the Titanic could go down in Townsville  and  would not be noticed .   Other patrol vessels use the facilities .
 No  trip to the waterfront  is made without  checking on the  Red Baron seaplane mooring . Our  S(h)ipping  Reporter   has  pointed out several times that the unusual  plane has been  missing   for months without   the local  media twigging and asking when it will return .    He  even suggested  that it has  been converted   into a  nuclear  powered and armed  yellow submarine  , now   cruising  about , unnoticed  , in   the  port .   
Red Baron with fake owl on top before it disappeared .

To back up his  dubious  claim that  the Red Baron has been nuked and turned into an underwaterboten, he  has produced the  following latest   puzzling  photograph    from  the  plane's  mooring which suggests , it is indeed  down the gurgler,  being secretly  loaded with  state  of  the  art  deadly black  torpedoes .  
Our S(h)ipping Reporter  does not mind if  local reporters  take up these  stories  as  long as  they  donate  to  his  Christmas  sinking   fund , which takes a  dive like the Red Baron  each time he calls into Molly  Malone's  Irish  Pub  in  the  nightclub precinct.    
He has been gloating over the fact  that in a media  broadside  he recently reported  there was   another  large  vehicle carrier in port   and suggested  somebody  in the media should ask  basic  questions  about  the nature of  its cargo  and lo and behold the  Townsville  Bulletin came up with a  story about the number of  vehicle   carriers   that  have  unloaded   in recent  times  .
 The S(h)ipping  Reporter    likes  to   point out that he  stirred up  the  Darwin media about the lack of shipping  coverage  and the  ABC  started to take a regular interest in maritime  matters.  In the case of   the Murdoch Northern Territory News  they are  probably too busy  chasing  crocodile stories , UFOs , randy ghosts ,  soy milk  latte  drinking  southerners  to  worry about   shipping activities .  
And another episode  which indicates how the local media  are  not really in   touch with  their own small fish bowl  is this stunning notice   from the entrepreneurial  pirates who  converted  an empty  house on Magnetic Island into a  thriving, innovative   café , Scallywags . It informs   customers , who are many , that they will be closing  down  soon  to  take part in  catering  for   shows  and festivals in the south   of  the nation, which they have been doing for years , but  will  be  back. It would make an interesting story if anybody  in the media cared to  follow  this  surging   lead . The eye catching  graphic  incorporates part of  the Scallywags  café .   
Our nautical reporter  also   said  a  heavy lift cargo vessel , which once had a different  name ( is  there a story here ?)  , had  managed   to  find its way  into Townsville , despite  the  upturned   navigation  buoy . Did the port authority know  about  the upside down navigation buoy, when , how could it have happened , how  was  it  righted ,or  replaced , any danger to shipping  notice issued ,  etc?

Monday, October 9, 2017


Victoria Settlement , at Port Essington,  which was  started in 1838 and abandoned in 1849 will be the subject of a talk  by  conservation architect David Bridgman  at the Northern Territory Archives Centre in Darwin  on October 26.  It  will   cover the history of the settlement and recent  conservation work on Mrs Lambrick's  grave , Cornish chimneys and a charcoal kiln . Macassan  traders called in . French explorer Dumont D'Urville  sailed in  with  artist Louis Le Breton  who  did  several drawings of  the  tiny outpost.  German explorer Ludwig Leichhardt  made the arduous  overland trek  from Moreton Bay  to Port Essington  in  1844-l845.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


Hysterical Weather  Girls  Blamed    
In an extended scientific experiment here on the French canals, we have proved once and for all that September and October lead into Europe’s autumn. You might think this is common knowledge but a blind acceptance of such a statement could lead to confusion. It had to be checked, so we have stayed beyond mid-September.

We use three of the most prominent weather prediction services: the Norwegian Weather Office (which we call ‘The Vikings’), the French Government’s Meteo Service (which we call the ‘Hysterics’), and The Weather Channel (which we call something obscene based on one of The Donald’s personal habits). We rate each one in order of its accuracy. The Vikings is right about 40% of the time, The French Meteo over-reacts about 40% of the time and the Obscene is distracted about 40% of the time.

The first sign of an impending change in the weather is an increasingly hysterical tone among the weather predictors. For the forthcoming week The Vikings foresees rain and overcast in its usual calm but clenched tone, the French Meteo uses shrill doomsday scenarios warning of storms, high winds and heavy rain at the same time, and the Obscene predicts a cold front from Mexico will bring Europe to a standstill.

Uppity Swans

In the real world, we find ourselves marooned by wind and rain at Chalon-sur-Soane, where we sit in our heated boat and drink Cru Bourgeois red wine and stare at the chrome-yellow poplar leaves falling in drifts on our deck. The wind pushes rafts of leaves around on the surface of the water. The ducks have already departed for their resorts in the south of France, leaving the swans to come calling for bread. They hiss unpleasantly, complaining about the staleness of our baguettes – but they eat them anyway.
We get a five-Euro reduction in the nightly mooring price at the Chalon marina (‘By law it is now the beginning of low season and we must reduce the fee,’ moans the lonely girl in the office, ‘you are lucky.’). Five Euros is not much compensation for the bitterly cold mornings, sharp-edged wind and unpredictable rain. The marina is full of boats abandoned by their owners for the winter – we are among the very few people actually using a boat.
The restaurants in town are as busy as they were during the plague.  Our planning has been sound: a Carrefor hypermarket is 5 minutes’ walk away, so huge that staff glide amongst the shelves wearing rollerblades. We will not go short of all the food and wine we can think of.

In two weeks we depart for Greece and Malta but not by boat. First we must return to St Jean de Losne, our home marina, in time to give the boat its annual enema, pump-out and shampoo so she can be craned out and left under a tarp for winter. This will take about a week. Once again we will prepare a worklist for the engineer and electrician and keep all our appendages crossed in the hope that they’ll get to the work before we return.

The morning we decide to leave Chalon the fog is so thick we can’t see the pylons of the nearby bridge, let alone the far side of the river. By 10.30am it’s lifted a little and we stick our bow out into the river. No other boats can be seen, but then visibility is 100 metres or so.

Insane Fishermen
We creep forward. Inexplicably, groups of rowers and kayakers are fading in and out of the mist, directly in our path. The main channel is marked by red and green posts on each side. We know the posts and kayakers are there but we can’t see them. Fishermen – the really insane users of French rivers – fly by at full speed on either side of us in their aluminium and plastic dinghies.
 Even in this fog they wear full camouflage clothing so any fog-defying fish can’t see them.  These stealth-clad weirdos are out in all weathers, including today, crossing our bow suicidally and shouting to us to reduce speed or get out of their way. Somehow the fog absorbs the sound of their outboards. We know they can’t see us at a safe distance because we don’t have any navigation lights; we removed them months ago because they and their ‘radar arch’ got in the way, and anyway we didn’t plan on moving at night or in the fog.
Such is life – or is it death, I wonder, as we manage to avoid a buoy which inexplicably materialises in mid-channel. We know there are more bridges to pass under, but they are invisible. Rope Girl, who is not subject to the challenges of machismo, suggests we do something about it. First, this means we should accept the danger of our situation and second, we should turn tail and return to the marina.
 This seems wise, especially as an even thicker slab of fog rolls down the river and blankets us. After a blind U-turn I note several red and green lights glowing in the murk. In sailor-talk, red means Port (left) and green means Starboard (right). The town looms as a dematerialised shadow on each bank. It’s silent. Are the lights I see anything to do with navigation – like bridge pylons?
 Burleigh Man or Mouse ?
Fearing my voice will be reduced to the squeak of a  frightened Dormouse I say nothing but increase my concentration to Awareness Level 12, if this is possible, and reduce our speed to ‘idle’ and somehow find the narrow entrance to the Chalon marina.Later, she says ‘Good thing you worked out the traffic lights weren’t nav lights. Could have been difficult.’
After a couple of days later we reach Seurre, a pretty town which also tends to be fog-bound in the mornings. We hang about because of the fresh bread from the Boulangerie and free mooring. The marina office is open but no one asks us for fees, and as this includes electricity we’ll wait two or three days for them to collect. This morning for example we are the only boat in the Seurre marina! Attuned to the silence, we start at any vibration on the pontoons. Sometimes a floating piece of timber impacts on the walkways and brings us to our feet.

Despite the occasional stray rental boat full of Germans (or is that occasional boats of full Germans?) beer-carousing all night, the odd Swede, Dane and other eccentrics of early winter, the boating season is over. It happened suddenly. There’s virtually no movement on the river and canals. Boats are trussed up, stored and winterised for the winter freeze, due in a few weeks. Traffic through the locks has dropped to almost zero; for example, the huge locks on the Soane which can accommodate six huge commercial cargo peniche at once now must fill up and empty a vast volume of water for one small pleasure craft – us.
The evidence of past seasons is piled up around rubbish bins and marina offices as the French summer lifestyle slips into hibernation. In small towns like Seurre more businesses are closing forever. It’s sad and affecting. The country is being transformed into islands of crowded cities ringed by commercial zones of strip development…and empty towns set adrift in between. If you think you know France now it sure won’t be the same when you return.

The beauty of the surroundings has not lessened. On our boat, condensation beads spider webs like chains of minute pearls. There is a spider, type unknown, which seems to have a parasitic relationship with steel rails and canvas covers. Red bites on our hands and legs are evidence of its aggression. These insects take no notice of our attempts to negotiate. They choose to bite first and confer later, but by then it’s too late; there’s a limit to our tolerance. The cold hasn’t slowed them down.

Autumn colour illuminates the river banks and in some trick of nature every second tree has yellow leaves… in a few days all will curl up parched and gnarled. When there is no fog, shoals of mist rise from the river as if a thousand dead smokers are puffing away underwater. The mist makes vision difficult, like looking through stained glass.
The insects of summer have taken up their winter hiding places and no longer seethe around night lights, and yet your eyes still see them although they are not there. A night watch of birds, their numbers dramatically reduced by their migration imperative, twitter at earliest light but soon fade away. They sit in the treetops warily watching the Jackdaws on the church roof, then give it up and leap into the crisp air and flap silently southward.

The weather settles as a heavy weight on people like us who think of ourselves as summer-seasonal beings. Dew drips in bucket-loads from the trees, spattering on the windshield and running in all directions over the cabin roof. We sit inside the boat telling anecdotes about summer happenings although they’ve been told before. Our minds turn to our impending departure for the Greek Islands and Malta and the restoration of our suntans. Secretly we fear the cold weather will reach out to us there too.
So that’s it from France.  Please wait for my next post, if it comes at all. Hopefully it’ll be from the Parthenon or  Stromboli and I’ll be drunk on Retsina, suntanned once again and in happy optimistic oblivion about the weather, which will stubbornly stay summer wherever we are.