Saturday, 4 October 2014

Of Walruses, Climate Change and Wine-growing in Tasmania

It must be tough being a walrus. Have you heard about the 35 000 of them that have gathered together on a beach in Alaska? If you haven't, here's a Youtube video to bring you into the picture:

It's all over the internet but I haven't seen anything on the local TV news about the phenomenon. This Wall Street Journal video has very informative coverage with great images.

This is yet another concrete, indisputable example of climate change. We've heard about polar bears struggling to find sea ice to rest on because of climate change, now it's the walruses.

I wonder how this is going to affect the overall population of walruses ...

... in the meantime, let's talk of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax!

Or, if you'd like to read Lewis Carroll's great classic while listening, here's another video ...

I guess Lewis Carroll wasn't thinking of climate change when he wrote this! Yesterday, I was chatting with Phil from across the road about the winter that's just been. Normally he will get out for a ski at least a few times each winter. We used to have wonderful cross-country skiing in Tasmania, even as close by as Mount Field National Park. Phil said he tried to go  one day when it looked promising but there just was no base.

Unfortunately, these days about the best you can consistently expect for a winter's day at Mount Field these days would be these sort of conditions, good for hiking but not for skiing ...

It's been about twenty years since we've had consistently good conditions for skiing in Tasmania. Di and I took up skiing on the back of the great snow year we had in 1990, after being up at Mount Field  one day hiking. We had plugged our way out to Clem's Tarn, shown in the following image from Google Earth ...

Clem's Tarn is about where the red oval is

 It was a long and laborious exercise through all the snow.  We were just settling in to camp when a bunch of skiers came swooping down past us from the summit of Mt Field West. The conditions were perfect and they were having a ball. That's what gave us the bug.

(While we're talking about Mt Field, I thought I'd sneak in a photo of Di against a backdrop of Fagus, endemic to Tasmania and our only native deciduous shrub or tree.)

Di with Fagus
That year and the next we had a lot of great times, including using the same snow cave for three successive weekends with our friends Adrian and Mary. Dianne and I had a long weekend up at the Walls of Jerusalem National Park (Tasmania's best-kept secret stellar hiking destination) in that second winter when we were still finding our feet on the skis. Conditions were marvellous. Here are a few photos to illustrate ...

Chaining up on the Fish River Road
Leaving the car park
Crossing Lake Salome
Inside the Walls of Jerusalem
(You can see more of these photos at our SmugMug site. And, if the Walls of Jerusalem sounds appealing, you might like to browse these photos taken during a bushwalking trip in January, 2007.)

A final note about climate change in Tasmania: it's said that climate change has been good for our burgeoning wine industry. With things getting too hot for comfort in the vineyards of the big island to the north, investors in viticulture are looking south to our more temperate climate. We've been making some very good cool climate wines here in the deep south for a while now but things are starting to really shine. Clear evidence of that emerged in 2011 when a Tasmanian Shiraz - of all things! - won the most prestigious prize for red wine in Australia.

Like I said, we've been making excellent cool-climate wine for a while now, especially Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but also Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. One of the great summer getaways for North Islanders wanting to escape the heat is to come to Tasmania and tour around the various wine districts. You never know, if you come down this way we might bump into one another sampling wine!

Addendum: Monday @ 11:43 a.m.

Just came in from a couple of hours weeding and watering in the garden. Couldn't help but notice how dry the soil is, so I thought I'd check rainfall data for Hobart over the past four months. Sure enough, it well down on average, especially for the month that just passed. We only had 19.4 mm in September, when the average is 53.2. Even more telling perhaps is the evaporation figure of exactly 100.0 mm for the month. No wonder the ground is so dry ~ and rock hard along with it! The forecast for today is for a 95% chance of rain developing this afternoon. We can expect somewhere between one and three millimetres, which isn't really enough to soften the ground up, but is at least something.

And now for a thing of beauty, totally unrelated to any of the stuff above: it's about a man, his bike and a wild island - all informed by a beautiful Celtic soundtrack. If you've read this far I'm sure you will enjoy this wonderful footage of Danny Macaskill on the Isle of Skye ...