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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 53, February 2011

Wild Weather. Since I began working on this newsletter, Queensland has been hit by Cyclone Yasi and America has suffered yet another major blizzard. Our world is changing in ways over which we have no control. To those of you who have suffered any kind of loss because of our recent wild weather, I offer both my sympathy and a chance to understand part of the reason why it happened and why there is likely to be more to come.
One of the causes is something I have not seen mentioned in any of the main news media.

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In this issue

Wild Weather

If you want to understand why the world's weather has been so extreme recently, read this.

No one in Australia can possibly be unaware of the incredible floods in Queensland and Victoria. Anyone who watches the TV news will know a bit about the extreme cold and snow in the US and Europe. Not so many know about the heat wave in the Canadian arctic. Here's a short story from the NY Times which gives a bit more detail.

They missed the main reason that this is happening, the reason that it could continue and bring equally devastating floods back in the relatively near future. Since late November, the Kizimen, Sheveluch, Karymsky and Kliuchevskoi volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia have been erupting almost constantly. The following is from a John Mauldin newsletter.

"Climate as a whole goes through cycles. If we look to the past, we can better understand the future. There is a reason Australia is undergoing severe rains and that the north of the US and Europe are experiencing serious winters."

"First, the Pacific is going through a cooler period, called La Niña (with this one being particularly strong), and the Atlantic is going through a warmer period. This would normally change weather patterns in rather predictable ways. But then throw in the Kamchatka volcanoes, which are throwing massive amounts of dust into the air, causing the Arctic to be even colder and Arctic winds to push farther south, and you get a very drastic change in patterns."

Australia's wheat crop is down by 10%, but the bulk of it has been so damaged by the worst rain in a hundred years (by far) that it is no good as human food and can only be used to feed animals. Throw in drought in Russia, severe drought in Argentina, floods in Brazil and Venezuela, odd weather in the agricultural parts of China, and you get rising food costs all over the world — all because Putin cannot keep his volcanoes under control. (But hey, he's controlling everything else!)"

"If those volcanoes don't back down, there is the real possibility that this year's bad weather could repeat."

Mauldin got his information from the January 2011 edition of the Browning Newsletter. It's somewhat technical but well worth a read if you want to understand what's going on. It is a paid subscription service, one which all sorts of policy makers around Australia (and the rest of the world) should be subscribing to. If you know anyone who should have this kind of information, please forward it to them.

John Mauldin's newsletters are free. They are primarily economics, but they often contain gems like this. For more information go to www.JohnMauldin.com.

The Kamchatka volcanoes have now been joined by one in Japan. Mount Shinmoe's first major eruption in almost 200 years is sending plumes of ash and rocks kilometres into the sky. You can get more details and see more photos in this article from the Washington Post.

Cyclone Yasi did an incredible amount of damage in North Queensland. Think how much more damage it would have done if its full force had hit a major centre like Townsville or Cairns. The cyclone season is not yet over. The ABC website has a good Tropical Cyclones Explained page. The current La Niña means a warmer ocean which n turn means more heavy rain and more cyclones for Australia. The ABC page Coincidence or Climate Change gives a bit more information.

I live in a city which has been nearly destroyed by cyclones three times. If one like Yasi hit, there wouldn't be much left of Darwin. If it hit at high tide, the destruction would be almost beyond belief. If a storm like that were coming, I'd feel safer in a rock shelter in Kakadu than in my home in Darwin. For that matter, I'd probably be safer there than in most of the public cyclone shelters.

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Wet Season Trips

It had been a long time. My two weeks in Kakadu in January was about as good as it can get. Plenty of cloud to keep things cool. Plenty of rain, but we never had to pack up in the rain. Although one person did bring a $5 plastic poncho, the others walked with no rain gear at all. They found it hard to believe that they could happily be walking in the rain without a rain coat of any kind. I've put up a photo gallery from the trip on our Facebook page. Click on the photos to see larger versions. Hold your cursor over the photo to get captions which tell the story. You should be able to see the photos without being a member of Facebook. The first two were added on 14 November.

Our three remaining wet season trips are all definite departures. Every one has something special to recommend it.

If I could be in two places at once, I'd do both of our February trips. It's almost too late to get onto either of them, but if you have the time, please contact me urgently for details of some very special offers. We can't take more than two more on either.

Kimberley Coast Explorer: 13 March - 23 April 2011

Our February departures may be too close, but March is not. This could be the last time we can offer our Kimberley Coast Explorer. To run this trip, we need to use Faraway Bay. That property is for sale. If we can't come to a similar arrangement with the new owners, we won't be able to offer this trip again. This is our longest single walk, four sections, any of which can be done on its own. We think all four sections are among the best walks we offer. With only five booked on three of the sections, we'd like a few more so we're making three special offers.

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A Guided Tour of Your Body — Update

As one of the people who read this section in the last newsletter noted, most exercise research has been done on men. Some findings apply to both men and women, some only to men. For the most part, "when it comes to women, there's a great deal that sports scientists just don't understand.

While on the subject of health, did you know that Google has a Body Browser, a new, free 3-D tool that lets users rotate the body, peel back layers of it, and zoom in and zoom out, all from within an Internet browser window. There's even a search feature. The link here gives more information, including what software you need to make it work.

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Butterflies and Fish

Butterflies and other insects

I recently came across a printable two page leaflet on Butterflies in Kakadu. If you have any interest in butterflies in our region, it's worth a look.

While on the subject of insects, I thought it would be worth mentioning the NT Insects CD I first mentioned in the October 2009 newsletter. To the best of my knowledge, it remains the best single reference to our insects.

Fish and other marine life

Some of our trips allow people to do a bit of fishing along the way. On others, this isn't possible. but, even where you can go fishing, we do our best to ensure that our fishing is sustainable so that people doing the same walk in ten years will have just as good a chance to catch a fish as those doing it today. Sadly, when it comes to the fish we find in the supermarket, many are likely to be much more expensive or to have disappeared altogether in ten years time.

The Sustainable Seafood Guide rates common seafood by both environmental impact and whether or not the current catch is sustainable. I was surprised both by some of the seafood that rated worst and some of that which rated best. If you care about the environment and whether or not the next generation has much more than jellyfish available, it's well worth a read.

If you'd like to learn more or do something to improve the situation, have a look at the Australian Marine Conservation Society website. IF enough people speak up, even something as simple as adding your name to a petition can have a positive effect.

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New and Changed Trips

Completely New

Major Changes

Many of the March and April trips will now not be available until 2012.

Last year's Gibb trip felt a bit rushed. I decided that adding a week would end the rusn ang give us a better chance to have a good look around sp the 2011 Gibb Road Gorges trip will now run for four weeks: 19 June - 16 July. The new trip notes will be available in March. Until then, anyone booking the full trip will get the price on the website which was set when we planned to drive both ways.

As we've lost acess to an area where we used to go, the Bungles in July trip has been shortened to 11 days.

The Charnley River trip has been put back by a week and the Isdell Explorer shortened to two weeks. That will make it substantially cheaper than when we planned to use a helicopter food drop.

Full details of the new itineraries and prices of these trips will not be available until sometime in March.

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Parks Australia Blog Page

Kakadu, Uluru & More

Parks Australia recently started a blog page. So far most of the posts have been from parks staff, but I've already made one post. It's worth a visit. Maybe you've got something you can add to one of the discussions.

One of the posts deserves special mention, "The milky way in all its glory". It's an amazing 24 hour time lapse video, less than two minutes, very worth watching. It was at the bottom of the page when I clicked onto it. If it's not still there, try clicking on "Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park" on the right menu.

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Overseas Trips 2011

Watch this newsletter for updates on all our overseas trips.

Papua New Guinea

Although we don't offer trips to PNG, it is our closest neighbour and a place many of you have been to or are interested in visiting. It is also a country with many major problems. According to the NY Times, " a founding myth in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea is said to have foretold the arrival of ExxonMobil, the American oil giant that is preparing to extract natural gas here and ship it overseas." If you have any interest in the country, the full story, Riches May Not Help Papua New Guinea is worth a read.

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Kakadu Campsite Photos Needed

Help! As part of the bushwalking review, Parks Australia wants to establish a record of how different campsites have fared over the years. I've been taking photos for over 30 years. Unfortunately, Darwin's climate is not kind to slides or prints. Every single one of my old slides and prints is damaged to some degree. They are better than nothing, but not good.

Most of you who get this newsletter live in climates which are kinder to old photos. If you have, or know someone who has, any photos of campsites in Kakadu from five or more years ago, better still, from ten or more years ago, please send me a copy (preferably digital) saying where and when the photo was taken.

It is only by establishing this kind of a baseline that we can ensure that Kakadu's campsites remain as good in 20 years as they are today.

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Other Trips

Definite departures

The following trips are already definite departures. Get in soon if you are interested in any of them.

From 1 May onwards, all other trips except Kakadu Circle No. 1 are definitely still available. Please contact us if you might be interested in that trip as we might still be able to run it.

The following trips all have bookings, but not yet enough to guarantee departure.

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New Vehicle Needed

My four RV Troopcarriers are all relatively low mileage for their age. They do, however, get driven on some very rough tracks and are all reaching the point where they need to be replaced. The newest version is more expensive but, in some ways, not as good as the old one. Finding one with low mileage in Darwin is next to impossible, so on the off chance that someone reading this newsletter might spot one, here's what I'm looking for. It should go without saying that it should be in good condition.

If you happen to spot something that might be appropriate, please let me know.

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Our Trips Too Easy For You?

A friend sent me a link to this You Tube video. He called it the "World's Scariest Hike". Whether or not it is, somehow I don't think it's a walk I'd like to try. There are links to a few similar short video clips on the right. Personally, I think I'll stick to what I'm doing now.

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Computers Changing Our Lives

Regular readers of this newsletter will know about my ongoing computer hassles. In working on those, I've come across some information which might help others.

The NY Times had an article 10 ways to get the most out of technology. If you use even one of the ideas they list, reading it will have been well worth while.

Now here are a few articles which show how computers are changing our lives and how they may change more things in the future. Whether you like what's happening or not, I think it's worth while to try and understand some of what is going on.

In talking to someone who teaches history at a uni in WA, I only recently became aware of some of the problems created by the web and how computers help overcome these — software that analyses papers and decides how likely they are to have been plagiarised.

If any of you have stories about computers in our lives that you think are worth sharing via this newsletter, please pass them along.

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Guides Wanted

Last year I ran a major advertising campaign looking for new guides. Although I got a good response at the time, almost all of those who looked likely have dropped out.

A list of those who were still interested after asking about work in earlier years was destroyed in a computer crash.

I've already had to cancel a number of trips which didn't have bookings as I couldn't be sure of having a guide if they did run.

If you think you might be both qualified and interested, please have a look at the letter we sent out to those who asked for information. If you're still interested after that, please let me know.

Whether or not you are interested, if you know someone who might be suitable, please forward this newsletter to them. The more good guides I have, the less chance there is that I'll have to cancel trips.

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News About This Newsletter

The newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. The program we use to send this newsletter has an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. My newsletter mailing program will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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