Everything’s Coming up RSES: Part III

March 31: I promised myself that I would finish up my Australia blogging with a post about my research (since that’s why I went to Australia in the first place), and I’ve been remiss in that. Hey! I’m on sabbatical and I’ve been busy sleeping late, getting massages, and redecorating the house.  No…. not really (usually). I’ve been busy traveling to conferences, presenting research, and writing up some science results. I’ve also been trying to work in the chemistry lab at Albion a few hours a week to support research funded by the NASA Exobiology program.  Traveling to Australia was a great experience and I’m so happy to have met the people I did, from Canberra to Hobart to Alice Springs to Cairns and back again.

A few days before I left Canberra, Ian Williams was kind enough to invite me along on a geology field trip to the coast of New South Wales. The class was interested in finding rocks from Antarctica that might prove once and for all that Australia and Antarctica were once joined.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive to the coast, and it was fun to try to spot the teddy bears on the Kings Highway.  I even got a very blurry picture of Pooh Corner.  Once we got to the coast, I spent most of my time taking pictures (because I really can’t tell the difference between different kinds of rocks!).

Looking back on Wasp Head, on the coast of New South Wales.

Sandstone rocks on Wasp Head.

Weathered glacial debris on Wasp Head.

Clear Point, on the coast of New South Wales.

Glacial drop stones at Clear Point.

Another view of the shoreline at Clear Point. The tide was going out.

View from Pebbly Beach, on the coast of New South Wales. Wasp Head can be seen in the distance.

Beautiful, huh?

I spent my final days at the ANU analyzing data from the Apollo 15 glasses. We obtained both major element (e.g., Mg, Ti, Fe) compositions and trace element (e.g., Nb, La, Th) compositions and are now in the process of interpreting these data in the context of the Apollo 15 landing site. Eventually, 40Ar/39Ar ages will be determined. First results were presented at the 43rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and abstracts about these data can be found here and here.  I also presented some results at the Gordon Conference on the Origin of Life, and I’m about to head to NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center to give a talk there as well.  Science never sleeps when data are plentiful.

When I returned from Australia, I read In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Published in 2000, that man took the words out of my mouth: “Australia is a beautiful, friendly, modern, cringe-free country with a great deal more to it than kangaroos and Crocodile Dundee.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I absolutely LOVE Australia. If one word could describe this island continent, it would be wow.  I saw a lot and can’t wait to return to see the rest.

If it’s true that a person can suffer from withdrawal, then, despite my travels around the United States this spring, I am a bit lonely for my travel in Australia.  In his book, Bryson noted that this country is so far away from us (in the United States), that

“[i]t seemed a particularly melancholy notion to me that life would go on in Australia
and I would hear almost nothing of it.   Crocodiles would attack, bushfires would rage,
ministers would depart in shame, amazing things would be found in the desert, and none
of it would reach my ears.  Life in Australia would go on, and I would hear nothing,
because once you leave Australia, Australia ceases to be.  Australia is mostly empty and
it’s a long way away.  Its population is small and its role in the world is consequentially
peripheral.  It doesn’t have coups, recklessly overfish, arm disagreeable despots, grow
coca in provactive quatities, or throw its weight around in a brash and unseemly manner.
It is stable and peaceful and good. It doesn’t need watching and so we don’t.”

And I agree.  It has all of the attributes of the United States, including a common language, but Australia is still a far-off foreign country, and for that reason, a bit exotic to me.  Therefore, I did try to soak it all in and experience life as an Aussie would (except for the snakes). However, as Bryson implies, I will never know its whole story.  I won’t know how the Anangu strike was resolved, how the banana crop will fare this year, or whether or not the Victoria bushfire was started by a controlled-burn that went out of control.  This news, while relevant for those Down Under, is boring in the sense of world news. Only shark stories will find their way over the equator and across the International Date Line.  And that’s okay with me.  Sure, I can “google” anything I want these days, but isn’t part of the romance of travel that you take only memories and leave only footprints when you re-enter your own “real world”?

I thank everyone who read these pages and posted comments. Google Analytics said that over 700 people from 54 countries accessed this site over 1100 times!  I think that’s pretty good for someone who has only 256 friends on Facebook!  The most hits came from the United States, and Hawaii in particular, which is where my parents live, but I also got hits from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Estonia, and Kenya, among many many other places.

I thank my funding sources, without whom this trip would have been much more difficult.  The American Astronomical Society awarded me the Chretien International Research Grant; the NASA Astrobiology Institute gave me an International Research Travel Grant; and Albion College funded a portion of the instrument expenses and my travel via its Faculty Development fund.

Australia is a beautiful and rugged country. It truly is. And I hope my blog helped you see this and perhaps even taught you something about that strange far-off sun-burnt country (except for the snakes).

Thanks for reading –

p.s.  I do intend to continue  blogging, so check back again for other posts!


Other links:
Research – Part I
Research – Part II

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