Truck CPR, Road trips, and Samples, Oh My! August 29th through September 16th

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September 17th 2010
Published: September 16th 2010
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Hi All!
Sorry I haven't updated the blog in a while. We have been SOO busy here that although I have been writing, I have had little time to post it all online. Since the last time I updated the blog we have got a bunch of samples, done a road trip, gave CPR to the truck and so much more! Right now its just past the middle of the month, and as the season ends the first week of October I have been busy like crazy applying to different places for jobs, internship opportunities and just about anything to keep me down here a bit longer. Also, I have been hearing so many crazy Aussie words lately that I thought I would share. If you are board here is a website I found that has a ton of the local words I have been hearing.

My favorite is 'fair dinkum' which I have heard used instead of saying true, or also used instead of 'fair enough'. It seems that most Aussie words are just shorted versions of what we know them as. However, the other day someone explained a bit to me and said that many Aussie words are brand names. For example the first cooler that came to australia was a brand called 'Eskie', so now all coolers are called eskies. Also, trucks and cars down here are multi purpose and most are a combination of each. So the vehicle will have the front end of a two door car, but instead of a trunk it will have a truck bed. Most of these vehicles are called 'ute' and it took me a bit to realize that when someone said something about their ute, they meant car or truck.

I know the post is a bit long, but I hope you enjoy. We have a rare day off, so I have to catch up on tons of days worth of work, and if I can I will try and post some pictures later!

Sunday 29, 2010
Today we had a day off as the weather is overcast and windy. I replied to a bunch of emails, did some research on what I can do to keep myself down here a bit longer, worked on the blog and then caught up on a bunch of Photo ID that I am getting behind on. After a few hours of work, Daniele and I went running. I hadn’t stretched in a few days so after a few laps Daniele kept going while I stopped to stretch. After a few minutes I took my shoes off and waded into the water. It was really windy, almost reminding me of hurricane weather back home, but the water was just the right temperature. I could see people windsurfing out in the harbor and there were tons of people walking the beach. I was having a particular good time watching this younger girl run around with her dog. Reminded of me running around with our german shepherds. She and the dog seemed to be in their own world, playing in the waves, chasing after birds and just all together having a good time. Then, outa nowhere the dog took off. It was a really pretty dog almost looking like a dalmation, but with a little bit of mutt in it. It sniffed at a few dead fish, tried to go for some rocks, then it found my shoes. I couldn’t help but laughing as the dog took off shaking my shoe around its face as it ran away from the girl and then her family. It would put the shoe down, turn to face the girl and just as she started for the shoe the dog would take off again. It was nice to see something so homey and I was in a great mood after that! Back at the house we settled in to watch a movie. The next few days are going o be progressively windy ( I am excited for a break) so hopefully I can be fully caught up by the next time we go out.

For the rest of the week we were off the water. On monday we put some stickers on the boat, I kicked ASS on photo ID and basically got myself almost all caught up. We will most likely be heading to Gladstone on wednesday. Tuesday I worked more on photo ID for the day. Wednesday we did indeed head to Gladstone, but the dolphins didn't cooperate at all and we couldn't even get close. At one point, we saw a huge group but they saw the boat coming and sped off in the opposite direction. That was basically the day in a nutshell and we were extremely frustrated on the drive home. Thursday and friday we went out from the harbor. On friday we got 4 samples from the snubfin which was a great accomplishment! On saturday daniele had to head down to Brisbane until Monday, so Amanda and I dropped him off at the airport in the afternoon then wandered the mall for a bit. It was kinda of funny because neither of us could handle the loud noise, confusion and lights of the mall and we left within an hour with pounding headaches.

Sunday and Monday Amanda and I worked on data while Daniele was in Brisbane. On sunday I went for a walk on the beach while it was rediculously windy and I found tons of people out. There were people kite surfing, wind surfing and regular surfing. Kite surfing is just how it sounds when you have a giant kite up in the air with thing string that you use to pull yourself on a board. Wind surfing is a giant surfboard type thing that has a mast and sail almost like a small sail boat. You support yourself standing via the mast and sail and can go flying through the waves. It was really cool seeing all of this and it relaxed me quite a bit which is what I have needed after so much work in the office. On Monday I picked Daniele up from the airport, drove him to the uni, went home and then in the early evening returned to pick him up from uni.

On Tuesday we continued our work while Daniele was at uni, and in the evening I played clips of old black and white movies on youtube and drove Amanda crazy singing scenes from white Christmas and songs by Sinatra and Crosby. I love Christmas and hope to be home for it. I also miss snow like crazy! Introduced Amanda to I love lucy, but she didn't understand just how awesome the show was or what it meant to the US.

Wednesday 8
Today we slept in a bit as Daniele drove Ginny to airport. I got some work done, did exercises. Daniele came home in search of his phone, ended up staying instead of heading back to uni. He went to gym while Amanda went for walk and I did my exercises. Tomorrow we are heading north to Repulse Bay for a few days to try and get some samples. We went out grocery shopping to prepare for the trip and did a bit of light packing before heading to bed. We wont be leaving until the early afternoon though, so Amanda and I can finish packing then.

Thursday 9
Got up, daniele went to uni. Amanda and I packed. We got most everything together, food for a few days, all the gear for the boat, clothes, stuff to sleep in. The ride is supposed to take 5-6 hours and we left at 1230, so hopefully it goes quick. Once on the road we head towards Rockhampton where we turn right and head towards the sign for Mackay and the Whitsundays. The road reminds me of 3A as it is just one lane on either side without any guard rails or anything on the side. There are however signs everywhere telling people to turn in if they are tired. The signs seem hilarious to me, but Daniele says that as this particular stretch of road is very straight and boring, people often fall asleep at the wheel. The truck guzzles gas at a ridiculous rate, and we go through a half a tank every hour. We stop at 1 hour and fuel up. We are able to listen to the radio the whole time, so it isn’t that bad. However, at about 2, the radio dies so I grab my computer and we listen to music on that. After a while, Daniele gets bored with the music so he asks that I put a movie on, and I do so. We are about a half hour into the movie when I hear a loud pop. He slows down a bit, but we keep going. At the next town we pull in to stop and that is about 3:15. Now, when I say town, the place we turned ino reminds me of the town in the Disney movie Cars. It has a gas station/convenience store, a house, one road that intersects the main road and a very large building that looks to me like some sort of shop. Conveniently placed I would imagine, however it is for sale. It turns out that the noise we heard earlier was the side wall of the right tire of the trailer blowing to bits. Luckily the inner tube stayed whole for the most part or we could have had a serious disaster on our hands. We begin to unhitch the trailer as Daniele decides that he is going to head to the next big town. As we are taking the trailer off, a kid comes out of the gas station and tells us that the building across the street is indeed a mechanic shop and does RACQ jobs (similar to AAA). Daniele walks over there while Amanda and I attach the truck and trailer and after talking to them for a big he finds out they can fix the trailer as they have a replacement tire. We wandered around the shop and yard while the mechanic lazily took the tire off, replaced it, patched a small hole in the tube and put the whole mess back on the rim. Meanwhile I made good friends with two rottweilers that Amanda and Daniele did not even want to get close to. I assumed it was mother and son as the female was quite older and the younger male was climbing all over her and chewing on every part of her body. I really can’t stay away from animals even if I try. After the tire was fixed (about an hour later) we headed out in hopes of making it to our destination in good time. The mechanic said we had about an hour to go, so we had high hopes. The trip up to Mackay was pretty uneventful, then all of a sudden the AC died. I should have seen this coming. Dad would smack me if he was there. The AC/heat got all funky, the car started to act strange then BOOM, I looked at the temp gage and it was through the roof. I told Daniele to pull over and proceeded to grab a jug of water. He almost had a heart attack when he saw me cause he thought I would kill the car or something, but after explaining what I was doing, he let me put water into the empty radiator and we continued on. I imagine that some damage was already done, but we stopped at the next gas station and got a jug of coolant. The radiator overflow was already full, but I put a bit of coolant in anyways as it was extremely hot out. At this gas station we saw a NICEE Shelby mustang. I was running into the store and almost stopped dead and fell over when I saw it. Unbeknownst to me the owner was sitting inside and must have watched me drooling over his car, because when I got inside and grabbed the coolant he laughed as I kept staring at the car. I guess it was a bad day for everyone though. After we had pulled in, a tow truck pulled in after us. It was for him I guess and as we limped out of the parking lot I saw him pushing his car across the lot. We slowly made our way up to Midge point, and after taking it easy on the engine we got there. About 15 minutes from our destination we stopped for fuel. The temperature gauge on the truck had been fine up until now, but now it started to rise suddenly before dropping again. It did this all the way until we got to the caravan park. WE couldn’t stop though, as we really didn’t have any other option. By the time we got to the park all of us were pretty frusterated, and we quickly unpacked and settled into our tiny little cabin. It was just enough, as it was a single room with two bunk beds, a twin bed, small kitchenette and table. The other day at the grocery store Daniele and I picked out an apricot chicken marinade and I made dinner of that with some rice and a veggie burger for Amanda. I read the back of the package of the marinade just to make sure I had everything I needed. It turns out that you had to buy the apricots seperatly, and although the sauce by itself was good it had no fruit flavor whatsoever, so I was a bit confused. We headed to bed early as tomorrow is going to be an early morning. That’s if the truck doesn’t blow up.

Friday 10
We got up real early, packed the truck and headed off. The problems with the radiator started right up again and we crawled at about 2,000 rmp the whole way there, which in that truck meant going about 40k’s per hour. Slow :/ We got to the marina, which is the same abandoned resort as we took off from last time we came to Repulse Bay. This time the tide was ridiculously low and the entrance to the harbor was completely blocked. We wandered around for about an hour while daniele chatted with the fishermen. Soon enough most of the locals had put their boats in the water, and after we saw them successfully leave the channel, we did so as well. It was a really nice day, already hot out and sunny, so I was hoping for tons of dolphins. Unfortunately the day didn’t go as planned and the few dolphins we did see avoided us very easily. Also, apparently this is a good place for snubbies and sousa are less likely to come here, but most of the animals we saw were sousa. Also, when sousa are around, snubbies are less likely to be. Daniele said that one of the fishermen was complaining about illegal netting and trawling in the area that has resulted in almost nothing of a fish catch for the locals. Makes sense, if there is no food then obviously the dolphins won’t be here. We turned in by the time the sea breeze picked up around 2 and back at the harbor we loaded the boat up. On the way to the caravan park we stopped at a local mechanics shop and he explained to Daniele the many possibilities that could be affecting our truck. Basically he said don’t drive it, park it cause you could blow the engine up. As we are about 6 hours from home, it’s a bit difficult to do that right now so we got back to the caravan park, unloaded and Daniele went off in search of a solution. Both mechanics shops he went to gave him different theories and they each topped off the radiator with water. When he got back in the late afternoon we all rested up a bit then headed out to dinner at a local tavern. I had red emperor fish which was delicious and we talked over our options. We could stay, but if there is no fish there probably won’t be dolphins any time soon. We could leave and run the risk of blowing up the engine on the way home, we could stay until Monday and have them discect the engine which could result in a huge bill, or we could rent a car and drive home. It’s a hard decision so back at home we watched tv a bit and headed to bed.

So just to talk a little bit about the area. Everything is abandoned and deserted like some sort of ghost town. Australia is nothing like the US with people building houses basically on top of each other in a mad attempt at getting the last bit of. Where land is scarce in the US, house and civilization seems to be scarce here. This morning we asked for directions to Laguna Quays, the abandoned resort, and we were told to make lefts and rights past other abandoned land marks. We drove for a half hour past an airport that was never finished, roads that seem to lead to no where, oddly placed no longer manicured landscaping and vegetation. I guess that many people have in the past tried to build up this area but with no success. The locals seem not to mind though, and most have tractors in their drive ways in place of cars; seemingly all attached to boats and trailers. I guess it is just so much easier to launch your boat from the beach with your tractor if you are able to. Everyone we pass on the road, be it a walker/jogger or group of men talking in someones drive way wave and smile. It’s almost like before they realize that we do not in fact know them the instinct to wave a hello takes over. Back at the caravan park, older Australians fill the sites instead of young travelers like in Airlie beach. They too seem to all know each other and hang out in the early evening talking over tea. It really is a quaint area, but the nearest convenience store I could see was at least a half hour away, and besides fishing I have no idea what these people would do for work. Even the mechanic worked in just shorts, without a shirt or shoes, and he and ‘the boss’ seemed to know everyone on a first name basis.

Saturday 11
In the morning Daniele decided we would head home and if anything happened we would rent a car for the rest of the journey. I was a bit hesitant as I obviously did not want the engine to blow, but we really had run out of options. We loaded up and headed on our way home staying around 60 km per hour (speed limit is 100km) with a roughly 7-8 hour drive ahead of us. The ride was completely uneventful. Yup, I said that right. We drove slow, BUT the engine didn’t even get warm, it stayed fine the whole time making us wonder if we had imagined it all. We of course pissed everyone else on the road off because we were driving so slow, but the entire ride the engine was fine and we used almost an entire tank less of fuel. Go figure. Back at the house we unloaded, did a bit of shopping for food for the rest of the week and took it easy catching up on emails and the like.

So for our drive back, we were following the coast road back down. As it was early morning and afternoon that we were driving I got a good look at the country side. Up by Midge Point and Mackay it was gorgeous. Beautiful farm land with mountains surrounding valleys full of crops of sugar cane. Daniele and Amanda kept making fun of me as I took tons of pictures out the window, but I really thought it was very pretty. The vegetation was nice and green and tropical birds filled the sky. The mountain range (more like bill hills I guess) was all tropical forest like up in Airlie beach and the trees were a very tropical mix. About three hours south I started to notice that fields of horse and cattle replaced the sugar cane and tress were less green. Cactus replaced small bushes and flowers and birds of prey flew over the cattle. I can’t say it was ugly, but very scrubby and definitely more desert like what I originally imagined all of OZ to be. Lining the road were the hilarious signs warning of driver fatigue and a town or even house could only be seen every 50 or so km. Although the road ‘followed the coast’ we were on the other side of the mountains that lined the shore and only rarely did I get a glimpse of the water. Those few times the water was covered in house and I could see why. The water was crystal clear; a light blue that showed of shallow depths that stretched out for quite a ways. I guess I can see why people would live in the middle of no-where if you had a gorgeous view to look out onto every morning. Not my cup of tea though as it is hot as hell and it’s not even summer yet.

Sunday 12
Daniele let us sleep in late, and I figured by the sun that it was at least 8 or 9. Wrong, summer is here and I didn’t have time to realize it. It was still 6 and even though I felt like I slept for a few days I hadn’t. We got up, got everything ready and then headed to the river. Our spirits were pretty low seeing that very little has gone right over the past week, so I stated that not only were we going to see tons of dolphins, we were going to get all of our samples. I had good intentions, but maybe I jinxed us, because by 12 we had only seen one dolphin far far away. Around 12 we saw a group of about 6 dolphins but they wanted us around just as much as we wanted the boat to die. After over an hour chasing them we decided to head in as the weather had turned for the worse and the wind was picking up.

Monday 13
Today we had a day off, and Amanda and I relaxed a bit, and caught up on work. When Daniele got back from uni we had dinner and then talked about where to go tomorrow and how to get there. He wants to head to Gladstone again but this time we might try an alternative method to get there. We can either drive or take the boat. Although taking the boat would cut a bit of time off of our travels it is conditional depending on the weather and would be a louder, bumpier and more tiring ride and day. If we take the car we have to get up earlier and drive the to hours to get there and back. Depending on the weather tomorrow, Daniele will decided in the morning.

Tuesday 14
Last night at dinner we talked about how we would get to Gladstone, and weather depending we will go by boat instead of driving. We woke up real early and left from the marina by 5 to get there as early as possible. The area where snubfin point is is called the Narrows, and we have to be at the Narrows by 1 at the latest because if not the tide will get us stuck in Gladstone. The way that we are going, west of Curtis Island with the Ocean on our left is good for the morning, but the waves and wind won’t allow us back that way in the afternoon. We got just outside Curtis island before we had to turn back because we were too late and had missed the good wind. It was kind of a good turn of events and we figured that we would be able to get a good amount of the snubfin samples. We ended up seeing a nice sized group and stayed with them for quite a while but could only get one sample because they soon got sick of us and avoided us pretty well.

Wednesday 15
Today we finally got ourselves to Gladstone, driving this time. We left by 4:45 and two hours later we were back down the boat ramp. The weather was gorgeous and I was hoping for a great day. Turns out I got my wish because we saw tons of dolphins and got 4 samples. Early on in the morning we saw a huge pod of at least 30 sousa. We were able to get one sample really quickly, but we must have scared the animals off (which isn’t hard to do) because they all but disappeared and when they resurfaced they were high tailing it away from the boat. When they want to be gone, you just see splashes and tail fins and they pick up speed and can dissapear. Also, when I said scaring them isn’t hard to do here is what I mean. If we shoot the dart and it misses and hits the water water where they just went under you can see huge ripples underwater as the entire pod will flinch or jump a mile. They are the most easily startled, it’s crazy. However, if you land the dart and get the sample they barely flinch and some times don’t even notice. You would think that for something they don’t even care about they wouldn’t be so afraid, but I have no idea. I can only assume that they have to be wary of things being either thrown at them or into the water and that is why they don’t like the darts. Anyways, we got 4 samples and all left with huge smiles on our faces. All we have to do is keep that up the next time we are out here and we will have no problem getting the rest of the samples.

So when I talk about Gladstone I need to explain it a bit. Gladstone is one of the largest ports in Queensland. At any given time we can see up to if not more than 9 tanker ships docked with a few more traveling down the shipping channel and sometimes even more anchored in the area. If it weren’t for all of this the area would be gorgeous. There are islands everywhere and it almost reminds me of Boston harbor. Some of the islands seem to be uninhabited while others have gorgeous houses built into the slopes that offer gorgeous views of the sunrise, while having the backs of the houses to the shipping area. The islands are sometimes rocky with no vegetation and other times have gorgeous flowers, mangroves, palm trees and other pretty sorts of plants. The water ranges from 20m in the shipping channel to 2 m close to the islands, and it just seems that depending on the day, the dolphins can be anywhere throughout the area. Today I saw that there were a bunch of trawlers around the channel, so the dolphins seemed to aggregate there.

Along the coast where the tankers are lined up you see what they are loading. Australia is HUGE in the mining industry and along the coast I can see huge piles of coal salt and other minerals piled to the sky with huge cranes and other ridiculous machinery everywhere. There is barely a scrap of coastline left and the skyline in the distance is dotted with huge factories and plants that are spewing some nasty orange colored fumes into the sky. Further north in Yeppoon when I got to the beach I can see the yellow smear on the sky, but it looks a lot grosser in person. The tankers are from all over the world, most from the orient and East Asia with a fair amount being from Europe and South America. I have yet to see one from the States yet, but Amanda saw one from Amsterdam.

I am surprised that the dolphins seem not to mind the traffic at all, and today we have to leave the dolphins at least 4 times because a tanker was coming through. The dolphins play in the bow waves or hang close to the ship as it passes by. Tugs and the pilot boats pass by every hour or so, and while we get out of their way as well the dolphins seem not to notice them at all. The scary part is that if the politicians get their way, this is what will happen to the river as well. It wouldn’t be bad for the sousa, but there are no snubfins in Gladstone for a reason. Although it is true that they prefer areas that have river and stream runoff they hate boats and traffic and rarely go in deep waters (aka 20m). If the politicians get there way then the snubfin by the river will all but dissapear. This wouldn’t be a huge loss if this wasn’t the premier place for them in Australia.

Thursday 16
So this morning we were supposed to wake up real early and go to Gladstone again, but we were all pretty tired and slept in a bit late. We headed out of the harbor instead and the day promised to be gorgeous, so we had high hopes. By 9 we had found a good sized group of snubfins and although we tried for a sample, the dart got stuck in one of the animals. It sounds awful, but it really isn’t. WE can’t figure what it is about these animals but it seems that sometimes the dart gets stuck in their sides. When this happens we think they roll over in the mud because the dart disappears and they are come up all gross looking. Anyways, that put a damper on our moods cause as I have said before the darts aren’t cheep. We followed them for a bit, then turned back to see if the dart floated up. It didn’t unfortunately and we soon moved onto a group of sousa that didn’t want to deal with us then another group of snubbies. Around 10 we headed towards snubfin point and saw something floating in the water. Sadly enough it turned out to be a dead dolphin. As we approached we could see another animal next to it attempting to push it along. We realized that it was a dead calf and that the mother was trying with all her might to push her baby along. No one can say those things don’t have feelings if they saw that. The closer we got, the more she would try. We took a bunch of pictures, got a sample from the mom and the calf then tried to call the proper authorities. It was a waste of time really, because no one really cared that much and they just suggested that we tow it home. We couldn’t really do that because our boat wouldn’t be able to handle it, and even if we did tow it we had no idea what to do with it once we got home. Meanwhile, I was watching the mother and my heart was going out to the poor thing. Every now and again she would stop pushing and she would just float next to it and stare up at us with the saddest face. You could see that the rest of her pod were about 100m away, but they were slowly drifting farther away. We assumed that it was dead for at least a day or two because the floating side was severely sunburnt and the eyes and tongue were starting to decompose. We aren’t sure at all how it died though, because besides a few really old scars it looked fine. After hanging around for a while we started heading home. Back at the house we unloaded, cleaned everything and got everything ready for tomorrow. I did a bunch of work the rest of the afternoon, Daniele made risotto and we headed to bed early. Tomorrow we are most likely heading out of Gladstone, weather depending. I guess the next few days are going to be iffy weather wise and at some point we are going to have about 5 or so days off. It’s nice to have a break, believe me, but when there is so little time left in the season I would rather be working in the field than in the office. The tally right now is that we need 6 samples of sousa from Gladstone, 4 bottlenose samples and 3 snubbies from here in Keppel Bay. That’s a good amount of work and although if we get a good day we can get it all done at once, it is still a lot of work.


19th September 2010

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