Day 808: Doubtful Sound

Laetitia’s tour began on an excursion boat about to enter Doubtful Sound, an inlet from the Tasman Sea on the southwestern coast of New Zealand’s South Island.  When Captain Cook sailed by its entrance in 1770, he called it “Doubtful Harbour.”  Later, local whale and seal fishermen began calling it “Doubtful Sound.”  It’s actually a fjord, carved by glaciers that then retreated rather than a river, but geologists’ understanding of the glacial origin of fjords is much more recent.  Doubtful Sound is on of several fiords, including Milford Sound that make up Fiordland National Park, an extensive natural area that includes much of the southwest corner of the South Island.  There was excellent wildlife viewing from the deck and they saw more Little (Blue) Penguins and some of the rarer Fiordland Crested Penguins.  The latter are striking in appearance.  They are black with white undersides.  A sulfur-colored crest on each side of the head runs backward from the edge of the orange bill over each eye to a feathery extremity that extends backwards over the neck.

The former British colonies, Australia and New Zealand, cooperate on many issues including a common mutual defense force called the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac).  However, when the encounter each other in public, they often engage in insulting repartee.  This became clear when the narrator for the excursion boat, a New Zealander, asked where all the guests on board were from.  Most of the passengers were from Europe or the United States, but one couple said they were from Australia.  The narrator said, “I’m sorry?”  The couple said louder, “Australia.”  The New Zealander said, “Oh, I heard you, I’m just sorry.”  Afterwards, he announced that “Doubtful Sound” was a brand of Australian hearing aid.  This bit of repartee might have made a good limerick, but Laetitia decided to make the Fiordland Crested Penguin the subject instead.

In Fiordland, if you’ve got a yen
To gaze at a Crested Penguin
It’s black with white breast
With a light yellow crest
On each side, o’er its eye like a fin

Day 807: Kangaroo Island

Just off shore near Adelaide in a large open bay called the Great Australian Bight is Kangaroo Island.  Laetitia took her group on an island tour that ended just before dusk at the Penguin Centre.  The center includes a Little Penguin (also called the Fairy or Blue Penguin) breeding and nesting area.  A staff member took Laetitia and her group to a place where they could watch the penguins by the light of the full moon.  The adult penguins dine on fish, squid and other sea animals in the nearby ocean during the day and return at dusk to their nests to feed their chicks regurgitated food.  The nests are earthen burrows with tunnels 30 or more inches in length leading to internal bowls lined with grass or seaweed.  Males and females pair bond to breed and raise their chicks but otherwise lead a monogamous existence.  Some couples renew their connubial relationship each breeding season but others do not.  “Divorce” rates from 18 to 50 percent have been reported among Little Penguins.  Laetitia noted that these rates aren’t too different than those for the human species whose divorce rate peaked at 50% around 1980 and is now about 40%.  Laetitia made the fascinating Fairy Penguins the subject of the day’s limerick.

The Fairy Penguins will beguile and
Entice you to Kangaroo Island
At sundown to see
Them return from the sea
To feed their young chicks on the high land.

Day 806: Tasmania

Tasmania is just south of eastern Australia.  Hobart is the largest city and capital of this island state.  The island gets its name from Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, the first European to discover it.  Tasman visited there in 1642.  Laetitia arranged an island tour with a local guide. The jaunt included a zoo featuring local wildlife, including the Tasmanian Devil, a small carnivorous marsupial with bone-breaking jaws that is found in the wild only on the island.

The guide’s spiel included a great deal of information about one of the world’s best-known Tasmanians, Errol Flynn.  Starring primarily in the swashbuckling adventure films of the 1930s and 1940s, Flynn had a reputation of being a rogue both on and off the film set.  In 1942, two teenage girls accused him of statutory rape.  He was acquitted in the ensuing trial, but the lurid accusations that came out in the testimony were played up by the news media and fatally damaged his screen image as romantic ideal.  Allegedly, the trial gave rise to the term, “in like Flynn.”  Laetitia decided to make Errol Flynn the subject of the day’s limerick.

Errol Flynn, the swashbuckling hero
Watched his image decline to near zero
Two young maids said his sin
Was to be “in like Flynn”
And he soon was less well liked than Nero.

Day 805: Uluru

It was another day of rising before dawn.  Laetitia and her group boarded their van and rode through the darkness to a spot near Uluru (Ayers Rock) from which to watch the sunrise.  When they arrived, they found that they were far from alone.  Uluru sunrises are very popular with tour companies and there were lots of buses in the designated parking lot.  They watched the red sandstone glow as it was hit by the first rays of sunlight.  Uluru is a sacred site of the Aṉangu.  Climbing the monolith is allowed but discouraged.  There is a chain along the trail to aid climbers but the climb is more strenuous than it looks and deaths from heart attacks are not uncommon.  Since records began to be kept in the 1950s, more than thirty deaths have occurred.

As Laetitia and her group began to board their van to head for breakfast, they heard a commotion at the edge of the parking lot and went to investigate.  They couldn’t get close enough to see but the word going around was that a couple who had slipped off in the darkness for an al fresco dalliance, were found out when, in their enthusiasm, they startled a sleeping red kangaroo who bounded through the parking lot and caused the crowd to look in their direction.

As the sun rose above Uluru
A pair locked in love’s pas de deux
Were sufficiently loud
To attract a large crowd
When they startled a red kangaroo.