Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Airlie Beach

We landed from the barren Outback to lush, beautiful Airlie Beach. After a spending so much time in the Outback gathering material (photos, footage, and information), Airlie has given us a chance to get to work turning it all into our final projects.

The Photography On Assignment group presented their final projects last night. It was a great collection of work, where each student experimented with one theme: The Story Behind Three First Nations People, Alternative Perspectives of Australia, and the Structures of Australia, to name a few. Filmmaking and Wildlife and Conservation students are wrapping up their projects and will share them with the group soon.

When we haven't been working, we've found plenty of time to play: swimming, getting some sun, and taking more photos and footage. We even had our own Australian style barbie, and yesterday we were all given a lesson on how to play a didgeridoo. We did pretty well (and we even learned the basic trick to circular breathing!), and all of us playing together made quite the raucous!

We're loading up for our sailing adventure right now. The weather is beautiful and we're all excited to get in the water. We'll keep you updated on the last part of our adventure!

Bye for now,
Britt, Charles, Patrick and the whole crew

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Outback

Hello all!

The group was happy to arrive in sunny Alice Springs-- what a change from our time in Sydney! We traded the opera house and aquarium for the blue skies and amazing red sands of the Outback. It was like entering a new world, and as we slowed down to this new reality our students seemed to be happy to see a new place and prepare for our next adventure.

Alice Springs is a quaint, small town, with some great shops and cafes where we spent mornings eating breakfast and sipping juice and coffee. The Desert Park in Alice was amazing, displaying the variety of environments in the Outback and showing off some amazing animals-- the nocturnal section of the park showed us some creatures which we might not have seen otherwise. Wildlife and Conservation students watched a raptor feeding display, the Photography group caught stunning images of the landscape, while the Filmmaking crew interviewed our presenter to discover more about Aboriginal life and culture. On our last night in town, we were lucky to experience a town carnival with fireworks to end our night in true 4th of July fashion.

Early the next morning, we met our guide Steve who would lead us on our expedition to Uluru and the 'real' Outback. Originally from New Zealand, Steve has traveled around the Outback for more than 25 years; he provided our group with an amazing array of information and unique perspective . When we arrived at Uluru (Ayer’s Rock), we spent a few hours on a silent hike around this massive natural wonder, a powerful event for us all. That evening we took photos of Uluru as the sun set in the distance, a perfect end to the day.

King’s Canyon was our next destination, with a challenging hike to an extraordinary vista below. While Steve pointed out fossils and explained the area’s geologic history, our Photography students took advantage of the unique rock formations and perfect lighting to capture some amazing photos. Our days in the Outback were packed with hiking, exploring, and even the occasional camel ride! We spent each evening around the campfire reflecting on the day. Nights in the Outback are quite cold, especially when compared to the warm, sunny days here, but this did not prevent many of us from sleeping under the stars around the campfire! Our group returned from our time in the Outback as a tight group of friends who will remember each other and our adventures here for a lifetime.

We are currently en route (via plane) to Townsville, trading the red desert sands for a lush, tropical environment and days full of snorkeling in the clear waters of the Great Barrier Reef. It will surely be another great adventure!

More soon.
-Patrick, Britt, and Charles

Monday, July 6, 2009

From Sydney to Alice Springs

NGSE Australia is in Alice Springs, getting ready for an early morning departure for Uluru. Our days in Sydney were full, soaking in everything we could in our short time there. From our hotel, situated between Chinatown and Darling Harbour, we began our first full day in Australia with some excellent food, a scavenger hunt through Sydney's streets, and then a meeting with acclaimed anthropologist Kirk Huffman. Krik gave us a behind the scenes tour with the curators of two museums at the University of Sydney. In one of them, we were able to sit and handle an incredible collection of artifacts from around the world. That evening we went to a wonderful restaurant in Darling Harbour overlooking the water, followed by a presentation by National Geographic Expert Ulla Lohmann on her work from the volcanos of Vanuatu to the mummies of Papua New Guinea.

The following day we split into our On-Assignment teams and explored the Sydney Aquarium, the Taronga Zoo, and various neighborhoods, waterways and eateries around town. In the evening we attended a wonderful performance of Shakespeare's Pericles (set to taiko-drumming!) in the drama theater at the Sydney Opera House. We rounded out the day with some excellent hot chocolate very much enjoyed in the cool, wintry evening beside Sydney Harbor.

Our early morning flight to Alice Springs went well, and everyone appreciated the warmer weather and sunny blue skies of "Alice." Ulla gave us another wonderful presentation that evening, about her filmmaking adventures in Papua New Guinea.

The next day at the Desert Park, we took in the amazing raptor show, and visited with Lionel Barracot, an indigenous biologist specializing in local flora. In the evening we enjoyed the Alice Springs Show--a State Fair-type extravaganza of carnival rides, horse/car relays, and a massive fireworks show--perfect for our 4th or July far from home.

Today we settled deeper into our On-Assignment work, with Ulla visiting with each team and offering her amazing experience and insight into each of our projects. With a wild wallaby looking down at us from the ridge above, we headed off on a nice sunset hike to a site of many local "dreaming" stories.

Bye for now!
Charles, Britt, and Patrick

Ellen on Sydney Harbor

The Wildlife and Conservation team near Sydney Opera House

raptor flying


Alice Springs & MacDonald Range

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

G'day from Sydney!

Our National Geographic Student Expeditions group arrived yesterday morning in Sydney, and was immediately joined by National Geographic expert, Ulla Lohmann. A little bleary eyed from the long flight, but excited, we dove straight into our first day in the country. We started off with brunch on the back patio of a cafe deep in the historical Rocks District and walked across Circular Quay, stopping for a little lesson on Aboriginal culture and music from a didgeridoo player. Our walk brought us to the steps of Opera House, with the Harbour Bridge in the backdrop, where we sat down to hold our orientation.

We have a full and fabulous schedule ahead of us in Sydney which includes 'behind the scene' tours of two museums with Kirk Huffman, a renowned expert of indigenous and aboriginal culture, our first encounters with Australian wildlife, and work with our On Assignment teams.

We'll keep you posted as the adventure unfolds!

From Down Under,
Britt, Charles, and Pat