Monday, May 28, 2012


Some video I captured over the past week or so at the Australian Alps walking track down from Booroomba Rocks. I set out the camera on the 23rd May in a different area from the one I have been at...

Further north in Namadgi I seemed to be catching a lot of feral animal activity... out of any 5-9 day setting I would invariably capture a fox, dog or pig. South near Shanahan's Mountain though nothing more feral than a rabbit has showed its ears.

Just on a side note... Feral pigs are nothing new in the ACT and surrounding ranges. Ever since European man has been able to lose a pig they have been in the mountains. Historically in this area perhaps the man to heed is Mr. W.P Bluett of Brindabella who gives us a pretty good rundown of everything wild pig related in the region written in 1954.

Perhaps today the only warning we should heed from his words are his descriptions of wild pigs temperaments...

National Library of Australia

I had intended leaving the camera at the trail down from Booroomba Rocks for a few weeks but a few days after setting it I was alerted to an encounter with what I presume was a feral dog there.

On the offside chance that the trail camera had caught an Alsatian on film I went back after 5 days (cutting short a 3 week plan) to check but the dog failed to go anywhere near the camera at least. Out of 180 pictures and 20 second videos there were no signs of anything feral there at all in fact which is encouraging. 

My learner driver daughter spent the afternoon with me wallaby spotting and collecting the camera... The Bonjovi soundtrack of one wallaby was courtesy of the car radio...


Thursday, May 24, 2012


Good news today about the damaged De Salis family cemetery at Tharwa...

A little background first... the De Salis family cemetery or Cuppacumbalong cemetery is a 19th century raised mound cemetery of a unique design. It is located at the junction of the Gudgenby and Murrumbidgee Rivers near Tharwa Village and was once the favourite spot to sit and ponder of Rudolph De Salis. It was here the family decided to bury him when he passed on but the ground was of a type that made it very difficult to dig a grave of any depth. Apparently it took nearly two days.

Add to this the whims of two flooding rivers and three of the early burials at the location were simply washed away. Not to be deterred Rudolph's mother Charlotte thought of a unique way of preventing washouts and making the digging of graves an easier task.

In 1878 stones was carted from nearby Mount Tennent by horse and cart to build an oval retaining wall that was then backfilled with earth to raise the cemetery well above the flood line. This served the purpose well and the cemetery became the resting place of many who worked and lived on the Cuppacumbalong Holdings.

The cemetery is the oldest rural cemetery in the ACT and being a short walk from the new Bbq area located underneath the recently refurbished Tharwa Bridge is readily accessible to the public. It also has informative signage along the walk past Cuppacumbalong Homestead and at the cemetery.

Unfortunately in the Canberra floods of 2010 two sections of wall collapsed after succumbing to the backlog of water being retained within the mound. Sections of the wall simply fell into a jumbled pile of fieldstone. The floods were a major infrastructure setback for TAMS and the cemetery was added to a very long list of repairs within the Territory.

Today I was lucky enough to hear about the progress of the repair project. I met with Brett McNamara, Simon Katz, the project manager, and Philip Leeson the heritage consultant overseeing those values and was privy to the workings of what will be a remarkable endeavour. Put simply the site is very old, very complex and a workable solution to re-raising the largest section of collapse could take the implementation of one of a few different methods.

I won't try and repeat Phillip's excellent explanations of the different engineering methods but can confirm they will be decided upon during the progress of the work as the situation necessitates. The methods deal with reinforcing the mound and footings before being re-clad in as much of the original materials as possible.

I have discovered that extensive behind-the-scenes work has been undertaken to maintain the heritage values of the site and that this took time to be thorough. In order to repair the main fallen section a portion of the mound will have to be removed so the locations of the burials first needed to be ascertained so as not to disturb them. This was done with ground radar and the results are at this time being interpreted. To this point I suppose nobody accurately knew where the graves are located or if there where more internments not recorded. There are only scattered headstones to mark them.

It's now all very exciting though. The heritage issues have been resolved... a plan formulated and contractors secured which was no easy task because this is a unique, one-of-a-kind project. It will be an interesting addition to the companies resume that's for sure.

Then it comes to the challenges of construction. Physically the site is also demanding and restrictive. All the stones are of a size where they cannot be man-handled into position so each stone will have to be lifted and replaced with a mechanical aid. The 'platform' of the mound is too unstable to support heavy machinery so all work has to be completed from below where there is a steep slope.

The site sits directly overlooking the Gudgenby Murrumbidgee convergence. The main fallen section is the tallest section at several metres and it abuts to the downhill slope towards the Gudgenby. Because of this work platforms will need to be constructed below the wall as a base for workers. It actually leaves me pondering just how hard of work it must have been for the settlers without any of today's technology.

Brett also mentioned the emphasise that will be placed in ACT heritage assets at next years 100th birthday celebrations and the refurbished DeSalis cemetery will of course be a part of that.

That's about all I could soak up before the drizzling rain at the cemetery soaked the four of us but the plan all sounded very well thought out.and the challenges of the project are appreciated. I should have mentioned this to them when I was there but I do hope TAMS document the reconstruction on video.

This is some video I took there in 2010


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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I stopped today to take a few pictures of the 'scar' on Mount Tennent ( Or Mount Tennant if your thinking about the bushranger) I had no idea what caused it but did know of two Canberrans who have climbed up to inspect it. Tim the Yowie Man and John Evans of the Canberra Bushwalkers Club.

I am always recommending John's blog as probably the most comprehensive collection of first hand information on bushwalking locations and historical spots etc. available. Just generally great information.

As I said I have no idea what caused the scar so its best to get it from someone who has been up there.

From Johnny Boys Walkabout blog - 1 May 2012 Scar on Mt Tennent

"An incredible sight. Tim the Yowie Man had visited it from the bottom and said it was mainly mud - indeed it was. A huge earth and rock slide, with scrapes 2m up tree trunks. A little water still dribbling out of the soil. We sat on the granite tors on the side and had morning tea. 

We continued up the side of the scar, Max keeping it interesting with a little scramble that required a rope. We passed a huge boulder that we'd seen from morning tea - I wonder when it will go Then out onto the scar - a huge amount of earth and rock. Quite a puff to climb the 110m vertical metres and 175m across the ground from morning tea to the top of the land slide, at GR 85564-64387 (MGA94). Several theories as to how it was caused, too much rain and the ground slipped was the consensus."

John has a post from a second walk of the scar 19 May 2012 - Mt Tennent scar from the top

where he took a few short videos at different stages of the descent. John's YouTube channel...


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Woodcut - Sydney Cove 1790

All the articles collected in this post were spawned by a chance reading of an old Gininderra Church meeting report from 1880, and a few idle hours. At the end of that reported church meeting the following, almost casual mention, intrigued me:

"The attention of the hearers was frequently diverted from the business of the evening, by the jabbering antics of one of those (unfortunately becoming too common) Australian gorillas, which remained outside the building endeavouring to create amusement or annoyance by its senseless tricks."

Australian gorillas really? Around Canberra?

Queanbeyan Age - Wednesday 7 April 1880

(it was a long town meeting type article) This is the snippet of the closing comments.

National Library of Australia

How did they know what a gorilla was? I actually didn't think the African Gorilla had even been discovered in 1880, a quick search discovered, "The discovery of the Mountain Gorilla took place in the Virunga Mountains, on October 17th, 1902, by Robert von Beringe." He shot two. The Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) gets far less attention I found and was discovered before this but I can't seem to find a date. 20 years previously? Must have.

I started 'Troving' around our region to try and find out how 'common' these Australian gorillas really were but the term didn't seem very common around here at all. There are quite a few reports in other areas of NSW but I was interested in around Canberra.

Now I took a huge leap here... I did find the next local article from 6 years later  that describes an animal perhaps similar to a gorilla, by way of a  large "hairy human form". "Arms bent forward and nearly touching the ground" (Later articles return to describing an ape or gorilla).

This animal was apparently running around the back of Bredbo NSW, just south of Canberra in the 1880's so I thought this report could describe one...

Queanbeyan Age - Tuesday 24 August 1886

National Library of Australia

Obviously the local residents were taking this thing very seriously. I couldn't find any reports of their success in capturing the 'wild man' dead or alive after that report and I don't think I'll bother to try and discover if one was shown at the Centennial Exhibition or not.

The locals seem to be calling this animal a 'yahoo' now. Under a heading of Molonglo the following year were two more references of sightings. One near Braidwood to our East and Michelago just to the ACT's South...

Queanbeyan Age - Saturday 1 October 1887

National Library of Australia

Onward to a reference of 'old drovers' having seen a 9 foot tall 'hairy man' in the area of mountains and long plain (Long Plain Road area today) bordering the western border of the ACT. Shortest access from Canberra is through Piccadilly Circus at the top of Brindabella Road. Turn left. It's a lovely area dotted with high country huts...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Friday 20 February 1891

Again for brevity a snippet of the full article

National Library of Australia

So Uriarra and Brindabella are added to the list. Our Australian gorilla or hairy man or yahoo was here, south and west of us, and as with the next article apparently also at Pearce's Creek between Tidbinbilla Mountain and the Cotter River a decade later as well. I thought it interesting in the following article that they stumbled over the title of Hairy man, Yahoo or Wild Blackfellow. (I note its getting confusing with names by this point). 

It is also now past the turn of the new century, the City of Canberra is just around the corner. The following article tells quite a tale. The Webb brothers (Canberra Pioneers) engage the animal and it involves a gunshot but no body...

Queanbeyan Age - Friday 7 August 1903

National Library of Australia

All old tales I suppose but what I found more interesting than the Webb brothers encounter was the p.s at the end where there seems to be a record of the Aboriginals on the Yass River having killed one. 

"The locality where the blacks killed it was below the Junction of the Yass River with the Murrumbidgee. The animal got into some cliffs of rocks, and the blacks got torches to find out where it was hidden and then killed it with their nullah nullahs. 

There were a great many blacks at the killing, and he saw two dragging it down the hill by its legs. It was like a black man, but covered with grey hair, G.G.W."

Nine years later an "immense ape like animal" was also well known to the east of Canberra in the South Coast Coastal Mountains. Around Bombala...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Wednesday 16 October 1912

National Library of Australia

Same year but a reference to another hairy creature this time on the Snowy River. It describes the 'creature like a gorilla' and as carrying a nullah nullah as well...

Zeehan and Dundas Herald (Hobart), Friday 22 November 1912

National Library of Australia

I'll end this post with something I think is appropriate. An Aboriginal friend and artist from the South Coast (Mogo) has told me hairy man stories before from the region. He also mentioned that they were brought up as children to fear them so I found the following report from 1935 interesting. Apart from the racist language in our national papers of the era the report is suggesting there may be "a kind of gorilla" around Nowra and Twofold Bay...

The Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 8 June 1935

National Library of Australia

I'm giving up there...

The search engine at the National Library can be a lot of fun if you delve in for an hour or so. I am sure I could find more 'gorilla/ape/man like' mentions if I punched in the appropriate keywords but I got the feeling that they took an Australian ape very seriously at times in the day. Even if they struggled locally with what to call it.

I found the Yass Aboriginals hunting experience quite fascinating and its just a foot note. The Aboriginal name out of all those reported though seems most appropriate for the mysterious animal. 'Douligah'. It would of course be a phonetic spelling.

Drop me an email if you have seen an Australian gorilla around the place.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Update: 18/5/12

I like the solitude of Namadgi. I have always felt safe apart from a few encounters with pigs and wild dogs but that has been a rarity over a very long time. Something happened recently to make me re-evaluate that solitude when I'm wandering in the bush. I have a video from a recent trail camera setting later in this post that was quite disturbing…

It’s only in the past few months that I have started putting out a trail-camera to capture a little wildlife.  I am actually endeavouring to capture quolls and also have an interest in the feral population as they are its greatest threat… Historically they were very common but despised by the settlers and ferals seem to have nearly finished the job. Anyway I digress…

I occasionally capture an unidentifiable animal. This does not indicate a new species although recent discoveries show we don’t know everything about what's in Namadgi. Strange stuff seems to happen out there. Occasionally a strange photo emerges that only provides a portion of the animal. The first strange photo came in the shape of a blond hairy thing that I estimate to be only 12” high…

And enlarged...

What is it? I don’t know. I went through everything from fox, dog, and cat to billy goats beard… I can't think of anything with that length hair or colour. I determined it was a feral of some sort caught at an unusual angle.

Next photograph is I presume of a marsupial but I can detect neither head nor tail…

And enlarged...

Anyway… I have found things like this quite fascinating… until recently when I captured one clip that blew me out.

All I can do here is provide you with the information that was presented to me which is a 15 second video clip taken by an infra red motion activated camera. I had arrived at the location, it was late and getting cold. I had a walk down a rarely used access track to a random position in the bush to position a camera on a well used animal trail. 

It was a quick visit, alone, and it took me less than 2 minutes to position the camera, arm it and walk away.
Eight days later I returned to collect the SD card and went home. All up the camera had collected 20 photographs and a corresponding amount of 15 second videos… 

Damn... I had set the camera too high up the tree and was only collecting the odd wallabies head and the back of what I suspect was a feral dog. A missed opportunity to add a dog to a collection of fox, hare and pig photos I currently have.

The corresponding videos weren’t much chop either and I went through them one more time before deleting the SD card. When I reviewed the first video it was of course the one of me leaving having turned on the unit… the first 15 second video activated as I walked away.

It is probably worth noting that at 1 meter a second I could have been as far as 15 metres away from the camera by the time the clip finished. Roll camera...

Its only lucky I watched 10 seconds past the sight of me hanging around setting the camera. I usually delete them when I identify them.

It’s nice to have friends with the technical know-how to rip a raw file video down to its bare pixels and the best guess is this is a human being wearing what appears to be a stocking on his beanie covered head. It is also possible that he wore glasses…

I think the disturbing thing was the closeness of this individual to me without my knowledge. The ground covering is so noisy with bark, twigs and leaf litter that he would have had to be a ninja to come up to me so I can only assume he had gone to ground there before I arrived. Also when I reviewed this 8 day old video it dawned on me I was a long way from any assistance.

Now I’m assuming this individual who, for whatever reason, was sitting in the middle of nowhere wearing a stocking over his head at 4.30 in the afternoon had no malicious intent obviously as I’m here to tell the tale but he was pretty brazen poking his head out when I was only 10 seconds away.

I’m also assuming the AFP didn’t have any black ops training exercises going on because I wouldn’t have been able to gain access to the area surely, so I am only left with sinister ideas as with my children’s input of dope growers… surely minus 5 degree nights rule that out?.  Mass murderer disposing of his bodies was another… Canberra's Belangalo?… and surprisingly bow hunters which eventually made a little sense.

This led me to the idea that maybe there were poachers (hunters), probably going for pigs, laying wait on game trails in Namadgi. I had seen no other vehicles but then I presume that a hunter would park a long way away and walk. 

It’s the only logical explanation I can think of… he didn’t jump out and say boo… or hit me from behind… he just watched me set a camera. What is really weird is that when I returned for the SD card the unit was still there… I'm surprised at this if he saw the camera and was trying to be covert.

I probably wouldn’t mention it, as it was now nearly 2 weeks ago, but on the off chance you are reading this Mr. Balaclava man...  If you weren’t up to no good why didn’t you just say hello? Email me and let me know what you were doing. By the way TAMS puts out dozens and dozens of cameras mate…

So that’s it… I thought it strange enough to mention. Be safe out there.

Update: 18/5/12 ACT Gov Media Release 'Illegal hunters in Namadgi targeted...


Saturday, May 12, 2012


People ask me what map I use to get around the ACT's bush so I thought I would do a review of my favourite, the Rooftop's ACT South Activities map. Before this map I only had access to the traditional contour map.

The Rooftop's map is a 1:50 000 scale map with 20 m contours. It covers the Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Googong Foreshores. Small parts of Kosciuszco & Brindabella National Parks & adjoining areas in NSW.

The map also shows southern Canberra and Queanbeyan although the information is rudimentary. It does however show the access routes out of the city and the surrounding parks.

Please excuse the quality of the photographs but they are taken of my old, worn and stained map that I find invaluable and although showing a little neglect still serves its purpose. Anyway... it will give you a look at the intricacies of the information.

The map was constructed by extensive GPS fieldwork carried out in 2010. The comment from the Namadgi Visitors Centre that provide the map here in the ACT was that "A man literally strapped a GPS to his head and walked every trail in the ACT". Obviously it was done in vehicles where possible.

As an example the following photo showing the walking track up to Bushfold Flats starting at the visitors centre. It gives an example of the distance marking along the walks and the sort of additional information supplied about a specific area...

And another example of the area surrounding the Cotter Dam...

All up its the best map of the parks I have come across. What I have shown here is a minuscule example of what is a very comprehensive resource covering our entire region. Currently it seems only available at the Namadgi National Park visitors centre and from memory it cost about 12 dollars.

Two long distance tracks traverse part of this map. The Bicentenial National Trail is over 5330 km in length and goes from Healsville in Victoria to Cooktown in Queensland. The Australian Alps walking track is about 650 km in length and goes from Walhalla Victoria to the Namadgi Visitors Centre.


Sunday, May 6, 2012


The following video is from the YouTube channel jtneill. It's a mad adventure and a race against darkness up the slopes of Mount Tennent to the snow.

James seems to have strapped a video camera to his body and ran up the Mountain starting at 4.20 pm.

The video shows a vivid side to the mountain, wildlife, scenery and a lovely ending that I thought was well worth a little extra exposure...

"There was snow on Mt Tennent, so I did a late afternoon run to suck in Mother Nature's winter rapture. Water, rivulets, sweat, rocks, trees, kangaroos, drink, wombat, dusk, sky, silence, ice, snow, descent, home, share, memories, edit, upload, reflect." James T Neill - Wilderdom.


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Friday, May 4, 2012


I'm trying to focus my photographic efforts on nocturnal wildlife with not much success as yet. I have been able to capture most of the macropods in the area I have been in and a few feral species as well.... fox, pig and what I think was probably a small hare.

Before I continue with that I saw something this week that I thought was well worth a mention... Its not everyday you go up to Booroomba Rocks and discover a brand new species but that's what Stuart Harris of Canberra recently did.

He photographed a tiny jumping spider that was eventually shown to be a brand new species. It's called the Peacock Spider and has been appropriately named after its discoverer 'Maratus harrisi'. The Sydney Morning Herald has the full story...

As for my efforts with the trailcam during March and April I've put together a compilation of up to ten-second videos of Namdgi wildlife collected in two areas I've been in. I've decided to move to a different area for the winter round and am moving far south. I plan to set out cameras in the coming days...

The clips here are placed in the order they where collected and are all date and time stamped...


Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I find John Gale the most interesting pioneer of Canberra. I have a post on Mr Gale with an article published on his 100th birthday where he is referred to as the Father of Canberra. Not surprising that his knowledge of the area would have been pretty amazing. 

This letter to the editor of the Queanbeyan Age - Tuesday 12 November 1912 (Trove link) gives us some  origins of a lot of local names and some quite distinct alterations over the years.  I found the original very difficult to decipher so I have made them small and they will enlarge if clicked. Below is the Library's interpreted text...

Queanbeyan Age - Tuesday 12 November 1912 
National Library of Australia


(To the Editor.)
SIR,--In your issue of the 15th inst., a correspondent, essaying to give the information asked for by the Hon. Austin Chapman as to the English equivalent of the word " Yass," gives us an oft-repeated old gag which is silly upon the face of it. Similar gags have been repeated with respect to other places; but they are all equally silly. 
"Yass " is an English corruption of an aboriginal place name; many other place-names have been similarly corrupted. To give a couple of instances in the southern districts other than Yass: We have 'Collector, " a corruption of Kaligda ; "Gunning" a corruption of G0on-ong; and I may mention a third-- The Brewer," as early settlers were wont to call it, meaning Burrowa, or more correctly spelt. Booroowa. The corruption of Yass is more excusable. It is well known that in none of the aboriginal dialects, of the Australian continent is the letter "s" sounded--vide Captain Cook's journals recounting the landing at Botany Bay. The aboriginal nomenclature of " Yass " is Yaah. 
In my early days in the southern districts of New South Wales I learnt much from the blacks, who were, between 50 and 60 years age, very numerous ; and it was from them I ascertained, amongst other useful information, the names I have quoted. Of course, the spelling is phonetic, and conveys, as nearly as our alphabet can, the correct sounds. 
A higher authority by far than myself--the late Mr. S. M. Mowle, Usher of the Black Rod in our State Parliament, and who, in his earlier life, spent many years in the Quneanbeyan district--gives the spelling of many of our local place-names as he heard them pronounced. I had the honour of some years' personal acquaintanceship and correspondence with Mr. Mowle; and we frequently discussed aboriginal nomenclature. Quoting one of his letters, he said, "I hope Canberra will be called by its native name " Caamberra. "Queanbeyan is" Cuumbean," Tidbinbilla (which, by the by, was in the early days of this district corrupted into Tinmanbilly) "Tchinbilee," Yarralumla is " Arralumna," and so on. I differed, and still differ, with my esteemed correspondent as touching Yarralumla, being strongly of opinion that the orthography is correct, and the name beautifully significant. The English equivalent of Yarra is swift or running. Thus " yarra,"  running; " yarra yarra," running swiftly; and "yarra lumla," running softly. 
So, Uriarra - improperly so spelt - is " urayarra," running to the feast. The hospitable homestead is Urayarra proper, or rather a big flat stone near the stables there. When the blacks were numerous they came from all parts of the surrounding districts to feast on the larvae of the bogong moth in the proper season, and on that big flat stone the larvae were roasted and around its red-hot surface the blacks squatted and feasted as long as their dainty tit-bits lasted. 
As regards the Federal Capital name, I allow that "Yass-Canberra "--its political name--is out of all question; but I fail to see why we should go farther afield than pure and simple Canberra (the accent is on the first syllable). It is but a mild corruption or variation of the aboriginal Caamberra. It is euphonious and idiosyncratic.
Your truly,JOHN GALE.  "The Retreat," Queanbeyan,7th Nov., 1912.
The following is attached to the original article... It asks the question of Canberra's  name from the original 19th century Church register... It is also interesting to note this is a year before Lady Denman officially gives Canberra it's name...
7th Nov., 1912.Sir,--In your issue of the 6th there is a letter giving the origin of the name Canberra. Will you allow me to give the evidence furnished by the Baptisms Register of the parish as to the spelling of the name ?
Will you allow me to give the evidence furnished by the Baptisms Register of the parish as to the spelling of the name ? The Register begins with the year 1845, and the name is invariably spelt "Canbury." In October, 1855 " Canberry " appears for the first time, and " Canberra " for the first time in March, 1857. The two spellings continue till September 1861, when " Canberry" is used for the last time. After that date it is always "Canberra."
Yours, etc,A. H. CHAMPION,Canberra Rectory,6th Nov., 1912.

History lost through lack of funding

  The following ABC article laments the possible loss of many historical audio visual records that are waiting for digitising into modern fo...