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Posts Tagged ‘botanical information’

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My new eBook, Australia – Land of Timeless Beauty, is published in the Amazon Kindle Store. The book can be purchased and sent with a click of your mouse to a Kindle, iPad, Tablet, PC or any other electronic reading device. An engaging collection of lyric essays is found here. Each one celebrates a place that is unique within the ‘Great South Land,’ while every location, with its beauty and variety, establishes a living link to the land that nurtures and sustains it.

Many places cry out for words to shape the stories embedded within them. These include stories of the people who have claimed them and whose lives somehow articulate them. All the diverse parts of Australia–deserts to mountains, rainforests to beaches, rugged escarpments to lush tropical wetlands–provide these special compass points on the longitudes and latitudes of the land I call home.

For further information click on my book page.

I’m happy to be back online and blogging once again.

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Norfolk Island seems to appear from nowhere, as this tiny speck of a volcanic island—6 by 4 and a bit miles in size—is almost invisible in the great surging blue of the Pacific Ocean. It appears to be a natural prison: nearly harbourless, ringed with steeply rugged cliffs and girded with reefs.

Captain James Cook first discovered the island in 1774. Going ashore he noted that it was uninhabited and blest with abundant soil and water. Large flax plants and towering spruce trees grew everywhere. In his journal Cook wrote, ‘tall, straight and strong pine trees found here are ideal for ships’ masts and yard arms.’ He claimed the tiny island naming it in honour of the Dutchess of Norfolk, and after cutting several of the tallest pines Cook left the island—which he now referred to as Paradise—and sailed on.

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The Norfolk Island pine, (Araucaria heterophylla) is a distinctive conifer endemic to Norfolk Island. The near French island possession of New Caledonia also hosts large forests of these majestic trees. They grow to a height of 50 – 60 metres with straight vertical trunks and symmetrical branches. The pines have a huge root system able to withstand the cold salt spray and incessant onshore winds that would contort most other species. These uniquely beautiful pine trees have been carried throughout the South Pacific to serve as street trees and decorative plantings required for large open public spaces. The Norfolk Pine also thrives along ocean fronts and rings many beaches.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, pine trees held naval importance as masts and spars. Only conifers made the best masts because of their natural straightness. Pine resin cut down friction between the fibres in the grain, enabling masts and spars to withstand the relentless pounding of the ocean’s winds. Over time the Norfolk Pine proved to be non-resilient and could not serve as a mast. Its wood was short-grained, thus wanting in resin, and when stressed it would snap neatly into pieces like a raw carrot.

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Norfolk Island, with its beautiful murmuring pines, remains one of the most interesting places for tourists to visit. The island is steeped in history, serving first as an old Polynesian settlement, then until 1855 as England’s most brutal prison colony.  The new inhabitants who moved in after the convicts left were the descendants of Fletcher Christian, the remaining mutineers from Captain Bligh’s ship, The Bounty, their Tahitian wives and children.

Today Norfolk Island is both quirky and fascinating. Its Creole language—Norfuk—is derived from 18th century Cockney English seasoned with elements of the Tahitian language. It must be the only place on earth where the nicknames of families fill the phone book. Here one can step back in time to experience a genuine 19th century agrarian lifestyle, while enjoying its great natural beauty and deep sense of stillness. If you ever find yourself in the South Pacific head to Norfolk Island and to a destination that will never disappoint.

 

 

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