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The Joys of Winter on the Tropic

The Family Tree comes to Bell Park

The Family Tree is the name of a singing group consisting of a family - Dad, Mum, and their son and two daughters. Or, if you prefer, Rob, Amy, Joel, Molly and Charlie. Here they are:

The Family Tree

They are all as talented as they are nice and as nice as they are attractive. They all play several instruments and they all sing, even little Charlie. They gave two very enjoyable concerts at Happy Hour while they were in the park which everyone really enjoyed. Rob not only sings but writes great songs too, so he sang a mix of old favourites and his own compositions accompanying himself on guitar and mouth organ and aided by members of his family on an assortment of instruments.

A Photographic Flight in a Helicopter

In a lifetime of loving aircraft and flying gliders I have never had a single flight in a helicopter. The Tour Director has; she copped the last joy flight at an air show we once attended. I've flown as a passenger in (on?) a couple of microlights over Mount Buffalo and nearly froze to death. I've done a tandem free-fall parachute jump at Mission Beach (as did Pam), a solo parachute jump in Manchester, done aerobatics, flown in a float plane onto and off water (as has Pam), flown in a hot air balloon (as has Pam) but never - until now - flown in a helicopter.

Robinson R44

With the Robinson R44. Photo by Drew, the pilot who removed the rear door so I could hang out with my camera.

What I wanted more than the actual flight was to take aerial photos without the restraint of the door and window in the way. Drew was happy to oblige. Was I nervous? No, not in the slightest. What had made me very anxious was that my trusty Canon 60D camera started playing up just before we left the caravan, playing damn fool tricks it never had before. Anyway, it finally settled down though the image on its screen was as often upside down as it was the correct way up. I didn't care about that, it wasn't important.

Chopper Airborne

This photo was taken by friend Theo Graze from the caravan park. The sun was behind us and Theo
was struggling at full zoom. Nice one, Theo!

As well as a good shot of Bell Park Caravan Park I wanted a shot of Emu Park including Bell Park. Unfortunately such an expanse reduced to fit on a computer screen makes detail very hard to make out.

Emu Park from the air

Little Emu Park from 1,000 feet. Bell Park Caravan Park is adjacent to the right hand bay (Fishermans Beach), just behind the dunes. The iconic Singing Ship is the white object in the centre of the picture, on a headland.

One of the difficulties of photographing objects from a helicopter doorway is that as soon as the lens protrudes through the doorway it is blasted by the downdraught from the spinning rotors. This had two effects; it made the camera impossible to hold steady and the zoom feature on the lens became very stiff to operate. The effect of the shaking could be minimised by using a very fast exposure setting. The lens stiffness being caused by the downward force of the wind could be avoided by leaning back into the 'copter, adjusting the zoom then leaning out again. Oh, and one more thing; while leaning out the wind blast caused my eyelids to flutter madly and my eyes to stream with tears. So, not ideal conditions but, hey, so much fun! We both loved every second of the flight and can't wait to take another.

Chopper Landing

November Uniform Lima on short finals. Why does a helicopter have to use the runway? No, I don't know
either unless it is to emulate a fixed wing aircraft and thus behave predictably for other traffic.

I took a lot of photos but will only add a few more here.

Bell Park

Bell Park. The red arrow points to the path through the dunes, the red circle indicates our caravan.

Rosslyn Marina

Rosslyn Marina ... where the money is.


Location, location, location.


What the hell is a thunder egg? Even after visiting Mount Hay I wasn't much wiser so I went to Google and asked the question. This is what I discovered.

Thunder egg is thought to be a Native American Indian name. Sometimes it is one word, other times two. They believed the thunder eggs dropped from the sky during thunderstorms. So much for the name. Now for the science.

One hundred and twenty million years ago a volcanic eruption formed Mount Hay in Queensland. The molten lava contained bubbles of trapped gas. As the lava cooled, a fine granite shell formed around the trapped gas bubbles. These shells cracked, allowing the gases to escape, leaving behind empty holes. Liquids with complicated names containing minerals and impurities entered the holes and crystallized, sealing the cracks and forming the mysterious centres. These colourful centres are usually made up of agate, chalcedony, jasper, quartz crystal or a combination of these minerals. The 'eggs' vary in size from really tiny to about 35cm. (14") in diameter. And that takes care of the science. Now to our experience.

We were given a small bucket containing a scrubbing brush and water, a sort of hammer and a hand rake. We were shown to a large pile of rubble ranging from dust through to football-sized rocks. We began scraping away at it without a clue as to what we were looking for; we should have Googled first.

Pam fossicking

The Tour Director (First Class) fossicking for thunder eggs.

Round stones, is what we were told. These round stones had been embedded in larger chunks of rock which had been broken open when dug up. Clearly the larger rocks in the pile might still contain more 'eggs' inside. When we found a round chunk of dirt we chipped away at the outside in the hope there was a thunder egg inside ... and sometimes there was.

The 'egg' itself just looks like a river stone - smooth and grey. Its attraction is only revealed when it is cut open and polished. Very large eggs are rare but they can be ground into spheres, removing the outer granite to reveal the colours and patterns below the surface.

Giant thunder egg

This giant thunder egg was on sale for over $3,000

From the sublime to the ridiculous, these are the sort of results most people achieved after their stones were cut. They are still wet from washing.

thunder egg

These 'eggs' are of no value but it was a lot of fun looking for them and comparing our efforts with those of others.

Here is a direct quote from one web site:

In Australia, the Mt Hay stones have some very interesting characteristics that make them unique. When polished on the outside, the partially exposed centre glows if it is held over a light. When viewed under a short-wave ultra-violet light, the centre glows an eerie, emerald green colour, reflecting the enormous forces of a volcano.

So there we are, another experience in a land full of new experiences.


The Tour Director learned of a 'family day' where miniature horses, cattle and goats were on show and, where appropriate, racing each other. We decided it might be fun so we went. As we parked the car we saw a bunch of little horses being lined up for a race so went across to watch. The course consisted of three sides of a rectangle and was roped on both sides so these little riderless horses had to stay on track.

To start the race the handlers, each leading two horses, ran forward so that the competitors were running parallel. Shouting and whooping the handlers released the little horses which ran on down the track with varying amounts of enthusiasm. One white horse went off like the wind, galloping ahead of the competition, its lead constantly increasing. Down the home straight it was so far ahead that the 'also rans' were just rounding the final corner when it crossed the line, pulled up and plunged its head into a large bucket of water. There were several other buckets scattered around and as the other horses arrived, they too drank thirstily. So that's the secret - deprive the horses of water, show them the buckets and then lead them around the track to the starting line. Once free they head straight back to the buckets.

Miniature Horse

One of the little horses being led away after the race.

We also watched a goat race. It was much along the same lines as the horses but the goats only ran the length of the horses' home straight. However, they had to jump over a row of half-drums made of plastic.

Miniature Goats

Flat out heading for the finishing line

Miniature Goats

And again they made directly for the buckets after crossing the line.

As the goats finished a woman next to me gave a loud yelp. This electric fence is live, she gasped. I just got a shock from it!
Nobody took much notice of her but within a metre of where I stood was a yellow box ...

Fence Energiser

The leads were connected to the fence and the power was definitely switched on.

This type of fence isn't constantly live but intermittently sends a good jolt down the line. Not enough to injure a healthy person unless they had a weak heart or a pacemaker fitted, then it might be a different story. We sought out one of the organisers and told her the story. The lads are supposed to have switched that off this morning, she said. I'll attend to it now.

We wandered around some more and found a cage containing several kids (of the goat variety) being mauled by several kids (of the human variety).


Our sympathy went to the poor goat kids. As soon as one lot of children tired of them a fresh lot were let in.

Painted Cow

Know what this is? She's a very good-natured cow that was tolerating hundreds of
paint-covered little hands being pressed on to her coat.

Coffee Sign

This is one sign that will get no arguments from us.

On our way out of the grounds we saw a small lake, the far bank of which was covered in hundreds of magpie geese.


Magpie geese, hundreds of them.

Flying Geese

Spooked! Not much clear airspace separating them. I wonder if any collided?


Looking North From The Water Tank

On the way to Yeppoon from Emu Park is a largish water tank atop a hill. These two photos were taken from up there,
this one looking north towards Yeppoon which is under smoke from a burn-off and ...

Looking South From The Water Tank

... this one looking south over the Rosslyn Yacht Marina with Great Keppel Island on the horizon.

From the water tank we drove a little further towards Yeppoon where we found Wreck Point, another lookout that we'd never previously visited. No prizes for guessing where the name came from.

On 1st July 1847 a 62 ton schooner called the 'Selina', carrying a heavy load of cedar logs, sank off Wreck Point and eventually washed up on the shore. She was found by another ship in October, 1848, and refloated by a third crew in 1849. One man, Evan Owens, was left on board the 'Selina' with enough supplies to last him six weeks, his fellow crewmen promising to return, doubtless to collect the salvage. Owens was tasked with the job of pumping water out of 'Selina's' hull to keep her afloat.

Five months later Owens gave up all hope of his ship returning and abandoned the 'Selina'. He was fortunate in being picked up by the crew of the 'Secret' as this coastline was not to be settled for another fifteen years.

Incidentally, the Selina was built in 1847 and wrecked in July of the same year.

Looking east from Wreck Point

Looking east from Wreck Point. Note the worn path leading to the cliff edge. Down this path run
the paraglider pilots prior to leaping into space. On the horizon, some of the 27 offshore islands.

Looking south from Wreck Point

Looking south from Wreck Point, the beach deserted and the Coral Sea like a millpond.

Another Helicopter Flight

I finished the item on our first helicopter flight (near the top of this page) with the words, We both loved every second of the flight and can't wait to take another. Well, another flight we did take.

This time we took our good friend, Susie Waterman, with us and made it a little bit special for her. Again we flew in the Robinson R44 but this time left all the doors in place. We had arranged with Lance, our pilot, to fly around Emu Park then along the coast and over the Keppel Bay Marina, Rosslyn Bay. We would then turn east and head fifteen kilometres out over the Coral Sea to Great Keppel Island where we would land and have lunch in a restaurant before flying home ... only Sue didn't know any of this.

As we approached Keppel Island the pilot began to lose height until, as the airfield came in sight, we were just skimming over the treetops. I'd forgotten that poor Sue wasn't aware of our plans and she was becoming a little perturbed, especially sitting in the front with just a plexiglas bubble between her and the rushing trees. When we landed she was relieved but was wondering if something was wrong. Pam explained that it was a surprise and we were going for lunch on the island. Lance said he was content to wait with the aircraft but we were having none of that so the four of us walked through the sunshine for a very pleasant lunch overlooking the beach.

Group with Chopper

On the airfield on Great Keppel Island. Since the cyclone earlier this year the airfield is closed to fixed wing aircraft.

Sue in Chopper

Sue being 'first officer' in the front seat of the Robinson.

Now a little bit about Great Keppel Island, which was almost deserted when we visited. The island was named by good old Captain James Cook after the then First Lord of the Admiralty, Admiral Augustus Keppel. That was back in 1770 and a good career move it turned out to be, for 'Captain' Cook was actually Lieutenant Cook until he was promoted on returning to England.

At that time Great Keppel Island was home to the Woppaburra and Ganumi people of the Darumbal nation. European settlers had killed or removed most of the indigenous population by the end of the 19th century. More recently Great Keppel's future has been in limbo with various development plans being proposed by the Australian company, Tower Holdings. Tower unveiled a $1.15 billion - yes, Billion - revitalisation plan for the island. The plan, which was declared a "significant project" by the Queensland Government, included a 300-room resort hotel, 300 resort apartments, 1,700 villas, a 560-berth marina and ferry terminal, a championship golf course, yacht club, sporting ovals, childcare facilities, chapel and cultural centre. The plan included 1,300 acres of environmental parkland on land which is currently used for public recreation purposes and which has already been recommended for a conservation park by the Department of Environment and Resource Management.

This plan, thank God, did not have the support of the residents of Central Queensland or the Environment Department. The proposal was rejected by the Federal Environment Minister in October 2009 on the grounds that there would be unacceptable impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Unfazed by the objections, Tower Holdings submitted another, smaller proposal early in 2010 which included 24,000 solar panels to power their resort. Gee, that would really enhance the little island! Worse, Tower Holdings wants to build a casino there (albeit a small one) and the new State Labor member, Brittany Lauga in whose constituency the island falls, is enthusiastically supporting them. On the occasion of our visit (August 2015) we saw no visible sign of any work commencing. Long may the island remain unspoiled.

Deserted beaches

Returning we saw many islands with pristine beaches.


We overflew a lone gaff rigged schooner, South Passage, making good way in the breeze.
Thank you to the Internet for the information on South Passage.

Our return flight in the helicopter was very pleasant and Lance hovered briefly so that Sue could photograph her house from the air. Quite a memorable day.

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