The Destruction of the Kelp

Kelp on White Beach, Tasmania, December 2009.

Kelp, a large seaweed that grows in underwater forests along temperate coasts, supports many marine species in turn. The Kelp Highway Hypothesis postulates that Pacific Rim kelp forests and the wealth of fish, mammals and birds that they supported sustained maritime hunter-gatherers spreading into the New World 16,000 years ago. Kelp species play an important role in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines, and fuelled the production of soda ash in the Scottish Highlands and islands until the industry’s collapse in the 19th century, which fuelled emigration to North America and beyond. Charles Darwin wrote of the kelp forests of Tierra del Fuego that “if in any country a [terrestrial] forest was destroyed, I do not believe nearly so many species of animals would perish as would here, from the destruction of the kelp”.

In October 2016, an ocean heatwave destroyed the last giant kelp forest on the east coast of Tasmania, bringing an end to an ecosystem that has dominated it for tens of thousands of years.

Read More · 15 December 2016

Which Way Do Ya Wanta Go?

Last week I had an unexpected urge to revisit some of my earliest programming efforts. Unfortunately, they’re stored on ancient 5¼" floppies which would probably be unreadable, even if I had a 5¼" drive and a way of converting it to USB. Fortunately, at the time I wrote them I also printed out my collection of Apple II and BBC Micro BASIC programs using our school’s dot-matrix printers, and after rummaging through some old boxes was able to find those printouts again.

Read More · 5 April 2016

Australia Day

Koala at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT, 7 July 2015.
Koala at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, ACT, July 2015. Mouseover for more fur.

Read More · 26 January 2016

Rey of Light

Self-portrait with lightsaber, by Isobel, December 2015

In the summer of 2014, I introduced my seven-year-old son to Star Wars, which made him a few years younger than I was when I saw it at the Hoyts cinema in Hobart in 1978. And I do mean Star Wars—that is, Episode IV, the retrospectively renamed A New Hope. I’d picked up the special edition DVD with the bonus disc of the original (taken from old LaserDiscs) a few years before, so that he could see it as I had, a long, long time ago in a cinema far, far away. His first sight of Darth Vader Force-choking an underling freaked him out, but he liked the movie, and enjoyed V and VI when we watched those (again in their original forms) over subsequent weeks. The Ewoks, he told me, were his favourites.

Read More · 6 January 2016

←Memory in 2014