Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alien landscapes

I've been traveling in the Australian outback. And really, when you're in places like that you might as well be on another world. Australia is a whole continent, only a smidge less in area than the entire mainland USA, yet the US has 317 million people, and Australia has 24 million.

That's because very, very few people live in the middle of Australia. It's a desert. To give you some idea, the entire state of South Australia has 1.7 million people. 1.3 million of those live in the state capital, Adelaide. And most of the others live in the larger towns on the coastal fringe. There is water in the desert, underground. The only reason there are any towns out there at all is the Great Artesian Basin, which send its water to the surface in the form of springs. The only other way to get water out there is to build a pipeline from the coast - which was done in the 1890's for Kalgoorlie, a gold mining town in Western Australia.

What does a desert look like? Well, just recently there has been a lot of rain in North Queensland, where the great inland rivers rise. The Diamantina and Coopers Creek (and their many tributaries) empty into Lake Eyre, which is the remains of what was millions of years ago under the ocean. This year is a once or twice a decade event, when Lake Eyre has water in it. It fills maybe once or twice a century. And when it does, the birds come. No one knows how the pelicans and terns on the coast find out there's water in the lake. But they do and they flock there in their millions to breed along the edges of water brimming with life which has waited patiently in a dormant state for the rains to come.

That's one country. Really, you don't need to find an exoplanet. Got any inspiration yet?

Here are some photos I took as we flew over the desert.
A salt lake. Those black dots are pelicans

That pool of water won't be there for long

Salt lakes and desert sand ridges. It's only that green after the rain

Weird, tough, low-growing plants

Despite the recent rains, it's still a desert. The man-made road is obvious


1 comment:

  1. Wow, Greta, as always, your photos never fail to inspire. What spectacular, muse-worthy landscapes! That last photo reminded me so much of Jupiter with its bands of oranges and browns (except for Jupiter being a gas giant and not a rock, of course).

    Desolation and arid landscapes can be so beautiful in their own way. Reminds me of the words of astronaut Buzz Aldrin who described the Moon as "magnificent desolation."

    One of my novels has a planet that is mostly "outback" type terrain, and the top photo is how I picture the region called the Ahbahd--or Deep Desert. It might also remind some of Dune as created by author Frank Herbert.

    Someday I hope to visit Australia, and in particular, the spectacular Snowy River country.

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