When a large drilling tower was recently spotted on Lake George, the rumour mill went into overdrive. Social media was abuzz with speculation. Adding to the mystery surrounding the large-scale operation was that the drilling tower and a considerable number of support vehicles vanished almost as quickly as they appeared.
After some snooping around, this column can reveal the two-day drilling operation was part of a three-year multidisciplinary three-year study of Lake George.
Eva Papp, academic visitor at the ANU's Research School of Earth Sciences and a chief investigator of the new integrated project, which involves industry, government and universities, says "the study will examine the tectonic, sedimentary, hydrological, vegetation, climatic and archaeological history of Lake George, including the application of new and improved methods in geochronology, remote sensing, and geophysics".
And the exact purpose of the drilling? Well, that was the first stage in a project that examines the sedimentary record of the lake bed.
"The lake is an outstanding natural archive – it contains the longest continuous sedimentary record (around 4 million years) of any Australian lake and has a long, unresolved human occupation history," explains Papp, who adds "the core samples taken extended to up to 77 metres below the lake bed and represent around 2 million years of sedimentary history. The full depth of the sediment at that location is estimated to exceed 140 metres."
It is hoped that project outcomes will increase knowledge of landscape evolution and human history in eastern Australia from improved understanding of the responses of Lake George to past and future climate change and human impact.
"We want to leave a home for our children and grandchildren that is sustainable for many generations to come and we want to understand the past so we can take care of the future," Papp says.
This column will keep regular readers informed of the research results. In the meantime, for more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spotlight on stingrays
While the out-of-place dugong holidaying at Merimbula Lake has been stealing the show this summer, some of the most popular sea creatures to spot along the South Coast are stingrays.
The two species you are most likely to see are the common stingray and the smooth spotted stingray, both of which are best viewed from the many boardwalks, boat ramps and fish-cleaning stations up and down the coast.
One of the best places to readily spy a stingray is the Mossy Point boat ramp, where there are often four identifiable rays, including "Stumpy", which, unfortunately, has lost its tail. First noticed about 2004, the rays measure about 1.5 metres across and are quite tame, sometimes taking fish scraps from a fisherman's hand.
For the adventurous, Region X offers a range of guided tours on South Coast waterways, where you can view stingrays and other marine critters from a glass-bottomed kayak.
"We have lots of close encounters of a friendly nature. No need for alarm, but they are keen to swim around our kayakers, very inquisitive and here to compete against cormorants and pelicans for the feast from fishermen," Region X's Josh Waterson says.
For more information, see regionx.com.au or phone 0400 184034.
If you are after a guaranteed sighting, then beat a path to Merimbula Aquarium which is home to hundreds of local species, ranging from sharks to shrimps and, of course, stingrays. They also have fish-feeding sessions at 11.30am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. See merimbulawharf.com.au or phone 02 6495 4446.
Where is your favourite place to spot stingrays in their natural habitat? Please let me know at the address at the end of this column. Oh, I'd also love to see a photo of Stumpy.
PLAN AHEAD FOR
If you prefer your stingrays to be of the artistic kind, you have less than a week to wait until the festive season's most anticipated beachside spectacle: the 15th annual Sand Modelling and Sandcastle Competition at North Broulee Beach.
Expect: About 400 competitors and 2000 spectators as one of our much-loved South Coast beaches is invaded by all manner of seaside critters, including mermaids, sharks, octopuses, dugongs, crocodiles and, of course, stingrays.
When: New Year's Eve, Thursday, January 31. Registration from 2.30pm, with the competition running from 4pm to 5pm (to coincide with a low tide).
Tools of the trade: For competitors, only standard beach gear (toy buckets, toy spades, ice-cream containers etc) plus spray bottles are allowed. No shovels, rakes and concreting trowels.
Entry fee: $5 an individual or group (which can be up to five people).
Categories: Open sculpture; open sandcastle; and junior (for children not yet in high school). Businesses have donated prizes and all money raised from entries will go to the Community Association's shared pathway project.
Beach report: Earlier this week, this column checked conditions on the beach and can confirm the usual quantity of fine yet firm modelling sand is ready and waiting.
Tim's tip: Due to the recent demolition of the road bridge over Candlagan Creek, there is a temporary footbridge in place linking Mossy Point and Broulee. Enter Broulee from George Bass Drive, then work your way to the northern section of the beach.
The South Coast isn't the only place Y numberplates flock to over summer. With cooler days and smaller crowds, the Snowy Mountains are becoming more and more popular for summer interludes for many Canberrans, including Garry Mayo.
While recently walking through a hidden valley in the wilderness of the western side of the main range, "we thought we had finally found the elusive Yowie", Mayo reports.
"It was taller than the average man and, to all intents, looked dark and hairy," explains the seasoned bushwalker, who adds, "given the remoteness of the location, we thought we might have finally cracked the mystery".
As Mayo and his fellow walkers approached the "yowie" with caution, "it showed no signs of movement" and Mayo and Co. soon realised "it was much more mundane, but nonetheless still one of nature's treasures, the trunk of a magnificent native fern (Dicksonia antarctica)".
Contact Tim: Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick. You can see a selection of past columns at: canberratimes.com.au/act-news/by/tim-the-yowie-man
Where on the South Coast?
Cyptic clue: Another good stingray-spotting location, but I can't see a "mill" anywhere.
Degree of difficulty: Medium.
Last week: Congratulations to Sam Harding, 12, of Farrer, who was first to correctly identify last week's photo as a cut-out cow, resplendent in Christmas tinsel, in Cobargo. "We stop at Cobargo quite often on the way to Bermagui for family holidays," reveals a jubilant Harding, who just beat a number of readers, including Alison Meretini, of Braddon, who "knows that cow very well" after just completing a stint house-sitting in the pretty coastal village.
The "folk" in the clue was a dead give-away for many, including Ajay Satyan, who explains "Cobargo is famous for their folk festival in February, adding "the cow in the picture is artwork representative of Cobargo's dairy industry".
Many readers actually thought the photograph depicted one of the South Coast's other crafty villages of Mogo and Central Tilba. However, two readers definitely not mistaken were Roz and Norm Barker, of Oxley, who recognised the facade of Bangles Pottery. "We still use the toothpick holders we bought there many years ago as port glasses," recall the Barkers. Meanwhile, Sue Lockyer, of Chisholm, reports she also still has pottery bought from the landmark shop more than 20 years ago. "It was captivating watching the potter at the wheel in the window," she recalls.
Cobargo is located on the Princes Highway, midway between Narooma and Bega.
How to enter: Email your guess along with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org. The first email sent after 10am, Saturday, December 26, 2015, with the correct answer wins a double pass to Dendy cinemas.