This column receives some quirky emails, none more so than one which arrived in my inbox earlier this week.
“I know you like photos with faces in them,” read the email from Eden O’Mara of Chisholm. “Attached is an MRI of my hand which has a face in it.”
Sceptically, I opened the MRI photo thinking like many photos of simulacra (faces and forms in nature) I receive at this time of year that I may have to squint, or stand on my head (or both!) to make out the so-called ‘‘face’’. So imagine my surprise when there in the black-and-white scan of her right wrist was the very clear profile of a lady’s face.
“It’s so weird,” says Eden, who first noticed the freaky face while flicking through the scans before seeing her doctor.
The appearance of a face in the scan also took her orthopaedic surgeon by surprise. “She has seen thousands of MRIs and has never seen anything like it,” reports Eden. “She is perplexed as to the cause and has even stuck a copy on her surgery wall.”
While Eden prefers to refer to her hidden face as “her evil twin”, some of her friends have suggested it bears an uncanny resemblance to the Virgin Mary, with veil lifted to reveal her face.
In fact, hardly a week goes by that an optical illusion depicting a religious symbol isn’t discovered somewhere in the world.
During the past 30 years, Australia has had several other notable cases of the phenomena. In 1988, a random combination of leaves and debris on Melbourne’s South East Freeway created a hullabaloo after a road worker suggested it looked like the bearded face of Jesus Christ. Then in mid-1994, a series of shadows in an Adelaide church created much excitement when some churchgoers suggested it resembled a Madonna and Child.
However, the most well-publicised case occurred in 2003 when the shadows cast by a fencepost at Coogee Beach in Sydney, which some thought resembled the Blessed Virgin Mary, attracted thousands of pilgrims daily.
Whatever your take on the similarity of the lady’s face in the MRI with the Virgin Mary, that’s not where the religious coincidences in this case end. Eden’s doctor diagnosed a ganglion cyst in her hand (it’s above the face and can only be seen by a trained eye), which is also called, wait for it, a ‘‘bible bump’’.
“It’s like a wart on the inside of your skin and it’s so-called because apparently they used to fix it by smacking it with a bible,” Eden says.
Further, Eden’s maiden name was Christmas and she is named after the biblical Garden of Eden. “Also, my husband’s birthday is Christmas Day and doctors induced our second child (now aged 13) so she wasn’t born on Christmas Day,” Eden says.
As for Eden’s cyst, her doctor reports she will make a full recovery.
Postscript: In a further coincidence, when Eden’s email first popped into my inbox, I was researching a future column while having a coffee at the port of, wait for it … Eden. Really!
It seems this column has finally flushed out someone equally as obsessed with our region’s faces and forms in nature as your Akubra-clad columnist.
Meet landscape photographer Leah-Anne Thompson of western Sydney. When Leah-Anne recently stumbled across an old copy of this column which featured a cliff-face near Narooma that bears an uncanny resemblance to a larger than life Queen Victoria, the shutterbug couldn’t help herself.
Leah-Anne, who travels extensively to capture unique seascapes, reveals she “just had to visit the rock straight away” to snap her own photo of the 19th-century monarch. And she wasn’t waiting for anyone.
After a flurry of late-night emails to your bemused columnist to confirm its exact location, armed with some mud maps, just after midnight on the very same night, Leah-Anne set off on her curious quest from her Penrith home.
Not sign-posted and accessible only via unmarked forest trails, finding the rockface in the daylight is a challenge, let alone under the cloak of darkness.
However, despite the darkness, Leah-Anne found the unmarked turn-off from the Princes Highway with no trouble.
“The road through the forested gums with undergrowth of pretty ferns was a little bumpy but fairly good until the last section which was rutted-out quite deep,” says Leah-Anne, who on reaching the end of the track “set off sight unseen to find the little hewn steps that lead onto the beach to find the Queen.”
And find her my intrepid correspondent did.
“Not far past the rocky bluff and there she was staring steadfastly out over the rocky coast and never flinching,” reports Leah-Anne who, like me, believes “her best side is her left”.
After exploring the surrounding coastline for the rest of the day before starting the long drive home, Leah-Anne returned to QVR for one last look, and boy was it worth it.
“Standing on the beach at night under the gaze of a sentinel Queen Victoria with the Milky Way directly overhead was just amazing,” she recalls.
“It was a fantastic experience and I hope to return again soon."
If Leah-Anne continues to take photos like these, I hope she returns too. Wow!
Have any locations featured in this column led you on adventures? If so, please let me know.
Queen Victoria Rock (QVR): First brought to this column’s attention in 2011 by Steve Dunn of Weston Creek who noticed the weathered rock face while patrolling the area as a NSW Fisheries Officer and who “immediately thought it resembled a profile of Queen Victoria, complete with crown”.
How to get there: QVR is located near Bogola Headland, which is about half-way between Narooma and Mystery Bay. Allow three hours’ drive from Canberra. Not sign-posted and hard to locate. Accessible via a dirt track (4WD advisable) that heads east into the Eurobodalla National Park just north of the Corunna Lake access road off the Princes Highway. Follow this road to cleared grassy area at beach level. Park, then walk on the beach in a northerly direction for a couple of hundred metres. The rocky monarch is looking due east from near Bogola Headland towards the southern tip of Montague Island. If you have a GPS, the co-ordinates are 36°15'58.4"S 150°08'50.6"E
The latest addition to this column’s ongoing series of stairs that appear to lead to nowhere is from James Harrison of Torrens, who on a recent trip to India stumbled upon this baffling set of stairs at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
However, far from leading to nowhere, according to Harrison, “it turns out these stairs are part of an elaborate astronomical observation site (one of five built across northern India between 1724 and 1730).”
The challenge issued last week to capture as many perched pelicans as possible in a single photograph prompted several readers to attempt to trick me by submitting photos of life-like statues of the large birds. In fact, Steve Johnson’s shot of several pelicans perched on logs at Yerrabi Ponds in Gungahlin almost fooled me. So far the record for real pelicans stands at half a dozen, with this summery shot taken by Lisa Hardwick at Ulladulla Harbour. Can you beat six?
With all the storm activity earlier this month, it’s not surprising this column has received a number of photos of trees struck by lightning. None of these are more impressive than this splintered tree in the upper Naas River Valley in Namadgi National Park and photographed by regular correspondent Matthew Higgins.
“The outer surface of the tree has been blown off right down to ground level by the instant boiling of the cambium layer beneath,” reports Higgins, who was shown the tree by Don Fletcher on a recent bushwalk. “In the foreground are some of the branches blown off by the strike.”
If you photograph anything unusual while exploring the great outdoors this summer, please let me know at the address at the end of this column.
Contact Tim: Email: email@example.com or Twitter: @TimYowie or write c/- The Canberra Times, 9 Pirie St, Fyshwick.
Where on the South Coast?
Clue: It’s the only century-old brick silo beside the Princes Highway, but where exactly?
Degree of difficulty: Medium
Congratulations to Dianne Baker of Braidwood who just beat Stewart Needham of Broulee as the first reader to correctly identify last week’s photo as Provisions Deli & Grocer at 56 Wallace Street in her hometown.
The deli-come-social hub was refurbished just a couple of months ago and is a great spot to stop for a cuppa (and scrumptious cheesecake from the deli) on the way to the coast (note: closed December 31 and January 1). Rather than being pilfered from the Tallaganda State Forest which is around 50km to the south-west of Braidwood, I can report that the sign was salvaged with permission from a local tip.
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 29, 2018 will win a double pass to Dendy - The Home of Quality Cinema.