Contact from the Outer World

Watching a big male emu and his chicks walk straight toward you as you crouch on the sidewalk at the edge of suburbia is like being visited by aliens.

“What do they want?” you wonder. “Where did they come from? And where will they go when they leave here?”

IMG_3404

Well, it turns out that emus do actually wander off into the bush at night to sleep, though the thought is still funny to me. They find a place that they assume is more sheltered than anywhere else and slowly doze off after a period of sleepy vigil, folding their long legs under their bodies and curving their necks back. I imagine they’re fairly well camouflaged at that point. The chicks, according to Wikipedia and this fascinating article on “The Sleep of the Emu” (so many questions answered!) stretch out a little less gracefully, necks flat along the ground like sleeping ostriches. The emus wake up periodically throughout the night, grazing and defecating for a while before settling back down up to eight times.

Someone (Immelmann, the author of that article) stayed up all night ten days in a row in some zoological garden in Germany to collect this information. I think someone needs to do the same for emus in the wild, though getting them to sleep normally in the presence of humans would be a challenge. This is what I love about science- we figure one thing out, and have to resort to ever-more absurd tactics to get closer and closer to real answers about the basic workings of the world around us. We’ll never really know what emus do in the Outback at night until we can follow them around, and we’ll never really know what it’s like to walk on a planet not our own until we load up a rocket with literal tons of explosives, sit a person on top of that, and light it on fire. There’s so much left to explore, and so many crazy scientists ready to commit their sleepless nights and endless calculations, frustrations in coding and camouflage and mosquito bites and sterilized lab equipment, to the pursuit of knowledge.

IMG_3406

In a sort of thematic segue (I try, okay?), I’ve received some other contact from the outside world! Because internet is so expensive here, I feel like I’ve been a bit (or a lot) absent from the planet as a whole, wrapped entirely up in my two housemates, our boss and his family, and the approximate 3 other people we know in town, along with 112 humpback and 250-ish bottlenose dolphins. Keeping up with my friends and family has been difficult, so you can imagine my delight at seeing one Sheila Brady, who turned up in Exmouth a few days ago!P1080767

I can’t say how much it means that she came all that extra distance to hang out and bring some much-missed news of home and general cheerfulness!

-Agent Red Squirrel

Advertisements

Painterly

I went for a run today, so I couldn’t bring my SLR. Well, I guess I could have, but it would have been a literal pain in the neck, so I didn’t. It’s the eternal conflict I face in my evenings here- run, get muscles working and music pumping, cover ground and get back in time for dinner, (make my daddy proud of me,) or take my time, collect leaves and feathers, try to sneak up on wildlife, and carry a big lens. So far, I will admit, the walks have taken precedence. Golden hour calls to me, and I take photo after photo of ethereal flowers all backlit and glowing in the settling dust. But running has its benefits too: some of the higher hills nearby are reachable before twilight only at a faster pace, and the views from the top are so much sweeter with the clarity that comes from blood pumping and eyes re-focused from computer screens to the distant sunset.

I took photos today on my phone, and the painterly quality that comes from the low light and crappy digital zoom well-represents the haze of a mid-uphill-sprint emu encounter.

IMG_2984

It’s less detail and more scope, like my runs versus my walks. It’s the sweeping views of the rolling hills and gravel roads, spinifex and shrubs blending into gold and green until the ocean takes over, deep blue to the dusty denim sky. It’s kangaroos that crouch by the side of the road till I’ve jogged by, and only then reveal their presence with a noise or a movement, disappearing back into the bush as I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.

IMG_2995

I’ve always been fond of impressionism.