Monday, November 30, 2009

The Grey Nurse is on the way out!

Palau 2008. Photos by Philippe Lebris of Marseille.

A reminder that we are off to Turkey on Tuesday. This may mean that I cannot Blog because my track record of getting an internet connection while we are travelling is not so good – awful in fact.

However – there may be some hope this time as when I upgraded to Windows 7 I was able to change the operating system on my notebook PC to English. This means that when the numerous error messages appear as I am trying to connect to the internet - I may be able to decipher them and take remedial action. We shall see.

Cate is working for three days and the we are renting a car and driving to Gallipoli. The Turkish one not the Italian one. Gallipoli – as all Australians know –is one of the many places where the Australians benefited from legendary British war planning and tactics.


They didn’t manage to kill us all at Gallipoli but shipped the survivors off to the Somme where the Germans used us for gunnery practice until they ran out of shells and had to surrender.

Incidentally – the nice people at the Palazzo del Corso in Gallipoli in Italy allowed me to cancel my reservation without any cost. They no doubt did this on the basis that anyone stupid enough to book a hotel in the wrong country would be dangerous to have as a guest -and they could not guarantee that I would not turn up there instead of Turkey. So next time you go to Gallipoli in Italy please stay with them.

I took Cate to the Central Friedhof at Simmering on Sunday and she was most impressed – as I knew she would be. It is a colossal cemetery and well worth a visit. For some reason the old Jewish section is entirely overgrown and not maintained at all.

There could be a number of reasons for this including that there were not a whole lot of Jews left in Wien after the war – and are not that many now. Or maybe they decided to let it become overgrown for dramatic effect – and it certainly works.

Parts of the Jewish section were bombed during the war. Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris was entirely focused on flattening Germany and Austria (well the residential parts anyway) and it is a bizarre thought that in this process he bombed dead Jews.

I finished reading a book last week that suggested that the war could have been shortened by some months had Churchill and others been able persuade Mr. Harris to bomb something useful – say for example the synthetic oil plants.

But he was very single minded – and popular in Britain – and instead of being sacked for disobeying direct orders from his superiors he was allowed month after month to flatten every city in Germany.

The additional penalty for this – apart from the obvious one of costing the lives of very many allied soldiers because the war went on for months longer than it should have – was that when the allies arrived in the German cities that had been subjected to Bomber’s attention – the infrastructure was completely destroyed – and the Americans and British had to start from scratch to rebuild Europe.

They erected a statue to Arthur Harris in London a few years ago and there were many protestors. For my money I think Harris should have been hanged as a war criminal – but in war this only ever happens to the losers.

Many things these days make me unhappy. One is the annihilation of sharks globally for finning. This grotesque and barbaric practice kills millions of sharks each year and is one of the major contributors to the death of ocean life.

However, in Australia we have had not had to resort to finning to kill all our sharks and have done it by more subtle means. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald says that:

“A new survey of grey nurse sharks shows the species is still in severe danger of becoming extinct.

The study, commissioned by the Federal Government, found just over 1,000 of the sharks along the east coast of Australia.

That figure is significantly lower than the 5,000 needed to sustain the population.
Accidental hooking is one of the main threats to the survival of the species.

Nicky Hammond, the marine program manager for the National Parks Association of New South Wales, says the State Government must act now to protect key habitat sites.

"Here we've got a critically endangered species, we know what the key threat to their survival is, we know where they spend the majority of their time," she said.

"It's a relatively simple process to protect those sites from that key threat of fishing by creating marine sanctuaries and that way hopefully we can actually save this shark from going extinct.

"Time and time again they continue to ignore putting in place the proper protection of marine sanctuaries in these areas and provide tokenistic protection instead.

"We're calling on the NSW Government, we're saying enough is enough, that we need to now get these sanctuaries in place before the shark goes extinct."

Now grey nurse sharks are pretty well the most harmless critters on the planet. In the 60s I used to surf with these creatures and it was not unusual at dusk to catch a wave and find yourself alongside a grey nurse shark.

Cate and I have dived with these sharks many times and I have patted them (If pat is the right word.

One of the major killers of sharks on the East Coast of Australia is the nets used to ‘protect’ surfers from sharks. Long nets are strung off beaches and these catch and kill sharks in their thousands – or did - nowadays of course there are so few sharks that the catch rate has dropped to negligible proportions.

You would think that this may prompt governments to stop netting and give the sharks a chance – no way. Nothing will be done and in a few years or sooner the grey nurse shark will be extinct and we will be added to the many thousands of species that have vanished since the arrival of the white man in Australia.

The recreational and commercial fishing lobbies in NSW in particular have as much power there as the NRA does in the USA. They dictate what governments can and cannot do – and grey nurse sharks are not high on their list of priorities.

I used to fret about this and about many other things like it. I now understand that the destruction of many species is unstoppable. We are rapacious beasts and absolutely nothing will be allowed to stand between us and the next meal – or the next dollar.


  1. At least the sun's out this morning!


  2. It is - and I am going out to enjoy it!

  3. I hope you caught the sun in time!

    I am going out too, but running errands: I need a drivestation to store my photos. I have had external hard drive failure twice now and crying a river does not retrieve a single picture.


  4. I simply do not believe that someone as clever as you does not have all their gorgeous photos backed up!