Monday, May 12, 2014

Desert Park, RFDS, Reptile Center, School of the Air, Telegraph Station, ANZAC Memorial Hill, & Rock Wallabies

We began our day at Desert Park which sits right next to the MacDonnell Range. First we watched a short film about the creation of the mountain range and how the Desert Park came to be. It began as a waterfall and large body of water. Many animals struggled to survive and after several millions of years, the land reclaimed the sea; green planes began to grow by the mountains. Then a comet hit the earth and made it dark. When there was light again there were large freshwater lakes, flowers, trees, bees, wasps, birds, and mammals. This is when central Australia entered a dryer, hotter phase. Despite the harsh weather, the Aboriginal people took advantage of the climate in order to survive. They hunted animals and gathered plants and berries that grow in the heat.

While at the Desert Park, we also went to a presentation about how Aboriginal people survive in the desert. A few interesting facts that I learned while at this presentation was that there were over 270 Aboriginal languages; however only half of them have survived until today. She told us how Aboriginal people did, and still do, rely on hunting and gathering techniques in order to sustain themselves. She also touched on the roles of men, women, and elders in Aboriginal tribes. For example, men had the duty of setting up the campsite, make fire, punish criminals, and hunt. Women were responsible for gathering food, raising children, and maintaining the fire. Elders, on the other hand, were tasked with teaching their knowledge to the children, caring for the entire tribe, and making decisions.

The next presentation we attended at Desert Park was the Bird Show. This was pretty short, but we were able to see some unique birds. We saw the Brown Falcon which was a great hunter, the Barn Owl which has a silent flight in order to catch prey, and a Frogmouth who is able to easily blend in with his surroundings in order to avoid his predators.

After Desert Park, we went to the Royal Flying Doctor's Service. We had a nice lunch here then did a short tour of the museum. We then watched a short film about what the RFDS actually does and how much they help so many Australians. A few of the major duties of this company includes: 1) air ambulance service, 2) transfer between hospitals, and 3) an outback clinic. This service is 24/7/365 and provides life saving medical attention to individuals that would otherwise not have survived their accident.

The next stop on our tour today was The Reptile Center. Here we had the opportunity to hold a Blue-Tongued Lizard, a Bearded Dragon, and an Olive Python. Then we toured the rest of the exhibits. We were only here for a short time, but we were able to see many different types of lizards and snakes. We were even able to see the most dangerous a snake on the planet, the Inland Taipan.

After we finished our tour at The Reptile Center, we went to the Telegraph Center. A few interesting facts about this facility was that it was not only the first settlement in Central Australia, but also the first building ever built in Central Australia. We were also see the site for which the city of Alice Springs is named. It is a small watering hole that the first settlers believed to be a spring. In reality, water seeps up from the upside down river that is underground. We also learned that the buildings on the grounds were used as a bungalow for children taken during the Stolen Generation. These children were schooled in European customs and traditions. These buildings were also used to house soldiers during World War II.

Then we went to School of the Air to learn about the services they offer children across the country. This is a type of online school offered to children that are too far away from any other school to attend them. We watched a short film about the history of this operation. A few fascinating facts that I learned during the film was that School of the Air covers 1.3 million square kilometers of land, there are 16 different School of the Air facilities, and the students only come to class in their designated areas four times a year. This is a unique business because the students are able to have real-time conversations with their teachers and communicate with each other as though they are in the same room.

We finished our day at ANZAC Memorial Hill and the Rock Wallabies Natural Environment. The ANZAC Memorial Hill gave a nice view of the entire city of Alice Springs and contained a monument commemorating all war events that Australia has been involved in. At the Rock Wallabies Natural Environment we had the opportunity to feed wallabies. This was really cool to get so close these cute creatures.

Finally, something I noticed today was the gift shop in Desert Park. This was seemed to be set up a little different than more traditional gift shops. It had more high-ticket items than most gift shops. A new word that I learned today was heads. Our driver mentioned this word when he was referring to cattle.

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