Monday, August 13, 2012

The Canbrrrrrra Region - Snow and Fire

File photo of wallabies sitting among fresh snow in Namadgi National Park. Photo: Lannon Harley

The bracing weather of recent days (Thursday evening when the temperature went from something balmy to something Siberian in a trice was especially character-building) is a reminder of how the federal capital city was deliberately plonked down in a chilly-in-winter spot.

The Honourable 
''I want to have a cold climate chosen for the capital of this Commonwealth,'' the famous and Canberra-influential King O'Malley told the House of Representatives in October 1903 during a debate on where the federal capital should be built. 'The history of the world shows that cold climates have produced the greatest geniuses, all of whom were born north of a certain degree. Take the sons of some of the greatest men of the world and put them in a hot climate like Tumut or Albury [two of many spots being considered, while O'Malley himself was a champion of chillier Bombala, the place he felt God had chosen for the city] and in three generations their lineal descendants will be degenerate.''

While not everyone agreed, while sites were being considered (from 1899-1909), with O'Malley about Bombala being God's chosen place (many thought He, in his infinite wisdom, had chosen Dalgety while others who went to Dalgety thought it the most God-forsaken of places) everyone shared O'Malley's beliefs about cold climates being best for our race. Look at the Vikings, everyone said. Look at the Scots.

For someone who grazes in this field the unanimity in all this is extraordinary. In this period of the Battle of the Sites this writer cannot find anyone arguing for a beautiful, balmy seaside federal capital site in New South Wales (the federal capital territory had to be somewhere in NSW) while everyone in the debate is a champion for one or other of the far-inland, elevated, frosty places on the short-lists that arose.

It's a great venue for sailing, rowing, canoeing and kayaking and the cold climate does not deter the early morning rowers.


Photographer Paul Jurak takes his routine early morning Kayak on Lake Burley Griffin
Photo: Jay Cronan, The Canberra Times

Even now, in mid-winter, our volunteers of the Regional Rural Fire Brigades prepare for the approaching roaring hot summer. We recall with trepidation the disastrous fires that smashed the region in 2003.

Fires rage through western Canberra and turned day into night at 2pm in the afternoon.

The mountain ranges around the region were an inferno.

For decades firefighters protecting the territory's western flank have operated out of a broom-closet shed on a privately-owned farm. Now the Tidbinbilla brigade, a cornerstone of Canberra's rural fire-fighting arsenal, have got flash new digs worthy of the key role they play in fire management.

And yesterday's unveiling of the new shed has come at an opportune time, with the territory on the cusp of what could be a challenging fire season.

The $2.1 million facility was formally handed over at a ceremony yesterday, along with the keys to three new tankers worth about $180,000 each. ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Andrew Stark said the new shed was a welcome addition to the territory's firefighting infrastructure.

Captain of the Tidbinbilla Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade, Arthur Sayer, with his 18 month old grandson, Thomas Anderson, outside the new facility. Photo: Graham Tidy


The Elephant's Child said...

I love our chilly climate - crisp, clear and beautiful.
The 2003 fires were on my birthday, a date also shared with the Granville train disaster. I remember both and mourn for lives lost and others irrevocably changed.

Al said...

What a far ranging post.

Good to see the brigade getting the gear they need!

Jim said...

Hey John! There is something to be said about the 'northern climes'! We are sweltering in the heat and humidity right now and cannot wait for the cooler temperatures to hit! Makes for easier and better decision-making, I'd say!
Let's keep our fingers crossed that you do not get the heat like you did in 2003!!