AAU 3/8/13 - Australia Spring Semester Broome Switch
And out they go again for the next stage of the adventure…
The AAU 3/8/13 Australia Semester group just drove out this morning, headed for One Arm Point, the rendezvous for the Coastal Cultural section of the semester. Late yesterday, the intrepid group arrived back in Broome after a rainy last night in the Kimberley. How ironic! Here in Broome we are well into the ‘Dry’ season, with the last rainfall over 7 weeks ago & none expected until November.
The afternoon was spent switching gears from one course type to the next. Resupplies of food, fuel & all important spice kits (also known in the field as ‘food repair kits’) was accompanied by meeting a new instructor joining them for the last part of their Australian Journey. Sam is what many would call a ‘Fair dinkum Ozzie bloke’ in all the best ways. Hailing from the South of Australia he has been working in this part of the world for over 10 years. They will also be joining many Bardi aboriginal guides for the next week where they will craft boomerangs & spears, learn about traditionl law & seasons, and all with the backdrop of a group of Islands, in the grand King Sound.
Just a few hours ago students rose for an early 5am breakfast before we all headed to the library for some story telling about the last section. Highlights that were shared included many more wildlife encounters, with a special treat of seeing Brolga, the largest bird in the Kimberley at up to 4’ 3”. Students also took on Natural history teaching, each being responsible for leading a class or discussion with their peers.
For many the challenge of descending the Carson escarpment & the incredible views over the valley was the highlight of the hiking section. As a testament to their success individually & as a group, they were given many opportunities to take on high levels of leadership. The last section of the hiking route was handed over by instructors & as a group the students planned a ration period. For the last 6 days, students broke into small groups & strode out without instructors on a mini expedition of their making. During this time they worked in small teams, choosing camps, navigating, dealing with first aid issues based on their earlier training & mostly, put into practice everything that the last 2 months of expeditioning had taught them. Fantastic.
We send them to the Islands now, fingers crossed for their exceptional journey to continue in the same theme as it has so far. We will see them again on the 20th when they return to Broome for the final graduation.
Natural Gas Project Cancelled in Australia
Woodside Petroleum’s plans for a liquid natural gas plant in Western Australia have been abandoned. Though still facing the threat of offshore development, the decision is an exciting victory for NOLS Australia’s classrooms and especially for the town of Broome where operations are based. The school has been keeping close track of the project since 2011. At that time, the proposal faced stiff opposition from a number of local indigenous and environmental groups. James Price Point, the development’s proposed location, is a large peninsula just north of Broome. The area is said to hold sacred Aboriginal songlines and dinosaur footprints that are among the largest on the planet.
NOLS Australia students in a backcountry class.
Photo: Elizabeh Leschied
In addition to being home to sites significant to both human and natural history, this region of Australia’s northwest coast is an important operating area for NOLS Australia. Semester students experience cultural immersion during a section in the Bardi Aboriginal homeland. Australia Backpacking and Sea Kayaking students paddle through the Dampier Archipelago, a few hundred miles south of Broome on the Indian Ocean.
The purpose of Woodside’s proposed facility was to refine natural gas extracted from the nearby Browse Basin- an offshore gas field roughly the size of North Carolina. The plant would have cost an estimated US$45 billion, and would have served as a stepping-stone to transform the small town of Broome into “the next Dubai.” The plant would also prepare the refined gas for export to Asia. Woodside cites competition from shale development in North America and the option of a cheaper floating facility as the reason for the project’s cancellation.
The construction and operation of the facility would have been completed against significant public outcry. There are places in Western Australia that are still unexplored, and NOLS courses are sometimes the first humans to see to them from the ground. It is our hope that Western Australia can balance development with conservation, and that this area will remain intact as one of the most unique and genuinely wild places on Earth.
AAU 3/8/13 - Switch visit!
Last week we briefly got to visit the AAU semester students during the switch between the Canoe & Backpacking sections.
After 40 days of travelling North on the Drysdale River, they made it to Bulldust Yard. At this stage the group pulled the canoes far beyond the flood zone & began the task of preparing to switch into a new section type, backpacking.
Flying in to deliver the next food ration, we were intrigued by stories of slick-rock camps, crocodiles, close dingo encounters, inspiring summer storms & best of all a feeling of accomplishment in themselves for what had been achieved! A particular highlight for the group, involved a 24-hour solo experience. Students were each placed in a solo spot in view of both the Drysdale River & the incredible Solea falls. Here they wrote & pondered about their experience thus far & contemplated achievements & goals for the next section.
There was a great amount of leadership success in daily travel by canoe to each camp. Students were deemed ready to take on leading the day’s travel in leadership teams of two. This was a massive responsibility, where under the guidance of the instructors ‘Leaders’ made decisions concerning navigation, destination camps, portages of the canoe when rapids were not safely runnable, & choosing lines when they were. It sounds like there were many good stories that came out of this challenge!
I can definately say, the group certainly looked a lot dirtier & hairier than they did just a few short weeks ago. They also seemed to have grown from a group of excited, nervous & shy individuals into a solid expedition team, focused, skilled & confident in where they were & why they were there.
After a very short stop, we lifted off by helicopter, heading back to Broome & leaving the intrepid adventurers to their journey South. They will begin with quite a topographical obstacle – the ascent of the Carson escarpment. Enjoy the pictures & we look forward to again seeing them in May.
- The NOLS Australia team.
AAU 3/8/13 - Australia Spring Semester Begins!
With the majority of the students from the USA, we also welcomed 2 additional students from Canada & the Netherlands as well. The first challenge for them, was of course just managing to get here at all! Braving travel distances, time zone changing & flight logistics, we were happy that all arrived with luggage & good spirits.
Day one they met their 3 instructors -an experienced team if ever I saw one, with a collective 40 years of NOLS experience between them. Instructors Jim (Canada), Dale (Canada/NZ), & Marcelo (Brasil/Australia) will be with the group for the first 2 semester sections, before Sam (Australia), joins them for the final Cultural section.
The first day was spent bagging rations, & sorting gear for their 75-day expedition. It was a LONG day, with over 2,493 POUND of dry food bagged for the expedition! Keep in mind that fresh food is additional to that number!
The day was broken up with a visit to the local Crocodile & Wildlife park, where they got to know some of the creatures they will be sharing a home with during the expedition.
Day two, we dove into equipment preparation & general organizing for the flight in. As you might imagine, everything is weighed, & re-weighed, looking for the perfect number for our flight weights.
Day three, the group rose early for their flight departure. All of the gear, food & other supplies were loaded into the 3 planes & took off for a beautiful 2 hour scenic flight to the North, Drysdale River Station, the beginning of the field adventure!
For the next 4.5 weeks they will explore this amazing river corridor winding their way through Pandanas thickets, portaging their canoes around waterfalls, & learning how to live in the wilderness comfortably.
We expect to next see the group on May 13th, as they wrap up their hiking section.
Here's an outline of their schedule…
Drysdale Canoeing section – Drysdale River
10 March – 18 April
Students will be resupplied by helicopter on the 18th, & will NOT have access to any outside communication devices during that time.
Hiking section, Drysdale River National Park, Kimberley
19 April – 13 May
Students will likely be in Broome for the night of May 13, & may have phone access.
14- 20 May
Students will be in Broome, for the final night of the semester on May 20th, & may have phone access.
The following day of the 21st, we will graduate, celebrate, & then drop them to their accommodation that afternoon.
For those wishing to send mail, students will be able to receive it the following dates only - May 13th & 20th
Keep in mind; we are a long way off the beaten path here, so if you want something to arrive on time, be sure to check your outgoing delivery estimates!
Also, remember to check this Blog site for updates & photos around those contact dates, & pass the link around to your friends!
Cheers! - The NOLS Australia team.
NOLS Australia thanks our Student Graduates from 2012 Season!
Today, August the 17th, we fare-welled our last student group of the 2012 season!
It has been another fabulous year, with 2 semesters (including canoe, hike, sea kayak & cultural sections between them...), 2 combo courses (hike & sea kayak) & one great Hike & Cultural course.
In all, we have seen 44 happy students, freshly showered after many days, laughing & recounting stories, dining on kangarro meat & pavalova, while celebrating at the branch graduation BBQ!
This is a special THANKS to all the students who braved daunting travel logistics & signed up for the unknown in a far away land...
But also, let us not forget the parents, family & friends who supported them to get here, & who are eagerly waiting to share in the stories of the adventure when they return.
THANK YOU to you all!
- The NOLS Australia team.
SAS 6/8/12 - Australian Semester Section Switch
The beginning of this week saw the SAS students return after a successful hiking section.
I had the pleasure of hearing about their adventures, and believe me, they had a few!
Highlights included exploring the canyons of the King Leopolds, discovering hidden art work sites, & building their community through the challenge & adversity of difficult travel days. Additionally, there were plenty of wildlife sightings...snakes, crocodiles, kangaroos & even a wild boar. The favorite shower method was of course, under the numerous waterfalls or in the swimming holes throughout the region.
One of the instructors was unfortunately injured, & left the field in the 3rd ration period. Students were incredible helpful during & after this process, & did a fantastic job of supporting each-other.
By the end of the course, instructors felt students had reached a high competence level, & so they set to planning a 3 day student only expedition, to finish up the section. They students divided into 2 groups & set out on their own, testing all they had learned for the previous 3.5 weeks.
Back here in Broome, the group was re-united with the evacuated instructor & spent the evening preparing themselves for the last section of their semester...the Cultural section.
This week they will be in Bardi country...exploring the coastal area of the Kimberley, & learning about the aboriginal peoples & their culture & history.
We look forward to seeing them again next Monday to begin the graduation celebrations!
ACS 7/4/12 Switch from Sea Kayaking to Hiking
Late last week ACS 7/4/12 was transported from the Dampier Archipelago 800kms south of Broome, back to the NOLS base. It was a long drive, with the bus pushing into an easterly wind blowing across the flat savanna plains. It was 6.30pm when the driver and students arrived back at the NOLS base, elated by their adventures in the Dampier Archipelago marine reserve, the group was in high spirits.
Highlights for the students included walking through zillions of luminescent zoo plankton on the way back to camp after experiencing a stunning sunset, paddling with a pod of 100 tuna fish and kayak surfing off angel island.
For two intense hours after dinner, students focused on familiarising themselves with their backpack, and lessening their personal gear to lighten their load for the hike to come. Everyone enjoyed a well earned shower before bed.
The next morning the vehicle was loaded with backpacks, rations and fresh road lunch before heading off for another 6 hr journey to their hiking section drop off point in the King Leopold ranges. They are off for another adventure!
ACS 6/21/12 switch from hiking to sea kayaking
Late last week we welcomed ACS 6/21/12 back from their hiking section in the King Leopolds. In fine spirits, highlights on their hiking section included the amazing campsites with stunning waterfalls as well as a day spent swimming through a remote gorge/canyon.
Students spent the final 5 days of the section hiking in small groups independant of instructors, consolidating their risk management and leadership skills.
The group were excited to head onto their sea kayaking leg and spent time at the NOLS base switching gear before heading to the local caravan park for a well earned shower and rest.
The trip to Dampier Archipelago is 10hrs, after which they met their two sea kayak instructors to head out for another adventure.
The group is now self sufficient until Thursday 2/Aug when they start their journey back to the NOLS base for final course wrap up and graduation.
Australia Summer Semester (SAS 6/8/12) Hiking Resupply
The Australian Semester finished up their 3-week sea kayak section in the Dampier Archipelago on Friday 6/July. After 10 hours in the vehicle, the group were welcomed back to the NOLS base for a brief and busy transition to their hike section. Students met their hiking instructors (Cass and Karin joined Nick who continued on from the Kayaking section) before switching gear, resupplying food, showering, washing clothes and learning how to pack their backpack ready for their next adventure!
This past weekend, the NOLS driver headed into the King Leopold Ranges, a 8 hour drive from Broome, to give the SAS group their first hike food resupply. They are all doing well, looking after each other and enjoying the great Australian outback.
ABC 6/27 Hike resupply 15/July/12
Paul, the primary NOLS Australia driver, has this past weekend headed into the King Leopolds to resupply both the ABC 6/27 and SAS 6/8 courses. The Australian backpacking course received their 2nd of 3 food resupplies. All appear happy, enjoying the adventure, supporting each other and at one with the Australian outback!
The group sent out a story update on their travels for the blog... here are their words.
"This past week we passed from the Adcock River area into the Lady Forrest Region. We welcomed the relief of a lighter ration of 6 days of food, four less than our last ration of 10. Our first instructor-free day of hiking was a success as both groups arrived at the designated campsite unscathed and well before sunset.
The next day, we undertook a solo, which consists of 12 hours spent in reflection solitude following a collective vow of silence. We took the opportunity to consider our group and personal goals in the context of their relevance to life after NOLS. After the much-anticipated reunion we cooked a hearty meal with our leftover ration with a newfound appreciation for the gift of conversation.
The climax of our week, however, came two days earlier when we made our way through a swim thru canyon gauntlet. This entailed extensive waterproofing, floating backpacks, clambering up waterfalls and of course a flair for the unknown and adventure. Despite a night spent
in wet sleeping bags, we are all glad to have had the experience and agree we have enough college essay material to last a lifetime!"