The Ville of Towns


I made it to Townsville!!!  Hands in the air and a big hurray.  All together I was in transit almost 36 hours before I

I arrived on the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebration and was greeted at the gate with two cupcakes, a British flag napkin,a tea sachet, and none other than the Queen herself and a lovely Virgin Australia flight attendent…how appropriate:)

arrived assembled my bicycle and made it to the Town centre=center (note to self…always bike on the side of the road where cars are not coming towards you…forgot I was in a commonwealth country).

I stayed in a nice little hostel the first night and was able to tour around the city and see where the museum, port to Magnetic Islands, and main thoroughfare is located.  I woke the next morning unfortunately at 4am and decided to continue my cycling journey and watch the sun rise.  When I came back to my abode I weighted myself and my bike down with my bags and slowly rode to James Cook University.

Townsville Port morning sunrise (second day).

My short morning travels took me along the Ross River on an amazing bike path that eventually displayed signs for JCU.  The banks of the river were incredibly lush with trees, flowers, and multiple conversations between all different types of birds. I quickly got checked in to my “temporary” housing trailor…aptly named by the locals a dongo.

Holey Dooley, lots of yakka (U.S. translation….”oh my gosh, so much work):

  The Cyclone Testing Centre at JCU is not an organization supported by JCU, but rather the group funds itself by continuously testing cladding, multiple types of building materials, promoting cyclone safety to Northern Queensland, and developing new information and research that will aid building structures in areas that are subjected to cyclonic conditions.  I am personally working with David (site director) on designing 10 tripod anemometer testing stations that can be deployed quickly during the cyclone season (starts the beginning of November).  The immediate constraints involved in designing the system are:

  • must be able to withstand 224 mph winds
  • must be able to be deployed in under 20 minutes
    • not very heavy or big
    • two person teams at most
  • must be able to have optimized stability where anemomter is located (rigid or vibrational dampening)
  • must be 3-3.5m tall
  • must be able to be secured in any type of sediment (Townsville consists of mostly clay and sand).

I have had a very fun time reading multiple articles and introductory texts on both wind and structural mechanics in order to begin understanding what type of design will best suit these constraints.  I have also been researching any type of systems that has already been made that takes some of these ideas into considerations.  I was really excited to learn more about guy anchors and guy wires, as well as earth screws.  It is so great finding names and uses to all the different mechanisms that are in front of me everyday that I can now put into context.  Guy wires are everywhere and cantilevered systems are anything from signs to bridges.

David and I went to Campbell Scientific, which amazingly has its headquarters in Townsville.  The anemometer and instrumentation that will be added to the tripod system was made and designed by Campbell and is also currently being used in Texas by Professor Schroeder’s group for the Sticknet project (very similar to what we are doing).  The difference between what Schroeder’s group is doing with Sticknet and our group is that the Cyclone Testing Site is specifically and only interested in structures and how wind is effecting different types of materials, whereas Schroeder is using the system for meteorological research.  The world of wind engineering is very small and the group seems to have first hand experience with most of the engineers world wide studying this field.

This week I have also enjoyed watching Warren and Tony test concrete and steel reinforcement as well as Bipin testing the fasteners on corrugated roofing using the air pressure chambers.   I have kept myself very busy with all of the reading materials and beginning designs.  Next week I will meet with Kirk (mechanical engineer) to go over designs and hopefully begin building a prototype.

Evenings and around JCU

 JCU has a beautiful campus with many little bike paths and a really fantastic library.  Final exams are occurring for the next two weeks and so the library has extended its hours and I have taken full advantage of it.  The weather has been incredible with cool mornings and evenings and very nice temps throughout the day.  I feel very privileged to be here during the winter season and have access (with a bike!!) to such a great university.  I can not believe my only objective is to learn as much as possible while I am here….this is so great!!  Every evening at dusk I have been taking my bike down to Ross River (bisects Townsville) and biking the paths.  I have seen many bats, almost hit a wallaby, and had a minor bike accident after avoiding a bush turkey (apparently their populations are up since they have been able to control the feral cat populations).

Queen’s  Birthday Weekend

Cam, a colleague of mine, invited me to join him Saturday morning (at 6:45am…arrghh) for the 40th annual Townsville Road Runners club celebration.  I was able to cycle there just in time for an 10k run (6 miles) along the Ross River.  It was a great way to see more of Townsville as well as meet some great Townie folk.  After the run Cam told me about a music folk festival that is held every Queen’s birthday holiday called the Palm Creek Festival.  Upon returning back to my dongo I researched the trip distance I used google maps to estimate the median throughout the trip and decided to bike down on Saturday, camp out, and return Sunday afternoon.  The bike trip was estimated around 36-38 miles along Bruce Highway.  I filled up my camelbak and started my first bike trip in Australia.  The median on Bruce highway proved to be okay throughout, but what I hadn’t judged was the amount of road kill that I would find.  There were dead kangaroos, wallabies, and many unidentified little furry things throughout my entire journey and unfortunately their little desiccating bodies gave some pretty ferocious smells from time to time.

I reached the folk festival mid afternoon after observing beautiful sites on my journey and a quick snickers bar break at a petrol station.  The festival was in full swing with three different tents filled with music and really great vejjo (vegetarian) food being offered by multiple vendors.  I listened to some music and ate a late lunch then ventured to find an Australian who was teaching how to make bread in the outback with coal and simple ingredients (called dampers…but he added oil where there normally would be no oil or butter).  While the bread was rising he made “outback tea” where he took a kettle that was hanging over the coals and a huge handful  of tea leaves and threw both in an old aluminum tin can and let the leaves steep for about 10-15 minutes.  The bread and tea were ready at about the same time and tasted amazing together.  When I returned back to the main tent Cam and his wife Sue were on stage with their band “Wattle and Gun”  playing old tunes and teaching folk dancing to a huge Australian crowd.  I joined in, was able to step a bit and felt like I was back home in Oregon well on my way to square dancing.

The rest of the night had pretty amazing acts and was able to find a nice grassy place to sleep only to be covered by heavy dew in the morning.  I had a quick walk-around and watched people do their morning yoga and headed back to Townsville hoping traffic would not be too heavy.  On my way I passed the Billabong Sanctuary and went in to find a great little conservation area promoting education and rehabilitation to multiple types of Australian native species.  All of the species were truly spectacular, however I was really interested in two main facts.  One that the Barramundi fish (native to Australia) is a male for the first five years of its life and then changes sex and is able to spawn after the fifth year…amazing.  Two, the long-beaked echidna (think of a spiny looking anteater) is a monotremes or egg-laying mammal that derived from Papa New Guinea, but can now be found all over Australia.  When I saw the echidna it was daytime and it had dug itself into the ground and only its little spiny back could be seen.

Sunday evening I was invited to my Professors house for an amazing Sri Lankan meal and the chance to meet his entire family plus multiple friends.  I felt very welcomed and happy to be there.  I ate using my hand instead of using cutlery (I much prefer this) as customary and had a great nights sleep upon returning “home”.  John and the cyclone group have made me feel very welcomed to JCU and Townsville…I feel very fortunate to be working with so many great people.

3 responses »

  1. Paige! What an awesome trip. I am in awe of how you’re able to pack so many great experiences. Just such a fabulous time!

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