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Monthly Archives: January 2012

HEY FNQ. TIME TO DONATE BLOOD. AND PLASMA (NOT YOUR PLASMA TV)

THERE’S AN OLD AUSTRALIAN EXPRESSION USED WHEN WE TALK ABOUT A REALLY GOOD PERSON. WE SAY “YOUR BLOOD’S WORTH BOTTLING”. EFFINCUE (FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND) IS BLESSED WITH MANY FOLKS OF WHOM THIS CAN BE SAID. AND IF WE DID BOTTLE THEIR BLOOD, WE’D SEE IT’S RED. RIGHT?

Not always. The people at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service in Cairns tell me there’s a part of our blood called plasma. When you separate plasma from blood, what you get is definitely not red. It’s the colour of one of those passion-fruit fizzy drinks. Yellow. Some prefer to say it’s the colour of a very fine pale ale.

   Plasma is a real life-saver and it’s always in demand. It takes a bit   longer to donate plasma than whole blood, but you can donate more often – every couple of weeks.

   One in three of us will need a blood product at some stage of our lives, but only one in 30 is a blood donor. Most donated blood goes to people with cancer and blood diseases. Plasma can make 17 different products that help wound healing and clotting. And you can donate platelets, which help people on chemotherapy or who have leukaemia.

  Blood donations do slow down during the Xmas holidays, but the demand for blood products doesn’t drop – it’s often higher during the holiday season. The Cairns Blood Donor Centre has done pretty well over Xmas, meeting its whole blood targets most weeks. But they need more plasma donors. Right now!

Click on the audio player to hear SANDY HOLMES explain the different types of blood donation, and the many life-saving uses your blood could have here in FNQ.

If you want to donate blood call 131495 or go to www.donateblood.com.au

The Cairns Donor Centre is on Sheridan St North Cairns, part of the new Queensland Health facility. Best to contact them first, but if you want to just turn up, Thursdays and Fridays are best. And the Friday after Australia Day would be a good choice for an appointment. There’s a sort of long weekend there, but the Donor Centre will be open on the Friday.

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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Cairns Queensland, EFFINCUE, far north Queensland, health

 

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A PERFECT DAY FOR FLYING FNQ SKIES

ONE THOUSAND FEET OVER RUSSELL HEADS FNQ

TODAY WAS THE PERFECT MORNING FOR ONE OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS – FLYING. CLEAR SKIES, A LIGHT NORTH-EASTER. A RARE THING IN THE WET SEASON – A PERFECT MORNING FOR FLYING, AT LEAST OVER THE WATER.

Rising hot air inland would make for a rough ride, and thunderstorms were already developing on the western Tablelands. But along the coast, it was glorious so that’s where I went this morning at the controls of Cessna 172 VH-LIO.

I’ve been in love with aircraft and flying since the first time I flew in 1965. Sydney to Coolangatta on a TAA Viscount. The view through the Viscount’s big windows was amazing as we climbed over Botany Bay. The acceleration, slipping free of gravity, the sensations of flight, it was all amazing and I was hooked.

TAA VICKERS VISCOUNT SYDNEY MID 60S

And I’ve stayed hooked on flying ever since. I always wanted to learn how to fly. At age nine I wrote to Qantas applying for a pilot job. They wrote back suggesting I wait a few years and do well in maths and science. Uh-oh. I did poorly in both, went off to Uni and drifted into journalism. Thankfully, it’s a line of work that has involved a lot of flying as a passenger. Here in Australia, around the Pacific, all over the world in all kinds of aircraft.

When I arrived in Cairns ten years ago, I was driving to work at the ABC when I passed a sign on the Cook Highway. “Learn to fly today” was what it said. I doubled back to the North Queensland Aero Club and started lessons within a few days. Ten years later I have almost 100 hours in my log-book and I’ve seen some magnificent sights, met some great folks, all through flying.

Learning to fly has been expensive, but immensely rewarding. It requires practice, study, and the cost means you’ll have to budget. But the basic skills are not that hard to pick up. Flying straight and level, turning, climbing and descending – they all come together quite easily. Even taking off. As for landings, well that’s another story. Things get very busy as you head down towards the runway, the wind starts to mess with your intentions. Getting my landings right was a long and frustrating business but I’m pleased to say today’s landing was pretty good.

With chief instructor Sally Scott supervising and taking the pictures, we took off from Cairns runway 33, turned right over the Barron River and tracked out across Trinity Inlet on climb to 1500 ft. We turned right after False Cape, passed east of Yarrabah and out over the Coral sea, heading south parallel to the coast. The hillsides, beaches and islands look beautiful. The sea is like glass, a stunning tropical blue. We do some orbits around High Island, hoping to spot the sometimes elusive manta ray who lives in area. No sighting, but the view is breath-taking.

We head across to Russell Heads and then to Bramston Beach, before turning north towards Cape Grafton. That’s when we call Cairns Approach on the air traffic control radio for permission to enter the busy Cairns control zone. We’re cleared to track along the southern shore of Trinity Inlet, pointing roughly at the Cairns Base Hospital. It’s a great view of the city on this approach. We descend and make the right turn to line up with the runway, flying along above north Cairns, the big Captain Cook looming out the left window.

That’s when the pilot gets busy. The hot air rising from the mangroves creates turbulence, the cross-wind wants to push us too far left of the approach path. We’re slowing down, trying to judge the decent profile and correct for the cross-wind while making sure the turbulence doesn’t send us climbing again. Lots of work on the controls, juggling the speed, telling the plane what I want it to do.

We cross the airport access road at about 300 ft and then we’re over the runway. I’m grappling with the controls, pushing against the unhelpful wind and get it down to about 20 feet over the centre line and flare the aircraft. The 172 loves to climb and fly. It’s less fond of landing, but slowly the speed washes off, the plane sinks gently onto the runway and we’re home. All up, about one hour 20 minutes of sheer delight.

If you’ve ever dreamed of learning to fly, here’s a tip. It’s way better than you’ve ever imagined. You’ll learn a lot, as much about yourself as about aeroplanes and meteorology. You’ll feel a profound sense of accomplishment, you’ll enjoy FNQ’s wonderful community of aviators. And you’ll look out the window, on mornings like today, and see from up high the best sights this country has to offer. 

For more info about learning to fly www.nqac.com.au

A few years back I recorded one of my early flying lessons and played it on the radio. Sally Scott took me up in a Cessna 150. Click the audio player to hear Sally talk me through the art of flying a light plane. 

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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Cairns Queensland, Coral Sea, EFFINCUE, far north Queensland, transport & roads

 

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CYCLONE SEASON – INSIDE ABC FAR NORTH CYCLONE WATCH

TC LARRY SATELLITE IMAGE (courtesy Bureau of Meteorology)

IT’S BEEN AN UNEVENTFUL START TO THE CYCLONE SEASON HERE IN FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND. TC FINA WANDERED THE CORAL SEA BEFORE XMAS, AND GRANT MADE IT TO CAPE YORK AS A TROPICAL LOW AROUND THE SAME TIME. FOR MOST OF US, GLORIOUS WEATHER. VERY LITTLE RAIN.

So the arrival of TC Heidi in W.A yesterday was a timely reminder that it is still cyclone season, and we should be prepared for whatever may come between now and May.

My radio station, ABC Far North, maintains a look-out for cyclones through the season (November to May). When it looks like something’s brewing, we’re ready to bring you the warnings, position reports and vital information 24 hours a day. That state of readiness doesn’t just happen out of the blue. Planning for cyclone season begins back in the middle of the dry time, and we review our plans daily once the season gets going.

I’ve specialised in weather-watching for about eight years now. I’m no meteorologist, but I’ve had a long interest in the weather, encouraged by my high school science teacher, who was also a TV weather forecaster. I studied aviation meteorology for my pilot license a few years back, and I’ve done a lot of research on cyclones in recent times. All that adds up to knowing what to look for, and what questions to ask our weather forecasters when cyclones are heading our way.

So here’s my typical day during cyclone season. My primary resource is the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. www.bom.gov.au

Get to know this web-site. It’s an amazing resource. You need to check both the Queensland AND Northern Territory pages, as NT cyclones can head into the Gulf of Carpentaria and make for FNQ. I check the cyclone three-day outlooks, current observations, forecasts, satellite images, and most important of all, the mean sea level pressure weather charts.

WEATHER CHART AT THE START OF 2011 BIG WET (Courtesy Bureau of Meteorology)

That chart was from the start of last year’s horror wet season. Three cyclones all at once and TC Yasi waiting in the wings. Let’s hope we don’t see that again for a long time. But you can see the dotted blue line linking Bianca and Anthony. That’s the monsoon trough, where most cyclones form. When the monsoon is active close to Australia, that’s a danger period. http://www.abc.net.au/storm/monsoon/what.htm

I also check forecasting agencies around the Pacific & the Coral Sea. Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Zealand. And I stay in touch with US Navy forecasting, and the many agencies that forecast tropical weather. They all use powerful computers and forecast models, and they often come up with differing predictions. Ultimately, the ABC provides you with the Australian B.O.M forecasts, but all that other information helps me understand their thinking and ask the right questions.

And then there’s the amazing network of people who listen to us and take the trouble to call or e-mail with observations, rainfall figures, and their own predictions. I get observations from pilots flying FNQ skies, from listeners who’ve seen the birds leaving the area, or maybe it’s the green ants swarming the way they did before cyclone Yasi. It all helps shape a picture of what’s going on and what may be coming.

I filter all of this through our local B.O.M forecasters in Cairns, and we get that information to you on the radio and on our website www.abc.net.au/farnorth .

That’s how it goes several times a day, seven days a week, right through the cyclone season. My colleagues at other ABC Radio stations in the tropics are at it as well, all under the guidance of managers with specific responsibility for the ABC response to emergencies. http://www.abc.net.au/news/emergency/

At the first sign of a developing low pressure system in or near our region, you’ll hear about it on ABC Far North. Our coverage escalates in proportion to the threat, and continues long after the event, when FNQ communities rely on us for information about emergency response, repairs and recovery.

TC LARRY TRACK MAP (Courtesy Bureau of Meteorology)

We often broadcast from areas affected by cyclones and floods, sometimes under circumstances that are personally and technically challenging. We spend a lot of time prior to cyclone season making sure we’re prepared. The emergency kit is packed, batteries are charged, leads, cables & aerials checked and double-checked. Put a power regulator in the kit. Generator power is often unregulated, or “dirty”. It can ruin rechargeable batteries in phones, computers and other gear. Regulators (and some surge protectors) will deal with that. A valuable lesson from last year’s horror summer.

And each of us has a personal cyclone kit ready to go. Change of clothes, good footwear, food, medicine, first aid kit, battery powered radio, toilet paper, jelly beans, torch, batteries, water, a book, hand-wash, cash. For tips on preparing a cyclone kit http://www.emergency.qld.gov.au/emq/css/emergencykit.asp

And then, as the old corporal in Dad’s Army used to say – “don’t panic”. Cyclones are scary, some more than others. But the better prepared you are, the less risk of panic. And that preparation has to include decisions about whether it’ll be safe to be somewhere during a cyclone. Re-location or evacuation before the event might be the best decision.

Wherever you ride out the cyclone, have your battery powered radio with you. And heaps of fresh batteries. Get to know the various ABC Far North frequencies in your area — you may be able to hear more than one and that will be useful if a cyclone knocks one of our transmission towers down. http://www.abc.net.au/reception/freq/

And we’ll be providing info on social media as well. We use Twitter and other platforms. For info go to http://blogs.abc.net.au/queensland/2012/01/far-north-queensland-cyclone-season-twitter-can-help.html

And anytime you want to yarn about the weather, comment here or e-mail me at dinnen.richard@abc.net.au

EVEN OUR BANANAS GOT A HIDING DURING TC LARRY




 
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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Cairns Queensland, Cape York Peninsula, Coral Sea, cyclones, EFFINCUE, environment, tropical weather & climate

 

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MERSEY BEAT HITMAKERS THE SEARCHERS COMING TO CAIRNS

BY THE EARLY 1960S THE BEATLES HAD TURNED THE WORLD ON TO BRITISH POP MUSIC. LIKE THE BEATLES, MANY OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL U.K ACTS HAILED FROM THE AREA AROUND LIVERPOOL, A PHENOMENON THAT CAME TO BE KNOWN BY THE NAME OF LIVERPOOL’S RIVER, MERSEY BEAT.

Liverpool was a major port in those days, and music moved through it every bit as much as all the more mundane imports and exports. Not surprisingly, Liverpool embraced the American music brought into port by ship crews, folk, black music, all kinds of sounds not previously heard in the U.K. The skiffle sound got going, out of which came The Beatles and the other Mersey bands, including THE SEARCHERS.

The Searchers go back to a 1957 skiffle band, and became The Searchers in 1962. They’re marking their 50th anniversary with an Australian tour that brings them to the Cairns Civic Theatre on February 23rd.

Frank Allen has been playing bass with the Searchers since 1964 — and he’s looking forward to seeing Australia again. He makes no bones about The Searchers these days being a “nostalgia” act, but business is good — they’re one of the world’s busiest bands.

Click here to listen to the interview with Frank Allen.

Read more about The Searchers at http://www.the-searchers.co.uk/

and details of their Cairns performance at http://www.cairnscivictheatre.com.au/events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=fad144be-70ad-43cf-a340-f16c9ae5c3f4

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Cairns Queensland, EFFINCUE, far north Queensland

 

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MUSIC LEGEND PETULA CLARK COMING TO CAIRNS

I LISTENED TO THE RADIO A LOT AS A KID, AND ONE OF MY EARLY RADIO MEMORIES IS HEARING PETULA CLARK SINGING “DOWNTOWN”. IT’S A GREAT SONG, WRITTEN FOR HER BY TONY HATCH, AND BECAME THE FIRST OF MANY HIT RECORDS FOR PETULA CLARK.

So imagine how excited I was this morning when I got to interview Petula Clark! She’s coming to FNQ in March, to begin an Australian tour, PETULA CLARK – Once More with Love, at the Cairns Civic Theatre on March 2nd. Details at http://www.cairnscivictheatre.com.au/events/EventDetails.aspx?ID=0ea8316f-7698-40a4-9b57-65bc07174d87

Petula also performs in Townsville on March 3rd.

Petula Clark began her showbiz career on British radio during WW2, was one of the pioneers of UK television, she was a successful film actress and all of that before she began her recording career. She had a string of hit songs through the 60s, and has branched out into stage musicals and theatre

Here is this morning’s interview with Petula Clark.

 
 

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WHICH ROAD TO CAPE YORK – THE ROUGH OR THE ROUGH AS GUTS?

IF YOU’RE PLANNING A DRIVE TO THE TOP OF CAPE YORK PENINSULA, YOU’LL HAVE MANY DECISIONS TO MAKE. YOU CAN STICK TO THE PENINSULA DEVELOPMENT ROAD AND GET THERE IN A COUPLE OF DAYS. OR YOU CAN WANDER OFF THE MAIN ROAD AND TAKE WEEKS OR MONTHS TO EXPLORE THE COUNTRY.

EVENTUALLY, YOU COME TO BRAMWELL JUNCTION, AND THAT’S WHEN YOU HAVE TO MAKE A POSSIBLY FATEFUL DECISION. THE ROUGH ROAD, OR THE ROUGH AS GUTS TRACK?

The decision point is the Brawmell Junction road house, where fuel, food and good advice is available. And the table tops are covered with photos of 4WDs that have chosen the rough as guts option of the Old Telegraph Track, usually abbreviated to the OTT. The track, and some of the pictures, are not for the faint-hearted.

From Bramwell, you can veer right and take the Bypass Road to Bamaga and the Tip. It’s very corrugated in places, which makes for slow going and a rough ride.Or you can head on to the bush track to the left of the road house and make for the OTT.

The Track follows the route of the original telegraph line built in the 1880s. For a long time the OTT was the only way to the tip.They stopped maintaining it when the Telegraph Line closed in the 80s, and the Bypass Road opened around the same time.

You might manage the Bypass Road in a 2WD during the dry, but the OTT is 4WD only, and can’t be done during the wet season. There are challenging river and creek crossings, some deep sand, and as we discovered, even the approaches to the water crossings are hair-raising. Click on the audio player to hear how Phil and I went as we tried the so-called easy crossing at Palm Creek on the OTT.

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OK – we chickened out of the OTT at the first crossing – Palm Creek. The creek was dry but the approach to it was steep and rough. No way the ABC would let us take the 4WD through there. So we u-turned, went back to Bramwell Junction and headed north on the Bypass Road. It’s no picnic, but a gentle drive in the country compared to the OTT. The Track is a magnet for 4WD enthusiasts. If you want to have a crack at it do some research on the Web. http://www.fc4magazine.com/old-telegraph-track.html is a good start.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Cape York Peninsula, EFFINCUE, far north Queensland, transport & roads

 

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