30 November 2011

Waking Up Down Under

I haven't finished penning the story of my Sri Lankan mishap yet, but I couldn't help but start my next adventure. This morning I woke up in Australia. No, not all of a sudden, but rather after a somewhat perplexing 16-zone time change and two full turns of the calendar between JFK and Sydney. Who was it that said in regard to sea sickness that it feels like you're going to die when you have it, but to everyone else around you it's just funny? Ditto on the jetlag.

There's a lot on my agenda in Oz -- not to mention a lot of physical ground to cover --
between now and December 23rd. Antarctic Beech trees that have inched their way out of now frozen pole over tens of thousands of years to settle on the Gold Coast. A Eucalyptus so rare that all I can tell you is that it's in New South Wales and might be 10,000 years old. In Western Australia there are the Stromatolites, which are beyond fascinating and beautifully complex, and their neighbor to the south, a 5,000-year-old Gum tree. And the two clonal organisms in Tasmania that caught my fancy back in 2006 when this project was still but a twinkle in my eye: the 10,000-year-old clonal Huon Pine on Mount Read, and the Lomatia Tasmanica...a 43,600-year-old clonal shrub that is literally the last of its kind left on earth, and yet theoretically immortal. The sheer magnitude of its solitary existence and unfathomable perseverance gives me a chill every time I think about it. But you can't just stroll right up to this wonder (save for visiting a clipping in the Hobart botanical garden.) I'm still working on securing permission to visit the two Tasmanian sites.

It struck me on the plane ride over that I had no idea what The Oldest Living Things would become back when I first photographed the Giant Sequoias and other California elders that are, relatively speaking, close to home, and how fortunate that I waited to come to Australia. If I had made this trip in the project's nascent stages, I wouldn't have known about half of the organisms on my current itinerary. I'm glad to be taking this journey now, having learned a great deal about what to look for and how to look for it in the intervening years. 

Today my primary goal is a simple one: to stay awake during daylight hours. Tonight I'm embracing the idiosyncrasies of travel by accepting an invitation to see Eddie Izzard perform live. And on Saturday it's up to the Gold Coast to kick off a few weeks of photographing organisms tens of thousands of years in the making.