Coarse Art and The Transit

Monday we drove into Kakadu National Park, where there was still time at the end of the day to go to Ubirr, one of the main rock art sites. Aboriginal rock art there ranges from 20,000 years old to the present; some of it was restored in 1964 by “Barramundi Charlie”. They are serious about not taking the artifacts seriously — it was performance art in 20,000 BC and it’s performance art now. Many of the drawings are of fish and other animals: one of the galleries was apparently used as a teaching guide for fishing and hunting. A ranger being followed by an educational film crew gave a talk about about the art, and we saw a sunset from a nearby lookout.

Tuesday we had time to explore the Nourlangie art site. In addition to drawings of fish, there were various spirits, and even some hands reminiscent of Cueva de las Manos in Argentina. Some of them were making gang signs as well — the three fingers held together in the center, and the outer two spread. On the way to and from Nourlangi, we stopped at an overpass and watched egrets fighting, bee-eaters foraging, cormorants drying their wings, some spoonbills and many ducks hanging around, and a few mighty Jabirus wandering around and plucking things out of the water. The day was annoyingly cloudy, a little concerning on the eve of the transit of Venus. Many of the previous cloudy days were described as “clear” on all the weather sites, but at some point we finally got a site to admit that it was “cloudy” in Darwin, though it was expected to be clear later.

And indeed, on Wednesday morning, it is gloriously clear, and we set up the telescope and have been watching Venus move in its orbit across the face of the sun. We have heard stories from many fellow travelers as they have come by to look at the sun. Whenever we lose the sun it takes fifteen minutes to find it. Fortunately, the transit moves at a more stately pace than a lot of occultations we struggle against.