Marking time

Marking time in July 2006

Wednesday 26 July 2006


Yesterday I did Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. I spent the morning watching video clips of helicopter crashes, and hearing the theory of surviving a crash into the sea. After lunch the 14 of us did practical training in the cool water of the Queensland Police Academy swimming pool.

Six trainees strapping into the simulator.

It went like this:

  1. Wearing our ordinary clothes and shoes, plus a crash helmet, we swam out to the similator, which was hanging from a crane.
  2. We each took our seat (a different one for each drill) and strapped ourself in.
  3. The trainer signalled the crane driver’s offsider, who signalled the crane driver, who hoisted the simulator and its cargo a few metres above the water.
  4. The trainer yelled Ditching! Ditching! Ditching!
  5. We each yelled Brace! Brace! Brace! and took up the brace position.
  6. The crane driver let the brake go, and the similator splashed down.
  7. We each took a deep breath before the cabin filled with water over our heads.
  8. We each calmly held our breath while opening the nearest door (or waited while someone else did so), checked that the exit passage was clear, unfastened our seat belt, proceeded to the exit, and floated to the surface.
  9. We each swam to the edge of the pool, and the trainer told us what we had done wrong and how we could do better.
  10. The crane lifted the simulator to the starting position and we did it all again, with variations: escaping across the cabin through the opposite door, escaping with the cabin flipped upside-down, escaping upside-down while blindfolded.
Two trainers (with snorkels) and two other divers (with SCUBA gear) watch as the six trainees open the doors of the inverted simulator, unfasten their seat belts and make their escape. It’s an anxious time for the onlookers. I won’t say what it’s like for the trainees.

After that, the rest of the drills were easy and, relatively, fun. We donned life jackets and tried body-heat-conserving attitudes (solo, and in huddles). We righted a capsized life raft and climbed aboard. We practised pulling injured people into the raft.

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Monday 24 July 2006

Rained-in at Nobby’s Head

Last week at Nobby’s Head lighthouse I met heavy weather: Rain, and cold gusty winds. It’s a long cold walk from the car, and the same going back.

Imagine being in the lantern room. Through the glass you can see the grey sea, the white capped waves, the rain lashing the lighthouse. The rain is beating on the copper roof. The noise is reverberating on the copper ceiling, the glass to seaward, the steel plates to landward, the stone walls, the wooden floor. The wind is driving a little bit of rain through the ventilator on the top of the lantern room roof. As the storm builds up, it sounds like this:

Sound clip 1 (236K mp3, 00:00:30)

Later, the wind and rain abate,and the noise becomes calmer. You can hear a few water drops fall from the ceiling onto the floor, the splashes echoing in the space:

Sound clip 2 (236K mp3, 00:00:30)

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Saturday 1 July 2006

The grand tour: travelling the world with an architect’s eye

In this pleasing and quirky book Harry Seidler lays out a col­lec­tion of his travel photographs. He has been an ardent traveller, photographer and observer of architecture since he was a student.

My photographer brother, Marcell (1919-1977) gave me simple advice when I started to record architectural sites “Only use Leica cameras and Kodachrome film, which is archival”. I have adhered to this in taking all images in this book, some over 50 years ago.

The book reflects Seidler’s interests, itineraries and influences. The pictures are gathered into country chapters, starting with Egypt, proceeding through Greece, Italy, Germany and France, and ending with Thailand, Cambodia and Australia. The chapter order seems random, and there is little text - a short intro to each country, and basic captions to identify each place or building.

The real value of the book is in the photographs. These are better than the usual holiday snaps. Seidler had a keen eye for ar­chi­tec­ture and a thorough grasp of photographic technique. Given the limitations of the hand-held 35mm camera he has done a fine job of recording the places he saw. The camera was his notebook for recording the character, form and detail of buildings, and this book lets us rummage in his slide collection.

Harry Seidler’s photograph of the Holocaust Memorial in Vienna, the city from which he fled, at the age of 15, in 1938.

The grand tour is a fat 700 pages, but is not too big to read in bed.

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