29 April, 2015

The power of art

Occasionally I come across a topic which is too good not to write about, but which has little or no connection to the Barwon River. I recently came across another such subject - or so I thought, however as often happens, I scratched the surface a little and lo and behold, a connection to the Barwon appeared before my eyes.
The subject in question is the decommissioned Geelong B Power Station, situated in North Geelong. The plant was officially opened on the 8th October, 1954 by the State Electricity Commission (SEC) to supply the grid with an extra 30,000 kilowatt capacity. In its day, it was the largest steam-driven power plant in the state outside of Yallourn. It was constructed under contract for the SEC from a package purchased from the USA and supplied electricity until its decommissioning in 1970. During its final few years of operation the plant operated only during periods of peak demand as the facilities in the Latrobe Valley were more economical to run.
An aerial view of Geelong Power Station B, image held by Museum Victoria
From 1970 until recently, the building sat derelict. Stripped of its fittings and frequented by vandals and drug-users, the building appeared on Internet lists of abandoned buildings known as "abandos". Then, in late 2014 things began to change. The debris was cleaned up and under the auspices of Ian Ballis who now leases the site an astounding new art project began to emerge.

Curator Ian Ballis making some alterations

The Incredible Hulk...a work in progress...
With Ballis curating the venture, renowned street artist Rone was invited to leave his mark on the walls of the old power station whilst other well known artists such as Duke and Ed Bechervise (aka Unwell Bunny) are amongst several hundred to have contributed so far to the creation of this unique art space.
Jane Doe, painted by Rone
So quickly has word spread, that artists from as far afield as Korea, Japan, Poland and - if the accents I heard during one visit are anything to go by - France as well.

Add caption
Nor is it just the big names who are painting here either. The walls boast the efforts of local artists of all ages. I saw one piece painted by a four year old girl and read that a 91 year old lady has also contributed.

Marilyn Monroe as painted by local artist Jessie Blackney
And the artists too are reaping the benefits of the opportunity to be a part of the project with commissioned work arising from displays at the Powerhouse topping $250,000.
The artwork takes many forms, from the more traditional graffiti inspired styles

Piece by Cax One
to some often quite vivid, realistic pieces such as those below.

Nymph by Mark Taylor of CLAP Meataxe Design

Some pieces aim to send a message

Making a local statement
whilst others take on a more fantasy-driven approach
Piece by Dest

Sugar skull

Buttface Grace

Nor is all the art on the walls. In addition to the murals there are individual canvasses and other pieces such as a car, a caravan and a number of mannequins which are being treated in a variety of fashions.
3D doodle art
Cyborgs - a vision of the future?

Some artists like to poke a little fun, or just make the most of an opportunity...

Sushi cat, a combined effort from Melbourne's wewf crew
It's a sign!
But the connection of all this to the Barwon? Well, whilst I'd like to say there was a large mural of the river, somewhere on a wall, at this stage there is not. The connection I discovered dated back to the days when the Powerhouse was Geelong Power Station B which ran on coal sourced from a local coalmine and yes, you guessed it, that coalmine known amongst other names as Wensley Brae, was located on Coalmine Creek - a tributary of the Barwon River.
But that is a story for another post...

Putting it in perspective

28 April, 2015

Keep it clean!!

This week-end, I had the opportunity to combine two of my favourite pass times: paddling on the Barwon River and geocaching. For those who haven't seen my earlier posts on the latter subject, geocaching, as defined by geocaching.com is "a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices". Generally, the geocacher (cacher for short) would be attempting to locate a container with a log book which they would then sign before logging their "find" online.
This geocaching adventure however, was a little different. It was a "Cache In Trash Out" event cache (aka a CITO) at which participating cachers log their attendance and then spend some time cleaning their surroundings of litter or weeds or undertaking other environmental initiatives such as tree-planting.
This particular CITO was timed to coincide as closely as possible with Earth Day (22nd April) around the world, recognising the need for environmental action. This CITO held in our little part of the world, attracted a small group of determined kayakers who were keen to remove as much junk from the Barwon as possible.
The crew assembled and ready to paddle
Naturally, given my recent personal efforts in that direction, I was very keen to participate. At the appointed hour, a group of around a dozen of us gathered and hit the water at the boat ramp opposite the boat sheds. The weather was cool and overcast, but clear and not too windy as we worked our way along both banks, downstream of our starting point.

Hard at work on the south bank
The junk to be found in this part of the river is a little different to what I have been finding further upstream. Whilst there were still a lot of plastic bottles, there were also significantly more small pieces of plastic - wrappers, bags, forks (?!), Styrofoam, bags of dog droppings - and even at one point, a number of City of Greater Geelong parking tickets.

The final haul
In all, we were on the water for somewhere near an hour and covered an area a few hundred metres down stream from the boat ramp. The end result was the pile in the picture above. Not a bad effort, however we could easily have continued for much longer and for a much greater distance.
Whilst much of the litter we retrieved was no doubt the result of careless behaviour by river users both on the water and on the bank, some of it had washed in from stormwater run off. This was certainly the case with a collection of bottles and plastics I found near a drain entry point.
It is probably also worth noting, that this is not the first time that Geelong's geocaching community have banded together to tidy up our waterways. at the end of 2013 at what I believe was Geelong's first CITO event, a huge effort was made to clean up along the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford.
Fyansford CITO along the Moorabool December, 2013
Working only from land on that occasion, a huge amount of rubbish, including dumped furniture and significant amounts of household rubbish was removed from the area and from memory, we only scratched the surface on that occasion. Whilst illegal dumping seemed to be a large part of the problem here, the irresponsible dropping of litter seems to be more of a problem on the Barwon - especially through town.
The occasional CITO may not be much, but it is a start and hopefully if more people become aware of the problem, steps can be taken not only to clean up the rivers, but to prevent rubbish from entering our waterways in the first place. These days when I paddle, I always take some rubbish with me when I leave. If everyone who used the river did the same, or though about how they disposed of their litter it would be a much cleaner place.

05 April, 2015

A nice night for it!

With winter approaching far too fast for my liking, I am making the most of any good weather which comes along. So, with that in mind, I hit the river late on a sunny afternoon for a short paddle between Breakwater and Prince's Bridge with a stop along the way for a picnic dinner with the family.
James Harrison and Barwon Bridges, looking east
The end result was a swag of scenic sunset shots (conveniently enough I was paddling west) and a swag of dark, often blurry, shots after sunset as I attempted to come to terms with the finer points of aperture size and shutter speed on my fairly simple "point and shoot" camera.
The McIntyre bridge, looking west

Sunset over Highton

Still looking west
As the light levels dropped, the cockies and corellas which had been screeching in the trees and wheeling overhead while we were eating dinner, dispersed and now, the usual array of birds was replaced by "bats". By bats, I actually mean Grey-headed Flying-foxes which I looked at in a previous post.

As night falls and the full moon rises
Fortunately I am used to the noise these guys make (they often frequent the large Silky oak tree in my backyard), otherwise, the sound of their squeaks and squawks along what were by now very quiet and dark banks, could have been rather disturbing. As it was, the occasional splash as something unseen broke the water's surface seemed far more prominent than during daylight.

In town it is never really dark
By the time darkness (such as it was on a clear night with a full moon) descended, there were no pedestrians on the riverbank and no-one on the water either - except me and the occasional waterbird who I think was as surprised to see me as I was to see them.
Everything looks different at night
As well as everything looking and sounding different in darkness, it smelled different as well. What little breeze there had been on dusk disappeared completely. The surface of the river was like glass and the moisture level in the atmosphere increased noticeably, giving everything that fresh, cool smell.
Breakwater Bridge under the full moon
Finally, after a very different paddle, I made it back to Breakwater in time to hear a train tooting its way towards Geelong from Marshall Station. Time then, as I waited for a pick up, for one last shot...
The 20:39 train from Waurn Ponds crosses the Barwon