Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Going Down Under

Winter has arrived early for Miina and me this year. Although it has not directly been snowing on any member of the LAI detectives team recently, chilly winds and sudden cold showers are typical for the season. The winter did not come suddenly, though. The first public sign was a laconic post in the News section of the LAI detectives website in January: "Matti receives a Go8 Fellowship!". Miina joined in on the travel, sponsored by her generous Academy of Finland grant. As an consequence, tension has been building up since May as many small and large businesses needed to be taken care of before the departure: the PHYSENSE seminar, discussing with visiting Yuri Knyazikhin our latest ideas, moving between Helsinki and Tartu, making travel arrangements, finishing manuscripts and presentations, and, last but not least, being on a summer holiday.

Certainly we felt an amount of relief when the door of the airplane closed and we were on our way to Cairns, Queensland, Australia. Weatherwise, this was a nice continuation (or a culmination) to the unusually cool summer in Estonia. Although the nights were chilly in Cairns, there was still enough sunshine during the daytime to make up for it. Fortunately beach weather was kept outside the airconitioned premises of the conference center where we attended AGU Western Pacific Geophysics Meeting.

Alas, the tropical Far North was only a stopover on our journey further south. We said good-bye to the fine weather, sandy beaches, rainforests (covering the hills and emitting smoke as the backdrop to the kangaroos in the photo above) and the Great Barrier Reef, and boarded a plane again.

The final destination and our city of residence for the next four months was Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. At the airport we were warmly greeted by our host Prof. Megan Lewis from the University of Adelaide. Despite the friendliness of the people around here, it is difficult to get used to the abrupt ending of a cool northern summer, especially after the break in Queensland. The fact that this is an unusually cold winter in Australia and I have very little warm clothes in my 20 kg of luggage is not making things easier. Also, as the days were still long in Estonia, the rainy and cool days with sunset before 6 p.m. feels like the dark ages are back. However, these cold days are not to last and there is already a hint of spring in the air, in the songs of the birds and the smell of the flowers. No worries!

River Torrens just north of the center of Adelaide on a cold winter's day.