White Bay Cruise Terminal

There is a big new property development in Sydney and it’s displaced the cruise ships that visit the city.  After months of watching the work, today I’ve seen the first ship to berth at the temporary replacement.

Here she is: the Pacific Pearl.

Pacific Pearl arriving at White Bay at 7 am on 15 April 2013

Pacific Pearl arriving at White Bay at 7 am on 15 April 2013

She arrived in the early morning, sailing almost to the old terminal at Barangaroo, on the Western side of the Central Business District (CBD), before reversing into the new berth at White Bay.

Things happen quite slowly at sea.  I was too impatient to watch constantly.  I went away and did other things and just checked back periodically.  At the end though she sailed smoothly into place.  Well done to the P&O captain!

White Bay terminal is in the suburb of Balmain.  I wonder how the high rise of the ships will affect the locals’ light.  At least the ships normally stay only during the day – and not every day.

I also wonder how the cruise passengers will like it.  It is further to go to get to the terminal and the traffic coming over the ANZAC bridge can be grim.  Leave plenty of time to catch your cruise, people.

Cruise ships come into Sydney for two reasons: as a terminal at the start and finish of a cruise; and as a port of call during a cruise.  If you end up at White Bay for a port of call, you will spend a lot of time getting to and from the boat.  Perhaps they will keep those ships coming into the terminal at Circular Quay, which is right in the middle of things.

Here’s to a historic day: the day White Bay opened for business!  Raise those champagne glasses!


Equinox – again!

I am recognising the equinox again today.  It falls at 5.15 am Universal Time.  Since summer time hasn’t started yet in the UK, that is 5.15 am in the UK, 6.15 am in Spain and 4.15 pm here in Sydney.

Back in September 2012, as the Southern Hemisphere enjoyed its vernal equinox, I blogged about the equinox event and the difference between it and when we experience 12 hours of daylight.  You can read about that here, if you wish.

Today, I note that London has already passed the moment when the daylight is only 12 hours.  On 17 March, the sun rose at 6.10 am and set at 6.09 pm, just under twelve hours.  On 18 March, the sun was with you for 12 hours 2 minutes and 45 seconds, from 6.08 am to 6.10 pm.  With the recent weather, that might not have been very obvious!  But, don’t fret, summer and the long days of light are coming back.

In Sydney, 24 March, next Sunday, is equal day and night.  The sun will rise at 7.01 am and set at 7.01 pm.  Winter is on its way.

“A word in your ear’s” series of posts about a recent 2-week holiday in Tasmania are really worth reading. Thanks, A word in your ear!

A Word in Your Ear


Someone once told me that a week to travel around Tasmania by car was plenty.   Someone else also recently told me, on discussing my travel plans, that two weeks would be more than enough to see the main sights.  Well they were both wrong!  I travelled around this Australian state for 12 days and could have spent another month experiencing all that this island has to offer.  To give you some idea of its size think of England – not the UK just England.  Tasmania is approximately 70% the size of England yet it only has an approximate population of about 500,000 as opposed to 50 million in England.  Now that is a lot of empty countryside to peruse.

Tasmania is a mixed bag of pleasures.  Pristine primary rain  forest,  wild  untamed rivers, rugged volcanic landscapes, miles of squeaky white sanded beaches and  a visual  aboriginal and colonial  history.    Tasmania…

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Look who came to visit!

Yes, the Queen Mary 2 was in Sydney today.

I went down to Circular Quay to see how different she looks from our usual cruise ships.

Here she is from the quayside.


She is just huge. Not just tall but also broad in the beam. She dwarfed the ferries who rushed backwards and forwards past her.

These cruise ships – and in fact all the cargo boats and ferries that I see – fascinate me. That doesn’t mean that I fancy stepping on board and sailing the deep, deep, deep oceans! But I like to see them here in port. 🙂

Oh, no! How embarrassing!

I nearly missed a flight yesterday – for the first time ever. I certainly made myself ill in public. And all from a thoughtless confusion of time.

I blame it on Queenslanders’ decision not to move to summertime. I had fixed in my mind that my flight to Melbourne was at 6 pm – which it was, on the Sydney clocks. Unfortunately for me, but entirely reasonably, Brisbane airport runs on the Brisbane clocks.

So, there I was, sitting in QantasClub, quite surprised to find I had quite a long time to kill until my flight left at 6 pm, when I suddenly hear my name over the tannoy. Publicity of the wrong kind!

Eek! I gather my belongings and leave my glass of sparkling wine and set off at a trot. Qantas called my mobile and I told them I was on the way – it didn’t seem to get through to the gate though who continued to page me.

Of course it didn’t help that I misread the signs and headed down the wrong concourse. That multiplied the distance I had to travel by 3, moved my concern level to outright panic and made me run. All of which meant, gentle reader, that I arrived at the gate completely out of breath, red in the face and looking ill enough for the flight attendant to ring ahead and arrange water for me at my seat!!

Happily, it wasn’t me who held up the plane – my lateness allowed a young woman to rush out and retrieve her mobile phone. See, people, I did good! 🙂 (Yes, see those straws clutched in my shaking hand!)

I then spent the next half an hour coughing, spluttering, wheezing, choking and feeling I would add to the embarrassment by throwing up at my seat. Thank heavens for the lovely lady in 26F who sacrificed a number of her sweets to help me control my throat. (Have to say the Qantas crew weren’t so proactive or concerned.)

So, on the plus side, I caught my flight and my voice is almost back to normal now – who knew that running hard in panic could steal the voice away? Oh, everyone, eh? Well, I didn’t until last night.

The lesson is: triple check that diary entries are in the right time zone and, in any case, Jackie, given that the magic QantasClub card check-in doesn’t give you a boarding card with a time on it, check your itinerary – carefully.


(I can’t help hearing the title of the UK arts programme in my head when I see that word. It’s a great percussive word.) But I’m really here to talk about the solar event, not the TV programme. The September “Equinox” occurs today but it isn’t equal day and night! Bang goes another of my certainties!

On 22 September at 14:49 UTC, the sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator – from north to south. This is the definition of the Equinox, not – as its Latin name implies – that we have equal night.

The sun does this North-South crossing on 22, 23 or 24 September every year. On any other day of the year, the Earth’s axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the Earth’s axis tilts neither away from nor towards the Sun, but is perpendicular.

So everywhere around the world, the equinox happens at one moment: 14:49 UTC. (UTC or Coordinated Universal Time is the basis for civil time in many places worldwide. Also known as Zulu Time, it is much the same as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) although it is more precise.)

That is going to be nearly ten to one in the morning of 23 September in Sydney; 15:49 in London and 16:49 in Malaga.

Yet again I am confronted by the fact that something I thought was so obvious – that the Equinox was all about the same period of day and of night – is actually NOT TRUE. There’s probably a broader message there – about it’s always worth questioning and searching for answers.

In answer to the other question: the equal day-and-night days are different depending where you are. I was in Perth, Western Australia, on Wednesday 19 September and that was the closest to the 12 hours between sunrise at 6:10 and sunset at 18:11 (05:49 to 17:49 in Sydney).

In Europe you have 3 more days to wait. Your equal day-and-night day is Tuesday 25 September. In London sunrise is at 06:52 and sunset at 18:51; in Malaga it’s from 08:09 to 20:08

courtesy of http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html

Another thing that surprises me is that the times can be so different I guess, if you take them at non-daylight-saving-adjusted they are closer – London would be 05:52 to 17:51. I hadn’t really thought about Malaga being so late-shifted. I thought time differences took care of that but I guess Malaga is strictly speaking in a different timezone or something – national boundaries trumping natural ones.

So that is my astronomical learning from this Equinox. And I’m looking forward to the Southern hemisphere summer.

Winter solstice – getting it wrong

I was amused, following my ealier blog, to see that other people can get the date of the solstice wrong too.

In this story from 2009, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that about 300 people turned up at Stonehenge a day early to celebrate the Solstice. Consulting a calendar, they turned up on Monday 21 December 2009, instead of Tuesday 22 December 2009.  Luckily for them, English Heritage let them into the stones in any case so they didn’t have to wait in the cold of Salisbury Plain for a day!