A Work in Progress …

It’s about a 20 minute drive from the bats of Bendigo to the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion. When it’s completed it will be the largest stupa outside of Asia and will provide a place of pilgrimage and comfort to Buddhists of all traditions. I’ve been dropping by to watch its development over the last few years.

It is the same design and size as the Gyantse Stupa (Kumbum) in Tibet, 50 metres square at its base and nearly 50 metres high.

the original (filched from TripAdvisor)

The Dalai Lama visited and blessed the stupa in 2007.

The stupa is home to many gorgeous objects but perhaps the best of all is a statue of the Buddha carved from a single 18 tonne boulder of jade.

The boulder originated in Canada, the carving was undertaken in Thailand. It was completed in 2008 and then went on a world tour visiting 125 cities across 20 countries where nearly 12 million people have seen it. Many have waited for hours in queues sometimes several kilometres long. It came home last May and now has pride of place inside the stupa.

This is how it is today …

The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion

I was fortunate enough to be given permission to put the drone up.

 

The assemblies on the ground to the right of the building will be going on top. If you compare it with the Gyantse Stupa you can see that another square story has to be added first.

The plan is for a pair of cranes to lift the top into place sometime in August. I hope to be there.

 

Mind Where You Stand …

and close your mouth while you’re looking up.

Bendigo was a boom town in the gold rush days developing rapidly and rather splendidly after 1850. It is the fourth largest town in Victoria with a population of more than 95,000 people. Last time I was there I arrived late in the afternoon with the intention of some night-time photography (see The Bright Lights of Bendigo). As I scouted around I was surprised to find a colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes in Rosalind Park in the city centre. I made a mental note to return and get some photographs.

Grey-headed Flying Fox

Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. They are a very successful group with more than 12,000 species forming the order Chiroptera (from the Greek χείρcheir, hand and πτερόν – pteron, wing). They are the second largest order (behind the Rodentia).

They can be divided into two groups. The microbats are typically insectivorous and use echolocation. They have a near universal distribution being found on all continents except Antarctica. Flying Foxes and their allies are large and restricted to the warm parts of the world. They don’t use echolocation. Their diet consists of succulent fruit, nectar and pollen. The fruit is crushed in the mouth, the juice swallowed and the pulp rejected.

The taxonomy has, of course, been much disputed. That Flying Foxes and microbats have different origins and developed flight independently was once a popular theory. The evidence now seems to support evolution from a single ancestral population that had taken to the air in pursuit of insects.

Flight has the great advantage of mobility at the expense of high energy requirements. Bats solved the problem of flight differently than birds making them even more maneuverable in the air and far less capable on the ground.The wing has a leading edge from the shoulder to the hand and then extends as a membrane that extends to the hind leg and may include the tail. The hind leg has also assumed the duty of hanging the animal from a perch.

Because their hindleg is somewhat tethered bats as a rule cannot take of from the ground (Vampires and the New Zealand Short-tailed Bat may be the exception). However they climb quite nimbly, head first, and once a few feet off the ground can take off losing a little height initially.

Australia has four species of Flying Fox and four more close allies. They are restricted to the northern and eastern forests. The Grey-headed Flying Fox Pteropus poliocephalus is the largest of them (typically 600 – 800 grams but a few as much as a kilogram) and the only one to form permanent colonies in Victoria.

They choose humid shady places for their communal daytime roost and fly out as much as 50km at night to feed. Presumably they have been summer visitors to Victoria for centuries. Europeans have planted ornamental figs and orchards of fruit trees that have induced them to stay. From 1986 there has been a permanent colony in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne and since then a few colonies have formed at other sites. The Bendigo colony began in 2010 where there are about 2000 bats in summer with about 200 staying over winter.

Grey-headed Flying Fox

 

 

 

The Bright Lights of Bendigo …

Bendigo, another of Victoria’s gold rush towns, is just a little smaller than Ballarat but I think it offers a little bit more to the night photographer.

Sacred Heart Cathedral

The plans hit paper in the late 1890’s, consecration occurred in 1901, the building was finished in 1977. It is the second tallest church in Australia (86.64 metres or 284 feet 4 inches). It’s the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst.

Alexandra Fountain

The fountain is 8.5 m (8.5m) tall in a  15 m (50 feet) diameter pool. Do not dive in it’s only 61cm (2 feet) deep. The grand opening was in 1881 and was attended by Princes Albert and George, sons of Alexandra Princess of Wales in whose honour the fountain was named.

The Post Office

Opened for business in 1887, they knew how to build them in those days.

Shamrock Hotel

The Shamrock began life in 1854, as a small hotel known as The Exchange Hotel, servicing miners during the Victorian gold rush including a Cobb and Co. office and a concert hall known as the Theatre Royal.

The hotel’s patronage had grown quickly with the booming goldfields and it was renamed the Shamrock in 1855. The same year the Theatre Royal hosted Lola Montez, performing for the diggers who threw gold nuggets at her feet, many of which the Shamrock staff took as tips while cleaning.    Wikipedia.

A golden era indeed.