In and above the real Pandora

In and above the real Pandora November 23, 2018


Near Cairns. But in the air.
The view from the Cableway is rather remarkable. Especially in the gondolas with the plexiglass floors. (Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)


We spent much of Thursday in the northern Queensland rainforest just inland from Cairns, including the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.  And I took quite a few notes while we were there.  I’ll summarize a few of them, beginning with this entry.


It’s a remarkable place.  Signage in the rainforest indicates that the filmmaker James Cameron was inspired by it in his design of the planet Pandora for his movie Avatar — and, if I understood the explanation correctly, that he even included footage in Avatar that he took from a gondola of the cableway (or, at a minimum, that he used footage taken from the cableway to create the scenery of his alien world, a lush habitable moon circling a gas giant in the star system of Alpha Centauri).  I can certainly see why.


The rainforest is scientifically fascinating.  It is, for example — or, anyway, the explanatory signs placed along some its trails claim it to be — home to the largest number of ancient songbird species in the world. In total, there are more than 2oo species of songbirds in the Australian rainforest, and, as a matter of fact, songbirds seem first to have evolved in the vicinity of northern Queensland and to have spread worldwide from it.  They probably developed their singing for several different reasons.  Among other things, it helps them to identify other birds of the same species, and it may also serve in some sort of rivalry for territorial, food, or mating rights.  Obviously, too, it helps in the attraction of mates for breeding purposes.


In the “Wet Tropics region,” as this area is called, there are 55 species of frog — more than 200 frog species exist in Australia as a whole — of whom fully 21 are found nowhere else in the world than right here.  Frogs first emerged roughly 200 million years ago.


Several species that flourished 540 million years before the present are still flourishing in the Queensland rainforest today.  The peripatus or Australian “velvet worm,” for instance, is not only one of the oldest local residents but ranks among the most ancient animal life-forms on the entire planet.  Two of the local gecko species date back to the days of ancient Gondwana or Gondwanaland, the supercontinent that existed from the Neoproterozoic Era (approximately 550 million years ago) until the Carboniferous Period (roughly 320 million years ago) and from which what we know today as Africa, South America, Australia, Antarctica, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arabian Peninsula derive.


We had a great time in the rainforest.


Posted from Cairns, Queensland, Australia



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