vanuatu independent travel notes and recommendations, january 2018

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we’ve just spent five weeks in vanuatu, largely off the beaten track, and wanted to share some first-hand and up-to-date travel information and tipps for independent travellers, from december 2017 and january 2018.

i’m typing this text on the phone to post it while it’s fresh, so proper formatting and some pictures will follow later.

general notes

online resources:
positive earth’s vanuatu aelan walkabaot (“island walkabout”) at has lots of information about accommodation, transport, and things to see on all the islands, even in very remote parts of vanuatu. the website is getting a little outdated, so prices have increased e.g. from 2500 to 3000 very p.p. for typical accommodation in the banks province, but in many cases it lists several options that other resources don’t, and in greater detail.

shefa travel at is run by the shefa province tourism office and has good travel info for efate, pele & nguna, emae & tongoa, and epi islands, including phone numbers to contact local-run bungalows directly. 

similar websites exist for the some of the other provinces, e.g. for malekula and ambrym in malampa province, but these seem to have a central non-profit (but nonetheless slightly more expensive) booking office and don’t give direct contact options.

there are apps that let you download web content for offline use, such as OffLine Browser for android. very handy for remote where we found cellphone reception and data connections to be very unreliable.


[category: 1]

CR1 script to log balance measurements with a campbell scientific data logger

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here’s a script to record time-series of balance measurements (weight data) using a Campbell Scientific CR1000 datalogger and a balance with an RS232 serial interface.
we have been using two dedicated scripts which vary slightly to work with two different balance models, the Mettler-Toledo MS8001TS (polled mode; should work with all current Mettler-Toledo balances based on MT-SICS) and the Kern DE35K0.5D1 (set to continuous output).

download: (.cr1 files, saved as .txt)
CR1000 script to log output from a Mettler-Toledo MS8001TS balance
CR1000 script to log output from a Kern DE35K0.5D balance1
CR1000 script to log output from four Kern DE35K0.5D balance1

if you just want to have a look at the code, the CR1 scripts are included in text form at the end of this post.

1note that, as it turns out, the strain gauge loadcell measuring system of the Kern DE35K0.5D balance makes it unsuitable for longer term measurements. to get an idea of the drift effect resulting from a continuous load on these balances, here’s a figure from a test run with constant weights: [more...]

[categories: computers & technology, science] [tags: , , ]

ICT PSY1 stem psychrometer: how to apply sensor calibration after recording a dataset

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for the past 2+ years i’ve been working with the PSY1 Stem Psychrometer by ICT International. as with any precision instrument, calibration is a crucial step to ensure good data. however, we’ve found that with some older firmware versions, the PSY1 sometimes just dropped its calibration files and reverted to the generic factory-calibration, which reads at +/- 0.5 MPa absolute precision.
after some discussion with ICT, i’ve put together a little R script that allows the application of calibration parameters to an existing file which was recorded with any (or no) calibration. this way, you can recalculate proper water potential readings from already recorded PSY1 csv-files.

ICT PSY1 stem psychrometer: how to apply sensor calibration after recording a dataset

the complete script, documentation and more are available here: psy-posthoc-calib — bitbucket

[category: science] [tags: , ]

raspberry pi: raspbian jessie start menu screenshots

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when you’re booting up a raspberry pi and have no display/cable/adapter at hand, it can be useful to navigate the start menu blindly using only the keyboard, e.g. to open a terminal and run a short command.

raspberry pi: raspbian jessie start menu screenshots

here are screenshots of the raspberry pi’s operating system and start menu, raspbian jessie (v. 16.02.2017, kernel 4.9) that you can use as a guide: [more...]

[category: computers & technology] [tags: ]

an australian giant cuttlefish changes colour and shape [video]

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cuttlefish are amazing creatures! here’s some footage of one of the resident australian giant cuttlefish (sepia apama) at bass point, shellharbour. it changes not just colour, but also forms seaweed-like appendages on its back to blend in with its new environment.

these three screengrabs from the video above show how much it changed in less than 30 seconds: [more...]

uluru and kata tjuta at sunset [photo]

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here are three photos of uluru (“ayers rock”) and kata tjuta (“the olgas”) at sunset. i have seen many perfect pictures and postcards of uluru before finally visiting the place, but it took nothing away from the sense of marvel and appreciation when we were actually standing in front of these massive rock formations!

uluru in golden sunset light


[categories: photo, travel] [tags: , , ]

inside the cape otway lighthouse lantern room [360]

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on our great Great Ocean Road road trip, we happened to visit the cape otway lighthouse. i was actually not very interested in lighthouses when we visited the area (and much more excited about the almost guaranteed koala sightings along the road to the lighthouse), but the entrance fee was included in our accommodation and we decided to checked it out. good decision!
it’s a fascinating piece of engineering, and worth talking to a visitor guide who will explain its history and functioning!

inside the cape otway lighthouse lantern room


[categories: photo, travel, video] [tags: , , ]