Day 37 – Thursday, 30 June 2022 

The weather has deteriorated so that it is very windy and a lot cooler, also more humid with the cloud cover, and most unseasonable for this time of the year. 

We were expecting rain today, but it circled around us, so I was able to get all the towels and sheets dry. 

Our chiropractic appointment went very well. Steve, whose mother is Irish and his dad Greek so he says it makes for an interesting combination (and he can talk forever), is an experienced practitioner and he spent a fair amount of time releasing tense muscles on both of us, but we are no0w feeling great. He was as good as John in Mildura so we are happy campers, and we will try to get another appointment before we leave Darwin. 

I rang for an appointment to get into the Past Police Association Museum and found that it is in a locked area which is why an appointment is necessary, and not everyone gets in there. However, when I explained about Cousin Harry, the President I was speaking with said he would look into their files and call me back.  

I was in the chiropractors when he rang so he sent a text message to say that he has a file with photos on Harry and we are set for a 10:00am appointment on Thursday, 7 July. 

Before heading to the chiropractor, we used the new printer to get copies to post off to mum and Trish. 

Later in the afternoon, I finished looking at all the latest photos and choosing the best ones for publishing on the website. There are some magnificent ones in this batch. 

Russ uploaded the diary to the website and then the photos. I thought he might dissolve into a puddle of joy when he saw how beautiful some of the photos had turned out. 

I also found a lot more information on Litchfield National Park, and the Magnetic Termite Mounds in particular. 

Litchfield National Park – in 1985 by the NT Government acquired Tabletop Range and some of its surrounding lowlands to create the Park, which was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield who was a member of the 1864 Finniss Expedition surveying northern Australia. 

The rushing waters and rugged vistas which made life so difficult for the early miners, loggers and graziers; now it provides a focus for the Park and a highlight for the thousands of people who visit the area. 

The park includes cascading falls, rainforest pockets, historic sites, pandanus lined pools, walks and 4WD tracks. 

The Magnetic Termite Mounds are found in the Litchfield NP. Though termites are tiny individually, together they leave a bold and lasting impression on the surrounding landscape. 

This is made apparent by the many mounds around, but only a fraction of termites, live in mounds. 

Three quarters of the termite species found in northern Australia are hidden from view as these species build their nests in trees or underground. 

The large, very high mounds found at the Magnetic Termite Mounds area are made by the aptly named Cathedral termites (Nasutitermes triodiae). Reaching over five metres high, these structures are impressive achievements for a mere five-millimetre-long termite. 

Floodplains in the Northern Territory are extreme environments, suited only to those who have adapted after hundreds of years. It is the tiny little termite who has thrived on floodplains. 

They fulfil the role of harvesters in the tropical environment, the role that kangaroos, or even cows, fulfil in other places. 

Termite mounds have housemates who live in the hollows in the nests which provide shelter for many animals, particularly when bushfires sweep across the land. Quolls, goannas, snakes and rats take refuge in the strong and well-made towers. 

Cathedral termites build their nests on well-drained soils, unlike the magnetic termite who always build on seasonally flooded black soil plains. 

When the first Europeans explorers trekked overland through the Top End, they were astounded when confronted with the extraordinary structures of the magnetic termite. 

These incredible elongated mounds all align on the north-south axis, and the termites that make them are found nowhere else on earth. Scientists believe that the mounds they build are a remarkable solution to a number of dangers the termites face – extreme temperature and food safety. 

Many species of termites escape extreme temperatures by burrowing underground but this is not an option for the magnetic termite. A home above the ground is required, safe from the annually waterlogged soils of the West Season. Food for the colony must be well protected from bacteria and fungi. 

The smart structure of these mounds keeps the termites above the water table in the Wet and provides sufficient space for well-ventilated food storage near the mound’s surface. 

Scientists have conducted experiments and found that because the termite mound is aligned north-south, one side will always be in the shade which ensures they always have a safe place in the mound for a creature that requires temperature and humidity to be consistent. 

To explore the world of the termites imagine climbing inside a mound where you would be immediately confronted by Soldier termites with their large jaws and armour. Most invaders of the mounds are ants. 

Worker termites are the labourers of the colony and amongst them are the Nymphs – reproductive termites before they become sexually mature and grow wings. 

Once they grow wings, they become Alates, and once a year they launch an armada which flies out of the termite colony to look for a mate. Only a tiny percentage will pair and return to the mound where they shed their wings and begin digging a burrow in the vicinity of the parent mound. 

At the base of the mound, you would find the King and Queen in the royal chamber. The Queen with her expanded abdomen, when compared to an average sized termite, is enormous. On the other hand, the King is difficult to distinguish from other Nymph termites. 

The launch of the Alates is where the humble termite pays a massive dividend back to the rest of the surrounding ecology. Most of these little termites are consumed by hungry birds, reptiles, mammals, and even fish. 

By the following morning, only the shed wings are seen blowing on the ground. Many native animals launch their own reproductive process to coincide with the flight of the Alates. 

Scientists have recently come to the conclusion that these small, blind insects are critical to the survival of the tropical ecosystem as they give the ecosystem access to a huge amount of recycled energy. 

So, how did the little, blind termite work out the cosmic magnetic alignment? 

The mound builders are the Worker termites. Scientists believe they have an in-built compass to guide them, and by using magnets to change the north-south alignment of the mound, proved the hypothesis to be correct. The Worker termites dutifully built repairs to the nest in the alignment of the introduced magnets.