Wednesday, August 22, 2012

WOA: Stromblo Steampunk Telescope

While reading about Canberra, I stumbled upon a charming sidequest:
Canberra Steampunk Telescope

Steampunk continues to be one of my Grand Passions, and I'm in the midst of being an Admin for the Newcastle Steampunk Enthusiasts group, and constantly on the look-out for Australian Steampunk Adventures. Going to go see a telescope which just happened to be in the city I was in was perfect. Go Steampunk!

The Stromblo Observatory went through a brutal bushfire in 2003, and this was a commissioned telescope to replace the one that was lost. I couldn't find much information on it, and my guidebook was from 2004, which means that the Observatory basically got a Tragic Story box which was less than useful. But Adventure! Determination! Misty morning walks!

So off we go, up the mountain. The drive was easy enough, and so was finding the husk of the burnt out observatory, as well as a lovely restaurant, but there was no sign of anything resembling a telescope, steampunk or otherwise.

By this point, I had become stubborn. There is no guarantee I would ever be in Canberra again (there's also no guarantee I won't be there every year, but big moves make you very aware of change), and we'd come up this mountain SPECIFICALLY to find this thing. Trying to prod my phone's internet into providing some type of useful location/information was spectacularly unsuccessful, and the staff at the restaurant just shrugged at our question in confusion and told us that it didn't exist (I knew they were wrong. Maybe it was a conspiracy?). So we wandered into the university compound nearby, which does the actual observatory work now, and forlornly tried doors and peered in windows.

There were a couple of displays we could see through some big glass doors, but I wasn't really sure we were supposed to be wandering around, nothing was open and it was getting a little chilly, so we sadly gave up and then cheerfully continued our drive.

Once I got home, I began to prod the internet much more efficiently than on my maddeningly rubbish little phone (I miss my Canadian iphone so much. I seriously need to get around to finding a way to get it unlocked). And imagine my surprise when I realized that my partner and I had, in actuality, stared RIGHT AT the damn thing and not realized it was steampunk.

It turned out that the telescope was the exact thing we had peered at through the glass doors at the academic observatory and then unanimously and categorically dismissed. And that's because we had been expecting to find something like this:

and had found instead this:

I think you can see how we got confused. Interestingly, those two pieces are done by the same sculptor, and you can read about their creation here.

So yes, maybe it is more impressive when you can get closer to it? Anyone been?

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