Thursday, July 7, 2011

Water world

This morning I took the ferry to work with my Brisbane host mom, Diana. She pointed out the changing landscape on our way downriver-- the University of Queensland, a huge rowing complex, industrial infrastructure, swanky new loft apartment highrises, parks, the performing arts center, swaths of mangrove forest, and of course the bridges. I tried to imagine a similarly redeveloped Little Rock as our speedy, stealthy ferry boat pulled up to North Quay (pronounced "key" here). From what I've gleaned, Brisbane has done a lot in the past 20 years to achieve the wildly successful utilization of its riverfront real estate. The result is a vibrant biker and pedestrian friendly city core encompassing both sides of the river, which are artfully knitted together with the many bridges I've discussed in recent posts.

What if you could hop on a high-speed ferry in Maumelle and be at work downtown in 10 minutes? A Big Dam Bridge stop could take ADEQ staff from their office to the Arkansas State Capitol complex in under 5 minutes. Realistically, though, I don't think we have the population or the right kind of riverside development to support such a scheme. And there's no way I would trade in the excellent string of parks that make the Arkansas River such a pleasant place to be in Little Rock. I'm holding out for high speed hoverbusses to make movement easier around our lovely city.

Many of you know that water has a very special place in my life for multiple reasons. Growing up, I spent a good deal of my non-school waking hours in the pool training as a competitive swimmer. My namesake is a seaside National Park where the waves crash against the craggy coastline in awe-inspiring demonstrations of power. My family spends a good deal of time on the Buffalo River, possibly the coolest river in the US.

My water obsession followed me to college. I joined the crew team for a semester, then moved on to water polo. My study abroad mates in Thailand dubbed me "dugong" because of my playful water-based antics. After I moved back to Little Rock I joined the Master's group of my old swim team. Because I plan to continue with that in September, I have had the best of intentions for swimming to stay in shape while in Australia. There are pools everywhere and most charge only a few dollars per visit. Haven't made it there yet. Maybe it's the intimidation factor-- after all, Australia always gives the US a run for its money in Olympic swimming events.

I recently learned that freestyle was (first?) developed as a competitive swimming style in Australia. Originally called the "Australian crawl," it was actually stolen from the Solomon Islanders. A young boy sent by his Australian father (Islander mother) to school in Sydney won many a race using the technique commonly employed by people from his island. This style, combined with a similar front crawl learned by John Trugden from Native Americans, is the freestyle stroke we learn across the world today.


  1. Ashley BachelderJuly 9, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    The water buses in Bangkok were probably my favorite thing about the city... so interesting, made me wish we had more of it (or any?) in the US!

  2. Hoverbuses would be soooooo sweet