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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 31 - October/November 2009 > He is a Big - Big - Big God (by John Morris)

He is a Big - Big - Big God

by John Morris

He Is A Big - Big - Big God

It was my second trip and Marcia's first trip to continental United States of America. We had attended a wedding south of Los Angeles in late December and were exploring southern California by car. We had driven to Carlsbad, about 3 hours drive south of Los Angeles on the way to San Diego. Here we had a meal with some friends and stayed in a local motel. Looking at the map to plan what we would do in the morning I found that we were not far away from Mt Palomar.

Now, I have known about Mt Palomar since about age 10 when Dad brought home for the family a set of encyclopedias, variously known as the Children's Encyclopedia and the Arthur Mees Encyclopedias. Our edition was the ten volume set. Pictures were mostly black and white. The material was easy to read, yet very informative. One of the features was on the construction of the Mt Palomar Observatory.

In the observatory was the then biggest telescope in the world and it held that record for some 30 years. It is a reflecting telescope with a 200 inch (5.08 m) diameter mirror and was named after the astronomer George Ellery Hale. (1) The article told of the construction of the buildings and the telescope with plenty of pictures of the construction works. The mirror was a work of art being made from a single piece of cast glass and carefully ground to the required shape.

It was only an hour's drive away and not having a fixed travel plan we added the site to our list of places to see. There was snow on the ground and the top of the mountain, though the day was sunny and comfortable. Even so, the observatory was air-conditioned and kept at night time temperatures to ensure that the mirror would not be damaged through temperature changes when the dome aperture was opened. Tourists were not allowed into the main portion of the observatory and it was a little difficult to view the telescope from the viewing room. You had to get close to the viewing windows and allow your eyes to get used to the low light levels within the telescope chamber before you could make out the shape of the telescope.

We moved on north via Riverside and Loma Linda, across the end of the Los Angeles basin to the Rim of the World where you can look down (if you are lucky to miss the Los Angeles smog) from a height in excess of Kosciuszko. Over to Lake Arrowhead and down the north side of the St Bernadino Mountains to Cajon Junction where we spent the night.  Cajon Pass is a BIG place for train spotting. (2) There are 2 major rail companies whose lines run through the Cajon Pass, the Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF Railway. At the time of our visit there were 3 separate lines traversing the pass (BSNF opened another line in 2008). I was pleasantly surprised in the morning to spot a train on each of the three lines at the same time with most of the freight cars double decking containers. 

We moved on to Mojave, Tehachapi where there is a big rail loop to allow trains to climb the mountains with some ease, Bakersfield and Visalia before stopping for the night at Three Rivers on the way to the Sequoia National Park. The run up into the park has its steep pinches but the road is a good width and smooth surfaced with viewing points available along the way. The first feature we noted was Moro Rock across the valley from the road. Moro Rock is a dome shaped granite monolith a common feature (so we are told) of the Sierra Nevada. Standing at 6725 feet (2050 m) above sea level it is impressive. It's climbable but the brochures will tell you it is a strenuous climb.

But we were heading for the big tree and another 15 minutes saw us pull up in the car park at the General Sherman tree. "General Sherman is the name of a Giant Sequoia with a height of 275 feet (83.8 metres). As of 2002, the volume of its trunk measured about 1487 cubic meters, making it the largest non-clonal tree by volume.(1)  The tree is located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in the United States, east of Visalia, California. The tree is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old.  In 1879, it was named after American Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, by naturalist James Wolverton, who had served as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Cavalry under Sherman. The tree was identified as the largest, in a 1931 dispute involving the nearby General Grant tree, after which wood-volume was the widely accepted determining-factor." (3)

The trunk of the tree if cut into 300 x 25 mm planks and laid end to end would stretch 200 miles. It is as tall as a 27 storey building and a 13 storey building would not reach the first branch. It is massive, it is impressive, it's living and it is BIG

The General Sherman is not the world's tallest tree by the way. Australia had 9 Mountain Ash trees (as of 2004 (4)) over 91 metres in Tasmania and with others in Victoria. The tallest tree in New South Wales is a fraction taller. The tree is a 'Flooded' gum (Eucalyptus Grandis) located 3 hours drive north of Sydney. The tree is 84.3 metres high and it took 14, 8 - 12 year old children to encircle the tree hand to hand on one of our visits.

Ayers Rock (or Uluru) is a very big piece of rock, a terracotta coloured sandstone monolith with the bulk of the rock hidden beneath the ground. The top is some 340 metres above the surrounding plains. It is 9 km in circumference and is shaped like a distended kite about 2.5 km long and 1.5 km wide. With the surrounding plains level and open, Uluru is very prominent no matter from which direction you approach the area.

In recent years changes in administration has seen the ownership of the area placed back in the hands of the Anangu people (October 1985) with the condition that they lease the park back to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service for 99 years, that it would be jointly managed, and with the condition that Uluru remains open to climbers. Some restrictions are placed on climbing to make climbing safe particularly in the middle of the day when summer temperatures can reach 48 C.

Tourists began visiting the area in the 1950's. The remote location, the tracks rather than roads and the limited availability of fuel saw only the brave and the resourceful taking on the challenge. Basic accommodation facilities were eventually constructed and an airstrip created some 300 metres off the side of Uluru. The accommodation was mainly corrugated iron clad - definitely basic. Air conditioning and upmarket facilities did not arrive until the Yulara development some 18 km away became operational in 1984. All leases for the old motels were terminated and the site was eventually cleared and rehabilitated.

Our stay in 1983 was in the older facilities. On a self drive holiday we had driven from Alice Springs south on the Stuart Highway to Henbury Meteorite Craters, to Kings Canyon and then Uluru where we surprised the hotel management by booking in for 2 days. Most of the tourists at that time would arrive in the afternoon, climb the rock, and then leave the next morning after a sunrise viewing of the rock.

On our first morning at Ayers Rock we got an early morning call from the hotel management to wake up and see the sunrise light up the east face of the rock. There was no choice; the awakening call was designed to make sure you did not miss it even if you wanted to. The morning view was delightful and I would not have missed it. We then headed off to climb the rock.  The climb is not easy, though we were astonished by one lithe and obviously fit gent who truly and literally ran up and down 3 times while we were climbing.

Marcia and the girls did not make it right to the top of the rock but reached a very high point at the end of the chain that is fixed to the rock to assist the climbers. I reached the top and walked to the other end of the top to look east over Mt O'Connor and have a refreshing drink. In the afternoon we walked around the base of the rock. Maggies Springs was an interesting phenomenon being a very full and large pool of fresh water collected from run off during infrequent rains over the year. The water was cool and refreshing and I brought back a flagon of the water. At the time of writing we still have about a litre left, and it is still fresh and pleasant to the palate.

Later in the afternoon we drove across to the Olgas. Cathy and I walked from the Katajuta lookout through the centre and were picked up by Marcia and Marilyn on the western side. There was no one else walking at the time and we both had feelings of awe as we walked beside those massive rock formations.

Morning again brought the call to get up and see the rock in the sunrise, which we did again, then got ready to leave. I remembered that I had not signed "the book" at the top of the rock on yesterday's climb. The girls went for a walk at the base and I climbed the second time, signed the book and then down and we drove off to Alice Springs.

Really Big

If you want to see something really big, just step outside at night and look at the sky. You can see (and local lighting can restrict your viewing capacity) between 2 and 4 thousand stars or planets with your own eyes. You will be viewing the Milky Way galaxy - our home territory. The development of telescopes as at Mt Palomar, and later with other non-optical telescopes, and of recent years the Hubble Space Telescope has exponentially expanded our view of the starry heavens.

"Astronomers have calculated that the stars in the Milky Way, the galaxy to which the Sun belongs, number in the hundreds of billions. The Milky Way, in turn, is only one of several hundred million such galaxies visible through large modern telescopes." (5) 

This is simply incredible, the number simply indicating that the universe is immense. With each new telescope that comes along our ability to see into the cosmos is expanded and the one time supposed boundaries of the universe have to be changed.

In Psalm 19:1 and 2 we read, "The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display their knowledge" Out by Uluru, the sky is majestic. You have to get away from the light pollution of the cities where we mostly live these days to fully appreciate the lavishness of God. And yet he turned his hand to the fascinating design of an eye, and right down to a single celled amoeba. Look at the sharp neat edge of a blade of grass through a microscope and contrast that to the rough edge of the sharpest razor blade you can find. You can rely on a God that is big, and yet is concerned about the detail. Reflect on "General Sherman" and similar size trees and ponder how moisture is moved up the trunk and out to the leaves without a pump, up 84 metres and out some 10 - 20 metres.

The apostle Paul pointed out that nature tells us a lot about the creator God. "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse". Romans 1:20. Contemplation of what God has done generated a song in heaven recorded in Revelation 15:3, "Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty" and it states a truth.

God wants to have you as a member of his big family. The invitation is broad and at no cost. "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life" Revelation 22:17 and "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost". Isaiah 55:1 He has a place reserved for you and for me. Jesus words are immortal "I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." John 14:2, 3.

This is a big invitation from a Big God.



1.  Wikipedia the free encyclopedia (Accessed 15.03.2009)

2.  Wikipedia the free encyclopedia (Accessed 16.05.2009)

3.  Wikipedia the free encyclopedia  (Accessed 02.05.2009)

4.  The International Society of Arboriculture Australia Chapter (Accessed 02.05.2009)

5.  Ninemsn Encarta  (Accessed 16.05.2009)

"Scripture quoted is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers"

This article and the pictures it contains are Copyright © 2009 by John L Morris.  Used by permission.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 31 - October/November 2009 > He is a Big - Big - Big God (by John Morris)