Cristy Burne

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One year anniversary of wreck discovery

SS Macumba_2_Credit Marine National Facility.jpg

Sonar pulses were used to map the 40-metre-deep wreck, showing its broken bow. Photo: CSIRO Marine National Facility

Last October, I was lucky enough to cover the thrilling discovery of a lost wreck. One year on, let’s revisit the events of that time…

On August 6, 1943, two Japanese airplanes attacked the SS Macumba, a 2500-tonne merchant ship in waters north of Arnhem Land.

The ship’s engine room was hit, three crewmen were killed, and the boat sank, disappearing into the ocean.

For seventy-four years, despite many searches, its final resting place was a mystery.

Then, in the dead of night on October 4 last year, the mystery was solved.

Wreck mystery solved

On October 3 2017, the crew onboard the CSIRO research boat Investigator was given just twelve hours to find the Macumba. The vessel was passing by the spot where the Macumba had last been seen, and though many previous searches had uncovered nothing, they wanted to give it another try…

The crew used sonar pulses to search the seafloor in a grid pattern. By studying how the pulses bounced back to the top, the team could work out what might be on the ocean’s bottom.

After ten hours of searching, they spotted some “unusual” features. The ship turned for another look.


Shark about to attack dropcam_Credit CSIRO.png

A specialised drop camera was used to photograph the wreck—and this resident reef shark.  Photo: CSIRO Marine National Facility

Midnight success


“It was very early in the morning, about 1 am, so everyone was very tired,” says Hugh Barker, voyage manager onboard Investigator. “As soon as [the wreck] appeared on our screens, everyone was celebrating. It was quite special to be the first to see the Macumba in 74 years.”

The team used sonar to map the wreck, which was 40 metres down. They also dropped a camera to photograph it. They discovered the wreck was teeming with life, including “an inquisitive reef shark that seemed to be guarding the site,” Mr Barker says.

The wreck will now be protected as a historic shipwreck.

Frozen in time

Shipwrecks are like time capsules, says Dr Ross Anderson, Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum.

“Everything on a shipwreck is frozen in an exact moment of time,” he says. “Shipwrecks, like all archaeological sites and heritage places, are tangible links to our past.”

Dr Anderson’s favourite wrecks are the HMAS Pandora, which ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in 1791, and the Batavia, Australia’s second earliest shipwreck, which was wrecked off Western Australia in 1629.

Items discovered on both wrecks help us understand how people lived hundreds of years ago.

And there’s still treasure to be found. “There are still many ships lost that were carrying bullion [like precious metals and coins] and other high value cargoes,” he says.

CSIRO research vessel Investigator_Credit CSIRO.jpg

CSIRO’s research vessel Investigator solved the 74-year-old mystery last year. Photo: CSIRO

Searching for treasure

Finding a wreck can be low-tech or high-tech. The divers who re-discovered the Batavia were shown where to look by a crayfisherman who’d spotted the curve of a giant anchor deep in the water.

The Pandora was re-discovered using a magnetometer, which measures changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. In this way, metal objects such as anchors and cannons often help us find lost wrecks, Dr Anderson says.

Other times, colour can point the way. If you’re keen on discovering sunken treasure, keep your eyes peeled for the green of tarnished copper, or the black of crusted silver.

This article first appeared in Crinkling News.


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Yeee ha! I’m jumping aboard Russ the Story Bus this year. Hope you can too!

I’m thilled to announce that I’ll be part of this year’s super-fun Russ the Story Bus lineup of children’s book creators…

This will be the second time I have toured regional New South Wales with an enormous automobile for company.

My first vehicular love was the Shell Questacon Science Circus semitrailer

…but perhaps this incredible bus can bust that record!


Stupedenous artwork by Sophie Beer, image by Prudence Upton

Part-library, part-artwork, part-stage and departing this week, Russ the Story Bus will tour schools in Greater Western Sydney, North Coast Regional and the ACT right through till mid-December.

Also touring with Russ, just to hold his metaphorical hand, if not steer his literal wheels, are Sophie Beer, who created the amazing artwork that adorns Russ’ sides, and a bunch of other fabulous children’s book authors and illustrators that make me swoon and wish I could stowaway for the whole tour:

Nicki Greenberg, Sandy Fussell, Jeremy Lachlan, Rebecca McRitchie, Martine Murray, Yvette Poshoglian and Damon Young….

And me!

We’ll be bringing stories, adventures, excitement, creativity and fun…and a whole bus-load of fabulous storybooks and children’s novels.

I’ll be touring for just one week of this epic journey – from November 26 to November 30 – and I can’t wait!

There’s more information on booking a visit for your school here. But you’ll have to be quick. This is Russ’ fifth year of touring, so if you miss out in 2018, try again for 2019.

And if you’ve been lucky enough to snag a booking—HAVE A BALL!

I hope to see you bus-side very soon!


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Kid power: walking for Telethon

This weekend is Telethon 2018! The perfect time to reprint this inspiring story about Scott Guerini, an ordinary kid who raises thousands of dollars every year for WA’s favourite fundraiser.

Marathon fundraiser

By Cristy Burne

Scott aged 4.jpg

Scott was four when he started fundraising for Telethon.

In July 2017, Scott Guerini finished his fourth fundraising marathon, launched his own book, and won a grant to inspire more kids to make a difference in the world.

“I’ve got my own motto,” Scott explains. “‘It’s easy to make a difference, what can you do?’”

Scott was four when he learned about fundraising in kindy. “It got me thinking, and the hardest thing I could think of was to walk into town from our farm, so I did,” he explains.

He’s since raised over $125,000 for Telethon, a Western Australian charity that pays for research into children’s diseases.

Are we there yet?

The walk from Scott’s farm to the town of Southern Cross, WA, is 25 km. As a four-year-old, he had to ask his parents every morning for two weeks before they’d let him try.

Scott’s mum, Nicole Guerini, remembers: “We said ‘no, it’s too far, you’re too little.’ It seemed like a really crazy idea, but he was really passionate about it.”

When they eventually said yes, Scott was ready. He finished the walk in eight hours and forty minutes, raising over $3000 for Telethon.

Scott has since completed a fundraising walk every year. He’s now 12, and finished his fourth marathon (42.195 km) on 15 July 2017, with a personal best time of eight hours and 45 minutes.

“My favourite marathon was when my little brother Damien walked it with me,” he says.

What’s it like to walk that far? “It’s painful, it’s also very painful,” Scott jokes. “It’s really a mental challenge.” Scott says knowing he’s helping sick kids and babies keeps him going.

Making a difference

Scott signing books at the launch.JPG

Scott hopes to raise more money from sales of his book, Did you know you can change the world, which was launched on 26 July 2017. Scott started writing and illustrating the book in January, but it became reality after Scott received an unexpected phone call from Terry and Dixie Prindiville.

Scott says: “I’d been talking about what I was doing on the radio, and they were listening. They just rang us up and said they wanted to help.”

The Prindivilles donated the money for Scott’s book to be printed, “so all proceeds from book sales can go directly to Telethon,” he explains.

Scott designed his book to be interactive and inspiring. “I deliberately chose non-glossy paper, so people can write in their own ideas.”

Spreading the word

In 2017 Scott won a $5,700 grant to run interactive workshops for kids in the October school holidays. Each workshop used Scott’s book to inspire participants to create an artwork about how they can change the world.

Mrs Guerini encourages other parents to let their children try “crazy” fundraising ideas.

“It’s led to this snowball effect,” she says. “That kind of money [$125,000] can create a real difference.”

This article first appeared in Crinkling News.

Thanks to Scott’s Great Walk for the photos–and the inspiration.


How we hiked the Cape to Cape track – our 6-day itinerary

How did you survive the school holidays? I was lucky enough to hike the Cape to Cape track with my husband, just the two of us. It was BLISS!

I’m all for taking kids hiking, but not when it’s 20 km a day! And not when there’s a chance for some Awesome Holiday Babysitting. Our kids stayed with their younger cousins and had a blast, riding bikes, playing chasie and exploring from a super dog-friendly Margaret River holiday house (a million thanks to my fab sister and her fab hubbie!!)

And we got our hike on! It was the first time we’ve done a big hike since the kids were born. AND it was ACE!

We were lucky to have AMAZING weather and incredible luck with camp sites, friendly advice, river crossings, the works! There were a few drops of rain at night, but nothing our tent couldn’t handle. And if it rained on the nights we were in a real bed, I can’t say I noticed 🙂

Incredible scenery Cape to Cape2.jpg

For those who are keen for a hiking challenge, the Cape to Cape comes 100% recommended. You pass through some of our south-west’s loveliest towns, so you can break your trip up with meals at great cafes, drink real coffees, stock up on chocolate, etc, as you hike through.

We saw snakes and kangaroos and whales and dolphins and birds and lizards and massive man-eating ants (well, big ants, anyway).

We walked rugged coastlines and through head-high wildflowers and down 365 stairs (and back up the other side!).

We walked along soft sandy beaches, past yawning caves, across rocky rivers and through gorgeous Karri forest.

We chatted and sang and talked to flowers (yes, and they talked back). It was glorious!

If you do want to hike the Cape to Cape with your kids, go for it, but make sure you’ve tried some shorter walks first… We met two kids hiking the full track: both were experienced hikers, both were aged 13-15, and both were LOVING it and always out in front, leading the way for their parents. So. Cool.

Mission Cape to Cape (127ish km)

There are a zillion ways to walk the Cape to Cape track, including guided tours, cottage accommodation that drops you off and picks you up each day, campsites and free camping (which is allowed in the national park only for hikers walking the track).

We spent many hours studying the maps and book and this was the itinerary we decided on in the end:

Time of year: Late September, after a wet winter. The water tanks were all full.

What we packed: Check out this post on what we carried in our packs.

DAY ONE: 21 km – Cape Naturaliste to south of Wyadup

My brother-in-law dropped us at Cape Naturaliste for an early start. It was great to finally be on the track after so much preparation and anticipation. (Luckily, some of that preparation included borrowing a pair of gaiters each. We saw two dugites in the first hour, so gaiters quickly became our best friends)(Gaiters are also useful for keeping sand out of your shoes when you’re walking in soft sand.)

We walked through to Yellingup for a truly lush lunch at Shaana’s (I totally recommend the Superfood Summer Bowl). We sat on a cool shady couch, soaked up the holiday scene, and congratulated ourselves on the first phase of our journey. I’d been worried about whether we would make the distance each day, and here, for the first time, I was confident that we would 🙂

We hiked on, totally blown away by the clifftop scenery and wildflowers, then stopped at La Monts for an overpriced afternoon tea. The place was all concrete, no views…We wouldn’t stop here next time.

We hiked on, somehow missing the water just before Rotary Lookout and instead using a purifier to treat water from a stream further along the track. We filled to max capacity: around 4.5 litres each from this point. This is a huge volume of water, but we needed it to last us through dinner, breakfast and on till lunch-ish the next day.

Cristy Burne on Cape to Cape5.jpgWe walked past a whale carcass on the beach just as the sun was setting…beautiful and sad all at the same time.

A kilometre or two south of Wyadup, we chose an amazing clifftop campsite. We’d tried to get four-walled accommodation, but no-one would have us for just one night due to the long weekend. Just as well. It was glorious.

DAY TWO: 21 km – South of Wyadup to south of Guillotine

We woke at dawn to see dolphins surfing the waves and whales passing by offshore. AMAZING!

We hiked on to Moses Rock Camp Site to refill our water. We hiked quite a few hours with fully loaded packs (So Much Water!), wanting to extend this day by a few kilometres to make Day Three a few kilometres shorter.

Camping sunset2.jpgWell worth it! We ended the day exhausted but satisfied, scoring a sheltered campsite, tucked between the rocks south of Guillotine. The sound of the surf was like a jet engine all night.

Also, I’m not afraid to admit I was in so much pain I couldn’t roll over without waking up.

But also, I was stoked and excited. I was so stoked and excited, I was like a Tardis for being stoked and excited.

DAY THREE: 22 km – South of Guillotine to Prevelly

We were up again at dawn, spurred on by the promise of a shower and a real bed.  We stopped for an amazing coffee at the gorgeous Gracetown General Store (they also have fresh bread, rawsome treats, hiking supplies, designer tees, you name it!).

Track lizardThen it was up over the headland, past the reluctant-to-move dinosaurs, and on. We filled our bottles at Ellensbrook campsite, then continued past the winter diversion with the aim of crossing Margaret River.

We’d heard rumours that, after our wet winter, the crossing was too dangerous (the words “chest-deep” and “quicksand” were used together in a sentence), but every hiker we met said the river could be crossed if you chose your spot carefully. We took off our packs to experiment with spots, and ended up crossing right at the sandbank, where the waves came racing in, and it was (mostly) knee-deep and (OMG-refreshingly) cold. In our heads, the Margaret River crossing was the real crux of the whole hike — and we did it!

Yeeeha! Reward time: We spent that night at Surfpoint Resort with a real bed (!!!) and an en suite (!!!) and shouted ourselves non-dehydrated dinner and a happy hour cold beer/G&T at The Common, just 100 metres down the road. BLISS. All/most/some of the aches and pains faded into track-ready muscles overnight. Serious.

DAY FOUR: 17km – Prevelly to Contos

We slept in till White Elephant Cafe opened at 7.30, then voluntarily added around a kilometre to our day just to feast on their super-tasty coconut bircher muesli and enjoy yet another great coffee plus incredible view for breakfast.

Cristy Burne on Cape to Cape2.jpgWe plunged 365 steps down to Boodjidup Brook to marvel at a bridge that conservation volunteers had built, carrying in all the steel by hand! Like several spots along the track, this glade was infested with arum lily.

We saw endangered hooded plovers racing across the beach on their long legs, drank the best miso soup in the world ever while sitting on a dreamy white-sanded beach, admired the rugged landscape of Bob’s Hollow with its caves and cliffs.

We’d pulled into our pre-paid campsite at Contos that afternoon – we’d booked a site at Whistler’s Circle, which is really close to the start of the next day’s hike. There was a smoking log in the fire pit, so we were able to restart a wood fire just by adding a few twigs. It was terrific to have a wood fire. We stared into the dreamy flames for the half hour of semi-darkness during which we were still awake. And when we crawled into our tent, we could actually bend and move and twist in the required ways to facilitate sleeping bag entry. Something that hadn’t been possible on Day Two. Ahhh, that was a proud moment.

DAY FIVE: 22km – Contos to Hamelin Bay

Like angels in disguise, my parents (who walked the Cape to Cape nearly two decades ago, when it was just a bare-bottomed baby) arrived early with bananas, bacon-and-egg pie (thank you Mum!), and…drumroll…our day packs!! We left our pack-packs in the boot of their car, complete with cooker and gas, tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. All we carried was food, water, an extra layer of clothes, and a first aid kit. So light! We felt we could fly.

We strolled through the Boronup Forest, which was all piping birdsong and misty trees. Superb.

Collected plastic rubbish on beach near Hamelin Bay.jpgThen we ended the day with a tough 6 km walk to Hamelin Bay. This stretch of beach must cop the wrong sort of current, because it was littered from top to bottom with bottle caps, discarded glow sticks, bits of lost rope, glass and plastic bottles…all kinds of junk. As we walked, we filled a plastic bag. It soon overflowed! We lugged it all the way to the caravan park skip bins – very satisfying!

We then eagerly treated ourselves to another steaming hot shower and another real bed. The caravan park also has a general store selling chocolates, ice creams, potato chips…all the things we dreamed of… We may or may not have collapsed on the bed while shovelling junk food and watching a Jennifer Aniston rom-com (there are DVDs at reception ;-)).

DAY SIX: 24km – Hamelin Bay to Cape Leeuwin

This killer day wasn’t as tough as I was expecting. There was around 10 kilometres of beach walking, but much of it was across rocks, past blowholes, or along tropical-island-paradise-style lagoons. Not too hard to bear. Plus, we were track-hardened, so we veritably skipped along, soaking up the sunshine and the wide blue and green spaces. Hearts = Full.

Cristy Burne at Foul Bay Lighthouse.jpgWe passed the Foul Bay Lighthouse, and could see the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse from pretty early in the day, and despite some false alarms, I can confirm that it really did — very slowly — become larger as we walked.

The final bit of track was just as deluxe as the rest of it: families of ducklings in a fresh-ish water bay, blue tongue lizards sunning on the rocks, gorgeous single track pathways winding through flowers…and So Much Satisfaction.. We were going to make it!

As we reached the track-end, a friend from school was randomly there  (total coincidence! thanks Jac!) to take our end-of-adventure photo. What terrific timing!! And what a terrific time. We loved it! Our car was waiting in the carpark, dropped off earlier in the day by my sister. We jumped in and drove away, but the great feeling has remained.

Camping sunset.jpgVerdict? 10/10

This is a totally recommended hike. If you want to do it independently, you need to be moderately fit: I practised by carrying a daypack full of dumbbells up and down our street…also totally recommended…I swear, it works!

You also need to be strong in the determination department, and confident in your on-track cooking and water management.

If you want to do it with a bit more luxury, quite a few B&Bs or tour operators offer catered day-hike options which looked fabulous!

YAY! I’ve wanted to do this hike for YEARS!!!

If you’ve been thinking about doing the Cape to Cape track, I hope this itinerary helps you in your planning.

And if you’ve never thought about doing it…I hope it has planted a seed. Try a day hike or two, then an overnight hike (on the Bibbulmun is a great place to start), then off you go!

And if you can think of nothing worse than six days of sand, sub-standard sanitation and muscle pain, then don’t despair. You can still experience the gorgeous clifftop walks and secluded beachs with a day hike or two.

Stay somewhere in the south-west, hike during the day, and book-end your efforts with great food, local wine, hot showers and a comfy bed.

*sigh*  How lucky are we!?!?!

Just us and the waves - Cape to Cape.jpg


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Dogs of the Rich and Famous: Pip, Benji…and Meredith Costain

Pip and M.jpgWhy have one adorable dog when you can have two?

This week on Dogs of the Rich and Famous we feature Pip and Benji, beloved four-legged coworkers of Australian author Meredith Costain. Too cute!

About Pip and Benji

Names: Pip (aka Pippus Rattus) and Benji (aka Benji Basenji)

Ages:  20 months (Pip) and 2 years (Benji)

Breeds (or best guess): Kelpie/red heeler cross and kelpie/blue heeler cross.

Perfect puppy cover005.jpgAssistant to: Author Meredith Costain

Meredith writes books for children with lots of music and dogs in them. These include Musical Harriet (which was adapted for TV by the ABC and has five dogs), Dog Squad (lots of dogs), Daddies are Great (dogs on every page), CBCA Honour Book Doodledum Dancing (lots of poems about dogs) and the quirky illustrated best-selling series the Ella Diaries, and new ’sister series’ Olivia’s Secret Scribbles (both featuring the same family dog, Bob).

She lives in an old inner-city bluestone house with her partner and co-dog wrangler Paul Collins and a menagerie of pets (including cats, chooks and fish as well as dogs).

(I think it’s fair to say Meredith LOVES dogs!)(and so do I :-))

Help or hindrance? “Help,” says Meredith. “Their antics and personalities provide loads of material for my books. Every day. They also keep me moving (after hours stuck in a desk chair) by reminding me it’s ‘park time’ with gentle nudges and growly noises.”

“They are also ‘naturals’ when it comes to social media promotion.”

Fave toy: Tennis balls for rounding up in the park.

Fave game: Rounding up the chooks in the garden.


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Dark and spooky: Why kids need a safe scare–and where to get one this school holidays

DB_GreatBigDark_FB Ad Post Twitter Post.jpgIt’s dark. There are spooky hoots and crackles, talk of monsters, rapping noises, creaking sounds…

This is scary stuff. I’m scared just writing about it.

But it’s also safe. You’re surrounded by friends, they’re cracking jokes and you’re giggling. It’s exciting to feel scared. You hold your neighbour’s hand or cuddle in tight. You jump with surprise, laugh with relief.

Where, oh where?

There aren’t many places your kids can go to get a safe scare these days. But I think it’s vital that kids learn how to be scared, how to face their fear and get through it.

I’m not suggesting a weekly family viewing of The Walking Dead. (I’m not at all a fan of terror and violence and gore. And I don’t think our kids should be either! I can’t believe how many kids have seen movies I would never watch in a million years.)

I’m suggesting good, clean spooky fun. Torches. Moonlight. Ghost noises (made by your sister). More ghost noises (made by your mum). The kind of thrill you get from reading late at night under your covers, racing through page after page, hoping and wishing that the good guys will triumph and the bad guys will get their due.

I can’t imagine my life without exciting books. Without danger and fighting and escapes and giants and monsters. I certainly don’t want any of these things in my *real* life. But just reading about them takes me on a ride that also introduces courage and loyalty, tenacity and friendship. Reading about heroes coping with hardship helps me to believe I too can get through tough times. It’s important our kids know this too.

Two great reads

There’s a couple of terrific articles I’d love you to read. One is about Andy and Terry and the importance of freedom and wilderness in our children’s lives.

The other is by soon-to-be-debut author-illustrator Fiona Burrows. It’s called The Child and The Dark. It’s about the need for us to embrace the darkness. It’s moving and magnificent. As a taster, Burrows quotes Neil Gaiman’s opinion of the dark:

“I think if you are protected from dark things then you have no protection of, knowledge of, or understanding of dark things when they show up. I think it is really important to show dark things to kids — and, in the showing, to also show that dark things can be beaten, that you have power. Tell them you can fight back, tell them you can win. Because you can — but you have to know that.


So, if you’re looking for something dark and spooky and safe to do with your kids this school holidays, do youself a favour and grab yourself a ticket to this fun family event.

The Big Dark and Spooky Book Read is exactly that: Held at the State Library of WA on Wednesday October 3, the show features five children’s book creators reading spooky bits from their latest books.

And one is me!

There’ll be marshmallows on sticks. There’ll be walkie-talkies in the dark. There’ll even be (spoiler alert!) talk of monsters, rapping noises and maybe even some creaking sounds. It’ll be exciting and spooky and you can grab your tickets here.

PS: You get a free copy of your choice of book with your ticket!!!


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My top five activities for book and science lovers

Fremantle Press recently featured my top five activities for teachers to use with their book and science lovers in the classroom.

In case you missed it…here it is again!

Activities for Science Week and Book Week.JPG

1. Design your red planet submarine
We’ve just discovered a giant underground lake on Mars! Now we need to find out what’s in it. Imagine you’re in charge of designing the Mars Submarine Explorer. Draw it and label the features that’ll help you in your adventure. Then, when you’re ready, jump in and take it for a ride … Write down what happens and let us know what you discover!

2. Forget the Floss, dance the Peacock Spider
Kick off your day with a peacock spider-inspired dance routine to get your creative juices flowing. And while you’re busting moves, marvel at the fact that these incredible arachnids were only discovered last month and they live right here in Western Australia … How lucky are we?! When you have your breath back, imagine how it felt to be the first person in the world to see these spiders in action … Write a scene where you’re that person, sneaking through the bush on the trail of a new and amazing discovery.

3. Billionaire inventor
Ten of the 20 fastest-rising billionaires in the world work with new technologies. Imagine you’re an insanely rich technology entrepreneur. Now imagine you want to spend a wad of cash on a new project. What type of technology will you choose? A robot? A spaceship? A helpful gadget? A crazy invention? Sketch out your project and write an advertisement that explains what it will do. How will you encourage us to part with our money so we can own the Next Big Thing?

4. What if rhinos roamed Australia?
Rhinos are critically endangered, so why not introduce them to Australia? I love this plan! And it’s amazing for story ideas … What if rhinos roamed with kangaroos? What if your part-time job was caring for a rhino herd? What if poachers came to hurt your rhinos? What if we could have pet rhinos? Or use rhinos instead of lawnmowers? Brainstorm some ideas for what might happen in your story.

5. Create an emergency whistle
Hiking in the bush is a fantastic way to learn more about the world around you. There are insects and flowers and birds and trees, and there’s also survival, if things go wrong. When you read my latest book, Off the Track, you’ll learn the best way to stay safe in the bush is to be prepared. You can also learn a sweet trick that just might save your life. Spoiler alert: the trick is how to make a super-annoying whistle from an ordinary piece of paper. And remember, it’s not just super-annoying, it’s also educational! Yay, the science of sound!