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Beyond the Bale : June 2014
Merino: the choice of champions Australian Merino wool is well known for its use in apparel -- from the latest chic fashions to the best performing sportswear -- but the fibre's versatility enables it to be used in a broad range of sometimes surprising applications. When TV audiences across the world were watching the world's best snooker players show off their skills at last month's World Snooker Championships at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, they were actually watching the balls roll across a green surface made from 100 per cent Australian Merino wool. Fine quality wool from Australia, carefully selected according to very precise specification, has been used in snooker cloth used across the world for over a century. With the recent snooker boom in China, demand has never been better. When only the best fibre will do, people across the world continue to choose Australian Merino wool. Do you know any unusual uses for Australian wool? Let us know. Australian Neil Robertson plays a shot during the 2014 World Snooker Championship. June 2014 BEYOND THE BALE 23 OFF-FARM Antarctica is the world's coldest and windiest continent. It has the lowest naturally occurring temperature ever recorded on the surface on Earth -89.2 °C and satellites have recorded even lower temperatures, down to --93.2 °C. Even in the summer months when tourists visit the coastal regions of the continent to see the spectacular scenery and wildlife, temperatures rarely get above freezing. So it's important to pick equipment and clothing that will keep you warm and safe. Tasmanian born and raised Ewan Blyth has first-hand experience of the region -- and always wears Merino wool base layer apparel when he's working there. As a sea kayaking guide for a commercial tour operator, he spends a lot of the tourist season guiding his clients around the wild coastlines, with just a few millimetres of the kayak's plastic bottom between him and the ice soup of the ocean. "I wouldn't wear any other base layer than Merino wool in these environments," Ewan says. "As well as feeling comfy next to the skin, their temperature and moisture management properties are ideal for this sort of outdoor activity. We quite often get sweaty or might get wet from splash, and a breeze from the Antarctic can cool you down very quickly. But Merino wool tends to keep you warm even when it's damp. "The garments are resilient and easy to care for, but as a lot of people are saying, I think their greatest attribute is that they don't stink, even after wearing them for a number of days. I have used synthetic base layers in the past which can start to smell after just a few hours, but I can wear my Merino on extended sea kayaking trips and still smell pretty fresh at the end of it. The Merino feels more comfortable than synthetics too." In the winter off-season, Ewan travels to other parts of the world -- all of them warmer than Antarctica, but each of them having their own climatic challenges. But Ewan's Merino wool gear goes everywhere he goes. "As an outdoors professional who spends so much time with Mother Nature in all her seasons, I am continually reminded how important good gear is. Whether I'm paddling in Antarctica, sailing Bass Strait, rafting the Franklin River, canyoning in Japan or hiking in the mountains of Vietnam, I know my Merino base layers are looking after me. For many expeditions I have literally lived in them -- paddled, eaten, hiked and slept in them for days on end and still they refuse to smell!" Ewan wears Merino apparel produced by Tasmanian company Smitten Merino, which is an AWI activewear brand partner. The company sources fabric made from 100 per cent superfine Merino wool grown in Tasmania and the Australian mainland. "I was first attracted to Merino wool base layers about five year ago, when the outdoor apparel industry was transitioning to the fibre, so I thought I'd get involved. Being from Tasmania myself, I thought I'd try Smitten's range and I've been really pleased with their products. It's also important to me to support a local company using a local natural fibre -- Australian Merino wool." More information: wwww.merino.com/sport www.smittenmerino.com PHOTO: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images