Monday, 21 March 2022

Up right out back


 All hail the internet! It was way back in 2014 when I did this trip to Kakadu in the Northern Territory, but it was easy to check up on the facts before I submitted this story in response to a request for Australian material. It was a bit of a shame then that, having written and sent in six assorted stories, the bubble with our neighbour burst again, and they had to be filed away. But at least I was paid, in advance! Which is rare, very rare... Now though, finally, the borders are open again, and this story has finally seen the light of day.

So I look forward to seeing the others, about Ningaloo, and the Bibbulmun, and Rottnest, Broome and the Stuart Highway, in the coming weeks. I do enjoy remembering those colourful trips and, as ever, hope that the stories will prompt Kiwis to break away from their boring Melbourne-Sydney-Gold Coast mindset, and explore other bits of Australia, especially the amazing Outback.

It's kind of a shame that 'The Tourist' on HBO Max isn't as gripping as it should be, given its Outback setting, and its cast; because it might otherwise intrigue some viewers enough to make them want to get a taste of that location. Never mind, though: season 2 of Tim Minchin's 'Upright' is about to be filmed. Season 1 was about a journey across the Nullabor Plain heading to Perth, and it was glorious - not even just for the scenery, either. It's a funny, sad and original story and, of course, has excellent music, notably for me 'Carry You', sung over the final credits by Missy Higgins

The song starts with a mention of fish and chips on Perth's Cottesloe beach, where I went to do a story about their annual sculpture exhibition. I really enjoyed it, and not just because I got, for the first and only time ever, a per diem - what a thrill! But the exhibition was great too, and it was the perfect place to stage it, along that gorgeous beach.

Connections? Well, Cottesloe’s sculpture exhibition is on again right now; plus Sculpture on the Gulf is currently running here on Waiheke, which I've written about, of course. And I did go to see Tim Minchin last year, performing at the Civic, a theatre I've also written about, of course. Upright S2 is going to be filmed in Queensland, but I have faith that Tim will break away from the boring bits and take us viewers into less familiar, but far more spectacular, locations. Can't wait.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Shackleton, yes - but also Worsley


It's lovely to be distracted from all the horrible world news by the discovery in Antarctica, 3000m underneath the increasingly solid surface of the Weddell Sea, of the amazingly well-preserved wreck of the Endurance. It sank in 1915, on an ill-judged voyage towards a crossing of the continent by Ernest Shackleton - he was strongly advised not to go, because winter had started early that year, but he was stubborn and went anyway, with his crew of 27 men, 69 dogs and one cat.

The discovery was announced on the 100th anniversary of Shackleton's funeral, in South Georgia, where he had gone again to attempt another Antarctic expedition, his fourth. He died in Grytviken of a second heart attack, the first having happened in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil en route to South Georgia - which he had brushed aside. Antarctica does that to you, you know - gets under your skin, draws you back, won't let go.

I'd go there again like a shot, offered the chance. It's unique, stunningly beautiful, and pitilessly inhospitable. On my Silversea cruise there, despite it being so expensive (*cough* to regular punters, not freebie-grabbing travel writers like me), several of the passengers guests had already been there at least once.

We visited Shackleton's grave there, and toasted 'The Boss' with a glass of champagne; and later visited dauntingly barren and rocky Elephant Island, where his crew had clung for four and a half unimaginably brutal months while awaiting rescue. That they were indeed all saved is due in huge part to the comparatively-unsung hero Frank Worsley - of Akaroa, NZ - who managed to navigate their little lifeboat in almost impossible conditions over 1300 stormy kilometres to South Georgia, to summon a ship for rescue. 

It's also thanks to Worsley's excellent mapping skills that the discoverers of the Endurance knew to look in pretty much the right place for the wreck. And, another Kiwi connection, one of the photography team who took these amazing images is James Blake, son of Sir Peter, famous sailor, who was killed by pirates while on an expedition up the Amazon. In Brazil.


PS While writing this entry, a Silversea email popped into my inbox about - you guessed it - expedition cruises to polar regions, focussing on a giant petrel feeding frenzy in South Georgia and Zodiac explorations in Antarctica. Connections, people.

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