Notes from the f ield
GETTING OUT INTO this wild brown (and green and blue) land has always been a feature of AUSTRALIAN GEOGRAPHIC’s reporting. And in this issue we have literally travelled from one end of the country to the other for stories of real and remote Australia. Writer-photographer Peta Burton went deep into Arnhem Land for her feature for our new Travel with Us section that’s included for the first time in this issue.
And we bundled two of Australia’s most popular contemporary landscape photographers, Luke Tscharke and Tim Wrate, off to the other end of the country on their first AG assignment together. In homage to the legendary Peter Dombrovskis, who tragically died while photographing the Tasmanian wilderness 21 years ago, they explored Peter’s favourite spots. For Luke, seeing Peter’s classic image of Lake Oberon in the
Western Arthurs “was a revelation”. The assignment meant scaling rugged terrain and downsizing backpacks to decrease weight. “This was made all the more difficult given the need to carry 3–5kg of photo gear on top of tents, sleeping bags, mattresses, food supplies and other essentials necessary for survival,” Luke says.
It was a hard slog up the Western Arthurs and after a week struggling through kneedeep mud, prickly scoparia bushes and precarious cliff descents they were physically shattered. “But being able to capture this incredible place made all of the pain and exhaustion melt away,” says Luke.
For another tough slog, this time in Queensland, we teamed writer Hannah James, on her first assignment for us, with veteran AG photographer Don Fuchs for a six-day hike through Carnarvon Gorge. Hannah, who has trekked all over the world, admits, “Parts of this walk nearly floored me” – although she got off lightly compared with Don, who had to lug all his camera gear as well!
“But it was an amazing experience and stunning location,” she says. “The gorge itself is simply breathtaking!”
Further west, Stephen Corby and Thomas Wielecki touched down in one of our most quintessential outback towns. “After flying six hours from Sydney to Birdsville on a plane so small that pilots refer to it as a
‘bug smasher’, with no toilet, it was exciting to finally see the town beneath us,” Stephen says. “Or it would have been, if there was anything to see!
“It’s fair to say that Birdsville’s fame has far outgrown its actual size, because it really is a speck in the middle of a baked red barbecue of a landscape.” Stephen and Thomas discovered that the Birdsville locals are some of the most interesting and hospitable country folk you’re likely to meet anywhere. Their take on the town will give you a fresh appreciation of a place that’s entrenched in Aussie folklore.
Much has been written and said about the Great Barrier Reef in recent times. Is it dying? Should we go see it before it’s too late? So we sent AG’s consulting editor, Karen McGhee, to uncover the truth. One of Australia’s leading science editors, Karen is among AG’s most experienced writers. “It should have been the dream assignment – a week in a tropical paradise away from a miserable Sydney winter,” she says. “But I was anxious about what I’d find at this place that I first fell in love with 20 years ago.”
After seven flights, from one end of the reef to the other, and many hours beneath the waters of the Coral Sea, what she found was “both heartening and heartbreaking”.
“Most importantly,” says Karen, “I also found a widespread and overwhelming will to rescue the reef.”
Luke Tscharke (at left), Dylan Toh, Tim Wrate and Francois Fourie ascending the slippery slopes of the Western Arthurs.