Notes from the f ield

Australian Geographic - - From the Editor-in-chief -

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.

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