Notes from the f ield

Australian Geographic - - From The Editor-in-chief -

Ad­ven­ture des­ti­na­tions don’t come much more ex­cit­ing than

Antarc­tica. For writer and pho­tog­ra­pher Justin Gil­li­gan, whose trip formed part of his prize for win­ning the 2017 Aus­tralian Geo­graphic Na­ture Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year com­pe­ti­tion, vis­it­ing the frozen con­ti­nent was a bucket-list item. “It has al­ways been a dream of mine to go to Antarc­tica, and this ex­pe­di­tion ex­ceeded all ex­pec­ta­tions,” he says. “A high­light for me was cross­ing the Antarc­tic po­lar front, a con­ver­gence zone where warm sub­antarc­tic wa­ter sinks be­neath cold Antarc­tic wa­ter. From this point in the ex­pe­di­tion, ice­bergs were a com­mon oc­cur­rence and I just couldn’t get enough of them. Each had its own dis­tinct shape, and I be­came lost in a vis­ually com­plex, ever-chang­ing seascape where blocks of ice the size of sub­urbs drifted with­out an­chor.”

An equally thrilling ex­pe­di­tion was in store for ad­ven­ture pho­to­jour­nal­ist Justin Walker. Tassie’s Franklin River had loomed large in his life since the 1980s when, as a child, he watched the cam­paign to save the river from be­ing dammed un­fold on tele­vi­sion and in the news­pa­pers. Decades later, and as an ex­pe­ri­enced pad­dler, the op­por­tu­nity to spend nine days raft­ing the

Franklin meant fi­nally tick­ing this un­tamed water­way off his pad­dling bucket list. “I have been lucky enough to pad­dle some amaz­ing wa­ter­ways around the world, but when­ever any­one asks me what my favourite river is, I sim­ply say, ‘the Franklin’,” says Justin. “Pad­dling a truly wild and

free river through one of the world’s last re­main­ing wilder­ness ar­eas is a def­i­nite life mem­ory.”

Writer Peter Mered­ith went on a rather less adren­a­line-fu­elled, but equally en­gag­ing, river jour­ney in New South Wales. “I be­lieve a jour­ney through a land­scape empty of peo­ple is one-di­men­sional. The peo­ple I meet on a jour­ney add lay­ers of mean­ing not just to the ex­pe­ri­ence, but also to the very land­scape it­self,” he says. “So it was with my ex­plo­ration of the

Ma­cleay River with pho­tog­ra­pher Don Fuchs. The peo­ple who are part of that scenery, who sur­vive and earn a liv­ing in it, who care about it and for it, who are ac­tive in its pro­tec­tion, who study it for its ben­e­fit were its ma­jor com­po­nent. I was im­pressed by the knowl­edge and com­mit­ment NPWS rangers brought to their work; I was moved by In­dige­nous elder Aunty

Ruth Dunn’s depth of feel­ing for the river and her peo­ple’s strug­gles since Euro­pean set­tle­ment; and I was in­spired by coast and es­tu­ary of­fi­cer John Sch­midt’s pas­sion for the river and its wel­fare.”

More wa­ter­borne ad­ven­tures were had by long-time AG con­trib­u­tor Quentin Ch­ester, who ex­plored the re­mote wilder­nesses of our north­ern coast­line from Dar­win to Cape York with Co­ral Ex­pe­di­tions. “Af­ter 20 years away, it was an ut­ter priv­i­lege to be back in Arn­hem Land, es­pe­cially on the coast,” he says. “The Salt­wa­ter Peo­ple have such a rich his­tory and the com­mu­ni­ties wel­comed us warmly with their sto­ries and art. Aboard the Co­ral Dis­cov­erer you’re trav­el­ling in such re­laxed style it’s easy to for­get how re­mote this coast­line is. But it’s the pre­mier way to ac­cess this re­gion and the ex­pe­ri­ence of the ex­pe­di­tion staff re­ally shone through.”

Among many mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences, Quentin says his high­light was a sim­ple plea­sure: “The chance to cut loose into the stony rises on the Wes­sel Is­lands. To wan­der the craggy crevasses with rock figs over­head, fruit doves coo­ing and rock-wal­la­bies scoot­ing past was a su­per-charged mo­ment – and so evoca­tive of walk­ing the fan­tas­tic es­carp­ment coun­try of Kakadu and the Kim­ber­ley.”

Pho­to­jour­nal­ist Justin Walker makes his bed for the night un­der a rock over­hang be­side the Franklin River.

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