The thick basalt walls of the former Congregational Church proved both blessing and curse during the recording of Dark Old Waters for Volume 1:4. While the walls blocked out most of the racket emanating from the heavy construction going on mere feet from the church’s western flanks, the bluestone blocks and concrete-rendered interior also served to add unwelcome levels of echo to Danny Spooner’s voice while bouncing the concertina’s bellowed notes in all directions across the empty space. But drawing on a lifetime’s experience playing in venues of all shapes and sizes Danny soon found a sweet spot, and you can download the results here.
Great Ocean Quarterly and Patagonia have gathered four people who we think are just like us: sea-affected and loving it!
Author Favel Parrett, (Past the Shallows, When The Night Comes); photographer Jon Frank (Australians); writer and musician Gregory Day (The Patron Saint of Eels, Archipelago of Souls), and professional longboarder and Patagonia ambassador Belinda Baggs, in conversation with Great Ocean’s editor Jock Serong, and creative director Mick Sowry (Musica Surfica, The Reef).
This is a night for conversation, for laughs and for sharing ideas: a night for anyone who likes to think by sealight.
Purchase yout tickets here
A taste of selected images and pages from Volume 1:4.
Read the editorial or purchase the digital edition here – GOQ Volume 1:4
The place from which these words are written, the southern edge of an enormous empty continent, is so diverse and contradictory and staggeringly huge…
Reviews: new marine science books from the CSIRO In the current context of debate over science funding, it’s relevant to take a look at the…
Our recent postings about Eusebio and Christina Saenz de Santamaria have drawn widespread interest. The strange beauty of humans at depth, devoid of the cumbersome apparatus required for scuba diving, is a reminder of how ill-equipped we are to mingle with creatures which have evolved to live in that environment. In addition to the aesthetic resonance of those scenes, there’s an athleticism required to wait for, and compose that shot. It takes mental strength to resist the body’s calls for a return to light and air.
Which brings us to the other side of Eusebio and Christina’s lives. In addition to photography, teaching and conservation, they are world-class athletes. Last weekend they set a new tandem freediving world record. Here’s a little about the day, from their blog at oneoceanonebreath.com
‘The world at depth for a freediver is a lonely and sometimes invisible experience. We descend by ourselves and what we feel and endure remains only within our own mind and memory. Which is one of the reasons why we (Eusebio and I) came up with the idea to descend together in the discipline of Variable Weight and this week we established a new world record and a world’s first dive for two people to descend on a weighted sled and ascend under our own power at the same time from a depth of 100 metres!
The Discovery Channel came to film our official event, which is great exposure for the sport that we love. It also added a little element of pressure on the day of the performance, which was a good learning experience. The program delved into the science of freediving, what our bodies and minds endure, the difficulties of diving as a duo as well as the technology of our equipment including our sled, which we designed and built custom-made to fit us both comfortably as well as to be hydrodynamically effective.
Safety is always a very important factor for us and we were assisted by two deep technical trimix divers stationed at 100m and 80m, two scuba divers at 40m and 30m, two safety freedivers who met us at 30 metres on our ascent, as well as a surface team who were prepared for any circumstance if necessary.
The biggest challenge for our dive was to coordinate two people who were able to prepare, descend and ascend in synchronicity to the target depth. In the first place it was necessary to be physically and mentally prepared to reach a depth of 100 metres. Secondly, we both had to be very aware of not only ourselves and our own sensations, but of the other person during the dive. We had a shared responsibility and ensured that we had clear lines of communication both on the surface and underwater in the event the dive was not going according to plan. Perhaps one advantage Eusebio and I have is that we are husband and wife and we always train together, so we have an intimate understanding and sixth sense for each other and how we are both feeling. However the duo dive was still a double-challenge in all these respects.
The ability to share a 100 metre dive together, along with the sensations and the challenges has been, to put it simply, an incredible experience and in our final weeks here in Roatan we continue to aim for new depths both alone and as a couple.’
This weekend has somehow been set aside to celebrate the unsung heroes of our coastlines, the lighthouses. Yep, it’s International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend, an event that was started by members of the Ayr Amateur Radio Group in Scotland, as a way of linking amateur radio nuts around the globe.
But lighthouses are important to all sorts of people, for reasons beyond their significance as radio repeater stations. They are invariably lovely examples of architecture (a couple of personal favourites being the bizarre atomic-looking steel structure at McCrae in Victoria and the giant Cape Wickham Lighthouse on Tasmania’s King Island). Down through history, they’ve featured in tales of heroism and bastardry, usually in the role of silent witness. A lighthouse forms the punchline to that old joke about military hubris (‘I’m a lighthouse. Your call’), and indeed the decline in their active role as navigational aids seems to have been supplanted by their increasing role as a metaphor for moral guidance.
Lighthouses are a little like journalists, employed through history to warn us of hidden danger, only to find themselves redundant in the electronic age.
Birds and lighthouses have always had a fractious relationship. Like any upright man-made structure, the lighthouse is potential roosting spot. Equally, however, their beam has attracted countless birds to their deaths. Charles Dickens talked of ‘’¦benighted sea-birds breasted on against their ponderous lanterns and fell dead’, imagery which was echoed in David Harris’s wonderful lighthouse story in our Launch issue, Nine Men’s Morris: ‘Thinking it a beacon of something better, Petrels and Shearwaters beat their bodies red against the white walls and thick glass.’
There are still lighthouse keepers out there, though their numbers are thinning. It sounds like the ultimate thing to write on any official form: Occupation ‘ Lighthouse Keeper. Despite their ranks being filled with brave souls who battled loneliness, fatigue, the cold and the toxic mercury of the lamp, it is likely that the most recognisable lighthouse keeper in history is the one featured in Jean Guichard’s 1989 photographs of giant waves off the coast of Brittany, France. It’s almost impossible to look at the man standing in the doorway of his lighthouse while a mountain of water wraps itself around the foot of the structure, without silently pleading Go inside! Shut the bloody door!
He survived, by the way.
No doubt you have a favourite lighthouse of your own, and most likely for a range of reasons that are yours alone. Drop us a line and tell us about it!
Our featured lighthouse is The Lighthouse of Punta Laxe, Galicia, Spain, from Los Percebeiros de Laxe: Great Ocean Quarterly Volume 1:3.
Photograph by Thomas Cristofoletti.
Mick Thomas walked into the Norla Dome at the Mission to Seafarers just hours after a massive storm had ripped through Melbourne. The Yarra was in flood, the Bay in a state of chaos. It seemed fitting to be hunkered down in a place of refuge for sailors. Mick’s beautiful whistling will be new to many listeners, and his song, Port Melbourne Beach, has never been recorded before. Enjoy the wild acoustics of the Dome, and read the full story behind the recording in our issue 1:3. Download Port Melbourne Beach here –
In the next issue of Great Ocean Quarterly we are privileged to have access to works from an important exhibition being held at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra.
Arcadia: Sound of the sea brings together 40 photographs by John Witzig, co-founder of Tracks magazine and founder of SeaNotes; juxtaposed with seven large ink drawings by Sydney based artist Nicholas Harding, and film footage from Albert Falzon’s Morning of the Earth.
In the first issue of Tracks Nat Young wrote ‘By simply surfing we are supporting the revolution’. Reflecting the perspective of John Witzig’s publications and their treatment of Australian politics; religion; environmental conservation; and alternatives to conformist ways of living, the statement underpins the visualised conception of freedom and potential reflected in the exhibition’s carefree images of young surfers.
National Portrait Gallery Historian and exhibition Curator Dr Sarah Engledow offers that Arcadia ‘…is about how it feels to be lean, male, strong, untrammelled and irresponsible: to be a slacker with immense discretionary energy. Almost all the people represented are handsome youths. Indeed, the exhibition is a tribute to the physical bravery, beauty and ebullience of many young men ‘ which is unusual in a show that isn’t about war (although it’s true that conscription shadowed many of the individuals pictured, and many whole bodies like theirs ended up punctured and ripped up in Vietnam). Through photographs, film and text, their free-spirited, passive-revolutionary character shines. The ocean may not appear in all of the images; in fact, it’s absent from at least half of them, as well as from most of the film footage: but you can hear it, as it were. Arcadia itself, vague place of myth, wasn’t by the beach. But the exhibition as a whole ‘ comprising pictures of people, pictures of houses, pictures of banksias, heath and driftwood, pictures of campgrounds ‘ is underpinned by a Romantic conception of the awesome and spiritually restorative force of the sea’.
Dr Engledow goes on to say: “The works in Arcadia have been brought together not so much to evoke ideas, as to trigger a sensual response: to salt and fresh water, wet and dry sand, dune vegetation, undergrowth, tent canvas, floors of vans and shacks, weatherboards, hand-knitted jumpers, thin old t-shirts, corduroy, spongy neoprene, stiff hair, dog fur, noses and claws, banksia pods, firewood, seaweed and rocks. If you can feel any of those textures, if you can smell or taste any of those odours ‘ and if, senses sharpened, you can feel a seed of independence germinating within you ‘ Arcadia lives in you.’
Witzig’s photographs will be newly-printed to unprecedented size. Five sections from Falzon’s 1972 film channel dreams of an untrammelled lifestyle. Harding’s intricate drawings are a natural fit with the texture of the photographs and share their vigorous, yet gentle, sensibility. Together the photographs, film and drawings evoke textures and odours: salt and fresh water, wet and dry sand, dune vegetation, undergrowth, tent canvas, floors of vans and shacks, hand-knitted jumpers, corduroy, spongy neoprene, stiff hair, dog fur, firewood, seaweed and rocks.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue comprising reproductions of photographs and drawings from the exhibition, new short pieces and excerpts from Tracks of 1970-1972 and SeaNotes of 1977-1978.
Arcadia: Sound of the sea will be displayed at the Gallery from 14 August to 19 October 2014 and will subsequently tour to Geelong Regional Art Gallery, Victoria and Tweed Regional Art Gallery in NSW.
Behind every issue of GOQ is our search for contributors. Sometimes they come to us, sometimes we search them out, and sometimes we’ve been directed towards them by mutual friends who thought they ‘might be a good fit’.
This was the case when, in the lead up to Great Ocean Quarterly‘s launch, we were alerted to the work of Favel Parrett, author of the acclaimed Past the Shallows, her first novel.
That she lives in coastal Torquay, down the road and around the corner from GOQ‘s Creative Director Mick Sowry came as a happy coincidence, and Mick wasted no time in contacting Favel for a coffee and a chat. This began a happy alliance, and friendship, that has seen her contribute work to our Launch edition, and in the wonderful Tarbrush Hickey in the Frozen South from Volume 1.2, a prose poem narrative that fell out of the sharing of images over another coffee in a local cafe.
They’d just arrived in Jock’s in-box, these fifty year old transparencies found by Phil Hickey, of his long lost Dad’s adventures in the Antarctic, a Dad who died far too young not long after his return in the early sixties. There was a poignancy in just the thought, but a layer was added as Favel cast her eyes over this first set of images we received.
‘It’s the Thala Dan!’ gasped Favel as she spied the red hulled bulk of the freighter looming over the bearded man with an unlikely nickname standing on sea ice just near the bow.
It turned out Favel’s new book was set around the very family of Danish freighters that Maurice ‘Tarbrush’ Hickey had voyaged to the deep south aboard, all those years ago. On top of that Favel had just been to Antarctica as part of a trip to research her as yet untitled second novel. She knew the nooks and crannies of almost every slide we had.
Leaping at the chance to write the captions to the shots, Favel added another, poetic layer to these memories. They became alive again. You’ll have to read them to see what we mean.
That we chose Favel to be our first featured writer is no coincidence. This month, her second novel, When the Night Comes, is released. We hope it is as successful as her first, and we know who we want back gracing the pages of Great Ocean Quarterly.
If she can find the time.
In our new issue, we bring you the inspiring story of Hanabeth Luke, the self-published author of an important memoir called Shockwaves. Here’s an excerpt from the foreword by Australian writer and publisher Tim Baker:
“You’re young, in love, and in paradise … surfing, traveling, partying. Then in one terrifying wave of heat and noise your reality shatters into a million pieces that can never be put back together. On October 12, 2002, a massive car bomb ripped through the popular Kuta nightclub, the Sari Club, killing 202 people and maiming many others. Hanabeth Luke was hamming it up on the dance floor to cheesy pop tunes with a friend when a loud bang, like a car back-firing, momentarily silenced the music and dimmed the lights. Dancers stopped and heads turned, but the music and flashing lights soon came back on and the party resumed. But only for a few seconds … “The noise which came next I will never forget. It was an empty sound that did not resonate. It was a thud, like the slam of a car door, but multiplied to a volume I simply cannot describe,” Hanabeth writes in this extraordinary memoir. Hanabeth survived the Bali Bomb, somehow crawling through the flaming wreckage and using fallen electrical cables to shimmy over a four metre high concrete wall. But her boyfriend Marc Gajardo was killed instantly in the blast. The heart-wrenching story of young love, and lives, cut short is chilling and confronting,. Her raw and honest account of those dreadful events brings the spectre of terrorism into sharp and intensely personal focus. Yet it is the story of what Hanabeth has done since which brings a spark of hope and light to this awful chapter in our history. Confronting world leaders, campaigning for peace and against the war on terror, raising money and awareness, resolving to squeeze the most from every day, Hanabeth’s inspirational tale provides a stirring case study in survival and healing.”
Hanabeth credits much of her recovery from despair to the ocean: from wandering Europe alone in the aftermath of her experience (and incredibly, becoming a bellyboarding world champion along the way!), to surfing heavy waves in southwest Western Australia, to returning to the waters of Bali and surfing at home near Byron Bay.
We think you’ll love our print story on Hanabeth, but by the time you’ve read that, you’ll want to delve deeper: here’s where to purchase Shockwaves ‘
Amazon Author Page:
A taste of selected images and pages from Volume 1:3.
Artist Ben Young takes the figurative term ‘glass off’ in an unexpected direction.
Surfer, skater and professional boat-builder Ben Young must have found something in the deep greens of the Bay of Plenty on New Zealand’s north island, where he grew up. The startling emerald tone of his glass sculptures captures a sense of depth and clarity that plays on the notion of liquid form.
Working by hand from sketches, and without machine guidance, Ben layers multiple sheets of glass to achieve both texture and contour at the edges, and colour through the transparent body of the sculpture. The process is labour intensive, but the results speak for themselves.
Ben’s work is handled by Kirra Galleries in Melbourne. These photos are courtesy Robert Gray Photography, Zico O’Neill and This Is Colossal.com. You can also find Ben on Facebook, via Faith is Torment.
Cuttlebones are among the most common sights on the beaches of southern Australia. Yet despite their distinctive shape and extraordinary abundance, they remain an enigma to most beach-goers. Why are they there? Where do they come from? Parents often suggest to their children that the streamlined white shapes are part of an animal that sheds them in differing sizes during their life (they aren’t) and that they’re useful for budgies and parrots to work their beaks on (they are). Beyond that, we take them as part of the coastal landscape. But researchers in Adelaide are revealing strange and wonderful details of the lives of Giant Australian Cuttlefish (Sepia apama) that might cause us all to rethink the fragility of these reclusive creatures.
Professor Steve Donnellan is an evolutionary biologist at the Museum of South Australia. In 1997, he was among an international group of researchers who began studying the rise in commercial fishing at the Giant Australian Cuttlefish breeding site off Whyalla in the Spencer Gulf. Sepia apama occur right across southern Australia’s coastline. They are the world’s largest cuttlefish (growing a mantle of up to fifty centimetres and a total body length of a metre) and Whyalla is the world’s best place to study them. The breeding aggregation at Whyalla is massive: they congregate in a density of up to one animal per square metre.
There has, for many years, been a very low-level commercial take of South Australian cuttlefish as bait for snapper. But the cuttlefish are an easy catch due to their concentration in the water: as the fishery rapidly gained pace, Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) imposed a moratorium on the take until they could figure out the cuttlefish’s population dynamics. The issue for the researchers was whether the cuttlefish at Whyalla are part of an Australia-wide population, or a distinct, localised grouping. The answer to that question would determine whether they could be protected under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The answer, discovered by Steve Donnellan’s team about seven years ago, is that they are a distinct grouping, and furthermore, the local population in the Upper Spencer Gulf might be a separate species of its own. The Spencer Gulf is an ‘inverse estuary,’ he told GOQ: normally the fresher water’s upstream, but the Spencer Gulf is saltier as you go up. ‘So possibly this population’s adapted to high salinity.’
Once these things were known, a permanent ban was imposed on all harvesting of the breeding aggregation. Despite that, numbers at the breeding site have dropped dramatically in recent years, and nobody seems to know why.
Researchers have spent many hours underwater with the cuttlefish during the mating aggregation. Their voyeurism has uncovered a startling variety of mating strategies: in perhaps the best example, small males that can’t compete for a mate against larger males ‘cross-dress’ their camouflage to resemble females. The large male that has paired up with a female allows this extra ‘female’ to get quite close. When he is distracted, the cross-dressing male unmasks himself ‘ aha! ‘ mates with the female, and quickly swims away from the unsuspecting large male without a potentially deadly confrontation. The multiple approaches to mating, along with their remarkable talents for camouflage, might be responses to the extraordinary numbers of cuttlefish at the breeding aggregation. Giant Australian Cuttlefish live for less than a year, and only get to breed once. Giant squid, by comparison, live for more than a decade, but all other species of cephalopod are very short-lived. So the whole population’s investment in eggs lies exposed on the reef at the Whyalla breeding site at the one time.
The female cuttlefish need rocky reefs to lay their eggs on. They aggregate in the winter months, when sexually mature, to lay them on the undersides of rocky surfaces. They don’t guard the eggs, which can be destroyed by urchins moving over the surface and dislodging them. The hatchlings that survive are the size of a human thumbnail, and are fully-formed, miniature adults ‘ cuttlefish have no larval phase. Dolphins prey on the adults at the aggregation site when they are senescing (that is, after mating but before death), although this is unlikely to be a population pressure, as the business of mating is done by then.
But habitat loss is another thing: there has been a protection zone in place around the breeding area since 1998, although some cuttlefish live and breed outside the zone. More recently, three proposed developments have arisen with the potential to affect the egg-laying sites at Whyalla: a fertiliser and chemical factory (which has been withdrawn); a proposed desalination plant (currently on hold) that BHP Billiton want to use to service their Roxby Downs mine site; and an ore-loading jetty for Cape-class ore vessels that would cross the egg-laying area. The South Australian EPA has studied the effects of conveyor-belt dust emissions, asking how they might affect water clarity and visibility, given cuttlefish are highly visual in their mating behaviours. The current view is that the dust might not
These concerns are vital from multiple perspectives. The Whyalla cuttlefish population has become an important source of eco-tourism in South Australia. The breeding activity occurs in water as shallow as one metre. As Professor Donnellan says, ‘You can flop in off the rocky shoreline with a mask and snorkel and be surrounded by breeding pairs’. World-renowned cephalopod experts come to Whyalla to study: ‘It’s so much easier for them,’ according to Steve, ‘because they’re scarcer in other places. The Spencer Gulf is the only known mass breeding aggregation in the world.’
Professor Bronwyn Gillanders is an aquatic ecologist, working at the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide. She’s been responsible for a tagging program that’s provided further insights into the Whyalla cuttlefish aggregation. ‘We’ve tagged animals on the breeding aggregation, and monitored them via signals emitted,’ she told GOQ. ‘We get a tag and put it up through the mantle, just for a short time. It emits a signal, and receivers are set up offshore, tracking them.’
The research effort is hampered by a lack of comparative data. ‘We’ve only got good estimates of abundance back to the late 1980s,’ she says, ‘so we don’t know if the current numbers are a peak or a trough over the long term. There’s some limited data from newspapers back around 1910, but that’s it.’
What’s known, she says, is that ‘the key area where they breed is limited to the Whyalla Peninsula at Point Lowly and a bit north of there. And they’re temporally limited between late April and August or September.’ Because of their declining abundance at the aggregation,there’s a whole-of-government working group, including Bronwyn Gillanders, devoted to watching the population.
The University of Adelaide tagging program revealed that the males are on the breeding aggregation longer than females, which explains the highly male-skewed sex ratio. According to Bronwyn Gillanders, ‘they breed, then they die.’ That’s why beach-goers see huge numbers of cuttlebones on the shoreline, particularly in spring. The white flecks along our surf beaches are the only physical remainder of an entire generation of the species. There is, as Gillanders points out, ‘no storage in the population. Each generation depends critically on the previous one.’
STORY: JOCK SERONG. PHOTOGRAPHY: PAUL MACDONALD
A SURFER’S LIFE IN ONE BRIEF SENTENCE. There’s a day for everything these days, and even surfing gets a gig. Today is International Surfing Day, so we thought we’d paddle out on the monologue.
A kind of hardbitten authenticity that spurns artifice, rings loud when you’re being had; an acute radar for big and empty talk from the very first words, and a measure of comfort with being cold, being scared, being held under, being dispossessed of oxygen or of life’s material trophies, a comfort that’s counterweighted by an irrational need, not necessarily every day or even twice a week but absolutely, compulsorily, upon the moment when it calls and says drop everything and go now, with such cogent force that maybe it isn’t irrational at all but is somehow reading you and guiding you through life’s currents, the occasional price of which is dishonesty; the willingness to lie straight-faced to loved ones, employers and if pushed, law enforcement officials, to ensure a fix, and thus it is my unfortunate duty sir to report that Grandma died, I had to see the dentist, I was out of the water but the others took ages to come in, I’ve really only got one yellow board (it just looks longer in some lights), you never get good swell round here, we’re not camping, we’re counting plovers, I did the dishes, I haven’t seen your husband, grandma died again; the trail of clues often falling to ground though a love of the ephemera, because the little pleasures that arise around the edges of the surfing act are nearly as good in aggregation as surfing itself, amongst which it is proper to count campfires, the smell and feel of a new board, sleeping on beaches, the occult relationship between music and footage, country pubs, feats of improbable eating, travelling with friends, laughing like a fool when fatigue has consumed the whole world, immersion in strange lands and cultures armed with a thing, much like music, that transcends the differences and draws people together round intrinsic themes like being weather obsessed, because no-one watches the sky, or the newspaper, or the internet closer: leading to patently absurd exchanges that go how was it? Yeah good but I reckon it’ll turn onshore this arv then it should straighten tomorrow and pick up a bit, like your bunions started aching or you studied ducks’ nests or chicken entrails or tapped a brass barometer while you smoked a pipe in your personal lighthouse, when in fact you both checked the same mass-subscription satellite forecasting service half an hour ago, although such exchanges are a measure of the commonality that exists between us, gifted as we are with one of the few things that money cannot ever under any circumstances procure even though we live in an age when it can purchase the appearance of truth through media concentration, a perfect nose or a private army; for only vast amounts of repetition and desire can deliver a full-throttle roundhouse; an unspoken truth shared when nodding sagely at the best man’s nose gushing seawater during a wedding speech, an unfathomable unity of purpose which predicates that the same snark who turned the road sign around to put you off the scent also installed a rope on the last tricky bit of the cliff descent; a loose affinity of likeminded solitary creatures who grudgingly prefer each other’s company to that of the gormless, unsurfing hordes, such affinity existing in spite of the staggering diversity of approaches, between those who sitkneelstandpaddle, put it all on red and spin the wheel, charging into imminent death; those who flap and twitch over listless shorebreaks with one eye on dying in their sleep at an advanced age , the graceful, the graceless, the garrulous and silent, those who towel off to pull on a hi-vis shirt, an Italian suit, a prosthetic leg, a bucket bong, a balaclava, all of them beholden to the addictive rush of the loading of the senses; the massive endorphin hit triggered by all five and an innominate sixth or seventh singing in a loin’stirring harmony that no other human activity can deliver, feeling the fingertips tracing the curvature of a standing, spinning wall of perfectly smooth water beside you, (a sensation which for every other schmuck is unavailable outside of possessing a giant centrifuge and the willingness to climb into it), knowing the agreeable tension between the shoulders that will last until sleep returns, and comes of paddling miles, spending hours chasing instants; tasting salt, smelling hot grass or the town bakery or the traffic of the damned on the offshore, hearing the zippertooth tear of a clean lip incising the surface, waves sucking in the surrounding air and then expelling it in an intimate and unrepeatable act of planetary respiration; seeing moments of pure and applied physics, your turns written as a bubble trail on the surface even after the wave has passed and died, a bird a fish a friend a cliff face lit warm by the dying day, hell yes even a shark; the privilege of being party to such sanctity coming as it does with a price ‘ custodianship for all of this, because each of us, whether campaigner or agnostic, feels a pang of something dire every time the perpetuation of all this beauty is placed under threat, reasoning that whilst the meek may inherit the earth, their domain will end at the high tide line and the ocean will forever be ours.
Image: 60 year old cancer survivor and master surfboard shaper Maurice Cole at a break he has ridden for almost fifty years. Photographer: Ed Sloane
And Then We Swam is an award-winning documentary which tells the true story of two friends who set out to cross the Indian Ocean in a secondhand boat’¦ having never rowed before in their lives. It’s an English idea, this, in the endearingly, quaintly mad tradition of English ideas. The film-maker, Ben Finney, had worked at the BBC and was a volcanologist in a previous life, which qualifies him about as much as his two protagonists to make a film about crossing an ocean.
Those protagonists are James Adair and Ben Stenning. The two of them have an affable craziness about them, a homely antidote to all those super-athletes you’ve seen doing incredible things with phenomenally expensive toys. These guys came from a couch like yours, which is what makes the sheer audacity of what they did all the more incredible.
Nobody thought they’d make it across 3500 miles of open ocean. 116 gruelling days later, off the coast of Mauritius and just five miles from the finish line, things started to go horribly wrong. This is the story of two unlikely adventurers who crossed an ocean to prove everyone wrong – but very nearly proved everyone right.
You can learn more about this fateful trip in James’s book, Rowing After the White Whale.
You might recall back in our issue 1:1 (that’s the one with Kristianne Koch’s beautiful shorebreak image of her son on the cover), we ran a photo-essay called ‘The Fall’. Several of the shots in that feature were taken at a place called The Right, in Western Australia. As with all still photography of moving ocean, the images provided a unique insight into the shape, texture and geometry of those waves. But seeing them in footage, at full speed, gives quite a different perspective. WARNING: this clip is not relaxing, tranquil or pretty. But it is extraordinary.
Cinematography by Tim Bonython. To be featured in ASMF 12 Touring Nov/December 2014.
A window on the exquisite beauty of freediving
One Ocean One Breath is a collaboration between husband and wife team Eusebio and Christina Saenz de Santamaria. They’re both professional freedivers, which must be a remarkable thing to be able to write on your departure card or your tax return. (‘What do you do for a living? Oh, I plunge to extraordinary depths on a single breath in a crystal clear ocean and make films about my experiences’¦’)
Freediving is an elite and highly technical sport, comprising a number of different classes or events. It’s not simply a matter of heaving in a giant breath and swimming downwards, but involves extensive training and an array of complex equipment. The locations are frequently stunning: from open ocean settings to cliff edges and sinkholes, with visibility reaching astonishing levels.
Eusebio and Christina live in Thailand, on the tiny, idyllic atoll of Koh Tao, where the islanders are almost all involved in one way or another with diving. Nearby Chumpon Pinnacle is a famous location for viewing whale sharks and bull sharks. Eusebio is a highly regarded freediving and spearfishing teacher, and has held multiple depth-category records for freediving in his native Spain. He’s capable of freediving to 100 metres without sled assistance, a feat which places him in a rare class of athletes.
Christina is an Australian, and indeed is the most successful female freediver in Australian history, despite only discovering the sport in 2005. In recent days, she’s been competing in Roatan in the Caribbean, reaching 80 metres in the Constant Weight dive, 78 metres in Free Immersion and 50 metres in the Constant No Fins dive. These results placed her as the deepest female in Free Immersion and Constant Weight, narrowly giving her victory in the women’s competition overall.
Along the way, Eusebio and Christina have amassed a stunning collection of stills and video from their diving. Not all of it focuses on the sport of freediving: they have an eye to conservation and also to the beauty of just being in the ocean.
For more, have a look at www.oneoceanonebreath.com
Josva Halseide grew up in Colorado, far from the sea. He and his best friend would watch ocean movies repeatedly, winter after winter, dreaming of surfing and sailing.
His work first appeared in the finale issue of Potpourri: A Magazine of the Literary Arts (2003), and in 2008 he received the best original writing award (poetry/prose) from St. John’s College, Santa Fe. Josva’s lovely sonnet, Ocean Wave, River Wave seems to hark back to his long-remembered days of pining for immersion in an ocean you can’t reach.
Sunday, 8 June is World Oceans Day, a serious opportunity to reflect on the state of our oceans and to make some commitments about improving their health. It can be hard to know how to mark such a day, but fear not: the editorial team at Great Ocean have developed a one-size-fits-all list of WOD activities. As it says on the packet, just add water’¦
We’d love to know your suggestions for our list. Or better yet, tell us afterwards what you got up to. You can share your wacky and wonderful WOD whimsy here on our website, or on Facebook or Twitter. Splash out!
- Find yourself somewhere to check out the sea at sunrise. There’s nothing lovelier in all of creation. (And then take a photo and post it on GOQ‘s Instagram!) Our sunrise is at Gnaraloo Station, in the far north west of Western Australia.
- Do that thing that footballers do for recovery ‘ you know, hold your jumper around your ribs and walk around in the shallows, carefully avoiding the stingrays while you huff and puff.
- Take that long-promised surf lesson.
- Make your peace with yacht rock. It’s quite soothing, and Christopher Cross had his heart in the right place. Sort of.
- Farmed seafood for breakfast anyone?
- Splash on a bit of Old Spice. You’ll swear you’re at the helm of an eighty-foot ketch.
- Go snorkelling. You’ll need bulk rubber to do it this weekend in southern Australia, but something interesting always happens when you snorkel. And you feel amazing afterwards.
- Eight, I forget what eight was for’¦
- Take a bag to the beach and collect ten pieces of plastic. Then chuck ‘em in a bin. Walk with a halo over your head for several hours.
- Stroll along a wharf and take at stickybeak at the goings-on on the fishing boats.
- Try rock-pooling with the kids. But make sure everyone knows what a blue-ringed octopus looks like.
- Get out a world globe – a proper, spherical one, not the virtual one on the computer – and give it a spin. All that blue’¦ it’s utterly mind-boggling. More than 70 % of the earth’s surface is ocean.
- A beachside cafÃ©. Any beachside cafÃ©. Just because.
- Get someone to throw a stick into the water for your dog to fetch, then lie on the bottom with a face-mask on and watch the dog swimming after it. Hilarious. Until the dog spies you and tries to climb aboard.
- Read some Hemingway. Preferably The Old Man and the Sea, but To Have and Have Not will do the trick. Such economy with words, and yet so vivid.
- Learn about the reef nearest to you. What lives in it? What threatens it?
- Watch The Life Aquatic. Why? Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, cutaway boats, David Bowie in Portuguese, Jeff Goldblum’s stolen espresso machine’¦so many reasons.
- Subscribe to Great Ocean Quarterly. You didn’t really think this list was going to be ad-free did you?
- Work out the difference between El Nino and La Nina. There’s heaps of good information about it, and it directly affects your weather if you live anywhere near the Pacific.
- Find a spot where you can sit high on a clifftop above a thundering shorebreak, wrap yourself in a heavy coat as the wind rips through your hair and’¦there. Have you ever looked cooler in your whole life?
- Dress up like Jacques-yves Cousteau. You will need: wire-frame spectacles, any pale blue shirt, and a red beanie. Voila!
- Try to explain, in 25 words or less, what on earth’s going on in Moby Dick.
- Pull out some photos from your favourite beach holiday.
- Take a photograph of a lighthouse. Of course it’s a clichÃ©, but some clichÃ©s exist for very good reasons.
- Talk to a scientist. Nobody ever used to talk to scientists, and they only talked to each other. Now we’re the frog in the pot and someone’s turned the flame up. And contrary to what you might’ve been hearing, scientists know more about the pot, and the flame, than the rest of us.
- Watch a seabird. That there is perfect aerodynamics.
- Have a smell of the breeze over a low-tide reef.
- Read Tim Winton and thank your gods that Australia wound up with a National Laureate of the Sea.
- If you can’t be near the ocean on World Oceans Day, make sure you are near a Jon Frank photograph.
- Have a think about the ocean crossing that is attempted every time an asylum seeker boat tries to reach our shores. This is not a political message. Just think about it.
- Family fish and chips at the beach. Daggy fun. No dishes.
- Take the kids for a treasure hunt in the dunes. To create an instant nameplate for a Dutch caravel, you’ll need an angle-grinder and a four foot length of driftwood.
- If you’re tiring, get out the Drones’ second album Wait Long by the River‘¦ Cue it to track one, Shark Fin Blues, and crank the dial to eleven. Not tired any more, are you?
- Make an ocean promise: https://www.flickr.com/groups/ocean_promise/pool/
- Try stand-up paddle-boarding. You don’t have to be a he-man, and the view down into the water from a standing position is pretty special.
- Come up with as many synonyms as you can for ‘blue.’ This is a primary prerequisite for jobs in the Great Ocean editorial team. And it gets really hard after ‘cerulean.’
- Go shuffling for pippis. It only works on some surfbeaches, but it’s like some lost 60s dance craze, only you get edible shellfish at the end, and a whole lotta sand between your teeth.
- Track down the other thirty-five of Hokusai’s Views of Mt Fuji. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is probably the Mona Lisa of seascapes, but all of his work was fascinating and driven by a love of the ocean.
- Walk a beach. Any beach. One end to the other, looping from the wet sand up to the high tide line and back down again. Must be done barefoot. Follow your footprints home.
- Revisit The Big Blue. It’s twenty-six years old now, and has some awkward dolphin moments, but Jean-Marc Barr and Jean Reno are magnificent. And the free-diving scenes are scary-real.
- Tune in to an episode of The Octonauts. It’s made for four-year-olds, but they really do get up to some excellent adventures. And they have environmental principles, too.
- Study a marine chart. There’s so many nooks and crannies that they make the most horrendous street directories look simple.
- Learn to make a whale face on your smartphone screen: http://archiveofourown.org/works/299805
- Try eating marine plants ‘ full of Omega 3s and highly sustainable. And hey! Stop calling them sea-weeds. They’re supposed to be there.
- Tune in to 3RRR FM’s Radio Marinara. The Marinara team have been broadcasting funny, smart, interesting programs about the ocean for fifteen years ‘ the perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday morning coffee.
- How are you going with yacht rock? Have you tried Rod Stewart’s Atlantic Crossing? Maybe some Jimmy Buffett?
- Find a straight stretch of road, put the odometer on and drive for eleven kilometres. You’ve just covered the vertical depth of the Challenger Deep, north of Papua New Guinea, the deepest point in the world’s oceans.
- Get down to your local sailing club and give it a try. They’ll love showing you the ropes. Or lines. Or sheets. ‘What does this one do?’ And afterwards they’re most likely to shout you a beer. It’s all good.
- Take your kids to an aquarium and see those critters close up.
- Go for a ride in a glass-bottomed boat.
- If you can’t find a glass-bottomed boat, make a viewing tube with 50cm of wide-gauge poly-pipe, a circle of Perspex to fit on one end and some silicone sealant to keep it in place. Maybe a couple of timber dowel handles if you’re a perfectionist ‘ and you’ve got a mobile window on the undersea world.
- Take your local coastal walk.
- Contemplate this: the water you’re looking at when you gaze out to sea has been there for at least four billion years.
- Look up the Pacific Gyre. Easily the most frightening sea monster in recorded history, and we all made it.
- Check out the Volvo Ocean Race. High-tech + high seas = high stakes. http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html
- Learn a bit about wave-generated energy’¦ and you’ll find yourself wondering why we still dig stinky holes in the ground. http://www.carnegiewave.com/
- Watch a Nathan Oldfield film ‘ The Heart and the Sea is a good place to start. He’s a film-maker with a unique vision of humans at play in the ocean.
- Dig the classics: Conrad, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Odyssey, Lord Jim, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket‘¦ It’ll be helpful if the weather’s terrible on Sunday. So much to read.
- Find a fossil. They’re there if you look.
- Follow a fantastic oceanographer on Twitter: Kim Martini tweets as ‘Rejected Banana’ (no, we don’t know why) and she’s the only person living who can make the deployment of an ocean monitoring buoy hysterically funny.
- Find an old person going for a swim at the beach and ask them what they get out of it. The answer is bound to be heart-warming.
- Put your finger on a sea-anemone and feel it clamp shut. Strange, eh?
- Adopt a penguin: www.penguinfoundation.org.au
- Make a cool submersible vehicle out of LEGO.
- Go prawning. Or shrimping, if you must call it that.
- Spend an hour in the dunes with a pair of binoculars and ‘ (you’re wondering where this is going, aren’t you) ‘ Simpson and Day’s Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. You’ll be amazed how many you spot. Birds, that is.
- Float a model boat in an estuary. If you’re anywhere near Lorne, the Love Lorne Model Boat Regatta promises to be a highlight: http://www.lovelorne.com/
- Drive the Great Ocean Road’¦ but keep them fancy peepers on the white line, okay?
- Shout yourself a gigantic mansion on a cliff edge with ocean views and a horizon pool, because you deserve it. Okay, sorry, that was an outburst. Can you imagine the maintenance?
- Hunt through second-hand shops until you find a copy of James Hamilton-Paterson’s Seven Tenths: The Sea and its Thresholds. Sciencey, literate, utterly brilliant.
- Visit a local maritime museum.
- If you’re anywhere near the Bay of Fundy on the American Atlantic coast, check where you left your towel. The tidal range there is up to 16.3 metres, or 53.5 feet in the old money.
- Make a sand castle. And make sure the kids stomp on it at the end.
- Find a place where you can see snow and ocean simultaneously.
- Ponder the great mystery of the Mercator Projection. How do you depict the surface of a ball on a flat sheet without distorting it?
- Book a trip to the Antarctic.
- Find a delightful foreign translation for an English-named sea creature. The colourful Nudibranch, for instance, is known in Spanish as the Nudibranquio.
- Sing a traditional sea shanty. Danny Spooner’s the national expert at this sort of thing: http://www.dannyspooner.com/
- Dress up in scuba gear. There are people for whom this is a’¦Thing.
- Actually go scuba diving. It’s an incredibly liberating experience to breathe underwater.
- Read one of the host of modern Australian writers who do beautiful ocean: Favel Parrett, Gregory Day, Jack Finlay, Rebecca Olive, Dave Harris, Edwina Collins, Lisa Jacobson, Brendan McAloon, Karen Morrow, Fiona Capp, Andrew Crockett, Flip Shelton, Geoff Heriot, Mary-Jane Daffy’¦hang on, that’s amazing! They’ve all written for Great Ocean!
- Try writing a list of 101 things to do today. Gets pretty tough in the mid-seventies, huh?
- Buy yourself a mind-blowing photographic print of the sea from a local photographer.
- Work out the exact antipode of your location on the earth’s surface. Chances are if you’re Australian, it’s smack in the middle of the Atlantic.
- Try making a simple car journey by celestial navigation, then marvel at how explorers crossed open ocean for centuries without landmarks.
- Join an organisation that cares for our oceans: www.marineconservation.org.au, www.seashepherd.org.au
- Latch onto an ocean issue and understand it. Plenty to choose from: acidification, coral bleaching, fisheries management, the shark cull in WA, Abbot Point, Antarctic whaling’¦
- Paddle a tandem sea kayak. Feels like Hawaii Five’O crossed with relationship counselling and an occasional splash of cold water in the face.
- Go back to basics and fish from an old timber pier using a handline.
- Revisit tip #9, but instead of throwing that discarded plastic in the rubbish, try making art out of it. (There’s a beautiful example by artist Peter Day on page 118 of Great Ocean issue 1:2.)
- Five-star dinner party: gather friends with wheelbarrows. Take a trestle table, linen, cutlery, candles and glassware to the beach, along with food and wine, out to rocky point overlooking the ocean. Re-heat a pre-cooked meal on a little gas burner and you’re dining with the stars.
- Eat some sustainable seafood: King George whiting, bream, calamari’¦you don’t need to eat endangered species to live high on fish. You can get it at the market then invite the neighbours in and tell ‘em you caught it.
- Watch the sun go down over the water. If you took up tip #1 and watched the sun rise over the water, then you’ve got a drive ahead of you.
- Go skinny-dipping with a friend.
- Memorise the Beaufort Wind Scale. It gets very tricky around Force 9: ‘Spray may reduce visibility’.
- Find the Pisces constellation in the southern sky. Now can you see a fish in that? Didn’t think so’¦
- Read your kids a book from Great Ocean‘s ‘Top Ten Kids’ Books About the Sea’: convenient list located here: http://www.greatocean.com.au/2014/05/13/the-goq-list-ten-kids-books-about-the-sea/
- If you’re religiously inclined, finish off World Oceans Day with the Mariners’ Prayer (http://www.marinersclub.org.hk/Prayer/seaman.htm). And if you’re not religiously inclined, this is an excellent opportunity to steal chocolate.
- Sleep in a T-shirt by any of the Hawaiian surfboard shapers. They’re all super-cool.
- Go to bed with the soothing sound of the ocean in your ears. If you can’t hear it from where you’re sleeping, there are some excellent podcasts’¦
- Will you listen to one more plea on behalf of yacht rock?
After the strong reader response to our feature in GOQ‘s current print edition on Maurice Hickey in the Antarctic, we thought we’d keep the snowbound theme running just a little longer.
James Walton is a poet who lives and works in the Strzelecki Mountains in South Gippsland. His work has appeared in Eureka Street, Australian Love Poems, The Wonder Book of Poetry, Sudden Presence, the Anthology of short-listed poems in the ACU National Literature Competition, Bluepepper, Australian Poetry, and The Age newspaper.
Now then. No more context’¦this lovely piece speaks for itself.
Mawson you were my hero
holding to an ember in
the stubbed out ends of flinty life;
flickering wraiths pilfering from smother drift
conscious of your will just glowing there.
Did you wake at the barking for the rest of it,
how they circled in love for you,
licks telling all their secrets
a whimpering prayer of cold necessity
in an adoring brush against leg.
Those dust ridden glacial beds
Flinders Ranges by foot, horse and camel,
no call of muzzle in hand beside the fire;
reminding in the unreflecting desert night
the crevasse trap of relentless white.
By injured call from the crystal drop –
Innis gone dogs straining in seeing howling:
sharing the slim feast of skin and bone
no laughter in the cannibal troupe
clowning among ourselves at your distance.
Returns that won’t come ashore.
George, Johnson and Mary too weak,
we carried them in morbid need.
Shot at evening turn of day to dream,
we ate their livers as their souls deflated.
The ‘pluckiest’ one you called me.
Harnessed in a voluntary will
we pulled us three by sastrugi finale,
Mertz gone when he bit his finger off
alone for thirty days to Denison Hut.
The rifle discarded for knife after Haldane,
Christmas soup of Winsome’s bones
‘cracked open with a shovel’.
Should have seen what was coming,
my pertinacious skull boiled whole
Karabatic winds so loud
noiseless in horizontal presence,
soles taped back to feet
no licking clean in six pairs of socks,
tongue taken with voice in the jagged end.
Inhale the mercy of my silence,
breathe the straw of anabiotic prose.
Ascend from near death fall now,
leg first wallow in ironic husky straps
heart sunk in the Aurora’s shimmer departure.
Aladdin’s cave unrecognisable stranger –
rescue team not knowing who was saved.
I would have known your scent,
could have raised the alarm in preconiscient
mind talk of smell as witness.
The last to cherish you,
in my eyes more than a saving grace.
Our journey played on a larger note now,
and inspirational coin series too –
of the heroic age and Erebus still burning.
Image is an unpublished photograph by Maurice Hickey from his recently discovered archive featured in GOQ Volume 1:2 : Tarbrush Hickey in the Frozen South
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has just announced it will make a massive archive of public domain art available on its website for free.
This treasure trove of the world’s most precious and wondrous imagery amounts to something like 400,000 individual items. What could you find if you took a wander around in such a huge repository? Well, it took Deep Sea News’s prolific blogger Kim Martini to come up with the answer: thousands of different ways to represent the ocean and the creatures within it. A crab might always be crab, but down through the rise and fall of civilisations, the countless human lifetimes that have gone before us, people have seen that crab in a myriad of different ways. Pottery, carvings, oils, photography, printmaking, textiles and more.
Ah, what boundless manna from the bow-tied gods of Manhattan!
And as Kim has said in her own posting, if you find something brilliant in there, share it with us!
Image: Life of Nichiren: A Vision of Prayer on the Waves. Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Japanese, 1797’1861) From the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939
The Top Ten Kids’ Books About the Sea
There’s nothing quite so contentious as a list.
So tonight, as the full moon settles over the bay and weary kids are plucked out of the water, wrapped in towels and ushered into bed, a topic arrives unbidden, like the lapping of the tide. Kids’ books. Kids’ books about the sea. The best ones seem to bridge the gap from the waking world to the world of children’s dreams. In the sea, anything is possible. The droning voice of the exhausted adult on the foot of the bed ushers in a realm of magical possibility’¦ if only the adult can reach the end without likewise crashing out.
1. Eric Carle, Mister Seahorse
Eric Carle was the genius who brought us The Very Hungry Caterpillar way back in 1969, in which hole-punched and cutaway pages came to resemble the evidence of the caterpillar’s eating spree. His cut-paper collages are instantly recognisable. A generation after the caterpillar became a butterfly, in Mister Seahorse he not only tackles the curious reproductive habits of the seahorse, but uses clear plastic interleaves between pages to represent the hidey-holes of all sorts of sea creatures ‘ the stickleback, the tilapia, the pipefish and more.
2. Lucy Cousins, Hooray for Fish!
This one’s aimed at tiny people ‘ it’s a fantasy and a rhyme, vividly illustrated with gloopy paintings of ridiculous fish: hairy fish, scary fish, fly fish, sky fish. The lettering is done in big, hand-drawn script. Of all the fish that the little fish encounters, ‘the one that I love the best’ of course, turns out to be Mum Fish. Can’t argue with that.
3. Jo Rothwell, My Great Ocean Road Adventure
Okay, disclosure time: we love this one because it covers the coast that’s GOQ’s home. Made as part of a series of ‘adventure’ books about various parts of Australia. In this story, Harry and his wombat Nelly follow a message in a bottle from Geelong to Port Fairy, encountering shipwrecks, surfers, fishermen and’¦dinosaurs ‘ squeezing them all into a little red car. And there’s a nice little appendix at the end with some facts about each of the towns along the road.
4. Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are
At home on any list, this is a colossus in children’s literature. Barely any child grows up without encountering Max in his wolf suit. But is it a book about the sea? We think so. Although his bedroom is overgrown by forest (which is probably reason enough in itself not to misbehave), the real rumpus doesn’t get going until Max goes to sea: ‘and an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day.’
5. Alison Lester, Magic Beach
Absolute beach frontage – God knows how many real estate fantasies this book engendered in the adults who’ve read it to their kids. Have a look at the vista from the master bedroom on the second-last page: this joint would sell itself! The drawings are indeed magical, and Alison Lester has somehow captured the private world of make-believe in which kids on summer holidays will always enshroud themselves.
6. Graeme Base, The Sign Of the Seahorse
A little bit like Eric Carle, it would seem wrong somehow not to have Graeme Base in such a list. Although Animalia remains his best-known work, the level of detail, the layers, the secret semiotics of a Base book are wonderful to behold. The verse is complex and lively, the drawing sumptuous and the classical undersea battle between good and evil make this book a standout for a wide range of ages.
7. Julia Donaldson, The Snail and the Whale
The tale ‘of a snail and great big grey blue humpback whale’ is a clear winner for the irresistible pull of its verse. The rhythm of this wee snail’s adventure story is incredibly addictive. And Alex Scheffler draws easily the best bad-guy sharks. There’s a nice moral to this story too: the humble snail dares to dream, despite the scoffing of his fellow molluscs. And he winds up having one gigantic adventure as a result.
8. Gene Zion, Harry By The Sea
This little classic was written back in 1965. The drawings, both in their subject matter and their palette of colours, depict a bygone era ‘ the hats, the bathers, even the sunglasses on the beachgoers are strikingly retro. Harry’s a plucky little mutt. Even when he’s under the seaweed, being pursued by dog-catchers armed with pointy sticks, you can’t help feeling he’s going to come up trumps. But hey, a three-year-old could tell you that.
9. Linda Ashman, To the Beach!
It’s as universal as beach holidays themselves – the panic-stricken process of packing and driving. While kids revel in the unbridled joy of heading to a faraway coast, the adults fume and bicker over forgotten items and time pressures. It’s all here ‘ the toddler bawling over the misplaced bucket (for crying out loud ‘ it’s a BUCKET, kid!), the traffic snarls, the dehydrated family pooch, and in a crowning final irony, the thunderstorm that sweeps away the sunshine. Summer schadenfreude on tap.
10. Oliver Jeffers, Lost and Found
Hmm, should’ve done this list from ten back to one. This might be a favourite. The poignant tale of a small boy who encounters a lost penguin and sails him home across the southern ocean’¦ only to find that the penguin wants to stay with him. Somewhere near the middle of the book there’s a double page spread of the tiny boat with its two occupants, adrift under the stars on a huge swell. Incredibly beautiful. Read this to a small person and there’s a fair chance you’ll both wind up in tears.
Welcome one and all to the Great Ocean Blog. Let’s get right down to it, shall we?
‘Great’ and ‘Ocean’ are grand, sweeping words that call to mind all sorts of magnificence. Feel the salt spray, stroke your whiskers. Rah! Hurrumph!
‘Blog’ on the other hand is short and stumpy, inelegant and incapable of carrying upon its slumped shoulders anything resembling a payload of meaning. No matter ‘ these three words are now bound to each other, and let no man or woman seek to part them.
Our blog is a response to a kind of necessity, which we’ll try to explain for you.
Firstly, we’ve given an undertaking in the pages of our beautiful printed magazine that Great Ocean is ‘a conversation, not a lecture.’ That being so, and the era of carrier pigeons being well behind us, we had to come up with a way for that conversation to take place. But there’s deeper levels to it as well: a magazine needs a community around it. And a community needs a home. (This is sounding dangerously like Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie.)
Part of the journey over our first three issues has been the discovery of just who our readership are, and what they derive from reading GOQ. In some cases, our early theories proved to be correct: people have tended to flick quickly through the magazine, decided it’s for them, and then scuttled back to a warm place like a squirrel with a nut, to slowly devour the whole thing without interruption. The magazine’s deliberately made that way ‘ it’s hard to scan through it. It needs long contemplation and a good chair. Or a hammock.
Other early theories proved to be way off the mark ‘ we didn’t anticipate the range of ages, occupations, places and lifestyles we’d encounter, nor the endlessly varying ways in which all those people like to interact with the ocean. Some of it is straight down the Hemingway-Jack London-Jon Krakouer axis. But a lot of it is delicate and contemplative, scientific, aesthetic, deeply personal. The ways in which people draw inspiration from the ocean are as many and as mysterious as people themselves.
Which brings us to a thorny bit. This blog is to be a locus between a range of other short-form social media ‘ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in particular. If you scan those media and you look at the immeasurable mass of special interest groups they cater to: knitters, drag racers, cat owners, crime writers, philosophers, hipsters, swingers’¦all of them have a label, an identifier, a handle. But what about our community? Who are we, in a word? Something unites us, something to do with the sea, but it’s remarkably hard to pin down. Are we marinophiles? Oceanists? Benthopelagists? Intertidants? Horizon-gazers, or maybe littoralists? Somebody, please, name us!
A taste of selected images and pages from Volume 1:2.
A taste of selected images and pages from Volume 1:1.
Archie Roach recorded Old Mission Road in the tiny chapel at Framlingham, on a hot and humid afternoon as the little settlement geared up for its 150th anniversary celebrations. Archie had had a big weekend, leaving awestruck audiences in his wake at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. But he warmed to the task, and turned out a haunting acoustic rendition of this widely-loved song for a small gathering of family and friends. (Listen carefully for the little girl’s voice whispering ‘Yay!’ as the final chord fades out’) You can download it here.
In the new issue of GOQ, you’ll find the tragic tale of Edward John Eyre’s epic trek across the Nullarbor in 1841, and the murder of his friend and overseer, John Baxter.
When GOQ went looking for the place where Baxter was shot all those years ago, we found a curious anomaly. Eyre’s journal (quoted in our print story) doesn’t nominate the exact place where the crime was carried out. Yet maps of the area pinpoint the stone memorial erected in Baxter’s memory in 1930. And on its plaque, as you can see, it’s indicated that Baxter was killed ‘here’.
Eyre was the only person to write of the incident as a first-hand witness. His only companions were the two killers (whom history has never heard from again), and a small Aboriginal boy, who could not have known their geographic position. So how were the makers of the memorial, eighty-nine years later, able to pinpoint the place in the vast emptiness of the Nullarbor plain?
The answer lies in Baxter’s bones.
The morning after Baxter had been shot by Joey and Yarry, two members of the troubled expedition who had argued they were doomed and should turn back, Eyre found that ground all around him was too hard to bury his dead companion. With much regret, he records that he wrapped Baxter’s body in a blanket and left him on the flat rocky ground.
Forty-one years later, in 1882, a party was sent out from the Eyre Telegraph Station in search of the place, which had only been vaguely identified by Eyre as being two days’ walk west of the oasis (now called Eyre), and slightly inland of the high cliffs. The expedition, led by the chief telegraph line inspector and Aboriginal trackers, not only found human bones, but also found pieces of a shotgun ‘ leading almost certainly to the conclusion that the remains were Baxter’s. The location was not recorded, but was precisely known to the telegraph master, a Mr Graham. The bones were taken to the postmaster at Eucla and then sent in a box to Perth for ‘proper Christian burial.’ A letter was sent to the elderly Eyre in Oxfordshire, notifying him that his friend’s remains had finally been found and that he would now be properly interred.
When the idea was proposed to erect a memorial to Baxter, in the late 1920’s , Graham was a very old man, but he was the only reliable source for the placement of the cairn. The matter was considered highly urgent ‘ fortunately the old man was able to describe the place, and the memorial was duly constructed.
However, an historian from the Western Australian Historical Society, C.J.W Aspland, later carried out an exhaustive search of all cemetery records in Western Australia for the relevant period, and interviewed every surviving member of the government offices which would have had responsibility for the remains. He concluded that the bones were never buried. Of all the indignities suffered by Baxter, this was the worst: the bones were most likely lost in a box somewhere in Perth’s colonial offices, or even thrown away in a clean-up. As Aspland said in 1941, ‘’¦poor Baxter’s remains met with a fate a hundred times more ignominious than if they had been left to bleach on the arid waste of rock where he fell’¦’
Our recording session for issue 1:2014 took place at a tiny stone church on the highway between Port Fairy and Portland in western Victoria, perched in a neatly mowed yard in a bend of Darlot’s Creek. Our artist is South Australian singer-songwriter Laura Hill, whose new album Powdered Sunshine is about to hit the airwaves. Her song, Blue Eyes, is sad and warm and lonely and soulful and, and’¦ no more adjectives ‘ download it yourself!