To capture the images in our feature story Ghosts of the Escarpment, photographer Jon Frank and I drove three hours east, flew four hours west, then drove twelve hundred kilometres east again. We were drawn onwards through nights and days, like Max in his private boat, or Hemingway’s old man Santiago, towed further and further from port by the will of the great fish.
Jon’s accustomed to the distances. For me, it was an insight into the lot of the landscape photographer: the clouds collapsing and rearranging, murky stratus sliding away to reveal great thunderheads of cumulus, then closing again. The rise and fall of the desert offering giant vanishing points then swiftly withdrawing them behind belts of straggly scrub. The elements conspired and coalesced as we hurtled through them in a smashed insect slipstream. Landscape versus sky versus forward momentum – a maddening visual roulette that halted only when Jon opened the shutter. We were stink-eye cosmonauts in a hurtling tin capsule, crushing ourselves against the weight of time and distance in pursuit of one one-hundredth of a second.
Nothing has changed on the Baxter Cliffs since Eyre crossed them in 1841. This is a land in permanent repose. The darkness just repeats itself, down through the centuries. Each night on the cliff-tops I half-expected to hear the bang, see the flash of the stolen gun. I kept a wary eye on my companion round the campfire, though all he did was chatter amiably and poke the embers.
We slept on the desert floor, ate and drank atrocious things and bounced down a boulder-strewn track for most of an afternoon; all of it in search of the small cairn that marks John Baxter’s final resting place. Eyre was a powerful writer. But his words of damnation, “the wildest and most inhospitable wastes of Australia,” are a product of their context. On foot, and near death, he was undoubtedly right to characterise the Nullarbor this way. But following his path now in a reliable vehicle is no great challenge. And the beauty of the place is overwhelming. Standing there, regarding the silent escarpment and the endless southern ocean, we realised how easy we’d had it.
With Jon’s images magically ingrained in the silver halide of the film sheets, we undertook the entire journey again in the other direction. All of this happened inside four days.
Journeys became a theme in the making of this issue, though no-one intended it to happen that way.
It started, perhaps, with Phil Hickey showing us the colour slides his father took in Antarctica in 1961. The images, made even more beautiful by dust and damage, are a journey not only into the frozen south, but through time itself. Maurice Hickey was an enthusiastic amateur who took photographs to pass the long hours around Wilkes Base: documenting his working environment and occasionally capturing moments of great beauty. They have never before been published, and they stand as a monument to a forgotten time.
Geoff Heriot’s Tasman voyage is a journey of another kind entirely: a race in which competition for placings is secondary to the pressing business of working a sailing vessel across the ocean. Somewhere north of the competitors, a tall ship is lost – remains lost to this day – a journey that for loved ones consists terribly of a beginning and no end. Flip Shelton and Elana Castle have shared with us an unusual aspect of the expatriate experience: a foreign beach through Australian eyes. Elana was born and raised in Cape Town and has lived in London and Sydney. For her, the concept of “home” is a complex one, deriving emotionally from Cape Town, physically from North Bondi and spiritually from Israel. Flip left behind a career as a writer, broadcaster and mueslician to live in Rio for two years with her husband and son. For both women, the journey is now a way of life.
For Archie Roach, the journey has been both chosen and inflicted. To be taken, to be torn up by the roots, is a sorrow that is almost unimaginable. But his response to that fate, over decades and cities and continents and countless audiences, is a triumph. He is a survivor, a man who feels connections to places that might or might not be home. A man who sings of the paths between destinations - moral and physical – as though they are ends in themselves.
12 A Kiss Before Dying
20 Atlantic Crossing
Elana Castle and Flip Shelton
30 The Rubicon of Viti Levu
32 The Ghosts of the Escarpment
Jon Frank and Jock Serong
50 Feeling Forwards
Daniel de Carteret
56 Dolphin Glide:
George Greenough’s Cetacean Creation
62 On Writing the Ocean
66 Paradise: Ted Banfield’s Island Retreat
80 Tarbrush Hickey in The Frozen South
108 Communal Vision: The Mamaki Community
16 Three Steps Outside the TAB
72 The Church of the Open Sky
Archie Roach at Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve
Crossing the Sea of Seven Lost Souls
116 Too High
This Perfect Day
The Way of the Bay