Journalism


Judy in disguise – not with glasses but with a tough covering layer of western Queensland blacksoil and 65 millions years of geological changes.

She’s the latest sauropod unearthed by the Australian Age of Dinosaurs team.

Read all about their fascinating work and how to go about joining them on a volunteer dig in my story in a recent Weekend Australian

 

Sea turtles – they outlasted the dinosaurs, but how will they fare against us? Habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, overfishing… we’re giving them plenty of existential crises.

Readers-Digest-International-July-2017In this month’s Reader’s Digest (July 17), my cover story shows how Queensland-based scientists and volunteers have been working to give sea turtles a future.

Meet Bev and Nev McLachlan, who have been on tireless turtle patrol at Wreck Rock Beach since 1977.

Marvel at the amazing discoveries made by Dr Col Limpus, Australia’s leading turtle scientist, responsible for the longest and most thorough program of turtle study ever conducted.

And have a peek at Townsville’s terrific Turtle Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium.

Read all about it!

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Nemo, Reef HQ Turtle Hospital

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Nev & Bev, Turtle Monitors

 

To shell and back – tagging turtles in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park…

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To bee or not to bee in the Tasmanian wild west – and finding it quite a lark to mosey down Tasmania’s whisky trail

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Getting into both kinds of music at south-east Queensland’s CMC Rocks Festival…

These stories and more coming soon in reputable and august publications near YOU! Stay tuned…

December’s edition of Reader’s Digest – out now – includes my feature article on snorkelling with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef – click the link for an online version at the Reader’s Digest website.

Ningaloo Reef is not only one of the planet’s most spectacular coral reef systems, it’s one of the few places where these huge, highly unusual sharks can be reliably encountered.

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Whale shark filter feeling just below the surface, Ningaloo Reef, WA. Photo by David Levell.

Two features I have in magazines out right now – grab ’em!

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READER’S DIGEST (Aug 2016): Travel deep into Australia’s prehistoric past with the Australian Age of Dinosaurs team as they dig for dinosaurs, way out in the Queensland outback.

AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER (Aug-Sep 2016): Like three separately bound volumes of a Georgian gothic thriller, Tasmania’s trio of historic convict-built bridges – three of the four oldest bridges in Australia – are rich in atmosphere, character and stories.

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Elaborately decorative Ross Bridge (1836) in Tasmania’s Midlands

GBR008.LadyElliotIsland lagoon.LevellLong time, no post. I’m surfacing to say my feature story on the Great Barrier Reef is in the current issue of the wonderful Australian Traveller  magazine (Megan Gale on cover).

The story covers the Capricornia Cays, the Reef’s southern end, a tropical paradise of coral islands brimming with colourful fish, seabirds, pisonia forests, manta rays and green turtles. Heron Island and Lady Elliot Island (left) are the resort islands. Both are coral cays, right on the reef itself. The diving is superb!

 

 

 

 

 

On Tuesday, 16 February 1965, Sydney’s Botany Bay was graced with an extremely rare visitation – a thirty foot (9m) whale shark, which washed ashore on Bare Island in the bay’s northeast corner.

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Little was known of whale sharks or their haunts back then. Hardly anyone had ever seen one; it would be over 20 years before the Ningaloo Reef population was discovered. The first documented sighting of a whale shark in Australian waters was by fishermen near Jervis Bay, NSW, in April 1938, sparking headlines nationwide. With only a handful of sightings since then, the arrival of one of these mysterious spotted sea beasts in the waters of Australia’s biggest city caused a sensation.

Sad to say, its stranding was no freak whim of Mother Nature. The poor creature was hounded ashore by an electrical repair vessel, the Warratah, which chased it around Botany Bay for about an hour. Numerous small fishing boats joined in; at one point the harassed shark surfaced under a dinghy containing two fishermen and almost capsized them. After heading towards the open sea, the whale shark turned for Bare Island, where it became stranded on rocks amidst heavy pounding waves.

About 50 onlookers approached for a closer look (a footbridge links the island to shore) but the wild waters forced them back. The Warratah crew tried to tow the five-ton animal back into the bay, but their efforts ended in a snapped line.

Skindiver Eric Buchanan then tied a two-inch nylon rope from the launch Temora around the tail. But again the line broke, and Buchanan had a narrow escape when a big surge almost rolled the shark on top of him. As he scurried to safety the shark washed another 20 feet, coming to rest on a flat rock platform above the tide line, where it spent the day slowly dying.

Over the day, an estimated 10,000 people jammed nearby roads, wanting to see the beached giant. Some brought hacksaws and other tools to carve out a souvenir. The whale shark’s mouth – five feet across – was forced open with an iron bar, and over the next day or so its eyes were gouged out and its dorsal fin and tail sawn off.

The Australian Museum announced it would either take the corpse or cast a replica, but it was already too late. Little or no attempt was made to secure the site and by the next day, with hundreds of people still visiting, it was reported that ‘only half the monster remains and knife-happy tourists and fishermen have cut off huge chunks of flesh’. Too mutilated to tow, the shark was left stinking in the sun, much to the displeasure of Mrs Moore, the wife of Bare Island’s caretaker, who called it ‘an overpowering and unwelcome visitor’.

Before the remains were finally disposed of, the Australian Museum took some skin and teeth samples (item IB.7314 in its collection). To this day, no-one has ever reported another whale shark in Botany Bay – and who can blame them for steering clear after such a savage reception?

whaleofasharkPS: By pure coincidence, just five days after the Bare Island stranding, Ben Cropp and George Meyer obtained spectacular footage of two whale sharks near Montague Island off the NSW south coast. They had spent several days looking for a whale shark which Meyer had seen while diving there, and at first worried that the Bare Island shark was that animal. This was only the second time a whale shark had been filmed underwater, and the first time in colour. Hans Hass shot some black-and-white footage in 1950, which appears in his movie Under The Red Sea (aka Diving In The Red Sea).

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