A few weeks ago I was on Wallaroo station in outback Queensland, a bush wonderworld of sandstone escarpments, lush cycad gorges and traditional Aboriginal hand-stencil rock art. The Travel & Indulgence supplement of today (and yesterday’s) Weekend Australian newspaper has the story, titled Hands On In The Carnarvon Range. Many thanks to Justin and Pauline of Wallaroo Outback Retreat for their hospitality and Craig of Roma’s Boobook Tours for sharing his ecological expertise.

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The current Australian Geographic (July-August 2018) has my story on RangerBot, the new generation of starfish-killing robot which may one day be on regular patrol in Queensland waters. IMG_9366

Developed by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) scientists, the ocean-going robot uses artificial intelligence to hunt down and take out Crown of Thorns starfish (COTS) which, in plague proportions, are a leading cause of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef.

IMG_9367I spoke to roboticist Dr Matthew Dunbabin of QUT about RangerBot’s capabilities and potential – and also how it has improved on the earlier model, COTSbot.

IMG_8612The new AUSTRALIAN TRAVELLER (May/June/July issue, out now) has my story on all that’s exciting and absorbing in the Ipswich and Scenic Rim area of south-east Queensland, from spectacular scenery to fabulous food to one of the nation’s most happeningly huge country music festivals – CMC Rocks.

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I rather like the cosmological theory of a world turtle holding the planet on its back. And I’ve no doubt the Mon Repos universe rests on a turtle’s shell.

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The latest issue of Australian Traveller magazine (Feb-Mar-Apr 18: Outback Special) carries my tale about Mon Repos Turtle Centre. A beach near Bundaberg (Queensland), Mon Repos is one of the South Pacific’s most important rookeries for endangered loggerhead sea turtles. The turtle research and conservation programs emanating from there are second to none. Read all about it!

 

Mightily chuffed and honoured to have my supernatural/historical short story SHARK’S ISLAND swim into this year’s THE YELLOW BOOKE, the annual collection of “original horror, ghost stories and weird fiction” from US-based Oldstyle Press. Shark’s Island (pages 123-132) transports you to the wildest outer limits of Australia’s convict past. Follow the link to read The Yellow Booke (vol iv) free online, or buy a print copy from Amazon at an Amazingly good price.

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As well as putting out the annual Yellow Booke, Oldstyle Press publishes handsomely illustrated and annotated editions representing many of the great masters of classic weird and supernatural fiction – Poe, Shelley, Blackwood, Stoker, Bierce, Dickens, James, RLS and more. Well worth sinking your teeth into!

I have a weird interest in tracing the Australian colloquialism ‘Buckley’s chance’ (i.e virtually no chance), mainly because it has been plausibly linked to the remarkable 19th-century convict escapee William Buckley to whom I devote a chapter in my book Tour To Hell.tourhellbookcover

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The Trove online newspaper archive continues to claw back the history of ‘Buckley’s chance’. The first time I checked Trove the earliest printed mention of the saying was 1894. Then a mention from ’92 appeared, then ’88, but now the earliest is from 1887. It’s interesting to note that all of these mentions appear in sporting contexts – yachting, horse racing and now Aussie Rules football, almost a decade before the launch of what is now the AFL (Australian Football League).

Anyhow, to quote the 22 September 1887 issue of Melbourne Punch

In our sporting columns, in the Fitzroy team appears the name of Bracken. It should have been BUCKLEY. “Olympus” explains that he altered it because he didn’t want the Fitzroy men to have “Buckley’s chance”.

Three more points of interest (apart from noting Carlton won that year – belated congratulations): Firstly, it’s clear from the context that ‘Buckley’s Chance’ is already a well-known cliché. Secondly, its early appearance in a Melbourne paper strengthens the case for a Melbourne origin (likely a combination of Buckley’s survival and a pun on the Melbourne department store Buckley & Nunn). Thirdly, our current government’s mindless axing of the Trove budget gives us Buckley’s of finding those earlier mentions now.

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