TODAY IN BUSHRANGING: June 18, 1862. Camped atop Mount Wheogo in the wild west of New South Wales, Frank Gardiner’s gang of bushrangers hide out after ambushing the gold escort coach at Eugowra Rocks three days before.

The gold and cash stolen added up to about $5 million in today’s money – to this day, the largest haul of any armed holdup in Australia. Alongside Gardiner, the eight-man gang included some of bushranging’s biggest names such as Ben Hall, John Gilbert and John O’Meally.

Eugowra Rocks, NSW, where bushrangers ambushed the Forbes Gold Escort in June 1862.

As they shared out the takings and relaxed on Mount Wheogo, sitting out some heavy rain, they had no idea Sergeant Sanderson of the Forbes police, guided by tracker Charley Edwards, was closing in fast.

The holdup went well enough for them but the getaway would soon prove problematic…

Today in 1865: Ben Hall’s last bushranging raid (horse-thefts excluded) – the home invasion of Charles Cropper’s Yamma station, eight miles outside the goldfields town of Forbes in western New South Wales.

Ben Hall (above) and his partners-in-crime John Gilbert and John Dunn had just been named in a controversial ‘Summons To Surrender’. They had until April 29 to turn themselves in or be declared outlaws, which meant they could be shot on sight. Their response? Business as usual, as you’d expect. But Yamma had little for them to steal. Charles Cropper wasn’t home, and they left early so heavily pregnant Mrs Cropper could send a maid for medical help. Before riding away, Gilbert carved their names on a stool, which now has pride of place in Forbes Historical Museum (below).

Three weeks later two of them were dead and Australia’s biggest-ever bushranging outbreak was over. Hopefully my book telling this epic and wild tale will soon be arresting readers’ attentions from Bunbury to Byron Bay some time soon!  

Mass coral spawning isn’t just an incredible sight (and tourist attraction). It also provides a way for scientists to help corals cope with a warming future. Turbocharging coral larvae with heat-resistant algae may significantly boost their chances of resisting mass bleaching events.

Here’s a link to my coral spawning story in the current Rex Airlines in-flight magazine True Blue (July/Aug 2020), featuring an interview with coral scientist Professor Peter Harrison, who’s been busy ‘turbocharging’ coral larvae on the Great Barrier Reef.

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Last November I was fortunate enough to dive the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns during the natural wonder’s marvellous annual coral spawning.

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While at Moore Reef pontoon I spoke to marine biologists engaged in the first attempt at a new, highly innovative reef rescue technique.

Called larval restoration, it gives hope that some corals will soon be better able to resist mass bleaching. And it relies on the amazing outburst of new life provided by the synchronous mass spawning event.

READER’S DIGEST (June 2020) has my eight-page feature about this exciting new development in the ongoing struggle to save our coral reefs from the worst effects of climate change.

The issue is out now. Look for the charismatic little white dog on the cover!

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IMG_2110 September’s READER’S DIGEST has already sprung into action, sporting the journalistic fruits of my recent jaunt to Lord Howe Island in an eye-catching eight-page spread.

From the heights of Mount Gower’s mystic mist forest to the diamond depths of its coral reef dive sites, Lord Howe is an unforgettable get-away-from-it-all experience. Read all about it!

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Just back from a journalistic jaunt to Lord Howe Island, a Pacific Ocean jewel with a fascinating ecology along with excellent scuba-diving and exhilarating bushwalks.

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The results will be published soon, but here’s some snaps of what I got up to. Up is the right word, with the ascent of Mount Gower (875m) a big part of the agenda. That’s the view from the summit, looking on neighbouring Mt Lidgbird.

IMGP1542 (2)The plus-sized bug resting on my palm like Fay Wray with King Kong is the Lord Howe Island phasmid (stick insect), the rarest insect in the world and thought to be extinct for many years until a mere handful were found on an offshore rock. The plan is to reintroduce them should all go well with this year’s rat eradication project.

I’ve got two features in the summer issue of Australian Traveller, now sunbaking on newsagents’ shelves from Broome to Bruny Island. IMG_0923

First-up is a coastal drive covering almost the entire New South Wales seaboard from Tweed Heads at the Queensland border down to Ben Boyd National Park south of Eden.

It’s a tale of turtles, whales, camels, stingrays, sand-dune quad-biking, paddleboarding with stingrays and a heapin’ helpin’ of great food and wine all the way.

Then it’s time to get all deep and meaningful in the astonishing Undara lava tunnels way up in Queensland’s Gulf Savannah outback.

Read all about it!

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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