Should I Stay or Should I [Fair] Go?

[Fremantle, 6th September 2013]

This short film was captured between Cape Town and Mauritius when the three Dutch Tall Ships (Oosterschelde, Bark Europa and Tecla) passed through on their circumnavigation of the planet. It’s in Dutch language but the imagery is wonderful.

I saw the same three tall ships come into the port of Fremantle last month. And now they’re approaching Melbourne.

I will now be lucky enough to sail with them on their Sydney to Buenos Aires voyage, partaking in the legendary rounding of Cape Horn through the Drake Passage. It’ll take nigh on three months.

It’s 120 years since Australia’s first and only diaspora (excluding perhaps ‘Kangaroo Court’ in London) left for a better world. In 1893 500-odd disgruntled shearers (post the great Australian shearers strike) left Sydney Harbour in a tall ship the ‘Royal Tar’ (constructed in the day at the mouth of the river at Nambucca Heads) bound for Paraguay. They set up a socialist utopian colony called ‘New Australia’. They were the ‘New Australia Movement’.

Depending on tomorrow’s Federal Election results I may be seeking similar refuge!

But I’ve booked my passage ahead of time. And I join the crew of the three-masted square-rigger ‘Bark Europa’ (photo attached) (and for some of the time on the good ship Tecla too).

I set sail from Sydney Harbour on the 10th October: One hundred and twenty years after the original New Australia members. And after passing through Auckland we’ll cross the South Pacific into the Southern Ocean and round Cape Horn to Las Malvinas (Falkland Islands). From there we’ll continue to Buenos Aires, arriving for New Years Eve hopefully. A voyage of near on 11,500 km.

I hope to be able to continue on to land-locked Paraguay to reunite with the descendants of the New Australia colonists of 1893.

In 2002 whilst on a sojourn in Paraguay I had a chance encounter with one of them: Enrique Wood. Never set foot in Australia but feels very much Australian. We’ve stayed friends ever since. His father Norman Wood was born in the New Australia colony in south-east Paraguay. Norman’s parents were on the original voyage from Sydney. William Wood, Enrique’s grandfather, was mentioned in a poem by Henry Lawson circa 1890s: “…and little Billy Wood passed the hat around…”.

William ‘Billy’ Wood was working as a labour organiser in Bourke, NSW in the early 1890s when he decided that the ‘Fair Go’ wasn’t being realised in the fledgling Australian dream. And so he sought with his wife to make a better fist of it elsewhere.

Let’s hope tomorrow’s Federal Election augers well for those who still dream of a Fair Go. For as little Billy Wood most probably dwelled upon, as he passed the hat around on that fateful day in Bourke, watched on by an ever wistful Henry Lawson, the prospect of contemplating whether one should stay or go often comes down to the inspiration gained from within and from those around us. And while it is always a vexing one, it often comes down to those leaders that bear the brightest vision of the commonwealth of Australian states.

With wind in our sails (still)…



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I’m a Map Person

I’m a map person. And recently I stumbled upon this map: Global catchment drainage in relation to whole oceans.

Legend: Major endorheic basins of the world are shown in dark gray; Major endorheic lakes are shown in black; Coloured regions represent the major drainage patterns of the continents to the oceans (non-endorheic); Continental divides are indicated by dark lines.

Legend: Major endorheic basins of the world are shown in dark gray; Major endorheic lakes are shown in black; Coloured regions represent the major drainage patterns of the continents to the oceans (non-endorheic); Continental divides are indicated by dark lines.

It made me dwell upon something for the first time.

That this something was most probably already the subject of numerous treatise didn’t seem to bother me. I pondered it none the less: Might there be a significant difference in the amount of surface water draining from the land into the various oceans? And what effect does this have upon the productivity of large ‘local’ oceans?

While I know that all the oceans mix to varying degrees, what does it mean that the area of lands that drain to the Atlantic (see map, which includes all the green, yellow-green and blue areas surrounding the Atlantic (including the African, southern European and Black Sea catchments that drain into the Mediterranean; and excluding the Arctic drainage lands)) is far greater than the area of lands that drain to the Pacific (only the purple areas on the map)?

And looking at the make-up of these ocean drainage divisions I would guess, at a quick glance, that the average runoff per unit area coming from the aforementioned Atlantic draining lands is greater than than average runoff from the Pacific draining lands.

Could one say therefore that nutrient inputs (i.e. those carried off the land to the sea by the various hydrological processes) are greater in the Atlantic than in the Pacific? And given that the area of the Atlantic is smaller than the Pacific, are the effects of a greater nutrient input further concentrated, giving rise to an Atlantic ocean ecosystem that is more productive than the Pacific? Before mixing? Maybe?

One could go on to compare the size of the Indian Ocean drainage catchments (all the red on the map) to that of the area of lands that drain to the Pacific, but accurate size comparisons are needed.

Why bother?, you say. Well this little map has certainly made me see the ocean ecosystems more as products of the land that nurtures them.

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Darkness on the Edge

With my ‘Darkness On The Edge of Town’ 1978 Tour t-shirt on, we set off through the darkness on the edge of town.

It was 04:30 and mum and dad were driving me from Hyams Beach to Bomaderry to catch the 05:13 train service to the Domestic Airport. I was on my way to see The Boss! And indeed all good journeys start somewhere. In the darkness. On the edge.

Later today at the base of the famous Hanging Rock in the ancient Mount Macedon Ranges, my mate B and I will be joining the faithful for the open-air ‘Wrecking Ball’ concert by Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. It’s sure to be a special one at this hallowed ground – historically already the place of picnics and swooning ladies.

Temperatures have dropped they tell me and a maximum of 15 degrees Celsius is expected. Lets hope we warm things up down there!

The last time I saw Bruce Springsteen was early 1985 at the newly-built Sydney Entertainment Centre. It was his first tour Down Under. It was my first ever live music experience! I was 17 years old. He was 35. And boy we’ve both done some ‘Growin’ Up’ since then!

The new album and tour is called ‘Wrecking Ball’. And ironically my mate B’s construction company is the one currently responsible for the massive Darling Harbour redevelopment. This will involve the complete destruction -amongst other things – of the Sydney Enterntainment Centre.

So bring on the Wrecking Ball! Bring on the power of words and music. And bring on the memories that no wrecking ball can ever destroy!

On board a South Line train
Southern NSW
Easter Sunday
31 March 2013

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A Letter to Bill Bragg

Billy’s been blogging.


I wrote this in response to his recent post-London 2012 post…

“Well done Billy for creating the space to consider progressive patriotism and for the inspiration you continue to shine forth. I’ve enjoyed watching, listening to and more recently reading of your commitment to your beliefs, your passions and witnessing them deepen and strengthen over the many many years I’ve been your fan. In 1996 when you sang “sometimes I think to myself should I vote red for my class or green for our children” I saw this is a watershed between the younger Billy and the wiser one. Time, age and wisdom are all good things. But they necessarily come from youth. So thanks for continuing to share your wisdom with the youth. And for continuing to progressively define internationalism, nationalism and patriotism in their better forms. And regarding the post-Olympic fervor, what’s important is the personal reaction, the heart felt emotion. Politicians and corporates can hijack what they see as a collective value or emotion and use this for ill-effect. But an individual should feel what they felt and understand this and then speak it – like you are. Being a white Anglo-scandanavian Australian I felt proud before, during and after the 2000 Sydney Olympics but I also recognised that universal values are more powerful and important in these instances. It doesn’t matter that 400m gold-medalist Cathy Freeman wrapped herself in the Aboriginal flag (of course it was important for her to do that – and I respect her choice and her right to do so). What matters is that she stood proud in herself and knew that she had supporters in her country. It also showed that our symbol of Australian identity is many and varied. We don’t need to cling to any one thing, for we are a diverse multicultural nation of larrikins new and old, and a hot southeast Asian curry is as Aussie as a fire side dream time story over a pot of kangaroo stew with Uncle Noel. And reading between your lines Billy, I can see that the universality of love is key to your life’s evolving narrative too. See you in Perth, Western Australia in November 2012!”

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