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June 17, 2001

Overland Australia - basecamp update 2

'Tales From the Outback'
June 17th 2001

Hi everyone! My name is Rebecca; I'm the photographer from Minneapolis helping out with the photo/video exchange programs during the "Aussie" leg of Expedition 360. This city kid from the North side of Minneapolis has had quite an adventure so far. After adjusting to life in the sleepy little ocean-side town of Cairns, I began exploring options & resources for the exchange programs.

I teamed up with local teacher, Sheryll Oliver, from the School of Distance Education. This school combines HF radio daily lessons, home visits and mini-school camps for outback kids who cannot attend conventional schools. After massive brainstorming we came up with a plan to work within her curriculum. First I visited camp at Clifton Beach and let the kids use digital cameras to record the events: Campfires, Lessons, Fish & Chips night, Sandcastle competitions etc. In the meantime I snuck in a few lessons on composition & lighting under the disguise of a "photo scavenger hunt". (After all it was a school event they should learn something right?)

I was roped into doing a small photo-shoot, class photo's of all the kids at camp, with help from my trusty young assistant Dylan. I was also given the honor of filling in for Les Jensen, a local photographer, as a Juror for the "Dr. Koch Foundation's" annual art exhibit. My first attempts on the airwaves didn't go over as well. During the ABC radio interview, I referred to the lovely "Summer" weather Cairns was having and the kids couldn't understand my accent on their HF radio lesson with me.

Last week I had the privilege of tagging along on Sheryll's home visits to the kids in the outback. Everyone made a point to show us the most stunning places on the properties they lived on. The kids really enjoyed using my cameras, especially the 15mm fish-eye lens (a big step up from the "mold experiments" Jason has for cameras). Between the animals I met and the rustic life of the Tablelands, I learned a lot of new things: How to open gates, Why 4x4's have handles in them, "Donkey's" are not just animals (they are also outdoor tin shower stalls with a wood burning stove to heat the water), those big red rocks are ant hills (built by the ants, not sub-contracted out), cows can do the long-jump in PE class too, and how to feed a baby kangaroo it's bottle. Last but not least, the scary noise outside the shack I slept in was not a dingo but a little baby ferrel pig named "Dude" that growls like a dog. My little attack pig was kind enough to guard me the rest of the night from all the other barnyard noises so I didn’t have to bother Sheryll all evening.

Next I'm viewing the video that our high-tech wiz kids from Cairns State High & St. Monica's are putting together for us. Graft N' Arts was kind enough to lend me their darkroom to print the photo's for the "Zine" being constructed at Sheryll's mini-camp with the photo kids in July. Then I escape to New Zealand until I join up with the expedition in Alice Springs early in August, where I'll be working with Yarrara College.

Posted at 2:10 PM

June 12, 2001

Overland Australia - basecamp update 1

June 12th 2001
Cairns, Australia

Tropical Paradise...

Its heading into deepest winter here in Australia and yet the days are still hot and humid. Instead of everything shutting down until spring, life seems to be even more vibrant and alive than I remember since first arriving. The air resounds with the constant clamour of the rainforest: whooping cries of the black-clad Butcher Bird punctuated periodically by the deafening screech of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos wheeling overhead, their brilliant white plumage a stark contrast to the deep forest green beyond.

At first I was convinced there were monkeys in the trees behind the house where I’m staying. "kooh-kooh kooh-kaah-kaah-KaaH-KAAH-KAAH" comes the resounding call in the early hours of the morning and before dusk. Images of jungle trapeze artists swinging silhouetted against chinks in the trees spring to mind with the opening music to 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' playing in the background. This great sound in fact belongs to a tiny bird called the Laughing Kookaburra.

So you'd be hard pushed to find a more perfect backdrop to an epic adventure such as the one we're about to embark upon in 3 x weeks. After 6 x months of planning, writing countless sponsorship proposals and phone bashing it looks like 'Overland Australia' is finally starting to come together. And thanks to our communications sponsors we’ll be able to share the experience with you via the Internet as of the 8th July onwards. Our journey starts in the dense jungle of North Queensland, continuing through the central desert region to Alice Springs and up the Tanami Track to the soaring beauty of The Kimberley and eventually to Darwin. Daily video, text and audio feeds via satellite will put you right there with us, traveling the adventure of a lifetime!

The rest of the team will be filtering into Cairns over the next few weeks. Rebecca Lawson from Minneapolis in the US is already here with me coordinating the photo and video exchange projects with local kids. She’s actually 'out bush' this week, lending out cameras to kids living in remote locations such as cattle stations, mining towns and fishing boats in the Gulf of Carpentaria. These kids are enrolled in the Cairns School of Distance Learning, a rather unique school using HF radio (and to a lesser extent the Internet) to bridge the enormous distances between teachers and pupils throughout the Australian Outback. Through the eye of a camera they'll be sharing their very different worlds with you in the form of photos and video clips - taken and edited by the kids themselves - posted on the Internet. Rebecca will also no doubt be writing a report about her adventures when she gets back.

The current team for Overland Australia looks something like this:

Jason England
April - USA
Mike Roney USA
Bel Chamberlain Australia
Crister Brady USA
Laura Culley - England
Jim Brady - USA

One more teenager will be chosen in the next 7 x days from Cairns.

Kenny Brown Scotland
Todd Paulsen USA

Rebecca Lawson USA (kid's cultural exchange programs)
John Andrews Australia (support vehicle)
Norlia Carruthers Australia (base camp)

Tomorrow I'm going to visit pedal boat Moksha. After her sell-out tour of local malls in the run up to Christmas she's since been sitting quietly in a storage shed kindly provided by Kevin Locke of Portsmith Transport, waiting to be resurrected for her next mission: pedaling the Arafura Sea from Darwin to East Timor later this year. So I’ll be in touch in the next day or so and let you know how she’s faring in this tropical paradise.

G'day until then.


Posted at 1:47 PM