Australian Geographic November - December 2021

Australian Geographic, Australia’s premier geographic journal, brings you the best of the country from those who know it best. Discover Australia’s rich cultural heritage, its beautiful landscapes, its unique and diverse plants and wildlife, and explore outback towns and the true-blue characters who call them home.

Australian Geographic Holdings Pty Ltd
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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min
close encounters

LIKE OUR columnist Tim the Yowie Man, we love a good mystery here at AG. So we couldn’t pass up the chance to run an article by TV journalist Ross Coulthart about his investigative work into UFOs – or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), to give them their more acceptable modern acronynm. We’ve been providing occasional updates on the work of SETI (the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) since the earliest days of this magazine because it was of particular interest to Dick Smith, our founder. But we’ve held back on any serious coverage of UAP, influenced no doubt by the stigma that’s inevitably attached to the issue. Recent calls by the US administration for greater transparency from the government and military organisations responsible for investigating UAP reports have brought forth many highly…

1 min
ag society fundraiser

THE QUOKKA Quokka populations have declined hugely during the past 100 years due to introduced predators, habitat destruction and disease. The species is now listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Rottnest Island off the coast of Western Australia is home to Australia’s largest population with more than 10,000 individuals, although threats, such as climate change and disease, still pose a risk to the animals. The Rottnest Island environment team (see Behind the smile on page 72) monitors the island’s quokka population to help detect changes that may signal the need for management actions. However, the size of the island makes it challenging to monitor large parts of quokka habitat. Donations to this fund-raiser will help buy remote cameras to enable continuous monitoring of substantial areas of the…

2 min
notes from the field

RENOWNED investigative reporter Ross Coulthart has been intrigued by UFOs since, as a teenager, he closely followed the 1978 New Zealand Kaikōura UFO sighting. Later, as a journalist, he found the public explanation by the Royal New Zealand Air Force didn’t fit the evidence and was intrigued about their assertions. Working with ABC TV’s Four Corners he met Royal Australian Air Force pilots who told him they’d seen numerous anomalous objects, sometimes flying right next to their planes. They agreed it was a real phenomenon but were frightened to report the sightings for fear of losing their wings. Combing Australian government archives, Ross uncovered rich lodes of well-verified sightings in Australia, NZ, Britain and the USA, many of which could not be explained by investigators. It led him to begin…

6 min
your say

RISKY BUSINESS We’ve been tidying up the family archives and came across some old photos that might be of interest. They were taken before I discovered the photographer’s mantra of “get closer, get closer still”. Nevertheless, they are a record of a remarkable job: how they put the handrail on Ayers Rock (Uluru). The dust has settled and the handrail has now gone (AG 151), but I have photos of its beginnings. In September 1964, my parents and I arrived at an eerily deserted camping ground with only one other party present. The next morning, I set out early to beat the wind and reach the summit of Uluru, but it had picked up considerably, so I had to clamber about on all fours to avoid being blown off my feet. On the…

1 min
whales aloft

For more: THE NEW COMPANION piece to the hot air balloon creation Skywhale, for which Australian sculptor Patricia Piccinini was commissioned to celebrate Canberra’s centenary in 2013, is Skywhalepapa. Patricia’s provocative, hyperreal sculptures evoke a heady mix of fascination and revulsion. Her original grotesque, whale-like behemoth was unkindly dubbed the Hindenboob Disaster by some critics. But after floating through arts festivals in Brazil, Ireland and Japan, Skywhale rose above criticism to garner a loyal following. Now Skywhalepapa, commissioned by the National Gallery of Australia, has this year joined the family. They are scheduled to appear at 11 venues during the next two years, including: the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts and Cairns Art Gallery, in Queensland; Maitland and Tamworth regional art galleries, New South Wales; the Walk way Gallery…

6 min
budgie brilliance

THE DESERT IS quiet for now, except for the sounds of our boots crunching over dry grass and padding across thick red dust as we approach a water-hole outside Alice Springs that only locals know about. It’s a cold early August morning and we’ve ventured here to see one of Central Australia’s most spectacular phenomena: a murmuration – an immense flock – of budgerigars. We settle by the water’s edge in the pre-dawn stillness and wait in silence for the birds’ first trills to emanate from somewhere unseen. Soon 20 budgies fly overhead, followed by group upon group swelling the flock. Their wingbeats pound as they sweep overhead, now in bands of hundreds, and their constant chirping creates a powerful wall of sound. Within minutes, thousands of budgies are twisting and…