DESTINATIONS - BUSH CHARACTERS, YARNS & POETRY
Hi, over a relatively long life in journalism, radio, and television I’ve been lucky enough to travel widely and had some fantastic experiences. Some are still happening…
I’d like to share some of them, and showcase some of the books and articles that have been generated along the way. Journalists are generally rated in the public mind on the same level as used car salesmen, lawyers, politicians or other professionals of dubious reputation. But I’ve always been a happy traveller in journalism which – providing your liver holds out in that traditionally hard-drinking profession – gets you into all kinds of situations that you otherwise would have had a snowflakes chance in hell of experiencing. And talking of snowflakes, that includes Antarctica, as well as stints in Vietnam during the Indo China war, working in London for the BBC, and in Asia and North America for the ABC.
I’ve also travelled widely in Australia as a not-so-grey nomad, and now a fully fledged one, in our 4WD Penelope towing our trusty camper, and have written four books on these travels. Like Clancy, there are times when ‘we don’t know where he are’. Well, for some weeks anyway. Outback camping is addictive.
NO PLUCKING! – Oddments collected by a reptile of the press.
Ever since I was a small boy, I have collected published information that has amused me. This continued when I became a cub reporter on the Hobart Mercury in 1955 (which makes me quite old) I have hoarded clippings and odd and unusual sayings or unfortunate headlines. Some are old and yellowed with age.
Unexpected spellings (Australia is not immune) have been photographed in loos. My sister-in-law Fran snapped this gem in the supposedly upmarket Adels Grove in Queensland’s Gulf country.
Direct translations from Chinese into English can be hazardous. This one was supposed to alert gentlemen to a toilet for the disabled.
NO PLUCKING! Is by no means an autobiography, but I have drawn on my varied experiences as a newspaper journalist, and current affairs reporter and foreign correspondent for the ABC in North America and Asia in the 1960s, as well as hosting the ABC’s viewer reaction program BackChat for nine years from 1986.
In January 1995 I travelled to the Ross Sea on the Kapitan Khlebnikov a Russian icebreaker chartered by the travel adventure company Adventure Associates. One of my co-lecturers on this voyage was Rod Ledingham, resident of Oyster Cove near Kettering, Tasmania, an experienced Antarctic veteran whom I first knew through his field work with the Australian Antarctic Division, but as I was about to discover, had cut his Antarctic teeth with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in the late 1960s. He gave a wonderful illustrated lecture on a particular incident that took place in the summer of 1967-68 when he was assisting a surveyor mapping high on the Antarctic plateau, driving a sledge dog team.
Recalling Rod’s extraordinary lecture, I asked him a few years ago if he had a video of it. He did not! A former passenger on a later voyage did have one, but sadly died before he could send it. I determined that this story should be told, and began from scratch, interviewing Rod Ledingham about those events, knowing that there were many excellent photographs to support the narrative.
ABANDONED AT FOSSIL BLUFF – a remarkable account of Antarctic survival
In the summer of 1967-68, Rod Ledingham was with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on the Antarctic Peninsula. High on the polar plateau, he was working
as a field assistant to a surveyor, replacing an injured colleague who had to be evacuated. Ledingham had been flown in by a light aircraft, but after
their field work had ended, the aircraft crashed on take-off, fortunately with no casualties to the three men and eight husky sledge dogs on board.
With no replacement aircraft available, and communications basic to say the least, the surveyor, his temporary assistant and the pilot had to use Ledingham’s dogs to sledge nearly 300 kilometres down a glacier never before traversed, to a small hut at Fossil Bluff on the coast, where two other BAS personnel
were waiting to be flown out. So began a year of basic survival, with five men in a summer-season hut designed for four, minimal fuel for cooking, no extra clothing and barely enough food.
After 11 months of complete isolation, the aircraft sent to pick them up got lost in bad weather, and remarkably managed to crash land on sea ice on the Weddell Sea in zero visibility without damage to aircraft or crew, with only 30 minutes of fuel remaining.
But that was not the end of the Fossill Bluff survivors’ adventures. In February 1969 a sudden and violent eruption on Deception Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, caused the ship taking them home to England via South America was diverted to render assistance to the British at their base there, which had been destroyed by the eruption.
At Punta Arenas in the Magellan Strait, their ship was then ordered straight back to Deception Island to take two volcanologists to study the eruption,
with Ledingham and his companions assisting – where he was able to capture dramatic photographs of the carnage caused by the still-erupting volcano.
This classic Antarctic survival story Abandoned At Fossil Bluff has now been told in an illustrated book, authored by Antarctic historian Tim Bowden and Rod Ledingham, featuring Ledingham’s original photographs. It is now available as a hard-cover book or as a PDF download.
Read more at Tim Bowden’s Blog
Tim Bowden’s Audio Books
PENELOPE GOES WEST
Our first expedition to the south of Western Australia was going to have to be done in high summer, because Ros was doing a horticulture course at that time, and our window for travel was only the two-months summer vacation. We had bought Penelope in Tasmania, a diesel Series 80 Landcruiser with only 45 000 on the clock. What a joy she has been. We still have her today.Our camper was sighted at the Caravan and Camping show at Roseville Racecourse in Sydney, in 1997. The Jayco Flight RV had plenty of clearance and Ros thought its interior fit out was so luxurious compared with our old Kombi that she immediately said it must be called ‘The Manor’. David Carrick, the Jayco Sales Manager said – as quick as a flash – ‘Well, you’ll have to call your Landcruiser Penelope then.’ (The British comedy series To the Manor Born starring the formidable Penelope Keith, was currently screening on ABC TV.) And that was that. Penelope and The Manor it was.
Purchase Audio Book – Penelope Goes West
PENELOPE BUNGLES TO BROOME
second journey to Western Australia took place only a year later, in the dry season of 1999, during which Ros and I explored the fabulous Kimberley
region by land and sea, where dramatic 12-metre tides guarded coastal locations unchanged by time. Indeed still as the 17th century buccaneer
William Dampier first described them. For three months we explored the north of Western Australia (with Penelope and The Manor of course – I travelled with two women) including the improbably sculptured Bungle Bungles, the Pilbara and the wild flower-filled Mid West, after our Kimberley adventures.
We were particularly fascinated by Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley – the extraordinarily ancient so-called Bradshaw rock paintings as well as the more contemporary Wandjina figures.
Purchase Audio Book – Bungles to Broome
THE DEVIL IN TIM – PENELOPE’S TRAVELS IN TASMANIA
‘When Tim Bowden went back to Tasmania to explore his state of origin for the first time in many years as a tourist
rather than a local, it evoked many memories of his boyhood. In this cheeky and warm rediscovery of Tasmania and its at times dark history, Tim and his wife Ros explore some of the quirkier outposts of island civilisation (stopping at a winery or three along the way) and travel through landscapes of incomparable beauty and devastating desolation. This book is a fascinating and humorous account of a rapidly changing Tasmania, told by one of Australia’s
most infectious raconteurs and highly regarded broadcasters.’
Purchase Audio Book – The Devil in Tim
DOWN UNDER IN THE TOP END – PENELOPE HEADS NORTH
‘Told with wry humour, and infectious enthusiasm, a sense of history and a nose for finding great stories, Tim lays bare the hardships of bush life and celebrates the joys and freedoms of being on the road. He takes us to a pub with no beer at Gregory Downs, has us paddling a kayak between the red
granite cliffs of Lawn Hill Gorge, teaches us the pleasures of being an in-house guest in Darwin’s Government House and leaves us wondering what a
statuesque and topless German tourist was doing striding down the Stuart Highway.
‘And all along the way, he introduces us to characters only the outback could throw up, fellow travellers, and extraordinary tales of exploration and unexpected immigration. Listening to Down Under In The Top End will have you packing your bags, putting your belongings into storage and taking to the road.’
Purchase Audio Book – Down Under in the Top End
BOOKS BY TIM BOWDEN – Tim’s works are available to purchase from his website – Tim Bowden’s Blog
1. Changi Photographer, ABC Books, 1984.
2. One Crowded Hour – Neil Davis, Combat Cameraman, 1934-85, William Collins, 1987.
3. The Way My Father Tells It – The Story of an Australian Life, ABC Books, 1989. (Republished 2002)
4. The Backchat Book, ABC Books, 1990.
5. Antarctica and Back in Sixty Days, ABC Books, 1991. (Reprinted by Allen & Unwin 1991)
6. The Silence Calling – Australians in Antarctica, 1947-97, Allen & Unwin, 1997.
7. Penelope Goes West – On the Road from Sydney to Margaret River and Back, Allen & Unwin, 1999.
8. Penelope Bungles to Broome, Allen & Unwin, 2001.
9. Spooling Through – An Irreverent Memoir, Allen & Unwin, 2003.
10. This Can’t Happen to Me! – Tackling Type 2 Diabetes, Allen & Unwin, 2004.
11. No Tern Unstoned – Musings at Breakfast, ABC Books, 2004.
12. The Devil in Tim – Travels in Tasmania, Allen & Unwin 2005.
13. Aunty’s Jubilee! – Celebrating 50 Years of ABC-TV, ABC Books 2006.
14. Down Under in the Top End – Penelope Heads North, Allen & Unwin 2008.
15. The Changi Camera, Hachette Australia 2012
16: Stubborn Buggers – The survivors of the infamous POW gaol that made Changi look like heaven, Allen & Unwin, 2014
17: Abandoned at Fossil Bluff – A Remakable account of Antarctic Survival
18: No Plucking – Oddments Collected by a Reptile of the Press (To preview the first three chapters, please click on this link)