Tag Archives: endurance

Friday in Five: Oceanic Edition

23 Sep

Got five minutes? Here are a few things I’ve loved this week.

View of the week

Here’s a bit of a sad story. After returning from Paris (ha! I had to mention that city just one more time!) I made the rookie mistake of packing away my camera without recharging its battery. So when I was sitting on my deck this afternoon and suddenly spied the telltale ripples of humpback whales making their way down the coast on their southern migration, I snatched out the camera, cranked out the zoom lens, ripped off one photo… and the camera died.

When the whales first appear on our horizon here around June, we mostly see them just blowing and surfacing. Heavily pregnant, they make their slow way north up to the Fraser Coast to give birth. On the way back, though, they’re partying – breaching, flapping, slapping and dancing. Best of all, their numbers are increasing each year.

Is that a ripple?

Is that a ripple?

Thar she blows... or surfaces, anyway.

Thar she blows… or surfaces, anyway.

The shot I'd have loved to take! With thanks to Sunshine Coast Lifestyle.

The shot I’d have loved to take! With thanks to Sunshine Coast Lifestyle.

Still, you have to be lucky, in the right place at the right time to catch a glimpse. Chances are I won’t see whales again this season, so I didn’t waste time trying to charge the camera battery. I just watched… and smiled. So here’s my quite pathetic attempt at capturing the majesty, plus the shot I wish I could have taken. (To be fair, even if my camera was fully operational, I wouldn’t have snapped a shot this good.)


Book of the week

wantedI’m not a terrifically enthusiastic reader of non-fiction – unless it’s memoir – and particularly not of “boys’ own” adventures. But Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is itself an achievement worthy of the saga it relates.

"Night ship", photo by the expedition's official photographer Frank Hurley

“Night ship”, photo by the expedition’s official photographer, Frank Hurley.

Cobbled together mostly from journals written by members of Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition during their horrific stranding in the ice floes of the Weddell Sea, it’s full of wonderful characters (not least the mighty barquentine whose name gives the book its title), suspense, courage, pathos and humour. And penguins. Fortunately for the ice-trapped, freezing, starving explorers, lots of penguins.

It also has some of the magnificent and very moving photographs which survived the catastrophe, courtesy of the talented and tenacious expedition photographer, Frank Hurley.

Perhaps as a final inducement to read, I found Lansing’s book a more compelling and evocative account than the 2001 movie Shackleton, in spite of that film starring one of my favourite actors, Ken Branagh, in the title role and winning a respectable slew of cinematography awards. So rest assured: this is not dry non-fiction. Thanks to Anna Campbell for the book recommendation.

Song of the week

Lisa Gerrard

Lisa Gerrard

All the time I was reading Endurance, I had this song on loop on my phone, in my car and in my head.

Lisa Gerrard is an Australian musician, singer and composer who, amongst other achievements, collaborated with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack for Russell Crowe’s Gladiator. This song featured in the soundtrack for The Insider.

Her other film credits include Black Hawk DownWhale Rider and Balibo, all movies whose scores stayed with me long after I’d left the cinema.

Her haunting vocals and mournful, unfamiliar lyrics anchored me in the Endurance story even when I wasn’t reading it.

Second book of the week

Mary-Rose Maccoll's Swimming Home is nominated for the Queensland Literary Awards.

Mary-Rose MacColl’s Swimming Home is nominated for the Queensland Literary Awards.

Am I allowed to tell you about two books this week? (Of course I am – it’s my blog! Also, this is a timely plug for a fantastic book that also fits this week’s Oceans theme.)

Swimming Home by Mary-Rose MacColl is a novel of love, loss, loneliness, secrets… and swimming! Set in Australia and Britain in the 1920s, it follows fifteen-year-old Catherine in her quest to become the first woman in the world to swim the English Channel.

Mary-Rose MacColl writes beautiful stories of ordinary women who prove themselves extraordinary. And Swimming Home is now up for the People’s Choice Award in the Queensland Literary Awards, so if you’ve read it and loved it (or have added it to your To Be Read pile in anticipation of loving it), please take a minute to vote for it online here.

Show of the week

It's easier getting up than down.

It’s easier getting up than down.

Sadly, by the time you read this it will be too late for you to catch “rock stars of the circus world” Circa at the Brisbane Festival, but the company’s latest work, Troppo, an “explosively funny beach party”, will no doubt emerge on another stage in another country in the coming months. In the meantime, Circa is touring Australia as well as playing theatres in Canterbury, Madrid and Paris between now and Christmas – well worth a look if you’re sharing a town with them! Their tour dates are here.

Clip of the week

I still feel badly about not having a better whale photo for you. In partial compensation, here’s a sparkly little clip from earlier this week. My friend Deana says it has a beautiful energy. But then, regardless of their moods, oceans always do, I think.



Until next week,

Gracie x

Lest we forget

25 Apr

It’s Anzac Day, a day of sacred remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorating a bloody and blunder-ridden battle that was one of the first Australia had fought as a newly federated nation. It wasn’t glorious. It certainly wasn’t romantic. We weren’t even victorious. How typical of Australians to cling to the memory of a blue* we comprehensively lost; with our Kiwi brethren, our annual day to bash the Brits for their ANZAC_biscuitsmilitary ignorance and strategic stupidity, and to break our teeth on syrupy biscuits that, more than any other culinary tradition, proclaim our loyalty to our colonial and rural past and a way of life that most contemporary Australians have no genuine relation to.

It certainly makes for pretty movies. Mel Gibson never looked so good as he did ducking snipers and dashing across trenches in a futile effort to stop his mates going over the top.

In spite of all that cynicism and the sense sometimes that really, it’s just another excuse to stay home from work, Anzac Day is nevertheless the most important day in our national calendar. More important, certainly, than Australia Day, the purpose of which nobody seems too sure about, beyond its marking of the definitive end of the Christmas/summer break. And it’s becoming increasingly significant, as the swelling throngs of visitors to Gallipoli, the barren peninsula in Turkish Thrace where it all went wrong, and to the dawn ceremonies that take place in every city and town, attest.

dawn ceremony

There are plenty of commentators more expert than I to explain why a farcical fight a century ago is growing in fascination for Australians. I think perhaps it’s because we are increasingly uncertain of what it means to be Australian – a kind of national thrashing-about for values because we’ve let go of concepts like a fair go for everybody.

At the same time, we’re letting go of the respectful hush with which we’ve historically spoken of our war dead. We’re less ready to believe they were all heroes, although not for one moment or by one inch do we respect any less the courage, endurance and determination they carried into Anzac Cove. This article tells how the release of war archives are giving new generations the chance to know something of the Anzac ancestors they never met.

“My grandfather’s story does not fit easily with the Anzac myth. But unlike many from the older generation, my siblings and cousins are happy to look the truth of his service in the face.”

We’re also becoming more respectful of the role our indigenous peoples played in this and other wars. Around a thousand of them fought in the First World War, and returned home to the same prejudice, discrimination and lack of rights or recognition they lived with before they enlisted. As their descendants now march in Anzac Day parades in remembrance, it feels like perhaps we’re dismantling some of the walls, just a little, that should have come down long, long ago.

GallipoliSo that while the golden cinematic glow gives way to a more realistic assessment of our ANZAC legends, the real lustre of ANZAC Day remains and grows. These were real men and women serving in brutal and terrifying conditions, with next to no control over their lives or futures. They had each others’ backs; they served and sacrificed and suffered and skylarked. Those who came home came home damaged, whether or not they brought home visible wounds, and they picked up where they left off, raising families and building a country.

Individually and collectively, their stories are worth remembering.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Happy Anzac Day.

Gracie x

* a “blue” is a fight in Australian slang

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