Sunday, July 11, 2010

Witnessing Natural History

Picture chronological order is from the bottom up

Fogged in at Shepparton (our two aircraft are at the far end)

Flight line (our aircraft is in the foreground) at the disused airstrip
(unserviceable aircraft is on right being tied down)

Approaching Wilcannia NSW just North of the Darling River (on the
way back to Broken Hill from the Paroo River)

Flying Over the Paroo River

Paroo River Wetlands

Paroo River System

"Back o' Bourke" (on the way to the Paroo River)

White Cliffs Opal Mining Town (on the way to the Paroo River)

Glenn and I at Swan Hill, Victoria

Hello Everyone,

Firstly, I would like to say that our Jess continues to inspire and evoke memories of an incredible few months. This inspiration led me to embark on a little adventure of my own.

When my flying club out at Tooradin, Victoria invited a bunch of us to fly up to Broken Hill NSW, I was thrilled to bits and accepted. So Friday before last, Glenn (a pilot mate of mine) and I were the first to get off the ground at Tooradin and tracked due North over the Cardinia and Sylvan dams past Lilydale and then on to Kilmore on a generally North Westerly track to Swan Hill and Broken Hill. We decided that I would fly up and Glenn would fly back.

It was at Kilmore that we met our first challenge in the form of a lowering cloud base and a rising ground - net effect is cloud on ground so there was no way we could have gone through that ! I decided to do a 180 and head back to Lilydale where I thought we would land and wait for the weather to clear.

It so happened that when I looked over my shoulder, there was a brilliant ray of sunshine right in the centre of the weather system. I doubled back to Kilmore and headed straight for the hole and managed to get around the weather and as we continued to Swan Hill where we decided to stop for a leg stretch and catch up with other flyers, the weather became progressively better.

The rest of the flight up to Broken Hill was reasonably eventful, dodging isolated rain showers and low cloud but nothing too daunting.

The highlight of the trip was the next day when we flew North East of Broken Hill to have a look at the Paroo River and its series of drain lakes. It was on our return that we were advised that this vast catchment has had water in it only twice in the last 200 years ! This is only the third time in 200 years that it has literally flooded ! See attached pictures.

The trip up saw one of our club aeroplanes make an emergency landing at a disused strip about 60 miles south of Broken Hill. This was due to an engine failure. The two pilots on board did an incredible job, not only staying in one piece but also keeping the aeroplane intact. All the emergency training kicked in and literally saved them from possible serious harm.

On our way back, the lot of us decided to visit the disused strip and help tie down the unserviceable aircraft and marvel at the true "Back o' Bourke". This resulted in us not having enough daylight to make it all the way back to Tooradin the same evening so two aeroplanes (Glenn and I included) decided to divert to Shepparton for the night.

We woke up the next morning to thick fog and 2degC temp. Long story short, we only left Shepp at 2:30pm and finally landed back at Tooradin just before 4 pm. What an adventure !

I am attaching a few pics. I hope you like them.

Again I say this - this pales in comparison to what Jess had to go through but I just loved it. The various challenges, flying over vast desolate areas, marveling at the incredible landscape in the floodplain and just the sheer joy of being in the air was a one of a kind experience.

Have a great weekend everyone



  1. Hi Jonathan
    Thank you, we have been hanging out to see some photos, and these will do for a start. We hope we can see more a little later.
    No need to compare your adventure with Jessica's, it would be hard for any of us to match what that young lady has achieved, but each of us has our own adventure that we really enjoy, and yours is just great.
    The Paroo River and it's wetlands must be part of the Darling River system, and you were most fortunate to see it with so much water, something you may never see again.
    Thanks again for sharing your adventure with us, and pleased you are home safely.

    Cheers from Faye and Max.

  2. Hi Faye and Max,

    Yes, these pictures are teasers but amongst the best I have. I have about 200 pictures and I will sift through them and send you more.

    Yes, the Paroo forms the wider Darling system. From my aviation maps it is a bit difficult to determine the exact shape and location of the drain lakes because the map shows them as dry. From the Paroo, there are a series of lakes in tandem that eventually find their way to the Darling via newly formed creeks and rivulets. None of these are on the map, so one would have to acquire the latest satellite imagery to truly understand the enormity of this flood event.

    I am presently speaking with a few other pilots to see if we can get up to Birdsville in Queensland and even further North to Longreach later on this year because this area forms the catchment for Lake Eyre in South Australia. It is known to be the largest catchment in the world and I hear it is in full cry, just like the Paroo.

    How fortunate are we to live in this great land and experience such unique natural phenomena. I feel truly privileged.


  3. Jonathan,

    Thanks for the great pictures and for the very interesting travelogue. Just as Jessica’s story was so inspirational, reading about your adventure is also inspirational. Yesterday, I took a 2 hour drive to the small town of Westport, Washington which is the port where I operated my commercial fishing boat out of some 35 years ago. I sure reminisced about the three years that I spent on the ocean. After my commercial fishing adventure, for more than 20 years, I would take annual trips in my boat a couple of hundred miles north through the San Juan Islands and into the Canadian gulf islands, but now I just reminisce about those trips. Hearing about your adventure is very inspirational, Jonathan and it just might help to motivate me to get off of my duff and plan another boating adventure. Keep the pictures and stories coming. They’re really fun for us.


  4. Many thanks Jonathan for the wonderful photos and little summary of your trip. I was thinking of you the day you headed north and the weather was, to say the least, pretty rough. I am not surprised to hear that you considered turning back. What amazes me is that there you were up in the stormy clouds, you sight a break in the weather by way of a ray of sunshine and this enabled you to rise above the bad weather. Brilliant. I love the outback and, like Faye and Max, look forward to seeing more of your photos.

    Faye and Max, did you see my little entry at the end of Jonathan's last blog re my living arrangements? I gave my fridge to one of my sons yesterday and an auction house has now just collected my lounge suite and other things. So, now what do I sit on to watch Le Tour de France? My house has beautiful floor heating (wires in the concrete slab). I will miss this in my new house. So, my final few days in this house I will lie on the floor and enjoy soaking up the heat to watch Le Tour.

    Thanks again Jonathan.

  5. Hello Jonathan,

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventure with us. The photos are terrific! So glad you enjoyed the trip and seeing where I hail from! :) Yes, born 'n' bred in Broken Hill! That country was my backyard growing up. :)Beautiful isn't it? :)
    So glad you arrived back home safely and with fabulous memories.

    Cheers .... Soldier's Mum :)

  6. Hi Jonathon,
    That's not such a bad thing to do on a weekend:0
    Great photo's and many thanks for this little insight into your flying club.
    I'm like Ailsa, I loved the bit about spotting the gap in the weather. I'm also a big fan of Le Tour, Cadel Evans has just got the Yellow Jersey, yippee.
    Hoo Roo ☺☺☺

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for all the kind words.

    Ailsa, while a house move can be daunting, I am sure that your calm temperament will not allow it to run away from you. Good luck with everything.

    Hey Mark, in these last few years, I have become decidedly more spontaneous. I strongly suggest that if another boat adventure gets you excited, just DO IT !

    Soldiers Mum, what a coincidence ! Broken Hill is a town with a difference. Its a close knit community and people look after each other. How about White Cliffs ! People have made homes out of the mine shafts and quite a few of them live underground ! Next time we get up north, I will be sure to land at the White Cliffs airstrip and visit this unusual little town.

    At Wilcannia, we had an interesting gentleman bring us fuel in two drums on the back of a ute and hand pump it into each aeroplane and then gathered us around and told us really interesting stories about the Flying Doctors who are based in Broken Hill. At some point in the future, as I gain more flying experience, I hope to volunteer for them.

    Hoo Roo Magpie, each of us in our own little way has this inherent spirit of adventure ! Where did that come from, we might ask ??!!

    I'll send more pictures over the email to all of you.


  8. Thanks Jonathan for the 'good luck' for my move. I have been in this house for basically all my 'grown up' years - bringing up the children. I'm trying not to be too sentimental but the house is going to be demolished and 3 townhouses built on the land. My late husband loved renovations and every room contains his 'mark'. Hey, yeah, why not be a bit sentimental. That's normal. But I am really looking forward to my new place. I am completely organised and ready. I decided to be ready a week before I moved in in case I was ill in the last week. However, I didn't count on the 'ill' component of the move being realized. I came down with a nasty chesty cold thing a few days ago. Thank goodness I'm all packed. I've discovered also what all our dogs and cats enjoyed - lying on the heated floor is just magnificent.

    Magpie, our Cadel gained the Yellow Jersey with a broken elbow. He was certainly suffering last 'night' but says he will continue with the race. Each year I watch the complete Tour. Love it. At least I no longer have to get up to go to work after only a couple of hours sleep.

    Cheers all,

  9. Looking forward to seeing more photos, Jonathan. :)
    Volunteering to fly for the RFDS is a wonderful idea! Did you have a visit to the hangar and office {RFDS] at the B.H. airport? Interesting and informative for visitors. My family were pioneers of the 'Hill [ that's what us locals [well ... ex-local now! :)]refer to it as.] :)In the 50's and 60's it was one of the best places to live and grow up.
    And yes, you're spot on, we always looked out for each other in the 'Hill! The community always rallied around it's own. If you google June Bronhill and also Vivian Bullwinkle,- both family friend's of my parents and extended family,-[ may they RIP]. Wonderful women and their stories are interesting and inspiring.

    Ailsa ... Good luck with the move and every best wish for your new life in your new home. Hope you're soon feeling better and over this cold you've contracted. What's happening with your home is happening here too. Just down the street from us the house was sold and knocked down and the land is now divided into two.

    We've had contact from our boy today! :)

    Hello to all!

    Cheers ... Soldier's Mum.

  10. Hi all
    Great work Jonathan with the volunteering for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, we have had personal experience with them. Our grandson from Swan Hill, at aged 4 months was flown down to the Children's Hospital in Melbourne by the RFDS.
    A few years ago we had a visit to the RFDS at Broken Hill and what a set up they have, and what an area they cover, and what great work they do. We spent most of the day there just looking at their planes and hearing stories from the staff.

    Hope the moving goes well Ailsa, looking forward to a cuppa at the new place.

    Magpie, didn't you feel sorry for Cadel, he most likely would have won the tour if he hadn't busted his elbow. Just how tough are these blokes.

    Cheers everyone from Faye and Max.

  11. Hi All,
    Yes Le Tour is getting very tiring now.
    These late nights are getting hard with school going back this week =D
    Oh, and the cycling is in the mountains.

    Vivienne Bulwinkle, I loved the interviews I heard on the ABC. She was a very sparky woman and I try and tell her story every Anzac Day. I particularly liked Les Dickens' interview where he used plain spoken text.
    Hoo Roo ☺☺☺

  12. Hi Jessaholics,

    I recall several of us wondering what we would do with our time once Jesse was home safe and sound....but I've frankly never been busier!! I struggle to find the time to drop in here to say hi to everyone, and it feels pretty weird not visiting here every day. But in a way this is a good me it says I have managed to continue forward, notwithstanding the fine friendships I have made with you all and value so much. This site has represented some of the most exciting and endearing recent memories for me.

    SO THANKS JONATHAN, PILOT EXTRAORDINAIRE!!for continuing to provide this place for us to chin wag and catch up.

    Your flying trip looks awesome Jonathan and your photos are extraordinarily beautiful. I too chuckled at you 'heading through the hole in the weather'!! I've been on a Qantas 747 Jumbo where I think the Captain did the same thing..only it wasn't very comfy even in that big rig! V-e-r-y s-c-a-r-y !

    Ailsa, I hope your big move went smoothly, I'm really feeling nostalgic for you leaving a home with so many memories. But I'm sure your 'new life' will be invigourating. Good luck, and I hope to see you soon.

    Looks like we all might get a chance to catch up in the not too distant future...Pete and I are having a cuppa with Faye and Max in a week or so...CANT WAIT and on the agenda will be talks of another Melbourne lunch!! This will be amidst all the Jesse book-signing sessions...I'm excited about that.

    How's that Sally going by the Bay?
    And Tony Love esq?

    Soldiersmum, enjoy yourself over in Perth, and it's so great that you've been in contact with your boy. From he due home soon?
    I've thought of you often during the turmoil in those zones lately, and been hoping you are keeping your chin up.

    Mark, if you can 'just do it', now or in the future, I know many of us here will give you the grand tour and make your stay in Oz truly memorable. Your posts always ooze a genuine note of friendliness, and the same will be reciprocated, just as with dear Janell and Meredith.

    Hullo Magpie, you have been behaving yourself very well lately! Le Tour all gone now..what's next?

    Til next time everyone,

  13. Hi Jonathan -- Looks and sounds like you had a pretty amazing trip to Broken Hill. THX for posting so many of the details! ...And all that water! How fortunate for you to get to see it! Those details and comments sent me on a Google search to learn more about that area of AU. Sure would enjoy visiting that area someday.

    Also 'Thank You' for keeping the blog going. I don't get it read as often as I'd like but sure enjoy everyone's posts whenever I do.

    BTW, thanks for the pink ball cap, Jonathan. The kangaroo on it invites lots of questions!

    Here's a big "HELLO" to all you Jessaholics, wherever you are!! .....Aren't we the fortunate ones to have been a part of Jessica's journey --the voyage, the blog, the friendships.....WOW!

    Janell in Oklahoma,USA

  14. Hi All,

    Very nice to see Collette and Janell. Yes, I have been extraordinarily busy these last few weeks as well.

    My business partner and very good mate and I did a day trip up to Mansfield and decided to return via the scenic route through Jamieson, Woods Point and then through Marysville via the Woods Point Warburton Road (they were the worst hit during Black Saturday). We took some really nice pics of the Victorian countryside and I sill share these with you on an email along with the promised additional pics of Broken Hill.

    All the very best everyone !


  15. Hi Holics,

    Thanks again for sharing the photos, Jonathan. They really are great. It's always good to hear from you, Janell and Collette. You're right, Janell. We're lucky to have the memories and friendships that grew out of Jessica's adventure.


  16. Jonathon,

    Great pics and insight into flying. What do you think of Mike Perham's intent to solo around the world after learning how to fly?


  17. Hi Richard,

    Yes, it will be an amazing trip. It all depends on what aircraft he wants to fly in. If it is a single engine like the one I fly, it will take him at least 3 months to complete the trip. However, thats going to be quite a challenge given the oceanic legs he will have to complete. Its safer to fly a twin.

    Another iconic Aussie - Dick Smith is an amazing aviator having traversed the globe quite a few times in various aircraft including a helicopter.

    I had the pleasure of spending half an hour with Mr Smith up in Temora NSW recently where we have our annual fly in. He told us the story of how he crossed the North Pacific Ocean in a helicopter and landed on a tanker ship, refueled and then flew over the Aleutians to a military base in Alaska and then onward across Canada and America!

    The great thing about flying just like sailing, is that every time you go up, it is a unique experience. There's always something new to experience.


  18. Stunning photos Jonathon!

    They interviewed Dick Smith this morning on Sunrise (with a Cessna parked in Martin Place LOL ) and he said Australia is the most beatutiful country in the world to fly over and after seeing these photos I agree!

    I remember flying over Lake Eyre in 1975 I think when it was in full flood you'd have sworn you were over the ocean. I love this country!

    I see Jesse is in Adelaide on August 11th for her book tour she's also visiting Clare, a country town in the wine region of the Clare Valley so I have 2 options (Clare is only about an hour from me)

    Also see where Laura Dekker has been cleared by the Dutch courts to sail around the world so we might be following another blog before too long.

    Can't wait to read Jesse's book and meet her!!!

    Hope everyone is well. I am except for aches and pains can't wait for the warmer weather for the first time I think I can say I've had enough of Winter !! Take care all.........Meleese x

  19. Hello Everyone!

    I guess most of you have heard of my wonderful meeting with Jessica last night and seen our photo on The Haven. Just in case you haven't, I posted the pic on my Blogger site but for some reason I haven't been able to insert any text to go along with it. I'll add some more photos soon.

    Jessica is doing brilliantly, and is looking stunningly healthy and happy. She is very familiar with us all thanks to Max's Photo Gallery, and acknowledged the flags we had made to welcome her home.

    Mike is as gorgeous in person as Jessica. They were both whisked away by a chauffrer like rock stars at the end of the evening! I am so happy and proud of Jesse, and relieved she has taken her place so assuredly.

    See you tomorrow Faye and Max! Put the kettle on around 10.45!

    Stay tuned for an announcement for a lunch date Melbournites!


  20. Hi All,

    Cheers Collette ! I got the play by play from Max. Wow, talk about luck ! Max also advised that we are looking at 28 Aug for the Melbourne luncheon. I have already pencilled in that date.

    Faye, Max, Clint and I went out to Knox City Shopping Centre (along with Faye's and Max's granddaughter and son-in-law) to catch up with Jess and get our copies of her book signed. Max set up some extra time with Jess and we took quite a few pictures. I will publish some of them in a new post on this blog once I have permission from Andrew Frazer.


  21. Hi fellow Jessaholics,
    I see everyone has been busy getting about ....especially you Jonathan.
    I can't say I like being up in the air but the view certainly is amazing.
    I come from a family of pilots actually, as my father was flying instructor on Tiger Moths during the war.He was 19 years old and instructing others how to fly. You would be amazed at his adventures.He even survived a crash after a prank flying below the electricity wires!!!! My brothers have both been hang gliders and one now flies an Ultra Light all over the country whenever he can....I have never been up in it!!!! Keep enjoying your flights Jonathan and thankyou for sharing the great photos.

    WOW the book launch weeks have been action packed and I see that many have had close encounters with our favourite young author.
    My evening was enjoyed by about 300 people and was held in the Sports auditorium of the local Grammar School.Firstly there was a ten minute video of her voyage which I guess was prepared from the documentary.
    Jesse was unbelievably professional in delivering a 15 minute talk accompanied by a slide show on huge screen.She controlled the slide show and discussed the images as she went.We were then treated to an interview and question time.
    I am so impressed with Jessica's confidence and wonderful sense of humor.Nothing seems to be too much for her and she gives of herself in such a friendly natural could we not be impressed.
    Following this was a presentation of gifts from the local Beaumaris Book store.The gift pack included many books including"Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea",handy car repairs book and chocolate as well as jelly beans.It was a lovely evening and my daughter and grandaughter joined me on the evening.My 8 year old grandaughter Romy presented Jessica with a very cute drawing of Jesse on her yacht accompanied by Silly riding on the mast...Jesse said "Thank you soooo much that's soooo sweet of you."Romy and I followed the blog daily and I'm sure enjoyed the excitement of the journey as much as I did.My three year old grandaughter also asks
    "Is that Jesses boat Nanny?" when she sees a yacht now too.
    ****The magic spreads far and wide*******

    I now have my signed copy of True Spirit and Romy was given an autograph also.
    Being a rather shy person I did not get any photos or contact anyone to get one with Jesse.....sorry.But there are so many lovely ones from other Jessaholics I'm sure we have been spoilt already.
    Sorry to be so long with this post but I thought since I didn't have photos and this was a different format to a book shop launch you may be interested.
    Hoping to catch up for the lunch and see you all again.
    Sally by the Bay

  22. PS. Beaumaris Books has signed copies of True Spirit if anyone wants to purchase one. Just google Beaumaris Books, South Concourse ,Beaumaris Vic.and E.mail from their web site or phone (03)9589 4638.
    Happy reading.
    Sally by the bay