Monday, June 16, 2008

Walkabout with Dampier

Amiable bush craft and survival in the wild expert Ray Mears has been going walkabout down under in a series of programs for the BBC recently. It was wonderful to discover how you could survive on bugs and fight off swarms of mosquito's without actually having to.

In the last episode he was in the far North West of the Northern Territories partially looking into Aborigine art but also following the footsteps of that alleged ancestor of mine, William Dampier.

Dampier was one of the early circumnavigators, part time pirate, botanist and writer, and is oft considered to be the first Englishman to land on Australia back in 1688. The program noted his mistakes (confusing termite mounds for rock) and skipped over his descriptions of the locals (which were not complementary).

But the two themes of early explorers and Aborigine rock art had an intriguing connection - the early European voyages were recorded, and deep within caves of a remote part of the Australian Northern Territories Mears found paintings clearly showing a two masted ship.

Was it one of Dampier's ships? We'll never know.

I've often wanted to follow in Dampier's footsteps and the images of some of the places he visited along Australia's long north coast looked incredible tempting: unspoilt deserted islands with turquoise waters and sandy beaches.

And as Mears noted, the land in that far off corner of Australia looks untouched since that far off day that Dampier first walked there and wrote about what he saw in his diary.

If you have access to the BBC's iPlayer you can watch again by clicking here.

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