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  Field Notes From
Australia's Monsoon

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Australia's Monsoons On AssignmentArrows

View Field Notes
From Photographer
Randy Olson

Australia's Monsoons On Assignment

View Field Notes
From Author

Roff Smith

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Lynn Johnson (top) and Roff Smith


Australia's Monsoons On Assignment Photographer Australia's Monsoons On Assignment Photographer
Australia's Monsoon

Field Notes From Photographer
Randy Olson
Best Worst Quirkiest
    The best thing about going on assignment is the serendipity.  A hurricane was coming, and I chartered the last flight into the Tiwi Islands, hoping to photograph the effects of the storm. When I got there I found a family holding a mortuary ceremony, which the locals conduct about a year after someone has died. Despite cyclone warnings, they continued to paint burial poles and place them around the grave to help the deceased person's soul reach the spirit world.

    I was hunting for crocodile eggs with Aborigines when our boat ran up against a log. Everyone jumped into the water and walked to land as I lagged behind with my camera gear. I'd only gone a few steps in the water when I looked up at the shore and saw a crocodile's huge gaping mouth coming right at me. All I remember thinking is "How do they see where they're going with all those teeth lifted up in front of their eyeballs?"
    The crazed animal only had one brain loop operating at that moment. It wanted to get into the water, and I was the only thing in its way. I couldn't really go onto land, so my only option at that moment was to backtrack. I was in all the way up to my chest, and the only way I could see out was climbing over  a thicket. That was a scramble that felt like forever. My feet, arms, and chest kept getting bound up in a mesh of vines as I dragged along my favorite, now waterlogged, camera. But I eventually made it. What an adrenaline rush. Afterward, those Aboriginal kids laughed at me for about two hours.

    I was at this river when this guy showed up in a bush truck full of kids he was taking swimming. I had noticed that crocodiles were swimming just upstream, so I asked the man if he was afraid of the crocs. "Of course, I am," he said. "Why do you think I brought all these kids?"


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