Deague’s Team

My selection was – Jason Benjamin and Rodney Pople from Sydney; Robert Jacks, David Larwill, Jeff Makin, Mark Schaller and Andrew Sibley from Melbourne; Hazel Dooney from Brisbane; Tim Storrier from Bathurst and john Olsen from Bowral. Unfortunately, John Olsen, who was very keen to join the original expedition, had to undergo knee surgery and so a second smaller trip was organised for November 2001, which included John Olsen, Tim Storrier, Hari Ho, Ashley Crawford, Tim Olsen and myself.

As well as the artists, Ashley Crawford was enlisted as a journalist, to interview the artists about their work and cover the story of the journey for magazines and newspapers, and Hari Ho was asked to be the official photographer – two individuals who David Deague deemed extremely important. Tim Storrier’s son Ben and Jeff Makin’s son Hugh also joined the expedition.

The support crew was chosen for their experience – Jason Kuiti, ex New Zealand Navy and Colin Ryman, ex European coach driver, was assigned to escort and assist the artists in four-wheel drives. David Deague also suggested a helicopter to navigate Lake Eyre and to locate a suitable site for a painters’ camp. Our helicopter pilot David Dunn – who works for Noris Dinan Aviation and is the Channel 10 pilot in Adelaide – was extremely experienced with 3,500 flying hours. David Deague also organized outback gourmet caterers, Joe and Dan Ahern from Adelaide, to cater for the arduous trek from Lake Eyre to Alice Springs and the ongoing journey to Papunya and Kintore.

Several months before I had finalized the date for the expedition front-page newspaper articles and accompanying photographs (which David Deague had seen) showed that heavy rains had fallen in northern Australia. Hundreds of square kilometers of shallow water was flowing into Lake Eyre and had created a massive inland sea. The resulting invasion of bird life from around the continent would be an awe-inspiring sight by any standards David Deague explained. I was so excited, but terrified that we may miss the spectacle if the artists couldn’t be organised in time. There was also a possibility that the water might evaporate before we got there. The pressure on David Deague was mounting to finalise a departure date as soon as possible. We agreed on the 23 May 2001. To celebrate the coming event a wonderful cocktail party was held at David Deague’s residence.

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