Murray River Source to Sea Expedition
(December 2009-March 2010)
Six years after crossing the Australian continent by bicycle as part of the Melted Helmet Tour, Rod Wellington traded his pedals for paddles as Zero Emissions Expeditions ventured back to the land of kangaroos and koala bears to paddle the entire length of Australia’s longest river, the Murray.
Flowing 2560km from the snowy peaks of the Australian Alps in New South Wales to the blue brine of the Southern Ocean, the Murray is not only Australia’s most famous river, it is also the country’s most favourite river.
Each year, millions flock to the Murray’s banks to recreate profusely. They float lazily upon its surface in hired houseboats, race its wider sections in powerboats of all sizes, eagerly fish its amply stocked upper reaches and stave off the oppressive heat with long, refreshing swims in its cool pools. And although the river serves as a natural state border between Victoria and New South Wales, few would deny that its deeper purpose is not to divide these two states, but instead, to unite these cross-river neighbours, and indeed, to unite the whole country. To Australians, the Murray is magic liquefied. To Zero Emissions Expeditions’ founder, Rod Wellington, that magic is an elixir quite easily quaffed.
“While poring over research material prior to the Melted Helmet Tour, I came across what appeared to be a lengthy river on my map of southeastern Australia. The word “MURRAY” was written along its course. As my finger traced the squiggly blue line to the ocean my interest piqued. Further research showed that the river was the country’s longest, and because I am attracted to such topographical extremities, my interest piqued further.”
No stranger to long distance river travel, Rod found himself immediately smitten with the Murray. It reminded him of another worldly famous river, one with whom he was already quite familiar.
“I had been putting in many hours working on a manuscript chronicling the Mississippi River Source to Sea Expedition and as I found myself comparing these two great rivers, I discovered that the Murray seemed to share many of the same aspects as the Mississippi, albeit on a smaller scale. The two rivers share the distinction of being the principal river of exploration that opened up the interiors of both countries. With their endless inward plying, river pioneers flooded the histories of both countries with images of paddle wheelers piled high with people and produce. Both rivers helped produce countless caches of colourful river characters; all those bearded blokes drunk on bourbon, manhandling freight and cursing profusely; and all those stingy suits, sickly worried about their precious investments; and the quiet black men, fishing poles in hand, perched on short tree stumps beneath gently animated willows.
Ah! Here was a river I could relate to: muddy and warm, flowing silently through a wide, brown land. As had the Mississippi, the Murray quietly gurgled into my subconscious. Bubbling from down under, it spoke to me in rippled rhymes and whispered streaming phrases. It was then that I knew that I must see the Murray, as a whole, from source-to-sea.”
With a year of pre-expedition planning nearing completion, Zero Emissions Expeditions now finds itself on the verge of an ambitiously adventurous and engagingly enduring endeavour. Rod lays out the expedition’s overview.
“I will be circumnavigating on foot the mountainous area surrounding the Murray’s source near Thredbo, New South Wales. Then, using a 12 foot inflatable SOAR canoe, I’ll descend a 100km-long section of whitewater from the Murray’s junction with Limestone Creek, past Tom Groggin Station (which provided inspiration for Banjo Paterson’s famous poem, “The Man From Snowy River”), through the treacherous rapids of the Murray Gates and finally arrive on placid water at the quaint, rural community of Biggara. At Biggara I will switch to a sea kayak and paddle the remaining 2400km to the sea.
Utilizing a human-powered, zero emissions combination of walking and paddling, I’ll descend from the peak of Australia’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuzsko, to sea level near the town of Goolwa, South Australia. This expedition promises to be a true source-to-sea descent event!”
To make the expedition even more vicariously interactive, Rod carried a SPOT Satellite Messenger which allowed viewers of the Zero Emissions Expeditions website to track his every move using Google Maps. Unlike a GPS, which only receives GPS coordinates, the SPOT device both acquires and sends GPS coordinates, transmitting them to a person’s SPOT account, which updates the person’s location every ten minutes using Google Maps. The SPOT Satellite Messenger can also send pre-programmed messages to let others know things are “Okay”, as well as a 911 button to signal help in the event of an emergency.
The Murray River Source-to-Sea Expedition was filmed using a solar panel-powered high definition digital camcorder and will be edited into an educational documentary to be shown in school classrooms as part of Zero Emissions Expeditions’ Pedals and Paddles presentation series. While the focus of the documentary will be to promote active living and zero emissions travel, the importance of waterway conservation will also be featured. SolarFlair Productions will oversee the production of the documentary.