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The Researcher Who Uses Drones To Capture Whale Sneezes On The Breezes

GOLD COAST, QUEENSLAND – The Humpback Highway is experiencing rush hour in the waters off Queensland’s Gold Coast, as the massive marine mammals make their epic annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef.

In the middle of the incredible spectacle is Griffith University’s Dr Jan-Olaf Meynecke, who spends his days collecting snot samples from whales.

Collecting mucous from a marine mammal weighing more than 30,000 kilograms isn’t a simple process, but with the help of drones it’s now possible.

“We have a small drone and that drone actually has a Petri dish in between its legs. We let that drone fly over the whales to collect the mucous from the whale’s blowhole,” says Dr Meynecke.

Getting the timing right to capture the whale’s mucus in a Petri dish carried by a drone is a big part of the challenge.

Dr Meynecke says “To be able to know when to capture the snot takes a little bit of time. We need to observe the whale, sometimes for almost half an hour because everything needs to be just right.”

Dr Meynecke has embarked upon the unusual research practice to discover the current health of the Humpback Whale population, which has grown from 500 to 20,000 since commercial whaling ended in the 1960’s.

“Basically we get information about the DNA that’s in the whales. When the whale blows out, it blows out the information about who they are. So in other words we can determine if (they are) male or female or other genetic prints that they have.”

The whale loogie’s are taken back to Griffith University’s Smart Water Research Institute on the Gold Coast where it’s hoped the DNA findings will help continue the growth of the Humpback Whale population.

Dr Meynecke’s unusual research and methods are all part of the experience for whale watchers.

“It’s kind of unusual but its pretty amazing what science can do these days.” says Cathy Rowland a visitor from Ireland who spent the day whale watching with Dr Meynecke on board Whales in Paradise, to tick off one of an item on her bucket list

“We saw lots of whales, fins and tails. Something we’ve always wanted to do, so it lived up to our expectations as well.”

The Gold Coast isn’t just a holiday destination for humans, on their 10,000-kilometre migration the Humpbacks themselves have a vacation in the inviting waters, resting and socialising, even giving birth along the stretch of coast during the winter months.

Dr Meynecke and his team of students and researchers not only collect boogers from blow holes, they also observe the whales behaviours to try and unlock their many secrets.

“We’re not just collecting the mucous which in itself is a big mission, we’re also looking at the behaviour of the animals and their migration pattern. We use flukes to identify individuals and we are listening to whales as well, so we capture their sound and try to find out what their current behaviour is,” says Dr Meynecke.

Born in the Netherlands Dr Meynecke is now based on the Gold Coast, a paradise for a marine researcher. If he’s not on the water studying, he’s in it surfing each day.

“There is a big incentive to work here because it is paradise. It’s such a beautiful place in the world, where the water is always clean and blue and there is always such amazing marine wildlife. It’s a dream for a marine biologist.”


0:00 Drone footage of whales breaching and coming to surface of the water.

0:57 Tourists on board whale watching boat.

1:15 Whale coming to the surface – view from boat.

1:33 Tourists watching dolphins swim along boat

1:47 Whales coming to the surface – view from boat.

1:57 Tourists taking photos of whales

2:10 Dr Meynecke taking photos.

2:25 Whale coming to the surface – view from boat.

2:35 Dr Meynecke taking photos.

2:44 Whale breaching.

2:50 Releasing drone.

2:55 Drone footage of whales.

3:19 Drone flying past whale as it comes to the surface.

3:30 Footage of drone approaching whale.

3:43 Drone being captured by researchers on boat.

3:56 Dr Meynecke with petri dish onboard boat.

4:12 View of Gold Coast beach and surf.

4:24 Tractor pulling research boat along beach.

4:36 Group of researchers cruising in boat in search of whales.

5:05 Releasing drone.

5:10 Researcher flying drone.

5:22 Drone hovering on water.

5:31 “It’s a small hydrophone to listen to the whale vocalizing.” Upsot from Dr Meynecke.

5:36 Dropping hydrophone in to the water.

5:41 Whale song upsot from hydrophone.

6:10 “That is just amazing guys because so this would be a single male singing, but we’re right above him literally right above him so very unique.” Upsot from Dr Meynecke on board boat reacting to whale song.

6:23 “It’s really cool.” Researcher on boat reacting to whale song.

6:26 Dr Meynecke in laboratory working on samples from petri dishes.

Interview with Dr Meynecke

7:04 Basically we get information about the DNA that’s in the whales so basically when the whale blows out it blows out the information who they are. So in other words we can determine if male or female or other genetic prints that they have.

Interview with Tourists Philip Bredin and Cathy Rowland from Ireland.

7:22 (Cathy) It’s kind of unusual but its pretty amazing what science can do these days not the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard but still pretty unusual.

7:31 (Cathy) We saw lots of whales fins and tales and generally awesome. Something we’ve always wanted to do so lived up to our expectations as well.

Interview with Dr Meynecke

7:48 We have a small drone and that drone actually has a petrie dish in between its legs and we let that drone fly over the whales to collect the mucous the blow from the whales.

8:00 Grab from Dr Meynecke again in German?

8:21 We’re not just collecting the mucous which in itself is a big mission but we’re also looking at the behaviour of the animals their migration pattern we’re looking at individuals who we use flukes to identify individuals and we are listening to whales as well so we capture their sound and try to find out what their current behaviour is.

8:43 There is a big incentive to work here because it is paradise being on such a beautiful place in the world where the water is always clean and blue and there is always such amazing marine wildlife it is a dream for a marine biologist.

9:00 Grab from Dr Meynecke again in German?

9:12 To be able to know when to capture the snot it takes a little bit of time we need to observe the whale for sometimes almost half an hour because everything needs to be right.

Interview with Abbey Korman – Student Researcher from Washington DC.

9:22 I think it makes it easier to understand how important it is and helping out and just being like really on the boat recording data really cool to know that you’re helping.


Queensland’s World Domination: Sun, Surf… And Lawn Bowls

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA – In the countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Queensland’s sporting golden child and tourism mecca – the Gold Coast – has claimed the global mantle of the Holy Grail of lawn bowls.

“Absolutely! It’s the whole box and dice – you just can’t get better,” says Bowls Australia national coach, Steve Glasson OAM. A Brisbane boy, best known as one of Australia’s greatest bowls players.

“There are so many clubs, the climate is perfect and the facilities and greens are world-class – plus it’s a great, fun place to go. It’s got theme parks, restaurants, beaches… the list is endless.”

Holding the title as the first Australian to become world No. 1, he jokes it’s possibly about time the World Bowls Headquarters moved from the wet, cobbled laneways of Edinburgh, Scotland, to idyllic year-round playing conditions on the holiday strip.

A destination gearing up to host the 2020 World Bowls Championships, the 2018 Commonwealth Games and next month’s Australian Open (11-24 June), itself renowned as the biggest and richest bowls event on the planet. In short, the crème de la crème of international competitions in a sport that even British style bible, Vogue magazine, last year placed on its ‘It List’.

Bowls Australia president Nigel Smith agrees there’s no question the Gold Coast commands a unique position in the world. Hands down, he says it’s the only destination able to cater to thousands of competitors and spectators in the one location – a dream that became a reality after the Australian Open last year moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast in a deal that runs until 2019.

In the past, the annual event involved a series of qualifying rounds in each state and territory. However, now, thanks to the Gold Coast’s unique capacity to host all 4,000 plus matches on 15 of its 23 bowls clubs – alongside the region’s stellar accommodation and visitor facilities – Nigel says the Australian Open has literally transformed into the greatest bowls spectacle on Earth.

“I have no hesitation in saying the Gold Coast really is the Holy Grail of lawn bowls, not just in Australia, but the world,” Nigel says. “It’s the only place that has more than 70 greens within a 45 minute-drive from Coolangatta to Paradise Point.

“It’s just a unique spot – why would you want to have a blue ribbon event anywhere else? And that’s the reason we have secured pretty much every major international event from now until 2020.”

The winning combination of top-notch facilities, climate and lifestyle has also lured a string of the world’s top players – from Scotland, Canada and New Zealand – to live and train on the Gold Coast, although still representing their home countries on the international circuit.

Canada’s Ryan Bester is one of them. Employed at Broadbeach Bowls Club as the bowls coordinator, the dual Commonwealth Games medallist (silver at Glasgow’s 2014 Games and bronze at Melbourne’s 2006 Games) is simply blown away by what the region has to offer, not least being its friendly, welcoming vibe.

“Obviously Australia is the best place in the world for bowls, not just because it’s a great sporting country but because the weather allows for the best surfaces in the world,” says Ryan, who ‘fell in love with Australia and stayed’ after competing in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Today, he competes for Broadbeach in everything but international tournaments.

“The Gold Coast is the heart of bowls for the whole world – a lot of top bowlers from the UK and overseas move here because it’s so good. It’s an easy going lifestyle; everyone’s on vacation and laid back, which is what I enjoy.”

What’s more, Steve Glasson says there’s absolutely no doubt in his mind that the Gold Coast is also the best place for visitors and lawn bowls first-timers to learn.

First up, he says the region is home to a high concentration of the world’s top players (past and present), meaning ‘you never know who you’ll rub shoulders with on the green’. By way of example, Helensvale Bowls Club has more of the Australian Jackaroos squad among its members than any other club in Australia, including squad captain Lynsey Clarke, Mark Casey, Brett Wilkie and Nathan Rice.

Secondly, the Gold Coast’s bowling greens are second to none. Steve is something of an expert on this topic having undertaken a greenkeeping apprenticeship when he was a teenager.

“All of the clubs on the Gold Coast use the same fine-leaf, tropical Tifdwarf grass, which is by far the best surface to play on,” he says. “If you look at the world’s best golf tournaments and wonderful, slick greens, that’s basically what you’re getting offered.

“Other places you go might have undulations in the green or the texture of the grass is rough and that causes the bowl to deviate, which can really scramble you. So, the Gold Coast’s greens are possibly the world’s kindest to play on because they are nice and flat and nice and consistent.”

Finally, Steve says, it’s hard to beat the bowls club atmosphere and comradery, not to mention a schooner of beer at 1970s prices.

The Australian Open (11-24 June) is one of more than 116 events on Tourism and Events Queensland’s It’s Live! In Queensland calendar, showcasing Australia’s best live events staged in the best destinations (visit to discover all the action).

Billed as the world’s biggest and richest lawn bowls event – drawing 2,000 participants and offering $225,000 prize money – the Australian Open this year includes 158 international competitors (85 from New Zealand; 32 from China; 21 from Malaysia; 9 from the United Kingdom; 3 from South Africa; and 2 from India). The youngest competitor is Kane Nelson, 13, from the Brisbane suburb of Belmont, while the oldest is Joan Wallis, 84, from Gold Coast’s Musgrave Hill.

For more, visit


Can’t make it to the Australian Open? No fear. You can play social bowls year-round on the Gold Coast, with many clubs promising an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best of the best. In terms of participants, the coast ranks 13th out of Australia’s 65 bowls regions, boasting 5,171 playing members, 24,145 total bowls club members and 10,608 annual social players (including those drawn to the increasingly popular barefoot bowls).

At a glance, here’s 10 of the Gold Coast’s 23 clubs to get you started…

Broadbeach Bowls and Community Club: the global epicentre of lawn bowls, staking its claim as the venue for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and, together with sister clubs, Helensvale and Musgrave Hill, the 2020 World Bowls Championships. This superstar club has recently undergone a $3.3 million facelift and is the Gold Coast’s only four green club. Also known for: a thriving social bowls program and fantastic location.

Club Helensvale: long-time heavyweight, boasting more Australian Jackaroos as members than any club in Australia, and named one of three venues to host the 2020 World Bowls Championships. Also known for: outstanding restaurant, bar and function facilities and an outdoor BBQ area.

Musgrave Hill Bowls Club: one of the three clubs selected to host the 2020 World Bowls Championships, located just north of Southport and Labrador. Also known for: two of its three greens include a shade cover and the club runs daily buffet catering.

Coolangatta Bowls & Recreation Club: one of the Gold Coast’s larger clubs, it has been home to some of Australia’s iconic players and former national stars including Kelvin Kerkow, Rob Parrella, Ian Schuback and Helen Bosisto. Also known for: on-site Chinese restaurant and a thriving social bowls program.

Burleigh Heads Bowls Club: a stone’s throw from Burleigh Heads beach, it’s considered one of the most idyllic locations to play lawn bowls anywhere in Australia.Also known for: great entertainment and a thriving social bowls program.

Club Benowa: small in size, but big on personality, it claims to be ‘the friendliest’ club on the Gold Coast. Also known for: a busy social calendar and legendary deck area.

Southport Bowls Club: the grand old dame of the Gold Coast, established in 1914. Also known for: a busy social calendar one of the most successful Jack Attack programs in Australia.

Paradise Point Bowls Club: boasts a showpiece undercover green. Also known for: great entertainment and a popular social bowls calendar.

Tugun Bowls and Community Club: celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, this club is located under the northern approach to the Gold Coast Airport, with jets passing overhead if the wind is right! Also known for: pristine greens; the club’s greenkeeper is president of the state and national greenkeeper associations.

Mermaid Beach Bowls Club: don’t be put off by the fact it was founded on a swamp in 1963; ideally positioned close to the jaw-dropping retail mecca, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre. Also known for: a popular social bowls calendar and two floodlit greens.


For enquiries, contact:

Shelley Thomas

Publicist – It’s Live! In Queensland

P: 07 3535 5010 / 0416 377 444



Noosa Festival Of Surfing Has Gone To The Dogs

NOOSA, AUSTRALIA – Pro surfers, amateurs, tandem surfing stars and man’s best friend have descended upon Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Australia, for the world’s biggest surf festival by competitor numbers.

One of the most popular competitions is the Dog Spectacular. Festival Co-Founder Paul Jarratt said they’re the only festival or surfing event in the world where the dogs surf on a stand up with their masters.

“It’s a wonderful experience for dog and human,” he said. “It’s not really about winning or losing; it’s a celebration of all the good things we love about surfing, the ocean and environment that we are privileged to have in Noosa.”

“I think that’s why we attract surfers and their families from all over the world, we’ve got 20 countries represented this year.”

Kerry Pittman, a first time dog surfer, was bursting with pride for her four-legged sidekick, Kelvin.

“It went pretty well and I’m pretty proud of him for staying on the board for the whole time,” she said. “I was thinking at some point that he was going to jump off but he trusted me enough to stay. We’re going to do it again for sure.”

It’s not just man’s best friend catered for in the 25th year of the festival. Surfers from all walks including, including longboard, shortboard, finless, tandem, stand up paddle boards, and body surfing take part.

People from a wide age range, from under 15 to over 70, also compete and are well looked after, which helps to make the festival one of the most popular events on the global surfing calendar

The event kicks on until March 12th with more than 30 competitions catering for a variety of surfers including longboard, short board, finless, stand up paddle board and more. Visit for the full program.



00:00 Chris De Avoitiz, Dog Whisperer entering the water

00:08 Dog solo on a surf board

00:22 Chris doing tricks with his dogs

00:30 Shot of 2 surfers and their dogs

00:42 Terry Deddan with his dog

00:56 Gv’s of the surfing dogs

02:36 Interview with Chris Avoitiz, Dog Whisperer

‘Aww, that was fun, small waves but we all had fun.’

02:40 ‘Who won, it’s just a fun thin, I reckon that dog surfing by itself was a crowd pleaser, that’s pretty cool, breaking new ground.’

02:48 Interview with Kerry Pitman (1st time dog surfer) and her dog Kelvin

‘I went pretty well, I’m pretty proud of him for staying on the board for the whole time. I was thinking at some point that he was going to jump off but no, he stayed, he trusted me enough to stay (laugh).’

02:59 Interview with Terry Deddan and his dog

Q – ‘why do you come dog surfing?’

A – ‘Cause the dog wants to go surfing (laugh), he takes me, just loves it, loves getting in the water, when you see her now she’s just excited, looking out at the ocean wanting to go surfing, so yeh, loves it.’

03:17 Drone footage (from licensed operator) vision of the dog surfing

04:12 Water vision of the surfing dogs

04:43 Noosa Beach

04:48 GV’s of the surfing contest

05:06 Vision of the Tandem surfing

05:53 Drone shots of Noosa

06:19 Interview with Phil Jarratt, Co-Founder of the Noosa Festival of Surfing

‘The Noosa Festival of Surfing is unique primarily because it’s not really about winning or losing for that matter. It’s a celebration of all the good things we love about surfing, about the ocean and about the environment that we are so privileged to have here in Noosa. And I think that’s why we attract surfers and their families from all over the world, we’ve got 20 countries represented here this year, it’s almost like the Olympic Games.’

06:47 We are the only festival or surfing event in the world that has this kind of dog surfing, where dogs actually surf on a stand up paddle board with their masters and uh, it’s a wonderful experience, for dog and for humans. But I have to admit that sometimes when we have world champions in the preceding heat and the beach starts to fill up and the champions think people have come to see them and I have to inform them that no, they’re here to see the dogs.’

07:15 Drone sequence of the Men’s Stand up paddle board final


K-Pop’s Mega Music Sensation Rain (비) Visits Queensland

Korea’s mega music sensation, Rain (비), visits APT8 as part of his role as Queensland ambassador.

It’s a destination best known for its sunshine, but Brisbane and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane welcomed Rain with open arms today as one of K-Pop’s biggest stars checked out a contemporary exhibition from the Asia Pacific region as part of his visit to Queensland as its official ambassador.

Wrapping up his final days at a restaurant overlooking the Brisbane river, Jung Ji-hoon or Rain as he’s best known, said he had an incredible stay in Queensland and a great day at the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial (APT8), looking at works by more than 80 contemporary artists from the region.

“My time is Queensland was incredible including my visit to APT8 which showed beautiful art, including an installation from Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa, from Korea.

The singer-songwriter, actor and music producer is to Korea and Asia what Justin Timberlake is to pop music in the United States.

Rain travelled to Queensland as the official tourism ambassador for Queensland to help launch QPop, a new tourism marketing campaign to entice more Korean and Asian travelers to visit the Great Barrier Reef state.

That includes ticking off a bucket list of high-energy adventures like climbing 323m above sea level to the top of Skypoint on the Gold Coast, sailing in the Pacific Ocean, visiting South Bank in Brisbane, and cuddling one of the state’s most loveable locals, Cinnamon the koala. As a well-known foodie, Rain also made time to hit Brisbane’s best restaurants and dine on the local seafood.

“I had an awesome time in Queensland including Brisbane, Gold Coast and Cairns. I want to come back to get to know this place more,” he said.

The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8) is the world’s largest exhibition of new art from Australia, Asia and the Pacific, with works by more than 80 artists reflecting the expanding creative diversity of the region.

This year the APT explores how the human form can express cultural, social and political ideas. Major commissions include a sprawling structural installation of reclaimed timber by India’s Asim Waqif and a mesmerising suspended sculpture by South Korea’s Haegue Yang. The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art runs from 21 Nov 2015 until 10 Apr 2016,

Rain is a highly-respected singer and actor in the Korean entertainment industry, and is considered a worldwide star throughout Asia, Europe and North America. He has headlined several Korean television series, Korean and Chinese movies and featured in American films including Ninja Assassin (2009) for which he was the first Korean to win an MTV award. In 2011, he was crowned by Time 100 Poll Magazine Readers as the world’s most influential person.



00:00 Rain meets ‘Cinnamon’ the Koala from Dreamworld on the Gold Caost, upon his arrival into Queensland

00:30 Rain arrives at Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) to visit the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT8)

00:48 Rain meets Korean artist Chai Jeong Hwa.

01:03 Rain visits Choi Jeong Hwa’s installation called ‘The Mandala of Flowers’

01:22 shots of ‘The Mandala of Flowers’ with people enjoying the installation

01:59 Shots of an installation by another Korean artist Haegue Yang.  The installation is called ‘Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Open Modular Cubes (Small), Expanded 943 Times’

02:20 Vision of other APT8 exhibits

02:48 Interview with Rain

Question is – Why are you here in Queensland?

Answer – ‘I personally like Queensland. I have heard there is a lot of different cultural experiences and a lot of food and wine to enjoy. There are a lot of things to do and enjoy. I came to QLD one year ago for Running Man. I enjoyed it a lot. This year, TEQ (Tourism and Events Queensland) and TA (Tourism Australia) invited me to come as Queensland Ambassador, this is an honour to come to Queensland for this opportunity’.

03:32 Question 2 – How would you describe Queensland?

Answer – ‘There is a lot of culture in Queensland it is very pretty with nature and the natural environment. I visited a number of places; the Park, Art Gallery, it was the perfect place to enjoy your holiday. I tried a lot of different food and I especially enjoyed the Eat Street Markets. I had a really good time at the Markets with my friends and eating nice food and meeting people. And as you can see with my backdrop, the City itself is quite pretty with the bridge and nice view.’

04:33 Question 3 – What did you think about the APT8

Answer 3 – ‘I was pleasantly surprised when I visited the Queensland Art Gallery, especially when I met the Korean Artist Mr Choi Jung Hwa. I was so proud of him as a

fellow Korean in that moment and I thank him for his hard work. I was delighted that I came across Korean art on display in a famous Queensland Brisbane Art Gallery.

05:18 Question 4 – Do you have any recommendations for your fans to do in Queensland

Answer 4 – ‘What I enjoyed the most, I liked the scenic views and the nature. I find this place very scenic with a pure environment.

I posted 2 times on my social channel, one is at Southbank park in Brisbane, and one in Cairns, where the sky meets the sea. I find in Queensland you can actually enjoy nature. You should try and relax and have a good time. You need to go to see the Koalas. When I came here for Running Man shooting I went to the Koala Park. It was so fun. I would like to make a recommendation that you do this. If you want to enjoy nature, learn more about natures. Queensland is the best place.’

06:26 Rain visits famous Eat Street Markets

Beach Swell Sculpture Festival Where Bikinis And Bare Feet Abound

5th September 2015, Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast, Australia.

A giant dragon, a lion made out of chicken wire, relics from the lost civilisation of Atlantis and an iconic Australian Hill’s Hoist clothesline complete with beach towels are just some of the art works that have transformed an iconic Queensland beach into a 24 hour outdoor gallery.

Artists from New Zealand, Germany, the UK and Australia are among the artists who have travelled thousands of kilometres to exhibit their creations among the sand and surf of the
Gold Coast’s Currumbin Beach for the annual Swell Sculpture Festival.

Founded by Natasha Edwards Swell has always been about giving artists exposure and connecting people with their works.

“Every year in September at the start of Spring for ten days everyone gets out of the cold and in to the sunshine, feeling relaxed and chilled and being at one with nature and of course with the sculptures,” says Natasha.

There are works from 60 artists mesmerising crowds, along a one-kilometre stretch of the beach.

Artist Ingrid Morley from New South Wales entered her sisal, wood and steel creation called Lost and Found, a powerful portrayal of the turning points in all our lives.
“I suppose being able to come on the site and walk through in an informal way not in a gallery environment is just fantastic.”

Lost and Found won the major Swell Sculpture Award with Ingrid taking home $15,000 in prize money.
“I think winning this for me of course it’s wonderful to have a bit of money after knocking your head against a brick wall for years and years and years. The success of the work is that people are able to respond to it. That’s success.”

Swell is an exhibition that can be enjoyed around the clock with sunrise yoga and meditation classes, daytime music performances and twilight tours by curators. After dark the illuminated sculptures take on new lives.

For members of the public like James and Elizabeth, it’s a free taste of art and culture in a relaxed environment.

“Art galleries are sometimes few and far between. You can come down and enjoy it, the public enjoys it, it’s good,” says James.

Elizabeth says: “To see it on the beach it’s bringing art and a bit of culture to this part of the coast. It’s giving us a different perspective.”

Artist Greg Quinton has taken everyday Australian items the beach towel and the Hills Hoist and created You Should Always Know Where Your Towel Is. He has entered works in Swell year after year.
“What could be more Australian than a Hills Hoist really, this was actually dug out of a backyard in Brisbane that had been there for 45-50 years so it’s probably seen a few towels,” says Greg.

His sculpture was designed specifically with Swell in mind.

Greg says: “How often do you get the chance to put a work of art on the beach in such a fabulous setting, not very often do you? So you have these ideas in your head and generally they stay there but to have an opportunity to put them in place is pretty special I think.”

Sculptural artists from the United Kingdom, Germany and New Zealand have contributed to this year’s festival.

For Victorian Ben Carroll having his work Relics from Atlantis shown on the shores of one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in the world is a marriage made in artistic heaven, “Because it has been a part of my life for so long I just consider it the norm but it is really nice to be here and watch the continual amazement of all the people that walk up.”

Swell Sculpture Festival is currently in its 13th year, and has become Queensland’s largest outdoor celebration of art. The festival continues until 20 September.

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Kitesurfers Great Barrier Reef Marathon For Motor Neurone Disease & World Record

Green Island/Vlasoff Cay, Tropical North Queensland, Australia.

A group of eight kite surfers will attempt to break the current world record spending ten days kite surfing 1000 kilometres of The Great Barrier Reef from Queensland’s Green Island to Horn Island in the Kite the Reef endurance race.

While most people visiting The Great Barrier Reef spend much of their time under the water marvelling in the marine life and coral gardens, these extraordinary athletes will spend at least seven hours every day gliding over the most pristine stretch of one of the world’s natural wonders.

“The enjoyment on this trip isn’t going to be stopping, looking around and sightseeing but covering as much ground as we can. Being able to see the entire reef at once will be an experience of its own,” says team member and professional Kite Surfer Jesse Richman from Maui.

The gruelling Kite the Reef race will see the kite surfers hopefully not only breaking the current Guinness World Record but also raising vital funds for Macquarie University’s Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Research Centre.

Dr Nick Cole who leads the MND research team at Macquarie University founded the event along with mates Alex Unsworth and Richard Hatherall, who will take to the water each day in the endurance challenge.

“In 2013 myself and some friends crossed the Torres Strait by kite surfing and raised money for the McGrath Foundation and flying over the reef on the way back we thought wow this is absolutely incredible and we’ve got to kite surf this and this time we’re doing it to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease research,” says Dr Cole.

For Alex Unsworth the challenge needed to be iconic and a true endurance event “People go up and down Everest 20 times a week people are doing 100km bike rides all over the place but no-one has ever done 1000km kite surfing and certainly no one has ever kite surfed most of the barrier reef that we are doing.”

Richard Hatherall thought his mates were crazy when they first suggested the challenge, “Personally I wanted to get behind it and if we’re going to do something as crazy as kite The Great Barrier Reef we darn well better do it for a good cause as far as I’m concerned.”

The three friends have some impressive company on their expedition including pro-kite surfers Jesse Richman and Susi Mai.

“This is an incredible project going on and when I heard about it and these guys the passion and commitment they had to not only the cause but to pushing themselves through every wall they’re going to encounter it inspired me to jump onboard and see if I had what it takes to Kite the Reef,” says Jesse.

The surfers will need to be on the lookout for humpback whales as they surf the spectacular waters of The Great Barrier Reef and along the coastline of Tropical North Queensland but for the athletes, the biggest threat will be fatigue.

“It is pretty daunting mostly I’m just nervous about the physical exertion that we’re going to be going through. I think there are more notable risks around like sharks, but the more practical real risk is fatigue. We’re going to be kite surfing for up to ten hours a day for ten days so its like doing back to back marathons but in the water with all the complexities of kite surfing,” says Alex.

To claim the world record the kite surfers must follow strict guidelines says Jesse “We have to film every 20 minutes, we have our GPS trackers that show our continuous track from start to finish. We have to film every time we start and stop the list goes on.”

Each of the kite surfers has their own personal reasons for giving up their time and their own money to take part in the marathon effort.

For team member Jessica Syne from Sydney, it’s the combination of adventure and a great cause, “It’s an amazing experience to be in this location who wouldn’t want to do it? Raising money pushing myself to my limits. I think we all have personal reasons and connections to MND I for one have good friends who have passed away or are suffering from MND so I will definitely be thinking of them to push me through to the end.”

For Dr Nick Cole it’s the love of his job, and his passion to make MND or ALS as it’s known in the Unites States history.

“Motor Neurone Disease is a disease with no cure or treatment and very little understanding of the biology so my work as a research scientist is to understand MND and find a cure for it, so I’ve combined my two passions kite surfing and the work that I do to try and bring this thing together to raise funds for MND research.”

All the team members know no matter how much their bodies hurt or how emotionally fatigued they feel, it is nothing compared to what a MND patient and their family endures.

“This is going to be an incredibly hard mission and really the only thing that is going to get us through is thinking about everyone else who can’t do it and hopefully we can push through it knowing we can do it for everyone who can’t,” says professional Kite Surfer Jesse.

Motor Neurone Disease or ALS is a terminal neurological disease with no treatment or cure. Cruelly the average MND patient has only 830 days to live after diagnosis with rates of MND rising 250% in the past 20 years.

“We have to do 830km to break the world record so there is some symmetry there and I think that inspiration for us breaking the world record is going to be symbolic and symbiotic in trying to find a cure for MND. So when times get tough and it will get tough, we’re going to have to dig in deep with that knowledge that people at home and sufferers who are counting on us to do it is going to push us on,” says co-founder Richard.

While the kite surfers have self-funded much of the event, travel search engine Skyscanner is the major sponsor for the expedition, which means all money donated will go directly to the Macquarie University MND Research Centre.

For more information:
To make a donation visit:

Hannah Statham, Tourism and Events Queensland
T: +61 (0)7 3535 5622, M: +61 (0)411 085 226


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