Monday, October 7, 2013


Captain James Cook got so much right it seems a shame to dwell on every detail that may not have been completely accurate. Such is the case with the Great Sandy Peninsula, an outcropping of pure sand in the midst of the Pacific Ocean just an hour or so up the coast from Brisbane. Great, yes, home to the magical Satay tree a behemoth which was found to be distasteful by every parasite known to enjoy and decimate timber, making it the perfect structure in pier and wharf construction. Sandy, for sure, the area contains three times the amount of sand as the mighty Sahara desert, it's sand from the Ocean floor to it's highest dune. However, it is the peninsula piece of the equation that doesn't quite fit and therefore the Great Sandy Peninsula was renamed the Great Sandy Island by the next in a series of epic Australian explorers, one James Flinders, when he circumnavigated the continent in 1803.

An island of sand containing a vast subtropical rain forest sounds like a dream exploration for a veteran mariner and in a last gasp effort to revive a career cut short by illness, James Fraser mounted a campaign. On a boat from England named, "Stirling Castle", he would sail to the massive island of sand on a research mission. He loaded the boat with 16 young men, either scientists or tried and tested seamen, along with himself and his lovely wife Eliza.

The mission was doomed from the start as poor Captain Fraser fell ill almost as soon as their ship set sail in the spring of 1836. As the captain coughed toward the coast of Australia a few hours north of the great island of sand, the vessel was torn apart on a reef, the crew had to abandon the ship and the 18 inhabitants threw themselves and a few provisions onto two lifeboats. The lifeboats were tied together and were to continue down the coastline towards their destination. However, late one evening the crew of one of the boats, full of hardened sailors, decided that there was nothing further to be gained by continuing down the coast in pursuit of this doomed mission with their dwindling captain. Thus in the dark of night the crew cut the line connecting the boats and headed for the shore, where they intended to  walk to safety. Farewell to the Fraser's, and their small crew of pansy scientists; its every man for himself now.

James and Eliza along with a few botanists, ran ashore on the sandy island a week or two later. They were greeted by the aboriginal people of the island. Initially the crew were able to curry favour by trading a few trinkets for food and shelter, but soon after the trinkets were gone and the aboriginal people began to instruct the strange visitors on the local customs, which included how to fish, hunt and get along on the island - everyone was expected to pitch in! The first order of business was for these new inhabitants to get with the program and strip naked. As you could imagine for a few English botanists this affront to their civilised ways was too much to bear and a gang stormed off to swim the 2 mile channel back to the mainland, they didn't make it. So it was a sick and dying James Fraser left on the island with his lovely bride Eliza making the best of what life they had left. Finally one of the seaman from the first lifeboat made it to an English outpost on the mainland. Most of their gang did not last the journey but the three who did limped in to town telling the tale of the sinking of the Stirling Castle (leaving out the part about them abandoning their captain at sea). The story caught the attention of the commanding officer at Brisbane who knew the right man for the rescue mission, John Graham. Mister Graham put together a small crew and set sail for Fraser Island. As Mister Graham approached the island, he disrobed to his birthday suit in order to be less threatening to the aboriginals, to the complete surprise of his crew. I can just imagine the sight of the aforementioned John Graham jumping off his vessel on the shore of the Island in front a group of aboriginals without any laundry and looking back at his men saying... "are you coming?"

John Graham tried to determine if Captain Fraser was present on the island however the Aboriginals only told the tale of one "ghost" who had joined the tribe. When John Graham arrived at the village he found Eliza Graham being treated for sunburn by the aboriginal elders. He asked for Eliza to return with him to the mainland, and with a little convincing the community agreed to let their sun burnt ghost go with Mr Graham.

Eliza finally made it back to Sydney and made a living retelling her account of her adventures and embellishing the facts to make her fantastic story even more implausible and worthy of publishing. Unfortunately the version of the story which involved a community of aboriginals saving her from death did not play as well as a version involving cannibals spearing her husband and cooking him for dinner and the latter fabrication became a turning point in European / Aboriginal relations, for the worse. In reality the story may have provided the impetus for Europeans to invade and over run the Aboriginal people of the Island in the early 1840's to exploit it for its commercial potential.

Eventually Eliza found out that there might be an inheritance from her late husbands will back in England. Therefore she made the trip back to her homeland reuniting with her long lost son and daughter. However the tribunal responsible for Captain Fraser's estate found a few holes in Eliza's story not to mention the fact that she had hidden a second marriage from them and hence she was not a penniless widow; the estate went to the children. Eliza returned to Australia with her husband Captain Alexander John Greene and they either settled in Melbourne or Auckland New Zealand, whoever you choose to believe.

Soon after Eliza's foray the Great Sandy Island became known as Fraser Island, though no one quite knows when the switch was made. I prefer to think that Eliza returned to the Island and lived out her life bathing in the cool pristine waters of Lake Mckenzie, one of the 28 perched lakes on her island; special indeed as Fraser Island is home to more than half of these rare sand based lakes in the world. I thought about old Eliza as I bobbed around the waters just yesterday.

Who says Australia has no history.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Shameful, absolutely shameful.

I am referring to my blogging performance over the past few months. Believe me it has not been for a lack of prose. It's just that I have been consumed with my latest novel, "Clandestine" a first draft of which has been created and now resides in the hands of a few trusted editors for feedback.

I assume that the editors will want to remain nameless for fear of reprisal in case the finished product turns out to be a better fit for the trash heap than the bookshelf; though I do extend my full appreciation to this small band of test readers for their patience and expertise.

My first novel "The Club" now resides on amazon in a kindle format for the outrageous sum of $3.99 and pssst... for free on wattpad. It's the Wattpad experience that has been particularly rewarding. I have been blown away by the number of times my book has been viewed (does that mean read?),  the number of followers that trail my movements and the comments and votes I receive from an adoring public.

As for my day job, we are full with a waiting list for 2014; you'd think that would be a source of pleasure for me but instead I am a bit's time to build more classrooms!



Sunday, May 5, 2013

The CLUB a novel by Jack Rice

To all my dedicated blog readers out there who have been frustrated by my recent lack of not  fear, you can now read my blather to your hearts content!

I recently (as in this evening) published my first novel entitled "The Club" on the website "Wattpad". I encourage people to join Wattpad, find my book and start reading.

Wattpad is to writing as Youtube is to video. There are thousands of stories to pick and choose from and they are all free!

Just go to and register. If  you search the index of titles with the words Golf and Australia, I'm sure my little cover will jump onto your screen.

"The Club" is a little (well 24 chapters and 70,000 words) story I wrote last year. It was intended to be a few funny pages about a bunch of crazy characters at a golf course in Canberra; but it turned into a fairly touching little novel about the relationship between a golf pro and his young student.

Shannon and Mackenzie gave the book an initial read as did a couple of staff members at my school. At that point, I sent it to my good friend Chris Darling who helped with the editing. Once it was completed it sat on my computer for several months while I wondered how to get it out there. Wattpad was a perfect fit.

So I will leave it up to the public to judge...

And by the way, I have just completed the first draft of a second novel which has been printed and currently resides on Shannon's bedside table. If it is at all readable, I will post that one as well.

Happy Wattpadding everyone.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This past week I spent 5 days in Kuala Lumpur workshopping and conferencing with practitioners of the International Baccalaureate program. I was sent on a fact finding mission by my school and through the course of my surveillance I learned quite a bit. A summary of my findings which I did not chronicle in the executive summary I prepared for my Board are listed below.

1. With all of the flavours of the orient at my disposal I ate out twice, once at the Hard Rock Cafe and the other time at Malone's Irish Pub. Before you tell me how pathetic that is, you needed to walk past street vendors selling decimated fish stocks before you judge.

2. Inside the Petronas Towers shopping centre Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton are a mall brand. I never bought a thing but I did hit the Haagen Dazs shop....twice.

3. Malaysian people are incredibly friendly, every time I pulled out a map and tried to find a street, random people would stop to orient me or walk me to my destination and all with a friendly smile.

4. Kuala Lumpur is amazingly multicultural, astoundingly so in fact. It also contains a dizzying array of architecture with more tall buildings on the way I counting over a dozen large cranes in the CBD alone.

5. Back to the Petronas mall; in spite of the multicultural dynamic of the city every piece of advertising contained a picture of a western model who look like she had just stepped off the train in Manhattan or Paris. Weird.

6. Still at the mall I have an indelible image of a woman in full Burka trying on 3,000 dollar Gucci shoes. It is still  - all about the shoes.

7. I really have to get out of this mall!

8. To the city planners in KL did you really have to put the airport 75 minutes away from the Business District?

9. Malaysian airlines did not have it's finest week. A botched takeoff on Sunday night had us returning back to Sydney to grab a new plane (not that they had one)...bad start. Lines were long, service was slow and they were never ready receive our plane at the gate when we landed. Never again....

10. No complaints for the Renaissance Hotel in KL. Good service, a solid breakfast buffet, a nice workout space and a big pool.

11. Kuala Lumpur was made for air conditioning, it was so hot and sticky every time I went outside I felt like I had been dipped in a bath full of boiling honey.

12. The opening keynote of the conference was given by a Futurist. How does one qualify for that job? His favourite saying was Yeah, I know.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Et tu Brute...

I encourage all of my friends, neighbours and casual acquaintances to look up in the night sky on or around the 21st of January, 2013. On that night the Moon and Jupiter should be holding hands in the night sky directly in between Orion and the seven sisters of the Pleiades. In fact, Orion will have his bow and arrow cocked and ready if either of the two planetary objects decide to make a move on the constellation of lovely ladies. Personally, I wouldn't put it past them.

The other slow moving, huge, planetary object you may have seen in Canberra this week was the sight of me on my bicycle trying to navigate the city streets on my way to work. The downhill ride to school is a wonderful 8km journey down the mountain with the cool morning air blowing in your face. Of course by 2pm in the afternoon the office is too hot for gainful employment and then it dons on me that my decision to ride my bike in the morning was short sighted at best. Uphill all the way home, the journey can only be managed by stopping at every lemonade stand on the way. Canberra literally sizzles in the summer as temperatures soar towards the 40 degree mark. The danger around here lately has been grassfires which have been smouldering around the town. It is a natural occurrence in the Australian summer and for the most part it can be contained, however when the cocktail of weather conditions includes hot temperatures, no humidity, not a drop of rain in sight and high winds then the fire brigade goes on high alert. In fact, if the conditions all come together to create the perfect fire storm, they list the danger as catastrophic which means that the firemen really can't help if something sparks. The last time it occurred in Canberra was 2003 when many homes were lost in a series of blazes. The threat is real, but I suppose its much like blizzards in Canada we downplay the danger because we learn to live with it. I remember many a winters night when a sane person wouldn't have taken to the roads in the freezing rain but there I was whooshing down the 400 highway to get somewhere altogether unimportant with 15,000 similarly insane motorists.

This morning on my ride down Mount Taylor my thoughts turned to one Lance Armstrong, the devil that won 7 Tours of France while overcoming cancer and was vilified by all concerned for doing so while under the influence of performance enhancing materials. I find it amazing the capacity that we have as humans to suspend reality when it stares us directly in the face. Does anyone really believe that an athlete can excel at their sport without the use of performance enhancing drugs. Do those of us that watch sports really believe that people can climb the alps on bicycles, throw balls 100 mph, play 200 games a season, run like cheetahs and lift 1000's of pounds without medicinal intervention. I just watched a playoff football game where two 35 year old men played with broken hands and torn shoulder muscles. These are the kinds of injuries that would render humans incapacitated for extended periods. Yet, we cheer on these gladiators in anticipation of the glory of our favourite team uniforms, towns or countries; never considering what they may have sacrificed or what they have done to their bodies to get ready for the contest. Athlete's know and accept the trade. They give up their bodies and their well-being for the rest of their lives for our entertainment and glory, knowing that if they do it well enough and long enough they will make a good amount of money for reaching the pinnacle of their sport. Of course we rarely mention that that they make money for a whole pile of hangers on along the way. Those that cheers them to their glory while selling beer to the spectators. I am not saying that taking performance enhancing drugs in the context of a competitive sport is the moral choice, but from my experience in athletics, I believe it is the only choice for athletes. We make the stakes too high. I feel for the Australian swimmers who failed to live up to expectations at the London Olympics or the fourth place Canadian Junior Hockey players that missed out on a medal and will be tarred with the national shame for their lives as a result. We allow the media to create the expectations and the pressure associated with the pursuit of results, and then we are shocked when athletes make questionable choices. And when Lance Armstrong is caught we plead innocence, as if we never knew.

So I end my blog the way I begin, out looking at the stars. After all I believe it was an English poet who once reminded us that " the fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, it is in ourselves".  We look at our superstars and heroes closely and often see their faults, but we do not consider that the seeds of their downfall is in all of us. Remember that when Lance has his interview with Oprah. He'll cry on her couch and try to salvage his celebrity with redemption. Should we buy it? I say we should never have bought it in the first place. We all know the choices we made if we we are honest enough with ourselves.

Wow! It's obvious that cycling leads to blogging, hopefully I'll remount soon...but when it's cooler.