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I found this news particularly chilling as it has some eery parallels with our own round Australia family road trip.


A couple are snorkeling at Ningaloo Reef while their two children play on the beach, in the midst of their dream round Australia camping holiday. She has a publishing deal to write a book about their adventure. They have a boy and a girl, three years apart in age. They are camped out at Waroora Station just north of Gnaraloo, enjoying one of the great wilderness coastal camping experiences this country has to offer.

Then something goes horribly wrong. Their son raises the alarm when he swims out to join his parents and finds them floating face down. Fellow campers set off an emergency beacon and try to rescue the couple. The woman, Kathreen Ricketson, is brought ashore first but efforts to resuscitate her fail. The body of her husband, Rob Shugg, disappears below the water before he can be rescued. Despite a huge air and sea search, no trace of him is found. Two children are left orphaned, flown to Perth by child services to be united with relatives who have flown from Tasmania.

It is sobering to realise how quickly the idyllic family camping adventure can go tragically wrong. I cannot even imagine the grief and shock of the two children who witnessed all this. Instead of happy family memories of a dream holiday together, they will have a lifetime of mourning to process.

We made up one of those custom Apple books of our photos from our trip and it is now a treasured family keepsake. They will have only grim newspaper cuttings to remind them of their trip. I think about all the times I took the car to go searching for surf while the family waited in some remote bush campground, how many times I surfed alone, and how easily something could have gone very wrong a very long way from help. I am not a religious person but I am reminded of the phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

It is another reminder that Australia is a very big and largely untamed country with innumerable perils. We like to think we have “settled” or “colonised” this country, somehow tamed or domesticated it. But the thing that struck me in our travels is how wild and untamed it remains.

My deep condolences go out to the children and relatives of this couple.

Kathreen’s blog now makes agonsing reading:


They sound like wonderful people and a beautiful family, clearly intent on getting the most out of life and providing their kids creative opportunities to grow and explore. I hope those kids have enough happy memories of their parents stored up to help them on the difficult road ahead.

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