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welcome to a quick tour of The Flight of Ducks

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The Flight of Ducks is an Australian on-line documentary. In January 1933, F.J.A. Pockley (John Pockley, my father) travelled to Central Australia as a student member of a team from Sydney University led by Professor H.W. Davies. Davies intended to study Aboriginal water metabolism. Soon after arriving at Hermannsburg Mission my father undertook a private camel expedition travelling west through the Western MacDonell Ranges to Mount Liebig. He brought back a pencil written journal, cinefilm, photographs and Aboriginal artefacts. This collection provides a unique window into the end of the frontier period when there were still isolated groups of Aborigines yet to experience contact with 'whites'. My father's companions on this journey were interesting and remarkable men. They were: Hezekial, a senior Aboriginal lawman and guide; linguist, T.G.H. Strehlow; artist, Arthur Murch, and animal and skull collector, Stanley Larnach.

My father rewrote his journal three times before his death in 1990. The details of his memories expanded through time. He added a post-script after his return to the centre in 1976 where significant changes were evident, not only in Central Australia but also in himself. Another layer to this story was added in September 1996 when my wife and I retraced the 1933 expedition with our own children (his grandchildren).

The Flight of Ducks is more than a record of past and present forays into this particular Central Australia landscape. It has evolved into an expedition into a datascape for which we have yet to develop a suitable terminology. It is part history, diary, museum, data-base, postcard, poem, part conversation, part shed.

Above all, The Flight of Ducks is an ongoing communication between its layered stories and its audience or participants. A collection of digital objects is given meaning, not just because they have historical significance, but because elements of the story are still unfolding.

The Flight of Ducks draws on the characters and imaginative layers that create the idea of 'the centre'. Herein lies the significance of the title of this work. It comes from an image created in song and drawn from the heart of the expedition journals. The image refers to imaginative flight, to the shape and form of the space and to the process of story telling in a participatory medium.

Like oral epic poetry, the work publicly accommodates its own evolution as a proliferating organism. Shaped by its participants, it is explores the poetics of the medium with a deep respect for Indigenous Australia and concern for the preservation of its content.

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