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On A Floating World: Celebrating Hunter waterways


The history of Newcastle harbour, tales of the city’s beloved hospital by the beach, and a closer look at the world of seaweed.

These are just a few snippets of what will feature within the former steel city’s newest online resource.

On A Floating World is a website and events program, launched on 20 October, that will focus on the waterways stretching from Port Stephens to Lake Macquarie, and around the Hunter Valley. 

The brainchild of local designer and publisher Heath Killen, the digital base will feature oral histories, site visits, descents into the past, as well as stories from locals and specialists around the world.

Combining art, science, history, community, and culture, the project aims to foster a deeper connection to our marine ecosystems and contemplate their futures.

“The history of this region is deeply connected to the water, it’s why we’re here in the first place and it’s still integral to our identity.” Mr Killen says.

“There are no shortage of great stories here, but what really made the project feel worthwhile is that this place offers a microcosm for understanding our global relationship with water — a critical issue for our times”.

On A Floating World launched on October 20 with an interview with local historian Bob Cook; a 2,500 word transcript offering visitors a glimpse into the history of Newcastle Harbour. 

There is much more to come, says Mr Killen.

“Next week will see the publication of an interview with Cameron Webb, a scientist who conducts much of his research at Hexham Swamp and has some fascinating insights into mosquitos, as well as urban developments on wetlands,” he said.

“Shortly after will be a conversation with Willow Forysth who speaks out on the issue of coastal erosion in Stockton. 

“There will also be an oral history of Wangi Power Station, as well as some great tales from around the world from people whose lives and work are inextricably linked to water.”

In 2022, Mr Killen plans to begin a series of events, including walks, workshops, exhibitions, and screenings.

“The hope is that people will discover something new about the incredible worlds in their own backyards, many of which are overlooked,” he says.

“I want to change not only the way that people think of swamps, which are actually beautiful places and full of life, but even the many different ways that we can engage with popular spots like beaches, beyond surfing and sunbaking. 

“These are all good things, but there’s so much more to discover.”

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