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Doco tracks Leichhardt mystery

By Leanne Coleman

Lecturer Dan Baschiera in action for National Geographic cameraman and field director Cian O’Cleary in Kakadu Lecturer Dan Baschiera in action for National Geographic cameraman and field director Cian O’Cleary in Kakadu

National Geographic has shot a documentary based on a book by Charles Darwin University Humanitarian Studies lecturer Dan Baschiera.

The crew was in the Northern Territory to shoot the “Ludwig Leichhardt and the Top End” segment for the National Geographic Series: “Australia – Life on the Edge”.

Mr Baschiera was approached by National Geographic due to his research focusing on Prussian explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, whose disappearance in the Outback has remained a mystery for more than 150 years. Mr Baschiera has spent several years researching Leichhardt’s expeditions and writings.

“The (documentary) scripting was drawn from my book entitled “On Leichhardt’s Path Kakadu 1845: Reflections Bushwalking a Time Tunnel”, which describes in detail Leichhardt’s trek through Kakadu in the 1840s,” Mr Baschiera said.

“I travelled with the National Geographic crew for a week through Kakadu, filming on top of Jim Jim Falls, Yellow Waters, Ubirr, the East Alligator and finally the Victoria ruins at Port Essington in Western Australia.”

Mr Baschiera took the film crew on the bushwalk near Jim Jim Falls, where he and his wife Dr Annie Whybourne used Leichhardt's original hand written daily journal notes to locate what is thought to be a blaze (tree marking) of the initials “LL” in the area of one of the explorer’s camp sites.

In the third edition of his book Mr Baschiera also reflects on Leichhardt’s disappearance in 1848, suggesting the explorer may have been assassinated to prevent him from speaking about colonial atrocities.

“Flour bagging, as it was called, was a politically expedient method well known at the time for removing potential problems and was used to massacre thousands of our Australian first peoples,” Mr Baschiera said.

In the book he suggests that a bag of flour, laced with either strychnine or arsenic, may have been slipped into the 1848 expedition supplies by an unknown sinister hand.

The National Geographic Series: “Australia – Life on the Edge” is scheduled to screen in 2014.