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This Is Northern New South Wales


We all have our journeys. Sometimes that journey takes us through our years, the simple ebbs and flows of conventional life. At other times, we may visit foreign lands, escape ourselves, break the cycle of conformity and obligation just long enough to awaken greater vision and gain new perspective. Travel can make us see the world in a different light and bring us to a new journey, one of the soul, a journey of investigation and profound change.

Transparentsea Voyage

But sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, the ticket we buy is to a far greater place than we could ever imagine; into the future, into integrity, through a journey and to a destination in which the message could change the world.

In 2009, Byron Shire locals Dave Rastovich and Hilton Dawe were joined by a host of artists, surfers and musicians along the 700km stretch of coastline from Byron to Sydney, drawing attention to ocean conservation and collecting and documenting the morass of man-made marine debris littering the shores.

On that voyage, Shannon Sol Carroll and the Band of Frequencies connected for a handful of the team’s nightly landings to help spread the message and jam with the travellers.

“I happened to be doing a tour down the Coast with the Band of Frequencies that coincided with when the team had a little break in the trip,” recalls the band’s lead singer Shannon Carroll. “We hung out and jammed around the fire and had a yarn about how it was all going. We screened ‘Minds in the Water‘ and played alongside it and it was pretty much that night that we got the spark of inspiration. The seed was planted there to do it as a larger group, with music and art involved.”

Transparentsea Voyage

On that first trip, the education of locals, particularly the younger generations, was a key focus, bringing an awareness of marine conservation to the people on the front line, the ones that see pollution every day and are in the best position to manage the issue. Shannon was thrilled, on returning to some of the towns visited a year or more later, that the lessons taught by the team were still being practiced, proof-perfect that the project had worked.

This Australian expedition was an incidental collaboration, but it laid the foundations for a new project, one that would take place in California and utilise music, film and performance to highlight and educate the population.

California is a disparity. Redneck Yankees sporting ‘Bring Back Bush’ bumper stickers jostle for their place on the overcrowded highways with eco-minded vegan surf rats. ‘Yoga’ and ‘sustainability’ are becoming buzzwords alongside ‘Botox’ and ‘Chanel’. There is an undercurrent of compassion and ecological awareness that is growing stronger, but it needs encouragement.

“We had talks with the local community groups who were doing active work,” says Shannon of the California journey. “We’d learn about their objectives and what they were trying to achieve, as well as learning about their coastline and the problems they faced, from water quality to whale strikes and shipping channels.

Transparentsea Voyage

“There are some really passionate people in California and they’re doing their best. There are a lot of ocean-minded people who are participating in groups that are already doing a lot of great work. It was good to hear that, after we’d been there and shone a bit of a light on their work, they gained more momentum from our drawing more attention to them.”

Where other causes or projects might be directly targeting issues, creating a stir and demanding action, the Transparentsea Voyage was aimed at bolstering the existing network of activists, not telling people what to do but asking, ‘how can we help?’

This was implemented in two ways: one, of course, was the hands-on approach, drawing media attention by being on the scene, aligning with and highlighting the existing networks. The other was to use social media and the Transparentsea website to broadcast the messages they found on their journey to the world. But it needed an anchor.

Connecting with Will Conner, Angus Stone and other musicians along the way, Shannon and the Band of Frequencies created original music for every stage of the voyage, 23 songs in 23 days, developing a soundtrack for the movie, but broadcasting daily, to give people a further and tantalising reason to keep returning to the site, following the voyage’s progress and hearing the messages as they unfolded. The musos, including Shannon, were the land-based team, coordinating accommodation, events and connections to align with the ocean team’s progress.

“We’d launch the crew in the morning and then basically shadow them all the way down the coast,” Shannon shares. “We’d estimate where they were going to get to, find a caravan park and so on. There were a lot of logistical nightmares on land that the guys on the water didn’t even know about. We had to have the camp set up, cook dinner, then also try to work out what we were going to write a song about, record a track before we went to bed, upload it with various levels of internet access and we’d be the last to bed. They were long days, big nights and early mornings, and they were back to back without a day’s rest. It was actually way more challenging than any of us expected.”


But what emerged was worth the three or so weeks of hard slog. Beautiful connections with blue whales, stunning scenery along the California coastline and a myriad of new friends, all aligned with the single-minded task of protecting our natural environment, however that may occur.

The unique nature by which the music was produced, each song inspired solely by the exploits and experiences of that day, creates a soundtrack deeply entwined in the visuals, the breath of each scene

The Transparentsea Voyage was an unknown entity, the only certainty being the route. Each stop was unplanned, each song unwritten, even the outcome of the project was anyone’s guess. But what emerged, in addition to bringing attention to local, coastal issues and the organisations addressing them, was an education, not for the Californians but for the Transparentsea team. Ad it is this newly discovered message that is, at least in part, conveyed through the movie.

“The Australian coastline is fairly pristine by comparison. There were a lot more people and a lot more pressing issues to deal with in California. The equivalent population of Australia lives on that one, short stretch of coastline. There was a lot more to deal with over there, which was educational for us because the coastline from the Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay is a similar distance and, over the next hundred years is possibly going to end up being just as populated as California. If we can learn from what they haven’t done right we can put things in place here which will help us preserve our natural coastline and environment. The more we can learn about coastal management and the more we can activate surfers and ocean-minded people into doing small things day to day to try to keep it under control, the more we can avert such problems.”

Transparentsea screens this weekend, supported by the Band of Frequencies, this Sunday 23rd March at Byron Community Centre. Tickets available from the venue.

A national tour is planned for later in the year.