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Dave Cornthwaite Murray River Expedition 2009

Murray River Expedition 2009

Visit The Great Big Paddle website

About the Murray River Expedition

Australia's longest river is experiencing some very real difficulties at present. In early October 2009 Dave will began his solo expedition from source to sea, first on foot and then by kayak. With camera in hand, he's investigated the current environmental and ecological impacts of Australia's water shortage on the river system and those who live in the basin.


  • To widen awareness and promote positive action relating to the plight facing the Murray by gaining tv, radio and press coverage and sharing experiences through various online medias.
  • To produce a wide variety of content using video, still images and the written word to expand general knowledge about the Murray River, from source to sea.
  • To produce weekly documentary episodes to be viewed on various websites, sharing the story of this expedition and gaining thoughts and opinions on the Murray's current situation.
  • To highlight the positives: the Murray region is still a wonderful part of Australia to visit for recreation. Although water levels are low the Murray is NOT dry, otherwise Dave couldn't kayak the length of it!
  • To raise funds for the AV Foundation's solar and water projects in East Africa.

Expedition details

October 3rd - 10th 2009 - On foot: find the Murray Source then walk downstream to a spot suitable for kayaking to begin, near Biggara, Vic.

October 12th - December 19th - By kayak: Approximately 1400miles/2485km of paddling will take Dave to the Murray mouth, near Goolwa, SA.

Murray Stats

Source: nr Suggan Buggan, Victoria | Mouth: Lake Alexandrina, SA | Length: 2,375km/ 1,476miles


Check out Dave's media:

The Blog | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

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The completed journey December 19, 2009

Hello everyone,

At 14:30 on Saturday 19th December I paddled my kayak, Nala, into South Australia's Coorong National Park and through the Murray Mouth to conclude a two and a half month, 2476km journey along Australia's greatest river, the Murray.

The moment was crowned just 150 metres from the river mouth, when an enormous seal popped up to say hello to my kayak Nala and I. I'm very glad to say that my camera was rolling and the resulting footage of the cheeky fella's acrobatics can be seen on my You Tube Channel.

Hundreds of inspiring, passionate people lined the river and as the Murray itself well knows, man has a strong hand in any journey. I'm lucky enough to have made friends for life on this trek, and their shared knowledge has begun to give me an understanding of the Murray's plight from source to sea. Thank you so much to everyone I've met since early October, even the fisherman near Tooleybuc who was very sure that I'd be better off getting to Adelaide by aeroplane.

It has been an eye-opening, educational journey. From heavy snow in the mountains to blistering November heatwaves, Australia rolled all of its climates up in a cloud and blew it along the Murray, often straight into my face! I have existed within a 2500km zoo, camping in forests and on sandbars, paddling with platypus, snakes, lizards, emu, roos, eagles and parrots. Oh, and seals. I have looked to the sky many a time, expecting to see a chap winking down. I have been looked after, and the same treatment needs to be applied to the river. I'm no politician or activist so I'll keep this short, but the Murray existed before borders sliced up this wonderful land, and so long as those borders prevent the river from being managed consistently and fairly a tragic environmental catastrophe will slowly become reality. The signs of decline are there for all to see; please Australia, for goodness sake, take notice, and then take action. You have a gem here, look after it.

Our fundraising total for the AV Foundation's solar and water projects was buoyed this weekend when my kayak Nala, offered for auction by Wilderness Systems, was purchased by the Dodds Family from Canberra for a princely sum of $3000/£1650. If you have even a couple of silver coins free a donation would be hugely appreciated through

For now, let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I'm off to write a book and edit a film about a dying river that still appears to be full of life. As 2009 draws to a close I hope that you guys feel as alive as I do, this was quite a 30th birthday present.

Thanks for following the expedition, it would have been quite lonely without you. Watch this space for the next one, it won't be long!

Dave Cornthwaite

Great Big Paddle: Source to Sea Murray River Expedition 2009

Australian mobile: (October 2009 - January 2010) 0429 010825

Please donate to the AV Foundation:


Great Big Paddle December 2009 News

Dear Friends of the Great Big Paddle Murray River Expedition 2009

With over two months on the Murray River and 2050km paddled to date, the remaining 436km to paddle feels dangerously like the final stretch of what has been an incredible journey.

Of course, it’s not over yet. I write from Kingston-On-Murray in the South Australian Riverlands, a corner of Oz crawling with vines and orchards. Slowly, I’m beginning to form a clear picture of how the Murray River’s water is being used along its own journey from the Australian Alps to the sea near Goolwa, but my pre-expedition goal of investigating the problems faced by the Murray has been bouyed somewhat by a realisation that the river, however troubled in places, continues to be a highlight of what is already a vast country offering utterly unique geographical delights.

The Murray isn’t just one of the most beautiful rivers in the country, but in the world. Bizarrely, it doesn’t warrant official iconic status in Australia; whether this is because recognition as a landmark would shed more light on the issues at hand I don’t know, but having travelled much of Aussie’s greatest river to date I know that it isn’t dying, it’s sick. I’ve talked to more people in the past two months than the rest of my life put together, but talking doesn’t achieve much, it’s putting those words into practice and binding the experiences and viewpoints of everyone who lives beside and works with the river. They’re the people who know what’s going on, and ultimately they must be the ones who breathe new life into the Murray.

I’ll cover the issues themselves in a later newsletter, but even as the Murray has lost its flow in a lower section of river dotted with weirs that pool water for irrigation, I have paddled along in a river red gum-lined paradise, watched emus swimming, goannas hunting, darters feeding their young in nests just a couple of feet off the surface. Snakes with frog suppers, pelicans by the thousand, river beaches that belong in paradsie, this river has it all. At some point down the line, unless an effective line of communication starts up between the three States through which the Murray runs, all of this will one day be lost. It won’t be tomorrow, but what it is happening today will be the cause.

I’d quite like to bring my Grandkids down here and be able to show them the Murray with pride. Sure, I need to have some kids first, but this is a river that mustn’t be lost to future generations.

We’ve raised almost £2000 to date for the AV Foundation so far, uploaded photos and videos from every section of the Murray between the Source and Renmark, and over twenty video diaries have been edited along the way, whether on sandbars, riverbanks or houseboats. Please forward this email to anyone you know who has a passion for the Murray, or adventure!

Thanks all, I’ll report again from the mouth of the mighty Murray.

Dave Cornthwaite

Notes of Interest

1. The Expedition ends on the 19th December at the Murray Mouth near Goolwa. That day people are invited to join Dave on the water from Clayton, let’s paddle together to recognise this great river.

2. On the off chance that anyone out there might be driving from Adelaide to near Blanchetown, SA on Saturday 12th December, we have three eager and important people ready to join the expedition but unfortunately they arrive at Adelaide airport too late for the daily bus to Blanchetown. Help!

Great Big Paddle November 2009 News

Dear Friends of the Great Big Paddle,

Apologies for the space between this and my last newsletter, the Murray Rver Expedition has been fairly demanding with time! I write from Barham, New South Wales with about 950km on the clock. The last marker I passed kindly informed me that 1532km of Murray River remain to the mouth, and with temperatures starting to tickle the underbelly of forty degrees celsius this fair skinned pom is yet again being facing a challenge laid down by the land Down Under.

After hiking many a long mile to locate the Source of the Murray, much of it in heavy snow with an even heavier pack, I finally put kayak to water on October 12th. Company in the shape of Peter Dowling MP from Queensland and Gael Evans, a French-Welsh photographer/cartoonist (confused) friend from University, kept me occupied and focussed until the 26 October, by when I had turned thirty and the rigours of old age were already informing me that paddling 1500 miles was rather foolish.

But foolish this is not. An education it is, and certainly a psychological task when faced with recreational speedboats, an unwitting capsize, solo camping in the bush and most importantly, still finding time to share everything I've seen, heard and learned on our website, through images, blogs and videos.

Along the way I've met fishermen, poets, lock keepers, sawmillers, rice farmers, teachers, policemen, politicians, possums, paddlesteamer captains and many more people whose lives are interwoven with the Murray. At this stage the river has appeared largely healthy, with the issues peppering the media not yet evident. The irrigation system in place along the Murray has not yelled 'why am I here?!' to this lonely paddler in a yellow tub, and in fact seems remarkably well managed. Yet few conversations about the Murray let go the fact that there are, of course, endless issues surrounding the Murray. I know I'll hear more views as I near the sea, but one bugbear remains constant in everyone's viewpoint; that the important decisions that need to be taken to ensure the survival of the Murray and the wellbeing of the people, flora and fauna that depend on it, are in the hands of people far away, people who depend on votes to survive, not water.

Along the way we've almost raised £1500 so far for our AV Foundation solar and water charity project. Please take a quick look at, learn about the Murray, see photos from each day of the expedition, and if you live downstream from Barham please alert schools and anyone who likes to have a yarn about the Murray, because a pommy with a camera is on his way!

Thanks for following the Murray River Expedition, I'll report back soon.

Dave Cornthwaite
Great Big Paddle: Source to Sea Murray River Expedition 2009

Australian mobile: (October 2009 - January 2010) 0429 010825

Please donate to the AV Foundation:


Great Big Paddle October 2009 News

Dear Friends of The Great Big Paddle,

I write from Albury, New South Wales, Australia. Tomorrow the Great Big Paddle’s first expedition begins when I step out into the Australian Alps armed with a paddle, several cameras and an inquisitive nature.

Two days on foot should take me to the source of the Murray River, and from there another 5/6 day hike along the river will take me to a spot sufficient to launch my kayak, which is bright yellow. You’ll be just as delighted as I am to hear that I won’t be dragging my boat through the mountains, it’ll be locked up in a safehouse not too far from Biggara, Victoria, where the paddling begins on October 12th.

Although I’ll be solo for much of the journey I won’t be alone for all of it. For the first five days of paddling I’ll be joined by Peter Dowling, MP for Redlands in Queensland, and not long after I’ll have the pleasurable company of Gael Evans, friend and photographer, for not far off two weeks. Rest assured his images will find a home on Also, a big thanks to Ro Privett from Ro paddled the Murray in 2005 alongside Josh Smith, and has been instrumental in setting up this expedition. I daresay he’ll find his way onto the water at some point to teach me how to paddle.

There are several aims to this expedition. We have a charity project implementing solar and water systems into schools in East Africa and will be raising money throughout, to donate a small amount to the AV Foundation safely and securely please pay a visit to

I mentioned the cameras. Four of them in all will help document this trip from beginning to end, to highlight not just the adventure and the beauty of the Murray River and South-Eastern Australia but also to investigate the current crisis facing the Murray, which is sadly drying up and no longer reaches the sea. I’ll be editing footage in the field and uploading regular ‘webumentary’ episodes which will hopefully bring the expedition a little closer to all of you.

The weather in the Australian Alps has been somewhat grotty recently, with heavy rain and snow falling up the top. Great news for the Murray’s flows, and for the sake of positive thinking we’re likely to have a wonderful contrast between the source and mouth come the end of the journey. It promises to be the biggest adventure of my life, I hope you all enjoy sharing it as the expedition progresses.

Please see for full details, and if you live in Australia and think your local newspaper, radio or TV station would be interested in covering this story I have attached a press release for general use.

Here’s to adventure, limited snake encounters and safe paddling.

Thanks for following
Dave Cornthwaite

Many thanks to the following Sponsors and Supporters, whose generosity has made this expedition possible.

The Family Adventure Store –
Nat Geo Adventure -
Palm Equipment -
Cotswold Outdoors –
AV - –
Extreme Drinks –
Clic Sunglasses -
PowerTraveller Australia –
Landcare Australia –
Coastcare -
Discover Murray –
South Australian Tourism Commission -
Wilderness Systems -
Extreme State -
Buffwear –
Murray Quest –
Pietra –
The Blue Project -
This Is Your Freedom –
Emily Joy Green Music –

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