Neil Oliver hits the road again for the third season of Coast Australia
Scottish TV presenter and historian Neil Oliver is back for a third season of Coast Australia, travelling around the nation’s 60,000-kilometre coastline delving into stories of marine life, geography, history and people. Along with experts, including Tim Flannery and Alice Garner, Oliver travels from Port Lincoln to North Kimberley, where one minute he’s climbing up the rigging of the replica HMB Endeavour out at sea, and the next is pole-fishing tuna the old-school way.
You achieve some pretty incredible feats this season. Is any of it nerve-racking? I do all these sorts [of things] abseiling, diving and whatever. I think it’s different when it’s for work, I wouldn’t do any of these things for recreation, I’m not an adrenalin person. But it’s funny, I’ve done all these things that I really wouldn’t want to do – potholing, confined spaces, heights, rock-climbing – but it’s in the line of work and you’re mindful of the fact that sometimes dozens of other people have been prepping the thing. If you were to say that you couldn’t do it, it’s a big letdown for a lot of people because it’s all been set up, so that gives it a momentum that carries you through it.
What have been some of the high points of filming season three? One of the highlights was going out to see orcas, which was one of those things on my bucket list. I’d always wanted to see in the flesh, in the real world, killer whales and we went out to a place off southern Western Australia [Bremer Bay] and we saw dozens and dozens of them. There’s a hydrocarbon seepage on the sea floor and it attracts life, small life, which attracts bigger and bigger life and eventually the whales come as well. That was a remarkable memory.
Three seasons in, how well do you feel you’ve got to know Australia? Wherever you live, you tend to overlook it. I think we all take our own patch for granted and I think Australians are probably no different. I think there is something useful about hearing first impressions. It reminds you about something you might have forgotten and I’m still fresh enough to Australia. Although I’ve seen a great deal of it, I see it all in a kind of whirlwind and I’m still going to places for the first time and so hopefully that unrepeatable enthusiasm is still there.
Have you picked up much on what’s been happening environmentally? We’ve touched on stories about the coral region for example [Montgomery Reef in the Kimberley, which is suffering with coral bleaching]. Part of the importance of a series like Coast is that if it has anything to offer, if you want people to care about the environment, it’s important to showthem the environment and coast. As well as being celebratory of the beauty, because we touch on things that are negative, hopefully within that context people might care enough to do something.
There’s been talk of a Coast set in South America or Cuba. We have lots of fantasies. Coast Cuba, that would be fun wouldn’t it? Cuba is going through a time of change, and yet for most people, myself included, beyond thinking about Havana and classic cars and Fidel, what does anybody know about Cuba? It’s as big as Scotland and it’s got thousands of kilometres of coastline and there will be a thousand stories there. It’ll be good to go and have a look at it [at a time] when people are thinking about Cuba and how it’s changing.
What else are you working on? I published a novel in 2015 and I’ve written a sequel, so I’m still working on finishing that off. If I had been able to write my own life, I would have been a novelist. Stumbling into television was a happy accident, I never thought of it – I fell into it. If you’d have asked me what I wanted to be I would have said that I would have liked to have sat somewhere and written novels for my whole life, so getting the chance to do it is great. It’s a good counterpoint to all the travel. It’s time to be at home and living inside my own head.
Coast Australia airs Monday January 9, at 7.30pm on History.
The story Neil Oliver hits the road again for the third season of Coast Australia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.