National Geographic : 2010 Sep
the authorities at Moreton Bay. A rescue party was sent out, and an Irish convict named John Graham, who had previously lived in the bush as an escapee and who spoke the Aboriginal language, ultimately negotiated her release. e rest of the story follows in the nest tab- loid tradition. Within months of her rescue, Eliza met and married another sea captain, moved to England, and went on to become a sideshow attraction in London's Hyde Park. There she spun increasingly wild tales of murder, torture, white slavery, and cannibalism to spellbound audiences at sixpence a head. Alas for Eliza, nothing fades quicker than yes- terday's news, and she soon lapsed into obscu- rity. She is said to have moved to New Zealand and was killed in a carriage accident during a visit to Melbourne in 1858. Sidney Nolan was captivated by the operatic quality of Eliza Fraser's tale and the rich sym- bolism of Europeans, stripped of their civilizing veneer, grubbing for survival in an alien land- scape. So the artist hopped on a timber barge and went to see Fraser Island for himself. " e psyche of the place has bitten into me deeply," he wrote to a friend. Its spell would remain on him for the rest of his life, inspiring two series of paintings and dozens of canvases. Nolan in turn passed on his fascination to his friend Pat- rick White, a Nobel Prize-winning author who visited the island in the 1960s and early 1970s. White used its primal wilderness as the setting for his 1973 novel e Eye of the Storm and again in A Fringe of Leaves, a ctionalized retelling of Eliza's saga. In 1770 Captain Cook had been unimpressed by the scrubby, sandy bluffs visible from his ship. Little more than 200 years later artists and writers, scientists and statesmen saw such value in Fraser Island that in 1992 it was declared a World Heritage site. Having helped transform Australians' sense of wild beauty, the island now draws boatloads of admirers---an outcome wise old Beeral might have hoped for when he sent Yindingie and K'gari to beautify the world those many eons ago. j One of dozens of lakes on the island, Lake McKenzie shimmers in the starlight. During the day the lake's sugar white beach and windowpane water attract hundreds of visitors. Like the painters and poets who celebrated Fraser's otherworldly allure, they return home with stories and images of soul-stirring beauty.