I recently shot a film for Paspaley Pearls in the North of Australia with Estonian supermodel Carmen Kass. The highlight of the trip was a flight in one of Paspaley's fleet of Grumman Mallard flying boats.
I'm told that only fifty nine of these gorgeous machines were built and Paspaley owns three of them to service their pearl farms stretched right across the vast Timor Sea from Broome to Darwin. For them there has never been a better machine built to do the job, beyond the range of helicopters and with few landing strips in the middle of the rugged Kimberly coastal desert.
Sunset over the Timor Sea
A true amphibian, wheels down in Darwin.
Refuelling in the middle of nowhere.
The original Pratt and Whitney radials have been replaced at great expense by modern turbo props. The Mallards are real workhorses and the turbo props give more power and a greater payload capacity.
Our trip to the remote Kurri Bay station took four hours flying over the unspoilt Kimberly Desert.
The Mallard sitting off the dock at Kurri Bay. This experience is straight out of the 1930's when Flying Boats were the most convenient and luxurious way to travel. The old Empire Flying Boats used to fly from Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour all the way to Southampton Water in the UK or down through Africa all the way to Cape Town.
Landing on water meant that they could land in any far flung colonial outpost and needed minimal infrastructure and so rather than busy airports a Flying Boat journey in the 1930's was truly an exotic adventure. Flying with Paspaley is the last place on earth you can still experience this timeless travel. After hours of smooth flying over countryside so empty I never say a road, a building or any sign of humanity. We skimmed down over the water and stepped out into the tender for a short trip to the jetty.
Resting on a pontoon nearby was some local wildlife. Not only is the water full of the world's most superb pearls but they team with fish and the odd shark.
Sunrise over the Kimberly.