I remember something catching my eye in the silky darkness of Burnley Harbour one night, couple of years ago, when I was riding home from work. I stopped my bike. Something rippled and vanished under the water, suddenly appearing metres away, then disappearing again. I thought, that's impossible, there are no otters in the Yarra. The white tipped tail was the give away, that's how I later identified the mysterious creature. I've only seen them a few times since, after dark when the bike track and the river are quiet.
During my fellowship I planned to look at a wide range of early Australian natural history sources, starting with the best. So I requested the natural history drawings of Ferdinand Bauer. Reverently I opened the large solander box, and lifted out the plates one by one. There at the top was a beautiful, lithe rakali and I felt a wave of empathy and recognition for the artist and his subject. I like to think Bauer observed the rakali in some dusky waterway but I suspect his painstaking and delicate work was based on a considerably more compliant model. Though I hadn't thought of the whiteboard project at that time, a couple of months later, when Mark showed me the two metre wide glass panels over his desk in Rare Books, I immediately knew what the subject would be.
A detail of Rakali's head. I am rather proud of the whiskers.