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Journeys : Aug Sep 2012
Alley ways and shopfronts vacated due to the economic dow ntur n are being donated to artists for minimal rent to reinvigorate the city. And behind every space is a local with a fascinating story. But as I discovered during a recent v isit, the captivating residents who live and work in Cairns aren’t limited to the realms of music and art. You know you’re in a remarkable place when residents will willingly lock themselves in a room w ith up to 2000 hungry mosquitoes, just to ear n a quick $20. That’s what happens at James Cook University in Cair ns, where Professor Scott R itchie runs a mosquito research facility, attempting to eradicate Dengue fever. He rears mosquitoes embedded with a bacteria that blocks Dengue, then releases these ‘super mozzies’ into the wild so they breed with others to stamp out the infectious tropical disease. To train them for release into the real world, the lab-bred mosquitoes are put in a room set up to resemble a back garden complete with pavers and a makeshift house, where the insects can munch on tasty human blood from student volunteers who pocket $20 and let mosquitoes feed on them for 10 minutes. It’s all happening at the Cairns Festival this month The uniqueness of Cairns’ colourful locals w ill be on display in August and September as the Cairns Festival – a 17-day celebration of arts, music and entertainment – gets underway. More than 100,000 people attend the annual event. Highlights include: • The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair – showcasing the best of Queensland ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art • The Village on Esplanade – a quirky, vaudevillian, retro-futuristic sideshow romp • Opening Parade and Fireworks – more than 30,000 people will line Cairns Esplanade to cheer on a procession of floats celebrating the 51-year-old festival • Reggaetown – a dozen bands and DJs playing a mix of roots, reggae, dub and ska • Tropical Pride Festival – a family day of food and frivolity offer ing community stalls around Tanks Arts Centre and musical performances across two stages • Also check out The Big Laugh Comedy Gala, Musica Botanica featuring Sarah Blasko at the Botanic Gardens, and the Secrets of Spice cooking demonstration by charismatic chef Jimmy Shu. For details visit w w w.cair nsfest.com.au It makes me itchy just thinking about it, but there’s good news – you can limit your chance of being bitten by wearing light-coloured clothes. Scott, decked out in a bright Hawaiian shirt, tells me mozzies are attracted to black. They also like dirty feet smells, so change your socks regularly! Another Cairns man equally passionate about his work is fellow university employee Jamie Seymour. Sporting a pair of boardshorts and a polo shirt, the associate professor looks more like a surfer headed for the beach than an esteemed marine researcher. But despite his casual appearance, he’s a master at training sea creatures using food rewards in the same way you train a dog – and he has the remarkable ability to handle dangerous or venomous mar ine species. It’s no wonder Jamie’s skills are in hot demand across the globe. He is hired by high-profile film-makers including David Attenborough’s BBC Natural History Unit to prepare marine tanks where close-up shots for documentaries can be filmed. Most viewers wouldn’t realise that up to a quarter of the shots in a nature documentary are filmed in tank s, or that the two clownfish dancing about in a tank in Jamie’s office are the ‘wild’ Nemos we often see on TV. This Cairns ‘fish whisperer’ also spends his days milking venom from deadly stone fish in the name of research, but is unfazed by the associated risks, considering it all in a day’s work. With job descriptions like these, it’s no wonder Cairns is a fascinating place to visit. Clockwise from left: Jamie Seymou r’s clownfish; mozzie man Scott Ritchie; Jamie and stonefish; the mosquito lab; Cairn s beach August / September 2012 19
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