Tropical Queensland



Dusk to Dawn

Science and Art


What’s inside the cover . . .

A luxurious large format coffee table book of the night wildlife of Tropical Queensland. Beautifully photographed by Buck Richardson, this is his second book of moth identifications. But this time he has many other nocturnal species in full colour, close up and intimate, interspersed with artworks made from the images of these amazing creatures, and followed by a 4000 word essay on The Language of Science. There are photographs of approximately 1500 species in the book. All are identified by their binomial scientific names which are also indexed.

ISBN 978 0 9577 2901 8 Hardback 248mmx300mm 348pages RRP $65.00 incl GST

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Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn - Science and Art was officially launched at the Australian Entomological Society’s Conference in Cairns by Dr. Geoff Monteith:

Kuranda is a small town in the rainforest just a short drive up the Range Road west of Cairns. It a pretty and peaceful place, and over the years I have had cause to delve into its entomological history once or twice. I’ve discovered that beneath its placid surface there is obviously “something in the water” that drives grown men to the brink when it comes to Lepidoptera.

Frederick Parkhurst DODD was a bored bank clerk with a wife and three children who got hooked on insects, quit the bank, and moved to Kuranda in 1905. He spent the rest of his life studying and displaying the amazing moths and butterflies he found there. He arranged 40 large cases of specimens in spectacular geometric designs and toured the nation with them in 1918 and again in 1923. Early tourists, between the wars, caught the train up from Cairns and paid sixpence to view the cases in his Kuranda home.

Dodd had a tough life, and one of the cases of moths tells a story. It’s a verse from a Longfellow poem, spelled out in small brown moths set among the most exquisite specimens he could find. Longfellow wrote the poem about 1870 to commemorate the 50th birthday of Alexandre Agassiz, then professor of Zoology at Harvard University. (No one writes poems about professors of zoology any more!)

The verse reads:

And whenever the way seemed long

Or his heart began to fail

SHE would sing a more wonderful song

Or tell a more marvellous tale

“SHE’ in that verse is Mother Nature...earlier it reads: “...and Nature, the old nurse, took the child upon her knee, saying here is the story the Father has written for thee...”.

So Dodd was saying that, whenever he was doing it tough, his beautiful Lepidoptera would always cheer him up and give him strength to carry on.

Dodd died in 1937. In 1953 a fruit grower named Ted Harris moved from Melbourne to Kuranda and cleared the rainforest to plant citrus at the site which is now the “RainforestStation” tourist park. He got hooked on Lepidoptera and developed a gigantic collection of butterflies...but in 1971 his partner (Ted Alston) died and he fell into such depression that he gave his entire collection away to the Queensland Museum and lived another 8 years.....broke, alone and Lepidoptera-free.

In the mid 1980s a butterfly collector named Paul Wright, whose appearance recalled Errol Flynn and could only be described as dashing, arrived in Kuranda. He tasted those waters and went on to develop the largest walk-in butterfly house in the southern hemisphere. For the entomologists here who appreciate a good high-hygiene, mass caterpillar rearing facility, I recommend you take a look behind the scenes at the Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary. It’s a Kuranda icon and used to be Kuranda’s largest employer.

In 1980, quietly, before construction of the butterfly house, another escapee from southern commerce had arrived in Kuranda, but it was 25 years before the waters claimed him. This was Buck Richardson, author of the magnificent book we are launching today. Buck had an engineering background and, with his partner Eve Stafford, they built a wonderful house in the rainforest and immersed themselves in the artistic life of the community. Early projects included fabric design and printing. As the years passed computer imaging and digital photography came of age, and this was a perfect fit with Buck’s precise mathematical background (he calls it “mothematical”!) and his outrageous imagination. Around 2004 he discovered moths coming to his houselights as items not only of great beauty but also as elements of astonishing natural designs. He made contact with local entomologists like Max Moulds, Paul Zborowski and Ross Storey – and with ANIC moth-maestro Ted Edwards. He acquired (and learned!) scientific names for them, started a website of moth images and, in 2008, published an amazing little book called “Mothology”. It comprised 400 species of classified Kuranda moths and scores of mind-bending art pieces using moth images. The local parliamentarian wrote an introduction titled “Forewing”, not “Foreword’...did she know?

That book caused a meeting between Buck and a recent entomological refugee to Kuranda, ex-ANIC orthopterist, David Rentz. They became firm friends and now go light trapping 30-40 times a year. This has opened Buck’s world to a plethora of other insect groups, especially shield bugs which have the symmetry and bold patterns which press Buck’s creativity buttons, and has lead to the present book, “Tropical Queensland Wildlife from Dusk to Dawn”. It has 1500 species, fully named, interleaved with Buck’s art pieces.

Buck admits to being influenced by Dutch artist M.C. Escher who made striking and beguiling images of interlocking patterns melding and transforming as the eye sweeps over them. The most familiar are of flocks of birds merging as they overlap, with the pattern completely filling available space. Escher was restricted to working on a flat surface, though he has a famous piece viewing his own reflected image in a silvered sphere. Similarly, Dodd could only arrange his specimens by painstakingly positioning the pins on the flat bottom of an insect case. Virtual 3-D computer imaging has released Buck from dependence on a flat surface and his interlocking moths and shield bugs seamlessly coat the surfaces of spheres, cones, cylinders and infinitely disappearing vortices in his artworks.

The book satisfies the taxonomist who wants to see wide coverage of reliably named species, it satisfies the lover of beauty who just enjoys the wonders of the insect world in close-up, and it satisfies the artist who wants to be surprised and entranced by inventive use of imagery drawn from nature. As I wrote to Buck when I first received a copy: “It’s the sort of book where one makes a cup of coffee then opens it in reverence in one’s best lounge chair with the best light....and suddenly realises an hour later that it’s past dinner time.”

But a warning to Buck! If you drink too deeply of those magical Kuranda waters you may end up in the same situation described by Frederick Dodd in an unpublished manuscript written about 1917. Speaking of his life in Kuranda, he writes: “Each year reveals other marvels, so, to such as myself, in the grip of that which some are pleased to call science, there can be no change, they are enslaved to the end...”

It gives me great pleasure to launch this wonderful and inventive book.



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Some sample spreads . . .

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