May 2011

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Archduke Franz Ferdinand & the Platypus

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

On 17 May 1893, the newly launched SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth – a battle cruiser of the Austro-Hungarian Navy – steamed into Sydney Harbour. It bore a most distinguished passenger, no less a personage than the 29-year-old heir presumptive to the dual crown of Austria–Hungary, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

A 21-gun salute was fired, civic dignitaries went aboard to bow and scrape, and a large crowd gathered to witness the royal disembarkation.

His Imperial Highness waited until the fuss died down, then slipped ashore in mufti. Five months into a world tour, he was a man with a mission. Australia was home to many strange and exotic animals. The archduke was determined to kill as many of them as possible during his 10-day visit.

Accompanied only by his personal taxidermist, three counts, a major-general, the Austrian consul, the Archduke Leopold of Tuscany, a zoologist from the Vienna Museum and the NSW minister for public instruction, he set out by special train for Narromine, 450 kilometres west of Sydney. A local squatter laid on 20 horsemen to drive the game. The shooting began almost immediately. By lunchtime on the first day, the moustache-twirling, loader-assisted Franz had dispatched five kangaroos. At each kill, the archducal entourage dismounted, doffed their hats and shook his hand.

After some barbecued chops – “half-cooked meat burned on an open fire” – and a bottle of hock, the fusillade was resumed. Ducks, this time. Next day, it was kangaroos, pelicans, brolgas, eagles, hawks and parrots. With nothing left to exterminate, the party moved 100 kilometres to Mullengudgery where the archduke massacred bush turkey before breakfast and emu before lunch. To his great delight, the royal sportsman also brought down a pair of black swans. All told, he bagged about 300 head, including koalas, wallabies and possums.

Then it was back to Sydney for High Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral and a quick inspection of the meat preserving works before heading to the Wollondilly River to fulfil a “burning desire”.

At dawn the next morning, poised in silence on the riverbank, he trained his gun on a “narrow, black, moving line”.

The platypus was still an object of scientific fascination. The fact that it lays eggs had been confirmed only nine years earlier. But Franz Ferdinand wasn’t a scientist. He was a sportsman. With the “greatest joy”, he blasted it out of the water.

Franz Ferdinand loved a good slaughter. During his lifetime he killed an estimated 300,000 animals.

Eventually, in June 1914, he got a dose of his own medicine.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

Cover: May 2011

May 2011

From the front page

A stadium’s last stand

Arrogance. Vandalism. Victory. It’s the NSW disease

Image of ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

Making the private public: ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

This new history traces how the decade’s redefined politics shaped modern Australia

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

‘Exploded View’ by Carrie Tiffany

This new novel is most striking in how it diverges from its predecessors


In This Issue

John Howard on the rise, 1984. Image courtesy of the National Archives of Australia.

What’s right?

The future of the Liberal Party

A rapscallian's resort, Central Park. © Cameron Davidson / Corbis

Wanted for loitering

Central Park, New York

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Owners of Australia

Australia’s rich list

'Caleb’s Crossing', By Geraldine Brooks, HarperCollins, 400pp; $32.99

‘Caleb’s Crossing’ By Geraldine Brooks


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, 2010

Rats, heroes and Kevin Rudd’s ‘The PM Years’

This memoir answers some questions about his deposal and return but raises others

Image of Gerald Murnane

Tracking time: Gerald Murnane’s ‘A Season on Earth’

Forty years on, the author’s second novel is reunited with its lost half

Image of Matmos

Clicks, plinks, hoots and thuds: Matmos’s ‘Plastic Anniversary’

The American experimental duo embrace the ‘sounds’ of a ubiquitous material

A French Western? Jacques Audiard on ‘The Sisters Brothers’

The celebrated director explains how he made a Hollywood staple his own


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

Image of ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

Making the private public: ‘The Seventies’ by Michelle Arrow

This new history traces how the decade’s redefined politics shaped modern Australia

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

Image from Hobart’s school strike for climate

The kids are alright

Climate-striking students have every right to protest

Image of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne

The Teflon Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is confident it can buy out the West, and Australia is happy to oblige


×
×