Looking at the map below, you can almost hear the Qantas koala bear groan, "I hate SI." As a matter of fact, we probably did disturb the reclusive little fellow by dispatching staffers from one end of his island continent to the other to create this year's swimsuit spectacular and accompanying stories.
For associate editor Jule Campbell, this was by far the biggest logistical challenge in her 21 years of producing our annual swimsuit feature. On a trip to scout photo locations in Australia last April she flew on 40 planes in 24 days, sizing up such far-flung spots as Shark Bay, which is 50 miles from Useless Loop (pop. 100) and 90 miles from the nearest paved road. Counting both her scouting trip (in which she covered almost as many ground as air miles) and the seven-week journey on which the photos that appear on this week's cover and on pages 102-131 were shot, she logged 24,131 miles, plus her two New York-Sydney round trips.
To reach the shooting site at Palm Valley, Campbell, her assistant Ann Gallagher, photographer Brian Lanker, two of the six models who were photographed for the swimsuit feature and a crew of four, plus Bob Godfrey of the Australian Tourist Commission, drove eight hours across the outback in a four-wheel-drive all-terrain vehicle. At one point during their eight days at Palm Valley, Lanker and model Ren�e Simonsen were tossing a Frisbee when it sailed into a bush. Moments after Simonsen retrieved the Frisbee, she noticed a deadly king brown snake slithering out from under a similar bush. From then on she slept with her tent completely sealed with gaffer's tape. The incident perhaps justified Kim Alexis's decision to bring along her 2�-foot stuffed pig, Beastie, for security.
Australia appealed to senior writer Sarah Ballard, whose story on the Australia's...er, America's Cup begins on page 84. "There's room enough for everybody," she says. "One day in Perth I decided to inspect their beaches and drove north along the West Coastal Highway. All of a sudden I ran out of road amid miles and miles of white dunes and beaches. It was as if the Pacific Coast Highway ended at Malibu."
Starting on page 132, special contributor Gary Smith describes the competition among Australia's unique surf life-savers. His trip began in Paris, where he and his wife, Sally, have been living for a year. He flew via New York to Sydney, made his seven stops at lifesaver carnivals along Australia's Gold Coast, and then returned directly to Paris. All told, we figure our staffers logged at least 450,000 miles preparing our Australia package. We hope you'll find it worth the trip.