Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are one and free,
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil,
Our home is girt by sea…

There are few children hearing the words for the first time who haven’t queried the fourth line in our national anthem– ‘Mum, what is girt by sea?’. The question answered, ‘Surrounded by the ocean darling’, the thought was then permanently dismissed from mind – despite a lifetime of recitals at school assemblies, sporting events and other official gatherings. Not so however for multi-award winning Perth photographer Tony Hewitt. Growing up on an Australian military base in Malaysia his creative, visual mind took over. He was not satisfied with a simple verbal response. But what does it ‘look’ like? It was a question that he pondered for decades, that is until he teamed up with colleague, Denis Glennon, a fellow photographer and adventurer, and embarked on the journey of a lifetime.

I was first introduced to the extraordinary ‘Girt by Sea’ project by a client. We were sitting in his Osborne Park office, discussing creating a book that would showcase their history building some of Perth’s most luxurious homes when the ‘Girt by Sea’ book was placed in front of me. The point of this action was in reference to the book’s size, but when I opened the book I was immediately mesmerised by its contents – page after page of beautiful abstract works of art. What is this book I asked? Where did it come from? As an art lover I was surprised I knew nothing of it. When it was clear what I was looking at I was completely and utterly dumbstruck. These are photos? Of Australia? When I left the meeting I immediately called Denis, I was in awe and wanted to meet the people behind this incredible project.

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Denis and Tony shared a passion for photography – Tony a professional photographer, Denis an avid hobby photographer who ran photographic safaris and had conducted photographic workshops with Tony in between his usual business activities. In 2018, prompting Tony on what his next ‘thing’ would be, Tony shared his vision with Denis on exploring what ‘Girt by Sea’ really meant. In April 2019 after 12 full months of planning they embarked on the journey of a lifetime, living what can only be described as a boy’s adventure tale, circumnavigating Australia in a light aircraft taking incredible photographic images of our spectacular coastline.

Exhaustive preparation, ensured that the journey was planned in meticulous detail. Tony spent hundreds of hours reviewing the coastline via Google maps to ascertain where geographical highlights may occur so that every day’s flying time could be accurately estimated. Denis took care of the difficult logistical requirements of the trip that included researching weather conditions to understand the best time to embark on their journey and organising accommodation in some of Australia’s remotest regions where knowing that cash on hand payments were required rather than a credit card ensured they had somewhere to lay their heads for the night.

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“Every single day was awe-inspiring. We were two kids having a great time. Our aim was to come back with a never been seen idea of what ‘girt by sea’ really means and give it a new dimension for all Australians.”

A Cesana 210 light plane was customised for the expedition with special windows and wind shields and two pilots engaged – Roger Avery, with extensive commercial flying experience, and Steve Kruger, a former air force test pilot. For safety reasons, the pilots needed to swap every four days throughout the 31-day journey covering over 34,000 kilometres, with one flying and the other playing catch up either by commercial plane or road. The preparation was impressively accurate – despite the opportunity for so many things to go awry, amazingly the entire trip came in within a single hour of the predicted time!

Naturally, before such an expedition could take flight, there was the not-so-small matter of how to cover the substantial costs involved. Thanks to a previous relationship, Denis was able to convince Australia’s largest camera house, Canon to sponsor their venture, on condition that Tony and Denis use standard Canon consumer-level cameras rather than professional equipment for all the photography. Knowing the spectacular imagery that was captured was done so on consumer equipment makes the outcome all the more extraordinary.

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“Australia is like a jewel with many facets.”
— Denis Glennon

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Once the plane finally took off from Jandakot Airport, WA, on April Fools Day, according to the daring duo, “every single day was awe-inspiring. We were two kids having a great time. Our aim was to come back with a never been seen idea of what ‘girt by sea’ really means and give it a new dimension for all Australians.”

Skimming the Australian coastline, flying as low as 500ft up to 7,500ft, with camera’s ever at the ready, Tony and Denis scanned the liminal landscape below capturing over 80,000 extraordinary images where land and sea meet and mingle in moments of breathtaking beauty.

“From day one, as we looked down from our elevated vantage point, our fascination for the aerial view of our coast would take over, each scene that rolled through revealing just how visually intriguing the edge of our beautiful island continent could be. Reminiscent of explorers of old, we were filled with wonder… what would we see next, what was around the corner?”

For Tony, a thrilling experience was a day he “felt like a five-year-old asking what does a cloud feel like” and being able to put his hand out the window of the plane to touch a cloud and feel the cold, wet air. For Denis, a magical moment occurred on Anzac Day, when the plane coincidentally flew over a location called Diggers Rest. “Steve was our pilot that day, and with his military background he suggested we pause to think about what it means to be Australian and what it meant to be a digger. We each said a few words and that moment has left a permanent imprint on my heart,” Denis recalls.

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At the end of 31 days, “We got very emotional when we realised we’d crossed over the place we started from and the journey was over,” says Tony. “We were the first people to circumnavigate Australia by light plane in one continuous hit.”

The following months were spent sifting through the tens of thousands of images in preparation for the Girt by Sea book and exhibitions that took place in Sydney and Perth where the vast collection of photos was whittled down to a selection of 100 stunning images. Captivating in every sense of the word, the spectacular imagery showcases the diverse beauty of our island home in mesmerising abstract shapes and textures, and colours that range from earthy greens and browns to soft pastels through to extraordinarily bold reds and vibrant aqua seas. A truly wondrous outcome from a daring adventure that all commenced with a boy who dared to wonder.

Two years on the project is still going strong, with both the books and the stunning art prints continuing to sell from the project’s website and future exhibitions planned for Melbourne and Brisbane. The project is also proudly giving back to the community. The day before we met to discuss their adventure the couple had proudly been involved in a ceremony at the new Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth where a selection of Girt by Sea prints now add some serenity and beauty to the ICU ward – gifted on behalf of the Ciara Glennon Foundation which was sent up in honour of Denis’ daughter who was tragically murdered in the 1990’s.

So what’s the next big thing for the intrepid explorers? “We’re thinking a circumnavigation of New Zealand might be next!”

To enquire about superb fine art prints of selected photographs from the project  go to