Among the sightseers at the Great Australian Bight this week will be the wife and sister of Michael Graham, recovering from two weeks of hope, disappointment and, finally, heartache.
Helen Graham and Lisa Anne Dodson left the search on Sunday and spent the first night of their Nullarbor crossing in Balladonia. Having stayed two weeks in the only hotel in Menzies, and wearing the brand of tragedy, the pair is looking forward to the anonymity of the open road.
“Driving away from here it will hit us,” Mrs Dodson said on their final morning at the Menzies Hotel. “We just feel numb.”
Though they have abandoned hope of finding their loved one alive, they are taking comfort in the thought Mr Graham passed away following his passion for prospecting. The enthusiasm that would send him across the country to remote mulga country in the Northern Goldfields began 12 months ago when he watched the television show Goldrush Alaska.
Until then, Mr Graham had occupied himself with breeding reptiles. He had converted his house in Lake Macquarie, Newcastle, into a bestiary of bearded dragons, shinglebacks, bungarras, pythons and snapperhead and longneck turtles, as well as the obligatory mice, bred for dinnertime.
“Anything he tried, he would master,” Mrs Graham said. “Before that he had been repairing pocket watches that he would buy from England and France. Prior to that he was into opals."