Vale Colin Putt (1926-2016)

By AG Staff 17 March 2016
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Colin Putt’s legendary fix-it abilities brought the highest caliber of adventure to Australian Geographic’s first pages, featuring in issue #1.

WE WERE SADDENED to hear of the passing of incomparable adventurer, mentor and former AG Society trustee Colin Putt. 

Trained as a chemical engineer, Colin had a reputation as a man who could fix anything. His journeys have coloured the pages of Australian Geographic since the journal’s first issue, when we featured his 1984 ‘Project Blizzard’ voyage to Antarctica aboard Dick Smith Explorer.

On that expedition, Colin was one of a team of 12 that spent three weeks aboard the 21m-long schooner en route to Boat Harbour, where they worked to conserve Mawson’s Hut.

Four years later, the icy continent called to him again. This time he travelled as part of the team that made the first ascent of 4163m Mt Minto (AG 12), in Antarctica’s Admiralty Mountains.

Describing the Mawson mission to Australian Geographic in 2011, Colin detailed a hair-raising adventure that had “started out on the wrong foot” when they ran into engine trouble almost as soon as they left Sydney Heads. 

However, ever resourceful, Colin worked furiously to repair the vessel quickly so the ship wouldn’t be later trapped in Antarctic sea ice. The ship was then caught in a five-day storm and capsized twice with nearly disastrous consequences. The boat righted itself within minutes each time, but the damage Colin had to repair was considerable. As a result of his skills on this mission, in 1987 the AG Society made Colin Adventurer of the Year. Colin was also awarded the 2013 AG Society Lifetime of Adventure medallion. 

self-twisting yarn

Colin Putt after winning the AG Society’s 2013 Lifetime of Adventure medallion. (Credit: Ben Hanson)

Colin’s life of adventure had begun many years prior to his Antarctic escapades. His first was an attempted climb of Carstenz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya), in what is now Indonesia’s West Papua province, in 1960. Although his team was unsuccessful on that occasion, Colin saw this attempt as the perfect reconnaissance trip for future missions.

Among many other expeditions, Colin was a member of the first team to climb Big Ben on Heard Island in the early 1960s and his achievements have inspired others to embark on similar expeditions.

Colin retired to Dangar Island, in the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, with his wife Jane. There, he relished his life on the waterfront, surrounded by boats and his children and grandchildren. He will be missed by many, including the many students he taught over the years and the young adventurers he continued to mentor until the end.