Ian’s PhD at The University of Queensland examined the evidence for Australia’s deadliest known cyclone, which struck Bathurst Bay on Cape York Peninsula in 1899 and which holds the world record for a storm tide. He is currently an honorary research fellow with the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry at UQ. He worked for many years as an investigative journalist and broadcaster at ABC Radio National and is the winner of four Australian Museum Eureka Prizes for science and medical journalism, as well as an Australian Human Rights Award for journalism. His first novel, Affection, based on the 1900 outbreak of plague in Townsville, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book, the Colin Roderick Award, the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction, the National Year of Reading, and was long-listed for the Dublin IMPAC award. His second novel, The Devil’s Eye, based on the 1899 pearling fleet disaster, was long listed for the Miles Franklin Award. His latest book, Line of Fire, is non-fiction, combining family history with military history and geology to tell the story of the civilian and military disaster that befell Rabaul at the start of the Pacific War. He is currently writing the biography of a female Australian Cold War spy.
Ian lives in Brisbane with his wife, Kirsten, and their three daughters.
“New evidence suggests the central pressure of TC Mahina was 880 hPa, which may be a new southern hemisphere record. This storm is able to produce a maximum surge of approximately 9 m and a total inundation of 13 m.”– Jonathan Nott, Camilla Green, Ian Townsend, and Jeff Callaghan, “The World Record Storm Surge and the Most Intense Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone – New Evidence and Modeling.”Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 2013; World Meteorological Organization.