Port Stephens adventurer and filmmaker, Outback Mike, planning solo sail in dugout canoe from Townsville to Cape York

FLOAT TEST: Michael Atkinson testing out his dugout canoe for the first time at Taylors Beach. Picture: Supplied

FLOAT TEST: Michael Atkinson testing out his dugout canoe for the first time at Taylors Beach. Picture: Supplied

A Port Stephens adventurer, survival instructor and filmmaker is taking the solo film industry to a whole new level.

Michael Atkinson, from One Mile, is known globally as 'Outback Mike' following his first film release in 2017 and is quickly gaining a reputation as being one of the identifiable real-life adventure survivors.

His Kimberley expedition, where Mike spent two weeks alone surviving the wild Western Australian outback, won widespread appeal and awards.

But it is his next major adventure that has the world agog - a solo sail in a dugout canoe made and designed by Atkinson from Townsville to Cape York, which he says will take "six weeks in perfect conditions, in bad conditions up to four months".

Taking on extreme challenges is a passion the 44-year-old married father of two has enjoyed since early childhood.

"From as far back as I can remember I have had this love affair with wild nature and a real enjoyment in achieving my set goals," Mike said.

"As a kid I would go fishing and camping with friends and neighbours... we'd go on day-long bike rides just to reach a favourite fishing spot.

"Then at 17 a friend and I skied and bushwalked from Mt Kosciuszko to Canberra. It was hard going but by the end, it felt like the best thing I had ever done."

He says he switched from being a full-time military pilot to full time adventure film maker. He says that planning for the norther adventure began in March 2020.

"I secured a four tonne Norfolk pine log and started building a dugout outrigger canoe for the expedition, then COVID hit. With state borders closed I postponed the dugout canoe expedition to 2021 dry season and kept working on the canoe."

Mike is particular about channeling his skills into making real life survival productions with historical significance.

On his solo expeditions, he carries his own camera equipment, he hunts for his own food and creates his own means of shelter and transport.

His first filmSurviving the Outback (based on the Kimberley expedition) won multiple international film awards and was praised for its high quality video production.

From as far back as I can remember I have had this love affair with wild nature and a real enjoyment in achieving my set goals.

-Michael Atkinson

For his sailing adventure around the Great Barrier Reef, Mike plans to trace the historic journey of 1840s survivor James Morrill from Cape Cleveland to Cape York (or its nearest safe haven Booby Island).

And in staying true to the 180-year epic voyage, Mike is using his own dugout canoe, carved from Norfolk pine logs and built by his own hands.

"I started last March and I am hoping to have it finished in the next couple of months," he said.

"The aim is to set off in April, the tail end of the cyclone season. I'm camping solo in my 4WD and small boat in some extremely remote and beautiful islands, forests, and reefs.

"I hope to see some of this country's most unique native animals, stunning waterfalls, meeting Aboriginal elders and climbing huge untracked peaks.

"I had my first launch in the outrigger at Taylors Beach last week and it performed well. There will be more test runs in and outside of the Bay in coming weeks."

A former military fighter pilot and flying instructor who spent eight years in the Army as a helicopter pilot and survival trainer and eight years in the Air Force as a flying instructor, Mike Atkinson is well aware of the dangers he faces.

"I have spent a lot of time with Aboriginal people learning survival skills and I will be taking precautions to mitigate risk. The expedition will present some real dangers... my canoe can flip over in rough seas (I will be carrying an EPIRB), and there are sharks and crocs to contend with."

All the while Mike Atkinson will be filming his adventure.

"The plan once I come home is to make a YouTube series which I can take from town to town and later release a feature film."

He can be followed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.