Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Monday, March 16, 2009

South Australia Holiday

We had a vacation in South Australia between the 4th March and 14th March.

This post is quite long, not only covering our trip but also includes discussions of issues that arose during the trip, on topics like history, geology, environment and even music. This will not be to everyone's taste.

For those who want the short graphical version the photos are here

The Google Map below shows locations where the photographs were taken. You can move the map around (by dragging). A better alternative is to click on View Larger Map link to see the original. Click on place holders to see the name of the location and a photograph.

View Larger Map

We left early and travelled through Geelong and Colac before dawn.

Tower Hill
There is a very interesting geological formation between Warnambool and Port Fairy - Tower Hill. We briefly stopped there and took the photo below.

Tower Hill is an extinct volcano. Its formation is described below:

Tower Hill formed at least 30,000 years ago when a hot rising basaltic magma came into contact with the subterranean water table. The violent explosion that followed created the funnel-shaped crater (later filled by a lake) and the islands seen today.

Artefacts found in the volcanic ash layers show that Aborigines were living in the area at the time of the eruption. The Warrnambool area was a rich source of foods for the Koroitgundidj people, whose descendants retain special links with this country.

The first confirmed sighting of Tower Hill by Europeans was by French explorers sailing with Captain Baudin aboard the Geographe in 1802. Matthew Flinders also saw it at about the same time. His annotated a map as follows:
Peaked Hill Position uncertain ... Lady Jul.Percy's Is. ... Moderately high sandy land, seen imperfectly in the intervals of thick squalls ...uncer.obs. ... Apr. 20. 1802

Source: http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/resources/22_2197.pdf

Here is a summary of the Baudin and Flinders explorations from the book Ill-Starred Captains
Amid the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), France and Britain dispatched rival voyages of discovery to complete the mapping of Australia and 'advance the limits of science'. Led by naval captains Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders, both expeditions carried safe conducts protecting them from seizure by ships of the opposing navies.


Between 1801 and 1803, led by Nicolas Baudin and Flinders filled in most of the gaps on the map of what was then New Holland. The voyages were also very important scientifically. Both carried significant collections of flora and fauna home to Europe. The French scientists made invaluable observations on the life and customs of Tasmanian Aborigines, while the naturalist Robert Brown in 'Investigator' laid the foundations of Australian botany. Caught up on an increasingly bitter war, the French and British governments gave little recognition to these scientific achievements.

The explorers also left a visual legacy. The paintings and sketches of Westall and Bauer on the British expedition, and Lesueur and Petit on the French, provided an important and enduring record of Australia at that time.

Both voyages ended in personal disaster for their commanders. Alienated from his staff, and terminally ill with tuberculosis, Baudin died in disgrace on Mauritius (then the French colony of Isle de France). The history of his voyage was written by his enemies on board, who portrayed his as malicious, venal, and incompetent. Later French writers considered him a courageous navigator, badly supported by his staff.

Flinders too met his nemesis on Mauritius. After being shipwrecked in the Coral Sea, he sailed for England in a small schooner, but was forced to call at the island for repairs. Detained at first as a spy, and later as a hostage, he was held by the French governor for six and a half years. He returned to England in poor health in 1810, and worked on his charts and 'Voyage to Terra Australis'. They were published on the day before his death in July 1814.

Source: http://www.gould.com.au/Ill-Starred-Captains-Flinders-Baudin-p/fac002.htm

We came across these two early 19th century explorers later in our trip.

Mount Gambier
We travelled on to Mount Gambier on the coast road via port Fairy and Nelson.

At Mount Gambier, while eating lunch we viewed the famous Blue Lake as shown in the photo below:

This is another volcano. The following description is taken from a sign at the lake.

From 15 to 40 million years ago, the area was covered by a shallow sea rich in animal life. Remains of these animals accumulated on the sea floor to eventually form limestone.

About 4000 to 5000 years ago, lava flowed over the land surface through fractures in the limestone. The lava cooled and solidified to form a layer of dark basalt up to 20 metres thick.

Ground water percolated down the volcanic conduits and was converted to superheated steam when it contacted the hot lava. Pressure built up until large volumes of gas-rich molten rock blasted through the hard basalt layer.

The explosive eruptions deposited layers of ash and rocks to form the present crater. ... After the eruptions ceased, the ground water level was restored, forming the Blue Lake.

The lake is most famous for its colour change - from blue in summer to grey in winter. We arrived just before the colour change so the lake was still blue. The explanation is a little complex, for those interested this site gives a clear explanation - and a lot of other fascinating information as well.

In the afternoon we travelled on to Robe, where we stayed two nights.

Robe is an attractive, seaside town, supported largely by fishing and tourism.

The town sits on the shore of Guichen Bay, named after a French admiral, by Baudin during his voyage in 1802. The town is named after Governor Robe - a biography of him can be found at this link. Robe was a quite unpopular Governor. "Robe was conservative and a High Anglican, accustomed by training as a soldier to obey his superiors and to expect obedience from his inferiors. These attributes made him ill-fitted to control aspiring colonists who demanded independence and an increasing share in their own government." Part of his problem was that the colony was becoming much more prosperous and diverse, with the discovery of copper. I have a link to this issue as a great - great grandfather of mine emigrated from Cornwall to South Australia and worked for a while in the Copper mine at Burrah. See this post for details.

I first became aware of Robe in Australian History class back in the 1960s. During the gold rushes in Victoria in the 1850s, people came from many parts of the world. Among these emigrants were Chinese people. The Victorian government wanted to deter Chinese immigration so a tax was placed on all Chinese people entering Victorian ports. The tax was circumvented by landing the Chinese at Robe. They then had to walk to the goldfields. In 1857 20,000 Chinese miners landed at Robe. The ships that brought the would be miners, needed return cargoes. Many of them took horses to re-supply the British army in India. My family has a link to this as well. Another of my great - great grandfathers, was involved in this trade as well.

One of the characteristics of South Australian architecture is that older buildings are generally built in stone. The photograph below shows an example from Robe - the old customs house.

The shore line around Robe is very photogenic as the following pictures illustrate.

Australia has a lot of Big Things: the Big Pineapple, the Big Ram, the Big Guitar and the Big Banana. We came across another of these shockers at Kingston soon after leaving Robe - the Big Lobster. Naturally we couldn't resist taking a picture.

According to this site the lobster wasn't meant to be a Big Thing at all.

The big lobster that was originally ordered to be made was much, much smaller and was designed to sit on top of the nearby building which was designed to resemble a lobster pot. (cray pot)
Somewhere along the line instructions got mixed up and the lobster was built in metres instead of feet!!!
The finished item is 17 metres tall and weighs approximately 4 tonnes.
Located just on the edge of the busy Princes Highway, it attracts many tourists and most can't resist the odd photo or two.
The icon is privately owned by the owner of the souvineer shop and restaurant located nearby known as "Big Lobster"

Coorong and Lower Lakes
North of Kingston we drove with the Coorong on our left. The Coorong is a long, shallow lagoon more than 100 km long that is separated from the Southern Ocean by a narrow sand dune peninsula. It is South Australia's most important wetland and it is in trouble. The photo below shows that, along with the rest of the Murray Darling basin, the Coorong is suffering badly from lack of water.

The crisis of the Coorong is amply described in the following quote from this Age article:

At the far end of the vast Murray-Darling river system — which now so preoccupies politicians, farmers and thirsty communities in four states — is a place called the Coorong.

The old-timers say vast flocks of waterfowl once blackened the skies over this world-renowned South Australian wetland, where the last of the Murray trickles into the sea.

This year, Associate Professor David Paton, who has been counting birds at the Coorong for 20 years, recorded his lowest tallies ever of water fowl and of some migrating birds. There's little left for them there and it seems they know it.

Water levels are so depleted that, for the first time in memory, water no longer moves between the North and the South Lagoons, effectively cutting the Coorong in half, throwing delicate salinity balances out of kilter and wiping out fish.

Trawling the South Lagoon in the past month with nets, as he has for two decades, Professor Paton has not found a single fish. In past years, a sweep with a net would yield a couple of hundred.

The South Lagoon was once home to about one-quarter of the world's fairy terns. "I remember counting 1500 back in the 1980s and early '90s," says Professor Paton.

But with no fish near their breeding islands, safe from foxes, they cannot breed successfully. This year the count is down to 300 birds and Professor Paton is talking about regional extinction.

We found a similar sad story when we arrived in Meningie, a town on the shores of Lake Albert. The photo below clearly shows a jetty and boat ramp stranded by the receding waters of the lake.

We drove north and came to the Murray River at Wellington. There is no bridge there and we crossed the river on a ferry, as shown below:

Goolwa, our destination, is situated on the Fleurieu Peninsula,which was named (not surprisingly) by Baudin in 1802. It was named after the eminent French wanderer, Charles Pierre Claret, Comte de Fleurieu. Fleurieu was the Maritime Minister and invented an early marine chronometer.

We arrived in Goolwa in mid afternoon, did some grocery shopping and checked into Marine Cove our timeshare resort.

This is the third time we had holidayed in Goolwa so this time we did not repeat all of the tourist activities that we had done previously. We stayed at a timeshare resort - Marine Cove - which is one of the resorts available to us through our time share provider, Holiday Concepts. For details of the resort, including photographs follow this link.

The last time we stayed in Goolwa, in the early 2000s, there was a wide stretch of the river between our shore and Hindmarsh Island. We were amazed this time to see that a lot of the water had been replaced by a sand bar - another sign of the decline in the river.

Most of our time in Goolwa was spent in relaxing in our room or in the pool or spa.

We visited the Barrage as the photograph below attests.

The barrage is designed to separate the sea water from the fresh water in the river. This was also a sad sight, as can be seen by the low water on the river side of the barrage. When I walked on the barrage it was clear that the sea water was on a higher level than the river water. One of the solutions to the problem of the lower lakes is to flood them with sea water. At present this debate has not been resolved.

Unlike the Coorong, there is bird life in this area. Pelicans were congregating near the edge of the water and sea gulls perched on the barrage, as shown below:

Victor Harbor
South of Goolwa is the seaside town of Victor Harbor. Note the spelling without the "u". The two other "Harbor" towns in South Australia are also spelt without the "u". It is probable that the name came from a spelling error made by an early Surveyor General of South Australia.

The name of the town came from Captain Crozier in 1837 who anchored in the lee of Granite Island and gave the adjacent part of the mainland the name of his ship "Victor".

Victor Harbor is situated on the shore of a large open bay called Encounter Bay by Flinders. The name came from the meeting of Flinders and Baudin on 8th April 1802 in the bay.

Here is Flinders' description of the initial encounter with the French:

Before two in the afternoon we stretched eastward again; and at four, a white rock was reported from aloft to be seen ahead. On approaching nearer, it proved to be a ship standing toward us; and we cleared for action, in case of being attacked. The stranger was a heavy-looking ship ... she showed a French ensign ... At half past five, the land being then five miles distant to the north-eastward, I hove to; and learned it was the French national ship Le GĂ©ographe, under the command of Captain Nicolas Baudin ... a boat was hoisted out, and I went on board the French ship ...

Given that the two countries - Britain and France - were at war it was a very amicable meeting. Both carried pass ports from the other country guaranteeing free passage.

Whales have formed an important part of Victor Harbor's history. It was the first industry in the area, with shore whaling stations set up on Granite Island and at the Bluff as early as 1836. Whaling in Encounter Bay was not particularly successful, though, and by the 1860s the two whaling companies had shut up shop at Victor Harbor. Currently whales are of economic value for educational and tourist purposes, both provided by the Whale Centre in town. This association with whales led to the fountain shown below in Victor Harbor's main park:

Yes, that is Margaret sitting on the seat.

Here is a more artistic shot.

For a history of Victor Harbor visit this site.

One of the famous "attractions" at Victor Harbor is the horse drawn tram that takes tourists on a ride across the causeway to Granite Island. Can you see Margaret in this photo:

The horses were not the only animal attraction, there were camel rides on the beach. They are truly ugly, but photogenic beasts, and I could not resist taking photos of them.

We visited Victor on Sunday morning to attend the craft market, where we bought plants to take back home. They have already been planted in our garden.

On Monday morning we went to Hahndorf, a picturesque village in the Adelaide hills.

The Adelaide hills have always attracted artists, the one of the foremost of whom was Hans Heysen, who eventually settled in Hahndorf.

Red Gold, the painting below was painted near Hahndorf in 1913.

Hahndorf's first settlement took place in 1839 when Prussian Lutheran families arrived. The name "Hahndorf" was derived from Captain Dirk Hahn of the ship named 'Zebra', which arrived in Adelaide in 1838 with a party of immigrants from the Eastern Provinces of Prussia. Captain Hahn stayed on to see the new arrivals were settled, after having survived a horrendous journey by sea. He eventually selected an area near Mt Barker which his passengers named after him in recognition of his efforts.

Source: http://www.adhills.com.au/tourism/towns/hahndorf/

Here is one view of the town:

While we were walking through the town we heard some music playing and when we investigated the source found two women playing Alpine Horns - which consist "of a natural wooden horn of conical bore, having a wooden cup-shaped mouthpiece, used by mountain dwellers in Switzerland and elsewhere".

I asked the players about the instruments and they let me have a blow, as you can see below. I produced acceptable notes.

To get a sense of what they sound like listen to the video below of traditional Swiss Alpine Horn players.

The players showed me the music. I had expected to see only the "open notes" but was surprised to see notes that I thought could only be achieved by using valves.

Here is an example of some Alpine Horn music:

Note in particular the Ds and Fs in the higher register. The player explained that the harmonics were closer in the higher notes so that it was possible to play those notes.

We were in Harndorf on a public holiday, Adelaide Cup Day, which is the same day as Labour Day in Victoria. Consequently the town became quite crowded by lunch time, so after lunch we returned to our time share resort for a rest and a swim and spa before dinner time.

Cape Jervis and the West Coast
Before we left for the holiday, I decided to investigate the feasibility of a visit to Kangaroo Island. The island is accessed via a ferry that leaves from Cape Jervis, at the southern end of the Fleurieu Peninsula. When I checked prices I discovered that the ferry trip was quite expensive, costing us in the vicinity of $240 for a return trip. So we decided not to go to the island on this holiday. We might in the future spend a week of so on the island, which could justify the transport cost.

All the same we drove to Cape Jervis to see the ferry if possible, and to view the southern end of the peninsular. When we arrived at the cape, we noticed that the ferry was returning and not far from the terminal. We watched it enter the anchorage and spin around so that cars and passengers could leave. I am always impressed with the way that professionals handle boats in tight quarters.

The photo below shows the ferry negotiating the Backstairs Passage between the island and the cape.

On our previous visits to Goolwa we had not gone to the west coast of the peninsula, so we decided to return home that way.

A few days earlier, we had watched a news report of the opening of a new jetty at Rapid Bay, to replace the decrepit old jetty. This is a renowned fishing and diving spot. We called in there in time to see two divers enter the water. We also met one of the other residents of the resort fishing.

Here are some pics of this photogenic area:

We returned to Goolwa via Normanville and Mt Compass.

We travelled through Strathalbyn three of four times, during our holiday. We stopped there on our way home. Founded by Scottish immigrants in 1939, it is an attractive, picturesque town with a beautiful park with the river Angus running through it. We spent some time walking in the park and taking photographs.

The photos below give a sense of the attractiveness of the park.

On our previous visits to Goolwa, we returned straight home, via Bordertown, Horsham and Ballarat. Now we are retired we can take a more leisurely approach. On the way to Rove we had booked a night at Beachport as a stopover on our way home. We travelled to Beachport via Meningie, Coonalpyn, Keith (lunch), Naracoort and Penola. This route took us through the Coonawarra, one of Australia's premier wine areas. There we stopped at Wynns Cellar Door and bought some wines, red for me, late picked Riesling for Margaret.

Beachport is a seaside town, a little smaller than Robe, but just as attractive. Here we came across Baudin again, as the following quote explains.

Here's a piece of trivia to conjure with. Beachport was not named because of its proximity to the sea. In the earliest days, before European settlement, it was known as 'Wirmalngrang' to the local Booandik Aborigines. The first European into the area was Nicholas Baudin in 1802 who named it Rivoli after the Duke of Rivoli who had helped Napoleon defeat the Austrians at Rivoli in northern Italy in 1796. By the early years of the 19th century the bay was being used by whalers and by 1845 Captain Emmanuel Underwood had built a store and was trading with merchants in Port Adelaide.

One of the characteristics of the area is the shallowness of the waters offshore. This accounts for the town's jetty which, at 772 metres, is one of the longest in Australia. It was commenced in 1878 and the plan was to build it nearly 1300 metres long.

Today the town is sustained by a combination of fishing (this is an excellent crayfish area) and tourism. It is a charming centre with plenty of good walks and interesting historic sites.

Source: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-factsheet/beachport--culture-and-history-20081202-6p75.html

The coastline is particularly beautiful.

The town is also attractive, and was calm and peaceful when we visited:

We heard rain falling for a considerable time during the night, although it had passed by the morning. We caught up with the rain band on the way home between Colac and Geelong. When we arrived home we were pleased to see that our new water tank was full of water.

It is usually a pleasure to travel and it is always a pleasure to arrive home.


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