Saturday, 6 October 2007

South Cape Bay - 6th October 2007

Had a walk to South Cape Bay on Saturday. Map here. Earlier in the week the forecast for Saturday was a bit ordinary, but the outlook improved, and yesterday it was sunny all day.

Recherche Bay at Cockle Creek, Stephen Walker whale sculpture in the background - 6 Oct 2007The whale sculpture at Cockle Creek makes an interesting silhouette. It's by Stephen Walker, who also did various other sculptures around Hobart and elsewhere. When it was erected, I think Peter Hodgman or John Cleary was minister for National Parks - I'm sure they were both implicated. It was just after they introduced the entry fees for National Parks, having promised to spend the fees on improving the "facilities". So then they spent $45,000 on this sculpture, which didn't fit most people's understanding of the term "facilities". In addition, the link between Recherche Bay and whales is that they used to hunt them from here. The grinning goons were roundly bagged in the Mercury, and rightly so.

South Cape beyond South Cape Bay, from eastern cliffs - 6 Oct 2007Having walked from Cockle Creek for a bit over an hour and a half, you emerge on these black, shaly cliffs, at the eastern end of South Cape Bay beach. The bay extends further eastwards towards South East Cape, the most southerly part of mainland Tasmania. To the west of the bluff lies the beach, reached by carefully walking around the black, gravelly cliffs and descending a set of steps to the beach. The waves were quite impressive yesterday, long slow swells were breaking into huge, streaky curlers a long way from the beach. Nobody was surfing. Beyond the bay, South Cape stretches into the Southern Ocean (background of the photo). To visit South Cape requires a lengthy off-track scrub-bash from where the South Coast track crosses the South Cape Range. I understand the South Coast Track is to be re-routed to pass much closer to the Cape, and this will make for a much drier, more enjoyable and much more scenic walk.

South Cape Bay Beach - 6 Oct 2007I'm always interested to see what shape the beach is in when I walk here. Last time the sand was reasonably well spread along the beach, and before that. there was a huge spit where the sand had collected in the middle of the beach. This time the sand has migrated to the ends, and away from the middle. The rocks and boulders at the east end were well covered by sand.

Waves breaking on steep exposed pebbles in the middle of South Cape Bay beach - 6 Oct 2007, South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007However, in the middle there was no sand and the waves were breaking on a steep shore of rounded pebbles, similar to the situation at Granite Beach on the far side of the South Cape Range. At the western end, there was more sand than usual. I must find out what conditions cause sand to collect in the middle or at the ends of beaches. Very interesting.

Pebbles, South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007I often wonder where all the different stones come from on a beach. I have a feeling these are both dolerite, but just weathered differently.

Lion Rock at South Cape Bay beyond a small tannin-stained creek - 6 Oct 2007Lion Rock is made of dolerite. It makes a very imposing sight at the far end of the first beach. The brown stain in the creek is from the tannin in the water. Looks terrible in a clear water bottle, but the water tastes great, and is fine for drinking.

Log, South Cape Bay beach - 6 Oct 2007This log has been washing around the western end of the bay for a while. It appears to have been moved several times by storms, as it is normally found in various places quite high above the waterline, but then one day it will be somewhere else. Makes a good seat anyway.

Notch, below Coal Bluff, South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007This is the low-level route below Coal Bluff, which forms an alternate (not recommended) part of the South Coast Track. I've not walked it. The water always seems to be high enough to make it wet. It was yesterday, with the waves washing up to the cliffs just beyond this notch, and that wasn't even high tide. It can be very dangerous below here, and people have been swept away. This notch was apparently blown with explosives sometime after WW2, so says Ron Woolley.

Lion Rock, South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007Lion Rock is quite interesting from close up. It's worth walking beyond the end of the beach, tide and waves-permitting, and scrambling along the boulders to get the end-on view of Lion Rock. It really is a very thin strip of dolerite poking out into the bay, and end-on with decent waves and nice light it can be quite dramatic.

Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers, South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007These oystercatchers were among various bird species on the beach. There were no Hooded Plovers today, not sure where they might be. Maybe somewhere warmer. Interestingly there were two Pied Oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) and a single Sooty (Haematopus fuliginosus) hanging around in a small group.

Cliffs at South Cape Bay, South East Cape beyond - 6 Oct 2007The crumbling cliffs at the eastern end of the beach look ready to collapse, and I suppose every now and then they do. Hope I'm not there when it happens. Beyond them can be seen South East Cape. I understand someone has cut a track to it. I hear it might be the same bloke who cut the track from Cook Creek to Mt Picton. Anyway, I just have to try to find the start of the track along the shore, on a day with a good low tide! It used to be a nightmare dry scrub-bash, attempted only occasionally.

Blowhole Valley, on the way to South Cape Bay - 6 Oct 2007This is the view up Blowhole Valley between Cockle Creek and South Cape Bay. The track along the valley is very well duckboarded now, but it used to be a deep-mud slog. Cows once grazed here, perhaps not very successfully, and a fenceline can be seen about halfway up the valley (as you walk, not in the photo).


John Cleary said...

Noted the comments re Stephen Walkers whale sculpture at Cockle Creek. I was Minister for National Parks who commissioned Stephen to create the sculpture. At the time there was a request by local tourist operators to create some icon or marker to mark the southernmost point in Tasmania. The decision was made after consultation to commission Stephen to create the whale as the area had a significant connection to early whaling. The morning of the official opening the original sculpture developed a split that we covered with seaweed. Stephen later repaired his work. At the time I received a great deal of criticism however it is now seen as a significant landmark and an important piece of Stephen Walkers work.
John Cleary

Mark said...

Thanks John. Goodness, you're dredging up an old blog about a much older event. However, I was one of the people who was published in the Mercury criticising the use of park fees for this purpose at the time.

I note that the South Coast Track which ends here has still not had any useful improvement to its bad bits. I happily pay my national park fees, but it all seems to have disappeared into the 3 Capes Track, or somewhere. I will also still debate the value of the whale as a "facility", and it hasn't translated into significant tourism dollars.

However, I still like the whale itself, and there's nothing wrong with the sculpture. It looks quite nice out on the point when viewed from the carpark in the right light. And now we even see whales actually visiting our shores again, so maybe the sculpture has a new value.