Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island - 28th April 2011

Bishop and Clerk from the shore below the Fossil Cliffs - 28th April 2011
Bishop and Clerk from the shore below the Fossil Cliffs - 28th April 2011

I had a relaxing day around Darlington - fossils, human history and a sunset visit to the Painted Cliffs (later). I've visited the Fossil Cliffs many times, but have actually never ventured beyond the little "quarry" plateau. On this occasion, having been shown the track by another visitor, I went down to the shoreline east of the quarry and along the platforms and bouldery shore at the base of the cliffs, which was well worthwhile. Note however that you need to take great care if going beyond the quarry - the day I went was low tide with a very gentle sea. This is clearly a place where large waves can and do sweep everything below the cliffline. You will need to carefully choose low tide to visit, and not venture too far down if the sea is dangerous.


Walk Description: To visit the Fossil Cliffs, head towards the jetty, and then beyond up the obvious tracks, or just straight across the hillside towards the barn on the hill north of the silos. There are various historic sites along the track to add additional interest, but in general follow the track (old tram line) as it contours very easily northwards alongside the airstrip towards Cape Boullanger. The track curls around to the east and arrives at the low end of the Fossil Cliffs with views to Bishop and Clerk. The track heads downhill onto the little plateau where limestone was quarried. Here there are boulders and a large sign explaining some of the fossils you can see.

The rocks here are interesting enough, but to see the fossils at their best, continue to the far end of the plateau. Here a scrappy little track heads steeply down a short way onto the large boulders and rock platforms of the foreshore. Be very careful here. I don't think there is any official sanction for proceeding here, so you need to take responsibility for checking the sea condition. As will be obvious, a large wave could turn you and your family into a tragic statistic very quickly. At low tide in gentle seas, you can easily spend an hour or two exploring the base of the cliffs. I didn't go too far around the cliffs, as there comes a point fairly quickly where you have to get wet feet. I also have no idea where you would find safety as you progressed further around the base of the larger parts of the cliffs. With a little more information, there is probably a heap of exploring you could do. Anyway, to avoid becoming a statistic, I stopped at the point where another group decided they need snorkels and flippers to proceed.

The walk is very short and very easy, but can occupy time very effectively if conditions are good for explring the shore at the base of the cliffs. I would suggest if you can time it for low tide on a calm day that you allow 3 hours or so depending on your capacity for avid investigation of natural features. Also, I note that this location appears to be outside the "no fishing" part of the marine reserve, so might offer some good rockfishing opportunities.


A section of a bed in the Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island, composed almost
entirely of fossil shellfish - 28th April 2011
A section of a bed in the Fossil Cliffs, Maria Island, composed almost
entirely of fossil shellfish - 28th April 2011

The rocks are fascinating, and confusing. I have found a great document on the web explaining the various layers that are present, but you would need to have it in your hand as you explored to fully understand the rock layers here. I'll take it with me next time I visit. This document is in the Mineral Resources Tasmania database, and gives lots of Maria Island geological info in a pretty detailed way. The Fossil Cliffs are described starting on page 9 (Basal Beds). There are beds of fossils here, metres thick, in which the entire bed seems to be composed of fossils. There are other beds with wildly varying sizes and types of boulder/pebble inclusions. All very interesting.

I will put some more photos up on Picasa as I find time to edit them a little.

2 comments:

Ken said...

One disappointment was not doing some early morning photography here. The options are many. Didn't see the track down to rock platforms, but would further advise that people who don't understand the sea should not go onto them.

Le Loup said...

What a beautiful primitive looking place it is, just the place for Robinson Cruiso.
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