Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Hiking
Comments 11

Through Storm & Spume to the Moreton Wrecks

Illustration by Barry Moser from the Arion Press edition of 'Moby-Dick'

OCTOBER, 2011

Just once I’d like to start one of my trips like a professional, organised and well-slept.

I was up till midnight on Friday, the usual last-minute frenzy of packing and fine-tuning the Virga. Satisfied with the result, weight-wise, or no longer even caring, I turned in; four-and-a-bit hours later the alarm tore me once more from that flimsy cocoon of sleep and within minutes I was slipping arms into the pack straps.

Actually I think I was asleep when I stumbled out onto the pre-dawn road and aimed at the station, the thought of a distant coffee like a candle flame to a moth. The 5:17 pulled in…

..and the sun rose above the wires and apartment blocks as we headed into the city. The day was looking fine, so far, no hint of the predicted storm. I half-dozed, just relieved to be surrendering control to the driver of this ghost train.

I changed trains at South Brisbane, where I could wait no longer, and gambled $2 on a coffee-machine Nescafe. I lost, and this is the first time I’ve ever thrown half a cup of the ambrosia of the bean onto the ground in disgust.

Some Pacific Islander boys were stumbling around, half-wasted and apparently severely dehydrated after their Friday night on the town. Another train took me to Wynnum North, where an enormous taxi driver agreed to take me to the Port of Brisbane. The cab stank of cigarettes and I felt queasy. “Storm’s coming,” he informed me. “145kph winds just went through Oakey.”

“Oh, really?” I replied in mock concern, though I was secretly delighted. A storm on Moreton was just what I’d hoped for when I chose this weekend. Something dramatically different from the usual baking sand and unforgiving sun.

I pulled my pack from the cab at the Port of Brisbane with the sky souring and the smell of rain on the rising wind. The driver was eating a chocolate ice-cream on a stick as he drove off. Breakfast.

I huddled with a party of divers under a tin roof as the rain began. Dozens of heavily laden Toyotas and Nissans filled the approach to the boat. The sky was black, the rain came down heavily, wind driving it under the flimsy roof. At last we presented tickets and hurried up into the lounge while vehicles flooded into the holding deck below.

I was a little disappointed that the weather had hit while we were still in port, but it was pleasant to savour a latte while watching it through the windows:

The ominous weather report hadn’t deterred the fishermen and tour parties. The lounge was crowded and the vehicular bay was jammed:

We’d exited the river and were heading across the bay when an announcement sent ripples of excitement through the passenger area. Whales! Not far from the boat. The ferry seemed to list as there was a human deluge onto the port side:

I joined the rush onto the rain-lashed deck…

..where a succession of delighted “OOOH!”s and “AHHHHH!”s heralded each sighting. There was a pod a few hundred metres off, ploughing through the grey waves in flurries of spray as they migrated towards the warming waters of the Southern Ocean.

I love my little Cybershot camera — and it’s waterproof, which was a huge bonus on this trip — but a 4x zoom is never going to present you with many gasp-worthy images. Here’s some footage from the vehicle deck, though, where you can experience the delight of some young Asian tourists — and, if you look closely, spy one of the cavorting cetaceans in the distance just to the right of the red-haired girl:

Tangalooma, where the boat and some of the passengers were heading, was a whaling station before the industry was banned in 1963. Humpbacks like these must have initiated a more predatory excitement in those days.

Turning to my splendid Arion Press edition of Moby-Dick, or, The Whale, I see that Mr Melville had this to say about humpbacks:

From the Arion Press edition, designed by Andrew Hoyem

Says this government pamphlet:

When southern right whales and blue whales became scarce, Australian whalers began to target humpback whales, killing approximately 8300 off the east coast between 1949 and 1962. By the time the International Whaling Commission banned humpback whaling in the Southern Hemisphere in 1963, over-exploitation had already reduced the population to an estimated 3.5–5% of pre-whaling abundance, leading to the collapse of Australia’s east coast whaling industry. 

Apparently a mere hundred or so remained at the time of the ban.

Moreton Island appeared in murky relief as the worst of the storm, like our gamesome and lighthearted friends, left us behind:

Here are The Wrecks, a suitably dramatic feature for our landing, though they were all carefully placed there to provide sheltered moorings:

Cars streamed ashore, a few, like these, heading south, as I’d soon be doing:

Most of the wind had dissipated, but a steady drizzle continued as I tightened my straps and began walking along the sand…

..stepping over the pretty corpses of the first of several — nay, dozens — nay, thousands of starfish among the flotsam and jetsam…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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11 Comments

    • Heheh, the coffee could’ve been better, but…yeah! And Wynnum in the rain has a certain…ambience. I do recommend the Asian fish ‘n chip joint next to Wynnum Nth station as well.

  1. Whales… would love to see one.
    Apparently a sperm whale was sighted in port somewhere down in Kyushu the other day, but made its way back out to sea safely.
    Another seal is lurking in the Arakawa, and was spotted in Shiki yesterday (remember “Tama-chan”?), and a brown bear has been sighted several times in a residential area in Sapporo.
    Some folks have all the luck!

  2. A good post for what looks like an entertaining trip. I think the ‘deeply depressed, suicidal whale’ is referring to me, sitting here at work looking across a train line wondering why I’m here! Man, work drives me nuts.

    What do the 4WD people get up to on Moreton? Do they just whiz around on the beach like Fraser Island? Who am I to question things, but it sounds kind of lame driving around instead of walking!

    I love the coffee photo! That’s one drink that has to be of quality, otherwise it’s putrid! I’ve been able to drink average tea before, but crap coffee is pretty diabolical.

    Although I go on every walk with a DSLR I need a waterproof camera like yours I think. Hoping to get to Tasmania next year and I don’t want to go through the ‘wet camera pain’ again. It cost me $400 to fix my waterlogged DSLR after my Mt Bogong hike. I could have bought a nice compact for that!

    • The 4-wheel-drivers, Greg? Hmmm, a touchy subject. Yes, they burtle around a lot, just as on Fraser, grinding up the beaches which multi-function as roads and race-tracks. There are some real fishers among them but I usually encounter at least a few instances of drunken, obnoxious redneck ockerism (not this trip though).

      It is mostly national park — name me another national park in which you are free to tear all over the place in vehicles. But maybe that’s just me: un-Australian apparently.

      Oh, and as depressing as your job might be (and let’s face it, most of them are), it is perhaps (jury’s out) preferable to no job at all. A state I seem to be rapidly approaching…

    • Oh yeah, and the waterproof camera, Greg? Very useful. I’m looking into a DSLR at the moment, or a mirrorless compact, to take my photography further, but still plan to take my Cybershot with me on longer trips so I can leave the expensive items safely packed away but still take decent shots if necessary.

  3. I do like my cameras and believe it or not but I tried to get into a Panasonic GF-1, but I just couldn’t bear not having a viewfinder! Ben has more less taken ownership of that one now! I’m still hunting for a decent waterproofing system for my SLR. What I find is either something designed for a Jacques Cousteau expedition or a glorified plastic bag. Mm… Still looking, but I will need something like yours just to get by if the weather gets nasty.

    You’re un-Australian? I’d like 4WD’s to be taxed off our roads! Rural rego for farmers etc or otherwise pay a premium that will have you crying into your snorkel (that you never use because the car has only ever been in the suburbs)! What’s come over me? Scandalous thinking!!

    Yes, I can see what you mean about the job when you don’t have one!! Money is needed for these elaborate hikes in the future! If worse comes to worst and you have no option other than living under the railway bridge I’ve got a spare room down here. The only thing is you’d have to put up with my record collection which happens to include the greatest hits of ‘Foreigner’!

    • Greg, that’s a generous offer even with the Foreigner. At the very least I will come visit when I’m next down your way. We can go trail-biking, 4-wheel-driving, maybe shoot some stuff — you get the idea…

  4. Great mix of all sorts here – loved the early shot of the train station and the Melville quote – and the excellent writing, as always. And the phrase ‘human deluge’. Why don’t they just disappear in their 4WDs over the horizon and be done with it?

    • SW, this was a relatively serene trip by my standards. I usually encounter at least one or two instances of motorised idiocy on Moreton, but the drivers I encountered this time behaved themselves. I’m still opposed to their presence when it’s not required for safety, or perhaps for residents, but I’m one of those doomed idealists, I’m afraid.

      Thanks for the nice comments! This trip was a very enjoyable one to write/photograph.

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