Australia, Beach & Coastal Walking, Hiking
Comments 17

In the Starfish Boneyard

OCTOBER, 2011

I always skulk along the Tangaooma beachfront with my hackles up and bile in my mouth (somebody call an ambulance!).

It just plain irks me that a resort can own a beach. On an island that’s almost completely national park, where one can wander relatively freely, you’re informed that all the land down to the low-tide mark, here where they used to haul bloodied whale carcasses ashore but now feed off the bounty of tourists, is privately owned:

Still, not meaning to sound judgmental, but I don’t “get” how a lot of people interact with nature, either…

..or why palm trees connote “resort” and “holiday”, here where they’re not even indigenous.

Most of the storm was somewhere over the Pacific, but the gloom and some of the rain lingered. Here’s the view looking back at the boat:

Taking this shot, a white-haired fellow going down the jetty to greet a new boatload of wallets barked at me:

“Hey! Get back away from those birds! This is a wildlife protection area!”

Oh, the bitterest of bile! But I bit my tongue, as a confrontation at the beginning of a walk can linger as clouds of fury in the walker’s head for hours. “Alright,” I answered, and he mellowed, inviting me to take my pictures from the jetty. There are no signs advising of any special status for this area — the same area where tourists are encouraged to hand-feed dolphins at dusk.

I suspect my backpack made him nervous. It does that, sometimes.

But I soon forgot my brush with jackboot authority (actually, he was wearing thongs), and pounded south along the smooth, wet sand, leaving Paradise behind. I was now in a starfish Dead Zone:

The site of a starfish or sea star stretched out on the sea floor as you wade ashore is one of the delights of landing at Moreton. You occasionally see the odd dead one…

..but as I moved south today…

..past Tangalooma Point and on to Shark Spit…

..I passed through areas where their desiccated corpses were strewn along the high-water mark in their thousands…

..and the sharp, fishy smell of death was almost overwhelming:

Mechanised cavorting is restricted in this area to protect the local fauna:

A pandanus palm, loaded with fruit which is typically dispersed by water:

Empty beaches, unmarred by tyre tracks, were mine for three or four hours of walking:

Progress was erratic, however, as there were so many stops to squat with my camera:

This species of volute is quite common along this stretch of Moreton…

..so common I constructed a temporary installation (count the “arms” of my shell-star — I’ll be recalling the number in my next post):

A sea urchin shell, partly furnished. Some day I will live in a house like this:

A second front of dramatic weather was approaching from the mainland:

I looked forward to another splendid show…

..but it was all bluster and theatrics, and passed over without further fuss.

I moved on, through a littoral zone often thickly piled with sun-bleached echinoderms. I’ve done some research online, and can only speculate (as a rank amateur) that the floods in January, which deposited vast quantities of fresh water and sediment in Moreton Bay and wrecked seagrass beds, must have had a catastrophic impact on their population (as it did on turtles and dugongs).

These last ones are recent casualties, of course, still brightly coloured — perhaps their demise was natural:

The sun seemed on the verge of breaking through the cloud ceiling. I looked in vain for a sheltered place for lunch, passing countless more of these defeated stars, some, where the waves had dragged them back and forth across the sand, leaving star-trails like comet tails:

Shooting stars?

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote

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17 Comments

  1. It must be great to be where you can see pelicans just standing around.

    Beach ownership. Dire, isn’t it? In my favourite part of Wales there are lots of secluded beaches which you have to pay to access. I think charging people to stand on a beach is second only to charging someone for the air they breathe.

    As for outdoor pursuits involving internal combustion engines. Argh!

    • Dominic, I don’t think we’ve reached the point of admission fees for beaches here…yet. That’s an appalling concept!

      But we certainly would be world leaders in auto-recreation. I sometimes cop hostile stares from obnoxious drivers for my highly eccentric predilection for foot-powered recreation.

    • Oh, and Dominic, yes, pelicans are plentiful here and I have some lovely shots of a local pelican identity I took the other day, ready for a future post. Astonishingly big and wise-looking when you get up close to them, too.

  2. All terrain vehicles are the bane of my existence. Nothing like walking in my own woods and having the roar of engines drown out every single bird call.
    We try to stay in state parks for hiking in my area- ATVs are banned.

    The starfish shots were absolutely fascinating.

    • Thanks, Samantha. When I play my favourite walking game of “What I Would Do if I was Ruler of the World”, the banning of said vehicles, except on private land, would be high on my policy list. Waterskiers, jet-skiers (which have droned through my local walking reveries on several occasions) and trail-bikers should not sleep easy, either. And I have encountered the destruction wreaked by ATVs on public trails in the States on many occasions.

  3. That shot of the quad-cycle convoy automatically makes me think of how much fun it would be to be perched behind a sand dune with an automatic weapon…
    It makes less noise, and I promise to clean up the casings when I’ve finished.

    Oh, and the “get away from the birds” from someone who encourages tourists to feed dolphins (probably as long as they part with some cash), that’s rich.

  4. You’re very handy with the one liners. ‘Shooting star’? I love it! That starfish slaughter is amazing, but a worry. Something like that would bother me as I wonder what would cause a mass death like that. I automatically think of some man-made interference. I think I’ve officially become a burnt out cynical middle aged bloke who’s part social misfit and part walker (I almost typed wanker instead of walker just then)?!

    Good to see the Nazi Beach Trooper was keeping you under control. Who knows what you would have done if you got too close? I mean, you may have got a closer photo. Good god, the trauma!!

    An ATV convoy?! Magnificent photo of possibly the most piss-poor ‘outing’ I think I’ve ever seen!

    • Thanks Greg, I’m pretty proud of that “shooting star” line as well! As for the ATVs…well, they’re up there with jet skis in annoyance for me. I just don’t get why some humans need to drive things through (or over) a natural area to be happy. If you use them to get there, ok — but a bit of a walk won’t kill you once you’re there!

      But I haven’t even got to the segways yet!

      • Doesn’t that remind you of all the middle-age and elderly hikers in Japan with all the latest in goretex boots and sticks, who took the ropeways up the mountains?

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  6. Great pics! I especially like the one of the incoming storm. Unfortunate about all the starfish, but I’m guessing the birds in the area don’t mind the buffet.

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