Pretty pictures serving no serious purpose whatsoever

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Popular Culture et al
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Apart, perhaps, from lifting one’s spirits, slightly. Oh, OK, and providing the opportunity for a dash of history.

Encounter Bay looking back from the Granite Island causeway

Encounter Bay looking back from the Granite Island causeway

Encounter Bay near Victor Harbour in South Australia was so named because here explorer Matthew Flinders came upon a French vessel also surveying the local coastline. On 8 April 1802 while sailing east Flinders sighted the Géographe, a French corvette commanded by the explorer Nicolas Baudin, who was on a similar expedition for his government. Both men of science, Flinders and Baudin met and exchanged details of their discoveries; as a result, Flinders named the bay Encounter Bay. It was notorious in the early days of South Australian settlement, when Victor Harbour was a major port, for its dangerous shallow reefs on which many incautious vessels came to grief.

Granite Island and the Bluff from the Granite Island Causeway

Granite Island and the Bluff from the Granite Island Causeway

Granite Island is a small island next to Victor Harbor, South Australia, not far from South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide. It is unpopulated, however there are buildings and shelters on the island, including a cafe where you can risk sharing a snack with a flock of apparently homicidal seagulls. It is a popular tourist attraction, particularly for people wishing to see Little Penguins (commonly called “Fairy Penguins”) which breed and live on the island.

The Granite Island causeway

The Granite Island causeway

The island is accessible across a seemingly endless causeway from the mainland, either on foot or by catching a charming antique horse-drawn tram. Which needless to say, is not running while we are here. (I mean, it runs for all but two weeks of the year, right, when they are doing construction work on the causeway entrance, and we choose those two weeks to visit; I mean, don’t you just love that?) So including clambering all over vertiginous Granite Island itself we have today walked a very very long way. I said: A VERY VERY LONG WAY. I trust that is clear for all our readers. It is certainly clear to my aching muscles.

Granite Island is all windswept and salty and scrubby bush and, well, granite-y. The Southern Ocean pounds against it unceasingly, wearing and rubbing the exposed rocks into striking shapes, and the occasional blast of sunshine unexpectedly releases the gleam of quartz in the rock as one wanders by. Some hardy souls run by, treating the entire island as a sort of fantastical macho running tan, but that would seem to defeat the purpose of wandering in such a spot. One would miss sights like this tree, for example.

A fallen tree reminds us of ... what? Something atavistic and lost.

A fallen tree reminds us of ... what? Something atavistic and lost, perhaps.

Pushed over by the clutches of some vast southern storm, it lies propped up at an impossible angle, almost dead, but not quite. A few hardy green spines cling to the end of its trailing limbs. It looks like it has lain there forever, and will lay there defiantly until the end of time. It is in the same moment an intimation of mortality and an affirmation of how life refuses to give up hope of itself.

The whole place is rather like that. Eerily timeless.

There is a sense of walking somewhere both impossibly ancient, and ultimately unfathomable.

The Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal clan group lived in the area for at least forty thousand years: the Ramindjeri clan lived around Encounter Bay. Good rainfall, two rivers and the sea provided reliable food and allowed permanent settlement at nearby Yilki, which meant, literally, “the place by the sea”. The Aboriginal clans had a well-developed cultural and social structure together with a rich mythology: they lived in harmony with nature and each other, and it’s easy, sometimes, to sense why. The Aborigines believed that a fire god threw a spear of fire at one of his enemies but he threw himself into the sea and became the Southern Wright Whale, with the fire forever burning in him, and when they saw the whales surface and blow through their blow-hole that was the smoke coming from inside them.

The coffee in the cafe is very good, too, by the way.

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