Hervey Bay and Fraser Island
A full moon rising through the palms at Hervey
Hervey Bay isn't a town, it's an area consisting of several small towns
around the bay itself. The whole is administered by the Hervey Bay City
Council and if you don't understand that - neither do I.
we went for our morning walks along the beach, all the people were friendly
and wished us good morning. So, you see, it wasn't
us out of step at Mooloolaba, it was them
The weather was quite unsettled for the first week of our stay, though
most of the rain fell at night - which is a great idea!
we were woken by about ten million lorikeets screeching in a tree a
few metres away from our 'van. At dusk, as we sipped a glass or two
of red, we watched hundreds of flying foxes pass overhead. These Fruit
Bats have wingspans of almost a metre. You expect bats to flit around,
swooping and zooming after insects. Not these bats; they looked quite
sinister as they flapped silently overhead in an easterly direction
like something out of Brahms Stoker's Dracula
. I tried to count
them one night but got to a hundred so quickly that I gave up. I estimated
that there were at least a thousand. They must return before dawn but
we never saw them.
One of the main reasons for going to Hervey Bay was to take part in
a three-day safari to Fraser Island with Ross and Jan Taylor. You know
Ross and Jan, don't you Dear Reader? They're the friends we met in the
Northern Territory and who invited us to spend both Christmas and Easter
at their place in Jimboomba. We're travelling up the Queensland coast
with them now so you'll hear a lot more about them.
A Little Background On Fraser Island.
Let me tell you about Fraser Island. I imagined it would be a long way
off the coast but at its southern end it's only 1,300 metres from Inskip
Point on the mainland. This would explain why, in 1770, good old Captain
Cook got it wrong and named it the Great Sandy Peninsula. It wasn't
until 1822, when a ship sailed between the island and the mainland,
that it was renamed the Great Sandy Island.
Then, in 1836,
a Captain James Fraser was shipwrecked a few hundred kilometres north
of the island. He, his wife and the ship's first and second mate eventually
washed up on the island. Captain Fraser soon collected an Aboriginal
spear in his back and died on the island, as did the two ship's mates.
Mrs. Eliza Fraser, however, survived long enough to get away the following
year with help from an escaped convict. Unfortunately in those days
she wasn't greeted by the commercial TV stations and women's magazines,
all waving open chequebooks. Still, she told her story over and over,
and - so it is said - each time it became more exaggerated. She died
in Melbourne in 1858 after being knocked down by a horse tram. The same
year, the island's name was changed to Fraser's Island in honour of her
hubby, the dear departed Captain Jim. The name was later shortened to
just Fraser Island and remains so today.
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island covering around 1,850
square kilometres. As it's almost all sand you might think that there
would be little vegetation, however you would be very wrong, Dear Reader.
Most of the island is covered in forest varying from sparse coastal
bushland to dense rainforest. The timber industry logged the island
from 1863 to 1991 but did so selectively and we saw little evidence
of their presence. In 1992 the island was listed as a World Heritage
site. Now it is a sanctuary for over 300 species of animal and 325 types
of bird. The waters around the island are home to turtles, dolphins,
dugongs and humpback whales.
Our Three-Day Safari On Fraser Island
We were collected from our caravan park at 7:45 one morning by a very
robust-looking vehicle. It had a powerful diesel engine and four-wheel-drive
transmission. It seated sixteen passengers, most of which were already
aboard. The four of us settled comfortably onto the back seat. If only
we'd known, Dear Reader, if only we'd known.
Our driver, Greg, was to
be our tour guide, cook, adviser and (almost) mother for the next three
days as well as our driver. He was very witty and not the slightest
bit averse to 'taking the Mick' out of us.
Left: The 4x4 bus seen here in the forest.
Right: Another bus reversing from the beach onto the barge.
Greg drove us down to the boat harbour
where two newly-weds joined us to make up the full complement of thirteen.
We left the bus and boarded a very ungainly barge, our bus reversing
up the loading ramp after us. The voyage to the island took fifty five
minutes at the point where we crossed. We landed bow-first on a smooth
beach called Moon Point and the bow ramp was lowered. By then we'd already
re-boarded the bus which drove down the ramp onto the beach. Greg engaged
a low gear and charged straight up the soft sand and into the bush.
This was when we discovered that there were two ways of getting about
the island; either around
it on the smooth beach or across
it on very rough sand tracks through the forest. And rough they were!
We were soon bouncing along, foliage brushing the sides of the bus.
We four on the back seat discovered that we were right over the rear
wheels and if that bus had any rear springs, it disguised the fact well!
It was like riding a mad, bucking bull. The bus would bounce us into
the air then, while we were still descending, the seat met us on its
way up again with a spine jarring jolt. Frequently the whole bus would
roll violently from side to side. Watching the heads of those in front
was quite amusing for back seat passengers.
Left: The tents we slept in formed a semi-circle around the smokers table.
Right: Each tent had a wooden floor. Ours had a comfortable double bed.
evening Greg took us to our camp which, despite all his kidding about
us having to erect tents and clear out poisonous spiders and snakes,
was all ready and waiting for us. There was also a communal mess and
Greg set about preparing our evening meal which came with red and white
wine and beer. He worked a fifteen hour day for six consecutive days,
then had eight days off.
Our tents were very sturdy with polished wooden floors and, would you
believe, a comfortable double bed? The only drawback was the distance
to the toilet in the middle of the dark night. Greg had warned us about
the dangers of dingoes entering the camp and
we had heard them
howling nearby. Consequently, whenever SWMBO wanted to 'go to the loo',
HWMO had to escort her. Men are so lucky, every tree is a urinal; it
says so on my T-shirt.
The dingoes on Fraser Island are the purest strain of this wild dog
species remaining in Australia and many signs around the camp and the
island highlighted the threat from them. Personally, I believe that
the warnings were overdone and these creatures are much maligned. It
is certainly true that dingoes have killed one or two children over
the years, but then so have pet dogs. And like shark and crocodile attacks,
they occur when we invade their
territory. We saw a few dingoes
while on the island and they were far more wary of us than we were of
These lean, gangly dogs are ginger-brown in colour with white markings;
strangely they never bark. However they have a most mournful, wolf-like
howl that sends shivers down your spine at night.
beautiful dingo we saw on the beach.
Right: Proof that dingoes can't read.
One long straight beach
was called 'Seventy Five Mile Beach'. It is eighty two miles long. If
there's any logic in that, I can't see it. However, this was a most
interesting beach in that it is not only a beach but a gazetted highway
with all the usual road rules applying. It has a speed limit of 80 km/hour
and there was plenty of traffic when we were there because a Toyota
fishing competition was about to start with 1,500 contestants plus all
their friends. There were fishermen with rods in the shallow water on
one side of the beach, fishermen's tents and camper vans set up on the
other side, and vehicles whizzing back and forth on the sand. But wait,
that isn't all. The same beach was an airstrip with two aircraft taking
off and landing on that same stretch of sand. So, a beach, a highway
and an airstrip, all in one.
Above left: An aircraft
looking well out of its element at the water's edge - and the sky was
Above right: Four
wheel drive tour buses parked on the beach near the freshwater Eli Creek.
To add further interest to the beach there is the rusting carcase of a
large cruise ship, the Maheno, partially buried in the sand. Only about
one third of the ship's length is now visible and more than half of
the hull is below the sand.
Left: The Maheno soon after she was driven ashore in 1935.
We obtained this picture by, shall we
say, less than ethical means. We came across it a week after the safari,
framed and for sale, in a market. Naturally the market stallholder wouldn't
have been too pleased to let me copy it, so my good friend Ross drew
his attention while I photographed the picture. For you, Dear Reader,
nothing is too much trouble.
But back to the story of the Maheno. Built in Scotland in 1905, the
ship was a 400 foot luxury passenger steamship. For nine years she pampered
the wealthy from Australia and New Zealand as she crisscrossed the Tasman
Sea, breaking the Sydney to Wellington speed record in the process.
During WW I she was refitted and put to work as a hospital ship. Later,
hostilities over, she was restored to her former glory and sailed between
New Zealand and England. However, improved internal combustion technology
overtook the steam driven Maheno and she was sold to a Japanese company
for scrap. In 1935, while being towed past Fraser Island in bad weather,
the towline parted and she was driven ashore. All attempts to refloat
her failed so there she remained.
If the Maheno thought she could rest in peace she was mistaken. When the
Second World War broke out she became a training target. She was bombed
from the air, shelled from the sea and blown up by commandoes on the
ground, yet she's still there.
Over 100 years old, all that remains of the Maheno.
Her rusting steel is
now so jagged that it has been deemed unsafe for visitors to climb over
her and signs prohibit entry to the hulk. However, she still attracts
plenty of attention.
One of the more interesting features on Fraser Island is called a 'sand
blow'. Usually the vegetation binds the surface sand and acts as a wind
break. Where there's a gap in the vegetation the wind blows the fine
sand into large dunes. As time passes, sand blows off the top of the
dunes, building up on its leeward side. More sand is blown up the slope
on the windward side, replacing what had been lost. Eventually that,
too, is blown off. The result is that, over many years, the dune 'rolls'
across the island, burying all before it. When the sand blow enters
a valley with a creek, it creates a dam (or barrage) and a 'barrage
Lake Wabby was formed when the 'sand
blow' shown in the picture, migrating left to right,
blocked the path of a creek. As time passes the lake itself will disappear
as the sand advances.
Picture: Ross Taylor
To give the picture
some scale, the small dots on the sand slope near the lake are four
or five of our party. If you have really
good eyes you might
be able to detect Pam and I sitting on the sand, waiting for Ross and
Jan to return from the lookout from where they took this photo. But
I won't believe you. The PH level of the water is too low for many species
to live in it, but we did see several tadpoles swimming. Our guide,
Greg, only had to ask one question to identify the tadpoles: "Are
they jet black?" When the reply was yes, he told us they were the
young of the dreaded cane toad. These critters are spreading everywhere.
While walking through the forest Greg pointed out some wiggly engravings
in the surface of a tree trunk. Because they looked like a child's scribble,
this particular eucalypt has acquired the nickname of 'Scribble Gum'.
The marks are, in fact, made by insects boring under bark which has
since been shed.
Scribble left by insects.
Scribble left by idiots.
A section of Seventy
Five Mile Beach is called Cathedral Beach because some of the sand formations
are said to resemble European cathedrals. Not far north of the Maheno
shipwreck is a sand formation known as 'The Coloured Sand' where the
sand colour varies from white through various shade of orange. The cause
is strong easterly winds blowing beach sand containing minerals, iron,
oxides and clay onto the foredunes. I know this because the leaflet
The Coloured Sands on the east-facing coast of Fraser Island.
At the northern end
of Seventy Five Mile Beach there is a large rock outcrop with the name
of Indian Head, and close by is a rock enclosure on the shore called
Champagne Pool. Somehow the Indian Head rock is thought to have been
responsible for the formation of the sand island but I have to confess
I lost concentration when Greg was telling us how the sand was carried
by ocean currents from some river mouth somewhere else and finished
up as Fraser Island. So just accept it, O.K?
Champagne Pool was so named
because the breakers hit the surrounding rock wall and white foam surges
into Champagne Pool, so much air being trapped in the water that it
gave bathers the tingle that champagne might give if you could afford
to bathe in it - which I can't and wouldn't if I could. In fact, I was
too chicken to bathe in Champagne Pool, the weather being a little inclement.
Bathers in Champagne Pool proving: (a)
they are braver than we are, and (b) that the earth is round.
I could go on and on about Fraser Island,
Dear Reader, but I sense you've had enough. So I'll leave you with some
pictures because I like them so I'm sure, as you are as discerning as
me, you will too.
An almost monochromatic image of a man fishing.
A laughing kookaburra patiently waiting for scraps near our lunch stop.
Sun, cloud and water. Taken from the barge on the return trip.
An Eastern Yellow Robin. We saw several on Fraser Island.
A not uncommon rainforest scene. This strangler fig has killed the host
tree around which
it grew. The host rotted away leaving the fig to support itself - and
serve it jolly well right.
Well, that's it for
Fraser Island, Folks. Hope you enjoyed this small selection of the pictures
we took. We certainly won't forget the experience in a hurry.
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