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Blog of Jack and Jude
explorers, authors, photographers & videographers
Wishing You a Healthy Happy 2020
The year of good vision
When hopefully, politicians will clearly see the dire state of our planet
Jack and Jude have been busy as bees in spring since we returned to Banyandah early in December. Our homecoming to life afloat was unusually wet, even for Macquarie Harbour. Gosh, it poured cats and dogs the first ten days – a full month’s rain fell in that short time. And with the ground already saturated from the wettest November on record, the streams roared, and every valley ended in a waterfall and a bunch of Franklin rafters got stranded.
Coming from Northern NSW, where we barely survived the hottest winter ever, we were tickled to feel cooling rain trickle down our necks and cheeks. Like little kids we pranced around the decks with faces uplifted, delighting in the fresh, refreshing feel of good wholesome Nature. So different from the mid-30s heat felt last August in our shack. Crikey, our poor trees lost all their leaves, not once, but TWICE. And the creatures suffered badly. The birds followed us around begging for handouts, the ground being so hard and dry, there wasn’t any food for them or their new babies. Sadly, the magpie fledglings perished this year.
Heavenly Macquarie Harbour ~
It took us a week to sort the old girl out, fitting a new diesel day tank, bending on sails and running rigging before we sallied forth to see how the severely wet winter had affected our much loved west coast of Tassie.
Honest, we have been trying to leave this little bit of heaven for the last three years, just can’t pull the pin. Our first adventure down harbour reminded us why. Anchoring in Betsy’s Bay commanded a view of the Eastern Mountain Range across tranquil waters. In that bay, comfortable enough for fifty vessels, we were all by ourselves. How wonderful. Maybe some like lots of boats around them like living in suburbia. No worries to us. But Jack and Jude love the peace of natural beauty without noisy engines or having to look out for lots of traffic.
We took a saunter across the peninsula towards the wild west coast, a walk we’ve done half a dozen times before, and guess what? We lost the way. Guess our grey matter is sort of bogged down in other things and one wrong turn put us in strange terrain. Clever me hadn’t brought the GPS with all the waypoints. Just past halfway we found ourselves descending into a small piece of heaven, where two freshets joined to produce a pleasant noisy rush next to a convenient fallen tree that provided a lovely seat in a sunny spot of lush green for our picnic. Lazing back in the scented warmth after our repast, neither of us wanted to search for the right way to the west coast, so we wandered off looking for wombats, and enjoyed masses of late spring wildflowers under an awesome clear blue sky. Wow, what a great way to start this year’s tenure of life afloat.
Five days zoomed past before being forced to move by a threatening northerly blast that’s not so nice for Betsy’s, but perfect for a meander down harbour another ten miles to Farm Cove lying under majestic Mount Sorell.
Never been so busy ~
Jude and I have been retired for a little over ten years, and frankly, we’ve never been so busy, but we’re busy doing things we love. Over winter at our shack, we put the final touches on a book that we began thirty years ago. And now it’s in print and being delivered. The reviews are fantastic, forget housework, read while cooking, it’s a book you can’t put down.
I’ll not clog the blog in details, but just say; at the shack, we were up before first sparrow fart to have absolute silence, so our creative minds could imagine being on the high seas with two teenage sons sailing around the world, and getting into all sorts of bother. There were a few life or death experiences along with a lot of once in a lifetime sights while we met so many fascinating people. The Four J’s had already lived life afloat for ten years, and sailed across nearly every ocean. We were a daring, bold team by the time we set off around the world.
Our latest book was written for our family. Our legacy for the little ones, so they’d better know their fathers’ childhood growing up and schooled afloat. The world has changed so much since those halcyon days. Electronic this, rules against that, an inhibited society thinking everything is too dangerous so that today’s kids really don’t experience Earth, her creatures and her colossal forces. But we did, during a time when all nations pretty much got along.
New Endeavour ~
Ok, so the book came to fruition, but hey, who reads physical books today? Every public transport system carries folk with earbuds shutting them off from the real world. So Jude and I thought, why not make our story into an audio-book. We’re always game to try something new, believing we always learn new skills doing that. And even though it’s generally frustrating and hard challenging work, a bit of stick to it usually sees us come out with something acceptable. Yeah, we know we’re not bestsellers, but we’ve taken on plenty of challenges as a team, which has bonded us even tighter, and we are getting more proficient each time we write a book or make a film. So now we’ve tossed our hat into the challenge of recording an audio-book of our voyage around the world.
That sounded easy when we purchased the high-quality gear to do it. Just sit in a quiet spot and read what we wrote. But that’s not how it’s happening.
The first thing we learned, (and you always learn heaps when trying new things), is, we’re not reading our words; we are performing them, telling the story with passion. Plus, some of the terms are a lot harder to pronounce than writing. Personally, I often muck up and have to repeat the line again and again till finding the right tone, or I run out of breath. We also found it’s pretty technical. In a nutshell, after three weeks away in the never-never, without seeing another boat except on Christmas Day, we have recorded about one-third of the five hundred pages. That sounds okay to us. Except there’s still the time-consuming editing before us, taking out the intakes of breath, paring out the repeats, tidying up the lot and adding sound effects.
Fish Farm Trash ~
The other hat we wear; of concerned world citizens trying to keep the fish farms in Macquarie Harbour from totally obliterating the World Heritage shores with their plastic ropes and filaments. We’ve been waging a war of education for three years, trying to make our politicians aware of the lasting damage being done to land that was set aside because it is unique. And we are trying to educate the farm managers that their procedures are not good enough. Frankly, it’s an uphill battle, and we think you can understand, with humans need for food and jobs seeming to rank a heck-lot-higher than Earth and her creature’s survival. I guess if that wasn’t the case, Australia would not be giving approval for the Adani Coal Mine, nor would we be farming fish in a closed water system at 42 degrees south latitude.
Fine detail – Best viewed in 720P – Click on gear to set – Video link HERE
Over winter, I had several chats with the farm’s aquaculture manager to see if we could fix the farm procedures that can’t stop mooring buoys, pipes and thousands of meters of plastic ropes escaping from the leases. We both agree that Macquarie Harbour is a problematic work site with strong cold winds challenging the workforce. Knowing this, our suggestion is to establish a permanent team of say three active young men to walk the shores like Jude and I do, to pick up the fish farm trash before it breaks down into filaments and then nano plastics.
Polluted Farm Fish ~
We argue that some of those plastic nanoparticles re-enter the water and could be ingested by the fish that grow from tiddlers to beasts of many kilos.
Ropes are made from millions of fibres that form strands twisted into cords that make up the rope.
The farms agreed that they would work on their “work culture” and we agreed that we’d film and promote any improvements, but warned that we’d continue to show any unacceptable pollution found.
Anyway, while at Farm Cove we walked across the isthmus to the harbourside, wondering whether we’d find a squeaky clean foreshore and hoping we would. Remember, we’ve been filming their trash on this beach for three years so you’d think they’d do a clean-up before we arrived.
It shows just how little they care about the environment. What we found was our worst nightmare. More litter than in a city slum – and found on World Heritage Land!
Plastic Nanoparticles ~
We have been warning for years that the ropes, some rather large, are breaking down by wave action and sunlight. A fifty-millimetre diameter rope is made up of tens of thousands of filaments. Nature’s forces break these into minute particles too small to even see. Our scientists are finding 99% of the plastic in our oceans is breaking down to particles so small they get ingested by the sea creatures and either form their flesh or are excreted out in waste that sinks to the ocean floor.
“What we commonly see accumulating at the sea surface is less than the tip of the iceberg, maybe a half of 1% of the total,” says Erik Van Sebille, an oceanographer at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “I often joke that being an ocean plastic scientist should be an easy job because you can always find a bit wherever you look.”
The enormous amounts of plastic on the ocean surface were what initially sparked public and scientific interest in the plastic problem. In this way, they acted like a buoy, pointing the way to something much larger beneath the surface. As Anela Choy, Assistant Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego puts it, “The deep ocean is the world’s largest habitat. We’re just beginning the accounting of how much of our plastic has ended up there.”
NOT bound by laws ~
Fish Farming is a business out to make a profit but seems NOT to be bound by the laws governing all other companies. In Australia, no trash is allowed to leave a work-site. The farms not only get away with that, but the trash ends up on shores protected by the highest order.
What really frustrates us is that Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service ( PWS ) DO NOT patrol the shores nor regulate the farms, even though we have brought their attention to the pollution. “The farms are self-regulating,” we were told. Must be something political going on. The “Jobs and Growth” mentality that is destroying the world is sending us racing hell-bent on destroying all wildlife and natural land. That’s short-sighted. Imagine a world with no wild creatures – anywhere.
We left Farm Cove on Christmas morning to motor over to near Sarah Island where we can pick up a phone signal to enjoy a few hours of laughter and fun with the family back in NSW, them suffering horrible smoke and dreadful heat. While doing that Max and Marie drifted past, jib fluttering, on their way to Kelly Basin, and so in the afternoon when the northerly breeze freshened, we unfurled our headsail and sauntered over for a lovely evening with them and a Hobart boat.
When next morning they chuffed off for a run up the Gordon River found us all alone again, it was back to work recording our latest masterpiece with a different view of the majestic Mount Sorell.
Brisbane Bay ~
For a break, we kayaked an hour to Brisbane Bay, which Stormbreaker Trevor and I surveyed last April so that he can update his harbour chart. It’s a darn good anchorage protected from southerlies and southwesterly gales, but open to anything from the north. While doing that survey, we’d been ashore and found heaps of ropes and even a big fender which we filmed and made public. Soon after, the head of Tassal’s aquaculture came over from Hobart to inspect the area, and agreed it was unacceptable and made some encouraging promises. That’s when we decided that we’d promote any good work, but warned we’d not stay quiet if the trash continued.
On a sparkling lovely sunny day, in the Green Machine complete with a packed lunch we had some great exercise to that isolated, empty bay. But our smiles turned sour when scattered amongst the foreshore growth we found strands and filaments of plastic rope, and further in we found coils of ropes accumulated in the few months since the farms had cleaned the bay.
Next day, we kayaked a bit further on to Charcoal Burners Point, where we’ve been on four other occasions. No big coils were found on the open beach. But numerous runs of rope were wrapped around tea-tree and reeds, and sadly, the ground and moss were littered with the same tiny filaments found at other sites. And, where a luxuriant growth of forest contains many Huon pines close to the shoreline, we found a man-sized buoy dragging a length of big rope, and not far away, another one with its large shackle hanging loose, the pin had come adrift. These big back poly buoys are not the real danger to the shores as they do not break down as do the ropes. However, they pose a navigational threat on the harbour.
Birches Inlet ~
Being very quiet where we were, we went back to work for a few days before a front was due, making it seemed a good excuse for a different venue with a different view. So just before the front struck, we sallied over to the west side of the harbour to enter Birches Inlet, which was once the Gordon River mouth a couple thousand years ago.
The anchorage is tucked around the corner in Hawks Nest. From it, over about a kilometre of button grass and stumpy tea-tree will put you on Birches Beach fronting the harbour and running east to the entrance of the Gordon River. This beach is covered with boles and branches washed out the river. Plenty of Huon Pine amongst them. In fact, the Morrison sawmill has the salvage right to that timber. They make tourist items from the branches, like coasters, and clock mounts, and cutting boards out of the boles.
It seemed a good outing to work the legs, and we could snoop for any fish farm trash. This time I didn’t get lost, although I took the wrong GPS, which had flat batteries, but Jude had a pocket filled with red trail tape. Not that we needed them, you can see the harbour when on the rise, but we didn’t want a hassle finding the dinghy when tired on the way home.
As if the last folk on the planet, under a mellow blue sky with mountains sharp against it, accompanied by a relaxing lap of minuscule wavelets close to our feet, we were on a treasure hunt.
Although the beach sits dead downwind of the fierce northerlies, we did not find any big coils of rope or any buoys. Instead, we found plenty of smaller stuff. We figure the farms send boats along the shores, but they only take the big items in quick sorties. That’s not good enough.
One last note on plastic garbage before moving on to better news. A few days later we went back to Farm Cove to climb the Sorell Plateau in perfect summer weather. Before that we went for a workout in the Green Machine up the last arm, as far inland one can get. We wanted to film black swans in those out of the way pockets of water. Midday, getting peckish we landed on the loneliest pebble beach to picnic and can you believe, like particles of dust carried on a breeze, we found these bits of plastic had floated to this part of the enclosed waterway to litter its shores. It boggles the mind and saddens the soul to know that day after day, year after year, a moneymaking business can litter our world without the taxpayer funded regulatory body lifting a finger to protect the land that their charter states is their number one priority.
C’mon young ones, it’ll be your world soon, looks like we have to do it ourselves because the politicians are only short term job holders placating the voters, and industry will do only the minimum necessary to return maximum profits to their shareholders. Geez, we’re getting more cynical as the years speed past..
Sorell Plateau ~
Last April, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife firebombed the slopes of Mount Sorell in a fuel reduction operation. Frankly, few knew they were going to do this. Jack and Jude came out the Gordon River and found the mountain icon bare and went into shock.
The slopes are rather rocky and nutrient-poor, supporting only short button grass and waist-high tea-tree, home to wombats and many other ground creatures!
We have climbed Mount Sorell in a three-day expedition, and have taken the day walk up to the flat top of the Sorell Plateau several times for the beauty and exercise. From it, one can see the entire harbour and over the peninsula to the Southern Ocean, with the majestic mountain ranges as a backdrop. Link to video of Plateau before fire.
Last May, Jude and I tidied up the start and re-tagged the track through shore growth that’s full of cutting grass and tall saplings. Then we carried on to the edge of the burnt ground, which looked like a wasteland with hardly enough burnt vegetation to blacken it. At the time thinking the wombats were going to find slim pickings that winter and wondering what erosion might happen if we got good rains. Run the clock forward six months and add one of the wettest winters on record, it seemed a good idea to test the terrain up to Sorell Plateau. We were wondering if the fire went onto and over the top. After the plateau lies luxuriant rain forest.
Well, our track was still reasonably clear except that many of our tapes now lay on the ground, so we cleared them up. We assume the birds peck at ‘em. Might start using strips of red sailcloth to mark tracks.
Reaching the burnt area saddened us – so bare, but we’re keeping our minds open on this. A few years ago, a parched summer brought many fires to the forests, one right below us at Goulds Point. Killed most of the trees, it’s still an eyesore, the slender, leafless trees standing dead, falling over crr-boom every now and again, and the point is eroding.
Trekking up the bare slopes was not as easy as we imagined. Without their leaf to cushion them, the tea-tree stalks hurt our shins, and the walk was not as enjoyable. But hey, the button grass clumps showed little green shoots and given ten years, it’ll probably return to what it was. Some erosion took place where the water rushed down. But that’s Earth. Didn’t see many wombat tracks. Found a few clumps of their spoor though, so some must still be around.
Ok, the big question of whether the fire breasted the top edge was answered in the affirmative. Burnt the lot. She’s as flat as a pancake with lonely clumps of white boulders dotted here and there. Great place for a fly-in resort. The magical backdrop of the Mountain with the Harbour at your feet.
GPS FOR WALK UP Sorell Plateau_191222
That’s our story for the moment. Till next time, wishing you many safe adventures. Jack and Jude.
Around the World in a thousand days plus 50 ~
We visited and explored PNG, Cocos Keeling, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya, Seychelles, Socotra, Aden, Red Sea, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Capri, Italy, Europe, Gibraltar, Canaries, Caribbean, Panama, Isla Malpelo, Ecuador, Galapagos, Easter Island, Tuamotus, Tahiti, Norfolk and back to Australia at Coffs Harbour – 30,000 Miles