May was History Month

The Month of May is History Month in South Australia, so with that in mind we packed up our toys and headed North and South looking at South Australian early history.

First it was to the far north of state, towards the centre of Australia, following the old “Ghan” railway line and then branching out to the edge of the Simpson Desert. The Old Ghan railway line was closed in 1980 after the line was moved due to frequent flooding. Robyn’s family have many ties to the north with her grandparents being involved with the Telegraph line that was built between Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north a distance of 3000km

I never tire of the outback landscape with its’ ever changing colours and geography.

Yep that’s me. The area is the “Breakaways” and juts out from an otherwise flat gibber desert

Stunning colours at any time of the day

That’s Robyn doing a little exploring

We visited many ruins as well as a few surviving outposts  and watched many sunsets across the northern plains.

One of the ruins of Farina Township on the way to Marree along the Ooodnadatta Track

Golden sunset from our camp

The sunset was fantastic but the storm clouds meant the track might be closed by rains.

It’s interesting to meet unusual people along the way and to chuckle at the humour of these outback places.

Golf anyone. Only $5 per round and remember that the plane has right of way down the fairway

This is a great golf course and affiliated with St Andrews in Scotland. Obviously they never checked out the course !!!

Sometimes  there is a meeting of the “ships of the desert” and this time it happened 25 km north of Lyndhurst. A camaleer and his wife had been walking cross country with 6 camels from Gympie in Queensland and were headed west to Roxby Downs. That’s about 2000km as the crow flies and then they have the return journey.

That’s my “ship of the desert” against the tree. Diamant Fatbike with 5 inch tyres and lots of suspension.

Inquisitive buggers these camels.

The scenery is stunning in its harshness, even when we have had great rains and the vegetation is green and thriving.

Not much greenery here. Spot the bikes parked in the “carpark” at Blanche Cup mound Springs Oodnadatta Track.

Anyway there were too many places to describe and far too many photos to show here.

Then it was back south to revisit a couple of our favourite haunts by kayak. We often paddle past 2 wrecks, one well known, at the edge of suburbia in Gulf St Vincent, and one at the far south end of Gulf St Vincent that few people remember.

The Star of Greece wreck is just out of Adelaide near what was once the small village of Pt Willunga but is now almost a suburb of Adelaide. I have paddled past it countless times over the years taking time to snorkel the area during the summer months, when it is often uncovered. This is an easily achievable paddle for any sea kayaker in good conditions. Generally we launch from Moana Beach and paddle south for an hour or so (6.5km) to reach the wreck which is only 200m off the Pt Willunga beach.

May being History Month I revisited the story of the wreck.

Built in Belfast in 1868, the Star of Greece, laden with wheat, was wrecked in a violent storm off Port Willunga on the 13th July 1888. Some discrepancy exists in the actual number of lives lost, due to doubts about the number of people aboard the vessel when it left Port Adelaide, but most historians conclude that at least 18 perished.

The most striking part of the tragedy was that the ship was only 200 metres from shore when it broke in two amidships at 2.00am. The alarm was raised at 7.20am by a young boy taking his morning walk but because the Willunga telegraph station didn’t open until 9.00am, former harbourmaster Thomas Martin was unable to contact authorities in Adelaide until then.

The response to the call for help was disastrous. A combination of poor communications, bad roads, and an inability to find a good vehicle and horses to bring the necessary rocket gear for a rescue attempt meant that it was 4.00pm when useful help finally arrived. By then all the survivors were ashore and the others aboard had already drowned in the roaring surf.

Local residents had gone to the nearby beach to assist those who did manage to make it to shore. They bore witness to the deaths of those who fell into the sea, exhausted after desperately clinging to the rigging, and those who drowned in the mountainous seas as they tried to swim ashore. Helpless, they waited until some mariners made it to the shallows and then took them to nearby lodgings to recuperate.

Luckily the Gulf St Vincent where the wreck lies is generally calm and  easily accessible by kayak however I have seen mountainous seas on that beach when the winter SW storms arrive direct from the Antarctic.

This was not a great day to visit the wreck with a NW wind blowing and rain but that’s unpredictable sea kayaking

Some of the wreck is always exposed and in summer you can normally see remnants of the hull

One of the other interesting wrecks that I often pass is the Ellen, which lies in shallow water on Morgans Beach, which is the first beach as you pass into Gulf St Vincent rounding Cape Jervis.

Not much remains of the wreck except the boiler and breather tube which are visible at low tide. Occasionally in very calm conditions I have been able to paddle to the boiler and you can still hear the boiler breathing as the swell pushes air through the breather tube.

The Ellen Boiler

On Saturday, 12 December 1908, Ellen returned from Hog Bay on Kangaroo Island en route to a destination on the mainland with a load of fish valued at £50. Ellen encountered very rough conditions when passing Cape Jervis. The rough conditions included a sudden swing in wind direction from the South West to the North West. As a result, the ship drifted astern towards the shore until its stern run aground on the rocky seabed. The bow was then swung around onto the rocks by the waves thereby completing the wrecking. The heavy sea then continued to pound the wrecked vessel, washing fittings and timber overboard and onto the shore. The crew escaped to shore via the use of a dinghy while Mr Newlands swam to the shore. 

The Ellen aground at Morgans Beach

Recently I visited Morgans Beach  and stood on the same rock (I think?) as the person in the photograph.

Both wrecks are well worth visiting especially on a calm day when you get a close inspection.
Well that was May, History Month for us.
Ian and Robyn



The Reef

Horseshoe Reef. It’s been around for a long time; certainly longer than me and I feel a strange attraction. I remember being on the beach as a child watching the small boats fishing along the inside of the reef. I visited on school holidays, snorkeled out to the reef as a teenager and still explore it regularly by kayak.

The reef is part of the Mullawirraburka dreaming story of the local Kaurna aboriginal people telling how Mullawirraburka threw his spear into the water to bring the fish closer to the shore forming the reefs of Pt. Noarlunga and Christies Beach.

As the name suggests the reef is formed in an arc with the open end pointing to shore. On the seaward side the reef drops from a steep platform to a  flat expanses of stone and toward shore the reef becomes steeper then drops into 5m of water.

The reef is seldom flat calm. More often there is a confused sea caused by the meeting of waves but always it’s a fun place to hang out.

The outer steep reef edge generates a powerful wave which wraps around both ends of the reef  and in the right conditions these left and right waves peel around the horseshoe shape in opposite directions to collide with huge force.

That’s where the fun begins. You can catch a small wave heading south only to be met with one coming north and you are often spat out upwards; or sometimes you are just buried by a few ton of water. You might come back up the right way but not always.

Steve playing around on a calmer day……dsc_0461

The reef is a place for experienced paddlers and on the right day is an excellent place to put a few sea kayak skills to the test.


The Reef on a stormy day

The Reef on a stormy day

But beware the dangers below as there is not only the reef to worry about but also its inhabitants. I guess we may not be the only ones enjoying the reef today.


Get out and enjoy our local area but remember to “keep it safe” and stay within your ability.

Ian Pope











The Holiday Coast

We are paddling the “Holiday Coast”. Everywhere there are people fishing, people walking, people just relaxing in the sun. It’s strange we haven’t seen any kids on the beach and everyone looks 60 years or older, then we realise we are on the “Grey Nomad Trail”.

The Nomads criss-cross Australia following the sun in their 4WD vehicles towing huge caravans and congregating at any place that has good fishing and a half decent tavern. We feel a little out of place as we set up in Point Turton, Yorke Peninsula, South Australia; our car is dirty from the desert trip, unlike all the shiny new ones in the park and our Ultimate Xplor desert camper is a third of the size of any others here.

The next day bring drizzling rain in the morning but all is saved when we are invited by Ken and Janet to join a Melbourne Cup lunch in their Corporate Box. Lots of food, lots of drinks and lots of fun makes for a memorable day.

The weather brightens and we get on the water again. The coastline although mainly low limestone cliffs is quite interesting with  lots of shallow reefs to explore.

Leaving the beach we head towards the jetty

Leaving the beach we head towards the jetty

Cormorants fishing from the rocks.......probably having more luck than the fisherman

Cormorants fishing from the rocks…….probably having more luck than the fisherman

We dropped in at the local swimming hole. There’s a low rock walkway out to steps but it was submerged when we passed.

Gavin drops in at the swimming hole

Gavin drops in at the swimming hole

We paddled towards Point Souttar and Corny Point in near dead calm conditions.

Ian and Robyn admiring the view

Ian and Robyn admiring the view

We stopped for a chat to one of the local fisherman……

Landing another calamari

Landing another calamari

……and then spent some time exploring along the coast.

This coast is generally protected from the southern gales but we did find the wreck of the Yelta in shallow water east of Point Turton, where only the boiler is now visible. It was run aground in 1926 when the steam driven vessel started to take on water.

The boiler of the Yelta

The boiler of the Yelta

A great stretch of coastline on the “foot of Yorke Peninsula” and well worth the effort of exploring by kayak.

Robyn                                         Gavin                                      Ian

RobynHagarian smurf crop (2)