Sunday, 27 March 2016

Warrnambool Day 1

Today we left behind the Great Ocean Road and made our way to Warrnambool.

The word Warrnambool originates from the local Indigenous Australians name for a nearby volcanic cone. It is interpreted to mean many things including land between two rivers, two swamps or ample water.

A popular legend is that the first Europeans to discover Warrnambool were Cristovao de Mendonca and his crew who surveyed the coastline nearby and were marooned near the site of the present town as early as the 16th century, based on the unverified reports of local whaler's discovery of the wreck of a mahogany ship. The ship's provenance has been variously attributed to France, China, Spain and Portugal. There is no physical evidence to suggest that it ever existed.

The Lady Nelson under Lieutenant James Grant sailed along the coast in December 1800 and named several features, followed by Matthew Flinders in the Investigator and French explorer Nicholas Baudin, who recorded coastal landmarks, in 1802. The area was frequented by whalers early in the 19th century.

On our way to Warrnambool we called into the coast line where the Antares was wrecked. On a remote stretch of country road between Nirranda and Peterborough, is a key moment in Australia’s maritime history.

The Antares was the last of the tall ships to be destroyed off the south-west coast. In late 1914, after the beginning of the First World War, a young local man went one evening to fish near the Bay of Islands, west of Peterborough. He later arrived home hurriedly and in an agitated state declaring: "The Germans are coming!" His family laughed and disbelieved him. About a month later, local farmers were riding in the vicinity, checking on cattle. Phillip Le Couteur saw what he “thought was the hull of a ship below the cliffs.” He rode to Allansford and contacted police. The next day, two Constables and Phillip Le Couteur returned to the site, where they dug a trench near the top of the cliff and sank a log in it. To this they attached a rope, which they threw down the cliff face. Constable Stainsbury and Phillip Le Couteur then made the dangerous descent down the rope on the sheer cliff face. They found wreckage strewn around a small cove and a portion of a man's body under the cliffs. The hull of the ship could be seen about 300 metres out to sea. Some of the wreckage revealed the name Antares and the remains of the ship's dinghy bore the name Sutlej. During the next two weeks and with the help of the Warrnambool lifeboat and crew, two more bodies were found.

We then called into Murnane Bay named after the Murnane family, who farmed locally in the 19th century. Kevin could not resist another paddle in the ocean.

The next stop was at Childers Cove a beautiful small beach with a bluff crossing the western end of the beach. The beach is low and flat, with a shallow bay floor. It has a few reefs and one narrow sea stack just off the beach. A permanent rip drains out of the cove.The name comes from wreck of “The Children” in 1839 in which 17 perished.

We were then back on the road heading to Warrnambool.

Once in Warrnambool we called in to see Logan's Beach each year, roughly between late May and early October, Southern Right Whales return to their nursery at Logan's Beach to give birth and raise their calves. Just offshore, in clear view, the giant, gentle mothers and their giant children loll about and play, enjoying the shelter of Lady Bay. We are too early to see the whales however it is still a very lovely stretch of beach to view as the last of the ocean before we head inland to Mildura in a few days.

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