Inside out, outside in

Back in 1799, the explorer Matthew Flinders was happily sailing along the Queensland coast when he had a problem with his sloop, the Norfolk. He pulled into a handy inlet, weighed anchor and rang for roadside assistance. Work on repairs began and Matthew, not one for sitting around for too long, decided to have a little explore of the vicinity.

He set off down, what he thought was a river. He noticed bits of volcanic rock floating in the water and, misunderstanding where they were from, decided he’d call it Pumicestone River. He spent a fortnight in the area, exploring, fighting the natives, climbing the Glass House Mountains…doing the general sort of things you’d expect of an English explorer of the time.

Eventually, someone realised it wasn’t a river and it was renamed the Pumicestone Passsage. It sits between Bribie Island and the mainland, just a spit south of Caloundra. It’s also quite shallow, averaging just two metres throughout its length of 35 kilometres.

Today I found out all about it, courtesy of a Caloundra Cruises Eco Tour. I almost didn’t go.

I’d booked onto it before I went to NSW and had arranged to be picked up from Tripcony Quay (the boat leaves from Pelican Waters but, because I was on foot, Rose quite generously offered to pick me up). I was sat there, happily watching people pull in their boats when Rose pulled up. I’d been sitting there nearly an hour and was wondering how much longer to wait before realising they’d forgotten about me.

They’d not forgotten about me, as it turned out. Rose was working by the clock in her car and the clock in her car was working to some strange unrelated time of its own. She was a bit concerned that Captain Charlie (a stickler for punctuality) would leave without me but, as it turned out, he was happy to wait.

In an odd coincidence, Rose spent a couple of years in England a while ago and lived in Midhurst which is where Dawn was born and brought up and not that far from us. We chatted about it all the way to the boat.

Our cruise ship

So, finally, we set out along the Pumicestone Passage. Ahead of us was the smokey reminder of the fires on Bribie Island. They looked progressively worse and then better then back to worse as we chugged up and then down.

Smoke rises above Bribie Island

But no-one on board wanted to dwell on the fires. We were there to see some nature and hear some history. And we had both in spades. I had a lovely seat inside with a big open window all to myself. Perfect for photographs of trees, birds and noisy fun seekers.

I always thought a jetski was a Russian plane

Sadly, there wasn’t an awful lot of birdlife but there was an awful lot of mangrove swamp to be told about. In fact, most of Bribie Island is mangrove swamp…well, the bit we went along was. We were told all about the various species of mangrove. We also learned about the history of Bribie Island.

According to Chris, it’s named after a master weaver who arrived in Queensland as a convict. However, I have since discovered that the story may be apocryphal. I shall repeat it here but whether you believe it or not is on your own head!

So, Bribie was a brilliant weaver. He made lots of useful baskets during his time as a prisoner in Moreton Bay and, eventually, was allowed a lot of freedom. This meant he could easily make himself scarce…which he did. He found himself on the island that was not called Bribie yet and mixed in with a bunch of local aborigines (the Gubbi Gubbi). Eventually he fell in love with a young aboriginal woman and they decided to shack up together.

Oddly, after the rest of her tribe found out about the couple’s plans, they cut off the tip of one of her little fingers. This was a symbol of betrothal in this particular tribe. Apparently, this was common practice in many tribes. It served to warn other suitors off. Without getting too far off the point, in other cultures, finger amputation was carried out in order to protect the owner from infection or to honour dead children and/or parents. Seriously, weird.

Anyway, Bribie and his woman lived well and happy on the island and eventually he even gained his freedom. So all ended happily and someone thought it a good idea to name then island after him. There is another theory that the island was originally called Boorabee, an aboriginal word for koala, and this ended up as Bribie.

The whole place sounded a bit harsh and unpleasant so why anyone would want to live there is beyond me. Still, Moreton Bay penal colony was supposed to be the worst in Australia so Bribie Island may have been a regular Eden.

But enough history! I do sometimes ramble on…or so my wife tells me. Let’s discuss the wildlife.

We saw a few white-bellied sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), including one especially magnificent male perched in a tree while we had morning tea.

This is my tree. Go away, stupid humans!

I watched this juvenile carry a fish up into a tree but wasn’t quick enough to get him with it on the wing.

You lookin’ at me?

On the return trip, I moved upstairs. This was to enjoy the view and the strong wind which would occasionally relieve the heat. This allowed me to take lots of shots of little birds like terns as they sat atop the signs that dot the passage. This one was quite happy to sit and pose for me.

I have no idea what type of tern this is

There was also two big flocks of black swans but they were far too far away to get a decent photograph. Apparently they go mad for the sea grass that grows plentifully in the passage.

All in all, it was a lovely cruise and I’d recommend it to anyone who happens to be in Caloundra on a Thursday. This is their website. Don’t bother saying Gary sent you, because they’ll have no idea who I am.

PS: This is the second cruise I’ve been on this trip and the second time the cruise has been held up waiting for me. I feel like a bit of a cruise Jonah.

This entry was posted in Australia 2012, Gary's Posts and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Inside out, outside in

  1. flip100 mum says:

    Very interesting some I knew and some I didn’t.
    love mum

  2. How funny that you never missed the cruise and that it waited for you to arrive! The pictures were lovely! Hope they get the fires under control soon!! 🙁 love Aunty Jan Jan

  3. Mirinda says:

    The captain was obviously not really much of a stickler for punctuality – thank goodness. How long did he wait?
    I don’t like the fingertip story. That’d put you off marriage.
    But I love the eagles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.