Whale Song in Jervis Bay, ACT (Written on February 14, 2013)
Over the last week Whale Song has been fortunate to be operating in the beautiful waters of Jervis Bay supporting a variety of Defence activities in this immediate region.
White gleaming, curving beaches fringed by pristine native vegetation under bright blue and gorgeously clouded skies, make for very pleasant scenery. Tranquillity and beauty abounds, despite the military hardware of planes roaring by, helicopters thumping overhead and all manner of huge and small vessels travelling within the bay! The Royal Australian Naval College, HMAS Creswell, is best described as quiet and picturesque. Lining the water-front area are white-painted wooden boat sheds from the turn of the century, an inviting swimming “lagoon” beckons and beneath the over-hanging trees interesting rock formations and a small ravine below a tiny bridge winds its’ way through the white sand to the edge of the bay. Heritage-listed, light-toned weatherboard homes, accommodation and functional buildings with red-tiled roofs and small cottage windows are scattered throughout the lightly, rolling property with small stands of eucalypts, beneath which hundreds of grey kangaroos graze and laze. Surely, these roos have arrived in “kangaroo-heaven”, life looks terribly good for them as we drive slowly through the facility seeing them everywhere!
Between activities, the crew had a chance to walk the enticingly, white beach towards the sleepy beachside village of Hyams Beach, apparently in search of bananas! Sadly, the shop had shut half an hour before Inday, Resty, Sam and Skipper arrived. I made it half-way, perhaps, not even that far down the beach, stopping every few feet to get some different photographic angle of beach grains, seaweed, wavelets/foam, clouds and the like! Upon our return, Daffy informed us that Hyams Beach is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the whitest beach in the world. Due to the overcast nature of that day, we didn’t feel we were receiving the full impact of this record, but over the next few days in full sunlight, we appreciate the lovely whiteness and especially enjoy the blue, blue sky.
The imposing, steel-grey sandstone cliffs of Point Perpendicular, the cliff-top and lighthouse of the northern entrance into Jervis Bay, (pronounced “Jarvis” by the locals), provides a gorgeous backdrop for all our photographic opportunities inside and outside the bay. The headland is 93 metres in elevation and the lighthouse tower 21.4 metres high. The 120 V light of 1, 200, 000 cd has a visual range of 26 nm (42 km). The Point Perpendicular Lighthouse was built in 1899 and was the first lighthouse in NSW to be built of concrete blocks. This lighthouse was built to replace another commissioned in 1860, nine nautical miles to the south, called Cape St. George Lighthouse which caused major navigation issues including many ship-wrecks. As such, this ill conceived lighthouse has long been a ruin of blocks and stones. In 1993, Point Perp, as it is affectionately known, was automated and de-manned. Upon viewing one can see a white frame-work structure carrying solar panels and a light situated just behind the traditional lighthouse and this is now the active light on this headland. The traditional lighthouse is a beautiful building and still evokes all the emotion associated with these life-saving structures.
During our stay in Jervis Bay we have had a couple of trips ashore including Daffy taking the crew to visit the Cape St. George Lighthouse, a historical scene of major trauma and incident. Several mistakes were made along the way when the lighthouse was built in 1860, including non consultation with the Pilots Board (probably the least mistake), to the incorrect positioning by the contractor. He built the lighthouse 2.5 nm (4km) to the north of its’ intended position, simply as it was closer to the quarry where he was gathering the rocks for construction. Local shipping became very confused with the two lighthouses within 9 nm of each other. On many occasions the light at Cape St. George could not be seen while transiting from the north or south, causing disaster, or if it was seen, the seafarers thought they were transiting on the Point Perpendicular Light and would turn to its’ south thinking they were entering Jervis Bay, only to be grounded on the rocks of Wreck Bay, to the south of Cape St. George. In the years from 1864 to1893, 23 ships ran aground in the Jervis Bay region.
After reading all the signage at this Historic Site, it was interesting to read all the bad occurrences, not only to shipping and sailors, but to the three families of the lighthouse at this Cape St. George. The historic account reads like not unlike a script for “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snickett. The lighthouse keepers’ families’ children befell many a tragedy by way of disease, accidental shooting, falling from the cliffs and one keeper was eaten by sharks before his families eyes… This light was decommissioned in 1889 and later the Royal Australian Navy unceremoniously demolished the building while conducting target practice from 1917-1922. To this day, the ruins of Cape St’ George Lighthouse are an Historic Site on the National Heritage List.
On Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 we were asked to conduct a “Ranging”, which means Whale Song was directed across a linear group of bottom mounted hydrophones, so that a variety of different running configurations could be very carefully tested to establish just how quiet or noisy she is. The final report is still pending but initial indications show that Whale Song was indeed very quiet.
On this day we celebrated Indays’ birthday with pancakes for breakfast, an alongside lunch then a late-ish dinner of Filipino fried rice, pork red curry and beef chilli and “Death by Chocolate Cake”!! Thanks Inday for such a nice excuse to celebrate a special day!
As we came alongside to re-fuel before heading back to Freo on Thursday, Feb 14, (Valentines’ Day, Curt and I celebrating 25 years together!) Inday was met by a friend and driven to Sydney, meanwhile, Daffy and I delivered Rodney and Chris from L-3 Oceania to Nowra to collect a rental car for the trip to Sydney airport for flights back to Perth. Thanks Rodney and Chris for being such delightful, careful and easy members of the team. Then Daffy and I sussed out the stores of Vincentia for the main resupply of groceries the next day before departure the day after.
That evening a very funny incident occurred while the crew was watching Les Miserables. I had watched most but needed to head to bed so returned in search of Skipper, Perched on the stairs and leaning over the bannister with my arms outstretched I burst into song, “But where is Skipper?” Just as though perfectly scripted, Rodney replied, also in song his arms beckoning to Skipper neatly curled on the cushions – “Why he’s over there!” Sam nearly asleep doubled over in laughter at our impromptu Whale Song musicale! Well done Rodney, I would have looked very silly otherwise!
Early Friday morning on Feb 15, 2013) I finished making all the beds for the new arrivals (Maria, Sacha, Peta and Carrie) and then Daffy drove us to Vincentia for the grocery supplies. Two trolleys, becomes three once scanned and re-packed with able assistance from Daffy, Dale and Sam and then Curt and Resty joined the carrying team like ants down the jetty… everyone loaded and staggering with bags full of bread, celery, corn chips, marmalade, beef schnitzel and bananas! All good, thanks for all the help – the pantry is re-stocked, the freezer and cool-room are loaded and we will be ready to make for Freo on the morrow!
We patiently awaited the “noise-team” (the Science crew!) who arrived at 530pm from Perth and Melbourne, joining us for the journey back to Fremantle looking and listening all the way! It shall be a great trip and we expect all manner of surprises and excitement!