Sunday, June 28, 2009


There is a chain of eleven islands strung out along the spine of the harbour.
For the most part, these islands sit idly dormant in Sydney's collective consciousness and in various states of post-industrial dereliction.
A couple of the islands have been "towed" back to the mainland by land bridges. And one or two of the islands retain indigenous Sydney bushland on their sloping faces.

The harbour as calm as it ever gets.
Above and below the surface at Five Dock where this morning's journey commenced ...

Striking out towards the eastern horizon.

Rodd Island.
(Local indigenous name unknown to me)

Snapper Island.
Spectacle Island

Cockatoo Island
Crossing to the north side of the harbour at Birchgrove.
Berry Island
(Local indigenous name unknown)
An old local on its last legs.
Goat Island

The great arch.

Paddling through a forest of turpentine tree trunks that form the supporting structure for wharves at Walsh Bay.

Drifting beneath the suspended deck of the Harbour Bridge.

Pinchgut Island
Garden Island

Clark Island
This island was carefully restored with indigenous species in the 1970's by the Sydney landscape architect Bruce MacKenzie.
"Bruce Mackenzie pioneered the use and conservation of indigenous Australian planting that made use of natural structural materials and native plants, combining a romantic attachment to landscape aesthetics with a pragmatic approach to conservation. He is considered one of the foremost practitioners of the 1970s and 1980s in the promotion of landscape design that respected and harmonized with natural environments. Significantly his first article extolling the use of native plants was published in 'Architecture in Australia' in November, 1966. "
(Heritage Branch NSW)

Shark Island

Pausing briefly at Shark Island.
The eastern end of the archipelago ...

Bottle & Glass Island
A bird's eye view of this morning's paddle.
Starting in the west ...

... and finishing 20 kms later in the east.

There is much to explore at each of these islands - from large-scale industrial wharves, abandoned buildings and rusting machinery to the gems of native bush rock and twisted angophoras. The trip along this "archipelago" deserves much more time than we could afford today. A good reason to do it all again.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leave no footprints ...

Previously we've made brief references to the people who have been paddling their craft across Sydney Harbour for many millenia.
Here's a little more information ...

View in Port Jackson, 1789 by T. Prattent
"This saltwater scene in Port Jackson shows Aboriginal men, women and children in bark canoes. Women fished with handlines and 'crescent-shaped lures' that were ground and chipped from shells. Fires burning in the canoes were used to cook fresh fish and mussels, which they spat into the water to attract fish."

(State Library of New South Wales Catalogue)

Other than burning the landscape from time to time to flush out animals, these original harbour-dwellers left few marks on their physical environment.

A few traces of their existence are found in a handful of evocative rock engravings that were incised into sandstone shelves around the harbour's edge.

The images below are hand-sketches (drawn in the year 1845 by two Europeans) of rock carvings observed at South head, Middle Head, and at Point Piper depicting whales, sharks, fish, kangaroos, wallabies, hand tools, shields and people.

The profiles of sharks and large fish at Middle Head.

Rock wallabies and a fish at South Head.

Hand tools, fish, wallaby and shield at South Head.
Large fish, a sea bird and hand tools at Point Piper.

Shield and fish at Point Piper.

Dancing figures at Point Piper.

Kangaroo and more hand tools at Point Piper.
Shamefully, the carvings at Point Piper are now all destroyed.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A foray in pursuit of whales.

The annual winter migration of southern hemisphere whales from Antractica to warmer seas is well underway. A stream of them is passing by Sydney's coastline now.

Optmistic of seeing this annual procession we paddled out through the Heads and into a brilliant dawn.

At South Reef a Mackeral leapt into Tony's lap.

Peter paddling out through the Heads with a dramatic ledge of cloud consuming the background.

Derek and the Sphinxes.
Jules scanning the eastern horizon for whales.

Within minutes we had seen a dozen blasts of exhaled spray and the striking profiles of humpback dorsal fins cresting the surface about 600-800m away from us. We paddled on.

Out to sea, pairs of Albatross were elegantly sweeping the sea's surface for prey.

Rafting up for hot chocolate.

A sea shower.

Encouraged by Tony's sighting of a whale doing a spectacular full vertical breach (no accompanying photo) about 1000m to the north of our position we continued on to a point about 3.5kms east of North Head. However after a short while of scanning all horizons it was apparent that there were no more whales making their way up this section of the coast anytime soon.

We pointed our kayaks towards the coastline and made our way back to the harbour...