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Published: March 15th 2018
This morning it was time to say goodbye to Kangaroo Island and take the ferry back across the Backstairs Passage to the mainland. We arrived in Penneshaw a little early so there was time to photograph a cheeky superb fairy-wren in the park before driving to the ferry terminal to queue up.
We departed Penneshaw about seven minutes late at 10.37am, but the crossing itself was otherwise smooth and uneventful and saw us disembarking at about 11.20am. With a confirmed booking for the 1.00pm ‘Spirit of the Coorong Cruise’ out of Goolwa we had no time to spare in driving between Cape Jervis and Goolwa. Fortunately there were no holdups along the way and we arrived 20 minutes before the cruise was due to depart. At least we arrived at the wharf before the boat did!
We boarded the boat and had our choice of seats with the cruise being far from fully booked. Lunchboxes were handed out and we started our lunches as the cruise commenced. Initially we sailed upriver and under the Hindmarsh Island Bridge with the captain pointing out various old ships - some still afloat, some not - along the riverside. With the Goolwa Channel
Barrage lock-keeper at lunch until 1.30pm we were basically killing time! There’s no point arriving at the lock if there is no one there to let you through.
Pretty much right on 1.30pm we approached the barrage and entered the lock where there were fur seals relaxing on the structure and pelicans and cormorants surfing the river outlet to catch fish. After negotiating the lock we sailed along the south coast of Hindmarsh Island making our way to the mouth of the Murray River. We learnt that the Murray-Darling catchment area covers 1/7th of the total area of Australia, but only 15-20% of the water that falls in the catchment area finds its way out of the Murray Mouth.
At the river mouth there are dredges keeping the mouth open so that salt water can flow in and out of the Coorong. Use of river water for irrigation and water supply and the system of barrages to separate the freshwater lakes of Alexandrina and Albert from the saline Coorong results in a significantly reduced flow to the sea which leads to the mouth silting up. The dredging to keep the mouth open is yet another human intervention that
is needed to compensate for all the other human interventions along the river’s length.
A couple of kilometres outside the river mouth is where Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin met in 1802 and exchanged information. After their encounter Matthew Flinders decided to name the bay Encounter Bay. Because they anchored a couple of miles beyond the surf break they did not see the river mouth.
From the Murray Mouth we sailed to Barker’s Knoll where we disembarked for a walk across the sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsula to the Southern Ocean. Our guide, Dave, is a member of the Ngarrindjeri People and he was able to tell us about how the original inhabitants of the Coorong lived in an environment that was rich with animals, plants and fresh water. In fact, food and water was so plentiful in the area that the Ngarrindjeri were less nomadic than Aboriginals further inland.
Back on board we sailed past Godfrey’s Landing; a collection of old fishing shacks. The current holders of these shacks will be the last because the land will revert to National Park when the current occupants die. They are not able to sell the shacks or
even pass the shacks on to family members.
Between Godfrey’s Landing and the Ewe Island Barrage we saw many of the birds that are found in the Coorong - pelicans, black swans with cygnets, migratory birds all the way from Siberia summering in Australia and Cape Barren geese to name but a few. From Ewe Island Barrage we could see the last and longest barrage, Tauwitchere Barrage before we turned around to cruise back to Goolwa.
Goolwa is a lovely historic town and we would have explored it more if we had been able to book a room in town for one night only. With most Goolwa accommodation requiring a minimum two night stay we drove over the bridge onto Hindmarsh Island - just to say we had been there! - before continuing onto Strathalbyn for the night.
Steps: 12,487 (8.95kms)
Tot: 0.085s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 12; qc: 23; dbt: 0.013s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 6;
; mem: 1.2mb