Moving south on the Atherton Tablelands brings you in easy reach of the crater lakes and some fine rainforest remnants. Lake Eacham and its surrounding forest survived because of its scenic splendour when surrounding land was carved up for agriculture and is now preserved as national park in the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics. It makes a good base for exploring the region.
The lake originated when molten magma came into contact with ground water suddenly producing so much steam that an explosion ensued. In other words it’s a maar. Lake Barrine is another example. The Atherton Volcanic Province covers an area of 1800 square kilometers with 52 eruptive centres. It’s been quiet for the last 10,000 years which may mean it’s extinct … or perhaps not.
The avid bird watcher will want to visit both these lakes as well as other rainforest remnants, Hasties Swamp and Hypipamee National Park. One evening the sunset should be enjoyed at Bromfield Crater where hundreds of Brolga and Sarus Cranes fly in to spend the night. Spectacular but dress warmly!
The Atherton region is the richest birding hot spot in Australia. From mangroves and mudflats at the coast via lowland rainforest, wetlands, agricultural country to cool tropical forest at the top of Mount Lewis there is diversity every step of the way. Any budding birder would do well to make it their next holiday destination.
We stayed at Wetherby Station for a few days. It’s an old favorite of mine because it is handy for Mount Lewis and beautiful in its own right. It is a working cattle property which offers some accommodation options. It seemed to be just waking up from a covid induced slumber, hopefully it will be in full swing again soon. Without going out the gate you have three lagoons, some gardens, woodland and pasture. Just down the road along Rifle Creek there is some rainforest where you can find Pale Yellow Robin and Lovely Fairywren.
Some time in the garden was well rewarded. You’ve gotta love callistemon …
Along the entrance road I found something larger …
The starting point for the westerly leg of this year’s big trip, a journey that will follow the paths of great explorers and cross the paths of other great explorers. But before we leave let me revisit Cook’s contribution to the map of Australia.
Take a Captain Cook at this map …
It was published around 1672 by Melchisédech Thévenot in his famous Relations de divers Voyages. It’s based on the work of the Dutch explorers including the then recent discovery of Van Dieman’s Land and Nova Zeelandia by Abel Tasman. Note that New Holland is still attached to New Guinea despite Luís Vaz de Torres having sailed through the strait that now bears his name in 1606. New Zealand is pretty sketchy although the Banks Peninsula helps align it with modern maps.
What Cook did do was put the east coast of Terre Australe and the west coast of Nova Zeelandia in something like their proper places. He knew they had to be there, in 1770 he went and found them. What he didn’t do was discover Australia. I don’t think that diminishes his achievements in any way. He was an outstanding mariner, explorer and servant of his country. They did it tough in those days.
So now to the next leg of my little foray equipped with inner spring mattress and air conditioning.
Don’t miss the next exciting episode in which we visit the Atherton Tablelands.
Posted from Coober Pedy which looks very much like the moon will look when we get around to mining it.
We left Hervey Bay and Southeast Queensland heading north on the Bruce Highway. Sugar and bananas soon the order of the day. Bundaberg turns sugar into rum and ginger beer and it also has a very lovely botanical gardens where the Kreffts Turtles will chase after you as you walk around the pond. They show little more than their nostrils so not particularly photogenic. On the other hand these guys are way more impressive …
… not to be confused withe the accounts lady at the Water Supply company.
You cross the Tropic of Capricorn just before reaching Rockhampton. From now on a swim in the sea comes with the risk of Saltwater Crocodiles, Irukandji and Box Jellies. Kookaburras that do not laugh become more common …
The Blue-winged Kookaburra has a pale eye and a hoary head. The Laugher has a broad dark line through its dark eye and the crown of its head is pale. Both have some blue in the wings, one more than the other. The Blue-winged Kookaburra has a raucous call but never breaks into a full hearty laugh.
The Cassowary Coast is next and Etty Beach and Coquette Point near Innisfail are fairly reliable spots for finding the elusive and magnificent Cassowary …
The toilets in Maryborough are so much better than the toilets in Maryborough. On the other hand the train station in Maryborough knocks the train station in Maryborough into a cocked hat.
I have good friends at home in Maryborough, Vic who rode their bikes to Maryborough, Qld. Hats off to them, sterling work. They rode from a goldrush town of about 8,000 souls about 1,900km to a goldrush town about three times as large (and wetter and warmer).
Currently putting a smile on many a face in Maryborough, Qld is the Cistern Chapel, public toilets that have been given a bit of a lift …
The railway station though is a superannuated wooden shack from which you can catch a bus to a real station. Whereas in Victoria we have a grand edifice.
Any Victorian Marybourian will tell you that Mark Twain described the place as a train station with town attached (although any Twain scholar will tell you he said no such thing). Queensland Marybourians sometimes say that the plans simply went to the wrong address like half their mail, although I have heard that it was Mumbai that was expecting the plans to be delivered there.
The other big difference is the pronunciation. In Vic we are rather formal and say Maryborough. In Queensland they shorten it to Mary-bra (think Edinburgh).
It has a lovely park by the Mary River in which I saw a Kooka-bra.
Another world, beautiful one day perfect the next, where education is so lacking that beer is spelt XXXX and the premier can’t even pronounce her own name. But beautiful nonetheless, even in the rain. First priority in South East Queensland was the endemic Black-breasted Buttonquail. I recruited expert help in the form of Roy Sonnenberg, bird guide extraordinaire. We found many good things …
and not all were birds …
but we did not find the Buttonquail. As they feed they clear away the leaf litter leaving cleared circular areas called platelets. Roy regaled me with tales of the many occasions he had watched them at work rapidly churning out platelet after platelet. He found me excellent examples of platelets. The Buttonquails themselves were not to be found.
Was named in honour of Captain James Cook, the explorer who put the east coast of the great southern continent on the map. He was by no means the first European to visit Australia. That honour goes to one Willem Janszoon on the good ship Duyfken in 1606. More of him a little later.
The Dutch had mapped the west coast of Oz pretty thoroughly over the course of a century starting with Dirk Hartog in 1616. Abel Tasman put the southerly limit on the continent with the discovery of Van Dieman’s Land in 1642.
The first Brit to hit the shore was John Brookes who wrecked the Tryall off the WA coast in 1622. Survivors spent a week on the Monte Bello Islands. William Dampier made a far more successful visit in 1699 discovering an excellent site for a bird observatory.
Turn the clock forward to 1770. After making a thorough survey of New Zealand Cook sailed west heading for Van Diemen’s Land the next known spot in the ocean. The weather caused him to take a more northerly route and on 19th April 1770 Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, a Stepney lad, spotted the east coast of Victoria. Like a lot of Victorians since our James then headed north to Queensland. No landings were made in Victoria and only one in New South Wales, at Botany Bay (29th April).
Once in the future Queensland’s waters Cook made 13 more landings. None more important to the success of the voyage than the one at the mouth of the Endeavour River.
On June the 11thEndeavour struck a reef. It took 23 hours to get her off and she was badly holed in the process. A desperate bout of pumping followed until the inflow of water was reduced by passing a sail under the ship’s belly a process known as fothering. The ship could then be kept afloat by use of a single pump until a suitable landing site could be found. On the 17th the ship was beached at the mouth of the Endeavour River. Repairs took 7 weeks.
Relations with the locals were mainly good perhaps because Cook had unwittingly chosen to camp at a traditional meeting place where custom forbade the shedding of blood. Some aboriginal words and names were recorded for posterity. The word kangaroo was borrowed from the Guugu Yimithirr language. Subsequent scholarship has disproved the furphy that it meant “buggered if I know” and suggests that it was the name of a particular species of macropod.
One kangaroo had the misfortune to be shot. It was sketched by Sydney Parkinson then eaten by the officers and gentlemen. That sketch may have been the model for a painting by George Stubbs that was itself the source material for an engraving that appeared in John Hawkesworth’s 1773 book describing the voyage.
Cook and Banks are often credited with being the first to describe a macropod forgetting that Western Australia had been on the map for about 150 years at that time. The honour should go to Francois Pelsaert who described a wallaby from the other side of the continent in 1629.
Returning as promised to Willem Janszoon. In 1606 he sailed eastward in the Arafura Sea and bumped into land that he thought was a southerly extension of New Guinea. It was in fact the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula in the vicinity of present day Weipa. He then sailed south in the Gulf of Carpentaria charting the coast as far as Cape Keerweer. When Cook was at Cooktown he was just 437km as the crow flies from Cape Keerweer and 164 years too late to be the first European to visit Cape York.