Tasmanian Beaches: Reflections 1

MONDAY 11 MAY 2015


One the shores of the Derwent

A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. 
Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

As soon as we got home from  the Arm End walk I grabbed a coffee and began to research the Tasmanian coastline.  Someone must have written up their beach walks around Tasmania!  My sleuthing uncovered someone Walking the Derwent River, a group walking the beaches in Clarence, and Andrew Short, who has recorded all of Tasmania’s beaches as well as the entire coastline of Australia.  As soon as I saw the title of his report I realised I’d seen it before – and so I rang the geologist and suggested he visit the library.  (There is nothing like a library – the next day I had it!)

The State Library of Tasmania holds tantalising titles too, and I’m conscious at the same time that although I had to dive deep into the internet to uncover sunken treasure it’s many fathoms deep and oceans vast, and there could well be further riches down there in someone’s lost, forgotten blog.

I flipped through Short’s illuminating report.  Mary Ann wasn’t one long beach.  She did have a companion, the one apparently nameless that I’m going to personally call (serious nomenclature being one for the state) Gellibrand Vault Beach.  Down at The Spit there were two other beaches I’d either not noticed sufficiently or had failed to record.  I’m pretty sure locals must call them North and South Spit beaches.

He’d also numbered the beaches along the Derwent Estuary. I’m often on them.  How could I not include these old favourites?  I looked at my chart of the Derwent, I consulted maps.   I thought about the mountain and how it conjures up weather and serves up magic or sorcery for yachties, how when you’re out there sailing, you have to keep your eye on it so you know what might be brewing.  The river is inextricably bound to the mountain, not just through the wind but because rivulets carrying altitudinal memories and stories flow down into it, bringing their own unique chemistries to the Derwent.

The mountain’s personal space extends some way out to sea – you feel its moods, it’s muscle flexing.  How could I not take all that into account?  I looked again at Andrew Short’s incredible number, 1,067, and quickly remembered that in all things, small is beautiful. Perhaps 100 beaches was a more suitable goal.  Perhaps I should focus on a particular locale.  I decided to make my mistakes close to home and start with the beaches of the Derwent and the South Arm Peninsula, possibly even the D’entrecasteau Channel, but I didn’t dare count them.

I had walked several beaches before I realised the beginning was merely symbolic.  Exploring the beaches, laying down memories about them, began on my first visit to Tasmania many years ago.

Still, I felt that before I began on the beaches not that far from my front door, I needed to know more about that beautiful thing, the river, its currents and waves, which along with the wind shapes the shoreline, and the small but powerful rivulets that merge and become one with it.

This project was proving to be as shapeshifting as the beaches themselves.

Detail, Grange Beach section

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