Frederick Henry Bay: Goat Bluff to Cape Contrariety – Calverts Beach

CALVERTS BEACH (T411)

The moon had given us a low tide and with a slender window between cold fronts Cathy and I whipped on our walking gear to continue our saunter along the coastline.

We paused on Goats Bluff to look across the long expanse of Hope Beach before making our way down the narrow path through native bush to the beach. The last time I’d come here it had been 25 degrees and people, heavily tattooed, were lounging under umbrellas beside the sedimentary cliffs.  Today was crisp but sunny. Ever since the geo and I had driven off the ferry after a couple of weeks spent in shorts and t shirts on the mainland, Tassie had been lashed by a bout of wild, wintery weather, so this was a brilliant reprieve.

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This feature in the cliffs below Goat Bluff may be linked to its history (see previous blog post)

Calverts had been our ‘go to beach’ when we first came to Tasmania.  Every time I walk it I remember a tiny kelpie x border collie puppy from the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia. Along with two of his siblings he’d been bundled into a box and on to a plane in Perth. Several hours later I plucked him out of that box at Kununurra Airport in the Kimberly region of WA and for the next two years he enjoyed field camp living with us. The creek, the waterholes, the fishing expeditions and the parties in the annex, the walks down to the chopper to meet the guys returning from another blisteringly hot day doing mag anomalies. Two years in a caravan in boab country, living small. Two years in a tiny field camp in all that wild, vast inaccessible space. We were lucky though, because sometimes, in the chopper, we got to explore caves rich with rock art and canyons with verdant microenvironments that felt way off the map, far from roads or even a track, that you wouldn’t know were there unless you could spot them from the air.

This puppy, born of working stock, climbed trees (sort of). His acrobatics intrigued children. His speed was astonishing and Calverts was a beach he raced along, trying unsuccessfully to round up seagulls. He drove around Australia, squeezed on top of a mattress that was wedged on top of a motorbike, that weighed down the already sagging boot of our Holden station wagon.

Cathy and I walking along discussing economic conundrums, saw a spout of water off Betsey Island, just as two birds lifted into the air close by.  Further down the beach a lone man stood on the sand dunes assessing the swell on this rip-prone beach. Behind him, the dunes sloped down to Calverts Lagoon, a change in the vegetation and a quieter sort of environment.

We reached the opposite headland. This is where the geo and I have always turned back, but had occasionally noticed people making their way down it and had puzzled over where they were coming from. Cathy was the person who let me in on that secret, but before we set off up that path we explored the rock platform that slants upwards around its base because another beachwalking friend had told me that if you climbed to the end of it and peered around the corner you could see a little cobbled beach. But what we saw when we reached the end was the narrow shape of a gulch that at low tide probably did leave cobbles and rocks exposed. While I stood there musing, Cathy bounded up the daunting cliff face and when I looked up I could see her standing on the headland enjoying the view.

I followed slowly up that steep side. There was only marram grass to grab hold and it looked rather puny. Besides, it’s hostile and I wasn’t wearing gloves. I surveyed the big drop beneath me and the hard faced rocks. Those I was clambering up were damp and my shoes lacked grip. One up to Cathy, I decided, and slithered slowly down to a more welcoming ledge before seeking out the little path further back along the headland.

From the top we could see Calverts Lagoon, fingers of land and stretches of sea. The best was yet to come, because on the other side of the bluff lies a hidden beach, outstandingly beautiful. I’d been here once before, pretty much as soon as Cathy had told me about it. It had been a hot day and our party had disturbed a lover’s tryst. ‘Beware the snake,’ the man had yelled at us, jumping up to shoo us away. We had clearly destroyed their moment because it wasn’t too long before they were trailing us back along Calverts.

 

Smugglers Cove and Calverts Beach agn-1
Smugglers Cove and Calverts Beach

 

Smugglers Cove (Beach T 410)

We descended through soft sand, stepping over dead birds and a dead sheep to reach Smugglers Cove. It’s seriously lovely and is cupped by the steep headlands of Cape Contrariety. It’s also seriously private and intimate even though it’s spacious enough to accommodate several parties of beach goers. Two eagles wheeled above us and a pied oyster catcher stood on the rocks regarding us.

After a while we followed a fence line up the bluff on the other side, keen to reach the other end of the Cape. I’d tried hunting down the owner of the private land without any luck, so we didn’t like our chances. There were mutton bird burrows. There were sheep, happily alive. We followed their tracks until we reached a fence that crossed our path.

This was as far as we figured we could go. From there we could see the spot we’d reached on an earlier expedition, when we’d attempted to cross the Cape from the Clifton side (see next blog post), so that long slope separating us from that point near the top was frustrating. We knew there was a nature reserve along the tip of the cape and that another beach (T409) was down there too.

On the Beachsafe site its described as ‘a 150 m long high tide cobble beach located along the western end of the cove, with a sand and rock low tide terrace. Waves averaging about 1 m break across the 50 m wide bar and surge up the cobbles, with the steep slopes right behind. The 4 ha tip of the cape is a private wildlife sanctuary.’

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Walking Cape Contrierty

We’d been defeated but the walk back was uplifting. A yacht was crossing Norfolk Bay, a north easterly filling its sails. That whale breached and blew again. We saw Little Betsey Island tucked away behind Betsey Island, Black Jack Reef and the great sweep of Hope Beach beyond Goats Bluff.  We saw the Iron Pot at the entrance to the Derwent and snow on kunanyi and the Snowy Range.   And as we clambered back down the path to Calverts there were seven surfers in the swell beneath us, where originally there had been only one. You’ve got to have ichor coursing through your veins to take  on Tasmania’s winter ocean. I lack even a single drop and just the sight of them had me zipping up my down jacket.

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Calverts and Hope, with snow in the background

 

This walk: 1 September 2017. If you’ve walked this cape or know the contact details of the farmer, please let me know so we can try again.

 

 

 

 

South Arm Peninsula: Goat Bluff, a fundamental question and a couple of secrets

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Goats Bluff and Betsey Island from Calverts Beach

… what is beauty? This is one of the most fundamental questions, it is not superficial, so don’t brush it aside. To understand what beauty is, to have that sense of goodness which comes when the mind and heart are in communion with something lovely without any hindrance so that one feels completely at ease – surely, this has great significance in life; and until we know this response to beauty our lives will be very shallow. One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead.

~ J. Krishnamurti

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A Google Earth image of  Goats Bluff to the north of Betsey Island. Calverts Lagoon behind Calverts Beach (right) was largely dry when this image was taken.

On Being a Goat

It may seem strange that I’ve included Krishnamurti’s quote at this point in my blog, because the bluff is unassuming, easy to hurtle by without noticing, and yet it has a certain sense of poise gifted by its location in the landscape between two capes so that, had Krishnamurti, a great nature writer, found his way here, I’m sure he would have taken his seat and looked out at ‘all the marvellous earth’, the hills and the valleys interleaving themselves, and perhaps, while contemplating this magnificent coastline he might also have reflected on human nature – how we are so often goats, with at times, a certain poise, when we make the effort.

Those who appreciate beauty come here at night to star gaze and to wonder at the auroras.  In daylight hours, as the sky’s moods play out over the landscape, colours shift transferring the mood of the sky.  At this  junction of ocean, land and lagoons the biota is rich, the birds are various, the native coastal vegetation still reasonably intact. Surfers carve the breakers; below the cliff to the east is a break called Rebounds. Goats and Wedge are breaks to the west.  And from these 30 m high sandstone cliffs you can walk west along Hope Beach (aka Roaring Beach) to Cape Direction or you can go east down Goat Bluff’s flank to Calverts Beach for the walk to Cape Contrairety, or angle slightly inland to circumambulate Calverts Lagoon, binoculars around your neck, field guides in your rucksack.

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The bluff’s ramparts with Betsey in the distance

The bluff also provides access to the north. Just cross the road and go west along the isthmus – but think seriously about this – the birds love this thin strip of beach beside the bitumen so it’s unkind to intrude.  Perhaps rather choose the meandering track (far more rewarding) along its eastern shore.

Or simply play it like Krishnamurti and  make your mind like the sky by lingering on the bluff with its sense of poise drawn mostly from the fact that it is the divide between the Arm End beaches and the sweep of coastline to the east.

In other words, don’t think for one moment that Goat (also known as Goats) is an isolated bluff simply there as a carpark, or a dislocated remnant scrap of reserved native vegetation. The road behind assumes more importance than is warranted. Instead, imagine that you are Nuenonne, that slash of bitumen not there yet and see instead Colin Springs Hill descending gracefully down to the bluff’s sandstone rampart, uninterrupted.  Before you there’s a valley, drowned by the ocean that extends down from that rampart and out to Betsey Island, with a dune trapped lake to your right behind Hope Beach, the drowned valley that is Ralphs Bay behind you to the north, a pooling of water in Calverts Lagoon and Pipe Clay Lagoon at Cremorne behind you to your left.

Goats Bluff.  A small band of Nuenonne.  Shearwaters wheeling on the night sky, and then the aurora.

Goat’s Secret, Hope’s Secret and Betsey’s Secret

Goat Bluff has two secrets.  

The first is a beach (T412 (Short, 2006)).

Short describes it as ‘a 60 m long pocket of rocks and sand set in a gap in the centre of the bluffs and immediately below the lookout. The beach consists of high tide cobbles and boulders against the base of the cliffs, then a sandy 100 m wide bar with rock outcrops that fill the gap. Waves are lowered to 1 m at the bluff owing to sheltering by the island and rocks and break across the bar with a weak rip usually flowing out against the western rocks.’

He says there is no safe access to this beach. To try would be dangerous.  So please don’t.

I was surprised to discover another secret on the On the Convict Trail blog: ‘Nearby [to Piersons Point] Goat Bluff was also the location of further underground tunnel systems [associated with the Derwent’s system of battery defence].  But Goat Bluff isn’t near Piersons Point, which is on the western side of the Derwent’s mouth (although distance is relative, I guess) and so I was sceptical until I saw this fact repeated on the South Arm History site.  The Fort Direction page by Maurice Potter states ‘at Goat Bluff there are still the remains of underground trenches that were built at that time’ [WWII] and I also discovered on this page that ‘as many will remember, most of the beaches and the hillsides of South Arm were covered with barbwire entanglement and this remained so for some years after the end of war.’ (Potter, n.d.)

Betsey’s Secret

Sitting on the bluff contemplating the landscape you might naturally suppose that Betsey Island is made off the same stuff as the bluff, but you would be wrong.  Black Jack Reef and Goat Bluff are sandstone / siltstone but Betsey declares its difference by being Jurassic dolerite (Leaman, 1999).  It shares another secret with Hope.

Hope has even more compelling secrets

And as Goat Bluff overlooks Hope here they are.

The first is the precise whereabouts of the wrecked ship, the Hope, that gives the beach its name (Leaman, 1999).

The next secret really belongs to the general vicinity near Hope because between Betsey and the Derwent Light mysterious compass deviations first noted by Mathew Flinders are now assumed to be caused by volcanic necks on the sea floor – and according to Leaman (1999) may possibly have caused the Hope to wreck in the first place.

But here’s the best secret.  Eons ago the complicated Derwent entered Storm Bay through the South Arm isthmus, which now blocks it.  The best part of this secret is that it seems to have done so through ‘a gorge [now] filled with more than 200 metres of clay, sandy clay, sand and gravel [that] lies hidden from our view…’ (Leaman, 1999).

Hope Beach from Goat's Bluff.jpg

 

A mountain.  A river. A bluff.  They may seem so enduring, but I think all nouns are simply verbs in disguise and everything a process.

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Sources:

Leaman, David. 1999. Walk into history in Southern Tasmania. Lehman Geophysics, Hobart

Short, A.D. 2006. Beaches of the Tasmanian coast and islands. Sydney University Press, Sydney.