Friday, March 20, 2009

Things You Need on an Island #1

Things you need on an island:

You need to be alone.

People who worked on lighthouse service vessels were unanimous in their version of lighthouse folk. The service boat arrived with bottles of gas, bags of potatoes and powdered milk, mail, sugar ... and deposited them onto the landing jetty. The crew said, that as they left the island and powered towards the mainland, they'd look back to see the light house keepers coming down to collect their stores.

I noticed an island mentality of my own creeping in during my time at Breaksea. When I saw boats coming close to the island, I hid wherever I could, on the bald face of an island that has vegetation at hip height.
This could have been because I was based on the jetty and not right up in the heart of civilisation which is sixty metres above sea level and stone clad, protected by that solid mainstay of the seven seas, the light house.

My motivation in being so furtive was also that I asked D.E.C for permission to stay there, but was never actually granted it. Breaksea Island is not crown land but a rabbit-infested, asbestos-riddled Nature Reserve - which means you need D.E.C's blessing to stay there overnight. Apparently, all islands on the south coast of W.A. are registered as Nature Reserves.

(Get up to the partially restored out buildings and you understand why you are requested to send letters asking permission and why you feel in your water that these humble requests are lying on the C.A.L.M - sorry D.E.C - smoko table, where everyone reads them for a laugh. It's a C.A.L.M - sorry D.E.C - fiefdom up on the island. A private holiday island. Bottles of wine, private kitchens, four wheeler motorbikes ... they don't want anyone up there. Why would they?)

On the same token, I would have been very, very annoyed if anyone else had decided to camp on the island while I was there!

Another reason to hide probably has a more reptilian motivation. The boats that I watched - invariably two innocent mates aimlessly following a fish-finder around the waters between Breaksea and Michaelmas - are the penultimate nasty-bastard-other.

You can't see the whites of their eyes or gauge their intentions until they are on the beach, their cutlasses making that ssschhhting sound. On an island, something happens to your spacial sense of personal safety. It is hidey-hole, tree house cubby and dark alleyway all at once.
The Social Contract ie. 'I won't rape and mutilate you - if you don't rob me in York Street at midday', is a concept totally out of mobile range on a deserted island.

Researching rapacious sealer alpha males and being a lone girl toa does not hinder this kind of paranoia. It only makes the whole experience a little bit more interesting.


  1. I remember being a feral kid, running around barefoot, sunburnt and encrusted with salt, exploring and playing while the adults got plastered on red wine in the tin humpies on Garden Island. It was great, they didn't care what we did as long as we didn't bug them. When they were slightly less drunk they took us sailing to Carnac Island to watch and smell the seals.
    When the navy commandeered the island for its operations I did suspect that they also enjoyed uninterrupted usage of it for their own recreation. This ended years of a holiday institution for many families. Bastards! I hadn't even considered that was happening on Breaksea. My fantasy image of it is destroyed forever.

  2. I want to marry a lighthouse keeper
    And keep her company.
    I want to marry a lighthouse keeper
    And live by the side of the sea.
    I'd light her lamp
    By the light of day,
    So ships at night can find their way.
    I want to marry a lighthouse keeper
    And keep her company.

    Erica Eigen - Clockwork Orange Soundtrack

  3. Thats a funny song to be part of clockwork orange's soundtrack!
    From Clank

  4. I smell the same fears as Alex Garland demonstrated in the beach..