Monday, August 7, 2023

Psychogeography of the inlet

 Psychogeography is a term that emerged in the 1950s and its practice is great for landscape writers and artists:  "the effect of a geographical location on the behaviour and emotions of individuals." Until a few years ago, I was completely unaware of the word but had been thinking about the concept for decades. Writing about people of the sea and islands will do that.

"Unfold a map of London, place a glass rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw around its edge. Pick up the map, go out into the city, and walk the circle keeping as close as you can to the curve. Record the experience as you go ... footage as footage." Robert MacFarlane, A Road of One's Own.

In an urban context, this exercise forces a re estimation of our surroundings - what is accessible and what is off limits: fences, the concept of private property, the absoluteness of a stoic brick wall, drains and public thoroughfares. Really, it's a form of re-mapping or even anti-mapping. It breaks us out of the unaware carpark and footpath thinking that we have when heading down to the shops.

The reason why this is coming up for me right now is that the inlet broke its sand bar out to the sea last night. Here is a photo from today and you can check out photos from yesterday in my previous posts.

You can see the footprints from where Selkie was wading out to catch a stick that I'd thrown for her last night, those trees then a pretty reflection on the glassed-off water. We have a beach again!

For the last month, we haven't had a beach. As the inlet filled with river water threading through a system of thousands of square kilometres, places to walk became scarce. We are in the bush here: there are few tracks or roads. The inundation began to feel oppressive. On land, ancient marri trees leaned over us, blocking out the sun and keeping us cold and the solar panels failed us. The bush became more dark and damp. I grew up in sand dune, coastal heath country. We always had an horizon, a big sky. Living in the forest takes some getting used to.

From a person unwittingly writing about the psychogeography of islands, I became a person writing about the psychogeography of inlets and how they are kinda negative images of each other. An inlet is a body of water surrounded by land after all. My feelings come back to the original definition of psychogeography: "the effect of a geographical location on the behaviour and emotions of individuals."

Now this is cool. Last night, I strapped the camera trap to a tree at water level to capture the water as it receded. There were only three night time infra red photos. It was glassed off so the waves didn't trigger the motion sensor. What triggered it was the water rat, a marsupial better known as a Rakali, or in the Noongar language a Ngurju.

Friday, August 4, 2023

She will break


The inlet is about to open after all these rains. Here are some 'before' photos that I took today. I'll post the 'after' photos once the sand bar is broken and we have a beach again.


Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Raven Report

I set up the trail camera at pretty much waterline, facing out into the inlet. She's swelling fast now and I was hoping for shots of waterbirds. When I picked out the SD card after 48 hours and plugged it into my computer, it came up with over 1600 images.

Of course. The waves. That meleluca tree swaying in the wind, constantly setting off the motion sensor. I wondered whether or not to download the whole lot. Surely a waste - of what? - time? of digital space? Anyway, I did download the lot and what I have now is a stop motion film of the inlet over 48 hours, with the water photographed every moment it moved, each surge and return, every flicker of that tree in the wind. The resolution and clarity of the photos is ... pretty good.

It's the most amazing, utterly beautiful sequence of images I've ever seen and they were taken entirely by accident. I mean, I'd set up the camera looking for critters to move into the frame and here is the whole inlet, speaking to me.


Speaking of critters, the first image of an animal I found was of this raven. Within a few hours of setting up the camera, she'd come in to have a look.

Yesterday I noticed a lot of raven activity around that spot, as I watched from my writing desk. They were flying down to the beach and then taking off with lots of calls to each other. I'd forgotten all about the camera. I was getting ready for teaching semester two at uni and thinking about writing and history. So I kinda nodded away my raven observation and went back to my computer. The hound looked interested. As it turns out, when I retrieved the SD card today, one raven had found the camera and was calling others in to investigate. This camera was an event for the ravens. How bloody cool is that?

Friday, July 21, 2023

More camera trap pics


So this is a terrible photo but here is your little ginger pig! Her ginger stripe is on the right side of the frame. It's the only image I've been able to get of her so far. Scattered all around are the remains of her foragings: the crimson shells of bloodroot bulbs and kangaroo bones from the roadside. A few months ago, in the summer, someone hit a roo on the track. In the weeks after, the carcass was dismantled piece by piece and, by the looks of this little pig's grotto, this is where it ended up.

When I first moved to the inlet in the midst of winter, I met some pig hunters on the track. Two car loads of young men with cages on the back of their utes, filled with enormous dogs - whiskery lurchers and brindle mastiffs. 'Gidday love,' the first driver said. 

This is wild and woolly country. Marshes, peat bogs, soaring karris and ancient marri trees. 'Seen any pigs around here?' My dog leaned over my shoulder and growled at the caged dogs. All hell broke loose. I hadn't seen any pigs but thought I could send two carloads of slightly pinned men and their dogs somewhere that was not near my place. 'Yeah, saw one yesterday. About 30 Ks up Chesapeake road!'

On a happier note, here are some camera trap photos of some real live kangaroos. I love the infra red ones for their glowing night eyes and larking about. The last one is taken back at the ginger pig grotto. Composition, yes?

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Dealing with a dog who rolls in a fish kill

 About two weeks ago it was raining hard. We had about 60 ml in a week. The inlet swelled with river-brown water from the massive system fed by three rivers. I was running out of firewood. This time of year always presents me with a sense of lack: crouching over a fire that will not thrive, like an animal trying to stay warm. Not enough sun to power the internet and my single lamp for more than an hour per day. As a casual worker, I'm out of a job for most of June and July, so when the income runs out, gas bottle runs out, my gas fridge stops and so does the hot water.

It sounds grim but it's a reality of living off grid in a remote location. 'I should organise myself for this time of year,' I think every year. This year I lined up a few writing jobs which are tiding me over for the moment. Anyway, with the fresh water pouring into the inlet over the last few weeks, regular visitors have noticed an anomaly.

The sudden influx created a mass fish kill event. At least I'm better off than your average herring. Brownie and Co were filletting mullet on an ironing board down on the beach. They'd set nets the previous night and not caught a single herring. 'They're all dead,' Brownie said, pointing to the dead fish lining the beach.

I walked along the beach for a few hundred metres and found 30 or 40 more dead herring. Shit. Later, other boaters told me there were dead fish on every beach on the inlet, stinking up the reed beds and the sandbars. I could only find herring on the beach, large, almost bull herring. 

So I reported the fish kill to the authorities and warned Brownie to put his nets away. For the next 24 hours I stressed about Fisheries coming out to inspect our nets and hanging about the place. The main thing was that I thought it needed to be flagged. Water authorities got back to me to say it was a fresh water deoxygenation event.

So my issue now is my dog. 

On the first day, I washed her in warm soapy water after she'd rolled in rotting fish, rubbed her dry with an old towel. She immediately went down to the beach and had another roll. I washed her with warm soapy water again. 

Next time, she's getting the hose.

Friday, July 7, 2023

Ginger Sow

 I've just installed the trail camera at a spot on the track where I've seen the cutest feral pig three times over the last week. She is a black pig with a ginger stripe going right around her middle and a row of suckling teats on her underside.

At about the same time I saw her, Jimmy turned up at my house. He's a handsome young man with a disorganised gait.  'Hi Sarah,' Jimmy threw out his hand. 'Look, my car ran out of petrol halfway along the track. Could you give me a lift back there? I have some fuel in the shed.'

The last time I saw Jimmy, he sought my help after he'd bogged his Dad's tractor out in the middle of the inlet. Yes, you read that right. Bogged his Dad's tractor in the middle of the inlet. 'What were you doing?' I asked him back then. 'I was setting nets but then the tractor fell in a swan hole.' 'Setting net from a fucking tractor? Have you not heard of a boat?' I decided to give it a red hot hot go anyway to break the monotony. Jimmy and I got down to the shore, after sourcing several hundred metres of snap straps and rope. The tractor sat out in the inlet like a kinda sad, defeated island.

The operation was an abject failure with me skidding all over the beach on the end of a tow rope, threatening to tear the chassis out of my car at sunset. The next day a few more 4WDs turned up and towed the tractor out. Jimmy was instructed by his family to never use the tractor again.

So when Jimmy turned up the other day, I was grateful for this lesser chassis-destroying request. We drove up the track to deliver petrol to his car. At the point where the track turns into white, slidey clay during rain, I said, 'I've seen a pig around this spot, every other day for the last week.'

Jimmy nodded and said, 'Yeah, last night as I was walking in, I smelt something, like an animal was living around here.' When we got to his car, standing in the middle of the road, he hauled his fuel cans off the back of my ute and got busy.

As I drove home behind Jimmy, I kept thinking of this mother pig, of where she had stashed her piglets, and also of Jimmy's midnight walk along the track. So today, I put a camera trap in the spot where the track get slidey and made of white clay. I'd love to see what goes on there at night.