Friday, July 31, 2009

Feathered Kings and Queens

I dislike beginning posts with 'I' but occasionally it must be done, as I just have! I've decided, after reading my last Whingeing Spray, that I will no longer swear, vent or be a totally self indulgent princess.
Except the occasion being
a) said swearing or whingeing can be craftily channelled into dialogue or seriously earnest narrative.
b) I am wearing my tiara.

Consequently I'm bereft of words.

White Breasted Sea Eagles.

This morning on the Kalgan, the temperature was said to be three degrees. That gets interesting when adding the wind chill factor of a 50 horsepower outboard. It was so cold that Old Salt was reminiscing the days of olde on the Pallinup, when he'd have a kerosene tin full of glowing mallee roots on board, so as to unmesh fish with workable fingers.

The black bream we pulled up actually felt warmer than the water or air. It was tempting to dive our hands into the red bin to keep them company, were it not for their spikes!
Sightings of snow and the Yeti have been reported along the shores of Emu Point.
Yes! Yetis at sea level! Though that report could be some wishful thinking from Emu Point housewives looking for some rough trade. Either that or bikies dealing with the latest Brazilian sea container arrivals. It's a strange town. It's the granite, man.
Mmmm ... anyway, where was I?

White Breasted Sea Eagles.

At Pallinup, they watch the nets, waiting for that flapping tail of a mullet, from their paperbark eyries. White breasts and white paperbarks - they can be difficult to see. Old Salt pulls fish from the nets and waves them in the air at their impassive stance. He used to know one out there that would swoop down and grab fish from his hands.
Sometimes in the mornings at my own house, a mating pair fly overhead, crying to each other on their way to the sea. It is said they like to nest in the Marri trees above the shoreline. As I walk in the forest, I look upwards, something my Mum taught me, ("Not enough people look into the trees, when they walk.") hoping to see their home.

This morning, after the inlet, we drove to the harbour to pick up crab pots. Pelicans created their own wake, as they followed us from pot to pot, scooping the leftover bait that I threw out to them. This was much to the consternation of Digger the Disaster Pup, who watched the fish sail past his mouth and into the carvernous beaks of the pelicans. Finally he went in after them, a valiant, wet and ultimately futile attempt to sort them out.

We were just about at the last buoy, when I veered off and motored towards the wreck of the Kingfisher. Old Salt looked at me, the routine thrown.
On the iron prow of the wreck stood huge bird. This eagle was light brown, which threw me, because it had not the tousled, messy magnificence of a Wedgetailed Eagle, but was at least the same size.
Only when closer did we realise that it was a juvenile White Breasted Sea Eagle, her feathers still a tawny brown. Her legs were massive. I kept my distance but she still felt the need to leave. As she rose into the air, I saw the difference between these eagles and the Osprey. The wings are extra wide, to give them the propulsion to lift off the water laden with a heavy fish. They are attached almost the whole length of the bird's body. The Nyoongar name for them reflects their flight; "Wing tips upward kept."
It's a rather lovely thought that something so wild hunts in the harbour below me and was hatched high in the forest above me, and that this has happened the same way for millennia.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Computer Says No

I'm one of the great unwashed at the library, buying their internet for thirty minutes. There are people here who spell out loud, something more common to me during those excruciatingly sweaty rites of self flagellation they call exams.
Anyhoo, any chance for a Whingeing Spray ... I hate Telstra ... right? Nine days without internet, seven days without a phone ...

I'd like to write one of those inspiring stories about the night the power went out and how we all went from complete panic at our twentyfirst century lives being bastardised, to sitting around a candle lit barbeque and all actually talking to each other, instead of watching TV.

But I don't feel like that. I'm fucking pissed at the buck-passing going on between Omninet and Telstra. I'm so pissed that my mind and body cease to function properly when I start talking to a representative or techie. I just start leaking - tears, insults, saliva, whatever it takes. I'm bound up, however, with hateful internal dialogues that spin around in my head, like tissues in the wash.
And that's why A WineDark Sea has been rather silent. I'll be back when my line is restored.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bob's Fish Pictures #2

No. 18. Crenilabrus?
Native name Knelmich, Miname or Minamen.
Common rock fish or parrot fish of the sealers.
Poor and soft. Inhabits bold (sic) rocky shores, where it is troublesome to the fisher by carrying off his bait. Caught by hook 3rd. May 1841.

No. 37.
Native name Paril, Kunol, or Bomburn.
Black rock fish of the sealers.
Inhabits rocky shores, and grows to the size of fifteen or twenty punds weight. Poor soft eating. Speared by Warrawar, 12th. May 1841.

No. 12.
Native name Ianon't Worogut, or Cumbeak.
Inhabits weedy places in deep water and along sandy bays. Sometimes taken by the natives on the edge of banks. Excellent eating. Caught by hook 18th. March 1841.

No. 30.
Native name Moolet.
Red Rock Perch .
Inhabits rocky shores. Bites eagerly and is a gross feeder. Indifferent eating. Caught by hook, 6th. April 1841.

No. 35.
Genus not ascertained.
Native name -Koogenuck, Kuejuimeck or Knowl.
Little known to the sealers.
Dorsal spines remarkable; scales large; grows to a large size; the flanks scales of one weighing twenty eight pounds, measures an inch and a half in length, and an inch and a quarter in breadth. (They are cycloid).

No. 47.
Labrus laticlavius.
Native name Kanup or Parill. (Green Fish).
Is a rare inhabitant of rocky shores. Caught by hook 17th. August 1841. Poor eating.

No. 48.
Aulopus Purpurissatus.
Native name Kardar.
Very rare. Caught by hook on a rocky shore by Mr. Sholl of Albany, 14th. July 1841.

Pictures Courtesy of the British Museum of Natural History.
Brown italics are the descriptions by R. Neill in the appendix to Eyre's journal.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Bicycle Sagas #3

Dad sat on my verandah the other day and accepted his cup of bushie tea - strong, black, no sugar. I showed him my new pride and joy, The Contessa Ladies Bicycle leaning nonchalantly against an icebox. We talked about the Avon Descent, an annual white water race coming up this time of year. That collision of two ideas that make you go fast without an engine - a bike and white water kayaking - made for the inevitable question.
"Do you remember that bike ride?"

At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, not something embarked upon lightly in the blogosphere, I am probably the youngest ever contestant in the single kayak section of the Avon Descent. This is because my father entered me illegally (paddlers should really be over 18) with the intention of providing me a formative adolescent experience he could approve of.
For months, I swam laps of the pool, went running through tick-infested coasthills and did a lot of ocean paddling. I canoed alone most nights after school, across a winter harbour, guided home by the lights of the slipway, where a grizzled old shark fisherman (yes I've always loved that lot) kept an eye out for me, whilst his boat was up there getting her barnacles blown off.
But there was no white water in town, dammit and how is a girl to learn the rapids without white water?
Dad's plan was to stalk it in its natural environment, hunt it down - and shoot it.
Off we went to the Avon, to find some white water, a week before the great race. Again - his plan. Put the canoes, two bicycles, a tarpaulin and some baked beans on the back of the ute and drive inland to Toodyay, where hill and dale swelled with the music of rapids. Drop the bikes off twenty kilometres downstream and then drive back to base camp, where we would launch our canoes.
He's ex-Army and knows a thing or two and I was up for it. We had a great day. I understood the regulations about racing with helmets, when I felt the deep scores in mine, from bouncing head first over submerged rocks. I began to understand the currents and when to lean into them. I was missing a few things by the time we reached our bikes, like all of my Mars Bars, (never even got to eat one and this was a special occasion, having 'no Coke and half an hour of TV a day' kind of parents) a box of those matches you are supposed to be able to light underwater - and my paddle.
By the time I lost my paddle, it was darkening, the sun was gone and things began to feel a bit less friendly. We'd gone too far downstream and couldn't find the bikes. That took another hour.
Finally, we dragged the canoes out of the water, climbed on the bicycles clad in sodden wetsuits and headed for the camp.
I think I was about fifteen metres down the pocked and puddled gravel before I realised, no I knew, that this was to be an Epic. It was twenty kilometres on a darkened track through the bush on a bike and I was fucking freezing already!

After the pain, numbness set in. My bare feet must have been minus toes from the sticks and tree stumps, but I couldn't see or feel my my toes, so it didn't matter. I couldn't feel my face anymore either and my fingers were no longer part of my body.
I can remember the rattle of those two bikes on gravel, the sound cutting through that still, inland chill.

Dad hurtled down the chasm of a track and straight into a closed gate.
"It was open this morning!"

In the morning, I awoke to pooled ice in the creases of the tarpaulin.
A formative experience alright. A peak experience? Hell yeah. I'd do it again, strangely enough. but I'd whinge louder!