Thursday, June 23, 2011

Cape York

We were very pleased to round Cape York. It is the northern tip of continental Australia and has been our goal for the last month so it was very gratifying to go around it. To the right as we are approaching it you can see the low cape in the background with York Island towering over the Cape to right. Most of our friends chose to sail right past and go across the top and down to a small community of the west side of the Cape. There was no way we weren't going to explore the Cape and take some photographic evidence of our passing this landmark. We were very happy to have our dinghy wheels when we got ashore. It was about a 150 meters of mucky sand bottom that we had to pull the dinghy over. It would not have been fun to have to haul it along the ground with the engine on. When we returned the tide had come in and we had about 50 meter less to traverse. We pulled it up that far in order to tie to to a tree onshore. That way we were assured it would still be there when we returned.

We hiked over to the tip, picking up rocks and adding them to cairns that other travellers had begun. On the way back we came across this huge termite mound. I thought if I held up my arms it would give you more of an idea how tall it was. Apparently the mud and they way they were oriented to the sun controls the temperature inside, one fellow said that they could maintain a 68 degrees keeping it nice and cool. York Island was calling our name though so we dinghied across and hiked up. It was a more rugged climb not having a path worn by thousand of hikers as there was to the tip. It was a fantastic view from the top, to the right of the picture below you can see the beach where we landed the dinghy. The boat is anchored further to the right in the lee of the cape.

There were more rock cairns all over the top of the island and I had to build a small inukshuk to commemorate our passing. If you click on the pictures they will enlarge for you and you can examine them more closely if you wish.


About 20nm across the Torres Strait at the Torres Strait Islands. I wanted to visit here so we headed across the strait. As we sailed through the group of islands we went past Tuesday, Wednesday and then we stopped close to Thursday Island which is the administrative center of the group. We are actually anchored in the Lee of Horn Island which is about 2 nm from Thursday and we have taken a ferry over to tour around. We went up to the top of Green Hill and got to visit the museum that was built to commerate the fort that was constructed here in 1893 when there was a threat of war with Russia. There was a great 360 view from the top. Below is a view over the town of Thursday Island and Horn Island where we are anchored is in the distance. Islands surround us so we have a lovely calm secure anchorage at the moment.

An example of the Torres Island art. We enjoyed our visit to the cultural centre.

Historically the Torres Island were known for the pearling industry that took place here. From the turn of the century until the 1950's and the event of plastics, oyster shells were collected for the making of mother of pearl objects, mainly buttons. I think pearls were a bonus, the shells being what was used. Pearling luggers as the boats were called would go out and divers would descend to collect the shells. At first men would just free dive as there was an abundance at depth that was accesible. As they had to go deeper to find commercial quantities the diving helmut and suit came into use. Onboard the ship the diver would have 2 people to tend his lines, one would have the air hose and one would have the line that attached the diver to the boat. There were stories in the museum of divers getting taken by the current while they were under the corral their lines would become entangled in the corral and they would be unable to free their lines. Many divers perished in this manner.
The industry attracted many races including Malasians and Japanese as well as the traditional Island peoples. The faces and statures of the people that live here now reflect this mixture of races and it has resutled in some very lovely looking folks. We are waiting here for the winds to drop until we cross the Gulf of Capenteria. It is a three day crossing and it is not the winds that are a problem but the waves they generate as they howl across the open gulf. We hope to leave on Sunday, I must make sure to ensure I get lots of rest before we leave.