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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Exploring New Waters

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Exploring New Waters

Andrew Ryan

Today I started writing this bunch of words while sitting on a beach near Sandringham, a costal suburb of Melbourne. It is on the ancestral lands of the Bunurong People, part of the Kulin Nation. Here is a story from this group of people. Here is some history about their interaction with European settlers.

My good friend Caroline drove us there; she is an archeology student, and she had snorkels in her car that she forgot about, even though snorkelling is one of her favourite things to do. Luckily, she found them in the back of the car and the place we stopped was pretty interesting for an inexperienced snorkeler like myself. I am determined to do it some more. I have fallen in love with the activity.

Caroline told me earlier in the day, as we were driving around the area looking for shade to sit in by the beach because it was fkn hot and the sun was out real good, that this area is made up of red sandstone, tinged by iron, and is of international geographical significance. This part of the country is what all other parts of our landmass of the same age (Late Miocene) are referenced from.

There are reefs of the sandstone all along that stretch of coast, as well as cliffs, and on our chosen pocket, named Ricketts Point North, we found ourselves stepping over ironstone concretions, where the sandstone has worn away to leave nodules, almost tubes, of these solid bits of iron stuff, making us wonder if we were walking over old piping from early colonial days in some sections, or fossilised tree roots in others. It was fascinating. All problems washed away and I was taken to another time, imaging what it would have been like if that area once was covered in trees, got me thinking about weather changes and sea levels and the impact of humans…

Past these reefs, it’s shallow for quite a few metres out, with plenty of underwater plants and little rocky bits to peer at. I saw all kind of small crustaceans scuttling around, and tiny fish, and also shellfish, which are specifically protected in that spot. You’re not allowed to eat the little guys in that area, I suppose, they’re only for non-humans to eat, which would not be a problem for the local residents I imagine, because the houses in the area are of the size to imply that very few of the folk who dwell within them have much inclination to live off the land. Those houses are ones to view nature from within, behind windows. They don’t strike me as places in which to shelter in-between stints of interacting with nature beyond activities that serve only to prepare your body to be more attractive. I wonder if traditional land owners would claim rights to eat the shellfish… though given it has only been protected for 14 years or so, populations of the protected species are nowhere near a size that could support a community to eat from it every day.

I watched a group of Black Swans rummage through what seemed to be a shellfish hotspot, if the piles of shells under the shallow water were anything to go by- and I watched them from underneath the water, with my snorkel on, belly hovering close above the seabed because it was so shallow, seeing something that not many humans get to see in real life. I felt incredible, completely connected to my surroundings, careful not to startle them, and once I’d emerged I didn’t stop smiling until my feet were burning on the 40+degree baked sand.

A few metres east from where the swans were feeding is a bunch of rocks with an algae growing that looks very similar to one I’d seen in an English history show that Caroline and I have watched many, many episodes of in the last week (Edwardian Farm). The algae was used to supplement the diet of the poor who lived in the coastal region of the area the show was based. I was pondering on whether or not is was indeed edible, as I imagined that if it was of similar nutritional content to the one discussed in the show, then I could be sitting very close to some free and excellent nutrients. Upon returning home, Caroline researched it and is indeed the same algae- ulva lactuca, more commonly known as sea lettuce. We missed the opportunity to try it, and I find myself internally cursing the evolution of contemporary society, that such information is only available by those who care to look for it, and that populations numbers are such that if everyone were to know that information, the algae could disappear from over-consumption. She’ll go back and nibble on some I’m sure, but I probably won’t get the opportunity to do so again before I jump in Pete’s van and accompany him back to Perth, where I can live comfortably closer to the ocean and snorkel to my hearts content!

P.S. While he’s been driving from Perth to Melbourne, his cousin has been filming all the things with the intention of making a documentary. I’ll be filming on the way back, if my camera doesn’t die, and we’re all hoping to raise as much money as possible to make this documentary the best it can be: here is the link to the Pozible campaign, watch the video for a taste, have a look at the special treats you can get in exchange for the dollars you donate, and let’s all have a lovely special thing to be part of!