12-Jan-2002 -- Since becoming aware of the Degree Confluence Project in November, I have wanted to get "on the map" so to speak. Unfortunately, in the state of Victoria in Australia, all confluences have been visited and documented, except for one at 37°S 145°E which is in an unexploded munitions area within the Puckapunyal Army Base. I noticed however, that there was an opportunity to reach 40°S 144°E, which lies on King Island in Bass Strait, between the mainland and Tasmania. It all seemed a bit hard, but on investigation, it became apparent that King Island was an ideal location to spend a weekend with my wife Pam. So it was that the plan came together. We would fly over on a 7:30am plane on Saturday morning, hire a car, and spend the weekend touring the island.
We showed up at the small municipal airport at Moorabbin, a Melbourne suburb quite near our home in bayside Sandringham, in time for the 7:30am flight to King Island on Saturday morning. It was interesting that although the plane, a Piper Navajo Chieftan, carries 9 passengers, the departure lounge at King Island Airlines only sat 7! No major problem however.
The flight was very smooth, taking less than an hour. As soon as we landed, we picked up our well worn Toyota Corolla, booked into the King Island Gem Motel, and began our expedition. My trusty Etrex Legend GPS placed the confluence at about 850 metres west of the Currie - Grassy road. Conveniently there was an entrance to a farmhouse right where we needed it. I went in, and introduced myself to John Lynch, a very congenial native of King Island, and explained this strange business of confluence hunting. John was quite interested and gave us permission to drive up the little lane way, which ran right up the centre of his 200 acre farm. Pam and I set off up the lane following the needle on the Legend, and stopping to photograph some of the Belted Galloway cattle John and his wife Helen raise on their farm. (Helen, by the way, is a relative newcomer to the island, arriving when she was 12 months old.) These cattle, identified by the distinctive "belt" of white around their stomachs, are favoured because of their quality meat, their small calves making for easy births, and their rapid growth. Being highland cattle, they are very hardy and well suited to King Island's low temperatures and high winds.
As we drove down the lane, John and Helen joined us on their four-wheeled farm bike to see what would happen. We reached a point where the confluence was about 250m south of the lane. John invited us to drive into one of his paddocks. The grass had recently been cut for hay which was still lying on the ground, waiting to be picked up and bailed by a contractor. As we progressed towards the confluence point, it became apparent that it actually lay on the neighbouring property and I felt quite disappointed for John who had been really warming to the idea of having the confluence on his property. John was sure his neighbours, Henry and Margaret Bennet, would not mind if the search moved onto their land, and we so we parked the car, gingerly crossed the electric fence, and proceeded to the confluence which was in the middle of the neighbouring paddock.
After I took some photographs, John marked the spot with the intention of erecting some sort of marker, and we stood around talking for a while. Then we returned to the vehicles, bad our farewells and left the company of these nice people to return to our exploration of the island.
It is worthwhile saying here that every person we spoke to on the island was extremely friendly and proud of their island. When driving on the roads, it seemed compulsory to salute approaching drivers by casually lifting the index finger from the steering wheel as the vehicles passed. If you were feeling extra polite you could lift several fingers, or even lift the palm of your hand in a symbolic half wave. Road rage definitely is not a problem here. The only major problem is the many wallabies, which roam all over the island and come to grief on the roads.
Our tour of the island included the cheese factory, the kelp industry, a calcified forest, a suspended lake, several lighthouses and many shipwreck sites. During the 1800s, many ships from England and the American East coast, including the fully rigged Clipper Ships, approached Melbourne and Sydney by sailing down the coast of Africa, passing close to Antarctica and then using the Roaring Forties to power up through Bass Strait. Unfortunately, because of the weather conditions in Bass Strait and the location of King Island, with its strong currents, many of them came to grief on its rocky shores. Many hundreds perhaps thousands of lives were lost and there are many tales of bravery and despair. The strong winds which facilitated many of these disasters is now used to advantage to drive three windmill turbines on a wind farm, to generate 15% of the island's electricity, the remainder coming from a set of diesel turbines.
Unable to get on the Sunday plane, we returned to Melbourne on Monday morning and I was back at work by lunchtime.