Dingos on the beach ..... from the advance party?

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Dingos on the beach ..... from the advance party?
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2000 21:44:27 -0700 (PDT)
So many of the BA eamilers have now met Sid and
Sharon, so I hope this is okay with Russell? to
forward it on
to all.
John A. Gamblin

Hi everyone,
We are in Rockhampton, on our way into the Queensland
outback to Longreach. The Stockman's Hall of Fame is
out there and we wanted to see some different habitat
from what is on the coast, even though this is a
spectacularly beautiful coastline.

I promised a report on our day trip to Fraser Island. 
It was a very interesting and pretty place to visit. 
We would have liked to have more time there. Fraser
Island is the largest sand island in the world. It is
123 kilometers in length and when they tried to drill
for oil there (unsuccesfully), they drilled through
2000 feet of sand before reaching bedrock! Sid says, 
"What a catbox!"

95% of Fraser Island is forested. In the rainforest
section, some of the trees are 200 feet tall. Imagine
trees like that growing where essentially there is no
real soil. Only about 5% of the island is rain forest.
The rest is eucalypt forest or transitional forest. 
The major industry on the island until the 1970's was
timbering. Luckily, they always timbered
selectively-no clear cutting was done. Our guide
pointed to a large, but not exceptional tree, and told
us that a timberman had estimated that it would be
worth about $30,000
dollars if it were cut and sold.  

Fraser Island is mostly a National Park and has been
selected as a World Heritage Site. It is dotted with
freshwater lakes that are fed solely by rainfall. The
lakes take hundreds of years to make. They have to
have a layer of decayed organic matter from leaves,
etc. to seal the bottom so it will hold water. A few
years back, there was a large bushfire on Fraser after
a prolonged drought. A lakebed that had been emptied
the drought was in the path of the fire and the seal
got burned through. The lake no longer can hold water
when it rains. It just goes down through the burned
area and disipates into the sand.

We were picked up at our caravan park at 7:45 a.m. and
taken to the ferry to Fraser. Our driver, Glen, was
also our driver and guide on the island. After a 50
minute trip we arrived on the western beach of Fraser
Island. All the roads on the island are former logging
tracks and are not paved. Only four-wheel drive
vehicles can get anywhere on the island, so our tour
bus was four-wheel drive. Glen told us that Fraser
Island was formed around three rocky outcrops left
when a volcano erupted offshore. The sand has
for millennia. In some areas there are sand blows
where the sand dunes are traveling. Sand is blown
foreward over the top edge of the dune and builds up
there as it is taken off the rear edge. That means
that the dune slowly moves forward over whatever is in
front of it vegetation, buildings, lakes, whatever.

We walked along one of the roads in the rainforest and
listened to the birds. It was incredibly noisy, but we
hardly saw any birds because the forest is so thick.

>From there we went to lunch at a resort on the island.
There are eight resorts on the island and you can camp
in quite a few areas of the National Park. We had a
good buffet lunch and then left to drive up the
eastern beach. When we got to the beach, there was a
small plane parked on the beach. The pilot offered to
take five people for a flight over the island for
$40.00 a head. We saw a number of similar planes
later. They
take off and land on the beach. The pilot says it is a
75 mile runway. It is also a 75 mile highway. Tour
buses and 4WD vehicles use the beach to get from area
to area. 

We drove north to an area called The Pinnacles. It is
an area of sand cliffs and formations that have been
colored various shades of yellow, gold, orange, and
red by iron pigment. It is lovely. There is an
aboriginal legend that says that the wife of the moon
was mistreated by her husband. She went to the beach
and Rainbow was there. She fell in love with him. When
her husband found out, he was angry but Rainbow
her from him. There was a big fight and Rainbow was
killed but his lover got to safety. Rainbow's colors
were absorbed by the sand cliffs there and aboriginal
women would come there to ask for his protection.

On the way back south, we stopped at a shipwreck site.
The ship. Mahino, was wrecked there in 1936.

It was built around the turn of the century and had
been a cruise liner between Sydney and New Zealand,
originally.  It was used as a hospital ship during
World War I and knocked around the South Pacific and
Australia afterwards. It was sold for scrap and was
being towed to Sydney to be broken up, when a storm
came up. The vessel towing it had to cut it loose
because the storm was driving them both toward Fraser
Island. It is very dramatic looking, all craggy and
rusted, but mostly in one piece. Everything not made
of metal is gone and the bottom is torn out of it, but
it rests upright on the sand. You can look in through
the portholes and some people climb inside it, but
that is
pretty dangerous. Glen said a large bit of it fell of
a couple weeks ago. Next we stopped at a freshwater
creek called Eli Creek which empties onto the beach.
The mouth of the creek moves when there is a storm. It
is 50 meters up the beach from where it was a month
ago. Some of the people swam in it, but it was pretty
cold for that. There was a nice boardwalk up along the
creek. The water was crystal clear and we saw some
fish about a foot or more long. They were silver with
black fins and tail tips. Glen said they were called
flagged perch.

We went back to the resort for a toilet stop and a
chance to buy souvenirs. Then we went on to one of the
perched dune lakes. It was about a kilometer long by
800 meters wide. It was shallow and sedges were
growing in it. The sand is so fine on Fraser Island
that some of the people on the bus used the wet sand
from the edge of the lake to clean their jewelry.

We had afternoon tea there and then went on back to
beach to meet the ferry to go home. Fraser Island has
a fairly large population of dingos. They are probably
one of the purest strains of dingo in Australia
because they have not had the opportunity to
interbreed with domestic dogs. They are also fairly
used to people although they are still wild animals.
One of them
bit a tourist who was pestering it recently. We had
been a bit disappointed that we hadn't seen any of
them during the day. While we were waiting for the
ferry, one of them came out of the brush and onto the
beach.  She was quite close to us but just ignored us
and went on down the beach. Dingos look something like
German Shepherds but are usually golden colored and
have long legs in comparison to their bodies.

I'll write you more later, many thanks for the emails
keep them coming.

Sid and Sharon Genaux,

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