Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Port Essington, Popham Bay and crocodiles . . .

Crossing from the Wessel to Port Essington pedal to the metal ! 288
nautical miles in 46 hours. Again, we had to put the brakes on as we had
to have daylight to enter Coral Bay, or to be more precise "Seven
Spirits Bay", where there is a delightful small resort in a well
protected bay. We are hoping to find gasoline for the dinghy, a bar and
a restaurant for dinner tonight. Well, once again, we are coming at the
wrong time. The business is in the process of changing hands and is closed.
After a well needed nap, we decided to go next door to Black Point,
where our cruising guide says that there is a Ranger Station and fuel
available. It's only 5 miles away and we get there before noon. There is
a run down jetty which is closed down and falling apart, a small group
of houses where we find an old lady and three dogs and a shop "closed
until further notice", a cultural centre small but very pleasant to
visit, but no Ranger.
At the end of the village, we find someone in the last house, a lady
with a cap "Flying Doctors", which confirms that there is nothing to
see, but that we could have a nice walk on the beach between Black Point
and Smith Point, tow miles up north. But anyway, DO NOT SWIM (because
crocs, deadly box jelly fish, etc . . .).
Off we were for two hours of walking in soft sand (which I hate doing)
but at least, although we did not see any croc, we actually saw
crocodile tracks going from the sea to a small pond inland.
Then, back to Black Point where we find the Ranger, who says that he
can't help us with gasoline unless it were a matter of life or death for
us. Pity, because we ran out of gasoline and we can't explore the vary
few rivers where we could sight those famous crocodiles which are,
according to our books, infesting the area. Just for the Northern
Territory, there are 100,000 of them for 200,000 people (one croc for
two people).
Next morning, we are off to Victoria Ruins, at the very bottom of the
Port Essington area, where we arrive around 10. This is the site of a
settlement in 1838 of the british, who were worried that the french, the
dutch or event the americans might occupy Australia. So the garrison was
established with a few civilians. But complete isolation with no contact
with the outside world, lack of water and of adequate provisions, added
to diseases like malaria, disentery, yellow fever, will lead to the
failure of the settlement which will pack up in 1849, having lost
almost half of its people.
What are left are some ruins of the cottages, hospital and kitchens that
we visit in a self guided tour of less than 2 hours.
We then sail back to the 7 Spirits bay for the night and then next
morning sail for Popham Bay which is our last chance to actually see a
croc in its natural habitat. But for that, we would have to be able to
explore the river at the bottom of the bay, which would not be very
prudent anyway as an inflatable is rather vulnerable to a croc bite. We
noticed that local people use aluminium boat with outboards.
Next stop will be Darwin and back to civilisation.

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