26 October 2009

Humpback Whale Graveyard - Mud Island

Media reports of the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) towing 3 humpback whale carcasses to Mud Island, close to Brisbane to decompose, has generated keen discussion in the local community.

With limited information and experience in the disposal of dead whales, sea kayakers and boaties alike have been pondering the cause of death and the wisdom of the EPA's Moreton Bay choice of final resting place for these mammals.

What happens to whales as they decompose?

Would the placement of the humpbacks on Mud Island encourage large sharks to the area?

Are there benefits to the environment?

Without a degree in marine science I can only join in the speculation.
Could the humpback whales demise simply be the normal course of nature, which we all now witness 'as it happens', as part of our overpopulated, media saturated world?
Could it be more sinister, as some suggest, and be related to the poor water quality of Australia's east coast, perhaps even linked to the Moreton Island oil spill?

Kate, a well known local sea kayaker, hazarded a solo visit to Mud Island to see what the fuss is about. As you can see from the images (taken on mobile phone cam), there are no white pointer fins breaking the whale fat slick floating on the water.

Kate saw only one whale as the foul stench of decomposing matter was so strong that it quickly drove her from the island. She didnt bother with a circumnavigation to search for the other whales and paddling away, Kate noticed her paddle blades and kayak were now coated with a pungent fatty residue.

Back on land transporting her now greasy Nadgee by trolley, Kate wondered if she would encounter the local dingo, drawn by the smells permeating her kayak as she walked home through the streets.

An experienced solo sea kayaker who has extensively kayaked the eastern coast of Australia, Kate had never encountered a problem like this.

Consideration was given to the merits of using kitchen degreasers, metholated spirits and kerosense to remove the grease and smell of decomposing whale fat.
The decision to try metholated spirits first proved to be sufficient, although Kate is sure there is a lingering 'odour' to her kayak.

Within days of Kates visit, the whale carcasses were no longer to be found at Mud Island. What happened to them remains as much a mystery to this kayaker as why they were taken there in the first place.
All images by Kate Yeomans_used with permission

Update - 26th September 2010
12 months on, Vanilla, Gnarlydog and I revisted Mud Island. Full post and images here - Mud Island Humpback Whales revisited

20 October 2009

Bribe to Moreton attempt

Starring: Vanilla, Gnarlydog, Karrazy, Gary, April, Adventuretess
Guest Appearance: Sea Snake

A late start, incorrectly loaded kayaks and a below G2 pace in challenging conditions necessitated an on-water change to the trip plan.Within an hour it became clear Bribie to Moreton would have to become Bribie to Bribie and while disappointing, the weekend was still enjoyable and a new experience for some members of the group.
Like all good kayak trips, the weekend provided group members with some learnings to reflect on for their next G2 trip. It also highlighted skills that may need to be addressed in future training sessions.
While the plan changed, the group still had the opportunity to experience paddling in 15 – 20kn headwinds against the tide and feel the effects of paddling through highly confused water, but close to shore.
Post Moreton Island oil spill, marine life is returning to this area with plenty of birdlife, dolphins and swimming crabs surrounding us as we paddled.

This 15km crossing can be intimidating, exposing you to a range of conditions. Deep channels, strong currents, shallow sand banks, container ship traffic, marine life and weather variations make this an interesting paddle with few opportunities to stop for a break. Having undertaken this crossing several times in various conditions, the trip was planned with a minimum cruising speed of 5km per hour.

Launch morning proved to be a lesson in patience for participants as en route some were forced to wait out the aftermath of a motorway accident. The group eventually assembled at the launch site where severe beach erosion made packing the kayaks close to the water impossible. Packing was carried out high up in the dunes then the loaded kayaks were carried ** to the sliver of remaining beach to launch. An hour behind schedule the group was on the water.

** http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com/2009/10/kayak-carry-straps.html for an article on carrying loaded sea kayaks

Within an hour of launching, Gary's GPS read that we were progressing at only 3.5 km/h. This speed was well below the planned pace. A 15 – 20knot headwind, strong outgoing current and the skill level of some group members indicated reaching Moreton would take at least 6 hours – double the planned time on the water. To the disappointment of some, the decision was made to turn back to Bribie.

Close to shore, highly confused water tossed the kayaks around offering the opportunity to low brace in small pitching waves (see movie below). For some this was a welcome chance to play, for others it was an anxious first experience of ‘washing machine’ water.

As conditions did not ease as was forecast and the group were prepared for an overnight trip, the decision was made to postpone Moreton and paddle north to camp on the ocean side of Bribie Island. With the wind and current now at our tails, we made fast progress for the first time that day. The ocean side of Bribie is remote but very busy in summer with 4wd vehicles traffic and fishermen.

Scouting for a semi protected campsite in the dunes, the first 'recon' was a success. Taking it in turns to land in the small surf, off the water a quick perusal of the area confirmed several campsite choices high above the waterline. The beach here was also severely eroded so the kayaks were emptied and lifted high out of the way of 4wdrive traffic.

A pleasant pre dinner happy hour was spent together in the dune grass, contemplating the meaning of life and reviewing the day, the view of Moreton Island teasing us in the distance.

In the evening, 3 of the group opted to go ultra-light and sleep without tents. There are several lagoons on the island so ultra-light camping requires a heavy application of tropical strength insect repellent. After the success of Vanilla’s home-made ‘Sand Fla Van’ in the Whitsundays, the concoction was shared around and we settled in for another glorious night under the stars.

Woken only once during the night by donuts (not the deep fried delicious kind, but the ‘beach bogan’ tear up the beach in your 4wd kind) we rose the following morning refreshed and bite free.

Vanilla’s early morning beach walk revealed a large sea snake lying on the sand just above the tide line, close to camp. Appearing to have difficulty making its own way back to the water we were concerned that this exquisite reptile would come to grief on the busy beach. The sea snake was gently encouraged back into the safety of its water habitat.

The forecast of increasing winds encouraged the group to start early. Launching was non-eventful and we enjoyed a slow paddle back with a 10knot head wind and an occasional dolphin for company.

Arriving back at the launch site close to high tide there was very little beach to land on. Kayaks had to be quickly hauled high out of reach of the encroaching tide.

While the trip may not have gone as planned, being adaptable meant the weekend was not wasted. The decision to turn back was not made lightly. As a QSKC trip leader I lead trips that offer others the opportunity to kayak, test their boundaries and increase their skills within the safety and structure of Australian Canoeing guidelines.
Just as I learn something about kayaking and trip leading on every paddle, I hope the members of this group learned something that will enhance their kayaking experience in future.

14 October 2009

Kayak Rolls and Skills

If you enjoy accessing quality information, videos and sea kayaking links, I recommend visiting Derrick Mayoleth's website www.kayakquixotica.com
I'm currently hooked on this section of the website http://www.kayakquixotica.com/video-section/index.html it shows some great technique captured on video of different types of rolls and related skills.
When I was first learning to roll, I didnt know the difference between pawlata, C2C or sweep rolls and I recall feeling some frustration because I could only see what was happening on top of the water. As soon as the instructor went upside down and I could no longer see, it became 'secret kayaker business'.
Looking at the short movies filmed from different angles on Derrick's website provides a clear guide to what's going on above and below the water.
Rolling isnt always about survival, it is also about having fun. I can't wait to get in the pool or out on the water and try to recreate some of these moves - perhaps not the bowling ball roll (?)...
Kayaking is an in water sport after all!

01 October 2009

Tide Race Fun in the Whitsundays

tidal race (c)
Starring: Vanilla and Gnarlydog
Image: Tess Dodd
Youtube Movie: VanillaVids

During a recent trip to the Whitsundays, we were lucky enough to cross through some small tide races that were perfect to play in, which a few days later become not so small and a lot more challenging.
Closer to home, it can be hard to find these conditions to paddle in, although on a couple of occasions, I have found similar conditions on trips to Moreon Island and around some islands and headlands on the Gold Coast and in northern NSW.