Secrets of the Sapphire Coast

Mists from the Ocean.

The warm, fast flowing East Australian Current (yes, the one made famous by Nemo) meets the cold current from Antarctica on the Sapphire Coast. As this huge wedge of warm water plunges into the cold, it produces a amazing number of different effects like ocean mists that roll in to land and huge feeding frenzies of marine life in nutrient rich waters.

Merriman Island and the ducks that helped win a battle.

Merriman Island is named after King Merriman, an indigenous Yuin elder who led the defence of the area from a marauding tribe from what is now Victoria. Merriman had a special relationship with the black ducks of the lake and they alerted him to enemy’s presence by flapping their wings, diving down into the water and splashing. With this warning, Merriman directed the battle from the island, and lead the Yuin people to victory. Not only does the island look like a duck from the air, the Yuin name for the island, Umbarra means Black Duck.

When the ocean was 20km from the beach.

6,000 years ago, the coast was 20km east of where it is now. As sea levels have risen since the last ice age, they have swallowed the secrets of millennia. Middens, evidence of indigenous human presence have been found dating back more than 3,000 years on the current coastline but if the ocean would give up its secrets, more archaeological treasures would be found dating back 40,000 years. Over 90% of the archaeological evidence of human habitation is now underwater.

The Tathra Mega-Tsunami.

While it is not known whether it was caused by a meteorite impact, earthquake or landslide, a massive mega tsunami hit Tathra in the 1500’s. Today you can visit sites where vegetation was stripped up to a height of 50 metres and shells were deposited high in the hills.

Eden immortalised in the fossil records.

At 3 metres long and 360 million years old, the largest Devonian period fish has been found in fossil remains on the Sapphire Coast. It’s working name – Edenopteron, named, of course after the beautiful harbour town of Eden. You will be able to find some fine examples of marine fossils at the Eden Killer Whale Museum. You will also find the oldest four footed animal tracks are just across the NSW Vic border.

Think you had a long flight?

The Shearwater migration is epic – both in distance and scale. 20 million birds arrive within a few days of Sept 25 every single year after flying a staggering 15,000 kilometres in approximately 6 weeks. Many will make their way to within 10 metres of their original nesting site. Migration patterns matche the Humpacks at times, so from sites like Green Cape, it’s not unusual to see whales cruising beneath large dark clouds of hundreds of thousands of Shearwaters.

The spa in a rotting whale.

In the early 1900’s people would travel from as far away as Sydney to stand neck deep in rotting whale carcasses at Davidson Whaling station. The practice was thought to alleviate the symptoms of rheumatism. The gases released and high temperatures reached during decomposition were believed to be a cure for the painful ailment. Ironically, whale oil was used in the production of perfume, much of which was needed after a session.

Once it was a rainforest. And a wild one.

In the myocene time, the Sapphire Coast was home to marsupial lions, flesh eating kangaroos, cleaver headed crocodiles, thunderbirds and horned turtles. The area was tropical, receiving 1.5 metres of rain a year, even though the land mass was still much closer to Antarctica than today. You can still see the remnants of these ancient rainforests in many of the national parks.

The lakes are brand new.

Relaxing on the shore of the 21 lakes on the Sapphire Coast, they seem timeless and permanent, but in geological terms – they’re still under warranty. They are the newest feature of the region’s geology. Compared to the venerable ocean basalt at Camel Rock (500 Million Years), these lakes were formed only in the last few thousand years.

A coast on the move.

If you think too many people worry about climate change and sea level rise, imagine what it was like for the indigenous people of the region when for 300 generations, they would witness the ocean rise half a metre every generation. Sea levels are comparatively stable now. So relax and enjoy any one of the coast’s many golden beaches.

Gold in Montreal.

No, it’s not the 1976 Olympics, but a rare example of alluvial gold being found near a beach. The historic site of the Montreal Gold Fields near Bermagui are well worth visiting with tours held most days at 2pm.

Blubber for a biscuit.

Eden is famous for a rich whaling history and Matthew Flinders was the first European to note whale as part of the indigenous diet. Seeking shelter in Twofold Bay in 1798, he met a middle aged indigenous man who “…with seemingly careless indifference…” exchanged a piece of whale fat for a biscuit, although neither party seemed that impressed with the other’s offering.

Dead Man’s Fingers. Neptune’s Necklace. Iridescent Forkweed.

They may sound like heavy metal bands, but these important seagrasses are essential elements in the food chain. Bull Kelp in on the Sapphire Coast is the canary in the coalmine for climate change. This highly temperature sensitive aquatic plant has been moving further south as water temperatures increase.

Sydney owes a debt of Granitude.

The town of Moruya should be thanked for its support of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The granite towers at each end of Australia’s most famous landmark were quarried from what is now an historical site. The quality and cut of the stone was so exceptional, not a single block was rejected by the bridge’s picky masons.