Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Flight over Fraser Island

 One of the best things about moving to Hervey Bay is renewing friendship with some of my classmates who have also moved to Hervey Bay. One of them, Bernie arranged for Marianne and me to go for a joyride flight over nearby Fraser Island.

I have forgotten the make of the plane and will have to ask Bernie.

Mark (Pilot) and Bernie strap themselves in. Marianne and I were in the back.

This is roughly the route that we flew in a clockwise direction. Note that we mostly kept to the coast of the island which allows the pilot to glide and land on the beach if the engine stops.

We took off from the same strip used by the A320 that took us to Sydney.

I don't mind flying in small planes or helicopters so I was not quaking in my boots. In fact, I rather enjoy it because you are so close to the ground compared to jet planes.

Leaving the mainland and about to fly across the Great Sandy Strait.

The quality of photos is poor because most are initially filled with a huge wing and need to be severely cropped. In addition, the window tends to catch reflections.

Urangan where we live. The Jetty is to the right and our unit at the lower middle at the left end of the sand.

We crossed Woody Island which is halfway between the mainland and Fraser Island.

We arrived at Fraser Island and started to fly north.

At 76 miles long and an average of 14 miles wide, it is the world's largest sand island. It's the traditional land of the local Butchulla people which they called K'gari. The name Fraser comes from Eliza Fraser. She and her husband were shipwrecked on the island in 1836 but she was the only survivor of the ship's company and lived with the traditional owners for 6 weeks before being rescued.

A distinctive inlet. Like most of the northern half of the island, there was considerable bushfire damage. However, conservators have been pleased with how the trees and vegetation are bouncing back.

The fire started on the eastern side of the island at South Ngkala Rocks and since there were strong winds, it quickly crossed the island.

There are several lakes in the southern half of the island that have fresh water, but in the northern half, the lakes have brackish water.

Rooney Point at the northwest tip of the island.

Rooney Point at the left.

Looking back south from Rooney Point.

It's difficult to see, but the area is quite hilly and most of the trees are burned. Lack of access made fighting the fire difficult. It's easy for fire-fighting trucks to get bogged in the sand and there are few tracks.

Approaching the northern tip of the Island at Sandy Cape. It was named by Captain Cook in 1770 as he sailed up the east coast. At the right is the Sandy Cape lighthouse which has a weather station that is often mentioned when a cyclone approaches.

The lighthouse at the left. It's made of cast iron plates and was completed in 1870.

The sand continues north under the water for some 30 km forming the Break Sea Spit which naturally is dangerous to shipping. Hence the need for a lighthouse.

Looking south and you can see breakers all the way down the ocean coast.

The sandy areas are called Sand Blows which you can read about here. The sand is mobile but is not replaced by sand from the beach.

You might remember last year that a bushfire burned through half of the island. It was caused by an illegal campfire at this location near the Ngkala Rocks. The perpetrators were eventually identified and fined.

There was a subsequent inquiry that identified issues and problems with the fire fighting response which resulted in the burning of approximately half the island. I found a balanced report here which makes interesting reading, particularly from page 8 onwards. Basically, the authorities thought that rain would put the fire out but it didn't rain and the winds were strong and often changed direction. Water bombing was instituted too late and the report suggests not particularly effective and often indiscriminate.
The Rocks which you can see at the lower right, form a natural barrier to 4 wheel drive vehicles and there are numerous videos showing how to drive through them. It's a popular camping area.

Orchid Beach, a popular holiday destination. It was only when the fire threatened the house here that the authorities got serious about fighting the bushfire. 

Waddy Point. It's a popular camping area.

Further south is Indian Head.

A rocky headland at Indian Head.

Houses in the bush.

The Maheno was a liner that washed ashore in a cyclone in 1935 and has been there ever since. At 400 feet long, it was a fair sized tub.

We headed west across the island back to the airport. The pilot increased his height from 500 to 1000 feet. This is Lake Mckenzie. It is 1200 by 930 meters and the water is fresh and extremely pure.

Looking to the west to the mainland.

Other lakes south of Lake Mackenzie. They are big tourist attractions.

Starting to cross the strait. You can see the jetty at Kingfisher Bay Resort. A barge from River Heads on the mainland will carry your 4WD vehicle here.

Coming in to land at the airport.

Safely on the ground.

The trip lasted 1.5 hours and was absolutely wonderful. Marianne was so excited about it that she could barely sleep the following night.

Finally, I thought I would add some photos we took of the fires last year. Bear in mind that these fires would have been 10 or more miles away.