Winter Waves on the West Coast of Victoria

There is a small grassy clearing on a headland on the west coast of Victoria to which I keep returning to watch the mighty winter waves from the Southern Ocean end their long journey on the reefs and rocks there. My eyrie overlooks a rock shelf which is completely underwater at high tide. The rock shelf is one side a narrow pass between the headland and a reef a few hundred metres offshore. Currents are strong and constant in the pass. The underwater contours of the reef are abrupt and varying, creating unique features in the waves which break over it.

I spend hours at this vantage point, regardless of the weather conditions which are often cold, windy and wet. Sometimes I take photos.

Not everyone is drawn to such a spectacle of nature. But for those readers of this blog who would readily sit rugged up in the cold for hours watching this wonderful display of nature at close quarters, here are some of the waves I saw last Monday from my ocean eyrie. There was a big swell last Monday.

The light varied dramatically during the day from brilliant sunshine, to very poor visibility in heavy rain and skies completely overcast with low clouds as squalls blew through. I wore a snow jacket and hood, a warm beanie, multiple warm layers and my motorbike wet weather overpants. My camera with the telephoto lens fitted has a complete waterproof cover which works very well in such conditions.

Big winter waves on the west coast of Victoria
This is quite an unusual sight – a breaking wave with two lips, one directly over the other.
Imagine swimming in the trough just in front of the breaking wave at the back.
Big winter waves on the west coast of Victoria
A solid wall of water with more of a waterfall running down the face than the more usual solid lip being thrown out.
Sunlit big winter wave on the west coast of Victoria
At the moment this was taken, the light was brightest on the foam and white water in the wave in the foreground and almost as bright on the powerfully breaking wave behind it, while the background remained in dull light.
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Sunlit big winter wave breaking on the west coast of Victoria
A fortuitous moment of sun added some shine to the smooth green face of this wave as it was about to be overtaken by the falling lip above.
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Quite a large barrel formed and forming in this wave.
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter shorebreak on the west coast of Victoria
The shorebreak on the shoreline rock shelf directly south of my ocean eyrie.

Seabird living its best life at 10:00:40

Seabird flying in big winter wave breaking on the west coast of Victoria
There is a seabird deep amongst the action on this breaking wave. See the next close cropped versions of this photo to identify where the bird was flying.
I haven’t been able to identify the bird. I don’t believe it’s a cormorant. It could be a tern of some variety. What a view he had!

Seabird continuing to live its best life at 10:00:41

The soaring seabird effortlessly remained in the lift generated by the wind in front of this wave well out of its clutches. The energy in the lip of this breaking wave can be partly gauged by looking at the cloud of white water rebounding upwards almost to wave height.
Cropped detail of previous photo.
The sky was completely overcast when this was taken – exactly where does the emerald luminousness inside the barrel come from?
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Barrel on big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
An emerald barrel. Notice the larger wave approaching top right.
White water flying high on big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Depending on the size of the wave and exactly where it hits the reef when it breaks, the breaking wave may either push forward in a large mass of white water propelled by the momentum of the wave or it may hit the reef hard and more vertically and ricochet skywards as shown. Always a spectacle.
White water flying high on big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
This wave was breaking reasonably conventionally on the left and the right, but there was something special going on in the middle as that powerful looking orb of rolling green water was about to close the gap in the wave that was otherwise closing out more or less evenly along its length.
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria
Big winter waves breaking on the west coast of Victoria

Shorebreak

Shorebreak in big winter surf
The shorebreak on the shoreline rock shelf immediately south of my ocean eyrie.
Waves breaking in Mounts Bay Marengo
Bottom of image to top: Barham River near its mouth at Apollo Bay. Vegetated sand dunes. Spray from shorebreak in Mounts Bay. White water in distance on Little Henty Reef out from Marengo.

The seal colony with remarkable ocean views

Seal colony with threatening large waves nearby
Huddled up but happy. This swell coincided with a high tide. The seals normally have a bit more room than shown to spread themselves around. The seals’ reef extends south being just exposed or just under the surface of the water, which means the really large waves break at a convenient distance from where the seals sit. It seems that while they get wet from the spray, the waves never actually break right over their reef.
Seals and rainbow with white water all around
The surf settled down a bit later in the day, and things were a little quieter on the reef for the seals. There are only a few seals visible because this was taken at the time of day when they all hit the water around the reef to feed.
Seal and white water on reef with rainbow
Closer crop of the previous photo.

The race to the finish

Big winter waves on the west coast of Victoria
It looks as though first and second place are pretty well decided, with a close battle continuing for third and fourth.

4 thoughts on “Winter Waves on the West Coast of Victoria

  1. Hi John. As usual loved all the shots. The two descriptions that I particularly liked were the double lipped and the ‘waterfall’. Very apt. One of the others that showed a breaking wave with a two plumes, like rabbit ears.
    Special blog yet again – a temporary imaginary escape during lock down.
    Cheers. Richard

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Richard, I’m pleased the photos at least temporarily transported you out of lockdown and down to your west coast haunts. Hopefully you’ll be back swimming in the ocean soon.
      Cheers,
      John

      Like

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