autumn on the west coast of Victoria can bring gales and wild seas one day and blue skies, calm seas and clean swell the next. I took the following photos along the coast between Apollo Bay and Peterborough on successive days as autumn was drawing to a close, and on the first day of winter. While the sky was blue at times, winter was in the air.
Bodysurfing at Apollo Bay in the final days of autumn
The Twelve Apostles and Gibson Steps
Big wave site with only one surfer out
TheSouthern Ocean continues its work on the limestone cliffsand stacks
Stormy seas near Peterborough
Brave efforts to access the sea
Caught on the inside
Morning light onwaves breaking on Little Henty Reef
For as long as I can remember I have had a dog. I loved them all. The Gordon Setter on the left was named McTavish – he was always called Mac. This photo was taken around 60 years ago. Brother Noel on the left supplied the photo from his archives.
…and so into winter
Before dawn on 1 June 2022, I was driving with Magpie down the Great Ocean Road towards Port Campbell and Peterborough to witness the Southern Ocean in all its glory hitting the beaches, headlands, bays and cliffs of that wild coast as a succession of fronts and gale force winds marched across the west of the state with unstoppable wintry purpose.
The outside air temperature was 6°C as the sky lightened slightly at the time the sun was rising somewhere behind all that low dark cloud and rain. I drove through hail and knew there would be snow somewhere in the Otways this morning, which is always very photogenic. But I chose to be on cliff tops, rugged up and being lashed by salt water and spray and large snowball-like foamy balls which blew off the frothy tops of breaking waves near shore and came hurtling through the air only to disappear completely and silently upon striking objects such as me. Seems they weighed nothing and were more visible than tangible.
I knew I was not the first person to drive down the GOR on this morning. I was grateful that whoever drove west before me had a chain saw, as there was evidence of half a dozen or more sizeable trees which had obviously blocked the road, and were now conveniently pushed on to the verge in manageable cut lengths with only a trail of saw dust left on the road to tell the tale. On a previous mission such as this I only made it a few kms past the Gellibrand River and had to return to Apollo Bay as there was a fallen tree with a trunk over a metre in diameter totally blocking the road.
This was Magpie’s first trip along the west coast as photographer’s assistant. Clockwise from top left:
He thought the Bay of Islands was a bit windy, and that the lookout rails were poorly placed if they are hoping to attract dogs to the area.
There were some negotiations early in the day as to entitlements and boundaries in relation to the centre console in the car.
Magpie was a very willing wave spotter and is pictured here on the side of the GOR looking out to sea for a big set of waves as the weather began to clear. This was where I stood to take the photos of Loch Ard Gorge and the white water exploding high above the height of the cliffs.
The potential dispute as to the centre console was resolved with a mutually acceptable compromise.
I set up the back of the Mazda as a comfortable location for Magpie to sit while I was taking photos during periods of rain with the car pointing into wind and the tailgate raised to keep me dry. He occupied the front passenger seat while travelling, wearing his seat belt of course.
The coast between Peterborough and Point Hesse (near London Bridge)
These six photos were taken from the ocean lookout on a small point in the middle of Peterborough on the western side of the Curdies River mouth. The most distant headland visible on the right of all bar the second of these six images is Point Hesse (near London Bridge). That headland is close to 6kms as the Australasian Gannet flies from where I was standing taking these photos. A number of headlands at closer range are also visible.
I swam with a handful of friends at Apollo Bay this morning, a daily habit of long standing. There was no swell but a brisk N/NNW wind had created small wind waves and chop on the water. It was overcast. The air temperature was 10°C (with wind chill factored in read 7°C), and I measured the sea temperature at 12°C. RipCurl and Patagonia winter gear covered all but my face and hands. After my usual 1000m, my body was still warm. But while my fingers could move, I couldn’t feel the tab to undo the velcro neck of the wetsuit. I retained the gift of speech but with a preference for short sentences and one syllable words. I knew from past winter swimming experience that any attempt at whistling joyfully or at all would have been unsuccessful.
My last bodysurf at Tuxion, in aqua water under a blue sky wearing a thin full length wetsuit and not feeling at all cold, seemed more than a few days ago.