Fraser Island (K'gali)
In the year 1836 a ship, the Sterling Castle, is wrecked on a reef off the Queensland coast. Survivors launch boats and sail southward reaching an island. Only one is destined to leave the island alive, Eliza Fraser, wife of the captain. The island is named Fraser Island, after her. She leaves, and never returns. Why an island should be named after someone who arrives accidentally and leaves never to return is beyond me.
K'gari, which means Gods of Paradise, is the aboriginal name and the name I prefer. Aborigines are believed to have lived here for at least 5000 years.
K'gali, located off the Queensland coast just south of the Great Barrier Reef near Maryborough is 120kms long and 180,000 hectares. Composed mostly of sand, it is the world's largest sand island.
A island of barren sand dunes. No!! An island with over a hundred fresh water lakes, the second highest concentration of lakes in Australia, after Tasmania. There are three types of lakes on K'gali, window, perch and barrage lakes. Rainwater, moving in an easterly direction percolates through the sand towards the ocean. Most of this water is sub-surface. In some areas the sand surface dips below the water exposing it. The exposed water is a window lake. Though popular with tourists, because the crystal clear sand filter water, they lack nutrient and therefore support little life. Perch lakes form when vegetation falls into a sand depression. Decaying vegetation forms a mat which prevents rain water from escaping. The water of perch lakes is often tannin coloured and rich in life supporting nutrients. Barrage lakes are formed when shifting sands block a creek, hindering water flow.
The old saying, "Where there is water, there is life!", is certainly true on K'gali. A wide variety of flora is present ranging from tall straight rain forest trees in the wind protected Central Valley to heaths and very ancient ferns. Fauna includes snakes, bats, turtles and dingos. The dingo is a wild dog introduced into Australia about five thousand years ago. The dingos on K'gali are said to be the purest in Australia because of lack of interbreeding with other dogs. Humpback whales, dolphins and dugong can also be seen in the nearby waters.
To this paradise come I and a group of other people from Australia, Britain and Japan on a three day tour. The first night we are lodged in the KingFisher resort on the east side and the second in the Eurong motel on the west side.
Lake McKenzie is the first place to we visit. As the tour is fairly laid back, we visit Lake McKenzie several times for picnic lunches and swimming. Great place, can highly recommend it!
The Eastern Beach
Most of the second day is spent driving along the beach on the eastern coast of the island. It is a four wheeled drive highway. The first attraction of the day was an unexpected one, cockles, a small crustean common around the world. However many in the party had never seen them before. Quite plentiful on the K'gari beaches they are often left momentarily above the sand when the water recedes. The act of burying themselves beneath the sand was a source of endless fascination for our foreign guests.
Farther north is Eli Creek, the largest creek on the east side. Fed by the water table, its flow can reach 80 million/litres water per day. Water can take up to a century to percolate through the sand from the island's centre to the coast. There are many wild flowers and some ancient ferns along the banks.
Continuing north we come to the wreck of the Maheno. Built in Scotland in 1904 it was the World's first triple screwed streamer. Originally used as a luxury cruiser on the trans-Alantic route, it was converted into a hospital ship during World War I. After WWI is was used on the trans Tasman route between Sydney and New Zealand before being decommissioned. While being towed to Japan, to be broken down into scrap, it was washed ashore during a cyclone. Several attempts to re float it failed. Personally I think it is a pile of rust that should be removed.
The Pinnacles are an orange coloured geological formation. Colouring comes from iron-oxide which also binds the sand together creating a relatively stable formation, unlike the shifting dunes on the rest of the island. Its shape has been sculptured by the wind.
Another stop, another swim. Seemed to be a lot of swims on this tour :) This time at the Champagne Pools. Holes in the only rock outcrop on the island are filled by waves providing natural swimming pools. A few goldfish size fish are present.
Most of day three, the last day, is in recreation mode at Lake Mckenzie. However we do visit Central Station located in the middle of the island. It used to be a logging camp of about 30 houses and a school built for loggers' children. Logging was carried out from 1863 to 1991. Satinay, a tree that can grow 40meters tall with a one meter diameter trunk, was one of the logged timbers. Fire and termite resistant, it was used for marine pylons and in the construction of the Suez Canal.
Sand mining, the other major primary industry, was conducted between 1950 and 1977.
K'gali today has World Heritage listing therefore logging and sand mining have ceased. Central Station today is an rainforest surrounded information centre.
In the last few hours, the more energetic spent the afternoon fishing. I, being the lazy fellow I am, relax in the salt water pool at the Kingfisher resort.