Monday 11th Sep 23
South Coast Track, Tasmania
It is quite reasonable to edit ones track notes when publishing. I’ve refrained from doing so in this entry in an effort to retain the immediacy of the thinking. It all looks and feels different a day or so later, especially from the comfort and safety of Hobart. It is also easy to shape the narrative by what we now know. It continues what we discovered a couple of days ago – our track blocked by high tides.
0911 We finally spot birds around the site. We enjoy their song but they have been very elusive. Perhaps they are now getting used to us. A honeyeater. Not New Holland but with a green breast and white necklace. The birds woke us at 0545. I was up a couple of times through the night. The PLB out on the bench illuminated the tent with its flashes by way of reassurance. But by now I am wondering if it is actually working.If we were in a snake bite situation the fact that we had triggered the PLB 22 hours ago would not auger at all well for the patient.
All that ham radio interest at school and the radio training courtesy of the RAAF means I know the basics of radio frequency and that the PLB frequency will cut through any foliage. But just in case I have shifted it a few metres out onto a rock in the clear. It won’t make any difference but then again you do everything you can to improve your chances.
The surf today is monstrous. We put a couple of stone seats together on the beach, complete with backrest. Sat there for a while admiring the 2-3m waves rising up and breaking perfectly. The surge is immense though and a handful of times we were disconcerted enough to vacate our seats and scamper away. The scale of the tides is another revelation for us. The difference between low and high tides is comparatively small (.7m) from [the] little I know of these things. That was the problem we ran into at Prion Bay and trying to get across Grotto Creek. I couldn’t count on a departure at half tide then and this morning at 0800 we were being chased away from above the high tide mark where we had set up our seats.
I’ve made myself a little bit busy clearing up the deadfall around the site. There is a rowing boat wreck semi submerged under leaf and timber litter. I had thoughts of pulling it out but a tree has grown through it. The half of the boat sitting here would make an excellent wind break if I could get it out.
I wonder how long a PLB battery lasts. That’s not something I have ever thought to check.
A very cold but so far light breeze has me shivering as I sit. I have three layers on and don’t chill easily. I think some site maintenance and a bit of track clearing will help. Breakfast of dried crackers and half a cup of coffee helped immensely.
Aha, a Black Currawong alights in front of me and calls. Now I know that bird song. We have heard it every day and didn’t know what it was. It has shades of Oystercatcher about it but farther up the hill that made no sense at all.
I’ve recce’d along the sand dune here and found a higher spot, not by much, if tides push us there. Super unlikely but best to be prepared. A tiny wren hops around a dead tree trunk covered in moss and the sun breaks through for a moment. Joy in its light but it throws no warmth.
1015. After 23 hours there is no response from the PLB. So I try Apple SOS and after a long questionaire we are told emergency services have been contacted and that we should wait for responders. We pack camp and cross the creek to the beach on the the west side where there is more suitable space to be picked up.
The Apple SOS strikes me as an AI app. Will it notify Australian services? I have no idea and worry that it won’t. I get a message saying location has been passed on to local first responders but it would be better if it is more specific. I pass on the lat/long for our location and the app acknowledges receipt and says those details have been passed on. I have been explicit about name of creek junction and beach, lat/long, Tasmania AU. All so hopefully that is all in the right hands. The PLB has not worked (it’s now turned off). We discuss what happens if this does not work. If this does not work we go back and set up camp and wait for someone to find us.
1124 Conversation with Apple SOS ends.
1212 Update with Lat/Long is passed on.
1252 The day has been sunny and bright. A beautiful walking day. We should be on the second last day of this adventure, going over the second range. A perfect day for it. But here we are. Cloud shifts over the sun and the day becomes a little gloomy. It’s hard to suppress thoughts of no action. The Apple SOS questionnaire did not help the feeling that the call may not be well received. But the pounding surf and the surging flat tide confirm to me that we have made the right decision.
I turned the PLB off once I received confirmation of SOS response and we made to move across the creek. I wonder if foliage was a problem after all? That makes no sense. That there was no response puzzles me. I have carried that for more than ten years anticipating its use in a situation such as a snake bite. I may have been trusting a futile technology and maybe service. Actually I am unfair on the latter since those folk respond appropriately once they have the data. And that right now is the worry about the Apple SOS. Has the data been passed to the right people?
The boulders in Deadman’s Creek clunk and clatter under the force of the high tide water pounding into its mouth and surging back out, forcing all before it, including protesting rock.
It’s continued to be a perfect walking day.
I talk about the night crossings with Kavitha. She understands if I was with Frank or Hamish we would give them a shot. But it is simply isn’t something I want to expose her to.
We agree that if nothing happens by 5pm we will return to the campsite and set up again. The phone is off in order to save battery. PLB can be switched on again tomorrow. We are tucked into the top of a dune amongst its grasses, out of the wind, using our packs as windbreaks. A high grey cloud blocks out the sun again.
Notebook entry ends.