Tuesday, 15 January 2008


In 1836 the explorer Major Mitchell named the small river the Surry, but it's now called the Surrey. It flows (when not blocked by sand) out to sea at Narrawong, east of Portland, on the south coast of Victoria. When I was a child this was 'our' beach. It was about 15 minutes from home and the river provided a safe - and warm - swimming spot for children. It still does. Over the sand dune was the open beach that is now patrolled by a Lifesaving Club in summer but wasn't when I was young.

When I went to Narrawong recently there was evidence of a stormy winter or spring. Lots of trees and branches (of Moonah perhaps?) were embedded in the sand, and the sand dune at the very high tide level has been undercut by the storms, creating a sand cliff. My nephew gazes at the sea and there is no land between him and the Antarctic.

In 1987 a 15-metre Sperm Whale beached itself at Narrawong. The decision was made to bury it and retrieve it at a later date. Eleven years later, in 1999, they uncovered the skeleton (that still had blubber attached), cleaned it (in a car wash initially) and employed a local builder to put it together. It's now on display at the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre. It even has a name – Skeletonia.

In winter Narrawong is a very reliable spot to find Hooded Plovers, a bird under threat from beachwalkers, foxes and dogs because it likes to nest on the sand. I've been on Hooded Plover counts along this stretch of coast, wonderful 15 kilometre walks along the sandy beach with not a house or a person in site. We can only hope that it stays that way.

1 comment:

Denis Wilson said...

Nice post on the Narrawong beach near Portland.
My favourite beach down that way is Discovery Bay (further west). But I know that these places are special.