Over the Australia Day weekend I and three buddies sea kayaked around the North end of Wilsons Promontory blissfully unaware that a few short days later this paradise would be burnt to a crisp by Victoria’s recent and devastating bushfires. This fire continues to burn as I write this (20/2/09) and has so far burnt about 30% of the park (basically all the land visible in this picture). If there is no rain soon and the winds turn from there current easterly direction to a strong northerly the entire park could easily go up.
This shot was taken on the beautiful and remote Bennison Island in Corner Inlet and offers the perfect vantage point to see what is now gone (view large). The peak on the far left hand side of the frame is called The Cathedral and the fire started there after a lightning strike on the 8/2/09 exactly thirteen days after this shot was taken. The prevailing winds in this area are usually westerlies and these conditions would have resulted in a small localised blaze that would have seen the fire peter out as it hit the nearby ocean. Instead there have been uncommonly sustained easterly winds blowing up to 70km/h spreading the fire straight along the entire length of the Vereker Range (the mountain range on the horizon) and coming north to consume every bit of land between there and the coastline contained in this shot.
In 2005 a back burn that reignited burnt 13% of the park, this fire fortunately has thus far avoided these particular areas but if they are re-burnt so soon after this previous fire many of the larger tree species will not have the mojo to regenerate a second time and as there seedlings have not had enough time to mature to the point of producing seed entire species could be lost from large areas. As it is the fire is currently ravaging an area that hasn’t been burnt since the terrible 1951 fires that destroyed 75% of the park. The close succession of fires back then resulted in the permanent loss of all the blue gums in the park. These huge beautiful and majestic trees were once the dominant upper story flora standing over a once open forest floor. The impenetrable tangle that now exists has made my many off track ramblings around the Prom a far more involved pursuit than was once the case.
Currently there are 150 ground fire fighters one skycrane and two water bombing helicopters fighting the blaze although ground crews have been forced by the impenetrable scrub to concentrate there efforts to creating and reinforcing current containment lines.
Out of interest the footprints on the beach are probably from a Black Wallaby – Wallabia bicolor who despite that huge looking expanse of water has made it to the island across the mud flats at low tide. The small knoll abutting the coast in the center of the frame is called Barry Hill and is in one of the most remote and trackless areas on the promontory. However between 1913 and 1940 this was the location of the Ranger Station at the Prom (it even had its own telegraph line). Now the Prom has easy road access this choice of location seems odd but back then the dominant mode of access was via boat across Corner Inlet from Port Welshpool.
If I lived in an ideal landscape photographers world I would have unlimited time to shoot every scene in the ideal light of dawn and dusk but sometimes these criteria are impossible to organize so I do the best I can with the light available in this case late morning. The timing determined by the vagaries of tide (being in a sea kayak) and the fact that camping on the island is not allowed. Despite the less than ideal light I thought the pertinence of current events justified its inclusion.
100% of profits from this shot will go to WRAP Wildlife Rescue and Protection Incorporated which will aid the innumerable animal victims of the recent fires (I’ve put up my margin more than usual because of the donation aspect, basically it’s not worth doing unless there’s a bit of money in it for the charity).