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Humbug Point

17.07.2015

Some weird things might happen to you if you are sailing around the Top End of Australia.
We had to get used to shallow waters and strong currents that make an unexpected detour sometimes - like it or not. We had to deal with dangerous bars and narrow passages, when the current was not on our side. And if the meteorologist predicts a gentile breeze of 15 to 20 knots don't believe it. The winds might be 30 to 35 knots at midnight and he'd better have transmitted a strong wind warning.
Many ships got lost on their way along the Great Barrier Reef and many sailors lost their lives. Some were lucky and managed to get their ship off the reef before it was destroyed by the relentless breaking waves. The most famous of all is certainly Captain Cook's "Endeavour". No wonder these names are deeply linked with the coast of Northern Queensland. We sailed close by the Endeavour Reef, set anchor in the Endeavour River at Cooktown and hiked to Cook's Lookout, from where Captain Cook tried to find a passage through the reef.
Still today there are many exciting stories, and one of those took place around the Bustard Head Lighthouse where we found the story in the little museum. It's a true story - it looks typical Australian to us - and we copied it without asking permission. May the bustard forgive us.
"Jack and Babs Atherton, Head Lightkeepers, Bustard Head 1971 - 1976
For the safety of lives at seas, it was a lightkeeper's first priority to keep his light illuminated throughout the night. However, on Saturday evening 8 July 1972, Head Lightkeeper Jack Atherton was asked to assist in saving the lives of four people by putting the Bustard Head light out.
Earlier that evening, Bundaberg police were told of a Mayday distress call received from the motor launch Alambra. The crew of four had advised that their engine had failed and the boat was taking water and in danger of sinking. They could see the flash from a lighthouse, but didn't know if it was Bustard Head or Sandy Cape. Working in conjunction with Head Lightkeeper Jack Atherton, the police received permission from the relevant authorities for the Bustard Head light to be extinguished for one minute. However, when the police tried to contact Bustard Head to arrange a time, they found the line continuously engaged, inadvertently, the handset in the Head Lightkeeper's cottage hadn't been properly replaced. After many futile attempts to phone Jack, the police, assuming something was wrong with the line, contacted the Gladstone telephone exchange, Dick Steindl. The Technical Officer on duty discovered that Jack's phone was off the hook. Dick tried to attract Jack's attention by sending a high-pitched sound through the line from a device known as a "howler". Jack didn't hear it.
Over the line, Dick could hear the noise from a television program, but couldn't recognise it. Dick telephoned his son at home and asked him to change channels until the sound matched Jack's set. Dick discovered that Jack was watching "Forsyte Saga" on ABC television. Dick advised the police, who contacted the ABS's program director in Brisbane, who agreed to flash a message on the screen. Before long, every ABC viewer in Queensland saw the following message appear:
WOULD THE BUSTARD HEAD LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER PLEASE ANSWER THE PHONE
For the first few seconds, Jack and Babs couldn't believe what they saw, then Jack levitated from his chair and rushed to the phone. It was arranged that an embarrassed Jack would extinguish the light at precisely 11.25 p.m. for one minute. Marine Operations Canberra alerted all shipping. At 11.26 p.m. the crew of Alambra radioed to say they had witnessed the blackout. With the search area now narrowed, the disabled craft was finally located and towed into port."


Humbug Point

Wer die Einsamkeit liebt, der fahre nach Arnhemland. Endlose Sandstraende mit Duenen, dazwischen rote Felsbaender, obendrauf ein niedriger Wald oder nur Buschvegetation, das Land selten hoeher als 100 m ueber Meer. 500 Meilen segeln wir entlang der Kueste von der Gove Peninsula bis zur Coburg Peninsula: das Wasser selten tiefer als 20 m, warm und zum Bade ladend. Daraus wird aber nichts, denn Arnhemland ist auch Krokokilland, und wir waeren nicht die ersten Segler, die einem Leistenkrokodil als Speise dienen. Sie sind ueberall, aber man sieht sie kaum und manchmal zu spaet.
Auch kaum eine Menschenseele sehen wir auf unserer Reise entlang der Kueste, obwohl wir jeden Abend an einem malerischen Ort vor Anker liegen. Nie empfangen wir eine Radiostation, nur selten haben wir ueber die Telefonverbindung eine schwache Internetverbindung, kein Skype, kein Facetime, keine Online-Zeitung, keine Boersendaten, keine Schlagzeilen über Banken- oder Fifa-Skandale. Ja, halten wir's aus?!
Bevor wir den Golf von Carpentaria durchsegeln, liegen wir bei Weipa am Humbug Point vor Anker. Humbug war auf unserer Reise durchs Korallenmeer entlang des Great Barrier Riffs, rund ums Cape York und bis Darwin einiges. Da gab's z.B. diesen Nachtschlag von Cairns nach Cooktown. Der Meteoroluege versprach 15 - 20 Knoten Wind, perfekt fuer eine angenehme Fahrt mit Ankunft zur Fruestueckszeit im geschichtstraechtigen Cooktown. Ab Mitternacht blies der Wind aber mit 30 - 35 Knoten, sodass wir unsere Segel auf die Groesse eines Taschentuchs reffen mussten, um nicht bei Dunkelheit in den sehr untiefen Endeavour River einfahren zu muessen. Das Positive: Die Winde hier ums Top End waren wirklich topp, selten unter 20 kn, aber immer aus SE bis E. Dazu ein konstanter N-Strom, der uns im immer enger werdenden Wasser zwischen Festland und Riff vorwaerts schob. Die Stroemungen schlagen in diesen untiefen Gewaessern zum Teil ueberraschende Kapriolen, angetrieben durch Riffpaesse und abgelenkt durch die Topografie des Meeresbodens, der nur wenige Meter unter Wasser liegt.
Eher gewoehnungsbeduerftig waren die Einfahrten in einige Flussmuendungen, wo uns oft nur 1 m Wasser unter dem Kiel blieb und zwei bange Augenpaare das Echolot und den Echopiloten beobachteten, besonders, wenn noch eine Brandungswelle in der Einfahrt stand.
Unsere Haende haben Schwielen von den vielen Segelmanoevern, aber immerhin ueberlebten wir all die gefaehrlichen Passagen, die da heissen: The English Companys Islands, Refuge Bay, Crocodile Island, False Point, Hard Landing, Escape Cliff, Danger Point, Fright Point ...

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