How many people get to live their dreams? I am..........!

This is my story from the time when Capt'n John and I first decided to sail around the big block, to circumnavigate this great land of ours, AUSTRALIA.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Goldsmith Island

Monday 11th June 2012
Goldsmith Island
20’40.218 S – 149’08.950 E
Warm days, cool nights, moderate breezes 10/15 gusting 20knts
Goldsmith Island Anchorage
0625h MrJ and I motor sailed across to Goldsmith Island; taking just over three hours to do the 20n/m. I could see the sails of Neriki coming upon us fast from the south where they and Forever Dreaming had left Brampton Island.

MrJ and I dropped the pick in the first southern bay on Goldsmith as Neriki rounded the headland. We had anchored too close to a bommie and the swell was coming around the headland; not happy with that at all so we pulled the anchor up and move further north to the second bay hoping to get a better spot. Neriki did the same and was not long followed by Forever Dreaming.

The sea must have been still stirred up by the terrible low pressure system off southern Queensland as the swell was running strongly around the island and into all the bays. The wind was more to the S and a little SW which brought the chop into the bay at times making the anchorage rather rolly especially if the boat was copping it on the side.

Never to be deterred, before lunch, MrJ and I went ashore to stretch our leg and explore the beach. There was a lovely long white sandy beach with gentle wave on the shoreline, rocky headlands at both ends with tall Hoop Pines, small She-oak trees to give shade and a camping site with a drop-dunny hut and heaps of wild flowers. But now walking track!
Southern headland
She-oaks - As soon as the name She-oak is mentioned, as is the case with the Gum tree, any fair dinkum Aussie knows exactly what plant you are talking about. But few would know that these strange and mysterious trees possess both real and imaginary powers and maybe one of over 40 species in Australia and the South Pacific.
She-oak bushland
The She-oak family is a highly evolved family and is closely related to no other. They have achieved specialisation in isolated conditions such as exposed, sandy coastal foreshores, riverbanks, dry grassy woodlands, desolate rocky sites or swampy riparian flats. Its generic name Casuarina or Allocasuarina ("Allo"meaning like the casuarina) refers to the fine filamentous branches, which resemble the cassowary's quills. It is also noted that early Australians referred to casuarinas as Australian "Pines". The verticillata in Allocasuarina verticillata relates to the whorled arrangement of the leaves around the stem, (as in bike spokes). The word She-oak comes from the recognition by the early colonial craftsmen that an inferior (in their opinion) oak grain could be achieved by cutting the she-oak logs on the quarter (a specialised saw milling technique) and using the wood for crafting etc.

An architect could not have done a better job of designing these plants for the extreme environmental conditions in which they thrive. The long drooping branches consist of myriads of finer branchlets. The leaves are reduced to ribs on the branchlet, which end in leaf teeth. These reduced leaves occur in whorls located at the evenly spaced joints along the branchlets. These green branchlets perform the same food-making role (photosynthesis) as the leaves, but save on water losses, by reducing transpiration. The trees are endowed with a tough corky, corrugated bark, ideal as a protective shield from the abrasive, sand laden coastal winds. The trees have two distinct forms, either male or female (dioecious). The male tree has long reddish flowers at the ends of its branchlets, which pollinate the rusty red, globular flowers on the female tree. The female's flowers are designed to hang well out to catch the wind born pollen grains that wafts pass from the nearby male. The production of pollen can be so prolific that they often produce a reddish carpet of pollen under the trees.

The fruit resembles brown cones with valves (look like little beaks) opening to produce shiny black seeds. The cones can be assisted to release the seed, by selecting ones that have closed valves, and storing them in a paper bag for a few weeks, until the beaks open to release the seed.
Wildflowers and butterfies
The mysticism of She-oaks relates to the Tahitians, who believed that they arose from the warriors who died in battle, killed by clubs or spears made from its very hard wood. The warriors hair became the foliage and their blood oozed forth once more as the red sap. However, for the colonists, they saw the superstition and mythical nature of the tree in its ability to support the parasitic mistletoe, since it commonly sprawls over and sometimes smoothers this tree. The Australian southern states mistletoe (Amyema sp.) has a remarkable ability to mimic the host she-oak so much so that they are very hard to tell apart. The authenticity of the suspect plant is given away by watching the mistletoe bird feeding on its glutinous berries. The seed passes through the bird's unusual gizzard in 30 minutes and lodges on another She-oak branch. Its green shoot then suckers into the bark, with the help of its enzymes, that breakdown the bark and wood. A broad range of nectar feeding birds pollinates the mistletoes. These include unlikely species such as the cuckoo-shrikes, ravens, cockatoos, shrike thrushes and even wood swallows. They also provide nutritious fruits for the birds to feed on, which is a separate activity to the dispersal role that the mistletoe bird performs. The She-oak's life history is a construct of the fire regime to which it has been subjected. A fire regime is made up of the frequency of the firing (years between successive fires), the season of the fire and the intensity of the fire (relates to the amount of fuel available and moisture levels in the soil and surrounding air). The She-oak is an excellent example of how an individual plant's life history changes depending on the fire regime applied. The response mostly relates to the intensity of the fire as described below.

  • For a low intensity fires or cool burns, the older trees are unaffected, whilst the younger plants are killed. However, they will re-sprout from their bases. Cool burns do not release the seed stored in the cones within the canopy.
  • For a moderate intensity fires, the younger plants are killed and they mostly do not re-sprout. The mature tree survives, but some of their canopy dies releasing a small amount of seed from the cones.
  • For high intensity fire or very hot burns, all She-oaks are killed outright with their survival relying on the release of the seed stored in the cones within its canopy (where it maybe stored for up to 10 years).

She-oak trees, which are killed by hot fires, shed their seed. These will only stay viable for less than 3 months in the soil. With suitable conditions, prolific germination occurs after a hot fire on the sterile nutrient rich ash bed. (Provided that the harvester ants do not grab them first). Once successfully germinated, the dense mass of seedlings crowd out other native plants, which may germinate. It needs to be remembered that, young She-oaks need to have at least 5 to 7 years of growth before they start to produce seed bearing cones and at least 10 years before they have a reasonable number of cones in their canopy. If no further hot fires occur the She-oak community dominates the area once again. If two hot fires occur within 7 years then the She-oak woodland will be replaced by grassy woodland.

The craft wood potential of the hard, beautifully grained, reddish timber was recognised by early settlers. Its attributes ensured an export market to the mother country. Here it was treated as a prized wood, only to be used sparingly on highly prized projects. Small artefacts such as document boxes or inlaid features in fine quality furniture were crafted from this imported She-oak. The strength of the wood proved useful to colonists for crafting axe handles and other tool handles. Today the wood has once again been recognised for its qualities to the point where a few plantations of She-oaks have recently been planted. These plantations also benefit the apiary industry as the flowers' pollen attracts honeybees, which produce a distinctive tasting honey. She-oak was also noted for its firewood property of burning very hot, leaving a pure white ash bed. This white ash proved ideal as a sheet whitener, prior to commercial whiteners. This ash also comprised the major component in soap, forming the "Li" or alkali which, when mixed with animal fat (Sheep or Roo origins) and scented with rose water, chemically combined to form real true blue soap. She-oak was popularly used for making spears. The inner bark and sapwood shavings were soaked in water and the liquid gargled for toothaches.

Aboriginal tribes used the She-oak trunks for attracting grubs. The trunk was dumped into creeks and rivers to attract grubs. These were harvested and eaten raw or cooked. The young She-oak cones were chewed to promote salvia in dry mouths, as they travelled long distances through the hot, dry landscape. Exudates collected from the trunk were chewed or melted with warm water to form a jelly prior to eating.

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